Photography Gear Reviews
The astonishing AmazonBasics DSLR and laptop backpack A review of the excellent and affordable AmazonBasics DSLR and laptop backpack. The high quality of this bag defies the very affordable price tag.
- Buy the (orange interior) bag in the US - http://amzn.to/2esTld4
- Buy the (orange interior) bag in the UK - http://amzn.to/2edAN53
In a recent video I featured my new camera backpack the F-Stop Sukha camera bag. Whilst this is an amazing camera bag many people were offended, and rightly so in some cases, about the huge cost.
To balance that out I am today reviewing the AmazonBasics DSLR and Laptop backpack. This bag is much more affordable at £35/$40 and will fit most budgets. It was recommended to me Danny, a very early subscriber to my channel. He sent me some pictures of the bag and it looked very impressive so I ordered one straight away to check it out.
When the AmazonBasics DSLR and Laptop backpack arrived the first impression was that the quality was much higher than I had expected. The material feels sturdy and similar to many other, more expensive, camera bags. This is the ethos of AmazonBasics. They make big quality products using quality materials but remove the frills branding and posh packaging associated with many other products. Simple yet effective.
Big Cameras, Big Lenses
The video shows that that bag is capable of carrying a large amount of camera gear including my Canon 5D Mark IV and several lenses. This include the Canon 400mm f5.6 L lens. Astonishing. The AmazonBasics DSLR and laptop backpack also provides handy clips on the side to easily attach your tripod. In the video I attach a relatively small travel tripod but bigger tripods can also be carried.
The AmazonBasics DSLR and laptop backpack is not waterproof but the material is think enough that it will require a significant amount of prolonged and heavy rain to breach the material. For that time you get caught in a storm, Amazon provide a very handy rain cover that you can pull over the bag to keep things dry.
Accessibility of this bag is probably it’s main weakness, especially once the rain cover is fitted. In order to get at your gear you need to take the bag off and fully unzip the cover because your camera body must be stored at the bottom. There is no clever access panel like several, more expensive bags, feature.
The only other problem is the padding in the straps and back is not particularly thick. It feels a little bit cheap and after wearing it for a reasonable amount of time will become compressed and provide very little padding and support
However these are minor gripes and I can highly recommend the AmazonBasics DSLR and laptop backpack is you are looking for a camera bag under £50/$50.
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The camera gear of 2016
Here I reveal all the camera gear in my bag in 2016. We look at the bags, camera bodies, camera lenses and the accessories that can make or break a shot.
The requests have been flooding in for me to make this video and I have finally buckled under the pressure. Here I bear my soul and reveal much of what currently makes it into my camera bag. Sadly my Canon 70-200 is out on loan and the DJI Mavic Pro drone is yet to be purchased.
Is camera gear everything?
Whilst the camera gear is not the key to good photography we cannot help to love it a little bit. Despite that we can not all afford to buy good camera gear. If you fall into this camp, I am planning to create a video around shooting with budget gear very soon.
I have posted links below to check out all of the camera gear below. Follow the link to see all the individual review.
Review Videos - https://www.firstmanphotography.com/category/reviews
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Camera Gear Links
- Canon 5D Mark IV - UK - https://www.firstmanphotography.com/get/canon-5d-mark-iv-uk
- Canon 5D Mark IV - US - http://amzn.to/2ci53sp
- Manfrotto BeFree Tripod - US - http://amzn.to/1UqF5n7
- Manfrotto BeFree Tripod - UK - http://amzn.to/2e27XlM
- Canon 70-200 2.8 mark ii - US - http://amzn.to/2dXzxBs
- Canon 70-200 2.8 mark ii - UK - http://amzn.to/2fgyfU7
- Tamron 24-70mm - US - http://amzn.to/2dP3T6J
- Tamron 24-70mm - UK - http://amzn.to/2eH2DHz
- Sigma 35mm ART (Canon) - US - http://amzn.to/2dXwedm
- Sigma 35mm ART (Canon) - UK - http://amzn.to/2fgAfM2
- Canon 85mm 1.8 - US - http://amzn.to/2eSfuSx
- Canon 85mm 1.8 - UK - http://amzn.to/2fgBHhe
- Manfrotto 055 Aluminium - US - http://amzn.to/2eSj5Qm
- Manfrotto 055 Aluminium - UK - http://amzn.to/2eMNnWA
- Lowepro Fastpack 250 - US - http://amzn.to/2dXv69Q
- Lowepro Fastpack 250 - UK - http://amzn.to/2ebGlsV
In this video we take a look at the best camera bag I have ever owned.
I have mentioned a few times in the comments recently that I have not been happy with my current camera bag. It is a Lowepro Backpack. It is fine but since I have started vlogging and needing to carry more and more gear with me I have needed something bigger, more rugged and more comfortable for carrying up mountains. This is where the F-Stop Sukha Camera Bag comes into play.
F-Stop are known for creating bags that are dedicated for photographers who like getting out and about into the elements. Most hiking bags are not designed for photographers. Accessing your gear can be extremely difficult, especially in the field when the lens you want is right at the bottom and it is raining.
F-Stop Sukha Camera Bag - Innovative design
The F-Stop Sukha Camera Bag deals with that problem with an innovative design. Roll the bag over into 'work station' mode and you have access to all your gear the through the back panel.
The gear sits in the internal camera unit, or ICU. F-Stop make various sizes of these to suit most photographers and includes one with the ability to take an exceptionally large telephoto lens. The ICU lifts out and can act as it's own protective case. The lid can just fold back and slide into the bag.
The Sukha is so big there is still plenty of room for things like camping gear or other trekking type gear. There is a pocket designed to accept a laptop but also doubles up to accept a hydration system.
The Sukha is designed to handle even severe weather. It is a waterproof camera bag but also uses snag proof material. The quality of this thing is exceptional. It feels well built and is also very comfortable even with a full load.
There are a host of other pockets and external storage options. It even fits a travel tripod like the Manfrotto BeFree and easily accepts a gorilla pod. Bigger tripods will easily attach to the outside.
Clearly the F-Stop Sukha Camera Bag is not for everyone. However, for those getting out and about into the elements there are currently few, if any, better options than an F-Stop bag. It is especially versatile. It also acts as a normal hiking bag by taking the ICU out and leaving it at home.
The only downside is the cost. At over £300 with the ICU it's an expensive bag, there's no doubt about it. However, the high quality and the ability to use different ICU's will make this a valuable asset for years and years to come. I haven't tested this out in anger yet and will be doing so soon on my next vlog. I will give you an update then but I'm sure all will be positive.
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Check out the F-Stop range - Click here
In this video I unbox a ridiculously powerful head torch.
When I started this channel I said I was going to feature things that might not obviously relate to photography. I have not done this as often as I would like so I'm putting that right today by featuring this head torch.
Having a torch is essential for photographers who are working outside at night. Particularly for Astrophotography but also we are often trekking to locations in the dark to capture sunrises and sunsets.
Up to now I have been using a small yet power LED torch. It is decent quality but holding it in your hand creates it’s own restrictions. I have also been using a different less powerful head torch. It does a job but never satisfied I want more. More light. I want more power.
Canwelum head torch
I be picked up this Canwelum head torch with a massively bright CREE T6 LED lightsource. In the video I unbox the torch and give an example of it’s brightness where it can even double as a video light.
Many torches like use normal AA batteries but this one uses rechargeable lithium ion batteries for longer use. It also has the ability to focus the beam which is extremely useful. The head torch also has two power settings with a more economical mode for longer use.
Advertised run time is not as good as hoped at 2-5 hours depending on the mode. However that is still going to be plenty in most situations.
I can't wait to get out and use this. Even better it comes in currently at £19 in the UK and about $20 in the US. I'll put the links down below for you to check it out and I'll see you on another video very soon.
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Buy in the US - http://amzn.to/2cxyPKY
Buy in the UK - http://amzn.to/2cbkNje
Is the Canon 18-135 STM Lens the perfect kit lens upgrade?
In this video we take a look at the Canon 18-135 STM Lens and ask is this the perfect kit lens upgrade? Many new Canon cameras come with an 18-55mm kit lens. People are often surprised about how limiting that range can actually be and quickly look to upgrade. The Canon 18-135 STM Lens offers an impressive range so may seem like on obvious upgrade at the time of purchase or as a replacement for the 18-55mm. So let's delve into this and have a look.
I recently went to the Lake District to test out this lens, using the range fully to capture both landscapes and more zoomed in detailed shots. Check out my vlog of the day and see more of the beautiful landscape here:
The Canon 18-135 STM Lens is an EF-S lens so is only suitable for APS-C cameras like the Canon 750d/Rebel T6i or Canon 80d. With the crop factor of those cameras taken into account, the lens has a 35mm equivalent of 29-216mm. This is an amazing range that will be suitable for so many different areas of photography. When starting out in photography, this versatility is extremely useful allowing you to try lots of different styles of photography without having to switch lenses all the time and invest more money.
The lens has a maximum aperture between f/3.5 and f/5.6 depending on the focal length you are using. This is very similar to the 18-55mm kit lens. However thanks to those longer focal lengths, a much better background blur can be achieved. With 7 aperture blades the bokeh is not as creamy as you might find in more expensive lenses but anything from 85mm and above will achieve decent results. In the pictures below you can see the bokeh effect at 85mm, 100mm and 135mm. This works well for portraits where the subject can be isolated.
The camera has a:
- Minimum focus distance of 0.39m
- 7 diaphragm blades
- Weight 480g
- Filter 67mm
- 16 elements in 12 groups
The Canon 18-135 STM has 4-stop image stabilisation that is extremely useful on a lens with this focal range. The image stabilisation is particularly impressive on this lens. The IS on the Canon 18-135 STM performs better than the 18-55mm at the same focal range. At the longer focal lengths the stabilisation is capable of smoothing out some pretty severe movements. This is especially useful for shooting video and can provide some very steady footage even when handheld like this shot. The stabilisation also improves low light performance allowing you to reduce your shutter speed up to 4 stops slower than normal. The Canon 18-135 STM also has the STM focus motor meaning smooth focus adjustments can be made whilst shooting video.
Taking a quick look around the Canon 18-135 STM the thing that instantly strikes is the quality is slightly improved over the 18-55mm. It feels solid and the metal mount adds a little extra strength although like all EF-S lenses it is not weather sealed. The zoom ring is nice and smooth and has a lock switch you can employ to lock the zoom at 18mm. There is the IS switch and the autofocus switch on the side. The focus on this lens is a focus by wire system, like the other STM lenses, meaning the camera has to be powered on for the focus to function whether in autofocus or manual. The focus ring turns easily and smoothly although it feels a little loose. This should not cause too many issues thanks to the focus by wire system. Autofocus is accurate and fast enough for most situations.
Image quality of the Canon 18-135 STM is at the level you would expect for a lens in this price range. It is not the sharpest lens in the box but the quality is very reasonable for a lens with this amount of zoom range. At the wide end, the lens acts as a perfectly reasonable landscaping lens. The ability to zoom in so far also opens up opportunities that do not always exist when going out to shoot landscapes with a wide angle or normal kit lens. This shot of the misty Lake District mountains shows the kind of landscape images that can be captured at longer focal lengths. If you want to take your landscapes even further the Canon 10-18mm matches up very nicely to this lens giving you a combined focal range from 10-135mm for relatively little money.
This lens is £275/$285 so it’s offering very good value for money when it comes to camera lenses, particularly in the US. Alternatives include lenses with an 18-200mm zoom range from Sigma, Tamron and Canon themselves. These are older lenses though. The quality does not quite match up to this one and they don't have that all important STM focus motor that makes this lens so good for video.
- Get the lens in the UK - https://www.firstmanphotography.com/get/canon-18-135mm-stm-lens-uk
- Get the lens in the UK - https://www.firstmanphotography.com/get/canon-18-135mm-stm-lens-us
- Get the Camera and Lens UK - https://www.firstmanphotography.com/get/camera-plus-lens-uk
- Get the Camera and Lens US - https://www.firstmanphotography.com/get/camera-plus-lens-us
Overall I really like the Canon 18-135 STM. Thanks to the versatility and the excellent image stabilisation the lens was a joy to use for both still images and videos. With good build quality and more than reasonable image quality this lens will be the only lens many casual shooters will ever need. If you are looking to buy a good quality family camera system with the versatility to do a few other things then this is the lens for you. If you are buying your first DSLR camera I would heartily recommend getting it with this lens as opposed to the standard 18-55mm. If you already own the 18-55mm this lens could be a worthy upgrade, particularly if you are not interested in changing lenses too often and just want a DSLR that is ready for anything.
Is the Rode VideoMic Pro the king of the video microphones?
When you enter the market looking to purchase a microphone it can be a daunting place. The terminology is immediately confusing with talk of condensers, dynamics, cardoids and directionals. It feels like you're like a child walking into the middle of a movie with no frame of reference.
If you are reading about this microphone it is likely that you want to shoot some video and capture great sound. With Rode now being such a respected manufacturer of microphones it is safe to trust them that this is the right kind of microphone to do that. And indeed it is, it is a directional, condenser microphone that will capture the sound from the direction it is pointing in.
The Rode VideoMic Pro is specifically designed for use with a camera. It attaches to the hot shoe flash mount and has a 3.5mm jack that will attach directly into your camera or portable audio recorder like a Zoom H4N. It comes with an included shock mount to reduce some of the clicks and knocks that naturally occur from the camera, like focusing and zooming. If you buy the Rode VideoMic Pro today it ships with the new and improved Rycote® Lyre® shock mount.
The actual microphone is covered by a foam cover and this cannot be removed. It sits nicely on the shock mount and has this short wire to connect to your camera or audio recorder. Many reviews mention the flimsiness of this wire. Whist it certainly isn't a robust wire I have had it for a few years now and I have never had any issues and there is no sign of it breaking or snapping.
Round the back and it reveals the biggest strength of this camera that makes it perfect for shooting video with your camera. It has a switch that will add 20db of gain to your audio. This lets you manually turn down the gain in your camera, effectively reducing noise that is normally created by the poor audio circuits in your camera. This is a killer feature and for many the sole reason they buy this mic. You can also reduce the mic gain by 10 db to properly record very loud audio sources like concerts.
In addition to this it also has a selectable hi-pass filter that reduces low end noise such as traffic and other background sounds and this is just another nice little feature that will improve your overall sound.
These features do require power though and this brings me onto the only real weakness of the Rode VideoMic Pro. This is a portable microphone so a 9v battery is used to power it up. Although it claims to have 70 hours of use there is no auto-off feature so when you’re finished filming if you forget to turn it off you can be left without power the next time you come to shoot.
This has happened to me a few times before and can be potentially prevent you from capturing the moment. I now just carry a spare 9V battery so it never happens again.
So all in all this is an excellent video microphone that gets a full 5 star review from me. There are smaller and cheaper alternatives out there. There are also video microphones out there that do not require power so if you think the batteries may be a problem for you it might worth looking at alternatives such as the rode video micro or the Sennheiser MKE 400 Shotgun Microphone.
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The other products featured in the video are listed below:
The Canon 10-18mm is Ultra Wide Angle on a Budget
The fact that Canon decided to make this lens is a great thing. Opening up ultra wide angle photography to a new audience is a welcome move with this Canon 10-18mm budget lens.
When you first strap an ultra wide lens to your camera it is an exciting moment discovering the new perspective it brings to the world. Scenes look bigger and it displays an image much wider than what your eyes would see. The Canon 10-18mm lens picks up nicely where your 18-55mm kit lens leaves off and is a perfect accompaniment to this on a cropped sensor EF-S camera.
Wide angle photography opens up your creative possibilities in landscape photography, architecture photography and is always used to sell houses by making rooms look bigger.
On paper the Canon 10-18mm lens is excellent. It has the ultra wide angle, it's relatively cheap, it's light, the front element does not rotate, meaning you can happily attach filters like a circular Polariser to improve your landscapes. It also has IS that assists video and the STM focus is an excellent focus by wire system that is literally silent.
So all in all the perfect lens?
Well no. In my written reviews over on my website one element of my star rating is ‘Joy Factor’. It describes that feeling you get when using a new product, the fizz, the excitement, the desire to use it again and again, that unexplainable feeling that makes you truly love a product.
The Canon 10-18mm does not have that. It just leaves you feeling flat and the images it produces are just ‘ok’ and nothing more. Other downsides include the plastic mount, the simply dreadful distortion when at the widest angle. Anything outside the very centre of the frame, whilst at 10mm, is going to be skewed out of shape like your image has melted. The lens is also quite slow at f/4.5 - f/5.6 with the aperture adjusting as you move through the zoom range. Also I have found the image stabilisation of very little use.
For stills it will allow you to handhold exposures down to around 1/20 second but at f/4.5 this will still be pretty dark in low light situations without a decent ISO boost. I have been using this lens for my blogs and I have haven't found the image stabilisation has been of any benefit over using a wide angle lens without IS. If you're stood still and handholding then it will do a good job but this is pretty restrictive for creating interesting and varied shots.
I'm not saying don't buy the Canon 10-18mm, especially currently at £180/$279. It will still do a job for you, as it is for me, it's just there are better options out there. The Canon 10-22 is a great lens and is pretty much L lens quality just without the red ring. The Sigma 10-20mm is also another good option and can be picked up very cheaply on the second hand market. Saving up for one of these lenses may be your better option.
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