PMA ‘09 Day 1 Report
Day one of PMA is in the books and as promised here is my first round of interesting product picks with comments. I will have more to report as the show continues and hopefully some additional in-depth reviews of a few of these items. Let’s dive in:
Prior to the show opening I headed up to the press center to pick up a lanyard for my badge and check things out. Outside of the press center I ran across Greg Downing from xRez standing in front of an awesome panorama of Yosemite valley that he helped create. Rather than try and explain what’s going on here I suggest you hit the xRez site and check it out for yourself. Very cool stuff.
The show opens to a pretty good crowd. I’m used to bigger shows (CES, for example) so this seems a bit tame to me. The show is contained within the two floors of the South Hall of the LVCC. CES, for example, uses the entire LVCC + the Sands Expo Center.
Joby has added a much needed ball head with bubble level to their often-imitated-never-duplicated Gorillapod.
Ever wonder what a Nikon D3 looks like cut in half? Wonder no more!
The LensPen people have come up with a nifty little sensor cleaning accessory the SensorKlear Loupe. At $60 I still think it’s a bit pricey for a magnifying glass + LED flashlight but it does feature a nifty slot in the side so you can reach in with your LensPen to get that pesky last speck of dust while you’re using the scope.
Not technically a photo product (nor a product on display) but I spied this “Wrist Writer” product on a guest at the Sigma booth. It features 25′ of paper on a spool that can be manually advanced to keep a running logbook of shot notes while in the field. I recommend field use as it is pretty incredibly dorky for anything where you might encounter other people ;-)
Also while in the Sigma booth a snapped this shot of a fellow Pentaxian’s DIY BlackRapid R-Strap. More on that later. I’m digging the 31 f/1.8 Limited lens, though.
I know I said I wasn’t going to blog about the mainstream products but I had to take a look at Panasonic’s new G1 while I was there. I find these new small form factor DSLRs quite interesting. Unfortunately, this photo illustrates the problem I have with this whole concept. Why would I want to bolt such a nice tidy little camera to such a huge lens? I mean isn’t the whole idea to have a smaller camera system?
Investigating further I uncovered the other problem with this system. Above is the complete collection of compact lenses for the G1. Clever concept but too limiting for enthusiast use IMO.
Naturally, I spent much time in the Pentax booth. They had a very interesting macro photography demonstration set up on display.
I also spent a little time with their new smc DA 15mm f/4 ED AL Limited wide angle lens. This is an absolute jewel of a little lens. I couldn’t tell much about the image quality from the few test shots I took on the show floor, but the thing just felt so nice that I know it will do well ;-)
Olympus had a very clever display for one of their ruggedized pocket cams. They were frozen in a solid block of ice. I presume at some point they will remove them from the ice and prove that they still work…
Samsung has arguably gotten the most attention at this year’s show with their new NX compact APS-C sized DSLR. This photo answers the question of whether or not there will be multiple lens options available for this camera. I like the little pancake lens but I refer back to my Panasonic G1 comments otherwise. Samsung says this camera “bridges the gap” between compact pocket cameras and full-sized DSLRs. Sounds to me like a compromise situation where no one wins.
Jill-e debuted a new line of stylish leather camera bags for men called “Jack”. If you don’t know Jill-e check them out. They are doing some really nice things with camera bags from a fashion standpoint that I haven’t seen before.
Here’s another Jill-e bag design featuring a highly functional “gatemouth”-style opening that makes getting at your gear while wearing the bag much easier. This proves that Jill-e is thinking beyond just style.
Next I visited the Crumpler booth where they were stuffing their bags with toilet paper (?). I complained about the difficulty of accessing my gear due to their universal use of a flap-over design and was told in no uncertain terms that Crumpler “always puts style above functionality.” Hmmmm.
For you studio lighting types I’m here to report that CFLs are now all the rage. This one has the output of a 250w incandescent lamp but outputs almost no heat and lasts 10K hours.
Lunch break: $13.85.
Zeiss Pentax mount 50 f/1.4: $550 MSRP. This could be the ultimate bokeh tool. I took a few sample shots and was immediately blown away by the complete lack of vignetting. I’m planning on getting a review sample or two to do a more in-depth analysis.
Bryce Thatcher and the crew at Clik Elite had some of the most unique bags I have seen yet at PMA this year. They have a very narrow focus right now on the adventure sports set but I’m told to keep an eye out for some more “mainstream” products that might appeal more to everyday outdoorsy folks like myself. Their first batch of products should be showing up at your local REI store in the next couple of weeks.
LowePro had a huge collection of bags. The one that caught my eye was their new Classified series of shoulder bags. They feature un-camera bag-like take-it-to-work styling with that gatemouth type opening that makes so much sense to me. My Crumpler may end up in the bottom of the closet for good.
Another clever thing I spotted in the LowePro booth was this camera mount on the handle of their roller bag. Perfect for those airport departure lounge self portraits. I get the sense that LowePro’s design staff actually uses (or at least consults with people who use) their products. Lots of clever design features like this that are missing on lesser bags.
This is the Ray Flash ring light accessory. As you can see, it bolts up to your existing external flash unit and re-directs the light to a large ring around the lens. This type of lighting is very popular for portrait photography. I find this to be very clever but am somewhat appalled at the $200 price tag. Pros won’t bat an eye at it but us amateurs need a more cost-effective solution. Plus, it seems a little plastic-y for the $$ IMO (though I have not used one yet).
Not a very good picture of a very clever product solution. The Shootsac is a function-specific neoprene shoulder bag with multiple compartments that allow one to keep all their lenses within easy arm’s reach. The designer has seen fit to add a fashion component with a bunch of interchangeable covers (none of which I would have chosen). Were I still shooting Canon and had a bunch of L zooms this product would make a lot of sense. As it is, my little Pentax lenses would get lost in there.
Trek-Tech has some very interesting products all based around a very slick custom magnetic tripod mount (shown above).
The most interesting Trek-Tech product was their MagBag system. Using the same magnetic tripod mount, the MagBag securely supports your camera beanbag-style. It has a number of other unique features that I hope to go into more detail about at a later date.
Across the asile from Trek-Tech (and at the far back corner of the exhibit hall) I found Black Rapid’s tiny booth. I found their new R-Strap a few weeks ago while doing some camera strap research. From the information I read online I couldn’t quite make out how the product worked. I got the fact that you attach the strap to the tripod mount on the bottom of your SLR, but I couldn’t see how it would be much better than a regular strap. The main benefit is shown above- the strap stays stationary while the camera slides along the strap on a D ring. I could do without the SWAT-style padded-strap-with-pockets styling, but overall it seems a very clever attempt at a solution to an age-old problem.
After the show I returned to the hotel to retrieve my laptop and download my pictures from the day while enjoying a cold one.
Then, I treated myself to a table for one at Mon Ami Gabi at Paris for some wine and steak frites :-)
Day two I’m back looking for things I missed and spending more quality time with some vendors looking for some nuggets to report on.