photokina Special Coverage; Weird Stuff: Camera Condoms, Death Masks, Triple-Lens Reflexes, And Body Armor For Your D-SLR Page 2

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Sticking with soft focus, Lensbabies (www.lensbabies.com) had a brilliant new product, a lockable version of their squeeze-focus lens. This may seem like fitting a Ferrari with a tow hitch, or teaching a fish to ride a bicycle, but my prediction is that it will sell in large numbers to anyone who wants to pre-focus on a given spot, or to reproduce a given effect, whether they are shooting still lifes or portraits or motorsports (and yes, there are people who use Lensbabies for motorsports). The way it works, with a triple-rod system, is easier to illustrate than to describe. Lensbabies also had new auxiliary wide angle and long-focus adapters that fit on the front of the lens; the former is especially useful with digital, where the "standard" lens can be rather long.

Lensbaby

How about the body armor? Well, it's akin to the camera condoms, but rather thicker and more shock absorbent, and its main purpose is shock protection rather than rain resistance. There's also a polycarbonate screen protector and lens cap lanyard. Commendably easy to find at www.cameraarmor.com (note the aa), the first models are for Canon EOS 30D and Nikon D70/70s bodies but others are to follow. Production armor is available in smoke (gray) and black but a yellow version is shown here, as it is easier to see.

Actually, they do a lot more than this. Who remembers the old trick of running a steel bass guitar string through a camera strap to render it slash-proof? Camera Armor's ToughStrap already has the stainless steel wire built-in. There's also a SafeGrip hand strap to help lock the camera in your palm, or you can buy the lot--armor, strap, and grip--for $80 or less retail.

Camera Armor

Apart from a weakness for RunningTwo WordsTogether WithCaps InTheMiddle, this Seattle-based company appears to have lots of good ideas. (Editor's Note: This malady is not limited to this company.) AlwaysOn, an associated company, offers an ingenious baseplate-fitting camera stand and a universal wireless remote; also check www.madeforcameras.com (the name on the stand) and www.speckdesign.com. I've ordered Camera Armor for my D70 and maybe I'll do a "mini review" when I get it.

When it comes to camera supports, (see Frances Schultz's Tripods & Camera Supports report) both the new gorillapod SLR (a bigger, more butch version of the gorillapod that intrigued us both at PMA) and the MonsterPod (the "limpet mine" I mentioned earlier), but my own view is that both are so weird that they deserve at least a mention in Weird Stuff, too.

Internet telephones? Well, if you have broadband, you can get effectively free international calls. Sound quality is reduced, but hey, I'll put up with this in return for free calls. The relevance of this is of course that if you are a photographer and subscribe to the Internet, broadband is the only smart way to go (and you can access www.rogerandfrances.com, too). I'm waiting for delivery of my USB-interface (and USB-powered) ZydaFone from EZPnP (www.ezpnp-usa.com) in the hope that it will cut my phone bills in half. I'll let you know if it does!

Dental illumination isn't actually weird if you take many dental photographs, and www.doctorseyes.com is a good general-purpose macro lighting system, too: photokina caters even to super-specialist markets.

Finally, strung on steel cables above the Zeiss stand and looking rather like the Fuji Blimp, there was a 1700mm f/4 tele lens, misleadingly labeled as the biggest telephoto ever (it wasn't; Leica made a 2000mm f/4 during World War II for photographing radar installations across the English Channel). The writing on the side revealed its destination as Qatar in the Persian Gulf. What puzzles me is how (and when) they are going to use it. I once had a 1200mm mirror lens, and atmospheric haze/shimmer made it useless except for half an hour after dawn. But the 1700mm f/4 was magnificent, and you have to admit: it's weird.

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