Searching for new camera gear at WPPI
Since everyone is a photographer these days, there never seems to be a shortage of new photo gadgets and gizmos available to attract my attention. Recently, I checked out the Expo at the WPPI (Wedding & Portrait Photographers International) conference in Las Vegas, which attracted about 12,000 attendees and 300 exhibitors.
The expo is geared toward wedding and portrait photographers featuring the latest photography gear, albums, framed prints and wall displays. It’s a chance for me to check out what’s new and interesting from the variety of camera manufacturers. Who doesn’t need the latest flash, clamp, tripod or widget? WPPI in Las Vegas is usually the only photography expo I attend each year. The location is great, the MGM Grand Hotel, just a 5-hour drive and the exhibit halls are just the right size, featuring photography-focused products.
While most of the exhibitors are just showing their goods, there are plenty who are selling their products along with a variety of camera stores in attendance. I got a little distracted by the Elvis impersonator and the Sumo wrestler as I wandered through the exhibit halls, but not enough to distract me from buying a new tripod.
Panasonic LUMIX GH4 – The new Panasonic Lumix GH4, which has been announced but is not due out until May, should be a force in the competitive video and still camera market this year. Priced at $1,699.99, it’s the lowest priced professional-style camera with a headphone jack to monitor your audio while recording. Nikon and Canon only make this feature on cameras priced over $3,000. Since I have been shooting more video than stills lately, this feature is very important to me. The micro four-thirds mirrorless camera features 4K video, 49-point high-speed auto-focusing with video and still photography. I’m not quite ready to make the jump from my conventional DSLR, but this camera may be the game-changer for me and would be my choice.
Lowepro Pro Roller x100 AW – Lowepro has updated their line of roller bags. The Pro Roller x100AW is the smallest and features a system where the bag lifts out of the harder roller case and can be used as a backpack if needed. Other features include a zipper with a TSA-approved locking security system, all-weather cover, and side tripod straps. This Lowepro roller bag is an easy fit for your air travel. It rolls smoothly with newly designed wheels, and does a great job of organizing and protecting your valuable gear with their MaxFit system of dividers.
Lensbaby Composer Pro with Sweet 35 Optic – I have one of the very early models of the Lensbaby and enjoy seeing the progression of a great idea of a bendable lens to change focus and separate your subject from the foreground and background. My original model was tricky to use because you have to squeeze and tilt the lens and focus it in one motion. It was sometimes hard to accomplish, plus you need to change the depth-of-field with drop-in rings which were inconvenient to use.
The new Lensbaby Composer Pro eliminates the problems I had with my previous model making a great addition to my photography arsenal. With this model, you can change your aperture with a dial just like a conventional lens. The tilt-shifting can be locked down or have variable resistance with a twist of a ring, and the focus is held in place when you let go after focusing.
The Composer Pro, with 35 Optic, has a circular spot of focus that falls off toward the edges of the frame. You can control the blur by the amount of tilting used. It’s similar to a much more expense tilt/shift style lens, but gives you more creative control. The Lensbaby Composer Pro with Sweet 35 Optics is priced at $380.
LumoPro LP180 Quad-Sync Manual Flash – If you’re a photographer on the move who wants to travel light and wants to set up manual strobes for portraits, the LumoPro LP180, which is priced at $199.99, is a great choice. I carry two of the previous model LP 160 models in my travel case for my off-camera lighting needs. The LumoPro LP 180 flashes are simple to adjust the variable one-third power, 1/4-20 mounting thread, built-in wide-angle diffuser and bounce card. They will work with umbrellas and soft boxes with additional hardware. Connecting the strobe with your camera is simple with so many options including: 3.5 mini phone, PC, standard hot shoe, and optical slave.
Lowel GL-1 Power LED – This continuous light source looks more like a power drill than a photography light, but it may be the right tool for those shooting portraits or weddings. Priced at $699.99, the portable GL1 light with its variable light gives you a really useful lighting tool in your hand for the photographer on the move who doesn’t have the time or opportunity to set up lights. This focusable and dimmable battery-powered light gives you the opportunity to mix and match with the ambient light whether it’s a sunset or church windows. The battery will run for approximately one hour on a charge. The light includes a battery, charger and battery AC adapter along with a case.
Sony POV Action Cam AS100V – Sony has added a new action camera to their line which is splash-proof without an additional case. The Action Cam AS100V does come with a waterproof housing unit which you can use in water down to 15 feet. The camera features include: stabilization, stereo microphone, Exmor R CMOS sensor, embedded GPS, 13.5MP still image capture, 170-degree Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens and WiFi connection to a smartphone.
ProMediaGear PMG-DUO Video Slider – The slider is priced at $449.95 has both a curved and straight track. This will give your videos a different look when you want extra motion. The addition of the curved track lets you keep your subject or product in focus while you curl around it. This definitely will give your videos a professional look. I was also impressed with how smooth the camera would move along the track.
Benro A2573FS4 Tripod – I noticed this tripod at the Midwest Camera booth. The Benro A2573FS4 Tripod is a reasonably priced and full-featured tripod with adjustable leg angle and a very smooth 360-degree adjustable tension panning. It includes a heavy duty case and legs with fast flip locks. The tripod is priced at $275.
Listec Promptware PW-04 Four Inch teleprompter – This isn’t for everyone, but it caught my eye when I visited the Tiffen booth. This mini-teleprompter works with your iPhone to give you a chance to read like the professionals do on television. It’s really for those who might need to read from a script and are working on a small budget with a smaller home video camera or kit lens on a DSLR, since it will only work with a lens size of 58mm or smaller. The teleprompter works with iPhone and Android phones.
Comodo Orbit – This stabilization was the most interesting-looking device I found. The Comodo Orbit was a new take on an old problem of trying to keep your video camera stable and smooth while filming. It looked like a giant spider holding a DSLR camera. The stabilizer uses two hand grips which Comodo says reduces fatigue, allowing it to be handed from one videographer to another while continuously shooting. One interesting feature was how easy you could tip the camera to a downward angle and then move slowly above your subject. The Orbit was designed by cinematographer Leonard Retel Helmrich.
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