From the Show Floor
May 13, 2013
Each year, WPPI grows in value and importance, as well as in new attendees. This year, our show floor included exhibitors representing over 300 brands, 106 registered media outlets were present and 13,000-plus people (three-day total) from more than 70 countries roamed the aisles.
Unlike some trade shows where you can’t actually buy the goodies on display, the beauty of WPPI’s show is that many retailers allow you to test products on site, and then walk a short distance to a different area and actually buy the item.
Judging by the crowds, most photographers were enjoying live demonstrations by top shooters representing Canon, Nikon and Sony. Plenty of attendees were also seen checking out the small cameras produced by Fujifilm and Panasonic, especially now that these cameras can produce images with quality on par with larger cameras.
In the lighting arena, continuous lights took shine off traditional studio flash equipment as LEDs drew increased interest based on their higher output, improved color balance and lower prices.
And while the majority of photographers in attendance were primarily shooting stills, the variety of accessories for video shooting continues to grow. We saw a number of adaptors that can be used to turn an iPad into a teleprompter, studio monitor or auxiliary workstation.
No major new camera announcements were made (beyond what already came out at Photokina in October and CES in January), but what follows here is my compilation of several smaller or recently-released items worth noting.
All Photos by John Rettie
The PlusX was considered by many to be the most significant new product at the show. Why? Because it uses the same sleek body as the Plus III (unveiled at WPPI 2012 and well-received by photographers who work on complex photo shoots with multiple cameras and many flashes), but also has simplified electronics and costs just $99. This pricing makes the PlusX affordable to many more photographers who have simpler setups and don’t need more than 10 channels. And it’s still made in America, unlike other low cost remote flash triggers. Like its more expensive brothers, the PlusX utilizes LPA Design’s patented “Auto-Sensing Transceiver Technology,” meaning each unit can transmit or receive as needed.
Who’d have guessed that colored tripods would be a hit? It turns out that plenty of wedding and portrait photographers like the smarter look of them more than that of a traditional black tripod. Two models in the range include a leg that can be unscrewed and transformed into a monopod. MeFOTO tripods proved to be quite a hit at the show. Indeed the company is already looking to add additional colors to meet demand.
As image file sizes continue to increase, the amount of storage required is also escalating. Fortunately, the price of storage cards and hard drives has continued to fall, making them more affordable than a few years ago. Traditional hard drives might be a commodity, but there are several companies producing products aimed at photographers and videographers. G-Technology was displaying an attractive range of desktop and portable hard drive systems (with a new line due to be announced at NAB in April as this issue went to press). The company’s new Evolution Series offers a dock with a Thunderbolt port for faster connections to computers, mainly Macs, that use this high-speed connection protocol. The most impressive part is that the 500GB and 1TB drive modules can be hot-swapped and used as external drives while away from the studio. This means photos and video can be backed-up while on location, and then the drive can be plugged into the dock later for editing or long-term storage.
At first glance, the photoflashdrive.com display appeared more akin to an album purveyor. Pexagon first showed up a few years ago at WPPI touting its line of customized USB thumb drives, and photographers quickly saw the value in having branded drives for clients who wanted digital files along with prints. Since then, the company and its clients have come up with increasingly innovative designs. For example, you can purchase a large custom-made wood box that holds bottles of wine, an album and a USB drive. Jerry Ghionis consulted with Pexagon to introduce a branded line of boxes, called the Ghionis Soul Collection, for displaying photos and a USB stick. A USB stick might not be as beautiful as a wedding album, but Pexagon’s offerings show there are ways to provide a bride with digital images in a dramatic fashion that serve as a long-lasting memento.
New York photographer (and WPPI 2013 speaker) Peter Hurley showed off a prototype of his new high-end Medusa continuous lighting system, which uses 3-foot long LED lighting tubes. They are mounted in aluminum frames with a carbon fiber finish. What’s more, each light can be individually adjusted to provide variable lighting. Hurley expects the lights to be available in a few months’ time along with other studio accessories.
An increasing number of photographers are signing up for Animoto Pro as a way to deliver easy-to-produce “video” using still images and video clips. To meet the demand from shooters using its Pro service, Animoto announced several upgrades; it’s now possible for users to choose styles of slide shows designed by professional wedding photographers, including Vicki Taufer, Tamara Lackey, Vanessa Joy and Rob Adams. Users can also make 20-minute videos instead of the previous 10-minute limit. As an added bonus, Animoto has made a deal with Triple Scoop Music to include 1,000 of the site’s most popular music tracks.
Klyp iPhone Case
Manfrotto’s first iPhone accessory will appeal to those who use their iPhones for shooting video. It allows a user to stand an iPhone on a flat surface or mount on a tripod. Other accessories can be attached including a soft light portrait LED lighting unit. Currently the Klyp only fits an iPhone 4S, but a case for the iPhone 5 will be introduced soon.
In many ways, the Fotodiox RhinoCam was one of the more fascinating pieces at the expo, and it’s an intriguing way to get a medium-format camera with more than 120 megapixels for less than $1,000. Fotodiox has developed an adapter so that a compact camera, such as a Sony NEX, can work with a medium-format lens. It consists of a metal plate with a glass viewing screen for composition and a holder for the camera. After one has composed a picture on the ground glass screen, the camera is moved across so the opening is over the lens. Eight pictures are then captured using engraved markings for precise alignment. The image files are then transferred to a computer and the images stitched together in Photoshop to create one high-resolution image. It could be an ideal solution for landscape and architectural photographers as long as there is no movement from the subject of the shoot. The kit costs about $500, and lenses can be purchased second-hand for reasonable prices if you don’t already own one. The camera body is obviously not included.
Sigma continues to refresh its lens lineup to appeal to professional photographers and provide an alternative to lenses from major camera manufacturers. A company rep tells me that the lineup of pro lenses is growing in popularity ever since it introduced the 85mm f/1.4 a couple of years ago. The newest lens in this line is the 35mm f/1.4 lens, introduced at CES. The upcoming 120-300mm f/2.8 zoom lens has been re-designed and can be customized. It has a slider switch that can be preset with options such as speed of focus or limiting the focus range. A user can adjust the settings and fine-tune the front and back focus using a USB dock that attaches to the lens and then to a computer where special Sigma software makes the adjustments. It can also be used to update firmware when needed. The USB dock will work with other new Sigma lenses although the amount of customization depends on the lens. There is no word on when the 120-300mm lens or the USB dock will go on sale, but details about the dock can be found at www.sigmaphoto.com/product/sigma-usb-dock.
Lowell Blender 3 Light Kit
The move away from flash units to continuous lighting systems was evident at WPPI. As LED lights improve in performance and come down in cost, they are quickly becoming the lighting of choice, especially for videographers, but also for many still photographers. Lowell demonstrated one of its latest products–the Blender 3 Light Kit which includes three Lowell Blenders with diffusers, AC adaptors and light stands in a bag. Each blender has two sets of LEDs, with Tungsten and daylight balance, that can, as the name suggests, be blended to provide lighting that matches the ambient light.
The ability to hook cameras up to an iPad or computer has created a need for organizing all the tethered bits and bobs. A new company, appropriately named Tether Tools, has a growing array of equipment that makes the chore easier and safer. The Jerk Stopper, for example, is a clever little clip that helps prevent an ethernet cable from being pulled out of a camera port. At WPPI, they displayed workstation tables that attach to a tripod along with a new TabStrap to hold an iPad hands-free with a BlackRapid strap–it seemed to draw a lot of interest.
Lowepro Flipside Sport Backpack
It might not look high tech, but this new lightweight backpack uses high-tech materials that are strong and also weather-resistant. The interior compartments for cameras and gear can be removed in a single unit and be replaced with another one holding different gear or left out so the backpack can be used to carry non-photographic gear. Lowepro says it’s an ideal backpack for adventurous photographers shooting out in the desert or in bad weather conditions.
Fiilex LED lighting
The two ex-Brooks photography students who developed these new LED lighting systems claim that they provide full spectrum color tuning so they can be used to match other lights. The Fiilex P360 has an array of specially-designed Dense Matrix LEDs that can be tuned to different colors and color temperature settings from 3000K to 5600K. The P200 FlexJet is a similar unit, but it’s designed to be affixed to fiber optic or acrylic light sources for delivering creative lighting.
Several companies showed wireless remote triggers at the show. As its name suggests, this one can be used with a Canon or Nikon DSLR to wirelessly transmit photos to an external device such as an iPad for viewing images. It can also capture JPEG images instantly and control the camera remotely. It fits on a camera’s hot shoe and is connected to the camera through its USB port.
Sekonic Litemaster Pro Bundle
For those who need to make sure they are capturing accurate colors during a shoot, Sekonic has introduced a special bundle for the recently-introduced 478D and 478DR light meters that includes a special edition of the X-Rite ColorChecker Passport and a Gray balance card. It enables photographers to create color profiles for different cameras.
While a majority of pro photographers use the services of companies such as LiveBooks and Zenfolio to design, create and host their websites, there are others who like to do it themselves, if not for their primary site but for experimental or personal sites. Back in 2006 when I started building my own websites, I did a lot of research and ended signing up with Dreamhost. It is one of hundreds of web hosting companies, but was—as far as I know—the first web hosting company to have a booth at WPPI. The big advantage with Dreamhost is that you can have as many websites with different domain names as you wish for one inclusive price. For those of us who love to tinker and learn a new skill, creating one’s own website can be a satisfying (if sometimes frustrating) experience.