time-honored Shutterbug Weird Stuff category is for all the products that don't
fit in anywhere else: the sort of thing where a friend who was at the show tells
you, "You wouldn't believe what I saw..." As well as the
glorious examples in the subhead, we can add online caricatures, limpet-mine
camera supports, Internet telephones, dental illumination, and a 1700mm f/4
tele lens from Zeiss. Products with a more general application are covered separately.
To be fair, one of the weirdest things at photokina is the hall layout, which
was all-new this year. Since 1982 I've grown used to photokina's
labyrinthine corridors and to the difficulty of getting from A to B except via
X (and sometimes Q as well), but amazingly, the new halls are just as confusing
as the old; I'm hoping there's space to reproduce just one of the
direction signs from the halls. The show is worth visiting at least once in
a lifetime, but don't expect it to be quick or easy! Stands vary enormously:
at Zeiss you can speak with top lens designers such as Herr Dr. Nasse, while
some of the Chinese OEM manufacturers look more like street market stalls than
an international trade show.
Zeiss 1700mm f/4--the tiny blob on the end is a Hasselblad.
Let's begin with the camera condoms: this is the manufacturer's
description, not mine. I only learned its polite name, the Snapper Suit, when
they sent images. Canadian-based Bonica (www.bonicadive.com)
makes a "removable, flexible, and waterproof silicone jacket" for
various digicams: the thin, flexible covering allows the controls to be operated
through the skin. Price? Not fixed at the show--but only a few tens of
Bonica Snapper Suit on Sony digital camera.
All right: death masks. Any historian will be familiar with these, the last
representations of famous deceased. Today, Uwe B. Patzke's 3d-portrait-sculptur
is a great deal more than a death mask. In fact, it's very clever indeed,
though more than a little spooky.
The basic concept is that you shoot a 3D raster "portrait" of
the subject, giving information on the X, Y, and Z axes, and then save this
as a CAD-CAM (Computer Aided Design/Computer Aided Manufacturing) file for CNC
milling. Actually it's even cleverer than this, in that the input can
also derive from computer tomography and the output can be created by building
up instead of by milling away, so if you want a perfect replica of your own
skull, while you are still alive, you can have one.
The actual output can be in any material, and any size. The same file can be
used to create a gold ring or a life-sized hot metal bronze casting (via the
lost wax or "cire perdu" process) or "cold" casting
or a half-sized sculpture in stone or carved wood or more: the possibilities
are very nearly endless. For around half a grand you can have a very convincing
stone three-dimensional portrait, ideal for the picture of Our Founder in the
Straight from the machine, the stone (or wood, or whatever) heads do however
look uncomfortably like death masks, so a fair amount of hand finishing is required
to make them look lifelike. When I remarked on this, I was slightly disquieted
to be told, "Oh, yes. Because the equipment is fully portable, if someone
has died, we can take their portrait wherever they are lying, without touching
them." Um. Yes. Thanks.
International interest has been enormous, though for very different applications.
In the Far East, they are seen as ideal for wedding portraits (yes, you can
do couples or even groups), while the Russians think they will make marvelous
tombstones. The weirdest portrait was the one with "real" glass
eyes: the same prosthetics that are used for those who lose an eye in an accident.
Herr Patzke admits that in five or 10 years, this technology will be generic
and much lower priced, as portraits-in-crystal now are, but for a while, there
is the potential for immense profit in it for some portraitists.
Considerably cheaper, and somewhat in the same vein, are caricatures from www.photoserv.co.uk.
As well as photo restoration and rather vivid handcoloring, they offer an entertaining
caricature service. You send a file of the picture and a brief description of
your subject's interests (I gave mine as Laphroaig, Leicas, and Land Rovers)
and they send back a caricature file. Prices start at under $20. As the web
address might suggest, prices are in UK pounds; the actual exchange rate is
around $1.90, so the dollar price is a bit less than double. These really are
very nice people with very good prices, and I'd heartily recommend a look
at their website.
Caricature from www.photoserv.co.uk; my arms
are not tattooed!
If your heart is set on 3D, on the other hand, and you can't afford
3d-portrait-sculptur, you may be happy with the 3D-World 120 camera, a triple-lens
reflex. That's right: three-lens, two taking lenses (6x6cm stereo pairs)
and one focusing lens, all geared together. It's made in China but I saw
it on the Monochrom stand. Monochrom is probably the leading German dealer for
"real" (silver halide) materials and equipment, and you can see
a picture of this camera on their excellent website www.monochrom.com.
It's absurdly expensive, the best part of $2000, but they hope it will
come down as they establish a working relationship with the manufacturer. Besides,
the outfit includes not just a camera but also a slide framing station, viewer,
10 sample stereo slides, and 10 6x6cm stereo slide frames. Looking into that
big slide viewer really is impressive. Monochrom also appears to be the only
current source for the Dreamagon soft-focus lens, which I love on digital as
well as on silver halide.