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Sunday, August 21, 2011

Camera bags and related stuff

I've been in camera bag hell for most of my professional career. What does that mean? Essentially this- There is no such thing as the perfect camera bag. One has this, the other has that and some are just complete crap.

I used to like Kata's line of upper end bags (The inserts on their lower end bags compress to the thickness of paper) until three of their upper management team were being introduced to me by their importer's representative and while one of them pretended I wasn't even there, the other two looked at me like I was nothing but dirt. I informed them at that moment my only future interest in Kata was making sure everybody I knew in the photographic industry was how they truly felt about their customers. I dont care if Kata becomes the last manufacturer of camera bags in the world. If they do, I'll buy bubble wrap by the yard.

I also used to be quite enamored with LowePro but for the past few years it seems (In my opinion) that they stopped actually talking to photographers in order to get design input for their bags. I have a LowePro bag thats about 20 years old and I'll never get rid of it but none of their new products suit my needs.

How about Tamrac? They have two lines. One is their upper end, made here in the US and they're extremely durable. I like them and own a couple. Their other line (Made in China), which is much easier to find is great looking stuff and after about two years (Or less depending on use) the internal padding gets flattened out to the point that its like there is none at all. I cant recommend those for any use.

Tenba is one of my favorites. From the looks of things it appears that they actually include photographers in their design phase and as a result have some very cool and useful products. I'll be buying one of their "Shootout" backpacks in the next month or so. Their "Black Label" line of satchels and shoulder bags are very cool as well. I also own one of those. Their line is of great interest to me.

Another brand is Think Tank. I've never used them but from what I can see they look to be on the same level as Tenba, which in my opinion is damned good. They have some cool modular systems which are easily configured to an individual's needs.

So, I guess the next thing to cover is how does a person select the right one? First off- There is no such thing as the "perfect" camera bag, so stop looking for it. You stand a better chance of finding the mythological golden fleece. How do you determine what the best bag for you is? Obviously you start with how much gear you expect to be carrying? Does it need to adhere to the criteria set for flying on commercial airliners? There are many questions and as a result of needs, many of us end up with different kinds of bags for different situations. For example, when I'm just out and about I usually carry a minimal load out of one body, and usually three lenses such as my 105mm Macro, 24-70 and 70-200. Add in extra memory cards in their storage cases, a cleaning kit and a few other small accessories. That also allows me to use my smallest case which incidentially fits perfectly into the right pannier of my motorcycle.

For traveling by air, I usually have two bags to take on board because I never, ever check my camera gear. Ever. Did I mention that I never check my camera gear? (Damned good way to get it stolen/damaged) My two carry ons are a backpack for my camera gear and my laptop bag. I rarely carry them all together in one because frankly, it's just too damned heavy. My gear is heavy enough as it is.

So, there you have it- My view of camera bags. As I said- Each of us has their needs when it comes to them, singular or multiple and they may all be different. One last thing: When you decide its time to buy (another), take your gear with you to the store and actually try to fit everything in it.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Pixel Peeping

Many years ago, I was in the home audio/video business. I enjoyed it as I got exposed to some amazing home audio equipment (Some of which I own), cool music and some interesting customers. Some of those customers were interesting in very strange and occasionally annoying ways. The best example was the person known back then as a "Tweak" (Long before the term was used to describe meth-heads). The Tweak was the person who walked into an audio equipment store to check out equipment while never, ever actually enjoying music. They were listening to the electronics.

What does that mean? Your average Tweak would have the specifications of each component and would judge them not on their sound quality but those numbers on the printed page. Yes, Total harmonic Distortion, signal to noise ratio and many others. They swore they could hear a difference when on paper the difference was a fraction of one percent. Some of these people were deluded enough to think that using an opaque green paint marker on the transparent parts of CDs' actually made them sound better. Of course when asked how binary code was affected (Being one of the greatest examples of not having the slightest "gray area") they were hard pressed into explaining and their responses usually ranged from getting as twitchy as a cult member in a deprogramming session to planting their feet and irrationally insisting that they heard a difference.

In photography, we call them "Pixel Peepers"- I'll use PP to keep things short, sweet and a little funny (At least I think it is). What PPs' generally look at first and foremost, are the amount of pixels on an imaging sensor. It usually doesnt occur to them about the physical size of the sensor, nor does the imaging device's actual ability to provide a quality image, or even their own ability to take a picture. Lets also not forget dynamic range. Thats another good one.

My favorite PP is the one who brags about how they can tell an image has been manipulated (Probably based on their own lack of skill), and/or the difference between film and digital. IF I have nothing better to do, I'll show them a range of images I've taken as far back as the mid-1980s (Pentax 645 Medium format film camera), Early 1990's (Graflex Crown Graphic 4x5 Large format film camera made between 1956 and 1973) and from all the digital cameras I've owned over the years, starting with a 2 megapixel Kodak DC 290 back in 2001-2002 and all the way up to whatever my current camera was/is at the time.

All it's ever taken to put doubt in their minds was after they tried to tell me which was which- I'd ask one simple thing. For them to explain what it was/is about the image that made them think so. My favorite was: "It has to be- Just LOOK at it!". That particular PP was completely incapable of explaining their reasoning but they were just that sure. To this day, not a single person has been able to explain, or even properly guess. Even better was the image I shot in 1986 with a Pentax 645. Its usually the first one guessed as digital in origin. Another one- An image I shot of a guy sleeping on a bench at the CTA Blue Line California station with a Leica D-Lux 4 is almost always guessed as film.

To sum it up- Check it all out for yourself and remember that its all about the image, not the numbers.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Update on the update

So for now I'm building Flickr galleries for my art and fun (Hell- they're both. I love photography, remember?)

Heres how it is so far: My main page (You should see the link to the right) is as described in my previous post. My actual site will be permanent showing of my commercial works. Updates and new artwork will be posted to my Flickr galleries.

Not quite done but getting there as time allows.

Theres a new link to the right with my "Photostream" on it.

Its a work in progress.