With over 9,000 photos on Flickr alone, I think it’s safe to say that I like to take a lot of pictures. Like just about everyone these days, I have a digital point-and-shoot camera for documenting parties, nights out with friends, road trips, fun in the snow, and the list goes on. I also have a couple video cameras and a DSLR. I’ve heard about the Xshot! camera extender and saw one in action, but didn’t have my own… until now, thanks to a kind gift from an BC Blogger, Heather.
What Does It Do?
Those who have never seen an XShot usually have one of two reactions when they finally encounter someone using one. One reaction is to ask what it is, but more often than not people just comment on how cool it is. For those wondering what it does, the answer is easy. It extends the reach of your own arm by way of a telescoping pole that has an attachment at one end to connect your camera and a rubber grip at the other end to hold it. The result is a better shot in self-photos, making photos with the length of your arm in them a thing of the past.
How To Use An XShot
It’s too easy, really. Just screw the tripod mount into the adapter (found on the bottom of most cameras) and adjust the tilt to your liking (usually 90 to 110 degrees is good). Next, set the timer on your camera, extend, and smile. Now you know how to use it, but what about all the different ways you can make use of an XShot? There’s the obvious self-photo, but here’s a few more ideas:
- Photos with a friend
- Artsy photos from all angles
- Photos well above the crowd like at a concert
- Photos in hard to reach places (inside a wall, under the couch)
- Self-shot videos
- Unique perspective shots like from outside a moving car
You can see these last two in the following video:
Obviously, I love my Xshot! and Heather rocks for sending it to me. I’ve used it several times already and I’m sure it will get used a ton more at upcoming events. For about $30, it’s cheap enough to make up its purchase price before long and it’s compact enough for travel. It’s a great little accessory for anyone with a camera and if I hadn’t gotten one in the mail, I had already planned to buy one. You should too.
A couple years ago, I finally took the plunge and bought a DSLR. It came with the stock lens and was all I needed and I didn’t even need a camera bag. Since then, I’ve gotten a tripod and several lenses, and throwing them all in a regular backpack stopped working pretty much right away. It became clear to me that a good camera bag was what I needed.
My wife bought me a camera bag and lugging around my camera and accessories became a lot easier. This is not the same camera bag. This is a bigger bag for lugging around a lot more lenses, cameras, and, well, just a lot. This Booq Python Blur camera bag turned up at my office recently for a review.
Haul Lots Of Camera Equipment
I have my DSLR camera, a 500mm mirror lens, macro lens, fish-eye lens, some filters, a tripod and I carry around my camera battery charger, an extra battery, Rubiks Cube, and a Flip Ultra and a small point-and-shoot Sony digital camera. I first pulled all the filler paper out of the Python Blur (look at all that). There are pockets everywhere. One really good pocket to have in a camera bag is a laptop pocket. If you have a DLSR that you can control with software on your laptop, you know the benefits. I would have never gotten this hummingbird photo without my laptop and at the time, I had to carry both the laptop bag and the camera bag, which was a pain. To get a feel for the capacity, I emptied out my camera bag and loaded it all up in the Python Blur.
It still felt pretty empty. I moved stuff around and it still felt empty. It makes sense, though. A professional photographer is going to have his or her good camera and then their backup, a slew of lenses, color meters, remotes, etc. And a professional photographer would probably be able to fit all that in the Python Blur easily enough. The bottom of the top compartment can be moved or removed, as well, to join the bottom area and form one large storage space. A professional photographer is going to need this much bag. Sadly, it seems this is a little too much bag for me… for now.
Size Isn’t Everything
So I didn’t have enough camera equipment to make much of a dent at all in the amount of pace this Booq bag provides. That’s a good thing, one would think, and it still is for most, but it provided some concern for me. The very first thing I noticed when I threw it on my back was that it felt a lot heavier than my old basic beginner bag. The heft does not come without it’s reasons (see below), but it feels like this bag weighs almost as much empty as my bag with everything in it. I’m sure I could get used to it and it’s not exactly a ton, but it would be less convenient, especially when I take my gear hiking. The site lists the Python Blur as only 5.7lb, so maybe I just need to go to the gym more.
The next problem I faced was the lack of anywhere to strap in my tripod. Even though it throws the balance of my current bag all off, it’s one more thing I like to have integrated into a single bag. This is more than offset with the laptop pocket, but I want both.
Finally, the side pockets felt small to me. They were the obvious place to store my lenses, but it didn’t feel like it. Cramming my largest lens in there didn’t feel right and even a couple smaller ones felt forced, though everything fit and came out fine.
Reward If Found And Other Cool Features
While it doesn’t actually say anything about a reward, that’s the first thing someone might think. When I opened up the top compartment, I found a bar code and serial number on a tag that reads, “IF FOUND PLEASE VISIT TERRALINQ.COM”. Something tells me that there are people out there who would guess correctly that a nice camera bag like this loaded up with equipment could sell for quite a bit, but there are plenty of helpful and honest people out there, too, who would love to return such a thing to its owner if only they knew who that was. That’s where Booq’s Terralinq service comes in. Buy a Booq bag, register it, lose it, someone finds it, they report it, Terralinq contacts you and you meet up with the finder for your bag. It’s a great idea that is hopefully saving some people lots of money or insurance headaches.
One of the small features, but still worth pointing out, is the key ring in the left side pocket pictured above. Even better, but harder to show with a photo, is that the Python Blur’s exterior is 1680 denier ballistic nylon and water repellent. From the high-quality zippers to the denim lining, this thing is built to last a long time and absorb the impact of some of our clumsy mistakes. The inside is soft and protects without scratching. Aside from any features, a good bag should last and this one looks like it will.
There’s a lot of camera bags out there and bags made specifically to carry around expensive camera equipment and protect it from damage, rain, etc. are never cheap. At $229, this one is a little more than I would be willing to throw down for a bag for my camera equipment which I could replace for about $800 or less. More than the cost, it’s just too much for me. I need a simple bag for my simple photography needs. The Booq Python Blur is, however, a serious bag for serious photographers with a price tag that is justified by the years of rugged use it is likely to provide, the peace of mind named Terralinq, and the over-abundance of storage space.
One of the things most cell phones lack is optical zoom for the embedded camera. Sure, many of them provide digital zoom, but that’s mostly just enlarging a portion of the existing image and results in a lower quality photo or video. The people over at usbfever.com were kind enough to send me one of their products that aims to deliver the optical zoom we’ve been missing (for the iPhone, anyway).
The iPhone Zoom Lens
The product usbfever.com sent me is a 6X optical zoom lens for the iPhone. It came with the lens, the snap-on case, a neck strap, a user manual and a microfiber cleaning cloth. I love when companies include the microfiber cloth because you can never have too many.
Although I found the user manual to not be all that helpful and ended up putting it aside, it really isn’t necessary for this product, in my opinion. The application of the case is pretty obvious and the lens just slides into the case. I will probably never use the neck strap. The lens does not have protective covers for either end, so it’s best stored in the box it came in which is small enough to keep in the car without being in the way.
Photo And Video Zoom On The iPhone
The best test of a product like this is to snap a regular photo and then one with the lens from the same spot, so that’s just what I did. In my conference room, I snapped the first photo without the lens and the second with it attached. Both photos were taken from about 4-5 feet from the subject, although this lens kit would be most useful outdoors.
As you can see, the lens did a great job of bringing my subject a lot closer in the shot, but it came with some fuzzy edges. I think I could have adjusted the focus a little more, but it was a little awkward to do because the lens has a just a tiny little bit of room to move in it’s connector. I had slightly better results as shown in the video below.
Initially, I also had a hard time removing the case from my phone, but I had less trouble with it after I found that it’s easier to start from the side edges and work your way around. I think the case design could be better if the lens connector wasn’t glued on. If it was, instead, part of the molded case, I’d just keep the case on the phone all the time. With caps for both ends of the lens, I could then carry the lens around more freely and slap it on the phone in an instant for a quick zoom photo.
In any case, as is, the product does as advertised and is a pretty cool addition to your iPhone accessory collection.
This product really feels a little more like a cool novelty than a practical accessory, but it’s also under $20, which makes it a very affordable novelty item. That said, it is a pretty cool thing to have handy when you want to get a photo or video with your iphone and need to zoom in. The low price is certainly a selling point for anyone who needs a little convincing that they actually need a zoom lens on their iPhone.