It is not very often that I discuss photography gear, but given that I purchased a few new items of gear today, I figured it was worth relating the story.
As is always the case when travelling abroad, I bring a camera rig. While this is not specifically a photographic trip, I certainly intend to engage in some twilight cityscaping in Prague, and may even have time for the odd cityscape in Tel Aviv or Caesarea.
My go-to camera bag for most of my photography (other than wildlife, which calls for the big lenses), is my Lowepro Nova 190 AW. It is a shoulder bag, and I have a fairly standard array of equipment permanently packed in it, which covers most of my shooting needs, and certainly the needs I will have on this upcoming trip. This bag has travelled internationally twice now.
However, as is also always the case when travelling internationally, I take my laptop, which has its own bag. This time we are travelling somewhat lighter, and rather than carrying my camera gear in the Nova 190 AW, and my laptop in its own carry bag, I wanted one bag in the form of a backpack which would accommodate both.
A few months ago I discovered the Lowepro Fastpack BP 250 AW II backpack when looking in a camera shop one day. This bag seemed to fit the bill nicely.
It has a laptop compartment which will accommodate a 15″ laptop (according to the specifications), a lower compartment (with dividers) which will accommodate a large DSLR with a 70-200/2.8 mounted, plus another medium-sized lens or two; and it also has an upper compartment which will accommodate anything else, including non-photography equipment.
Today I decided to buy a Fastpack BP 250 AW II. Now, my laptop is a 17″ MacBook Pro, but having compared its specifications with the backpack’s specifications, it fits. I took the MacBook Pro with me to the store, and verified that it actually does fit — it does.
So, that solved a definite problem, and has given me a comfortably-sized, airline cabin-friendly backpack which will allow me to remain hands-free whilst traversing airports, fit my camera gear and laptop in one bag, and have room for other things such as a water bottle, light jacket or other day-trip equipment. This will be perfect for walking around Prague. Additionally, it has a tripod compartment on the side, along with a strap for keeping the tripod in place.
This brings me to my next subject: tripods.
I am rather accustomed to larger tripods, particularly as I have a few heavy lenses and both want and need the height, stability and load-bearing capability they provide.
A few years ago I toyed with the idea of buying a smaller tripod for travelling, but did not quite find something I liked, or something which gave me much confidence, as I was wary of smaller, lighter tripods. Additionally, they were rather expensive for what they were.
After buying the Fastpack BP 250 AW II today, I browsed around the store, and found a Manfrotto combination of a 290-series set of legs (Manfrotto T293A4) and a ball head (Manfrotto 494RC2).
I played with the tripod for maybe ten or fifteen minutes as I mentally debated whether it was suitable. While it is certainly not as tall as my Manfrotto 055XPROB, or even my 2005-vintage Manfrotto 190D, it is tall enough, and the extension of the centre column will give sufficient extra height if necessary. The legs have four sections and quick release clips, which is definitely desirable.
The ball head was also quite nice, and as with all my other Manfrotto heads, it accommodates the Manfrotto 200PL quick release plate.
Soon enough I decided to buy it. The salesperson advised me that it was a discontinued model, and as it appeared to be the last unit and lacked both the quick release plate and packaging, he gave me a nice discount.
So, now I have a suitable, light-weight but sturdy tripod which can be taken on international trips, which reduces the bulk and weight of what I am carrying, and nicely attaches to the side of my newest camera backpack. For the kinds of photography this trip will present, this rig is more than enough to suit my needs, and it will also be quite suitable for other photographic outings locally and inter-state.