Weird And Wonderful; A Visit To The PMA Novelty Shop Page 2

Highly weird, without doubt, was the Popabrella, literally a tiny umbrella with an articulated tripod socket mount. Fit it; put up the umbrella; and your camera is out of the rain. It also functions as a sunshade. A small version for digicams ($19.95 retail) was shown at the show: a bigger version, for full-size SLRs, is promised later.

Popabrella.

Far less weird, but very useful, was a little leather camera grip from GoShot. For around $20, this makes most cameras easier to hold and to carry. One end fixes in the tripod socket; the other on a strap-lug; and it's really comfortable. As so often, a picture makes it all much clearer.

GoShot camera grip.

Not weird at all, but unbelievably useful and indisputably wonderful, are Wonderful Dry Cabinets, now imported by B&W International, a German-based company that is just moving into the US. These are electronically humidity-controlled cabinets, ideal for protecting cameras and lenses from corrosion and fungus. We have had one since photokina 2002, and all our most expensive gear lives in it. If we can, we want to get another at photokina 2006.

Another wonderful product (with a small w) is the CheatSheet line-up from Dot Line Corp.: essentially an abstract of the instruction book, on a laminated sheet, that you can carry in your camera bag. I want one for my Nikon D70! I was, however, given a CD tutorial for the D70 by QuickPro Camera Guides: I didn't have time to go through it properly before I wrote the show up, but it sounds like an excellent idea.

CheatSheets from Dot Line Corp.

QuickPro Camera Guides

Inexpensive, slightly weird, but quite fun are the best words to describe the PixPen from Cottage Mills, which takes a little rolled-up picture, an ideal alternative to the picture of the children on the desk, especially if you spend much time on the road. Besides, it's only $5.95 retail.

PixPen.

Indisputably weird, but very clever and very useful, are d_skin CD protectors, a sort of armor for CDs that stops them from getting scratched and manky. These have done very well in the games market but are also useful for protecting valuable audio CDs and of course important photo CDs.

d_skin CD protectors.

The Merlin Camera Stabilizer from Tiffen works better than it has any right to, especially for video. All right, it isn't gyro-stabilized but it's still pretty amazing. Tiffen also sells the Nude FX filters for matching skin tones--honestly! Of course they work for conventional portraits, too. What surprised me (and Tiffen, for that matter) is that when they brought out the initial test samples in six grades or tones, and asked people which they wanted to buy, most said, "We'll take the lot!" At close to $150 for a 4x4"/100mm filter, this is over $850 for a set, though conventional round mounts are apparently somewhat cheaper.

Merlin Camera Stabilizer.

Several companies were selling Nikon-to-Canon adapters, which allow you to use your Nikon-fit, manual-focus lenses on your Canon digital SLR, with infinity focus. I saw them on the GoShot stand; on the APV stand; on the Dot Line stand; and on one of the Chinese OEM stands. They seem to go for $30-$50 retail, which is something of a bargain.

CameraBright! built on past success with a new accessory shoe mount and a new, stronger unit with a metal tripod socket mount. These clever little LED units remove the need for pre-flash and indeed flash itself, especially with high ISO settings on modern digital cameras.

CameraBright!

Another company building on success was Lensbabies with the Lensbaby 2.0, a sharper, two-glass version of the original with more speed (f/2) and a wider range of drop-in Waterhouse stops. I really enjoy using my Original Lensbaby and I'm really looking forward to trying the new one. They also showed off a handy "macro" set of magnifier lenses for their product.

Lensbaby 2.0 and stops.

Picture taken with Original Lensbaby.

Pana-Vue (owned by Argraph) demonstrated that if you wait long enough, old becomes new again: these battery-powered slide viewers are suddenly selling fast once more, as people winnow their old slide collections (or their parents' collections, or their grandparents') with a view to scanning the best, and look for something quicker and easier than projection but less expensive than a light table.

Pana-Vue slide viewers.

And this is a somber reminder of the words of the great economist John Maynard Keynes, when taxed with "the long run." He said, "In the long run, we are all dead." Suddenly, the rubber chicken and the Pana-Vue viewers help us to put it all in perspective. If we have any sense, we laugh at the chicken and smile at our old slides. Yes, we all do the best we can, and with any luck, we have a bit of fun doing it; but if we can't see (and enjoy) the parts that rubber chickens and decades-old slides play in the great scheme of things, we may need to re-examine our lives.

A Note On The Illustrations
Many of the illustrations were taken using the Kaiser Folding Studio, a truly invaluable piece of kit for small product photography which is going to accompany me to every trade show from now on: I cannot speak highly enough of it. A similar product from American Recorder was used for some pictures; it is again very useful indeed. I should like to thank both HP Marketing Corp. and American Recorder for the loan of these facilities.

Kaiser Folding Studio in use....

...and folded up.

Manufacturers/Distributors' addresses can be found on page 174.

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