December 2011 Product Roundup

by By Arthur H. Bleich

December 01, 2011 A Square Deal

If you want to accept credit cards for your products or services but are being put off by technical complexities, multiple fees and equipment costs, fret no more. Square will send you, absolutely free, a mini card reader that plugs into the headphone jack of an Apple iOS or Google Android device so you can swipe credit or debit cards and have the money directly deposited to your account.

You pay only 2.75% per swiped transaction or 3.5% (plus 15-cents) if the card number has to be manually input; for example if your customer orders by phone, email or on the Web. Both credit and debit cards from VISA, MasterCard, Discover or AMEX are accepted and refunds to customers can easily be made if necessary.

Here’s how to get started: Just go to Square’s Web site and fill out a simple form to let them verify your bank account (they deposit 49 cents into your account and then debit it out). Once you see that transaction completed on your bank statement, you’re good to go.

However, if you do most of your business where customers’ cards are not physically swiped, there’s a $1000 weekly deposit limit; the excess over that amount is held for 30 days before it’s deposited into your account. But Square can increase that limit for you if most of your transactions will be manually entered; it’s flexible, they say.

So if you offer your work for sale on the Web, conduct workshops or sell images at events and art shows you‘re going to appreciate how easy and economical this is. Surveys show that sales increase when customers have the option of using plastic; once you’ve gotten Squared away, it’s bound to improve your bottom line.


Are you sending your greetings cards electronically?  How déclassé. Nothing beats the impact of getting a beautifully printed image that can be displayed in a prominent place for all to see. 

Red River Paper probably has the largest selection of DIY greeting card options in the world, complete with instructions, templates and tutorial videos to make it easy. You can begin by ordering their card sample kit for $12.99 (with free shipping) that includes two sheets of each paper –glossy, matte, fine art, linen, recycled and textured– plus envelope samples and practice sheets.

Cards come pre-scored for easy folding into finished sizes. The most popular are a small 4.25 x 5.5-inch “Thank You” card, a 4 x 6-incher, a standard 5 x 7 greeting card and a novel 4 x 9 “Pano Card” that fits perfectly into a #10 envelope. But other sizes and styles are also available. Envelopes come in a variety of colors as well as, bright white, translucent and natural tones. If selling card-sets appeals to you, clear-top boxes are available that hold up to 12 cards and envelopes.

Cards are also a great way to increase business; you can send your clients “Thank You” cards featuring your images and logo on them. And don’t forget their birthdays and anniversaries– prime times for personalized cards. Best of all, printing your own cards costs only about a dollar each (including paper, ink and envelope). That’s a huge saving over the average $3-$5 for store-bought cards!

Cable With A Brain

You’ve probably never heard of Redmere. They’re a tech development company in Cork, Ireland that set out to put hulky HDMI cables on a diet. But high-definition TV cables need lots of copper or signal losses can occur. Not any more. With Redmere’s active processing chip embedded in the plug at one end of a slimmed-down cable, a flawless signal is delivered to your HDTV.

It works so well that companies like VIZIO, Samsung, PNY, Monster, RadioShack and others now offer these new, spaghetti-thin cables that are 70%-80% thinner and lighter than conventional HDMI cables. Convenience comes with a price; cables with Redmere’s active chip are more costly, but prices are sure to drop.

The svelte cables come in configurations for different devices including a camera-to-TV connection and, unlike standard HDMI cables, are extremely flexible– a 10-foot cable can easily be coiled in the palm of your hand. If you use a cable for devices that have the same HDMI plug configuration on each end, just remember to connect the end that’s marked “TV” to the TV because the chip gets its power from the HDMI port there.

Redmere says their cable technology will allow up to 140-foot cable lengths without loss of signal quality and save 25% of the copper now used for HDMI cables. That last claim is not insignificant. The world’s supply of copper is rapidly diminishing and prices are rising accordingly. Anything that saves natural resources is a good thing. Learn more at:

From Russia, With Love

You can fiddle around with in Photoshop to merge several images taken at different distance settings in order to increase your depth of field but nothing does it better (or faster) than Helicon Focus, a stand-alone application created by a team of developers in the Ukraine who say they love taking on software challenges like this.

Helicon Focus combines a series of shots that have had their focus points set at different distances and merges them into one image that has incredible depth of field. No camera or lens combination (not even view cameras with swings, tilts and f/64 apertures) can match the results.

You just set your camera to manual focus and shoot a series of shots, advancing the point of focus as you go. You’ll need a tripod, of course and subjects that are fairly stationary (or can hold still); it does a superb job on close-up photography (through microscopes or with macro lenses) and produces amazing landscapes (when you want infinite depth of field).

Three different versions are offered, Lite, Pro and Pro X64; the last two come with an additional gem, Helicon Remote. It pre-programs the focusing steps on most Live-View-equipped Canon and Nikon cameras to cover the range you need and then rapidly fires the shutter while changing the focus of each image automatically.

Pricing runs $30 to $250 and holiday discounts of up to $50 are being offered until the end of December 2011. A 30-day fully functional demo of Helicon Lite is available free.  

Round And Round She Goes

You can save more than 50% on inks for your wide-carriage Epson, HP or Canon printer and not lose an iota of output quality with Ink2image’s Repleo (that’s Latin for replenish) System.

When your original cartridges run dry, send them to Ink2image; they’ll pay shipping charges and send you $1 for each or give you a $2 credit. Most photographers use the credit to have their carts refilled with OEM compatible ink. Repleo supports more than 45 wide-carriage printers.

Repleo inks were originally developed in the UK by Lyson, a manufacturer of high-quality, reasonably-priced inks that gained a strong following among pro photographers worldwide. Inks in Repleo carts so faithfully match printer manufacturers’ ink colors they can be intermixed with them and the same paper profiles or color settings used. Their archival life is also comparable.

You can purchase filled replacement carts for most printers before you send in your empties so you’ll have them on hand when the originals run out. All Repleo carts are carefully cleaned, have their chips reset and are thoroughly checked out; they’ll operate as new.

Best of all, you’ll be going green while racking up huge savings. Ink2image says more than 400 million plastic inkjet carts are tossed away each year in the U.S. and that a gallon of oil is used to make an average, wide-format ink jet cart. If you recycle a cart ten times, think of the difference that would make.

Let There be Light

Of all the gadgets and gizmos I’ve collected over the years, my must have accessory is the Photon Micro-Lite II ($11.95). Smaller than a 25-cent piece and only 1/4-inch thick, it has a replaceable Lithium battery that powers a phenomenal amount of light that can be seen a mile away.

It has both a sliding on-off switch (it’ll put out 12 hours of continuous illumination) and a momentary squeeze button. Used intermittently, you can get 5-10 years of use before the battery needs replacing. The Micro-Lite II weighs only 6.2 grams; it’s perfect for hanging on a keychain where it’s is at-the-ready when you need it.

Photographers, especially, will find it indispensable since lights are available in different colors. I have two Photons, one white and the other red. I use the red for times I need to preserve my night vision and not be temporarily blinded by bright light. It’s perfect for checking buttons and dials on the camera, writing notes, consulting manuals or just rummaging around for stuff in my camera case.

In addition to its many different types and styles of lights, Photon also carries a line of photographic accessories such as Joby tripods, Leatherman tools, and Maha batteries and chargers. Photon lights are made in the USA and are used by NASA, the FBI and the Secret Service.

Arthur H. Bleich ( is a photographer, writer and educator who lives in Miami. He does assignments for major publications both in the United States and abroad, and he conducts digital photography workshop cruises. Visit his Digital Photo Corner at and his workshop cruise site at

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