Camera Bags .. we all need one.

Camera bags are generally a must have for anything larger than a smartphone or one of the premium compacts, something akin to the new Sony ZV-1 or the RX100 series. You get the idea, if it doesn’t fit in the pocket you will probably need a bag.

This is where things can get complicated very quickly. If you are going to get a bag, what sort should it be? I personally prefer the shoulder style bag and thats what we will look at in this article. I should note that I do have a LowePro Slingshot 200. I dont use this bag as  a camera bag anymore, it sees duty as my work bag and serves that purpose very well. I stopped using the LowePro bag as it tended to get too heavy with a load of gear in it. But for those wanting something between a shoulder bag and a backpack and you are happy to tote a bit of weight around, its a good option.

The New Bag…

As I’ve gotten older and my photography requirements have changed I want to carry around less gear and in a more compact way. Theres a huge range to choose from and its not easy to always tell what a bag is like from a set of images on a website. Ordinarily the large OMP camera bag retails between $80.00 to $90 NZD at most camera outlets. I bought mine off TradeMe for $22.00 NZD as a clearance item.20200628_114358 Whether this is actually a clearance item or just sales speak I dont know. I do know a bargain when I see one so after looking at dozens of new and used bags I took a punt and grabbed  one of the large bags.

Now large is a rather subjective term and the quoted size is for the internal space in the bag. What I was looking for was a bag big enough to fit my 700D with the 18-55 attached  and enough space for either one of the following. Canon EF-s 18-135 STM, Canon EF-S 55 – 250 STM or the Tamron 18-270 VC lens.  I haven’t yet decided as to which of these telephoto lenses will be going in the bag.

To test out this requirement I grabbed my 28-300 mm Tamron off my Pentax camera as well as a 28-90 Sigma. Both as you can see fit quite happily in the bag. I like to store my camera lens up. Fortunately the Canon 700D has the flippy screen so its protected. The bag comes with four Velcro compartment dividers. Two small and two large dividers. I put the two small ones side by side on the floor of the bag giving a nice well padded bottom for the camera to sit on. You can see them in place in the following photo.

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The bottom of the bag is reasonably well padded but having the extra padding under the camera brings piece of mind.

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In addition to a well appointed interior space the bag has a zippered internal pocket in the top flap which can carry a range of extras, like filters and other flat pieces of equipment.The top flap has two zips so that access can be fully or partially open when needed.

At either end of the bag is another pocket suitable for things like smartphones, small books or maps, these pockets would also accommodate other lenses up to the size of the EF 70-300 mm, a flash unit or spare batteries and charger, or even a small table top tripod. For a smallish bag its capable or carrying quite a bit of gear. On the outer surfaces of both the end pockets you have semi stretch pockets that would easily take a small water bottle or can of compressed air.20200628_114721

But wait we are not done just yet. On the back of the bag is an open top sleeve that would take a 10 inch tablet or small netbook for on the go editing. While on the front is a vertical zip that allows access to a pocket that would take a wallet or smartphone. This pocket is neatly set under the OMP logo on the front of the bag. The bag comes with a detachable ( one side only ) hand strap with a pleasing soft cover that makes it very easy to carry. The full padded shoulder strap is attached to metal rings at each end of the bag with carabiner style swivel clips. Both the attachment rings and clips are solid metal units.

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Carabiner style strap attachments and stretch pockets at each end of the bag.

I have the shoulder strap stowed in the tablet pouch at the back of the bag. This pouch has a central Velcro tab to keep it closed so whatever is in the pouch stays put. Very handy for storing the strap.20200628_114515

On the front of the bag two sets of nylon loops can be seen. These came with two short adjustable straps attached which I have stored in the front wallet pocket. They are used for attaching a lightweight tripod to the bag.

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Overall construction of the bag is excellent, the only thing it lacks is a pull out wet weather cover like my LowePro bag has. This really isn’t an issue as I dont intend to be getting wet doing adventure style photography. The bag is more than capable of shielding the gear inside from a passing shower and that is all I require it to do.

In conclusion,

I’ve had other shoulder bags in the past, both large and small and its fair to say than none of the have come as well equipped for the enthusiast photographer as this particular bag. At the current price you cant go wrong and even paying more for the bag would still leave you feeling that it was money well spent. The only real niggle I have with the bag is the the handle does sometimes impede ease of access to equipment, but its only one click and the handle is out of the way. I usually have the top handle stowed in a pocket when I’m using the shoulder strap so this really is a bit of a non issue.

  • Internal Dimensions:250×180×13­0mm
  • External Dimensions: 300×215×150mm

Canon 700D my new camera.

Well not new exactly, it is six years old according to the onboard date. With only 2337 on the shutter this is essentially a brand new camera. It came with the 18-55 STM kit lens which is very quiet in operation and appears to be a reasonable performer for video work, although this will need more investigation as to how good it will be for video work.

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At $499.00 NZD it was a little higher than I was wanting to pay considering my Canon 650D which I bought a little over two years ago cost $365.00 NZD. However the newer STM lens goes some way to offsetting the higher ticket price. I picked up a new 16 gig Sandisk Extreme SD card and will no doubt purchase a larger capacity card sometime in the future.

You can see my buying process here for The Canon 650 . In keeping with the Frugal Photographer ethos I wasn’t wanting to spend over $500.00 NZD maximum, as I will need to purchase either a 18 -135 or 55 – 250 telephoto lens. Having had one of the 55-250 lenses I know that they are a good quality lens, better in fact than the 18-55 kit lens. Further to this is the suggestion that the 18 -135 is as good has me interested in this lens as a more general purpose walkabout lens. Time and budget will no doubt be the main factors in my search for lenses.

So what do images from this camera look like. Pretty much as you would expect from any modern DSLR, pretty average. Thats not a bad thing it just meant the camera needed a bit of tuning and the lens needed a good clean. On the way back to Hamilton ( We picked the camera up from Botany Downs in Auckland ) we stopped at Mercer, as I had spotted some old steam locomotives sitting in a large rail-yard area. It turns out these steam locomotives belong to the Mainline Steam Heritage Trust and are awaiting a restoration program.

The locomotives are all from South Africa and you can read more about them in the Stuff news article from 2018.

The images were all shot Raw + Jpeg and I have edited the Jpegs images only at this time. The RAW files have been discarded. As I have mentioned previously my intention for the future and at least in the short term is to primarily shoot Jpeg. Most modern Jpegs from late model DSLR’s or Mirrorless cameras are generally very good. As with most cameras there is some fine tuning to get things right and Fuji cameras probably do this best.

Fortunately however the 700D comes with the ability to custom tune any of the shooting mode presets as well as being able to customise 3 blank presets. The aim is to have the standard Jpeg mode as well as the inbuilt modes to choose from and have the three additional modes geared towards the type of output I would select for film simulation profiles in Fuji cameras. These options are found in the settings and are labelled as ” Picture Style”

All the following images were processed using Photoscape 3.7. Various filters have been applied as part of the processing of these images. In general this is simply for a little artistic flair to enhance what would in essence have been a fairly bland lot of images. The overcast sky and late time of day, around 4.30 PM meant the available light was very flat and dull, hence a little fine tuning using various film sims and filters found in Photoscape.

There appears to have been a problem with loading the images . If you are not able to see the images on this page , click here to see the album.

A modern era diesel locomotive cruises on by while I was taking the above photos.

Ritchie Blackmore – Then & Now

November 1975 I had the privilege of being at one of only two Deep Purple concerts. I say privilege because it was decades before we were likely to see them live again, apart from a rough 1984 concert. The same applies to Led Zeppelin when they were at Western Springs the previous year, the first and only time they were here.

One of the main stays of the early Deep Purple line up was legendary rock guitarist Ritchie Blackmore. Any one familiar with some of the early anthems like “Smoke on the Water” – “Lazy” or “Highway Star” just to name a few tracks will recognise Ritchie’s guitar playing. Slightly younger folks will know him from his very successful band, Rainbow.

What I didnt know was what he had been doing since his “Rainbow” days until just recently. Purely by chance the good old YouTube algorithms threw up a reference to “Blackmores Night” featuring Ritchie Blackmore. Obviously knowing the name I investigated further and much to my surprise I found music magic. Classed as Traditional Folk Rock, the band leans towards Renaissance era style and musical instrumentation along with modern instruments. With Candice Night providing lead vocal and much of the song lyrics as well as being the wife of Ritchie Blackmore, this ensemble was never going to fail.

While the music is light-years from the likes of Nightwish, Deep Purple or Rainbow it is no less totally enjoyable and the blend of old and new is nothing if not genius, and at 75 years of age Ritchie doesn’t seem to be likely to hang up that guitar anytime soon.

As with all music there are some songs that I dont necessarily like all that much ( they are few in number ) but then there are the gems that Candice brings to life in a way that gives you head to toe goosebumps. Her voice is at times mesmerising and the guitar work by Ritchie is in a class of its own, a master at his craft still.

Below is the full concert of Blackmores Night performing – “A Knight In York”

I’m still standing …. just

Sounds like a line from a song, actually it is. However in my case it has a somewhat different meaning.

Its almost halfway through 2020 and I’ve had little time to devote to this blog even with being in lock down for 7 weeks because of the Corona Virus, as well as  work injuries and ongoing health issues.

Since the start of the year I have been experiencing health problems of one form or another. As we age parts wear out or exhibit problems, just part of life I guess. As I write this I’m experiencing yet another medical issue. All of which has prevented me from doing what I enjoy, and thats taking photos, sharing my results with you and talking about the processes I use and sharing the work and insights of other like minded individuals.

This image is taken with my Samsung J#Pro smartphone. Looking at the detail shows a good deal of mush. The Mountain hiding behind the cloud is where I live.

Like most folks these days I carry a smartphone with me always and I do get the odd random snap, but the phone really isn’t that good as a camera, its merely a mid level work-phone.

Currently I am limited to my Fuji HS20 and a couple of Pentax 35mm cameras for anything more serious in photography and again because of the lock-down and restrictions I haven’t had access to the local film lab which is the down side to 35mm film photography if you dont develop your own films and scan them.

On the music side of things I have been watching a good deal of online content plus revisiting a lot of my own music collection. This has been restricted a little by health issues as well, think ear infections and possible ear drum damage, and so it goes. Thankfully that seems to be mostly in the past and I have had a bit more time of late to listen to some of my favourite bands.

I will endeavour to post something from time to time when I see or hear something I think you folks might like, most likely this will be on the music front as we are well into winter now so photographic opportunities are going to become a little less likely.

Until then .. stay frosty!!

The X-T200 has arrived in store.

Photowarehouse now shows stocks of the X-T200 in store. Price wise its exactly where I thought it would be at $1329.00 NZD. Its being sold with the  XC 15-45 lens. Personally I think it would be better with the XC 16-50 mm lens, but its design

x-t200_system-slide-03-300x267is for a hybrid stills/video camera  therefore it gets the power zoom lens.

For me personally I would much prefer the XC 16-50 mm lens. Having had one in the past I was always impressed with its capability and as an astrophotography lens it was very good as a starter lens.

In terms of usability the X-T200 is a step up from the X-T 100. In the AF performance, number of focus points, updated sensor, outstanding LCD and greatly improved video capability, theres not a lot to dislike about the X-T200 other than the lens, which in its defence does get a generally good review by early adopters of the XC 15-45 mm lens. Personally on an ILC camera I’m not a fan of having power-zoom lenses. It should be noted that this lens can operate in a semi manual way and may be how some folks will want to use it. I just prefer a fully manual zoom for those occasions when I need to very rapidly switch focal lengths.

The dislike I have for power-zooms comes from having had cameras in the past equipped with this type of lens and I can only say that the number of missed opportunities for getting a shot was very high when compared to a standard lens. This holds true for all the smartphones I’ve used to date as well and includes our Samsung Note 9 which for a $1800 dollar smartphone should be a little quicker in focusing than my ageing power-zoom Fuji s5700. Often its not. I intend to tryout the X-T200 in-store to begin with and will report back as to how it performs, but at least for now I remain unconvinced as to the XC 15-45’s abilities. I’d also like to try it with the new XC 35 mm lens as I think that and the XC 50-230 telephoto lens could be a very handy kit if you wanted something a little different. More to come on this, until then,

Happy Snappin.

The state of modern music today P1.

From humble beginnings….

I’ve been listening to modern music for the better part of 50 years, assuming modern music started in the 1950’s with the advent of the mass produced electric guitars and the rise of the multi track audio recording/mixing studios circa 1960’s ( or perhaps a little earlier).

During the latter half of the 1960’s through to the late 1980’s there was a massive up-welling of musical talent, and genres of “modern music” were  arriving in the radio stations playlists, at time this seemed like a daily occurrence1200px-Europe-blocs-49-89x4.svg

A lot of the music of this era was a political outcry, with the likes of the Vietnam War, Civil Rights movement in the US, Khmer Rouge in South West Asia and the Soviet Bloc , being some of the inspiration behind the music. On the home front it was a message to the younger generation telling them that there was other ways of living ones life that didnt require absolute devotion to Church & State. In other words anti establishment. This movement affirmed that you didnt need to conform to old outdated views and that fresh ideas could lead to better life. Sounds a little too altruistic? Perhaps, but forty years of social and political change starting in the 1950’s were brought about  by a younger generation who had directly or indirectly seen what the ravages of two world wars could do to a family, country and society.

In a more modernistic theme it could be called Rage Against The Machine, and yes there is a band with that name too.  Currently they are planning a reunion tour in 2020, thirty years older and probably wiser than when they formed in 1991.

By the end of the 1980’s I pretty much stopped listening to what was “popular” and radio seemed to be going a very formulaic route, girl and boy bands were on the rise, Oasis seemed a breath of fresh air until the wheels fell off and they basically disappeared into obscurity. Yep the nineteen ninety’s were anything other than memorable. The big bands that had good followings, Metallica, Guns & Roses, Van Halen, Pearl Jam, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Nirvana and a smattering of others are largely what drove the music industry. The rest was radio play fluff and not very good. It was evident early on when the lack of musical talent was easy to spot that there were problems within the music industry.MOBY_RUST_2009

Previous generations of musicians had talent and more importantly they had a musical background, came from music schools, had studied art and music as part of the interest in music as a subject and a career or calling. There are of course those who are blessed at birth with an innate music talent and can play anything, sing everything and  perform with little or no background in the subject. The Street Magazine has an interesting little article that lists  what they feel were   the ten biggest bands of the 1990’s. I think they missed a few but each to their own.

We are now in the third decade of the 21st century.  Wow where did the time go?  Main stream fluff and formulaic music dreamt up by music labels seems to still be the order of the day.  They seem to have zero interest in artists that appear a little out side the norm, ensuring they dont get a look in, until fan pressure forces the issue.

Our own homegrown Lorde is a classic example of this, had she not had the smarts to produce a EP that was free to play or download its likely the big recording labels wouldn’t have even let her in the door. If you have been wondering lately why country music seems to be making a comeback of sorts ( although it never really went away), its because in this genre individuality and song writing skill is a blessing not a curse and the width of this style of music is growing, people are enjoying the story telling aspect of the music, something sadly lacking in a lot of the current crop when every second song is about love and little else.

Which leads nicely into one of this weeks feature bands, Nightwish.  Just click on the link below.

NightWish