Category Archives: Gear Reviews

In My Bag

One of my favorite photography sites, The Photo Brigade, does a segment every once in awhile called “In My Bag”. In each of the various posts, they have some of the best photographers in the industry show what they usually take to the various events they photograph. Some of my favorites are posts by Mark Rebilas, Luke Sharrett, Jamey Price, and Jared Wickerham. As a self-proclaimed “gear nerd” I love seeing what other photographers use to get the amazing images into publications around the world. Some kits could be considered pretty humble, others are insane. So, I thought some of my blog followers might like to see what’s “In My Bag” when I head out to photograph  any event, such as professional baseball and weddings, and so I can answer that reoccurring question, “Wow, what all do you have in there?” So here we go:

My Bag: Think Tank Photo Airport Security V2 Roller

Before I bought this bag, I was using a backpack and tried to fit as much gear as I could into it. Let’s just say, things got very heavy, very fast. This bag has been a huge lifesaver when it comes to the amount of weight it takes off by it being a rolling bag. One thing I love about this bag is the safety cable that allows the bag to be locked in place when I cannot be next to it. The bag also features a combination zipper lock for when I leave it. Think Tank Photo describes the Airport Security as:

“Designed to meet USA domestic carry-on size standards, this roller provides advanced security features for traveling with the maximum amount of equipment. ”

And they mean the “maximum amount of equipment. Here is what I fit into the Airport Security:

Camera Bodies:

– Canon 1D Mark IV

This is my main handheld camera, and is attached to my 400 f/2.8 IS, 90% of the time.

Canon 1D Mark III

This is mostly used for remote work, however, when I shoot weddings, it quickly becomes a second handheld camera.

– Canon 1D Mark II N

The Mark II N has been a real workhorse for me over the past few years, but I really only use it for remote work now.

– Canon 5D Mark III w/ Battery Grip

The newest addition to my bag, the 5D Mark III is my main second handheld camera while out in the field. The addition of a full-frame body to my bag has proved to be invaluable thus far, and I have really enjoyed the camera.

Lenses:

–  Sigma 15mm f/2.8 EX DG Fisheye

– Canon 16-35mm f/2.8  II

Canon 24-105mm f/4 IS

Canon 70-200 f/4

Canon 70-200 f/2.8  IS II

– Canon 300 f/2.8 IS

– Canon 1.4x II Teleconverter

Accessories: 

– Canon Speedlight 580 EX II Flash

– Canon Speedlight 430 EX Flash

– Vivitar Auto Thyristor SMS 30 flash

Canon Off-Camera ETTL Flash Cord OC-E3

Manfrotto Variable Friction Magic Arm (Knob Type) (x2)- Used for my remote work, one has a camera attachment platform.

– Pixio Wired Camera Release

Pocketwizard Plus IIIs and Mulitmax Transmitters- These are kept in a vinyl money case from Walmart. The Pre-Release Cables are also in with the Pocketwizards.

– Pre-Release Cables (x2)- for use with my Pocketwizards

– Canon Eyepiece covers

– DIY “Shim” for a floor remote- AKA Two Batteries taped together using Gaffers Tape

– 30 yard roll of 1″ Gaffers Tape

– Lens Cleaning Cloths

– Extra Batteries for all cameras

Manfrotto 681B Monopod (gets attached to the side of the bag)

Think Tank HydroPhobia 300-600 V2– Ziptied to the outside of the bag

– Safety Cables

– Leatherman Tool

– 2012 Pocket Calendar

When on a deadline, I bring my 15″ laptop with me and put it inside a Think Tank Artificial Intelligence 15 v2 and use a Cable Management 30 for all of my computer cables and card readers. These get attached to the Airport Security with a carabiner.

It is amazing how much I have actually stuffed into the single Think Tank Bag. I always bring along my Think Tank Photo Modular Belt Pack using the Pro Speed Belt. I use the belt pack while I am out and about in the stadium, on the field, or shooting weddings because it helps me have most of my gear right at my fingertips. I use a Pixel Pocket Rocket to keep roughly 60GBs of memory cards with me.

When I do have longer traveling distances, I will usually put my Canon 400 f/2.8 IS in a Think Tank Photo Glass Taxi.

The last bag I use is a Targus Messenger Bag. This sling bag used to be a backpack for me while I was in high school, but I found it to be a great photo accessory bag. The bag has two large spaces inside the zippered compartment, a front zipper pocket for smaller items, and a back zippered area for thin items. In this bag I always have:

Avenger Clamps (x4)

– Multi-Plug Extension Cord

– Various Cables

– Power Cables for Alienbee B800s.

– Chargers for all of the camera batteries.

– Flash bracket

As you can probably tell, I love my Think Tank Photo Gear, and highly recommend their products for both the amount of gear you can fit in their bags, but also for the quality products they create. This ends my segment of  “In My Bag”.

All the Gear that fits into the Airport security. All Camera Bodies, Lenses, and Accessories. The Think Tank Photo Artificial Intelligence 15 v2 and Cable Management 30 are sitting on top of the Airport Security V2.

Gear Review: PocketWizard® Plus III

The New Pocketwizard Plus III Transceiver

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On Febuary 20, 2012, LPA Designs, the creator of the Pocketwizard series of transceivers, announced a brand new unit that would be hitting the store shelves in the early summer. The Plus III is the successor to the Plus II, the industry standard for light and remote camera triggering. It has been difficult to come by these units as the demand for them has risen due to their popularity, however,  I was able to pick up two of these units to see how they compared to my MultiMax units and the Alienbee Cybersyncs. As soon as I received the pair of Plus IIIs, it became extremely apparent that the Cybersyncs would be on their way out. Here is a closer look at the new Pocketwizard Plus III.

Quality Construction

The build of the Plus III units are solid and show the quality that LPA has put into their designs from day one. The plastic used has obviously been upgraded from that of the older Plus II and MultiMax units. The Plus III also has a threaded mount on the back of the unit that can be used for mounting on an isolation bar for off hotshoe mounting. One thing that I really like about the Plus III is the internal antenna. I can not tell you how many times the external antenna on the Plus II and the MultiMax units have been in my way. The size of the Plus III units is one of the most important changes for the Pocketwizard brand. The Plus III has a slimmer build, which when mounted to the hotshoe, makes the unit easy to see around and does not cause any extra bulk on the top of a camera. The unit also sits sideways on the hotshoe, which was a surprising change from previous units. I was hesitant about this at first because I was concerned about being able to makes changes quickly. But after using the units several times, I had zero issues changing settings efficiently.

Pocketwizard Plus III Transceiver mounted on the hotshoe of a Canon 1D Mark II N

Pocketwizard Plus III sits sideways on the hotshoe of the camera.

Pocketwizard Plus III sits sideways on the hotshoe of the camera.

This unit has one of the most user friendly interfaces I have ever experienced and it was incredibly easy to understand which mode , and, when using quad zone triggering, which zone was activated.  The buttons on the Plus III are very responsive and the addition of the half press test button is a nice feature to have when testing remotes.

The Interface of the Plus III Transceiver shows that the unit is in Repeater Mode (RP).

Features

The Plus III Transceiver unit has 32 channels (1-16 are standard channels, and 17-32 for quad-zone triggering) while the previous Plus II only had four channels. As with all Pocketwizards, the Plus III is backwards compatible, meaning that it can communicate with all previous models. The addition of more channels allows photographers to work efficiently and not have to worry about any type of interference or triggering issues when other photographers are around. The quad system triggering allows a photographer to “activate” a camera or light that a receiving unit is attached to. I have found this feature to come in handy when in the studio and working with multiple lights. For example, I can set up three different lights and put them all in different zones, a main light (Zone A), background light (Zone B), and a hair light (Zone C). From the camera’s hotshoe, you can change activate each light individually and choose the look you want.  Previously, if a photographer wanted this feature, they would have to purchase the more expensive MultiMax which also has four zones. This new addition in a less costly unit is definitely welcomed. To see how Quad Zone Triggering works, see my blog post titled “Using Pocketwizard’s Quad Zone Technology”.

With all the new features, which will photographers choose? The new Plus III or the MultiMax?

The Plus III offers several different modes available to the photographer to make our jobs easier.  The Plus III features Auto-Sensing Transceiver Technology. When the unit is on the TxRx mode, it will try and automatically decide which unit is the transmitter and which unit is the receiver. From my experience thus far, the unit has been incredibly accurate when attached to my lights. I have not tested how it will work when used in conjunction with a remote camera, but my assumption is that there should be little to no issues. LPA designed the Plus III with the ability to also choose transmit only (Tx), or receive only (Rx) for when the Auto-Sensing technology does not work. The second feature in the Plus III is Long Range Mode (LR). When in Long Range Mode, the range of the unit is pretty much doubled. When I had a chance to test this, I was able to trigger a strobe nearly three football fields away, 9/10 times. When outside of the Long Range Mode, the Plus III offers a Repeater Mode (RP). Repeater mode allows a user to put another Plus III unit in between two other units to send a signal from the transmitter to the receiver, and effectively trigger a camera or a light over long distances. The last feature of the Plus III is High Speed Receive (HSR). The Plus III’s High Speed Receive mode allows the transmitter and receiver to exchange signals up to 14.5 FPS.

In the Box

Contents of the Pocketwizard Plus III Transceiver Box

Each Pocketwizard Plus III unit comes in its own box containing the essentials for use. Below is a list of what all comes in the box:

– One (1) Pocketwizard Plus III Transceiver

– Small strap for unit

– Coiled Stereo 3.5mm (1/8″) miniphone to miniphone cable

– Mono 3.5mm miniphone to locking PC cable

– Stereo 3.5mm miniphone to 6.3mm adapter

– Quick Reference guide to be attached to the interior of the battery door

– User Manual

Conclusion

LPA Designs has done it again! With the introduction of the Plus III into the Pocketwizard line up, I have no doubt that it will take the place of its predecessor, the Plus II. I also appreciate the changes LPA Designs made to the Plus III and added features found in the MultiMax to this new unit. These additional features make the Plus III a great compromise between more expensive choices.  After using the Plus III in several scenarios, I will be buying several more to add to my bag instead of picking up more MultiMaxs or other units. Because the demand on these units is high, getting your hands on some may be tricky, but I highly recommend the Plus III to any photographer looking for a quality triggering system.

Ready for the Moment?

One of my favorite camera bag companies, Think Tank Photo, is currently running a photo competition called ” Be Ready Before the Moment” in celebration of their 5 years in business. The contest poses 4 different questions that photographers can answer in order to win the grand prize of $5,000 and multiple other prizes. The questions include:

  • What does urban, gritty, or edgy mean to you?
  • The most creative, interesting, or unique “What’s In Your Bag” shot.
  • The most creative, interesting, or unique shot of photographers wearing/using Think Tank gear.
  • Any photo the entrant believes portrays Think Tank Photo’s “Be Ready ‘Before the Moment’” theme.

Photographers are encouraged to submit photos that support answers to these questions.

So in honor of Think Tank Photo, I thought I would throw up a bit of a boast on one of my favorite bags that they provide and the one that keeps me “Ready for the Moment” the Airport Security V2 Roller.

The build quality of the Airport Security keeps you going:

By far, the quality of the bag is one of the most attractive things to me. The fabric that covers the bag is tough and able to take a beating. I have traveled with this bag for a while, crossing the United States and I have yet to have a problem with the bag itself.

The bag has seen the inside of cargo holds of airplanes, under the seat of planes , and the backseat and trunk of my car (which is probably the scariest thing of them all). It has rolled through hotel lobby after hotel lobby, on sand and Astroturf. The thing is a tank.

Think Tank Photo’s design into this bag was to keep the internal compartments and gear safe while the outside of the bag was able to take a beating. Hard plastic covers part of the back of the bag near the wheels for added protection from drops and bumps while rolling.

As you can probably guess from seeing the wheels, the bag rolls smoothly and is able to keep up with any photographer who is on the run to their next assignment. The Airport Security V2 also has two backpack straps that come out from a compartment on the back side of the bag for when stairs are going to be a problem. While the bag is not meant to be a backpack, the straps are comfortable enough to carry the bag a decent distance before having any kind of issue with being uncomfortable.

So what can the bag hold?:

While I know a few photographers who keep the bag packed even more than I do, my bag is filled with almost every bit of my photography gear I can muster. My bag has the following in it:

Bodies:

Canon 1D mkIV

Canon 1D mk II N

Canon 40D (not pictured)

Lenses:

EF 300 2.8L IS

EF 70-200 2.8L IS

EF 85 1.8

EF 50 1.8

EF 16-35 2.8L mk II

Canon EF 1.4x Teleconverter

Flashes:

Canon 580ex II

Canon 430ex

Vivitar Auto 30

Accessories:

2 Manfrotto Variable Friction Magic Arms

Extra Batteries

Battery Chargers for the Mk IV, MK IIn, and 40D.

Camera and Computer Cables

Safety Cables

Memory Cards

Extra Eyepieces

Rocket Blower

Notebook

Manfrotto 681B Monopod (not pictured)

Manfrotto 492 Compact Ball Head

15.4″ Laptop and power cable (not pictured)

and more.

Here is a photo of my loaded bag.

The top of the bag can hold your cables and other accessories while the main compartment can carefully handle your top of the line bodies and lenses that are needed to get the job done. The main compartment is fully customizable and can conform to any kind of design that you have in mind.

In order to get the most out of the bag, customizing the main compartment is the best idea. When I made the decision to customize my bag with my magic arms under my 300 2.8, it saved me a ton of room and I was able to pack more gear into the bag.

Security:

Alright, cool. All that gear in one bag. What is the point about being able to do this if the gear is not going to be safe when you have to step away to do your job? With the Think Tank Photo Airport Security V2, worries about gear being taken can be subdued because of the security designs that Think Tank Photo implemented into this bag. I mean, come on, it couldn’t have the word “Security” in the name unless it was secure, right?

The Airport Security V2 ships with two combination locks as well as a third lock molded into the bag itself. The combination of all three locks can be changed by the owner in order to provide total customization to the bag’s security.

The bag also includes a covered steel cable that in integrated into a pouch into  the back of the bag in order to lock the bag to a table, desk, or bleacher. It is comforting to know that you can leave your bag somewhere and not worry about it walking off without you.

However, if you forget to lock up your bag and it does get yanked, Think Tank Photo suggests to their customers who purchase the Airport Security V2 to register their serial number with the company. The Airport Security V2 comes with a metal plate on the top of the bag that includes the serial number. So if your bag does get lost or stolen, you have a chance of getting it back since your bag is already registered with Think Tank Photo.

So why did I choose the Think Tank Photo Airport Security V2 over any other camera bag? I chose it because I wanted to have all of my gear with me so I could do the job I needed to do. Having a strong, durable, and safe camera bag such as the Think Tank Airport Security V2, allows me to “Be Ready for the Moment”.

For More Information on the Think Tank Photo Contest Visit their Website , the contest announcement, or their Facebook “Like” Page.