Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM: Seven Years Later

WARNING: Photo heavy at the end

Right off the bat, this is not a review of the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM lens for Nikon F-Mount, since this is an older lens and that it is no longer being manufactured as the EX lenses have been usurped with the Art lenses of Sigma. You may still find this in eBay, or anything of the like, as pre-loved or even new old stock. So with that, you can just check other reviews from yesteryear elsewhere. This is just my experience with this lens since I first got it and how it is still part of my gear to this day – seven years later.

Around October 2010 is when I first gotten my Nikon D5000 with the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens. I shot a lot with this setup along with a Yong Nuo YN465 that I got around a few months after. Like in my previous blog post, I said to improve your skills with the gear you have at that time before even thinking of improving you gear. And at September 10, 2011, I then added the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM to partner my standard zoom kit lens to further improve my skills.

I never bought another lens, heck even flash, and that of a camera body until 2017. So from 2011-2017, I have the Nikon D5000, the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM, and Yong Nuo YN465, as my primary gear. Of course, I have tripods, flash triggers, sling straps, etc., but those were my primary gear whenever there was an even or if I traveled.

I decided to get a prime lens as one of my first ever upgrades since the fix focal length will help me think about my shot; it forces me to frame better and actually use my legs and not just rely on zooming in on the subject. On top of that, I force myself not to crop my shots as much as possible (with exceptions of course), so this really forces me to think about my composition with a prime lens.

I was looking at a AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G prime lens, but I always like looking at the long game, in spite of not wanting to upgrade or buy more gear immediately without first improving myself, since it is nice to dream and have a goal to shoot for, I wanted to have my own version of a trinity of lenses (plus a prime) from the same manufacturer, because my obsessive compulsive personality disorder will its ugly head. However, the AF-S Nikkor 14–24mm f/2.8G ED, the AF-S Nikkor 24–70mm f/2.8G ED, and the AF-S Nikkor 70–200mm f/2.8G ED VR II are way to expensive to even think of having them as goal for me back then, and well, they are still too expensive especially for a hobbyist like myself that does photography for fun and not as a profession. Thus, I needed to look at third party lenses.

I stumbled into the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM from the guys at DigitalRev TV back in 2011 (I believe this is one of the very 1st videos I watch of Kai, Lok, and Alamby, and immediately became a fan of DRTV to the point that when they all eventually left, I still follow them in their social sites and in their own YouTube channels). Performance wise, may not be the best of the primes at that year, but something about it that I fell in love with, and of course, the price may be more than that of the AF-S DX Nikkor 35mm f/1.8G, though if I look at the long game and collect my other lenses from the same make, then Sigma will, in the long run, be cheaper than the Nikkor lenses. And thus, I took the chance and my mother bought me the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM to learn from and eventually be the centerpiece of my version of trinity lenses from Sigma (that I was able to complete in 2017, but as a prime lens, standard zoom lens, and a telephoto lens… still looking out for the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM wideangle to really be a part of the trinity and the prime now being the extra lens).

The moment I got it in my hands and placed it on my Nikon D5000, I knew I will have an amazing time with this lens, learning from it, and eventually improving with it. Like I said earlier, I got a prime since it will force me to think about my shots, make use of my legs; having it with a f/1.4 aperture, I can get those amazing bokeh (yes, I was all about the bokeh when I first got it, but “grew up” and learned when to shoot at a larger apeture and when not to for the sake of the composition), and with it being wide open, I can have better low light shots. Still quite sharp at wide open and focuses fast as you can imagine with a prime lens. So I was really enamored with Sigma and will definitely use this prime lens as the center piece of my trinity of Sigma lenses when the time comes (and that would be 6 years later).

As time went on, life took over for the most part, so I was at a point where I wasn’t really shooting photos regularly or at all. I even forgot my usual Lightroom workflow. Neglect did set in and it come be seen by the wear it got through the years. Not so much as dents, but more of faded logos and such, and the finish lost a bit of its luster. Performance wise, it mostly back focuses at wide open and can be quite soft nowadays at wide open (though since getting the D7200 with AF fine tune, it is sharp at wide open, but even back then with the D5000, I rarely shoot wide open due to the narrow depth of field that still introduces more soft shots or miss-focus; I mostly shoot with f/2.8 with this lens and go as high as f/2 since getting it at 2011, with rare times shooting at f/1.4 even when it was really sharp then), but shooting at f/2 or f/2.8 still is quite sharp with lovely bokeh. I might have it calibrated sometime in the future, but with my current D7200, the AF fine tune did help with its sharpness at wide open.

Around 2017, I finally got a new lens in the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM (for future Formula 1 races, since the earlier that year, I was saddened I didn’t have a fast telephoto lens to photograph the cars during the Singapore Grand Prix; as with my other posts where I mentioned Formula 1, I like to remind people I am a F1 fanatic since 1996), which along with Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM, were part of my dream lenses to complete my version of the trinity of lenses with my Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM (again, I’d like to point out “my own version of trinity”, since the trinity is usually a wide angle lens, a standard zoom lens, and a telephoto zoom lens. Basically to cover most focal lengths. But my version is the 30mm prime, the 17-50mm standard zoom, and the 50-150mm telephoto zoom… hoping to finally get a wide angle in the Sigma 10-20mm f/3.5 EX DC HSM). Even though I got new lens, I wasn’t really enthralled with photography like I used to. I was happy, and it looks great beside my 30mm, but I was still not back to where I used to be as an hobbyist in photography… I wasn’t as passionate.

It wasn’t until I went to Hong Kong with my sister in 2017 that I also met up with one of my closest friends. She showed me around Hong Kong at night, and street photography being my favorite genre of photography when I was really passionate, I took one photo of her that made me fall in love with photography all over again. And it was shot with my trusty Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM.

Note that the shot is not sharp at all even if I did shoot at f/3.3, but my other settings could have been better, but remember, I was really not into photography at a certain phase (around 2015-early 2017), I wasn’t as passionate, and didn’t care to remember any of my techniques. With that said, even if this shot could have better, there was something about this shot that made me want to return to photography; learn my techniques again and improve on them; get new gear, since at this time, I know that I have outgrown my D5000, albeit not remembering my old techniques; remember my Lightroom workflow and such.

It was a simple photo, could have been better technique wise, but it made me fall in love with photography again, and it was shot with Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM, showing that it can still get me excited.

Seven years later, nearing eight years, the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM is still my go-to lens for anything even if I already have the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM as my standard zoom lens. On travels or whatnot, I bring both the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM and Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM, with the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM when I know I will use it like last October 2018 for Japan and the Formula 1 race. But the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM will always be part of my gear. And at times, my only lens I take with me.

Is it because it out performs my other lenses? No (except the kit lens of course). Apart from the sentimental value because my mother bought it for me and it is my first lens upgrade, not to mention the MANY memories I’ve taken with it, but the fact that I am so familiar with its performance (and its deteriorating sharpness/rear focusing problem), I’m so familiar with its focal length (45mm equivalent since I use crop sensor bodies…), and I feel at home with it.

In time, I will have it calibrated so it can be sharp again at f/1.4 and and have less rear focusing (both partly fixed with D7200’s AF fine tune), but either way, this will still be my favorite lens, even if it never out performed out primes back in its day, and especially today.

Do I recommend this for you? No. There are better primes out there now for F-mount, either for crop sensor or full frame, and with the advent of Z-mount, in time, other F-mount lenses will also lower down in price.

Will I ever let this go? NO. Like above, no matter how other primes in the market can outperform this, it is the sentimental value and memories that makes me hold on to this hard. And that is not to say that this is an awful lens for photos. I can still take amazing shots with this! As I will demonstrate with my favorite shots through the years of using this lens.

Seven years later… still my go-to… still making memories… and technically, the one that started it all.

Now let’s look back seven years ago to my earlier shots to my more recent shots with the Sigma 30mm f1/.4 EX DC HSM; how I improved (if I really did improve; also the evolution of my watermarks lol), and why this lens is still my favorite that I own. Just my favorite shots I’ve taken with the lens (not absolutely all! That would be a nightmare to share… but I will still like my Flickr photostream so you can see all my other shots with this lens and my other lenses, on the D5000 or D7200, etc).

Note most shots were taken with the D5000, but by 2018 I have switched to a D7200 (I will make a future post as to why I opted for the D7200 over the D7500).

With that… I still love my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM for seven years and counting. And here’s to more years and memories!

‘Til next time! PEACE!!

 


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We All Started From Somewhere…

Simply, no, you do not need to get a “better” camera, you need a better technique first.

I’ve been into digital photography since 2010, but prior to that, I have been the designated family photographer when my dad got tired of doing it himself. We got Kodak, Olympus, and such, film cameras that auto-focuses and the like, since he can’t lend me his Canon AE-1 Program SLR for I was much too young to really understand how to manually shoot and that in film. However, that taught me the basics of photography, and what I feel is important, that is recognizing the moments and compositing/framing it.

When I finally got my own DSLR, and that is the Nikon D5000, I made sure to understand the features that it has, and of course, take advantage of those said features; learn to shoot in M-A-S-P modes; learn how and when to shoot in full manual focus when time permits or stick to auto focus as to not miss the moment; learn how to make use of lighting (since at that time I only had a pop up flash); experimented with different genres; learn how to post process RAW files; of course, still trying to learn how to frame and compose; and one thing that others take for granted, that is how to properly hold the camera – an important simple technique that can help increase the shot’s sharpness especially if the shutter speed is a tad slower.

I then outgrew the pop up flash, then got a Yong Nuo YN465 flash, so I can learn how to use a speedlight on shoe; directly pointing at the subject, bouncing it off the ceiling, etc. After some time, I then got me the Yong Nuo RF-602 flash trigger to learn how to control an off shoe flash.

And to this point, it was just my Nikon D5000, the kit lens, and the Yong Nuo YN465. I had dreams of getting “better” camera bodies, but definitely better glass. However I knew, the most important way to improve my shots is to continue to practice and improve my technique first.

In fact, I keep blaming myself if a shot isn’t as good as I’d hoped for, thinking it must be my settings, my technique, my lack of vigilance, to make the shot better. It was never my gear… And I still do blame myself to this day if I have shots that isn’t as good as I’d hoped for, and I’ve since upgraded my DSLR body.

But yes…

We all started somewhere, and this is where I started.

I thought of making this post, because since I started digital photography in 2010, through the years, I have gained a notoriety among my friends, family, colleagues, etc., that I am the go-to-guy for photography related things.

They knew I was passionate about photography as I am with my other hobbies like computers, other tech, gaming, anime/manga, Formula 1etc. And much like anyone else, once you are passionate about something, you learn the craft either by enrolling in university or you can easily be self taught by reading/watching a lot of references, and I am the latter… more self taught than anything. It gets easier to be self taught, too, if you are really passionate about it… (plus not being graded helps as well… wink wink)

But being the go-to-guy, I get loads of questions as to what gear they should get. Of course, it depends on their uses, their budget, and finally, their level of skill at that moment. If they are the type that just like taking quick photos for travel, dining, or other such things, not worrying about post processing or such; not a lot of extra cash to really spend a lot on interchangeable lens cameras; and just really starting out, I will advise them of a gear that is appropriate for them.

However, there are those that really want to get into the hobby and art of photography that feel that they immediately need to get an EXPENSIVE camera, because, of course, they think it will help them get great photos. Surely, a great camera will help you get great shots to an extent, but I still feel that you have to start somewhere and learn the proper technique first.

I also do not recommend the most expensive gear right away to beginners, because what if this was just a spurt of the moment or a fad of a hobby for them? They get the most expensive gear, then somewhere down the line, they realize they aren’t into it after all.

Whenever I get into a new hobby, I always know that I need to get a good enough item in respect to my new hobby; not too expensive, but at the same time not too cheap; not too feature filled, yet not so featureless… Goldilocks is what I was after.

And of course, that is what I usually tell anyone that asks me what camera to get, start with a mid-level camera, be it a DSLR, MILC, MFT, whatever… be it Nikon, Canon, Sony, Fujifilm, Olympus, etc…

Then after getting the camera body, with most likely a kit lens, I will say, get out of your comfort zone, read the frickin’ manual, get to know the features, learn compositing/framing, proper hand holding of camera, post processing, and of course, don’t be afraid of using AUTO FOCUS; they are still under the impression that if they use auto focus, they aren’t “pros”… I mean… photography isn’t our profession… we really aren’t pros in the first place. Another thing is, most pros do use AUTO FOCUS. Think of a wedding, if one person shoots in completely manual, at wide open, thus having shallower depth of field, most likely you will have out of focus shots. Same thing for me, if I  shot Formula 1 cars, which F1 is my favorite sport, in Singapore 2017 and Japan 2018, at full manual focus, I will not get any keeper at all (I can stop the aperture down, etc, to get most of them in focus, but yeah, you get the idea).

I will also tell them to learn to use the Manual, Aperture Priority, Shutter Priority, and Program modes. Along with the manual focusing, they feel that shooting completely manual mode them “pro”. Truth be told, I see friends posting photos in their social pages that are really not the sharpest of shots, awful framing, overly done post processing (too much clarity and texture; too much vignetting; too much saturation; and my pet peeve since I love black and white, a very BLAND black and white photo).

Granted I do shoot manual mode and manual focus if the situation calls for it. But I make damn sure my technique and skill that I have honed thru the years help me get a sharp shot and proper exposure.

Then they all go blaming their gear if their shot isn’t good or as they imagined.

So, in short, get a camera that isn’t going to hurt your wallet, but just enough features to help you learn and progress in the art of digital photography. Stick with your gear and don’t go thinking you need the most expensive gear to help you get better shots if your technique isn’t there to begin with. Hone you skills; hone you technique; have a feel for the moments and compose them; learn how to use ambient light, the lack thereof, and how to use your popup flash; have instincts as to what settings your camera needs to have for a certain situation…

Then when you outgrow some of you gear, like the pop up flash, then that is the prime time to upgrade! If you have outgrown the kit lens, then buy a new lens! Then when you feel that lens is now limiting your range, get another lens to pair with it! Until you have gotten the lenses you dreamed of (and in my case, I collected flashes along with lenses), and you feel that your camera can no longer help you grow creatively and and your craft, that is when you start thinking about getting a new camera body (preferably the same system as your previous camera, so you can still use the previous lenses, flashes, etc).

Just remember, we all started somewhere… This way you can also appreciate where you started and how far you’ve come. This way you can appreciate your brand new camera when the time comes and appreciate the differences from your previous camera. This way you have the confidence and skill to go beyond where you are now and learn new techniques and make new memories with your new gear.

We all started somewhere.

2011: around 3-4 months after I got my Nikon D5000
2018: When I upgraded to the Nikon D7200 (I will make another post as to why I chose the D7200 and not the D7500)
2017: When I collected my dream lenses. L-R: Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM purchased Sept 2011; Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM purchased Dec 2017; and Sigma 50-150mm APO EX DC OS HSM purchased Nov 2017.
2019: Knolled shot of my complete gear sans my shoulder bag and back pack.
We All Start From Somewhere
And it started with these back in 2010.

 

And with that…

Til next time!! PEACE!


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What’s in My Camera Bag: Street Photography Edition

I get often asked by my friends what do I bring with me when I do street photography, since, after all, street photography is one my favorite genres of photography – I love taking the life of the city/street or the lesser known areas and not just the landmarks its known for; I love taking candid shots of people and how they naturally act; I love the thrill of walking the fine line of being artistic and not crossing anyone’s privacy; the list can go on… Thus the majority of my shots I usually post in social media are street photos.

But what do I bring with me in the streets?

Well, let us check out what is in my camera bag… and well, what is my camera bag, too! So, let’s start with the bag!

 


 


1. ZKIN Champ Camera Shoulder Bag

My first couple of shoulder bags were a small Lowerpro one (funny thing is, I don’t know where this bag is now) and a small Nikon branded shoulder bag. Back when I was still using the Nikon D5000 and didn’t have that much gear, these 2 bags worked like a charm. then inevitably, I upgraded my DSLR and got more lenses and other gear, I needed a new shoulder bag that can accommodate my needs for street photography.

I love simplicity in designs overall; retro/vintage shoulder bags fit the description I’m looking for. Not only do they look quite classy per se, but for the uninitiated, they wouldn’t know you are packing in expensive photography gear inside (until you whip out your gear, of course), and makes going around the busy streets of anywhere easy without getting too much attention (again, until you whip out your gear, of course).

Truth be told, I never heard of ZKIN (Heck, I thought it was pronounced as skin, but with a Z instead, when it is pronounced Z-KIN, or at least that is how it is as per their URL), but this seller caught my eye as the bag he was selling was the Champ series and it looked vintage/retro enough, and certainly quite simple in design, thus fitting the bill. Not to mention it was the right color, navy green cloth and dark brown leather. Perfect.

Upon receiving the shoulder bag, I just wanted to test its max capacity. Take note, I will never bring ALL the items I will mention in the next segment in this bag all the time, but it was only a proof of concept that this ZKIN Champ shoulder bag is indeed a good bag for my needs.

 

So, what are the things in the photo that the bag was able to hold?

  1. Nikon D7200 with Nikon MB-D15 battery grip attached
  2. Nikon SB-600 with diffuser and stand
  3. Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM with lens hood (reversed)
  4. Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM with lens hood (reversed)
  5. Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM with lens hood (reversed) and tripod collar
  6. Black Rapid RS-Sport Version 2
  7. Extra 2x EN-EL15  batteries; 8x AA Eneloop batteries
  8. LYNCA SD Card Case (an over glorified one, as this one has a USB 3.0 card reader, but had water damaged. Thus an over glorified SD Card Case now)
  9. Transcend USB 3.0 Card Reader (with an OTG dongle)
  10. Eneloop charger (with AC adapter)
  11. Nikon MH25a (with AC adapter; I don’t bring this anymore though, as I use the Wasabi Power Dual EN-EL15 charger)
  12. Romoss Solo 5 Powerbank (and Anker Micro USB cable)
  13. M Square passport case (for overseas travel… duh)
  14. Andoer 77mm filter kit (ND2, ND4, ND8, and CPL)

Quite bonkers to think that many items can fit in the ZKIN Champ! But it is heavy as you can imagine. Again, I don’t pack all these in the bag for most trips, this was just a proof of concept. I will make another post in this “What’s in My Camera Bag” series, this time what I would usually bring for Formula 1 weekends that uses a backpack instead of a shoulder bag.

I’ve owned this bag for almost a year, as I purchased this last April 2018, and we had a lot of adventures around the Philippines already, and been to Japan as well, and surely, I will be adding more places around the Philippines and more countries to its CV in the coming years.

I am quite obsessive compulsive when it comes to anything I own, but this is one of the things I own that I don’t mind it getting scuffed up and such, as I consider them as battle scars for our adventures.

One of the scuffs or battle scars of my bag

 

Sadly, I can’t find the Champ series of shoulder bags in ZKIN website anymore. They have the Hydra series on the site, though it appears to be smaller in capacity; they also have the Cetus series and Amarok series that are the closest in capacity as the Champ series available on the site as well.

ZKIN Hydra
ZKIN Cetus
ZKIN Amarok

 

And just look at it! It looks great while out on the streets!

 

Now let’s go talk about my DSLR!

 


 

 

2. Nikon D7200

My first DSLR was the Nikon D5000 back in 2010 and as I gotten the lenses I wanted and other gear I wanted, it was time to upgrade the camera body as it was also starting to hinder my creativity and growth as a hobbyist photographer, thus I chose to upgrade to the D7200 in 2018.

Wait… isn’t the D7500 available at this time?

Yes by 2018, the D7500 was already out for a few months, so why didn’t I go for that simply by adding a little more cash to get the newer model? Well, a simple, almost shallow reason… okay, it is shallow… I liked the battery grip better on the D7200 since the D7200 has contacts on the bottom of the body, thus not needing an external wire connecting from the battery grip to the accessory terminal. The D7500 doesn’t have contacts on the bottom and has to rely on wiring up the battery grip and connect it at the accessory terminal… sure, I have a lot of things dangling or connected to my D7200 as it is, but I seriously wouldn’t like a shutter release cable connecting the battery grip and body permanently sticking out.

Image result for d7200 battery grip

Very shallow reasoning isn’t it?

And truth be told, the Nikon MB-D15 battery grip doesn’t add any new feature to the D7200, heck, it only takes 1 battery, just like the body itself (you can place a battery in the D7200 prior to connecting the battery grip, then by using the menu, tell the D7200 what order of batteries to consume first – in my case, I have 3 EN-EL15 batteries, I can place one in the body and another one in the battery grip, tell the D7200 to use the one from the battery grip first, once consumed, replace it with my third battery, and when that is consumed, have the one in the body be used), so why even bother getting a battery grip for the D7200? Because I like big things… that sounded wrong. Another shallow reason, though. The battery grip makes it look like those high end pro DSLR bodies. That’s it.

Those shallow reasons over a better sensor and a newer model… I’m weird like that.

Though the D7500 has a better sensor,  I still love the upgrade in resolution and quality of shots with the D7200, not to mention better features, coming from a D5000 over the years. So, I’m still happy with using the D7200 and opting out of the D7500.

I mentioned that it has a lot of things attached on it as it stands, apart from the Nikon MB-D15  battery grip, I got the Peak Design V4 Anchors on each of the triangle split rings, and I also have the Andoer QR-60 on the bottom of the camera.

Andoer Qr-60 is an Arca Swiss compatible plate that has a loop/hook that can be tucked away for use with a monopod/tripod or be revealed to be used with a sling strap.

 

The Anchor V4, along with a Joby Tether, are for added security in case the loop/hook breaks off from the pivot point (unlikely, but no price for peace of mind), as seen in the following pics:

 

You can read more of these two products HERE.

Now, wait again! Why not mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (MILC)?

Definitely don’t have that much extra cash to spend on a Sony, maybe a Fujifilm is possible, but that would mean me getting an adapter to use the system with my current lenses, lest I buy proprietary lenses for those systems.

Then comes the new Z series MILC from Nikon that even selling my kidney won’t be able to purchase one without getting into debt.

Thus, I stuck around the DSLR system for now. Maybe sometime in the future I will switch to the Z system of Nikon, but for the foreseeable future, I will be holding on to my D7200 for as long as I did with my D5000, or even longer.

Certainly the D7200 is not a camera to just laugh at, it has great performance for its time, and still is in most cases compared to other cameras right now. And whatever camera you have is already the best camera, as is the words of Chase Jarvis: “The best camera is the one that’s with you”. And I will make the most of my current gear.

Time to show the lenses I bring for street photography:

 


 

 

3. Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM

The first lens I bought outside that of the kit lens that was included with the D5000.

I got this lens sometime September 2011, and it has been, and most of the time still is, my go to lens for most situations even if I have a Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DS OC HSM (more on that later) and the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM (more on that on the next post on this series of “What’s in my Camera Bag”).

One of the reasons I wanted a prime lens was for me to think more of my shots instead of simply zooming. I also don’t crop my photos if I can, so putting that limitation on myself, forced myself to  make framing shots better.

Also, primes are fast lenses for street photography, and yes, I was already thinking about street photography at that time as a genre I want to get into in photography. Having a fast lens in the city streets is very handy, so you can take that perfect candid shot at that moment or take a shot of a stranger so quickly they won’t even notice you took it.

It may be a f/1.4 lens, but as you can imagine, it can get very soft at wide open, but sometimes you can get a good shot with it at that aperture.

For me, I usually shoot between f/2 and f/2.8, and only when I can have more time on a subject in the street that I try the aperture range of f/1.4 to f/1.8. Otherwise, I stay between f/2 and f/2.8 if I want that bokeh effect, and f/4 or f/5.6 for more of the image being in focus, sometimes even reaching as low as f/8 or f/11 to get nearly everything in the frame in focus.

This lens acts like the nifty fifties if you use it on a crop sensor body. In my case the Nikon D7200 has a crop factor of 1.5x thus a 30mm acts like a 45mm prime (30 x 1.5 = 45; or just get half the focal length and add it to the max focal length: 30 + 15 = 45), close enough for a 50mm prime.

Here are but some sample shots with the D7200 and 30mm f/1.4 combo (the 30mm f/1.4 has more sample shots combined with the D5000; I will probably post those in a different blog post):

 

Next lens!

 


 

 

4. Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM

After purchasing the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM in 2011, I haven’t bought another lens until 2017, December 2017 to be exact. I gotten busy with medical school and such, that I was content with my 30mm f/1.4 and the kit lens that came along with my D5000.

As part of my upgrading plan, I decided to buy the Sigma 50-150mm APO EX DC OS HSM the month prior in November 2017, which was one of my original dream lenses for the “Trinity of Lenses” that I was trying to collect when I first bought the 30mm f/1.4, then stumbled upon the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM for a bargain price that I can’t say no to. Come on, it may not be the best standard zoom lens with f/2.8 fixed aperture, heck, the distance scale isn’t even in a window like my 30mm or 50-150mm lenses, but for its original store price being a bargain in itself, having it go on sale more, makes it all the more sweeter. And it does take good photos for what its worth.

The 17mm (17 x 1.5 = 25.5; simply 25mm) on a crop sensor body like the D7200 still offers quite a wide angle perfect for street photography, as it is effectively a 25mm at this point, practically 24mm like other standard zoom lenses for full frames, to literally get, the bigger picture, but can still zoom (max zoom at 50mm is effectively 75mm) to get those closer shots without having to be in the faces of people if they are your subject.

Being wide open at f/2.8 is more forgivable, unlike the 30mm at f/1.4, of course, so shooting at its widest is a pleasure. Then, like the 30mm, I stop down to f/4 or f/5.6 to get more of the frame in focus, and again like the 30mm, can go even lower to f/8 or f/11 to get even more of the frame in focus. It being a f/2.8 lens makes it quite a fast lens as well, and like I mentioned in the 30mm section, having fast lenses helps a ton in the streets.

Here are quite a number of sample shots with the D7200 combined with the 17-50mm f/2.8:

 


 

 

5. Nikon SB-600 Speedlight

Truth be told, you don’t need a flash during street photography, be it day time or night, well for me anyways, but I still bring it just in case I do need to illuminate an object or an area of interest in very, very, low light situations. Otherwise, I just bump the ISO quite a lot; on the D7200 I bump it up to 6400 if needed, it may get noisy,  but not so much that a photo is unusable. Plus, if you try to take photos of the people candidly, a flash will surely make them notice you.

Again, I still bring one flash for other situations that may indeed call for it.

Now let’s go talk about the other accessories, starting with my sling strap:

 


 

 

6. Black Rapid RS-Sport Version 2

I was never fond of neck straps ever since I started with digital photography as a hobby. Back when I first began my hobby I got cheaper sling straps that are obvious knock offs of the Black Rapid variety.

Fast forward to when I got my license as a physician and got work as to not pester my parents for money for my hobbies anymore, I got myself the Black Rapid RS-Sport Version 2, finally, after years of drooling over the Black Rapid sling straps.

Sling straps divert the weight that would be on your neck to your shoulder, effectively making it seem you are carrying a messenger/shoulder bag. This comes in handy if your camera gear as a whole is heavy – lesser strain on your neck.

Another good thing is that since it is just dangling on beside your hip, you can be a lot more mobile without having it to be quite bothersome as the day goes on if you just use a neck strap.

Lastly, you look less like a tourist. Not that I don’t like looking like a tourist when I travel especially to different countries; playing the tourist card can get you forgiven for the stupid things you might have done during the trip because you don’t know any better. But with this, you stand out less, so to speak.

Been using a sling strap for nearly 8 years now and I don’t plan on ever switching to a neck strap or any other type of gimmicky strap other than this sling strap.

This strap has the Joby Tether and a Peak Design strap connector for added security when used with the Andor QR-60.

 


 

 

7. Spare EN-EL15 batteries and AA Eneloop batteries

You can never tell when a simple street photo session can be short one lasting an hour or a long whole day adventure, so having spare batteries for the DSLR is obviously needed.

I have 3 EN-EL15 batteries in total, one from Nikon that came with the camera, and 2 others bought 3rd party, the Wasabi Power EN-EL15, that also came with a dual charger that actually takes in Micro USB instead of the standard AC, which is great if I travel out of town or out of the country, because by then, I would have also packed an Anker 5-port USB charger, thus one less thing to take up a socket.

In terms of performance vs the original Nikon OEM, the Wasabi Power EN-EL15 batteries are really great; holding a charge just as good, if not, slightly better, than my Nikon branded one. I highly recommend this brand if you need spare batteries  as they sell for Sony and Canon as well (haven’t checked if they started selling for Fujifilm).

The longest shoot I had was in Japan, for 3 consecutive days, I shot the whole day, for both street photography and during the Formula 1 race, and I never consumed more than 2 batteries on each of the 3 days. Having the 3rd one is still great just in case I do consume 2 batteries one of these days, but thus far, never consuming 2 batteries on a long day shoot.

The AA Eneloops are just for the flash if I really need it.

 


 

 

8. Spare SanDisk SDHC Cards, LYNCA Card Case, and Transcend USB 3.0 Card Reader

Like the batteries, it is best practice to have spare SD/SDHC or whatever memory cards your camera is using.

In terms as to what speed/performance for your memory cards, that is based on what you are shooting really. For me, I don’t mind just using the SanDisk Ultra SDHC 32GB what has a write speed of at least 10MB/s; good enough for any day to day shooting.

For instances, like in Formula 1 races where I shoot Continuous High, I use the SanDisk Extreme PRO, which have a write speed up to 90MB/s; great to avoid buffering during this shots. Also great for long exposures, since it can take a while for it to write on the card.

A card case is simply for convenience. My LYNCA card case is an over glorified card case as it was once my USB 3.0 card reader as well. But water got into the contacts rendering it useless… I have since replaced the car reading duties with the Transcend USB 3.0 card reader and have a generic OTG dongle, so I can connect the reader to my phone and post straight-out-of-camera (SOOC) shots, if I feel like it.


 

 

9. Andoer 77mm Filter Kit

I chose to bring a ND2, ND4, ND8, and CPL 77mm filters in case the need calls for it. The Sigma 30mm is a 62mm threaded lens, so I also got a step ring just for it – I need not get the same filters for 62mm threads.

Wow, this is the shortest section of the blog post yet! Because, what else will I say? Oh wait, why Andoer? It is cheaper, that’s why, and I hardly use ND or CPL filters anyways, it is just there for those rare moments I do need them.

The next for is shot with D7200, 17-50mm f/2.8, and a ND8 filter; not a street photo, but yeah, whatever:

 


 

 

10. Dust blower and micro fiber clothes

Because after a shoot, or even during a shoot, dirt, moisture, etc., can be built up on the front of your lens, causing awful artifacts in some of your shots.

Plus… I have Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder.

This is officially the shortest segment.

 


 

And those are the things I bring with me typically to a simple street photography session. Most cases I also travel out of town or country, so I have a backpack/luggage to keep the other things like chargers, AC cables, tripod/monopod/gorilla pod (if I deem that I need it), intervalometer (again, if needed), and rain cover for my gear (I usually read forecasts and pack accordingly. A great example was in Japan, where on the 3rd day I’m there, there will be a short afternoon shower during the Formula 1 race; I packed accordingly, and got to use the rain cover when the heavens opened up).

 

During qualifying for the 2018 Japanese Grand Prix; packed a rain cover for my camera since I read the forecast and packed accordingly. Again not a street photo shot, but whatever!

 

Other things like my phone, a powerbank and a micro USB cable, earphones, shades (just a pair, of course), can still fit inside the ZKIN Champ bag with my street photography gear if I choose to place them in there.

 

Knoll shot up ahead:

 

And the following photos are how I usually pack my ZKIN Champ bag with the street photography gear:

With the front of the bag facing me, I usually place the Nikon SB-600 on the left compartment and the dust blower can be tucked on top; in the middle, the Nikon D7200 lies and still have space on top of it in case I want to place anything else; and finally, the Sigma 30mm and 17-50mm stacked on top of one another on the right compartment
The space between the case insert and the bag itself I can tuck away the Andoer filter kit and the Black Rapid RS-Sport Version 2 strap
Left front pocket is reserved for the SD/SDHC card case, card reader, and the OTG dongle; still room for anything else
The right front pocket is the “power pocket” where the extra EN-EL15 batteries are placed
Continuing the theme of “power pocket”, the Eneloop batteries can be placed in here, too; there is still space to place a powerbank if I choose to do so.
Back pocket is a catchall, if you will, I place the flash stand, microfiber cloth, and anything else really
And still looking good with all that!

 

Thus with that, this post is done! Tune in next time if ever I do make a sequel to this series, this time what I bring during a Formula 1 event!

Til next time! PEACE!



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How I Use My DSLR on an Arca-Swiss Compatible Tripod/Monopod While Still Being Able to Use a Black Rapid RS-Sport Version 2 Without Unscrewing Anything (almost)

I, for one, never got into using neck straps for cameras. Even when I got my Nikon D5000, I only used the neck strap once while I was waiting for a sling strap. Now take note, that sling strap I bought back then when I first started in my hobby of digital photography was a cheapo Black Rapid knock off, because, well, I was still a medical student, and it was my parents that helped me pay for my Nikon D5000, so I don’t have much of my oen money to spend on accessories. But simply put, as early as I got into photography, I knew I would not be using a neck strap.

Granted, I am talking about the stock neck strap that comes along with a brand new DSLR, MFT, MILC, etc. Most of the aftermarket neck straps like the Cecilia or Peak Design neck straps are indeed a far better cry that the stock ones, but I still had my reasons for not wanting to use a neck strap.

My reasoning for not using a neck strap were a bit odd, but some are justified. Let us go through them:

  1. They are not comfortable:
    • shooting all day, especially with the stock straps, can give me neck pain and it can be a bit annoying when you consciously feel it on your neck the whole day.
  2. They can be quite attention grabbing:
    • practically, you are a walking ad with that big camera manufacturer logo; I do take a lot of street photography and want to be incognito as much as possible. TAKE NOTE, THOUGH! I am still very interested in the Black Rapid Nikon AN-SBR2 sling strap, albeit, attention grabbing (lol)
    • When travelling to a different city/country, you can look more of a tourist than you already are (lol)
  3. May slip off shoulder if used as a shoulder strap:
    • If using it as a neck strap isn’t for you, you can always make it like a shoulder bag and carry it that way, but the stock strap does not grip too well and may slip off your shoulder.
  4. Too small to be used as a cross body sling:
    • Like using it as a shoulder strap, you can just try and use it as a cross body sling strap, but it is far too small to do so.
  5. Future proofing my comfort with heavy lenses:
    • Even when I first started out with my Nikon D5000, I knew I will be collecting heavy lenses and most likely upgrade my DSLR body. It may be 4-5 years off, but I always like to at least try and future proof my comfort – using a neck strap while using a telephoto lens will tip the center of gravity.
  6. Too mainstream (lol)
    • Yeah… everyone has it.

See? Told you my reasoning is shallow, but here we are.

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Cheap Black Rapid knock off… the Quick Strap

The very first sling strap I own, as mentioned above, was a cheapo sling strap simply called Quick Strap. From 2010-2015, I actually used this in every event, every trip, absolutely anything.

Around 2015, I would have already owned a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM (bought at 2011) and a Yongnuo YN465 Speedlite Flash (also bought 2011), along with my Nikon D5000, it was fairly heavy altogether. I mean, nowadays, I realized that combination wasn’t at all heavy, since my current gear are more heavy, but for what it’s worth back then from 2010-2015, even if this is a knock off sling strap, it did it job well.

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Black Rapid FastenR

One thing I like about the Quick Strap quick release plate system is that the 1/4″ screw that is used to attach the quick release plate also has 1/4″ threading on the opposite side, so you can still use you tripod without having to remove the strap’s plate, unlike that of the Black Rapids that use a D-ring fastener, named FastenR, as seen above.

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Black Rapid RS-7

By 2016, I wanted to finally get a Black Rapid strap. I got the Black Rapid RS-7, though a bit late to the party, because this was released around 2010, if I am not mistaken, and there was already a Black Rapid RS-Sport available with the Brad Strap (the strap that loops around under your armpit to keep the strap from sliding too much), but around 2016 I just starting working as a physician since I just passed my licensure exam earlier that year. So I wasn’t in the realm of affording the more expensive sling straps from Black Rapid.

I loved the RS-7, since knowing that the cheapo knock off worked so well, I had no doubt that the Black Rapid RS-7 will hold up to any sort of condition.

My only gripe was, as was already mentioned, is that the FastenR takes up the tripod mount screw from the bottom of the camera, so if you want to use a tripod, you have to unscrew the FastenR, screw in the quick release plate from your tripod, and when you are done, you do the opposite. Time consuming. But I wasn’t all too bothered.

By 2017, I started to get into photography again big time, so it was time to complete my version of Holy Trinity of Lenses: I got a Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM and a Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM, to join my “go-to” lens that I already own, the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM. I also got a Nikon SB-600 Speedlight Flash to finally replace my Yongnuo YN465 Speedlite Flash.

Now with my new gear, especially if I attach the 50-150mm lens along with the SB-600 flash, unto my Nikon D5000, it was certainly very heavy and the center of gravity certainly shifted towards the front, so I have to screw in the FastenR onto the telephoto lens’ tripod collar to alleviate it. This adds to another set of time consuming screwing/unscrewing if I switch lenses (thus changing the center of gravity again), or if I need to use the tripod on the tripod collar for the telephoto lens. Again, I wasn’t all too bothered.

As 2018 rolled in, I did upgrade my Nikon D5000 to a Nikon D7200 and also grabbed the Nikon MB-D15 battery vertical grip (one of the major reasons why I chose the D7200 over the D7500 – the latter doesn’t have contacts on the bottom of the camera to communicate with a battery vertical grip without using a cable on the side). This is definitely a big heavy upgrade once again, and the Black Rapid RS-7 had no problems with my new current gear, even at its heaviest configuration. And the comfort, as always with any sling strap I ever used, was there.

Some would argue that it bumps on your hip too much, but overall, I don’t even notice it too much.

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Focus F1
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Black Rapid RS-Sport version 2

It is at this year I also added 2 more sling straps: a Focus F1 sling strap and (finally) a Black Rapid RS-Sport version 2 (slimmer version than the original). The former is more of a backup and the latter is more of my “go-to” sling strap. As for my Black Rapid RS-7, I gave it to my dad, and he is still using it to the fullest.

The comfort is there… all throughout the years that I have been using a sling strap, no matter the brand, or lack thereof, but the screwing/unscrewing for the tripod mount, is starting to annoy me.

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Zomei Z699C

I also recently got a Zomei Z699C (review later on), that takes advantage of an Arca-Swiss standard quick release plate, so I thought, there has to be an Arca-Swiss compatible quick release plate that can also easily hook up with a sling strap.

There was a famous video on how to still use your tripod easily that uses Arca -wiss standard, while your camera either has a L-bracket or the tripod plate:

Black Rapid FastenR Tripod

And there is of course, the Black Rapid FastenR Tripod, that is essentially a D-ring that can hook up to your sling strap and the can be tucked away if you need to use the tripod/monopod. The idea here is that you replace the screw from the quick release system with one of these.

The former method, since I live in the Philippines, is not as easy to get the items shipped here for a decent shipping fee… Heck, I recently got 4 SDF Macros figurines, shipping was 60 bucks and then I had to pay another 80 bucks for import fees… I nearly died.

The latter seems to be too thin of a metal holding in the ring to really carry my gear in its heaviest configuration.

There has to be another way!

Arca-Swiss Compatible Fusion Plate – Black
Fusion Photo Gear: Arca Swiss Compatible Fusion Plate:

I chanced upon a the Fusion Plate from Fusion Photo Gear. As seen from above, it is an Arca-Swiss compatible quick release plate that happens to have a loop for your sling strap and that can be tucked away when it is time to place it on a tripod/monopod.

Sadly, as already mentioned, it is tough for me to get it shipped here in the Philippines, so I was just looking for any product similar that is available locally, or granted, if it were shipped, have it easily shipped without too much fuss.

Plus the price… I wasn’t willing at first to spend 65 bucks on this plate (maybe later on lol), so I found one that is of similar design from Andoer.

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Andoer QR-60
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Andoer QR-60

As you can see, it is similar in design, and the price is better, but you get what you pay for, as they say; so far, it is holding up VERY well even with my current gear on its heaviest configuration.

I even spent an entire day using this on the tripod collar of the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM (plus lens hood for the heck of it) with the Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter, all attached on the Nikon D7200 that has the Nikon MB-D15 (I placed 1 EN-EL15 battery inside the D7200 body and another on the MB-D15 battery vertical grip to add more weight), and added the Nikon SB-600 (4 AA Eneloop inside), and it had no problem carrying it all in the loop. NOTE: This is my gear’s heaviest config, but I don’t find myself using this config for any future shoot… it is just to test the QR-60.

What I feared at first for both the Fusion or Andoer plate is if the aluminum loop is a single piece of metal that hinges on the bigger black aluminum plate. It turns out that the loop is of several components: 1 is the actual aluminum loop, a couple of ball bearings to lock the loop in certain angles, and a very sturdy metal rod to attach the loop on the metal plate. This is important to me, because if it was a single piece of aluminum hinging on the plate, there is a bigger chance of failure, but having a separate rod, lessens the failure. It can still fail… but not as likely.

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Joby Tether

Of course! I am still worried that a failure will indeed occur, so I added a Joby Tether, which according to research, can hold up to 15lbs of gear; now my gear in its heaviest is not 15lbs, it is more of 10lbs, but upon receiving this item in the mail, I tested it with my gear, holding the tether, and dropping my gear towards my bed (DUH!), and it does carry my gear perfectly without snapping it. This isn’t meant to carry your gear the whole day, though it can, it is more of security, so when something fails, this will give you enough time to pick up your gear as it dangles.

And so, the last problem with this tether is that I have to hook it to one of the strap eyelet or the triangle split ring on the camera body itself, then the carabiner to be hooked on to your sling strap, but as you can see from the pic above, the carabiner on the tether is not that easy to unhook. I will not place this carabiner on the Black Rapid CarabineR itself, because I also categorize that as a possible failure point, so the tether’s carabiner should be hooked on the sling on its own directly.

Peak Design Anchor Links Strap Connector V4

Thus I decided to purchase a Peak Design Anchor Links Strap Connector V4; well, I wanted to purchase it, but my mom insisted she buy it for me for my upcoming birthday. So there.

I looped one end of the Joby Tether to one of the Peak Design Anchor Links, and one of the Anchors will be looped on one of the strap eyelets/triangle split ring of the camera it self, acting as a quick release system, while the carabiner of the tether is permanently in placed in the sling.

So, let us see how I set it up!

The Andoer QR-60 attached to the tripod mounting screw; this is important, because with the Black Rapid FastenR, I had to unscrew it in order to place the Arca-Swiss compatible plate to use it on my tripod/monopod
If I want to use my Black Rapid RS-Sport V2 or any sling strap, I just pull down the loop
Hook up my sling strap!
Combined the Joby Tether with one of the Peak Design Anchors Links
Added one of the Peak Design Anchor V4 to one of the triangle split rings
Hooked up the Joby Tether’s carabiner to the sling strap; best if it is ahead of you sling strap’s own carabiner
Then link up the Peak Design Anchor Link and Anchor V4! You are done!
All I have to do is reverse the process, then I can now mount it on a tripod/monopod, granted it uses Arca-Swiss compatible mounts, without having to unscrew anything… except the actual screw to lock or unlock the plate on the tripod/monopod (told you from the title… almost…)
I also added another Andoer QR-60 on my Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM’s tripod/monopod collar
Same concept, pull down the loop from the Andoer QR-60, hook up your sling strap’s carabiner, then connect the Peak Design Anchor Link and Anchor V4 for added security if something fails, and you are good to go!
Again, just reverse the process, then you can mount it easily on a tripod/monopod! Note, I also added the Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter just for testing of carrying around the heaviest configuration of my camera. That is: Nikon D7200, with Nikon MB-D15 battery vertical grip (1 EN-EL15 inside the actual body and 1 EN-EL15 on the battery vertical grip for added weight), Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM, Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter, and I then added the Nikon SB-600 (with 4 AA Eneloops insde), just to have the heaviest configuration and walk around the house for some time. It all held up wonderfully.

And there you have it! That is how I use my DSLR that has a Black Rapid RS-Sport Version 2 (or any sling strap that applies) on an Arca-Swiss compatible tripod/monopod! It may be quite a lot of components, but it works, and it is quick to switch between the use of a sling strap and then mounting it on a tripod/monopod.

Hope this helps!

Cheers!

Nikon D7200 “Peaked”

NOTE: ALL PHOTOS USED IN THIS POST BELONG TO THEIR RESPECTIVE OWNERS.


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Another Dream Come True: My Trip to Japan! Days 0-1!

WARNING:

VERY WORD HEAVY AND PHOTO HEAVY POST!

THIS WAS ORIGINALLY A SINGLE POST OF ALL THE DAYS OF MY TRIP, BUT I DECIDED TO DIVIDE IT TO THREE POSTS:

FIRST POST, THIS POST, WILL BE FOR THE INTRODUCTION AND DAYS 0-1 OF MY TRIP;

THE SECOND WILL BE DURING THE DAY 2 (FORMULA 1 QUALIFYING SESSION);

THE THIRD POST WILL BE FOR DAY 3 (FORMULA 1 RACEDAY), AND DAY 4, WHERE I AM GOING BACK HOME TO THE PHILIPPINES.

FINALLY, IF YOU STILL FIND EACH DAY A LONG READ, THEN TREAT EACH DAY AS A CHAPTER AND READ IN SPURTS.


Introduction

Talk about being late to a party… I traveled to Japan, specifically in Nagoya and Suzuka, for a short vacation and, of course, watch the FIA Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix – a race that I have always wanted to attend since I was a kid, in a country I have always wanted to visit since I was a kid, last October 4-8, 2018, and I only, finally, have time to write about. Here’s hoping I still remember what I have done in those days…

First off, a lot of my friends, both close and otherwise, would know me as a guy, in spite of my age, is still into anime/manga, gaming, collecting, and a passionately weird guy… With that said, it is obvious that someone like me love the country of Japan and anything Japanese. Thus, having to go to Japan is already a dream come true.

Second off, I am a Formula 1 (hereafter, F1) fan for 22 years now, and the Suzuka Circuit that hosts the Japanese Grand Prix ranks as one of the highest on my bucket list of F1 racetracks to attend. And again, having to visit the track and attend the race weekend, is another dream come true.

09-24-2018 Japanese GP Tickets!!-1
That moment I got my Formula 1 tickets!
09-24-2018 Japanese GP Tickets!!-2
Comparison with last year’s Formula 1 package; if you are up to date with F1, you’d know they changed their logo from this year onward.
09-24-2018 Japanese GP Tickets!!-3
No hard plastic/ID card ticket on the package; one must pick it up at the venue, unlike last year in Singapore.

Adding those 2 dreams together, this is like the perfect trip for me! And it was!

Seeing that it has been way over two months since I traveled to Japan alone (yes, another solo adventure, which is better anyway lol), let us go down memory lane together… starting with…


DAY 0

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Solo trip!

The plane ride to Japan was pretty standard, plus no annoyance or drama since I am traveling ALONE, so I can just concentrate on my own things, upon arriving however, it was immediately fun and adventurous as I had to take a train from Chubu Centrair International Airport to the heart of Nagoya in order to check into my hotel.

PHOTO_20181004_184135_1
Meitetsu μTicket

It was already a trip to ride this just to get to my hotel since Japan is really known for the transport system, and having to ride the metro/subway for the duration of my trip in Japan first hand, I can say they are well maintained. Sure there was one time I did get into the subway at the afternoon rush hour, but it was still minor hassle.

10-04-2018 Japan Day 0 WP-1

My hotel, VIA INN, specifically VIA INN Nagoya Ekimae Tsubakicho, since there are actually 2 VIA INNs in close proximity, happens to be relatively close to the station, thus why I chose it, and I am glad I did, as it was seriously in the heart of the city so I can pretty much go anywhere interesting nearby, and since the station was also close by, I can pretty much go anywhere a bit farther.

10-04-2018 Japan Day 0 WP-5

Since it was already past 9PM upon check in, and was quite tired from the flight, I decided just to limit my exploration in this DAY 0 and just head out to a Curry House CoCo for dinner.

10-04-2018 Japan Day 0 WP-2

Immediately, my love for Japan has increased, because unlike other countries where they use celebrities or athletes in their ads, in Japan they use they beloved gaming characters or anime characters to advertise absolutely anything and everything.

Of course, there are JPOP Idols like AKB48 and such that also advertise things, and I also don’t mind that! I happen to like JPOP, the only pop songs I care to listen to… So in short, I feel right at home in Japan.

I happen to know a few Japanese phrases, and these came in handy the following days; it is nice to note, that unlike in Tokyo (though I have never been there yet), other cities in Japan, most people may not know a lot of English, so knowing simple phrases can help. Not saying they CAN’T speak English, they do, but there can still be a barrier when you need directions or buying things.

When I run out of Japanese phrases and English is not the way to go in communicating, I did resort to the offline mode of Google Translate, type in what I want to say, show it anyone, and they either reply to me in English directly or type their reply.

So if anyone goes to Japan outside the majors cities like Tokyo, Nagoya, etc., you may encounter more language barriers, thus knowing a phrases and/or using the offline mode of Google Translate will help you and keep you confident going around. PLUS! This is Japan! MOST EVERYONE IS HELPFUL! One of the safest countries to travel alone, which I did…

10-04-2018 Japan Day 0 WP-3

Anyways, I used a mixture of my known phrases along with Google Translate to order my curry rice from Curry House CoCo, and if you are familiar with the curry rice from Japan, it isn’t the usual Indian style curry you’d expect, but both are very delicious.

10-04-2018 Japan Day 0 WP-4

Having satisfied my hunger, I had to be taken aback for a moment to realize what I just achieved; now this isn’t the first time I traveled alone, that would have been last year when I went to Singapore, also for a F1 race, but still, having to travel to Japan for the first time, alone for that matter; having to rely on my prior research from getting from Point A to Point B around Japan; being so at home immediately in Japan; knowing I will also watch my all time favorite sport, F1, in my all time favorite country to ever visit, Japan… I really can’t think of a more perfect vacation, a more perfect race weekend.


DAY 1

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Ready to explore!

I considered the day before, the arrival day, as Day 0, because pretty much nothing really happened apart from me nearly crying at the fact I am in Japan… the country I absolutely adore… So the very next day is Day 1, officially vacation mode!

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My plan for the trip! I am OC like this… In fact, most of my trips anywhere, I make plans, but not as detailed as this LOL
plan
Vital files that were also transferred to my tablet and phone; every time I have a trip outside the country, I do this, but the detailed general plan is a first.

As mentioned in Day 0, I did make some research prior to going to Japan; since this is in fact my first time in Japan, and me traveling alone, I needed to research on how to use the metro/subway, how to get to here or there, what to see and do, etc., and I will just give a bit of a spoiler, my research and subsequent plan that I made for the trip worked perfectly! This goes to show that being obsessive compulsive about any minute detail can aid you in traveling to other countries you never visited before. Now I may just ask the locals, but like I mentioned above, sometimes, though they may understand and speak English, there are still a number of people in Japan that may have a barrier, but with that said, they will still be more than willing to help, despite the barrier.

When I went to Singapore, I wasn’t all too worried from getting from Point A to Point B, because it is relatively easier to navigate since it is smaller than Japan, but it is not like I walked from end to end in Singapore, what I mean is that, it is easier to get to the airport, the hotel, the track, other tourist spots, etc, than in Japan, specifically when I have to go to my hotel from the airport, or from my hotel to the track in Suzuka… Also, I have friends that live in Singapore, so if the going gets rough, I will just give them a call. My trip to Japan, I really only had myself to rely on. Just the way I like it. It forces me to be… dare I say it… an adult.

BIC Camera
Preordered a Sigma APO 1.4x Teleconverter EX DG, since the Sigma 2x APO Teleconverter EX DG was sold out, but was surprised when I got to the shop and they had the 2x Teleconverter after all!

Also prior to the trip to Japan, I was researching for any camera shop nearby (there were lots of anime/manga, toy/hobby, tech/gaming shops nearby, so I need not research to much on them lol), since I was considering purchasing a Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG to couple it with my Sigma 50-150mm APO EX DC OS HSM and my Nikon D7200.

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Went to the wrong Bic Camera at first; there are two Bic Cameras close to my hotel.
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The correct Bic Camera!

Lo and behold! I found a shopping complex near my hotel that has a floor specifically for cameras! Bic Camera allowed me to preorder the item online and pick it up at their Nagoya shop (but there are two, and I knew about that, but I still accidentally went to their other shop which was also nearby lol) and have it tax free, and so, a few days before heading out to Japan, I preordered my Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG. Or at least that was the plan; they said that the 2x Teleconverter is sold out in the any of Nagoya Bic Camera outlets and the one near my hotel only has the 1.4x Teleconverter, thus I said, alright, let’s just get that and confirmed my preorder.

Thus the first order of business is to pick up my item and not get to excited along the way and buy every anime/gaming/tech thing I see. And to my surprise, when I showed the paper for my preorder, they came out with a 2x Teleconverter! So I was very happily surprised!

Broketober 2018

It was a bit surreal purchasing a DSLR accessory in another country for me; I mean, sure it is almost like buying any sort of souvenir, but I always had a rule never to buy any electronic/tech gear outside my home country of the Philippines because of the simple fact that if it does fail or have problems later on, I can’t use the shop’s warranty, and let’s face it, the manufacturer’s warranty here in the Philippines can cause so much more hassle than it is worth – trust me, I have dealt with numerous RMA’s and it never ended well… actually, most of the time, it doesn’t even start well.

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Having purchased it without hassle since it was reserved for me prior to my flight, and the staff are very friendly, then add in the numerous, almost overwhelming amount of camera gear from Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc., it was like I am a kid at a candy store.

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Blurry. I know.

Also of note, just a few floors below are the action figures/hobby floor, and another is the gaming floor, and yet another floor is the PC floor. I can live here!

Another simple reason why I love Japan is that they don’t shy away from their interests and hobbies, be it gaming, anime, tech, anything! No matter how old they get, no matter if real life gets in the way, they still go back to their hobbies and are not afraid or shy to show it.

I for one, being a Filipino-American, I guess I am a little more comfortable than most people here in the Philippines to show his weird side… his sometimes, well most of the time, unbearable weird side, to others. But I don’t mind and I am not embarrassed to show my passion for my manga/anime, gaming, tech, Formula, photography, music, and action figure collecting hobbies. And to show it PASSIONATELY.

That is not to say there are no passionate people here in the Philippines with their hobbies. THERE ARE! And quite a lot! Which makes collecting easier nowadays since there are many hobby shops popping up now. Also, with the advent of the internet, ordering overseas for those rarer items are so much easier, too! But in terms of my close personal friends, I don’t have that many that are as crazy or passionate as me. I do have some, but they few and far in between.

Wait, I digress… this is supposed to be about my Day 1 shenanigans at Nagoya!

Keep Walkin'...

In The Art of the City

I had to dash back to the hotel to drop of my Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM lens and newly bought Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG, then pack in my Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM and Sigma 30mm F/1.4 EX DC HSM lenses to explore more of Nagoya. And yes, I love my Sigma and Nikon combinations!

Next stop is at Nagoya Castle!

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I had to take the subway, and on the way, make one transfer until I reach the station just next to the castle. This is where my research and careful planning comes into play. And I felt triumphant, because my plan worked perfectly and not once did I feel that I got lost.

I made sure to go later than 8-9AM because of the rush hour, and being it my first time riding their subway, I need to make sure I get a seat to get used to it first.

Also, if in the rare event you do get lost or not sure where to go next, of course there are staff always ready to help you out. But it feels so much better doing things on your own, on your own (meaning, traveling alone and not relying so much on anyone but you yourself… like I did).

Another World

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With my friendly tour guides, Yasuyuki-san Mayumi-san!

I decided, upon reaching the castle, I will take up the free English Tour Guide, so at least I won’t blindly go around the castle complex without knowing anything. That way I can learn about the history and just have a fun time with the tour guides.

And talk about lucky!

I was told by Yasuyuki-san Mayumi-san, my wonderfully entertaining, knowledgeable, and friendly tour guides, that starting next year, they will start renovating the main keep and it won’t be as visible to the public. So, I visited on the right time. And as we continue with this post, you will see just how lucky I am this day visiting the castle premises.

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The golden kettle that was made from the original “shachi”

Looking at the scenery just around the castle, we also stopped by one of their tea houses and I was again lucky to see the golden kettle that is used for the tea ceremony; that golden kettle was made from the remains of the original golden “shachi” – A shachihoko or shachi is from Japanese folklore, where an animal has a head of a tiger and the body of a carp – and it usually hidden behind a glass casing, but during Fridays, the day I visited, they bring it out for the people to see, and they actually use it for customers that have tea.

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Moving on, I was learning a lot the history of the castle and that of my tour guides as persons as well. Of course, I will not give you a lesson on what I just learned from them in the history of the castle, you can always Google that, or preferably, if you ever visit Nagoya, grab a free tour guide (free English tour guides start at 1PM local time), so you can befriend and learn the history!

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Getting ever closer to the main castle keep, I was pointed towards the Hommaru Palace that was originally built in 1615 by the first Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, for his son, was actually under restoration for, if I remember correctly, for the past 10 years, and was just recently finished and opened for public viewing starting June 8 of this year. So I got lucky yet again!

I will not be posting any pictures from inside the palace, for it will add to the total picture count in the post, not to mention, more words, and it will ruin the magic… It is best to see it in person!

Nagoya Castle Main Keep

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Arigatou! Yasuyuki-san Mayumi-san!

After the palace, and after seeing the main keep a lot closer, a few more chit chat with my tour guides, it was time to part ways. It was a free tour guide, since they were volunteers, but I wanted to at least give them something for snacks or drinks, but as expected, especially from the Japanese, they wholeheartedly declined my offer. I promised the next time I ever visit again, I will surely do my best to see them, granted they will still be volunteering. Nice people like them is hard to come by nowadays.

Parting ways didn’t mean I left the castle grounds immediately, I still enjoyed myself with snacks and drinks and to get a breather, since carrying 2 lenses, my DSLR, though not so heavy, does take a toll on me, especially with a bad right knee.

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I am welcomed a ninja clan!

I was entertained by a ninja performance, so it bought more time to rest, and of course, photo opportunity with one of the ninja!

@Nagoya

Aki

I then took a few more minutes to rest up, drink up some more, then head onto the city vis subway once more, this time to just explore anything and end up in Maidreamin Cafe! Yes, a maid cafe… because OF COURSE!!

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The Lines That We Cross

Road Rules

I was also supposed to go to Osu Shopping District to find nice souvenirs for my friends, and maybe some stuff for myself as well, but after going around the city, I knew I will just end the day in Maidreamin then head back to my hotel to recuperate and prepare for the F1 qualifying session the next day.

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I then reached Maidreamin Cafe, and well, it is what you would expect if you know anything about these cafe either from reading manga, watching anime, or generally being a weeb (which a lot of people call me, but I think I’m more of an otaku than a weeb). The maids are very friendly, though there was a bit of language barrier at first, in the end, I got what I ordered, and had a nice chat with a couple of the staff at hand.

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Believe it or not, visiting a maid cafe is one of my goals in this trip, and also have a Instax photo with one of the maid which is part of the bundle I ordered. I will say this now, out of all the photos I have taken in Japan, it was this photo of me, that wasn’t even taken with my phone or DSLR, as my stand out photo of the trip!

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Also in the bundle I ordered was the cat ears (you get to choose what animal ears you like, but since I love cats, it was a no-brainer to get the cat ears), and a maid uniform keychain. Overall, a great experience, and I am glad to tick this off my bucket list. Like I said to my friends, you know you made it in life if you tick off visiting a maid cafe off your bucket list.

After the maid cafe, thankfully there was a subway station just next to the cafe, so I made my way back to my hotel; truth be told, this station wasn’t part of the plan I made previously, but I was already familiar with using the subway and where to go, so even if this wasn’t part of the initial plan, I still made it to my hotel in the end with no hiccups… also of note, I did catch the subway during the afternoon rush hour, but usually the afternoon rush hour is not as bad at the morning rush hours.

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Reaching the hotel, rested up a bit, then had a quick dinner, and decided to sleep early to take a train to Suzuka and eventually the race track.

It is gonna be special!


Stay tuned for Day 2 post!

-o-

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ANDBON AD-30S 30L Electronic Automatic Digital Control Dry Cabinet Storage Review

DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional reviewer; I review the things I buy as a consumer. I am not at all sponsored. I am an average consumer, giving my consumer thoughts.


INTRO:

I have been a photography hobbyist and enthusiast since 2010, and since then, my gear has become more and more expensive (well, expensive is subjective, and for me, my current gear is expensive enough – you can scoff if you think my gear is cheap), and as expensive gears go, you want to keep them in tip top shape and condition as to avoid having to spend money on repairs, or God forbid, replace the entire unit in question. That hard earned cash saved upon taking care of your gear can be used to further add to that said gear and improve further your craft in photography.

That being said, I never owned a dry box or dry cabinet, because I would always end up using that money somewhere else, and being a person with obsessive compulsive personality disorder, I am quite the perfectionist, so I was still able to keep my photography gear in great condition all through the years.

However, I finally decided to get one of those digitally controlled dry cabinets since I have upgraded my DSLR and added a couple new lenses recently that I felt it was high time to finally invest on a dry cabinet to ensure that my gear will be in great condition for as long as possible. And there in lies one of the key words… INVEST.

It is a great investment to spend a couple bucks on a dry box or dry cabinet, because you owe to yourself and your gear. It is not an expenditure, it is an investment… a form of security and insurance.

And so, we will be reviewing the ANDBON AD-30S 30L Electronic Automatic Digital Control Dry Cabinet Storage.


SPECS:

•Model NO: AD-30S
•External Size: W290 x D320 x H420 mm (11.5″x12.6″x16.5″)
•Internal Size: W288 x D290 x H355 mm (11.3″x11.5″x14.0″)
•Pack Size: W350 x D380 x H470 mm (13.8″x14.9″x18.5″)

•Digital LCD display
•Andbon Dry Box Series (25%~60% RH) provides the best moisture damage prevention for aging, molding, spoiling, rusting, corrosion, denaturing, etc
•Auto Memory Last RH Setting
•Slide/Pullable Trays,Anti-Rust Cabinet (special coated paint), Silent Operation
•Low Power Consumption,Worldwide Voltage: 100-240V,Lockable — Door (comes with two keys), Magnetic Sealed Door for best RH control
•Power Input: AC 100V ~ 240V / 5W

Inside the box includes the power adapter and an instruction manual that is kept underneath one of the foams in the bottom compartment of the unit. I must admit, I was scratching my head as to were the manual was, but I always inspect the entire unit of whatever I purchased just to see any hidden damages, and thankfully, upon removing the foam, I found the instructions.

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The manual is hiding underneath the foam

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It also comes with 2 keys for the locking mechanism.


REVIEW:

As always, we start with the packaging, and the unit was packaged well enough, being flanked by hard Styrofoam; I like harder Styrofoam material than the softer ones, as the former will help ensure a safer delivery.

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The glass on the door wasn’t protected by its own plastic cover (the ones you usually peel off in new phones or the like), but was happy to see that the glass wasn’t scratched up as much or at all. But it would be nice to have its own dedicated plastic cover to peel off… There was no mention as to what material this glass was made of. But it is ever so slightly smoked, but under well lit environment or when you switch on the LED inside, it can showcase your gear wonderfully. I wished the LED strip were situated on both sides for even lighting, but either way, it does the job.

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The unit itself is VERY light, as it doesn’t really need a lot of electronics; this may look like a mini fridge, but all it in needs is a electronic display, a strip of LED, the actual dehumidifier with anti bacterial wafer chip, and a simple power supply to power them all. This is essentially just a display case with the added features of dehumidify inside the little controlled environment.

Overall, the build is great and very sleek, and compared to the plastic dry boxes, this adds a bit of flare to your gear. I love the looks!

The foams are firm, but the top foam with the contours for lenses should have spaced the contours/concavities a little bit more; as you can see, there are too close to each other that my lenses are not sitting flush with the concavities. This should not be a problem for mirrorless camera lenses and such, but I wished they thought about spacing them out just a little but more to accommodate lenses like mine –  and my lenses are pretty much the Trinity of lenses that most professional photographers or hobbyists like myself would own. There is still enough space to space the contours out a bit more. But I can always ask someone locally to make me a custom foam with my specifications in the future.

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The foam contour/concavities don’t really accommadate my lenses

The actual sliding tray is made of a very tough plastic material that I suspect is ABS plastic; the mounting mechanism is also made of plastic, most likely also ABS plastic, and surprisingly, it can carry the weight of my 4 lenses even when extended fully (it locks into place when extended fully, but a little lift and pull, you can pull of the entire assembly). The mount can also be adjusted to certain heights for your needs. I am still wary when I extend the tray out with my lenses on, so for peace of mine, I still secure the tray underneath with my palm while I select what lens to use.

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There is a tape holding the tray in place for shipping purposes; there are 1 on each side, so remove them

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The tray can accommodate my 150-50mm, my 17-50mm, and my 30mm; seeing that there is still space, I placed my old kit lens in there and I can still add either a 10-20mm or a fisheye in the future.

The bottom compartment I use to house my 2 DSLR’s, the Nikon D5000 and the Nikon D7200 with the MB-D15 battery grip installed. I also included my 2 Nikon SB-600 speedlights, a Meike FC-110 LED ring flash, my DSLR’ batteries and chargers, my LYNCA memory card reader and case (review here!), and seeing I still had enough space, I just threw in the lens hoods just for fun (they won’t stay in there forever). And I know I can still add another DSLR or another flash here in the future no problem.

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Of course, the top tray and bottom compartment isn’t strictly for lenses and bodies/flashes respectively, you can interchange them or even not use the entire unit for you photography gear as it can be used for books, bags, jewelry, etc. Of course, with different items, comes different relative humidity percentages (%RH). For my needs I am told 40-50%RH will be ideal for cameras and lenses, and since this unit has a +2-3%RH, I placed set mine in 42%RH (that means if it reaches 42%RH, it will then go up to 44%RH or 45%RH and then dehumidify again to 42%RH). The %RH will obviously shoot up when you open the unit to grab a piece of item, so you shouldn’t be surprised by it.

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%RH reference guide as per the manual

It is also of note, if you are not in a humid environment, the dehumidifier will not work if your ambient humidity is lower than the humidity set on your unit.

Let’s look at the display and buttons and how to set this up for the first time:

Display

Buttons

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This part of the instructions are wrong, read on below…

As you can see from the screenshots from the manual, it said that you have to tap the up button TWICE to choose what %RH you want to set, this for me was wrong; I had to press the SET button TWICE, then use up and down buttons to choose my %RH and press SET again to confirm the change.

After setting the %RH, it is suggested in the manual and several forums to leave it empty for at least 8 hours; from my photo, I showed the time I started and the time I would start adding my gear, but I decided to make it 10 hours.

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And thus, here is a shot of my dedicated photography gear corner of my room; this corner has all the most commonly used gear and accessories, and the other less commonly used items are stored elsewhere.

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CONCLUSION:

I paid PHP4,200 (~$80) plus shipping, and somehow it didn’t feel as if I spent a cent on this, because as I said above, this is not an expenditure, it is an investment.

It looks sleek and professional, unlike the conventional dry boxes, and you need not have to “settle” in unlike in the dry boxes where it can take a day or two to dial and settle in the silica gels to the right %RH – this is done digitally and immediately with this one.

The near clear glass shows off your gear wonderfully in proper lighting or when the LED is lit inside, but again, I wish the LED strips were on either end for more even lighting.

The tray and tray mount would give me more peace of mind if they just made it metal; I wouldn’t mind paying a little more for that. Being a very tough plastic, it does hold my lenses well enough but not enough for me to feel confident when I slide the tray out; I still have one palm underneath the tray.

The foam, particularly for the lenses, I wished the contours/concavities were spaced out just a tad more for larger lenses to fit better; I don’t imagine this being a problem for lenses with 62mm threads or mirrorless camera lenses though.

But with all that said and done, would I recommend this? A BIG YES… I mean I already said it twice: this is not an expenditure, it is an investment.

This keeps most of the dust away from my gear, heck even insects; it inside a controlled environment to inhibit fungal growth, yet humid enough to to keep the lubrication of my lenses from evaporating; and it serves as a nice display case for my gear – I do just sit down and stare at it at times.

Of course, this is another one of those Chinese OEM products that have different brands slapping their name on it… So, find one similar to mine, and you will most likely get the same performance.

Well, that’s all! Time for me to stare at my gear inside the ANDBON AD-30S 30L Electronic Automatic Digital Control Dry Cabinet Storage again.


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LYNCA Waterproof Memory Card Case with Built-In USB 3.0 Card Reader Review

DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional reviewer; I review the things I buy as a consumer. I am not at all sponsored. I am an average consumer, giving my consumer thoughts.

INTRO:

Ever since I switched my PC chassis roughly 2 years ago, I no longer had the benefit of using a 3.5 inch internal card reader, because my current chassis, the Phanteks Enthoo Eveolv ATX doesn’t have mounts for 5.25 or 3.5 inch drives, thus I had to forego my Bitfenix internal card reader.

I didn’t own any USB 3.0 card reader hubs back then since I was mainly using the internal card reader, so I have to revert to connecting my DSLR’s using the supplied USB cable from Nikon. And as you’d expect, the transfer rates are slow. Not only that, I hated always connecting my Nikon D5000 or D7200 thru USB especially if I forgot to copy over a photo, because Windows will read the whole card (slowly) inside the DSLR’s as it seems it doesn’t save any information of the photos in the cache.

Knowing I needed a USB 3.0 card reader and a new SD card case (since my old one is so cheap), it was time to hit the market for those items.

Lucky for me, there is the LYNCA Waterproof Memory Card Case with Built-In USB 3.0 Card Reader. Yes that was a mouthful… and it always seems to have a different name in different shops… but at least, the LYNCA branding stays the same.

By the name, it is obviously hitting 2 birds with 1 stone for me; a case and a USB 3.0 card reader.

I didn’t get it right off the bat as I wasn’t to keen in PHP 2,000 (~$40) for such an item, and that is due to the looks, which I will get more into down below in the review. Then it went on sale with a 50% off, then I had no other reason not to get it; whether it will it has bad performance, or God forbid, die out within a few months, I wouldn’t cry a river knowing I only paid PHP 1,000 (~$20).

SPECS:

Item in Review:
Material: ABS,PC,TPV
Size: 15.5x10x3cm/6.1×3.9×1.2”
Number of Slot: 19
Weight: 205g

Suitable for:
CFx3, SDx7 and TFx9 Card (for those wondering what TF is, it is Transflash, aka, MicroSD; Transflash was simply the original name for MicroSD’s untile MicroSD nomenclature became mainstream)

Package:
1x Card Case/Reader
1x USB 3.0 Type A Female to USB 3.0 Type B Male 10 Pin (38.1cm/15″)
1x USB Type A to Micro USB adapter
1x Micro USB to USB 3.0 Type C adapter
1x Sim card tray remover

REVIEW:

First off, it was surprisingly well packaged; sure it doesn’t hang the bang or presentation of products of AAA companies, but the main point for me is that the packing is well enough to keep the item protected in shipping, so it will arrive to me in great condition. Close friends of mine know that I usually keep boxes and display them for 2 reasons: 1 is to have some bragging rights for the awesome gear I have and 2, simply great for reselling purposes. But for little gadgets like these, I care not to keep the boxes honestly, so it may lack in the presentation, but it gets the job done.

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In fact, lacking is the presentation that it doesn’t give much specs in the box, so you can always use the specs I placed above instead, if you are wondering about the item and what comes with it.

The USB 3.0 Type A Female to USB 3.0 Type B Male 10 Pin is roughly 15 inches in length, however, I find that very short even if you connect it in the front USB panel of your PC (well it depends on the height of your PC chassis and its location, either on the desk or on the floor, but for my use and my setup, it is indeed short), thus it is absolutely short if you plan to connect this to the back of your PC; be prepared either way to stand up each time you want to change the card you are trying to import pictures from. An easy fix, which I already did, was buy a 3rd part USB 3.0 Type A Female to USB 3.0 Type B Male 10 Pin cable. I understand why it is only 15 inches, because, after all, this seems to have travel in mind, so you want to pack shorter cables when traveling as to save space, and honestly, you’d want a shorter cable for your laptop when you travel. And speaking of laptop users, you won’t have the same problems with the shorter cable as mentioned above.

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The package also includes 2 adapters, a USB Type A to Micro USB adapterand a Micro USB to USB 3.0 Type C adapter, that have their own rubber sleeves making them linked to the USB cable, thus not losing them, but I find the rubber sleeve a dirt magnet. Of course, if you want, you can simply remove the rubber sleeve links, especially if you are not planning to use those interfaces for you devices.

I mentioned earlier that I was not keen on paying full price for this item due to the over all looks, and I still stand by the fact that I wished they didn’t go for that miniature suit case look. I am more of the minimalist type, and sleeker clean designs are what I wanted best. If it had that sleek design, maybe I would pay full price, with that said, it looks like a toy. That may not bother a lot of people, but for those that still love form AND function, like me, it does put a bit of a letdown especially since most photographers and hobbyists will definitely have photography gear that is respectable and the looks of this case/card reader is kinda tacky. But that’s just me.

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Build quality, well I did say toy earlier, and it does feel like a toy, but a tough toy at that since they did use ABS plastic. I still would want to constantly thrash this around, but for normal everyday use and travel, it will definitely stand the test. Though I might want to mention the tabs are also made of plastic and as far as plastics go, they may wear out in time with the constant opening and closing of the case/card reader

The rubber cover for the actual card reader, is held on by a very small piece of rubber that will definitely break off if you abuse it.

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The USB 3.0 Type B 10 pin female connection is not covered… just something to keep in mind. It is also situated on the side of where the hinges of the case are placed, so having the case wide open and transferring photos won’t be possible; that is to say, that you can open the case and still transfer photos, but not fully open. You can still access the cards inside if need be very easily.

As for the inside of the case, it is mostly made of rubber as to keep the cards in place safely and supposedly be waterproof on the edges; I am a bit skeptical and am lazy to actually test this, but I am skeptical since the rubber edges don’t seem to create a very good seal. But yeah, maybe I will update this once I tested the waterproof capabilities, but I also mentioned above, that the USB 3.0 Type B 10 pin female connection is not covered, so maybe the waterproof aspect is just to save the memory cards inside, then again, why have a rubber cover that seals the card reading connections? Why leave the USB 3.0 Type B 10 pin female connection to dry, errrr, to wet? (LOL) Anyways, that is another reason why I also don’t want to test the waterproof capabilities of the item.

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On the actual card reader, it can also house once more SD card if need be. And speaking of housing the cards, it advertises that it can store CFx3, SDx7 and TFx9 Cards, but what I found out, you can stack your SD cards on top of another, thus you can house up to 12 in the rubber casing plus one on the actual card reader, totaling up to 13 SD cards. As for the CF and TF, since I don’t own any CF cards, I can’t give a definite answer, but I can say that it does only hold as advertised, as with TF.

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You will also notice there is a sim card tray remover, just in case you ever need it. A nice touch in my opinion as there are times when I wished I had one while I’m out.

Now for the actual performance: being a USB 3.0, which can handle up to 5GB/s, we can suspect speedy read and write speeds. I will give you is my transfer times and real time average transfer rates compared to my DSLR, in this case, we will use the Nikon D7200 to transfer 15GB of RAW files from my more recent shoot using a SanDisk Ultra 32GB, 48MB/s read speed, SDHC card.

Using the Nikon D7200, I was took me over a little over 12 minutes. Not too bad at all, but my main gripe is what I mentioned earlier in which it constantly buffers the photos so having to search for that certain photo or photos you want to transfer only can be a chore. Windows, sadly didn’t give me the transfer rate.

Then using the LYNCA card reader, I transferred 15GB of only RAW files in 4 minutes; there was also little to no buffering when searching for selected photos unlike the DSLR where it seems there was no cache saved in the PC, thus it rebuffers, costing time, if you are just looking for certain photos in the card. As for transfer rate, I was averaging 42MB/s. So, it was definitely faster.

I didn’t test it with my other SD card like a SanDisk SDHC class 4, I can say it will be slightly slower, and I didn’t test it with my SanDisk Extreme PRO 32GB SDHC Class 10 U3 UHS 1 card, because I would suspect that it would transfer faster since it has a 95MB/s read speed. And that is another point to make, the transfer speed depends on the card and the files as much as it depends on the interface of transferring.

CONCLUSION:

It does the job! And it does it well. If we simply look at this as a card reader, then it is definitely a great item especially when you get it at 50% off like me. The fact that it is also a case for your memory cards comes as gravy, a cherry on top, or whatever analogy you want. I wished the design leans more to the professional and be more sleek and minimalist, but again, that is just me. I would also would have loved a longer USB cable, but I guess it is understandable as this is also geared towards travel, thus you won’t want to lug around long cables.

Another gripe would be the USB 3.0 Type B 10 pin female connection is not covered like the other connections, thus even if this is waterproof, that being exposed, will not end well.

Will I recommend this? Absolutely! But I feel the asking price originally is still a lot especially from a brand that is not really super known. I would wait for a sale. Keep in mind, this is definitely one of those OEM type products where niche companies will just slap their brand on. So you can find similar products like this with different branding. But as far as OEM goes, this review should also cover them.

So there you go! This is bang for the buck especially when on sale. Still bang for the buck, in a way, full price, but like I said, from a company like them, I rather pay less, so even if, God forbid, this bites the dust in time, it won’t hurt at all paying half price.

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