Some Niches, At Best Page 2

Then there were two sort-of large format cameras, or rather half cameras, one from Wista (HP Marketing) and one from Horseman. These consist of the front end of a view camera, with all movements and the ability to accept a wide range of lenses in panels, and a back end that can be hooked up to a medium format or even 35mm-shape SLR. The advantages in versatility are obvious though of course the need for camera movements is far smaller with small digital formats than with big film formats.

Kang Tai 617 back in box

Wista's "half camera"

35mm Rangefinder
That was it for medium and large format, so it is time to move on to 35mm rangefinder cameras, which were also part of my brief. Here, the big news was a new lens from Leica, a 75mm f/2 Summicron. They didn't even have a prototype for me to play with but by the time you read this it will at least have been officially announced--it was under embargo at PMA--even if it is not actually available. Look for a road test as soon as I can get one! Also from Leica, again under embargo for introduction later in the year, was a right-angle finder to screw into the eyepiece of the M: particularly useful with the Macro-Elmarit-M and close-up adapter when you are using a copy stand for repro sizes down to 1/3 life size.

Kang Tai "long loupe"

The Zeiss Ikon was still not available--in fact it still wasn't finalized, with details such as the layout of the information available in the viewfinder subject to change--but I'm hoping to see a review outfit before you read these words. The Japanese-built lenses (21-25-28-35-50mm) were available and selling well but the German-built lenses (15 and 85mm) were slated to appear at the same time as the body in May. On the same stand--Hasselblad--there was no news except that the Xpan II was selling well.

Nothing new on the Voigtländer front, though the 18mm should now be available and I now have an R3A for test, and as for Rollei, the only real news (still very welcome) was that prices have fallen somewhat: you should be able to buy a body plus standard lens for around $1000 US, which given the lamentable weakness of the dollar is very impressive indeed.

Rollei's rangefinder: now lower in price

Studio Lighting
At least four factors have contributed to a resurgence of continuous lighting (as opposed to flash). One is fashion: since I started in advertising photography 30-odd years ago I have seen the pendulum swing back and forth between continuous lighting and flash. Second, there is the growth of the Internet, with its voracious appetite for illustrations, preferably (though far from invariably) at least competently lit and exposed: this has led to a significant increase in the demand for studio lighting. Third, many amateurs are frightened of flash: they see it as complicated and expensive, and they are not always wrong. Fourth, there are new technologies which allow "hot" lights to run a lot cooler than even the modeling lights on flash units: the two most noteworthy are high-frequency fluorescents with astonishingly good spectral matches to daylight and metal-halide lamps, a sort of poor man's HMI that allows (for example) the same light from 150w as would take 600w of tungsten lighting.

Westcott "Spider"

Omega light

Paterson light bank

There are quite a few of both on the market. The four new ones that particularly caught my eye, in the order in which I saw them, were Westcott's "Spider" with five curly fluorescent lamps that can be switched to use one, two, three, or five of the lamps; Paterson's straight-tube light bank with mirrored barn doors; Dot Line's metal-halide heads from their RPS Studio line; and some Omega lights that were so new that there was not even any information at the stand. APV also had some nice kits. It would be perfectly feasible to put together a two- or three-head continuous lighting kit for under $1000, while still keeping power consumption below fuse-blowing levels and without the baking heat that big tungsten lights give off.

PMA Blues
Overall, as I hinted at the beginning, I never find the PMA Show as interesting as photokina. This is not just the size: obviously, there is going to be more interesting stuff at a worldwide fair that is five or 10 times the size of a regional show. Rather more to the point, the little companies who often did so much to make the PMA Shows so interesting a decade and more ago have been squeezed out by the sheer cost of exhibiting. Quite a number of exhibitors confided that they were only at PMA because if they weren't, people would wonder if they were having financial problems or had even gone bust. I also heard three good rumors--all photo shows are a hotbed of rumors--that at least one of the very biggest exhibitors was questioning the value of being at PMA instead of electronics trade shows such as CES or open-to-the-public shows such as the New York show. If they went, others would follow and PMA might well dry up and blow away. All right, this year's PMA was handicapped by a number of factors including overlaps with both a public holiday (Presidents' Day) and Daytona Race Week, and Orlando is never as popular as Las Vegas or New Orleans: some call it Borelando. But even without the handicaps, it wasn't much of a show for the traditional photo enthusiast.

Manufacturers/Distributors' addresses can be found on page 176.