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Better Gear Management With Think Tank

We all seem to be obsessed with gear these days … and let me introduce you to another obsession of mine:  how to pack, travel and safeguard that gear.

In short:  BAGs.  I’m obsessed with camera bags and like David Allan Harvey have voluntarily committed myself to treatment for this obsession.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, please feel for both of us and view the following video to learn about “bagology” as David calls it.

Given the amount of travel I do, packing is usually one of the first things that I have to face for any given project.  What type of bags to take, how many I need, and can I get away with the fewest and lightest bags so that I can avoid additional baggage fees.   Also: how can I best compartmentalize and organize the gear to keep it safe during transit, and easily accessible and well organized when I arrive on my shoot.   These are all factors to consider.

Over the years, I’ve constantly come back to the Think Tank line up and I wanted to share thoughts on a few products I use almost religiously.   Think Tank products have helped ensure that my gear is kept secured just as I need it, and it stays protected.

Basically my packing solutions fit into two categories:  Think Tank and Pelican.   Pelican cases are what I use when I know I plan on checking gear or when I’m going into an adverse environment (rain, snow etc) or when I know OTHER people will be handling my gear (such as a large crew) and stacking cases in cube trucks for example…  More on Pelican products to come…

These are a few products that I have been using consistently and that I can recommend:

The new Video Workhorse Series are a great new addition to the line up, designed for the “working pro videographer” in mind.

What that means is a shoulder bag that isn’t just incredible durability, but provides the ability to distribute the gear in a way that allows you to keep a smaller camera system like a Canon C300 MKII  or RED Epic rigged and ready to go out the bag.  Perfect if you need to be able to shoot or run out of your place at a moment’s notice.

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The Helipak for the DJI Inspire is a very cool backpack solution for those of you looking to transport your DJI Inspire drones safely and securely – with all of your accessories (that may not fit w/ the DJI case they provide/sell.)

My team has used drones since 2008 and while the Inspire is a great product, fitting it into a case with all the associated accessories, a laptop, and whatever else you might want to store with the drone when you travel can be challenging.

The Helipak has solved many of these issues, with a large front storage pocket (for up to a 17” laptop). Super durable against the elements and with the customizable dividers, we’ve carried the Inspire and a host of accessories out into some pretty remote places thanks to the Helipad.  Definitely something worth looking into…

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Another “staple” product for more than a decade for me, has been The Shape Shifter 17 v2.0.   This backpack has the unique advantage of being able to be small and light, and to also expand (literally) to accept an insane amount of gear – as much as your back can take!   The ability to have a backpack that can carry not just camera gear, but a laptop and other accessories, as well as expand and contract in size depending on how much gear you want to carry offers fantastic versatility. The bigger versions are able to expand and carry a ridiculous amount of gear if you have to, while still offering slim, customizable, sleek options no matter what you want to carry.   The new “pouch” for your DSLR is a really nice function too!

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Perhaps the gold standard for roller bags, The Airport Security v3.0 is the updated version of the Think Tank durable roller case which I’ve used for years. The Airport comes in both International version (complying with international carry on size requirements) and the Security version (which is sized for US domestic carry on size requirements) meaning you’ll never be in a position where the bag size prevents carry on of gear. Both versions offer the typical Airport quality we’ve come to expect, but now come with updated handles, greater durability and dedicated laptop/tablet compartments.   I think it’s safe to say that 90%+ of news / sports and many other photographers in different genres us THIS bag as their MAIN travel bag for their critical gear that they take onboard with them.   You can alternatively use the Pelican 1510 (I use the 1560 SC with the computer compartment on the top lid myself) but you’ll find you have 20% less space within the case, and that it’s a lot harder to travel with in general given it’s weight.  However:  if you’re FORCED to check it, the Pelican will protect your gear for sure, whereas the Airport Security was not designed to be checked (I’ve checked it and things have survived…but not recommended.)

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Lastly: Sometimes it’s the little things that make all the difference, and the Cable Management 10 v2.0 pouches are a great example of a small and inexpensive solution to helping me manage my gear.   I swear by these, and in fact I never leave home without it… it’s my go to, for all of my iPhone / iPad / laptop cables and power blocks.

I’ve been unable to work without these small gear pouches since I discovered them.  We’ve all found that’s it’s unfortunately soeasy to lose cables (some of which might cost $70+ a pop!) and other accessories over the years, and this is the best solution that I’ve found  to minimize lost accessories for years – I’ve come to rely on the Cable Management pouches as a way to not just minimize losing valuable accessories, but also as a way to keep different kits bundled together.    The ability to keep kits bundled together is in fact one of the biggest time savers – and life savers!   Having to track down accessories or cables before a trip can be harrying…  keeping each of your “kits” in one of these bags that’s clearly labeled will save you from arriving half way across the globe and “missing” that key bolt or cable…

With this system, I can quickly just switch out the pouches into my bags/case for each job.   Simply label the pouches with a piece of yellow gaffer tape and sharpie, and it will be ready to ‘grab and go’ when you need to turn around different kits quickly.

vincentlaforet_blog_thinktank_cable1 vincentlaforet_blog_thinktank_cable2Again, I only ever recommend products that are ‘tried and tested’ and stand by what I’ve used in the field.   I’ve used these products (or earlier versions of them) for more than a decade.

Think Tank makes a great line of different products based on the needs of professionals (because the founders are professional photographers themselves!)  and if you’re not familiar with them, I’d definitely recommend checking them out before you begin your gear and logistics planning for your next shoot.

 

The New Canon 5D MkIV – The Perfect Balance

We always say the latest camera is “the best and the hottest” and other such hyperboles. From what I’ve seen so far (been playing with it for awhile and more to come on that…) the newly announced Canon 5D MkIV may be one of the very best all around cameras ever made.

 

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When you consider performance vs weight and size and the PACKED features such as HDR video and stills, excellent low light performance, dual pixel (think Lytro and focusing in post or adjusting bokeh slightly), 4K video (with effectively super 35mm crop so you can use cine lenses…), amazing AF with 61 sensors and works with face detection and touch screen both in stills and video, anti flicker for video, very smooth ramping of focus and exposure in video in auto modes.

It’s definitely the best combination of Still + Video camera I’ve used to date.

GPS, WIFI (can link multiple cameras to identical atomic clock), NFC, wonderful touchscreen that accesses pretty much every single feature with a tap of a finger, easy connection to smartphones from camera, and yes! Even a built in intervalometer 😉

Basically: pretty much everything you’d want in a body that size and for this market and the perfect BALANCE if you will of megapixels and low light performance as well… The Canon 5Ds was my default go to still camera … Now it’s going to be a tough call as this camera definitely adds 1-2 stops (haven’t done scientific testing but have shot side by side and its visibly improved to the naked eye) in low light and sees much more into the shadows when side by side. By nature higher MP and density sensors will always perform slightly less than lower MP sensors as the individual pixels are smaller and capture less light – pretty much a hard and fast rule across the board.

I love my 50MP cameras … But my computers still have a hard time churning on all of that data… 30 MP is kinda perfect for most out there!

As mentioned low light is impressive on this camera. The Canon 1DX MKII is a BEAST but overkill for most non-sports/nature/extreme photogs in terms of weight and size and I prefer a 30MP body personally.

All of these news sensors from Canon are crazy, crazy sharp and have a superbly impressive resolving power in stills! A pleasure to look at in LR on Apple Retina displays …

The Dynamic Range is just silly. This camera also has an impressive HDR mode (both still + video) as well as multi exposure HDR with automatic alignment of multi-exposures built in (so you can do multi exposure HDR handheld.)

You can apply looks (and change existing after you shoot then), crops and reprocess images IN camera and rate images on the back with a RATE button or easily by using the touch screen and you can pinch to zoom and flick left or right like on your smartphones … GPS will log your paths and moves and of course embed in EXIF.

You can also customize the display of information in your viewfinders, pretty much every button although I’m guessing you’ll find yourself using mostly the touch screen from now on … And has a sleek option to turn on a grid in the prism/viewfinder as well as a leveler for roll and tilt. This camera is also impressively weather-sealed and uses the same LP-E6 batteries (yay!) we’ve all been using for years.

There are actually so many functions that the manual is 600 pages and yes, I had to read it to figure out what all these bells and whistles do!

My how far we’ve come since the initial 5D & for many of us the 5DMKII!

The size and weight of this camera and 30 MP will find its way to be the perfect companion to many out there! It lives just perfectly between the 1DX MKII and 5DS/R … A little BEAST!

Check out the new Canon 5D MkIV at B&H for more price info and to pre-order information.

 

It’s here – my thoughts on the new Canon 1DX MkII

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

 

For the past week or so I’ve been lucky to get a chance to shoot Canon’s new flagship camera – the EOS 1DX MKII.

As many of you know, I used the previous version of this camera extensively on the AIR project in conjunction with the Canon 5Ds.     I came to call the 1DX the “king of the night” for it’s incredible low light performance.   It seems Canon has continued to push the envelope with this camera in that area and added quite a few significant features.

The big question these days with any camera it seems is:   is this a still camera or a video camera – given the wild moves towards motion that the industry has taken over the last several years.

I’d say the 1DX MKII lives comfortably in both worlds right now.

First, with 14 frames a second and C-Fast 2.0 cards, this thing is a monster in terms of still camera capabilities.   As you’ll see on this sequence of surfer Tom Dosland wiping out and falling from the lip of a 40-foot-wave at JAWS in Maui, this camera produces quite a sequence of frames on peak action.

Frankly you almost feel like you’re shooting a film with a mechanical camera at this point – and good luck trying to fill the buffer with the new speedy cards.   In this case I was using the Sandisk 128GB Sandisk C-Fast 2.0 cards which were literally hot to the touch when I ejected them from the camera.

This sequence was shot with the Canon 800mm 5.6 and the AF didn’t miss a lick.   My only regret is not having shot a little looser on what were what some describe as the waves of the decade at JAWS.

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo by Vincent Laforet

Tom Dosland at JAWS. Photo sequence by Vincent Laforet

 

I shot two days at Jaws and nearly 8,000 frames (I was trying to demonstrate the sequence potential of the camera for Canon so I shot unusually heavily) and of the approximately 9 hours of shooting, the AF only veered off momentarily for one sequence out of nearly a hundred.   Quite impressive.

Here are a couple of additional images I shot of a diver off of South Point on the Big Island yesterday.   The resolving power of this camera is incredible (looks like a groundbreaking sensor)  and quite visible on the face of the rocks…

 

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Other than the built-in GPS functionality which allows you to track your path, and of course to collect GPS data while you shoot and embed them in each still frame, the biggest surprise were 3 new video functionalities.

First, the camera has built in AF with face recognition for video and a touch screen display.   And it works pretty solidly.   Although surfing isn’t quite a torture test for an AF system (although it does have to be quite precise) I can’t recall a single sequence where it failed me.   It just worked…

The comes the 4K video which results in nearly crystal clear video on an Apple MacBook Retina display.   I’d love to see a Canon Log feature added to this camera at some point, as the dynamic range of the video is quite impressive.   I’m not going to claim that it rivals that of RAW format high end cinema cameras, but for an SLR it’s quite excellent.

The two big surprises for me were that the camera shoots 60 fps at 4K (around an APS-H sensor focal length equivalent for 4K), and 120 fps at 1080p.     And that’s a significant bump in frame rates – notably for a DSLR.

 

I expect to come back and post some video samples from Hawaii and JAWS in the coming week, but the clips are so large that I’m going to have to wait to get back to the mainland and faster internet speeds to upload them at this point.

Overall I’m extremely impressed with this camera.     It’s as with all Canon 1D series bodies built like a tank and ready to be exposed to almost any series of conditions you throw it at.

The AF performance, the frame rate both still and in motion are quite impressive.   And the GPS, touch screen AF, live view and customizability of functions are welcome additions to what was already the very definition of a “workhorse.”

And lastly a nice surprise was the battery performance.   As is often the case with prototypes, I was only able to get one battery.   With live view, constant AF on a 200-400mm, and a combination of still + mostly video shooting on the second day, the camera was able to last nearly 4 hours of use (with period shut downs to conserve battery.)   That’s impressive.   As a still camera I think it’s safe to assume this camera would survive heavy use for an entire day if not more – but I haven’t been able to do a formal “scientific” test.

Lastly – with the high ISO performance come exceptional results in the “middle” ISO area.   During daytime and normal levels of sunlight, I found myself shooting a 800-1250 ISO and 1/4000th of a frame and f/8 on the 800mm f5.6.   This is the first camera to let you shoot past f 5.6 with all AF sensors from Canon and achieve excellent AF results – but most importantly the quality of the frames at that high ISO is exceptional: they look no different to my eye to what I would have expected at 200 ISO just a few years back.

Incredibly impressive low light performance too – here’s a 50mm f1.2 at 1.6 with a  10 second exposure at 6400 ISO –  shot at 12,500 feet elevation!

 

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Below is detailed list of specs for the new Canon 1Dx MKII camera:

 

Specifications

  • 20.2MP CMOS Sensor
  • Dual pixel CMOS AF in Live View
  • Dual DIGIC6 + processor
  • ISO100-51200 (extendable to ISO range 50 to 409,600)
  • Continuous shooting 14 frames / sec.
  • Live View mode at 16 frames / sec – high-speed continuous shooting new mirror drive system to allow the (at 16 frames / sec.)
  • Continuous shooting possible number is 170 frames in RAW and Unlimited in JPEG
  • 61-point AF system, which range is expanded. 41-point cross-type
  • AF is -3EV correspondence
  • AI AF accuracy and motion tracking was improved Servo AF III + – 360000 dot metering sensor.
  • Video at 4K up to 60fps.
  • Full HD (1080p) up to 120fps.
  • 4K video can be recorded to internal CFast2.0 Media
  • Movie Servo AF – LCD monitor 3.2 inches, 1.62 million dot. Touch panel for AF point for video shooting.
  • Camera digital lens Optimizer (DLO).
  • Lens aberration correction.
  • Diffraction correction
  • CFast2.0 and Compact Flash dual card slot
  • GPS built-in – 2-axis electronic level
  • USB3.0 terminal, HDMI terminal
  • Size of 158mm x 167.6mm x 82.6 mm
  • Weight 1340g