Friday, September 27, 2013

Lowepro Urban Reporter 250

While the wife and I were traveling, I got a very interesting email from Derrick Story, photography evangelist of Lowepro. He asked me in the email if I would like to have a first look with a bag that hasn't been out yet. I said "yes" of course! It's not only the iPhone that gets me excited! Having a first look at a product from a quality bag maker such as Lowepro is something that can also be thrilling.

Enter the Lowepro Urban Reporter 250!

This is a classy bag and has a lot of good things going for it.

When you first hold the bag, you would think that Lowepro made a bag out of ... jeans! The bag feels good to the touch. And, like a good old pair of pants, I believe this material will weather nicely. However, the bag isn't made up of ordinary cloth. The cloth that makes up the bag is actually a synthetic material that will let rain drops glide over it. So, even if it does not have a rain cover, you can be assured that the bag will protect your gear from the rain. Just don't go swimming or go under strong waterfalls with it.

On either side of the bag are two roomy pockets. Both pockets are roomy enough for an external speedlite or a bottle water. I was even able to put a Canon Powershot G15 inside one of these pockets. Inside the pocket is another stretchy pocket that's good for filters, a phone or your business cards. 

At the back of the bag is a pocket that's big enough to house an iPad. However, this is not a padded compartment so I don't really recommend putting an electronic device there. You can put a book, a magazine, or even an ExpoImaging FlashBender in there. However, the true purpose of this bag is revealed when you unzip the zipper at the bottom: when you do this, you will be able to slip the telescopic handles of your luggage into the pocket. This will free up your hands and you won't have to carry your gear anymore, perfect when you're zipping through an airport.

Next, when you open the flap, you are presented with the front, main pocket that's also big enough for an iPad, maps, or a magazine. You could, technically, put a speedlite there though, because of the thick dimensions of the speedlite, the front pocket will be bulging...

When you open the bag fully, you'll be surprised to find a covered camera compartment. Yes, there is a cover under the front cover. This is because the camera compartment can be a stand-alone storage for your camera gear. This thickly padded section can actually be removed and what you are left with is a messenger bag which can be used for your daily commute. Without the compartment, the inside of the bag is roomy and you can even use it as a weekend bag.

There is a laptop compartment inside the bag and you can put a 13-inch Macbook Pro in there. Well, I rarely bring my laptop outside anymore, so what I have there instead is my full-sized iPad. The depth of the laptop compartment is deep enough to enable you to insert the iPad vertically. Yes, my iPad was standing inside the bag when I took the photo.

Now, the main compartment designed for camera storage is a roomy one. I was able to squeeze my Canon 7D mounted with a Canon 70-200 f/4L lens and with that set up, the padded top only bulged a little. Now, a 70-200 f/2.8L lens is an inch longer than the one that I have so you won't be able to squeeze it in if it's mounted to a camera. However, the bag is deep enough to house a 70-200 f/2.8L on its own... Or, if you really want to put that mounted 70-200 f/2.8L in there, then you can do what Derrick did here; it's a different bag, but you get the gist. Derrick is a master at manipulating his bags to suit his needs. :)

Oh, one thing I love: buttons! Yes, Lowepro decided to go retro with this bag so to lock the front cover and the side pockets, all you need to do is button the covers up. And I love the leather accents also! This bag has one classy design.

So, all-in-all, you can put a DSLR with a mounted standard zoom lens, a couple of extra short lenses, a couple of speedlites, a laptop in the laptop compartment, an iPad in the front pocket, a point-and-shoot camera and a bottle of water. That's a lot of gear!

What's one thing that I like changed? Just one thing: the padding for the strap. The padding is thin for my taste and I would have wanted a thicker one, like the one in the Lowepro Pro Messenger 180 which I reviewed here. For me, that bag has one of the best strap and strap padding there is.

And finally, to test out the bag, I decided to test it in one of the best places to test it: The Chicago Oktoberfest! It is an urban bag after all, and it is the perfect bag whether for use in the office, a walk-around bag, or even attending a beer-soaked festival! The look of the bag will enable you to blend with the crowd and its low-profile look will hide the fact that you have camera gear inside. From afar, you can't even tell the Lowepro bag from other messenger bags - perfect for photographers who want to remain anonymous. :)

The wife and I prepared a short video of the bag. Hope you like it.

This bag is Highly Recommended!

So get yours here!

Special thanks to the wife, Reina Reyes, for shooting the stills and video clips.

Special thanks to Derrick Story and Suzanne Knowlton for trusting me with their secret. Thank you for giving me the first look of this bag!

Gear used to make this post:

-- Canon Powershot G15 (Reviews Part 1 and Part 2)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

The Phottix Ares Performed Admirably

The wife and I did a couple of portraiture sessions with the wife as a model. In both instances, I wanted to use off-camera flash so as to produce pleasing portraits. I would have used the built-in light commander in the Canon 7D to trigger my speedlite, but I was afraid that the outdoor condition, plus the very bright sunlight might affect the infrared light connecting the two. So, I decided to use the Phottix Ares. (My initial review of the Ares is found here.)

What can I say? The Ares, as I’ve said in the title of this post, performed admirably. Because the triggers use radio waves, the sun was not a factor. I used a 70-200 lens, so if I needed to do a whole body portrait, I would have needed to step a couple of feet back. Ok, a lot more than a couple… But, there were no misfires! The speedlite fired whenever I wanted it to. The only time it failed to fire was when the speedlite went to sleep because I wasn't shooting for some time. But that was not the Ares’ fault.

So, for just $27 or so per unit, you cannot go wrong with the Phottix Ares. It is a capable, no-nonsense trigger. It could even give the more expensive brands a run for their money. Now I just need to test the operating distance of the units…

It is Highly Recommended and I suggest you get one right away!

So get yours here!


PS. More of the wife’s photos are found here.

Gear used to make this post:

Friday, September 13, 2013

Think Tank Photo Urban Disguise 35 V2.0 Review

We live in a connected world. Aside from our mobile phones, we now have iPads, iPad Minis, or laptops. Sometimes, a person has all of the above... And photographers are no exceptions.

And so, photographers need a bag that can handle all, or most, of the above.

The Think Tank Photo Urban Disguise 35 V2.0 is a great candidate. It certainly has the great looks and the capacity that can meet a photographer's requirements.

You can fit a pro DSLR with a 70-200 f/4 mounted lens with the lens hood placed in the proper orientation, a couple of extra lenses and a speedlite. You certainly can add another body in the huge front pocket. A gripped body can be put inside though you would need to make a little adjustment to the padded divider. The 35 can carry a 13-inch MacBook Pro or something of similar dimensions. Take note though, that you cannot put a gripped body and a laptop at the same time. This is because of the previously-mentioned modification to the divider that enables you to put a gripped body: because of this modification, the space for the laptop is reduced by a couple of inches in the long dimension. Well, you can still put an iPad, or maybe a small notebook after you modify the insert...

The front pocket is covered by a flap. It has hook-and-loop tapes plus a buckle that took me sometime to unlock. There is a zippered pocket on the said flap for your small items. This is one thing I greatly love about this bag: there are a lot of pockets!

You can put an iPad in the compartment reserved for your laptop or in the huge front pocket. And there is even another pocket inside the main compartment where an iPad can be placed, though this last pocket is not greatly padded and your iPad will bump with your camera gear - take great precaution when you placed your precious tablet here.

A rain cover comes with the bag and I was able to test if it really can protect my camera gear: the wife and I took it to the Sea Dog Extreme Ride here in Chicago and my camera gear and other electronic stuff survived! Yes, the rain cover works!

There is another pocket at the back of the bag. If you unzip the bottom portion of the pocket, you can slide the sleeve to the handle of your luggage. This is perfect because it means you don't have to carry the bag.

The 35 is great but if there's one thing that I'd like changed, it would be the padding in the strap. When you put your camera gear plus a laptop plus an iPad then you've got one heavy load. I've always believed that you cannot go wrong with a thick padding for a shoulder strap and you certainly would need it here if you've got a full load. Also, the padded portion of the strap is fixed in place, so there were times when it was the strap itself that sat on my shoulder, not the padded portion. The Think Tank Photo Retrospective Series, I believe, has one of the best strap padding there is.

The Think Tank Photo 35 V2.0 is a gorgeous bag which you can use around the city, in extreme thrill rides, and in formal places. It is an unassuming bag that you can take with you wherever you go.


Check out the video the wife and I prepared.

And get yours here:

Special thanks to Brian Erwin of Think Tank Photo for providing the bag.

Music used in the video:

  • Celeb Lounge by Don Taylor from the Podjam Store
  • Coming Down from the BlackRapid Music Store
  • When the Neon is Flashing from the Vimeo Music Store
Gear used to make this post:

-- Canon Powershot G15 (Reviews Part 1 and Part 2)

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Canon Powershot G15 is Great for Fine Art Photography!

Yes, there's a G16 now, but I wouldn't want to part with my G15 just yet... I don't see a compelling reason to. :)

So get yours here!


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

The Willis Tower

One of my most favorite building design in the world.

Shooting it at the blue hour makes it more ethereal...

Gear used to make this post:

-- Canon Powershot G15 (Reviews Part 1 and Part 2)

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Final Bid to Summer... Navy Pier Fireworks Viewed from the Museum Campus

Hey Summer, it was nice having you around. I know it's time for you to depart. And what a better way to say goodbye than by sending you off with glorious fireworks display.

What, I think, makes this a beautiful viewing spot? It's the water. The reflection makes the fireworks more splendid!

Until next time...

PS: Check out my other post regarding this year's fireworks display at the Navy Pier at this link.

Gear used to make this post:

-- Canon Powershot G15 (Reviews Part 1 and Part 2)


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