Friday, March 27, 2015

Weird, surreal, brilliant: The Photography Show 2015

Best tip: Olympus sensor cleaning

The Photography Show 2015
Not content with providing show visitors with a free massage, Olympus also had a small laboratory where white-coated technicians would clean your Olympus camera while you waited. A quick scrub with a toothbrush dealt with that tricky area round the mode dial, a careful wipe with a lens cloth put the sparkle back in your glassware and some delicate work with a blower brush and a pair of tweezers took care of any spots, hairs or other debris on the sensor surface.
The Photography Show 2015
We did pick up a particularly useful tip. There wasn't a sensor swab in sight for the sensor-cleaning part. Instead, the technicians were using a fresh little square of rice paper picked up with the tweezers, wrapped around the end and dabbed with a spot of special sensor-cleaning fluid. Interesting...

Best gadget: My iStick

The Photography Show 2015
Now here's a smart idea. It's a USB storage device with not one plug but two. The aluminium casing slides across to reveal an Apple Lightning connector on the other side, and you can use this handy gadget to transfer photos (or music) from your iPhone or iPad to your computer. It's all a bit old-school, and you could do this using iCloud or a cable connection too, but the iStick is quick and simple and easy to understand, especially for photographers. It's also a way to back up your files while you're out and about or just to gain a little extra storage space on your device.
The Photography Show 2015
You start by plugging the iStick into your iOS device and this automatically initiates the app download. You can then use the app to choose the files you want to copy across to the iStick. It comes in different capacities, from 8Gb (£50) to 128Gb (£200) and while the makers acknowledge there are similar devices out there already, this is not only the cheapest, it's the first to be made from aluminium. You can find out more at the My iStick website.

Weirdest gadget: 360-degree Pano Pro Go Pro

The Photography Show 2015
We've seen all sorts of devices, cameras and software for creating panoramic images, including 360-degree rotating cameras, panoramic heads and VR stitching software. But here's a clever product that takes just one shot with a regular camera that doesn't even need to move – and the maker, Pano Pro Ltd, has just produced a Go Pro version.
It's rather clever. The camera is mounted facing upwards into a specially-shaped circular mirror. It produces a full 360-degree circular image that can then be edited by the software into a regular horizontal panoramic image. The key point with the Go Pro version is that you can shoot from a single viewpoint, and then rotate the view afterwards to change the viewpoint through a full 360 degrees.
The regular version is much larger, using a specially made tubular mount with the camera at the base and the mirror at the top. There will be some quality loss that stems from extracting rectangular segments from the circular image, but this is balanced by the sheer convenience of being able to capture a full 360-degree image with a single exposure and no panning or stitching.

Simplest solution: Vixen Polarie Star Tracker

The Photography Show 2015
It's not so easy to get into astrophotography. The usual route is to start with a telescope then work out how to add a motorised drive to your tripod and find an adaptor to fit your camera. But the Polarie Star Tracker, from Vixen UK, offers a much simpler and cheaper solution for photographers – essentially, this is for photographers who want to shoot star fields rather than astronomers who want to take photos.
It's disarmingly simple. You fit the Polarie to your tripod head, adjusting the angle so that it's pointing at the pole star (Polaris) – you can get an spotting scope for this. This sets the Star Tracker at the right angle to follow the arcing movement of the stars across the sky.
The Photography Show 2015
You then attach your camera to the Star Tracker via a second tripod head, start the motor and start your time exposure. It looks brilliantly simple, and was on sale at the show for £319, including the Polar Scope. But what if (we hear you ask) you're in the southern hemisphere, where you can't see the pole star? Simple – there's a switch on the base for 'S' (southern) and 'N' (northern) hemispheres.

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