The battery grip has to be the most overpriced accessory in photography. Think about it – it’s a plastic/composite case filled with batteries and a few switches – that’s it. How come a Nikon MB-D12 costs $399 and the batteries aren’t even included? The Nikon D3300 body costs a bit more and it comes with a battery (and a 24mp sensor + EXPEED 4 processor, etc. etc). Heck, for 50 bucks you can buy a similarly-sized plastic case filled with batteries and switches that has 16 programmable modes, multiple movable parts and will do a heck of a job massaging your back when you are in pain, post-processing those wedding photos from the couple that will probably get divorced before you are done. So why use a battery grip?
A fortunate event took place a couple of weeks ago – my wife Lola lost the eyecup from her Nikon Df camera (see our in-depth review of the Nikon Df). She wasn’t sure how, but it most likely just got unscrewed while she was busy photographing a wedding. Why fortunate? Because I started to look for a replacement, something I have never done before. Indeed, those eyecups usually stay attached securely on cameras and practically never come off, so this was the first. During my search, I came across the Nikon DK-17M magnifying eyepiece – something I have seen before, but never cared to use. As I was ordering the replacement eyecup for the Df (and I was getting the superior “Anti-Fog” version), I decided to also get the DK-17M and give it a try. Since I enjoy using the Nikon Df with older Nikkor prime lenses, I thought it would be a good idea to try it with those manual focus lenses. When the package arrived, I mounted it on the Nikon Df that already had Lola’s favorite Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G lens attached and I was immediately blown away! The 1.2x magnification made the viewfinder appear much larger and I could see everything so much clearer, that I wondered why I had never even tried one of these before. After a couple of days of using the DK-17M, I ordered a few more for each of our cameras and now I cannot imagine using my DSLRs without these handy little magnifiers!
As our readers know, we love Think Tank products. We have reviewed a number of their bags and cases and have highly praised them for their durability, quality and features (to see a list of our in-depth Think Tank product reviews, please check out this page), so when we found out that Think Tank is adding even more great additions to their existing line of strong products, we got very excited. Previously, the biggest rolling gear bag was the Logistics Manager 30, which can fit a lot of gear for a working pro. And now Think Tank added even a bigger bag, the Think Tank Production Manager 40, which is specifically designed for transporting professional lighting equipment. It is spacious enough to fit a large amount of lighting gear such as flash heads, power packs, monoblocks, softboxes and light stands. And just like other Think Tank rolling bags, we can expect the Production Manager 40 to be of superb quality.
Years ago after I purchased my first larger lens, a 300 f/2.8, I used it on a tripod with a ball head but it didn’t take me long to realize that this set up was less than ideal. If you shoot frequently with longer telephoto lenses, a gimbal head belongs in your kit. Shooting with a gimbal mount allows more freedom and mobility with the camera/lens than a ball head and it gives your arms a rest from hefting the load. On the other hand, for the price of all the gear you have purchased, you do at least get a free upper body workout. When using a ball head to support a large lens/camera combo, the weight sets on a pedestal on top of the ball head lending itself to having the ball loosen a bit and the lens flopping over. A gimbal allows you to move the gear right to left and up and down all while balanced so as to require minimal effort to maneuver the system as you track your subject. Gimbals can be either side mount or low swing arm/cradle type systems. The side mount gimbals tend to minimize materials and thus size and weight, while the low swing arm/cradle system tends to be larger and heavier with the advantage of being a bit easier to mount and balance. There are also full gimbal heads which will pan both vertically and horizontally and there are gimbal attachments that only tilt in the vertical dimension while relying on a ball head for horizontal panning.
While I do a fair amount of still photography, the majority of my client work is shooting video with my DSLR and mirrorless cameras. When buying tripods and heads I need to consider their functionality from both perspectives. As I recently added a camera jib to my video equipment arsenal, I started seriously considering a heavier capacity tripod and head. My current tripods, which are capacity rated to 17.6 lbs. (8.8 Kg), were falling a bit short in terms of providing the degree of stability that I need when shooting video. And, my existing fluid video head wasn’t quite able to provide the stability I needed when using my slider kit loaded with my D800 and a heavy FX lens. I also felt that a taller tripod would allow me to get the most out of my camera jib by capturing higher, more dramatic video scenes.
The best part about the Sensor Gel Stick, is that it can be re-used over and over again and with normal use can last for a long time. But what happens if the gel tip gets less sticky overtime or potentially even completely lose the stickiness property? Some of our customers apparently use the product heavily (even some gear rentals companies use the Sensor Gel Stick) and one of our customers reached out to us asking what to do in such situations. I forwarded the email to our German manufacturer and the response I received was quite simple – just wash it! Apparently, you can safely wash the Sensor Gel Stick with just tap water, let it air dry and it will be as good as new again. I had a hard time believing this, so I decided to test it out on my stick and then use it on my camera to make sure that it actually works. To my surprise, it worked perfectly fine and better yet, it became even more effective than before!
As my photography and video business has grown, so too has the amount of gear that I bring to client shoots. This is especially true when doing video work. Since I am a ‘solo-shooter’ and never work with a crew, I was finding it more and more cumbersome to load, unload and transfer my gear. I began looking for a cost-effective, flexible solution. When I discovered the Pearstone PSL-3S 3-Step Photographer’s Ladder with Wheels, I knew it was the ideal tool for the job.
There are times when virtually every photographer or videographer could make use of a small, lightweight, easy-to-use table top tripod. Like that time you were on holidays and missed that spectacular sunset in fading light. Or, that unique angle shot that would have added a lot of production value to a client video, but your regular gear was too big and bulky to get into the tight spot needed to capture it.
As smaller, lighter gear grows ever more popular – some mirrorless systems, while capable of delivering brilliant results in knowing hands, weigh half as much as DSLR systems – it is only natural for smaller bags to get more popular as well. Already you can see retailers and online stores offering a wide array of “for mirrorless cameras” bags and the selection will only grow wider. Even though I haven’t bought into a mirrorless system (yet), I, too, was on a lookout for a small, unassuming bag. The main requirements were simple: it had to look like anything but a camera bag and thus also work as a simple shoulder bag when needed; it had to be small, yet big enough to fit a mirrorless body with a couple of small lenses and, until such a time arrives, big enough to fit a D700 camera with a 50mm lens attached; and, if at all possible, accommodate my Mamiya RZ67 – not a small camera, mind you – and a roll of film for those quiet evening walks in the old city.
I’ve always wanted a small camera backpack that gave me easy, quick access to my camera gear. I’ve owned camera backpacks in the past, but they were bigger (and heavier) and I had to take them off of my back in order to get my gear out. When I got a chance to review the Ruggard Triumph 45 Sling Bag, I took it, hoping I could find a nice bag that I could carry around town with me for more casual photography.