Smart thinking!

April 22, 2010 Leave a comment

Earlier in the week, I heard that Keeler Smart Center Latham was hosting a Smart Car test drive at Crossgates yesterday and today. I found out about it through Keeler’s tweets encouraging people to stop down. So yesterday, Rose and I stopped down to check it out. I had always wanted to drive one of the Smart cars, but never had the chance.

I had seen them for years before they came to the states a few years ago. In my travels to Europe, and at Lime Rock in Connecticut. The car at Lime Rock was most likely brought to the states and converted to US EPA standards. That was way back in the late 90s or early 2000s, long before they began importing them for sale here.

Recently, I had seen them on the road here and there in the Capital District, and even see one up the street at a neighbor’s house every day. It is bright yellow. You can’t miss it.

Two of the people at the event were marketing reps for Smart USA, and I also met John Sterrett from the Latham Smart Center. He went with me on my test drive. Great guy! We discussed the Smart car as well as sports cars and motorcycles. Who could ask for a better co-pilot? I got to drive the Smart ForTwo Passion Cabriolet in Blue Metallic and Rose drove the Smart ForTwo Passion Coupe in Red.

Here is the common misconception about these cars – they are incredibly roomy inside. The car had lots of legroom and quite a bit of headroom. There was even a decent amount of storage behind the seats for luggage or groceries, whichever you may be hauling. They come equipped with a 1.0 L, 71 HP, 3 cylinder engine. It’s not the fastest car you will ever drive, but it will pay off at the gas pump, as they get 41 miles per gallon according to the Smart USA website. With gas now back to over $3 a gallon, that plays a huge factor in many people’s decision of which new car to buy.

The other question a lot of people ask is about the safety of such a small car. The Smart ForTwo cars have a very high 5-star safety rating per the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. That is pretty impressive in itself. I would feel very safe in this car. heck, it can’t be any worse that being on a motorcycle in traffic. At least people might see you in the car.

The event is going on tomorrow as well. Make sure you stop down and check them out. Sorry about the crappy pics. All I had with me was my cell and was shooting into the sun. I tweaked them a touch in Photoshop to make them little better. See ya soon!

Advertisements

Review – LowePro Pro Runner 450AW

March 30, 2010 3 comments

The folks at LowePro were kind enough to lend me the Pro Runner 450AW backpack to try out. The 450AW is a very functional, high capacity backpack. This bag is large and in charge! It has tons of room for all of your camera equipment and even a slot for your laptop.

Inside the main compartment of the bag is room for two dSLRs and about 8 or 9 small lenses or 2 0r 3 large lenses. You can rearrange the dividers in a number of configurations to fit longer lenses or other gear as well. I don’t have that much equipment yet, so I used the space for chargers and other camera accessories I needed to take with me. As you can see in the picture below, there is ample storage in the three pockets shown when the main compartment is open. I used these pockets to hold extra memory cards, remotes and filters. When I asked LowePro for a bag to review, I wanted one that could accommodate my laptop. I have an HP 17 inch laptop and it was a little bit of a tight squeeze, but it fit in and I was able to take it with me. I used some of the extra room inside the main compartment to store my power cord for the laptop.

One of the things I really like about this bag is the amount of padding on the straps and waist belt. With the amount of equipment you can carry in this bag, the padding makes carrying it around all day much more comfortable. The padded straps definitely help distribute the weight and make it more manageable. There is also a lot of padding for your back to help absorb the weight. This bag is quite heavy when fully loaded with a laptop and all my camera gear, and I am not a little guy. I am about 5′ 7″ and about 200 pounds .

The front of this bag also has a large zipped storage area that can hold quite a bit. This area has a hook to hold your keys and two pockets to hold miscellaneous items you need to store. There is a hefty strap that keeps the bag shut and gives it extra support.

The straps also double as a tripod support. There is a movable base for the bottom of the tripod to go into that you can attach to the bottom of the bag using the two straps on the front of the bag.

The backpack also comes with a built in rain cover. It is built in and stowed away in a front pocket until you need it. It is tucked neatly in the under the front storage pocket, closed in with a nice Velcro tab (not shown). Another feature I really liked was a small storage pocket on the front of the bag. You can use this pocket for storing things you need to grab in a hurry, like a plane ticket or directions. The picture below also shows one of two handy grab handles for easier pick up.

Suggested Retail Price: $249.99

Specifications:

Exterior Dimensions – 13.4W X 11.4D X 19.9H in./34.0 X 29.0 X 50.5 cm

Interior Dimensions – 12.2W X 6.7D X 18.5H in./31.0 X 17.0 X 47.0 cm

Notebook Interior Dimensions – 12.2W X 1.8D X 15.6H in./31 X 4.5 X 39.5 cm

Pros:

  • Ample storage space
  • Laptop storage
  • Well-padded straps and back area
  • Grab handles for easy pick-up

Cons:

  • Fully loaded it’s a bit heavy

Overall, I really liked this bag, but it is much larger than what I need. I don’t have enough equipment to fill it to it’s potential. For a real serious professional with tons of gear, this is the perfect bag. I would love to try a bag that is just a touch smaller to compare it to this one. I contacted LowePro about their bags because I have a LowePro Mini Trekker that I have had for 7 or 8 years that is still in great like new condition, despite me using and abusing it almost every day for the time that I have had it.

What bag do you use for your camera gear? Why do you love it/hate it?

**Photos courtesy of LowePro**

Gary Fong – “The Puffer”

February 1, 2010 Leave a comment
Fong "Puffer"

Fong "Puffer"

A while back, my Speedlight decided to stop working.  As you all know, the pop up flash on your camera can be pretty harsh, so I needed to find something that could replace the speedlight without the couple hundred dollar price tag.  I did without for a while, but the results were not good.  Harsh shadows behind people and flash glare ruined a lot of my shots.

I remembered that I had seen a vendor at the 2008 PhotoPlus Expo in NYC.  They had some funky looking diffusers, but the lines were pretty long, so I moved on.  I went into my local Ritz store to grab something quickly one day and I saw “The Puffer” on the shelf.  After a few questions, I decided to pick one up. Heck, it was only $20, so if it wasn’t great, I hadn’t lost much.  When I got it home I opened up the package and pulled out two pieces.

The two pieces were made entirely of plastic, and at first I was a little worried about snapping them when putting the device together or mounting it to the camera.  The base is a formed plastic piece that will slide into the hot shoe.  It has two small round dowels that slide into one of the eight holes on each side of the diffuser.  The diffuser looks like a portion of a golf ball, with tons of dimples in it to diffuse the light.  The back has 8 holes to raise or lower the diffuser depending on where you need more or less light.  It is a little tight going into the hot shoe, but once it, it is very secure.  It also seems to work pretty well.

Rear View

Rear View

Puffer Front

Puffer Front

I also took some shots of the unit on my Nikon D70.  The pics were taken with a little point and shoot, so they aren’t great.  I took shots of the top and back to show what it looks like when mounted.

Rear Mounted

Rear Mounted

Side View

Side View

As you can see in the bottom picture, the diffuser was set on the second hole from the top.  I would normally use it just below the middle hole to be aligned correctly with the on board flash.  Here are four shots I took.  Two were taken with the Puffer and two were taken without.  Sorry for the food products, as they were handy, so I used them.

When I shot these photos, I did not change the settings on the camera.  The only difference was whether the Puffer was on or off the camera.  You can see a huge difference in the brightness and colors in both pictures that the flash was used on.

I would have to say that the Gary Fong “Puffer” is definitely worth the money.  I have used it in a few situations and it seems to do the job a lot better than the on board flash would do.

Without the Puffer

Without the Puffer

With the Puffer

With the Puffer

Without the Puffer

Without the Puffer

With the Puffer

With the Puffer

Welcome to my blog

February 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Hi all,

Some of you will already know me from my photography blog “The World Through My Lens”.  I am starting a second blog to get into reviewing products for the photography industry.  It is my plan to bring you fair, unbiased reports of the tools you need to function properly in the field.  I hope to find companies that will allow me to review their products in an effort to help them help you.

So, welcome to my new blog.  I hope to have some great information here for you very soon.  If you have a product for me to review, contact me at michael@michaelthenry.com – See ya soon!

Best,
Michael