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Focus on Imaging 2010

8th March 2010

This years Focus on Imaging show was the 21st since it began. We took time out to have a day looking around, to see what new gadgets were about to help us with our photography, what new or expanded services were now available and to see if we could gauge what was currently the market mood.

As usual it was in the same two halls of the NEC, halls 9 and 10 and although not as many stands, or even variety of stands as at previous shows over recent years, there were more sitting and chill out places it was still worth the visit to find out who was still in the market place. Of course the big names like, Nikon, Canon, Epson, Fuji, Lastolite, Jacobs, Wacom, Sigma, SpeedGraphic, and more were there as well as membership organisations and some of the photo magazines such as Outdoor Photography and Digital Photographer as well as many of the smaller retailers and manufacturers of products.

So what took did we look at this year.

After seeing reviews in magazines and online of the Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D camera, Keith was keen to get his hands on it at the show to get to see first hand what it was like. However, they haven't gone into 3D lightly and as well as the camera they also had a 3D Viewer on show the Finepix Real 3D V1 which has an 8 inch display. Of course it's one thing to take 3D photos and to be able to view them on the viewer, but can we print them. Fuji had thought of this also and was showcasing a printer which could print out the images, similar to the Lenticular method with a plastic screen on the front. They had some sample 5 x 7" images on display and they were good.

Of course at this show you not only get to see the latest technology and accessories but many stands are attracted to attend by the ability for us to be able to purchase direct from them while we are there. Many if not all offer show discounts if you buy or sign up right now. Well we did buy a couple of items, useful gadgets I think you'd call them.
The first gadget that caught my attention was was a LiveView remote, the Phottix Hector, I could see that when it would help me considerably with my macro photography, particularly when it was very close to the ground and I just can't bend that far or it's too wet to do so, or if I wanted to get higher, only being 5ft 2" does give some limitations, and with this I wouldn't need to use steps, I could put the camera on the tripod and extend higher than I could see. The Hector connects via a cable and using the Liveview mode on my Nikon D300 I can see on Hectors screen what the camera can see, and with its inbuilt shutter release I don't need to be able to get to the shutter button the camera either. There is also a wireless version, called the Hero, so you can be further away from the camera. We have a more detailed article on the Photix - Hector, so take a look.

On the same stand we also purchased the Phottix Lambancy - Flash Diffuser  a device, similar to a Lightsphere, which fits onto your speedlight flash to give bounced flash light in locations where light cannot be bounced easily. Its portable, lightweight and easy to carry around. At a cost of around 25 its a good addition to your camera bag. As well as an article looking at it in more detail, we also have one which compares this with other methods, see Flash diffuser - lambency compared.

Staying with light, there was another product called Litepanels Micro, which were miniature lights similar to what is used by television and broadcast news. They fit on the top of your camera where the flash would go, but give out constant light from their LED panels. They get their power from using 4 AA batteries. They are said to be flicker free and heat free and the light remains constant. They also come with a dimmer switch so the amount of light they emit can be from 100% to 0, giving front on soft light. They are in fact a portable version of studio Cool-Lites. See our article Cool-Lite's Explained  to find out how these work and what their benefits are for a studio situation. Now you can have the same by mounted on your camera and you're not restricted to staying indoors. For more information on the Litepanels see www.litepanels.com.

Probably the most expensive tripod head that I came across at the show was the Gitzo Athena Electric Device. At a cost of around 5,000 it's probably not for most, but if you have an application for it, it will probably be a useful aid. So what is it, well it's a large motor driven tripod head. It is remote-controlled and gives stable and precise 3D movement. It is said to be good for nature as its operation is quiet and sports where variability and unpredictability are always present, but it can also be used for architecture or scientific settings when you need to isolate details and precise positioning of the camera is required. It would also be good for taking images that you wanted to stitch together as the minute movement would mean not so much is lost in overlap and it would be more precise, or for doing a sequence of images with small amounts of movement and of course would be good for time lapse as you can program it to perform minute movements. It moves with precision of 0.1 degree on 3 axis which are fully independent of tilt, pan and level, panning vertically, horizontally or rolling over on a swivel, but it also has a self levelling mechanism. It connects to a computer and from here the user can move and set the head to the right position using the camera's Liveview mode. You can also input saved camera positions. It connects to the computer either via an Ethernet cable, or wirelessly and it has a built in USB in order to plug in any compatible Wi-fFi key. See Gitzo website to keep up to date with new products and launches.

Gitzo Athena

There are now a number of instant canvas framing kits on the market. It is now possible to print at home your photos on canvas and with these framing kits, frame it yourself and hang within minutes and with no specialist tools or knowledge. This year the only noticeable thing was that there are now more suppliers of these kits of differing designs, and the prices have come down considerably. Last year I saw the Hahnemuhle Gallerie Wrap System in operation, with the ability to buy kits that would take both A4 and A3 sized canvases, so you could print the canvas on your office/home A4 or A3+ printer. Everything is included in the kit, their starter kit which produces 2 x 12"x8" pictures includes 2 x A3 canvas sheets, 2 x 8" stretcher bars and 2 x 12" stretcher bars, 4 x positioning corners, 1 bottle of glue and metal corner pins, today this will set you back 21.99 from Warehouse Express. They now have two ranges the Gallerie Wrap Standard which has stretcher bars from 8 inches to 24 inches and Gallerie Wrap Professional which has six different stretcher bar lengths from 13 inches to 40 inches, so much larger pictures can be achieved, although of course at the larger sizes can't be printed on your home/office printer.

At this years show I took at look at the Wunderbars System which has been produced for Fujifilm and was on their stand. This system has been produced with constant tension stretcher bars and they come in a range of sizes from 8 inches up to 48 inches. They have self tensioning corner blocks and they claim is stays taught and will contract and expand to the rooms temperature and humidity. Each frame has a spring pin mechanism which automatically stretches the canvas and ensures it stays that way, no wedges are needed. To put the canvas picture together the only tool you need is a staple gun. The stretcher bars come in two different woods, Tulip Wood and Scandinavian Pine. This system seems a lot easier to put together with no messy glues or glue tabs and with it's constant tensioning system you don't have to worry about canvas sag, so it should last. An A3 frame would cost you 14.03. For more details on this system and a short video showing you how it goes together see www.wunderbars.com.

Another area I particularly wanted to look at and update my knowledge on was photobooks. There are many companies now in this market from do it yourself at home packages, the local supermarket, to online suppliers, to quality producers for top quality bound versions used by wedding photographers etc. The books also come in a range of qualities and styles. Most if not all have start prices for just one copy, so no large volumes have to be purchased. So it now possible to create your own coffee table book using your images, simply put together with online or free downloaded software and it arrives with you 7-10 days later once printed. At the show Paper Spectrum were showcasing their Pinnacle range of print your own Mybook Photo Books in A4 and A3 sizes with prices starting at 17.24 for 20 sheets of paper (40 sides). Blurb were showing their system of downloading their free software onto your computer, create your book using their standard layouts at your own speed in your own environment, choose tjhe size of your book from 6 pre-defined sizes and your cover and upload, place your order. They also have a Share or Sell facility where you can price, promote and sell your books in their online bookstore. Paperback books start at 6.95. BobBooks system allows you to create a coffee table book and come with a fully photographic gloss wrap around cover, custom made to your requirements. So you download their software, put together your book offline, choose your book format, drag and drop photos where you want them, add text and then send completed book to them online. In 7-10 days it arrives with you delivered to your door. Fotoboox took the time to show me how their software worked, it was simple once its downloaded onto your computer, you merely drag and dropped your images into the pages, you could add page backgrounds, text, styles and loads more. They have 6 sizes of books from A5 to A3 and prices start at 9.99. If you are already into selling your photos and working for clients and you want to offer this service to your customers then they also have an application that allows you to add this facility with your own branding to your website, but the orders go straight through to them where they take the money on your behalf and get the product printed and despatched to your customer. There were many more. If you are interested in finding out more about photobooks, how you go about creating them and where to get them printed then see our articles on this topic Making your own Photography Book Printing Photo Books Yourself and others.

Wacom were showing off their latest screen/tablet the Cintiq 21UX with its 21.3" large format LCD giving more work area. The screen resolution being 1600x1200 pixels. It's new design is also ambidextrous with identical control keys and touch strip toggle buttons on both sides so now works for both left and right handed users. The touch strips allow you to control up to four application-specific functions such as brush size, zooming, scrolling and canvas rotation. The touch sensitive pen now detects 2048 levels of pressure giving more control over line weight, opacity and exposure and is more intuitive at angles. The screen also moves position it can recline between 10 and 65 degrees as well as being able to be taken off its stand and laid flat on a tabletop allow you to get the most comfortable working position. It can also work in either landscape or   

portrait view modes but it can also rotate through 180 degrees in either direction allowing you to position it to your natural arm movement. It can also be colour calibrated to match other displays as well as output devices. The pen has been designed to have a more natural feel with a contoured barrel that minimizes grip effort and makes it more natural to use, the pen nibs are also removable and the pen stand not only holds the pen but comes with compartment containing different pen nibs and a pen nib removal tool. At a cost of around 1,500 it's not cheap but you are getting two products in one a 21" screen and a tablet and if you do a lot of photo editing you may find this more useful than you think. For more details see the Wacom website.

The show was busy and although probably no headline grabbing product which jumped out and said buy me, with today's market of having to buy more online it is a good place to go to each year if nothing else just to get to see and feel the products on offer. If you didn't get there this year, then try and make time for next years show.

Next Years Focus on Imaging Show at the NEC, Birmingham is on:

6th to 9th March 2011

See Focus-on-Imaging website for more details and update on who and what will be exhibiting.

See Also:

3D Section


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