A Few Highlights From PhotoPlus Expo
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m attending the 2011 PhotoPlus Expo in New York. It’s an interesting year and the show is a bit different than other PhotoPlus Expos I’ve attended. The biggest difference I’ve noticed is there are many more Japanese engineer types, executives, etc. obviously from Japan, in attendance. Not sure if I’m on track with this theory but my hunch tells me this has become a much more important marking event since PMA (Photo Marketing Association) in Vegas was merged into CES (Consumer Electronics Show) about a year or two ago. I mention this because it’s very interesting to think that PhotoExpo Plus may turn into an even bigger, better event since PMA is no longer around. Just my observation.
When I decided to try and keep up with this idea of blogging about the show I made the decision to not try and cover everything but rather just the things I was actually interested in. One of the downsides to attending a show of this size is what I call sensory overload. There are so many products, so much noise, so much fanfare. It’s really difficult to tune all that junk out and concentrate on finding the new and different. So that’s what I’ve tried to do. The following items are some of the things I found most interesting.
Aerial Photography or Videography
By far the coolest new gadget on the floor was Rotor Concept, Inc. This was a company that makes miniature helicopters that you can attach a camera to for either still or video shooting. Unfortunately you can’t hang a large DSLR like the D7000 onto this machine but I was able to see if my point and shoot sized Panasonic GF2 would work and the gentleman at the booth assured me it would. I shot a very short little video, may go back today and shoot something longer. But it was impressive. Here is the video of the guy flying the helicopter at the booth.
Pretty neat! He also had samples of still images and video shot in real life situations. I could see this for situations where you want to get low aerials. Something like the GF2 or Nikon’s new V1 Series cameras would give superb images, both still and video. It would really add some interesting angles to assignments without breaking the bank for a real helicopter. Additionally, it could fly in places you can’t maneuver a real (full size) chopper. I’m not planning to buy one just yet but I’m definitely tucking this away in my memory bank for future projects. Aside from all the great possibilities I mentioned, the other really obvious one is, it looks like a lot of fun if nothing else.
Another great little tool that would work nicely with the helicopter but also be great for many other activities is the new MiniHD Video camera called the Wingman made by Delkin. It’s a mini HD video and still camera with an 8 megapixel sensor, weighs 3 ounces and has a 3X zoom. The body is coated with a rubberized material, is waterproof and the lens takes in a 150 degree view at it’s widest setting.
I bought the CoutruHD, a competitor to the WingMan, this past summer. One of the advantages the WingMan has compared to others on the market is its built in LCD. The camera I bought this past summer has no such option. The other competitor that Delkin will be up against is the GoProHD which does have an LCD option on but it’s an additional cost.
I liked the look and feel of the WingMan camera although I’ve read some other reviews on the web from some who feel it won’t compete with the GoPro on image quality. Guess we’ll just have to wait an see.
Nikon’s New J1 and V1 Series Cameras
About the only big announcement that actually revolved around cameras other than Canon’s new EOS 1Dx was Nikon’s introduction of the new Nikon 1, J1 and V1 series cameras. Nikon pulled out all the stops to showcase these small, light weight, technology packed, picture producing, mini machines. Aston Kutcher was all over the HD-TV screens pronouncing his love of the new cameras and there were models on hand to highlight the attractive colors you can purchase the new J1 and V1 cameras in. Unless I get a new outfit I’m probably going to go with standard black for my V1 camera color.
Some of the specs include:
- Interchangeable lenses
- 10.1 Megapixle sensor
- Smart Photo Selector
- HD 1080P video recording
- Built in Electronic Viewfinder
- Optional GPS
- RAW file capture capabilities
- Viewfinder coverage 100%
- 5 FPS high speed shooting
- Fastest AF in any camera currently being produced.
These are just a few of the high tech features this miniature power house has incorporated in a small, portable body. The camera seems to be doing quite well based on sales figures coming through Amazon. I haven’t had a chance to shoot one yet but hope to in the near future. When this camera was first released there was a fair amount of discussion around the web about why Nikon would choose to use a much smaller sensor than many other companies currently producing electronic viewfinder cameras. Many of you who have traveled with me know that I don’t judge a camera by the size of its sensor. My biggest concern is the quality of the image it can produce.
Who cares about the size of the sensor. If it can crate superior images why should we have any concerns about the sensor size. So I’m excited to see what it can do. Time will tell. At the very least I’m hopeful all the technology in this miniature package makes its way into the larger DSLR’s. Then we really will have some amazing new technical devices to help capture even more interesting imagery. Stay tuned.
Lowepro Pro Introduces The New Pro Messenger Series
One of the most welcomed new products I found at the show was Lowepro’s new Pro Messenger Series shoulder bags. I’ve been working with Lowepro since I started in photography clear back in 1981. They have always had a tremendous quality to cost ratio that still can’t be beat. What I love about the new Pro Messenger series is the retro look of the material. It’s not actually canvas. it’s better. The materiel is the typical bombproof Cordura type of cloth that is virtually indestructible, near waterproof and stays looking amazingly new for years and years. Best of all I love the color. Call me old fashioned, because I am, I love the retro, kacki looking camera bags and I can’t wait to get my hands on one of these new products..
Inside the bag they have retained the solid quality and generous padding that has been a signature selling point to all their products since the 1980’s. There are numerous pockets, padded dividers and attention to details like the ability to extend the main flap, beyond it’s normal size, when more protection is required. The front pocket is generous pouch for holding the ever popular iPad with several additional interior pockets that can retain the many incidental items a digital photographer needs at a moments notice.
On Demand Book Publishing
One of the great rewards of working in the world of visuals is the opportunity it affords me to have an excuse to investigate gorgeous products. Hey it’s my job. I love quality and whenever possible I’m happy to pay the premium price something of value demands. One such item that caught my eye as I passed their small, beautifully lit, tastefully decorated booth, was a print on demand book publisher know as Photo Book Press. Their tag line is “Fine Custom Books” and it fits them to a tee. Margaret Telfer, one of the partners was on hand to help explain the uniqueness of their particular product. Actually she didn’t have to say a lot for me to see the difference in their books compared to others.
Things such as hand stitched bindings known as sewn signatures, something I’ve never seen in a print on demand book. This allows their product to open flat and withstand years of continual review without tearing or coming apart. Several published samples included their super high quality, archival paper, that reproduced the images in exquisite detail. They really do build beautiful books. Many of their samples were of the wedding variety but they did have one very nice portfolio that included exquisite wildlife. Wished I had taken note of the photographer but I was looking at the product. See for yourself by visiting their web site for details.
Custom Cut Mats and Archival Clear Bags for Fine Art Prints
Many photographers are on the lookout for quality clear bags and custom cut matting for protecting and displaying their fine art photography. I found a very likable young man named Danny Dinh that had a great handle on how his products are different and what they offer discriminating photographers. Here’s a little video snip-it of what he had to say.
More Precise Control for Manual and Zoom Operations With DSLR Video Production
One of the difficulties with shooting professional quality video with the new DSLR still/video cameras is getting precise focus and zoom operations. There are a number of great tools being made by several specialized manufacturers. Some of the better ones that come to mind include Zacuto and Red Rock Micro.
Both of these companies make similar devices to the IDC Rig I saw at PhotoPlus Expo. The main difference with the IDC is the lack of lots of addon parts. Both Zacuto and Red Rock Micro require that you attach a substantial amount of extra gear to your lens to get the focus and zoom control options. Attaching these extraneous items on the lens can be bothersome when you no longer want to shoot video. That’s the one down side to video that still shooters have to get used to. There’s lots more equipment involved and typically it’s about 10X the price of what we’re all accustomed to paying for something relegated to just still photography. By the time a DSLR is rigged for serious image capture you can have all sorts of danglies and attachments protruding from your camera. Unfortunately that’s life in the moving picture world.
What IDC offers that is different is that they don’t require you add all the plastic gear attachments to your lenses. The IDC focus and zoom controller takes advantage of the knurled knobs already on the lenses which are very similar to gears. IDC’s highly polished, quality zoom knurled knob attaches to the lens via an aluminum arm. It’s then easily adjusted to bring the drive wheel up against either the zoom or focus ring. One knurled knob for each ring. It’s ingenious and seems to work very well. No more hanging lots of plastic, gear drive, bands off your lenses.
Mentor Series World Wide Photo Treks
When I’m not traveling for my conservation, pro bono work for Polar Bears International or leading photographic workshops with my wife Tanya on our Natural Exposures Invitational Photo Tours, you can find me working with these two lovely ladies and the other great photo tour company, Nikon sponsored, Mentor Series World Wide Photo Tours.
The last trek I did with Michelle and Erica was last month in the beautiful state of Maine. We had lots of great photo opportunities poking around Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park and lots of other nooks and crannies searching for just the right places that produce great images. Tanya and I are grateful to work with such professional people such as Erica and Michelle. Our next scheduled trek is with my old college buddy Layne Kennedy in the beautiful Canadian Rockies in February 2012. That should be an amazing trip. Banff is my favorite mountain setting in the entire west and to see it in the winter should be magical. We still have a few spots left. Take a look at the Mentor Series web site and reserve a spot for yourself before they all fill up.
Phoozl Photography Games and More
Harald Johnson, a good friend I became acquainted with via my work with Hewlett Packard’s Fine Art Print division was at the HOP booth. Harald was a terrific liaison between the big corporate machine and photographers. He’s moving on with his own projects, namely a new online photography game and contests known as Phoozl. I’m actually judging one of the Phoozl photo contests next week known as Phoozl’s Alphabetography Fall Photo Challenge.
Take a look at the Phoozl web site and see if it’s something you might want to give a shot. It’s fun, inspirational chating with other Phoozl shooters and who knows you may just win a great prize.
Web Based Learning
Another interesting booth I happened to pass was one staffed by the folks from Creative Edge. They specialize in online access to thousands of videos, books, and tutorials by the worlds leading experts. They have over 10,000 books and other learning materials available online for a relatively modest, monthly fee.
If you visit their web site you’ll find online titles that will guide you through specialties such as Photo and Graphic Manipulation, Photoshop, Video Production, Web Design and Development, Illustration and Graphics as well as Animation and 3D to name just a very few. Their well designed web site is what pulled me in to see their quality products.
Sunpack LED Lighting Kit
Sunpack was showing some great options on the strobe and accessory lighting front. One product I’ve seen advertised and wondered about is the what is called the Sunpack LED Macro Lighting device. I’ve always thought theses devices may not throw off enough power to make the truly useful for macro photography.
What I found was a bit of little positive and a little negative. For some situations these lights would be fine. Anything that doesn’t move would be a potential subject they could light. The LED’s are really quite bright but not enough to give you the shutter speeds you need for really sharp macro photography if the subject isn’t stationary. I wouldn’t trade in my strobes for this device but it is a cheaper, interesting alternative.
Storage of Digital Assets
Drobo offers a tremendous number of options for storing and protecting your digital photography or anything else you want to make sure you save from the hazard of loosing hard drives. I’ve been using a Drobo device of one kind or another for several years and though I’ve had a couple challenging situations that involved my Drobo devices, I have to be honest and say I have no idea if my issues arose from Drobo or my Apple computers.
I had a very serious hard drive meltdown about three months ago that took four, 2Terabyte drives and nearly destroyed them. They were all a part of my eight bay Drobo FS. However, the catastrophe took place just at the same time Apple was issuing incremental upgrades of their Snow Leopard software to prepare people for the forthcoming Lion release. I talked to Apple, I spoke to Drobo and nobody really knows where the issue came from.
Manfrotto Pulling Out All the Stops with Many New Well Designed Products.
For just short of thirty years I’ve been shooting with the Gitzo tripods. A few years ago, not sure of the date, Gitzo and Manfrotto were all brought under one roof known as the Vitek Group. At one time Manfrotto was a much less quality tripod than Gitzo but that has all changed with the coming together of these two companies. I can’t think of many if any other companies who have worked so hard in the last few years reinventing the way we support all types of cameras and sport optics not to mention lots of other photographic and cinematography products. I recently switched my entire tripod head system over to a newly designed Manfrotto fluid video head for both my still and video work. The current model of choice for the last year or so has been the 504HD Fluid Head. It’s relatively light, extremely durable and is as smooth as silk. I was able to see the next step up from the 504HD which is the new 509HD. I’m most likely going to be trying that soon since the 504HD is just at the edge of being able to hold a 600mm F/4 for video production.
The Manfrotto/Gitzo booth was full of people every time I went buy. So much so it was hard finding someone to talk to. I persisted and was able to get a few questions asked. I was mainly interested in knowing more about the video side of their tripods
That’s all for this year. I had a great time reconnecting with many friends I’ve made over the many years in the photography industry. I would like to give special thanks to David Lee at Nikon, Suzanne Caballero Knowlton at Lowepro, Harald Johnson formerly with HP, Michelle Cast and Erica Johnson of the Mentor Series and Jen at F/11. Please let me know if you find an typos, misinformation, etc. Writing this all in a day was quite a project. Much more than I expected. This was my first stab at sharing at least some of the things I was fortunate to see first hand with the our blog audience. I’m very grateful that my job affords me the chance to go take part in these exciting events revolving around the world of imaging. I’m happy to share this information with all of those who weren’t able to make the trip to New York. For any questions please just pop them into the comment section and I’ll be happy to answer if I can.
Best wishes, Daniel J. Cox