Every year, the Photo Plus expo gives us a chance to check out new gear for the first time in the flesh. This year was no exception. While many of the products had already been announced, this is the first time we -- and in some cases anyone -- has had a chance to go hands-on. Here's a collection of some of the newest products at the show.
Zeiss 25mm F/2 Distagon Lens
According to the fine folks at the Zeiss booth, we were among the first 50 people ever to touch their new manual-focus, wide-angle lens. It's set to debut at the beginning of next year, but they say it'll likely be the middle of the first quarter before the bigger shipments start hitting shelves for $1,700 each. Like other Zeiss glass, the zoom ring feels sturdy and incredibly smooth, and it's extremely sharp. We tried the Canon mount, which will be available first, and the focus indicator seemed spot on.
One of the most anticipated first appearances at the show is the younger, smaller sibling of Fujifilm's rangefinder-styled X100 digital. The two are actually fairly similar in size, with the X10 coming in a little bit smaller and lighter, but still giving off an incredibly solid feel. You can check out our video hands-on here for more info.
Westcott Apollo Strip and Orb Light Modifiers
The first thing we noticed about Wescott's new Apollo light modifiers were how easy they were to snap together and onto the stands. The lack of need for a speed ring really is nice. The 16" x 30" strip isn't quite as wide as you might expect, but that's because the dimensions were somewhat limited by it being built on an umbrella frame. It does seem very easy to mount, though. The 43-inch Orb is impressively big in person, especially when you consider that it's only $129. We should have our test units in very soon, so look for more in-depths reviews of both.
Canon PIXMA Pro-1 Printer
It was just announced yesterday, but today we got a chance to check out both the printer and the results it produces. The machine itself is still relatively big, as you'd expect from a pro model, but the design is really sleek. The sides are gunmetal gray and the top panel has a texture like what you'd find on an EOS lens. To my eye, the prints looked excellent in a controlled lighting situation, even when there were large fields of uniform colors, something most printers dislike greatly. Like some of the other products, we hope to have one in soon for more in-depth testing.
Rogue Flash Bender Diffuser
The Rogue Flash Bender was already a versatile way to shape light from a flash, but the new diffuser panel, which starts shipping in about two weeks, offers even more options. The panel attaches to a fully extended Flash Bender using Velcro strips, and the diffuser goes in front of the flash--the whole thing acts kind of like a giant soft box. There will be Diffusers to fit both sizes of the Flash Bender, but both will cost $20, so you get a little bonus material for your money if you sprung for the large in the first place.
Manfrotto Pro Field Jacket
Several new additions to Manfrotto's line of photo-specific clothing were on display, including the Pro Field Jacket. It's made from sturdy materials, including Kevlar-based reinforcement in high-wear areas like the shoulders (where a bag would go) and the elbows. The gadget pockets are deep and would likely sag a noticeable amount if you filled them up with accessories, but it's almost certainly a stylistic step up from the traditional photo vest.
Kata ReportIT Pro Light Bags
Designed for pros, these lightweight shoulder bags seem like a pretty simple and elegant solution for carrying cameras. Of the three sizes--small, medium and large--the middle size seems like the most versatile, with enough room for most 13-inch laptops, a pro body and a few lenses. It's built from tough nylon that squishes flat in a hurry if the bag is empty. The bright yellow padding inside is, as you'd expect, extremely customizable, and it comes with a full-on rain cover. There's even a silencer for the Velcro closure, which we always find to be a nice addition. All sizes start shipping at the beginning of November.
Sony DEV-3 and DEV-5 3D Binoculars
They look like something out of Star Wars, but these digital binoculars offer an impressive 3D experience without much fuss. The DEV-5 was the model on display, even though the DEV-3 is technically the newer of the two. The DEV-5 records 1080i video and grabs 7-megapixel photos while providing a 3D view from a pair of 20x optical zoom lenses. It focuses quickly and the 3D effect is quite impressive, but with a price tag around $2,000, they're a pretty specialized product. The DEV-3 offers 10x zoom for $1,400.
Gorillapod Micro 250 and 350
The coolest new thing at the Joby booth this year, surprisingly, wasn't bendy at all. The new micro tripods fold up into the form of a small stick, so you can leave it attached to your compact camera at all times. It truly is small and didn't add much bulk, even to the tiny cameras which they were supporting. The metal legs feel very solid and the tiny ball-head did a surprisingly good job of staying still, even at odd angles. The $20 250 is built for compacts and can support most compacts, while the $30 350 is built sturdier to handle ILCs and larger compacts.
Wacom Cintiq 24HD Pen Display
Wacom has already started shipping these 24-inch write-on displays, but they're still extremely hard to come across, even at $2,600. We were impressed during the short time we were able to use it on the floor. It's exactly as responsive as you'd hope/expect it to be and the adjustability of the screen angle and placement is simple and sturdy. Trade show lighting isn't exactly ideal for evaluating a monitor of any kind, so we'll save our judgments on that front until we have one here in the office. But, its overall responsiveness and tweakability has us excited to check it out.
Think Tank Modular Rotation Skin System
The belt-based gear carrying solution from Think Tank has gotten an overhaul, which includes some new additions in the Skin line. The Skin pouches still attach to their belts, but they have less padding, so they're lighter and easier to collapse when they're empty. There's also now a separate pocket for the rain covers on the bottom of most of the cases, so they provide extra cushioning when not in use. They have collected some of the most popular pouches into a collection that fits into this ultra-light mesh bag for transport.
Tenba Discovery Mini Messenger
Tenba's traditional messenger has been around for a while, but the new version is built more for a pro photographer who's only carrying a little bit of gear. It's made from ultra-tough nylon and they have a look much more resembling a traditional camera bag than the other Messenger. The camera pouch slides out if you want it to, so it can be used as a normal bag as well. It has room in the back for a MacBook Air or a tablet computer, but not a full laptop, which reinforces the fact that it's for people who really want to travel light. It's shipping now for $110.
Tokina 17-35 F/4 IF FX Wide Angle Zoom Lens
The newest wide-angle zoom from Tokina is built for full-frame bodies. We got to check it out briefly in both Canon and Nikon mounts and it certainly feels like a solid lens, even a little heavy. The zoom ring is smooth, but takes more effort to turn than some of its competitors. The focus ring snaps nicely back and forth to switch from manual focus to AF, but it doesn't turn as far as some others, making fine focus control a little trickier. But, with a street price below $800, we're eager to see how it fairs from an image quality perspective.