Photokina Roundup

Hey folks. Just a quick post after returning from Photokina 2016 with some cool things that I found interesting and worthy of sharing. (Also, if you ever get a chance to go to Photokina ... go. It is indescribably huge.)

So here it is: some lighting stuff, some other stuff . . .

Fuji GFX

First off, let's despense with what was probably the biggest star of Photokina: the Fuji GFX medium format camera. Shown above are the photogawkers when it was first unveiled. It was like they had a captive Beyoncé under glass.

The internet promptly lost its collective shit over this new camera, which marries big chip with dead-on focusing with Fuji's color handling with a price which, with lens, is expected to be "well under USD $10K."

I'm not even gonna rehash the specs, product pics, etc., as that has already been done ad infinitum. But I have held it, played with it and even got a little drool on it. (No prob; it's weatherproof.) Suffice to say: Anyone wanna buy my Phase?

(Seriously, hit me on Twitter if interested.)


Moving on, the next dispatch from Photokina is more of a general area of the show. In the basement, there are grouped a lot of Asian companies of varying levels of repute when it comes to respecting intellectual property. I came to think of this area of the show as Knockoffistan.

Example: Briese is a high-end lighting company that makes focusing parabolic reflectors with the official price point of, "If you have to ask, you can't afford it.®"

This is not Briese:

Same color scheme as Briese. Same focusing para concepts as Briese. But not Briese.

When I first walked past this booth my eyes rolled so far back into my head that one of them stuck there and I had to blink like 30 times to reset it.

This is not a surprise when touring Knockoffistan. But you still explore it, because the same companies can simultaneously be producing super interesting and innovative stuff. Case in point, the Korean company SMDV. Which is the Faux Briese manufacturer pictured just above.

SMDV also produces a weirdly shaped battery monobloc, which is not much bigger than a speedlight. I wasn't interested in that item. But its size means that a lot of SMDV's mods are also suitable to speedlights.

And one line of their range of modifiers in particular is super interesting. They make a few different lines of dodecagon (12-sided) diffusers, which are well-built, set up quickly and collapse down to a very small package. Among the advantages of these circular boxes is that some of them appear to marry to a great speedlight mount. It's a clamp style, and will easily and quickly fit any speedlight:

I should say, will make, because apparently this new model has not yet filled the retail pipeline. (And the current version is very forgettable, with a shoe-based mount. So don't buy that version by mistake.)

The new "Speed Bracket," (seen here) also securely holds any bowens-mount modifier. And the kicker is, on (some models of) the speedboxes you can easily and cheaply swap out the ring to any of the more popular Big Lights mounts. But they make several different lines, and it is all in transition, and it is at the moment very confusing.

But once I (and they) figure it out, in theory it'll give me a great little mod that can seamlessly shift from my LumoPro LP180s and my Einsteins. I was genuinely excited, and also pissed this combo is not yet available in the states. But it's coming. I think.

Again, this is all a little "to be determined":

• SMDV's printed brochure is not consistent with what I saw in person at the booth.
• Neither is SMDV's website
• The brochure and website are not consistent with each other.

To Sum Up:

SMDV is doing some shady knockoff stuff but also has a very cool box system coming — and at the moment does not quite have its act together.

Also, their website (which is out of date from what I saw at Photokina) appears to have a Korean and English section. But the Korean section is in (or autodetects for me to) English, and clicking over to the "English" section takes you to a site full of weird animated cartoons. Is your head hurting yet?

Pretty standard for Knockoffistan.

So That's What This Does

At 51, I am well used to the fact that I miss a lot of concepts at first blush. Example: I did not really get the usefulness of the Bounce Wall lighting mod. It is really different than a lot of stuff out there that is designed for speedlights. That is, until I saw the video below, which was playing at Photokina.

In it, a wedding photographer shows how she uses a bounce wall in concert with a small back background to turn, well, anywhere into her personal studio. Working outdoors at a faux-wedding party (set up to make this video) she knocks off 88 lit portraits in under 10 minutes. Also, oddly, the video does not appear to have any sound:

Using this and a Lightroom preset, she literally created a giant art book from the ersatz wedding off of ten minutes of shooting. Couples are presented in doubletrucks. And it looked gorgeous.

It was like she took the opportunity of the attendees at the wedding and created the economies of scale of the captive little league baseball teams photographer. When you are 100% steeped in lighting, it is easy to miss the forest for the trees — and miss a little thing that could significantly jack up your economic return from shooting a wedding or event.

I get it now.

Park Your Butt

Like the Bounce Wall, this is not new. But it is the first time I had seen it in person. The Walkstool is a genius of a design stool that is pretty much ideal for photographers.

It is a crossed-tripod design, and weighs next to nothing. It's made well (with user-replaceable spare parts) and is super comfy to sit on. It is a surprising combo of sturdy and light. It even has a strap that you can get spearately to connect the feet and make it way more sturdy if you are very heavy or use it on soft muddy ground.

But the kicker is this: extended, it is like a three-legged backless chair. Comfy to shoot in (or just sit on.) But retract the legs and you are basically balancing on a single point. (In practice this is very easy.) And you are also low to the ground (better shooting angle) and can swivel your camera easily in any direction. I felt like I was sitting in the gun turret in the Mellinneum Falcon.

If you shoot sports outside, be sure to check it out.

So that's a quick look at a collection of interestingness from this year's Photokina. I hope to be back there in a couple years. If you can swing it, you should, too.


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