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Objects of Desire (or Vigorous Want, at Least) at PhotoPlus Expo 2016

The exhibits have been taken down at NYC’s Javits Center, and PhotoPlus Expo 2016 is now in the past. It’s always a pleasure to run into friends and dealers while touring the show floor, as we all oooh and ahhh at the shiny new gizmos on display, and start to make mental notes of which ones we’re going to start saving for. Here’s a recap of some of what’s new and what is changing in how we’ll shoot pictures and video this year…

nikon-booth-at-ppe-2016

A Death Spiral for DSLRs?

Well, probably more like a steep loss of altitude. As always, Nikon and Canon were out in force, and lots of fans were there to see and play with their new toys. But the real action was to be found at mirrorless vendors like Sony, and Fuji, and Lumix. I’ve never seen a presentation like Sony’s before. Their range of mirrorless cameras and the vast array of optics they showed drew crowds from the moment the doors opened.

Sony booth at PPE 2016

Sony lenses at PPE 2016

The capabilities of these cameras, both in still and 4K video, are astonishing. It’s why my full-frame DSLRs now spend much of their time on the shelf. It’s also why these cameras are being widely used in professional video production and why companies like Zeiss are making feature-worthy optics to fit them.

It’s no surprise that Fotodiox (about whom I’ve written before) is continually expanding their range of adapters to ensure that virtually any lens can be used with any of the new cameras, in most cases transferring their auto-focus technology at the same time. I love being able to use vintage Leica M-series optics on my Fuji X-E2, particularly for portraiture.

And I’ll never be smart enough to figure out how Lumix (and others) can offer a camera with a 24-480mm optical zoom and a host of other phenomenal features that weighs not much more than my 43-86 Zoom-Nikkor from the late ’60s (still languishing in a desk drawer).

Lensbaby Trio28 at PPE 2016

Accessories of Note

Even though I had very high regard for the unique products they brought to photographers, I’ve never owned a Lensbaby product. It’s probably because, through decades of photojournalism work, I avoided anything that modified the images I produced. But things change, and I was intrigued to learn about their Trio 28 for mirrorless cameras. It produces three versatile effects on a rotating mount over a 28mm lens (effectively 42mm on my Fuji). I played with it at the show, and I’m looking forward to seeing what I can do with it soon.

ThinkTank Red Whips at PPE 2016

I’ve been using Think Tank memory card wallets for years, but wasn’t aware of their full range of products. Here’s one that everyone needs: Red Whips adjustable elastic cable ties. Managing cords and cables at home or on location is a real pain, and a package of these would be the perfect stocking stuffer (along with a pack of our microGAFFER – a favorite on holiday shopping lists year after year!)

Op/Tech USA is a company with a vast range of accessories, some of which I’ve been using for a long time. At PhotoPlus Expo, I tried a new camera strap they call the “Envy” on my Fuji mirrorless. It’s got a slim profile and is padded with memory foam. Op/Tech makes hundreds of products, and I plan to put the Envy strap on all my camera bodies. You’ve gotta love that—just like us—they’re proud to stamp the “Made in the USA” banner on practically all their products, and even produced a behind-the-scenes look into their workshop.

Phoxi FriendsMy best-in-show award for accessories, however, would have to go to Phoxi Friends. Marie Murray, a Canadian children’s photographer, has come up with a range of delightful creatures (with built-in squeakers) that wrap around the barrel of any lens and instantly engage any subject, particularly small children. Any photographer who’s struggled to get and hold the attention of a kid or pet knows how tough that can be. At her modest booth on the fringes of the exhibit floor, I watched dozens of attendees walk away with their new Phoxi Friends.

“Your New York Minute” Photo Contest

Not to forget what all this stuff is for — helping great photographers capture great images — PPE’s first official photo contest was held at the show, with the City of New York as its subject. Some magnificent images were chosen, both in the Amateur and Professional categories. Take a look, and be inspired!

The Nine Days of POTUS

It’s become part of the summer routine for President Obama and his family to spend a week or so here on Martha’s Vineyard, much of it with old friends and with a lot of hours on the Vineyard’s several golf courses. In the past, my work for the Vineyard Gazette has put me in the middle of things, but this year I had no intention of getting caught up in any of it.

Obama_Vineyard_vacation_front_page

So, Thursday morning two weeks ago (Day 6 of the visit), when I heard the sound of Eight Harleys Roaring (past our house) and turning down the road towards the neighboring golf course, I knew that would be followed by Twenty Agents Guarding and One POTUS Golfing. While the State Police motorcycle escort took a break, I stayed inside, determined to let things be. But then, Julia Wells, the Gazette’s editor texted and asked by to see what I could produce in the way of pictures when the President arrived at the 8th green. Mr. Obama likes his privacy (who can blame him) — just ask Gazette staffer Ivy Ashe, who dutifully spent a day in the press pool from 8:30 AM until after midnight and never got a glimpse of Mr. Obama. FYI, the Gazette, founded in 1846, is one of the great local papers in the U.S. and well worth reading. Their presses roll each Thursday night in Edgartown, Mass.

I respect the Secret Service’s routines, and it all makes very good sense. The President came over to a group of us, and I got the front page of that week’s edition. The light was a nightmare — deep shadows where we were (his cap and sunglasses didn’t help) and strong sunlight on the green behind him. For those interested, it was shot with my Nikon D800 and the very, very good 24-70/f2.8. Steve Durkee, the paper’s design wizard, opened up the shadows, making for a fine picture, both in print and online. For other images — a quick change to the 70-200mm.

President Obama leaving the putting green

While on the subject of gear, I’ve been helping the friend of a friend dispose of some vintage Leica rangefinder equipment, and at the same time I’m seriously looking into buying one of Fuji’s X-series cameras. Beyond all the rave reviews these cameras are getting, with comparisons to the Leica M-series (both film and digital) making for some very good reading, it’s interesting to put an M3 next to the Fuji X-E1. There’s never been a camera that felt as natural in my hands as the M3 (or the M4 for that matter). That’s a large part of why this group of Fuji cameras is so appealing. It’s not that they consciously set out to copy Leica’s design (or maybe they did), but rather that they have made the “feel,” the ergonomics of the camera, such an important consideration, just as the engineers at Leica did more than 50 years ago. If I were starting a long assignment right now, and had to lock in to one camera to document all aspects of the trip, it almost certainly would be one of these.

Fuji X-E1 and Leica M3 (top view)

The next thing I’m looking for is WiFi capability. No hurry at the moment. I’m hoping the PhotoPlus show in NYC next month will help clear the air (and my mind). I see that Fuji have reserved a healthy-sized booth… what do you suppose they’ll be showing off?

LumiQuest and Joe McNally at PDN PhotoPlus 2010

Quest Couch of LumiQuest at PDN PhotoPlus 2010

“These are really exciting times for small flash photography.”

So says Quest Couch, a good friend and the co-founder, with Heidi Kenny, of LumiQuest. Based in Texas, LumiQuest has for many years been the leader in accessories for small flash units. They have always been committed to “products that work, rather than gimmicks that sell.” Maybe that’s why Quest and I have always gotten along so well; here at Visual Departures, that’s our mission, too.

Quest and I spent some time watching Joe McNally do a live demo at the Nikon booth to a standing-room-only crowd; like many shooters, Joe makes the LumiQuest products a key part of his location lighting equipment package. Quest has done a number of short and very instructive videos on LumiQuest’s website. No matter how long you have been shooting, spend some time on their site — you’ll learn a lot in a short time. Joe McNally’s blog should be in your bookmarks as well, as he explains the nuts and bolts of his masterful photos.