Review: Lowepro Photosport 300 II Backpack

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The Lowepro Photosport 300 II

I picked up the Lowepro PhotoSport 300 II recently for a trek up Scafell Pike. I have Lowepro’s Flipside 15 AW and sometimes use the spaces not filled by camera equipment for hiking gear, trail snacks etc. The Photosport, however, has slightly more capacity, with dedicate camera and gear sections.

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The dedicated, padded camera section – which cannot be removed

Firstly the gear section. It’s a fairly unfussy top-opening space which sits on top of the camera gear, the top of the camera gear section, or the base of the gear section is padded, so unless you’re carrying rocks, your gear should be protected. There’s a netted section to separate items, but it’s thin, so you’d only get small, thin items into it, without bulking out the back.

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You can get a good 2L bladder into this space, but it sits against your back

Sat behind that is the space for a water reservoir, there are advantages and disadvantages of this type of set-up, generally reservoir spaces sat against the back are bigger, so you can use a bigger bladder, the disadvantage is that they are not shielded from the heat of your back – so your water doesn’t remain as cold. I have another Lowepro backpack where the reservoir space is on the side and my drink remains much colder for the trip, however this can work as a rationing device, once you’ve consumed water from the tube, which is cold, the water goes warm, from the bladder – you’ve probably drank enough!

The padded space for the camera gear includes a few, standard Velcro fixed, padded separators and it’s a general box shape.

I can get a gripped or standard DSLR in this space with a 24-70 f/2.8 attached (hood reversed) and another lens, up to 70-200 f/2.8.

One unfathomable decision taken by Lowepro is to make the padded section fixed into the space, if it were to be removable, this would have made the bag significantly more flexible.

The padded section can be secured separately from the opening flap on the outside of the bag, presumably to deter thieves, I get this, I generally prefer my backpacks to be against-the-back opening for the same reason.

Externally there are the expected straps and pockets for a backpack of this type, including the obligatory large pocket for a rolled-up set of waterproofs. You can also fit a reasonable sized tripod onto the side and walking poles, if needed.

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All the important straps and adjusters (apart from strap height) are nicely coloured yellow

The comfy waistband helps support the weight of the bag, these include two small pockets for compass or small light. There is a pocket on top of the bag, slightly larger and good for trail snacks or a headlamp – or even both, it’s quite capacious.

A nice little touch from Lowepro is to colour code straps and fixings which are, comparatively, more important than securing straps. This covers the adjusters and top flap fixings.

The pack is reasonably waterproof, but in a deluge, Lowepro have included an all-weather cover in a zipped stowage pocket on the bottom of the bag. The cover doesn’t just protect your kit from the rain, it can be used to protect your kit from the heat if need be.

The shoulder straps are quite limited in their ability to be adjusted, so you should try the back before purchase to ensure it’s right for you, especially if you have a particularly large or small frame.

Finally, as is becoming more common these days, Lowepro have included a whistle on the chest-strap clasp.

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A whistle, could save your backside!

I’ve only carried my D810 with 28-300 attached so far, but I reckon I could get a bunch more gear into this pack, I’ll try and remember to update the configurations as and when I try them, but most important – it takes the 24-70/16-35 2.8/4 (respectively).

I’m a big fan of this pack, unlike my other Lowepro pack, the ability to split gear and photography equipment is a nice touch and there’s lots of additional pluses that make this an easy recommendation.

 

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Moving from Adobe Photographers Package

A few years ago, Adobe took the decision to drop the sale of stand alone products, well drop isn’t quite right, they’re still there – you just have to look for them buried deep within their product catalogue.

The move was controversial amongst the photography community.

By ending support and updates for standalone, you were effectively forced to move onto the new subscription package that they had created. You were now paying, what started at £8.49, now £9.98, for Photoshop and Lightroom.

The pricing sounds very reasonable and god forbid you dare moan about the subscription model on the Adobe forums, you’ll be leapt on by zealot supporters of Adobe, however if I equate the subscription to how long I’ve been using Adobe, I would have paid for my Lightroom version 4 times over.

Since the introduction of the subscription model I’d tried several times to find a different product so I could get rid of it and not have to pay monthly.

Let me first say, Adobe have been refining Photoshop and Lightroom for many years and it is a mature product, there’s nothing particularly bad about it, nearly all the tutorials you see in Amateur Photographer refer to steps in Lightroom or Photoshop. Finding an alternative was always going to be difficult.

I’ve tried numerous products over the years and they’ve all failed to achieve a simple aim, provide a degree of Lightroom functionality but be simple to use and have good cataloguing facilities, the latter is essential if you do any type of serious photography, maintaining your catalogue is almost as important as any editing.

At the beginning of the year I came across ON1 Photo RAW 2019, after a quick install of a demonstration version, I was more than happy to purchase it and cancel my Adobe subscription.

Don’t get me wrong, there are things that ON1 does poorly and you can find many posts on their peer to peer forums about these issues, what I am aware of so far:

  • Crashes, I’ve had a few, with no recovery nor information as to what has gone wrong
  • Editing changes not being applied to exports, you have to flick to ‘Browse’ mode for the changes to be applied
  • It’s not particularly fast, although I caution that the speed may be affected by the size of the images being edited, for example the majority of my pictures are in RAW format (Canon CR2 & Nikon NEF) the Canon files are around 22mb each and the Nikon 34mb.
  • Exporting is very slow, JPG & PNG, with PNG being particularly painful. This is a known issue and ON1 are promising a fix later this year.

You may be thinking ‘Why on Earth did you change then?’ Well my priority requirements were:

  • No subscription
  • Flexible catalogue options, either catalogue or sidecar files
  • A familiar and easy to use interface
  • Non-destructive editing of RAW files

With Photo RAW 2019 you get all this, for example, here’s the browse interface:

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ON1 Photo RAW 2019 ‘browse’ mode

And here’s Lightroom’s catalogue:

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Adobe Lightroom’s catalogue (picture Peter Cripps Photography, used with permission)

Although there are differences, they’re every similar – catalogue on the left, contact sheet in the middle and information on the right.

Similarly with developing a photo, press ‘Develop’ in Adobe’s catalogue or ‘Edit’ in ON1 and you’re good to go editing your photo, here’s ON1’s interface:

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ON1 Photo RAW in Edit Mode
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Adobe Lightroom Classic in Develop Mode

As you can see, the histogram and sliders are in the same place and the preset menu is on the left, Lightrooms is hidden in this picture, but they’re in the same place.

So generally, the interface for both the applications is familiar, it didn’t take me long to get to grips with where things were.

ON1’s gradient mask is a little tricky to get used to and it’s these sorts of quirks that will come over time.

Overall, I’m very happy with ON1 Photo RAW, I’m particularly happy not to be servicing a subscription every month, when I may not edit a photograph for weeks. Yes ON1 has issues, but it’s mine and, so far, ON1 have said they will continue to support free updates for the software.

Update 23/05/2019

Whilst writing this blog post ON1 dropped version 2019.5, there’s numerous updates in this patch and it’s too much to list here, you can read what was changed, added and fixed here.

Things I have noticed since installing, exporting, it’s not whizzy, but it is certainly faster than it was before, similarly browsing through the folders of my RAWs seems to be quicker and less stuttery.

Another Update 12/06/2019

People are wondering if this [ON1 Photo RAW] replaces Photoshop, the short answer is no, I’ll do a blog post about the replacement [Affinity Photo] soon but a word of caution before you jump to Affinity Photo, a potentially expensive restriction has come to light – Affinity Photo is only licensed for the operating system. So a few months ago when I was running with Windows and purchased Affinity Photo – I have found, unlike Adobe Photoshop, Affinity won’t transfer the licence to Mac.

Bit of a frustration. I now need to choose to buy another version of Affinity Photo, go without or subscribe back to Adobe Photographer Package and try and sell my Affinity Photo licence.

 

Book Review: Photographing North Wales

I thought I would follow-up my post about a trip to North Wales with a review of the book we used as inspiration.

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Photographing North Wales is a photo-location guidebook published by Fotovue and written by Simon Kitchin, a superb landscape photographer based in North Wales, so he really knows the area well and it shows.

The first thing that stands-out about this book is the quality. The imagery is stunning and it’s motivating, which is the whole idea, especially if you’re starting out and for seasoned ‘togs the same, you’re never too experienced to pick-up ideas and tips.

Opening the fold-out cover the reader is presented with ephemeral information and the book continues in this way, not with ephemeral, but really useful information on every page. For example the book divides North Wales into 7 regions, going from Anglesey to Snowdonia, which is divided itself, this makes finding interesting subject in the area you’re going to really easy to find.

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The locations are then listed, numbered so they can be easily found within that region, but it doesn’t stop there, once you’re into a subject you want to photograph Simon splits the subject into viewpoints and then supports each view point with information and local knowledge, and it doesn’t stop there either! There’s an information box on each subject giving the reader information on how to get to the location, how accessible it is and the best time of year to visit.

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The book is filled with Simon’s photography, which is superb, and some shots from guest photographers, including one particularly stunning image of an American F15e Strike Eagle fighter plane flying through the Welsh Valleys (the photo is by Ben Gilbert). How could you capture such images? The book goes on to tell you how and where to stand for the best chance.

The useful information doesn’t just stop there, the book finishes with more information about events and when they take place in North Wales and a small bio of Simon.

I absolutely recommend this book, although it may seem like it is pitched at beginners, everyone can benefit from an expert’s experience and local knowledge.

These photo-location books are a series and you can find one for pretty much most regions of the UK, penned by other fantastic and talented photographers.

Photographing North Wales is published by Fotovue Outdoor Photography (ISBN: 9780992905118).