Category Archives: First Look

First Look: Worldwide Photo Walk

Tomorrow, I will be taking part in the St. Charles MO version of Scott Kelby’s Worldwide Photo Walk (WWPW).  I missed last year’s walk, but was determined to get to this one.

And for the walk, my brand new Tenba backpack arrived today, and I’m sure after tomorrow’s walk, I’ll have a good bit to say about it.  My first impression is that it’s a nice backpack, and should serve my needs well.  A couple of hours on the bricks in old town St. Charles should let me know for sure.

Of course, any day can be a “photo walk” day — there’s no need to wait for Scott to announce the next one.  Go out, and find something to photograph!

First Look: Canon PowerShot G10

Having a DSLR to carry around is liberating.  With a sack full of lens, anything is possible.  With that freedom, though, comes a lot of weight, bulk and a bit of a drudge if you’re traveling, especially for casual photography.   I like also having a “point and shoot” camera for those instances when it isn’t comfortable (or safe) to have a big camera big on my shoulder.  The point and shoot of choice for me had been the Canon PowerShot SD800IS.  It’d been getting long in the tooth and had some physical damage that made me question how long it would hold up.  With that in mind, I started thinking about a new all-purpose camera.

I wanted to stay with Canon — I was familiar with their menus, and was very comfortable with their shooting concepts embodied in their cameras.  Recently, I’d tried an Olympus camera, and really struggled with the thing.  It’s amazing how familiarity with a photography system makes such a difference in the overall experience.  After all, when the shot comes to you, you wanna be ready and able to capture it — stumbling over the camera just isn’t an option.

I’d heard a lot of buzz about the G10 from both amateur and professional shooters, and it really seemed like a nice device.  In fact, Rick Sammon just published a column talking about his experience with the camera, and comparing shots from it with shots from his big gear.  It’s a good read.

For me, here’s some of what sold me on the camera.

  • RAW – This little camera stands above many by delivering RAW images.  RAW gives me huge flexibility in the digital darkroom, if I need it.
  • Controls – The G10 has knob-based controls on the body of the camera that allow shooting like a DSLR.  There’s a knob for ISO, shooting mode and even exposure compensation.  Compared to running through menus to accomplish most of those changes, having physical controls is a major advantage.
  • Manual Focus – Through a menu, there is some ability to do manual focus.  While I don’t use this often, and it’s really only useful when tripod-mounted, it’s still nice to have.
  • Hot Shoe – The onboard flash on these little cameras are pretty harsh.  They flash directly at the subject, and create some pretty icky light (that’s a technical term!).  The G10 has a hot shoe for attaching a speedlite, giving a ton of flexibility.  I’ve already put my 580EX II on it, and it works very well atop the small camera body.  That big flash really makes the camera top heavy!
  • Build Quality – Despite being a small body, this little thing feels like it’s built like a tank, and actually feels like a small brick in your hand.  It’s a solid feel, and I like that.

For me, this is a great little camera, and I carry it everywhere.  That was kinda the point of getting it.  When I encountered something “out there” to capture, I wanted to make sure I had something reasonable with which to capture the image, and the G10 fits the bill.  Watch for more from me on this little marvel.

First Look: Manfrotto 808RC4 Three-Way Pan/Tilit Head

A few weeks ago, I picked up a new three-way head from Manfrotto for my Hakuba tripod.  I have a weakness for these three way heads, and the head that came with the Hakuba just wasn’t up to snuff for some of my heavier lenses.  I recognize that there are some real benegits from a ballhead, and I suspect I’ll have one someday, but I just really love setting up for a nice landscape with a rock-solid three way head.

I’ve gotta say, this head is the most solid head I’ve used.  The handles are big and tapered, making them easy to grip and turn, even on the coldest days.  For someone who loves photographing in the snow and ice, this is crucial!  This head also seems to be able to grip well and hold the camera position, despite off-center weight from either my 100-400L lens fully extended or my focusing rails and MP-E 65mm macro lens.  It even seems to be able to handle my big Celestron 750 f/6 lens.  When I first got the 808RC4, I started playing with some macro shots straight down onto the table.  Even under that weight, it held the camera position quite well, despite really being weighted to one side.

A huge design improvement over my old 3030 is the quick release plate system.  The new system uses two teeth to help hold the enormous plates in place atop the head.  This thing has absolutely no movement once the quick release plate is settled into place and locked down with the handle.  I really like the new handle, too.  On my 3030, the handle had a “dead man’s” toggle to prevent the handle from opening enough to let the gear drop.  In theory, that is.  I never dropped anything, but even with the dead man toggle on, the handle could still open up enough to make the gear really rock atop the head.  The new handle removes the toggle, and opts for a push button release on the handle.  It feels more secure, and seems to have less play in it, making me feel more secure about my gear staying upright and healthy.  Between that and the two teeth for the quick release plate, I really feel comfortable with my largest lenses on this head.

More quick release plates arrived in the mail over the weekend, and I’ve already got them installed on three of my big lenses, along with my camera.  It sure feels like this is a great addition to secure my gear, and make for some truly rock solid conditions for my landscape photography.