Gadling Gear Review: Two Camera Bags From Lowepro

Lowepro Transit Backpack camera bag
Lowepro

When you invest a considerable amount of money into a good camera and a set of lenses for travel, it is important to also spend a little extra cash to get a quality camera bag as well. A good bag is not only comfortable to wear but also provides plenty of protection from accidental damage while also managing to keep all of your gear well organized and easy to access. That can play a big difference in whether or not you get the chance to capture that perfect shot or miss it altogether.

Lowepro is a company that has been designing excellent camera bags for travel and outdoor activities for years. Their bags are popular amongst professional photographers and amateurs alike because they always offer great quality and incorporate certain elements that indicate the designers know their customers’ needs very well. Here are two new bags from Lowepro that are sure to be popular options with active travelers and outdoor enthusiasts.

Transit Backpack 350 AW ($119.99)
Photographers in the market for a versatile camera bag with plenty of room for all of their equipment need look no further than the new Transit Backpack. The bag features plenty of pockets, interior compartment space and mesh organizers to hold camera bodies, multiple lenses, memory cards and a variety of other gear. A small tripod can even be lashed to the side of the pack thanks to built-in straps designed for that very purpose. On top of that, the pack has a sleek, attractive design that not only looks good, but also puts everything you need right at your fingertips.As with most of Lowepro’s bags, the Transit features the company’s UltraFit system, which makes the interior highly customizable. Through the use of removable panels – not to mention plenty of Velcro – it is possible to configure the interior in numerous ways. This comes in handy when you’re carrying an extra longer lens for example and you need to change the configuration to accommodate that particular piece of gear. It also means that no matter which type of camera and lenses you carry, the bag can be adapted to fit your needs. This option gives the Transit a bit of future-proofing since you can modify it to fit your gear even as it evolves over time.

Despite the fact that the Transit is designed to carry a lot of heavy equipment it also extremely comfortable to wear, even when fully loaded. Lowepro has used thick, well-padded straps on this backpack and it certainly helps lessen the stress of lugging all of that gear around all day. They’ve even cleverly integrated a side access panel that allows you to easily get to the interior of the pack without having to take it off. That makes it a breeze to either quickly grab or stow your camera while on the go.

Other nice touches on this pack include a laptop sleeve large enough to hold a 15-inch computer and a built-in weather cover that can protect the bag, and its precious contents, from the elements. An interior pocket comes equipped with a handy key clip and is the perfect size for carrying a smartphone or a few accessories as well.

The Transit Backpack is a bit bulky (it tips the scales at 2.4 pounds) but that is mostly due to the thick, high quality padding used in its construction. Still, if you’re in the market for something a little more compact, you may want to check out Lowepro’s Transit Sling, which offers a similar design in a smaller package.

With a price tag of $119.99, the Transit Backpack is an excellent deal for travelers looking to carry all of their camera gear in a safe, organized and stylish manner. Whether you’re shooting photos around town or heading to the far side of the globe, this bag will make an excellent travel companion for many years to come.

Lowepro Dryzone Duffel camera bag
Lowepro

DryZone DF 20 L ($149.99)
While the Transit Backpack is designed to meet the needs of a wide variety of photographers, Lowepro’s other new bag is much more focused on a specific market. The new DryZone DF 20 duffel is aimed squarely at photographers who spend a lot of time in and around water. The bag is perfect for the outdoor action photographer for instance, or for those who find themselves in a kayak or on a scuba boat on a regular basis. While that may seem like a small segment of the overall market, it is a group of photographers who demand an extra level of protection for their gear and have their own specific needs that aren’t generally met in most standard camera bags.

Since this duffel has a special focus on keeping moisture out, it has been built with an exterior shell that incorporates the latest lightweight and technical waterproof fabrics. It also features a roll top enclosure that provides easy access to the interior of the bag but then seals up tight when it’s ready to take on the elements. As a result, the DryZone carries an IPX-6 waterproof rating, which means it should keep out most rain and heavy splashes, but is not capable of protecting its contents if it gets fully submerged.

Inside the waterproof shell is a second bag that is built to carry camera gear. It has a fully customizable interior that can be adjusted to fit the needs of what ever equipment you happen to be carrying at any given time. This extra pack is actually convenient for moving all of your gear from one carrying case to another in a quick and easy fashion, making it possible to go from your luggage directly into the waterproof bag for instance. This secondary bag works in conjunction with the outer shell and provides yet another level of protection for our expensive gear.

I like the “grab and go” feel of this duffel, although since it is so squarely aimed at a specific market it obviously isn’t built for the average traveler. This isn’t the kind of bag you just throw over your shoulder and hit the road as it was never built with that purpose in mind. But if you do happen to fall into the niche that Lowepro is aiming at with the DryZone, you’re likely to be very happy. This duffel provides plenty of protection from water while also allowing you to easily carry your equipment with you on your next aquatic outing. My only complaint about the bag is that it has a single exterior pocket that could be very useful, except it is so small that you can’t put much of anything in it at all. I’d like to see that pocket expanded for more capacity in future iterations of the DryZone in order to give it a bit more usefulness.

The Dryzone carries a price tag of $149.99, which may seem a bit high at first glance. After all, this is a bag that has a very specific focus and it won’t be all that useful when you’re carrying your camera gear around in an urban environment or on a trail. But if you do need a camera bag for use around the water, you won’t be disappointed here. Lowepro has designed a product that will keep your camera and lenses dry and give you a level of versatility that isn’t found in similar products from the competition. Besides, if you’re going to be using your expensive photography equipment around the water, $150 is a small price to pay to ensure that it stays safe.

British Cyclist Chris Froome Wins 2013 Tour De France

Tour de France winner Chris Froome
Courtesy Sky Sports

The 100th edition of the Tour de France will come to a dramatic end today when the riders arrive in Paris at last. For the past three weeks the best cyclists in the world have been battling it out on the roads of France for the right to wear the famed maillot jaune – better known as the “yellow jersey” – that designates the current leader of the race. As the peloton turns toward the finish line later today it will be Chris Froome, captain of the Sky Procycling team, who will be in yellow, and since the final stage of the race is uncontested, he’ll head for home knowing that he is already the winner.

Froome, who was born in Kenya but carries a British passport, took control of the race early on with a stunning ride in the early mountain stages of the Pyrenees. His impressive climbing skills left all other contenders in the dust, including former champs Alberto Contador, Cadel Evans and Andy Schleck. Later he was able to widen his lead by dominating two individual time trials and although he looked a bit more vulnerable in the Alps, he still managed to gain time on his closest rivals.

While today’s ride is technically the final stage, there is an unwritten rule in the peloton that you don’t attack the yellow jersey on the ride to Paris. With more than a five-minute advantage on the next closest rider, it would be impossible for a competitor to actually make up that much ground anyway. Instead, Froome will enjoy a leisurely ride into Paris where the sprinters will take center stage on the Champs Élysées. That will prove to be a fast and furious scene that the race winner is generally happy to stay well clear of.

Since this was the 100th anniversary of the Tour, the organizers of the event went out of their way to make things special. In the opening days, the race visited the island of Corsica for the first time ever. Later, they punished the riders with some of the toughest stages that have ever been a part of the race, including a double ascent of the famed mountain stage of Alpe d’Huez, on the same day no less. Today may be the best day of all, however, as the riders will embark late in the afternoon from the gardens at Versailles and will arrive in Paris as the sun is going down. They’ll then pedal through the courtyard at the Louvre before making their way to the Champs Élysées, where they’ll race around the Arc de Triomphe for the first time. It should make for a very memorable finish that will leave fans of the race counting the days until its return next year.

An Octogenarian’s Himalayan Adventure (VIDEO)

Who says you have to give up an adventurous life just because you get a little older? Certainly not Simon Gandolfi, an 80-year-old writer who just so happens to be on a journey from Delhi to London aboard a 125 CC TVS Phoenix motorcycle. In the video below we get a chance to experience part of Simon’s adventure as he rides up the Rohtang Pass in India and into the Himalayan State of Himachal Pradesh. To call the roads he rides treacherous would be an understatement but the views along the way look absolutely spectacular.

I hope I’m still taking on adventures like this when I’m in my 80s. Simon is an inspiration, even if he does look absolutely exhausted at the end.

A Day At The (Camel) Races

Camel Races in Alice Springs, Australia
Kraig Becker

The Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes are three of the biggest horse races on the planet, collectively making up the prestigious Triple Crown. Steeped in tradition, each of those events deftly mixes exhilarating action on the track with plenty of pomp and circumstance in the stands. With their large purses, competitive fields and rich histories these races are the very embodiment of the “sport of kings,” drawing plenty of attention to thoroughbred racing on an annual basis.

The residents of the town of Alice Springs, located deep in the heart of Australia’s “Red Center,” aren’t particularly impressed with the Triple Crown, however, mostly because they have a fine race all their own. In the minds of local residents, their homegrown event more than rivals those races in terms of prestige, action and unpredictability, while easily surpassing it in quirkiness. The Lasseters Camel Cup takes place on the second Sunday in July each year and features some of the finest camel racing you could ever hope to see. That is, if you should ever find yourself at an actual event that features those irritable, obstinate and down right mean animals pitted against one another on a racetrack. The sport seems aptly fitting for Australia, however, where they not only have an abundance of camels but more than a few jockeys crazy enough to try to ride them.Considering the fact that camels aren’t indigenous to the continent, they have still managed to play a surprisingly important role in Australia’s history. The animals were originally imported to the country from Pakistan, India and the Middle East back in the 1800s and were used in both the exploration of remote regions as well as in the building of the all-important Overland Telegraph Line. Eventually, camel breeders set up shop within Australia itself, providing local animals that were healthier and stronger than those that were being imported. They remained a popular choice for draft and riding animals into the 1920s when motorized vehicles came to prominence and began to replace the creatures. When they were no longer needed, many camels were set free into the rugged Outback and over the years they have grown into quite the nuisance. It is estimated that more than 1 million wild camels now wander the countryside and in an interesting change of fate, some are occasionally rounded-up and actually exported to other countries.

The Camel Cup has been built on the legacy that the animals have created in Australia but also has a colorful history all its own. Now in its 43rd year, the race began as a bet between two residents of Alice Springs who decided to settle a feud by racing one another on the backs of the unpredictable beasts. They didn’t know it at the time, but those two men were starting a tradition that would continue for decades to follow, carving out its own identity in the process. The original race was so much fun for the locals that they actually decided to continue with the event in subsequent years. The Camel Cup became an important fund raiser for the Alice Springs Lions Club, which has been involved with the event from the start and uses the money raised to help fund a number of local programs.

Camel races in Alice Springs, Austin
Kraig Becker

The most recent edition of the Camel Cup took place last Saturday, July 13, in front of a large and enthusiastic crowd of over 5000 at the Noel Fullerton Camel Racing Arena located in Alice Spring’s Blatherskite Park. That arena became the permanent home for the race in 1979 and is the only venue dedicated strictly to camel racing in the entire Southern Hemisphere. It features a 400-meter, oval shaped track, plenty of seating for fans and a press box where colorful commentators provided interesting and funny comments all day long. Local vendors also set up stands that offered any number of tasty delicacies to keep those in attendance happy and well fed.

Much like the Triple Crown, the Camel Cup consists of a number of races that take place throughout the day. Each of those races brings an element of uncertainty and randomness to the event leaving spectators to wonder just what they might see next. The stubborn nature of the camels often provides good comic relief because when they aren’t busy trying to throw their riders they often race in the wrong direction or simply refuse to run at all. At the Camel Cup it is possible to see more unexpected action on the track in a single afternoon than you would see in months of horse racing. You’ll also be more than happy to be sitting safely in the stands rather than astride one the more temperamental creatures making its way around the track.

Between races the crowd is treated to a number of other entertaining activities. Young children race on the track’s infield on hobby-camels while rickshaw races involving teams pulling each other around the track are hilarious to watch. There’s even a spirited competition amongst contestants looking to be named Mr. and Miss Camel Cup, which is a unique honor to say the least.

As a visitor to Alice Springs taking in the Camel Cup for the first time, I loved how there was an air of seriousness about the entire event, but not too serious. Some fans came dressed up in their finest clothes, as if they were going to the Kentucky Derby, while others wore silly costumes and became part of the show. The bottom line was that everyone was there to have a good time and no matter which end of the spectrum you were on, I think that mission was accomplished. I’m not positive, but I believe that even the camels were getting a good laugh out of the whole affair.

Gadling Gear Review: Samsung WB250F Smart Camera

Samsung WB250F Smart Camera
Samsung

Over the past couple of years, smartphones have managed to supplant dedicated cameras for many aspiring photographers thanks to their ability to take good, clean images and quickly share them across a variety of social media outlets. While they don’t come equipped with true zoom lenses or overly large sensors, in many cases they capture images that are good enough to meet most people’s needs and as a result, camera sales have suffered. But Samsung is a company that knows a thing or two about smartphones and cameras, and they’ve leveraged that expertise to create devices that can serve a wide variety of consumers. Nowhere is that more evident than in their new WB250F Smart Camera, which offers all of the features you’d expect out of a dedicated point-and-shoot, plus a host of features that you’ve come to love on your smartphone.

In terms of features and specs, the WB250F comes with everything you would expect out of a modern digital camera. It features a 14.2-megapixel CMOS sensor, an excellent 18x zoom lens and a high quality touchscreen that is crisp, clear and responsive. It is capable of capturing video in full 1080p HD and has a convenient pop-up flash that is surprisingly bright and powerful. Perhaps more importantly, however, the Smart Camera includes built-in Wi-Fi, which greatly extends its functionality when connected to wireless network or tethered to a smartphone, tablet or other device.On their own, those hardware features aren’t all that much to brag about these days. Other cameras have bigger lenses, higher megapixel counts and come with wireless capabilities as well. But what sets the WB250F apart from the crowd is its simple to use interface and sharing capabilities that are on par with what you find on the latest smartphones. In fact, when connected to a Wi-Fi network, the camera is capable of posting photos directly to Facebook or sending them to friends via email, which is kind of fun but is also a little clunky. Fortunately, Samsung has given WB250F users a companion app for their smartphones that allows the camera to instantly send photos directly to the device. I found this to be a much better method for actually sharing the images, as you can not only upload the photo to Facebook, Twitter or email, but also easily type out a message as well. The app, which is available for iOS and Android, also allows you to use your phone as a remote screen, snapping photos on the camera completely hands-free and from a distance. This was an incredibly fun feature that also has the capability of using your phone’s GPS chip to geotag any images shot.

In terms of photo quality, I feel the camera performs very well, particularly for its price point. Images come out clear and vibrant with good color saturation. The camera even performs well in low-light conditions, which is not something you can say about a lot of point-and-shoot models. The 14.2-megapixel sensor has a lot to do with that, especially since it is a backside illuminated chip that is specifically designed to capture decent images even in less than ideal lighting conditions.

Samsung WB250F Smart CameraLightweight and compact, the camera feels solid and very comfortable in your hands. Button placement was easy to adjust to and the touch screen interface is very intuitive and easy to understand. Within minutes of turning the camera on I found myself snapping photos and sharing them through email, as well as with an iPhone via the app. In fact, the only hiccup I came across was figuring out how to put the device into Wi-Fi mode, which is inexplicably done by turning the mode dial. Considering how much the camera can actually do, it was incredibly easy to learn.

One of the biggest stumbling blocks for many point-and-shoot cameras is battery life, particularly if they also have Wi-Fi capabilities. Samsung says that the Smart Camera is capable of capturing as many as 300 photos between charges, which is solid performance in most cases. But put to the test in the real world I found I had a hard time hitting that number. The use of Wi-Fi for sharing the images can have an impact on the battery life, which likely skewed my results. For day-to-day use the battery is more than adequate; although, you may want to pick up a second battery when traveling.

Samsung

As someone who owns numerous digital cameras I can honestly say that I was very impressed with the overall performance of Samsung’s WB250F. Not only is it fast and responsive, but even its more advanced features are easy to learn and use effectively. More than that, the Smart Camera is simply fun to play with, especially when paired with another device. I recently took my test unit with me on a trip to Australia and ran the companion app on a fifth generation iPod Touch. The two devices worked well with one another and it was fun to snap a photo and have it appear almost instantly on my iPod. Using the mp3 player as a remote control, complete with a large view screen, was a nice touch too.

Perhaps the best feature on the Smart Camera is its price. Samsung sells this impressive piece of technology for just $250, which seems like a bargain considering all of the things it is capable of. With its excellent image quality, big zoom lens and wireless sharing functionality, this just might be the camera that will get you to switch back from your smartphone. And when used in conjunction with that smartphone, it opens up even more possibilities.