Spider Holster’s Black Widow Now Available

Spider Holster, the maker and namesake of one of my favorite accessories is now shipping its Black Widow Camera Holster, which is designed for smaller DSLRs, EVILs and P&S cameras. The Black Widow will let owners of these lighter-weight cameras shoot from the hip the way pros using the Spider Pro have been doing. What makes the Spider Pro and Black Widow great is that they let you keep your camera on you, but at your hip. This is an ideal way to carry your camera, because it eliminates the neck, shoulder and back strain that carrying a camera by its strap can cause. And, trust me, it works well. Now that I’ve begun shooting with the Spider Holster system, I won’t ever photograph another event or portrait session without it.

Combining the strength of stainless steel and heavy-duty resin, the lightweight and durable Black Widow was designed to take cameras from hip to hand in a flash. When the camera is slid into the holster, the Black Widow locks it in place. An audible click from the built-in locking mechanism provides users with peace-of-mind that the camera is secure for hands-free carrying and protected from a snatch-and-grab threat.

The Black Widow Camera Holster comes with the Spider Pin which attaches directly to the camera’s tripod mount or to the accessory Black Widow Plate, and is the key to the Black Widow’s quick access. Designed primarily for photographers using quick-release tripod plates, the Black Widow Plate lets you carry your camera and fluidly bring it to your eye to shoot.

“Too often photographers miss the perfect shot because they’re rooting through bags for their point & shoot or they didn’t pack their DSLR because it was too cumbersome,” said Shai Eynav, president of Spider Holster. “With the Black Widow Camera Holster, the camera stays put at the photographer’s hip, providing maximum comfort while ensuring that the user is in the best possible position to capture life’s memorable moments. The success of the SpiderPro proved the merits of our design concept and the Black Widow will allow a new audience of casual shooters and photography enthusiasts to comfortably carry their camera to places they never would have thought possible before.” Eynav is a professional photographer who designed the Spider Holster out of necessity.

Along with the Black Widow, several accessories were also announced. The Black Widow threads onto any leather belt, but the company also offers its own Black Widow Belt, ideal for photographers who don’t normally wear clothing that can accept a belt. Also available is the Black Widow Pad, a cushioned extension of the belt that provides a resting place for the camera against the user’s body. The Black Widow Pad can attach to a standard leather belt, and be used with that way instead.

The Black Widow Camera Holster will sell for $49.99, the Black Widow Belt for $15.99 and the Black Widow Plate for $15.99. Additional Black Widow Pins are $7.99 and the Black Widow Pad sells for $8.99.  Go to www.spiderholster.com/blackwidow/ for more information.

— D.B.


Phase One Launches 80MP Digital Back

Digital camera megapixel counts are continuing to increase, and there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight. Phase One has upped the ante in the megapixel game with the announcement of its new generation of medium format digital camera backs. The Phase One IQ180, IQ160 and IQ140 digital camera backs feature maximum resolutions of 80MP, 60.5MP and 40MP respectively.

According to the press release distributed by Phase One, the IQ180 captures at full-frame 80 megapixel resolution, with a dynamic range of 12.5 f/stops. It is the first camera back to also feature a USB 3 connection, in addition to a FireWire 800 connection. For untethered shooting, the IQ180 digital back’s new memory card interface is said to be so fast that it eliminates buffering delays, supporting continuous shooting until a card is filled.

The digital backs utilize a newly-designed 3.2-inch retina type, multi touch screen with a resolution of 1.15 megapixels. Using Phase One’s unique Focus Mask and instant zoom function, you will be able to instantly check focus and details on the digital back’s LCD during a shoot. The digital back’s Context-sensitive controls let you use the instant zoom function to zoom into an image using only one finger. You can also enlarge small histograms and highlight warnings to full screen view by a simple touch. The new Focus Mask, which is accessible during preview helps validate depth-of-field and image focus. The wide format display allows for a full 4:3 aspect ratio VGA resolution image next to histogram, highlight warning, focus mask, EXIF data, and touch controls. This touch screen display is complemented by Phase One’s intuitive 4-button navigation.

Phase One’s patent-pending Sensor+ technology, built into the Phase One IQ180 lets you capture images with the full 80 megapixels resolution or, using Sensor+ mode, switch instantly to capture images with 20 megapixels resolution at 4 times higher sensitivity, up to ISO 3200. This flexibility lets you use the Phase One IQ180 to shoot subjects that you’d normally capture with a 35mm camera, so there’s no need to swap cameras in the middle of a project. Simply change the resolution and you get a faster workflow at the 20MP resolution.

Compatibility has also been improved between the IQ digital backs and the Phase One 645DF camera body. The power state of the digital back can now be controlled directly from the 645DF camera body. And an integrated battery charger ensures that the battery is charged while shooting tethered, for more convenience.

Phase One has optimized its Capture One 6 software for shooting with the Phase One IQ digital backs.

Phase One is expected to ship the IQ180 at the end of April. The Phase One IQ160 and IQ140 are expected to ship at the end of May. Prices for new digital backs start at $21.990. For more information, visit www.phaseone.com/iq.


Nik Software Upgrades Silver Efex Pro

Version 2 Adds Features to Photoshop, Lightroom & Aperture Plug-In

Nik Software Silver Efex Pro 2 boxshot for picture-soup.com blogToday Nik Software announced the upgrade version of Silver Efex Pro 2. According to the press release, Silver Efex Pro is, “widely regarded by photographers as the leading black-and-white software solution on the market today.” Yours truly thinks it’s a great program so I guess I’m one of those photographers the release is talking about.
Silver Efex Pro 2 brings new features to the program that offer even more control over detail, contrast, and tonality, making it easier than ever to transform color photographs into stunning black-and-white images.
New features: History Browser, Dynamic Brightness, Amplify Blacks, Amplify Whites, Soft Contrast, Fine Structure, Image Borders, and selective colorization, in addition to speed and quality improvements.
Silver Efex Pro 2 also utilitzes Nik’s proprietary U Point technology, which makes selective editing easy, without the need for layer masks or complicated selections.
Silver Efex Pro 2 installs as a 32-bit and 64-bit plug-in for Adobe® Photoshop CS4 or later, Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.6 or later (Windows and Macintosh) or Apple Aperture 2.1.4 or later (Macintosh). According to Nik Software, Silver Efex Pro 2 is the first program from the company to take advantage of the latest graphics processing units.
Silver Efex Pro 2 will be available next month. MSRP is $199.95. Upgrades from the first version are $99.95. For more information visit www.niksoftware.com/silverefexpro.

— D.B.


Lensbaby Adds Scout – the First Non-Bendable Lensbaby Lens

Lensbaby has added a new lens to its line, the Lensbaby Scout, a manual focus SLR lens that utilizes the company’s Optic Swap System but does not bend like other Lensbaby lenses. The Scout ships with the Fisheye Optic, giving photographers the ability to shoot with a 12mm (160-degree) ultra-wide angle of view. And, because the Fisheye can focus from infinity to 1/2-inch from the front of the lens, the Fisheye Optic will allow users to create very unique images.

Due to the extremely wide angle of view of the Fisheye Optic, photographers using cameras that feature full frame image sensors will generally see a black circle around almost the entire image, and those with cameras using the APS-sized sensor will see black at the corners of their images. The Fisheye Optic can also create unique flare effects in an image, creating a light filled border when a strong light source is in the frame.

Although the Lensbaby Scout ships with the Fisheye Optic, the other Lensbaby Optic Swap System optics can also be used, including the Soft Focus, Pinhole/Zone Plate, Double Glass, Single Glass and Plastic. And because the Scout does not bend, the sweet spot of focus will always be centered in the middle of the photograph.

The Lensbaby Scout is available in lens mounts for Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony and Olympus Four/Thirds DSLR cameras.

The Scout with Fisheye retails for $249.95. For more information, go to www.lensbaby.com.

— D.B.


Nik Software Ships HDR Efex Pro

Nik Software has begun shipping HDR Efex Pro, a completely new High Dynamic Range (HDR) solution designed to help photographers quickly and easily achieve a full spectrum of HDR enhancements.

Nik Software’s proprietary U Point technology is also incorporated into HDR Efex Pro, providing precise selective fine-tuning of images without the need for complicated selections or layer masks.

The software also gives photographers the ability to create dramatic HDR images from a single exposure; which is ideal for subjects that don’t lend themselves to multiple exposures, or for reprocessing previously captured single images.

HDR Efex Pro installs as a 64-bit plug-in for Adobe Photoshop CS4 (Windows only) and CS5 (Windows and Mac), and as a 32-bit and 64-bit plug-in for Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 2.3 or later (Windows and Macintosh) or Apple Aperture 2.1 or later (Mac).

MSRP for HDR Efex Pro is $159.95.

Go to www.niksoftware.com/hdrefexpro for more information.

For our original post on the product announcement, click here.

— D.B.


New 600X CompactFlash cards from Kingston

Kingston Digital has announced the availability of Compact Flash Ultimate 600x media cards supporting UDMA mode 6, that offer read and write speeds of up to 90MB/sec. The cards join Kingston’s 266x Ultimate and 133x Elite Pro CF media cards.

The new 600x CF cards come in 16GB and 32GB capacities, ideal for use with newer DSLRs that are optimized for use with fast/high capacity media.

MSRP of the 16GB card is #154.00, MSRP of the 32GB card is #270.00.

For more information, go to www.kingston.com.

— D.B.


Photodex Corporation Releases ProShow Producer 4.5

ProShow Producer is slideshow creation software on steroids. From the first version I was hooked (and that’s saying a lot because I’m a Mac person but the software is only available for Windows-based PCs).

The latest iteration, version 4.5 has been packed with hundreds of new transitions and slide style effects, along with an all new wizard to help you create fabulous slideshows.

The ProShow Producer wizard mixes photos, videos and music together for a dynamic slideshowfor those users who want a slideshow created automatically. As always, you can get as involved as you want, choosing each transition and effect, adjusting the energy level of the slideshow and customizing the themes to your liking.

A new Create Transition tool lets you build your own transitions. The company also redesigned the transitions interface to make it easier to browse among the hundreds of effects. The software also supports ProShow Transition Packs, optional collections of transitions that can be incorporated into your digital slideshows.

ProShow Producer 4.5 is available now, in download and boxed editions. The full version price is $249.95, and upgrades are $89.95. Go to www.photodex.com for more information.

— Diane Berkenfeld


Lensbaby Unveils Lens Compatible with Micro Four Thirds Cameras

Lensbaby Tilt Transformer

By Diane Berkenfeld

Lensbaby today announced the newest addition to its product line-up, the Composer with Tilt Transformer available immediately for the Panasonic Lumix G Micro System and Olympus PEN digital cameras; and for Sony Alpha NEX cameras in Q4.

The Tilt Transformer will allow photographers to mount any Nikon mount lens onto their Micro Four Thirds or Sony NEX camera and tilt up to twice the amount of standard tilt-shift lenses, delivering photos that have a slice of focus through the image, bordered by a soft blur.

The Tilt Transformer also serves as the foundation for the Composer Focus Front. When used together, they become the Composer with Tilt Transformer, for use on Micro Four Thirds or Sony NEX cameras.

The Lensbaby Focus Front (top) combines with the Tilt Transformer (bottom) to form the Composer with Tilt Transformer.

This provides photographers using these cameras with access to the limitless creativity offered by the Lensbaby Optic Swap system.

The Tilt Transformer’s swivel ball is based on the design of the Lensbaby Composer DSLR camera lens. Tilting a Nikon mount lens on the Tilt Transformer will place the slice of focus in different orientations within the image. Vertical, horizontal, and diagonal slices are possible depending on the direction the lens is tilted. Objects in both the foreground and background can be in focus within that slice. For those photographers who have had experience with large format, tilt-shift lenses are similar to the tilt/shift possible when using a view camera.

For example, a photographer can focus on one person close up in the left portion of the frame while also focusing on someone standing much further away from the camera on the right side of the frame. The ability to focus on several items at once (while blurring out the rest of the image) when each item is placed at a different distance from the camera, is typically possible only with traditional tilt-shift lenses or view cameras. The size of the slice of focus is dependent upon the aperture used.

Because the Lensbaby Tilt Transformer lets you tilt the lens at more of an extreme angle, up to twice as far as a standard tilt-shift lens; which will produce a more extreme angled slice of focus than possible with standard tilt-shift lenses.

A built-in mechanism allows Nikon G lenses to function properly at all apertures. Nikon G lenses do not have an aperture ring on the lens itself. This mechanism allows the aperture to open and close by manually rotating the lens.

The Tilt Transformer with a Nikon lens on camera.

The Composer with Tilt Transformer is compatible with the Lensbaby Optic Swap System and ships with a Double Glass Optic installed. Additional optics can be swapped in and out, providing photographers with a range of creative effects including: Single Glass, Plastic, Pinhole/Zone Plate, and Soft Focus.

I asked Jessica Darrican, PR spokesperson for Lensbaby why the company chose to make the Tilt Transformer compatible with Nikon lenses, She explained that there were a number of reasons that made Nikon lenses ideal for use with the Tilt Transformer and these interchangeable lens digitals. In addition to Nikon’s lenses being known for their high quality, there are plenty of Nikon lenses in the Nikon F-mount available on the used equipment market. Also, the backfocus  distance of Nikon lenses is the longest of all the SLR systems, allowing the most amount of tilt in the Tilt Transformer.

For those Canon shooters wondering why Lensbaby isn’t offering a Canon compatible mount Tilt Transformer, one major reason is that Canon, uses an electronic aperture system, eliminating any possibility of controlling the aperture with the Lensbaby system, limiting photographers to only being able to shoot wide open with a Canon lens.

For more information, go to www.lensbaby.com.


Nikon Announces D7000 DSLR, Two Lenses & a Speedlight

By Diane Berkenfeld

You know a big trade show is close when every day brings announcements from another camera maker about their latest new innovations. With photokina just a week away, Nikon today announced the D7000 DSLR, two prime lenses and a Speedlight. The D7000 is positioned above the D3000 and below the D90—both cameras will remain in Nikon’s product line.

Nikon D7000 DSLR

The Nikon D7000 with optional vertical grip attached.

The D7000 uses a newly designed 16.2MP CMOS sensor (APS-C size) and EXPEED 2 TM image processing engine, with 14-bit A/D conversion, along with both a new metering system and new AF system.

The company describes the metering system as “groundbreaking”—it is a 2,016 pixel RGB 3D Matrix Metering System. Another Nikon first, this system interprets scene data for improved control of light metering and i-TTL flash output. Additionally there is now a new Ambient white balance setting which gives images a warm rendering in Automatic White Balance.

The 39-point AF system includes nine center cross-type sensors that operate with more than 60 Nikkor lenses. The system is designed to acquire the autofocus of the subject faster and track it better. Additionally, photographers can activate dynamic or single point AF, configurable in varying combinations of AF points to match a variety of shooting situations. Photographers can also activate 3D tracking, which continuously follows moving subjects within the 39 AF points.

The D7000 can capture full 1080p HD video, with full-time autofocus, giving photographers the ability to produce sharp movie footage without having to manually focus during capture. Photographers also now have manual exposure control while shooting video. The camera can even track up to 35 faces for critical HD focus. Frame rates include 24 fps at 1080p, or 720p recording at either 24 or 30 fps for up to 20 minutes a clip. And, video clips can be trimmed and edited in-camera to save post-production time.

The camera utilizes dual SD media card slots.

Exciting new features of the D7000 include the ability to process RAW images in-camera, and add special effects via the retouch menu. The ISO range of the camera is 100 – 6400, expandable up to 25,600. The camera has the ability to shoot six fps for a burst of 100 images. Other features include a dual SD media card slot, compatible with SD, SDHC, and SDXC cards; a built-in iTTL Speedlight and wireless commander support; a 3-inch LCD, Live View, and a brand new battery designed to offer more shooting on a full charge.

Nikon’s D7000 is durable; the body is built from magnesium-alloy and incorporates a 150,000 cycle-rated shutter system. Additionally, the DSLR is dust and moisture sealed and features Nikon’s dust reduction system. A new Mode Dial eschews traditional Scene Mode icons for more advanced manual functions and two user-defined settings. Placed under the control wheel is a Release Mode dial, which allows access to the burst modes, timer, and Quiet Shutter.

While the D7000 is priced at the enthusiast level, we definitely see pros using this camera, and can only assume that some of the groundbreaking new technologies incorporated into the D7000 will be making their way into new pro level models soon!

AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G lens

The D7000 DSLR is scheduled for mid-October delivery with an MSRP of $1,199.95 for the body only and $1,499.95 for body/lens kit including the AF-S DX Zoom-NIKKOR 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6G ED VR lens.

Two  Nikkor Prime Lenses

Nikon also announced the AF-S Nikkor 35mm f/1.4G and AF-S Nikkor 200mm f/2 ED VR II professional lenses.

Both are fast prime lenses, featuring Nikon’s famous glass, and hefty price tags. The fast apertures of both lenses make them ideal for low-light shooting and movie capture.

The 35mm lens can be used on Nikon DSLRs with both the full-frame FX format image sensors as well as the smaller DX format sensors, such as the brand new D7000. When used on a camera with a DX sensor or on an FX format camera in DX Crop Mode, the lens has an effective focal length of 52.5mm.

AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED VR II lens

The AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED VR II, like its 200mm f/2 predecessor, is incredibly fast. The VR system provides up to four stops of correction. Because the lens uses an Internal Focusing (IF) system, the lens barrel doesn’t extend when focusing. There are three focus modes on this lens, the conventional M/A and M modes, and an A/M mode. The lens also features a Tripod Detection Mode, which automatically compensates for minute vibrations when mounted on a tripod and allows users to keep VR image stabilization on and active.

The AF-S NIKKOR 35mm f/1.4G lens will be available in mid-November with an MSRP of $1,799.95. The AF-S NIKKOR 200mm f/2G ED VR II will be available early October for an MSRP of $5,999.95.

SB-700 Speedlight

Today, Nikon also introduced the SB-700 Speedlight, designed for a range of photographers. The flash incorporates a wide zoom range and FX/DX-format identification system that optimizes the flash based on the camera body used. The SB-700 can be used as an on-camera flash or wireless flash (set up as a Commander or a Remote) for use in multiple flash set-ups. An improved user interface includes a large easy-to-read LCD panel. The flash can recycle in approximately 2.5 seconds for full power with NiMH batteries and 3 seconds with AA Alkaline batteries.

SB-700 Speedlight

For improved durability, heat-resistance and ease-of-use, the SB-700 uses new hard plastic-type color filters for fluorescent or incandescent color temperature balancing. When using the supplied filters, the flash automatically recognizes which filter is being used and adjusts white balance accordingly on select Nikon DSLRs.

Similar to the Nikon SB-900 Speedlight, three illumination patterns (standard, center-weighted and even) can be selected in SB-700 to match each shooting situation. And, like the SB-900, when the SB-700 is mounted on a camera compatible with user firmware updates, the SB-700 firmware can be updated using the same procedure as with a Nikon DSLR camera.

To enhance the weatherproof capability of the flash/camera, optional water guards will be available for select cameras to protect the connection between the flash and camera.

The Nikon SB-700 Speedlight is scheduled to be available in mid-November 2010, and will have an MSRP of $329.95. The SB-700 comes bundled with the Speedlight Stand, Bounce Adapter, Color Filter Holder, Intelligent Color Filter Kit, Diffuser Dome and soft case.

For more information, go to www.nikonusa.com.


Olympus Introduces Flagship E-5 DSLR

Today Olympus announced the E-5, the new flagship E series DSLR. The camera uses a 12.3MP High-Speed Live MOS Sensor with Olympus’ proprietary TruePic V+ image processing engine for crisp images that display greater detail than previously available. The E-5 also incorporates the capability to shoot 720p HD video, at 30 frames per second.

Other features of the camera include a 3-inch, 270 degree swivel LCD for flexibility when shooting isn’t straight on, and 10 creative in-camera Art Filters that can be applied to both still and video.

The art filters are an example of features that first appeared on enthusiast level DSLRs and have migrated to the pro level. The Art Filters can be used in all shooting modes. ISO range is 100 to 6400, and the top shutter speed is 1/8000 of a second. The camera can capture up to four multiple exposures to be combined in either real time or in the camera at a later time.

The E-5 employs an in-body Mechanical Image Stabilization system to compensate for camera movement, up to 5 EV steps. Now the full line of compatible Olympus Zuiko Digital lenses become image stabilized.

The new Dramatic Tone art filter represents real space in a more imaginary way by applying unrealistic tones of light and darkness based on local changes in contrast. This new filter joins the Pop Art, Soft Focus, Pale & Light Color, Light Tone, Grainy Film, Pin Hole, Diorama, Cross Process and Gentle Sepia filters previously available on the E-30, E-620 and PEN series cameras.

Rear of the E-5 with optional vertical grip attached.

Like its predecessor, the E-3, the E-5 is completely splashproof and dustproof. The camera also uses a built-in Dust Reduction System with a Supersonic Wave Filter. The shutter is expected to withstand 150,000 exposures.

The Olympus E-5 is compatible with a range of external flashes and can wirelessly control both the Olympus FL-36R and FL-50R flashes with its commander function incorporated into its built-in flash.

The E-5 has a built-in microphone and also features a microphone jack so you can use external microphones for even greater quality audio capture while recording video.  The E-5 can accept both CompactFlash Type I UDMA and SD (SDHC/SDXC) media cards.

Olympus is scheduled to ship the E-5 DSLR in October. Street pricing for the E-5 body is $1,699.99.

For more information, go to: www.olympusamerica.com.

— Diane Berkenfeld