After having attended nearly
all of the PMA trade shows in the past 38 years I have seen thousands
of interesting new products introduced for the photographic public.
I wandered the five miles of aisles in this year's big show stopping
by nearly all of the thousands of booths, large and small, to find a
few items of general interest. Following is a brief description of those
products that particularly attracted my attention. Some are relatively
small and of interest to just a few, while others are really great items
which should appeal to a mass of different photographers. This group
of products is listed in no particular order since they vary greatly
in use and application.
Gossen from Bogen offers the new Starlite All-In-One digital meter that
does everything you'd possibly want a multifunction meter to do. It
combines an ambient/flash exposure meter; a cine meter; and a photometric
meter, all in one compact and rugged, yet stylish, water-resistant unit.
Controls are positioned for easy one-hand operation, and all data is
clearly displayed on a large, self-illuminating, LCD panel. Having a
270 swivel head with built-in viewfinder there are four measuring modes:
1 or 5 reflected light, incident light spherical or flat plane and
six different measuring methods. Light intensities can be measured for
both ambient light and flash with results displayed in LUX, foot-candle,
cd/m2, foot-lambert, and more.
There was one really new flash item that sure seemed interesting and practical.
HP Marketing showed the Novoflex "Flash Art," a flat flash panel that
attaches to a hot shoe power unit with a cable and is held to the side
of the camera on an adjustable bracket. This flat flash head looks more
like a small slide illuminator instead of a typical flash head. It's said
to produce soft lighting for portraits or copying small products, since
the light emitted is broader and more diffused than that produced by a
typical flash tube with a reflector behind it. The ISO 100 GN permits
shooting at f/5.6 at 6.5'. It is said to eliminate the redeye effect and
even has a built-in focus light for easier focusing and previewing the
Check Exposure Error
ZTS showed the new Tester Pro, a handheld camera tester with built-in
exposure meter that can also read incident/reflected flash metering. Accurate
light-to-frequency technology uses a plug-in sensor that fits into any
35mm camera (or medium format with an adapter) to measure shutter speeds
and exposure errors. Test results are displayed on an easy to read LCD
graphics panel. Weighing only 7 oz, it lists for $595 and is available
through HP Marketing.
Vivitar showed an unusual combination digital camera that can also play
MP3 tunes. The ViviCam 2795 can store 29 VGA photos as JPEG images on
its internal 2MB flash memory that can be expanded with CompactFlash cards.
In addition, it can playback music recorded in the popular MP3 format,
storing 10 minutes internally and up to 90 minutes by adding an optional
16MB CompactFlash card. Weighing only 4.8 oz it carries an estimated retail
price of under $200.
Phoenix Corporation of America will now handle the venerable Seagull line
of Chinese-made TLR cameras. There will be two versions of the 120 film
TLR, one with knob advance and another with a faster winding crank advance
cocking mechanism. The taking lens is a 75mm f/3.5 with a 1-1/300 sec,
"B" and "X" flash sync shutter. The Hikari 2002 is a 35mm manual SLR with
a mechanical shutter speed range of 1-1/2000 sec, LED TTL metering, and
a 28-70mm zoom lens. It accepts K-mount interchangeable lenses.
Add Grain To Images
One small accessory was quite interesting. With the improvements in grain
structure of all types of color and black and white films these days,
it's difficult to obtain an attractive, artistic grain pattern even if
the film is push processed to a faster ISO film speed. Sunpak (ToCAD)
has a solution called the Prograin. It consists of two small, enhanced
grain pattern filters that can be easily attached to the film plane aperture
gate of most any 35mm SLR camera. Then every exposure on that roll of
film will have either the coarse or moderate grain pattern recorded on
each image. The SmARTlens Prograin system is a two filter kit that lists
for under $30. The example prints looked very nice and much better than
images made with a typical front-of-the-lens grain filter.
Wallets, Digital Style
Digital products and applications were dominant once again with over 100
new digital cameras introduced. Though I don't typically cover this type
of product, I did find one item of particular interest. There have been
desktop digital image picture frames available for several years now,
but this was a small digital wallet to carry along anywhere. The Photo
Wallet from VideoChip Technologies has a compact portable color LCD screen
measuring approximately 4x5" by 3/4" thick, and weighs just 10.5 oz. You
simply plug in any standard CompactFlash or SmartMedia card and then display
either a full screen image, or multiple thumbnail size images to assist
in locating a specific picture. It runs on two DL123A lithium batteries
for hours, or will also take an AC adapter for desk applications.
We all get concerned about the safety of our very valuable camera gear
or laptop computer when traveling. If traveling alone you have no option
but to always keep it securely beside you. Now there is a device that
surrounds your equipment in slash-proof stainless steel mesh, which can
then be secured to some non-movable object with a lockable draw wire and
a shackle padlock. Lowepro has several versions of the Pacsafe system,
including larger models for backpacks. The Explorer series, suitable for
shoulder and rolling bags, consists of two sizes of the wire mesh (with
a convenient carrying case) listing for $60. The Travel Safe line has
two sizes of black pouches with the same wire mesh imbedded under a conventional
appearing black weatherproof fabric exterior for $75 or less.
At the Olympus booth you could put on a personal TV viewing device that
looks more like a pair of sunglasses. The Eye-Trek FMD 250W is a personal
TV display that's fully compatible with VCRs, camcorders, DVD players,
video game consoles, LD players, etc. It accepts standard NTSC television
signals and gives the wearer the equivalent of a huge 62" screen, seen
from a distance of 6'. It's small and light enough to go anywhere and
has stereo earphones in the temple. With this device you can get lost
in your own TV or video game world and not bother people sitting right
There are dozens of battery chargers, but I found one new model that combines
brains and convenience. At the HP Marketing booth we saw the Ansmann charger
along with new Ni-MH batteries. The charger accepts one to four AA or
AAA-size Ni-MH or older NiCd batteries. When the battery is inserted,
the unit first reads the battery condition, then will give it the exact
amount of charge needed to bring it back to full strength. Indicator lights
by each battery slot change color depending upon the condition of the
battery in that slot. You also have the option of first discharging the
battery before recharging it. Adapters are available to change the plug
for different types of wall outlets. The same firm also offers chargers
for various sizes and voltages of camcorder batteries.
Anybody doing tabletop photography of small objects knows well the need
for a device to hold and accurately position small white reflectors and/or
mirrors to obtain the proper amount of fill light to illuminate detail.
A new holder kit with weighted base and a flexible arm with touch fasteners
should simplify this tedious task. It's called COMEN from Foba and is
available through Sinar Bron.
We particularly liked the new lightweight Cullmann 2650 tripod at the
R.T.S. Inc. booth. It has trapezoidal shaped legs for greater stability
with quick-release flip-lock clamps for fast setup. Each leg offers a
variable angle locking device for quite low to the ground applications,
making a usable height range from 3-61". There is a geared, reversible
center column and a three-way fluid effect head with a quick-release plate.
A handy nylon carry bag is included, making it very portable for field
applications. This is one of the very few lightweight, portable tripods
I've seen that provides a steady support when extended to full height.
Live Products is an Internet site that offers an extremely diverse group
of product instructions. You can simply log on and find out how to operate
those products for which you have misplaced the instructions. The web
site www.livemanuals.com currently offers instructions for more than 10,000
products. At present this new Internet concept does not have many photo-oriented
listings and so far they are mostly listing digital cameras. But it sure
is a good idea and probably will have many photo products listed soon.
It's always interesting wandering
about the trade show floor at PMA looking for the large and small items
of general interest that just might make our enjoyment of photography
a bit more pleasurable.