Photoessay-review: A rainy evening, and summary thoughts on the Nikon D4

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The Nikon D4 might be old news now that the D4s has been around for a couple of months, but given the diminishingly incremental improvements between each cycle, there’s less of a penalty for opting for an older camera than you might think. And even less again once we consider that for most applications, the point of sufficiency was passed a long time ago. A nearly-new D4 made its way into my hands a couple of months ago during the Melbourne workshop. At a shade over US$3,800, it was just too good a deal to pass up. Read on for my summarised thoughts after spending a couple of months taming the beast.

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Quick first thoughts – Nikon Coolpix A and Fuji Finepix X20

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I recently picked up review units of the Nikon Coolpix A and Fuji Finepix X20 at B&H – the store itself is an incredible experience for any photographer, by the way – after a few days of intense shooting during my Making Outstanding Images workshops, I’ve had a chance to put together a few quick thoughts on the two cameras. I will be doing more complete reviews once I get a chance to shoot further with them and pore through the hundreds of images. Until then, this should tide over the curious.

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Quick review: CarrySpeed DS-2 sling strap

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Full disclosure upfront: I was recently sent a couple of interesting camera straps by the folks at CarrySpeed/ Kroxmedia – the DS-2 is of the sling variety and has a fixed portion that goes diagonally around your shoulders as shown in the image above, and a sliding loop that holds your camera and allows it to rest around waist level, or be easily brought up to shooting position. There are quite a lot of similar products, which I’ve not really been too enamoured with for a couple of reasons: firstly, the camera connection point doesn’t have a quick release, which means that if you need to take it off or stow it, it’s not easy to do so; secondly, the hardware just doesn’t inspire confidence.

The DS-2 doesn’t have the second problem. It’s a very well made strap; perhaps over engineered in some ways – I feel there are just too many plastic loops and buckles through the webbing portion – but the thick neoprene padding with non-slip backing is certainly appreciated and spreads out the load nicely. There’s also a quick release buckle to allow you to detach the strap completely, which has a safety interlock to prevent accidental release and expensive crunching noises.

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The first problem is partially solved on all models through the use of a ball and locking threaded socket connector; the former screws into the tripod socket of your camera, and the latter is fixed to the strap with a metal loop. It’s easy to attach and detach when needed, but not easy to accidentally detach – and the locking screw has to be fully undone before the ball releases, which is a good half a dozen turns. If you’re a tripod user, there’s an optional Arca-compatible quick release plate whose ball swings out of the way when mounting; unfortunately, no joy to those of us who are stuck with the enormous 410PL plates Manfrotto uses on its geared heads.

Try as I might, I couldn’t find a way to get comfortable with this strap on my (mostly) tripod-based Nikons; it simply isn’t designed for that. However, I did find that it seemed to work best used on the Hasselblad 501C – where it now lives – because most of the time I shoot this handheld, and it simply isn’t comfortable around the neck or easy to swing into position when worn over one shoulder. The heavier weight of the camera helps to anchor it in place and stop it from moving around too much, too. I admit I was a bit nervous putting this much weight on the connection at first, and held a hand under the camera to cradle it in case it fell; I’ve since become much more comfortable and it now pretty much swings around freely. There’s one other little bonus I’ve discovered: the plain little knob-shaped quick release is useful for two things: firstly, on the Hasselblad, it helps me stabilize the camera because I’ve got somewhere to hook a finger around; secondly, it’s useful as a mini-monopod cum-ballhead when resting the camera on a table – just take it off the strap and use a hand to support it.

There are some cameras I probably wouldn’t use it on though – the smaller mirrorless cameras might swing around a bit because they’re not big enough or have lenses long enough to stay in place against your body; and be a bit careful with the digital Leica Ms, because their baseplates are not known to be the strongest – especially the small metal lip that hooks over the opposite end to the locking nut…

In short: if you’re looking for a sling-type strap, the CarrySpeed DS-2 does the job nicely. It’s a good product for street photographers and people who want to have the option of using both hands but at the same time have a camera in a comfortable quick-draw position. MT

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Images and content copyright Ming Thein | mingthein.com 2012 onwards. All rights reserved

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