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Monday, November 1, 2004

Gadget Bag: Macro Anywhere


Expand your possibilities of capturing the smaller world


The Kirk Enterprises Macro Flash bracket allows you to vary the positioning of your dedicated auxiliary flash. Available in versions that attach to a camera body or lens collar, the bracket lets you change the overhead orientation of the flash to the left or right of your subject to create dramatic side lighting. A dual-flash model also is available. List Price: $69.95.

With the uniquely designed B87-B flash arm from Really Right Stuff, you easily can change the position of the flash by rotating it along the natural curvature of the bracket. Ideally suited for lenses with a tripod collar, this bracket allows for the flash to be in close proximity to the subject. An optional secondary flash arm provides a convenient dual-flash setup. List Price: $240.

On The Rails

Close-up photography is as much about precision as it is magnification. The increased magnification necessary for close-up work often results in a significant reduction of depth of field, making accurate focus critical. A slight shift easily will result in the wrong portion of the image being rendered in sharp focus while the rest of the image is soft.

While a tripod helps create a stable platform for macro work, it's quite cumbersome and awkward when you need to shift the camera in minute increments. What may only require a fraction of an inch adjustment is difficult to achieve when shifting an entire tripod. Focusing rails can be used with virtually any tripod and provide the ease and precision you need.

Attached to your tripod's existing head, focusing rails consist of a single or dual rail along which the camera moves. Focusing rails provide forward/back movement and, with some models, lateral shifting as well. These may be identified as single-or dual-axis focusing rails, respectively. The tripod is placed in the approximate position while the camera is adjusted using the focusing rail itself. This provides the fine-tuning often needed for macro work.

The Manfrotto 3419 Micro Positioning Plate can be adjusted precisely just by using your fingertips. Two plates can be connected at 90 degrees for full lateral forward/back movement for a range of up to 4.7 inches. It supports up to 17.6 pounds and includes a quick-release mechanism. List Price: $104.

The Hakuba Magnesium Macro Slider provides smooth forward and back movement as well as lateral positioning. Its dual-rail system delivers added stability and precision. List Price: $169.95.

Adorama's Macro Focusing Rail set uses a rack-and-pinion system for precise camera adjustments in four directions. Two six-inch rails provide smooth forward, back and lateral movements. Positive locking knobs allow for precise focus. List Price: $159.95.

The Kirk Enterprises Focusing Rail is designed using a gear-tracked system. It's compatible with the Arca-Swiss attachment system, providing rapid attachment and removal of a camera. List Price: $269.95.

Really Right Stuff's B150 Focusing Rail includes an integrated level release clamp with an optional adapter that accommodates collared lenses. It's compatible with the Arca-Swiss attachment system and comes with a neoprene OP/TECH USA soft case with belt clip. List Price: $350.

Getting A Hand

While there are clamps for your camera, there also are clamps that keep your subjects steady and safely move distracting elements away from your lens. When shooting plant life or insects, leaves or branches can obscure the lens' field of view. Rather than damaging the plant, these devices conveniently move such elements aside or steady plants that are being blown by the wind.

The Wimberley Plant Clamp (The Plamp) is an articulated arm, with one end connecting to a tripod leg and the other grasping your subject or obstruction. It extends to 18 inches and can be manipulated into virtually any position. The clamp also can hold small reflectors. List Price: $36.95.

The McClamp is a similar device that features a 12-inch clamp that can be inserted into the ground, eliminating the dependency on a tripod. The articulated arm provides a maximum length of 26 inches. A version with clamps on both ends also is available. List Price: $39.95.


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