Steadybag

Archives for ‘Visual Departures’:

Keep Your Mirrorless and Superzoom Camera Stable with the New Steadybag SB-4

Long exposure of Grand Central Terminal, camera stabilized with

It seems that point-and-shoot cameras have become almost obsolete, now that mirrorless and compact zoom models have filled the gap between the iPhone and full-size DSLRs. We decided that a new Steadybag® was needed to give these new cameras the same kind of support and rock-steady imaging photographers have been getting for many years from our other Steadybags.

So here’s our SB-4, weighing just over a pound and measuring 9.5 x 5.5″. It fits in just about any case or shoulder bag. Whether you’re on a long trek or just shooting locally, image sharpness is one of the basics.

On a recent trip to New York City, I carried my Fuji X-E2 (never without it) along with the new Steadybag. Just as a quick test, I positioned the SB-4 on one of the marble railings overlooking the main concourse of Grand Central Station, set the camera on its lowest ISO and its smallest aperture, and here are the results. The exposure was around 4 seconds, and while the commuters were in motion (who in NYC ever stands still for that long), the rest of the image is tack-sharp.

Steadybag SB-4 for mirrorless cameras minimizes camera shake

Some of the new ‘super zoom” compacts have lenses with optical zooms up to 65x (35mm equivalent of 1200mm or more), and I defy anyone to hand-hold at that magnification and come back with a really sharp image.

At PhotoPlus later this week in New York, I’m going to see just how well our new Steadybag performs with a range of the newest cameras… look for photos here.

Birding Seems More Popular Than Ever

With the proliferation of DSLR cameras for both still and video imaging, and the instant gratification that comes with shooting digital, it’s easy to see why birding is a growing activity. I’m not big on statistics, but I’ve known for many years that the number of casual and serious birdwatchers in the U.S. alone is in the millions.

Last weekend, my wife and I had dinner with friends who had recently come back from a bird-watching trip to Cuba, arranged through The Connecticut Audubon Society. Of course their trip was not just about birds but also a chance to tour a country somewhat frozen in time. Also in the past few days, the Weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal  ran a great article about a number of field guides for birding.

Steadybag with spotting scope and birding field guide

Whether in the backyard or on another continent, a lot more people have the tools in hand in make great photos. Of course, it helps if you can afford a high-speed telephoto lens, but not everyone has a spare $4000+ (though it’s surprising how many do).

Since birders typically use long lenses — whether taking photos or just observing through a spotting scope — it’s important to have a good stabilization platform. We’ve been making our Steadybag® for a long time, and it’s used by thousands of photographers and professional video shooters. It really is a great tool for support both cameras and spotting scopes on any surface —  less bulky and a lot quicker to set up and put away than a tripod.

Click here to learn why Steadybag is better, and buy directly with PayPal.

One more quick tip: most new DSLRs have a lot less noise at higher ISOs than they used to. Don’t get fixated on using a low ISO setting if gaining a faster shutter speed (or the depth of field of one more f-stop) will produce a better image. Birds and other creatures (even your kids) have that terrible habit of not waiting around for everything to be “just right.”

We Photographers Need to Protect Intellectual Property — But Not in the Way You Might Expect

Flexfill: Still proudly made in the USA

Thirty years ago, we introduced collapsible lighting reflectors to America. Our Flexfill® products, still being made in our own US-based workshop by our own staff, are used by many thousands of still, video, and motion picture photographers all over the world.

But as I found out the hard way, having a great registered trademark for a fine product isn’t enough to keep the knock-off jackals at bay. There are a lot of copies of Flexfill reflectors out there, coming from offshore and produced with varying levels of quality. I’m always pleased when we hear from shooters who have used the same Flexfills for 10 or 20 years.

My good friend of many years, Quest Couch, has had (like me) a long career both as a photographer and as the founder and president of an innovative photographic products company. Many of you know the name LumiQuest, which has been one of the great innovators in accessories for flash photography. Recognizing the increasing and continuing abuse of intellectual property rights which apply to creative work, like photographs, and to physical products, such as those used by photographers every day, Quest has launched a website www.QuestForRights.org and produced a video that you should take about three minutes to watch.

Many years ago, I was asked to submit a portfolio for the annual report of a major international bank. In the initial meeting with the art director and the design firm, I was shown a dummy version of what they were hoping to produce for their client. I recall being asked if I could produce images with a similar look and feel to the sample. At the time, I was more amused than angry because more than half the pictures in the dummy presentation were mine, clipped from other projects I had photographed.

I have always worked hard to protect my rights to the pictures I’ve made over the past 45 years, and yet I know (as do most shooters) that in the digital world, images and text are routinely taken and used without payment or permission. I consider it a point of pride that we continue to manufacture our signature products here in America at a uniformly high level of quality, rather than take shortcuts. So here’s to Quest Couch and his new effort to build awareness and action on saving what many of us work very hard to build.

Last-Minute Stocking Stuffer Ideas for Photographers

As we wind down 2010, everyone seems to be searching for unique gifts and stocking stuffers for the holidays. As the distributors of quite a few unusual photographic products, we can offer a few suggestions. If you’ve got a friend who’s into photography (or just want to get something nice for yourself) read on for some ideas…

The Strobist Collection

David Hobby & Rosco present The Strobist CollectionOne of the most popular blogs for photographers, www.Strobist.com is a great place to learn to use off-camera flash techniques. Using gels on multiple strobe units can create some really striking lighting effects. David Hobby, the founder of Strobist.com, spoke with our friends at Rosco labs about packaging some of their most useful gels for “strobists” pre-cut to fit precisely over a standard strobe unit. These 55 pieces of filter come in a convenient clamshell case that fits into any pocket or camera bag; all you need is a piece of tape to hold them in place…

(Contact us to find your local dealer, or shop for the Strobist Collection online.)

microGAFFER Compact Gaffer Tape

microGAFFER tape compared to standard 1" and 2" rolls of gaffer tape

Gaffer tape is a wonderful thing. It may be the most useful thing on a set, next to the camera itself (and the photographer.) The problem is, it’s HUGE! A roll of gaffer tape can easily weigh more than your camera. A while back, we noticed how ridiculous that was and invented microGAFFER. It’s identical to professional gaffer tape, but fits in your pocket (or camera bag; or glove compartment.)

(Contact us to find your local dealer, or shop for microGAFFER tape online.)

3″ Circular LitePad and AA Battery Pack

3 inch circular LitePad

We love, love, love LitePad. The 3″ circular LitePad is thin, lightweight, and can be powered by your choice of a wall outlet, your car’s cigarette lighter adapter, or (best of all) AA batteries. Being able to take a daylight-balanced light source anywhere (along with your imaging tool of choice, be it camera or iPhone) makes it possible to capture all kinds of wonderful photos from daily life.

(Contact us to find your local dealer, or shop for the 3″ circular LitePad or LitePad AA battery pack online.)

Steadybag Junior

Steadybag Junior supporting a Leica point-and-shoot cameraWhile the standard three-pound Steadybag is a bit too big to fit in a standard stocking, the half-pound, 7″x5.25″ Steadybag Junior is perfect. And it’s perfect for supporting any point-and-shoot camera, allowing you to use longer exposure times and lower ISO settings — which means less noise in your shots. It lasts for years (unlike a beanbag), comes in three great colors (again: unlike a beanbag), doesn’t attract insects or mice (absolutely not like a beanbag), and sets up in about one second.

(Contact us to find your local dealer, or shop for the Steadybag Junior online.)

Need More Ideas?

If you’re still stuck on just what to get for that special someone, give us a call! We can make recommendations for just about any type of photographer or filmmaker, young or old, amateur or professional.

The “Nature” of Quick and Dirty Macro Photography

Great close-up nature photography doesn’t have to involve a lot of equipment (and weight or bulk). I almost always have with me, besides the latest in Canon’s G-series of professional quality point-and-shoot cameras, a couple of our smallest Flexfill collapsible lighting reflectors, a Steadybag Jr., and a table-top tripod and head.

Comparison of an open 20-inch Flexfill with an identical closed model inside its storage pouch

We’ve been bothered at home by an invasion of what I just learned are cicada-killing wasps. Earlier today, I watched one of these airborne attackers start to drag his latest victim under our porch. A quick shot of hornet spray took care of the wasp, but it was too late for the cicada. But in a couple of minutes, using a white Flexfill (model 20-1) as a shooting surface and a silk Flexfill (model 20-9) to diffuse a very harsh sun, I was able to produce a studio-quality image of both.

Insects on a white Flexfill

The Canon G11 has extraordinary macro capabilities (plus I always try to shoot RAW files), and since I was shooting down, my Leica ball head and tripod was the choice over the Steadybag.

The silk Flexfill was the key to the shot, allowing the G11 to make a correct exposure even in bright sunlight. Each of the 20-inch Flexfills weighs less than 5 ounces, expands to a 20″ circle, folds down instantly to about one-third that size, and fits into its own 8″ pouch. Flexfills come in a variety of sizes, up to 60″ across, and all of them are similarly compact, lightweight, and reliable.

Next up: using the ultra-cool LitePad (Rosco’s LED light panel) to produce a location food photograph at the edge of the ocean.

Introducing microGAFFER Gaffer Tape

Note: We’re pleased to announce that microGAFFER® now has its own website, featuring all new colors and packages!

microGAFFER packages contain 4 rolls of tape

This is professional, high-quality gaffer tape… in a much more convenient form.

Ahhh, gaffer tape (or is it “gaffa tape”, “gaff tape”, or any number of other terms?) Whatever you call it, it’s possibly the most useful piece of gear on a stage or set, whether large or small. And hoo boy, is it convenient: So light! So compact! So pocketable! (Err… wait, are we still talking about gaffer tape?)

As a matter of fact, we are. Presenting a new product from Visual Departures: microGAFFER® tape. microGAFFER is identical to professional gaffer tape in all ways except the problematic ones: size and weight. Use it anywhere you’d use standard-size gaffer’s tape: secure cabling and other equipment, make minor repairs, block out staging, label control boards, and more. It tears off easily and leaves almost no residue, just like gaffer’s tape (because that’s what it is.)

The difference is, it’s so compact, you can buy several rolls and keep them wherever you need them. Keep one in your car’s glove compartment; one in your backpack; one in your SLR camera bag (and each of your other gear bags); you can even keep one in your pocket. Now, when you find a problem on the set or location, your solution will be within arm’s reach — solve the problem and move on.

Back in the bad old days, many pro photographers would hack around the problem of too-large tape rolls by tearing off a bunch of gaffer tape and then re-wrapping it around the legs of their tripods, tearing off little bits as needed. We’re happy to say that those days are now past us. Buy microGAFFER online or find your local microGAFFER reseller and try a few rolls!

microGAFFER tape compared to standard 1" and 2" rolls of gaffer tape

Specifications and Dimensions

  • Each multi-pack contains 4 rolls (2 Black, 1 Grey, 1 White)
  • Each roll is 1 inch wide by 8 yards long
  • Made in the USA
  • Also available in standard sizes & widths
microGAFFER by the Numbers
Standard Gaffer Tape microGAFFER® Tape
Length 60 yds. 8 yds.
Width 2″ 1″
Diameter 6 3/8″ 2 1/2″
Weight 2 lbs. 2.2 oz. (1/8 lb.)