The show's most noteworthy new gadgets and gizmos.
Acratech C-V2 Ballhead
More freedom of movement with this tripod head
Acratech, maker of the handsome Ultimate tripod head -- famous as the "socket-less" ball-and-socket head -- now offers a variation on the Ultimate called the C-V2. A more conventional ball head design, it's distinguished by a "low-profile" socket and keeps the same 16 ounce weight (including quick release clamp) as the Ultimate. The difference is freedom of movement. Acratech claims a gimbal-style, full-motion play for the C-V2, which makes it significantly easier for following active sports or wildlife subjects than the Ultimate.
The C-V2's included quick release clamp accepts Arca-style plates (not included), and is cleanly machined, with satin-black anodized surfacing, an adjustable tension control, rubber-clad knobs, all metal construction (stainless steel and aircraft-grade aluminum), and is claimed capable of supporting a 25-pound load. he C-V2 will be available in May, in stores or direct for $349.
For more info, visit acratech.net
Tamrac SpeedRoller 1
Rolling photo/computer case doubles as ladder
While it looks deceptively simple -- like a traveling salesman's sample case -- the new Tamrac SpeedRoller 1 will surprise you. Its nondescript, matte-black ballistic nylon shell conceals internal walls of armor-like high-impact plastic, nearly 1/4 inch thick within layers of plush padding. Empty, the roller weighs a beefy 11 pounds, and is rugged enough that you can stand on it to shoot above a crowd. You can safely do that even when your "shooting platform" is loaded with gear.
Carry-on compatible, the Speedroller also offers adjustable interior dividers, plenty of mesh-walled pockets, smooth-rolling wheels, a telescoping handle, and a large foam-padded exterior pocket sized to hold a 15-inch laptop. The case is compact but surprisingly deep, and will hold two SLRS, five lenses, a flash, light meter and more. Need more space? Try the slightly larger, and just as rugged, SpeedRoller 2.
Tamrac's SpeedRoller 1 is in stores selling for $219. For more visit tamrac.com.
Westcott Photo Basics
Teach your kid to be a portrait pro
Is there a teen whom you'd like to encourage to explore photography? Consider F.J. Westcott's new Photo Basics system. The first lighting product that combines full functionality and education, Photo Basics includes everything that a child would need, except the camera.
Available in kits that teach either basic product or portrait photography, packages include lights, lightstands, umbrellas, and a carrying case, plus an instructional DVD that explains how to set up use it all. The DVD also teaches the fundamentals of digital photography, posing tips, as well as what to look for in location backgrounds. Most unusual is the system's colorful floor mat that outlines exact placement of main, fill, and background lights, plus subject, camera, and reflector positions. It turns photography into something like a parlor game.
To keep it simple, the Photo Basics lights are 500 Watt continuous incandescents, that (unlike strobes) allow budding photographers to see exactly the lighting patterns they're building. Housings are color coordinated (yellow, red, and blue) to help distinguish main, fill and background lights. Kits include a slate-colored background cloth with its own simple-to-use hanging system.
Finally, Westcott's Photo Basics system is supported by a line of accessories (a five-in-one reflector, additional backgrounds, etc) and by an evolving website that offers lighting and posing tips, ongoing photo contests, and scrapbook templates.
Kits start at $399; for more visit photobasics.net.
The Ultimate Light Box
Diffusers for every occasion that fit like a glove
Typically, a new on-camera flash diffusion system wouldn't warrant much coverage in a PMA report. Over the years, dozens come and go. The Ultimate Light Box, however, seems different. Produced by Harbor Digital Design of Gig Harbor, WA, its components have been meticulously designed using the latest CAD-CAM technologies. As a result, the adapters for shoe-mount flash heads fit each like a glove -- no Velcro required. Moreover, the system is complete with multiple types of diffusers for whatever the situation requires. The softboxes, for example, have translucent or black walls, giving you the option of raising or lowering the ambient light levels beyond your flash-lit subject.
Made of tough but pliant plastic, the diffusers have internal baffles (made by Lee Filters) for adjusting diffusion levels, and are supported by accessories including gels, a directional lens, and mounting adapters for dozens of flash heads.
Pricing tops out at $99 for the Pro Pack which includes the entire system, all its accessories, a flash head adapter, and free shipping. For more info and pricing for individual components, visit ultimatelightbox.com.