ThinkTank Streetwalker Hard Drive First Thoughts

By now, everyone knows what a huge fan I am of ThinkTank Photo and their products and service. In my opinion, they make the best bags and attachments, hands-down. Over the years, I’ve collected quite an assortment of ThinkTank items. Over the past few months, my trusty Shape Shifter backpack has started to show its age and I had begun looking at options for a replacement. I’ve spent several weeks looking at various different options and talking to a lot of colleagues to get their insight on what they like and don’t like.

My ultimate goal was to replace the Shape Shifter with a backpack that I could fit even more gear into. I almost went with Dave Black’s method of using a hiking pack and just wrapping all my lenses and cameras in Domke wraps. His method is definitely the most efficient means of transporting a lot of gear in a carry-on size bag. But, I’m a creature of habit. Over the years, I’ve become quite dependent on the divider system found in most camera bags.

One of the top bags on my list to look at was the ThinkTank StreetWalker HardDrive. My interest got back to the ThinkTank staff and they were gracious enough to overnight me a bag to demo and review.

ThinkTank Photo StreetWalker HardDrive backpack (photo courtesy ThinkTank Photo)
ThinkTank Photo StreetWalker HardDrive backpack (photo courtesy ThinkTank Photo)

My first impression upon opening the box was that the bag was much beefier than my Shape Shifter. Though in terms of size, it’s not a whole lot bigger than a fully-stuffed Shape Shifter. I quickly started configuring the dividers and tried to fit all my everyday gear from the Shapeshifter into the StreetWalker. This mostly consists of things like hard drives, laptop chargers, extension cords, wifi adapter, phone chargers, headphones and various cables. All that didn’t even take up half the space in the bag. I was then able to add one of my 1Dx bodies, two lenses, three pocketwizards and trigger cables, extra batteries, and my wireless mouse. And of course, my Macbook Pro went into the separate dedicated laptop slot.

The next test was to see how much heavier it was than the Shape Shifter, and it wasn’t a huge difference. The Streetwalker feels much more comfortable on my back, though. The more rigid design helps distribute the weight better and it doesn’t seem to have as much of a tendency to sag.

I’m leaving for London for my first assignment with the new bag on Monday, and I’ll be able to provide a little more information on how well it travels on planes. I don’t suspect I’m going to have any issues. The Streetwalker is a few inches taller than the Shape Shifter, so it may not be allowed to go under the seat. It’s rare that I travel with a bag under the seat anyways, so that won’t be a big deal for me. So far, I’m liking the bag a lot, and I’m looking forward to putting it through the paces over the next few weeks.

CarrySpeed Camera Straps Review

I was recently turned on to CarrySpeed straps by a recommendation from photographer Gary Fong. For several years, I have religiously used BlackRapid straps for all my assignments, and for the most part, have been happy with their performance. Sure, there have been some nuances here and there, but overall they served their purpose. I turned a number of people on to BlackRapid, though I had no agreement or compensation to do so. I just liked their stuff. Now that those straps are getting old and worn out, I’m in the market for a new set of straps. I thought before buying more straps from BlackRapid, I would see what else is on the market before investing more money in gear.

I will make the same declaration here before I start getting into the meat of the review. CarrySpeed has not compensated me in any way, and I have no agreement or deal with them. I bought these straps with my own cash to try out, and I feel obligated to give an honest review.

After careful consideration, I decided to order the FS-PRO camera sling strap, as well as the CS-Double 2-camera strap system. I also purchased a handful of various mounting plates and adapters for all my different bodies and lenses.

The customer service from the start was quite pleasant. I placed my order on a Wednesday before my trip to China. I wasn’t sure if they would arrive in time, but had hoped for the best. I was very surprised when they arrived the next day. I unpacked everything right away and familiarized myself with all the pieces and assembly. CarrySpeed pays close attention to the small details. The straps were packed neatly, with all pieces wrapped and labeled individually; along with a complete and detailed instruction set for assembly and operation. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any pictures of the unboxing. Frankly, I was too excited to get them out and use them.

Setup took just a minute or two, and then I was able to attach the cameras and begin adjusting the straps. The construction is very high quality. They are very comfortable on the shoulders, especially the double strap. There is quite a bit more padding than other straps on the market, and they are very beefy and secure. Additionally, the FS-Pro has a non-slip material on the underside of the strap that really does a good job of keeping the strap in place.

One simple piece that I’m really happy with is the strap lock that you use to set the position of the camera when it hangs to your side. On other straps that I’ve used, this lock was weak and would often come unsnapped so the camera would just slide all around and pull the strap forward or backward off your shoulder. In fact, on all my BlackRapid straps, I gaff taped all the strap locks to stop them from coming undone. There is no fear of that on the CarrySpeed straps. Their locks are much stronger and stay put when you lock them. They hold so well that they take quite a bit of force to get them unlocked if you need to move them. That’s a good thing. This is one of those things that you’re going to set it once and not want to mess with it again.

All the straps have double stitching, and the quick release buckles have an extra locking mechanism as a failsafe for the straps. The fact that the straps are detachable is a wonderful feature in itself, and the extra locking mechanisms to prevent them from accidentally becoming unhooked are a great extra bonus.

The triple locking quick-release buckles are very secure.

Installation of the various ballhead attachment points is straightforward and easy. They’ve made all the slots in the screws wide enough for any coin to fit in, so you don’t have to go hunting for a screwdriver to make adjustments or install/uninstall them. Of course, I’m more likely to have my leatherman on me than a coin these days, but that works just as well.

There are various different types of attachments to mount on the bottom of your cameras and lenses, and all have their benefits depending on the situation and how much money you’re willing to invest.

(L-R) The F-1 foldable mounting plate, the D1 stainless wide platform ballhead nut, and the C-3 mounting plate with ball head lock nut.

I elected to install the offset folding camera plate on the bottom of both my Canon 1Dx bodies, and the standard offset plate on the bottom of my 70-200mm lens. The folding post is a brilliant feature. I really love the flexibility of that plate, and I like the creative thinking of the designers who came up with the idea.

A big advantage CarrySpeed offers over many of the other strap makers in this class is the offset mounting points on the plates. This allows you to leave the plate mounted to the camera or lens when you want to attach it to a tripod, monopod, floor plate, or anything else using the 1/4-20 mounting screw. For me personally, this isn’t a huge advantage, but I do use a tripod from time-to-time. For others who use a tripod more often, this will be a welcome feature to improve efficiency.

The F-1 foldable mounting plate mounted to the bottom of my Canon EOS-1Dx.
The C-3 mounting plate mounted to my Canon 70-200mm lens.

The camera plates do present one challenge for me, though. The cameras don’t fit into my ThinkTank bags quite the same as normal now with the mounting plates attached. I could always take the plates off every time I pack the cameras, but that becomes tedious after a while, and sometimes you just don’t have the time to fiddle with it. Luckily, I was able to adjust the dividers a bit and flip the camera position to fit comfortably, and thus far it has worked just fine.

My two 1Dx bodies with F-1 mounting plates attached, resting in their places inside the ThinkTank Airport International v2.

One note on the installation of the folding offset plate. At first, it might seem like the proper way to install the folding plate is with the ball joint folding towards the back of the camera body. This is not correct though and will create some issues for you if you try it. I wanted to try it both ways and see what was more comfortable. I can’t see a reason you would ever need to turn it around facing the rear of the camera. Just point it forward like the photos illustrate in the instructions and on their website.

The F-1 foldable mounting plate mounted both ways on a Canon EOS-1Dx.

Now, the folding plate is a bit bulky and is a little awkward to hold when shooting vertically. Not a huge issue for me, it just takes a little getting used to. I have big hands, so perhaps it could be more of an issue for people with smaller hands.

The Ball joint locking mechanism itself is very secure and I feel much more comfortable letting the camera drop during a quick change. However, the ball joint presents a few challenges – 1) there is not a lot of side-to-side play in the ball joint, which is good because it prevents the metal pieces from contacting the camera or lens and scratching them, but it also is a bit awkward feeling at first. After a bit of use, I got used to the new feeling pretty quick; 2) connecting and disconnecting the ball joint is tough to do quickly, if you don’t plan to remove the cameras at all then it’s fine, but I find myself throughout an assignment removing my cameras and re-installing them from time-to-time. After a few hours, I was able to get it down pretty good. It would be nice, though, if there were some soft of quick connect/disconnect mechanism.

The ball joint mechanism is very strong and secure.

The two straps come with an additional support strap for telephoto lenses. I personally won’t use this a lot for my own assignments, but I could see if being a nice feature for someone taking strolling through a park or zoo taking scenic pictures with a longer lens. Nonetheless, it’s another creative thinking solution by the design team, and it comes free with the straps.

My only real complaint about the straps is the length. Being tall, my biggest complaint with all camera straps of this style has been that they are not long enough to hold the cameras at a comfortable position on my hips. I would like to see the straps be 4-6 inches longer with the ability to cinch up some slack. This is more an issue with the single strap, but would also be nice to have the length a little longer on the double straps, as well. Perhaps maybe an option to have custom straps made would be a possibility, or even just an extra strap spacer that could be clipped into the triple-locking release buckles. I would gladly pay a few bucks extra for this.

I was able to put these straps through their paces for a week in China covering the UFC Macao event. All in all, I am very happy with the CarrySpeed straps and would gladly recommend them to anyone in the market for this type of strap. I will be keeping my eye on them for future products, enhancements, and improvements; and I will definitely be purchasing more equipment from them.

For more information on CarrySpeed straps, check out their website at www.CarrySpeed.com.

Canon EOS-1Dx Review

Upon returning from Australia a couple weeks ago, I checked my email and found an offer that sounded too good to be true. Amazon had sent me an email with recommendations based on my past purchases, and one of those recommendations was the Canon EOS-1Dx. It was listed as “in stock”. I have had two different orders for the 1Dx on pre-order since February through B&H Photo and Amazon, so I was shocked when I saw this. I immediately clicked through and hit “Buy Now”. Still thinking there must be some catch, I chose the overnight shipping option for $3 more (I’m an Amazon prime member). Low and behold, the next day a brand new 1Dx arrived.

Continue reading Canon EOS-1Dx Review

Nikon D800 thoughts

Hello everyone. It’s been a long while since I’ve posted an update here. Work has been busy and life in general has been even more busy. Last month, I spent three weeks shooting a number of assignments with the Nikon D800. I’ve been thinking of switching over to the “dark side” for quite some time, so I thought I’d give it a try and see whether or not it was going to be a viable option.

Due to the Olympics, I had to source the gear from a rental house that I use all the time – borrowlenses.com. They have virtually everything a photographer could ever want, their customer service is top notch, and their prices are very competitive. Given the nature of my assignments, and the fact that it just wasn’t available for the time I needed, I was not able to get a D4 to try out. I ended up getting a D800 with the battery grip, the 14-24mm f/2.8G AF-S ED lens, the 85mm f/1.4G AF-S lens, and the 24-70mm f/2.8G AF-S ED.

The majority of my assignments were to be portraits, so that’s why I ultimately chose the D800 and those particular lenses. I attempted to rig the camera as an overhead remote at UFC 148, but due to an unknown person messing with the camera after it was rigged and secured, the images turned out a complete waste.

Next, it was off to Australia to begin filming for The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes. I had three separate portrait shoots while I was down there to cover all the fighters, coaches, and the new Octagon Girls. I also spent a few hours following Junior dos Santos around at Wildlife Sydney. I also used the camera to shoot some beauty shots of the empty gym and house before filming officially began on the show, as well as some behind-the-scenes stuff on set during filming.

All the shoots turned out great, and I’m more than happy with the results. Being a Canon guy for going on 20 years, it did take a little getting used to for me to learn the different button positions, functions, and operations of the Nikon system. Though, I really expected to have more trouble with it than I did. It really felt comfortable in my hands, and I learned quickly to operate everything I needed to use efficiently.

The D800 is a great camera, and I believe it is leaps and bounds ahead of it’s Canon competitor – the 5D Mark III. Keep in mind though, I’m evaluating this purely as a still camera. I have never once used the video function on any of my DSLR cameras, as I have no need for that. So don’t send me hate mail about how deluded I am because the 5D video is so great. That may be the case, but it means absolutely nothing to me for what I need this camera for.

The D800, in my opinion, has a far superior autofocus system. Couple that with the ridiculously huge image size (36 MP), and I consider this to be a winner and well worth the price tag. Furthermore, comparing it side-by-side to the 5D Mark III, the D800 just looks and feels much more like a professional camera.

I would love to post a lot of examples of what I shot with it, but due to the delayed airing of the TV show, I cannot post anything from it. You can find some samples from a shoot with the coaches and the Junior dos Santos shoot in the previous posting here.