In the Aisles: PhotoPlus Expo 2010 Gear Report (Part 1)

November 1, 2010

By Dan Havlik, PDN's Technology Specialist

Even in a photokina year, PhotoPlus Expo 2010 which wrapped up in New York City this weekend, was full of interesting new imaging gear releases. The main difference between the photokina show in Cologne, Germany in September and PhotoPlus Expo at the end of October, was you had to sniff around to find the good stuff in New York.

And if the image of sniffing around the Jacob Javits Center on 11th Avenue fills you with some unease, well, we don’t exactly blame you. The aisles at PhotoPlus Expo were packed this year, there were lots of sweaty bodies, and more than once we took an accidental elbow to the ribs from a wide-eyed photographer gazing around at all the pretty equipment.

In the end, we survived the three days of sensory overload (and slightly tender ribs…redeemed by the tasty ribs we ate at Daisy May’s after the show) to put together this report of our gear highlights from PhotoPlus Expo 2010. (Look for part 2 of our report in the Gear section of PDNonline tomorrow.)

Medium is the Message
There was quite a bit of medium-format camera news at photokina and that carried over to PhotoPlus Expo 2010. Along with the 40-megapixel Pentax 645D ($9,995, body only) making its U.S. debut at the Pentax booth — “booth” is a stretch…it was actually just a glass table with a Pentax banner hanging above it — Mamiya unveiled its brand new 22MP RZ-22.

The Mamiya RZ22 ($11,499, body only) is the baby brother to the 33MP RZ33 that was launched in June. Like the RZ33, the RZ22 is compatible with lenses from Mamiya’s classic RZ medium-format film system, making this new camera yet another modern retro digital device. (That’s very in right now.) The RZ22 system combines a 22MP Mamiya DM digital back with the latest Mamiya RZ67 Pro-IID camera.

Mamiya also announced that it’s much buzzed-about V-Grip Air — a vertical grip for medium-format cameras that offers wireless flash control — would begin shipping by late November. Expect the $1,290 accessory, which is the first vertical grip with a built-in wireless flash trigger, to be a hot seller for studio photographers. The grip can deliver wireless flash sync speeds as fast 1/1600th of second.

Speaking of studio photographers, X-Rite was showing off revamped software for its color management devices. X-Rite’s i1Profiler color profiling software is designed for its i1Photo Pro system ($1,399) which includes an i1Pro spectrophotometer and a ColorChecker Proof target and mini Color Checker target.

We got a brief demo of the new i1Profiler software and it seemed very easy and intuitive. (This is saying a lot because we liked the preceding app as well). The new software includes a bevy of pre-sets for speeding you through the sometimes intimidating process of color managing your monitor, printer, camera etc.

One feature we loved is that it allows you to make an on-site color profile using ambient light, such as at an art gallery, with the spectrophotometer. This should help ensure that your gallery prints are optimized for the light in a particular gallery. The i1Photo Pro system with the new software will ship in late December.

In the Studio or On the Road
Nikon photographers who like to wirelessly use their Speedlight strobes (and other light sources) in the studio or on location will be happy to hear that PocketWizard has announced it will begin shipping MiniTT1 Transmitter and Flex TT5 Transceivers for Nikon cameras in December. These i-TTL capable radio slaves are designed to make wireless off-camera flash a breeze. Just slide these small devices onto the hotshoe of your Nikon camera, turn them on, and you’re ready to shoot.

Things didn’t exactly go smoothly with the Canon versions which were announced at the 2009 WPPI show and then received some negative reviews during early shipping. PocketWizard says the problem with the Canon-compatible slave units stemmed from RF leakage from Canon’s 580EX II Speedlites. The company doesn’t anticipate the same problems with Nikon flashes.

“Nikon makes a really great flash system,” said Dave Schmidt, Director of Marketing for PocketWizard. “When photographers add the MiniTT1 and FlexTT5 to their existing arsenal of equipment, the photographic possibilities are endless.”

Pricing for the new PocketWizard MiniTT1 Transmitter (for Nikon DSLR Camera Systems) is $199 while the new Flex TT5 transceiver for the Nikon DSLR camera system will sell for $219.  Sales for both units are expected to start later this month.

One of our favorite stylish, small camera bags of the year just got more stylish and slightly smaller. Tenba released the Messenger Mini Photo/Laptop Bag at PhotoPlus which is an even more scaled down version of the Tenba Messenger Camera bag we reviewed in June. Like the bigger model, the Messenger Mini Photo/Laptop Bag has an attractive urban design that doesn’t resemble a camera bag so you can travel discreetly on city transit.

Designed after bike courier bags, the Messenger Mini Photo/Laptop Bag has a soft, unstructured exterior that hugs your body and prevents inadvertent sideswipes against cranky city dwellers. Along with a DSLR body with 2-3 lenses, flashes and accessories, the bag can fit an Apple iPad or 13-inch laptop. It uses adjustable dividers that can be pull out to turn the bag into a traditional courier-style bag for daily commuting. It’s available in black, olive, burnt orange, blue, chocolate, platinum and plum. It sells for $85.

In the same “on-the-go” vein, tripod manufacturer Benro was showing off its new portable “Travel Flat” series of  tripods at PhotoPlus Expo. Made of Aluminum, Carbon Fiber, Magnesium and Stainless Steel components, Benro’s Travel Flat tripods live up their name by using a patent pending design that lets them lie flat for easy storage using a center “spider” or connecting hub. There’s range of sizes (and pricing) so check for the full breakdown.

S & F & M
In other semi-bag related news at PhotoPlus, Lowepro announced that it had redesigned its S&F Series modular carrying system of belts, vests, harnesses and bags. (The Street and Field system was first launched 12 years ago.) The basics of the system include the S&F Technical Belt, S&F Light Utility Belt, S&F Technical Vest and S&F Technical Harness, all of which can be adjusted to adapt to the conditions.

Photographers who don’t mind looking like they’ve strapped themselves in family-friendly bondage gear, will be able to add components to this system at will, depending on the shooting situation. And since everything is right on your hip or shoulder, you can quickly swap lenses, grab flashes, or move deftly from still, to video to audio acquisition. Talk about multi-media!

Since there are a lot of components to the S&F system, it’s definitely the sort of thing you’ll need someone to help walk you through. Check to see if your favorite retailer has it in stock and then go in for a fitting. It may fit your needs…or not. More details here.

Other companies were busy reinventing and relaunching their products at PhotoPlus Expo. onOne Software changed the name and relaunched its Plug-In Suite collection of apps as Perfect Photo Suite 5.5. The Suite includes the new version of Genuine Fractals which has now been renamed Perfect Resize 7 to present a clearer definition of what it does, i.e. resize things not genuinely fractal them.

The Perfect Photo Suite also includes a new product called Perfect Layers which lets photographers work with layered files in Adobe Lightroom, Bridge or Apple Aperture. In fact, many of the tools in Perfect Photo Suite will be available directly in Lightroom or Aperture without having to use a separate host application. The suite also includes the slightly revamped PhotoTools 2.6 and Mask Pro 4.1 plug-ins.

onOne Software’s popular DSLR Camera Remote HD app for the iPhone will be coming out soon as a separate version made specifically for the iPad. It’ll offer start and stop video on Canon and Nikon DSLRs directly from the iPad. The app also includes a redesigned interface to take advantage of the big screen on the iPad with improved gesture-based preview functionality. onOne is still making some final tweaks to the app and will submit it to Apple in early November. They hope to have it approved by Apple by the end of November.

Check PDN’s gear page tomorrow for part two of our PhotoPlus Expo report.