Category Archives Reviews

Hi Gang — and welcome to a totally awesome Monday! On Saturday, I shot with the Falcons Crew (three of the best guys, and lights out shooters, you’d ever want to meet: Jimmy Cribb, Michael Benford, and Lynn Bass) for the NFL Divisional Playoff game between the Falcons and the Seahawks (and the Falcons rocked it with a big win!).

I brought my standard remote camera rig (more on that in a moment), but I wanted to try something new for shooting goal line stands from really down low, which is a remote camera rig (Platypod Pro Max, 3leggedthing Airhed Neo Ballhead) but I did it by controlling the shoot from my iPhone using Tethertools “Case Air” Wireless Tethering System.

The advantage is that I can set the rig down on the ground, and then see a live view of the field from my iPhone. I can change settings, set my focal point, do a time lapse, and even fire the camera all from my iPhone. The images go straight into my phone, so I could share them almost instantly if need be.  Here’s a closer look at the rig:

Above: The Case Air is that little unit sitting on top of my camera, in the hot shoe mount. It plugs into your camera’s mini-USB port (well, on my camera anyway, which is a 5D Mark III), and that’s the whole set-up hardware wise. Then you download the free Case Air app for your iPhone. The Case Air creates its own closed wireless network which you connect to (just takes a few seconds), and then you see what your camera is seeing, right on your app.

Above: The Falcons are lining up for an extra point when I took this shot using the Case Air. It was at that moment that I realized that a 14mm lens is WAY too wide for this task. Needs to be at least a 24-70mm, which is what I’ll try next week. This way, I can keep my 70-200mm ready for a pass to either edge, and the Case Air covers the center of the field (though I’m set up off center here, I won’t be next time).

We’re generally not allowed to lay down in the end zone (kneeling is fine), and the PocketWizard Route that I use for the player intros would work here too. It’s probably more responsive than the Case Air, but without lying on the ground (which I do in rare instances), the Case Air gives you a perfect way to set-up and focus the camera before the play. I can tell you — this is probably the last thing the folks at Tethertools ever imagined this being used for, but I wanted to try it anyway.

PROS: It’s super lightweight; it’s very cleverly designed, and all connects in seconds, and in the studio and for this field test I had zero problems getting it to work. I just hooked it up and it worked. The software is great, and the whole thing is fun, and I can go straight from my iPhone to the Web. Social Media folks for teams would eat this up! Plus, it’s only $149, which is around the price of just 1 of the 2 PocketWizard Plus IIIs that you’d need to fire a remote camera in an environment like this.

CONS: It was never designed for this. It’s really for wireless tethering in the studio or for portraits on location, or for a second camera behind the bride and groom during the ceremony. Because everything’s moving via wireless, the images have to transfer from the camera to the iPhone, so if you shoot a burst of images (like we do in football) you don’t see the results right away — you see a spinning status wheel as images are coming in, so you have to wait a minute to see if you “got the shot.”

Speaking of PocketWizard Plus IIIs
My regular remote camera shoot for the intros, which is usually a no-brainer at this point…wasn’t.

Above: My standard rig (except this was my 3rd camera, so it’s a Canon 5D Mark III — usually a Canon 1Dx). PocketWizard Plus III on top sitting in the hot shoe mount. Connected to my camera’s Remote Shutter Release port via a cable. 14mm lens on the camera (perfect for this); an Oben ballhead (got it from B&H), and a Platypod Pro Max plate holding it all steady.

Above: You can see my small rig over on the right, to the left of that Falcon’s logo, which soon will be spitting out fire and smoke, which is one of the reasons why you need a remote camera — you might burst into flames.

Above: Here’s the view from the camera itself. I do lots of test shots before the players come out to make sure everything’s working. The position seems pretty perfect, and it’s firing off test shots (I can see the little light on the top of the PocketWizard, and I see the image appear on the back of the screen, so even though I’m not down there on the ground, I can see it’s firing.

Above: I have a PocketWizard Plus III with me out at the center of the field to trigger that remote camera; it’s in my Hot Shoe mount, so when I fire my camera, it automatically fires the remote. At least, that’s the way it’s supposed to work, but on Saturday it only fired once — just this one picture above, and it never fired again. I have no idea why. Maybe I knocked the remote as we shifted positions after the cheerleaders came out, and the connection wasn’t solid — I don’t know — but I only got this one shot, which is pretty much worthless. This same exact rig worked perfectly at the Dolphins game down in Miami just a few weeks ago. The shame is — the positioning was on the money (at least I know for next week, right?).

Above: This was taken with my main camera with a 70-200mm — I darkened the scene except where I put that red circle so you can see where my remote camera was positioned. Oh well, it happens.

So, as far as Remote Cameras go, it was a miss and a single. I proved the Case Air can work even in an environment I doubt it was ever designed to work in, but I used a wide lens and didn’t have the one I needed with me. Luckily, I get to try again for the NFC Championship Game in Atlanta next week.

So, that’s a little behind the scenes, and a field report on the Case Air. Here’s a link if you want more details on it (and I give it a big thumbs up overall for an affordable, solid wireless tethering system.

Hope you all have a great Monday (yes, it’s Monday and it’s going to be great!). :)

Best,

-Scott

 

 

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Above: My MacBook Pro in the photo workroom, secured with “The Ledge” and cable lock.

A couple of weeks ago I covered the Bucs home game vs. the LA Rams, and I tried out a new lock for my MacBook Pro Retina laptop called “The Ledge” from MacLocks.com (while I’m out on the field, my laptop is back in the photo workroom, and I don’t like to leave it there unattended without it being locked down).

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Above: Here’s the cable lock I keep in my Thinktank Laptop bag.

Why we need a separate lock today
The MacBook Pros’ used to have a built-in slot for attaching a lock directly to the body itself, and I used a MacBook cable lock back then, and it worked perfect. But then in 2012, with the newer, thinner MacBooks, Apple sadly did away with that locking slot on the body, so I had to find another solution, and MacLocks.com had the only decent solution I could find, which had you attaching a lightweight, yet strong, thin horizontal bar along the bottom rear of your MacBook, and on the end there was a slot where you inserted the lock (here’s the link to that review here on the blog). While it did add a long bar to the back of your MacBook, it did the job well (I still have my MacBook despite being left on its own many times). My only big complaint with this older lock was there was not a combination lock model available — you had to use a key lock.

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Above: Here’s a close-up of The Ledge — it’s really small and unobtrusive.

The Ledge is That Much Better!
Beside the fact that you couldn’t get a combination lock with the other bar method, the other downside to the “locking bar” is that bar would sometimes get caught when  taking it in/out of your laptop bag. No biggie, but it happened enough that it was a bit annoying. Not enough to remove it, and take my chances with an attended laptop just lying their begging to be stolen, but annoying enough. That’s why when I saw “The Ledge” I wanted it badly — It’s the smallest, most unobtrusive, and easiest to install MacBook Pro lock I’ve ever used (just remove one screw; pop the “Ledge” on; use the included MPB screw and you’re set). Two minutes tops. And now I can say hands down The Ledge is absolutely my favorite. It addressed my one minor gripe from the old version, and it did it in a better way than I was expecting. It’s just so small and so simple. I love simple design.

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Above: Finally — a combination lock option! Note: be careful when setting your combination — you press in a little button on the bottom (with a pen or small screwdriver) while setting the number you want for your combination (unless, of course, you want 0-0-0-0 to be your number). If at any time you let off the pressure even a tiny bit, it will choose whatever number you’re currently at, but you won’t realize it until it’s too late. Yes, this happened to me, and I had to get a replacement cable lock. It’s tricky to do with just one person, so ask a friend to help. 

You can choose a key lock or combination lock (I went with the combo lock).

Highly recommended if you worry about protecting your Mac anywhere you have to leave it unattended, even for a minute. It’s $79.95 for the Ledge with the cable lock, special little screwdriver, and slightly longer screw to attach the Ledge to the bottom of your MacBook Pro. More details at bit.ly/2dzFrd1

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Above: Here’s a close-up of combo lock attached to The Ledge.

Overall Rating
If I actually had a five-star rating-system, with 5 being best, this would be a 5-star (I gave the old version I a 4-1/2 star rating, knocking off the half star because at that time they didn’t offer a combination lock option (only a key lock) but now they do, it’s just a $5 upgrade.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars! ✭✭✭✭✭
Price: $79.95 (includes key lock cable)
Combination Lock Cable Option: Add $5.00
Works on: 13″ and 15″ Retina MacBook Pros
Available from: MacLocks.com

Hope you found that helpful. Try to stay safe and dry out there, and have a great weekend! #rolltide

Best,

-Scott

Hi Gang: Thanks to all the KelbyOne members who tuned in to catch my “Iceland Landscape Adventure” members-only Webcast on Thursday. One thing I didn’t get to cover on the Webcast was a look at the backpack I took with me on the photo trip — the Vanguard Quivio 44.

I did a quick field review for you (below) with what I liked about it; what I wish were different, what the bag does best.

If this bag looks like the one you’ve been looking for, here’s the link. It’s $169 at B&H.

Tomorrow I’ll have an update on my 9th Annual Worldwide Photo Walk, so I hope you’ll check back then. :)

Have a great Monday. Well…you know what I mean. ;-)

Best,

-Scott

P.S. Next week: I’m in Minneapolis on Wednesday September 21st, and then Milwaukee on Friday the 23rd with my “Shoot Like a Pro Tour: Reloaded.” Tickets here. Come on out and spend the day with me.

Hi gang: This weekend I got a chance to take two Canon 7D Mark IIs out for a real world field-test shooting two football games: On Saturday the Tennessee Vols vs. the Florida Gators, and on Sunday the New York Giants vs. the Atlanta Falcons at Met Life stadium in New Jersey. (Note: the two camera bodies I used were overnight loaners from Canon of pre-production demo units â” they are not the final shipping cameras â” so they’re not quite finished yet, but they’re far enough along that I could at least test them and give you, and Canon, feedback).

I’m posting some high resolution samples here (below), but make sure you watch the video above because we tackled all the important stuff you’d want to know about (of course, we talked a lot about high-ISO performance), plus we took loads of questions during the broadcast (I’m joined by RC Concepcion and Brad Moore in the studio). It’s really kind of “three guys sitting around talking about a camera” type of show and I show lots of my photos (not just sports stuff) taken with the 7D Mark II.

Above: Specs: Shot as JPEG image. 640 ISO. 1/1000 of a second at f/5.6. 560mm (400mm with a 1.4 tele-extender). If you click on this low-res preview, it will take you to the full high-resolution image you can download. I cropped-in a tiny bit to fix composition and I brightened the image 1/2 stop, but it’s still a bit under-exposed [I was shooting JPEG and used Exposure Compensation to overcome some highlight clipping I wouldn’t have even worried about if I had been shooting in Raw]. No sharpening, noise reduction, vibrance or any of that type of stuff in post. By the way, it’s killing me to post a non-sharpened image. Just sayin’.

We Covered a Ton!
We covered what worked, what I wish were different, and literally just minutes before we started taping a tech-rep at Canon called in and helped out by showing how to fix my #1 complaint about the camera for shooting sports (which we show how to address during the show above). I still had to whine about a few things (I hope Canon is listening), but I covered the stuff it did right as well. We really tried to cover all the questions we’d been hearing on social and here on the blog as best we could.

Above: Shot in JPEG mode (we explain why on the video). This one’s at 1,000 ISO at 1/1250 of a second. Same lens as above. Cropped in a bit. We also show a large print of this on the show. 

RC Totally Scores!
My favorite part of the broadcast comes around the 2/3 to 3/4 mark when RC absolutely nails why this camera is so important, and he really articulated what I’ve been trying to say about the 7D Mark II since the official announce. You’ll know when it happens because I literally high-fived him for stating it in a way I wish I had, because he really put it all on context.

Above: I used Auto ISO to shoot in the locker room before game time. That image you see above? That’s 16,000 ISO. Click on it to get the high-res version (no noise reduction in post â” and that was shot in JPEG mode). It’s shot at f/2.8 at 1/1000 of a second using a 70-200mm f/2.8 lens. You definitely do see noise on the full res image (heck, you see noise on a 1Dx at 16,000 ISO), but I was still pretty amazed that a crop-sensor camera could get this kind of performance at 16,000 ISO. 

I’ll be around today to try and answer any questions we didn’t cover during the broadcast (if you’re going to ask about noise, please watch the video ’cause we covered it to death), so just leave me a comment here and I’ll do my best (Note: I just did a field test â” not an in-depth lab report, so if you ask me pixel-peeper style in-depth techie stuff I’m probably not the right guy to answer those, but I might be able to find someone at Canon who can answer those types of questions).

Above: I thought I should at least post one image actually taken at 100 ISO, so here ya go. This is uncropped, un-anything; shot in JPEG mode. Again, click on it to see the high-res version. 

Anyway, hope this helps, and here’s wishing you your best Tuesday yet!

Best,

-Scott

P.S. We’re only four days away from my 7th Annual Worldwide Photo Walk. If you haven’t registered to join the local walk in your city this Saturday, it’s not too late. Here’s the link. 


Above: Look how much smaller the new bag is, yet it holds all my junk. Ahemâ¦I mean my essential gear for travel. ;-)

If you’re like me, you’re never really happy with your laptop bag. That was me for most of my life (well, most of my laptop toting life anyway), until about 5 years ago when I fell deeply and hopeless in love with Thank Tank Photo’s laptop bag. It was prefect. A pocket for everything â” I could even fit my Wacom tablet in it â” it was justâ¦perfect! Especially for someone who carries a lot of stuff (see below).

Here’s what’s in my bag (as seen above):

  1. 15″ MacBook Pro (this is my main computer day in, day out)
  2. A bunch of plastic cards (gift cards, Delta club card, Hilton Honors card, etc.)
  3. USB drive with backup stuff
  4. One-Tb Back-up hard drive of my entire MacBook, plus USB 3 cable
  5. iPad Charger and cable
  6. iPhone charger and cable
  7. Lexar USB 3 CF and SD card reader
  8. Wacom Wireless Pen and Pen Holder
  9. Backup Wacom Pen
  10. Wacom USB Cable
  11. Bendable Laptop LED light (I use it to light my outline during a seminar)
  12. Love Book (That’s what my daughter called it when she gave it to me. It’s always with me).
  13. Two sets of business cards (I know, that’s probably one too many)
  14. MacBook Charger and Cable
  15. Five Sharpie pens (for signing books and stuff)
  16. Bose headphone adapter
  17. Another USB Flash backup (for paranoid presenters)
  18. Guitar Pick. Hey, ya never know.
  19. OK, I’m carrying more USB drives than I need.
  20. Two DVI adapters to connect MacBook to projectors (one and a backup)
  21. Copy of Photoshop User magazine, outlines for my tour, notes, fan mail from some flounder
  22. Wacom Intuos Pro tablet “Small”
  23. Collapsible iPad stand
  24. AAA batteries just in case my headphone’s batteries go dead. I know, I don’t need three â” just one.
  25. Bose Quiet Comfort Headphones (I so love these things, but I hate their bulky carrying case).
  26. A tin of Altoids (Curiously strong mints)
  27. Screen and Lens wipes
  28. Lens cleaning cloth
  29. Logitech Wireless Slide controller (for slide presentations).
  30. iPad Air
  31. Small bag of marijuana.
  32. Made ya look! ;-)

 

About a year or so ago I saw Think Tank Photo’s booth at a tradeshow (I think it was Photo Plus in NYC), and I thought I’d go pick up another one just like it to replace mine …until I heard the sad newsâ¦.they had discontinued it. I was stunned. It was the best, ever, hands-down and now it’s gone.

It was at that moment that I knew I would have to hold on to my old bag until it literally disintegrated, but luckily that day never came because Wednesday I got something even better than my old Think Tank laptop bag. A brand new, smaller, lighter, better-designed (like they made it just for me) laptop bag. It’s the “My 2nd Brain” Briefcase 15 and it is my new laptop bag dream come true. My world finally makes sense again (Not really).

Above: I did a little iPhone video tour of the bag (iPhone video work by the amazing bearded Brad Moore) to show you how it does it’s thing. It has a perfect pocket for my Wacom tablet, and a separate just for your iPad (In my old bag, I just tossed mine in where I kept my papers and magazines). 

I had pretty much given up on Think Tank Photo ever making another Laptop Bag, and I just cannot tell you excited I was when I found out that not only where they making them again â” that the new one was that much better, smaller and lighter than the old one, but it still held all my gear â” now it’s all just more organized. You’ll have to check out the video to see all the compartments, pockets, sleeves and clever stuff this bag has inside and out. Very well designed, and built like a tank. Super Mclovin’ it!

It sells for $144 over at B&H Photo (that’s where I buy all my stuff). Worth every penny!

Hope this First Look helped you find the bag of your dreams, and here’s wishing you fantastic weekend filled with lots of amazing images. See ya back here on Monday.

Best,

-Scott

Above: The rear view, with the included combination lock attached to the PNY hinge-link. 

A few weeks back I reviewed MacLock’s “MacBook Pro Security Bracket” for securing your laptop from theft when unattended (here’s the link). When I posted that review, a few of the commenters pointed me to PNY’s new “ThinkSafe” lock for the MacBook Pro Retina display model, so I immediately ordered it to do a comparison (and here we go!).

How it works
Basically, this works by having you slide a hard, thin piece of metal between the hinge in your laptop’s lid so it sticks out of the back of your MacBook Pro (scroll way down to see a close up of it). There’s a small hole in the end (the part that sticks out) and the lock hooks right through it (and you wrap the lock around something that won’t move, like a chair leg, or table leg) and that’s it â” the two become one.

Above: Here’s the little hinge lock from the keyboard view. You only see that little metal plate, but that plate doesn’t sit flush â” it kinda slides around loose unless its locked down. 

PROS:
It has a combination lock, which I much prefer over a key lock (if you lose the key, you’re hosed — your MacBook isn’t leaving when you leave, and that freaks me out). Plus, you can register your four-digit code with PNY in case you ever forget it.

The price: it’s only $20 including the combination lock. That’s a third of the price of the MacLocks solution, at around $60.

It comes with a carrying pouch that keeps it all together nicely for travel.

It also supports the MacBook Air & MacBook Pros with the built-in lock hole

It can’t easily be defeated by someone with a small screwdriver.

CONS:
This really isn’t something you would leave attached to your MacBook Pro all the time. You really need to attach it when you need to lock it, and remove the whole thing when you don’t, because the way it sticks out of the back of your MacBook Pro, makes it tough to fit comfortably in a laptop bag. It also looks kind of awkward when not in use.

The potential for scratching everything from a desk, to your MacBook itself is pretty high. It’s a piece of metal hanging out from the back of your computer. As long as you just use it when you need to secure it, it’s probably OK, but if you left it on all the time, something’s gonna get scratched.

You can’t change the four-digit lock code. They give you a pre-programmed code when you buy the lock, so you have to memorize it, because you can’t change it. That’s surprising.

The instruction manual is really poorly designed. It looks very easy at first glance, but it’s confusing as anything for such a simple device. There are not quite enough visuals and not nearly enough text to describe some aspects. It took three of us to figure it out. Having six languages on the page didn’t help the matter either.

The clip that slides into your MacBook’s hinge just sits there kind of loose (not flat and tight), so when it’s not locked down, it slides around, clanks and giggles a bit, and generally is somewhat annoying, kinda like having a large paper clip sliding around between the hinge in the lid of your laptop. It’s not quite that bad, but close. This kinda surprised me as I figured it would be a snug fit.

Above: Here’s a close-up of how the lock attaches to the metal hinge-link that sticks out of the back of your MacBook Pro. There’s a hole in the metal plate, and the lock hooks into it. 

Bottomline
Both of these will do the job of keeping your MacBook Pro from getting swiped unless you come across a determined thief with both time and the right tools. In the end, I see the MacLocks solution as one I can leave on MacBook Pro all the time and only use it when I need it by just taking out my lock. The PNY is one I would need to install each time I want to use it. It’s a quick install (once you know how to do it), but still, you have to take it on/off each time, so it is a different beast.

If I had to choose between the PNY and the MacLock’s solution, I’d spend the extra $40 and go with the MacLocks, because I think it’s an easier-to-live-with solution for everyday use. If you only lock your MacBook on rare occasions, then just spend the $20 on the PNY — it’ll do the job.

Overall Rating
If I actually had a five-star rating-system, with 5 being best, I would give it 4 stars, knocking off a star for the clunkiness of the clip; the fact that you have to take it on/off for the most part, and for the really bad manual.

PNY ThinkSafe Portable MacBook Locking System
Price:
 $20
Works on: Apple MacBook Pros, MacBook Pro with Retina Display, MacBook Air
Available from: Amazon.com

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