($100; www.alap.com, 888/818-5790), from A Lowly Apprentice Production, is the only XTension out there that lets you tweak the layers, channels, and paths of most Adobe Photoshop files without leaving QuarkXPress. If PDF files are part of your prepress workflow, look to
Adobe Acrobat InProduction 1.0
($699; www.adobe.com, 888/724-4508). It combines PDF preflight and color-correction tools formerly available only in several separate third-party applications, and introduces a few new aids.
For Web-graphics designers,
Macromedia Fireworks 3
($199; www.macromedia.com, 800/457-1774) was the best tool to choose (a new version is now available). It offered an improved interface, better control of bitmapped image editing, and a History palette that allowed you to undo any number of steps in a single click and quickly turn your actions into executable scripts for reuse.
Adobe Illustrator 9.0
($399; www.adobe.com, 888/724-4508) makes an impact with the most powerful and most complete set of transparency tools around.
($2,495; www.newtek.com, 800/862-7837) remains a must-have for 3-D-production and -animation professionals. It boasts numerous new features and tools, including UV texture mapping, radiosity rendering, new surface and graph editors, and powerful morphing. Ashlar’s
Vellum Solids 2000
($3,995; www.ashlar.com, 800/877-2745) is the only game in town for serious industrial design. It excels at working with the curvy free-form solids and surfaces prevalent in today’s industrial designs.
Peak 2.53 VST
($499; www.bias-inc.com, 800/775-2427), Berkley Integrated Audio Software has made an already great two-track editor even better. Version 2.53 includes support for the widely used VST plug-ins (it comes with 25), has an improved interface, and ships with ASIO drivers. Best of all, you no longer need a pesky floppy-disk key to authorize the program. Mark of the Unicorn’s
Digital Performer 2.72
($795; www.motu.com, 617/576-2760) takes MIDI and audio sequencing to the next level with its new drum editor, additional audio effects, and very accurate MIDI time stamping.
($599; www.terran.com, 800/577-3443) is an excellent upgrade to what was already an excellent product — Media Cleaner Pro. Cleaner 5’s superb compression algorithm, support for many formats, ease of use, and thorough documentation make it a necessary part of any video producer’s tool kit. Pinnacle Systems’
($1,995; www.pinnaclesys.com, 888/484-3366) is more than a fabulous rotoscoping tool for video producers who want to create special effects: the program also facilitates workflow and includes new compositing features.
Optical image stabilization and a Progressive Scan photo mode make the Canon
($1,799; www.canondv.com, 800/652-2666) a great midpriced MiniDV camera. Helping to nurture the world of nascent filmmakers, the Sony
($3,199; www.sony.com, 800/222-7669) is a standout, with entry-level 3-chip quality. This camera lets average folks produce professional-looking films.
Consumer Digital Camera
($1,000; www.nikonusa.com, 800/645-6689), from Nikon, continues to balance quality, ease of use, and price. The latest model boasts a 3.34-megapixel CCD and a 3x optical zoom lens. Olympus’s
Camedia C-211 Zoom Digital Printing Camera
($799; www.olympusamerica.com, 800/622-6372) is a hit at any party, with a built-in printer for instant Polaroid shots. In QuickTime mode, the Camedia can capture up to 15 seconds of movie footage.
Professional Digital Camera
Olympus Camedia E-10
($1,999; www.olympusamerica.com, 800/622-6372) is the only four-megapixel camera with a custom-designed lens for digital imaging. The result is great image quality and many professional-level features. Nikon’s first professional camera, the
($5,900; www.nikonusa.com, 800/645-6689), will make professional film photographers feel at home, since it has many features offered on its 35mm counterparts.
The bright and stylish 18.1-inch
Senergy 850 LCD
display from Princeton Graphic Systems ($2,999; www.princetongraphics.com, 800/747-6249) gives users both digital (DVI) and analog (VGA) connections, with a DVI-out connector for mirroring displays or connecting to a projector. The
Wacom PL 500
pen-tablet system ($3,999; www.wacom.com, 800/922-9348) combines the abilities of a pen tablet with the instant feedback of an LCD screen. Yes, that means you can draw right on your screen. This new version of the pen tablet provides millions of colors, and at 15.1 inches, it’s large enough to be your primary display.
($999; www.olympusamerica.com, 800/622-6372) has a convenient LCD panel for previewing and selecting images from SmartMedia, PC Card, Compact Flash, or Memory Stick. It uses dye-sublimation technology to produce photo-quality, full-size prints. The
Epson Stylus Photo 1270
($499; www.epson.com, 800/873-7766) features six-color printing, as well as solid black text with resolutions as high as 1,440 by 720 dpi. It offers a maximum print area of 12.76 by 43.76 inches for banner-size prints.