I've been designing a sound blimp for the Nikon D1 series cameras. Much of my work has included performance photos for a major symphony orchestra. I occasionally use a Nikon CS-13 soft blimp, but this model isn't nearly quiet enough for sustained bursts anywhere near the audience, or for photos during quiet times. Sam Cranston's Camera Muzzle intrigues me, but I'm disappointed that it doesn't have a window for the color LCD. I have rented a Jacobson blimp for evaluation, but I think the photographer should have access to more than just shutter and autofocus without having to open the case.
My current design uses a hard case similar in size and design to a Pelican 1200--along with a four-inch diameter lens tube. Everything is lined with constrained-layer damping material and open-cell foam. Sleeve-bearing actuators allow direct, mechanical push-button control of the shutter release (including metering/autofocus), and the "Monitor" LCD button. Mechanical controls make camera placement and removal faster than the Jacobson, which requires an electrical release. Optical glass windows are provided for the lens opening, viewfinder, and color LCD. I feel that the LCD window is a key feature, considering the usefulness of the histogram and flashing highlights--especially in contrasty stage light. At a minimum, I will provide tripod screw sockets for both horizontal and vertical orientation. I'm also considering some sort of rotating mount, Stroboframe type swivel mount, or Arca-type dovetail plates.
My prototype blimp is quieter than the Jacobson, and the camera controls have been trouble-free. Here are my questions:
1. What is the potential market? I know it is small, but there are opportunities in Movie stills, performing arts, and courtroom photography. The price would be greater than the Camera Muzzle, but less than the Jacobson. Would you or your paper be interested in buying one?
2. Can you live with just the shutter release, autofocus, and the monitor button. I might be able to design linkages for the command, and sub-command dials, but this would greatly increase the complexity and cost. You could always open the case to adjust shutter speed or aperture.
3. Do you need access to the AF area selector, or can you focus using the central sensor.
4. Can I omit exterior controls for manual focus and aperture control on the lens barrel. The Jacobson claims to support this, but the wide variety of available lenses, and wear of the foam lining both cause problems.
5. Which lenses do you prefer for this type of work? I use more fast primes than zooms in available light. What is your favorite lens?
6. While hand-holding is possible, the extra bulk and weight of the housing makes a monopod desirable. Would this be a problem for your shooting style?
7. What must-have features do you want, i.e. external power, electric release, Firewire, etc?
Here are links to other blimp info: Camera Muzzle Jacobson Blimps
Thanks in advance,
[ September 18, 2001: Message edited by: Fred Stucker ]