Accessory of the Year Benro GD3WH Geared Head
Why we like it
- Precise control of camera positioning
- High-quality Mg-alloy construction
- Relatively small and lightweight
- Uses standard Arca Swiss quick release
- Three bubble levels to set camera straight
Geared heads are the perfect choice for any photographic application that demands really precise camera adjustment, such as macro or architecture. In its first offering of the type, Benro has come up with an excellent design that for many photographers offers the ideal compromise between size, sturdiness and price.
The GD3WH uses a conventional layout with three large control knobs, one for each axis of movement. Rotating any one of them drives the camera directly in the corresponding direction, allowing highly accurate composition setting. For quick and rough repositioning, the gearing can be disengaged using the adjacent star-shaped controls, which spring firmly back into place when released.
With sturdy magnesium alloy construction, this head is both lighter and more compact than its direct competitors. Another big advantage is that its quick release uses Arca Swiss-pattern dovetail plates, which are now a de facto standard. The screw-type clamp is especially well designed and makes attaching the camera unusually quick.
This may be Benro’s first attempt at a geared head, but it’s an excellent design that gets pretty much everything right. Camera adjustment is smooth and precise, and it’s portable enough to carry with you on location. Quite simply, it’s the new leader of its class.
Accessory of the Year Gitzo Adventury 30L
Why we like it
- Fits carry-on luggage requirements of most airlines
- It’s water repellent and offers an additional rain cover
- Comfortable when fully laden
- Offers good interior customisation
- Features adjustable waist and sternum straps
Premium manufacturer, Gitzo, is best known for its high-end tripods, but more recently we’ve seen the brand introduce backpacks into its range. The Adventury 30L is smaller than the Gitzo Adventury 45L, but remains a sizeable backpack with ample capacity and an impressive depth to accommodate pro-spec DSLRs and mirrorless cameras with a 70-200mm lens attached and a second body plus up to four lenses.
What we love about this bag is how well thought through it is. Outdoorsy types with who it’ll be most popular will find it comfortable to carry, and its expandable roll top offers the perfect place to store a jacket, food, drink, or other non-camera-related items. Along with two sizeable pockets either side, you get multi-link straps to secure a large tripod, freeing up both of your hands for long hikes. You also get two straps at the bottom that can be used to carry a small two-man tent, plus there is a pair of padded compartments on the side to safely carry a tablet and laptop measuring no larger than 23x2x37cm.
For outdoor photographers with lots of kit, this is an excellent backpack option, which most importantly, feels comfortable to wear when fully loaded and offers first-class protection for your expensive kit on the move. It’s thoroughly deserving of one of the three Accessory of the Year awards we handed out this year.
Accessory of the Year Hahnel ProCube 2
Why we like it
- Interchangeable holders for different batteries
- Informative LCD status screen
- Versatile, with AA battery charging and USB output
- Works from mains power and in-car
- Sturdy metal construction
Almost invariably, cameras are only supplied with the means to charge a single battery, meaning it’s not easy to replenish two at the end of a shoot. For this, you need a dual charger such as the Hahnel ProCube 2. It’s an update to the original ProCube, with a similar sturdy metal body shell and interchangeable plates that each accept a pair of batteries. But it gains a few neat updates; the battery holders now simply clip in place, without the need to plug-in a fiddly connector wire, and the LCD display shows how much charge has been fed to each battery.
Versions are available for Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Sony, and Fujifilm/Panasonic, each coming with several battery plates to cover a wide range of cameras from each brand. You also get a plate for charging four AA batteries, which fixes magnetically onto the top of the unit; however this means it can’t be used when you have Li-ion batteries installed. In addition, a high-power 2.4A USB output will charge phones or tablets once the camera batteries are full.
This is a supremely well-made and robust- feeling piece of kit, and is a particularly good choice if you use multiple cameras from the same brand.
- Benro GD3WH Geared Head
- Eizo ColorEdge CS2730
- Gitzo Adventury 30L
- Hahnel ProCube 2
- H&Y Quick Release Magnetic Filter Frame
- Hoya Ultra-Pro Circular Polarising filter
- Lowepro PhotoStream RL 150
- Manfrotto 190 Go! MS Carbon MT190GOC4
- Vanguard ALTA RISE 48
Software of the Year Serif Affinity Photo
Why we like it
- Excellent power, scope and range of tools for the price (£49)
- Good for creative professionals as well as photographers
- Doesn’t require you to sign up to a subscription plan
- Supports lookup table (LUT) adjustment
- Produces very natural- looking HDR images
Photoshop has a reputation for being the best image-editing application in the world, but there are plenty of alternatives that are just as good or better in their own way, and Affinity Photo is one of them. Like Photoshop, it doesn’t have its own image browsing or cataloging area, but it offers some excellent tools for fettling and fine-tuning your images.
The develop module reveals great depth, colour and detail in raw files with a handy split-screen to compare your adjusted image with the original. Everyday adjustments are available as adjustment layers and provided that you save your image in the Affinity Photo file format, it’s possible to return and tweak the settings you applied previously. You can also create Live Filter layers with effects displayed live on your image as you make adjustments.
Affinity Photo is a full-on professional photo editing application that makes no concession at all to its price point. You get a strong, fast and highly capable rival to Photoshop – and one that doesn’t need a regular subscription payment.
- Lutify.me Professional 3D LUTs package
- Mastin Labs Portra Pushed Pack
- Serif Affinity Photo