Manfrotto 561BHDV-1 – Photo/Video Monopod

Manfrotto 561BHVD-1 Monopod - Picture from B&H Photo site

I’m tall, just a hair under 6’5″.  I usually say I’m 6’5″ as it’s easier.  So when I started my quest to get a monopod, I was surprised at the number of short monopods.  I’m not sure what I expected but I thought it would be easier to find an inexpensive, longer, monopod.  I gave up my search, not due to not finding one, but not finding one that felt good to me, that wasn’t a Gitzo $400-500 carbon fibre.  😉

Fast forward a few years and someone suggested the Manfrotto 561BHDV-1 or the 560B-1 (Thanks Marc!).  On paper, the 560 made more sense, as it was essentially the same monopod, with a photo head instead of the video head.  But as soon as I held the 561, I knew it was the one for me.  It was slightly taller than me, so if I wanted I could put my camera up over my head slightly and get some higher than average shots, as well as being stabilized.  I could do video if I ever wanted and the video arm fits nicely under my arm as I’m shooting so I can smoothly pan the camera around.

I’ve loved Manfrotto for a long time.  I have an old 676B that I still use as a light stick for my flash.  They make quality tripods that stand up to the abuse that most photographers put them through.  Here’s the thing, these are not the most inexpensive but they are reliable.  I’ve seen some tripods that are solid, but from one to the next there may be flaws.  Some things I don’t have a problem with, but if it’s holding my camera, I would like to have something that I can rely on every time.  Most Manfrotto products will last for years.  If you treat them right, they may outlast you.  LOL

I also have an Induro tripod, but that will be for another review.

Back to the 561.  The best highlights I came up with are from the Henry’s and B&H site:

Product Highlights

  • Very Tall Monopod–6.56′ (200 cm)
  • Minimum Height of 2.5′ (76.5 cm)
  • Weighs Just 4.21 lbs (1.91 kg)
  • Fluid Head Included
  • Pan-Bar for Smooth Panning and Tilting
  • Long Sliding Plate
  • 3 Mini Legs at Base for Added Stability
  • Supports Up to 8.8 Lbs (3.99 kg)
  • Four Section Monopod
  • 701HDV Head
  • Strong and tall, the 561B is a 4-section monopod equipped with a fluid head able to support up to 4 kg
  • Key feature of this monopod is the fluid cartridge incorporated into the base that gives you an incredibly smooth panning action

This unit will not hold a huge rig.  Right now I’m looking for something that will give me the flexibility and stability I’m looking for in a nice reliable package.  At some point I’m sure I’ll have to upgrade if I’m using heavy equipment, but right now this is working perfectly.

I picked mine up used, but here are the costs from Vistek and Henry’s.

Henry’s – $399.99

Vistek – $344.95

Manfrotto is distributed in Canada by Amplis

Posted in Manfrotto, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Canon 600EX-RT

Canon 600 EX-RT back view from the B&H website

I know most are reviewing the Canon 5D Mark III, and that is an amazing camera, but I think the flash that Canon released, the 600EX-RT is the real gem.

Yesterday, March 1st, Canon released both the camera, flash and the ST-E3-RT transmitter.  The Mark III was highly anticipated, but because I’m a Nikon user, I haven’t been following the rumors from Canon.  I seen some info about the Mark III as I was browsing the net before bed, but I thought I’ll just look at it in the morning.  This morning I get up and WOW!!  Sorry I’m getting a head of myself.

Canon 600EX-RT front view from the B&H website

Canon’s 580EX II has always been a great flash.  As of yesterday, that has been dethroned as Canon’s flagship flash and is dwarfed by the capabilities of this new flash.

What’s so great about the 600EX-RT?  It has radio lighting control built in!!  This gives you full control over up to five different groups of flashes.

Canon 600EX-RT left side from B&H site

Why is this so important to me?  I have always loved the Nikon CLS system, but it has some flaws in it.  It’s a line of sight based system which means you can’t hide a flash behind a wall, unless you have another flash placed perfectly to relay the signal around the wall.  Also at times in bright light, the system is less than reliable, which when you’re shooting a wedding or even outdoors, can be a little frustrating.

Alternately, for years, photographers have been using radio triggers that have a greater range and can work in situations such as around corners or out of line of sight.  The inexpensive triggers have been unreliable in the past, although there are some that are better than others and the reliability has been improved as technology improves.  On the higher priced end, companies like PocketWizard have had simple triggers, such as the Plus II and just announced Plus III, as well as newer technology such as the Flex and Mini TT1 that transmit all the information from the camera to the flash.  That is a great system, but take the Nikon SB-910 and the Flex/TT1 combo for example.

A SB-910 at Henry’s here in Canada is $579.99 on their website. (No disrespect to Vistek or other retailers, I just picked one.)  Add on PocketWizard Flex TT5 Nikon transceiver, $249.99 and a Mini TT1 Nikon transmitter, $219.99 and you’re up to $1,049.97 before taxes for one flash with the radio trigger!!!  And normally you’d have at least two or three flashes minimum.  For a second setup, based on already having the Mini TT1 Transmitter, you’d only need a flash and the transceiver, so that comes to another $829.98 before taxes!  So you’d be dumping $1,879.95 for only two flashes with the radio trigger functions.

Let’s look at this new setup from Canon.   The 600EX-RT is estimated at $629.00 and the ST-E3-RT transmitter that mounts on the camera is estimated at $470.  You only need the one transmitter so the same scenario as above with two flashes will cost $1,728.  That doesn’t sound like much, but let’s take this a little further.  Most photographers that work off camera have at least 3 – 4 flashes.  The two flash set up is approximately $150 cheaper for the new Canon set up, but add one flash to three flashes and you save approximately $350 and if you add another to have a four flash system you save approximately $550.  To add to the savings, you’re also saving yourself on the extra batteries, space and weight to carry around the extra triggers.  While the weight may not be much, I know space is a premium for myself.  I don’t want to take more than I need (although I often do, ‘just in case’).

Now I know that most people are thinking this is just crazy.  At that point you’re spending in around the $3,000 mark for just the flashes and triggers, but if this is what you do for a living, then that $550 difference is almost a price of another flash or some other piece of gear.  And I’m guessing that in the future, Canon will add this technology into the higher end camera bodies, reducing the cost even more.  I just wish that it was something available to me at this point.

Enough of my dreaming away of future times, I just have to say, I tip my hat to the Canon camp for releasing this system!


Edit:  All that ranting and I forgot to mention that this is a more powerful flash as well.  With a GN number of 60, this edges out the Nikon SB-910.  I’m sure I’ve missed some items, but I think that’s enough from me at this point.

Please let me know if you have anything to add or if you have a review you want from me!

Posted in Canon, Flash, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Lowepro Pro Roller x200

Lowepro Pro Roller x200 front from Lowepro site

Lowepro Pro Roller x200 inside from Lowepro website

Lowepro Pro Roller x200 inside propped on stand from Lowepro website

I’ve had this case for a while now, possibly a year and a half, maybe a little more.  I absolutely love it for what it is.  It’s basically a rolling/mobile studio.  It holds a lot of gear as well as a tripod/light stand built into the handle, a kick out stand built into the back.

All that and a reserve pack backpack insert that unzips from the roller case with built in, replaceable 3″ wheels.  A zippered front panel secures the hard case for storage while the insert is in use.

Lowepro Pro Roller x200 lock from Lowepro website

The zippers, aligned properly, can be locked via a built in retractable cable that connects to a TSA approved travel sentry lock.  It will lock all the zippers, or you can lock the bags main zippers to a post or chair.

On the front of the case is a zippered laptop pocket that holds up to a 15″ laptop such as the Macbook Pro.

There is also a front hideaway tripod/monopod foot to secure one while traveling.

This thing is basically a rolling photo tank.

Lowepro Pro Roller x200 showing insert from Lowepro website


  • Material – Exterior: Water-resistant 1680 ballistic nylon
        • Interior: Closed and open cell foam padding
  • Typer of closure – Lockable zippers
  • Exterior dimensions – 15.7 x 11.2 x 24.2 in. (40 x 28.5 x 61.5 cm) ( WxDxH)
  • Interior dimensions – 12.2 x 6.6 x 19.8 in. (31 x 16.8 x 50.5 cm) (WxDxH)
  • Notebook section – 12.7 x 1.1 x 18.1 in. (32.5 x 3 x 46 cm) (WxDxH)
  • Accommodates – 1 – 2 pro D-SLR cameras with grip plus 6 – 8 lenses and accessories
        • Laptop computer with a screen up to 15″
  • Carrying/Transport Options – Two carry handles, Retractable handle, Built-in wheels
  • Weight – 13.1 lbs (5.94 kg)

All details can be found here:,2163,16.htm

Pricing at time of writing this review at Henry’s is $ 299.99

Pricing at time of writing this review at Vistek is $ 329.95

Posted in Bags, Lowepro, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

iPad 3 event date and thoughts

iPad 3 from Apple invite


So Apple has revealed an iPad 3 event date on March 7th.  At that time, we’ll find out what information has been myth and what is facts.  Personally, most of the information I’ve been reading sounds very reasonable and at this point in time, I think it will be mostly accurate.

Right now I’m still running the first generation iPad because I couldn’t justify upgrading to the iPad 2.  It’s an amazing gadget, but it wasn’t different enough, for me, to spend the money to get it.  I generally check email, run games, browse the internet, and most importantly, show my pictures on the iPad.  Presently, although I love it, I have trouble showing some clients the pictures on the first gen iPad.  It looks good, but prints still look better.  I’ve written documents, spreadsheets and invoices on my iPad.  There isn’t much you can not do with it, from my personal experience.

Before I go too much further, here are the rumors I believe to be true for the iPad 3.

First off, a retina display.  That will be an amazing improvement in my opinion.  There has been a lot of talk about this one.  With internal connectors compared to the first and second gen iPad.  There have been ‘supposed’ leaks of resolution and other information that points to this being true.  I think it would be a waste if they didn’t upgrade the display, and don’t see how this can not be true.

The display is what I’m most excited about btw.

Second, quad core processor.  I believe this rumor, as there are Android gadgets out there already with quad core processors.  For me, I’m not really excited, although this will be a nice improvement.  I know that any type of picture manipulation, even if it’s just for myself, is nice to have.  Also, for games.  😉

I’ll be honest, I’m going to leave it here.  The camera’s will be nice, if I get one, but I don’t have them now, so it’s not a deal breaker for me if they’re not that impressive.  If they equal the 4Gs, then great.  If they’re better, great.  No big change in my court.

I’m an Apple fan.  Yes Android gadgets are better on paper, most of the time.  But here’s the thing.  I don’t care about over clocking the processor to see how fast I can get the graphics to refresh or resolve (I’m not even sure of the term here).  It’s just not me.  I just want a gadget that I can pick up and use, knowing it will be relatively reliable and easy to use.  I know that most Android gadgets are reliable off the shelf, it’s when you start to play with them that you may run into issues.  It works with my calendar across all my gadgets.  If I put something into my phone, it shows up on my iPad, and my computer calendar.  Also, it shows up on my wife’s phone, iPad and computer.  That’s the way we like things.  If she adds a contact to the address book, I have it in mine.  I know for some people that’s not a draw, but if you already even have an iPhone, then it’s worth looking at.

For anyone who builds their own computers, or likes to tweak things here and there to see what it can do, the I don’t think Apple is the right choice.  If you want to pick up a gadget and not worry that you have the fastest, processor speed or the best graphics or things like that, then the iPad is right for you.  Again, most of the graphics on the iPad are great, not knocking what I have, just putting it out there for anyone who cares to know.

Will it replace a laptop?  For me, yes.  It can do anything I want to do on a laptop.  I use a Mac Mini with a Dell U2410 display for anything major, as far as my photography goes, but on the road, I can do anything with the iPad that I needed from my laptop, and it’s smaller and lighter, so it’s easier to bring with me.

Also, to explain why it replaces my laptop, I have a Zagg bluetooth keyboard for it.  This keyboard also doubles as a case.  They also made one for the iPad 2, branded as Logitech.

So there’s the end of my thoughts and feelings.  Some facts are littered in there, but a lot of this is just my opinion on a gadget I like.

Posted in Apple, Gadgets and computers, iPad | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tamron SP 24-70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD (Model A007) Part I

Tamron SP 24-70 f/2.8 Di VC USD


I’m putting this down as Part I because I’m hoping to get my hands on a unit when they make it to Canada, hopefully next month.  I’m surprised that I’m so excited about this one.  I have the 17-50mm VC and although I mentioned I wish I had a 24-70, I didn’t think it was a big deal.  The 70-200mm Tamron with VC is scheduled to be released later this year, hopefully before summer, but I don’t have any specifics other than it should be this year.  I thought that would be of more excitement to me, but this has really peaked my interest.

The designation is SP 24-70mm F/2.8 Di VC USD (Model A007), according to the Tamron website and was introduced on February 6th.  It will be available in Canon, Nikon and Sony mounts, with the Sony model having the VC removed.

Possibly I’m being to optimistic that we’ll see one in March, but I really want to try this out.  My only complaint, without using the lens, is that it has a 82mm filter thread.  This means I need to get another circular polarizing filter.  😉

The specifications from the Tamron site are as follows:

    • Focal length – 24-70mm
    • Maximum aperture – f/2.8
    • Minimum aperture – f/22
    • Lens construction – 17 elements in 12 groups
    • Minimum focus distance – 0.38m (15.0 in)
    • Maximum magnification ratio – 1:5 (at f=70mm: MFD 0.38m)
    • Filter size – 82mm
    • Length – 108.5mm(4.3 in)
    • Entire length – 116.9mm(4.6 in)
    • Diameter – 88.2mm(3.5 in)
    • Weight – 825g (29.1 oz)
    • Number of diaphragm blades – 9(rounded diaphragm)
    • Standard accessories – Flower-shaped lens hood
Posted in Nikon, Photography, Tamron | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Nikon SB-910

Front of SB-910 from the Nikon website


Back of SB-910 from the Nikon website

First off, I haven’t had a chance to get my hands on one of these to use.  This ‘review’ is just based on my opinion and information from other photographers I’ve spoken with.

This is on one of my want lists.  I need to get another speedlight, and within the next couple of months I’m hoping to make my decision on what flash, although right now it’s down to this or the SB-700.

Earlier this evening someone asked me for an opinion on a speedlight.  They mentioned the 900 vs the 910 vs Metz and Nissin.  Personally, for the speedlights that I’ve used, I prefer to use Nikon equipment.  I wish the price wasn’t as high, but don’t we all.  Here’s the info for Ingeniouspixie.

My first gut reaction is that I would take the 910 over the 900.  I’ve had the SB-900 for a while now and I love it, but I have run into an issue once or twice where it cut out on me.  That being said, when it did cut out, I had the flash higher than I needed it and I was taking a number of shots at an event where I was trying to capture someone specific.  In other words, it was my own fault and I could have avoid it or at least prolonged it a little later.

Now as I’m re-reading the specs, the SB-910 isn’t as different as I had thought.  The physical flash output and specs have not changed much from the SB-900.  Other than the ‘enhanced thermal cut out function’, the only other major difference is the user functions are a little more user friendly than the 900.  The user interface of the SB-910 is made a little easier with a dedicated menu button, in place of the zoom button on the 900.

The ‘enhanced thermal cut out function’ that Nikon has implemented into this speedlight is an improvement, but I don’t believe it’s the fix that most users of the 900 were hoping for.  When the SB-910 detects a risk of overheating, in continuous flash mode,  it automatically delays the recycle time.  From reviews I’ve read and some that I’ve spoken with about this issue, it can be avoided or at least minimized by using an external battery pack such as the optional Nikon SD-9 pack.

One thing that I’m not sure of personally is the included SZ-2FL and SZ-2TN colour filters.  I liked having just the clear filter holder that I received with the SB-900.  That way you could cut some filters of various colours for different situations.  I believe that the SZ-2 clear filter holder is available as an accessory.  Also I’m guessing that it would be nice if those are the only filters you’d use, then you won’t have to worry about putting them in the right spot, but I would have to get used to that.

My conclusion is that I’d still go for the 910 if I had the money right now.  Even though I’ve only run into the thermal issue once or twice, it was still annoying.  That being said, I may personally go for the SB-700 for a second flash.  My reasoning is that the 700 is a smaller, lighter flash that would be better suited when I’m traveling.  It’s still a very capable flash, especially because the SB-900 is my main flash, so the 700 would be a good secondary and/or back up flash.

I need to get my hands on a Nissin and a Metz to try them out.  As I mentioned in my reply to Ingeniouspixie, I did not like the controls on the Nissin flash that I handled.  I only held one product from Nissin and it’s been a couple of years, so I may be wrong on anything they currently have, but it just felt like a cheap flash that wouldn’t be very reliable.  I know some of the newer Metz speedlights are comparable to the Nikon speedlights in power, but it’s been a while since I used one so I can only rely on memory and at the time, the SB-900, even with it’s higher price tag, made more sense.  For one thing the SB-900/SB-910 speedlights come with a diffuser.  This isn’t a huge deal when you’re shooting with an umbrella or soft box, but there are times it’s nice to have.  The Metz and Nissin do not come with either the diffuser or the filter holder.  For me, having the filter holder as well, looks a lot better than taping filters to the front of the speed light.  This is for me, not the client.  Some things I just get a little OCD about.

The other part of this equation is how much could you pickup a used SB-900 for.  This may be a good option as well.

Here are the specs from the Nikon site:

  • Commander Function
  • Remote Function
  • Guide Number
    34 m/111.5 ft. (at ISO 100, 35mm zoom head position, in FX format, standard illumination pattern, 20°C/68°F) to 48 m/157.5 ft. (at ISO 200, 35mm zoom head position, in FX format, standard illumination pattern, 20°C/68°F)
  • Electronic Construction
    Automatic Insulated Gate Bipolar Transistor (IGBT) and series circuitry
  • Flash Exposure Control
    Distance-priority manual flash
    i-TTL Balanced Fill-Flash with CLS compatible cameras
    Manual Flash (with Nikon Creative Lighting System digital and 35mm SLR cameras)
  • Lens Coverage
    8 to 11mm (DX-format, Automatic mode with built-in wide-angle panel deployed)
    12 to 17mm (FX-format, Automatic mode with built-in wide-angle panel deployed)
    12 to 200mm (DX-format, Automatic mode)
    17 to 200mm (FX-format, Automatic mode)
  • Illumination pattern
    The light distribution angle is automatically adjusted to the camera’s image area in both FX and DX formats
  • Other Available Functions
    Test Firing
    Monitor Pre-flashes
    AF-assist illumination for multi-point AF
    Modeling illuminator
  • Bounce Function (Tilt)
    Flash head tilts down to -7° or up to 90° with click-stops at -7°, 0°, 45°, 60°, 75°, 90°.
  • Bounce Function (Rotate)
    Flash head rotates horizontally 180° to the left and right with click-stops at 0°, 30°, 60°, 75°, 90°, 120°, 150°, 180°
  • Minimum Recycling Time
    2.3 sec. (approx.) with Ni-MH (2600 mAh) batteries
    3.0 sec. (approx.) with Oxyride™ (1.5V) batteries
    4.0 sec. (approx.) with Alkaline-manganese (1.5V) batteries
    4.5 sec. (approx.) with Lithium (1.5V) batteries
  • Flash Duration
    1/880 sec. at M 1/1 (full) output
    1/1100 sec. at M 1/2 output
    1/2550 sec. at M 1/4 output
    1/5000 sec. at M 1/8 output
    1/10000 sec. at M 1/16 output
    1/20000 sec. at M 1/32 output
    1/35700 sec. at M 1/64 output
    1/38500 sec. at M 1/128 output
  • Required Power Source
    Four 1.2V Ni-MH (AA-size) batteries
    Four 1.5V Alkaline-manganese (AA-size) batteries
    Four 1.5V Lithium (AA-size) batteries
  • Optional Power Supply
    SK-6 Power Bracket Unit, SD-9 High-Performance Battery Pack
    SD-8A High-Performance Battery Pack
  • Flash-ready Indicator
    Rear and Front lights blink: Insufficient light for correct exposure (in i-TTL, Auto Aperture flash, Non-TTL Auto flash, or Distance-priority manual flash operations).
    Rear lights up and Front blinks: recycled and ready to fire.
  • Ready Light
  • Flash Compensation
    –3.0 EV to +3.0 EV in increments of 1/3 steps in i-TTL auto flash, Auto Aperture flash, Non-TTL auto flash and Distance-priority manual flash modes
  • Custom Setting
    AF-Assist Illumination
    Modeling Illuminator
    Monitor pre-flashes
    Test firing
  • Minimum Number of Flashes / Recycling Time
    110/4.0 – 30 sec. (1.5V Alkaline-manganese)
    165/2.3–30 sec. (Ni-MH (eneloop))
    190/2.3–30 sec. (2600mAh Ni-MH)
    230/4.5–120 sec. (1.5V Lithium)
  • Wireless Flash Modes
    Master (RPT)
  • Wireless Communication Channels
    Four: 1, 2, 3 and 4 Channels
  • Wireless Groups
    Three: A, B and C
  • Other Functions
    Firmware update
    ISO sensitivity setting
    Key lock
    Recalling the underexposure value in the TTL auto flash mode
    Resetting the settings
    Improved Thermal Cut-out
  • Dimensions
    3.1 x 5.7 x 4.4 in. (78.5 x 145 x 113mm)
  • Weight (Approx. without batteries)
    14.8 oz. (420g)
  • Supplied Accessories
    • AS-21 Speedlight Stand
    • SW-13H Nikon Diffusion Dome
    • SZ-2FL Fluorescent Filter
    • SZ-2TN Incandescent Filter
    • SS-910 Soft Case

Pricing from Henry’s at time of writing this review is $529.99

Pricing from Vistek at time of writing this review is $549.95

Posted in Flash, Nikon, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Lowepro Pro Roller Lite 150 AW

Pro Roller Lite 150 AW Front from the Lowepro website

Pro Roller Lite 150 AW Internal showing lid from the Lowepro website

Pro Roller Lite 150 AW internal shot with Nikon gear from the Lowepro website

Since I started with the Lowepro Classified, I thought I’d go to the next bag/case that I use.

I purchased this due to some issues I was running into with my previous case.  I had the Lowepro Pro Roller x200, but it was borderline if the airline would let me use it as carry on.  I’ll review that one next.

This case is light, less than 8 lbs. (3.6kg).  I can fit almost all my gear into this one case and it’s almost as light as the x200 is empty.  I’ll explain that better in the review for the x200.  While writing this review, I have my Tamron 70-200, a SB-900, my 17-50, my 35 f1.8, a D5000, extra batteries for my cameras and all my chargers, as well as memory card holders with cards, a 77mm and 52mm circ-pol.  I’m sure I’m missing things, but that’s a lot.  In my Classified right now I only have my D7000, a 50 f1.8D, one SC-29 TTL flash cable, a SB-400,  and my 90mm Tamron macro.  I could still fit more in both, but that gives you a good idea.

As well as being able to hold all that gear, this is a rolling case, so going anywhere with it makes it a lot better on the shoulder.  The wheels are replaceable in line skate wheels.  It can fit a 11″ laptop or a tablet such as the iPad in a padded pocket in the lid.  All this and an All Weather cover.

My only complaint about this case, and it’s not a big one at this point for me, is that you can not fit a DSLR with grip attached and attached to a lens.  It’s not deep enough for that.  I’m sure you could just put the body cap on and adjust some of the dividers if you really wanted to, but removing the grip is the best way if you want to transport your camera attached to a lens.

That’s all for now.  If you have any questions, please leave a comment and I’ll respond as soon as possible.  Here are the specs from the Lowepro site:

  • Capacity – Pro DSLR or 1-2 pro DSLRs(without grip) with attached 70-200mm f/2.8 lens; 3-4 extra lenses; a flash; spare batteries and memory cards; up to an 11″ laptop or tablet; extra accessories or person items
  • Size(Interior) – 13.3W x 5D x 15.8H in./ 33.7 x 12.7 x 40cm
  • Size(Exterior) – 14W x 7.3D x 18.8H in./ 35.6 x 18.4 x 47.6
  • Notebook Compartment Inner Dimensions – 13.1W x 0.8D x 9.8H in./33.3 x 1.9 x 24.8 cm
  • Weight – 7.8lbs/3.6kg

Price at Henry’s at the time of writing this review is $229.99 list

Price at Vistek at the time of writing this review is $214.95 list

Posted in Bags, Lowepro, Photography | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment