Cosyspeed Camslinger 160 Review

Update: 10% off code below video. Scroll down 🙂

There are two things I dislike about landscape photography. Firstly, tripods. These are the bane of my life, a necessary evil that cannot be carried or stored in any satisfactory way. The sooner someone invents a self-levitating camera the better. My second pet hate is backpacks. I have yet to find a backpack that does anything more than hang on my back, feeling uncomfortable, making me sweat, and being a complete pain in the arse every time I have the audacity to actually use my camera gear. You cannot work with a backpack, you fight against it. You hike for miles with it weighing you down and then you finally see the shot that you want. At this point you begin the laborious task of contorting yourself into various bizarre shapes to extricate it from your back, laying it on the wet and muddy ground, and then rifling through endless pointless pockets and compartments to remove the required body, lens, filters, etc that you require to take the shot. By this time the gorgeous light that bathed the valley ahead has gone behind the mother of all clouds so you decide to pack it all away again and press on. After another 5 minutes of faffing you pick the backpack up, clean off as much of mother nature’s feculence as you can and swing it over your shoulder ready to begin the muscle tearing process of getting it onto your back. It’s at this point you hear a sickening thud. “What was that?”. Your blood runs cold. “Not a lens, please don’t be a lens”. With trepidation you slowly turn to take a look. “Bollocks!!!!”. It was a lens. In your haste to actually get on with the rest of your life you have left one of those myriad of compartments open and your prized glass has flown out and hit the only rock with 25 miles.

This for me is the reality of using a backpack. A backpack doesn’t aid my photography in any way, quite the opposite, it hinders it. And don’t even get me started on the prospects of being able to shoot spontaneously whilst hiking as this entails either having a strap around your neck or simply holding the camera in your hand, neither of which sit very well with long hikes, scrambling over rocks, crossing slippery stones, or any other treacherous undertaking you might perform whilst out and about. In my opinion backpacks were sent by Beelzebub himself to hinder photography and make photographers sweat and ache. I have not found a well designed one yet.

It was with all this in mind that I found myself wandering amongst the stands at the photography show back in March, searching for some kind of alternative, when I happened upon a stand manned by a friendly chap named Thomas. It turned out that Thomas was the founder of Cosyspeed and he proceeded to enthusiastically demonstrate their Camslinger system to me. I could immediately see the potential for street photographers, after all they have a Thomas Leuthard signature model and you don’t get a better street photography related endorsement than that. But I am predominantly a landscape photographer, I have to carry more gear, could it really be any good for me? There was only one way to find out and that was to acquire one. So, about a month later I received a parcel containing the following:

1 X Camslinger 160
1 X Camstrap 10
1 X Camslinger Lensbag 80
1 X Camslinger Stuffbag 30

So, 2 months on, what’s it like?

Well, it’s great, it really is. I think the most flattering thing I can say about it is it helps me do photography rather than hindering me. It not only acts as a carrying aid but also as a work bench. No more putting a backpack on the floor and working from that, it just stays around my waist the whole time. When I’m walking, when I’m cycling, and when I’m actually shooting. Every thing is there within easy reach.

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The Camslinger system puts your camera within easy reach for quick access.

My Setup

As mentioned above I have the Camslinger 160 and 2 smaller companion bags. As well as this I have a Lee Filter Pouch that also attaches to the belt. I have the Camslinger 160 on my right hip, the Lee pouch on my left hip and the other 2 bags behind me. “So what about your tripod?”, I hear you cry. Well, that is the one thing that this system obviously can’t accommodate, so I’ve had to start using a shoulder bag and whilst this isn’t ideal I have found it is a worthwhile compromise.

What’s in the bags?

Well, in the Camslinger 160 I have:

  • 1 X Olympus OMD E-M1
  • 1 X 12-40 f2.8 Pro lens
  • 1 X 75mm f1.8 lens
  • 1 X 45mm f1.8 lens
  • 1 X 9-18mm f4-5.6 lens
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The 160 takes 4 lenses and a body…..just. It is width adjustable.

In the Camslinger Stuffbag 30 I have:

  • 3 X spare batteries
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Stuff Bag 30 with 3 batteries.

In the Camslinger Lensbag 80 I have:

  • 1 X remote cable release
  • 1 X iPad lightning SD card reader
  • 1 X Cleaning cloth
  • Several SD cards
IMG_0614.JPG
Lensbag 80

In the Lee filter pouch:

  • 3 X soft edge graduated ND filters
  • 3 X hard edge graduated ND filters
  • 1 X circular polariser
  • 1 X circular variable ND filter
  • 1 X Hi-tech 10 stop filter
  • 1 X Lee Foundation kit holder
  • 4 X step up rings

Is it comfortable?

Well, after extensive testing the answer for me is a resounding, yes. It does take some getting used to as it seems extremely counter intuitive at first but once you get used to that you don’t really notice it even on a fairly long walk. You can simply swing everything behind you or keep the Camslinger to your side for quick and easy access. Even hiking between locations you should never miss a shot as you can go from bag to shooting in a matter of seconds.

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It’s easy to swing everything round behind you for walking / cycling

On a bike it’s great. I’ve never felt comfortable with a backpack, I find it makes me sweat too much. I’ve tried handlebar bags but that just makes the bike handle badly. In my opinion you certainly notice it much less than a backpack but if you are undertaking a self-supported tour and need to carry clothes, etc than it leaves you the option of a backpack as well to carry that stuff rather than your photography gear.

What is it like to use?

Brilliant! This is where the Camslinger system comes into it’s own. It’s like having a photographic work bench around your waist. Everything is at hand and easy to access, no more turning round, bending down and rifling through a backpack on the floor just to change a filter or lens, it’s all there, ready to go. It’s difficult to put into words how good it is so I have made this video in the hope that will get it across.

Note: It turns out that Cosyspeed like this video so much they have given me a discount code. So if anyone feels inspired to get themselves a Camslinger just use street316 at http://www.cosyspeedshop.de to get 10% off.

The quality and construction appears to be second to none and the double fastening system gives you confidence that you won’t lose your gear. It also comes with a waterproof cover that hangs off the bottom and can be put on in seconds as well as a pretty clever system that allows you to adjust the size. You can see more on this at http://www.cosyspeed.com

Any drawbacks?

After using the system for 2 months I have only found a couple of small problems and these really only apply to me. Firstly it’s just a little too small for the gear I carry. This is not the fault of the bag of course, indeed it is testament to it that I can carry so much, but for me it would be great if it was just a few mm taller so that it could take the E-M1 fitted with a 12-40 Pro lens just a little easier. The only other thing is that the Velcro on the lens bag seems a little weak. I can fit the 75mm f1.8 lens in but it has a habit of forcing the top open. It is fine with the stuff I have in it though.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a viable alternative to a backpack for landscape photography then I would thoroughly recommend giving the Camslinger a go. At under 40 euros it is great value and if you’re a street or casual photographer I’d say it’s a no brainer. Just remember, it’s for mirrorless users only 🙂

More at http://www.cosyspeed.com

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To crop or not to crop?

That is the question….

To be honest it’s not actually the question for me, in my opinion one should do whatever it takes to create a great end product but the subject of cropping has just “cropped” up (sorry, couldn’t resist) in a forum that I regularly frequent so I thought I’d have my say on the subject.

First I need to confess publicly, if you hadn’t guessed already, that I am a cropper. If you visit my website (www.richardwalkerphotography.co.uk) you’ll see all sorts of different crops ranging from subtle to extreme all with one express purpose in mind, to get the best out of the shot. On the forum I was reading a fairly well known photographer by the name of Jared Polin was mentioned. Apparently he doesn’t advocate cropping, ever, his tagline being “Shoot RAW and don’t crop”. Now, Jared is a superb photographer, but whilst I agree with the “shoot RAW” mantra the anti-crop stance just doesn’t make sense to me and here’s why.

I Don’t Like My Camera’s Aspect Ratio

Whilst I love the micro 4/3 format for it’s small size, superb lenses and wonderful technology, I actually don’t care much for the 4 x 3 aspect ratio. For me as a landscape photographer it is just too square. So what can I do? Well, I can set my camera to a different aspect ratio but firstly the only options are 3 x 2 or 16 x 9 and I prefer 16 x 10, and secondly, what am I doing? Surely I’m cropping, I’m just doing it using the camera software rather than Lightroom and I’d much rather do it in Lightroom.

The point is that in my opinion it is the lack of cropping that will compromise my composition by forcing me to have an aspect ratio that doesn’t suit landscape photography.

You Can’t Always Be Exactly Where You Want When You Want

It is all very well for “experts” to keep trotting out the “get it right in camera” rule but it’s just not always possible. As an aside I also think that we should stop referring to these photography “rules” as I feel that beginners can be very put off if they don’t manage to adhere to them. Perhaps we should start referring to them as “pointers” or something like that because in 2015 the fact is that whilst you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear you can fix a lot in post and save a photograph that may otherwise have been a throwaway and one of the things you can fix is the composition.

The Langdale Pikes rise above Lake Windermere, Lake District, UK
This image was shot with a Canon 5D MKII which has a resolution of 5616 Ă— 3744, yet after cropping this image came out at 4987 x 2153. The reason I had to crop was because this was the only vantage point from which to get this shot. I was shooting from a hillside, to move forward I had to move down the hill and lose the view.
Screen Shot 2015-06-07 at 23.15.43
Original of above crop

From what I can see Mr. Polin shoots in a very controlled environment where I’m sure he can take the time to ensure he does get it right in camera but as a landscape photographer I don’t always have that luxury. When I’m out shooting my two main concerns are light and sky. I will think nothing of compromising composition by not being exactly where I want to ensure that I get the right light and sky. It is incredible how fast a scene changes, how fast the clouds go from beautiful white fluffy ones to a dull grey sky, how fast the light on a field changes from beautiful dappled light and shadow to flat and dull, and how the sun can disappear for the rest of the day leaving you having travelled miles staring down-hearted at what just a few seconds ago was an incredible scene that has now been replace by a boring, dull landscape that no-one will want to look at a photograph of.

This is why when I arrive anywhere I always quickly get a “banker” if the light is right. This is very often not taken from where I know I want to be but it sometimes turns out to be the best shot once it has been cropped.

You Shouldn’t Crop Because You’ll Lose Resolution

The main reason people cite for not cropping is that you lose resolution. This is true and I cannot argue with it for one second. It is absolutely correct that if you move your feet or zoom to re-compose and hence “get it right in camera” then you will keep the image at the full resolution that your camera will allow. But why does this matter? Well, bottom line is, in the real world it doesn’t. If you are sharing your images on-line or viewing them on your computer then with any decent camera you can crop severely and the resolution will still be plenty. But what about printing? Well, this is where it can matter, but generally you will have to go pretty mad with your cropping before you make an image unprintable, depending how big you want to print.

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Original of above crop. The crop is 2724 x 1703 or 4.6MP, still big enough to print at 34cm wide.

Let’s say you want to print at A3 size. I would suggest that 200dpi is more than acceptable so armed with this information we can work out the size of image we need to get a good print. So what is it? 36MP? 21MP? 16MP? Well, A3 is 16.53 x 11.69 inches, so 16.53 x 200 = 3306 and 11.69 x 200 = 2338px. So the size image we need to print A3 at 200dpi is 3306px X 2338px or 7.7MP. Will it be as good quality as if you’d got it right in camera? No it won’t. But will it be noticeable enough to stop you cropping a shot that doesn’t work into one that does? No, absolutely not, I have sold many images, some of which are on this page, that have been severely cropped.

An Image Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect

This is one for all the pixel peepers out there. Stop getting obsessed with the fine detail and look at the overall image. Does it work? Does it draw the viewer in? Do people say “wow” when they first glance at it? If the answer is yes then who cares if it is a little soft, or not perfect when viewed at 100%? Don’t throw away a good piece of art just because it is technically slightly flawed.

A fishing boat returns to St Ives harbour, Cornwall

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Original of above
The point here is that whilst one should always aspire to perfection it is generally impossible to achieve it. When I first started in photography all I read was “get it right in camera” as if this was a golden rule that could never be broken. The way I read it back then was if you didn’t get it right in camera (whatever that actually means) then you may as well throw it away. The first problem with this was that I had no idea what “right in camera” meant so it was difficult to know when or if I’d got it right. But more importantly it dawned on me that this was not a rule, it was an aspiration, what all those people were saying, badly as it happens, was if you can, get it right in camera, but if you can’t and the scene warrants a shot then give it a shot to the best of your ability and then do whatever you can to bring out the best in it using whatever technology you have available to you.
The bottom line is, don’t hang on every word of any photographer, not even me. Take advice, but always be prepared to ignore it and go with your gut instinct.

The Streets of Macao

Street photography Macao
A street scene in central Macao

With an expiring Chinese visa the time had come to nip across the border to Macao for the tradition of the visa run. Macao is a land I had never before visited, but as a chap who finds a delight anywhere with old colonial architecture and traditions of a far of land still lingering in a delightful manner I was happy to head there with my OMD-EM1 and my new favourite lens, the lovely little Oly 25mm f1.8. More of that camera and lens combo soon, but for just a few snaps from a wander through streets of Macao.

colorful spiral incense in Chinese temple
These spiralled incense sticks burn in the old Chinese temples
Street photography Macao
Old meets new in the shape of modern boutique shopping on a traditional Portuguese plaza
Street photography Macao
A view of one of Macao;s many winding streets
blue sky clouds a statue on The Virgin and a church and steeple, Macao
Catholic churches abound across Macao, this one afforded quite wonderful views
Old cannon pointing at Macao's Lisboa casino
There seemed a certain irony that Portugal’s old cannons seemed to be aimed at the, erm, dramatic Lisboa casino
A view of Macao's tallest tower
modern view on Macao
Street photography, a deserted old street in Macao
Macao is awash with beautiful old streets and crumbling architectur
Street photography Macao
Am I the only one to find the vanity of the selfie quite vulgar?
Street photography Macao
Old streets, Macao

Olympus 45mm f1.8 lens

My father-in-law. Shot in my kitchen with an OM-D E-M1 and Oly 45mm f1.8. f1.8 | 1/100 sec | ISO 800

Over the Christmas period I have had the opportunity to borrow David’s Oly 45mm f1.8. Up until now the only primes I had around this focal length were 2 old manual lenses that I got on eBay. More about these another time but whilst I love using them for the tactile nature of going manual (there’s no doubt that I feel more connected with the whole shooting process when using these), I find I do miss a lot of candid opportunities because despite some very good focus aids built into the OM-D E-M1 I simply miss focus, a lot.

Image Quality

Ok, let’s get the most important point out of the way. This lens, in my humble opinion, is stunning in terms of image quality. It is the best portrait lens I have ever used, and that includes the 70-200 MkII Canon. It is very sharp wide open (which let’s face it is where a lens like this will spend most of its time) and produces lovely out of focus backgrounds separating the subject from its surroundings beautifully.

Handling

This is a small lens which I personally like. The drawback is that it has a very unusual filter size which means you either need to get new filters or a step-down ring. That aside it looks fairly good on the camera and in auto focus mode it is lovely to use with extremely fast focusing. For manual use you have to jump into the menu and turn on manual focus as it doesn’t have the snap back ring that the pro Oly lenses sport. Personally I don’t much like using it for manual focus, it is just too small and simply doesn’t have a nice feel to it, but with such fast accurate auto focus I can’t see this ever being an issue.

Highand Cow
I came across this fellow in the Lake District recently. f1.8 | 1/640 sec | ISO 200

 

Conclusion

There is no doubt that this is a lovely lens and with Amazon currently selling it at ÂŁ179 it is an absolute bargain. I have had it in my basket several times as I know that I am going to lose this one as soon as David heads back off to the other side of the world. But the bottom line is, as much as I love it, I am not sure it is for me. If I were someone who shot a lot of portraits or did a lot of street I would have this lens for sure, but as a landscape photographer it is a luxury. For now I will continue to use my old manual 50mm for those sorts of shots but who knows, in the future I may just change my mind.

Dicki

Chooie
My dog sits in this chair with his arm over the side looking like some old man all the time. It’s only this once that he has stuck his tongue out at the camera though. f1.8 | 1/125 sec | ISO 1600

 

Poor Light? Try Black and White

Devoke Water, Lake District, UK. Shot with an Olympus OM-D E-M1 | Oly 9-18mm lens | 36 second exposure | f8 | ISO 100

It’s a dilemma isn’t it? You’ve packed up all your camera gear, booked hotels, travelled hundreds or even thousands of miles with hope and excitement running through your veins, your mind overflowing with images of beautiful landscapes bathed in wonderful golden dappled light………and then you arrive and are greeted by leaden skies and dull grey land. So, what to do?

Well, this is the scenario that occurred to David and I on a recent visit to the English Lake District. There were, as usual when the two of us are together, two schools of thought. David favoured the “sitting in the pub taking wide aperture images of pints of beer” approach. But whilst I could certainly see the merits in this I could also see the downside, there are some seriously strong ales in that part of the world after all. Plus, my passion for landscape photography is at least as strong as David’s passion for beer, so we hit a compromise. Photography until sunset (only 4pm after all), then pub!

“But what about the lack of light?”, David enquired. “Surely light is the thing that adds depth and interest to a landscape photograph”. This is indeed correct and an extremely valid point, especially from a man who is used to shooting in the tropics where gorgeous light is the norm. But there are things that one can do when the sun decides not to play ball, a scenario that I am much more used to than my spoilt brother.

When life deals you lemons make lemonade right? Well, when life deals you a lack of colour in a landscape, simply think about removing all the colour. The temptation can be to try and shoot the scene and then bring out more contrast when post processing but whilst this is certainly an option I have never found it to be as satisfying as going down the black and white route. But to get the best out of black and white photography you have to think a little differently right from the moment you arrive at your location. You need to think in black and white and shoot accordingly.

Think Black and White

What do I mean by think black and white? When shooting colour it is very much about the light and the colours but when shooting in black and white I find it better to think about textures and shapes. Strong textures and shapes are the order of the day. Using the Olympus OM-D E-M1 as I do I am lucky that there are some great settings that allow me to visualize the scene through the viewfinder and the screen in black and white, I always make full use of this functionality and it is one of the things that I love about using the micro four thirds format.

Textures

When shooting black and white images I think much more about textures. I look around the scene and identify subjects that have interesting textures and think about how I will bring out those textures when post processing. In the above image the boathouse and rocks have a very defined texture. The sky too has texture to it, albeit a little more subtle. The water too had texture to it as there was a fairly stiff breeze but for me landscape images like this are all about contrast so I wanted to flatten the water out. I did this by using an 11 stop filter to get an exposure time of 36 seconds at f8. To my eye the smoothness of the water draws the eye to the rocks with their bold texture and these in turn lead the eye to the boat house.

Shapes and lines

Strong shapes and lines add to the dynamism of any black and white shot and landscapes are no different. The line of the horizon, the solidity of the boathouse and the triangular shape of the collection of rocks in the foreground all help to create a strong dynamic.

 

The beauty of black and white is that it can remove distractions allowing the mind of the viewer to concentrate on the main elements of the photograph. It’s beauty is in it’s simplicity. Take the distant mountains in the above photograph, even with relatively flat colours (take a look at the video below to see how dull it was) that a dull day displays the eye would still be drawn to these, perhaps more so than on a sunny day as the viewer would be subconsciously searching for some interest. But in black and white, whilst still an important element of the scene as a whole the mountains stand out much less allowing the main elements to become more bold and striking.

So, next time you look out of the window and it is dull and overcast remember, beautiful locations are beautiful locations no matter what the weather, you just need to shoot in a way that brings that beauty out in the best way that the conditions allow.

Dicki