Originally submitted at Adorama

Lowepro Fastpack 350 Digital SLR & Widescreen Notebook Backpack, Water Resistant & 180-Degree Access Panel, Black

Solid construction to fit larger cameras

By MartyG from Manchester, CT USA on 8/10/2011


4out of 5

Pros: Roomy, Nikon D7000, Strong Construction, MacBook Pro laptops, Adjustable Harness, Comfortable, Easily Accessible Equipment

Cons: No Tripod Holder

Best Uses: Storing Gear, Protecting Gear, Compact storage, Transporting Gear

Describe Yourself: Photo Enthusiast

Was this a gift?: No

Use side net pocket combined with nylon strap around mid section of pack to attach small carbon fiber ‘traveller’ style tripod to side of pack.

Plenty of room for Nikon D7000 with vertical grip MDB-11 and Arca-Swiss L-bracket attached plus 10-24, 18-105vr, 70-300vr, 50 f/1.8 and strobe all fit into lower section with front pocket for manual and cleaning accessories.

Rear laptop compartment well protected!

Top section with plenty of room for other day-hiking gear.

Totals less than 20 pounds including carbon fiber tripod and ball head!

Add ext. strap to mount tripod


Tags: Using Product, Picture of Product



Leica is a traditional ‘German’ and they don’t do anything without a very specific and detailed plan! The following is what I believe their X1 design plan was based on, at least originally.


When I read reviews, I’ve learned from experience, not to believe any subjective conclusions that any reviewer makes! They are inevitably wrong. I think that this is usually because the reviewer isn’t smart enough to grasp the intricacies of the newest design plan.


It is likely that nobody has even bothered to ask Leica or at least not asked the people that would know what their original working design goals for the X1 were! They work in small, tight teams of engineers and secrecy is a given.


Deciphering a camera’s design intent is like looking at the tracks left in the snow and using your knowledge to figure out what animal left them. This can be tricky and depends as much upon ones experience as it does upon your intuition.



This is nothing less that the first, truly ‘old school’ digital Leica design that meets the criteria they set down in the early 20th century with their first film cameras! That philosophy was as radical then as it is now! They designed the smallest body design that used 35mm motion picture films. The original didn’t even have a viewfinder. When you see this camera next to other designs from it’s time, it was miniature by comparison.


This new X1 camera is designed for producing the ultimately, ‘BEST JPEGS’ automatically and as fine tuned by Leica to their lofty standards. From what I’ve seen, they’ve done just that! There appears to be no reason to edit these jpegs in post production.


Another BIG clue was that the anti-vibration on the X1 ONLY works on JPEGs and NOT DNG raw files! That can’t be an accident. It is intended to push you towards using their jpegs! Why else wouldn’t it work in raw in a $2,000 camera?


Another was the physical design and layout of the controls. These are very minimal and that wasn’t easy to do! This is as simple a physical design as it gets! Especially when you consider the size!


Also, there is that incredible prime lens! The identical removable prime lens design is sold by Leica for $3,995! Identical! It isn’t an exaggeration to say that this camera is sold for a bargain price!


Even the lens’s focal length goes along with the Leica tradition for their film cameras! They seem to have chosen the 35 mm lens focal length as ‘their own’ standard lens design when most others used the 50 mm focal length.


I’m sure that the advanced 29-menu system was added by committee that demanded more ‘features’ so that it could compare more equally with ‘other’ brands in the same space. As was the raw DNG file format. Too bad! I’m sure it started out much more spartan and usable but too radical for their marketing department!


The X1 was built to be small and compact enough to carry all the time with no penalty for shooting (no film to buy!) lots of photos.


With minimal experimentation, you’ll even figure out what the exposure ‘should be’ and you’ll then be able to set it manually! It just takes practice and you will ‘see’ exposures and know what will be needed to get the results that you are after. Old school!


I’d suggest you look into some antique books about using the oldest Leicas. The Life magazine photographers used to swear by the little Leicas … Henri-Cartier Bresson, Alfred Eisenstaedt, Ernst Haas, and even Philippe Halsman. I’m sure their same tips will directly apply to using  this X1 camera to it’s full advantage!


Eugene Smith was another Leica devote. I’ve read many of his books. He’d develop his films in coffee cans on pot bellied stoves when necessary! But the images his leica’s produced were still astonishing. Were he around, this would be a camera he’d love to use!


The size makes it possible for you to be nearly ‘invisible’ when you are shooting. Even close up, people won’t realize what you are doing with practice. Try it and see. Take it along everywhere you go! And use it, everywhere.


In a way, it’s like my iPhone (except it produces astonishingly beautiful images!) in size.


This is a camera that is all about the photograph! It’s not about the camera and not about the photographer. Truly THE radical old school design!

For decades, I’ve been a Mac IT contractor in major corporations, setting them up to take advantage of the Mac’s design.

Recently, all that has changed for the better as well as, for everyone both inside and now, outside of corporations!

With the announcement and introduction of the iTunes Store, Time Machine, the Mac Apps Store, iCloud and now Thunderbolt, Apple has taken all of the ‘lessons learned’ from within the most organized IT departments in giant corporations (that could afford my specialized engineering services) and literally given it away for FREE to every Mac User!

This is unprecedented in the computing world!

And it’s not just about these amazing technologies but also about the infrastructure that was needed to make this possible. Apple has spent the better part of a decade working on this, as well.

Their new North Carolina data center is THE largest in the world, period.

The money and time that they patiently invested to make this possible is staggering. No other corporation has ever even attempted this before.

For us, the individual Mac users, it will mean that we can get on about our lives and that all of our digital droppings (such as my photographs and blog posts) will be protected at my home and off site (in the iCloud) and will be instantly and automatically accessible by me from all of my devices … my computers, iPads, and iPhones and will also be in the format needed to be published on the web as photos, movies and blogs, too!

In addition, all of my applications from the Mac App Store will get automatically updated and I can buy any that I need, instantly and they will be installed onto my computers.

Now, I can tell you, that when I’ve done this for corporations it sounds easy but it’s not! Beyond setting up the networking and configuring all of the individual computers for this, and setting up special servers for the iPads and iPhones so that they can access SOME of this information, after a time, and having people that can cross check licensing for apps and approve or buy more as needed to fulfill requests, which normally takes days to weeks, it can be a nightmare to manage all of this! And that doesn’t include what happens when we’d push out software or God help us, operating system updates which ALWAYS breaks a certain number of computers.

Now Apple does all of that, better than I ever could and they do it for everyone and for FREE!

It changes nearly everything. You don’t need massive storage inside of your computer when you have instant access to all of your stuff via iCloud! Using the new Thunderbolt 27″ display you gain all of the connectivity you need using only one Thunderbolt cable between it and your Mac so that you can leave all of your other devices plugged into this monitor. You don’t need DVDs to get software when you have the instant Mac Apps Store online. And everything is handled automatically, for you! You don’t even have to call the IT department (not that they’d actually answer!).

BTW Upgrade to Lion, ASAP! Normally, I’ve held back for weeks to give people a chance to find all of the bugs in new software like this. Not needed with Lion, however! Lion works GREAT! I’ve already updated all of my Macs with zero problems! Nada!

I really look forward to the announced, September release of iOS 5 for my iPad and iPhone!

For now, I think the real ‘Bomb’ is the new 11″ MacBook Air. So small and compact that it will challenge even the iPad! But it has a keyboard and trackpad and runs Mac apps! And using it’s single Thunderbolt connector to connect it to a new Thunderbolt display will change it instantly into a powerful desktop computer with all of the connectivity you could ask for, that can easily handle all of the things that most people do with any computer. Disconnect that cable and power and it is an ultra-light Mac that will work all day!

I love my 2011 15″ MacBook Pro with it’s new screen technology (I payed for the matte version, too!) and it’s quad-core i7 but it’s kind of over kill to use this when I go out to photograph and want to remotely control my Nikon D7000 with Sofortbild (the wonderful FREE software to do this). I wish I had an 11″ MacBook Air! Maybe, some day, I hope?

All of these changes during the first half of 2011 cause me to be very excited in anticipation of what else Apple will reveal, later this year!

As an Apple user since 1983 and a Mac User since 1984, I can promise you that already, this has been the best year ever, bar none!


Here are some traditional Japanese paintings found in a recent Google search.


Now look at some traditional European paintings, also found in a recent Google search.


A few of the most obvious categories where these traditions differ include flatness vs. depth and flat color vs. multi-tonal color.


I maintain that for their visual arts, these foundational differences have influenced the engineering designs of their photographic camera systems, as well.


Post WWII in both Japan and Germany, the camera and lens industries had to be rebuilt.


Because all lens design involves physical rules from nature, trade-offs must be made, sacrificing one quality to gain or improve another. It is the balance of these trade-offs that is the key to understanding lens designs.


Each group took pride in this work and each designed their lenses to more closely match their culture’s visual biases.


In europe, the German lens designers (Leica and Schneider) balanced their lens designs so that they’d produce subtle and smooth color tonal ramps throughout both the in focus and out of focus areas of the image. Also, barrel and pincushion distortions as well as chromatic aberrations in both the in-focus AND out of focus areas in the image were minimized. To accomplish all of this, the trade-off was some edge sharpness.


Even european films such as Agfa, mirrored their culture’s visual sensibilities with subtle, perhaps even a slightly muted color pallet.


In Japan, their top lens designers at Nikon, Olympus, Pentax, etc., concentrated on lens designs with the sharpest possible focus and bold colors. Out of focus distortion and aberrations were acceptable trade-offs as long as the in-focus plane was tack sharp and the color tonalities were vivid and bold.


And Japanese films such as Fuji, were similarly all about sharpness and bold colors!


Still today, this dichotomy of camera design persists! Even though Leica lenses are now manufactured in Japan, their designs are the same German designs that came out just after WWII.


As we have moved from analog film to digital cameras, these two very different visual/cultural sensibilities continue to influence the design of the cameras and lenses!


That so few photographers will ever notice this in our current visual society is unfortunate. Beyond techniques, the physical gear that they choose to capture their photos will have a tremendous impact on the look and feel of their images.


Those that do see and understand these two design philosophies will be able to select the one that best fits their own vision and color pallet.

Last week I upgraded my 18 month old Nikon D90 with its’ D7000 replacement upgrade, paid for out of my own pocket ($1,199 direct from Amazon).

Having used it for a week, these are my first impressions.

One of the other things that I purchased along with it is the matching Nikon MDB-11 vertical grip along with a 2nd battery and two, 32 GB SDHC cards.

Together, these produce one incredible APS-C sensor sized camera system.

The ‘feel’ of holding this camera is radically better than the D90 due to the D7000’s internal magnesium frame.

Though all of the reviewers seem to play this down, the D7000’s grip is slightly longer than the grip on the D90. With my D90, my little finger had nothing to grasp onto but the D7000 has exactly enough more grip so that I can grasp the camera with all four fingers!

Most of the controls are very close to the same position on both cameras making the transition quite easy. The same is true for the vast majority of the menu settings although there are a couple of wonderful new additions that I will describe, below.

Gone is the original, D70 style of the top shooting mode knob. All of the mode pictograms have been replaced by a single word … “mode”. This freed up space for two additional mode settings that are incredibly useful … U1 and U2. Basically, you can setup the camera the way you like to use it and then store ALL settings in either of these two modes. Even resetting the camera will not erase these two user settings.

Then there is the new 14-bit and uncompressed RAW file settings. Previously, all of the consumer DSLRs captured data from the sensors in only 12-bits of data. What this means, from a practical standpoint is that instead of a maximum less than 4,000 color tonalities possible in 12-bits, the new setting lets it collect more than 14,000 color tonalities in 14-bit mode! This really improves fine details in the lower, shadow tonalities.

The viewfinder is the best digital viewfinder that I’ve ever used! It is 100 percent accurate and shows, right to the very edge, exactly what will be included and excluded in each shot. The displays in the finder are easy to see, as well. Because it appears larger than the D90 finder, my DK-21 magnifying eye piece fills my field of view with only the image, cropping out the data which surrounds it. So, I added a DK-16 magnifier to my kit which only magnifies the image by a factor of 1.6x instead of the 2.1x so, I can now have a more ‘up close’ view while still seeing all of the appropriate data at the same time.

One other noticeable additon was the 6 fps shutter. It may not sound like much but for fast moving objects such as the butterfies that I enjoy shooting in the air as they fly, this higher frame rate is fantastic.

There are many more new improvements such as the incredible ISO 25,600, low noise sensor and the nearly instant, autofocus array or the 16.2 megapixels, etc.. However great these are, they won’t improve what I’m shooting as much as the other things that I’ve mentioned, here.

I currently use the 2011 MacBook Pro 15″ with quad core i7 processors along with a free (donation ware) program named Sofortbild to remotely tether my Nikon cameras so that I can see (using LiveView) and control all functions via USB cable. I’ve added a 30′ amplified USB cable (from Amazon for less than $15). This extends the camera’s limited HDR sequence from 3 frames to as many as you wish to shoot at any interval you desire. It also extends it’s time laps function and for those of us with less than perfect vision, using LiveView on a 15″ screen to really ‘see’ the composition prior to shooting, makes this a terrific addition for this wonderful camera!

I use the latest Aperture 3.1 for the vast majority of my photo editing along with Nik’s pluggins suite. Perfect Layers has now extended Aperture’s capabillities enough to reduce my need to upgrade to the latest Photoshop CS 5x. My previous Photoshop CS 3 still does everything else that i need it to do, such as perspective adjustments, etc.

Nikon’s own Capture NX2 remains somewhat of an inigma. I do still use it for many shots but I’ve discovered that Apple’s own Aperture has equalled it’s RAW conversion and if I need more, I turn to DxO Optics Pro 6 which now has lens profiles for my 50 f/1.8 Nikkor, 10-24 Nikkor, 18-105 VR Nikkor and the 70-300 VR Nikkor which is still my favorite lens for many things. DxO now does the best combination of lens corrections for all of my Nikkor lenses, even though they are Nikon’s consumer grade lenses.

I started using film Nikon’s back with the Nikon F in the early 70’s. My first digital Nikon was the CoolPix 990 followed by the Coolpix 4500 which I still own and use with it’s incredible 8mm fish eye auxillary lens! My first DSLR was the Nikon D70 in January 2005 followed by a pro, Nikon D200 which I replaced last year with the D90.

In the last week, all of my funk (fear and confusion) about upgrading has faded away. The Nikon D7000 is the finest Nikon, bar none, that I’ve ever used! i haven’t got a single regret. My venerable D90, after only 6,220 shutter activtions goes on ebay, next week.

Please feel free to ask me any questions about my recent experience using this amazing camera.

My first forays into digital photography were in the mid 1980s. I’ll leave this story for a future blog post.

I purchased my first 1/2 megapixel Sony Mavica floppy disc camera in 1997 for nearly $1,000. This too deserves it’s own future blog post.

So here, I want to introduce you to my second Sony Floppy disc camera, which I bought for $900, late in 1998.

I should first explain what a floppy disc is for those that have never used them. These are 3 1/2″ discs of magnetic tape that are encased into a hard plastic case. Each is capable of holding 1.44 MB of data.

Back then, floppy discs were used by most computers for many purposes. Today, there are USB floppy disc drives that still work with most modern computers like my Intel based MacMini.

My Mavica can store as many as 35 to 40 shots on a single floppy disc. Each image is 1024 x 768 pixels and takes up less than 50 KB of space!

Below, I will inset several photo to give you a feel for their qualities for yourself.

I made the following photos using my Sony Mavica Floppy disc camera at Cape May, NJ seashore in 1999.

Such low resolution images still look fine when printed up to 6″ x 9″.

And for web photography this image size is perfect! It loads quickly and is still capable of revealing the key details and sensitive lighting and colors, even in less than 50 KB!

I still use this camera preparing photos for ebay sales and of course, my WordPress blog.

It’s lens is a 14x super zoom lens that focuses down to 1″.

And it’s easy to see what you are shooting because it has an EVF (electronic view finder) as well as a movable LCD display that can even be pointed forward so you can use the camera for self portraits!

Oh, and it even shoots movies, too! You can shoot a short video that is the ideal size to send in emails!

So, I believe that I’ve was able to produce fine looking photos with 1 megapixel cameras!

BTW I repurchased the above camera last year on ebay for only $25!

There is a ‘trick’ to these photos … I printed them using Aperture 3. With this software, I’ve been able to remove the chromatic aberration and noise plus control the tonalities using it’s curves and levels controls.

You can download your own 30-day free trial of Aperture, here. Watch their free training videos and then give it a try on your oldest digital files and see what Aperture 3’s magic can do for them!

I’ve used every photo editing app since the original Digital Darkroom software, back in the 1980’s and none of them hold a candle to what you can do using Aperture 3. It’s a game changer!

And as you can see here, it has revolutionized all of my digital photographs, new and old!

Pictorial photography in America was quite popular during the beginning of the 20th century.

At that time, mass produced cameras were first manufactured and came with lenses such as the Anastigmat which when used at it’s largest aperture and combined with orthochromatic films of the day, would produce softly focused, ‘black and chalk’ tonalities resulting in soft, grainy prints.

Instead of looking like a mirror of reality as today’s digital cameras typically produce, the Pictorial styled images had a very romantic and mysterious quality and the best of them would convey ‘feelings’ and ’emotions’ and a unique ‘atmosphere’ in the final prints.

Project Gutenberg has a set of wonderful (free) books if you go to their web site and search for, ‘Pictorial Photography in America‘, 1920, 1921 and 1922 as well as other ebooks on this subject that are well worth the time to read and gaze upon these photos.

Download the PDF versions to see it on your computer OR download the ‘epub with pictures’ versions then drag and drop them into your iTunes application window and they will automatically load onto your iPad the next time you sync it.

A personal note about my new iPad … it is more than you can possibly know or you’d already own one! I’ll be doing a detailed blog posting about it, soon but if you are a photographer, don’t wait, just go and buy one now! You won’t regret it.

During some recent experiments, I’ve hit upon a modern digital method to reproduce the same kind of Pictorial style using of all things, my iPhone, iPad and Aperture 3 software. As it was, back in the day, a lot depends on luck to produce a good, pictorial styled image. I think that the iPhone was made for this!

I’ll attach some of my test shots so that you can compare them with the book’s shots.

The technique used a pair of apps … one for the iPhone and one for the iPad (for a total cost of 99 cents) … that link them together wirelessly via BlueTooth. Make sure both devices have bluetooth turned on in their Settings. Open both Camera apps and you will be able to ‘see’ the results from the iPhone’s camera on the iPad’s screen. Then use the camera icon at the bottom of the iPad’s Camera-A app to capture the image.

This combination of the large, gorgeous preview screen on the iPad showing the image transmitted from the iPhone will make the image slightly soft and grainy … just what you are looking for if you want to simulate what the pictorial photographers saw and photographed!

I get the best results, handheld in low levels of illumination such as the samples I shot, below.

Pictorial Styled Digital Photo

The processing is quite straight forward in Aperture 3 , especially when you have completed the setup the first time and made this into a preset, although I have no doubts that there must be other programs that can produce similar results?

After you’ve set the following up, and saved it as a ‘Preset’, it can be applied to any of your other iPhone photos with just a single click.

For these examples, I’ve used the Curves block along with the Command Key modifier to move the max black and max white points to the limits that the iPhone recorded. If the histogram shows that the data is off scale, I also use the Exposure block, again using the Command Key modifier to adjust either the black point or the recovery slider to adjust the white point or both.

Next, the Levels block lets you once again use the Command Key modifier (handy one, this!) to once again fine tune the extreme sliders meeting the maximum black and maximum white in the image. Then move the middle tonality slider (usually towards the right) to get the desired rich look in the middle tones.

Then, the Black & White block will be adjusted so that the red slider is 100 percent while the other two sliders are each set to zero percent. Now the image will begin to reveal itself!

To finish the look, add the Edge Sharpen block and set to Intensity: .81; Edges: .22;  Falloff: .69 and then, add the Vignette block, set to: Type: Gamma; Intensity: .6; Radius: .5.

To save this as a one click Preset, just click on the Presets button in Aperture 3’s Adjustments and select, Save as Save As Preset and name it Pictorial from iPhone. After this when you want to see if your shot looks good in the Pictorial style, all you do is select this preset. This should at least be close enough for you to determine if it is worth the time to fine tune the results. As I said earlier, luck will have a lot to do with if this works well or not.

BTW If you don’t own Aperture but use a modern Mac, download a free 30-day trial version from Apple. But, be warned that everyone that I know has tried it has ended up buying it!

I’ve worked with most photo editing apps at one time or another since 1984 and I can tell you that this latest release of Aperture 3 is nothing short of stunning! Be sure you check out Apple’s online training videos to get up to speed with it. They’ve done and outstanding job on their ‘Learn More’ videos.

It’s been suggested that I include the following disclaimer … I have no affiliation and receive no benefits, financial or otherwise from Apple or the maker of the Camera-A, Camera-B software! I can’t help myself, I just love photography and want to share it with anyone that will listen to me! Enjoy!