Backpacks And A Mobile Lighting System
I love to carry my gear in photo backpacks. There is nothing on the planet more
practical. And there are many excellent camera packs on the market, and many
more that debuted at this show. But two that I saw this year stand out. The
first is Naneu Pro's Adventure K5 (BKA). The K5 may not be the first photo
backpack to incorporate a separate wearable, padded photo bag, but it certainly
appears to be the most sensible, at least at first glance. As with all Naneu
Pro bags, this pack is made to be durable and withstand the elements. The camera
insert is actually its own photo pack, complete with shoulder harness, although
designed for modest loads, or it can be worn as a chest pack in tandem with
the main pack. When the internal pack is removed, the main pack can be used
to transport clothing and other supplies. Actual production models are a few
months away, so no pricing yet.
The $550 price tag may seem steep, until you see the full-course meal Crumpler
serves up in The Cork & Fork (I know, sounds like an Aussie pub, but that's
part of the Crumpler allure). This, too, is two bags in one, although they are
available separately as The Period Charmer roller suitcase and photo backpack
insert. The Cork & Fork features a serpentine padded divider system that
adds to its charm, conforming to whatever shapes are carried--stocky or
compact lens, for instance. When the backpack is worn, breathable shoulder straps
come to your aid to provide a comfy journey, together with an adjustable waist
belt. You can use the roller case for clothing, stowing it in baggage on the
flight, and wear the backpack filled with camera gear as a carryon.
I'm always looking for the ultimate mobile lighting system, and I may
have finally found it. It's not that what I have seen or worked with wouldn't
do an admirable job. It's just that I'm looking for something really
lightweight and compact, and Interfit Photographic finally came through with
a truly tantalizing product. The Stellar Extreme is a ray of sunshine. This
AC-DC monolight sports the most compact battery pack--it's practically
a featherweight--that can drive the 300 ws monolight that's in the
package for up to 100 pops at full power; 300 pops at minimum--without
modeling light, with 2-second recycling. It features an LCD capacity gauge on
the battery, continuously variable output, and auto dumping of excess stored
energy when lowering output (to avoid overexposure), along with other features
found in the new Stellar X. Better still, the price tag is a mere $299 for this
dynamic monolight/battery duo.
Nik's Viveza And Vertus' Fluid Mask 3
Nik Software's Viveza has a unique and exciting interface that makes it
a standout product and easily a "Best of Show" pick for PMA. The
software's U Point technology uses control points and simple slider controls
to make changes to contrast, saturation, and brightness without the need to
make complicated selections and masks. Because making selections can be a very
difficult process, this software's ability to work with little more than
a mouse-click is impressive. The software's adjustment sliders that appear
over the original image allow one's full attention to remain where it
should, on the image, rather than negotiating menus and settings.
Vertus' Fluid Mask 3 offers a great solution to creating selections
and masks that doesn't involve any time-consuming and complicated techniques.
The software, which uses simple brush tools to make selections and masks, delivers
excellent results even when working with subjects with very fine detail such
as a portrait subject with hair.
--Ibarionex R. Perello
Big Chip, Smart Cameras
As readers know, Nikon and Canon both offer so-called "full-frame"
sensors, equivalent to 35mm frame size and larger than standard sensors in most
D-SLRs. Indeed, some were surprised that Nikon made the move with their D3.
We thought that was it, as most other makers shied away from the larger sensor
size, mainly because they did not want to fight the two tops dogs for the premium-price,
pro end of the market.
That's about to change. Though short on specs, Sony announced plans
to come out with a full-frame, 24.6-megapixel CMOS (close to a 72MB file right
out of the box, when opened and not counting compression) chip for their coming
pro model. They promise very low noise at high ISOs and a whole raft of "smart"
exposure, focus, and color balancing features and lenses to match. While I am
usually hesitant to peg promised products with a "Best of Show"
award, the Sony announcement, which should become "real" this fall
at the photokina show in Germany, should redefine the pro D-SLR landscape. Although
prices were not even whispered about at the show, you can bet it will be competitive,
but not cheap.
What's a "smart" camera? For this show it is one that solves
problems commonly encountered in picture taking without troubling the user with
the usual exposure, focusing, and picture effect (depth of field, shutter speed)
decisions. This, to me, takes much of the fun and challenge out of making images,
but you sure have to be impressed with the technology. We saw quite a few examples
at the show, many of which you'll get details about in Peter Burian's
"Digicam" report. One example: the Panasonic TZ5 offers something
they call Intelligent Exposure Correction. As the folks at Panasonic explained
it, the image processor creates a 3000-box grid over the frame, checks each
"box" for light levels and automatically adjusts the gain, or ISO
(basically a distinct tonal curve correction) to balance the light. An analogy
would be having distinct ISO settings for different areas in the image. Don't
be surprised if you see this technology migrate to more and more D-SLR cameras.
Finally, my "Best of Show" award for the camera I'm most
eager to put to the test is the Casio EXILIM Pro EX-F1, already discussed in
Jon Canfield's picks. This model takes the camcorder/camera convergence
to heart in a very big way.