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MindShift Gear rotation180° Horizon 34L – long term reivew

Colin
October 13, 2017

The MindShift Gear rotation180° Horizon 34L camera pack has been in rotation among my stable of packs for 8-months now and it has seen use everywhere from the mountain bike trails of Nerang to the Main Range Backcountry near Thredbo.

Through that period of time, the fast camera access has been a boon, while at other times the whole rotation system complicates actually getting to your gear.

You spin me right round baby right round

First and foremost the rotation system is without a doubt one of the fastest and most secure ways to carry your gear. The only other option might be a touch faster is Peak Design’s Capture Pro, but for me personally having a body and lens flapping around on my chest as I descend single track on a MTB shoot, or skiing chasing athletes is unnerving.

The rotation system, on the other hand, offers some piece of mind that your gear is zipped safely into a padded insert on your back. The camera insert doesn’t hold a whole lot of gear, with only enough room for a Canon 5DMKiii with a lens attached, a spare short zoom or prime and maybe a small card or filter wallet if you’re particularly skilled at Tetris.

The whole idea of the rotation system is to allow you to access your gear without putting your bag on the ground, and I found this particularly useful location scouting and when shooting from the bike.

Particularly for location scouting, it allows you to roll up to a potential location and have a look around, take a few test photos with different lenses, zip everything up and head to your next spot much faster than with a standard rear entry bag. The other big advantage to the rotation system is if it’s wet or muddy, you don’t need to put your bag down to get to your gear.

However, when you do put your bag down, the rotation system becomes problematic. For example, if you’re using a tripod, you have to take the tripod off the bag, and finagle the insert completely out of the bag to get to your camera.

The insert itself is completely separate to the pack and beyond a small last resort tether, can be used as a hip pack. I’ve also used it travelling as a small carry on bag.

However, because the waist belt and camera insert are not actually connected to the rest of the bag if you are carrying a decent amount of weight no matter how tight you hip belt, your shoulders still end up carrying a good portion of the load. I do wish the shoulder straps were a bit thicker to better distribute the weight.

What about the rest of the bag?

The top of the bag is cavernous, with plenty of room for spare layers, tools, a bivy and whatever else you may need on an adventure. There is a small mesh pocket, which I would use to keep track of smaller items like food, a small first aid kit and power banks.

Should you want to to take a telephoto zoom lens or other gear that won’t fit in the waist belt, the top compartment is perfectly sized to fit one of MindShift’s Panorama insert. I don’t actually have one of these, but the removable insert from my Thule Perspektiv Daypack which is roughly the same size fits like a glove. 

The top pocket is perfect for things like your phone, GPS/Beacon, and has a key keeper too. I do wish there was a mesh pocket similar to the one in the main compartment in the lid so that things aren’t free to roam around inside the pocket.

On the front of the pack, there is a large pocket which is great for storing things like rain layers and there is a sturdy nylon daisy chain on the front of the bag for attaching other accessories.

The bag has compression straps on either side and a clever system for attaching a tripod. At the top, there is a quick release strap and a small cup that supports the legs to that it’s not swinging all over the place as you walk. Even better when not in use there are small velcro pockets that hide each component so they don’t catch on things.

Tripods can also be mounted to the side of the bag using the water bottle pocket to wrangle the legs.

Speaking of water, there are provisions to carry a bottle, something large like a Nalgene or Yeti Rambler 36oz, but there is also a pocket for a 3L hydration bladder complete with a velcro to hang the bladder as well as routing for the hose.

Final thoughts

This bag fell into an interesting space in my arsenal and was really useful on projects where I didn’t need to tote a whole lot of gear along with me. When I needed to haul a lot of gear I would still rely on something like my F-Stop Tilopa BC, but for travelling light, the Horizon suited me well.

Every time I went location scouting this was my go-to bag, and even a few commercial assignments for cycling brands where I could get away with only taking short lenses it was perfect.

Same with when I would go out to shoot personal stuff or wanted to have my camera handy on a day hike. Even with the ability to stow more gear in the top using a separate insert, it’s not a feature I really used as I felt like it complicated things.

Over the past eight months, I have abused this bag, dragging it through bushes, rain and snow and it’s even seen a few plane trips too and so far, it’s showing no signs of wear.

This pack offers ample room for gear, even on a professional level depending on the job. If you’re shooting on something from Canon’s 1D series, or need big glass this isn’t the bag for you, but for those shooting on smaller gear, and mirrorless systems I think Mindshift have hit a home run with this bag.

Priced at US$260, it’s one of the best ways I’ve found to always have quick access to your gear, but also have it well protected no matter what adventure you’re on!

Where to Buy

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Mail Drop: Miggo Agua Torso Pack 65 and Splat

Colin
June 8, 2017

I have a bad habit of taking way more gear than I need when I go out on a shoot. I am very much of the mindset, ‘I’d hate to need it and not have it,’ but as I’ve learned when I’m trying to ride of a steep climb with a 40lb camera pack, and my models are waiting at the top, all that gear I brought and didn’t use is nothing more then a pain in my neck.

First Look: Mindshift rotation180 Horizon 34L

So when Miggo contacted me and asked if I wanted to test out its new Agua Torso Pack 65 I was intrigued at the opportunity. This messenger style pack has enough room for a pro body, spare lens and a Speedlight, built in holsters for a lens cap, spare card, and a little-hidden compartment at the back perfect for a notebook or tablet.

Highlights

Agua Torso Pack 65

What really caught my attention about this pack, as well as all of the bags from Miggo, is they are IPX3 waterproof/dustproof rated and the exterior of the bag is made from, Tarpaulin, a robust waterproof fabric. The inside is made from a mix of neoprene which adds a bit of padding, and of course a soft velcro to interface with your stock standard dividers.

The well padded shoulder strap is thermowelded to heavy duty webbing and sees a stabilising strap that goes across your body, to not only prevent the bag from swinging around but also bouncing. The strap can also be removed from the bag and used as a camera strap should it suit your fancy.

The bag can be worn on your back or chest, however on the bike with the bag on your front, your knees hit it on every pedal stroke. That said for something more upright like hiking or backpacking there is no such issue.

On the inside of the bag, Miggo has also included a pretty clever tether system to prevent accidental drops. Given the way the bag is worn, it’s not likely you’d be using your camera strap around your neck and between fumbling with zippers trying to get your gear out quick to capture some action, I can foresee myself as a bit of a butter fingers, dropping my camera without it. I’ve been using Peak Design straps for some time now and have their anchors on all of my gear, and with the Miggo tether attached to the Anchor link, the setup is long enough that I can raise the camera to my eye with it still attached. It can also be unclipped should you need to pull the camera further away.

Also included with the bag is a “utility pouch.” The 6.5 x 4.5in zippered pouch has internal pockets for spare batteries, cards and cords. This is something I foresee being extremely useful as I can’t tell you how many times I’ve torn camera bags apart looking for a cable or spare battery.

I should also mention that this bag in particular is a special edition camo version, and as many of you know, I LOVE camo.

The Splat

For anyone that has ever been out on a shoot with me they know I LOVE gorilla pods. They allow you to get a Speedlight up into a precarious position that wouldn’t otherwise be possible with a light stand. Better, they’re lightweight and compact so they don’t offset the balance of your pack too much. The trouble is they loose some of their rigidity over time, and with the centre of gravity on a Speedlight being so far away from the mount, gorilla pods sometimes struggle to hold them sturdy.

Miggo’s Splat on the other hand, is a simple gorilla pod, that’s made from stainless steel coated in silicon rubber. The genius behind this is the stainless steel is surprisingly rigid and the silicon is sticky so it can be ‘stuck’ on just about any surface. There is also a hole in one of the feet so that it can be hung from a nail or similar.

It’s officially rated to hold 3lbs / 1500g and only weights 5oz / 138g, and can comfortably support a Canon 5D Mkiii with a short zoom lens attached.

It takes a fair bit of force to bend the legs which measure 16cm from the mounting bolt, and they don’t really want to twist. I’m interested to see how it will fare out in the field

Where to buy

 

 

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Lens Coat Review

Colin
May 31, 2017

It’s no secret that camera gear is not light on your wallet, and for me personally, it gets knocked around a fair bit. Whether it be rain, sleet, snow, hail, dents, scratches, drops and everything else, it’s all part of being an outdoor photographer. Unfortunately, when your camera gear swings around your shoulder and bangs into something it sends your heart into your throat and might empty your bank account.

With this in mind, any little bit of extra protection you can get, without sacrificing functionality is important. Enter the Lens Coat Lens cover.

Basically, the Lens Coat Cover is a closed cell neoprene tube cut specifically to the shape and size of your lens. They’re available for pretty much any lens you can come up with, including rare finds like the Canon EF 1200, and come in a wide variety of colours.

I’ve got one of these sets for my Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM Lens, and considering the price of this lens, it was a no-brainer for me.

Not only does the neoprene cover help to protect the lens from cosmetic damage, it offers a small degree of impact protection too. No, it’s not going to save your lens from a fall off your desk, but when your camera inevitable swings around your body as you lean over it will soften the blow.

Because Neoprene isn’t a great temperature conductor it makes your setup easier to handle in weather extremes. Canon’s L series telephoto lenses are largely constructed of metal, and it’s not uncommon for them to be almost too hot or too cold to touch depending on where you’re shooting. On more than one occasion the metal parts on my Canon 100-400 have been uncomfortably hot or cold to touch with a bare hand, but the Lens Coat provides some insulation from that punishment.

Because any lens on the outside is a series of rings, the cover itself is cut into pieces sized perfectly for the sections on your lens. To make the neoprene into a tube, flat pieces are  stitched together and given how tight they fit on the lens it’s a wonder I haven’t blown a seam yet. The upside to this tight fit is that they’re not going to be slipping and sliding around on the lens as you’re using the zoom or focus rings. As to not cover up the autofocus and IS switching there is a PVC window that lines up perfectly with the panel and allows them to be moved without moving the cover out of the way.

A small oversight is the lack of a cutout on the lens hood section for this particular lens. The ET-83D lens hood that comes with the 100-400ii has a sliding door so that you can easily rotate polarising filters, but the lens coat covers this section up. While it does cause a minor annoyance,  I’m not sure how lens coat would solve this as to put a cutout here would definitely hurt the structural integrity of the cover. To get around this I just roll the neoprene up a little bit.

Given that Neoprene is made from rubber, the Lens Coat also offers a bit of water protection too. You’re still going to want a proper rain cover if the weather really turns sour given there are gaps in the cover and you’re still going to waterlog your lens, but in light snow or rain, it will keep most of the moisture off your lens.

The other small issue I’ve had with the Lens Coat is it adds a bit of bulk to your lens, and if you store lens hoods upsidedown on the lens it doesn’t prevent the lens from retracting fully, which means it takes up a bit more room in your bag. You can force it, but it put a but too much pressure on the hood mount for my liking.

They also are not cheap, priced at US$80, but in my opinion, it’s a small price to pay for a bit of added protection for on a $2000+ lens. Overall they are not an accessory I would buy for every lens I own, but for some of the larger ones, I think they are a smart purchase.

Where to buy:

LensCoat lc1004002m4 Lens Cover for Canon 100-400 IS II (Real Tree Max4)

 

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First Look: Mindshift rotation180 Horizon 34L

Colin
March 8, 2017

Camera backpacks can be a pain, there are no ifs, ands or buts about it. They’re bulky, they don’t always fit very well, hence why photo megastar Chris Burkhard avoided using them (skip to 1:40 for the explanation) until Mountain Smith designed him one. Most of all, if your gear is in your bag, getting to it quickly is a problem. Bag brands are continually trying to find new ways for photographers to carry, and more importantly, access their gear, and there have been some innovations beyond the simple camera strap, like the Peak Design Capture Pro. But, for the most part quickly getting to your gear ain’t easy.

For quite some time, in my opinion, rear access packs have been the best option for my style of photography. Usually, they are big, sturdy and the packs themselves are designed around being outdoors and carrying lots of gear comfortably with load lifters, internal frames, hip straps, daisy chains and the like. The trouble is, you still have to take the bag off and set it down to access your camera. Worse, this means putting your bag down in potentially wet and/or muddy locations.

Mindshift is the outdoor division of camera bag brand Think Tank Photo, and they have created and interesting solution with their rotation180 range of bags. As the name suggests, the rotation180 series sees the camera insert attached to the hip belt which rotates around your waist, making your camera gear accessible quickly and without having to take your pack off.

Highlights

Mindshift-rotation180

Spin to win

Mindshift-rotation180

The rotation feature is completely unique to Mindshift’s bags and accessing your gear is as simple as unclipping a magnetic latch, pulling on the hip strap, opening the camera insert and shooting – it takes all of 15-seconds to do. The insert itself isn’t big, it only really fits a Canon 5DMKiii or similar with a lens attached and a spare short zoom lens or prime.

There is also a padded pocket for a small tablet as well as a velcro mesh pocket in the lid, perfect for spare batteries and cards.

Mindshift-rotation180

Mindshift-rotation180

The insert itself is burly with hard sides and you can remove it from the bag for use without the pack.

To prevent the insert from sliding out of the pack, there is a flap and the patented magnetic clasp affectionately called the Fidlock. The flap has a hard plastic rib which once unclasped opens on its own, and as a fail-safe, the insert also tethered to bag with a length of webbing.

Lugging the load

Mindshift-rotation180

While a lot of bags have interchangeable camera inserts, most take up the majority of the bag, however, with the Mindshift rotation180 Horizon you still have plenty of room for extra layers, water, food and other essentials. At the top of the pack, there is quite a large space to keep gear, as well as a laptop sleeve.

As I mentioned before the camera insert isn’t huge, and if you plan to take more than a body with a lens and a spare short lens, or need to bring a telephoto like the Canon 70-200 2.8 or Canon 100-400 MKii,  Mindshift’s Panorama insert is designed to fit perfectly in the top compartment. Unfortunately, I don’t have one of these but the insert from a Thule Perspektiv Daypack is roughly the same size and illustrates the point. 

Mindshift-rotation180

Mindshift-rotation180

On the front of the bag there is a decent sized pocket great for rain layers or other items you may not want to intermingle with the rest of your gear, as well as a top zippered pocket that is ideal for snacks, and smaller items.

The bag also sees a dedicated hydration bladder pocket on the side, which Mindshift says is designed around 3L reservoirs and is complete with a port for tubing. If you prefer to use water bottles over bladders there is also a bottle sleeve that comfortable fits a Nalgene.

If you plan to tote a tripod with you on your adventure, the bag features a clever suspension system that sees the tripod mounted on the back of the bag.

The pack also sees an internal frame, load lifters on the shoulder straps and sturdy webbing all around.

I’m looking forward to putting this bag through its paces over the next couple of months, be sure to check back for a full review once I’ve had the chance to get a bit of mud on it.

Where to buy

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How I Got the Shot: Crash Bang Boom Lightning Strom

Colin
January 23, 2017

Lightning is a frustrating beast, mostly because capturing a decent photo almost complete luck. Not only do you need to have the shutter open at the right time, but also have the camera pointed in the right direction. On top of that, if your including any foreground features you have to hope that the lighting will work with your composition.

Further, quite often when there is lightning it’s raining and a wet camera is no good to anyone. Also, getting struck by lighting would be a pretty terrible way to end a shoot.

How I got the shot

20161203-6p6a2735-untitled-edit

In the past couple of weeks, we’ve had some pretty fantastic storms here on the Gold Coast. For this shot, I was actually able to set up a camp chair on my balcony and sit with my camera completely protected from the storm, and it was pouring let me tell you.

There were actually two storms and as it always seems to go, when I would set up facing one, the other would offer a wild electrical display, and when I would move it would swap.

So, the planets and stars aligned and I managed to catch the perfect bolt. Here’s the details

Gear:

You may be wondering why I’m using wireless flash triggers for a shot that clearly does not use any off camera lights, nor artificial lights for that matter. A while back I worked out how to hack my Phottix Odin Triggers to serve as a shutter release. It’s proved to be super reliable and a great way to eliminate camera shake on long exposures, without having to actually purchase a shutter release.

Exposure:

20161203-6p6a2735-untitled-edit-3

Post Processing:

20161203-6p6a2735-markupt

I’m not one to over engineer or manipulate photos, and the overall edit for this was pretty simple. As with every image, the first think I did was a few basic contrast corrections.

There is a bit of junk at the bottom of the frame, that I had planned to remove. I wanted the lower cloud shelf to create a ‘floor’ for the image, so rather than taking the time to remove all of that I just darkened the whole bottom of the frame with the graduated filter. Not only does it draw your eye up, it gets rid of all the distractions and cleans up the image.

After that, I used the radial filter to darken the corners a bit to emphasize the brightness and contrast of the lightning bolts.

Back to the cloud floor, there is some fantastic texture in the clouds, so with the adjustment brush, I painted in a bit of Dehaze to bring out some of the detail.

Update:

Another fantastic lighting storm came through, and I snagged another banger. This time is was mostly heat lightning, with only a few bolts striking the ground.

Heat lightning definitely makes the process easier because the clouds are always alight. Check out the result!

20161221-6P6A3554-untitled-Edit

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12 Gift Ideas for Photographers

Colin
November 23, 2016

With the US celebrating Thanksgiving on Thursday, it’s finally ok to start talking about the holidays! Photographers are a hard bunch to buy for because we lust after gear that costs thousands of dollars. What’s worse is there’s so much photography speak involving dynamic range, bokeh, F-stops, chromatic aberration, and it all sounds like gibberish to the uninitiated.

To help you cut through all the BS I’ve put together a short guide of gift ideas for photographers that are sure to make the shooter in you life smile (hint, hint, nudge nudge). All of these products are either things that I use regularly, or are on my personal wishlist.

Fstoppers Flash Disc (FS FlashDisc) Portable Speedlight Softbox

fstoppers-flash-disc

FStoppers Flash Disc

Portable light modifiers that don’t suck are few and far between. Because of their size quite often modifiers that will fit it your backpack just are not big enough to defuse the light from a flash very well, but an exception to that rule are the FStoppers Flash Discs. I have two and never leave my bag because they’re lightweight, pack down to just about nothing and work surprisingly well. They have their limitations but can be put onto any Speedlight and are extremely portable.

Click here to buy the Fstoppers Flash Disc from Amazon

Vortex Media Pro Storm Jacket Rain Cover

Vortex-Media-Pro-Storm-Jacket-Rain-Cover

Vortex Media Pro Storm Jacket Rain Cover

Like with flash modifiers, rain covers for cameras are extremely bulky. You could argue they should always be with you, but sometimes there just is not enough room in your bag for something that packs down to nearly the size of a telephoto lens. The solution are the Vortex Media Pro Storm Jacket Rain Covers! Made from rip-stop nylon it’s essentially a tube your camera and lens goes inside that you cinch down on either side. Weighing all of 70g, they come in a variety of sizes and colors, I have two a medium and XL and that covers all of my lenses. They’re not the ideal solution when it’s raining cats and dogs, but for inclement weather you’ll be glad you have them

Click here to buy the Vortex Media Pro Storm Jacket Rain Cover from Amazon

Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket

Think-Tank-Pixel-Pocket-Rocket

Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket

Keeping memory cards organized is a royal pain in the ass, and they have the uncanny ability to find every hard to reach nook and cranny inside your bag. Thanks to Think Tank, I no longer have this issue with the Pixel Pocket Rocket. It can hold up to 10 cards (SD and CF) and the outside is made with DWR treated ripstop nylon, so even if you get caught in a rain storm your media stands a chance of staying dry. What’s better is it comes in bright color combos that you can easily spot in even the messiest camera bag. There’s also a strap which can be clipped to your belt or the inside of your camera bag for a bit of added peace of mind.

If you  to buy the Think Tank Pixel Pocket Rocket, and you spend $50 or more you’ll receive free shipping and a free gift courtesy of Think Tank

 If you click through to Think Tank with as THIS LINK, you’ll get to choose a free gift at checkout when you spend more than $50

Click here to buy the Mindshift Rotation 180 Professional Backpack Waist Pack Combo from Think Tank

Peak Design Black Slide Camera Strap SL-2

Peak-Design-Black-Slide-Camera-Strap-SL-2

Peak Design Black Slide Camera Strap SL-2

This is my favorite camera strap! It’s made from soft webbing about the width of a seat belt and is length adjustable depending on how you prefer to carry your camera. What sets Peak Designs straps apart are the Dyneema-corded Anchors which interface with all of Peak Designs straps and are claimed to hold well over 90kg (200lbs). I have these anchors mounted to literally everything and what I love about this system is the strap can be moved depending on what you’re carrying. So if I’m using a short lens like the Sigma 35mm ART I can have the strap mounted on the body anchors, but if I’m using something longer and heavier like my Canon 100-400, I can attach one end of the strap to the tripod shoe, which not only takes some stress off the lens mount but also lets the camera hand in a more comfortable position.

Want to take 10% off any Peak Design Product? Click here and use my coupon code ‘clevphoto’ to take 10% off in the Pead Desing store.

ZEISS Portable Tube Lens Cleaning Kit
ZEISS-Portable-Tube-Lens-Cleaning-Kit

ZEISS Portable Tube Lens Cleaning Kit

Nothing can ruin an awesome shot faster than a dirty lens, and when your out in the field the front element is like a magnet for dust dirt and other debris. I keep one of these Zeiss tubes in my bag at all times, and it’s saved me more than once. It comes with Zeiss lens cleaning solution, a microfiber cloth as well as a few lens ‘wet wipes.’ What’s better it comes in a tube that not only keeps everything together but also protects your cleaning gear from dust.

Click here to buy the ZEISS Portable Tube Lens Cleaning Kit from Amazon

LensCoat Lens Cover for Canon 100-400 IS II (Real Tree Max4)

LensCoat-Canon-100-400-IS-II

LensCoat Lens Cover for Canon 100-400 IS II (Real Tree Max4)

If you know me, you know I love camo. I can’t explain it (maybe it’s because I’m a little bit red neck), but I just do. So Lens Coat’s neoprene lens covers were a no brainer for my telephoto lenses. Not only does it look cool, it provides a bit of added protection for your $2000+ lens. The neoprene covers offer a bit of impact protection, and also insulate the lens from extreme temps and a bit of moisture and dust.

They come in a variety of colors other than camo, and just about every lens on the market. Even more, if they don’t make a cover for your lens, they’ll make you a custom cover!

Click here to buy the LensCoat Lens Cover for Canon 100-400 IS II (Real Tree Max4) from Amazon

Peak Design CapturePRO Camera Clip

Peak-Design-CapturePRO-Camera-Clip

Peak Design CapturePRO Camera Clip

Like the Peak Design camera straps, I always have the CapturePro on my backpack strap. It allows you to rigidly carry any camera on any backpack strap, belt or bag. The all-aluminum, construction is bombproof, compatible with multiple tripod types and can be used as a tripod head itself. It’s claimed to hold 90kg (200lbs) and attaches directly to the 3/8in tripod plate on your camera or lens.

Want to take 10% off any Peak Design product? Click here and use my coupon code ‘clevphoto’ to take 10% off in the Pead Desing store.

Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader

Lexar-Professional-USB-3.0-Dual-Slot-Reader

Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader

Some card readers make you want to bang you head on our desk. They have 70 different ports for cards that haven’t been used in 20 years, but won’t transfer more 20 photos from an SD card without dropping out. Lexar’s Pro USB reader has a slot for a CF and SD card, utilizes and fast USB 3.0 connection, and its pop-up design keeps dust out of the slots (my favorite part).

Click here to buy the Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader from Amazon

Mindshift Rotation 180 Professional Backpack Waistpack Combo

Mindshift-Rotation-180

Mindshift Rotation 180 Professional Backpack Waistpack Combo

Having quick access to your spare lens and other gear is paramount and Mind Shift (Think Tank’s adventure and outdoor company) has come up with a unique solution. Rather than the rear access bags that most of us use, instead the hip belt rotates around and gives you access to the camera insert. This 38l pack offers plenty of storage for camera gear as well as outdoor essentials ie extra layers, rain jacket, food, water ect.

Click here to buy the Mindshift Rotation 180 Professional Backpack Waistpack Combo from Amazon

Phottix Odin TTL Flash Trigger for Canon

Phottix-Odin-TTL-Flash-Trigger

Phottix Odin TTL Flash Trigger for Canon

The Phottix Odin triggers are my radio triggers of choice. The reason being, they just work! I’ve never had any issues with misfires, they’re easy to use and offer advanced features like high-speed sync and rear curtain sync. Linked above are the Odin triggers for Canon, but just in case you’re a Nikon shooter, here’s the link for you!

Click here to buy the Phottix Odin TTL Flash Trigger for Canon from Amazon

Click here to buy the Phottix Odin TTL Wireless Flash Trigger Set for Nikon on Amazon

Sigma 35mm F1.4 ART DG HSM Lens for Canon

Sigma-35mm-F1.4 ART

Sigma 35mm F1.4 ART DG HSM Lens for Canon

Sigma’s 35mm F1.4 ART is my latest purchase and I’ve been using it pretty much every day. It’s proving to be a workhorse lens, and at half the price of the Canon version, it demonstrates a fantastic performance to price ratio.

Check out my first impressions of the Sigma 35mm F1.4 ART

Click here to buy the Sigma 35mm F1.4 ART DG HSM Lens for Canon from Amazon

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera Body

Canon-EOS-5D-Mark-IV

Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera Body

This one is on my wish list. The 5D MKiii s my workhorse body and I’m planning to bite the bullet and buy one, but I’m still holding out hope Santa may drop one off for me. With a bump to 30 megapixels, 7fps burst rate, built-in Wi-Fi, and majorly improved dynamic range.

Click here to buy the Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame Digital SLR Camera Body from Amazon

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The best camera is the one you’ve got with you, sort of – taking a step back

Colin
August 17, 2016

There is an old adage, the best camera is the one that’s with you. And it’s true, the most powerful photos are of that fleeting moment which will come and go before you can get your DSLR out of your backpack or swap lenses.

But, there’s something to be said for having the right tool for the right job, and in this case, that’s a pro level DSLR.

Some of you may recall that I recently drowned a camera body, specifically my Canon 5DMKiii. I went out to a local cyclocross race to play around with some lighting techniques and it started raining cats and dogs. I was prepared with rain covers for all of my gear, but unfortunately, the rain proved too much for the Vortex Media Storm Jacket I was using.

It’s wasn’t a complete write-off as a night in a sealed box filled with kitty litter did bring the camera back to life, but there was some apparent corrosion as the battery was draining at a rate of 10-percent an hour even when the camera was switched off.

So, I sent it away to get repaired, but as it always seems with this sort of thing the part needed to fix my camera was back-ordered and a job quoted to take eight days took over a month.

60D or 5Dmkiii can you tell which body I used for this image? The answer may suprise you

60D or 5Dmkiii can you tell which body I used for this image? The answer may surprise you

So while my 5DMKiii was away I decided to make a challenge for myself, instead of using one my backup bodies, I decided I would use a 60D I had lying around for every project until my 5D was fixed.

Don’t get me wrong the 60D is an absolute workhorse of a body, and features an 18.3mp APS-C CMOS sensor, ISO 100-6400 (expandable to 12,800), 5.3 fps continuous shooting, and 9 cross-type AF points. With that said, the 5D is also in a completely different league to the 60D which is what made this so interesting and the 60D doesn’t have near the same dynamic range, ISO performance, or processing power among other things.

Crop = reach

Being used to shooting on a full frame platform it took a bit of adjusting to not chop off too much with the 60D's 1.6x crop factor

Being used to shooting on a full frame platform it took a bit of adjusting to not chop off too much with the 60D’s 1.6x crop factor

Other than obvious cosmetic and weight difference between these two bodies is the APS-C crops sensor, which gives you a crop factor of 1.6x. This means that a 24mm lens is actually a focal length of 38mm (24 x 1.6 = 38). It doesn’t seem like much of a difference, but it’s surprising how easy it is to miss part of the action or chop something out when you’re used to shooting on a full frame sensor.

At the same time, on the other end of things, the 1.6x crop factor give your telephoto lens quite a bit of extra reach. The whale migration has been coming through the Gold Coast the past few weeks, and with the 60D body on my 400mm lens, the crop factor gives me an effective focal length of 640mm (400 x 1.6 = 640). Whales don’t really like to pose for the camera so I’m yet to get anything good, but extra length has given me a much better view of the action.

AF system

The 60D doesn't have great AF tracking, but there's a way around that

The 60D doesn’t have great AF tracking, but there’s a way around that

It’s safe to say the 60D’s AF system is a bit dated. The nine crosspoint system have thankfully been superseded by the current 61-point system which features on all the current pro-level Canon DSLRs.

To be honest this was probably my biggest gripe about using the 60D and it was only because the new AF system has me a bit spoiled. The 60D’s tracking is not nearly as good, and the placement of the points can make certain compositions tricky.

How do you get around this you ask? One-shot AF lock! It so easy so simple and requires you to rely more on your sense of timing that the spray-and-pray technique.

Using the back AF button and One Shot AF mode you pick the spot you want in focus compose the shot and rather than taking 10 photos, hold the button down for two or three as the subject passes through the frame.

With AF tracking being so good on the 5D and similar bodies I’ve become a bit too complacent and having to rely on an older slower AF system has been a fantastic skill building exercise.

ISO vs Sensor size

Because of it's smaller sensor the 60D's pixels are tightly packed, which is why it doesn't perform as well in low light conditions

Because of it’s smaller sensor the 60D’s pixels are tightly packed, which is why it doesn’t perform as well in low light conditions

The other thing the 5D series of bodies does sooooooo well is dealing with noise at high ISOs.

Generally speaking the more room a sensor has on it between pixels will process less noise than a sensor with pixels tightly packed together. So and images shot at 1600ISO a camera that shoots at 22mp on a full frame sensor will have less noise than 22mp images shot at 1600ISO on an APS-C sensor.

The measurement for the space between pixels is called pixel pitch and it’s measured in microns – the larger the pixel pitch the less noise generated at high ISO. The 5DMKiii shoots at 22.3mp on a full frame 35mm sensor and has a pixel pitch of 6.25 microns, and the 60D shoots at 18mp on a 22.30mm x 14.90mm APS-C sensor with a pixel pitch of 4.30microns.

It’s right there in the numbers but in practice, there is a noticeable difference as well, especially in shooting at high shutter speeds. On the 5DMKiii to get that extra bit of shutter speed it’s no issue to bump the ISO and know the image is still going to be usable. Heck, I’ve shot images at max ISO (12,800) on my 5DMKiii and had no trouble getting them back to an acceptable level of noise.

With the 60D there is considerably more noise to deal with starting around 800ISO, and getting worse as you go up. The 5D can do double that before you start to see much noise that needs to be corrected out depending on the image of course.

Final Thoughts

It has really been interesting to take a step back and shoot with a camera body that’s less capable than what I’m used to. Not even addressing the slower frames per second and reduced buffer, these three factors are what I noticed most in my particular requirements for a camera body.

The 60D is an absolute workhorse of a camera body, that can produce fantastic images. However, when a client is paying for images of a certain, though you can definitely deliver with a body like the 60D, I think I’ll stick to the more capable bodies.

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Camera Hacks: Phottix Odin Wireless Shutter Release

Colin
June 15, 2016

A shutter release is something every photographer should have in their gear bag. Especially for long exposures, it is vital to eliminate camera shake because you don’t have to touch the camera at all.

While wired versions can be had quite cheap, purpose built wireless shutter releases are pretty pricey but they’re not the only option. For those who are using PocketWizards, they can be set up to fire the camera with the addition of shutter release cable (which varies depending on what brand you shoot with). With the PW on your camera set to receive and the one in your hand set to transmit, press the test button and the shutter will go.

With the Phottix Odin triggers it’s not quite as simple, and as far as I can tell may not have actually been designed to be used as a shutter release like the PW’s – luckily there’s a simple hack to make them do just that.

What you’ll need

20160615-IMG_8227-CLevitch

The tools for a remote camera

Obviously you’ll need a Phottix transmitter, and a receiver (note: these are the original Phottix Odin triggers, not the Odin II‘s, I haven’t gotten my hands on those yet). As your transmitting to your camera, put the receiver in the hot shoe of your camera, and keep the transmitter in your hand – this is where it gets tricky.

You’d think it would be as easy as buying the right cable and chucking the triggers onto your camera, not so much. It turns out that Phottix doesn’t actually sell the cable you need. The closest you can get is the C8 cable which has the Canon shutter release plug on one end and a 2.5mm stereo plug on the other.

On the Odin receivers themselves there’s only two plugs, a mini-USB port and a 3.5mm jack. So to connect the receiver to your camera you’ll need a camera brand specific shutter release plug and a 3.5mm stereo plug, which are actually pretty difficult to find. I couldn’t even find one on FlashZebra.com!

*Note: These cables may exist on FlashZebra, but for anyone who’s never used this site it’s near impossible to navigate. Even when you know exactly what you’re after it’s hard to find it.

However, 2.5mm stereo to 3.5mm stereo adaptors are readily available and cheap at that. So once you’ve got your adaptor and your cables plugged up you’re ready to go.

#selfie

Camera-Hack-Phottix-Odin

Selfie game is strong

Once you’ve got everything plugged up make sure your transmitter and receiver are on the same channel and press the test button on the transmitter. There will be about a three-second delay, and then the shutter will go.

It’s worth noting that you’ll lose autofocus control, once the circuit is completely between the receiver and the camera body the, and lens will focus on whatever the AF points are on. I found the best practice was to compose the shot, and manually focus using live view before plugging the cable into the camera.

You also lose the ability to add wireless off camera  flash. This is because it physically takes longer for a camera to release the shutter then it does to fire a flash. If you rig everything up with wireless triggers it will appear that everything fires at the same time, but when you look at the image there won’t be any visible flash.

There’s only a microscopic time difference between flash and shutter sync, but it’s more than long enough. You can get around this by using a really long flash sync cable, or a second transmitter in the hot shoe of the camera.

But why?

Camera-Hack-Phottix-Odin

You really need to think about your composition before you leave your tripod

Part of the reason why this is something you may want to do is if you’re trying to get the most out of the gear you already own. Some wireless triggers cost over $100, whereas this method cost $25 not including the Odin triggers which I already own.

Beyond taking long exposure landscape photos, the ability to take and star in the photo is actually a fun creative challenge. It forces you to think critically about the image you’re about to take before you ever push the shutter button. Messing around with this new technique I’ve realized how many last second instinctual changes I make in composition. Not actually being behind the camera you’ve got to think ahead and make these changes before you walk away from the tripod.

Check out a few photos from my experiment with remote cameras

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