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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Compendium 2008

High-tech tools to help you get the best images

This Article Features Photo Zoom

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One thing that I especially like about the photography business is that the majority of manufacturers care about us. Sure, they’d like us to spend money on their products, but they also like to make products that work. Over the last year, I’ve been using a variety of accessories that have made my photography better and easier, or both. I hesitate to say that these tools will be perfect for every photographer, as I’ve learned that this is rarely true with any photographic product, but I’ve found these accessories to be useful in my workflow.

Fast USB Jump Drives.
We all fear losing our digital photographs. I put mine on my laptop as I travel, but a laptop can be stolen or a hard-drive crash can occur. I now carry USB jump drives for simple, portable backup (kept in a separate place than the laptop, of course). They don’t have capacities for long trips or for photographers who shoot a lot of images yet, but they’re one solution for backup. I’ve been using a DataTraveler HyperX unit from Kingston Technology (www.kingston.com); it’s a very fast drive, making uploading and downloading more convenient. Another small, but useful feature: The USB plug slides in and out of the drive, so you’re not constantly losing caps.

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Xotopro QMM1 macro flash unit
Camera Level. A camera level is a great idea, but if you’re like me, you don’t always use one because they have a small problem—they can’t be kept on the camera when you put the camera away. I’ve found a new camera level that fits tight to your hot-shoe and allows you to leave it on the camera even when it goes into the bag. Now I can use a camera level all the time! The Ross Camera Level flips up to allow for vertical leveling, but lies flat to the top of your camera when shooting horizontally (cameralevel.com).

GPS Data. In the future we’ll see GPS capabilities in many cameras. Having the ability to pinpoint where you took a particular picture can be useful when you’re back home editing your images. ATP Electronics Photo Finder allows you to add GPS data to your image files (photofinder.atpinc.com). This unit records time-stamped GPS data as you photograph. Then plug your memory card into the Photo Finder so it can add that data to the metadata of your pictures based on the time. The unit has some limitations. First, it only works with JPEG files. That’s not a problem if you shoot RAW + JPEG or if you’re using it to scout with a pocket digital camera that only shoots JPEG. Second, it works best with SD memory cards. The unit has a built-in SD slot, but you need a card reader for CF cards, and I found that CF cards worked a little inconsistently.

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ATP Electronics Photo Finder
Macro Flash. Sometimes for best macro and close-up work, you need to control the light with flash. Most close-up flash mounts haven’t been flexible enough for me. I’ve always wanted a flash mount that had truly bendable arms, and I found it in the Xotopro QMM1 macro twin flash unit (www.xotopro.com). The QMM1 uses articulated arms that make it easy to twist and position up to two flash units for best light on a close subject. The company also offers a complete kit, including a macro flash mount and a twin flash system to go with it for Canon, Nikon, Olympus, Pentax and Sony.

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