Sunday, September 28, 2008

Photokina 2008 - Day 5 - Gitzo, Manfrotto, Lastolite, and Leica compacts revisted

Sorry that there was no blog post yesterday. I had to get rest. Then, I felt so good that I walked back from the show instead of taking the train. I trekked over the bridge and around town taking pictures till about 11 PM. I hadn’t really made any time earlier in the week to go shooting, so this was a nice change. I even met a fellow from Sweden who was also out taking pictures and we walked around the old town shooting. I’m always amazed at how photography crosses culture and language and brings people together. Because, no matter what language you speak, photography, just like math is universal.

So enough playing hooky. Here’s some more stuff from the show.

Gitzo had some new and unexpected items in their stand. First up is the new Ocean Traveler tripod. Modeled after the Titanium Traveler, it has carbon fiber legs with stainless steel castings and new Ocean Lock leg locks. These special locks have rubber gaskets on both ends to ensure sealing out of water and sand. The stainless steel ball head is designed to be field serviceable, where the user can easily disassemble, clean, and then reassemble. Rated to hold 17.6 lbs with the included head, this lightweight tripod is designed for the extreme outdoors. It can be used in the surf or even underwater for scuba divers. Rainforests, swamps or deserts are no issue. And on top of all that, it is very smart looking. Price is still TBD, but expect it to be somewhere in the neighborhood of $1000.

Of course, I’ve already extolled the virtues of the new Gitzo Centre Ball heads when they were announced earlier this year. I still love these heads. Highest strength to weight ratio out there. Check the blog archives to learn more. The new Systematic Ball heads, using hydraulic locking technology, were shown. This innovative head drops into any Systematic tripod and offers unparalleled strength for large lenses in a low-profile and light-weight package. There was a Sigma 200-500 f/2.8 lens mounted on the tiny Systematic head. The $25,000 behemoth weighs in at 35 lbs. With variable friction control you could actually move this lens around somewhat smoothly and easily lock it down. If the new head can hold this lens, it can hold whatever you got in your bag.

The next new product came as a bit of a surprise to me. Gitzo is launching a new Vintage line of tripod kits. Offered in a 1 series and 2 series, these aluminum tripods are modeled after the classic Gitzos of the 60’s and 70’s, or course with the latest tech though. They have the old style paint and logo, a two-section center column with locking control below the collar, a vintage-looking carry bag, and the overall look of, well, an old Gitzo. But, they also feature anti-rotation legs, G-Lock, PTFE treatments for ball heads, and ground-level set. Interesting concept. I’ll be curious how well these catch on. At the show, there appeared to be a lot of interest. The pricing is also not set, but odds are the set with the tripod, head, and bag will run about $600.

Gitzo has also revamped all of their aluminum Series 3, 4 and 5 tripods. All now feature a more updated look and G-Lock. One of the coolest tripods on display was a baby Systematic aluminum tripod. This will be great for nature photographers and fashion guys alike with its low-profile and small size. Solid and small. And, it should cost less than $300. What’s not to like?

Last up with Gitzo is a new range of accessories. New carry bags, new Traveler backpack that doubles as a camera bag, the photo vest/jacket system, and a neat little belt holster. The belt holster caught my eye. It just clips onto your belt without having to be threaded through, and holds up to a Series 3 tripod. Releasing the pod takes just a second with one snap and you’re good to go. It also doubles as a brace to lock in one leg and hand-hold.

Manfrotto also had a new tripod range, the 055CX line. This tripod now features round 4x carbon fiber leg tubes, which are thinner, lighter weight, and stronger than the previous generation three sided legs. And with the X functionality introduced last Photokina with the 190X, the column can go horizontal for lots of creative possibilities. Not sure on pricing just yet.

Lastolite had just a ton of new and innovative stuff. These guys are always finding new ways to make the photographer’s job easier, and it is super affordable to boot. There are new size Ezybox softboxes. These set up instantly and fold flat. So we now have squares and the new strip sizes, with Velcro-in masks for creating narrow strips and circles to shape catch-lights. Also, they will soon have a new mounting brack for hot shoe that lets the flash base swivel and still stay centered in the opening. Great if you need the point the IR receiver towards the camera. The new TriFlash adapter allows you to put up to three remote hot-shoe flashes into an umbrella. The swivel is built in, so you only have one piece and you’re done. This allows more light output by grouping the strobes together into one modifier. Cool idea.

The UpLite and the KickerLite are two new ideas. The UpLite 4 in 1 is a foldable 4’ x 3’ reflector with a brace that lets you have an adjustable angle reflector on the floor of your studio for full length or 3/4 length portraits. The KickerLite goes a step farther and creates a floor-positioned wedge shape softbox for active lighting from below.

The popular TriGrip reflector now has a light stand adapter so you can free up your hands. It also now comes with an adjustable arm with a hot-shoe on the end. So, you can either bounce your remote flash off a reflector or through a diffuser quickly and easily.

The HiLite background is now available in smaller sizes for headshots or passport photography. And, because some people were using it as a softbox, Lastolite is introducing a tilting, rolling holder for it. Very nice indeed.

And, lastly, I saw the new woven backgrounds. These 10’ x 12’ backgrounds are offered in the most popular colors of the muslin backdrops, but offer a unique feature. The woven fabric is what Lastolite is referring to as Ezycare. I call is stretchable and what you can do is pull the background taut and clamp it to your background supports to eliminate all wrinkles. Problem solved without the steamer.

I did also look at lighting, and although I did promise that for today, I’m going to save it for later. Instead, I ventured back to the Leica booth to get hands on with the D-Lux 4 and C-Lux 3 accessories. Unfortunately, the CF22 flash was just a mock-up for the show, but the size does indeed seem nice.

The case is, of course, beautifully made. Many have asked whether the old D-Lux 3 case will accommodate the D-Lux 4, and the answer is no. The D-Lux 4 is larger and will not fit. Also, if you use the accessory grip, the case will not fit either. The good news is the strap is vastly improved. It is now wider with a grippy material on the underside to prevent slipping off of your shoulder.

The hand grip is nicely made and feels more German than Japanese. Metal, not plastic. It is more comfortable to hold and easy to put on and take off. Really too bad that the grip will not fit in the case.

I also tried the new 24mm viewfinder. Aside from the construction and the weight, this viewfinder is strikingly similar to its larger brother for the M. The view is clear and undistorted. For wide-angle shooters, this is an accessory to really consider. With the finder and the grip, the D-Lux really looks sharp.

The cases for the C-Lux 3 were also on hand. The black leather case is the only one that has a belt loop, the glossy black and the white are purse-bound only. I really like the white case with the white C-Lux 3. It is so Rodeo Drive (or Delano in SoBe). Seriously, very clean and crisp look. This will be very popular with the ladies. The glossy black case will also find a home for the high-fashion crowd. Make no mistake; the C-Lux 3 is solidly targeted at women, and fashionable ones at that. A solid performing camera? Yes. A fashion statement? Absolutely.

Not the situation for the D-Lux 4, though. This is a serious compact camera for photographers. The camera ships with Capture One v4 software which allows RAW file processing. Interestingly, the Panasonic LX3’s RAW files are actually different and are not supported in C1. So, the differences go beyond skin deep between these compact camera cousins. Sure, you get a longer, 2 year warranty with the D-Lux 4, nicer styling, better accessories, and a completely different menu system, but there are differences in the image processing as well, even for the RAW files. In the past, only the JPG output was different. Well, it would appear that Leica is getting more say in the design process now as this camera feels much more suited to the Leica shooter.

Well, off to the show for the last day. Plenty of things still to see. Check back for updates.

And, thanks again for all your kind feedback.

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At 12:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Nice work with your observations. Does the new D Lux 4 have a threaded lens to accept filters, etc. and will Leica have a hood, and other accessories in the future for this camera, besides the flash?

At 1:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

David--Very nice shot of the Cologne cathedral. Time exposure with tripod? Or very sensitive camera?

Thanks for the good info. Sounds like a wonderful show!

At 11:42 PM, Blogger etherfarm said...

Can't wait :)

At 12:52 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That menu looks identical to the LX3. Not "completely different". Also, I would guess that the header info is different in the RAW file. If RAW is actually RAW, then the sensor would have to be different to make any real difference in RAW processing. My guess is C1 is just reading the header info and done that way for branding/bundling purposes. It shouldn't take too long before the LX3 RAW files are supported by most processors.

At 2:28 AM, Blogger mhoutman said...

to gary,

i asked the same question at the leica booth. leica told me that they are considering additional converters . no threaded lens but a ring which you can take off (as with the pana lx-3)

as i have ordered a d-lux 4 with all accessories, my main complaint is the missing ever-ready case when the grip is attached. good news as this seems also in the works !

At 12:56 PM, Blogger Silentlight said...

Hi David, do you know if the ever-ready case is confirmed? Any dates? I am debating whether I should get the LX3 case or wait. Thanks. Mark

At 5:51 PM, Anonymous Chris Nielsen said...

Quite a surprise to see the accessories for the tripods. Looks like collectors items, and not for real use :-)

At 9:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have tried many times to register on the forum your selling your h39II on but its still being u know what the delay is im attempting to make contact but my hands are tied.please advise
Thanks Guy


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