This post is about my journey to the best DSLR Camera Bag. Now of course this is a highly subjective statement. But its the best bag that I have found for my purposes. Its the LowePro Flipside Sport 15L AW.
So why is this the best DSLR Camera Bag and how did I get to that conclusion for my purposes?
Well…… It starts about 5 years ago.
I was a big point and shoot guy. I would laugh at all you DSLR idiots loaded down with your large cameras, huge lenes, filters, flashes, and tripods. I could always have a tiny camera in my pocket, ready to take a shot at any time. But then I began to notice that photographers with bigger cameras got better shots. There was more control over depth of field, richer more accurate colors, and lots of data room in each file for processing images that were not perfect to begin with.
So I got a larger prosumer or hybrid camera.
Whoops now it wont fit in my pocket any more. But at least I still did not have to carry all that other stuff. But now I have a camera that wont fit in my pocket. I did a bunch of research and came up with a bag that was well rated but did not look like a camera bag. The Crumpler 3 Million Dollar Bag.
So now I am not quite the fool that I thought the DSLR guys were but I am carrying a bag… but its a cool bag… yah!
Here is where I start doing microstock work. And the Canon 3S IS is not quite making it. I could get a few images accepted into microstock but I really needed to get a DSLR. So I get a Canon Rebel XS also known as 1000D.
Turns out the 3 Million Dollar bag fits in this camera great. I mainly used the Canon 17-55mm f2.8 lens ( a really nice lens).
But as I got more involved with Microstock I started experimenting with lenses, flash units, tripods. Then I upgraded to a Canon 50D. The 3 million crumpler was really only good enough to carry one camera and a medium size lens.
So I went crazy and bought a big Tamrac backpack. They don’t make my model anymore but it was like the current Tamrac model 5789.
The model I got had a frame, padded waist belt, vented back, an interior section that came out for storage of the equipment. I loaded it will all of my lenses, my camera, filters, flash unit, and tripod. All of my stuff fit in this bag. I hung it on a hook in my closet and would admire it every time I walked by. My admiration stopped on a hike with my daughter. I loaded up all of my stuff on a short hike up a hill to three different waterfalls. I died at the first one and had to turn back. I weighed the pack when I got home and it was 38 lbs. When I was 30 that was doable but at 60 it was a different matter. So I started paying attention to weight. The bag itself was over 5lbs!!!
I had officially become the “DSLR Idiot” that I had made fun of several years ago.
I had to find a solution. So I went into two different directions. The Black Rapid Strap RS-4. I wrote about it here. So no bags, just the camera, its lens, and a strap. In the strap are extra cards, battery, and rain cover. This covers 80% of my photo needs. But when I travel or want to have an expanded kit a strap will not suffice… So I upgraded my crumpler to a 6 million dollar bag.
Now I have the camera and a lens over my shoulder and in some cases this bag over the other. I would only load it with one or two added lenses and filters. The new 6 million dollar bag has straps on the bag for a tripod. On mine I would pull the flap over the tripod. It mostly worked but it was cumbersome. But even without the tripod I found pulling the lenses in and out of the back a little cumbersome.
So…… I got a Thinktank Retrospective 20:
This is a great bag. Its light. The internal padding is thin, light, and slick. Moving lenses in and out of the bag is easy. And the look of the bag is very professional. And with the nice wide padded strap its a very comfortable bag. Lots of extras too. I reviewed it with a video here. I still have this bag and its great. But it can get a little heavy when fully loaded. And there is no feature for a tripod so I put it on top and pull the flap cover down tight which is ok for travel but not the greatest in the field.
So I would have stayed with this bag but we recently moved to Portland, OR. Portland has got to be one of the bicycle riding capitals of the US. Everyone does it. Great bike lanes everywhere. And despite what you hear about the rain….. we have GREAT weather up here.
Hmmmm….. riding a bike with my camera stuff. Strap won’t work. Thinktank bag won’t work. I don’t want to put any of my camera equipment in the panniers. I need a backpack but not a huge one like before. But now I am smart enough, from my previous experience, I hope, to know what I really want.
1. It has to be light
3. It has to fit a least the camera and a couple lenses and my filters
4. It has to be as small as possible
5. It has to allow for easy lens replacement
6. It needs to have the ability to carry my tripod
So I did a lot of research. By the way there are easily a few hundred camera bags out there and many that come close to meeting these. But the Lowepro Flipside Sport 15L AW fit them all.
Here is a good video that shows how this bag works. Note that they are selling it as a sports camera bag and it is, but what that means to me is small and light weight while still being able to carry enough stuff:
So that’s my perfect bag now. If I go on a bike ride I put the RS-4 strap on the camera and then put all of that in the backpack. My camera will usually have a Tamron 24-70mm f2.8 VC lens mounted on it. Then I will also pack my Canon 70-200mm f2.8 lens for distant shots and my Sigma 70mm macro for really close work. I will also load up some graduated ND and polarizing filters. The pack is not too heavy. I can shoot from the bike. If I leave the bike I can use the strap for quick shots and then change lenses easily. Its a very comfortable and light pack. If I am in a car, train, or plane traveling then there is room for some flashes as well, my battery charger, remote shutter release, AND my tripod. Its heavy but for travel its fine.
So… ok…. I am still a little like the DSLR idiots that I made fun of but I am much cooler than when I could only make it up to that first waterfall with my 38 pound pack.
I just bought FocusTune by Michael Tapes Design!
I am a big fan of having sharp images. My Canon 5DMkIII has micro adjustment for Autofocus. So, as an ex-engineer, I love to fiddle with my camera and lenses to make sure the AF is always right on the money sharp. Of course AF systems are not totally reliable….but I can try. So I have have had Michael Tape’s Lens Align systems for years. I think I am on my third upgraded set. I wrote a blog post on how to do lens calibrations here that covered that system and others. I will have to update it with this new FocusTune system.
One of the problems I have with the Lensalign system is that you have to judge where your depth of field is on this ruler and sometimes its hard. In some cases you have to go into Photoshop and do an emboss effect to really see the focus area. But it works and in most cases you can see the focus area without this. The lensalign target also comes with an alignment system where you can be sure that the target plane and the camera sensor place are parallel.
Then along comes FoCal by Reikan. I reviewed it here. This is a nearly fully automatic system. You tether your Mac or PC to your camera. Make sure you are aligned with the target. Hit a button. Ka-ching….. Minutes later there is your best MA adjustment. One of the problems is that there is no alignment system . Maybe that is not all that important unless you are doing Macro work. Then in addition to that…. I upgraded my camera to a Canon 5D Mark III. Well the Canon camera software does not allow for automatic MA adjustment with FoCal. So you have to sit there and wait for the computer to ask you to change the MA ….. about 20 times or so. Gets old….
Now there is FocusTune by the LensAlign guys. I had to get it. So here are some of my impressions. Its Cheaper. The LensAlign is $80-160( depending on the model), the Focal Pro (this is the one to get) is about $111. The Focus Tune is $29 unless you are already a LensAlign owner and then its $19. So price is NICE!
But its a little less automatic that FoCal. Even though I have to make my own MA adjustments on the FoCal system, because of Canon, it still seems easier than the FocusTune. Here are FocusTunes steps:
1. Set up target and Camera so they are aligned (if you have the lensalign target then this is easy and gives you confidence that you are aligned) or you can use their printed target (like the FoCal system)
2. I put a set of lights on the target
3. Set up the camera. I use manual, f2.8, Single pt focus, ISO 100, IS or VC off, cover eye piece, Mirror lock up. And I set up a remote wireless shutter release.
4. Take a series of 4 shots at each MA value. I start with -20 then -10, 0, 10, 10. I rotate the focus ring to infinity between each shot.
5. Take the memory card out and feed the images to your computer.
6. Start FocusTune, and import the images
7. In the lower left of the screen zoom in till you have a good view of the target. Point to each corner of the target.
8. Hit the process and then analyze button…… Wha Lah!!! There is an estimate of your best MA an a graph.
9. You could stop there but to be precise I pick about 10-15 points around that recommendation and rerun the whole thing for a more accurate result.
So good news is its cheap. Bad news its kind of tedious. More good news is that you can turn around and check the results almost immediately by looking on the LensAlign Ruler. I think I like that the best.
Even when I do the FoCal, which is much more automated. I always get the lensalign system out and double check it.
So for the future I will likely stay with FocusTune and the Lens Align system. But…. since I am relatively lazy…. if the Reikan and Canon people can get together so that they can go back to a FULLY automatic cal on the Canon 5D MarkIII…. I may go back to FoCal.
There are many other features that the FocusTune system has like AF consistency, Focus point Comparison, Aperture Comparison, and a few others. These are good but FoCal does a better job at these and those particular tests ARE automatic on the FoCal system.
I have and friends and photographers ask me what is microstock? What kind of images do you sell? How much money can you make? And then they don’t ask but always want to know how much money have I made? So I thought I would write a blog posting about My Microstock Sales. So this is for people who are newly interested in Microstock or just starting or for microstockers just curious about what the lower 50% of microstockers are doing.
The first question about what is Microstock I answered in an earlier post here.
I have been selling microstock for about 3-4 years now. I am not a top microstock photographer. There are at least 10s of thousands of microstock photographers out there. They make anywhere from many hundreds of thousands of dollars per year down to earning nearly nothing per year. I have read that 20% of microstockers make 80% of the money.
I have about 1300 images on about 10 different sites. After 3 years I have made about $8000 total. Each year my sales have increased by 50-100%. So I am confident, that as long as I can keep submitting more images, that yearly sales will get to about $14000 in the next few years. I pick that number because above that it will affect the social security that I get ( God… that makes me feel old to say that). I submit 10-12 photos per weeks, sometimes more. I have many hundreds more ready to submit but I have found that every now and then you run across a reviewer who either does not like your style or just had a bad day and can reject most if not all of the images you submit. So with this method my worst loss is 12 images rejected.
So while I am not a real professional, I am making enough to buy most of the photo and computer equipment that I use. In a few years it will pay for photo seminars and trips. And the best part…. it never feels like work. I probably spend about 2-3 hrs a day taking photographs, or processing, or submitting them. Submitting is a little like work but the other two areas are pure fun for me.
So what microstock agencies do I work with and how have each of them paid?
So take $8000 times the approx. percentage and you can see roughly what each has paid me so far. Most of these agencies have between 800-1700 of my images. Shutterstock is the big winner for me. I get a minimum of $.36 per image. The most I have received from them is $42 for an image. I have sold 5700 images with them since I started. Most are $.36 but I also get a fair about of $2.48 and a few $28.00.
What kind of images sell best with Shutterstock?
So for example I have sold tons of the power meters and have made about $160, total, just at Shutterstock. The paddle wheel, lots of those and about $90. The others $30-$70 total. So how does that add up to thousands of dollars? Well its the other several hundred images that have sold $.36- $30. So with Shutterstock its lots and lots of images that make $10’s of dollars.
Interestingly enough istockphoto, dreamstime, veer, 123rf are similar to shutterstock in that its volume that makes total sales. But the big selling images on these sites tend to be different than the high sellers on Shutterstock. So I believe that they have a different set of customers with differing needs than Shutterstock.
I sold a few of these at Shutterstock but many more, and they are a big earner at Veer as an example.
Then there is Alamy. I think I get about 1 sale every several months. Its like Macrostock but I do sell them with a RF license. But…. when they do sell. I get a lot of money (by my standards).
I did not think that is was that great of a photo. I rate my images 1-5 stars and only submit the 3-5 stars. This was a 3 star. I got $365 for a single sale of this image?
Same situation with this 3 star image.
I got $222 for that one. Alamy is also a little frustrating in that the allow their customers to return the image for a refund many weeks after the purchase. Alamy won’t pay you till everything is cleared. So you don’t get paid for months or sometimes you will see a sale, get excited, and then weeks later its cancelled. ;-(
I submit to all of these placed because they all have different acceptance standards, different customers, and different commission. And once you process your images it is not that much work to submit them.
Can you make a good living at this? Yes…. but it would be a lot of work and commitment. In addition I think you would need a studio and some good lighting equipment and probably an assistant. I don’t do many people shots if at all. It takes my full attention doing the shots that I do. When I get people involved it just seems to complicated stuff. And its more cost. You can do general public shots but if they are recognizable you need to get a release from them. Lots of photographers do that but I would have a hard time doing that without looking like a strange old weird man.
So there you have it. If you want more info about anything let me know and I will add to this post or answer your questions.