Saturday, September 27, 2008

GREAT Idea, But...

On Thursday, I visited one of the blogs I read periodically and saw something really interesting. I have to warn you, it's photography-related. But even the casual point-and-shoot user who most of the time remembers to take their camera along on vacation might be somewhat intrigued.

The title of the actual post sums it up pretty nicely: XShot - Photograph Yourself Anywhere. Don't feel like reading? CNN's Smart Traveller actually did a video about the XShot, which I tried unsuccessfully to embed here for your convenience.

In a nutshell, the XShot is a collapsible rod you attach your camera to with the tripod adapter (the hole with threads on the underside of your camera) and, using the self-timer, you can take your own picture.

Who takes their own pictures? Lots of people do. Say you're traveling alone in Paris, want a shot of yourself in front of the Eiffel Tower, but are afraid to ask anyone to snap one for you. (That's sort of dumb anyway, if you think about it, because what's to keep that person from running off with your camera?)

So you hold your camera out in front of yourself and snap a picture. The end result is lots of you, not so much background. And it's sort of obvious you're holding the camera, too. (This isn't a fabulous example, but I had good intentions.)

If you read Julie's blog post or watched the video, you'll probably agree that it really is a great idea. And it's only $29.95.

I was very close to ordering one immediately. But it was late, I was tired, and I figured I'd get one the next day. But as I lay in bed--that's where I usually get all my best ideas, 99% of which I completely forget by morning--I thought about my monopod.

Did I hear you say, "Your what?"

A monopod is like a tripod with only one leg. You use in in situations when you either can't or don't want to lug your tripod along, but still want some stability when snapping away.

The monopod is smaller and much easier to carry. While it isn't as good as having a tripod, it is way better than nothing. And I'm pretty sure I bought mine at Ritz Camera for about $25.

This morning I actually remembered my thoughts about the monopod. I knew it would only work if the head of the monopod was adjustable and could tilt downward. It does. And it telescopes out to just over 60 inches.

My camera is pretty heavy, so I only tested it with the monopod extended out to about 40 inches. It worked like a charm.

The picture below, which is still not a great example but not too awful for being done indoors, using flash, on-the-fly, lets you see the difference. Pretend the Eiffel Tower is behind me, or some other scene. Or pretend I'm flanked by a couple of friends on each side.

My face no longer dominates the image. There's actually some background. And my face isn't distorted by the fish-eye effect either. That happens with some cameras. It's where your face gets distorted. I'm not sure how best to describe the fish-eye effect, but I can show you a side-by-side comparison of shots. The one on the right demonstrates the fish-eye effect.

So, yes, the XShot is cool. But you can achieve the same effect with a monopod for less and have the benefit of the monopod when you need the added stability. The one advantage in the XShot's favor is that, when compacted, it is just 9 inches long. I'm sure it's lighter, too. But I'm not convinced it is strong enough to hold a heavy SLR and lens.

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