Think Tank Airport Accelerator Review

The Airport Accelerator Backpack is a high quality bag worthy of consideration by anyone that frequently carries a healthy amount of gear through airports and doesn’t wish to check their bag. This bag is also ideal for wedding, portrait, and landscape photographers who often find it impractical to use a roller-style bag on wooded or irregular terrain.

Airport Accelerator Backpack front view

1) Initial Thoughts

My first impression of the Airport Accelerator was similar to that I have of all Think Tank products – well-built and well-designed. This bag uses the same quality nylon materials, zippers, seams, buckles, compartments, padding, and cord as found in other Think Tank products. Think Tank is famous for their quality and the Airport Accelerator lives up to the company’s well-deserved reputation.

2) Dimensions

EXTERIOR:
14.0 x 20.5 x 9.0″ (35.6 x 52.1 x 22.9 cm)
INTERIOR MAIN COMPARTMENT:
13.0 x 18.8 x 6.8″ (33 x 47.8 x 17.3 cm)
Laptop compartment: 11.8 x 17.3 x 1.4″ (30.0 x 43.9 x 3.6 cm)
WEIGHT:
4.1 – 5.5 lb (1.9-2.5 kg)

3) Size

This bag has plenty of room for just about all the gear you might want to take on any photography journey. It boasts the ability to accommodate a 600mm lens, and although I don’t have one, I have little doubt that it would fit comfortably in the Airport Accelerator. If you have read Nasim’s and Tom’s reviews of the Airport Security, and the Airport International, you will notice that these other bags are very similar to one another with respect to dimensions, and to the Airport Accelerator as well. Think Tank also makes another rolling bag named, the Airport Takeoff Rolling Camera Bag. What’s the main differences between these designated “Airport” bags? Wheels and a bit of size. The Airport Security, Airport International, and the Airport Takeoff Rolling Camera bags sport some spiffy wheels much like traditional carry-on luggage, whereas the Airport Accelerator is a backpack design.

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All I Want For Christmas Is… A Working Computer!

Some intermittent PC problems, followed by a serious crash and some toasted devices, and work associated with reconfiguring a new PC have consumed more of my time lately than I care to admit. All the while, a pile of photography gear has been staring at me daily, crying out to be reviewed. Computers, in their various forms, have become rather ubiquitous. Most of us tend to take them for granted, at least when they are working properly. One cellphone provider recently advertised that upgrading our smartphones wasn’t just about improving technology, but rather an improvement to our very lives. That’s a bit of a stretch, but it is fair to say that some of us indeed identify too much with our technological toys!

“A Little Neglect May Breed Great Mischief”
“For want of a nail, the shoe was lost.
For want of a shoe, the horse was lost.
For want of a horse, the rider was lost.
For want of a rider, the battle was lost.
For want of a battle, the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.”

- Ben Franklin
Poor Richard’s Almanac

When things go awry, however, we are reminded just how important technology can be to both our professional and personal pursuits. The following post details my recent experience and some insights that may help you prepare for the worst.

Christmas Tree

Attempting To Resurrect The Dead

Having had every model of PC since the original IBM PC produced in 1981, including a few I custom-built, and a number of Macintoshes along the way, I am pretty comfortable dealing with all manner of both software and hardware issues. I have successfully brought a few PCs back from the proverbial “dead.” As such, I have a healthy sense of paranoia regarding PC technology and realize that if anything can go wrong, eventually it will!

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Instagram Me Not

Instagram’s recent change to their terms and conditions raised quite a ruckus. It essentially said that the company had the right to sell your photos to someone else without your permission and without compensating you. Ouch… The reactions have been pretty extreme, from users dumping their Instagram accounts to those saying, “Suck it up and stop whining – you aren’t paying for the service!” Each perspective (and everything in between) has some merit.

Instagram

After the internet erupted in flames regarding this issue, Instagram’s co-founder quickly issued an Orwellian statement that went something like this, “Well, I know we stated that we had the right to sell your photos and not compensate you, but that was really not our intent.” Really? Hmmm… let’s look at the language:


“Some or all of the Service may be supported by advertising revenue. To help us deliver interesting paid or sponsored content or promotions, you agree that a business or other entity may pay us to display your username, likeness, photos (along with any associated metadata), and/or actions you take, in connection with paid or sponsored content or promotions, without any compensation to you. If you are under the age of eighteen (18), or under any other applicable age of majority, you represent that at least one of your parents or legal guardians has also agreed to this provision (and the use of your name, likeness, username, and/or photos (along with any associated metadata)) on your behalf.”

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Lifepixel Adds Anti-Alias Filter Removal Service

Lifepixel, perhaps best known for its high quality infrared digital camera conversions, recently added a new service to its list – removing your DSLR’s anti-aliasing filter. The price varies between $400-500 depending on your specific camera model. The notion of removing a DSLR’s anti-aliasing feature is not new. Maxmax.com has been doing this for years. Anti-alias filter removal, in the digital camera arena, has been thought of in a similar manner to overclocking your PC (before some manufacturers eliminated this capability) or perhaps souping up your car’s engine via a special engine conversion kit – a bit risky but capable of producing good effects. Why is this “risky” with respect to your DSLR? Voiding the warranty for one. Benefits? A sharper image.

With the non-stop onslaught of higher megapixel sensors and technology price reductions, I suspect many people lost interest in the idea of removing their DSLR’s anti-aliasing filter, if they ever contemplated it to begin with. As you may recall from some of the D800 articles on Photography Life, the anti-aliasing filter was introduced to reduce the effects of moire created when photographing subjects with fine, repeating patterns. The anti-aliasing filter accomplished this by slightly diffusing the image, which also slightly reduced sharpness. With the introduction of the Nikon D800E, however, Nikon once again raised this issue to the forefront by offering a camera model with the anti-aliasing filter removed as a product – not as a after-market service. Lifepixel, being one of the premier camera modification service providers, saw an opportunity to capitalize on the new-found interest and market for an anti-aliasing filter removal service. So for a mere $400-$500, you can have your DSLR’s anti-aliasing filter removed and be assured of maximizing your sensor’s resolution. Below is an example discussed by Nasim in his review of the D800 and D800E.

Nikon D800 vs D800E Low-Pass Filter

Chasing Sharpness

I know what some of you may be thinking, “Gee, that seems like a lot of money to gain a bit of sharpness.” Perhaps. But if life has taught me one lesson, it is this – never, ever underestimate people’s willingness to spend money to get a bit of an edge, however slight. That is not a criticism of my fellow man, but merely an observation regarding human nature. I recall when some of us found out about the ability to overclock our PCs. Despite the warnings about “frying” our machines, many of us marched ahead anyway. We were determined to soak up every speed advantage we could find. And while I never ended up turning my PC into a smoldering hunk of silicon and metal, quite a few of my DIY colleagues that were not so lucky!

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Think Tank Urban Disguise 60 v2.0 Review

I have to admit that I was a bit skeptical of what I would find during my review of the Think Tank Urban Disguise 60 v2.0 bag. For many years, the Tumi Alpha Large Expandable Organizer Laptop Brief has been “gold standard” of laptop bags for me and many other road warriors. And while not designed for photography, the Tumi bag nonetheless remains the benchmark for quality that I measure all types of luggage and bags against. It was inconceivable that I might find another bag that I thought matched or beat it.

“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skillful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.”

- William Foster

Think-Tank-Urban-Disguise-60-V2-Front_View

As I criss-crossed the globe and our country over the years, my original Tumi bag endured more abuse than I had a right to expect of it, often being filled to its limit and being jammed under countless airline seats. For some time, Tumi had free lifetime repairs on its bags. I made good use of the policy. At some point, Tumi ended its generous free lifetime repair policy (I suspect I might have had something to do with single-handedly dragging down Tumi’s profits and the resulting change in policy!), and I started to pay $50 or so per repair. As wear took its toll on my Tumi bag, I eventually had to consider the cost of cumulative bag repairs vs. buying a new bag.

Those of us who travel frequently get attached to our bags. They reliably and safely carry our precious belongings when we are far away from home. When my Tumi bag finally reached its end, I couldn’t dream of donating it or (gulp!) tossing it into the trash. No, the Tumi deserved nothing less than a Viking-style funeral! So one night, as I sipped a glass of wine, my Tumi bag literally went up in a blaze of glory in my fireplace (don’t call the environmentalists!). I drank a toast to it’s many years of dedicated service and recalled the interesting adventures we shared. I slept well that night knowing that the Boatman collected the coins I had placed in the Tumi, and had safely transported it across the River Styx.

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Panasonic GX1 Review

I recently had the opportunity to spend some time with the Panasonic GX1. Although I have owned some compact cameras and occasionally have the chance to experiment with those of others, this is the first mirrorless camera I have used. As Nasim and others have indicated, mirrorless cameras will increasingly play a larger role in the digital camera market, due primarily to their smaller size, lighter weight, reduced mechanical complexity, and faster FPS ( frames per second speed). They provide an impressive range of features in extremely small packages. But mirrorless cameras such as the GX1 still represent a modest investment and thus do not offer any cost reduction relative to entry and midlevel DSLRs. In this Panasonic GX1 Review, I will provide detailed information about the camera, as well as image comparisons to other DSLR cameras.

Panasonic GX1

Some of my questions prior to receiving my GX1 included:

  1. How well would the GX1′s picture quality compare against that of my D7000?
  2. How well would the GX1′s pictures compare to my D800?
  3. Would I find the weight advantage of the GX1 meaningful?
  4. How would I adjust to the GX1′s controls?
  5. What would cause me to consider a GX1 over a DSLR or point-and-shoot camera?

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Mansurovs Has Become Photography Life!

Some of you may have noticed that your familiar URL of mansurovs.com now shows photographylife.com. The primary reasons for the change are listed below. We are working on a new logo (which may look different than the one below) and expect to post it soon. We are also revamping our site based on feedback from our readers.

A Different Beginning

Initially, Mansurovs.com was started as a small blog, where Nasim and Lola Mansurov shared their personal and commercial photography, recipes and occasional photography articles. They had no idea that it would grow to become one of the top photography websites, with over 1.5 million visitors a month. Although all recipes and most other personal articles were moved/deleted over time to keep the site relevant to photography, the name of the site and the domain were preserved.

Name Recall

After our recent photography workshop in Colorado, where we had a chance to gather as a team, we realized that some people continued to struggle with recalling the exact spelling of the Mansurovs name. Yes – it seems easy enough, but with respect to attracting and expanding our readership, we want a website name that is easy to recall and spell. And while Google or Bing search capability can often help people find a site name even when it is spelled incorrectly, we don’t want people to wade through a list of possible site names.

Correlation With Subject Matter

Another factor influencing our decision was the fact that the Mansurovs name did not directly correlate to the subject matter – photography. This is certainly not a deal breaker when selecting a site name – there are a variety of sites that have names unrelated to their core material. Having a name that closely relates to your main topic, however, can greatly improve people’s ability to find and recall our site name.

“Raison D’être”

The last factor relates to the very reason for the website’s existence. Our mission is to:

“Build a photography site that provides readers of all abilities with high quality product reviews, news, buying advice, tips and techniques, and other value-added, entertaining material that enriches their photography hobby or career”

We believe that Photography Life better captures the essence of why we continued to expand this site. There are literally thousands of photography sites. We wanted to build one that would prove valuable and serve people’s diverse interests as they grew and expanded over time.

Big Changes Are Coming

We have a number of major projects to expand the site. We will soon be adding a photography forum, where our participants will be able to interact with our team and each other, share their photography work, and ask questions. We will also be reorganizing the site and revamping the design (without over-cluttering it). A couple of other projects are currently being worked on, but I cannot share the details yet. We are excited about these changes!

We would be interested in hearing your thoughts and ideas regarding the site’s name change. Please feel free to weigh in below.

When “Hope” Becomes “Nope” – Copyright Infringement

Despite its appearance, this is not a political article, although with enough prompting, I would be glad to write one. ;) In a bizarre twist of fate, Shepard Fairey, the creator of the iconic “Hope” poster of the then-Senator Obama, was sentenced to 2 years of probation for copyright infringement and tampering with evidence, required to provide 300 hours of community service, and fined $25,000. As part of the civil case settled last year, Fairey was also required to pay the AP news service $1.6 million and 50% of future “Hope” poster profits. During the proceedings, investigators discovered that Fairey had grossly under-represented his profits on sales of “Hope” related items. It seems that “Hope” was based on a completely false premise – that Fairey had NOT infringed upon the rights of others. Another reminder that some things are not what they appear to be…

AP believed that Fairey had used a photo, taken by an AP photographer, Mannie Garcia, in 2006, as the foundation for the famous “Hope” poster. AP sued Fairey for copyright infringement. And with an apparent sense of righteous indignation, Fairey countersued. Unfortunately for Fairey, the ensuing investigation showed that he had lied regarding which image he relied on to create the “Hope” poster, and destroyed evidence related to the case. Fairey admitted his mistakes in court and issued a statement on his website today.

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Lowepro Pro Trekker 400 AW Review

When Nasim asked if I would be interested in reviewing some of the top photography bags and backpacks, I enthusiastically agreed to help out. I have always had a fascination and appreciation for high quality luggage and travel gear. Over the course of my many domestic and international adventures, I have come to appreciate well-designed gear that keeps my equipment well-protected and can endure the rigors of travel, whether it be air, land, or sea. Discovering that your luggage seam split open somewhere along a 3 flight hop across Europe, and realizing that many of your possessions are now permanently assigned to the airline version of limbo, or having your camera backpack’s main zipper go awry and seeing your $1,500 lens doing somersaults on the rocks below (and receiving extremely perfect scores for Technical Difficulty while simultaneously racking up complete zeros for Impact Resilience) can quickly cause you to rethink saving a few bucks by opting for cheaper luggage. I always recommend that people invest a reasonable amount of time investigating their luggage options and select the very best models they can afford. “Best” doesn’t always mean the highest price, however, so it pays to thoroughly investigate your alternatives.

“The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.”
– Benjamin Franklin

1) Initial Thoughts

My first impression of the Lowepro Pro 400 AW Trekker Backpack (referred to as simply “LP400AW” for the rest of the article) was that it was far larger than I expected. I immediately checked bag’s label to ensure that I had received the correct model. I then looked at the item’s feature listing once again to confirm that it met the size regulations for carry-on luggage. Sure enough, it was the right bag and B&H’s website had this line:
Meets current FAA specifications for carry-on luggage 1

I had become accustomed to believing that my current workhorse, the Lowepro Nature Trekker AW II , was a large bag, but LP400AW made it look rather small. Considering our upcoming trip to the Canadian Rockies, the Nature Trekker was indeed a bit small. It was not capable of carrying the amount of DLSRs, lenses, and accessories I planned to take on our vacation. I had considered purchasing the Lowepro 600 AW Trekker, but realized that this backpack was far too large for my needs.

Whenever I receive a new piece of gear, I always take some time to look it over, get a general sense of the fit, finish, polish, stitching, etc. and ensure there are no defects. The LP400AW passed these tests with flying colors. This backpack exudes quality. It is obviously made to the same high standards we have come to expect from all Lowepro products. Although I am partial to black bags, I immediately warmed up to the main green and tan colors, highlighted with black trim. These colors simply look like they belong in a natural setting. And as you can see, my backpack’s colors had quite a bit more contrast between the green and tan colors than those seen in Lowepro’s product photos.

2) Dimensions

EXTERIOR:
15.4W x 14.2D x 21.3H in.
39 x 36 x 54 cm

INTERIOR MAIN COMPARTMENT:
11.4W x 6.5D x 17.3H in.
29 x 16.5 x 44 cm

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Rocky Mountain High – Canadian Style

My wife, Tanya, and I recently vacationed in the Canmore/Banff area of Alberta, Canada. We settled on this location after reading a variety of reviews and looking over some stunning photos of the many attractions and wildlife. We planned a series of activities that would take us to some of the most scenic, historical, and cultural locations, provide some challenging hiking expeditions, and enable us to take a “few” photographs along the way. After receiving a new Nikon D800 (review), which I tested thoroughly, I was eager to put it to work in the field. Most of the photos in this article were taken with the D800, although some were shot with my infrared D90 (converted by Lifepixel.com). For those of you reading this on an RSS feed, you may want to consider linking to the main Mansurovs site, as there are quite a few photos associated with this post.

From Calgary To Canmore

We flew into the Calgary airport, and after renting a car, began the 74 mile drive from the Calgary Airport to the town of Canmore. This trip is an interesting study in transitions. Near Calgary, everything seems to be under construction. Bulldozers, heavy earth movers, building cranes, and construction signs dot the landscape in every direction. The terrain is pretty flat apart from a gentle mountainside slope on the western side of the city. Off in the distance, we could see some purplish mountains but didn’t have a good sense of their scale. 25 miles or so outside of Calgary, the scenery changes quite a bit. Green rolling hillsides of farm land become the dominant theme, with the familiar golden yellow hay bales lining the bright green fields. The purplish mountains have risen in stature quite a bit and we quickly realize that they are far different than those we left behind in western Pennsylvania. We also unfortunately discover that there are few exits for gas or food!

At the 50 mile mark, the landscape is changing quite a bit. Those little purple mountains seem to grow larger by the minute. Green fir trees that seem to have been cloned, now begin to populate the landscape like huge blades of grass. At the 60 mile mark, we are at the base of the mountains. The term “majestic” doesn’t quite rise to the occasion in describing what we now see. The mountain peaks require you to edge closer to the car window and strain your neck in order to see them. Even in August, we can identify snow patches that never completely melt.

The road begins to roll gently as we wind toward the valley between the mountain peaks. The number of signs warning you about the local wildlife population increase, and based on the fences that line the woods along the road, we suspect that the signs are not to be taken lightly. We had taken 3 exits hoping to find a restaurant or gas station only to conclude that the notion of modern facilities next within 25 miles of the exit is a mirage. We begin to imagine that grizzly bears and wolves have posted these exit signs to lure gullible travelers, low on gas and food, off the main highway where the animals can leisurely dine on them.

Within 5 miles of Canmore, we are deep into the mountains that seem be growing larger before our eyes. I am constantly trying to keep my eyes on the road as the rocky towers on both sides of the road continue to command my attention. By now, we are seriously wondering if we have been transported to another planet, since it couldn’t possibly be part of the one which we came from. Soon we arrived at the Falcon Crest Lodge, which proved to be the excellent “base camp” for our adventures.

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