Brolly, $20,

Umbrellas are decidedly low-tech devices. They really serve only to keep our gadgets and heads dry.

But holding an umbrella usually precludes the use of said gadgets. So Brollytime, a company based in Chicago, has come up with an innovation to change that.

Confronting the timeless issue of the poor umbrella design, the company created Brolly, an umbrella with a handle that has an ergonomic, four-finger grip. It turns out that the handle is perfect for smartphones and cameras because it frees your thumb from holding the umbrella. Now you can avoid that awkward position of tucking an umbrella handle under your chin to take a picture or shoot off a text.

The Brolly, which takes its name from the informal British term for umbrella, is available on the company's website for $20. It's compact and easy to fold and store. The handle, which is a combination of plastic and rubber, is strong but comfortable.

Unfortunately the rest of the umbrella is not designed as well as the grip. It looks like it might not last through a gusty storm.


Capture V2 and Pro, $60-$80,

The Capture, a device from Peak Design that attaches a camera to any belt or strap, has become a bit smarter. A refined version, called the Capture Pro, is now being shipped to some Kickstarter investors and will be available to the public in September.

The idea behind the Capture is simple: It is a plate that clamps on the strap of a backpack, a belt, handbag or what have you, turning it into a camera strap. That leaves one less strap to get tangled when making a quick grab for the camera.

Some users criticized the original Capture. The knobs and hard edges could dig uncomfortably into a hip or rib. So the Capture Pro, and a less expensive Capture V2, are slightly wider, thinner and rounder, with fewer parts that jut out.

As with the first Capture, the Pro can be attached by hand, without tools. A small plate attaches to the camera's screw-in tripod mount (and will also fit on a tripod quick release), then it clips into the Pro's base plate. There is a release button, so the camera doesn't accidentally slip off, and a security lock.