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MindShift Gear BackLight 26L first shoot review

Colin
December 20, 2017

MindShift Gear is the sister brand to ThinkThank Photo and is the brand behind the Rotation 180 series of bags.

Highlights

With a focus on outdoor and adventure photographers and the BackLight series of bags is the latest addition to their line up, also the brands first back panel access pack.

There are three main ways camera backpacks are set up (well actually four if you include Mindshift’s Rotation system); front panel access, side panel access and rear panel access. Each has its pros and cons, but the main advantage of back panel access bags is that when you need to put your pack down to pull out your camera, the straps don’t touch the ground. This especially important if your shooting in a location where the ground is wet or muddy, ie outside.

Also because the camera access is on the rear of the bag, it leaves the front open for storage laptops, tablets, extra layers, food, hydration bladders, etc.

Unfortunately, there are negatives to this system the main one being that given there is a hole on the rear of the bag, it makes it pretty difficult for adjustable harness systems so if the bag doesn’t fit you well you’re out of luck.

Rear panel access also makes it impractical for suspended mesh venting systems, and their carry capacity is a touch smaller the front access packs because the zipper needs to pass under the shoulder straps.

With 26L of carrying capacity, there is a surprising amount of room for gear inside the BackLight, and it happily engulfs my Canon 5DMKiii with a 100-400 MKii lens attached, five additional short lenses and various other gear. It’s not designed for pro-level bodies like the 1DX or Nikon D5 and might just be deep enough for a 5D or 7D with a battery grip.

There is also a cavernous front pocket with dedicated sleeves for a 15in laptop and tablet. This pocket is seriously huge and will fit heaps of layers, food and might even be big enough for a bivy.

There’s also an additional smaller pocket on the front and a very tight zippered pocket on the top of the bag.

Its got compression straps on the sides, daisy chains on the front, attachment points ice axes or trekking poles and water bottle pockets on either side too.

The insert is fixed with customisable padded dividers, and empty the bag tipped my scales a 1.74kg / 3.84lbs.

As with all MindShift, bags the BackLight 26L has the hidden tripod cup, which sees a small pocket for the legs and a top strap which tucks into a small pocket in the top of the bag. You can also utilise one of the water bottle sleeves and the compression straps on the side of the bag too.

One feature I’m not so sure about is the elastic strap to wrap around your neck in the back panel. The idea behind is so you can hang the bag off your waist and get to your gear without having to actually put the bag down, adding some ‘rotation’ to the bags feature set.

I’m not so sure this is actually a feature, mostly because you can do this with any rear panel access bag. So far every time I’ve zipped and unzipped the camera compartment the elastic band has stuck in the zipper.

I’ve only taken this bag out a handful of times to date, and I’m planning to take it down to the Tour Down Under with me at the beginning of January. Keep an eye out for for the full review post-race.

Where to Buy

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Peak Design Clutch first shoot review

Colin
December 18, 2017

I am a big fan of Peak Design camera straps. They are comfortable to wear, but the real drawcard for me is their customizability with the quick release system.

Highlights

Using the brand’s Anchor Links you can swap out camera straps or attach them to different parts of the camera quickly yet securely. They are light, small and tough, and I literally have them attached to everything.

The Clutch isn’t a traditional strap per say, but more of a hand strap which utilizes this system.

There are situations where a camera strap is a boon, but sometimes they just get in the way, and especially with one of my most used bags the MindShift rotation 180 Horizon. When I use this bag, I often run strapless, but I am always terrified I’m going to drop my camera, especially when scrambling up a rocky hillside or onto a fallen log to find a vantage point. The Clutch all but alleviates that fear.

I’ve been using Peak Designs nifty hand strap for a few months now and it literally has not left my camera body since.

No drops

First and foremost the Clutch allows you to ditch the strap and provides a sure grip at all times. If you cinch it right down over your hand you don’t even really have to wrap your fingers around the camera.

In use, I prefer the Clutch to be a bit loose as when I cinch it down I struggle to reach the AF-ON button on my 5DMKiii with my thumb. When not shooting you can also use the Clutch as a handle to carry the camera with.

The only real complaint I can muster for the Clutch is that it takes up the attachment point on the right side of the camera, and doesn’t utilize the Anchor Links. When I do use a strap I prefer to have it attached to the top camera anchors, bar when I’m using a long lens, and with the Clutch attached there is no room on for an Anchor Link.

So with this to use the Clutch, I have to remove the Anchor Links from the left attachment point on the body, and replace it in the situations I want to use a strap. While the way the clutch attaches to the body is robust, I can’t help but wonder Peak Design wouldn’t incorporate the Anchor Links here, especially given the bottom of the strap does.

I’ll admit this is a nitpick given that the Clutch also utilizes the Capture plate that’s always on my camera anyway, where a shoulder strap can be attached.

The build quality is top notch and the Clutch’s exterior is made from the same material as whitewater rafts and the hardware is made from Aluminium. It’s survived mud, volcanic dust, rain, snow and plenty of bumps scrapes and still looks exactly the same as the day I pulled it out of the box.

Where to buy

 

 

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MindShift Gear rotation180° Horizon 34L – long term review

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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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:

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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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New Years Day Daniel Bennett Memorial Race

Colin
January 4, 2017

New Years Day isn’t exactly when you’d expect to see high octane crit racing, but that’s exactly what happens on the Gold Coast every year. The Gold Coast Goldstars out on a crit honor one of their fallen members, Daniel Bennett who was a high-performance rider from the Gold Coast who was killed on a training ride.

So every year the club puts on a race in his memory that has been won by the likes of Steele Von Hoff, Mat Hayman, and even Gold Coast local and former TDF Green Jersey winner Robbie Mcewen! This year’s race was fast a furious and packed full of big name riders. It was super hot, and by the end of the race riders and spectators alike were suffering.

Check out the gallery below for the A and B grade races.

[envira-gallery id=”2056″]

 

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Peak Design CapturePro Review

Colin
December 5, 2016

Your camera is no good to you if it’s buried deep in your backpack. Photography is all about capturing a fleeting moment, whether it be a skier just as he/she grabs their ski or the look of focus in a climbers eyes as they survey a problem.

For the most part, pro-DLSR’s are heavy and a little awkward to carry around, especially if you’re walking, climbing, or scrambling over obstacles and up steep inclines using your feet and hands. A camera around your neck or slung over your shoulder will move and swing around and smack into something.

Peak Design has come up with a clever solution to for keeping your camera at hand, the Capture. Basically, the Capture is a tripod plate that connects to the ‘clip’ which can be attached to pretty much any backpack strap, or belt.

The simple dual bolt design allows for your camera to be accessible at all times but mounted sturdy keeping your hands free.

Mounting

There’re a few models of the Capture, rated for different weights and designed to carry different camera systems. I tested the Capture Pro with my Canon 5d MKiii with various lens combos. Rated for up to 200lbs, the Capture Pro should be able to handle any camera and lens combo you’ve got, and 3/8th-inch tripod bolt will probably rip off out of the bottom of your camera body before it disconnects from the clip.

Attaching the clip itself is pretty simple too, undo the bolts, put the clip on your backpack strap or belt, and tighten the bolts. The bolt heads are textured around the edges large enough for you to get a good grip, the trouble is they’re not particularly long.

My main photo backpack is the F-Stop Tilopia BC, a 40-litre pack designed to carry heavy loads. With this comes thick shoulder straps, which proved to be too fat for the bolts included with the Capture Pro. Initially, I ended up mounting the clip on the load adjuster webbing, and to my pleasant surprise provided a sturdy mounting point.

Peak Design does make a long bolt kit, which as you’d imagine are two long bolts. The standard bolts measure 15mm and the long ones 23mm which did allow the Capture to engulf the strap on my bag Tilopa BC.

Utilizing the tripod bolt on your camera or lens shoe, the Capture Pro plate comes with a small alley key ensuring the plate is securely fastened to your camera.

Open Carry

I was hesitant at first to hang thousands of dollars worth of gear from something that costs less than US$100, but as time went on the Capture Pro proved its strength – the interface between the camera and the Capture Pro is unflappable. In fact, it takes some practice to smoothly clip and unclip the camera, in the first couple of weeks in use, I actually had to take my pack off to pull my camera out.

Once you’ve got the hang of it the camera to clip connection is strong, the trouble is what every the clip is attached to may not be. The inherent problem with this mounting system is whatever you’re attaching it to be it a backpack strap, belt or webbing is designed to conform around you in some way, and this flexibility with the right combination of forces pulls the clip out of whack.

I also found the Capture best suited to short zoom lenses. With something longer like my Canon 100-400 ii, there is just a bit too much weight a size to sit sturdy on a soft strap.

When you’re using the Capture Pro it’s also important to think about the weight distribution of your pack. For example, my Canon 5DMKiii with a Canon 24-104 f/4 lens attached weights 1.74kg. If I’ve had the Capture pro mounted on my left backpack strap, to somewhat balance the pack I’m going to want my tripod mounted on the right side of my pack, otherwise, your shoulders and neck will be super sore.

The Capture Pro’s mounting plate also interfaces with a fair few tripods as well, and even though it’s not actually designed to interface with the Pro Master Ball head it still works ans is stable enough for long exposures.

Final thoughts

The Capture Pro is an awesome camera carry option for being outdoors. It holds your camera study leaving your hands free but doesn’t allow for the swing like a standard camera strap. It has its limitations as for longer lenses it challenges the integrity of the mounting surface, but the plate holds strong

This is something I genuinely use almost every time I leave the house and is well worth the money.

Since I am a fan of this product I’ve set up a deal for my readers, use my coupon code ‘clevphoto’ and take 10% off any Peak Design Product.

Click here to buy from Peak Design

Click here to buy from Amazon

 

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Behind the Shoot: Oceanway Ride

Colin
November 7, 2016

It’s been a hectic couple of months for me, and I feel like I haven’t stopped moving. If you’ve been following me on social media (shameless plug please follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter) you’ll have seen I shot the Oceanway Ride, a new charity ride here on the Gold Coast to raise money for the local surf lifesaving clubs. Starting for Surfers Paradise it followed the Darren Smith Memorial Route, a 55km out and back ride mostly along the coast.

Also making an appearance was the one and only Phil Ligget, the voice of cycling who MC’d and mingled with the riders through out the day. As a cycling fan, I was a bit star-struck, to say the least

The Promo

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Even though it was only a quick shoot I’m stoked on the images I got for the promo shoot. I had plans to organize a dawn shoot at a great spot here on the Gold Coast, but that went out the window when the events organizer called me in a panic saying she needed images in two days time to meet a deadline.

Not having organized riders I frantically began searching for someone to help me out, and luckily Peter Spencer of GC Bike Fit stepped up to the plate! The morning of the shoot it looked like it was going to be a gray miserable day, but the clouds broke and it was bluebird!

The shoot went off without a hitch and I was able to deliver the images by five o’clock that afternoon. That’s gotta be a record for planning, executing and delivering in three days.

The Ride

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As it always seems to work with cycling events they start well before dawn, and the Oceanway ride was no exception.

The plan was to chase the riders down the coast stopping at a few key locations to capture the riders as they passed by. Usually, that would mean the organizers have a photo-moto and driver to shuttle you up and down the course, however, that was not the case.

Lucky for me a friend was happy to drive me up and down the coast in exchange for a case of beer and man I’m glad I had him. If I would have had to stop and park the car every time I wanted to take a photo it would have been a more stressful morning than it already was.

If was fast and furious run and gun shooting, and when I say run and gun I was leaning out of the windows of the car literally running full sprint to the spots I wanted to shoot from as to not miss riders go past.

The Gear

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My gear for the day was my trusty Canon 5DMkiii, Canon 24-104 f/4L, Canon 100-400 f/5.6-6.5L, Canon 8-15 Fisheye f/4L and a new addition to my bag the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 ART. I was amazed how much I used the 35mm, on the day and it has proved to be an extremely useful addition to my bag!

Also, a godsend on the day were my Hoya Circular Polarizers. The ability to cut out any glare on the water as well as from the road surface made a huge difference for quite a few of my images.

Check out a few of my favorite images from the day, or click here to see my full gallery from the day!

[envira-gallery id=”1891″]

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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?

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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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Fstoppers Flash Disc review

Colin
May 6, 2016

It seems everytime I leave the house my camera bag is heavier and I am always grabbing extra lights, triggers, and batteries. But, when it comes to flash modifiers it can be a tough decision.

Everybody loves softboxes but they’re difficult to transport, especially if you’re shooting somewhere hours away from the car. Umbrella’s are easier to pack but still need to be lashed to the outside of your bag, and don’t play well with gorillapods. For me, the ultimate modifier is something that can be stuffed down the side my camera bag, is lightweight, and doesn’t require much faffing around.

Obviously struggling with the same issues as me, Patrick Hall and Lee Norris from Fstoppers created the Flash Disc.

What is it?

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Packaged in a little black zippered bag, the flash disc is a compact 12-inch pop up softbox – think those tents you pull out of the bag and throw into the air to set up.

In its compact state, the Fstoppers Flash Disc can easily be stuffed into small gaps in your camera bag, a pocket or even lashed to the outside thanks to a small loop.

It worth noting the Flash Disc deserves due respect, and nearly gave one of my assistants a black eye. If you’re not paying attention it can slip away from you and ‘pop’ you right in the face.

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The back of the Flash Disc sees a grey card and the front is as you would expect white diffusing material. Designed to be universal with speedlights the Flash Disc uses a glorified elastic band to secure the flash head. I’ve yet to find a speedlight that it doesn’t work with but there’s definitely some that fit better than others.

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It seems Canon flashes fit the best, their rounded profile slips into the band nicely. Boxy square flashes however do not, and it’s quite fiddly to get square flashes into the disc. I had a fair bit of trouble wrangling the FlashDisc onto my LumoPro LP180 flashes and an ancient Sunbeam Manual Flash.

With that said, once they’re on your light stand will fly away and take a sandbag with it before the Flash Disc leaves your speedlight.

Okay, but do they work?

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It’s worth noting again this is a 12-inch softbox and not a huge 40-incher, so they’re not going to produce the same light. Because of it’s size the FlashDisc needs to be quite close to the subject, but it does produce nice soft light.

For portraits and products they’re pretty useful as you can place the FlashDisc just out of the frame but still close enough to reap the benefits of a small modifier.

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Photo: Phil Gray

It does take some fiddling around to get the flash discs in the right position when they’re mounted on a static light stand, but if you’ve got an assistant they are awesome. Because they’re small and lightweight it’s no trouble at all to get your assistant to dangle the light with the FlashDisc very close to the subject.

Also due to their feathery nature they pair nicely with Gorillapods, and my favorite thing is to wrap them around a tree branch or pole in a spot you wouldn’t be able to put a standard light stand.

Do you actually use it?

Absolutely! The Flash Disc is extremely versatile and is great for a variety of looks. Check out the gallery below to see how I’ve used the FStoppers FlashDisc. Even when it’s not close enough to for that creamy soft light it still diffuses the flash head nicely for something a bit more dramatic.

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The biggest reason that I like to use the FlashDisc’s is they’re so packable. It’s a rare occasion I’m shooting within 5-miles of where I parked my car, and it’s just not practical for me to pack in (and back out) large soft boxes, they just wouldn’t survive. Weighing just 113g adding the FlashDiscs won’t add much to your already heavy pack

As it is I get funny looks riding single track on my mountain bike with my big camera pack and light stands, can you image what people would do if you had soft boxes strapped to my pack?

Final Thoughts

For such a small modifier, the Fstoppers FlashDisc’s pack some serious punch. Whenever I take speedlights with me I always stuff them in my bag. They’ve definitely got their limitations and and $49.95USD they’re also not cheap, but the FlashDisc’s have become an essential part of my kit.

Do you use the FlashDisc’s? What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

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