How does it work?

I mentioned being in Hong Kong recently. I want to talk about the trip more generally soon, but this is easier to write.

What do I want to talk about now? Well, a lot of photographic equipment got used in the trip. Some worked great, some didn't, really.

Let's start with the backpack I got for the trip. It was a Think Tank Airport Commuter, which I guessed to be enough bigger than my StreetWalker Pro to hold everything I needed. It turned out it wasn't really big enough to hold everything, but it did get all of the critical stuff. The only things I really ended up missing was my heavy Gitzo tripod (the extra height would have been useful once or twice, and the hanger for weight would have greatly improved my night-time stop on Victoria Peak), and the lens stabilization package to hold the 70-200 (also for Victoria Peak).

I did have to get a bit creative, though, to hold as much as I did. On top of the multi-row pano holder, I had to put a divider to protect the camera battery charger (thank goodness I remembered that; I wondered if two charges would be enough, and they weren't).

One thing I did do, which I'm really glad of, was to get the Pro Speed Belt to use as a replacement belt. I'd noticed that the hip straps on my StreetWalker Pro weren't great, so got this as a replacement. It saved my back, no doubt (I have a bad back to begin with, so I need to be more careful now).

Another, that didn't work out so well was to get the Camera Support Straps. They're made to work with Think Tank's camera strap, which I don't have. It didn't occur to me how to use them with my strap until after we'd gone, so I didn't use them. that was a mistake, I think.

The one problem I had with the bag relates to the tripod holder being on the side. That did not work out very well. It meant I stuck out farther than I was accustomed to on one side, which caused me some problems. It also meant the weight was off-balance, which caused different problems. Unfortunately, I'm not sure there's really a good alternative. It makes me think this is a great bag for getting from point A to point B, but less good for getting stuff done once you're there.

One seemingly minor point did end up being quite important. That is that the bag fits in overhead compartments, even of small, regional jets. You'd think that wouldn't matter, going to Hong Kong, but our flight connected through Newark, and we took small planes to and from Newark. In fact, the flight back from Newark was a Dash 8 turboprop; I did have to take my iPad out of its compartment in the bag to fit it into the overhead (not a big deal, as I would have taken it out anyway, but it does illustrate how tight the fit is). But the important part was that it did fit; I would have gone ballistic if it hadn't.

For lenses, I ended up with just the Nikon trinity and a 50mm f/1.4 AF-S. I ended up mostly using the 24-70mm and 70-200mm. I only occasionally used the 14-24mm, but was still very glad I'd brought it. The 50mm I brought for (and used) only for our day at Disneyland. I should have just used the 24-70mm (which I ended up using at Ocean Park, which is also a theme park). I also brought, but didn't use at all, the DR-5 right-angle viewfinder adapter (I'm beginning to think this is only useful for macro work).

I alluded to this, but my Hakuba tripod did not come through with flying colors. I wish it was a little bit taller, and that I could hang weight from it. I think I might need to replace it; we'll see. For what it cost, though, it's fantastic. I knew I'd outgrow it at some point; I thought it'd be because of the center column. Bit of a surprise.

The reason I didn't take the big Gitzo tripod is that it's just too heavy. And weight was a problem even without adding almost five pounds of bigger tripod, so that was the right choice.

There were a couple of issues with the BH-55 tripod head. The first is, simply, my fault. I use it with the quick-release plate it shipped with, and have been using a dovetail adapter to hold the PCL-1 panning clamp. I should have bought the screw to let me directly attach the clamp and ballhead and save myself some weight. The second is weight-related also, and relates to me not having any big glass. It's just too much ballhead, especially carrying it around all day. I'll probably want to get the BH-30 before taking another trip where I walk so much (especially if the kids are still young enough to want to be carried around as much as they did; it probably wouldn't have mattered without this factor). It's also smaller, which might help keep from banging it against as many walls and doors as I did (nothing broken, but I felt bad every time I heard that "bang").

And this is probably as good a place as any to talk about the PG-02 multi-row pano adapter. I've been using it on top of the ball head, similarly to how I've been using the PCL-1. I think this magnified my problems with the wind on Victoria Peak, but I'm not sure of a good alternative. The only thing I can think of is a leveling base, and I'm not sure I can use a decent leveling base with that Hakuba tripod. Other than that caveat, it worked great. I do wonder, though, if skipping it in the future, in favor of a gigapan, might be better. Well, if I can afford it, that is, and can deal with the added bulk (the weight isn't too big a deal, since I wouldn't be carrying it all the time; and never for an entire day).

In a last-minute remembrance, I got the Opteka GPN-1 geotagger. After using it, I had mixed feelings. I did like how small and light it was. I think it significantly added to battery drain, although that wasn't a big deal. Better than having to carry another set of spare batteries, actually. The wired remote trigger on it didn't work, the one time I tried. Not a big deal, but annoying (since I can't use this and my wireless remote at the same time). The bigger deal is that the cable, where it connects to the unit, was all but broken just by carrying the camera around my neck. I think I need to see if there's some way to attach it to the camera strap; that might work better.

I also had a ZyXel MWR-211 that I had bought for photography. It's a mobile wireless router/bridge that I bought to use to connect to my camera via cable, with which I could connect via iPad to use the camera's web server for aiming (it having a battery back-up is significant). I haven't really used it for that purpose yet, but we knew before we flew over that we were only going to have a wired connection for our hotel room, so I brought it. And it worked like a champ, helping us stay connected (vital for my wife's work, but also nice for tracking Caps scores and such) with our iPads and iPhones (yes, we used our phones, despite not having phone or data service on them).

Oh, and I suppose I should also say a word or two about the camera, too. The fact that I got this far is a pretty good indicator that I was happy with it. I wasn't sure, especially given how big it is. But it did everything I asked, and asked if there was anything else. The one caveat to that is that a D800 might have done better for almost everything (the major exception being the dolphin show at Ocean Park, although that would have been a tradeoff of speed vs resolution. Not sure which would have been more important. Sitting at a better location would have made a big difference with either camera), and would have been lighter. But I couldn't afford both, and do think I got the right one for most of my circumstances.

And one other peripheral note. Several days we were there, I left the bag behind, and only carried the camera and one lens. Some of those times, I was wishing I'd brought one more lens (the 70-200; the aforementioned dolphin show was the time I most missed it). I mentioned that using the Pro Speed Belt was a good idea. Having that, I could have also brought a belt pouch for that that would have carried the lens. I definitely wish I had done that, and will get one of ThinkTank's Digital Holster or Lens Changer models.

So I was mostly happy with performance, but there are definitely some tweaks to be made around the edges.

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