Best Of Show; Shutterbug’s Picks Of PMA 2006 Page 2
Bibble's 4.6 Professional Workflow Software
For photographers looking to get the best possible quality from their digital cameras, starting with a raw file is a fact of life. Bibble Labs Version 4.6 of its raw workflow software announced at PMA offers photographer's some great new tools to maximize the quality of their images and minimize the time they need to spend doing conversions. Bibble has maintained its lead in processing speed while adding tools like the Highlight Recovery feature, integration of Noise Ninja technology, expanded BPTLens Correction, and improved color management. By putting these tools to work as part of the raw workflow, data loss is minimized and image quality is improved.
Bibble's cracking of Nikon's white balance encryption proved the
engineering talent behind their products. But the addition of correction data
for more than 300 lenses, support for more than 70 digital SLRs and prosumer
cameras, and the ability to work as a plug-in or stand-alone software on Windows,
Macintosh, and even Linux systems shows a deep commitment to the full range
of digital photography.
If you need tethered shooting, IPTC captioning, and full multi-threaded processing, you will want the professional version for $129. If these features are not important, go with the "lite" version at only $69. Either way, Bibble has created a powerful, well designed tool to help you get all the quality you can from your files.
More specifics may be found on Bibble's website at: www.BibbleLabs.com.
Gitzo's Traveler GM2560T Monopod, Hughes' Soft Light Reflector,
And The OSN 60 Tripod
I have found that a monopod is a very convenient accessory to have readily available when working outdoors, especially when using a long focal length prime telephoto or tele-zoom lens. That extra bit of support and stabilization really helps capture very sharp images. The new Gitzo Traveler GM2560T 6x monopod (from Bogen Imaging Inc.) is 30 percent lighter than regular monopods and weighs less than a pound. It is only 14.3" long collapsed, extends out to 56.1", and has a load capacity of 9.9 lbs. The six-section legs utilize Gitzo's Anti-Leg Rotation system for really fast extension and locking for a rapid setup. The MSRP is $215.
The more powerful light produced by a shoe-mount flash allows you to take
pictures anywhere, but the extra bright light can be very harsh and cast distracting
shadows behind the subject. When your flash head has bounce capability you can
often tilt it up and bounce off a white ceiling. But if the ceiling is too high,
or colored, you cannot bounce. That's when the new Hughes Soft Light Reflector
comes in handy. Since it is lightweight, soft, and bendable you can roll it
up for easy carrying in your gadget bag, then when needed, quickly fasten it
to the flash head with the touch-fastener tabs and use bounce flash anywhere,
even outdoors. There are times when you want to adjust the angle of the bounce
and this reflector lets you do that by simply repositioning the angle of the
main 90Þ reflector. It's an easy to carry quick-fix for bothersome
When traveling you can always use an easily carried tabletop tripod. The OSN OS 60 tripod fills this need very well. It's small, the legs rapidly spread out at the touch of a button, it extends up to 5.5", and has an adjustable ball socket for precise positioning. What sets it apart is the removable LED light on the bottom of the center column. The light can come in very helpful for adjusting the camera settings when shooting outdoors at dusk or after dark.
--Robert E. Mayer
Canon's PIXMA Pro9500
There were numerous tantalizing new products at this year's convention, and it was hard to choose a "Best of Show." But if I had to pick one, I would go with Canon's new 13x19" pigment ink printer, the PIXMA Pro9500. The beauty and sparkle of the prints speaks for itself, with great contrast and color saturation, but what is most amazing is that you can now get a pigment printer for under $700. A friend of mine paid $2000 for a printer of this ilk from another manufacturer only a few years ago. The Canon printer appears robustly designed, with a modest-sized footprint when open. If I didn't already own the i9900, I would jump on this one. I may still buy it.
I won't go into any great detail, as you'll be reading more about
this printer in our show report, but there is one thing worth noting: 10 colors,
with the inclusion of photo black, matte black, and gray to ensure crisp, clean
black and white prints. The nice thing about Canon inks is that they are not
pricey, and you only have to replace one tank at a time on an as-needed basis,
which will keep operation over the long term economical. But most important,
the instant drying and fade resistance of the prints will make converts of dye-based
inkjet printers over to pigmented ink. One more worthwhile note: this printer
works with rag-based papers for truly archival, exhibition-quality prints that
you'll be proud to display or sell on eBay.
As Honorable Mentions I would have to go with the following products, not in any particular order. HP's 13x19" pigment ink printer, the Photosmart Pro B9180 Photo Printer, also because of performance and price, although what we saw was still in preproduction and the print engine needed to be tweaked a bit. Fade resistance is claimed to be a whopping 200 years!
Logitech's NuLOOQ navigator for Adobe CS2 applications, including of course Photoshop, is a handy device that works in tandem with mouse or Wacom tablet to provide shortcuts and streamline your digital workflow, by making it practically unnecessary to resort to conventional program menus--everything is right at your cursor's fingertips--currently for Mac, but soon for PC as well. Just imagine having your favorite tools accessible at the touch of a button, without having to scroll over to a menu every time you need it!
Then there is the Pantone huey--the only monitor calibration tool you'll ever need (unless you go pro, and perhaps even then). This device adapts monitor settings to changing ambient-light conditions--and it works on CRTs and LCDs, laptops included. It may not be the last word in monitor calibration, but it's a good starting point for many of us.
And finally, one of the cleverest devices I've come across is the Popabrella. It's a mini-umbrella that attaches to a bracket and shades your camera against rain and bright light. The current model is for compact still and digital camcorders, but I was told larger sizes for SLRs with longer lenses will follow. Only one proviso: the camera must have a tripod socket.
Pigment Ink Printers From Canon And HP
My picks of the show include two new products going after the same customer--the serious printers who want both long-lasting and vibrant color and monochrome prints. The new pigment ink printers from Canon and HP are 13x19" models that hint at further offerings to come, and both represent a new commitment on the part of the manufacturers to home and studio digital printing.
We have already reported on the pigment ink printers from Epson (the R2400
and 4800, reviews of which are available at www.shutterbug.com). Now, with these
new models from HP and Canon, there's a welcome recognition of the importance
of permanence for the photo printing craft.
The HP Photosmart Pro B9180 Photo Printer uses new HP Vivera pigment inks and, on select HP fine art papers, is said to deliver 200-year plus prints. The new printer also includes the HP Photosmart Pro Print plug-in for Adobe Photoshop, which automatically synchronizes Photoshop and the printer driver for a single user interface and color management.
HP Vivera pigment inks are said to be smudge-, water-, and humidity-resistant. The printer uses eight Vivera pigment individual ink cartridges, with use on matte papers available without having to swap inks. The new papers from HP also offer a wider range of "art" surfaces, including HP Hahnemühle Smooth Fine Art, HP Hahnemühle Watercolor, HP Aquarella Fine Art, and HP Artist Matte Canvas. The printer is priced at about $699 and will be available as we go to press.
The Canon PIXMA Pro9500 Photo Printer uses 10 individual tanks of Canon's Lucia-branded pigment-based inks and offers Canon's 7680 nozzle print head. These Lucia inks--photo black, matte black, and gray as well as cyan, magenta, yellow, photo cyan, photo magenta, red, and green--are delivered in 3-picoliter droplets. Canon tells us that one of the hallmarks of this printer is the remarkable results when printing gallery-grade monochromatic photos.
Their matte black ink is said to provide high density, true black renditions on fine art papers; the photo black ink provides high contrast; and the gray ink reduces graininess and lines, and is said to stabilize the gray balance in the print by using less color in the gray image areas. Canon designed the PIXMA Pro9500 model so that all 10 individual ink tanks can reside in the print head at all times, saving time (and ink) by eliminating the need to swap out tanks before printing. There's no need to swap ink tanks, as you can load all the tanks in the printer and never worry about which ink goes with which paper surface.
And The VacuumSaver
Hank Hayashi produced my personal Best of Show. He's President of Fujifilm's Imaging Group. He said, "Digital or analog doesn't matter to Fujifilm." It may seem odd to choose a quote as "Best of Show," but to me and all dedicated film users, this is the best possible news. Film producers are still committed to the production of real film. And there were new products at PMA to prove it. As another Fujifilm spokesman said, "We want to be the last man standing."
But of course products are really what PMA is all about. My pick of the products
is the VacuumSaver, a low-tech solution to protecting high-tech equipment. Cameras,
lenses, and electronics need to be protected from moist environments. VacuumSaver
has a range of plastic storage boxes called Vam Dry Boxes. The vacuum is created
via a hand pump and is released via a simple button. There is a humidity meter
which lets you know the humidity inside the box. The 11.5-liter VAM 5101 has
a soft plastic cushion-cradle which expands as you pump out the air. This stops
your camera or other equipment from moving around. The boxes are made of high-strength
polycarbonate. When they have been pumped out, the boxes are completely waterproof
and dustproof. They are also portable, independent of electricity or batteries,
and very difficult to break. The VacuumSavers have already won three design
awards. They aren't stopping with protecting photo gear, either. Their
next introduction is a violin case!
--Frances E. Schultz
Manufacturers/Distributors' addresses can be found on page 174.