Vortex Razor HD 10x42 — $1,399
Attention all serious birdwatchers — these are for you. A relatively new player in the world of optics, Vortex Optics prides itself by providing high-end glass at a price that undercuts European brans such as Leica and Zeiss. Are the RazorHD 10x42 binos cheap? No. But what they offer is an amazing sight picture — you have to see it to believe it — thanks to phase-corrected prisms, XR fully multi-coated lens, dialectic multi-layer prism coatings and a whole host of other technical terms that basically just mean images seen through these binoculars aren’t just true-to-life, they are better-than-life. Pinpoint focusing allows users to focus incredibly tight on subjects as well. Also, all Vortex optics come with an unlimited lifetime guarantee — if you break them, they replace them.
Nikon D3200 — $569 (body)
The war of the megapixels has only just begun — could you ever have imagined a day you could buy a DSLR camera with a 24.2 MP CMOS sensor for less than $600? Enter the Nikon D3200 — entry-level price with amazing performance. This camera also records 1080p HD video, and features an in-camera “shooting guide” to help you make the most of your image opportunities. Add to that 4 FPS shooting, 100 to 6400 ISO (expandable to 12,800 ISO) and available Wi-Fi connectivity and you’ve got one seriously powerful introduction to the world of DSLRs. Of course, Nikon — as well as companies like Tamron and Sigma — make a whole host of lenses for their CX format cameras, from 8mm fisheyes to 1,000 mm telephotos and beyond.
Fujifilm X-E1 — $999 (body only)
Retro style meets modern functionality with the new X-E1 camera from Fujifilm. This 16.3 MP camera features an interchangeable lens system, 1/4 to 1/4000 of a second shutter speed, HD movie recording capability and a variety of “film simulator” modes to match its old-style façade. This unit is said to be 30 per cent smaller than the award-winning Fujifilm X-Pro1, yet it uses much of the same image capture technology — like a CMOS sensor with an ISO range of up to 6400 (25,600 extended). Basically, it’s near-SLR performance in a point-and-shoot package. The camera is available right now with an 18-55mm and a wide-angle 14mm lens and comes in black or silver-and-black.