The Original Peak Design Everyday Messenger!

The Original Everyday Messenger

I’m in the process of relocating back to the US from Japan, part of that means I mail my camera gear ahead of the move. I do this because I trust the US Postal Service far greater than movers hired by the government. Call me paranoid, but I’ve been transferring like this in the military for almost 40 years. If someone is intent on taking your stuff when you do a military transfer, they’ll get it; that’s been my experience anyway. Mailing most of my camera gear back meant I needed to decide what I wanted with me here from August till November or December when I get home. There was no question I’d be using my old Peak Design Everyday Messenger bag, the 15 inch wonder bag that started the messenger camera bag craze. What I am surprised about is how great of a bag this still is! Having lots of bags, I don’t always grab this one, but now that I’m down to this one, well… it’s working superbly.

Today, I’m using it working out of my car shooting the little fishing village of Arisaki near Yokosuka, Japan on the Miura Peninsula. The lenses I decided to keep with me during this transfer to the US were a 15-35mm and a 24-105mm to give me some versatility but not take up a ton of space. I’ve discovered that carrying one less lens in this bag than I normally carry actually works better and keeps the bag more functional. Working out of a car means I can have the camera on the passenger side for easy access but the magnetic latch makes it super easy to close when not in use and driving. I’ve gotten in the habit of jamming too much stuff in this bag over the years and while it handles it, it’s just so much easier with only two lenses when it comes to access and weight. The bag still looks much like when I bought it a few years ago and I have no problem telling people to get this bag, even this original model! While there is a version 2 of the 13 inch Everyday Messenger (EDM), the original 15 inch EDM only received minor improvements. I would love to see an upgraded 15 inch bag with the improvements put in to the 13 inch bag, but I don’t think that’s likely. While I’ve used backpacks and still have a few, the messenger style bags just seem to work better for me. This is especially true when changing lenses, there’s just better use of workspace that I don’t find in backpacks. Backpacks seem to work better if you plan to lay it on the ground. No matter how ‘easy’ the access is, I always seem to needs something nowhere near the access points.

If you’re looking for a bag that’s going to hold up, inside and out, the Peak Design Everyday Messenger 15 is still an awesome bag that can be found just about anywhere at a great price. Why am I writing about it now? Well, I just got a little giddy using it today realizing it was money well spent a few years ago. When the EDM bag came out it was the head turner, people couldn’t wait to get their hands on it, it was followed by even more great bags. In the process it seems this bag has gotten lost in the mix by some of us. However, it’s still relevant, still working like it was intended, and hopefully I’m in the minority of those letting this thing collect a little dust. When I get home, I see me using this old timer a little more!

Peak Design Bags: 1 Year Later.

It’s been just about a year since I switched back to Peak Design (PD) camera bags, switched back? Yup, so you may ask, what tempted me to use other bags in the first place as a loyal PD user? A fair question deserves an honest answer. When PD first announced their Everyday Messenger Bag back in the summer of 2015, I immediately backed them on KickStarter because, after using PD product for 3-4 years at that point, I knew this was going to be good. Yes, it was, and I loved it, but about a year later we moved to Virginia (we’re a military family) and that’s when things changed. Wanting to check out some camera stores in the area, I found a couple in the northern Virginia area and one in particular specialized in camera bags, new and used. They would allow you to come in with your current bag and compare shop, to try them on, even pack some gear in and see how they felt! That’s when I found the ThinkTank Mindshift 15″ Messenger Bag, it felt great on the back. While it lacked many of PD’s features, it seemed to have more room inside, felt good, so I made the leap. Not bad mouthing ThinkTank in any way here, I still use many of their products and they are a terrific company making quality gear. However, in time I missed some little things in PD bags like their MagLatch system, there is no better way to get in and out of a messenger bag, period. With the ThinkTank’s Mindshift bag, I had to click open the fastener, take out the needed item and click it shut. It seems like a small thing but I found myself leaving the bag open most of the time while out shooting, out of convenience. With the PD bag, just push down on the MagLatch, open it and get the item out, then let the flap drop and it almost always catches on the MagLatch connection. Top zipper access in the 15″ PD bag, built in color coordinated battery holders (for charged/uncharged), luggage pass through on the back, and the flexi-fold style dividers to stack lenses were what I missed. Did these little things mean enough to go through the hassle of selling the current bags on eBay? Well, yes they did, because all those little things added up, and I missed them.

After years of searching for the perfect bag I’ve learned this, there is NO perfect bag. No matter what the latest bag innovation is, the new lighter than helium construction, magical pockets that hold everything beyond your wildest dreams, and most of all…. the famous photographer who endorses it will not matter when you head out shooting. What will matter is if the bag meets your needs. Know this, it will NOT be the perfect bag and some things will work for you and some won’t. For that reason I have a number of PD bags for different purposes, mostly defined by the lenses I’m walking out the door with. Unlike the one-time purchase of the supposed perfect bag mentioned above, acquiring bags has been a process. When going out with large, 100-400mm lens, the Everyday Backpack 20L Zip v2 (shown here) fits the bill. I’m not a fan of camera backpacks, but in this case they distribute weight better when carrying a heavy load than messengers or slings. The PD 20L Zip is just big enough to hold that big lens, plus the Canon EOS R with a 24-105mm attached, and a 15-35mm and 30mm stowed. It can be carry-on for air travel or tossed in the back of a car plus it’s weather proofed as well. Frankly, this bag doesn’t get used as often as the others because I don’t walk out every day carrying a 100-400mm lens. However, there’s no reason to think it won’t hold up well, it’s built like a tank. Does it offer everything I would like? Nope, again no bag will, but it does meet a majority of my needs/wants, like side access to the camera and not having a bunch straps flopping around. I do wish the 20L Zip had magnetic backpack strap holders like other PD bags, not sure why this model lacks them. Again, no perfect bag…

My main carry bags are PD messenger bags, they just work better for when out walking. I have the 15L and that I keep loaded out relatively similar to another 13L so I’m not hunting for stuff inside. This is the Everyday Messenger 15L (left) which carries either the 24-105mm or 15-35mm attached to the EOS R (stowing the unattached lens) and still has room for the 30mm lens. This bag may not be available anymore as I’ve not seen in on the PD site for a while, only the 13″ version is currently for sale there. You can still find it on eBay starting at about $60 used and $130 new and at Amazon as well. The Everyday Messenger 15L is like having a mini office in front of you, when you swing the bag in front of you it’s easy to switch lenses or safely dig through the bag. The other often used bag is the Everyday Messenger 13L (below) which is similar in design to the 15L but missing the top zipper which makes sense as it wouldn’t be practical to fit a DSLR with lens attached through the smaller opening. The Everyday Messenger 13L carries either the 24-105mm or 15-35mm attached to the EOS R and stowing the unattached lens. I’m happy to say that after carrying both of these messenger bags the majority of the time for the last year they both have minimal to no wear, which is kind of amazing. They’ve both held up well in the summer heat and cold rain of Yokosuka, Japan where I’ve lived for the past two years. Even the insides of both bags still look amazing!

When heading out and wanting to travel light, usually because I’m going with the family, I have two PD Sling bags. The larger of the two is the Everyday Sling 10L v1 (right) and this usually carries the EOS R with a 24-105mm attached and leaves room for a few smaller items. I didn’t purchase the Everyday Sling 10L v2 simply because I had the v1 a few years ago and really liked it. When deciding to go back to PD bags, I saw they still had this bag in their clearance page and jumped on it. While I’m sure the v2 is a great bag, I went with what I knew and missed. This bag is my go-to bag with the EOS R if I plan to be walking all day and going someplace new and want to travel light. The other Sling bag is the Everyday Sling 6L (below) which is when walking with just the EOS R and 30mm attached, generally places I’ve been before and might get a cool shot, going out to eat, or street shooting and don’t want to draw attention. In Japan, restaurants and food stands can make for great stock photography subjects, the small lens and small bag help to not draw attention. Both of these sling bags are light and give great protection from the elements. They have held up well, just like the Everyday Messenger bags, and look fantastic on the inside and exterior.

Since buying PD bags last year, I’ve been more than happy with how they’ve held up. I didn’t set out to own this many camera bags, but I’ve finally figured out something; while the latest and greatest camera bags may promise to be the last you’ll ever buy, they never fit that bill. In all honesty, PD also makes bags that don’t work for me… R-R-Really?? Yup! Their Everyday Backpack 20L and 30L which I had previously owned (the 30L) and, while it was a great bag, it just didn’t work out but happily the Everyday Backpack 20L Zip v2 worked much better. Also, their 45L Travel Backpack and Everyday Sling 3L didn’t seem like it good fit for what I do and that’s what I mean about “NO perfect bag” because, while these are award winning bags, they weren’t what I needed. That’s why I have so many bags, who wants to carry a 20L bag when a 6 or 10L sling will work? With the exception of a few companies (like PD) making bags, they’ve got to sell what appeals to a majority of photographers and that’s where the concessions come in. While they’ll get a big name pro to endorse the bag, not even two pro photographers will have the same packing needs and their desires in a bag will differ greatly as well. The chances of your needs and expectations lining up with their’s is probably very slim. Find bags that suite your needs because, when it comes to camera bags, the grass isn’t always greener on the other side. Finally, these highly customizable bags offer great protection and can handle just about anything you throw at them. These Peak Design bags have stood up well over the last year, just as the other PD products I’ve used since 2012 or so. I have no problem recommending them to photographers and non-photographers alike!

Peak Design BLACK FRIDAY SALE, Nov 16-30!!

¬°¬°Christmas Gift Alert!!  Peak Design gear is something I’ve been using since 2012, practically every day, and they’ve NEVER failed.  I wouldn’t have become a Peak Design affiliate if I didn’t believe in their products, I wouldn’t want to sell junk to people I know.  However, it goes deeper because I believe in this company!  Peak Design’s customer service is second to none, they set the standard for creating products that customers request through surveys, and their lifetime guarantee is hassle free.  Yes, it’s pricey but it’s also durable, buy once and done!  Check out their many bags which aren’t just for photography,  they’re highly customizable.  Use the link below for their Black Friday Sale from Nov 16-30th!  

https://www.peakdesign.com/?rfsn=3866800.26bbc

Previous Peak Design Blog Posts:

Covid-19 Lockdown…

Covid-19 Lockdown…

I can’t think of a five or six month period since 2012 where I’ve taken out my camera so little, but that’s not to say I haven’t been engaged with photography in some way. Since I didn’t really get out and shoot, I concentrated on the future by researching potential gear changes, checking out new bags, and trying out some new stock photography companies as well. However, an actual camera in my hands didn’t happen much beyond the occasional iPhone shot, which I still find fun. Since the corona virus had us locked down on the base where we live in Japan, I decided to take a little break from shooting. A lot of time was spent researching cameras, lenses, filters, bags, and even accessories which led to some purchases that I’m excited about. While I didn’t break out the camera much, I did manage to shoot a little, the shots on this post were all taken with the iPhone 7 Plus. The photo at the top was taken just before the lockdown in February 2020 at the harbor in Yokosuka, Japan and the others were taken at various times during lockdown.

My daredevil daughter jumping out of the seat of the playground swing.

While researching cameras, the Canon EOS R caught my eye and it looked like a great upgrade from the 6D Mark II that I had currently been using. I had been absolutely loving the 6D Mark II since 2017 and had even purchased a second backup body. My intention was to keep one 6D and use the Canon adaptor one EOS R for my current EF lenses. The EOS R arrived, I played with it for a while and was completely blown away. Mind you, at this point in time I was planning on keeping one 6D Mark II. I played with the EOS R’s new control ring on the adaptor, decided to use it for exposure compensation, again… blown away. Now I began comparing my current EF lenses with their new RF lens counterpart. Over the next few days I sold both Canon 6D’s and all but one EF lens, the EF 100-400. So much for my plan to keep my backup 6D. I’ve been very happy with the switch to the Canon EOS R and I’ll be sure to do a future review. While the new RF lenses cost a lot more they are noticeably better. The good news is that if you want the Canon mirrorless EOS R but don’t want to upgrade from EF lenses (or EF-S) to the new RF series, the adaptor for the old lenses is pretty incredible and you will see improvements using your EF lenses on the EOS R via the adaptor. My EF lenses looked sharper on the EOS R with the adaptor than they did on the 6D Mark II.

A Latte Florentine Milan Stetson summer straw fedora.

I can hear you already, “ok Mr. Bigshot, if the EF lenses worked so well with an adaptor, why did you switch?” Well, like I said, I spent a lot of time researching and a few things caught my attention. First, the RF lenses have been out since 2018 there is a ton of information online about them. It was this, an interview with Digital Camera World, where a Canon Europe Product Marketing Senior Manager stated that Canon had already launched ten new RF lenses and that, while they’re ready to create new EF lenses if the need arose, “for now, our focus is on RF.’ That told me exactly where Canon is heading, their compass points to the land of RF. Secondly, the last time I believe Canon ditched a series of lenses was around 1987, after more than 20 years of producing over 130+ models of their FD lens series, they made a similar announcement regarding their move to the EF series. As I see it, when Canon goes all in on something, they commit. Just as they committed to the EF series lens and over time dropped the FD series, I believe they are now at the same crossroads with their new RF series. The handwriting is again on the wall and I believe at some point they’ll stop supporting the EF series. However, the BIG difference this time over Canon’s 1987 move is that because of these new adaptors released by Canon, their loyal EF lens users won’t be left holding unsupported lenses as FD users probably were. While I could have stayed with the EF lenses, I took a chance on moving to the RF series because I believe Canon is all in and committed. I bought what RF lenses I could afford leaving me with one lens, the 100-400, that I use with the Canon adaptor and it works no differently than the RF lenses.

So in the end, while there wasn’t a lot of photography happening in my life, there were some meaningful photography changes that I’m hopeful will change the way I shoot. I had been using the Canon 6D Mark II since 2017 and it was still a love affair, but the EOS R unexpectedly rocked my little world more than expected. While “just researching,” the search took me to a new Canon camera which led to new lenses, then new filters, some new Peak Design bags which I’ll be reviewing, and other things that come with being locked down for months with nothing but “research” time. It turned out to be pretty productive and actually did some good. Oh, also during this Covid-19 lockdown in Japan, I somehow got in to the wonderful world of fedoras too, please don’t judge me…

PEAK DESIGN SALE!

 

 

SALE!       unnamed        SALE!

 

Peak Design is having a 20-40% sale on everything (except tripods) from¬†March 31 – April 6. ¬†Over the years I’ve come to like messenger bags more and more because all my camera gearScreen Shot 2020-03-31 at 13.02.28¬†is right in¬†front¬†me when I need it. ¬†Peak Design’s¬†Everyday Messenger¬†(at left) is¬†about the best ¬†messenger bag I’ve ever used, period! ¬†If you’re looking for a bag, for photography or anything else, check out PD’s¬†Sling, Tote, TotePack, Backpack, or new Backpack Zip¬†while they’re ON SALE! ¬†When it comes to any of these bags, the one thing I love is the ability to customize. ¬†While¬†there is no perfect bag, these come about as close as I’ve ever come. ¬†As a side note, these bags can be used for more than photography! ¬†PD’s new Travel Tripod launches on April 7th and all profits will be donated to coronavirus relief and climate change!

The other piece of Peak Design gear I’ve used religiously since 2013 is their¬†capture system. ¬†Nothing I’ve used has been with me as long as these. ¬†I’m never fumbling

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Capture & Clip

with tripod plates or any type of strap, ever! ¬†PD’s straps and cuffs are all¬†seamlessly interchangeable by using PD’s tab system to connect everything. ¬†It’s rare when I’m out that someone doesn’t me about my camera hanging off a backpack strap! ¬†Since I’m not very good at explaining, I made the short video below, in real time, to show just how effective these are and exactly how they work. ¬†I’m all for anything that makes photography easier and allows me more time shooting, and that’s exactly what PD equipment does.

 

 

Lastly, Peak Design makes quality gear, I’ve using the same Capture to hang my camera on bags since 2013 and it works like the day they arrived! ¬†Don’t miss a great chance to pick up some awesome gear, so please check out this upcoming sale!

 

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So I put my camera in the oven…

Sounds like a joke right? ¬†Well, it’s not and it started on a rainy day, literally coming down sideways, a great day to get some shots here in Yokosuka, Japan or so it seemed… ¬†I had recently purchased a great waterproof hat, waterproof jacket, waterproof pants, and waterproof shoes, almost all of it on sale and in anticipation for a day just like this. was prepared, again… so it seemed. Within an hour of my rain day outing, water was running down the inside of my glasses and down my neck from the inside the hat, my body was soaked to the core and my feet were wet and freezing. ¬†All my clothing had failed and even my weather sealed Canon 6D Mkii’s buttons suddenly stopped working. ¬†Even though the camera was weather sealed and had a protective cover, the rain had somehow gotten inside. The first thing I did out there in the rain was to take out the battery. ¬†Who knows what could have happened when water inside the camera came in to contact with a power source. There I was, wet and cold, and to top it my camera didn’t work, so I went home.

It’s funny, but when I purchased my Canon 6D Mkii I’m pretty sure it said “weather sealed,” I was sure of it. Now, with my wet jacket in the dryer, I was drinking a cup of coffee after taking a hot shower to warm up, I was reading related articles, but now I saw things about the this camera, something to the effect, “weather sealed, but …” Now what to do? The camera would turn on but most of the buttons weren’t working and the ones that did weren’t doing what they were supposed to do. ¬†The next thing I search for online were suggestions and solutions to repair a wet camera. From what I read, these simple solutions could work, but if they didn’t, I’d likely be sending the camera to a Canon repair tech. ¬†This would either be a cheap fix or extremely expensive. ¬†Not to mention that I live in Japan so I’d be without this camera for a month, minimum. ¬†Yes, I do have a backup…

Many of the articles said to carefully place the camera in a ziplock bag with dry rice for a couple of days and some said to put that bag in a warm place. Since I love to bake sourdough bread, I also need keep my starter for the batter in a warm place. ¬†I keep it in the oven with the door cracked and the oven light on, this seems to create the perfect temperature for sourdough starter. So I placed the bag of rice with the camera in the oven next to the sourdough starter with my fingers crossed (see the above photo). The 6D was upside down with the card and battery covers open with a lens cap attached to the body. I left the card and battery covers open in hopes of giving the moisture multiple ways to evaporate from the camera. There it sat, next to my sourdough starter, for three days… Finally, I carefully opened the ziplock bag and took out the camera. As a precaution, I used can of air to blow out potential rice dust that may have settled in the card and battery slots. Then the moment had come, I put in a card and fresh battery, powered up my trustee 6D and to my surprise, everything worked! It was as if nothing had happened, everything was in good working order and life was once again good in my little spot in our universe.

¬†I fully realize that I was extremely fortunate, there was probably just enough water inside the camera to affect the buttons. Had there been just a little more water, this ziplock bag and dry rice solution may not have worked so well. Then again, if there were more water, could it just have taken more time in the bag? ¬†I highly recommend giving this a shot as a first step should your camera get wet and hopefully you’ll experience the same results. I would also recommend not buying rain gear on sale and just shell out money for the good stuff. ¬†Lastly, if you do get water inside the camera, it is not going to get better with the battery attached, get it powered down asap. ¬†An expensive trip to repair tech was avoided this time and I’ll definitely be more careful taking my camera out in the rain.

 

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It’s not about the gear…

I entered photos in a series¬†Gurushots competitions called “Your Best Shot” in the summer of 2019. ¬†The result was¬†Your Best Photo – The Second Challenge¬†and this photo, called Rover, was selected by Dodho Magazine for their Top 100¬†of¬†300,000 photospre-1245831580 submitted and more than 150 million votes cast in three challenges (see below). I’m absolutely thrilled that this photo placed, but it proves a serious point, it’s not about the¬†camera or the gear. ¬†It’s about almost everything else! ¬†Lighting, composition, and clear subject matter more than just about anything else. ¬†I have plenty of fancy gear and toys that are used daily. ¬†However, this photo which was taken with a Sony DSC-W7 “point & shoot” camera back in 2006, gets placed in their top 100. ¬†In many ways it makes me want to go back to basics, and in a way I will. ¬†I’ve recently been shooting more with just a fixed 50mm f/1.8 lens (the nifty fifty) and 40mm f/2.8 “pancake lens” in order to focus more on composition and get back to the nuts and bolts of photography. ¬†This photo placing where it did, right now while I’m shooting with fixed lenses, serves as a lesson to not give up on these lenses. ¬†I’m back to manual zoom with two feet for a while and it’s actually nice not carrying a camera bag.

 

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Peak Design II (with video)

Back in 2012, I began looking for another way to connect my camera to camera straps, wrist straps, and tripods. ¬†The problem was this, if there was a strap to keep the camera safe from accidental dropping, it almost always interfered with the tripod plate. ¬†It pd3almost always involved having to unscrew something, connect something else, then redo it all over again when done. ¬†There was nothing that¬†seamlessly linked my wrist cuff, strap, and tripod plate, they all seemed to work against each other and not together. That‚Äôs when I discovered Peak Design gear, it appeared to solve all this. ¬†If it worked as advertised, it would mean no more fumbling around with equipment and no more straps that didn‚Äôt work with other products. ¬†I checked in to it and my love affair with them began. ¬†While I‚Äôve used many of Peak Design products over the years, mostly camera bags and rain covers; however, pd4it’s the products that I’ve used almost daily since 2012 that I’m writing about today. ¬†Peak Design does make some excellent bags but after back surgery, my frame is a little touchy about what is hung on it for long periods. ¬†I’ve found something that works better for my needs, but if my back could handle it I’d still be using their Everyday Messenger Bag¬†as it’s probably the best all around bag I’ve ever had and only camera bag I’ve ever missed.

Back to today’s topic, this is gear I’ve been using practically every day for the last seven years. ¬†I wrote about these products in a blog entry on June 27, 2016 called Peak Design. ¬†In that article I said, “I can‚Äôt see myself walking out of the house to shoot without a piece of¬†Peak Design gear on me,” that still holds true today! ¬†However, looking back at that article, it seemed that a video might do a better job explaining how these work. ¬†So here’s an attempt at better explaining these products, hopefully….

 

The attempted fun aside, in about a minute and a half the camera went from a shoulder carry strap, to a wrist cuff, then two separate tripod mounts, to a backpack carry using the Peak Design Capture, and ending up back on the tripod. ¬†Admittedly, there was help from my personal assistant and daughter, but that was only to avoid dead time between swaps. ¬†The goal wasn’t to show how fast it could be done but how versatile the gear integrates. ¬†As the video demonstrates, everything centers around Peak Design’s Anchors and the Dual Plate, which also allows the connection. ¬†The Anchors can be placed anywhere on camera that allows for carrying and also on the Dual Plate itself. ¬†Using a Dual Plate means there is never a thought about how to carry the camera and as shown in the video, it works on Manfrotto and Arca-type tripod heads. ¬†It simply doesn’t matter if the camera is carried on a wrist cuff, sling, backpack, and you decide to put the camera on a tripod because it’s all integrated. ¬†Back in 2012, Peak Design appeared to be the only company doing this. ¬†Their gear is so much a part of my photography life I can‚Äôt see myself without these. ¬†Using the Sling, Cuff, and Dual Plate with Capture means less time screwing around and more time shooting. Frankly, these items are as important to me as a camera bag. ¬†I say this because of how much time previously spent connecting a camera to various straps and tripods. ¬†You’ll find a Sling and Cuff in each of my bags and, although they haven’t gone bad, I keep an extra Anchor or two in there too (I replace them yearly). ¬†There are also Dual Plates on both cameras making everything easy peasy lemon squeezy.

It’s not unusual to get looks or be approached by other photographers when I’m seen wearing a camera on a backpack harness. ¬†Most seem skeptical till I tell them it’s worked for years and I’ve got 100% confidence in it. ¬†I’m not some uber rich guy who can afford to drop a camera or two… ¬†I’ve seen plenty of doubters online as well, then someone says “that looks like Peak Design” and explains it. ¬†So the word is getting out on this well built gear. ¬†My original Dual Plate and Capture were purchased in 2012 and still work perfectly. ¬†Yes, this gear isn’t cheap but buy it once and you won’t be spending money again for a long time! ¬†Currently, the Capture sells for $49.95 and the Dual Plate for $24.95. ¬†If you don’t use a tripod and have no need for the Dual Plate, you can buy the Capture with an Arca plate combination for $69.95. ¬†Click [HERE] to visit their various straps and cuffs. ¬†Below are some photos of the Dual Plate and Capture attached to backpacks and bags, it doesn’t get any better. ¬†Lastly, as stated in the video, there is no affiliation between myself and Peak Design, I get absolutely nothing if you purchase their products. ¬†However, if you do make the leap, I’m pretty sure you won’t regret it.

 

Geekoto X25 Defender Review

When the folks at Geekoto approached me about testing a tripod, at first I was flattered. However, later I was actually a little scared because I wondered what I would do if it just wasn‚Äôt very good?  Then what?  I decided that if it wasn’t very good I’d send it back with a polite, “thanks but no thanks.”  Fortunately, that wasn‚Äôt the case as this tripod was quickly a pleasant surprise!  Out of the box, the Geekoto X25 Defender tripod appeared to be a very sturdy aluminum alloy construction and surprisingly well-built considering it cost much less than my currentScreen Shot 2019-03-06 at 15.48.13 tripod.  I had everything needed to get started including a tripod plate, an allen wrench to tighten down parts, and even a decent carrying bag.  Immediately, everything on the X25 Defender was easy to understand; if you‚Äôve used any name brand tripod you‚Äôll understand every feature instantly from the leveling bubble to securing the legs; everything makes sense.  My attention was draw to features and quality that scream this thing should cost more than $150!  All the moving parts are smooth and everything locks down well with no drift in the ball head when you clamp it down for a shot.  Even the plastic on X25 doesn‚Äôt seem cheaply built!  While I‚Äôve only had it for a few weeks, it does look like it will stand the test of time.  These are just my initial observations, everything about this tripod looks very promising. 

When I took it out shooting I noticed that my height of 5 foot 9 inches tall, this thing extends beyond my height out to 75 inches.  That said, like any tripod, the higher you extend it the less stable it becomes.  This tripod does as well as any other here, possibly better.  However, it‚Äôs more stable if Geeketo 2you extend the thinner legs last and go as high you can without raising the center.  On this day I wanted to see if the X25 Defender could handle a heavier load so I put a Tamron 150-600 G2 lens on my Canon 6D for a weight of about 6 pounds and extended everything out and it was surprisingly sturdy (photo at left)!  I wouldn’t recommend using this setup in extreme wind, but the point is that for every day use this tripod does a great job, but it can handle more.  If it can handle this bulky setup, I think it proves one aspect of its versatility.  One other feature worth discussing, the X25 Defender converts to a monopod as well!  When shooting I sometimes consider whether to bring a tripod or not, at times a monopod is just more practical so I then have decide tripod or monopod?  With this Geekoto tripod both options are readily available, very cool indeed! 

In my opinion, this Geekoto tripod is much better than most travel tripods I‚Äôve owned.  When I‚Äôm at home I carry my carbon fiber tripod as it‚Äôs much more stable, however, it takes up way too much space when flying.  This tripod is somewhere between that tripod you have at home but can‚Äôt carry and the travel tripod you pack on trips because it fits in your luggage.Geeketo 1  The important item here, there‚Äôs not much compromising with this tripod, oh and it’s rated to hold 22 pounds!   This is a great entry-level tripod or an excellent travel tripod and frankly, I‚Äôve paid more money for travel tripods that weren‚Äôt as nice as this one!  All in all, the Geekoto X25 Defender packs a lot of punch with a 360 degree panoramic ball joint combined with a center tube that also swivels 360 degrees allowing you to set this tripod up in just about any conceivable angle.  At the bottom of the center tube is a clip to hang a weight such as a camera bag, something my big name tripod doesn’t even have! Oh did I mention it has a monopod build in?  That’s bang for the bucks!

Like camera bags, no tripod is perfect, there were a couple of minor things that I personally wish were different but nothing that would be a deal break.  For instance, I prefer lever locks on the legs, it’s easier to visualize if they’re locked or not.  Also, the lockdown nut for the center tube at the base of the tripod, I’d prefer a screw type mechanism.  Neither of these are the end of the world, just a personal thing…  All in all I beleive this tripod should last a long time if properly cared for and not abused.  You can purchase your Geekoto Defender at Geekoto.com or Amazon.com for just $149.98, that’s about one quarter of what I spent my current tripod.  The Geekoto X25 Defender is a great bargain and solid tripod, I would gladly recommend this to anyone not wanting to spend a fortune yet wanting quality.  My plan is to keep using if for a while and maybe write more in the future.  Everything about using this tripod was a positive experience and I look forward to seeing Geekoto’s future offerings.  Thank you Geekoto for this great opportunity!

* Photos of me were taken by my daughters Amanda and Melinda Chizek.Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 18.21.20

The Old Switch-a-roo

Last November I made the switch to Sony leaving my beloved Canon 6D for a Sony A7R. ¬†In my blog post entitled “Goodbye Canon ūüė≠, Hello _______ ” from November 2016 I spelled out why I went to a Sony mirrorless system and closed with, “While I‚Äôve moved to Sony for the moment, I‚Äôm still keeping my eye on Canon and hoping for game changer from them down the road.” ¬†My eleven months with Sony was not what I had hoped for, I missed my old 6D almost from the minute I sold it. ¬†As I mentioned back then, the menu system was flat out strange and illogical but I found two issues I just couldn’t overcome. ¬†First, much of my stock photography almost immediately was rejected for being blurry, something not previously encountered. ¬†Second, shooting any action was almost too much for the Sony to handle, sharp images with any movement were hard to come by.

Something I didn’t mention in my blog was that I hated the A7R so much that I sold it and upgraded to the A7Rii. ¬†Problem solved? ¬†Well… ¬†I was happy at first because when it did focus, it was very good. ¬†However, I found that unless I manually focused, there were still issues with the auto-focus. ¬†While less of my stock photography was being kicked back, it was still an issue. ¬†Taking the A7Rii out to a Red Bull Air Race, I thought even though it was out of its element, I still might get a couple of decent action shots by spending the day concentrating on shooting action with this Sony, w-r-o-n-g. ¬†This A7Rii was a far superior camera when compared to my 4-year-old Canon 6D, yet the 6D NEVER had a focus issue. ¬†I missed picking up my 6D and just shooting, a couple of presets and a decent auto-focus system made me feel like I was better prepared to capture whatever unfolded in front of me. ¬†Not to mention, with Canon my life didn’t literally revolve around battery life. ¬†When you shoot any action with a Sony mirrorless, it drinks batteries quicker than a DC politician at happy hour! ¬†Whether shooting the A7R or the A7Rii in continious-hi, continious-lo, or the sports setting, nothing produced consistently crisp images, but I could depend on the battery getting drained quickly. ¬†Finally, I was on vacation this summer and went to shoot a friend’s car, 3 out of 51 photos were decent and the rest were not crisp. ¬†I felt that auto-focus shouldn’t even have been an issue for a camera costing just under $3k! ¬†After 10 months, I decided it was time to end my Sony experiment. ¬†I know there are plenty of people who swear by Sony mirrorless, it just didn’t work for me.

Deciding to get a new Canon was easy, however my reasons for leaving Canon hadn’t changed, the Sony system was lighter and easier on my back (after surgery). ¬†I knew going back to my familiar Canon turf would mean some sort of compromise, meaning carrying less weight (lenses). ¬†The Canon options I looked at were my old EOS 6D because I truly missed it, but also the 6D Mark II, and the 5D Mark IV were up for consideration. ¬†It came down to this, while I loved the original 6D, is already outdated. ¬†The 5D Mark IV was about $1k more than I wanted to spend, that left the 6D Mark II as serious choice for me. ¬†While I’ve only had the new camera for a few weeks, I do love it and it feels very familiar after having the original 6D. ¬†I bought the Canon¬†EF 24-105mm f/4L IS II USM¬†to use as my main lens, a Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM for low light, but not an everyday carry. ¬†However, I also bought one lens I used to own, the Canon¬†EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 DO IS USM. ¬†I actually liked this lens so much that I wrote about it here in September 2016, see Diffractive what? for more. ¬†I’ll write more later about the Canon 6D Mark II, once I’ve got more shooting time under my belt. ¬†I will say this, picking up the 6D Mark II was like saying hello to an old friend…

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lessons

Life revolves around batteries

iPhone Photography

Surfer GuyWhile living in Europe, I purchased a very nice Sony DSC-TX20 pocket camera for the nights I didn’t want to carry my camera bag going out to dinner.  I worked out well, it took great photos and had an excellent wide angle view.  However, I didn’t own an iPhone then.  When I came back to the US and got my first iPhone I was kind of excited by the prospect of instantly sharing photos but hadn’t truly realized its potential.  The process of getting to my photos and actually using them was now much simpler.  Whether I was using my Canon DSLR or my Sony pocket camera, the process was the same;  get back from my trip and take the card out of the camera, place it in the computer to download the images, erase or reformat the card, put the camera away and recharge batteries.  Then I’d email or post the photos…  The iPhone changed all that, now I could take a photo of decent quality and instantly send it where I wanted or post it to social media, all the other steps were gone.  My Sony pocket camera instantly became a dinosaurer.  The photo at left was taken at Imperial Beach, California as I was setting my tripod up to do some sunset photography.  It was this photo that made me realize the potential of the iPhones 6’s camera.  While it’s not DSLR quality, it’s not that bad either!

iphone3Many times, while setting up for a photo or just out shooting, I’ll take a photo and post to social media and this has been the best thing.  I can actually post real time photos of the little photo trips I make.  For instance, while I was shooting at the marina in Coronado, California, I decided to shoot a photo with the iPhone.  That photo is at the top of this page and was taken using the iPhone 6’s Pano setting for panoramic photos (click HERE to view original).  Many times when I’m on foot to another location, I’ll shoot iPhone photos along the way and later some of those photos will make me go back later and shoot with my DSLR.  One of the best things about the iPhone’s camera is that it’s usually with you.  There have been times with my kids that I’ve captured a cool moments where there was no simply no time to grab my camera.  Bear ClawIn the above right photo, my daughters were playing and I was throwing a ball with the dog.  I looked and saw my girls and thought, this is one of those really cool moments in life.  I knew if I went in the house my girls would either stop and follow me, or move on to something else while I went inside.  I pulled out my iPhone and got the shot!  The same goes for this photo taken at the San Diego Zoo at left.  We were at the zoo early, when the polar bears play, the first thing in the morning.  The bear put his paw on the glass, my daughter said, “look daddy, he’s giving me a high-five.”  I quickly got my iPhone and got the shot.  This certainly would have been a better shot with my DSLR, but I had no idea how long that bear would stay put.  Fortunately, he stayed just long enough.  That’s the point here, while I would have loved to capture better versions of these photos with my DSLR, it just wasn’t goign to happen!  Better to capture these precious moments with my iPone than to not have them at all.

Lastly, there are some pretty cool effects packages available now at Apple’s App Store.  The effects app I really like is Macphun’s FX PhotoStudio.  Not only can you make some pretty cool effects, it’s incredibly simple to use.  The above photo of my daughter on the trampoline had the sun rings added with FX PhotoStudio and the water drops were added to the below photo as well.  As far as apps go, it’s expensive at $7.99, but it’s worth every penny because it works as advertised and has a ton of features.  Below is the pier at Imperial Beach, California and this is another example of the iPhone saving the day because I wasn’t even out shooting photos this day, I was just driving by and thought it looked like it could make a nice photo!

Iphone in IB

 

The Everyday Sling, Continued…

In this post¬†I wanted to follow up on my original review of Peak Design’s Everyday Sling back in September 2016 (see The Everyday Sling¬†blog post). ¬†Back then I stated,¬†“if you have a mirrorless system and want to travel light, THIS IS YOUR BAG! ¬†People who use¬†mirrorless systems are usually trying to keep the load¬†light.” ¬†I went on to say that if I had a mirrorless camera, “this would be my bag 24/7!” ¬†Well, I meant it, and after writing that post I actually ended up purchasing a Sony A7R mirrorless camera a month later and decided to give the Everyday Sling a¬†shot as my every day bag. ¬†There were two reasons for doing this; first, I switched to a mirrorless to lighten the load due to ongoing back issues resulting from surgery in 2010. ¬†Second, the folks at¬†Purple Orange Brand Communications¬†and¬†Peak Design¬†had given me a courtesy Everyday Sling and I felt I needed to give it a shot. ¬†Plus, since I shot my mouth off about how great it was, I needed to do this! ¬†Let me say upfront that the switch was easy and I’m very happy.

bcpnet2When I received my Everyday Sling, I used it on days I wanted to travel light, usually¬†taking¬†my Canon 6D and another lens only to head out somewhere on my bike or walking. ¬†For the most part, the rest of the bag really didn’t have much in the pockets. ¬†Using the Sling now as my every day carry means that it’s obviously heavier because I now¬†carry many of the items I used to carry in the Everyday Messenger. ¬†Heavier? Yes, but still very manageble and in no way is it uncomfortable. ¬†The bag is designed to expand out and away from your body as you add contents, making it still comfortable to carry. ¬†I also find myself usuing the adjustable strap more than I did with the Everyday Messenger. ¬†The Sling seems to feel better when I wear it high on my back, so when I need the camera I rotate the bag and lower it¬†to get in. ¬†Because of the way this bag’s strap is designed it’s almost one smooth movement and takes no extra time. ¬†So what are the drawbacks? ¬†Well, if you tried this as your main bag and carried something bigger than a mirrorless, or carried 2 or 3 lenses, I don’t think it would fare well. ¬†Strapping a tripod to the bottom seems like it could be a it of a pain as well. ¬†Don’t get me wrong, this little bag will do it, I just don’t know how comfortable it would be weighing it down so much. ¬†Frankly, if you were carrying a regular size DSLR and a couple of lenses, the Everyday Messenger is the better choice anyway.

bcpnetAfter four months of carrying the Everyday Sling, I’m comfortable recomending it to mirroress camera owners who are looking for a protective bag for their camera that is full of features. ¬†While I still love my Everyday Messenger Bag¬†(or EDM), my former every day carry, that bag is now for when I’m going to travel and need to bring along extras. ¬†When I wrote about the Everyday Messenger in my post “Everyday Messenger, is the honeymoon over?” in May 2016 I truly believed I had found the perfect bag and never thought I’d switch cameras. ¬†For what I used to carry, a Canon 6D with a lens attached and two more in the bag, the Everyday Messenger¬†was perfect. ¬†However, since switching¬†to the Sony A7R, the Everyday Sling seemed a better fit, and this is true because of the lighter camera body and less lenses. ¬†Don’t get me wrong, I still love the EDM and it’s still the best bag I’ve ever owned, but it’s now my travel bag. ¬†At 54 years old I still learn something new almost every day and the lesson learned here is this; if someone asks if you’d like to try a product, you might want to take them up on it. ¬†When originally contacted about trying out a bag, I told them I was plenty happy with my Everyday Messenger, fortunately they still sent me a bag. ¬†I say this because had¬†Purple Orange Brand Communications¬†not contacted me I definitely would NOT¬†have bought the Everyday Sling, I was completely content with the EDM. ¬†Again, a HUGE thank you to Purple Orange Brand Communictions and the wizards at Peak Design for giving me the opportunity to use the Everyday Sling!

sling1

Goodbye Canon ūüė≠, Hello _______

In the last post, Goodbye Canon, I explained the¬†need to lighten up my camera bag recently; it was simply too heavy after surgery in 2010. ¬†When looking to see¬†where that weight was coming from, it didn’t take long to see it was the Canon 6D and three lenses. ¬†After a week of searching online, I finally settled on a new camera system and made the¬†purchase. ¬†When the¬†new camera arrived, I took lots of¬†shots and while it wasn’t a familiar Canon, I figured I’d get used to it. ¬†I sold the¬†Canon gear on eBay and started a journey which felt, like I said a few weeks ago, as if I were¬†marching a parade with two left shoes on because I knew I’d make it, just¬†not comfortably. I ended up buying a¬†Sony A7R¬†and let me say upront that the image quality is fantastic¬†and with¬†two lenses is lighter than what was carried previously. ¬†In the areas of image quality and weight, I’m totally satisfied. ¬†However, this¬†new camera had two areas that made me feel like a photo failure. ¬†Trying to navigate a¬†menu system that was totally unfamiliar ground and a focus system that wasn’t much better proved difficult. ¬†Getting clear photos was a hit or miss propect for days and at one point I even told my wife it was going back in the box and sent¬†back to the store, but she’s used to my Jan Brady hissy fits. Frankly, after using Canon camera for years I now realize that I became spoiled because I felt like I was learning to shoot all over again, that was unexpected. Canon cameras were easy, this wasn’t easy.

a7r-bI decided that after reading the manual that the camera would go everywhere, after a couple of weeks I’m still going back to the manual but up for the challenge at this point. ¬†Everything I read prior about Sony digital cameras¬†warned that Sony’s menu system was, as we used to say in the military, “less than desirable.” ¬†I remember reading somewhere that the menu system was “clunky” and had no idea what that meant; now I know “clunky.” ¬†Why Sony doesn’t release new firmware to fix this is beyond me. ¬†While now getting used to the Sony A7R, the truth is that I wish there was a Canon lightweight mirrorless camera and glass that functioned like the trust old¬†6D with L Series lenses. ¬†If Canon ever released a mirrorless that recieved the kind of reviews that their new 5D Mark IV gets, I’d probably jump ship back to Canon instantly. ¬†Time to let go…

Some people will ask why I didn’t simply shell out the extra money for the Sony A7Rii?¬†¬†Well, I actually gave that a lot of thought and it came down to this. ¬†The A7R shoots at almost twice as many megapixels than my old 6D, so for the money, this was¬†worth looking at and shelling out $1,800. ¬†The A7Rii shoots roughly 6MP larger than the A7R but costs another $1,200, that’s a $3,100 price tag. ¬†Not being a pro or making a bunch of money selling photos, was that $1,200 worth an additional 6MP in larger photos? ¬†Not to mention, the A7Rii’s uncompressed RAW files are a whopping 80MB per photo, I’d need new hard drives as well to accomodate the file size because my 2TB drive would be full in no time. ¬†Again, if I were putting food on the table from photography and had clients who needed the best images possible, the A7Rii would have been the choice. ¬†However, I’m just a retired guy taking pics and the A7R’s image quality is perfect for my needs and the file size is just a little larger than that of the Canon 6D. ¬†While many folks don’t like the Sony A7R’s compressed RAW files, they suit me just fine because nobody will ever see most of my photos anyway.

Swingin'

What do I like about the Sony A7R? ¬†First, the weight is exactly what I was hoping for and carrying the Sony around is much lighter and easier on the back. ¬†This was the¬†prime reason for ditching the¬†6D. ¬†Second, image quality is excellent and seriously crisp. ¬†While it took a while to get clear images regarding the Sony focus system, the images are impressive. ¬†The two lenses I purchased are incredible as well; the¬†Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS¬†and¬†Sony 16-35mm Vario-Tessar T FE F4 ZA OSS¬†give me almost the same capabilities that¬†I had previosly with three Canon lenses. ¬†Actually, the Sony 16-35 reminds me very much of the previously owned¬†Canon 16-35mm f/4L IS USM¬†in the way I can get right up on the subject to take advantage of the wide agle capabilities. ¬†The photo at left, Swingin’, was one of the¬†first Sony A7R photos taken at a front yard in Coronado, California¬†with the¬†Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS¬†lens (at f/10, 1/160¬†sec, focal length 134mm, and ISO¬†500).

Cove Fog

The above photo, Cove Fog, was taken at Fiddlers’s Cove in Coronado, California and is two photos stitched together. ¬†It was shot¬†with the Sony A7R with the¬†Sony FE 24-240mm (f/3.5-6.3 OSS¬†lens at f/9.0, 1/5¬†sec, focal length 24mm, and ISO 50). ¬†What is it that I don’t like about the¬†new camera? ¬†As mentioned earlier, the menu system is tough and seems to have been created¬†from a bad dare. ¬†It’s as if two drunk Sony techs were¬†in a bar and one said, “I’ll bet you $100 I can make¬†the crappiest menu system ever but people will still buy it because it’s a Sony.” ¬†I thought maybe menu items¬†were grouped in Braille and I couldn’t find the raised dots. ¬†That said, getting used to a Sony is half the battle but there isn’t anything that makes me regret the purchase. ¬†Being a smaller camera, it has a completely different feel ergonamically. ¬†Once it’s in your hands the buttons feel that much closer together than other cameras. ¬†However, I¬†fully expected this given the Sony is a smaller camera. ¬†This is a temporary thing and I’ll adjust to the size, but for now my hands are instinctively sliding where the buttons aren’t. ¬†All the other little things, like the lens release button being on the opposite side of every camera I’ve ever owned, are just growing pains coming from Canon.

So, while it may not sound like it at times in this post, I’m pleased overall with the Sony A7R, but I admittedly have a hard time letting go of my Canon ways. ¬†When I whine¬†about Canon, I make my seven year old daughter seem like the mature one in our house, again just ask my wife. ¬†Coming from another brand, the learning curve has been steep but not impossible. ¬†I just hate picking up my camera and fidgeting for settings but that was going to happen no matter which brand I went with. ¬†Lastly, while researching this purchase I had read how Canon has fallen behind in mirrorless camera technology and, while only recently releasing a serious mirrorless, it appears they’re¬†years behind Sony. ¬†While I’ve moved to Sony for the moment, I’m still keeping my eye on Canon and hoping for game changer from them down the road.

bcpnet

Goodbye Canon ūüė≠

This isn’t an angry “screw Canon” sort of message, it’s actually a bit sad for me as I’ve been a loyal Canon user for eight years now. I have also loved every Canon camera I’ve owned, as well as their lenses. Most recently were the¬†EOS 6D, and L Series lenses because¬†they’ve gone with me everywhere and that is part of the problem. ¬†I learned so much on Canon’s T3i, EOS 7D and 6D, not to mention those cameras made photography fun. ¬†However, I had back surgery back in 2010 and carrying a camera bag with just a couple of lenses has gotten to be¬†too much for my lower back. ¬†I needed to find a lighter alternative, it wasn’t an easy process or decision. ¬†However, the first hurdle was cleared when my wife gave the go ahead, easy right? ¬†Just buy a lightweight mirrorless camera setup after a little research and bam, new camera on the way! ¬†Well, not so fast…

_a-wjcI’m not wanting to name¬†the brands I looked at because I’ll get slammed by every fanboy and brand loyalist on the planet. ¬†Nor do I want to have to justify my decision to anyone, this is how I found what will hopefully work for me. ¬†However, I will say this, Canon’s mirrorless systems were at the top of the list, and sadly the image quality of the new Canon M5 just wasn’t there; I really wanted a Canon mirrorless… ¬†No matter which brand I decided to go with, even Canon, I was looking at buying all new lenses so this wasn’t going to be cheap. ¬†Now, with Canon unfortunately out of the way, I began looking at every other mirrorless system out there. ¬†I found an unlikely system that was very unfamiliar to me but¬†looked very promising, I ordered it and knew I had a 30 day return policy during which time I’d shoot images in back yard with my Canon 6D and the new camera to compare image quality. ¬†If I liked the results, I’d keep the new mirrorless; if not, I’d return it. ¬†With a new ¬†mirrorless camera on the way and a plan, I felt good; or so I thought. ¬†I was really dumping my Canon 6D, I LOVE my 6D… ¬†Then I¬†stumbled upon the Interactive Studio Scene widget at Digital Photography Review¬†or DPR.¬† It’s essentially a studio photo that has images¬†taken with just about every camera out there using multiple settings shooting in JPEG and RAW allowing you to¬†compare image quality side by side in just about every conceivable way. ¬†You can even download these photos to enlarge them on your computer and knit-pick at blown up details. ¬†Hold on here, did this mean I could now compare the new mirrorless camera’s image quality with that of my current Canon 6D and never leave the house?? Yup, it did¬†and I didn’t like the results and immediately cancelled my new camera order, back to the drawing board. ¬†Ah… back in my comfort zone with the Canon 6D right? ¬†Well, not so fast…

This process of viewing images at DPR’s Interactive Studio Scene was not the end all of deciding on a new camera, but it gave me a good starting point. ¬†If I didn’t like the exact same images taken by all these other cameras compared to my own 6D, did I really¬†need to have it shipped just to take pics in my back yard. ¬†The factors I needed to consider were the actual camera weight (my reason for a new camera), availability of lenses, image quality, and costs. ¬†I looked at one camera which is probably considered the best mirrorless out there with¬†unmatched image quality; however, the uncompressed RAW files were over 80Mb in size and compressed was around 40Mb. ¬†This would require lots of hard drive space for photos, 99% of which would likely never be seen by anybody! ¬†I’m not making a living as a photographer, just a retired guy who loves to shoot guns and cameras, since 80Mb files will add up quickly I now needed to consider file size¬†as well. ¬†If I were putting food on my table from photography and quality was the only concern, I would have gone with this camera and bought bigger hard drives. ¬†So on to¬†other cameras I went and found one that looked promising; it met the above criteria and while the lens selection was nowhere near Canon’s, they did have two lenses that functioned well for¬†what I currently do with three. ¬†While I planned to lighten up my camera bag in other areas, this decision alone meant the weight of just my camera and lenses would be cut¬†in half!

sling7So, besides weight, what was I giving up or compromising? ¬†For starters, my ability with Canon compatible lenses to reach out to long distances like I had¬†with the Tamron SP 150-600 was gone. ¬†It’s not like this was a lens I carried often but it was a very nice piece of gear to have at times; it was also heavy. ¬†However, one lens I did keep in my bag that allowed me to reach out was the Canon 70-300mm DO and this I would feel in two ways. ¬†First, having this lens in my bag meant I could instantly reach out to 300mm, this was very handy! ¬†Second, and part of my recurring theme, was the weight. ¬†While compact in size, this lens weighs over 1.5 pounds by itself! ¬†I wrote about it in an earlier blog post, Diffractive What?, from September 19, 2016 and I will miss this lens… ¬†For the year and a half that I had Canon L Series lenses, I was blown away by the crispness and clarity of the images.

When the new camera arrived, I took lots of¬†shots and while it wasn’t a familiar Canon I figured I could get used to it. ¬†Feeling ok about my purchase I was on¬†to sell my Canon gear on eBay. ¬†Now I honestly felt like a traitor or as if¬†I was almost doing something wrong by selling my 6D. ¬†Seriously, Canon was easy and I¬†liked for the same reasons I liked my MacBook Pro in that it always did what it was supposed to do¬†with no hassles, it was always familiar too. ¬†Since my first Canon XSi, every upgrade was to another Canon so the learning curve wasn’t too bad. ¬†However, this time was different, I now felt like I was marching a parade with two left shoes on; I knew I’d make it, but not comfortably. ¬†I mean with a Canon, the focus system is very easy and you’ll be shooting decent pics out of the box. ¬†With my new camera, I felt like a photo failure for days just trying to navigate a menu system that could have been set up¬†a late night drunk with what HE thought was a great idea. ¬†Days of trying to navigate and find what I needed in unfamiliar places, and a figure out a focus system that made absolutely no sense whatsoever to me. ¬†So what did I buy? ¬†I settled on the

 

Hello Umpkinpay!

The Everyday Sling

Thanks to the great people at Purple Orange Brand Communications¬†for sending a¬†Peak Design Everyday Sling¬†my way before it hit the street!! ¬†Upfront, nobody has asked, or tried to influence me, to endorse this product. ¬†No promises were made and¬†I’m writing my personal opinions freely, plus I would never endorse a product I don’t use. ¬†That said, when originally asked if I’d be interested in one of the new Peak Design bags I actually said¬†“no”… ¬† Sometimes¬†I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer. ¬†I said this¬†because Peak Design’s¬†last bag, the Everyday Messenger¬†(also called the EDM), was working incredibly¬†well and I simply didn’t want¬†another bag. ¬†However, when the opportunity presented itself to¬†check out one of the new bags, I decided to give¬†the Everyday Sling a try. ¬†Why do this if I loved my current bag so much? ¬†Well, I do¬†love the¬†EDM¬†but having a smaller bag of the same style for just walking or biking near home with just the basics seemed worth trying. ¬†After carrying¬†the Sling everywhere for a week and a half, I’m completely comfortable writing my opinions here because the Sling¬†is remarkably similar to the EDM in just about every way. ¬†Before going on, if the Sling¬†wasn’t a comfortable carry, everything I could write below would be meaningless garbage. ¬†So yes, on top of the features and build quality, thd Sling is extremely comfortable and most times forgot it was with me whether walking or on my bike. ¬†If interested, please see an¬†earlier blog entries about my Peak Design Everyday Messenger experiences:

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Everyday Sling (L) and Everyday Messenger (R).

The Everyday Sling would arrive¬†in mid-September and I was thrilled someone thought enough of me¬†to offer this bag up. ¬†However, I didn’t think about it much, nor did I know the specifics regarding the Sling other than it was smaller than the EDM. ¬† Remember, I loved my current bag (and still do). ¬†What I did ponder¬†was this; what if the Sling didn’t live up to the hype? ¬†Would I be willing to¬†write a negative review about product I wanted to like from a company I truly LOVE?? ¬†I was comforted by the fact I didn’t¬†know of one Peak Design product that was bad, why would the Sling be any different? ¬†When the Sling did arrive, to my surprise it seemed as if the¬†beloved EDM¬†just had a little brother! ¬†The build quality along with¬†everything else I saw on the outside of the Sling immediately screamed Peak Design. ¬†It is literally like a mini-EDM¬†where they cut¬†out much of the extra storage¬†space and came up with a versatile Sling bag. ¬†I intended the Sling to¬†be¬†for traveling light, a body with a lens attached and maybe another lens or two in the bag. ¬†However, while the Sling is¬†smaller this is not to say the it¬†isn’t without its features. ¬†While there is no perfect bag, Peak Design’s EDM¬†was the first bag that I didn’t feel like I was just settling in some way. ¬†With the Sling, I again found what I need and feel!

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Dividers move where you need and fold down to store gear on top.

Since this bag for day use, there’s plenty of space in expandable large side pocket for anything else you may need. ¬†The Sling is similar to the EDM in this way, it expands and contracts as you insert and remove gear. ¬†In this case, the side pocket expands and not the entire bag as with the EDM. ¬†However, this bag differs in two ways from the EDM. ¬†First, it is entered through¬†a zippered closure on top instead of a flap style¬†lid, this alone ensures your gear will stay dry and I almost wish the EDM had this feature. ¬†Second, the¬†inserts used to make divided compartments go one step farther than those of the EDM. ¬†Whereas the fold-over tops of the EDM’s inserts create¬†a flat surface area on top to lay¬†items (above right), the Sling’s inserts have a split top

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The split top folding dividers make customizing the Sling very easy!

on the fold-over portion¬†allowing¬†you use them like the EDM’s, or as individual storage above each lens compartment by leaving one part folded down¬†and one up (left). ¬†The cool thing is that if you like the inserts of the EDM, these function exactly the same. ¬†If you need them to function differently in the future, it’s built in! ¬†These might seem like little things, but in a compact¬†bag¬†like the Sling,¬†these¬†small features add up and make the Sling stand out.

The similarities with the EDM are evident in other ways.  The water resistant materials, quality stitching, a clean design with no unwanted straps hanging, space for an iPad or similar device, covered zippers, and built in tripod stowage are all items I have now come to expect from Peak Design; and they delivered!

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The Sling (L) and EDM (R) are both able to use the Peak Design Capture to store your camera externally.

There is a pocket on the inside cover that provides easy access to items regularly needed. ¬†In fact, all pockets can be accessed without taking¬†the Sling off and any raising or lowering of the bag is mindlessly simple. ¬†You’ll never fumble for gear or dump stuff in the street (yes,¬†I’ve done that with a backpack). ¬†The shoulder strap is made to easily adjust when you want to get in the bag, so if you like carrying it high on your back it’s not a big deal. ¬†There is also a strap in the main compartment to attach your keys and even a reinforced area to hang a Peak Design Capture! ¬†Like I said, this is a compact and purposeful¬†bag so all these numerous¬†little features amount to¬†a big deal!

 

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Red dead battery stitching.

There’s more, just like the EDM, the battery compartment uses red stitching on the pockets to place your empty batteries so you don’t confuse them with those charged. ¬†So who wouldn’t like the Sling? ¬†Well, honestly, it’s not for everyone and if you carry a ton of gear¬†and expect this to be your primary bag, it’s not for you. ¬†Remember, it’s a Sling and not a backpack. ¬†While capable of carrying a lot of gear for its size, the EDM or one of the new Peak Design backpacks may¬†be a better fit if you carry a lot of gear. ¬†So who would like this new Sling? ¬†Well, even if I wasn’t out shooting photos, this would be a great day bag to just have because of its versitility and ease of carry. ¬†I’ve been carrying a Canon 6D with a lens attached and one other lens for the most part, sometimes throwing an extra lens in, and the Sling has been comfortable. ¬†This would be a great setup for a street photographer wanting a bag as a daily carry that is out of the way when working. ¬†Now if you have a mirrorless system and want to travel light, THIS IS YOUR BAG! ¬†People who use¬†mirrorless systems are usually trying to keep the load¬†light. ¬†If I had the cash for a Sony A7rii (Hello¬†Sony? If you’re feeling generous…) and some Sony glass to go along with it, this would be my bag 24/7! ¬†Before I had the EDM (and now a Sling), I was a backpack guy. ¬†This led to me carrying WAY too much gear, everywhere; backpacks have lots of room for lenses, filters, and everything else under the sun. ¬†Who carries a half empty backpack? ¬†Now that I’ve gone to messenger bags, I’ll never carry my camera gear in a backpack again; I carry what I need vice everything I own. ¬†My opinion regarding backpacks has changed drastically in the last year as I believe backpacks have their place in camping, hiking, etc.; I even understand why¬†many photographers need them. ¬†However, straight up camera bags or messenger bags just work better for me. ¬†Just my two Abe Lincoln’s worth…

sling7My love affair with Peak Design products began about 4+ years ago when I was tired of taking the wrist cuff off the¬†camera so I could put it¬†on a tripod. ¬†After a little searching online, I found a Peak Design product that made¬†exactly what I wanted except it allowed the camera to be mounted to a backpack or belt! ¬†Since then I’ve used much of their gear because it’s built to last and works as advertised. ¬†It is so refreshing to see a company like Peak Design who stand behind their products and haven’t forgotten where they came from! ¬†The Sling is no different and a prime example of Peak Design’s dedication to¬†making¬†quality photography products. ¬†They never stop amazing me with their ingenious products and I actually get excited when they advertise a new product release! ¬†Lastly, two final thoughts about¬†why I have loved Peak Designs products, this Sling fits in to both¬†categories. ¬†First, once you use their gear you’ll wonder why you didn’t check them out earlier. ¬†I wasn’t even wanting¬†another bag, now I’m hooked on the Sling. ¬†Second, all Peak Design products are built tough and whatever you buy, you won’t be replacing it anytime soon. ¬†So, if you’re on the fence about the Sling, don’t be as it’s¬†built to last, will safely carry your gear, and very comfortable to carry. ¬†Thank you Peak Design and Purple Orange for this great opportunity!

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Hello Umpkinpay!

Diffractive what?

Upfront, I’m not a pro photographer or even trying to make a living through photography; I’m just a retired guy who loves photography, nothing more.  Over a year ago I decided to make the leap to Canon’s L Series lenses, a move I still don’t regret.  I settled on the EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM because it was such a versatile lens and would be the work horse that I’d use most.  I also wanted a decent wide-angle and after some research settled on the EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM, it would replace the EF-S 10-22mm f/3.5-4.5 USM which is alsso a great lens!  In the bag at the time I had a Tamron 28-300mm F/3.5-6.3 Di VC lens which I loved.  I wanted something in the bag that could reach out to 300mm, if it was too big to carry it probably wouldn’t be with me when I went out.  I knew this dream lens would be expensive, but after doing some research I found that all the lenses in this genre were huge.  Like I said, if this didn’t fit in my bag I knew I wouldn’t use it much.  Then I read about the Canon EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 L DO IS USM (above).

The Meyer

The first thing to catch my eye was the green band instead the traditional red on Canon L Series lenses.  While not an L Series that I wanted, most reviews will tell you that it is close.  A selling point for me was that this lens was actually slightly smaller in length than the EF 24-105mm in my bag!  However, this lens is heavier than my others.  Again, my criteria wasn’t so much weight, but size in general.  As I read I heard the terms “Fresnel” and “diffractive optics” and had NO IDEA what I n the heck that even meant.  Fresnel lenses were used in lighthouses because they were compact yet able capture huge amounts of light to project, for their size.  Canon calls their version of the Fresnel technology Diffractive Optics, this allows this 300mm lens to be shorter than others of this kind.  This meant it would be in my bag when I unexpectedly saw the USS Meyer leaving San Diego (see The Meyer at left).  Had I not had a 300mm lens to reach out and touch this ship, this photo would have been San Diego skyline shot…

Duet

I’ve been happy with this lens to say the least.  I’ll be honest, I read some less than favorable reviews about this lens before I bought it, especially at Ken Rockwell’s website.  He’s a pro who knows his stuff, I always check his website for great reviews.  Mr. Rockwell reviewed this lens and had a few bad things to say, nothing that didn’t keep me from taking a chance (here’s a link to his review).  I agree with his opinions as well, there are better Canon lenses for less money, but again I wanted a lens I’d actually carry daily.  As my wife can attest, when I don’t use something I generally sell it.  This photo at right, Duet, was another instance where I was driving and saw these guys kite surfing and broke out thee trustee EF 70-300mm!  I do have a longer lens at home that reaches out to 600mm, but it’s nothing I’d carry everywhere I go.  On the other hand, if I had seen these kite surfers and was going home to get my gear, I’d have grabbed the 600mm in a heartbeat.  However, having my camera handy and the 70-300 in the bag meant I got the shot!

RMS Queen Mary

I own four lenses but three of them are with me whenever I go out.  The photo at left, RMS Queen Mary, like the others was taken when I couldn’t have shot this if not carrying a compact 70-300.  Below left (Chutes), this Canon lens does a good job capturing a jet powered truck going 340 mph!  And below right, San Diego Bay, was taken when I was shooting pics at 5k race and had no intention of shooting the bay until I saw this, threw on the 70-300 to get it, then went back to the 5k!  The common denominator here is that these shots were taken while out doing something else and having this lens handy meant being able to reach out 300mm.  This lens also means having room in my bag for other lenses or items.  If I carried one of the other longer lenses, I’d be leaving one of the others at home.  Sometimes taking a chance pays off.

Peak Design @ Kickstarter

Only 30+ hours to get a new Peak Design bag at https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/peak-design/the-everyday-backpack-tote-and-sling?ref=82lqjc

NEW Peak Design Bags!

If these new bags are as good as their Everyday Messenger Bag released last year, you might want to get one early through their Kickstarter Campaign.

Check out what I had to say about Peak Design in my blog at¬†Everyday Messenger: is the honeymoon over?¬† and¬†In the Bag. ¬†Honestly, I haven’t heard of many people not liking these bags. ¬†Don’t take my word for it, check out the reviews at Google¬†and you’ll see what I mean!

Peak

New Peak Design Bags are out!

CLICK TO SEE THE NEW BAGS AT KICKSTARTER!!

These bags are for non-photographers and photographers alike! ¬†If you’re interested, I’ve written two posts related to my Peak Design camera bag. ¬†The latest, posted¬†on May 30, 2016 was specifically about the Everyday Messenger entitled, Everyday Messenger: is the honeymoon over?¬† However,¬†first article called In the Bag, posted on April 25, 2016 was¬†not specifically about the bag, but¬†was related to what I keep in my Everyday Messenger. ¬†I also wrote about the Peak Design products I use everyday that make photography easier, see it at Peak Design.

I hope these posts will give you some insight in to these great products!

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Peak Design

BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): ¬†I don’t ever tell people they¬†NEED to get something, or want to convince someone to make purchases that may not be for them. ¬†However, I have been using Peak Design gear since 2012 and am still wow’d by their products! ¬†In fact, I can’t see myself walking out of the house to shoot without a piece of¬†Peak Design gear on me. ¬†They make durable gear that makes photography easier and once you use it you’ll wonder how you did without it. ¬†They have a selection of products for numerous photography platforms including most camera brands including GoPros.¬†¬†I’ve bought many pieces of gear from them but¬†I’d like to write about the ones that have mattered to me, that made photography better, and life a little easier. ¬†I use their Everyday Messenger Bag, a fairly major purchase for me, and I’ve already written about that a couple of weeks ago (Everyday Messenger, is the honeymoon over?). ¬†Surprisingly, it is sometimes the little things that work the best over the long haul. ¬†The image above is an example of those “little things” that make life easier. ¬†In the above left photo is an anchor which¬†connects to your camera, on the right is the capture plate which connects to the CapurePRO¬†or your tripod.

I use the anchors to connect to the Peak Design Cuff¬†(above left) & Sling¬†(above right). ¬†If I grab my camera from the bag, at a minimum, I’ve got the Cuff attached for protection against dropping. If I’m going to be out for a while and don’t want to change lenses, I’ll take the Slide which is a great camera strap. ¬†The Anchors allow me to attach these wherever I want! ¬†This allows the the Sling (camera strap) to sit comfortably in the manner YOU like. ¬†I personally like the lens to hang down and not out, because I’m a klutz. As mentioned in my review of the Everyday Messenger, I want bang for my buck and this comes in the form of how much I’ll use the item vs. how much space the item takes in my bag. ¬†The Anchors, Cuff, and Sling are used daily and take up minimal space.

The capture plate, on the bottom on the camera in the above left photo, allows your camera to connect to your tripod as well as Peak Design’s CapturePRO¬†(photo above right). ¬†The CapturePRO can connect to a belt via the ProPad, a backpack shoulder strap, or in my case the Everyday Messenger. ¬†It makes for a sturdy platform to carry your camera, again where YOU want it, and in a safe manner. ¬†That’s the important part, these products are versatile and allow you to set them up to your needs. ¬†The below photos show my camera attached on my tripod at right and my bag using Peak Design products.

These Peak Design products have literally made my photography life much easier. ¬†There is no thinking involved and I no longer have to plan how I’m going to carry my camera. I used to own straps, grips, and tripod plates that didn’t interconnect; for instance, the hand strap had to come off if I wanted to put the camera on a tripod. ¬†Everything works together! ¬†While I do carry other Peak Design items, these are the pieces of gear I use daily and I know how much they help me. Like I said in my BLUF,¬†I’m not one to tell people to make purchases but I’m hopeful that I’ve made the case for how these products have helped me.

 

Everyday Messenger, is the honeymoon over?

IMG_7837Last April I wrote about the daily contents of¬†my Peak Design Everyday Messenger bag, also called the EDM (See In the bag). ¬†This week I would like to write about the EDM bag itself; while there are many reviews of this bag online I would like to share my experiences. ¬†When I first saw the promo for the EDM I said to myself, “nice, but not for me.” ¬†Like other Peak Design products, crowd funding through Kickstarter was the means of getting the bag early. ¬†Although not wasn’t interested in the bag, I wanted to help¬†Peak Design because I’ve supported them in the past. ¬†They make quality photography gear and¬†I was still willing to put money behind a new product even if it wasn’t for me! ¬†After months of reading early reviews, seeing promos, and the opinions of others, I decided to get the bag. ¬†At $220, the EDM was¬†not a cheap venture considering I already had a perfectly fine camera bag. ¬†I finally decided to¬†keep my other bag and if the EDM didn’t work out, I’d sell it. ¬†If Peak Design’s EDM didn’t live up to the hype, there was¬†a fallback plan. ¬†Well, after seven months with my Peak Design EDM, I feel comfortable saying how this worked out.

First off, a little background, I’m an amateur photographer so my livelihood isn’t dependent upon selling photos. ¬†There are no clients, no deadlines, no business obligations, so photography¬†is the coolest hobby as someone who is retired! ¬†In 2010 I had back surgery and finding the right bag took years, literally. ¬†I bought so many bags online in search of the “the one” that between shipping and selling, I’ll admit loosing few bucks. ¬†After three years, I finally settled on a well known brand, a backpack, and it’s a GREAT bag. ¬†This backpack had enough room for all my stuff and seemed to fit well on my back. ¬†I had to carry this bag all day before it started hurting. ¬†Obviously, the Peak Design EDM was much smaller and concessions would be necessary to seriously attempt this transition. ¬†How much gear would need to be ditched? ¬†After the number of bags I’ve been though, how could any messenger bag compare? ¬†Needless to say, there were¬†¬†concerns.

Many people will tell you that there is no perfect camera bag, and I believe this to be true. ¬†However, this current backpack was as close as I had come to perfection. ¬†While waiting for the EDM,¬†I decided honestly look at my current bag situation and make changes before the EDM arrived. ¬†After reading a piece written by Ken Rockwell I knew changes were needed. I wrote in my previous blog, In the bag, in where Rockwell says, “trying to be prepared for everything makes you prepared for nothing” and when carrying¬†less gear “you‚Äôll be more relaxed and have better time, again leading to more fun and better pictures.” ¬†It clicked, so I went in to strip down mode 1.0 and ditched anything not used in recent memory and reevaluated EVERYTHING in the backpack. ¬†When my Peak Design EDM arrived, I was going to be ready.

Well it arrived and I still couldn’t fit my freakin’ gear in the EDM, before I had a knee jerk reaction and sold¬†gear, I decided to strip down to essentials only. ¬†Which lenses did I use daily? ¬†I hadn’t used a flash in over a year, did it need to be in my daily carry? ¬†Which gear of this¬†already stripped down load could I not leave the house without. ¬†Ok, strip down mode 2.0 coming up… ¬†In the end, after spending months setting up the EDM, it was 100% totally worth it! ¬†I now carry a lighter bag with actually need gear versus everything on the planet “just in case.” ¬†The bag can be configured inside to suit your needs and provides decent protection. ¬†Will it protect it like my backpack would? ¬†No, however, in my daily needs that backpack was overkill. ¬†I now carry my camera much more often with the EDM than before in that huge backpack full of goodies!¬† I have no problem with the EDM while traveling, it fits under the front seat on an airplane, and is generally out of the way when not needed.

So who would likely benefit from the Peak Design EDM? ¬†If you shoot¬†mostly from home, it’s perfect. ¬† If you like to carry a bunch of lenses and accessories, it’s probably not for you. ¬†It’s also probably not for you if you’re a hiker doing overnighters in tents where a backpack is a necessity. ¬†My personal experience is that the Peak Design Everyday Messenger forced me to downsize my gear, which was needed! ¬†I now carry essential items only and¬†am¬†shooting more because the EDM is with me daily¬†and¬†less time is spent rummaging through a backpack for something. ¬†As for that back surgery, the EDM isn’t quite as comfortable as the backpack but the trade off is that it’s much lighter. ¬†I’ve had no major issues carry it as I did with some backpacks. ¬†So last week I sold $1300 worth of lenses and accessories, plus the backpack in my “fallback plan” has a new home. ¬†Overall, the transition to the Peak Design Everyday Messenger has been positive. ¬†I discovered much about what I truly needed versus what was nice to have, and I’m happier while out shooting. Yes, there is NO perfect camera bag and no “one size fits all.” ¬†I would never tell anyone they needed to run out and buy this EDM now. ¬†However, I will say it worked for me and I’m very happy with it as I am with all my Peak Design products.

In the bag

IMG_7837Admittedly, I used to carry too much gear, way too much. There were so many extras for ‘just in case’ moments that my bag weighed a ton. To be honest, most of it went unused and was just along for the ride. However, since switching to¬†the Peak Design Everyday Messenger Bag, I’ve slimmed down on gear, that was a good thing. I went from carrying a backpack with everything in the world to just essential items; again, a good thing. This¬†led me back to an article¬†I read by Ken Rockwell a couple of years ago where he stated, “trying to be prepared for everything makes you prepared for nothing.” That makes total sense now, Rockwell continued, “carry less and you’ll be more relaxed and have better time, again leading to more fun and better pictures.” (1) ¬†Not only is this great advice but it really works! I have my bag, with just¬†this stuff now, I’m no long digging through a camera bag looking for stuff¬†but actually shooting more. ¬†GAS, or Gear Acquisition Syndrome, is a very bad thing (see an article to fight GAS) (2). ¬†So here is essentially what has been in my bag for a while now.

IMG_3188

Starting on on the outside, attached is the¬†Peak Design Capture Pro¬†(above) to carry a camera on the front of the bag, something that comes in very handy. Attached to the key connector behind the Capture Pro tucked away in a pocket is a Nano Light¬†for emergencies. On the reverse side is¬†an REI Square Luggage Tag¬†that semi-blocks out personal¬†info (left) at the casual glance. If the bag were lost, the finder would simply¬†unscrew the cable and pull out the name card for the contact info, it’s not difficult. That’s it for the outside, pretty simple. Once the bag is opened, there are a couple of Ziplit lights attached to the zippers and these things rock! These little lights take up no space, probably weigh less than a penny, but will adequately light the inside of a camera bag. (below) ¬†I hardly ever use them but they have come in handy. Again, bang for the buck, they’re cheap, weigh nothing, can be hung just about anywhere, and take up no space when not in use.

IMG_3192 IMG_3191

Inside the bag’s main compartment is a¬†Canon EOS 6d with the¬†EF 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM¬†attached most¬†of the time. There is also¬†the¬†EF 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 L DO IS USM¬†and¬†EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS USM¬†in the lens partitions and a¬†EF 40mm f/2.8 STM¬†laying in the bottom of the bag for when I don’t want to be out¬†with a big lens. ¬†That’s pretty much it, the rest of the bag contains items¬†that are worth the space/weight vs functionality they bring:

-Extra batteries and memory cards: Lets face it, without these you’re done! Keep multiple backups, I once read somewhere that US Navy SEALS preach, “two is one, one is none” and that makes a whole lot of sense. Having no batteries or cards is the same as forgetting your¬†lenses; whatever you were doing today, it’s not taking pics.

Nikon Lensmen: Takes little space and is great for a quick lens touch up.

Giottos Rocket-Air: Great for blowing off your sensor between lens changes.

Petzel head lamp: Great for going to new places in the dark.

Peak Design Cuff: Like my 24-105mm lens, this is on the camera most of the time because if attaches so easily and provides safety from dropping a camera. Unless the camera in on a tripod, the cuff is attached.

Gerber Dime & Jewelers screwdrivers: Mostly everything needed to make minor repairs on the fly.

Tilley hat: Easily folds up and stored in the laptop compartment. Ideal for shade and rain!

Disposable rain poncho: Nothing worse than being wet, well being wet and cold is worse.

Glow sticks: Instant light if everything else goes wrong. ¬†Living in Europe taught me that you can’t take technology for granted. One glow stick gives me hours of light.

-Business cards: I’m always handing these out when someone approaches me.

-Headphones

-Battery Charger

-Ear plugs

-Band aids, Sun block, SPF Lip balm

-Camera body cap

 

This looks like a lot of items but it’s really not, mainly¬†small stuff. These items have¬†come in very handy and like I said earlier, when ditching¬†the old backpack I needed to look at what was actually used/needed vice what was ‘nice to have’ in the bag. I would never tell anyone¬†“this is what you need” but have to say that much of this list comes¬†from other lists I’ve found online. Going back to Ken Rockwell’s advice to¬†carry less and having a¬†better time shooting, well it has lead to more fun and better pictures for me.

  1. Ken Rockwell, How to Make Great Photographs, 2016, http://www.kenrockwell.com/tech/howto.htm  (accessed April 6, 2016).
  2. Eric Kim, 10 Practical Tips for Fighting G.A.S., Nov 25, 2015, http://petapixel.com/2015/11/25/10-practical-tips-for-fighting-g-a-s-gear-acquisition-syndrome/  (accessed April 20, 2016).

Canon Pancake Lens

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In my opinion, when it comes to lenses, there’s practically¬†no better bang for the buck¬†than Canon’s¬†¬†EF 40mm f/2.8 STM, better known as the “pancake” lens. ¬†Are there better lenses? ¬†Sure, so what’s so good about this one? ¬†Well, for roughly $149 or less you’ll get a quality lens that is extremely small for when you don’t want to lug around the big lens or want to be discreet and blend in. ¬†Sure, it’s not a zoom lens but you can go manual zoom and use your two feet for that. If you’re a¬†photography newbie, or on a budget, this is a bargain! ¬†Even though I own better lenses, my pancake lens takes up so little space that it’s always tucked away in my bag as another tool in the toolbox. ¬†It’s perfect for shooting on the street or in tight spaces, I’ve even shot sunrises to see if it could handle it! ¬†The above image is from the Canon website where you can also see the technical specs of this lens. ¬†All of the below photos were taken with the Canon EF 40mm f/2.8 STM pancake lens.

Cappuccino?

I always¬†mention¬†that¬†I lived in Italy for many years, the reality is that it’s a big part of me and I miss it. ¬†At the time, there was so much to photograph around me that I almost forgot how lucky I was to just be there. ¬†While the food lived up to its reputation and the people were amazing, the other experience¬†I loved from day one was the coffee! ¬†This photo, Cappuccino?, is the the norm for Italy. Coffee isn’t some fad, novelty, or trend; it’s always been a part of daily life in Italy and taken seriously. ¬†Italian bars, very different from American bars, are where Italians meet on the way to and from work, where they socialize, conduct business; you name it and it¬†happens¬†in the bar. ¬†Italians serve real coffee, not the S*******s cup of ‘God knows what’s in it’ stuff we get in ‘Merica. ¬†There aren’t a bunch of flavors either, just a simple cafe of a few varieties depending on how strong your want it or if¬†you’d like it with milk; then there’s the ever popular cappuccino. Made of simply coffee, milk, sugar, and a little coco on top, the cappuccino isn’t¬†complicated and appears pretty much the same all over Italy! ¬†I love the USA, but if any county can complicate something and distort it so far from it’s origins, it’s us. ¬†Man, I miss that Italian simplicity… ¬†This black and white photo, Cappuccino?, was shot with a Canon 7D, at¬†f/2.8, 1/1600 sec, ISO 100. ¬†Can you tell I miss Italy yet?

Special RatesSometimes, as a traveler, I try to find things that are routine to the locals and often overlooked by those of us visiting. ¬†Recently, a photographer mentor¬†of mine gave me the most incredible advice, he said I should constantly ask myself, “what am I not seeing here?” (thanks EM). ¬†It sounds simple in concept, but if I actually¬†ask¬†this question to myself I begin¬†spotting things and shoot¬†subjects I would have previously overlooked. ¬†I doubt this old room and board sign hanging on a motel wall in Balmorhea, Texas draws¬†much attention to the folks who live there but it did make for a nice photo and memory for me. ¬†I was putting our luggage back in the car and spotted this sign. ¬†I call this photo Special Rates, it¬†was shot with a Canon 6D, at¬†f/4.5, 1/250 sec, and ISO 100. ¬†The sun had been up for about an hour and was casting some nice shadows. ¬†This little pancake lens did a pretty good job grabbing the details in the wood too.

The AmaliThis pretty red flower was sitting next to a parking lot in Vietri sul mare, Italy on the Amalfi Coast. ¬†I wanted to see if the colors of the flower became washed out¬†but the pancake seems to have done just fine. ¬†This photo, The Amalfi, was taken with a Canon 7D, at f/11, 1/80 sec, and ISO 100. ¬†There is so much beauty in Italy at every turn of the road that it’s mind boggling. This little pancake lens was very handy when out walking about and really not on a mission to photograph anything in particular. ¬†However, once when I was out shooting a Neapolitan sunrise and I thought I’d test my pancake. ¬†The photo at the bottom, Red Skies, was shot with a Canon Rebel T3i, at f/9, 30.0 sec, and ISO 100. The pancake¬†lens performed¬†well, even on a 30 second exposure!

Brand spankin’ new this lens sells for $149 and I don’t know of a better lens for that price. Sure, it has limitations like any lens and as I mentioned earlier it is not a zoom and it probably¬†wouldn’t fair well for macro work, shooting sports, or action shots. ¬†However, for most other situations this lens does a capable job and much better than some other lenses I’ve owned. ¬†Lastly, I would offer this, if you’re considering shelling out the bucks for a 50mm prime lens, consider this first to see if shooting without a zoom lens suits you. ¬†At $149 you can’t go wrong and might even find this lens a lot of fun as I have!

Red Skies