Product Highlights from PhotoPlus Expo 2010
October 29, 2010 -
I just got back from spending the day yesterday at PhotoPlus Expo and will recap here some of the more interesting products from the show floor. Thanks to a flood of late summer product announcements from Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony, Samsung, Olympus and others - there just weren't that many new products to see, but after wandering the show floor and talking to both the manufacturers and many show attendees I did find a few interesting items to talk about.
PhotoPlus Expo is an annual photography tradeshow designed to give retailers, professional photographers, and consumers a look at the hottest new products for the photo and imaging industry. Whether your interest is the latest camera or printer or accessorizing your camera, your store, your studio or adding new media options to your print business PhotoPlus Expo is the place to see and touch all the great new products. The internet is great for a lot of things but it's not ideal if you want to be able to see how that new camera feels in your hand or how beautiful the new full glossy satin pages look in the latest lay-flat albums.
Here are a few of the more interesting items from the show floor.
New Varavon Pro Finder
Think of this as a Zacuto Z-Finder on steroids. The new Varavon Pro Finder is a DSLR Loupe-style viewfinder that offers one big feature that filmmakers will love - the ability to shoot low-angle while viewing the screen from above. The Varavon Pro Finder feature a 3.0x magnification when looking through the loupe but can also quickly be configured to a top-down view just by pivoting the loupe portion of the viewfinder backwards. This move, positions a mirror in place that reflects the LCD image upward, making low-angle framing a breeze. Users can also slide out the Loupe to use the Pro Finder as a sun shade for the rear LCD.
The Pro Finder is actually larger than the Zacuto Z-Finder, feels well made, and connects through the included baseplate that connects to the underside of your camera and features a quick release for easily removing the Pro Finder.
The Pro Finder has a selling price of $363 and is available direct from Varavon.
I have seen the Cam Caddie in the past and have always written it off as a gimmicky item. However, after holding it and feeling the balance of the camera I could actually see how this might be useful for low-angle tracking shots. Don't confuse this with a Steadicam or Glidecam - it's not. However when you hold the top handle in the correct spot (where the weight of the camera feels balanced) you can actually capture some fairly smooth low-angle walking shots. For consumers that aren't shooting video professionally, the Cam Caddie may be just what the doctor ordered to keep those creative shots shake free.
The Cam Caddie retails for $60 but is available for less through Amazon.
Opteka sells a similar product called the X-Grip that features an accessory shoe on the top handle. The X-Grip is priced at just $34.95 (via Amazon.com).
Goal0 (Goal Zero) Portable Power Packs
Goal0 (Goal Zero) was showing off their lne of Sherpa portable power packs designed to be used far from any outlet. These rugged, weather resistant power packs offer the ability to recharge your cameras, laptop, and phones in the field. The battery themselves can also be recharged using solar panels that are available from Gaol0. The batteries can be used to power / charge USB devices or handhelds with the DC output. An available Sherpa Universal Inventer provides a standard 100w AC outlet.
For Photographers the Goal0 Sherpa 50 Adventure Kit offers the best value for price/performance. The 2.2lb battery offers 50w of power and comes packaged with the Nomad 13.5 solar power charging kit that can fully recharge the battery in 8 hours (or less). The solar panels fold up to form a thin, lightweight pouch for easy travel. Up to 3 Sherpa power packs can be daisy chained together for additional power.
The Sherpa 50 Adventure Kit retails for $449 but is available for about $340 through Amazon.com
Get more product information from:
Zeiss Victory PhotoScope 85 T FL
Zeiss was showing their digital spotting scope, the Victory PhotoScope 85 T* FL. This expensive scope starting shipping in 2009, though this is the first time I have ever seen it. The scope features a built-in 7-Megapixel CCD image sensor, articulating 2.8" OLED color screen and a 35mm equivalent focal length of 600-1,800mm at f/4.0 - f/5.6. The Photoscope has shutter speeds from B - 1/4000s, captures in JPEG, DNG (Raw), and low-resolution video in AVI format, and uses SD memory cards for storage. The unit is rainproof and ships with a wireless remote that allows the camera to be triggered without having to phsyically touch the scope.
According to the brochure the "Victory PhotoScope 85 T* FL is the world’s first spotting scope with a zoom lens and a fully integrated 7 megapixels digital camera that permits simultaneous observation and photography. Thanks to its powerful observation optics, it is possible to gain unique visual experiences that can easily be recorded at the touch of a button."
Unfortunately the unit is priced at $6500 putting it out of reach for most nature watchers. For those who want a self-contained, water repellant "telescope" with integrated digital camera it might be worth a look, but at this price I would expect more than a 7-megapixel image sensor, non-stabilized lens, and terrible 320x240 resolution video.
Think Tank Photo Urban Disguise 35 V2
I have a lot of Photo Bags. Actually I probably have as many photo bags as fashion conscious women have shoes. There truly is a bag for every occasion, which is why I feel the need to have so many. I recently was sent a Think Tank Photo Urban Disguise 35 (V2.0) and instantly fell in love with it. It's designed to hold a DSLR with long 70-200mm f/2.8 lens attached, along with extra a couple of extra lenses and/or a Zacuto Z-finder. The rear of the bag has room for up to a 13.3" notebook, iPad or netbook, while the front pockets can easily hold extra batteries, memory cards, intervalometer, cables or other item small items.
On my trip to PhotoPlus Expo in NYC I decided that instead of taking all my DSLR gear in my large roller bag that I would instead fill the more compact Urban Disguise 35 V2 with my small Canon HG10 camcorder, Sony wireless mic. system, Steadicam Merlin, iPad, extra batteries, bottle of water, cell phone and car keys. The bag doesn't scream out "Camera inside," which is of course why they call it the "Urban Disguise."
If you're looking for a professional compact bag that can hold a DSLR with 70-200mm length lens plus a day's worth of extra lenses and other gear I would highly recommend checking out the Urban Disguise 35 v2.0. The bag retails for $155 and is available direct from Think Tank Photo or other retailers such as Amazon and B&H Photo.
One of the coolest products at this year's PhotoPlus Expo is actually not even considered gear. Metal Mural is both a product and the company name - and sets itself apart by showcasing photographer's work on 12" x 12" metal panels that are combined to create beautiful murals of varying dimensions. Even the metal panels themselves can vary in size up to 18x23" each and are scratch resistant and UV coated for durability.
The colors of a photograph comes to life when printed on a Metal Mural - much like they do when printed on metallic paper. The patent pending process permanently infuses your photograph into metal (it will not peel off). Metal panels connect to one another using tiny, self leveling c hooks.
For more information visit: Metalmural.com
Lensbaby lenses are some of the most unique and cost effective lenses available for photographers and cinematographers. These specialty lenses create an in-focus sweet spot that can be placed anywhere in a scene in order to bring focus to a particular subject, while blurring out the rest of the scene. Even the lens quailty can be altered by using insertable optics of varying qualities. For example if you drop in a plastic optic you'll get a very dreamy and ethereal look to the overall image vs. the double-glass optic that provides a crisp, sharp image.
The Lensbaby Composer and Control Freak provide photographers a way to lock in a particular lens position and focus in order to have an identical look from image to image.
The Tilt Transformer is their newest product and is designed exclusively for the Panasonic Lumix G Micro System, Olympus PEN® and Sony® α NEX digital cameras. The Tilt Transformer allows users to mount any Nikon mount lens to their camera to create a movable and rotatable slice of focus instead of a round sweet spot. This provides users with the look of a tilt-shift lens, but at a much lower price.
The new Lensbaby Scout is the first and only Lensbaby that doesn't bend. Instead it is designed for fisheye photography. Scout is also compatible with all other Lensbaby optics, giving full
access to the wide range of creative photography effects offered within
the Lensbaby Optic Swap™ System. Available in mounts for Canon EF (EOS), Nikon F, Sony Alpha A /
Minolta Maxxum, Pentax K / Samsung GX, Olympus E1 / Panasonic Lumix DMC
cameras. Visit the Lensbaby Web site
AdoramaPix Custom Albums
In many ways it's a shame that most photographs today are only viewable online - on web sites such as Flickr, SmugMug, or Facebook. The popularity of online photo sharing is understandable since online photos can easily be shared and viewed by friends and family around the world, but for your own family photographs consider having them printed directly onto the pages of a professionally bound photo book.
I will guarantee that once you get see your images displayed on archival paper in a beautiful full-color lay flat album you'll start to see your photography in a different light. For me, online photo sharing has cheapened the art of photography. Pictures are a dime a dozen online as we are inundated with images every day from "friends" and family.
Adorama, a large photography retailer in New York, launched AdoramaPix back in 2008 providing high-quality, low-cost printing on all types of media. In 2009 they launched their photo books division and today they offer some of the best and most affordable professional albums available.
AdoramaPix photo books are made of Fuji Crystal Archive Album photo paper, a pro quality archival paper that resists fading. The special Leporello page binding enables each book to open and lie flat, ideal for full edge-to-edge, doube-page spreads, and panoramic images. The covers are also in ful color and laminated for durability and longevity.
If you have ever worked with a wedding photographer you know that professional photo books are often in the $500 - $1000 price range, yet through AdoramaPix you can design and print your own for less than $100. For example, their website price list shows that a large 10x10" professional photo book with 50 pages sells for just $91.95. For those with smaller needs you can pick up a beautiful 6x9" album with 26 pages for just $31.95.
Visit AdoramaPix.com for more information or to create your first custom photo book.
Video Tour of PhotoPlus Expo 2010