Holiday Gift Guide 2015: The Other Bits

I’ve gone into some specific categories, and now after roaming the stores and web, can bring you some other choices that may add to the gifting of the season.
Plus, here is an interesting site that has done the research on when the prime shopping days are for this month

Mini Easel with photo postcards
Nothing can bring yearlong joy, like the gift of an original print. Places like Morrisson Hotel Gallery, Fetterman Gallery, and 20×200, offer up some great images to give a gift that keeps on giving.
But it’s a commitment. Wall space can be precious and when you hang something on the wall, you should love it. Or it gets hung in the washroom.
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Here is an idea that will allow the giftee to utilize a small footprint of space, and change out images at will.
I have used full size easels in my home to switch out images like a changing exhibit, without rehanging things on the wall.
This tiny option, makes it a perfect gift, and easy to display. MOMA has a set of classic photos from their collection, or you probably have images of your own that would perhaps personalize the gift. Quarter is there for size reference.image is by ©Cindy Sherman
You can also get multiple packs of mini- wooden easels at Amazon at a reasonable price, making this a simple and unique gift to give.(Just make sure that the rear support leg, won’t block the postcard from sitting flat on the easel)

Tile with Sound
At the beginning of the year I did a real world testing of a variety of tracking devices and found which ones were the best.
But there is an option now with Tile that makes the most sense, especially in your home.
Ever misplace Keys? Remotes? Phone? Yep.me too.
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So while the vast majority of tracking devices will let you know approximately where your item is within about 150ft, the new Tile emits a loud enough signal to pinpoint your item in the house! Have you used “find my phone”? Feels a bit like that.

Get a bunch of these to hand out and keep a few for yourself to attach to your own goods.Mine is on my key ring.

Zagg folding keyboard: MiniTablet, and phone users know that typing can be a drag.
Well, this little folding keyboard is the best I’ve seen for portability and build. Power type away!
Folds into a small, flat, unit that actually protects the keys. Its’ 4 sections give you 2 for a keyboard, and the other 2 become a great stand for the tablet.

It’s in my bag and should be in yours or in someone’s gift bag. Sales going on now.

Nixplay SEED.
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While your are shooting a ton of photos, sometimes just having them in view reminds your of what you did.
Digital frames keep getting better, and the new, smaller footprint, SEED, is a great choice. Using a website to complete and load your albums, you could send the parents a folder of your family photos, online and they will get them sent to the frame for their viewing pleasure. Good build, and the site was easy to use and load into. Interesting way to support the frame, as it uses a stiffer portion of cable out the back,the farm can sit horizontal or vertical, full frame or cropped to size, and slide show options as well. $90 @Amazon.

For the kids in your life, this new set of goodies from StikBot, plus a free app will have your budding filmmaker creating their own stop-motion videos, with all of the material needed in this well priced box. Who knows, make the next Lego movie will be born!
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And to get the young ones into the coming VR craze (or yourself), Viewmaster has introduced a modified versions of the the classic Viewmaster, incorporating the circular slide cards, known the world over, and by adding a phone with an app, the VR experience
comes to life.
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Or you can also go for the real deal VR goggles by Zeiss, for about $130, and download apps on your phone to view.What I like about this one is that you can a tray to fit whatever phone you may have. And they hav some great free apps to download.
D71dIVEKF5SL._SL1500_on’t think this will go the way of 3D TV, although it is a singular experience. So far. Get some knowledge on this new visual medium now.
Wait till you see U2 perform on the free VRSE app!
More to come!

Holiday Gift Guide – Part 4 : The Lighting Modifiers

No question that every photographer is on the hunt for the holy grail of light modifiers for speed lights. these are the tools that mold and shape the raw light coming out of your flash. Usually too harsh, it can be softened, broadened, gelled, minimized, focused, bounced and otherwise made o do as you wish, for the photographs you want.

And every year, a new one is introduced that may be the right one.
The truth is that each one usually has it’s place, and you may end up using the one that is appropriate, and convenient.

The latest one I’ve used, and will highly recommend, serves a dual purpose:
The LumoPro LightSwitch flash modifier, usually $30, now til Dec. 6th (or until they run out) only $20 at MidWest photo!
flashmodifiers

This case transforms into good protection to transport your flash, into a triple purpose reflector system. Either you have a good wraparound white rector to soften and spread, or a single strip to just bounce back. Or if you need a black trip to kill some of the bounce, you get that too.
Using a hook and loop system (nobody seems to say velcro anymore) you get a band to wraps round the the speed light, and then when you unzip the case, each piece attached appropriately. Only note is I’m keeping the band on and it sometimes catches as I remove it.

The next new item is the MagMod system.
full-kit
As per the name, it uses a magnet system to attach all of the soft silicone reflectors. A single piece which will fit just about any speed light, has the prime magnets to hold the attachments.
It also can have grids, gels, or a snoot added. This is V2, as V1 had some issues with magnets coming loose from operator error.
Good light, packs small, and can clean up easily. For those of you using multiple lights, they also make a great silicone strap that holds a pocket wizard perfectly to your flash.
Hopefully this video will answer your e=inevitable magenta questions, although I’m not keeping my credit cards next to it.

Various prices and Black Friday deals are available to 11/30.

Still one of my favorites, although a little large, is the donut, or it’s original name RoundFlash.

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I did a comparison test awhile back, and found that this lightweight unit packs small, plays big. In other words, it collapses down like a reflector, then pops open to give you a sweet ring light using your speedlight. You can see above how it works, and at BH this unit goes for RoundFlash about $114.
Lot’s of imitators, but I’d recco going with the original.

Of course, no article on lighting modifiers would be complete without giving props to the Gary Fong Lightsphere.
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Seriously, years ago at PhotoPlus Expo, Gary had people in 4 lines and handing over money so fast it was crazy.
With good reason as it’s a great product, and the collapsible version is the one to get. Silicon fingers grip your speedlight keeping it in place.
Basic unit is $60, and you can add on all kinds of extras for your shooting pleasure.

There are also great products from Lumiquest, a classic, and Rogue you should check out,
You can not go wrong with any product on the list above. They would make any photographer happy!

More to come!

Holiday Gift Guide 2015 Part 3 : Video Gear

OK, I hope the food coma has subsided, and you are now ready to shop in earnest.
Just kidding.
Today, I’ll concentrate on some great new tools out there for your video making pleasure, or to gift the action storytellers on your list.

One of the most versatile, and quality products that is out there now is the Atomos Ninja Blade.

Essentially, it’s a video monitor/recorder that allows you to use your DSLR’s video sensor capabilities, and adds the features you wanted from a dedicated video camera.
Bypass the camera’s card slots and be able to record over 10hrs on an outboard drive. I’ve gone to the now affordable SSDs.Features I particularly like are the ability to use focus peaking, and highlight zebra functionality.
If you’ve been considering a vid monitor for your DSLR, this rig is an outstanding unit. An HD monitor and recorder that will record in ProRes and Avid ready files, so save time transcoding. At $500, it’s not cheap, but comes with a ton of accessories. Add a drive, cable, and some mounting accessories you probably have, and this could change the way you shoot video.
This is what come in the pelican-like case:
2 Ninja Samurai Blade Full Accessories Pack - ATOMBLDAC1-L
About $500. There is a terrific video on YouTube, that can give you a great overview as well. Just about 27 min, so not posting here.

Audio is 50% of your project. Unless it’s bad: then it’s 80%!
First off is an amazing deal at Amazon on the classic studio headphones. Sony MDRV6 Studio Monitor Headphones
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Why do you want these?
Aside from the price, currently $50, these headphones give you the actual, non-affected sound. not added bass, nor treble. You be the engineer, and mix/eq later. And very easy to gift at this price.

Of course, add some external mics onto your rig, and depending what you may be shooting, the range is endless.
On the affordable quality side is the Rode Series.
The Video Mic Pro by Rode is a high quality , lightweight shotgun mic, designed for the DSLR.
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About $250

A new, more compact, mic in the Rode line is the VideoMicro Compact On-Camera Mic. For only $60, this mic will do the job in a pinch. I now added this to my general bag.
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Personally,for mics I use a Tram lav, TR-50, for prime interviews, and an Audio-Technica for my shotgun. Be prepared to spend a lot more for those, plus cables and probably wireless transmitters/recievers. I use Sennheiser and get along just fine. The Rode Micro is now always with me, just in case.

If you have a BlackMagic Pocket Cinema, you’ve realized that you need a good rig to get the most out of it.
Check out the RedRockMicro RetroFlex.
This kit includes a great, versatile cage, one of the best viewfinders I’ve seen and a pistol grip handle with a cable to trigger the camera.
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It’ll look like a classic film camera, while giving you the handheld ease of operation. A full review is coming as well.
Honestly, I love the entireRedRock Micro line of mounts and filmmaking tools.
Start by buying some basic configurations. As you build the parts you need to customize the rig you require, you’ll find that the pieces will make up a rig tool box of sorts, you’ll reconfigure as your needs per shoot shift.
And there are deals right now!

Every videographer should own one of these. Yes, you need a solid tripod, but when you are shooting in tights spaces, or on fast deal, the Manfrotto MVM500A Aluminum Fluid Monopod with 500 Head, is a monopod with the total package. Comes a fluid head on the bottom legs, and a sweet pan head, you will use this. A lot.
Manfrotto 561B monopod
Affordable quality for only $240 (pictured is the previous version, the 561B. If you can find that, you’ll save about $50.)

These are a couple of ideas for you, and who knows, maybe there will be some great deals out there this weekend. This is good gear that will serve you well, however, and bring a smile to a gifted whether you get it on sale on not.

I’ll be doing some lighting and software reviews coming up shortly.

Canon Cameras Now Come With Free Insurance!

In a bold move, you can now add piece of mind to a Canon pro camera gift this season. At no additional cost!
Canon CarePAK PLUS

MELVILLE, NEW YORK, November 24, 2015 – Canon U.S.A., Inc., a leader in digital imaging solutions, launched a promotion for CarePAK PLUS (which includes accidental damage protection) just in time for the holidays. Now through Saturday, January 9, 2016, Canon’s CarePAK PLUS is available at no cost to customers who purchase from a list of six professional Canon EOS DSLR camera bodies and eight EF USM lenses plus “kit” lenses on eligible camera bodies from a Canon Authorized Dealer. Providing protection from accidental damage like coffee spills to additional hardware coverage from excessive wear and tear on mechanical and electrical issues, CarePAK PLUS coverage lasts 13 months from the date of product purchase. And as an added bonus, CarePAK PLUS is transferable, meaning the customer can give the product as a gift this holiday season and the benefits will transfer.

“This complimentary CarePAK PLUS promotion was developed so photographers can focus on capturing family festivities during the holidays, or shooting professionally on assignment, without having to worry about the costs and anxiety associated with accidental damage,” said Eliott Peck, senior vice president and general manager of Canon U.S.A., Inc.’s Imaging Technologies & Communications Group. “By offering this promotion to our customers, we’re letting them know we stand firmly behind them and if it’s needed they can count on Canon’s 100 percent U.S.-based customer service.”

Eligible Canon cameras and lenses include:

EOS 6D
EOS 7D Mark II
EOS 5D Mark III
EOS 5Ds
EOS 5Ds-R
EOS 1D X
EF 17–40mm f/4L USM
EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM
EF 50mm f/1.2L USM
EF 16–35mm f/2.8L II USM
EF 24–70mm f/2.8L II USM
EF 85mm f/1.2L II USM
EF 70–200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
EF 100–400mm f/4.5–5.6L IS II USM

In addition, any lens included within a kit with an eligible body will be covered. For example, if a customer purchases the Canon EOS 5D Mark III and EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Lens kit, the lens will be covered since it is included in the box with the body (also known as a “hard bundle”).

The CarePAK PLUS promotion provides protection from kids, pets, and life including accidental damage such as drops, spills, power surges and other unforeseen events. It also includes additional hardware coverage from excessive wear and tear on mechanical and electrical issues. Those that do require a repair under this promotion will also enjoy priority service, free return shipping and support direct from Canon, never a third party. Canon’s CarePAK PLUS gives consumers the confidence that their product will be serviced by Canon factory trained technicians using only Genuine Canon parts. Customers who activate the complimentary CarePAK PLUS offer after taking delivery of their covered product will also have the option to extend the coverage for up to three years from date of purchase at an additional cost.

Details of the promotion are available at http://www.usa.canon.com/carepak-plus including the terms and conditions and the link to register eligible products

Holiday Gift Guide 2015 – Part 2 : The Media

One of the best deals that Black Friday and Cyber Monday offer is media.
You know, what you shoot to, store on, transmit from: SD, CF CFast,SSD, Hard Drive, Flash Drive, Etc..
Everyone needs it, and whether it’s a stocking stuffer, or a night of Chanukkah gift, this item is usually one of the best deals of the season.
Admittedly, some of the products are about to be replaced with faster units, but you need this stuff. Maybe you like to keep the card as a master back-up file. The deal coming up will easily allow you to do this. (just remember to open it at least once a year)
One thing to look for is speed of the card. Whether you are shooting video, or using one of the Mega file cameras, read/write speed is critical to keep you shooting.
My main brand is Lexar, as they have never let me down. Of course, Sandisk will also do you you right, just a matter of choice.
Her are some products to consider:
The Lexar Pro 2000x is an incredibly fast card, that even comes with it’s own reader for speedy workflow.
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If you’re shooting 4K video, or a 36mg still file, this card will rock your world!
Available in 32-128 GB sizes. And regarding size, everyone has a different viewpoint: smaller to not put all of your eggs/images in one basket, upload some while shooting more, not needing to change out cards while shooting an interview or scene. lot’s of ways to go.
The 64GB goes for about $95

Going Go-Pro or other micro SD camera? the check out the Lexar Pro 1000x, UHS-II.
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Also comes with it’s own reader for faster workflow.
The 32GB model is only $30!
Both cards are available in a lower priced 633x version.

Then they make the awesome Lexar Workflow Hub.
OK, this is really geared to the heavy user using multiple cars on a shoot. Download all cards concurrently to a folder, or consecutively to Lightroom, and get some other work down while that is happening. Great for a wedding, or music festival photographer. With 4 modular ports, and Thunderbolt daisy chin capability, you can customize it depending on what media type cards you use.
Maybe the drone lovers will love this 3 slot micro SD module:
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I will also sometimes carry the modules in my bag separately, as each one works on it’s own.
The 1st gen hub goes for $50., without modules, and still gives you USB 3.0. The latest version with Thunderbolt jumps up a bit to $190.

And after years of not getting on board, I’ve finally feel that I can endorse the Eye-Fi Mobi Pro.
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After moving to the Nikon D810, and know thing there was no wi-fi on board, this was the best solution to uploading to social media in the field. Yep, it works easily, and you get a year of cloud storage.
About $80

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