Photographers have an interesting dilemma when choosing a bag for long hikes. Camera backpacks are great at holding cameras, but they tend to be poor choices for comfort on long hikes. For some people – those who rarely need to trek with their camera equipment – a traditional camera backpack may be more than enough. For landscape and travel photographers, however, or those who need to carry their equipment longer distances, technical hiking bags tend to be the only option. The issue with these bags is that they aren’t made with photographers in mind, meaning that gear access and tripod attachment is quite difficult. One of the companies trying to fix this problem is F-Stop Gear, who makes trekking-style backpacks with separate compartments for camera equipment. I have owned the F-Stop Loka UL since it was first released, and it has never disappointed me. So, when F-Stop announced their newest line of Mountain Series backpacks, I was excited to see some of the improvements that had been made. In this review, I will take a look at the brand new Sukha bag – at 70 liters, F-Stop Gear’s second-largest backpack.
Lexar has been long known for making different type of memory cards for hobbyists, enthusiasts and professionals. Whether you need microSD, SD, CF or the newer memory card technologies like CFast and XQD, Lexar makes lines of products with different quality levels and speeds to satisfy pretty much every still camera or video storage needs. One area you might not be very familiar is Lexar’s excellent line of memory card readers. I have been personally using the Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader for years and I find it to be the best solution when working in the field and need to access or back up my data, as stated in my earlier review. But what about a professional memory card reader for a desktop? Since I have always built my own computers, I have had a strong preference for internal readers that I can install in one of the 5.25″ bays, with the AFT PRO-77U being my top choice. And although I am pretty happy with this reader, it does have a couple of disadvantages. First, it only comes with the most common media formats like CF, SD and microSD. If I wanted to attach the newer XQD or CFast cards, I would have to get a separate reader for each one of those. Second, there is only one reader per card type – if I wanted to transfer from two cards simultaneously (and yes, you can do that in Lightroom), then I am left out without options. Luckily, Lexar makes a superb product to address such particular needs (and more) in the form of the Lexar Professional Workflow readers. Today, I am reviewing the HR1 version, which has a USB 3.0 interface. If you are a Mac user and prefer Thunderbolt, there is an HR2 version of the same reader, which has support for both Thunderbolt and USB 3.0.
We are continuing our coverage of memory card readers this week and this time I want to talk about my personal preference for internal memory card readers, or the ones one would have to install in an empty / available bay in a computer. Since I have always been building my own PCs, picking the best components for the fastest performance, I am comfortable with installing internal devices without resorting to external help. Having a memory card reader always integrated into a PC means that I don’t have to fiddle with external devices and wires dangling off my PC, which helps in keeping my work area nice and clean. In addition, it allows me to choose an all-in-one memory card reader that can read pretty much any format out there and potentially offer additional USB slots that I can use for other devices. The Atech Flash Technology PRO-77U gives me exactly that. For years I have been using the previous-generation PRO-57U model and I have recently moved up to the PRO-77U in my latest PC build and I have been happy with my decision.
One question I get asked a lot by other photographers or workshop participants, is the type of reader I prefer to use when traveling or when using a laptop. Over the years, I have tried many different types of readers and I have had my share of dead readers, bent pins, unreadable cards and other problems. After trying out the Lexar Professional USB 3.0 Dual-Slot Reader when it just came out, I have been very pleased with its performance. It turned out to be the best memory card reader I have had to date not just because of its amazing performance, but also because it has a solid build and the cable easily detaches from the back of the reader, making it an amazing travel companion.
Drone photography is an exploding market, and with good reason — an aerial perspective opens opportunities in nearly every field of photography. Despite the amazing potential of drone photography, though, it is surprisingly hard to find a kit that works well for high-quality stills. Drones built for larger mirrorless cameras or DSLRs are often unreasonably expensive and frustratingly large, forcing many photographers to compromise on image quality. With this problem in mind, 3D Robotics designed the X8+ drone, a customizable and affordable platform that is capable of carrying a large-sensor camera with ease.
For ages I’ve heeded the warnings from camera manufacturers that inserting non-OEM batteries into my camera could make the camera explode or at the very least give it a nasty case of shingles. But a year ago I purchased a Nikon D4s and wanted a spare EN-EL18 battery. The Nikon battery was 150 bucks – why I could get a fifth of 25-year old Glenfarclas for that much. I saw positive reviews of the Wasabi batteries and decided to try one of those at a third of the price of the OEM battery. It worked just fine so I got more batteries, both the Wasabi and the Watson brands, for my D4s and my D7000 and D810 bodies. I’ve been using the Wasabis for a year and the Watsons for 7 months. For the first few months, they worked so well I never give a second thought as to whether I’d grabbed the Nikon batteries or the third party batteries when I went out on a shoot.
Recently during the filming of a safety video project for a client I needed to capture some video footage looking straight down on a machine in operation. In order to film the required footage I used one of my existing tripods, which can be configured in a non-adjustable, lateral position. It occurred to me as I was fiddling around with this existing tripod that it would have been much easier to get the required video footage if I had a tripod with a range of lateral movement, rather than just one lateral position at 90-degrees. Since I’ve been pleased thus far with my other Oben tripod (CC-2491), I decided to give the Oben CC-2361L lateral tripod a try since it met my key shooting criteria for tripods.
Every once in a while I like going back and taking a fresh look at the tools that I have been relying on for years. During my last trip to Death Valley and the California mountains, I met a few photographers who I spent some time with, talking about what photographers generally chat about – camera gear and our favorite photography spots. One photographer had a very similar setup as mine, using a Gitzo Systematic tripod and a Really Right Stuff BH-55 ballhead. His ballhead had a different quick release plate than mine, so we started chatting about the differences in the setup and what we both like and dislike about the BH-55. After this discussion, I realized that I have never written about the BH-55 at Photography Life, although I have continuously relied on it for years and take it with me everywhere I go. In a way, I have gotten emotionally attached to this remarkable ballhead and it has become an indispensable tool for my photography work.
I used to have a wooden tripod. It was kind of cool, actually – other photographers were always fascinated by its design, and it was pretty sturdy. Unfortunately, despite weighing 4.2 pounds, it had a maximum height of just three feet. Plus, it was bulky. I brought this tripod along on a hiking trip, thinking that these problems wouldn’t be too bad. I was wrong. It was too big to sit well on my backpack, and its weight started to bother me on long hikes. I researched my other options, and carbon fiber tripods began to come up in my searches. I wanted the best possible weight-to-stability ratio, so I knew that I needed to save some money.
Through the course of my research, the tripod brand Really Right Stuff (RRS) began to emerge as the universally-acclaimed “best” manufacturer. I already had the BH-40 ballhead, which I was quite happy with, so I began to save up. I ultimately ordered the Really Right Stuff TQC-14, a top-of-the line travel tripod.