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As you may or may not be aware. I’m currently planning a rather adventures travel through South East Asia in September. Not only have I been busy putting together an itinerary, I’ve also been upgrading my camera equipment.

Tamrac Adventure 9 camera bagWith travel in mind (and lots of it) my choice of camera bag was very important to me. This isn’t just a bag to keep my camera safe, it needed to be something I could happily carry for hours every day in 30C heat. Something that could accommodate everything I’d want to take with me whilst being comfortable.

After a fair bit of review reading and scouting around I decided upon the Tamrac Adventure 9 camera bag.

Ruck Sack Style

I chose a ruck sack rather than a shoulder bag because i want to evenly distribute the weight across my shoulders. Having the weight of a camera plus lenses, etc on one shoulder for hours a day is not a good idea. It can seriously effect your general posture, cause back and shoulder pains. It would also mean a smaller bag so I would be limited to what I could fit in.

Compartment Size

One very important thing for me was being able to fit all my gear in. There’s a wide range of ruck sack style camera bags out there and the size of each compartment varies massively. The Tamrac Adventure 9 has ample space for my 5d Mark II, my 70-200mm F4 and my 24-105 F4. It also has a slot against the back for a 15″ laptop and another compartment for cables, snacks, whatever else you need for the day.

It also has a large number of pouches, zip up areas, and slots to put all manner of accessories in. Memory cards, filters, spare batteries, etc. All of which can fit in the main camera compartment which flips open easily to allow access to everything quickly.

Tamrac Adventure 9 camera bagWeather Proof

While I’ve not tested it in Monsoon like conditions, I’m pretty confident it’ll keep all my gear dry even in big downpours. All the zips are waterproofed including the more exposed laptop slot zip. Other zips have fold over flaps and the camera compartment has 3 extra straps for tightly fastening down the flap to stop wind lifting it or rain getting in. To be on the safe side I plan to purchase some resealable plastic bags to put my gear in. I’ll no doubt report more on it’s performance once I’m in Vietnam!

Attaching Extra Gear

The Tamrac Adventure 9 has a whole bunch of straps and fasteners on the outside so if you want to quickly attach something to it for easy access, you can. It also has two net style pouches on either side, perfect for a drinks bottle or a flash if you need easy access. I’ve even put a monopod in there and it’s held it in place no problem.

The bag also has 2 slots underneath it. I purchased some attachment straps and now strap my lightweight tripod to the bottom of my bag easily. Having it horizontally underneath helps spread the weight evenly which is best when carrying.

Very Happy

All in all I’m very happy with my bag. It wasn’t cheap but it’s very comprehensive in it’s features and abilities. It’s always comfortable to wear. It Does a great job of evenly distributing weight. Has easy access compartments and the extra straps give it more flexibility. I feel confident it will serve me well as i trek through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Malaysia.

Worth reading

Check out this great blog on how to pack your camera bag! very important!

Your experience

As ever your thoughts and comments are welcome. What bag do you own and why?

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We photographers like our gadgets. We’re surrounded by them. Whether you’re film or digital one of the great perks of the job is buying lovely new equipment!

Canon 5D MkIINow that I’m “full frame” I needed to upgrade my lenses. To get the most out of my 5D Mark II I wanted to put the best glass on it. if you’re a Canon user the best lenses you can buy are Canon’s L Series. They offer amazing quality, rock solid design and great reliabilty. Everyone agrees that L is the best series of lenses… but not everyone agrees which one you should have in your kit.

They are a serious purchase with a serious price tag so when I needed an L series wide zoom lens it wasn’t an easy choice.

The Contenders

Canon 24-105 F4 LCanon 24-70 F2.8 LThe two main contenders are the 24-70 F2.8 L and the 24-105 F4 L.

Both amazing lenses, the 24-70 offering a wider aperture while the 24-105 has image stabilization.

Hot topic

There’s heated debates on which is best. Which covers the most needs, even which is the best in low light. Flickr is a hot-bed of Canon users with strong opinions. The group discussions are often filled with “which lens should i buy?” topics. I myself have posted a few as they’re a great place to get a good cross section of responses.

There’s great arguments for both. The 24-70 covers a shorter range with less elements and a faster aperture. But it’s weight is dramatically increased to incorporate this. Surprisingly so. The 24-105 weighs less, covers a wider range but has a max aperture of F4. Choices choices!

In the end I chose the 24-105 F4. It came down to a number of factors.

Weight

I will be on the road, possibly for months at a time. While I am willing to carry heavier lenses if the benefits are worth it. For me personally the 24-70 F2.8 doesn’t offer enough of an improvement to warrant the extra weight. I’ll be happier shooting with the 24-105. Happiness and harmony with your equipment should not be overlooked, especially on an expensive purchase!

Range

Another on-the-road factor here as the less I need to change lenses the better. The extra reach the 24-105 gives me is a great advantage. Possibly even helping me achieve more spur of the moment shots I would have otherwise missed while changing to my 70-200 F4 L.

Image Stabliaztion

Before trying this lens I thought IS was a bit of a gimick to help reduce camera shake. I had however overlooked one obvious advantage to this. If camera shake is reduced you can shoot at lower speeds. Lower speeds means more light. The lack of 2.8 aperture on the 24-105 is more than made up for by this feature. I also plan to shoot HD video with my 5D Mark II so the IS really comes in handy for smoothing out those hand held shots.

I’m very happy with my purchase. Frankly I would  have been happy with either lens but the true test comes when you’re out in the field with your camera bag and limited options on what you can take. A happy photographer is a creative photographer!

I’ll post a full review in a month or two.

If you have any questions about these lenses or an opinion the lens you purchase do comment.

Feel free to follow me on twitter

Spending time with family is always a great opportunity to not only improve your photography skills but also give your family a surprise gift!

I’m lucky enough to have 2 beautiful nieces with another on the way! So there’s no end of family days out.

Outstanding in her field

Outstanding in her field – Matt Preston

This is one of my favourite photos. I’d prefer it if there wasn’t a fence in the background but you could argue that it adds a bit of texture and background to the image.

Pretty dress

Pretty Dress – Matt Preston

The great thing about kids is they have very little fear of cameras. It’s usually when adults get involved that they’re told to “say cheese” or smile unnaturally. Most of the time they’re happy to run around as though you’re not there. Of course if they do know what you’re doing it’s usually pretty easy to make them laugh, bringing out a great smile and compelling image.

Shy Smile

Shy Smile – Matt Preston

I recommend having a play around with settings in your photo editing software. You may find your photo becomes a lot more compelling if you up the contrast, reduce the saturation, etc. Family portraits often work well in black & white or even this de-saturated “aged photo” look.

Don’t be shy with your camera even when you’re at the park with lots of other kids around. While some people say “Make sure you don’t get any other kids in the shot” for fear of being shouted at by a protective parent one thing you’ll notice is that every parent has a digital camera in their hand these days, eager to snap more pics of their sons and daughters.

For more photos check out my Flickr Photostream.

Feel free to leave a comment and follow me on twitter

Canon 5D MkIII’ve had my Canon 5D mkII about 3 weeks now. It’s been a pretty manic 3 weeks too, getting to grips with my new best friend! I though I’d give a quick first impressions round-up before a full review in a month or so.

The Canon 5D MkII has been getting a lot of press lately. It’s definitely a pro camera of choice and a massive step up from my 300D rebel that kept me going for a good few years. From the lower end of the amateur market to the top end of the pro market you really do notice the difference!

It’s one solid brick of a camera. Nothing bends, creaks or feels like it could ever fall off. The grippy rubber finish on it feels industrial but I know it’ll last a lot longer than the thin metallic plastic finish on a lot of DSLR cameras.

Canon EOS 5D MkIIThe ISO quality really is as good as they say. You can happily shoot away at 1600 or even 3200 and while there is some noise as you’d expect there is much MUCH less noise than most cameras. It makes shooting at those ISOs an option rather than a compromise.

Being a full frame camera you make full use of your EOS lenses. No crop factor and a larger sensor really adds to your image. I was surprised how much more natural it feels shooting at full frame and I would highly recommend it to anybody. While the crop factor helps some cheaper DSLRs get the best from cheap kit lenses you really do see the difference with full frame. Although of course you feel the hole burning through your wallet too!

Canon EOS 5D MkII backThe biggest first impression for me is the quality of images especially viewing them on the 3 inch screen. Live view on a DSLR is a very handy feature and allows you to get pinpoint accuracy on your focusing too by pressing the magnifying glass button.

I’ll review the camera in full with all it’s features in a couple of months time but for now I’m very happy with my Canon 5D MkII. Most definitely impressed!