Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Lowepro Fastpack 250 Backpack

Lowepro Fastpack 250.When we travel I end up lugging around a lot of gear. Most of the bulk comes from the fact that I have 2 bags — one for laptop, one for camera and lenses. I wanted to merge them together and the arrival of D700 kind of forced me to. The older SlingShot1 bag that I used for camera gear couldn’t fit D700 with 24-70mm lens attached.

Here is a short list of things that were a must:
  • Notebook compartment for 15 inch MacBook Pro
  • Good sized camera and lens compartment
  • Additional compartment
  • Ability to take out the camera body out of the bag easily without a fear of anything else falling out
  • All of the above in the smallest possible package

Lowepro Fastpack 250 next to Lowepro SlingShot 100 AW.I had good experience with my current bag and I liked the idea of taking the camera out without taking the bag off. Naturally the first thing we looked at was Lowepro SlingShot 350. In my opinion that thing is just hideous and just too huge. After that I read up on a lot of different stuff and in the end we had two main contenders — Tamrac Aero Speed Pack 85 and Lowepro Fastpack 250. I actually realized that when you have so much weight it better be a full backpack as opposed to a sling shot type bag, to distribute the weight better.

Both of these bags meet all of my criteria including the fact that you can take out the camera without exposing any of the lenses. Judging purely by design I would probably give slightly higher marks to Tamrac bag, but everything else went for Fastpack.

Lowepro Fastpack 250 loaded with gear.Fastpack has a lot more pockets and it really comes in handy when you’re carrying trip plans, passports, filters, wires and so on. Another huge plus for me was the flap that goes over the lens compartment. While traveling you can put put all the zippers under it and thus prevent anyone from trying to pull a fast one on you. We tried both of them on at B&H and Fastpack just felt more comfortable and more secure to me. Overall they are both very good bags and it will probably come down to your own preference.

This past weekend I tried walking around with it having several heavy lenses and a camera inside. It felt very good. I was able to take the camera out without taking the bag off and I think I’m going to be pretty happy with it. The real test comes at the end of April, during our California road trip. I’ll have it fully loaded for the plane and will remove non-camera gear for hikes.

Lowepro Fastpack 250. Side view.

  1. Lowepro SlingShot 100 AW. []

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Peculiar AF Issue

This post is a place where I can refer people to about a really bizarre auto focusing issue that I’ve been having, without having to repeat it over and over again.


I’ve been using D70 for over 5 years and I’ve taken about 50,000 shots. I’ve had D700 for 2 weeks before I exchanged it for the pricing reason1, and B&H shipped the same camera back to me and I haven’t noticed an issue. I first noticed the problem on the day that I received this camera and a lens for the 2nd time.

The Issue

In short I believe there is an AF problem that happens in very specific conditions. It also seems to me that this must be a defect with the camera, the lens, or both. It happened so that my test subject of choice was a sticker on a Peach Snapple bottle that was on my desk. This, in fact is the one and only item that I can replicate the issue on. Continue Reading

  1. Nikon started a rebate program 2 weeks after my order that would save me $300 when I buy the camera and the lens that I bought as a kit instead of as separate items. B&H had no issue closing out the first order and creating a new one so I would qualify. They didn’t have to do it, but they made this customer very happy. []

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Old Lenses, New Camera

Macro lens shot. Much easier to work with less focal length and much faster AF.I did a couple of experiments with old lenses on the new FX sensor. First of all most of them has gotten into a much “apartment” friendlier range. 50mm acts as one, not as 75mm on DX. So is 105mm macro. I’ve noticed it focusing much faster on the new camera as well.

As wide as it gets. 10mm on 35mm sensor.Wide angle though is really something. It really is a DX only lens, hence the black circle. However 10mm on FX sensor is weirdly impressive. Talk about wide.

The mega cat.All the distortion also creates interesting effects. Here is a mega-cat for you. The camera actually has a DX mode which produces close to 6 mega-pixel images, same as D70 did. Or you can crop the circle out manually, which I prefer to do.

"Meow. Let me sniff that lens."And this one is a great shot. Too bad it’s not sharp. Shublik got extremely close to the camera to “distort” so much, but since it’s not a macro lens it doesn’t focus at such close distances.
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Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nikon D700

Nikon D700.Well, I finally bit the bullet and pulled the trigger on D7001. Sounds painful, I know. But I’m happy that it finally happened. I’ve been saving up2 and waiting for this since the end of August.

Nikon D700.I’ve done a LOT of reading and was convinced that my old trusty D70 was needed to be replaced and that Nikon D700 was my dream camera. There are multiple raving reviews all over the net. The camera has an amazing ISO performance and one of the best AF systems. A lot of that is contributed to by it’s full frame sensor3.

Nikon AF-S NIKKOR 24-70mm f/2.8G ED lens.There are multiple other distinctions which are covered in numerous reviews, so I’m not going to go through the list. ISO and 51 AF points (as opposed to 5) were among the main reasons for me.

Sample D700 shot, fresh from the camera.Initially I decided to wait for the next iteration of the camera. And then several weeks ago I saw a whole different perspective on the issue. The price has came down from $3,000 to $2,399. I think its safe to assume that the new one will be introduced at the same price point. Is there any new future that I would pay $600 more for? I can’t think of anything.

Sample D700 shot. 100% crop. Sharpness.Video? Nice, but it would be 1 week of play for me and never would be used again. A second CF slot? Again, nice, but not $600 nice. Improved sensor from D3s? Again, nice, but not $600 nice. And resolution bump for sacrificed ISO performance? Would be a downer for me. I was happy with 6 mega-pixels, I sure will be happy with 12.

Sample shot. 100% crop. Noise levels at ISO 1600.Either way the upgrade for me is huge and most of it is positive. The only negative is that the new combo is noticeably heavier and bigger then the old setup, but I’m more than happy to live with this trade off for all the benefits.

Color sample.I also did buy a new “main” lens. The jump from DX to FX have rendered a pair of my lenses somewhat useless. Beside that my D70 kit lens was never anything to write home about. The new lens is one of the top Nikon lenses — Nikon AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8G ED. According to reviews the lens is extremely sharp in all of its extremes and has very little distortion of any kind. After all, the body is going to only perform as nice as the glass attached to it.

In short, I’m very happy and very excited. Have a lot of learn about the new body, get rid of some of the habits that formed over the years with D70 and then have fun.

  1. Ordered from B&H on Friday night, delivered on Tuesday morning. []
  2. Thanks to my great friends and family for their contribution. []
  3. D700 has FX sensor, D70 has DX sensor. FX is the equivalent of 35mm film sensor. DX is significantly smaller. []
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