There's nothing like a good trade show to see the latest, coolest, and greatest.
After a five year hiatus, I am pleased to be back in the saddle writing my monthly column named, "Photo Gadgetry". Each month you'll see the latest and the greatest products ranging from simple lens caps to super-telephoto lenses, or from memory cards to the latest software. That said, it's basically everything but the camera! In this article, as well as for future ones, I'll discuss all those neat accessories for your camera (and sometimes for the computer) that make your photography experience more enjoyable and your image results better. Isn't that the reason why many of us got into photography, so that we could play with all the cool gadgets?
The PhotoPlus Expo recently celebrated its 30th anniversary on October 2013. This annual show, sponsored by Photo District News, the publication geared towards professional photographers, is the largest photography and imaging show in North America, attended by over 23,000 professional photographers and enthusiasts. Participants see over 300 exhibitors, thousands of new products, and have an opportunity to attend classes and workshops with some of the biggest names in photography. Personally, I have attended nearly everyone since its conception, and it's always a great time. Being housed at the famous Jacob Javits Center in Midtown Manhatten (affectionately known as the "Glass Theater"), I've always looked forward to making the trip to New York City, not only to partake the show, but also to spend time enjoying the sights, sounds and culinary delights of the Big Apple!
My charge for attending the PhotoPlus Expo was to search for and highlight the most useful and exciting new gadgets for your photography. With that in mind, I'll start off with Adorama Camera's new Glow by Flashpoint HexaPop 24" for portable off camera flash - R Series. This outstanding product is a very high quality one, made in South Korea. It features a large 22" diameter octagonal reflector and is 8.5" deep. The material employed is first rate, using a hex pattern in the fabric in order to disburse the light in an even manner and also to make the fabric stronger. The color of the fabric is silver on the inside for greater light efficiency and contrast than white. It is also UV coated so that the color tem-perature is more pleasing for skin tones. The unit opens up easily by pulling out the metal rods (along with the fabric) until they snap into the mounting collar (speed ring). There is also hardware included so that you can mount the HexaPop onto a light stand or a camera bracket. The mounting brackets are make of a sturdy plastic, and while I would have probably liked to see them made of metal for added strength, I did not have any issues with the plastic. I'm sure the plastic makes the rig lighter in weight. I mounted mine onto the Stroboframe Camera Flip bracket, and it works perfectly for high quality portraits and interior shots, on-location. You may also use the Flashpoint Camera Flip Bracket, which appears to be is a knock off of the Stroboframe original. Because of the large reflector size of the HexaPop, you must use a bracket that will raise the reflector high enough above the lens so the bottom of the reflector does not cause lens vignetting.
Also please note that because the unit is rather large, there is a possibility of people or objects around you being hit by it, so you must exercise some caution while using it in rooms with tight spaces and people close by it. However, you will be more than pleased with your photographic results, as the photographs that you will capture will amaze you. You will find that the light distribution is vast-ly more even and diffused than using your Speedlight without it. Shadows are minimized and not hard-edged. The possibility of the dreaded red-eyes are vanished.
To tear down the HexaPop, all you need to do is to squeeze the two little plastic buttons on either side of the speed ring, and the reflector collapses, making a rather loud "pop" sound, hence its name! The pop sound comes from releasing the spring loaded rods that keep the reflector open and taught. You might want to be considerate of others in the room when closing the HexaPop, because the sound level of the "pop" may be disruptive in a quiet environment.
There is a reasonable amount of space available for the Speedlight to be installed in the HexaPop. That can result in one using filters or other diffusing attachments on the Speedlight while it is mounted in the HexaPop. The HexaPop also comes with a handy and well-made carry bag and attachable strap with pad, You may also transport it with the bag's build in hand straps.
All said, the HexaPop is one fantastic new product! It is available on Adorama.com. Interestingly, the HexaPop is also
available as the SMDV Diffusor 50 from Fotodioxpro.com. It is distinquished by the contrasting red accents on the reflector. However, it is the same product, just a different brand name and distributor.
Also at the Adorama booth was their entire line of new Glow by Flashpoint Light Modifiers, with various styles and sizes of umbrellas and softboxes, to collapsible reflectors. A full test report on these exciting new products will be posted soon!
In addition, Adorama displayed their new line of tripods and ball heads by the name of 3Pod. This new line looked well made and are value priced. They are all lightweight tripods, made from your choice of either lightweight aluminum or the even lighter and stronger industrial strength carbon fiber. They sport the cutting edge "flat-travel" design rather than the traditional "round" folding style. This makes a much smaller package that aids when traveling with these tripods.
Next, let's look at the new Cokin France Pure Harmonie Filters, distributed in the USA by Omega Brandess, located near Baltimore, MD. As you may know, Cokin is famed for their popular Creative Filter System, which comprises of a filter holder that mounts to the front of the lens via an adapter ring, and then you simply slide their square filters into the holder. There are over 160 different filters from which to choose. As a departure from the Creative Filter System, Cokin is now offering filters made specifically in the popular filter sizes. The Pure Harmonie filters are the thinnest and lightest ones that I have ever seen! They look beautiful, too! Pure Harmonie filters are touted by the manufacturer to be the thinnest and the lightest in the world.
Here is what they say about them: With a thickness of 3.3mm for the Multi-Coated Anti-UV (UV MC), 4.5mm for the Circular Polarizer (C PL) and 9.5mm for the Variable Density Neutral Gray (ND X) they are almost invisible when mounted on your lens. Their weight is so light that you won't even notice that they are attached. They have been engineered with no compromise: very robust, compatible with all lens caps and multi-coated with EVERCLEAR 5 Coating Technology to with-stand almost any conditions. Super lightweight for maximum AF performance and ultra-shallow profile to prevent vignetting. Each filter comes stored in a handy, thin and attractive looking plastic case.
Expo Imaging showed their popular Rogue line of FlashBenders. These Speedlight light modifiers work extremely well for bouncing and redirecting the light, since they are bendable via flexible rods built into them. You can position the FlashBender as you wish to control the shape and direction of the light. They are light weight and well made too. Their white surface is washable. I particularly like their Large FlashBender. All FlashBenders attach easily to your Speedlight by simply wrapping their on-board hook & loop strap around the Speedlight's head. To further soften the light, I also attach the Rogue Large Diffusion Panel to their Large FlashBender. This combination makes an outstanding flash diffusor for Canon, Nikon and other brands of Speedlights. Here is Model Lorenzo Hudson posing for a guest photographer, utilizing the Rogue Large FlashBender and Large Diffusion Panel
A product that I was particularly interested in seeing at the Expo was the HyperDrive iUSBportCAM-ERA Wireless Tether for most Canon/Nikon DSLR to iPad, iPhone, Android, Mac and PC. The iUSBport Camera supports remote control and photo and video shooting with wireless live view and touch fo-cusing. It is compatible with most late model Canon and Nikon DSLRs. In addition, images from your DSLR camera can be sent to your iPad, iPhone, Android, Mac, and PC, and any device with Chrome or Safari web browser.
The benefits of this device are many as indicated on their website:
It is currently pricd at $199.95 at www.hypershop.com
- Wirelessly connect your DSLR camera to iPhone, iPad, Android, Mac, PC
- Wireless camera control. View and edit camera settings. Remote trigger
- Place camera in hard to reach places and control it remotely
- View live viewfinder images on your iPhone, iPad, Android with touch focusing
- Wirelessly record videos; view video while recording
- Instantly capture & transfer photos to your iPad or computer without any wires
- Allow your client to view photos on their iPads or tablets as you shoot
- Review and edit your images with Adobe Photoshop, Lightroom while you shoot
- Intervalometer, bulb mode, HDR bracketing, macro photography, self timer
- View and manage camera memory card contents
- Photo sharing
Lowepro was at the Expo, as always, displaying their vast line of high-quality photo and video bags. I was particularly interested in their new line of Urban Reporter Series camera bags, among others. I tried the 250 model (it's the middle sized one of three in the line) and it's perfect for carrying a DSLR, along with 2-3 lenses (up to a 70-200 f2.8), speedlight, accessories such as cleaning supplies, filters or a portable hard drive, and a laptop or tablet (up to 13"). I really like the new twilled black fabric that Lowepro has selected. It's soft and smooth, but I'm sure that it will be rugged as Lowepro is known for as its been treated for water, stain and static resistance.
Inside, there is a light gray colored removeable camera insert, along with several padded partitions, also adjustable and removeable. In addition, there is a velcro lid that can be shut to prevent dust and water, or uninvited hands, from getting to your valuable equipment. When you remove the camera insert, the bag can be used as an overnight bag, or as a briefbag for office or school use. Inside the back of the bag is a dedicated laptop/tablet section that's quilted and padded. The bag is lightweight (under 3 pounds) and handsome, with its' all black semi-matte exterior, black leather accents, and sleek dimensions. I especially like the large black leather pulls on the prerequisite YKK zippers. As a departure from using the industry standard ITW Fastex plastic buckles, Lowepro uses leather accents and a snap closure on the flap. This makes the bag have a more elegant look while still keeping the flap secure and easy to open and close. Also, an anti-slip, adjustable shoulder strap with padding helps secure strap at the shoulder when you're in motion, plus allows adjustment for a comfortable fit. The convertible pocket/trolley sleeve transforms from handy storage space to travel-friendly sleeve (to use with rolling luggage). Lowepro has created another winner for the professional or advanced photographer, who wants to carry a good amount of equipment, but also wants to be able to carry it with ease and do it discretely with it's understated looks. For more information, go on www.lowepro.com.
My friends at Op/Tech USA displayed their many fine Made in USA products. A new strap has been designed for the new Mirrorless Cameras. Named the Mirrorless Sling, this sling style strap offers com-fort and convenience when shooting with a mirrorless camera or other small SLR camera. It allows the camera to be carried discretely at the side yet the camera glides easily up the strap into shooting po-sition. I've been relying on Op/Tech USA's straps for years and I'm sure that this new item will be per-fect for those shooting with the latest Mirrorless and other lightweight cameras. The strap features a neoprene pad and a non-slip surface, and is fully adjustable. The camera is attached to the strap via Mini QD Loops on the camera's strap attachment points themselves and not with the camera's tripod socket. I think this is a better design better design as it keeps the tripod socket and the bottom of the camera free to use. For more information, go on www.optechusa.com.
LaCie was in attendance again this year. It's good to see storage manufacturers at a photo show, since storage is so important in the photographer's workflow. LaCie displayed their exclusive Porsche Design's electronics line: the LaCie Porsche Design USB Key. The key is one of the few ultra-portable, steel devices on the market to feature 16 GB and up to 32 GB of capacity and USB 3.0 speed up to 95 MB/s. It combines design, performance and technology to give users a stylish accessory for any keychain, camera bag or backpack. For more information, go on www.lacie.com
Western Digital was there at the Expo, as well. They showed their many external hard drives. Their popular My Pass-port Ultra is available in four colors - black, blue, red, and silver. Their capacities range from 500 GB to 2 TB. My Passport Slim is ultra-slim and offered in 1 TB and 2 TB capacities and they are encased in metal. It's only available in silver. WD also displayed their My Passport for Mac. All of the WD drives include backup software, security software and optional Dropbox cloud storage. For more information, go on www.wd.com
There were many workshops and speakers at the Expo. Keynote Speakers were NASA Astronaut Donald Pettit, Ph.D, Mark Seliger, Rolling Stone cover photographer, and Rick Smolan, National Geographic photographer.
There were also performers at the booths, such as Guitarist Mikel Paris of the band O.A.R., who played and sang at the Western Digital booth. Male and female models were in attendance as well, posing for various lighting companies for the attendees to photograph. Nikon had a spectacular backdrop of colorful candies, dubbed Nikon Sweet Shots, that was used to show the image quality of their Nikon 1 camera system. For the budding photographer, one of the strongest reasons to attending the Expo was to have your portfolio reviewed by a seasoned professional. For three days, and for a fee, one could have their portfolio critiqued.
All in all, it was another great show and I look forward to reviewing in more detail many of these products that were seen at the PhotoPlus Expo 2103. Be on the lookout for my future articles.
All Photos Copyright 2013 © Leo Heppner, except Nikon Sweet Shots and Unique Photo Mermaid Copyright 2013 © Terri Shepke.