Monday, March 22, 2010

REVIEW: Think Tank Photo Hydrophobia 70-200 Camera Rain Cover

Think Tank Photo Hydrophobia 70-200 (with built-in strap)

In the past when I’ve had to protect my camera from the rain I’ve resorted to using Ziploc bags, grocery bags, and even cheap disposable camera bags that were really little more than glorified grocery sacks. That was all well and good for a Rebel XTi, but when I have an investment in a camera like 5D Mark II that doesn’t have weatherproofing or a 1D Mark IV that is going to be in a heavy downpour for an event, I want more protection. This is where ThinkTankPhoto’s Camera Rain Covers like new Hydrophobia 70-200 comes in. It’s designed to accommodate Canon & Nikon’s most popular lens – the 70-200mm, and in my case even worked fine with my 100-400mm as there’s a little extra room in it.

Features

As you can see in the pictures above and below, this product really covers your gear quite well. In fact, you can remove your eyepiece and replace it with one from ThinkTankPhoto to have a snug fit around the eyepiece area to avoid having water leak in around this vulnerable spot. I used the EP-C for my 5D Mark II and the EP-CIII for my former 1D Mark III body and my current 1D Mark IV body. There are also EP-N series for Nikons and some even work for Sony DSLR’s.

The handy sleeve allows you to get one hand in there and work your camera like you are used to, and your other hand can operate external to the bag which I found to be acceptable – but sometimes you have to push a little harder. There’s a even handy flap to cover your eyepiece while you are waiting for the action to resume.

Rear view of the Hydrophobia 70-200 with the arm sleeve extended

There’s a lot more to this camera rain cover than you might imagine. A lot of thought and great design by industry pro sports shooters have made the perfect bag that features a place to store your memory cards, a nice rain lens cap, and the ability to tuck your camera strap away nice and neat while using the built-in one in the rain. The straps will even hook on to your Camera Support Straps which will fit nicely on most TTP backpacks. I use mine so camera stays put without swinging back and forth and is secure if I have to run.

Here’s some pictures (click to enlarge) of some of the nice features of this bag:

 
Notice the SD/CF card pocket by the strap

On top there’s a pouch to hold the rain lens cap

Rain lens cap attached

Rain lens cap stays attached when not in use or in the pocket

Your camera strap tucks inside

Here’s the internal lens strap
so you can use the external camera straps

Video Review

Here’s a real cheesy video worthy only of a blog that shows you how you interact with some of its features:

Pardon for the hand tattoo in the first scene – that was my note. :) There’s also a funny glitch where I couldn’t push a button with my hand holding the camera steady – this isn’t an issue in normal operation, but it is a major hassle when your camera swivels and you are doing it with one hand. I guess if you shoot with a beer in one hand, this might be a problem so consider how you shoot before deciding if this a problem for you. :)

Conclusion

This is an expensive product for protecting your gear in the rain, but it’s much cheaper than repairing damaged gear. For the pro or prosumer shooter specializing in outdoor photography where the weather turns bad, this is a must own product. It will allow you to concentrate on your shoot and not worry about your camera getting damaged. For the casual or beginner this is a pure luxury that you should only consider when you’ve completed your camera body, lens and support items.

I had intended on showing you this product in action in Vancouver at the Olympics, but sadly I didn’t see a flake of snow or a drop of rain while I was there (isn’t that how it always works?). Even my hometown of Seattle has been crazy dry for this time of year, so even an impromptu rain demo hasn’t aligned with my schedule. As a result, this video is merely an interactive walkthrough. I have poured water on the bag with a water hose and everything came out fine – of course using a hose creates an unnatural angle so I got a little water on the end of my lens, but that’s all good. With the eyepiece cover and lens cap cover in place, it stayed totally dry on my tripod. I don’t think this product would help those doing river rafting where the camera could be submerged, so I still recommend a underwater camera housing. However, if you are making a trip under Niagara Falls on the Maid of the Mist (or whatever that boat is called) you’ll be glad you had this covering your camera.

Highly recommended for those who can afford it, but not for those tight on cash with other items still on the wish list.

Special Offer

Click here for special offer details...

Post Script

Canon shooters – I can confirm that this works very well with the new Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM lens on a 1D Mark IV to protect your $7500 sports setup!

I’d also like to point out that this is an award winning product – see Hydrophobia® 70-200 Rain Cover Named Winner 2010 DIMA Award.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM in my hands thanks to CameraLensRentals.com

CameraLensRentals.com has come through for me again as I think I’m one of the first consumers to actually own their own personal copy of the all-new 70-200 f/2.8L IS II USM lens! I took advantage of their special offer to purchase this lens (NEW, not used) and got it much earlier than expected! I have used this lens at the Olympics and showed some pictures in my highly popular sneak peek article which over 40,000 unique visitors read. I also had some pictures take with it in the following articles:

Adorama and B&H are both taking pre-orders, but I don’t believe they have shipped any yet. B&H web site says they are in stock as of this writing, but I’m not expecting that to be the case for long.

Rent before you buy

If you are on the fence about this lens, consider renting it from CameraLensRentals.com (it’s under Canon Telephoto) for only $67 for 4 days!

About CameraLensRentals.com

I purchased my 1D Mark IV from them and you can read about that here. They are a rental company but they also sell new gear at reasonable prices and have fast delivery, which is why I use them. They also have a killer Reseller Rating, so you don’t have to worry about them being some shady dealer where the warranty won’t be honored. They get their gear directly from Canon and are totally legit!

More to come.

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.

Monday, March 1, 2010

REVIEW: Topaz Labs Adjust 4 - The easiest way to make your photos pop!

Topaz Labs has released an all new version of its very popular Adjust Photoshop (and other applications) add-in. You can read my original review here, where my biggest complaint was its  horrible user interface. Well I’m pleased to announce that they’ve given the user interface (UI) a whole new and improved look. Here’s a screen shot and I must say that even though all of the controls and adjustments are basically the same, this version is much more enjoyable to use:

Click to view the full size version

What’s new

As previously mentioned, the user-interface is much improved which makes using this product both easier and less intimidating. In addition, the performance has improved drastically so you no longer need to take a coffee break when you hit Ok. The new version is optimized for multi processor/core systems and includes both 32-bit and 64-bit edition, so performance is snappy no matter which edition of Photoshop you use. It is smart-filter compatible and is Windows 7 ready. Lastly, the presets panel now features a single preview window which works like Lightroom in that it will show you the impact of the preset on the original simply by hovering over the preset – sweet!

Preset Examples

As I did in my first review for Topaz Labs Adjust 3, I’ve provided some samples that show an original image along with the impact of several popular presets. These are images that are straight out of camera and then various Adjust 4 filters were applied. For the best results, click the image to see a larger version as it is difficult to see some of the differences in the small thumbnails below. I should note that when using the Psychedelic filter, I always click the “Process details independent of exposure” checkbox in the Details panel as I find this results in less noise yet still the spirit of the effect.

Olympic Cauldron

In the shot of the Olympic Cauldron here, it is hard to see much differences unless you look at the full size versions. However, you can notice how some presets will cause a halo around the flame to appear which is desirable to some and horrifying to others. You be the judge as to which is the best…

Click to view a larger version
Original
Click to view a larger version
Photo Pop
Click to view a larger version
Dramatic
Click to view a larger version
Spicify
Click to view a larger version
Psychedelic
Click to view a larger version
Clarity

Canadian Flag

Also at the Olympics MPC building, I took a picture of one of the many flags blowing in the wind. There’s not much to this photo, but the detail in the flag and water ripples made it a decent to show the impact of various presets.

Click to view a larger version
Original
Click to view a larger version
Photo Pop
Click to view a larger version
Exposure Color Stretch
Click to view a larger version
Spicify
Click to view a larger version
Dramatic
Click to view a larger version
Crisp
Click to view a larger version
Psychedelic
Click to view a larger version
Clarity

Custom Settings Example

Here’s an example of a shot where I tweaked the settings for a rather wild interpretation of a popular view of Seattle and Mt. Rainer at dusk. You can mouse over the image to see the original, out of camera, photograph.

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

Here's a screen shot of the settings I used to get these results:

Click for a larger version

Below is another example (hover over to see the before image) where I just started tweaking sliders with the Psychedelic filter until I found something that I thought was different and fun. I added a little sunshine filter from Nik Software’s Color Efex and additional sharpening using Sharpener Pro (local contrast to bring out detail in the siding):

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

It’s a little crazy, yet fun – and different from the way I’d normally process this file. This is one of the things that attracts people to this product is that causes you to explore in new directions and process photos entirely different ways from what you might be accustomed to. Some will love it, and others will hate it – but in photography it’s all about being different. Adjust certainly helps you to do that!

Finally, here’s another where I played around with various settings in Adjust 4 to get a fun sky above the Space Needle as well as a little more oomph on the underside of the observation deck. Of course, the edited version features a perspective transformation done strictly in Photoshop CS4, but you can still see the impact of changes done by Adjust in just a few clicks:

Mouse over to see before, mouse out to see after

Conclusion

Topaz Adjust continues to be a great value for what you get, compared to the competition. While some of my examples might be extreme and not to everyone’s taste, you can see from the sliders in the UI screen shots and the different preset variations that you are in full control as to how good or garish your results will be. This product isn’t for everyone, but for someone looking for fun point and click improvements, it’s a nice economical solution. Click here to learn more.

Trey Ratcliff is a huge fan of this product, so if you are big into HDR or follow his blog then you’ll probably want to add this product to your toolkit so you can create cool images like Trey.

Special Offer

Purchase your copy of Topaz Labs Adjust at 15% off the normal rate when you use the discount code found on my discount coupon code page. Please be sure to use this link when visiting the site so I can get credit for the referral.

Disclosure

I get a commission if you use the link provided on this page. Thanks for supporting this blog!

If you enjoyed this article, please support future articles like this by donating a dollar or saving several dollars by using my discount coupon codes. Either way, your support is greatly appreciated!

Click here to learn more about how this blog is funded.