The Best Photo Gear at PhotoPlus Expo 2013
OCTOBER 30, 2013
By Dan Havlik
PhotoPlus Expo 2013 took over Jacob Javits Center in New York City last week and, as Senior Technology Editor for PDN and Rangefinder magazines, I spent a lot of time visiting with photo manufacturers at the show to check out the latest photo gear. There were, of course, tons of cool new photo gadgets to touch and try, not the least of which were all the new cameras unveiled in the days leading up to PPE 2013.
I covered those cameras in stories on Sony, Canon, Nikon, Fuji, and Panasonic, prior to PhotoPlus, so at the show I decided to focus mostly on photo accessories with a couple of new cameras thrown in for good measure.
The following is my round-up of some of my favorite photo gear from PhotoPlus Expo 2013.
While the Samsung Galaxy NX is a camera, it's unlike any camera that's come before it. I got some hands-on time with the Galaxy NX last summer, and came away impressed with how Samsung was able to integrate cellular connectivity and the Android operating system into a mirrorless, compact system camera that uses a 20.3-megapixel, APS-C CMOS imaging chip.
There's been a lot of hype surrounding the Galaxy NX so it's nice that it will finally go on sale at the end of November and photographers can put the camera's cellular connectivity to the test. The ability to more easily share images wirelessly from your camera directly to social networking sites was a hot topic addressed in a panel I moderated during PPE titled "2020 Vision: What Will Photography Look Like in the Next Decade." The Galaxy NX may not fully answer the wireless issue for digital cameras, but it's an intriguing step forward.
I watched photographer Nick Kelsh instantaneously zap images he shot with the Galaxy NX of his model, Naoumie, to a large wireless display above the stage. If you want to share your images with friends and clients the old fashioned way -- i.e. via the display on back of the camera -- the Galaxy NX has a gorgeous and huge 4.8-inch, high-definition display that takes up nearly the entire rear section of the camera. And most importantly, the Galaxy NX seems to take pretty good photos too. Check out Kelsh's Galaxy NX shot of Naoumie below.
But maybe wirelessly zipping and zapping images across the Internet is not what photography is all about for you. If that's the case, here's a new product that might be more your speed. At PhotoPlus Expo, Epson introduced a new member of its Signature Worthy media line called Epson Exhibition Watercolor Paper Textured paper. I checked it out and, more importantly, put my hands on it at the show and it's definitely a unique, art paper for printing photos on.
The name pretty much says it all: this is a rough, watercolored paper that would seem more suited for a painting than an inkjet-printed photo. In other words, Watercolor Paper Textured might not be for right for everyone or be the best media choice for every photo. But for images that are very design-based with lots of vibrant colors -- such as photo illustrations or heavily manipulated images -- Epson Exhibition Watercolor Paper Textured will produce a very striking, artistic print that will look good in most galleries. It comes in in roll widths of 17, 24 and 44-inches, and 8.5 x 11-inch, 13 x 19-inch and 17 x 22-inch cut sheets
While looking at artsy prints on the textured paper at the Epson booth, a strange flying thing caught my attention from the corner of my eye. I turned around to see one of those quadcopter, aerial imaging devices hovering a few feet above a booth near the escalators at Javits. Yes, these remote-controlled whirligigs are quite au courant, right now, as the French would say and, truth be told, many of these flying doohickeys are variations on the same device.
The Rotor Concept Discovery quadcopter didn't seem to break any new ground with its features -- though I love the GPS Auto Pilot Function that lets it return to its original starting point -- but the show price for this aerial photography device was quite nice: just $349. That price, which is lower than many point-and-shoot digital cameras, doesn't include the travel case, however, or the live view mount giving you a bird's-eye feed of what the Discovery copter is seeing via the remote controller. The Discovery, which is aimed at beginners and comes 95% assembled, does seem to be an upgrade over those DJI Phantom copters, which are everywhere these days. And with the full package going for around $800, the Discovery still pretty affordable. More details here.
Shifting gears, I stopped by the Lee Filters booth and was pleased to learn that the 100mm filter system was available again and still, predictably, selling like gangbusters. If you're a landscape photographer, or if you fancy yourself one, you've probably used Lee filters at some point to enhance your images. But the 100mm filter system from Lee is so popular, it can be hard, at times, to get a replacement set-up. Word to the wise: find a dealer who carries the system now and get them while they're hot!
Speaking of filters, I also stopped by the Kenko Tokina booth, and got a look at the new Hoya Pro ND series of neutral density filters, and the new Hoya Graduated ND10 gradual neutral density filter. These products are also must-own items for filter lovers. One of the problems with many ND filters is that they color shift when changing from one density to the next. The Hoya Pro ND series is designed to maintain its neutral color balance across the entire series, which is great for keeping color consistency in your images.
The Hoya Graduated ND 10 gradual neutral density filter has a unique composition: it's not clear on any part of the filter. One side is ND10X, offering over three stops, and then fading evenly to an ND2X (one stop), on the other side. The filter glass is mounted on a rotating frame.
Leica always has some interesting gear on hand at trade shows and PhotoPlus Expo was no exception. I got the lowdown on the company's latest Summichron-C, cinema lenses and a unique, prototype Leica M to PL lens adapter, which should pose some very interesting options for cinematographers. For instance, I was shown a 50mm, Summichron-C f/2.0 cinema PL-mount lens attached to a 1080p, HD-shooting Leica M rangefinder, using the new adapter. (Talk about reverse engineering!) This set-up is guaranteed to turn a lot of heads on set. No price or projected release date on the M to PL adapter, but the Summichron-C lenses, which will soon be expanded from a set of six to nine focal lengths, go for $16,000 each. Believe it or not, but this is considered "inexpensive" for Leica.
Another flashy item at the Leica booth was the Leica D-Lux 6 advanced compact camera in a limited, high-gloss finish edition. (The D-Lux models, typically, have a black matte finish.) This 10MP, point-and-shoot camera, which is based on a Panasonic Lumix model, complements its glossy black finish with a silver, DC Vario Summmilux zoom lens (24-90mm equivalent), for a snazzy two-tone look. Check out a shot of the camera below.
As usual, there were a bunch of attractive photo bags at the show. (And who doesn't need another attractive photo bag?) Lately, I've been gravitating towards more low-key, lightweight messenger-style photo bags for my street photography and both Tenba and Lowepro have some sweet new satchels.
Tenba was showing off its Messenger DNA 11 ($129) and DNA 15 ($159) bags, which come in a subtly stylish graphite grey color. The DNA 11 is designed to fit a mirrorless camera with 3-5 lenses or a DSLR with 2-3 lenses; and has a padded slot for a tablet computer or an 11-inch MacBook Air. The DNA 15 can fit a DSLR (up to a pro size with a battery grip) with 2-3 lenses (up to 70-200mm f/2.8), a flash, and accessories. It also has a padded sleeve to hold a laptop of up to 15 inches, and a second sleeve for an iPad or similar sized tablet.
From Lowepro, I liked its Urban Reporter series (see image below) with the 250 model hitting the sweet spot for me. It's a classic, discreet messenger-style bag with an all-black exterior and the ability to fit a DSLR and attached 24-70mm, f/2.8 lens, 2-3 extra lenses (up to 70-200mm f/2.8), a 13-inch laptop and accessories. The Urban Reporter 250 sells for $139.
In software news, DxO introduced its new Optics Pro 9 image processing software. As its name suggests, it's the ninth version of RAW conversion and editing software and while it carries over many features from Optics Pro 8 (which I reviewed earlier this year…my how time flies!), it has a major upgrade in its noise processing functionality.
The feature is called DxO Prime, and it's a powerful, new noise reduction feature that promises a 4-stop improvement for cleaner high ISO images. The Optics Pro 9 demos I saw were certainly impressive, with noise-riddled shots that would have no business being printed, transformed into smooth (but not too smooth!), detailed photos with the press of a virtual button. The only catch is that using the DxO Prime function can take a while.
DxO estimates it at around five minutes per image, but results may vary, with some photos taking longer than five minutes and some taking less. If you don't have the patience to wait -- or have an image that simply needs less anti-noise work -- you can choose to use the Standard De-noising function.
Here's another essential item I saw at the show: a DSLR cleaning kit from LensPen. The company was doing demos for all its DSLR cleaning products but, for my money, the DSLR Pro Kit, which includes the MicroPro (for cleaning viewfinders), the FilterKlear (for cleaning filters), and the LensPen (for cleaning lenses), is the best value. The kit retails for around $18 and it's an essential set to toss in your camera bag.
Attaching cameras, lenses, and various photo accessories to your body to keep them close at hand at all times is the idea behind new products from Spider Holster and Peak Design. From Spider Holster, I liked its new SpiderPro Large Lens Pouch, which not only gives you handy bag to add to your belt so your favorite zoom lens is secured nearby, it has a unique velcro system for attaching lens caps so they don't disappear. (I know mine always do!)
And finally, the dudes at Peak Design's booth had so many cameras clipped to them via their PROpad, Capture Camera Clip, Leash, Cuff, and POV Kit products, I was amazed they could even walk. If you're paranoid about not having a camera ready when you need it though, these clip-on photo accessories really seemed to do the trick.
That's all for now. See you at next year's PhotoPlus Expo!
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