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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Tools For Travel


The Photo Traveler’s annual collection of gift ideas

This Article Features Photo Zoom

If I was a wedding shooter, who must deal with pops of a million point-and-shoot cameras from other wedding guests, I’d keep these RadioPoppers permanently mounted. I still prefer the easy convenience of the Nikon system in most situations, but RadioPoppers are good to have when you need them. Estimated Street Price: $360 (transmitter and receiver set).

Big Little Backup.
With luggage limits becoming more and more strict, and people being forced to pay to check their bags, it only follows that carry-on space will get tighter and tighter. That’s really bad news for those of us road warriors who already are fighting for carry-on space for our delicate electronic gear.

But with the prices of flash memory getting cheaper, the prospect of laptop-free travel becomes less of a pipe dream and more of a reality. Helping it along, are the compact storage devices from Epson and others. Epson’s latest entries, the P-6000 and P-7000, boast 80 and 160 GB drives, respectively, and in the age of 12-megapixel and up cameras and two- to three-week shooting trips, those capacities look very good indeed, especially, for me, the P-7000 (www.epson.com).

There’s another reason these units look so good, and that’s the improvement in the LCD displays. Epson calls it Photo Fine Premia. I just call it the sharpest, smoothest and most wide-ranging color I’ve seen on a four-inch LCD anywhere. Now, you can pixel-peep on one of these units to check sharpness, etc., and be looking at the same-quality image as (or maybe even better than) your computer screen at home.

Both the P-6000 and P-7000 retain the ability of the earlier P-3000 and P-5000 to back up onto other USB devices, like small USB hard drives, so you can make multiple backups of your work with just one of these units. This is an often overlooked, undermarketed feature and one that every digital wallet of this type should have, but some brands do not. Just keep in mind that your small USB drives will need to have their own AC adapter (usually small, light five-volt, two-amp multivoltage jobs that weigh an ounce or two), and be formatted to FAT32, the PC standard.

I’m planning a laptop-free assignment in South America this month, with enough SDHC cards for my Nikon D90s to last me for two weeks of shooting and a P-7000 and another small drive to back them up. It has lightened my usual load by about 10 pounds of computer gear and peripherals, and I may actually be able to make it onto the plane with one carry-on. Estimated Street Price: P-6000 ($599); P-7000 ($799).

Be My Baby... Just when you thought it was safe to call your Lensbaby 3G—that cute little lens with the “martian antenna” look that gives you the ability to play with narrow depth-of-field effects—a lifelong companion, the Lensbaby designers improve on it again (www.lensbaby.com).

They have kept the original “accordion” squeezebox Lensbaby (now called the Muse) and the 3G (now called the Control Freak), but they have added a very smooth, tilting version, the most lens-like and easiest to use of the bunch, called the Composer. The Composer eliminates the dexterity requirements that the other two models require of users (some shooters love the process as much as the result; I prefer to get the results with more ease, as you can with the Composer). It’s essentially a tilt lens in a rolling pivot (these Lensbaby guys are ingenious), and it allows you to fully exploit the narrow depth-of-field look that, rather than being a fast-fading fad, seems to have become an enduring look in creative photography.

But wait, there’s more. Now, besides choosing the type of Lensbaby, you also can choose the sharpness of the optics you use. The Optic Swap system allows you to pop out the standard-issue optic (the Double Glass, which provides the sharpest results in the focused portion of your picture) and replace it with the Single Glass (which is less sharp, more dreamy) or, to go even softer, the Plastic optics that came with the first generation of Lensbaby. There’s even a Zone Plate option, which is a pinhole-type setup for really dreamy results. The Lensbaby empire grows!

Since I’m a shooter with clients who mostly want the sharp parts of my pictures to be sharp, I’m a Double-Glass guy. But just in case, deep in my creative soul, I want to explore my dreamy pinhole side, now I have that option! Estimated Street Price: the Composer ($270); the Muse ($150); the Optic Kit ($94.95).

For a schedule of Bob Krist’s workshops and seminars, check his website, www.bobkrist.com, under the “Teach and Talk” heading.

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