Archive for the 'Camera kit' Category

New arrival – Velbon Ultra Maxi F tripod

Posted by on October 15th 2007 in Camera kit, My reviews, Shiny new kit

I couldn't resist getting my grubby paws on one of these lightweight tripods after reading a lot of favourable reviews about them. I reckon that it's about the right size and weight to take in the pack when I'm walking and/or wildcamping.

 Here are a few pics, with explanatory notes:


Folded length 36cm, weight 958g without the bag.


Fully-extended legs and column. With the Nikon D50 attached (horizontally and landscape), the height of the lens centre-line is 154cm and the height of the view-finder is 157cm. Dropping the column to the minimum setting reduces heights by 23cm.


Legs not extended but at maximum angle, lower section of column removed. With the Nikon D50 attached (horizontally and landscape), the height of the lens centre-line is 22cm and the height of the view-finder is 25cm.


I like the pan-head swing-function - from a landscape orientation, the camera can be tipped 90 degrees either way very easily. The quick-release plate is light enough and small enough to leave on the camera all the time. The centre-column can be inverted for taking pics with the camera beneath the head assembly, useful for taking pics with the camera pointing straight downwards. The Trunnion Shaft System (TSS) is easy to use and seems fairly robust so there's no fiddly leg-locks to worry about - just twist to lock/unlock. There's no centre-brace, so it's not the most stable tripod in the world, but it handles the D50 with 70-300mm zoom well enough, and that's good enough for me.

Ennerdale wildcamp post-trip kit report

Posted by on October 11th 2007 in Camera kit, Great Escapes, My reviews, Wildcamping

OK, let's start with the tent. I took the Vango Spectre for it's first wildie and it performed well, but then again conditions were good so it wasn't tested to the max. It was easy to put up, it took about 5 minutes, which I think is acceptable. In the morning there was a small amount of condensation on the underside of the fly, it would have been much less if there had been any sort of a breeze flowing through the end-vents, but there wasn't. I still need to replace the original guy-lines with Dyneemas. Oh, and I'll just take the right amount of pegs next time (14 Tikes, instead of the bag of 30 that I lugged around).

The pack. I was going to take a 40l pack but changed my mind at the last moment, opting instead for the Lowe Alpine Warp70 which allowed me to take the full camera kit. Features that I particularly like are the Torso Fit Duo back system (which suits me better than most other systems do) and the big external flap pocket at the back, which easily stores all of the food and drink for the weekend and which is so easy to access, being almost independent of the main body of the pack. I reckon that I had about 40l of walking kit and 10l of camera kit, so there was room to spare.

Navigation. As usual, I took the trusty Silva 15TDCL compass and A4 print-offs (printed at 1:12500) of MemoryMap maps stored in the A5 Ortlieb mapcase, backed up with the Garmin Geko 201. I hardly used any of that stuff, though, as I got by just fine with the O2 Xda with the inbuilt satnav working with the MemoryMap software that I have loaded onto the 2gig micro-SD card. I always got a good satellite signal and the positioning was fairly accurate and fast, plotting the positions directly onto the map overlay instead of having to transpose the position from Geko readout to paper-map. I started the walk with the Xda fully-charged, it was down to 81% when I got back to the car. I think that the Geko might be going on eBay soon, it's good kit but the Xda does the same job and much more besides (except the Xda's not waterproof, so I have to bag it in bad weather).

Cooking. The Jetboil performed impeccably, starting first-time every time, so there were no more beard-burning flare-ups. Fuel economy was acceptable - I had three hot rehydrated meals each day (pro-rata) and regular brew-ups, using just less than a quarter of a Coleman 100 canister.

Boots. Having got bad heel-blisters from the Raichle Fusion Mid XCRs on the Brecon Beacons meet, I went back to the Scarpa SLs and they were much better than they have been before, no doubt due to the liberal amount of zinc oxide strapping wound around my heels. The boots have now shaped themselves to my feet, so things can only get better.

Sleeping. I took the Alpkit AD700 bag, expecting the nights to be cold due to the clear skies that had been forecast, but it was too warm and I ended up using it as a blanket instead of as a bag. The mat was the InsulMat Max Thermo - it's light, comfy and packs down small. I've now got used to the fact that it needs re-inflating a bit just before use (when it's first inflated, the air inside is warm, but this contracts as it cools and needs to be "topped-up" to ensure the mat's fully inflated).

Clothing. I didn't bother to take a shell-jacket and over-trousers, opting instead for the Montane Featherlite Smock and Pants (Trousers), but I didn't need to use either of them. Most of the time all that was needed on the top half was a Lowe Alpine Dri-Flo LS top, with the Rab VR Climb for those odd post-effort chills.

Camera kit. This is an area where I didn't skimp on the weight. I took the camera and a couple of lenses (18-55mm and 70-300mm), a spare battery, cleaning kit, filters and a LowePro case to stash it all in. It added a fair amount (weight and volume) to the load, but I'm prepared to sweat that bit more if it means that I get some decent pics to help me remember the trip. I now know that I need a lens-hood for the 18-55mm kit-lens, and I reckon that a tripod would have been useful for the low-light and/or long lens shots.

Taken but not used:

  • 1 pair spare socks
  • Montane Featherlite Smock and Pants (Trousers)
  • 1 Mars Bar
  • 16 Tikes (doh!)
  • Spare battery for camera
  • Garmin Geko and spare batteries
  • Lowe Alpine Mountain Cap
  • 1 spare dehydrated meal
  • First Aid kit
  • Compass

Stuff that I almost ran out of:

  • Isotonic drink powder (I had enough left to make up 0.25l)
  • Bog-roll (I was down to the last sheet! TMI?)

Making stuff

Posted by on September 4th 2007 in Camera kit, Making stuff, Projects

At last I got some time between DIY jobs to make a few of the things that I can't be arsed to buy, or which just can't be had at the shops.

First up - I made a footprint for the Vango Spectre tent. Same plan as usual - get a cheap green woven plastic tarp from the Pound Shop (cost 50p, no, I can't figure that either), cut to shape, fold over the cut edges and iron them down to make them stick. The addition of three plastic eyelets (10p each) is the only other cost. Making a few X-shaped cuts in the fabric (for drainage) finishes the job.

Next up - a reflector for the Nikon remote unit. The D50's IR sensor is on the front of the body, so it doesn't detect a signal from behind. There are a few proper gadgets available for dealing with this situation, all of them involve an unwieldy fixed-attitude plastic reflecting plate that's attached to the lens with a bit of bungee cord, like this:



I made a more compact hinged version by cutting down a redundant sd-card case and attaching a rubber band. Using this, the remote works a treat from behind and from the side, and the whole thing is a better fit into my camera case.

Finally - pull-loops for the latest batch of Alpkit Tikes. These pegs come with a length of heavy-duty red cord attached, it's fine for most applications but I find that a) the bulk takes up room in the pack which I could use for something else, and b) the red colour is difficult to see at night. Said cords have been replaced with off-cut lengths of fluoro-yellow dyneema which is much easier to see in the dark and which has very little bulk. You can just about see them in the following picture of the "big red slug":


Another gadget arrives

Posted by on September 3rd 2007 in Astrostuff, Camera kit, Shiny new kit

While I was interwebnet trawling for the right-angle viewfinder, I got to thinking that a remote shutter release for the D50 might be a handy gadget to have around, especially for those moments when I don't want to put down my beer just to press the release on the camera.

The Nikon ML-L3 was the gadget of choice - simple to use (just the one button, all of the other parameters are set in the camera), light and cheap at just £11 delivered from Dzone2 on eBay. Included is one battery and a pouch which will accommodate a spare battery in addition to the remote unit.

It works in all camera modes that I've tested it with. I like the way it works when the camera is set to Bulb mode - click the remote once and the shutter opens, click again and it closes - ideal for exposures up to 30 minutes long.

Please excuse the poor-quality photo (I couldn't be bothered to take off the 70-300 lens just for this shot):


Decisions, decisions…

Posted by on April 16th 2007 in Camera kit, Shiny new kit

The new lens has arrived from Onestop Digital, and all seems well. No p&p, duty or VAT (they say that they'll refund any charges if/when I get any).

I've just registered the warranty on the Nikon website, so what should I do next?

Carry on with the DIY?
Tidy the garden?
Clean the car?
Clean the windows?
Help the neighbour with his DIY?
Test the lens?

Hmmm... a tough choice...


Here are a couple of test shots, just for me to see what they look like:




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