By Theano Nikitas
When you need to go on location, you want to have everything you need, and nothing you don’t, which can make planning your packing list tricky. We’ve compiled a selection of cool new equipment to make your work in the field easier, safer and top quality.
LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt Series
If you feel the need for speed—and what photographer doesn’t?—LaCie recently released a trio of Thunderbolt products: two hard drives (1TB and 2TB) and one 240GB SSD drive. Each unit measures 1.6 x 5.5 x 3.3 inches, is small enough to fit in the palm of your hand and weighs only 1.4 pounds. The Little Big Disk is housed in aluminum and features a special heat sink design that helps keep the unit cool as it reaches transfer speeds of up to 190MB/s with the hard disk model or up to 480MB/s with the SSD model. Daisy chain two or more units with an optional cable to reach even faster read speeds. Available from the Apple Store, although you may have to wait a while for the supersonic SSD model.
NEXTO DI Photo Storage ND2730
Capable of reading, downloading and displaying still and video files from CompactFlash and SD/SDHC/SDXC cards, the NEXTO DI ND2730 photo storage device is available with 500GB, 750GB HDD or SDD drives. The device is forward compatible to 2TB and can be hooked up to computers (Mac and PC) via Firewire 800 and USB 2.0. Equipped with a 1.44-inch color TFT LCD for viewing images, the ND2730 compares the HDD and memory card data to ensure successful back-up. Powered by a 2-hour rechargeable Li-Poly battery, you can leave the laptop at home and have all the mobility you need.
Starting at $450
Western Digital My Passport for Mac
Cost-per-gigabyte is at an all-time low, so Mac users should check out the latest generation of Western Digital’s My Passport for Mac. Available in 500GB, 750GB and 1TB capacities, these slender high-capacity drives are Mac-formatted and Apple Time Machine ready. Need password protection? No problem, thanks to the WD Security utility. Powered by a USB 2.0 interface, My Passport for Mac has all-around appeal at an affordable price. For rugged location shoots, consider the Western Digital Nomad Rugged Case.
750 GB $119.99
Lowepro DSLR Video Fastpack
Photography isn’t just about still images anymore so if you’re going the hybrid route, shooting stills and video with a DSLR, you’ll need to trick out your camera bag to accommodate the extra moviemaking gear. Lowepro’s new DSLR Video Fastpack is designed to hold critical equipment such as headphones, microphone, an audio transmitter/receiver set, voice recorder, sound mixer, a laptop and a tripod or DSLR rig. Of course, that’s in addition to DSLR, lenses, flash or LED light and a laptop. Available in three sizes—from large to small, the 350 AW, 250 AW and 150 AW—the DSLR Video Fastpack, keeps you organized, well-equipped to shoot anything that comes your way and, with its built-in All Weather cover, some shelter from the storm (at least for your gear).
350 AW $169.99
250 AW $149.99
150 AW $119.99
Tenba Discovery Photo/Laptop Daypack
For photographers on the go, the Tenba Discovery Photo/Laptop Daypack, available in black/gray or sage/khaki, is a lightweight pack that, at 2.6 pounds, won’t weigh you down. Constructed of durable water-repellant nylon and equipped with heavy-duty, self-healing zippers, the dual-compartment Daypack can hold one or two DSLR bodies, plus four to six lenses a flash and accessories. A padded pocket that fits up to a 15-inch laptop sits neatly between the designed-for-comfort straps on the rear of the pack and the main body. Use the built-in WeatherWrap when it starts to rain or snow. And, thanks to the waterproof bottom panel, you don’t have to worry about setting the pack down on a wet surface. There’s also plenty of room for snacks, a water bottle, cell phone, a lightweight jacket and other small any other little gotta-have-it accessories.
Think Tank Photo Airport Security v. 2.0
With the Think Tank Photo Airport Security v. 2.0 rolling bag, you can max out your equipment load while staying within airline carry-on limitations—even those tiny puddle-jumpers. Measuring 14 x 22 x 9 inches, the roller is designed to fit multiple DSLR pro bodies, multiple lenses, flashes and other accessories. A 70-200mm lens can be stored vertically, while 400mm and, yes, even a 600mm lens will fit horizontally with a few adjustments of the moveable dividers. But wait, there’s more, including a TSA combination lock, front and rear security cable chains, a security plate with a unique serial number, monopod and tripod holder, shoulder straps, replaceable wheels, and a waterproof rain cover. You can slide the laptop case in the front pocket for quick storage and retrieval. Even less than efficient packers will fit a ton of gear into this roller and not be hassled by pesky airline rules and regulations.
Vanguard Skyborne 49
The latest addition to Vanguard’s award-winning Skyborne series, the front-opening Skyborne 49 backpack can haul multiple DSLR bodies, including a pro DSLR with grip and up to a 300mm lens attached, four to six additional lenses and still leave plenty of room for accessories. There’s an adjustable tripod holder and a padded laptop compartment—protected with anti-theft buckles—that accommodates models with up to 12-inch screens. The pack also comes with a detached laptop sleeve (complete with handle and shoulder strap) for toting the laptop separately. Designed for comfort, the Skyborne 49’s harness system features air-filled shoulder straps and a detachable padded waist strap. A rain cover, trolley for luggage handles and a nylon/velvet lining keeps you well-prepared for all kinds of travel and weather conditions.
MSRP $329 (street price $239)
ExpoImaging Rogue 3-in-1 Honeycomb Grid
Small, lightweight and easy to configure, the Rogue 3-in-1 Honeycomb Grid is designed to give photographers control over spot lighting. The trio of stackable grids provide 45-degree, 25-degree and, when stacked together, 16-degree spot options. The device comes with an adjustable Rogue Tension strap and is compatible with most standard shoe-mount flashes. Want to add a snoot? Check out the Rogue Small FlashBender reflector (and, while you’re at it, check out the company’s full line of flexible FlashBender light modifiers). The Grid measures a mere 3.8 x 1.2 inches and weighs only 3.5 ounces, including the strap, which is stored in the bundled storage pouch. Hair light, accent light or emphasizing texture or color is a snap with this compact device, so there’s no need to haul a lot of gear to get the perfect lighting.
LumiQuest SoftBox LTp
The search for soft light is over with the LumiQuest SoftBox LTp. Designed to be used off-camera, the SoftBox attaches to the flash with self-adhesive Velcro (included) or an optional UltraStrap. This mega-softbox’s 120-square-inch surface is more than 40 times the surface of a flash, or about twice the size of LumiQuest’s SoftBox III. Measuring 10 x 14 inches when collapsed for storage, the LTp is the same size as a MacBook Pro, so it slides easily into the laptop compartment of a backpack or camera bag. Perfect for streamlining your lighting gear on location.
Westcott 5-in-1 Reflector
Space is at a premium on location and on the road getting to where you’re going (especially if you’re on foot). Enter Westcott’s 5-in-1 Reflector, with its one-stop diffusion panel and a slip cover with gold, black, white and silver surfaces. The 5-in-1 Reflector is available in three new sizes—20-inch, 30-inch, and 50-inch—as well as a 40-inch model. The collapsible reflector folds to about 1/3 of its size and comes with its own cloth carrying case for portability and convenient storage. This multi-purpose, multi-tasking reflector certainly makes life on location a lot easier.
broncolor Mobil A2L Power Pack
The smaller, lighter sibling of the lead battery broncolor Mobil A2R Power Pack, the Mobil A2L is highly portable with dimensions of 9.4 x 5 x 11.6 inches and a weight of 14.7 pounds. This 1200ws pack is powered by a rechargeable lithium battery but can also be used with a lead battery. The latter adds about 6 pounds in weight, is less powerful and takes about twice as long to charge. Dual lamphead outlets and three asymmetry settings for multiple configurations. Compatible with most broncolor heads, the ideal pairing is with MobiLED and Mobilite2 heads to take advantage of the pack’s modeling light function. With the A2L Power Pack, your shoot is self-contained since you won’t have to search for electrical outlets or spend time running cables and cords on set.
Mobil A2L Power Pack with lithium battery and charger: $3,770
Mobil A2L Travel Kit (adds MobiLED lamphead, sync cable, continuous light adapter and carrying bag): $4,670
Lastolite Joe McNally Rotate Triflash
With suggestions from flash-master Joe McNally, Lastolite has made some improvements to a number of its products, including the Rotate Triflash. This nifty device has three, now rotating, shoe mounts so the flash units’ IR receiver can be positioned towards the camera ensuring the flashes are triggered every time. According to Lastolite, this helps avoid problems with IR triggering in bright light. It’s not quite as much fun as a game of Twister, but a few twists and turns of the Triflash’s shoe mounts will help you get the shot every time.
Lowel calls this “run and gun LED lighting,” and the Lowel Blender was designed for shooting under mixed lighting conditions. This compact device is equipped with two arrays—daylight (5,000K) and tungsten (3,000K)—of high intensity LEDs. Dual, user-adjustable dimmer controls blend the amount of light from each array to match artificial and ambient light. The Blender is compact (6.5 x 4.5 x 3.5 inches), comes with a trio of diffusers and can be powered by AC or batteries. It’s an easy solution to potentially complex location lighting problems, so you’ll spend less time sitting in front of the computer in post.:
$745 (street $500)
Multiblitz RS2 16 Channel Wireless Radio Trigger
This tiny wireless radio trigger measures 2.6 x 1.7 x 1.9 inches and fits on most common camera hotshoes and is designed to trigger Multiblitz Profilux or Profilux Plus flash via the light system’s built-in radio frequency receiver with a maximum range of 200 feet. The MultiBlitz RS2 16 Channel Wireless Ratio Trigger is conveniently powered by two AA batteries and syncs at 1/500th second. Wireless control adds to your versatility on location.
PocketWizard MiniTT1 and FlexTT5
Off-camera flash control doesn’t get much more sophisticated than with PocketWizard’s MiniTT1 and FlexTT5. While the MiniTT1 is dedicated for use on-camera, the Flex has a standard hotshoe foot, so you can easily mount it on a light stand or use two Flex units in tandem—one as transmitter and one as receiver. Both the Mini and Flex fit on any camera, even medium-format models, and work in conjunction with standard PocketWizard radios. With synch speeds up to 1/8,000 second, E-TTL (Canon)/i-TTL (Nikon), manual controls and a host of advanced functions, these PocketWizards will meet—and probably exceed—any of your off-camera flash needs, especially with recent firmware updates.
MiniTT1 $199 (street)
FlexTT5 $229 Canon or $219 Nikon (street)
Gitzo Traveler Series 1 Tripod (GT1542T)
Sure, it only weighs 2.2 pounds, but the G51542T has a load capacity of almost 18 pounds atop its well-constructed carbon fiber structure. But it’s not just the light weight that makes this super-portable; the tripod closes down to a length of only 16.73 inches. Still, this Gitzo model achieves a maximum height of 58.86 inches. Practical design elements include a ground level set, G-lock, reversible column, and a built-in hook for hanging a stabilizing weight. Gitzo claims that, with its Anti-Leg Rotation System, photographers can open the tripod in less than 15 seconds. It sounds like a challenge to us. Be sure to clock your time so you can boast to your friends and colleagues about your personal best.
Joby GorillaPod Hybrid
Ideal for photographers who carry a compact system camera and want to document a shoot with timelapse or video, the Joby GorillaPod Hybrid is a compact but sturdy tripod that features the company’s trademark flexible, wrappable legs. The GorillaPod Hybrid is equipped with an integrated aluminum ball head that offers +/- 90-degree tilt and 360-degree pan. The Hybrid supports cameras that weigh up to 2.2 pounds and is available in grey and red. It also doubles as a cool Gumby-like toy to keep you amused during the down time that sometimes plagues location shoots.
Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod
Carbon fiber has two things going for it: strength and light weight, so it only makes sense that the Manfrotto 055 Carbon Fiber Tripod works well for location shoots. With a maximum height of 69.68 inches, the 055 measures a little more than 24 inches when closed and easily attaches to most backpacks and camera bags. The 3-section tripod’s legs are adjustable to 23-, 47-, 66- and 89-degree angles for versatility and support up to 17.84 pounds. It weighs less than 4 pounds, so you won’t feel weighed down by this essential piece of gear.
Vanguard Auctus Plus 323 CT Tripod
Carbon fiber legs and a host of extra features make the Auctus Plus 323 CT an award winner (including a 2011 TIPA award for best tripod). Some of its notable features include a large bubble level, a locking camera screw wheel and the ability to fine tune the height of the center column, number scales on the legs for no-guess adjustments and a maximum load capacity of almost 40 pounds! Vanguard is also serious about the tripod’s all terrain feet, which can be quickly changed from anti-rust spikes to angled, textured rubber and back again for extra stability. Shooting in the snow? No problem. The tripod comes with its own special snowshoes so you only have to worry about keeping yourself steady on the slippery slopes.
Vanguard Actus Plus 323 CT: $479 (street); $619 (MSRP)
DeluxGear Lens Guard
Standard lens caps provide some protection for your expensive glass, but DeluxGear takes safeguarding lenses to the next level with its Lens Guard. The Guard is constructed from a rugged .08-inch santoprene outer cover with a water-resistant, cushioned interior made from 0.25-inch thick, closed-cell neoprene (anyone who scuba dives knows this as the same stuff ¼ -inch wetsuits are made from). The Guard fits over filters and/or lens caps with a diameter from 2.5 to 4 inches in diameter and comes with a built-in tether for keeping it attached to the camera. While the Lens Guard won’t protect you from getting bumped in a crowd, at least you won’t have to worry about your lens being damaged.
Starting at $17.99
Lensbaby Composer Pro
Lensbaby has come a long way from its original design and the Composer Pro, an even more refined version of the Composer, offers the ultimate in fine-tuning and adjusting the sweet spot of focus. Paired with the Sweet 35 Optic, which has a 12-blade internal aperture and a wider focus range than other selective focus Lensbaby optics, the duo provides easy-to-achieve creativity, particularly for wedding and Senior Portrait shoots. Available for Canon, Nikon F, Sony Alpha A/Minolta Maxxum, Pentax K/Samsung GX, and Olympus E1 cameras, the Composer Pro is also compatible with the full Lensbaby Optic Swap System. The low-tech look is extremely popular these days, but you can put away your iPhone and, with the Composer Pro, deliver cool images with high quality.
$400 with Sweet 35 Optic, $300 with Double Glass Optic
Western Digital Nomad Rugged Case
No matter how careful you are, accidents happen and the last thing you want to worry about on location is physical damage to your external hard drive. Western Digital has designed a rough-and-tumble case for most WD My Passport drives (Essential/SE, Elite, My Passport for Mac/SE). This polycarbonate case comes with a cushioned lining to protect it from drops of up to 7 feet, and it’s sealed against moisture and dust for those adventurous—or weather-compromised—shoots. Thanks to a special USB cable opening, there’s no need to remove the drive from its defensive cocoon to hook it up to a computer.
Pocketable gaffer’s tape may seem like an oxymoron, but not with microGAFFER. Wrapped around a one-inch core, these one-inch wide, 8-yard length rolls of professional cloth gaffer’s tape weigh only 2.2 ounces and fit easily into pockets and the corners of camera bags. Compared to the typical King Kong 2-inch x 60-yard, 2-pound roll of gaffer’s tape, microGAFFER is tiny and perfect for location shoots. Available in 4-packs in monochrome (two black, one gray, one white) or highly visible fluorescent (orange, magenta, green and yellow), each member of your team can carry one in his or her pocket. The fluorescent packs are especially good for labeling cables and wires, especially when there’s a lot of foot traffic on set.
$21.50 per 4-pack