The Grist from the Rumor Mill
What is new and to be expected from Photokina and PhotoPlus
To state the obvious, the web is full of rumors and innuendo. The more popular subjects like celebrities are facing fierce competition from the electronics and gadgetry rumor mill. I can think of about a dozen photography sites or forums that are chock full of hyperbole at this time of year. With the upcoming biennial Photokina and the yearly PhotoPlus show here in NYC, the gossip bees are abuzz. It seems that some of the big boys in photography can't bite their collective tongues or cross their legs until Photokina and have been dropping and plopping some goodies on us, the somewhat-suspecting public, a little early. It is perfectly safe to say that Canon, Nikon and Sony all have something new in the works that should be appearing soon; they may or may not wait until the big shows.
The Nikon D700 (or as the rumor geeks referred to it; the D10) was an early start to the announcement season. This is a camera that has been expected since Nikon produced their first digital SLR, and discussions picked up steam with the release of the D3. The D700 was released with a handful of goodies most notable is the SB900 flash that looks like a SB800 on steroids. It packs the light-blasting punch that you would expect from such a monster with a guide number of 131 at ISO 100 and 35mm zoom position. The new flash has a completely redesigned control panel as well as a wider range of focal lengths it can cover. A clever stow pocket in the bottom of the pouch reveals a wide panel diffuser and a diffusion dome, while a handful of included gel inserts that the flash can automatically recognize and compensate for, assist in color temperature balancing.
A "product-less" release from the tag-team of Olympus and Panasonic hinted at a format that could bridge the world between point-and-shoot cameras and SLRs. The Micro four-thirds format is riding on the success of cameras like the Sigma DP-1 that use larger and higher quality sensors but parcel them into a more compact chassis. Could we see a compact rangefinder-like camera with interchangeable lenses based around an APS-C or micro four-thirds sensor soon? My magic eight-ball says "Signs point to yes …" but to answer when, I need to find another childhood throwback to consult.
Falling into the yet un-named camera genre described above, the Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3, which will be out shortly, seems to have benefited greatly from Panasonic's relationship with Leica. It is about the size of the Canon G9 but possesses a 24-60mm lens (35mm/full-frame equivalent) paired with an 11 megapixel sensor. Its bragging rights come from the really wide lens and the fact that it has an f/2.0-2.8 variable aperture. Pretty fast for a "pocket camera." I personally found myself drooling over the classy retro leather ever-ready case and optical finder available for the DMC-LX3. Other add-ons include a set of filters and conversion lenses, with a dedicated flash coming soon.
Speaking of retro photography, a trusty old standby; the loupe, has been updated for photography 2.0 by Hoodman with their HoodLoupe 3.0. Not much different than the loupe you once viewed your film or groundglass with, the HoodLoupe hangs from the neck and is designed for magnifying an LCD screen up to 3" across.
Sounding like a device buck Rodgers would carry, the Ray Flash converts a Canon 580EX or Nikon SB800 into a ring flash by using fiber-optic pipelines to carry the light output from the flash head to the ring around the lens. Ring flashes, once the tool of dentists and macrophiles, have become an increasing popular tool for fashion and portrait photographers who find the soft, yet stark effects rather appealing.
Like the rising phoenix, Polaroid keeps on reinventing itself. While some pros and large format shooters like me are still grumbling about the demise of Polaroid's instant film manufacturing, a new format has emerged from the ashes to fuel the on-the-go creativity of a new generation with the potential to garner the same cult following that the SX-70 film did. The PoGo is a pocket-sized printer that uses Polaroid's ZINK system. Essentially, Zink, or "Zero-Ink" is a printing process that is molded on to the old chemical-based dyes in Polaroid's instant film. Yellow, magenta, and cyan crystals embedded in the substrate are activated by heat from the printer and can produce a snapshot in about 60 seconds. Out of the box, the PoGo is designed to receive images without the need for a computer, sourced from any PictBridge enabled camera as well as Bluetooth devices like mobile phones.
Two photographic manufacturers, planted as firmly as their camera supports, have a couple of tripods worth looking at. First, Gitzo is celebrating their 90th anniversary with a special limited edition tripod called the Traveler Titanium. As a manufacturing material, titanium has been the high-end/high-performance replacement for the plethora of aluminum alloys out there used for everything from the aerospace industry to bicycle manufacturing (actually, both industries are related – remember that the Wright Brothers were bicycle builders). The carbon fiber tubing is joined by the lightweight metal to produce a visually stunning gem of a tripod. It is a special order item that includes laser engraving with the owner's name, a custom Italian leather case, and the pleasure of knowing that you own one of the only 390 specially crafted Traveler Titanium tripods.
Manfrotto's foray into carbon fiber tubing is further extended by the recent introduction of their 190CX series legs. Configured with a slew of head options, the lightweight platform has a 12 lbs load capacity, magnesium and aluminum castings, with a "Pro" option that is offered in two versions: one with three leg sections and one with four. The main difference between the standard model and the Pro is the inclusion of a Manfrotto Q90° center column that flips from vertical to horizontal in a snap.
There is a new reason to take a long walk off a short pier with the new Liquid Image mask. Someone had the bright idea of embedding a digital camera into a diver's mask which provides still images and video clips at a depth up to 16 feet. You have a choice of a 3.1 or 5 megapixel camera. As a victim of Sunken-Camera Syndrome, I find a hands-free underwater imaging system could prove an invaluable way to share your latest snorkeling adventure.
Jobo has re-re-announced their GIGA Vu extreme portable image storage device, and this time it is really here and in stock as we speak. The GIGA Vu extreme is a bump up from their evolution model that now allows for geotagging with Jobo's GPS datalogger; a device announced twice since last Photokina in 2006, which has never materialized. Don't let waiting for the GPS hold you up from buying an extreme. Unlike the other portable storage devices, it has an open Linux-based platform that allows users who know their way around a sudo command to customize and add all sorts of functionality to the device. With the accessory Jobo Wi-fi card, properly programmed, the Jobo could potentially be used as a portable web browser in addition to its base media viewing functions.
Close on Jobo's heels, Epson updated their popular P-series portable storage with the P-6000 and P-7000. The display on these devices is capable of presenting 94% of the Adobe RGB color space, which in human-speak means RAW & Jpeg images are displayed with accurate and vivid color in line with what you would expect on a high-end computer monitor. It is significantly zippier and can download 35% faster than the older models they replace. The P-6000 has an 80GB hard drive while the P-7000 has a 120GB drive and comes with a travel case.
For shooters less interested in what new toys are being introduced and are more concerned with when their next assignment or gig is coming, presentation is a crucial element for submitting images to clients. Wedding shooters have utilized the elegance of a quality album to offer their clients a traditional, yet graceful method to share their marriage memories. The Albums Inc. Milano line of leather embossed albums come in a plethora of capacities, dimensions, styles and colors to match the tone and feel of your images. Furthermore, the system can be expanded with various mats and cases for the albums.
In any event, this fall promises to be an interesting one for us photographers; lots of refreshes and updates are clearly in the works. A visit to one of the two big trade shows to check out in person the newly announced equipment may be a great way to spend a weekend. While airfare to Cologne, Germany for Photokina may be a tall order for some window shopping, the PhotoPlus show, literally right around the corner from the B&H Superstore, is a bit more accessible. In fact, you might just spot me at the PhotoPlus show; I'll be the guy holding the brightly-colored plastic bag stuffed with product literature… you can't miss me.
For a list of all products highlighted in this article, click here