Phantom 4 Pro Review – Unscientific impressions by a stills photographer *

A few months ago, Durban based photographer Emil von Maltitz acquired a drone from us. Most people buying up DJI’s hi-tech toys are using them exactly for that purpose and not much more – to play around and check out life from above. For photographers, however, it’s a bit more complicated than that and we all ask the same set of questions about image quality, ease of use and legality. Most photographers don’t want to make the investment if it’s not a practically usable tool that will deliver great images. In this review, Emil answers a lot of those questions and explains the complications of drone use as it applies to our species (photographers).

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Solid and Dependable – A Review of the SIRUI N-3004x Tripod by Emil von Maltitz

Choosing a tripod can be quite a difficult decision. There is always a compromise that you have to make somewhere. We want stability, light weight, low price and large size pretty much as an ultimate goal when selecting a set of tripod legs. The problem is that we rarely get more than two of those options ticked off. So we have to make a compromise. Good tripods essentially manage to tick off three of those four. Great tripods tick all four boxes with the large caveat that one of those criteria are in relation to its peers (for example ‘well priced’ in relation to its competition does not mean cheap). Aluminium tripods are an attempt to get the most bang for buck out of a tripod, but they come with the hefty (excuse the pun) drawback of increased weight.

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Levelling The Playing Field – A Review of the SIRUI LE-60 Levelling Base by Emil von Maltitz

In the past panoramic images could be quite tricky to get right. The software that was available tended to be rudimentary at best, and the hardware expensive and difficult to use. For the past few years though professional quality panoramic images have been very easy to create. Adobe’s Lightroom even has a fairly robust ‘merge to panorama’ feature included (although this is just a simplified version of Photoshop CC’s ‘merge to panorama). It really does mean that creating large format stitched panoramics is as simple pressing a button.

A wide angle panoramic taken in Deadvlei – easy work thanks to a good leveling base.

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New Gitzo Ball Heads

It is amazing how some manufacturers can get one product so right, yet another product so wrong; until late 2016, Gitzo was one of those manufacturers. Their tripod legs are loved by countless photographers worldwide for long lasting quality, easy operation and excellent performance. Despite the success of their legs, they somehow failed to make a decent tripod head, because they refused to conform to the global design standard. If you look at their older range of tripod heads, you’ll see that most of it is just plain weird. While it did work, it was unnecessarily bulky. It is with very good reason that until now, we only sold Kirk and SIRUI tripod heads.

 

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Choosing the right SIRUI gear Part 1 | Why SIRUI?

One of the most important investments we all have to make in our photographic journey is buying a tripod. This is especially true for the landscape genre. Unlike the camera and lens market in which the best brands are well known, the tripod market is spammed with brands and it’s difficult to get an objective opinion based on the experience and opinion of many. At LANDSCAPEGEAR, we don’t do the pushy sales approach – we give you honest information and allow you to make the decision by yourself.

gitzo-and-rss-logos

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Choosing the right SIRUI Gear part 2 | Tripod Legs

Below you’ll find a short description of each model, its technical specifications and it’s ideal uses. These models are sorted by popularity.

The Affordable Option 

EN-2004 + K-20x Kit – R4 395.00

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Slowing Things Down Winners

We would like to start by thanking every one of the 67 people who entered our long exposure landscape competition. For such a niche field, the amount of entries was impressive and the standard even more so. We had a really difficult time choosing a winner, so much so that we’ve decided to add 2nd and 3rd prizes. You can view the original competition post here.

The Winning Image - Congratulations Mark CullinanThe Winning Image – Congratulations Mark Cullinan

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All F-stop Gear Products in Stock

For myself and those who have been on the waiting list it might seem too good to be true, but all f-stop products are now in stock and ready to ship from our warehouse. The good news doesn’t end there – thanks to a change in our supply chain, we have managed an overall price reduction of 18% compared to last year’s pricing, despite a 30% decrease in the rand.

There was a drastic global shortage in supply of this brand caused by an exponential growth in demand ( a very positive thing with a negative result) and it took the company a while to ramp up production in order to meet demand. We could have given up at any time and shifted our attention to an ‘ok’ brand to keep our sales going, but that’s not the ethos that this business was founded on. Supply is still sporadic all over the world, even from their own online shops, so we’re extremely happy to say that we have a very deep pool of stock right now.

Click here to view the f-stop product page

The Ajna in special edition Red Bull colours in use in Namibia

The Ajna in special edition Red Bull colours in use in Namibia

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Choosing the Right f-stop Gear Part 2

We’ve broken this article down into 2 different posts in order to make for lighter reading. It shouldn’t take more than ten minutes to get through both and doing the effort will arm you with valuable knowledge about the f-stop Gear system so you can make the best possible decision on what to purchase. If you prefer a personal opinion, call Hougaard (076 279 2202) or mail us using the contact page – send a list of your gear along with any other questions you might have and we’ll get back to you with a recommendation within 24 hours.

Part 1 – The f-stop Gear Solution + ICU’s

Part 2 – The Outer Shells

The Outer Shells

The modular ICU system is only half the reason why f-stop have become the world’s most respected backpack manufacturer. The other half is the outer shells responsible for carrying the ICU’s. By removing the internal compartment from the design of the actual pack, it allows designers to focus on just designing the best possible backpack. No compromise has to be made for it to fit a camera inside – as long as the internal space can accommodate an ICU, the two function together seamlessly. These packs are made from the very best materials in the industry and constantly evolved with the feedback of ambassadors comprising some of the world’s top adventure and extreme sports photographers. One of their ambassadors is South Africa’s official Red Bull photographer, Craig Kolesky – check out his website to see the kind of shooters that assist in developing the product.

There are two series of outer shells – Mountain and Ultralight. We stock the entire Mountain series from the compact Lotus to the massive Shinn, but we only stock one of the UL shells. We’ll cover the Mountain Series first and then look at the Kashmir UL, the first ever backpack designed especially for women.

 The Fstop Mountain Series shells we stock.


The f-stop Mountain Series shells we stock.

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Choosing the Right f-stop Gear Part 1

Note – We’ve broken this article down into 2 different posts in order to make for lighter reading. It shouldn’t take more than ten minutes to get through both and doing the effort will arm you with valuable knowledge about the f-stop Gear system so you can make the best possible decision on what to purchase. If you prefer a personal opinion, call Hougaard (076 279 2202) or mail us using the contact page – simply send a list of your gear along with any other questions you might have and we’ll get back to you with a recommendation within 24 hours.

Part 1 – The f-stopgear Solution + ICU’s

Part 2 – The Outer Shells

The f-stop Gear Solution + ICU’s

Choosing a camera backpack can be one of the most difficult decisions a photographer ever has to make. There are an endless number of brands offering a wide variety of products. Most of these brands tend to design something that can hold lots of camera gear and then add some padding and shoulder straps as an afterthought. This back-to-front design philosophy is the reason why countless photographers across the world have tried products in all price ranges from most brands, with no satisfaction. There is however one company that has revolutionised the design of photography backpacks and propelled themselves to the top of their industry in a few short years – f-stop Gear.

The Ajna in special edition Red Bull colours in use in Namibia

The Ajna in special edition Red Bull colours in use in Namibia

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Slowing Things Down + Win a Super Stopper

Win a Lee Filters Super Stopper:

If you consider that just 7 years ago there was no good solution to the long exposure problem, it is really fantastic to have this amazing product range readily available in South Africa. These filters offer you full control of your shutterspeed in any situation, whether you just want to slow down a wave a bit or you want to capture twenty minutes of clouds passing over Table Mountain. To celebrate Lee’s awesome product range, we’ll be giving away a Super Stopper (or R2 500.00 credit on any Lee Filters products) to one lucky winner. All you have to do to enter the competition is to post your favourite long exposure image to our Facebook page with the camera, lens, shutterspeed and filters used (if any) in the description and share this article to your facebook. The winner will be selected by myself and Mark Dumbleton at the end of July based on content, execution and presentation.

The mystical world of long exposures – Ruacana Falls in flood with a Lee Filters Little Stopper ISO100 | f/8 | 3.0s | 200mm

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The L-Bracket: Simplistic Genius

If you pay it some thought, would you say that there are more portrait orientation or landscape orientation images used in all the media forms across the world?

All film media (movies & television) is shot and viewed in landscape orientation and the cameras are thus designed to be used that way, which makes sense. Stills cameras are also designed for use in landscape orientation even though most photographers very often shoot in portrait mode, which doesn’t make quite as much sense. The only exception to this is pro-body cameras that have an ergonomically designed bottom virtually identical to the right-hand-side of the camera, featuring a second exposure dial and set of shutter, focus and custom-function buttons. This allows the photographer to conveniently shoot in portrait mode – simply rotate the camera 90 degrees and (almost) everything still feels and functions the same.

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A simple solution to a complicated problem – the L-Bracket

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SIRUI W-2204 Review by Mark Dumbleton

During the course of 2015, I have been seeing and hearing more and more people going on about the tripod systems made by a new Chinese brand called SIRUI. While this brand has been around for close to a decade, it was only recently introduced to South Africa by SunshineCo. and thus most South Africans aren’t familiar with it. I was very excited when the brand manager for SIRUI South Africa, Willem Foster, recently asked if I wanted test out some new equipment for them. I happily obliged, as I love trying out new gear and I was intrigued to see what SIRUI was all about.

I was given a tripod and a gimbal head, namely the SIRUI PH-20 Carbon Fibre gimbal tripod head and the SIRUI W-2204 Carbon Fibre waterproof tripod. I had a trip planned to the bush to shoot some wildlife when Willem had asked me, and I thought it was a perfect time to try out this new gear.

Mark Dumbleton using the SIRUI W-2204 tripod

Mark Dumbleton using the SIRUI W-2204 tripod

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SIRUI PH-20 Review by Mark Dumbleton

During the course of 2015, I have been seeing and hearing more and more people going on about the tripod systems made by a new Chinese brand called SIRUI. While this brand has been around for close to a decade, it was only recently introduced to South Africa by SunshineCo. and thus most South Africans aren’t familiar with it. I was thus excited when the brand manager for SIRUI South Africa, Willem Foster, recently asked if I wanted test out some new equipment for them. I happily obliged, as I love trying out new gear and I was intrigued to see what SIRUI was all about.

I was given a tripod and a gimbal head, namely the SIRUI PH-20 Carbon Fiber gimbal tripod head and the SIRUI W-2204 Carbon Fiber waterproof tripod. I had a trip planned to the bush to shoot some wildlife when Willem had asked me, and I thought it was a perfect time to try out this new gear. I was particularly interested in the gimbal head, as there aren’t currently any lightweight Carbon Fiber offerings on the market. Carrying a backpack with the usual two pro bodies, a super telephoto lens and all the other toys on a trip is tough enough, so I’m always interested in equipment that can lighten the load.

Mark Dumbleton using the SIRUI PH-20 gimbal

Mark Dumbleton using the SIRUI PH-20 gimbal

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New Gitzo Traveler Tripods

We’re very excited to share the news that Gitzo recently unveiled their latest compact Traveler Series models. Our two favourites, the GT1542T and the GT2542T, have both received major tech upgrades that have improved the specs of each tripod. There is also a brand new model, the GT1555T, which is even more compact than the already tiny GT1542T. The first thing to note is that Gitzo has skipped the generation number in the name from 2 to 5. The models prior to the GT1542T were the GT1540T and GT1541T, but the latest reincarnations have received a 5 as model number.

GITZO-new-Travelers

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Choosing the Right Lee SW150 Gear

Filters have always been, and will always be, an essential part of landscape photography. Photoshop enthusiasts may beg to differ, but the soaring demand for these products over the past few years proves otherwise. You can, to a great extent, get away with not using filters. The question is wether you prefer spending time in nature or behind the computer. If your answer is nature then you need to look at getting filters.

Taken without a filter on the left and with a filter on the right

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Choosing the Right Lee Seven5 Gear

Filters have always been, and will always be, an essential part of landscape photography. Photoshop enthusiasts may beg to differ, but the soaring demand for these products over the past few years proves otherwise. You can, to a great extent, get away with not using filters. The question is wether you prefer spending time in nature or behind the computer. If your answer is nature then you need to look at getting filters.

Taken without a Little Stopper on the left and with a Little Stopper on the right

Taken without a Little Stopper on the left and with a Little Stopper on the right

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Fstop Satori in the Arctic – Shem Compion

One of South Africa’s best known names in the nature photography industry, Shem Compion, recently acquired a Fstop Satori with XL pro ICU from us. Like everyone else who’s serious about their camera gear, he’s been through several top-tier camera backpacks over the years without ever settling on one. He got his new goodies just before leading a tour to Svalbard for his photographic safari company – C4 Safaris. Much like my trip into the Drakensberg, this was a deep-end test for a new backpack. It had to carry a ton of camera equipment and other stuff, but still fit into the overhead compartment of small planes. This is what Shem had to say.

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Long Term Gear Review – Gitzo GT3541XLS

All manufacturers and retailers sing many songs about the durability of the products they sell, but very few offer factual reports of how products have faired after serious use. I believe in the products that I recommend to people and am more than happy to report on the actual durability of those products, based on heavy use by a professional. This is the first long term review of a product and there are more on the way. The aim is to provide you with honest and unbiased information on the products’ strong and weak points when put to serious use. This is all part of our dedication to educating our clients about why our products are the best and worth their price tags…

My trusty ‘ol Gitzo has been to some epic places over the past three years

My trusty ‘ol Gitzo has been to some epic places over the past three years

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Choosing The Right B+W Gear

When it comes to enhancing images, a circular polariser is probably the oldest trick in the book. It can change a pale sky to a deep blue one, turn foliage into a luminous super-green, light up autumn colours, saturate rainbows and even make water look crystal clear. The added contrast, saturation and clarity that a polariser can give to images is nothing short of magic and every photographer should have one in their bag. Mouse-over the image below to see the difference that a polariser makes to this autumn scene in Magoebaskloof.

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