First Use: Shimoda Designs Action X70 Backpack (Video)

Today will be my first opportunity for an overnighter in the mountains near Mt. Rainier. During the extended offseason, I used the opportunity to upgrade most of my camping gear to reduce mass and improve efficiency. Much of this was forced as compensation for adding the larger, heavier Fujifilm GFX medium format camera system. The result of throwing money at the problem is an overnight kit that fits completely within my Action X70 backpack while still having 15-20 liters of space left over and weighing in below 20kg. To demonstrate both the efficiency of my chosen gear and my packing skills, I made a short video of my unloading all of the camping gear from my backpack's expandable 35 liter cargo compartment.

Review: WANDRD PRVKE 31L Backpack

I'll make this quick: this is the best middleweight backpack I've found for photography so far. It's not the fastest or most rugged, but it's the most versatile and comfortable. Let me explain.

Comparison: RRS L-Bracket vs 3 Legged Thing Ellie for Fujifilm GFX 50S

A quick comparison between two products designed mostly to perform the same function. In case you're not familiar with an L-bracket, it's function is purely to allow rotation of your camera by 90 degrees while keeping it balanced on the X axis of your tripod. This is especially important for panoramas so the camera yaws directly over the center point rather than circumnavigating it, which alters the perspective enough to make stitching the result more difficult or even impossible.

I Want to Be An Advocate, Not An Influencer

While I often strayed away from repeatable testing to include a healthy amount of subjectivity, I'm now embracing my biases and forgoing all pretense of being "unbiased," and here's why: I have my skin, aka wallet, in the game. Unlike others who are receiving review units, renting, being gifted items to review or receiving some form of compensation, I'm reviewing stuff that I've actually bought. These are things I've intensely researched, bought, used, and intend to keep. Sometimes I buy purely out of objective needs, like my ND filters. Other times, I'm driven by subjective factors, like my choice to use Fujifilm bodies and lenses. Either way, my purchases are made based on a conclusion I've formed from equal parts objectivity and bias. I am biased. My reviews are biased. I'm not justifying my purchases to anyone but I simply cannot claim to be unbiased when reviewing my own gear. The goal of my reviews are to identify potential pitfalls to avoid the expense of experimentation. It's not my goal to tell you what to buy; my desire is to expose aspects of an item only an owner would notice. There can be things that you're blind to upon purchase, features and issues that can make or break it for you, and this jeopardy goes up exponentially as the price increases, especially if bought used. This is my choice to be an advocate and to avoid being an "influencer."

The Pandemic Has Kept Me Quiet

While others have found the pandemic to be an opportunity to do more personal projects, and document them, I've found it has affected me a bit differently. My girlfriend is a neurotic RN, so I've had to respond a little differently and haven't had the free time to work on things like my journal or this blog. Now that things are starting to return to normal, I'm slowly starting to integrate all of the things I was doing before. Yet, just as I begin to get back to work, our streets have erupted in rightful protest. Others can and have done a better job in covering the protests, so I'll leave that subject alone until I have a fully formed commentary on the matter. If there's one thing I prefer to do, it's to stop, listen and form a thoughtful opinion and avoid emotional "hot-takes," especially silly on a subject as important as racism in America.

How to: Power your GFX 50S or 50R with a Power Bank

As you may know, Fujifilm offers an AC adapter for the GFX series and it's priced at a whopping $97. However, there's another option for AC wall charging as long as you know the power specs. A more versatile option is a power bank with pass through charging. You can power the GFX with the battery pack in the field while simultaneously charging the installed battery. When you’re near an outlet, you can also connect the power bank to AC power and continuously power the camera without depleting the power bank itself. By functioning as an AC wall adapter you won't need to buy a wall adapter specifically for the GFX while having all the benefits of a portable battery pack.

Adapting GFX: Canon EF 135mm ƒ/2L USM

There are some drawbacks though. Uncannily enough, they’re the same as with the Canon EF 28mm ƒ/1.8 USM: slight vignette with a hard vignette at infinity focus. At ƒ/8, it isn’t very prevalent as you’ll see in the samples, easily corrected with a 5:4 crop that retains 48MP. However, as the aperture gets smaller, the vignette hardens, as you can see at ƒ/32, but still works at a 5:4 crop ratio. The lens works fine with a 3:2 crop at full sensor width and in 35mm crop mode, so you can choose what works best for you. Weirdly, the lens changes focus as you move in and out of playback mode on the GFX...

Adapting GFX: Canon EF 28mm ƒ/1.8 USM

Widening out to an approximate 22mm in 35mm format terms, the Canon EF 28mm ƒ/1.8 USM does show some hard vignetting that is never fully resolved. It’s very, very slight and occurs at ƒ/4 and smaller at infinity focus. Vignetting is prevalent fully open, mostly disappearing by ƒ/4 at close focus distances. If the vignetting is a problem for you, the EF 28mm ƒ/2.8 IS might be a better bet but isn’t on Canon’s list of preferred lenses for the 5DSR, so it may or may not resolve well on a 50MP sensor.

Gear Reviews On Youtube: “Sponsorships,” Brand Awareness and How Not All Payments Are in Cash and They All Lie to You About It

You're familiar with how they all begin: "this video is sponsored by Squarespace." Ok, well, after that, they then feed you the next line, almost all of it verbatim, "I am not sponsored by (insert brand here). They have not paid me to do this review or told me what to say about it. This review is entirely my own and they don't know I'm making this video. I was/was not provided a sample for the purposes of this review. I am not biased in any way so you can trust what I'm about to say about this product." What they don't mention, obviously, is if they had to return that "review unit." But if you pay close attention, you may catch them using the product in later videos, especially if they were especially laudatory in their review. At least they weren't paid, right? Wrong. Payment is simply one form of compensation. That "review unit" usually comes along with an email that says, "you don't need to send this back to us." Simply put, the item itself is payment. Just because you didn't get to choose the item, the form of compensation or were given a special title associating you with their brand doesn't mean you weren't paid. They paid you with product and exclaiming otherwise is a flat out lie by Youtubers who persistently try to claim otherwise. Rarely are these items cameras and lenses; they're usually "soft goods" or accessories, like bags, lens filter kits, etc. that would likely get damaged during a thorough review period or whose cost of manufacture and/or retail price is so low that the cost of return, reconditioning and resale would consume all or more of the potential profit.

Quick Take: Shimoda Designs Action X70 Camera Backpack

Usually, Kickstarter is a collection of scams and bad ideas for internet virgins to be separated from their money. Sometimes, if you know what you're doing, it's a source for good deals. In this case, Shimoda Designs has established itself as a reliable maker of durable, action oriented camera backpacks. Shimoda decided to use Kickstarter as a "group buy" for their new line of Action X backpacks and mine managed to arrive just after Xmas.

This always happens to me: Shimoda Design Action X70

So, 2 full months after I bought my Shimoda Design Explore 40 backpack, they opened a Kickstarter for a new line of packs. Called the Action X series, they're basically a collection of improvements, many of which were universally requested by owners, including myself.

Sorry I haven’t been posting regularly

I've been really busy lately, traveling up and down western Washington State, hiking and photographing both beaten and unbeaten paths. It began by trying to take advantage of a streak of good weather and morphed into chasing the autumn colors as the weather got colder. Hikes include: Alpine Lake Wilderness, Denny Creek, Mount Fremont Lookout, Annette Lake, Lake Twentytwo and Artist Point. All of these on consecutive weekends, and even some weekdays, over the past 3 weeks. And in that time I think I've posted just once. Maybe twice. So, here are 3 photos from the past week.

Camera Bags Are More Than Fashion: Shimoda Designs Explore 40

A week before the Fremont hike, I grabbed a Shimoda Designs Explore 40 kit from Glazer's Camera. After transferring my gear from the LowePro to the Shimoda, I weighed it and it came out to only 24 lbs. Once I fully loaded the pack with extra clothes, food, water and the extra photography gear needed, it topped 42 lbs. Despite the extra weight, and with a pair of hiking poles, I made it up and down the mountain with my back in far better condition than the previous 2 weekends.

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