Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   


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Picture This: The Gift of Optics

With cameras and binoculars, quality and convenience just keep getting better.

By Earl Nottingham

Getting the just-right stocking stuffer for the photographer or nature watcher on your list can be a daunting task. However, thanks to better optics and miniaturization of electronics, there are more choices than ever that allow us to view, photograph and video nature in all its glory without having to carry bulky equipment. Here are just a few suggestions guaranteed to fit in a stocking and bring a smile.

Even the smallest stocking will hold one of the new GoPro Hero3+ cameras with the slimmer design. With versatility to record professional-quality HD video and audio as well as still and time-lapse images, the entire Hero3 line (White, Silver and Black) has opened up a whole new way of capturing the outdoors by providing a diminutive camera that can easily be mounted to almost any surface and shoot in any weather as well as underwater. The cameras can also be controlled and monitored wirelessly via a free iPhone app. The top-of-the line Hero3+ Black comes with a separate remote controller. ($199.99 to $399.99, http://gopro.com/)

Although they offer convenience, compact binoculars are not usually known for their quality optics or features found in many larger models. Alpen Optics bridges that gap with its lightweight Wings 8x20 EDHD compact binoculars (model No. 597) using super-sharp ED “extra-low dispersion” optics for the best in color fidelity and contrast. These have a fully waterproof and fogproof body as well as long eye relief (great for eyeglass wearers) and twist-up eye cups that provide comfortable viewing with or without glasses. ($175, www.alpenoptics.com)

One limitation of the typical point-and-shoot camera is the lack of a zoom lens powerful enough to bring distant subjects (especially wildlife) up close. Canon’s new PowerShot SX510 HS fills that void with its built-in 30x optical zoom lens. By comparison, a full-framed 35mm camera would need a 1500mm lens to get the same magnification. That magnification, combined with Canon’s optical image stabilizer, helps ensure sharp photos. Built-in Wi-Fi lets you post to most social networking sites or upload wirelessly to a tablet, smartphone or networked PC and printer. If video is your preference, the camera also shoots spectacular 1080p full HD video. ($249, www.usa.canon.com/cusa/consumer/products/cameras/digital_cameras)

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For more on TP&W magazine photography, go to our Photography page


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