Photo Gear
Covering The Photo Beat

Faster Charging Of AA-Size Batteries
Most flash units, a few compact cameras, and some digital cameras use AA or AAA-size batteries. The new Harding Energy Quest Platinum line of 2100 mAh Ni-MH rechargeable AA batteries are said to be the most powerful of this type offered today. They offer over 16 percent more power than the predecessor batteries and have a MSRP of $15 for four. The Quest Ni-MH batteries are fully rechargeable, memory-free, and are said to last twice as long between charges as other types of rechargeables. A new 120-minute compact charger has retractable plug blades for easier carrying in a camera case or pocket. The Quest compact charger will charge up to four AA or AAA (or a mixture of both sizes) faster than previous models. It has a MSRP of $30 complete with four standard AA-size batteries. Contact: Harding Energy, Inc., One Energy Centre, Norton Shores, MI 49441; (800) 798-7740; fax: (231) 798-7044; www.hardingenergy.com.

Giottos Tripods
Giottos offers a new Universal Series of professional tripods that are available with either carbon fiber or aluminum lens and center column. Both are offered in three models that differ only in the number of leg sections, maximum height, and leg diameter. All versions feature reversible center column, leg spread adjustment, and independent leg adjustment clamps. These tripods have a built-in spirit level, two-way pan-and-tilt head, rubber ball feet that convert to metal spikes, thick foam padding on the legs, and come with a padded adjustable strap, case, and toolkit. All models support up to 33 lbs. Carbon-fiber versions have a MSRP of $345-$417 while the aluminum versions have a MSRP of $186-$205. In addition, Giottos has three new carbon-fiber monopods that are available in both three- and four-section models. The shortest opens to 59" and collapses to 24", the longer four-section model opens to 75" and collapses to 24.7". Each has a spring-loaded foot pedal for added support and an adjustable wrist strap, case, and toolkit. Contact: HP Marketing Corp., 16 Chapin Rd., Pine Brook, NJ 07058; (800) 735-4373; fax: (800) 282-9010; www.hpmarketingcorp.com.

Extra Compact Tripod For Compact Cameras
The new Manfrotto 714B Digit Tripod from Bogen Photo was designed for use with today's lightweight film and digital cameras. It includes innovative design elements that combine for stability, portability, and ease of use. Probably the most unusual feature is an ultra-compact built-in ball head that is actually recessed into the tripod's center column. Ball head tension is controlled with a handle located at the bottom of the center column. By selecting a preset, yet adjustable tension, there's no need to lock off handles before taking each picture. You simply set the desired tension for the type of gear on the tripod and then forget it. A new single hinge design for the leg pivot allows the leg to fold shorter, down to just 17" when compacted. The four sections extend to a maximum working height of 52.3" extended (64" with the center column fully extended). It features quick-flip leg locks, three-faced center column, and comes complete with carrying case with twin shoulder straps for backpack-style transport. Contact: Bogen Photo Corp., 565 East Crescent Ave., Ramsey, NJ 07446; (201) 818-9500; fax: (201) 818-9177; www.bogenphoto.com.

Ultra-Wide Angle Lens Filter Holder
Cokin has a new wide angle (slim) "P" filter holder specially designed to hold single "P-Series" 4" filters when used with ultra-wide angle lenses of 20mm or above focal lengths. It offers approximately 20 percent additional angle of vision to minimize the risk of vignetting. It can be used with the entire Cokin "P-Series" range of 184 filters and has a MSRP of $14. In addition, Cokin has introduced the Z-Pro Series of 100mm (4") high-quality filters that includes 85 different filters. Photographers who own a "P" filter holder can insert all of the new Z-Pro filters into their existing holder by using a "Z/P Adaptor." Contact: Cokin USA--Proquest Distribution, 11 New St., Englewood Cliffs, NJ 07632; (877) 497-2371; fax: (201) 227-8443; www.cokin.fr.

Lens/Filter Pouch
OP/TECH USA has a new combination soft pouch that safely carries a single lens plus two filters for that lens in the same bag. The top section has a wide mouth for easier use with larger lenses, even those with attached lens hoods, and has a padded dust flap and a drawstring for closing. A zippered section at the base has a padded divider for holding two filters. There is a belt loop if you don't want to carry it in a gadget bag. It's offered in three sizes and carries an MSRP from $17-$19. Contact: OP/TECH USA, 304 Andrea Dr., Belgrade, MT 59714; (800) 251-7815; fax: (406) 388-2063; www.optechusa.com.

Versatile Backpacks
Lowepro has several new photo backpacks. The Rover Plus AW backpack features an advanced harness system for greater comfort and balance combining back support, rugged construction, and ergonomic design. Constructed of tough water-resistant ripstop and ballistic fabrics, it offers a convenient and space-saving method of carrying camera gear, accessories, and additional clothing all in one backpack. There are two distinct compartments: the upper for non-photographic gear such as clothing, food, and water, and a lower compartment for safely housing cameras, lenses, and needed accessories. In addition, there are three quick-access zippered pockets for smaller items such as cell phones, PDAs, flashlight, and snacks. A hidden, pullout tripod sling drops out. The design includes a more advanced and comfortable harness and waistbelt system. The MSRP is $219.

Also new from Lowepro is the Compu Trekker AW backpack for photojournalists and location photographers who need to safely store and carry cameras and accessories plus a notebook computer. Constructed of
shock-absorbing closed-cell foam padding and tough water-resistant outer fabric, the contents are protected both from moisture and sudden impacts. A main compartment is dedicated to storing cameras, lenses, and needed accessories while a perimeter compartment is heavily padded and insulated. It has an adjustable backpack harness with padded, contoured shoulder straps, a quick-release sternum strap, and waistbelt for comfort. The MSRP is $179. Contact: Lowepro, 3171 Guerneville Rd., Santa Rosa, CA 95401; (707) 575-4363; fax: (707) 575-4389; www.lowepro.com.

Rolling Photo & Laptop Case
Porter Case has introduced a new carryon case capable of transporting one medium format equipment system (or the equivalent of 35mm equipment) plus a notebook computer in a separate case. The case has semirigid padded 1600 denier walls, an extension handle, padded shoulder strap, and a soft top carrying handle. The front of the case has a touch fastener flap and large zippered expansion pouch for the photo gear plus a smaller removable pouch for the laptop. The MSRP is $169. Contact: Porter Case, Inc., 3718 W. Western Ave., South Bend, IN 46619; (800) 356-8348; fax: (574) 289-2747; www.portercase.com.

Denim Fabric Scrapbooks

New from Pioneer Photo Albums are sewn denim fabric, top-loading scrapbooks in either true 12x12" or 5x7" sizes. Each scrapbook contains 20 top-loading pages consisting of 10 seamless clear polypropylene protectors with 10 heavy white or black paper inserts for either photo mounting or scrapbooking. A stainless steel screw post binding system permits adding unlimited refills. They are photo-safe archival made of lignin and PVC-free paper and plastic. Both plain denim and block design denim are offered. Contact: Pioneer Photo Albums, Inc, 9801 Deering Ave., Chatsworth, CA 91311; (818) 882-2161; fax: (818) 882-6239; www.pioneerphotoalbums.com.

No Power Required Hand-Operated Charger
Although not specifically Photo Gear, this brand-new product caught my immediate attention after the recent huge blackout on the East Coast. The PED (Personal Energy Device) is an all-in-one combination radio/flashlight/charging device that can be hand cranked to charge it, so you will never be without emergency radio reception, light, or a method to charge your cell phone or digital camera. When the power goes off--and it does most everywhere for a few minutes or hours--this sure would be handy to have available. It comes with several different cell phone adapters, which can be used to give your cell phone enough power for an emergency call. Turning the crank clockwise for three minutes will create enough energy for up to eight minutes emergency cell phone use. Cranking for five minutes will power the flashlight for 2.5 hours. Of course, this charging can be repeated over and over. There are output terminals for 6v, 5.4v, and 3.6v. (The instructions mention charging digital cameras, but don't go into detail on this use nor are cords included.) Similar in size to a deck of playing cards, the PED will sell for $25. I know my sample will constantly be occupying a small space in any gadget bag I take out of the house to have emergency flashlight and radio capability in the field. Currently, the PED is only available through www.orderyourped.com. In the late fall of 2003 the PED will available for purchase at HSN.com and the Home Shopping Network will be a featuring the PED in its electronic segments. The PED will be available at select retail locations in early 2004.

To submit information for Photo Gear please contact Robert E. Mayer by e-mail at: rmayer@kconline.com or regular mail at: Shutterbug Magazine, 5211 South Washington Ave., Titusville, FL 32780.

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