Gear Up: The Latest Photography Gadgets and Products of April

April 8, 2014

By Libby Peterson

Bloom Theory Outfits the Chic Photographer 
Camera straps don’t all have to be made of black nylon and silicone; Bloom Theory takes a different approach, keeping the fashionable photographer in mind. Vania Barbieri and Christine Berry of Simply Bloom Photography started the two-year-old company with the intent to cater to a market that looks for esthetic beyond the work they produce, to the accessories that help them make it. Their 2012 and 2013 collections offer a variety of choices, including camera straps adorned with ribbon and rhinestones, made of soft, fine satin, and clad with a plethora of subtle, elegant designs. And while Bloom Theory may have made style a priority, these straps are still supportive and comfortable, made with padded, impermeable backings. Many of the straps may be especially suited for fashionistas, but there are also plenty of unisex options, too.

Price: $65-130 

Finao Aims for Cleaner Displays with New nextONE Matted Albums
Makers at the photo album and packaging company Finao have created what they’re calling the next generation of matted albums. The mat edges are designed to be as flush as possible with the photos, giving a smoother, cleaner presentation than what is usually seen in matted albums. A signature embossed line surrounds each of the matted areas to give them a subtle accent, and all mats are sealed to prevent any potential damage. Made without gutters, the albums have the option of displaying photos across the center of the book onto the other side of the spread, or even filling an entire spread with one photo, which should be particularly useful for displaying panoramic images. No special software is required to design these matted albums—in fact, photographers can use their very own software to create albums that truly reflect their style and represent their work.

Price: Starting at $434 (for 10 x 15), with sizes available up to 12 x 18 or 14 x 14.

Hydra101 Launches Line of Photoshop Plugins
Automotive design company Hydra Design Labs’ latest endeavor, Hydra101—a teaching forum for people who are interested in learning about car design—has extended its QuicPic and video tutorials to include a new line of Photoshop plugins. So far, the line includes two new plugins: the Hydra HDRI Pro and the Hydra JPG Degrader. The HDRI Pro converts an 8bit image into a 32bit spherical HDRI to be used in 3D rendering programs. The technology that once cost over $10,000 can now be replicated with a smartphone (Hydra101 recommends using the 360 Panoramic app from Occipital, $0.99). The second plugin, the JPG Degrader, adds JPG compression, chromatic aberration and noise to an image that may appear too sharp for a JPG background. This is especially useful for those wanting to composite a 3D rendering into an existing image (as in the image below). Hydra Design Labs president Jon Hull confirms the company is currently working on a third plugin to be released later this year.

Price: $149.95 each

Photojojo’s Poppy Turns iPhone into 3D Camera and Viewer
The classic View-Master stereoscope has been made over by quirky photography gear company Photojojo, and this one should bring a smile to the faces of iPhone users. The Poppy takes the basic concept of the decades-old View-Master, but instead of popping in a thin, circular piece of cardboard with embedded photographs, you slide in the smartphone and create 3D photos and videos. The secret is in the mirrors housed within the Poppy; each viewfinder shows a slightly different angle that fools your brain into thinking the image is three-dimensional. With the iPhone, Poppy users can make 3D wiggle GIFs that can be shared online or made into lenticulars, and videos can be uploaded to YouTube. The Poppy itself is made of analog parts, so the iPhone is the only electronic component to this gadget.

Price: $59

Tap Packaging’s New Colorful Boutique Line
As part of its longtime vow to offer packaging that truly fits the core creative and artistic essence of a photographer’s work, Tap Packaging has released a new line of Boutique Packaging with fresh new colorful options. In addition to protecting prints, Tap Boutique was created to truly wow onlookers, and the Organic Brand—a softer, more natural and feminine color palette that includes four colors, seven products and accompanying belly bands and tags—is the first of Tap’s three Boutique Brand Profiles to become available after its reveal last month. Tap gave away 50 starter kits to the first 50 people who visited its WPPI booth in Las Vegas this year, and the packaging company will also conduct a raffle to give away $500 in credit for Boutique Packaging; photographers must submit photos that illustrate how Tap’s new line has enhanced their work and increased its value. The raffle contest runs through April 30, and Tap will reveal its other Boutique Brand Profiles later this year.

New ZEISS Lens Has Broader Range
Following the Touit 2.8/12 and 1.8/32 is ZEISS’s newest optic lens, this one with a wider focal length: the ZEISS Touit 2.8/50M. Especially suited for portrait photographers and those wanting to shoot up close, the 2.8/50M is a particularly versatile lens, with the capability of bringing objects within short distances into focus while covering ground up to infinity. Equipped with a magnification power of 1:1, photographers can know that their subjects will appear true to size on their camera sensors. The 2.8/50M pairs nicely with APS-C system cameras, and it was constructed with the floating lens design, meaning it adjusts the distance between groups as the lens is focused. With nine blades surrounding the iris, the lens gives the area around the point of focus a natural-looking softness, and subjects shot before blurry backgrounds can be accentuated with organic bokeh.

Price: $999

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