We love our gear, although if anyone asks we aren’t equipment junkies, we are equipment enthusiasts! One of the great joys of our job is seeing and telling our readers about cool new inventions, and here are our recommendations for gifts this holiday season for the enthusiast in your life.
A new mouse anyone? Now that Apple has done the unthinkable – no, not putting Intel processors in their systems, the really unthinkable - a three-button mouse with the Apple logo on them, you might think that there isn’t much reason to look elsewhere. And unless you have never tried a really high-precision mouse, you might be right. One test drive of the Razer Pro 1.6 Ultra-Fine Pixel Precision Mouse, with 1600 DPI resolution on their ProPad mouse surface, is proof that the mouse that shipped with your system doesn’t scratch the surface of what a mouse can be. Razer’s reputation was built on the gaming side, with hardcore gamers gathered around their products like moths to a flame. With 7 programmable buttons, and incredible resolution, driving the Razer Pro is like driving a Ferrari compared to a nice but pedestrian Toyota Camry. Both are fine machines, but when you need to accelerate in a hurry, stop on a dime, and make the curve without even a tiny bit of drift, the Razer Pro Click 1.6 is the perfect choice. We found it great to use it with games, as well as graphics apps like Photoshop, although I have to admit to not knowing which button to choose, too many years with only a single choice I guess. But, once I started programming it, the Pro Click was able to really strut it stuff. The ProPad is finely made of aluminum, and has two different surfaces, one side is smooth for engineering work, and the other has a bit more tooth for gaming and graphics use. It works with any mouse, and in fact can reveal just how good your present mouse is, but when mated with the ProClick, you have an ideal combination for fun and work.
For more information visit: www.razerpro.com
Have a media guru in your life? Check out ADS Technologies’ two great tools for converting media from one format to another. Their PYRO AV/Link can capture just about any analog source, from audio to video, from S-Video to analog audio, and convert it to digital via Firewire, or the reverse from Firewire digital to analog. It’s simple, doesn’t need a computer, and even comes bundled with Adobe Premiere Elements 2, which runs on Windows ... or via the magic of Bootcamp or a virtual PC tool can be used on a new Intel Mac. And best of all, it ships with cables, which isn’t a minor inclusion, since Firewire cables can fetch outrageous prices at retail. If you just need to convert audio to digital, their Instant Music for Mac (yes, they have a PC version!) converts analog audio to digital via the USB port, and comes with Roxio’s Spin Doctor 3 software for easy capture from your turntable or other sources. It included a turntable cable, complete with a grounding wire, so you can easily import your audio. Take one further step towards great capture by adding the amazing shareware application Click Repair which will eliminate clicks and pops when importing from albums. Click Repair made waves when it was introduced because a) its creator was a mathematician rather than a large software company, and b) it worked better than almost every solution out there, regardless of price or complexity, and c) it was 35 bucks! So, combined with the ADS Instant Music it allows for first-rate digitization of your treasured LPs at a very reasonable price. Add in Sound Studio 3, and you have a complete mastering solution.
For more information visit: www.adstech.com
Digital photo enthusiasts all share one common enemy – color management! While there are other profiling solutions out there from respected names such as XRite/Gretag Macbeth, the solutions are all easily over $1,000. DataColor, formerly ColorVision demonstrated a far more affordable solution at last year’s PhotoPlus Expo, and after months of fine-tuning it recently started shipping. Available as a suite with a matching display calibrator, and colorimeter, or just the colorimeter alone, the PrintFix Pro is a patch reader to generate custom profiles for your printer. Previous products like the respected iOne from Gretag Macbeth, or XRite’s short-lived Pulse, were strip readers, which meant you read a line of colors at a time by sliding the unit across them, which was fast and effective. However it had a downside, which was that some papers, most notably, Hahnemuhle’s Photo Rag, were extremely sensitive to abrasion, resulting in a “glaze” of the surface, which then resulted in errors reading the patches. The approach taken by ColorVision is to have the user click on each patch, a little bit more time consuming, but in the end it takes about the same amount of time as the strip method, but without the risk of glazing the paper. Importantly, the software is easy to use, which was far from the case with the iOne, which was designed primarily for pre-press experts, not photographers. ColorVision gets these details right, and both the Spyder 2 PRO and the PrintFix PRO Suite are easy to use, with fantastic help in the built-in help menus. I was able to create profiles without any problems, and the software allowed for significant tweaking of the finished profile. There were a few things that I’d still love to see in display calibration, such as a library of manufacturers, with some presets thrown in. For example, on an Apple LCD display, there are few options for adjustment, but the calibration wizard still asks for your preferences and settings, where no such adjustment is possible. I’d love to see some commonly used displays with those options greyed out. On the Mac it’s pretty easy, since the vast majority of Macs ship with an Apple branded display, and some models like the iMacs all have an integrated display, so it’s not that difficult a reach to say, “hey, Mac version of software, only runs on Macs” ... and all the iMacs ever built have a built-in display, etc. When I showed the software to my students they wondered why this aspect of monitor calibration isn’t a bit more developed, which I agree with. But, that is a minor matter, since the resulting calibrating and profiling is what matters most, and the PrintFix Pro Suite delivers in that regard. The fact that the entire suite is around one-half the cost of its nearest competitor is an important point. You can buy the products as separate items if you don’t need both of them, but my advice is to spring the suite, since for the $100 difference it’s a bargain for the upgraded display calibrator. For anyone serious about their colors, and digital photography, the PrintFix PRO Suite would make sure that the holidays print with perfect color, snow that’s snowy white, the Christmas Tree just the right shade of green, and the Hanukkah candles just the right shade of blue and white!
For more information visit: www.colorvision.com
Everyone is into scrapbooking it seems. But, what to do with a digitally printed scrapbook? In the pre-digital days, a scrapbook actually had items from one’s past carefully glued, or photo-cornered into them. The digital version has folks scanning prints, negatives, slides, and relics, laying them out, printing, and then ... well, that’s the problem. Then what? You could bring your pages to the local camera store, all-night copy center, and have them bind it for you, but a much better way is to consider the PhotoBook Creator from Unibind. The PhotoBook Creator is essentially a nice looking temperature controlled heating element, onto which you place your Unibind Photobook, whose secret is that hidden in the spine is a heat sensitive glue, that requires a very precise heat setting to activate. It is very easy to use. All you do is gather up your pages, insert them into the spine of the book, place it on the Creator unit, press a button, and in 90 seconds you have a beautifully bound book. Unibind offers a wide variety of book styles, and sizes to choose from, with designs that range from a classic photo book style, to covers perfect for a corporate report. This is one of the products that as soon as friends would see it, would say “Hey, can I borrow that?” The Unibind PhotoBook Creator is one of those rare products that does what its supposed to, with no muss or fuss! How cool is that?
For more information visit: www.mphotobookcreator.com
Cableyoyo. Huh? What’s that? Good question, but an even better answer. A couple of years ago at a Boston MacWorld we interviewed two recent graduates of Pasadena’s Art Center College of Design, and their new product was a very clever little invention that promised to end your cable clutter. A small flat yoyo with just enough room to wind a cord onto it, they can be stacked for various cords, and can be stuck on just about anything, we put ours on the back of our monitor to wind excess cord from our iPod cables, and their new POP version works great with an iPod to wind your earphone cords on. Priced at under $10, it’s a wonderful stocking stuffer, as are their new Cool Feet for your laptop. We love supporting a young company with great ideas and the Cableyoyo is not only a great idea, but once you get a few, you can’t imagine living without them.
For more information visit: www.cableyoyo.com
Harris Fogel, Posted 12/9/2006