Digital Innovations
It’s National Hardware Month...Again; Gizmos, Gadgets, And Widgets, Oh My!

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"There is only you and your camera. The limitations in your photography are in yourself, for what we see is what we are."--Ernst Haas

Whenever I rant about how it's the photographer's vision not the hardware that's important for creating memorable images, I'm reminded of when I was younger and shooting pictures with a well-used Minolta SR-1, how older more established shooters using the latest cameras told me the same thing. These days I'm shooting with Leicas and Hasselblads--that didn't happen overnight--and still believe it's the vision not the hardware. That said, while you can make pictures with a Quaker Oats box converted into a pinhole camera, it's more convenient to use photographic hardware. After last month's focus on software, this month we'll take a look at some essential gizmos, gadgets, and widgets for the digital photographer.

The Mac mini like the Mary Quant mini skirt of the 1960s was originally named for the tiny Austin Mini automobile that was originally launched in '59. Today's Mini from BMW is bigger, but just barely, and "mini" remains a useful term in describing something as diminutive as Apple's little computer. This photograph of a new Mini was not made with a Quaker Oats box, but was captured in Raw mode with a Canon EOS-1D Mark II.
© 2005, Joe Farace, All Rights Reserved

Get A Grip
Nothing breaks the mood of a creative shoot faster than having your camera run out of battery power. I'm a fan of digital SLR power grips because they provide additional battery capacity for longer shoots and critical moments, such as the bride and groom walking back down the altar, when you don't want to run out of power. Hoodman's (www.hoodmanusa.com) Vertical PowerGrips give owners of some digital SLRs twice the battery power and, like OEM grips, attach via the camera's battery compartment while providing a vertical shutter release. The PowerGrips for Nikon's D70 use fiber optics to activate the shutter release, while models for Canon's EOS 20D and EOS Digital Rebel XT use the host camera's internal shutter release system. Included in the package is an OEM battery and an AA battery compartment. Based on my experience with short battery life when using non-rechargeables in the EOS 20D, this accessory should be reserved for emergencies only.

Hoodman's Vertical PowerGrip product line provides owners of some digital SLRs with twice the battery power and mounts through the camera's battery compartment like similar OEM grips while providing a vertical shutter release.

Maxi Use Of Your Mini
The Mac mini (www.apple.com) is a wonderful computer for space-challenged digital imagers. Measuring 6.5" square and 2" tall, the mini offers two USB 2.0 ports and one FireWire port but that may or may not be enough for some busy shooters. Belkin Corporation (www.belkin.com) offers ZFP (Zero Footprint) USB and FireWire Hubs engineered to stack on top of or below the Mac mini. The Hi-Speed USB 2.0 4-Port Hub costs $34.95 and allows you to connect up to four devices to your Mac mini. The $49.95 Hi-Speed USB 2.0 and FireWire 6-Port Hub offers two FireWire and four USB 2.0 ports. A single USB and a FireWire port are located on the front for easy access to USB devices such as the iPod Shuffle or pen drives, such as Memorex's M-Flyer.

Belkin Corporation offers two different ZFP (Zero Footprint) USB and FireWire Hubs that are engineered to stack on top of or below the Mac mini.

Futuristic Pen Drive
Pen drives are useful tools for the digital imager on the go. The winner of the award for pen drive most likely to be used by Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow is Memorex's (www.memorex.com) M-Flyer USB flash drive. The M-Flyer USB flash drive features a sleek and aerodynamic design, a retractable USB connector, and a software suite. It's available in storage capacities of 512MB, 1GB, and 2GB with suggested retail prices of $69.99, $119.95, and $219.99.

Memorex's M-Flyer USB pen drive has a sleek and aerodynamic design, a retractable USB connector, and is available in capacities of 512MB, 1GB, and 2GB.

Because You Can Never Have Too Many Screens
Tritton Technologies' (www.trittonsales.com) SEE2 gizmo lets you connect a second monitor or LCD projector to your computer through a USB 2.0 port without cracking open your case to install an expensive dual video card. This USB 2.0 to SVGA adapter supports up to 1280x1024 resolution video with up to 16-bit color. Why two monitors? That's an ideal setup for viewing multiple windows and multi-tasking without having to wade though windows on a single monitor no matter how big it might be. The SEE2 supports resolutions at 1280x1024, 1024x768, 800x600, or 640x480 and is compatible with Windows 2000/XP systems with an available USB 2.0 port. A SEE2 Pro model for Mac OS computers, including the Mac mini, should be available by the time you read this column. If you don't have an extra or even a single USB 2.0 port, Belkin offers three different USB 2.0 cards for less than $40 that plug into a spare slot inside your computer.

Tritton Technologies' SEE2 lets you connect a second monitor or LCD projector to your computer through its USB 2.0 port without cracking open your case to install a dual video card. This USB 2.0 to SVGA adapter supports up to 1280x1024 resolution with up to 16-bit color.

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