Steadybag

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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.

My Own (Fuji) X-Files

After months of being a very interested observer from the sidelines, a series of events in the past month has turned me into a player.

Smartphone as makeup mirror (in Times Square)

First of all, I’ve been intrigued by all the press, blog posts and reviews revolving around Fuji’s X-Series of cameras, and recent posts here (including Raj Tavadia’s here and here) will bear that out. But I’m at the point in my life now where I really want to be sure I have some very valid reasons for acquiring any new equipment. And it’s not about the money involved — more a case of recognizing that I have a lot of gear that hasn’t been used for a very long time, and wanting to move that equipment out of my life before adding anything new.

So when I learned from Jeff Hirsch at Foto Care in New York that each year his fine operation plays host to representatives of KEH Camera Brokers, who evaluate and purchase used equipment online (from their base in Atlanta), it seemed the ideal opportunity to accomplish two goals at the same time.

Earlier in December, I emptied my equipment cabinet of a number of non-autofocus Nikon lenses, along with a couple of F3s and  an F100, plus a few accessories that were never going to be used again, made the trip into NYC and left a couple of hours later with the Fuji X-E2, lenses and accessories; including the adapter that will let me mount most of my Leica M-series lenses (the version of my 21mm won’t work — too deep to clear the Fuji’s sensor.)

I’m holding on to a number of Nikon and Leica lenses, since the Nikons perform beautifully with the D800 (especially the 15 / 300 / 500mm), and my ancient Leica 90mm f/4 Elmar may well be a perfect portrait lens (wide open).

So, now, what about the camera and the images —

Times Square tourists with a mime

First of all, the X-E2 fits my hands just like I’d hoped (think Leica M-series). Displays make sense and Fuji’s “Q” button is a great way for quick access to various functions. But what about real-world picture taking? Since a prime reason for getting the X-E2 was my need for an unobtrusive “street camera” without spending a not-so-small fortune for the latest Leica M (never an option), I took it out into Times Square the other night, after leaving a private screening of the new Scorsese film, The Wolf of Wall Street. The scene in the streets was about as surreal as much of the film itself. And the weather the weekend before Christmas was approaching 70 degrees, which brought out crowds that would have never been seen there in typical winter conditions.

I had mounted Fuji’s 18mm f/2 (27mm full-frame equivalent) and shot mostly at ISOs of 400 and 800. Bottom line — superb.

Grand Central Terminal, main hall

This image of the main hall at Grand Central Terminal, taken from a marble railing, was a 5-second exposure @ f/11 (ISO 200). Two things other than the camera’s inherent excellence made it work so well — the X-E2 has a threaded socket for a standard cable release, and I supported the camera on one of our Steadybag® camera supports – in this case the 8 oz. model SB-3. Yes, it’s our product, but this is not a shameless promo. We make Steadybag in a range of sizes, to support every kind of still and video camera and all their lenses, including the longest telephotos. Sometimes even the smallest Steadybag makes a world of difference in cushioning the front of a super-telephoto optic.

Looking up in midtown Manhattan at night

The nighttime image looking up at some of midtown’s taller buildings is a good way to appreciate the importance of a large sensor (as well as the 18mm optics). There is a tremendous dynamic range in this hand-held shot (f/2.8 – ¼”).

And the images in Times Square itself have a tonal range (even in JPEGs) I didn’t think possible. It’s early days for me with this camera, but I think I could travel just about anywhere with only the X-E2; and the whole set of gear would only take up part of a shoulder bag (including plenty of room for my still-wonderful Sony RX100. More impressions to come…

C.S.I. (The Real Deal) at IAI Providence 2013

Just back from Providence, RI, and the annual conference of the IAI (International Association for Identification). We were there in partnership with the Forensic Division of our friends at Adorama Camera (who knew they had a forensic department?), and it was a very interesting couple of days…

Wheel of Death!

Hundreds of detectives, crime scene analysts, lab specialists… all advancing their skills in classes and seminars and getting to look at and play with the full range of tools dedicated to “whodunit?”. Adorama’s Caroleann Fusco has been working with every aspect of the forensic community for a very long time and it seems like she is on a first-name basis with every investigator there (probably ensuring a lifetime of absolute immunity from any charge short of homicide).

Bullet hole examination kit

I’ve always felt that our products have a wide range of applications beyond the usual range of photographic assignments, and forensics is a prime example. The Rosco LitePad and LitePad Loop, Dedolight, even our Flexfill reflectors, Dewitt’s Brush, and Steadybag are some of the Visual Departures tools that we want to see in the hands of investigators. And with Caroleann’s introductions, it was easy to do.

LitePad fingerprint detection setup at IAI 2013

LitePad, with its diffuse LED lighting, absence of heat, range of sizes, and the capability of being powered by battery (as well as plugging into the wall) drew the most notice. It’s always interesting (and satisfying) to see a group of professionals, long used to doing something one way, find a whole new (and better) way to advance their craft.

After all, at what other convention are you going to spin the Wheel of Death to win a prize? Or add titles such as Principles of Bloodstain Pattern Analysis or Death Scene Investigation to the stack of light reading on your bedside table? Even got to bring home a bit of swag for the grandkids… who wouldn’t want to go to school with lunch in an Evidence Bag (covered with blood spatter) or a bright yellow neck lanyard boldly marked, CRIME SCENE – DO NOT CROSS?

Forensics books of every description

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.”

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.

Wildlife Photography on the Gulf Coast

The Steadybag Junior supporting a 300mm lens

A couple of weeks ago, I took a phone call from Charles Stutts in Louisiana, a shooter who does a lot of long-lens bird and wildlife photography. Even when you’re using a heavy-duty tripod, once focal lengths get beyond 300mm, it’s good to have some additional lens support, and Charles had decided to order some of our Steadybags.

It was a quiet time of the day here, and we got into a long conversation about his work. Charles frequently uses Nikon’s very fine 200-400mm f/4 zoom, frequently with a Nikon extender. So shooting on a D300, what he ends up with can be more like an 800mm. I was interested in seeing his images, so he pointed me to a YouTube video he posted in 2008. It’s a lovely slide show of the wildlife from Lake Peigneur in Louisiana, titled ‘Jefferson Lakes and Rip Van Winkle Gardens’:

While we talked, I pulled up his video and saw that Charles, while not a professional photographer in the sense of earning his living by taking pictures, knows very well how to make great images. The irony in all this is that just a few days later, recent events in the Gulf of Mexico had put the birds–as well as all wildlife and vegetation along the Gulf Coast–in great peril (to say nothing of the economic harm to many thousands of workers and their families.) Coincidentally, Lake Peigneur itself was the victim of an oil rig disaster some 30 years ago.

So in light of what’s happening right now in Louisiana, you might well enjoy taking a few minutes to appreciate at his fine images of some newly-endangered species.