Shutterbug’s Exclusive photokina Coverage; Accessories: Can’t Live Without ’Em Page 2

Vastly more complex in execution, but wonderfully simple in use, the Drobo mass storage medium from Data Robotics is a box with up to four slots in it, into which you plug proprietary hard drives: any mixture, any manufacturer, any capacity. The information is then distributed seamlessly in such a way that if one drive crashes, or is physically removed, the data is not lost: all that happens is that the apparent size of the composite drive is reduced. Obviously you can stick 4x 1TB drives into it, but even with 3x 250GB drives + 1x 500GB, you have 1.25TB. If one drive does crash, you just replace it with another, and the information is redistributed in what is then a bigger virtual single drive. I am hoping to get one to test.

Going from the electronically ingenious to the mechanical, Hoodman’s new WristShot camcorder support system looks like a good way to support a heavy video camera, steadily, for long periods, without feeling at the end of it all as if your arm is about to drop off. It clamps around your forearm, held in place with touch-fastener straps, and has a short stem built into it, like a very short monopod, to hold the camera. Of course I didn’t try holding a video camera with it for several hours, but from the short test I did give it, I strongly suspect it will do exactly what it says.

Filters And Batteries
These are easily ignored, but there is always some progress. More and more manufacturers are offering much harder coatings on their filters, including Tiffen. Tiffen also offers filter simulation software for post-processing of digital images, but when I said, “I’d rather use filters on the camera,” they replied, “We’d rather you did, too, and not just because it means we sell more filters. It’s also quicker, and the effects aren’t quite the same. But we reckon it’s really useful to be able to add filters in postproduction, if you realize afterward that a filter would have been a good idea.” Tiffen was dead right, and very modest (often, you can’t tell whether an effect was created on-camera or postproduction); but my rule of thumb has long been that each minute extra at the taking stage typically saves 5-10 minutes in postproduction.

Also among filters, I particularly liked the B+W ultra-slim filter holders for use with wide angle lenses in the so-called “X-Pro Digital” series. B+W is a part of Schneider.

Another firm offering both slim mounts and super-clever coating, along with extra-hard glass, is Hoya (imported by THK Photo Products). Their new HD optimized-for-digital filters are available in UV and polarizers, the latter promising a useful 25 percent extra transmission as compared with traditional polarizers. Of course 25 percent is only about half a stop, but I’d certainly like to try them alongside my existing polarizing filters for both transmission and color balance.

B+W ultra-slim filter mount

Then there are the Zeiss UV/IR filters. UV/IR filters sprang into prominence with the Leica M8, where a short flange-to-sensor distance necessitated an unusually thin IR filter over the sensor and an excess of IR sensitivity. The latest Zeiss series are curved to minimize the effects of color fringing when shooting through wide angles, and made of two optical glass elements, one positive, one negative, making a neutral group. They are horribly expensive—hundreds of dollars—but they may be the best UV/IR filters in the world.

Lee Filters RF75 filter system

An interesting adaptation of an old idea is the RF75 filter system from Lee Filters: basically a reduced-size holder for square “system” filters, with a couple of extra features to make it especially suitable for rangefinder users: a cutout so as not to obscure the rangefinder window too much, and a datum line and scale for adjusting graduated filters. Quite honestly I don’t think I’d use it on my Leicas—screw-in filters are so much more compact—but for my Alpa and other medium format rangefinders (Graflex XL, Polaroid 600SE) it would be another matter and I’d also be tempted to use it in large format, simply because it’s so compact: maximum filter size is 67mm, so it should work fine with most of my large format lenses. Being Lee, of course, it is of the highest possible quality.

In rechargeable batteries, capacities go up, charge times come down, and self-discharge rates also decline. Sanyo’s improbably named eneloop system loses only 15 percent of a full charge across one year, as compared with up to 100 percent for older technologies, and Sanyo are so confident that they sell the batteries ready-charged, ready for use. I think I’ll be using Sanyo rechargeables in the future. And the new Multiblitz batteries for on-location use of their monobloc flashes offer incredible capacity in very small (though admittedly very heavy) packages, assisted by incredibly clever power management.

iPhone Accessories
A fascinating illustration of photographers’ indomitable desire to increase the versatility of their cameras is afforded by accessories from the Shenzhen Housen Optoelectronics Company Limited. These are adapters for iPhone “cameras” in the forms of a 0.68x wide angle attachment (BM-W) and two tele attachments, one 8x fixed ratio (DW818G) and one 4-12x zoom (DM41218a). Personally I’d rather buy a real camera, but hey, if I had an iPhone, I’d probably want these in my pocket, too. Between these and the Minox “spy” cameras described in the “Weird and Wonderful” review that I co-wrote with Frances Schultz, expect to see many more covert pictures than are currently obtainable with “paparazzi”-style long lenses; shades of Ruth Snyder, whose electrocution was photographed with a concealed camera on January 12, 1928.

Old And New
Many accessories are simply clever variants on existing ideas: sometimes done better (and therefore tending to be more expensive); sometimes done more cheaply; and sometimes just…different.

A good example of the last is the big push-in lens caps from AquaTech. These resemble the tampons used in heavy guns to protect the bore of the gun from rain, mud, and (at sea) seawater; they are wonderfully quick to use. They are the ideal compliment to AquaTech’s rain jackets that drape over the lens.

AquaTech push-in lens cap

OP/TECH does a lighter “rain jacket”—”Our first semi-disposable product—everything else we make lasts forever”—and one of the Korean OEM manufacturers had another variant on the same thing that is supported by a bracket that fits in the accessory shoe, but it had not yet been picked up at the show.

Ansmann battery vending machine

Another variant on an old idea was Ansmann’s battery vending machine. Anyone who remembers cigarette vending machines will do a double take when they see it. The one I saw was loaded with EP-1a; Zinc-Air 13 (six-pack); Zinc-Air 675 (six-pack); CR123A; CR2032; LR44; A23; Alkaline 9v block; AAA and AA.

Kaiser lens hoods

Finally, two delightfully simple accessories from Kaiser. One is a magnifying glass with an LED lamp built-in—an update of an old idea, superbly executed—and the other is a line of lens hoods (shades) for many popular consumer zooms on D-SLRs. Manufacturers’ replacements are often absurdly expensive, and have to be ordered from the manufacturer. Kaiser reckons to make life easier and cheaper if you’ve lost or broken your hood—which sounds good to me.

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