Lead Reviewer Mike Pouliot’s Personal Favorite Items from 2011

I’ve been part of The Phoblographer for most of 2011 and during this time, I’ve had the opportunity to test all types of photographic equipment. In this post, I’m going to list my personal favorites from 2011.

Note: I’m only listing products that I tested in 2011. This doesn’t necessarily mean the product had to be released during the year 2011, it simply means that the review was done in 2011. Also, the products below may not be the best products on the market or in their respective categories, I’m simply picking my personal favorites. For example, the Leica X1 is clearly not the best camera on the market, but I had the most fun testing this camera. On to the post!


I had a really hard time picking a winner for a few of the categories below, but picking a winner for my favorite bag tested in 2011 was easy. The Think Tank Photo Shape Shifter was hands down the best bag I reviewed in 2011. In fact, the Think Tank Photo Shape Shifter is quite possibly the best bag I’ve ever and it has quickly become my favorite camera bag, period. If you are looking for a backpack style bag and you have small to medium sized kit (1-2 bodies, 2-3 lenses, flash, accessories and a laptop), this bag should really be at the top of your list. The size, amazing build quality, layout and innovative storage design makes this bag stand out from all other camera backpacks out there. Read my full review (with video) here.


I tested quite a few lenses in 2011 and I have to say that I was quite impressed with most of them. I honestly had an extremely difficult time picking a winner. I loved the Canon 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM and the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM…decisions, decisions. So after several hours of deliberation, I finally came to the conclusion that the lens that enjoyed using the most was the Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm F/1.4 ZE. Surprising, I know. I liked like Zeiss for several reasons, one being image quality. The Zeiss has a very unique way of rendering images. Bokeh is smooth and creamy but in a different way than say a Canon 35mm f/1.4L. Again, just unique/different. Also, images from the Zeiss seem to have almost a 3D effect to them (see the image below). Subjects in focus seem to “pop” more.

But, I think the main reason I liked shooting with the Zeiss so much is that it forced me to think and shoot differently. When you are stuck using manual focus, you have to be prepared at all times. I found myself zone focusing and unconsciously moving the focus dial as I scanned my surroundings for subjects. A manual focus lens may seem like a chore to some, but I highly recommend you give it a shot. You may be pleasantly surprised. Be sure to read my complete of review of the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4.


Surprisingly, I only tested a handful of cameras in 2011, most of my time was spent with lenses as that’s what our readers wanted to see. I was impressed with the Sony A55 and the Sigma DP2x but the honors go to the Leica X1.

Now many of you may say, “Hey, you didn’t you say that you wouldn’t buy an X1 in your review.” Yes, I did, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have fun shooting with the camera. I truly wanted to love the X1 but Leica dropped the ball on a few things which makes the X1’s price really hard to swallow. Check out my full review of the X1.

Favorite Accessory

Let’s face it. When it comes to photography, most people do not want to spend money on peripherals and accessories, they want to buy shiny new cameras and lenses. That’s fine, but your fancy new camera and lens will not do jack for your photography if your monitor’s color is out of wack. Yes, color correction isn’t a sexy topic, but it really is a must for any enthusiast or pro. One of the most flexible and user friendly color calibration tools on the market is the X-Rite ColorMunki Photo; you can calibrate just about anything with this tool.

The ColorMunki Photo can calibrate CRT monitors, LCD screens, LED screens, projectors, and printers. On top of that, designers can use the X-Rite ColorMunki Photo to take color samples from almost any object. This truly is a one tool solution for your color needs. Click here to read my full review.

Favorite Post

Most of the readers here at The Phoblographer are enthusiasts which means photography is a hobby or a passion, it’s not a job. Some of us have more discretionary income to spend on this hobby while others have to scrape together every last cent to fund our hobby/obsession. Luckily, you don’t always have to spend a fortune to get quality gear. Sometimes, even the pixel peepers can’t tell the difference between a $400 lens and a $1200 lens. This is what gave me the idea for the “Is the L worth it?” post.

1:1 Crop - The L is on the left, the USM is on the right.

In this post, I pitted Canon’s 100mm f/2.8 Macro USM against the 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM to see if the L was really worth almost twice the price of the “regular” 100mm macro. If you haven’t read the post, you may be surprised with the results. Read the full comparison here.

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