July 22, 2015 | By Nick Carver
Camping Essentials: ARB Awning
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I love camping. Aside from the solitude, quiet, and photo ops it affords, I also just love the gear. A good, reliable product that makes the adventure more comfortable, easier, or safer is worth its weight in gold. Because if I'm honest, camping can be a huge pain in the ass. Setting up camp, tearing it down...trying to cook with bugs all around...the heat, the cold... There's a reason most people would rather stay in a hotel.
As a resident of Southern California, I do much of my camping in the local deserts. My proximity to them has fostered a deep fondness for the arid landscape. And when you're out in the desert, your biggest enemy is the sun and the heat. That's why some good, quick shade is a must for desert traveling.
Enter the ARB Awning.
This style of awning is a camping essential in the world of overland expeditions (4x4 camping). It attaches to the roof of your 4x4 and sets up quick for when you need shelter from the elements. As a landscape photographer, I find it invaluable at camp or when I'm stopping for photos along the journey.
Aside from shade, this awning would be invaluable in the rain. One of my favorite things in the world is to sit out and listen to a rainstorm. Get me out to the desert in a steady rain and I'm in hog heaven. Throw in some scattered thunderstorms and I might never leave. In the past I've always been stuck in my driver's seat to view it through my windshield, but with this awning, in just a few minutes I can have a shelter set up that will not only allow me to soak in the desert sounds while staying dry, but I can even take pictures from underneath it.
Overall I'm very impressed with the quality of this ARB 2000 Awning. I'm actually surprised it's not a more expensive item. The tarp is heavy duty, waterproof, and UV protected...it would take a lot to damage this thing. The support poles are lightweight aluminum that lock with a simple twist to the proper height/length. I was very pleased to see just how stable this awning is once set up. With how lightweight the poles are, I wasn't expecting it to be super strong, but I think it could hold up to some tough weather. With the legs staked down and the guy wires attached, it feels incredibly rigid.
Set up is a piece of cake. ARB claims it can be set up in 30 seconds. With 2 people I actually believe that figure, but doing it solo is a little trickier and will take a few minutes. I've only ever set it up solo, which can be a bit awkward and unwieldy to do, but it's not too difficult. I imagine the 8-foot version (the ARB 2500 Awning) would be nearly impossible to set up solo for many people. The 4-foot version (the ARB 1250 Awning) would be a breeze. Each awning model extends away from the truck about 8-feet.
When the awning is rolled up, there is really no "wiggle room" to cause rattling. It's held in tight with 2 velcro straps in an impressively small package. The rolled up awning stays protected under a strong nylon reinforced PVC bag closed with thick zippers. The protective bag is actually one of the most impressive aspects of this ARB awning. You can tell they didn't cut corners here at all. It's going to experience more punishment from the elements than any other part of this awning, so they made sure it was heavy-duty and built to last. I drove around in the rain quite a bit at highway speeds and not a drop of water got past the protective bag.
ARB also makes some awesome accessories for the awning like a mosquito net, a sidewall, and an enclosed room. I have the enclosed room to serve as a kitchen and/or tent which I'll be showing to you in a future blog post and video.
So if you have a truck or SUV and you like to get out into the elements with it, check out the ARB awning. Camping essentials like this make the journey so much more enjoyable. And with the way it's built, I'm sure it'll last for years to come.
This blog post and video were not sponsored or endorsed by ARB 4x4 Accessories or any other company.
October 14, 2014 | By Nick Carver
Hi, folks! Nick Carver here. I have another guest blog post for you, this time by Charles Bell all about the new iPhone 6 Camera. Enjoy!
At this point, you have surely heard about Apple's latest smartphone, the iPhone 6. After spending some time with the device over the past few weeks, I wanted to share some thoughts on how the phone's camera stacks up and whether or not it's a useful tool for photographers on the go.
Personally, I try to make sure that my camera is with me at all times—you never know when you can get that perfect shot—but it can be cumbersome lugging it around. That's why I sometimes look to my phone to get the photos I may otherwise miss, and that's also why I was curious to see how the new iPhone's camera performed. Sometimes, your smartphone is really all you have.
As for the phone itself, there were three features that instantly impressed me when I began shooting: The clarity, the lens, and the autofocus. Starting with the clarity, I have been able to achieve such pristine images with the phone that sometimes I forget I'm actually taking photos with a phone. It's worth noting, though, that I made the jump from the iPhone 4, so the increase in clarity may not necessarily be there if you own a 5 or 5s. As for the lens, it provides the ability to achieve an almost-wide lens view. It's not going to match the power or capabilities of your SLR, but it does capture a whole lot more than previous iPhones. It's a little jarring that the lens sticks out of the back, but you'll get used to it.
And then there's the autofocus, which is incredibly fast and a huge jump over its predecessors. I've been able to get some great shots that would otherwise be blurry or out-of-focus on my older phone (and I'd love to share them but my screen is being fixed because I dropped it. Sigh.) It makes sense, then, that Verizon Wireless touts the autofocus as the biggest improvement to the camera in their listing of the phone. It's true—what you're mostly here for is the improved autofocus, which often targets your subject so quickly that it's surprising. However, if you want a truly improved experience, apparently you'd be better off going with the iPhone 6 Plus.
Although I only have the 6, which means I can't personally attest to this, reviewer Jim Harmer notes that the Plus has some significantly better features than its not-quite-as-pricy counterpart. He, too, pointed to the improved focus, but he also mentioned the optical image stabilization (the regular 6 only has a digital feature). Additionally, it seems like the Plus does better shooting images at night and in other low-light settings, especially when compared to the previous incarnations of the iPhone.
Another reviewer, Amadou Diallo of Forbes, brings up the fact that Apple may be holding out on an iPhone 6s. And if you own a 5s, he recommends that you sit tight before throwing down some cash for the 6 or 6 Plus. He, too, makes mention of the noteworthy autofocus, though many of the other improvements are found simply by upgrading to iOS 8. You can do that if you own a 4s or better, so, again, he suggests holding out for the 6s. However—and here's where we definitely agree—he recommends that "it’s time to consider moving up to the larger screen, higher resolution low light images, and the convenience of Touch ID" if your phone is a 5 or older.
I also concur with Diallo on this point: "But if you want an Apple device, the iPhone 6 is the best camera the company’s made yet." That's really the most important part here, isn't it? So many folks are loyal to their smartphone brand that they probably already have the latest device or are working toward acquiring it. They're aware that there are differences that can make certain phones better than others, but what it really comes down to is what you like. If you prefer Apple devices and need a damn-good camera attached to it, don't sleep on the iPhone 6 for too long.
Charles Bell is a freelance writer who contributes content to several online publications.
May 16, 2014 | By Nick Carver
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In my line of work as a photography instructor, I get a ton of questions from students about full frame DSLR cameras. The number one question is "should I get one?" I've addressed that common question previously in a blog post titled "Photography Tips: Do I Need a Full Frame Camera?" But it occurred to me recently that many of these people asking the question aren't even clear on what exactly a full frame DSLR camera is. And most people don't realize why we have the 2 systems - full frame and crop sensor - in the first place.
So let's put the first matter to rest: no, you shouldn't necessarily get a full frame DSLR camera. It depends on what your needs and wants are, and it depends on what you like shooting and how you like shooting it. Full frame DSLR cameras are not better than crop sensor cameras and your pictures won't necessarily turn out better. I know, I know, the guys on Flickr said you absolutely have to get a full frame DSLR, but trust me, it won't make your pictures better. But for a full rundown of that, please check out the article linked above. It'll really clear things up.
Now let's address the more basic question of "What is a full frame DSLR camera?" And to best make sense of this full frame business, let's take a look back at film.
Okay, so when film was the only option (waaaaay back in the 1990's), a film format called 35mm was the most popular film size available. In fact, when most people imagine film, what they're envisioning is the 35mm film system. But there were bigger film sizes like 6x6, 6x7, 4x5, 8x10 and bigger, and there were also smaller film sizes like the APS film system. 35mm film just so happened to strike that perfect balance between ease of use and affordability with decent resolution and versatility. The bigger film systems like medium format and large format required more skill, more expense, and bigger cameras. Grandma Gertrude shooting little Johnny's birthday party wasn't interested in that. The smaller film formats were easy to use and cheap, but good luck getting a decent 11x14 print out of it. So 35mm was "the goldilocks option," not too big, not too small...juuuust right.
35mm Film Image Area
When digital first hit the scene, there were all these amateur and professional photographers out there who had cameras and lenses and accessories all designed for their 35mm film systems. They were itching for a digital DSLR - a digital version of their trusty 35mm film cameras. They wanted to use their same lenses and accessories, but just on a digital camera body.
"You got it," said the camera makers, "we'll convert some of our film cameras into digital cameras for you by putting a digital sensor in place of the film. But here's the thing...if we make the digital sensor as big as your 35mm film (24mm tall by 36mm wide), the camera is going to cost more than you're willing to pay. So we'll work out a compromise with you - we'll make you a digital SLR camera that uses all your 35mm lenses and accessories, BUT we're going to put a smaller sensor in there, one that measures the same size as APS film - just 16.7mm tall by 25.1mm wide."
APS-C Digital Sensor Image Area
So then, the first affordable "35mm" DSLR cameras didn't actually have a 35mm sensor in them, they had the smaller APS-C sensor. From the outside, you couldn't tell any difference - the cameras looked the same and operated the same. But since the sensor was smaller, the image appeared cropped from what it looked like on film. This made it look like a given lens was more zoomed in on the DSLR than it was on the film SLR. That was good for shooters who liked to photograph far away subjects, like wildlife shooters and sports shooters, but it was a real bummer for shooters who liked wide angle lenses. On the DSLR, their wide angle lenses didn't look wide angle anymore. But luckily, camera makers quickly remedied that. They just invented a new lens for DSLR cameras that could go even wider. So today, full frame or crop sensor, you can go just as wide angle on either.
Of course, technology caught up and eventually it became affordable to make a digital sensor equal to the full size of 35mm film. They called those "full-frame sensors" because they were equal in size to the full frame of 35mm. But the crop sensors were already out on the market and we couldn't un-ring that bell.
Really, we don't need both full-frame and crop sensors today, but each has their benefits, so we might as well keep both around. Plus, it gives camera makers a good excuse to upsell their customers. "Hey your pictures aren't coming out so good on your crop sensor camera? Well try this
snake oil full-frame camera. It'll solve all your photography woes." I'm just pulling your legs, Nikon, Canon, and Sony. You know I love you guys.
Be sure to watch the video at the top of this post for some good visuals on what I've described here. And check out the full-frame offerings from Canon, Nikon, and Sony at the following links:
Thanks for reading.