photokina Special Coverage; Really Useful Stuff: A Gathering Of Accessories & Items, With Something For Everyone Page 2

Lastolite also had two other very clever products, the HiLite self-supporting high key background that can easily be backlit, and a washable plastic "sweep." Anyone who uses background paper has had the experience of throwing away a lot of good paper because of a few marks. Today, with so many pictures either digitally captured or digitally processed, it often makes more sense to touch out a couple of minor marks in Adobe's Photoshop than to roll out another 3 meters of clean paper. You won't necessarily get all the marks off the washable "sweep" but you can probably remove enough to make retouching, when needed, a sensible option.

Novoflex Zebra cards

Sticking with digital photography, white balance control targets from CBL in Korea were very expensive, but also very useful. White balance is a besetting problem with digital, and anything that makes it easier to set up has to be welcome. The big advantages of the CBL targets are that they can be used with any lens and that they are double-sided for use with flash as well as continuous lighting. Another way of doing the same thing cheaper, though, is with Novoflex's Zebra gray/white cards.

Changing tack, the bright red Praktica DCZ 6.3 is an otherwise unremarkable 6-megapixel camera which is rendered unusually attractive by its deep red metallic finish. You can't help wondering why more manufacturers don't take this route.

Praktica DCZ 6.3

Something else that provokes a response of "Why hasn't someone else done that?" is Kaiser's "twin1" infrared remote shutter release which works impartially with Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Samsung, a photographic relative of the "universal remotes" that can work TV, Hi-Fi, CD recorder, and video players. Several cameras don't even require an adapter, just the thumb-sized transmitter that works at up to 10 meters.

Much lower tech for most of their range, but arguably even more useful, is the Mandee/DKE series of accessories manufactured in India: hot shoe adapters, lens caps in both plastic snap-in and metal screw-in form, and more. These are imported to the U.S.A. by Camera Depot in Thousand Oaks, California. Another Indian company I like, who make a surprising number of products for better-known American companies as well as good-quality products under their own name, is Hari Singh & Sons of Amritsar. If you want short-run, high-quality products, visit www.harisonphoto.com.

Not photographic at all, except in the sense that photographers will find their products enormously handy, are Tool Logic pocket tools, flashlights, and multi-tools, including a pocket knife with built-in but removable flashlight; police departments will be interested to know that handcuff keys and Glock pistol tools are available for the latter as interchangeable inserts.

Not exactly an introduction, but still newsworthy, is the Horseman stereo camera. Many feared that this would disappear with the XPan, but it won't: Horseman manufactures the bodies themselves. Of course, they may be under pressure to reintroduce the XPan, based on the Horseman 3D, based on the XPan...

Another useful reminder of how things continue to get better is Schneider's MRC coating for B+W filters, now 10 years old. The water-repellent characteristics were obvious when it was first shown; the toughness and scratch-proofing have since been born out in practice. Yes, B+W filters cost more than most other brands, but those who buy and use them know why. The vast majority of other, cheaper filters will be just as good at first, and will have the same degrading effect (e.g., none) on your image quality. But after a few years of use, and occasional abuse, you can see where the money goes.

It's always good to be able to plug an American company, and GTI (Graphic Technology, Inc.) has further improved their superb range of viewing boxes by making almost all of them fold up for easier storage. Controlled-light viewing enclosures are all but essential if you really care about consistency in your pictures, and GTI's latest big model is selling well to camera clubs: a vast improvement on the motley collection of tungsten and fluorescent that have ruled the roost for so long. Because I'm in Europe I use DW but if I were in the US I would invest in a GTI in a moment--and it really is an investment.

Another stand I always visit is Condor Foto, an Italian company who sell all sorts of accessories for special effects: hair-thin but ultra-strong tungsten wire for "flying" things invisibly, smoke/vapor chemicals, desiccated fake ice cubes (just add water--I am not kidding, and they can be dried out and rehydrated repeatedly), spray-on frost effects, spray-on cobwebs, fake beer froth...the list goes on.

The great thing about photokina is that while the truth may or may not be out there--and as Condor shows, "truth" can be a flexible concept in photography--there is almost certainly a solution to whatever photographic problem faces you. And if there isn't, and you've invented something incredible and new that will make photographers' lives easier: well, photokina 2008 is probably the best place to show it off.

Cleaning Kits
I always look at cleaning materials at the shows: no matter what sort of photography you choose, silver or digital, dust and static are twin banes. Among some of the highlights were a whole range of cleaning aids from Giottos, including "chamois sticks," and new kits from LensPen, including one with replaceable tips for the pen and a handsome leather case. The newest Spudz lens cloth from Alpine Innovations is tiny, and attaches to the wrist strap lug on a point-and-shoot camera. For maximum cleanliness, for example when cleaning digital sensors, Kinetronics had a Mini Clean Room; a clear plastic changing bag with a battery-powered air pump and air filtration system.

Now that I use digital cameras, albeit sparingly and as a second string to silver, I need to keep my memory cards safe and clean. In the field I use Gepe's hard-side Card Safe but now there is a new Gepe Archival Card Safe based on a DVD case for storage at home: small, compact, easy to store.

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