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.
Ever since Sigma announced their new direction with reorganizing new lenses into three different “Contemporary”, “Art” and “Sports” product lines, the company has been successfully rolling out a number of truly groundbreaking lenses. We were blown away by the optical quality of the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art lens, which topped our lens charts as one of the sharpest lenses we have seen to date. Then we welcomed the updated Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art and were quite inspired by world’s first f/1.8 constant aperture zoom lens, the 18-35mm f/1.8 Art. Earlier this year, Sigma announced yet another addition to the “Art” line of lenses, again in the “world’s first” category, the Sigma 24-35mm f/2 DG HSM Art. Built on the concept of the 18-35mm f/1.8 Art, the 24-35mm f/2 was redesigned to cover the full-frame image circle, while maintaining the superb optical performance. The result was a larger and heavier lens, but one that was to challenge primes from 24mm to 35mm focal lengths. Set on to go head to head with such primes specifically, the biggest question I had was – could this lens actually optically challenge prime lenses? If it performed well optically, that’s a single lens which could potentially replace such lenses as the Nikkor 24mm f/1.8G, 28mm f/1.8G and 35mm f/1.8G in a single package – a rather tough challenge, as those lenses are quite strong performers on their own.
With the proliferation of SSD storage on the market, today we see a huge increase in all kinds of small, yet insanely fast gadgets that help us increase our productivity. One of such gadgets has been brought to us by Samsung in the form of the portable SSD T1 – the smallest and the fastest external drive available today. Based on Samsung’s 850 EVO SSD (mSATA version), this little SSD drive only measures 2.8″ x 0.36″ x 2.09″ (64 x 9 x 53mm) and weighs a total of 0.9 oz (25 grams), making it look like a large thumb drive. But there is a major difference – unlike the slow thumb drives we see today, the Samsung SSD T1 has the same amazing speed of SSD drives, capable of up to 450 MB/sec transfer speeds. I have been testing out the SSD T1 pretty much since it came out and I have been amazed by its performance and rock solid reliability. My last external hard drive died on me a year ago and although I had been backing up my data regularly at the time, it certainly did not leave a pleasant feeling when I wanted to buy another external device for travel and remote jobs, as it was not the first one that failed. Sadly, hard drives have a tendency to fail faster when they are constantly carried around and frequently plugged and unplugged. Drop them and the chance of losing the drive and its data are extremely high. In contrast, SSD drives are much more reliable and they have no issues with extreme shock and vibration.
When testing out the Nikon 58mm f/1.4G, I really wanted to get a hold of the legendary Noct-NIKKOR 58mm f/1.2 lens to see how the two lenses from different generations compare optically. Unfortunately, I could not obtain a good sample of the Noct-NIKKOR at the time, but after scouting eBay for a while, I finally found a pristine copy of the lens from a photographer in California. Being a collector item, the lens was barely used and had been sitting for years in a closet – exactly what I had been wanting to get. I really wanted to make sure that the lens performed as close to its original specifications as possible, because I was on the quest to measure its optical performance, particularly at its super wide f/1.2 aperture. Let’s take a look at the lens in more detail.
Choosing the right storage option can be a rather challenging process due to the sheer number of options available on the market today. The good news is, there is a solution for practically every need out there – from a simple low-cost backup solution to high-end and versatile storage arrays for multi-user environments, all depending on one’s needs. The bad news is, even when you know exactly what you need in terms of storage space, you might find yourself lost fairly quickly, particularly if you are not well-versed in storage solutions. The process of selecting the best solution is often frustrating for many photographers for this particular reason. Last year, a good friend of mine, who has been doing both photography and videography professionally for a number of years now, asked me for a suggestion on a solid and robust storage solution that could be used in a workgroup environment, with more than 2 people accessing the same data simultaneously. He told me about the challenges his team was experiencing when needing to share photos and videos in a network environment, often resorting to very slow and ineffective methods that only created frustration. Having been working with storage solutions for many years, my proposal was to use the Synology DS1815+ network attached storage (NAS) in a Gigabit network environment. I have personally used a number of Synology NAS devices in the past both on personal and professional levels and I have always loved the architecture, the simple to use software, the reliability and the performance of Synology storage solutions. Since implementation, my friend and his co-workers have been very happy, praising Synology and recommending the company to others. In this review, I will be taking a closer look at the Synology DS1815+ and talk about my experience using the unit for my work during the past 6 months.
When I wrote my Macro Photography Lighting Tutorial, I had the opportunity to test a fairly popular product for my section on ring lights: the Bolt VM-110. I was happy with the quality of light from the VM-110 ring light, but I was unimpressed with its low strength. Since ring lights are so commonly-used for macro photography, I decided that it would be worthwhile to review the VM-110 and share some of my thoughts about how well it works for macro photography.
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.