17 posts

The Truth About Camera Backpacks

The truth about camera backpacks is they’re universally shit. There is not one on the market that is properly designed for hiking. At one time there was the Clik Elite Large Hiker, but Clik Elite went out of business several years ago. The camera compartment on that bag was quite small.

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Metabones Fuji X to Nikon F Adapter

As I had mentioned in my write-up on the Fuji X-T1, I intended to order a lens adapter to use my Nikon lenses on the Fuji. After doing some research, I settled on the Metabones version. This is not the SpeedBooster, just the regular mount adapter so it has no glass element.  Continue reading

Fuji X-T1, My Thoughts

There are several articles and videos on the interwebs about the Fuji X-T1, Fuji’s new flagship in its wonderful X-Trans sensor line of cameras. This isn’t going to be a hardcore, pixel-peeping, measurbating, test-bench jockey review like some of the others. I will go through some of the performance aspects of the camera but I’m also going to discuss some of the user-related aspects. I’m more concerned with how the camera operates in actual shooting conditions. At 16 megapixels, the pixel pitch, or size, is the same as on the full-frame Nikon D800.
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PowerTrip by PowerStick

In my ongoing research for the new book project, I began looking for portable power options that could help in situations where phone or tablet batteries are running low and you’re not close to a wall outlet. There are a few such options out there. Mophie makes a line of portable travel chargers as does Veho. A little more digging and I found a Canadian company called Ecosol with a unique product. Being Canadian, the idea of a product from a Canadian company is, of course, appealing. What sets this one apart though is that it also can be configured with storage and has a unique charging feature. Thank you to the folks at Ecosol for agreeing to send me one to evaluate. Continue reading

The RAW Goods – Nokia 1020 Raw Capture

If you read my write-up on the camera in the Nokia 1020 from back in November, you’ll know that I found a number of shortcomings with it.  At that time, I noted that there would be a firmware update coming that would give RAW capture to the phone in the form of DNG.  It was called the Lumia Black update. Continue reading

Arrrrrggggghhhh…. Where’s the D#@* Charger for this: Keeping Gear Straight

Camera makers are well-known for making slight changes to gear and components from camera to camera. It’s a good move on their part because it means you have to buy different accessories for each camera. I’ll give Nikon credit for making the grip on the D300 and D700 the same, but other than that, they all get a failing grade.

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Patriot Gauntlet WiFi Hard Drive

As I noted in my last article reviewing the RAM Mount Universal X-Grip system, mobile is advancing at a very rapid pace in the photography world. Not just taking pictures with a mobile device but the use of mobile devices in workflows.

As I continue to research and experiment with different mobile options for my new book project, I’m pretty much at a point where I think a laptop on the road is unnecessary, probably, 90% of the time or more. Really, the only time I think I might need a laptop is if I were doing a live software demonstration.  And even then, quite possibly not. Continue reading

RAM Mount X-Grip

The world of mobile photography continues to grow. And I’m not talking about taking pictures with a smartphone or tablet. I’m talking about the ability to use mobile technology to help in the workflow. Using tablets or smartphones and associated apps to help make photos or videos with a DSLR.

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GeoTagging for Android

I wrote a couple articles back in 2010 about geocoding (or geotagging) photos using an app for Blackberry phones.  Having recently switched to the Android platform, I was looking to do the same thing with the new Android phone.

There are a number of apps that come up when searching the Android Market for geotagging or gps tracking.  The one I’ve started with is GPSLogger.  I chose it because (a) it’s free and (b) because it natively creates track logs in the .gpx format which is what the syncing software GPicSync uses. Continue reading

Cool Weather Warmth

With cooler weather headed our way here in northern N.A. climes, outdoor photographers have to start to thing about keeping warm in the chillier temps.  Hands are particularly difficult because of the need to handle the camera and manipulate the controls.  Continue reading

Update on Geocoding for Crackberry Users

In an earlier post about geocoding, I’d talked a bit about options for Nikon users and noted that, at the time of writing, Canon didn’t have anything available, to my knowledge, for its users.

Well, Canon has come out with updated versions of some of their wireless file transmitters; the WFT-E2 II A, the WFT-E4 II A and the WFT-E5A, all of which offer the ability to embed geotag information into the EXIF of image files.  The downside is you still need a separate GPS device (via USB connection) and these wireless file transmitters cost anywhere from about $640 to $750 depending on the model.

At least Canon is in the game now, but not in an overly user friendly or bank account friendly way.

Geocoding for Crackberry Users

Geocoding digital photos has become a popular thing to do. It makes sharing of photos in applications like Google Earth very easy. Some suggest that it’s helpful for buyers of stock photos in finding images but I’m not sure I completely see the connection there. Are stock buyers searching based on geo. coordinates? Maybe some folks could weigh in on that one.

Anyway, I began geocoding my photos about a year ago. It’s another step in the workflow but it’s reasonably automated so not terribly onerous. In my case, I used my Garmin eTrex Vista HCx which has route tracking capability and GPicSync. GPicSync uses .gpx track files which is what my eTrex creates. The workflow goes like this – Load images from the CF card to the computer via Lightroom (adding copyright, keywords, etc). Transfer the .gpx track file to the computer. Launch GPicSync, point it at the track file, point it at the folder with the image files, let it do its thing. Easy peasy. I set the eTrex to record a track point every 10 seconds. In GPicSync, I set the threshhold for time difference between track points in the track file and the time code in a particular image file at 10 seconds. GPicSync then writes the long/lat coordinates into the EXIF if the difference between the two is less than 10 seconds.  In order for this to be successful you have to sync the time in your camera with the GPS time in the GPS receiver you’re using, be it something like my eTrex, a smartphone or a small GPS tracker like those from Trackstick. Continue reading

A backpack, a backpack, my kingdom for a (good) backpack!

Ripping off Shakespeare again for a lead in line. But hey, he might have ripped off another writer too so why not.

The debate around which is a better option – backpack, sling bag, shoulder bag, holster, etc. – is almost as fervent as which camera manufacturer is better. I am firmly in the backpack camp. Having done a fair bit of hiking and camping when I was younger I like backpacks and am a strong believer that for the photographer on the go; nature, landscape, wildlife, trail walking, hill climbing and the rest of it, backpacks are the preferred option. Backpacks distribute weight evenly, unlike single strap bags which can put undue stress on one side of the body. Good packs will have a waist belt to position the majority of the weight on the hips which are the strongest bones in the body (you DO NOT want to carry the weight of a pack on your shoulders – this is a surefire path to fatigue and potential long term injury). Properly made backpacks will be light but strong, have compartments for separating gear and have a good number of external pockets for holding things like water bottles or other small items we want to have easy access to. The downside with backpacks is they’re not as speedy as some other options. With but a few exceptions, you have to take them off to get at your gear and I’m not convinced that the ones with the spin around compartment are all that good anyway.

Here’s the problem: I have yet to find a really good backpack for photographers. All the big makers have packs – Tamrac, Lowepro, Kata, Domke, Tenba and the rest. I currently have a Tamrac Adventure 7 and an Adventure 9. The Adventure 9 isn’t bad. It fits more like a backpack (when I don’t have my laptop in it), has a good waist belt, the compartments are decently sized and is reasonably comfortable for day hiking. But it’s still not optimal by a long way. The Adventure 7 is a nice, small pack that I can sling over one shoulder when I’m just going in the car or when I’m walking around in an urban setting but it’s not a good trail pack. Continue reading

Leki Sierra Antishock Walking Stick

I’ve been using this stick for about 18 months now. Leki are a very well-regarded manufacturer of ski poles, trekking poles and other outdoor accessories.

I’d been using another, similar pole from another manufacturer but found it inadequate. The section locks weren’t strong enough and it would compress if anything more than minimal weight were applied for support on either a downhill or uphill. No worries of that with the Leki. In the store, I expanded it to the right height, placed the ball under my hands, braced it into my midsection and put as much weight on it as I could (the guy in the store joked that they might have to institute a ‘you break it, you buy it’ policy). It held. It did bow very slightly but that was all. The sections were securely locked.

I chose this particular style for a couple reasons. One, I liked the fact that it could be made compact for travel. I also liked that the wooden ball at the top can be screwed off and the stick used as a monopod (more on that later).

Overall, it’s a very well made, very durable and sturdy walking stick. The ability to adjust the length for better support both up and down hill is a plus. As mentioned, the section locks work very well. A simple quarter to half turn and the sections can be slid out and in as needed. The slight shock absorption system in the pole is a nice touch as well, making it a little easier on the arm/hand in the field. Continue reading

Feisol Tripod Review

Last fall I began looking for a new tripod. I’d been using a Manfrotto legs and head for several years and it was time for something new – for a few reasons. While pretty sturdy, the Manfrotto isn’t light. Carrying it on the trail for several hours, the extra couple of pounds do make a difference. I was also getting a bit tired of the flip action leg locks that get caught on things. It wasn’t overly compact in the closed position so carrying it was more difficult and lashed onto the bottom of a bag it stuck out on the sides a fair bit and would get knocked around easily.

Wanting to lighten the load a little I decided that carbon fibre would be route I’d go with a new ‘pod. I started looking at the major contenders: Gitzo; Manfrotto; Induro; and others. For various reasons, none seemed to be what I was looking for. The name Feisol is one I’d seen mentioned a few times in the past and always with positive reports. Based in Asia, they now have a U.S. distributor. Their Traveler Tripod (model CT-3441S) with ball head (model CB-30C) looked like it might fit the bill. Compact when closed (the legs fold up around the head, making the closed length shorter than normal), lightweight (just over 3lbs for legs and head), good load rating (just under 15.5lbs – an EOS 1Ds MkIII + 600mm f4 L IS weighs in at just under 14.5lbs) and priced well ($399 includes legs, head, one QR plate and a carry bag). A hook that screws onto the bottom of the centre column for hanging ballast is also included. The legs come with neoprene wraps for carrying comfort. Given the positive reviews I’d seen from others, I decided to give it a go.

I had a couple questions before buying. The response from their U.S. rep was quick, cordial and directly addressed my questions. The online purchase was simple, confirmed quickly and the item was shipped quickly. A follow up email to request a tracking # was answered an a timely manner and the shipment arrived at my door on time. Continue reading