Gear

Barber Shop Bags - Introduction and preview

As a photographer and in life in general, I have tried to cut back on the amount of stuff I own and use. It has made life a lot simpler and there are just less things to think about.  I have got rid of hundreds of books, sold the majority of DVDs that I owned and ditched my CD's. I have only kept things that I have a real attachment to.

I have also really stripped back my camera gear over the last couple of years, just keeping the absolute necessities. I can complete most jobs with this set up, hiring in anything special for specific jobs. There is one item, however, that I always seem to end up with good numbers of, and that's camera bags. 

In the past I have owned over 10 bags at any one time, all with different functions and purposes. I have back packs, shoulder bags, small ones, big ones, you name it, I've got it. In the last year I have tried to reduce the amount of bags I own, and probably still have more than I need. 

This is an addiction that won't quit though, and lately I have been on the look out for a bigger shoulder bag in black or brown, that looks a bit smarter than my other bags.  I was looking at some of the Think Tank Urban Disguise range and the Domke black bags. Then a few days ago I received an email press release from a new company that sounded interesting. 

Introducing Barber Shop Bags.

Hand-made in Bassano Del Grappa (Vicenza), Italy, there is a range of products made out of the highest quality leather. The range of products is extensive, from beautiful camera straps to shoulder bags and backpacks.  The press release came with some photos of some of the products as well as images of production and I have to say it all looks very nice, very nice indeed. 

They have worked with photographers to produce products that are both useful and stylish, in a very Italian way. The larger shoulder bag is of most interest to me, but their sling camera strap also looks rather good.  They also feature bag straps designed for women. 

They are all hand crafted by their skilled designers and made out the finest leather and performance materials.

I am really excited to see these products in the flesh and I will hopefully have a sample product to review in the coming months.  In the meantime Barber Shop will be at the photography show in Birmingham, presenting the new range until the 24th March.  To keep up to date with Barber Shop you can sign up for the newsletter at their website as well as liking their Facebook Page As yet there no pricing information or date for shipping. 

The Photography Show, Birmingham - A quick report

On Sunday I headed down to the Photography Show in Birmingham.  Plenty of good gear on show and lots of interesting stalls to see.One such stall was the guys at USB2U. They produce customised USB memory sticks, with an impressive selection of styles and materials.  All printed with a design of your choosing.  The wooden products, especially,  looked amazing and would certainly make a beautiful addition to any promo or marketing material.  I haven't quite figured out how best to use them in my marketing strategy, but they would be perfect for wedding and family photographers.  Check them out.

I also visited the guys Paramo Clothing.  I had heard some really good reports about their outdoor gear and one item in particular had caught my eye.  The Haicon Traveller Jacket.  I had read about this jacket on a blog post by Jacob James, and it looked like something that would be useful when travelling.  Light weight and breathable, but tough.  I had headed straight to the stall on arrival, and on inspection the jacket was all I had hoped it would be, so bought it there and then.  The rest of their gear is also excellently made and although on the expensive side, the gear is made to last and the Paramo guys really know what they are talking about.  The Haicon Traveller has brilliantly designed pockets (yes I am getting excited about pockets!).  They can take my fuji x100s with ease, which is nice for the times I don't want to carry a bag.

Paramo Haicon Traveller jacket

 

New Fuji Lenses!

There were a couple of lenses I wanted to have a look at for the fuji x-system.  The first was the new Fuji 56mm f1.2. This lens is an 85mm equivalent which has always been a favourite focal length of mine for portraits.  I already own Fuji's 60mm f2.5 which is, generally, a pretty good performer, but it is nothing special and the focusing is pretty slow (ironically mine has also developed a bit of a fault now). I didn't know what to expect, this is Fuji's attempt at high end, professional lenses for the x-system and marks the beginning of a range of high profile releases.  In the short time I spent with the lens, I can safely say, I was blown away.  Apart from the Nikon 85mm 1.4G, this is probably the best portrait lens I have used. The auto focus was snappy and accurate, build quality was exceptional and optically the lens is razor sharp.  The lens has beautiful Bokeh too, something that fuji has struggled with in the past.  The image below is just a quick sample shot using the fuji B&W jpeg setting. I apologise for the lighting and the subject matter (sorry Nigel). The Image was shot at f1.2.

Fuji XT-1, Fuji 56mm f1.2

I also had a quick look at the new Fuji 10-24 f4, 16-35 equivalent.  Not a range I would normally go too, but I though I would check it out.  I was very impressed.  It is another beautiful lens.  Very sharp and shows minimal distortion, certainly can be easily corrected.  For landscape photographers using the X-System this would be a must buy.

Fuji X-T1, Fuji 10-24mm f4

These are really exciting times if you are an X system user, they had mock examples of the upcoming 24-70mm f2.8 and 70-200mm f.28 equivalents. These along with the 56mm 1.2 really show that fuji are aiming for the pro market. Theres also rumours of a 300mm f4 equivalent coming out which should be brilliant.

Thanks for reading, any thoughts on the show or the fuji system leave a comment.

First Impressions - Panasonic GX1

Well the other day I bought myself a Panasonic GX1.  This is the first time I have owned a Micro four thirds camera.  First of all, why? you probably asking this, why bother?  Well I do a lot of street photography and travel photography.  Sometimes using a big professional camera can be a bit annoying as people look at you suspiciously or notice you before you take the picture.  As much as I try to blend in its hard, with a camera the size of a Nikon D3.  This was my main reason for buying the GX1 (also lugging around a massive camera can be very tiring).I have been interested in the Micro Four thirds system for some time, with the GF1 originally making me think.  I looked into it and I didn't really think the technology was at a point for me to consider it seriously (I must add, I have since seen some really good work taken on a GF1).

The recent advancement in the technology has made me reconsider and after reading up on all the specs and after a lot of thought I decided to take the plunge.  On paper the results should be similar, if not slightly better than the D90 I was using as a back up body.

The main stats for the GX1 is a 16mp sensor, ISO up to 12,800, Full HD video and obviously much more. I'm not all that interested in specs as I like to see real world results, but if you are interested here is the spec list.

Straight out of the box it felt tiny, but reassuringly made. It has a metal chassis, which makes it feel like it will take a bit of abuse.  The hand grip feels really nice and gives it a high end feel.  I bought it with the power zoom, which I am not too sure about yet, but it does make it quite a good size for the equivalent of a 28-84mm zoom.  The main downside is the f5.6 aperture, which will limits use in low light.

Out on the street the camera handled really well, with really fast focusing.  The feature that has really revolutionised my shooting with the D3 is the auto ISO function.  Basically I can set a maximum ISO and set a shutter speed, so when I am in Aperture priority, if i set the shutter speed at 1/60th the camera will adjust the ISO to maintain that shutter speed until it reaches the pre determined max ISO. Sounds complicated but it is simple and a really good feature.  The GX1 has a similar feature , you can set a maximum ISO, say ISO1000, and the camera will change it up and down to reach an exposure, however there is no way setting a minimum shutter speed, not that I have found anyway.  I am therefore not entirely sure what the auto ISO is doing.  In my first outing I found myself shooting one minute at 1/13th at ISO 160 and then shooting at 1/500th at ISO 1000.  Need more reading up on that one.

Looking at the early results, though, i am quite impressed. Even at ISO 1600, noise isn't an issue, especially once it is processed in Lightroom 4.  The power zoom has some odd characteristics and really benefit from a run through DxO optics, before processing.

As a tool for street and photojournalism work the GX1 seems perfectly capable, yes you wouldn't shoot high end advertising campaigns on it, but then thats not the point.  Its small, lightweight, fast focusing and produces good quality files up to ISO 1600.  I will be using it a lot more over the next few weeks so I will report back on any findings.

Here are a few sample images.

If you would like to get in touch or ask questions about the GX1 or anything else please email blog@darrenobrien.co.uk or leave a comment.