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Last year I visited Tohoku – the north of the main island of Japan – with my big old camera, and took a lot of pictures. This week, Helen's off on a trip, so I went to empty the biggest memory card I own for her – and found the 975 photos I took still sitting there in sequence.
Flicking through, I noticed that they form a sort of flippad-like video – I tend to take photos in bursts of three or four – so here's a little experiment. All 975 unprocessed images were stitched together in Premiere to make this composite. showing, roughly: Tokyo, Sendai, Yama-dera, Matsushima, Morioka, Tazawa, Hirosaki, Aomori, Aizu-Wakamatsu and back to Tokyo.
I thought the result was quite nice, so I'm sharing it here. If you fancy visiting Tohoku – and please do, it's lovely, and in need of tourism after the earthquake – I've written a guide, here.
I've just returned from reporting on Computex Taipei 2011 – another trip that means lugging all my usual reporting stuff plus a laptop, two cameras and all the gear that goes with them. This time, though, I took a secret weapon: a LowePro Fastpack 250 camera bag. Before buying it I wasn't sure if everything would fit in, or if it would do the job. So, in case you're looking for something similar, here's how I got on with it. The video above shows what you can fit in each pocket.
What it holds
The Fastpack has five pockets. Two are small and suitable for cables, passes etc. The big ones are the laptop pocket, the camera section and the top pocket. The laptop pocket holds the computer up against your back, and is padded on both sides. It takes a Macbook Pro 15 comfortably (about 5cm to spare at the top) and zips up securely.
The camera pocket has three sections: one for a DSLR and two on the sides. It'll take a lens measuring up to 18cm long, but if yours is smaller a divider allows the rest to be used as a fourth compartment for another lens or charger etc. My D80 camera body fits with loads of room on both sides, so I think it'd take any pro-sized DSLR without trouble. The side pockets are roughly 17cm by 5cm by 13cm deep, and can be divided into two shallower units each. I managed to pack my Sony HD camera into one, with the divider holding it securely, and a shotgun microphone on top.
The whole camera pocket zips closed, and I had no worries that it would fall open. A flap secures over the top with two plastic clips.
The top pocket is surprisingly big. It'll just about take an iPad, plus several notepads, power adapters and cables. It becomes a bit fiddly to use when packed full, but at least you can get everything in there. A few pockets hold pens, cards and so on.
The rucksack straps are padded well, and there's also a belt – this isn't padded, and isn't terribly comfortable, but it does help to take some of the load when the bag is really full. Otherwise, just the back straps should be sufficient. There's a decent grab handle on top for hauling it in and out of luggage lockers, tube trains etc. It's important to note that the camera pocket is not suitable for quick access: it takes a minute or so to get equipment in or out, so this is one for lugging gear when not in use. The bag fits into the overhead compartment of a plane easily.
I dragged the bag around Taipei in the rain and >90% humidity. Nothing got wet or broken, but unlike other LP kit there's no fully waterproof cover. I'd call it 'showerproof' – if going somewhere really wet you'll need something better, or a separate cover.
So, would I recommend it? If you only need a camera bag, no – get something smaller and fully waterproof. If on the other hand you need to lug loads of kit on aircraft, knowing that it'll be protected from travelling knocks, then absolutely: the Fastpack does everything I hoped it would and more.
This model usually costs around £80, but is available from Amazon here for around £50. A larger version that can take 17in laptops is available here – the RRP is £90 or so, but Amazon has this for under £50 (less than the smaller model).
Something I knocked up the other week while playing with DIY Chromakey. The green screen (four sheets of A4 paper) worked fairly well. The camera, on the other hand – an early consumer HD model with no effective manual focus – was a bit crap.