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|| News Item: Posted 2005-04-02

Sports Shooter Equipment News & Notes
By Robert Hanashiro, Sports Shooter

Cool is definitely the word to describe several new play things that have come out in the past month or so for the discriminating Sports Shooter.

First in line has to be the upgrade to the very popular Lensbaby, now Lensbaby 2.0.

For those that have not noticed anything in the world outside of your living room and Desperate Housewives and American Idol the Lensbaby is a simple lens mounted in a flexible tube that allows you to sort of tilt / shift the focus. Depending on what you're shooting the effect can be a sort of dreamy Holga-like look or something you might see in an alcohol induced haze ... if you know what I mean.

There has been a lot of debated on whether the Lensbaby is a toy, tool or gimmick. But to me, as I said above, it's just plain cool.

Improvements over the original Lensbaby are: f/2.0 maximum aperture, a totally new way of inserting and removing the disks that "stop down" the lens (it's now magnetic!), a cool drawstring bag and most important of all, sharper, multi-coated glass.

It seems every time I get a Lensbaby it's right before going out to eat and this time was no different. Using the Lensbaby 2.0 at a dim sum restaurant the other day, my first photos were of food, which I think is one of the best applications of this lens. The ability to move around what Lensbaby inventor Craig Strong calls the "sweet spot of focus" allows a photographer to do a poor-man's version of tilt-shift, which before was best done with a large format camera.

"Compared to The Original Lensbaby, Lensbaby 2.0 has a greater range of aperture settings, a much sharper 'sweet spot' of focus, and a new levitating magnetic aperture system, which makes it a snap to change apertures," says Strong.

I found the 2.0 to be as advertised: brighter, sharper and easier to use. The new way of changing the f-stop is nothing short of genius. In the original Lensbaby you had to use a small plastic hook to pull and push the rubber disk into place. The 2.0 comes with a small Lenspen to position and remove the small disks that are now suspended over the front element by three small magnets.

For those that are cheap and want to spend under a c-note, the original Lensbaby is still available. Both lenses are made in all of the most popular camera mounts.

For more info on the Lensbaby 2.0, go to the company's web site:


I know, I know ... basketball season is over (well, it is for the LA Lakers) ... but I couldn't write column on cool new products without at least mentioning that Larry Nolan and Versa-Flex have redesigned their basketball chair.

I have had the original hoop chair from Versa-Flex for a couple of seasons and my one complaint was how hard it was to remove the frame to collapse the chair for easier transport. That has been solved with this latest upgrade. Larry has installed a zipper into the part of the chair that supports the back, so that u-shaped piece of steel is now *very* easy to remove.

And that's not all.

"I added a wider and thicker, foam cushion," Nolan notes "I also added automotive seat fabric, to the top layers, for more comfort and aesthetics."

The Versa-Flex basketball chair, unlike the fold-up camping chairs found at sporting goods, has a steel frame that provides better support for your back and the thick seat cushion is easier on a photographer's posterior.

While it does have a metal frame, the Versa-Flex basketball chair will collapse down to allow you to store it in many of the larger rollers and travel equipment cases.

The Versa-Flex basketball chair is available directly from Versa-Flex ( or from Roberts Distributors.


The last cool item is one I found through the classified ads and is something that I had been looking for for years. member and super-sports-shooter Patrick Murphy-Racey has taken those waaaay-too-short-off-camera cords and made one that is really useful, giving you the ability to put your shoe mount strobe on a light stand because it's 8-feet long!

"I've been using them myself for years but I didn't start making them for others until about a month ago. They work great!" says Pat, "We're making them for both Nikon as well as Canon"

Several years ago after we made the switch from Nikon to ... cough, cough ... Canon, I had an off-camera cord made with a 25-foot extension. It was a custom job done by a friend and it worked GREAT on the Canon film cameras.

But when we got our first digital cameras ... NADA!

"I was forced to find a better solution for fast portraits when I did the WWE book two years ago. I ran with these wrestlers for about three months straight and I tried the first two guys with Elinchroms and I just couldn't get enough material in the short snippets of time I was given. I needed multiple lit portraits in super abbreviated time slots, and even traveling with only one rolling case, it just wasn't working"

There are so many assignment we get that don't allow us time to set up our Dyna-Lites or Elinchoms and the ability to shoot TTL, adjusting exposure on the fly, with a strobe you can now mount on a light stand several feet off-camera is, well, cool.

Pat has his Let There Be Light "Cheater" Cords on his website with a special price for members.

There are several options, one that allows you to send your cord to him to be converted, as well as a "double head cord" that allows you two use two speedlites for double the power.

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