Hardware Review Think Tank Retrospective 7

Video Review

As summer comes upon us, we are out and about much more often, taking more pictures and videos than ever before.  This latest hardware review from Think Tank Photo makes sure we have the right gear with us without overloading us with every piece of kit.  I took a look at the Slate Blue denim-canvassed variety of the Retrospective 7 and it came out with shining colors (no surprise there).  Take a look at all the gear I included in the load:

  • 1  SLR
  • 5 lenses
  • Hoodman Loupe
  • Gorillapod
  • Flash Card Case
  • Headlamp
  • Battery Caddy
  • Leatherman

And there was room to spare.  I also really enjoyed the sound buffering panels to silence the ripping Velcro sound if desired.    There’s so much to appreciate here, it really needs more than I could say here in words.  So, with that in mind – let’s take a look at a new format I’ve put together for hardware reviews:  video footage!

The video may take a bit to load as I’ve covered this bag extensively, so it’s nearly 20 minutes long, but is only 115 MB in size.  Enjoy the vid, and if you have any questions about it, feel free to post questions, comments or other feedback here!  My only major nit is that the Retrospective 7 will not fit my laptop.  If it did that, I could easily see this replacing my laptop bag for short trips.  Since the pads are removable, I could easily make this a work bag too…and fit a P&S camera with my laptop, papers, and other info.  I realize though, that they were trying to make it as cross-compatible as possible, but I needed just two more inches to get my Macbook Pro in this bag!

Another small nit is that I am not sure how I would be able to hoo my tripod on to this bag for carrying purposes.  The new super light carbon fiber tripods are so light, I’d always rather take one with me than not, and in looking at the design, there’s really no way to strap that in.  I did kind of re-purpose the sound baffles for the Velcro to accommodate my Gorilla Pod, which I guess is fine in a pinch, but a tripod is something that we should never really go into the field without if we can help it anymore, and it’s too bad Think Tank didn’t give us a way to hook it on here.  (*Note*  There are loops on each end where a carribeaner might work, but this would be rather clunky – I’d rather see  some sort of tie-down on the underside.

Like I said in the video though – there’s more upsides than downsides, and I would definitely add this to my bevy of bags!  However, as always, I’ve promised not to keep the gear I review – so it will be offered up in the next giveaway!  When is that?  Watch the video! 🙂

Thanks again to the folks over at Think Tank Photo for this opportunity to get a first look and hands-on experience with the latest in their gear!  You can check out this bag, and any others from their line-up here.  In the interests of full disclosure, the links to Think Tank Photo here are included as affiliate links, and if you do end up making a purchase through them, the prices are the same, but a little bit comes back to me to help offset the cost of maintaining this blog, the podcast, and the contest series!  (Not to mention the video reviews I create here to share with you!).  So, again thanks to Think Tank, and thanks to all the readers who take the time to read the content here, watch the videos, and enjoy the various vendors products in support of the blog.  Happy shooting and we’ll see you back here again tomorrow!
Free Laptop Case

Hardware Review: Hoodman Loupe

Hoodman Loupe

As mentioned previously in the monthly contest series post, this month the featured vendor is none other than Hoodman.  Their patented and widely recognized CF cards and loupes are proudly made in the U.S.A. (the only ones I know of that can make this claim), and are virtually indestructible.  They have generously donated one of their Loupes for the contest winner, and allowed me a chance to review it as well.  So, without further ado – here is the latest in the hardware review category for the blog:

Hoodman Loupe

Hoodman Loupe
Hoodman Loupe

The whole purpose of the Hoodman Loupe is to block stray light from hitting your LCD.  In sunlight or hazy scenarios, it can often be challenging to view your screen, and even change settings if you own a newer camera.  Given it’s simple function, the review aspect of this really is a simple matter to determine, does it do the job it claims to do or not.

Not only did it completely block all ambient light with ease, the Hoodman Loupe also seemed to make the on-screen photo much more brilliant and crisp than I had remembered before using it.  That surprise was further mitigated by seeing how compact the Hoodman Loupe actually is – at roughly 2 inches long and an inch deep.  Not only did it perform adequately, but at this compact size, the Hoodman Loupe is an easy addition to your camera bag with the minimal footprint it takes up in space.

Most rubber or manufactured products attempt to make things slick of shiny and in so doing, the product becomes quite slippery and difficult to hold.  Not so with the Hoodman Loupe, as the rugged rubberized exterior was nicely made, and I was pleased to get an easy grip on it.  Although easy to hold when in use, I was not as thrilled with the ease of porting.  The short trap that they provide to carry it around your neck is much too short for me.  Now granted, I am 6’1”, but certainly no giant, and the size was just awkward for me.  While the quick release snap does attenuate it to a certain degree, the idea of keeping it tethered somehow is a little more reassuring (I have a penchant for losing small items when taken away from my body…LOL)  The accompanying carrying case was a nice addition, but did serve to really make it easier to carry…this seems to only serve as a storage container for when not in use so you can differentiate it from other gear in your bag.

I did recall after using this that a DIY solution was suggested by Larry Becker, of NAPP notoriety (he does the weekly NAPP News segments and writes his own blog at Larry’s Cheap Shots), and think his belt clip idea is both innovative and and highly functional.  If the folks at Hoodman made this accessory and slapped their brand on it, I’d be half inclined to purchase the entire kit from them directly.

It’s a fairly simple idea in total, and not much else to say other than – it works!  The sturdy construction, and compact nature of it is perfect for any photographer who wants to utilize their LCD.  For those of us with older cameras where shutter, aperture, ISO, and all other settings done via dials and the top viewer, it may not be as relevant, but for shooters using more recent gear like the Canon 50D, 60D, and 7D, the back screen is used much more to make these adjustments, so a device like the Hoodman Loupe could be a huge aid in making sure you’ve got your settings where you want them.  For $80, you almost can’t go wrong!  This is definitely the accessory you never thought you needed, but you really did!

Remember, this very Loupe is being given away at the end of the month, so for your chance to win this cool accessory, don’t forget to submit your BLOCK themed photo in the Flickr thread here.  Good luck to those who enter, and thanks again to the folks at Hoodman for their sponsorship and contribution!

Product Review: Backlit Box

No Edge Lighting

When the folks over at www.backlitbox.com approached me about reviewing the product and participating in the initial research and design of their new product, I was happy to oblige as new products that come into the marketplace are always engaging to participate in during development. So, I submitted one print for work-up, considering the line of products (images back-lit by laser lights). I chose a shot of the moon hanging beautifully over the harbor of South Carolina. When I got the product, I was skeptical at first because there was hardly any color to the image. However, when I plugged it in, the color became quite brilliant, and lit things amazingly well – better than I would have anticipated.

I did have some notes to go back to Faxon (the owner): the back of the box had no hanging wire mechanism, which put me in an awkward position of having to nail a picture hanger into the box myself, and without knowing how it was wired up for electrical, made for a potentially damaging situation. The other thing I noticed is that a thin line of light was evident around the perimeter of the box on all four sides. As we discussed at length later, this was an unfortunate side effect of the production line, with no real professional way to mask this light spill (we both agreed that gaffers tape or electrical tape would just look rather amateurish).

Edge lighting

Not long after that, I had an idea when noticing a piece of trim molding in my office was peeling…what if there was a thin piece of trim molding that surrounded the print…this could effectively black out the border thereby avoiding the light spillage. I relayed the thoughts to Faxon, and shortly before I left for my trip, he informed me that the 2nd generation product was ready to ship and to send another photo in for production.

After sending in another image (a sunset over Folly Beach), I got the updated product literally 24 hours before my departure on vacation, and the end of the April contest series…so the review had to wait until now.

First off, let me say that I was (and am) very impressed with the professionalism that Faxon exhibited during the entire research and development process. Not only did he take constructive criticism well, but he also was quick to implement changes where improvements were desired, including not only a photo hanger on the back now, but also the trim molding to effectively eliminate the the white line of light around the border.  Take a look:

No Edge Lighting

The image looks amazing and I was surprised even that it was one from my own portfolio! Give the image quality, back-lit intensity, and visual appeal from this product, I must heartily give it a two-thumbs up rating, even though it is likely still in development. While most products usually are, this one even more so as he continues to improve upon the original design to deliver a better quality product to his client base. For the cost of printing, it almost is a no-brainer to consider these as part of your portfolio of products to offer clients. I’ve seen two different landscapes, and Faxon has shown me displays of portrait work and architecture work as well that have really rocked my socks off!

It’s a great product that will only improve with time, and is something every photographer should have both in their own portfolio, and as a product offering to their clients. For more information, and to upload/order your own images for production, please visit www.backlitbox.com

For those interested in having product reviews done on your own product line, please feel free to email me, as always. I do also appreciate the many requests for reviews of various products from the readership here, and all it takes is a request to me for a review to begin the process of communication with respective vendors for review copies, so keep chiming in with these ideas – it’s your suggestions that keep the product reviews coming, so sound off in the comments with what you’d like me to review next! Until then, happy shooting!