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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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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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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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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?

20160504-6P6A7566-untitled

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.

20160504-6P6A7567-untitled

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.

20160504-6P6A7571-untitled

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?

20160504-6P6A7573-untitled

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.

IMG_6961

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.

[envira-gallery id=”1551″]

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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