This past week was one of the major US trade shows for photography: WPPI in Las Vegas. I love trade shows because the gearhead inside of me just itches to see that next great thing. This year, I saw a lot of the same. There were a lot of knock-off products, a lot of rebranded Chinese, and a lot of straight up useless junk. But through all that, I found some photographic gear that I could really respect and others that I straight up loved.
Here are my top six new products shown at WPPI 2012.
Number 6: The Rogue Flash Bender Diffusion Panel
I have a special place in my heart for the nifty, small, and clever. The Rogue Flash Bender was the first major flash accessory designed to be compact yet efficient. Before last week, the Flash Bender was just a glorified bounce card that could be bent into different shapes, including a snoot. However, ExpoImaging released an attachment for the popular Flash Bender that makes it into more than just a bounce card- the Diffusion Panel. Though I really need to see this thing in action, I’m a sucker for accessories and anything modular. When a company builds upon a proven product rather than just making something stand alone, I respect that. It plays to those who already own the product and simultaneously acts to bring in new users with an expanded range of capabilities. The Diffusion Panel makes the Flash Bender into a miniature soft box, which I can appreciate. It even has extra stop fabric right in front of where the flash would sit to alleviate the hot spot.
Number 5: The Wacom Cintiq 24 HD Tablet
Featuring a 1920 x 1200 HD display with 178° viewing angle and a 16:10 aspect ratio, the Cintiq 24 is immediately impressive. Graphic designers have loved Wacom tablets for years, but this product has the potential to appeal to a new group of users: video editors. Imagine editing video up close and personal in perfect color and high definition. Epic, right? Put two of these side-by-side and you would have an amazing editing station. The Cintiq 24 is designed extremely well and can be customized to fit a range of sitting or standing positions (you know, if you like to stand while using the computer). Lee was telling me he could never get used to a tablet because he likes to look directly at what he is doing. Not long ago, you had to hold the tablet below you and look up at a monitor. It can be rather difficult to get used to. Well, with the Cintiq line, you don’t have to worry about it. The Cintiq 24 is also wide screen, so photos and videos looks stunning on the 1080p monitor.
Ah, a young artist at work. I'm seeing a lot of potential! Note the creative squiggle on the right.
Number 4: The Chimera Collapsible Octa 2 Beauty Dish
I was beginning to wonder when someone would finally design this. Chimera made the only waves in all the lighting manufacturing booths with the introduction of its collapsible beauty dish in the Chimera Octa 2. 24 inches around, this product would allow you to go on location with your favorite light modifier without the stress of carrying around the hulking, heavy piece of aluminum we all have stashed in our closets. Depending on what you like to use as a light source, the Octa 2 can attach to monobloc strobes, studio flashes like a Profoto light, or even the standard speedlight. The center reflector that is the trademark look of a beauty dish is removeable and the unit also comes with a front diffusor. You can find a lot of small octa boxes online, but none of them have the ability to transition from the standard small octa bank into a beauty dish like the Chimera Octa 2 does. We still want to test this thing side by side with a traditional beauty dish and compare the results, but if it works like Chimera claims it does, this product could be a major game changer for those who want more mobility in a beauty dish.
Number 3: The PocketWizard Plus III Transceiver
If you haven’t seen our review of the new PocketWizard, you’re missing out. The PocketWizard Plus III speaks volumes to all those who were unsatisfied with their current PocketWizard. With 32 channels, the ability to control lights individually, fire the shutter remotely, and a lower price point, this is one of those “must have” units for photographers.
I was most impressed by the speed that this unit could transmit data to flashes. I watched Mark Wallace fire a Canon 5D at max speed and the wireless transmission had no problem keeping up- the lights gave out before the PocketWizard. To read more about this product, make sure to read our breakdown here.
Number 2: The Custom SLR M-Plate and Camera Strap
You’re probably thinking, “A camera strap? Really? Number 2?” Yes. Really. This is such a simple idea but for some reason, nobody attempted it before now. If you are like me, you like both using a strap as well as a tripod. Every strap out there that attaches to the bottom of the camera (which you have to admit makes for a more ergonomic strap) would have to be unhitched and a new plate attached before a tripod could be used. Custom SLR challenged that and created the M-Plate. The M-Plate is both a strap and a Manfrotto tripod shoe. Now if you want to move around on the set, you can do so without having to think about it. I really like this idea and the team at Custom SLR made it right. Not to mention that their strap is easily the most comfortable strap I have ever had the pleasure of leaning on my shoulder. I have been using their laptop strap for a few days now and I kid you not, it has changed everything I thought a strap was capable of. I often forget I’m wearing a bag because of how comfortable this thing is. The fact that something so simple really challenged the conventional way of doing things really resonates with me. Kudos Custom SLR.
Looking at it, the M-Plate doesn't look all that crazy. But that's the beauty of this great product.
Number 1: Layer Cake’s Topaz Suite
When I finally stopped to look at the Topaz Suite, it was at the end of a very long day. I had spend the previous 48 hours looking at software that I had either already seen or was completely unimpressive. From action software to a company that was offering pre-built layers for printing books (what a rip-off), I was about ready to give up on any new software innovations. Then my buddy David took me over to the Topaz Labs booth just as the announcement of the end of the day’s show bellowed overhead. At first glance, it’s just another piece of software. But just watch for 30 seconds, and you will be totally blown away. The Topaz Labs software challenges everything we take as irritating, unavoidable, and impossible and turns it on its head. In, I kid you not and this is no exaggeration, four seconds the demonstrator perfectly extracted a hairy dog from one image and placed it into another seamlessly. Effortless. He then demonstrated the same thing with a bride, veil and all. The software was able to remove the background sifting through the transparent veil but retain the clarity of the edges.
I was totally speechless. Lee’s jaw dropped. Lauren stared in disbelief, then squealed in joy because this would make her wedding post production work so much easier.
And that was only one of five features I saw demonstrated. The other tool that blew my mind a second time was what he called the “CSI effect.” If you’re like me, your love for crime dramas started with CSI: Las Vegas. Well you know how their techs seem to be able to take a blurry image of the back of a car and, a few button punches and several seconds later, produce a perfectly sharp, totally readable license plate? I’ve always laughed at the impossibility of this. Topaz proved it was anything but. In exactly the same amount of time it takes those TV techs in the fake lab to make a blurry picture sharp, Topaz did the same. Now we were shown a totally blurry, hopeless image. The end result was anything but tack sharp, but imagine if you only a hair out of focus. This software could fix that perfect facial expression that just got slightly mucked up by an unsteady hand an auto-focus slip up. I want to play around with this software myself, but from what I saw demonstrated, this is a game changer of an application.
Finally, I saw something that I just had to share with ya’ll, because it put a smile on my face. Enjoy:
Were you at WPPI? Did you see a product or service that rocked your face off? Do you disagree with any of my choices? Sound off in the comments below!
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