recommendations

Budget 27″ Display
The Acer G257HU smidpx 25-Inch WQHD Monitor  has a slim metal enclosure, 2560×1440 pixel native resolution, matte surface, DVI and HDMI input. A sweet deal for ~$260. When really well calibrated, this display holds up nicely to far more expensive displays.

Excellent 27″ Display
The NEC PA272W-BK-SV is the high end NEC display that makes sense for most demanding users. Matte surface, 99% AdobeRGB gamut, 2560×1440 pixel native resolution, ~$1,500. If you have an existing device you can use it with the SpectraviewII software, or one can purchase this display with the SpectraviewII hardware for a little more.

Hi-End 32″ Display
The NEC Pa322UHD-BK-2 Spectraview is NEC’s top of the line 32″ 4K display using P-IPS technology for 99% AdobeRGB gamut, 3840×2160 pixel native resolution with a matte surface.  It’s the one to get if you have the budget for it.

RAID Hard Drive System
The Drobo 5Dt RAID is the only RAID system I’m currently recommending to photographers and designers. It’s 30+TB capacity and (more importantly) Thunderbolt2 and USB3 connectivity translates into super fast, “Apple Easy” usage. Although I’ve seen reliability issues with previous Drobo products (especially the maligned “S” model) the 5Dt is a new generation product that’s exceptionally well made and thought out. I’ve replaced the 8 bay Drobo Pro and Synology RAID systems I used to have in my studio with Drobo the 5D and the differences in performance are huge, especially for Lightroom work directly from camera RAW files. And while 5 bays used to not offer enough capacity, todays 6+TB drives translates into at least 30TB per 5Dt enclosure, with more to come as larger drives become available. Regardless of what RAID you run, the HGST NAS Drives are the drives for their reliability to cost ratio. Email me for enterprise RAID recommendations if your needs include shared network access and capacities greater than 20TB (xSAN is an incredible option for some of my larger clients).

Solux Light Bulbs
Excellent lighting is often the missing component to high quality work environments and excellent print to screen matching. Solux bulbs are the highest quality, high CRI light bulbs for critical print viewing. Solux bulbs work in any screw-in E26 or plug-in MR-16 light fixtures and are more accurate than fluorescent bulbs. I recommend the 4100K, 50 watt 36 degree MR16 bulbs for MR 16 fixtures and the 75-90 watt 50 degree diffused PAR bulbs for screw-in E26 fixtures.

LED bulbs for print exhibition
For those that are wanting an energy efficient bulb for print exhibition, the Philips Par20 Dimmable Indoor Flood LED Bulb stands out as an excellent option for screw-in E26 fixtures. Like an incandescent flood light, it has a narrow focus that puts a nice warm hot spot on your print on the wall, but does so at a fraction of the energy usage. 3000K, 470 lumens, 8 watts (50-60 watt equivalent).

Tripod and Ball Head
While there are lots of great tripods and heads to choose from (and everyone has their opinion) I think the just announced (April 2014), heavy duty Manfrotto 055 series tripods and new Magnesium Ball heads are amazing. The stiffness, bubble level and 90° column are notable on both the aluminum and carbon fiber versions of the 055 tripods. The  Manfrotto MH054M0-Q6 ball head has impressive fluid movement and build quality with an Arca Swiss quick release.   While Manfrotto is a brand that photographers have previously associated with medium grade quality, I feel like with this combination they have really reached a nice quality and convienence sweet spot.

Flashlights for Light Painting
People are always asking me what my favorite flashlights are for night photography. The incandescent Stinger and UltraStinger flashlights are my main lightpainting tools. Their warm color juxtaposes nicely with moonlight and their universal charging stations are available for wall and car outlets. For light painting with color, there’s nothing even remotely close to the  Protomachines LED2. These are the three flashlights I rely upon for all my night photography work as well as the red headlamp below.

Red Headlamp for Night Vision
Night Photographers (and anyone else who spends time walking around at night) know how important having a good red light can be. Red headlamps allow us to walk around, see what’s in our camera bags, etc without loosing our night vision like white lights do. While lots of headlamps include a red light, the Black Diamond Spot Light Torch headlamp is notable for it’s ability to turn the red light on and off without cycling throughout the white light options. This new headlamp has an unusually bright and broad red LED.

Calibration and Profiling Systems
Choose the $225 i1DisplayPro package for display calibration only, or the $1899 i1PublishPro2 package with RGB and CMYK printer profiling as well. I encourage all my clients to get an i1DisplayPro package and do their own display calibration as needed. FWIW, the Onsight remote profiling service is a great, cost effective way to get excellent printer profiles for those that simply need a few printer profiles every now and then. Email me to find out more about the remote profiling service (for clients only).

Proofing Paper
Epson Proofing Paper White Semimatte is the proofing paper I recommend the most often. It’s available in rolls from 13″ to 60″ wide and in 13×19″ sheets. Setting up in-house proofing systems in design agencies and relying less on print vendor proofs is the growing trend. Email me if you’d like to setup SWOP and/or GRACoL certifiable proofing systems in your environment. Email me if you’d like recommendations for vendors that you can purchase this paper from.

Archival Pens and Markers
Water-resistant and fade-resistant. Dries quickly. Acid-free and non-toxic. Ditch your Sharpies (which are not archival) and start using one of these. I’m particularly fond of the Micron 005 Ink Pen, Black pen for signing prints – it works great on microporous inkjet surfaces that pencils don’t work on.

Mighty Magnets
These magnets are really usefull when looking at prints in lightboxes, refriderators and on any metal surface. They are surprisingly strong and can hold big prints. Geek out on the whole family of magnets.

websites of note

DPReview
The definitive site for digital camera news, reviews and comparisons

Camera Memory Card Performance Database
Compilation of write and read speed test results designed to aid the professional photographer in selecting camera storage media for a digital SLR. Select your camera from the popup menu in the upper right hand corner.

Lance Keimig
Lance and his eye for night imagery has been a big mentor for my own fine art work in recent years. He’s been teaching Night Photography workshops for over 15 years and has a great book called Night Photography: Finding your way in the dark.

Web Browser ICC Compliancy Check
A simple test to see if your web browser is fully ICC complaint supporting spec 4 profiles.

speciality products

LRTimelapse
LRTimelapse is an incredible Lightroom plug-in for Time Lapse workflows. It allows you to continuously change Lightroom development parameters over the time which enables key-frame animations like in video-processing. Among other things, this deflickers and smooths out your time lapse movies. The great advantage over post processing your time lapse sequences in video production software is the much better video quality gained from the preprocessing of the original camera files. I’ve been working with the developer for several years to make this a great product for my own timelapse work. Highly recommended for those getting into time lapse work.

ImageNest
Fantastic Mac based nesting and layout software. If you are a nesting or a volume printing geek – this is your application!

Imatest
Imatest allow you to measure the performance of cameras, lenses, scanners, and printers. Imatest scientifically quantifies things like lens and camera sharpness, chromatic aberration, color response, noise, dynamic range, etc. Windows only.

The Why and How of G7 Calibration
This wiki discusses why and how we calibrate, print and proof with the G7™ Method.

XRite G7 Toolkits
Data files and instructions for calibrating by the G7™ Method with all XRite pressroom devices.

G7
IDEAlliance’s PDF resources on the G7 proof-to-print process