Inexpensive DSLR travel kit

DSLR travel kit

For the past year I’ve been using this Rubbermaid Handi-box Snap Case to pack my Canon 5D, Canon 24-70mm f/2.8 L lens, Canon 100mm f/2.8 L macro lens or a Canon 135mm f/2 lens (either/or), a pouch with extra batteries and CF cards, a blower, and a strap. The only part of the kit that won’t fit in this plastic case are the two lens hoods for the lenses and they go in my LowePro Stealth Reporter 200 bag.

I’d put this stuff in the bag but in fact, it’s better protected in this plastic case and the bag holds battery chargers and computer stuff I don’t need on the plane.

The camera is in a small, padded Eagle Creek pouch and the lenses are in Zing lens pouches.

DSLR travel kit

DSLR travel kit

DSLR travel kit

DSLR travel kit

I’ve used this system to pack and check my camera gear on each of my JFK to LAX flights for the past year (7 trips) and it’s worked beautifully. used to carry the Stealth Reporter bag on the plane as a carry on but given that I check a piece of luggage I figured why not check this stuff?

I also check a small Benro travel tripod and head.

I know, many of you are thinking this is a recipe for disaster: TSA will take my gear, it will get broken one of these days, or the bag will get lost. All of these are possible but in fact, I’ve done this numerous times now and nothing has happened except I get to travel lighter on the plane.

I looked into Pelican cases but I don’t need such a high end case, just something that will protect the gear in case of a direct hit. These 5 images show the kit in various states of unpack/pack.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering, I have a soft sided North Face rolling duffel and this case goes on the bottom with clothing on top of it. It has never moved or been compromised in any way and TSA has never opened it (that I know of) so it must look like camera gear in the x-ray image.

Something to consider for those of you who travel with a DSLR kit that you don’t want to lug on the plane.

More iPads Take to the Sky With Qantas In-Flight Trial

More iPads Take to the Sky With Qantas In-Flight Trial

A new Qantas trial pilot program will see one of the airline’s Boeing 767-300 jets outfitted with one iPad 2 for each passenger, according to the Australian Business Traveller. Each of the aircraft’s 254 seats will have its own iPad 2, and there will also be several spares kept on hand just in case. All seats pockets will carry an iPad 2, but business-class travelers will also get a flexible stand to use with their fold-out meal tray.

The pilot program is about testing Qantas’ in-flight Wi-Fi streaming capabilities, Qantas Executive Manager for Customer Experience Alison Webster told the ABT. The ultimate goal is to be able to provide passengers with access to the Q Streaming service through their own devices, be they Apple’s iPads and iPhones or Android tablets and handsets.

I love using my iPad on United PS flights cross country but I must say, gogo inflight internet isn’t the greatest (yet). I buy and use it to keep up with email and RSS and comments at this site but for anything serious like a video download it’s useless. I don’t know where the bottleneck is but no doubt this kind of deal is the beginning of working it out.

Travels with iPad and two cameras

outside Sagrada FamiliaMy friend Steve, his wife Cathy and daughter Kristen who live in Oregon recently went on a three week trip to Spain. They wanted snapshots of the trip and wanted to be able to communicate with the outside world as they travelled (email, upload pictures, etc.). These folks like to travel light so no taking their Canon 7D DSLR, lenses, or a computer. Here are Steve’s notes on their trip.


- Canon PowerShot S95 (Steve’s camera)
- Sony DSC-TX5 (Kristen’s camera)
- 5 SD cards ranging in size from 1GB to 4GB
- AC chargers for both cameras
- iPad 2 (16G Wifi model)
- Zagg iPad case with built-in Logitech Bluetooth keyboard
- iPad camera connection kit
- 2 iPad AC chargers (also used for charging iPhones)
- USB charging cable for the Zagg (using an iPad charger)
- 4 US to Spain (Type C) plug converters

Sevilla from the cathedral bell tower

The plan and its execution

1. The plan was to offload each camera every day onto the iPad for back up. And to change SD cards occasionally during the trip. We considered shipping the cards back home during the trip but did not do this.

2. The first misstep of the execution was forgetting to change the date/time on the cameras when we arrived in Spain. I had thought about this ahead of time but forgot when we arrived (jet lagged) in country. To compound this problem one of cameras was setup for DST and other other was not. So not only where they on the home timezone, they were about an hour different from each other. I plan to programmatically adjust the image file timestamps now that we are home.

3. The iPad and camera connection kit turned out to be a very smooth way to offload the photos and view them. This was a complete success for us. Altogether for the 22 days we took 1244 photos with a total size of 4.3 GB. The iPad started getting full at one point – we had a movie on it that we were planning to delete if needed and that did the trick.

4. For sharing photos with folks back home I setup a ‘Spain trip’ set on flickr that we would push photos onto during the trip. The good news is that we had Wifi access at all of the locations we stayed (this was part of the criteria for selecting lodging). As a note, this was much different from our experience 4 years ago in France and Italy were we struggled to find internet access. We pushed a couple of pictures up to flickr each day – everyone back home liked seeing the photos and keeping track of our progress on the trip.

5. I had found an app for the iPad called Snapseed that provided some basic photo editing capabilities and sharing to flickr. This worked out pretty well. It would be nice if Snapseed had better photo library browsing UI (it uses the standard iOS UI in a popover and does NOT remember your place from the last browsing session). The editing facilities worked just fine. The flickr upload worked pretty well overall, but seemed to have problems adding the photo to the flickr set on marginal Wifi connections (it would report a timeout). Richard noticed that photos uploaded to flickr with Snapseed did not seem to have their original EXIF data. I need to do some testing to see if any of the iPhone/iPad apps get this correct. Finally, the EXIF data is intact on all of the photos that were loaded onto the iPad (and then subsequently brought onto my Mac in iPhoto).

6. The Zagg case with the Bluetooth keyboard was a huge success. It is a rigid aluminum cover for the iPad so it is well protected for travel. And the keyboard was a pleasure to use for writing email and other typing chores – huge benefit over using the on-screen keyboard. The keyboard battery did not require charging for the full three weeks.

Except for forgetting to set the time/date on the cameras, things work out really well. This was a light kit of gear that provided a bunch of functionality and a good way to backup and share our photos while traveling.

If you have questions or comments please post them here.

Fuji FinePix X100 camera

A few years ago I had a revelation: carrying a big DSLR kit on a hike doesn’t work for me. It’s a lot of extra weight, dealing with setting up shots is rude to other hikers with me who just want to hike and not stop every few minutes, and the kinds of images I take on hikes are more snapshot documentation of the experience than fine art photography.

Once I made this distinction I was free to do two things:

1. Not worry so much about weight and bulk in my DSLR because it’s not a camera rig I’m going to be walking long distances with.

2. Buy and carry a point and shoot camera on hikes and be happy with it. I’ve since been using a Canon PowerShot S90 and have been very happy with it. My hiking partner Dave uses a Canon PowerShot G11 and he too is happy with it. The images we get aren’t spectacular but they’re quite good for cameras like these.

My friend Dale has been looking for a camera to take on hikes that’s smaller and lighter than a DSLR but has a bigger sensor than than the G11/G12 or S90/S95. For a while he was interested in the Panasonic GF2, a micro four thirds camera that has interchangeable lenses and a bigger sensor than a typical point and shoot but no viewfinder. For the last few months he’s been interested in a relatively new camera that’s become quite popular: the Fuji FinePix X100.

X100 camera

This camera is a bit larger than a Canon G11, has a fixed single focal length lens (very sharp and fast at f/2) and is built to mimic a Leica rangefinder camera. It has an excellent viewfinder but the most important thing about it for Dale and many others is that it has an outstanding image sensor which allows it to shoot at higher ISO than point and shoot cameras and the sensor’s pixels are larger than a point and shoot camera’s so image quality is superior.

This camera isn’t for everyone and even those who bought early and love it have lists of things they wish Fuji would improve on it but the images it takes are outstanding and for many, the way the camera’s exposure controls work is a huge hit. Read the reviews at Amazon and B&H (below) for a few of the issues people are finding with it (even though they love it).

This camera isn’t inexpensive at about $1200 and because its popular it’s tough to buy even if you want to spend the money. For those curious about it I’ve put together some resources below that might help.

If Dale bites on it he’ll no doubt post about it as well as post images. Stay tuned on that. I’m in no rush for a camera like this although it does make me think about what I might take on a sightseeing trip to Europe where I don’t want the bulk of a DSLR but do want better images than my S90 can produce. This just might be the ideal travel camera and taking the X100 and the S90 as a backup is still less bulk than even a small DSLR. Interesting…

Fujifilm FinePix X100 at Fuji
FinePix X100 at Fuji
Fuji FinePix X100 manual (PDF)
Fuji FinePix X100 Brochure (PDF)

Buy or Rent an X100
Fujifilm Finepix X100 Digital Camera at B&H Photo (read reviews)
Fujifilm X100 at Amazon (read reviews)
Fuji X100 at Lensrentals

X100 Reviews
Fujifilm FinePix X100 In-Depth Review at DPReview
Camera Test: Fujifilm FinePix X100 at Popular Photography
Fujifilm FinePix X100 Review at Photography Blog
Fujifilm FinePix X100 Review at Luminous Landscape
Mike Mander’s review of the Fujifilm FinePix X100

X100 on flickr and 500px
I take discussions of gear on flickr with a grain of salt so be aware going in that all kinds of people are using this camera on flickr. If you dig you can find some interesting images made with this camera taken by outstanding photographers.
Finepix X100 flickr group
Fuji X100 flickr group
Fuji X100 Enthusiasts flickr group
flickr photographer Nokton, X100 set
flickr photographer Ryo, X100 tags
flickr photographer Staca, X100 tags
All flickr images taged “fujifilmfinepixx100″
Search for “X100″ on 500px (some outstanding images in there)

Boeing 777 airline assembly

A Boeing 777 going together. What an amazing and complex machine a modern large airliner is. I wonder what the Wright brothers would think of a film like this.

Boeing Creative Services put this together. It’s a bit fast for my taste but it does the job. I had no idea the fuselage was made in sections as it is on this large plane. It would be nice to know the timeframe represented in the video, a year maybe?

Zoom out, watch large.

[via Product by Process]

iPad vs MacBook Air for a serious photo trip

On the road with a camera, an iPad, and a Hyperdrive

Ben Long at Macworld does a nice job of framing the various issues of traveling (in Turkey) on a photo assignment with what sounds like a Canon 5D MK II (large RAW files), an iPad, and other tools for working with his images on the road.

Ben goes to great lengths to use an iPad by adding a folding keyboard and a HyperDrive (storage device for photos) but commenter “ekornblum” calls him on the portability factor with this insightful comment:

OK, let’s stop the madness.

The iPad 2 weighs 607 grams. The HyperDrive (including drive module & battery) weighs 298 g. The keyboard weighs 159 g. Combined that’s 1064 g, or 1.064 kg.

A MacBook Air 11 inch weighs… 1.06 kg.

It weighs less and is much more functional (faster processors, more ram, full fledged apps, higher res screen), and is smaller than all 3 of the above items combined.

Yeah, you only get 128 GB storage, but you could just add a regular external bus powered drive that’s about 200 g (smaller & lighter than the HyperDrive), so the weight difference is minimal.

Or a MacBook Air 13 inch weighs 1.32 kg and provides 256 GB, with even higher screen res. Once again, that’s only 256 grams more weight than the iPad, HyperDrive, & keyboard.

I gotta call silly on this one…

There are times when it will make sense to carry a computer running Mac OS to have better access to files and software and a real keyboard and it seems to me that this is one of them. Even an 11″ MacBook Air would be an improvement here but as the commenter says, there’s room for a 13″ model and one still has a lighter solution.

I think I might trust a service like DropBox or in the future, iCloud for storage rather than the HyperDrive which runs the risk of being stolen or breaking down on a trip. Or, why not just have a lot of CF cards and maybe some pre-paid mailers to send them home.

This is an interesting “problem” and no doubt there are many ways to handle it. Of course, first you need to book a trip.

Another cloud story: wifi on planes

In-flight Internet: the view from 35,000 feet and three years

Glenn Fleishman has put together an excellent overview of the history, what’s available now, and the future of wifi and internet access on planes.

I regularly fly a United PS 757 from JFK to LAX and use the Gogo wifi internet service on my iPad. It’s $12.95 for the trip and while it’s too slow to watch a movie on, it’s fine for email, RSS, and browsing the web.

[via Dale Allyn]



From backpacks and messengers, to wallets and pocket design, we help you keep the things that are most precious to you close by when you go out to conquer the world. And we can do it all without straps cutting into us, bulk weighing us down, or weirdly placed pockets hiding our keys.

For the bag-lover in all of us. Oh dear…

As Gary says: “You can’t have too many camera bags, and all other bags too.”

[via core77]

Travel apps

I recently returned from Los Angeles, to Connecticut by plane. The routing was LAX to JFK. I was chatting with my friend Gary the morning I left and he wanted my flight number so he could track the flight (UAL 431).

I gave him the flight number and he searched and found the free FlightView app, downloaded it, installed it, and liked it. I noticed it has Apple’s iAds on the bottom of its screens and I’d pay the $0.99 to get the version sans-ads. For $3.99 there’s FlightView elite that notifies you of boarding times with push notifications as well as gives you maps and driving directions to airports on your trip. A competing app is FlightTrack which has a FlightTrack Pro version as well.

These apps go well beyond flight tracking and are general purpose travel apps that allow the storage of many of the details of a trip in a convenient form with those details updated automatically if times change. This got me thinking, why don’t I use an app like this?

Flight Tracker widget

I’ve been using both the OSX Dashboard widget Flight Tracker to check flight status but it doesn’t allow any trip information to be stored. So, I use Simplenote to keep track of this kind of stuff but my process is crude by comparison: I enter all the information and it’s not connected to anything; if flight times change I get notified by United via email and have to edit my travel list by hand. My guess is using an app for travel will make this process easier. Both of these apps can pull travel information right out of a confirmation email you get from an airline (in theory).

This is great stuff, I’m looking forward to messing with one or more of these on my next trip to LA in June.

Google flight schedule search and Hipmunk

Google flight schedule search takes off, helps you figure out when to get aboard

This is interesting although only really in trip planning, not really great (yet) as a travel aid.

Here are flights from New York’s JFK to Los Angeles’ LAX

Click the + Schedule of non-stop flights and you have a nice list of all airlines that fly that route and their takeoff and landing times.

No doubt Google will do more with this data and build it into specific applications, including those that run on Android.

For this kind of searching, I prefer hipmunk and I use it regularly although I’m pretty locked into United so it’s more a matter of looking for price and routing rather than comparing prices on different airlines.

Japan Airlines CEO cuts own pay and perks

Now, if American CEOs did this, members of Congress did this, President Obama did this, we might be able to stomach asking working people for so many concessions to make things right.

The least American CEOs could do is what Steve Jobs at Apple does: take $1 in salary and get the rest in stock options, the worth of which are determined by how well the company does.

It infuriates me that members of Congress have excellent health care and pensions and are legislating that everyone else needs to belt tighten. Put them all on commission and force them to buy health insurance like the rest of us.

[via Boing Boing]

Support Grows for Tiered Risk System at Airports

Support Grows for Tiered Risk System at Airports

As a frequent traveler I support this but oh boy, I can see the problems with it already.

1. Profiling will no doubt get a few people into the risky pool who shouldn’t be there. Getting “promoted” out of that pool will be a tough fight.

2. This is akin to having a national ID card and I thought, if memory serves, that there is resistance to this from various groups.

3. Having to pay for the screening seems like a bad idea and will lead to a class system: those who can afford to pay will have it easier. It seems to me that the TSA should pay us for our time in getting screened to make their jobs easier.

United Airlines has my travel history and they know a lot about me. Why can’t I simply okay them sharing some of that information with the TSA so that they know more about me? Then it’s just a matter of making sure I’m me and that I have the “regular” bags I usually bring through checkpoints. I’ve thought this for years, long before 9/11. Without getting into profiling or paying for screening, it would seem to me that more use could be made of our travel histories, much like stamps on a passport.

Where are the open minded systems analysts when we need them?