Stuff (But Vision is Still Better.)

In GEAR by David26 Comments


This one is an unabashed, shameless, Gear Is Good but Vision Is Better post. You’ve been warned.

There have been a lot of quiet, but enthusiastic ripples about the new Elinchrom Ranger Quadra system, and I finally caved in. I called B&H and talked it through, then placed my order. I’d been tempted before Photoshop World and then I got to play with them, hold them in my hot little hands, and they amazed me. The picture above doesn’t give any sense of scale, but this is a tiny (no, I mean, really tiny) system. The battery and pack is about 8inches tall and weighs 3kgs, or just over 6.5lbs. The head fits in my hand and cranks out 400w seconds – which means it’s WAY more powerful than my Canon 58Os. And with built-in Skyport it’s ready to use wirelessly very quickly. Am I excited about this? Absolutely. Why? Because one of the reasons I don’t do as much work with my Canon flashes as I’d like is that – excuse my language – I find them to be a right pain in the ass. I’m still wrestling with my new Pocket Wizards, which work well when they work. And I find, after brief experiments with it, that the ETT-L stuff is more work than it’s worth. I would actually take a small unit like this on assignment where larger kits are just too large, heavy, and prohibitive.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the Strobist movement, and in the right setting I like my 580s well enough. But to have more power in such a simple, portable package, with a modelling lamp and built-in Skyport? I’m in love. I’ll let you know just how deep that love goes and if it’s going to last or just be some brief fling powered by gear-lust and infatuation once I’ve had it  a while.You can see more info on the Elinchrom Ranger Quadra HERE.

A couple other housekeeping items I wanted to mention and won’t have time later this week.

1. Matt Brandon’s got a 2010 Calendar for sale over at The Digital Trekker. I haven’t had a printed calendar for years but word on the streets is some people still use these nutty contraptions. If you’re one of those people, you don’t have to admit it here, but check out Matt’s calendar HERE.

2. I was contacted recently by a Vancouver-based photographer, Andy Cotton, who has developed a really cool way of carrying your cameras. It’s called the Cotton Carrier and for outdoor lifestyle and adventure photographers I imagine this will have early adoption – it’s pretty darn cool. Other will want to use them but might have to get over the fact that it makes you look like some kind of Commando/Ninja. But it’s super cool. I’ve played with mine, like the idea and the execution a ton and am just looking for a chance to try it out. Seriously, go take a look at the Cotton Carrier HERE.

3. I got my Gura Gear Kiboko bag last week. You know I love my Think Tank bags, but if there’s one bag they don’t make it’s what I’d call an adventure bag. I wanted something for safaris and more rugged adventures, something that still fit into a tiny overhead bin (like the Embraer or Canada Regional Jets) but still be built to take abuse, haul a ton of gear, and – this was the kicker – have an excellent backpack harness that I could see myself carrying heavy loads over tougher terrain. So when I ordered my bag from the maker, Andy Biggs, himself an accomplished photographer and safari guide, I had high hopes. Man were they ever exceeded. I’ll do a review later, probably after my safari in January, but the Kiboko is incredible. Weighs less than 4lbs, carries a mountain of gear, and is clearly made by someone with control issues and an eye for details. Like I said, review to come, but if you’re looking for a great adventure bag, take a good long look at the GuraGear Kiboko bag (pictured below.)


4. Lastly, how in the world has it taken me so long to get turned out to OnOne Software and their suite of plug-ins for Photoshop and Lightroom? I knew they were out there. I glanced at the site. I kept thinking, I really need to look into this more. And I never did. And then at Photoshop World (PSW is an evil temptress) I saw a live demo that convinced me I needed to look at them more closely. I’ve played with the tools on and off since yesterday, so this isn’t a review, just a reaction – this stuff rocks. If you do any commercial works directly for clients, especially wedding or portraits, or you like to get a little more artistic with your work, the OnOne Plug-in Suite has some cool tools – I especially love the Focal Point 1 and Photo Tools 2 plug ins. Anyways, take a look at them – in Lightroom they act as an external editor in conjunction with Photoshop, but it’s pretty seemless – it goes out, you do the adjustment, it returns to Lightroom. Love it. OnOne has free demos and videos of all their stuff – find more info about them HERE.

OK, enough gear-freaking, get out there and shoot something you love.


  1. The tripod and ballhead that you’ve got on the Kiboko bag look very interesting. I’ve been looking for a second tripod and head – my Manfrotto tripod is nice and heavy for the 360 panoramas that I do but it is not nice to carry outdoors for any length of time.

    Very informative and fun-to-read website as well. You clearly enjoy what you’re doing and that is brilliant.

  2. I love my ranger (twin head) … ended up buying the adapter to use with standard softboxes etc … what I’m lacking is a great bag for carying the kit … any sugestions are welcome.

  3. David the ranger looks like a killer setup for shooting on location. I have been thinking of getting something like it. What other systems have you looked at and are they in the same price range? The battery is a lot smaller looking than say the white lightning set up.

  4. “I would not like to be seen wearing that and then pulling my camera/gun out in a warzone” was what I was thinking. But then, I’m not a warzone photojournalist =P

  5. Author

    I’m thinking “safe” as in “not getting shot” – a safari will be fine, wear what you like. But not every place in the world is it a good idea to look military, if you know what I’m saying. 🙂

  6. Thanks David
    When you say ‘safe’ do you mean safe from theft or getting in the way? I am thinking of our trip in Jan to Kenya.

  7. Author

    @Maureen – Totally different things. I love my R-Strap but there are times I don’t want to use a strap at all, or times when a camera dangling on a strap just isn’t safe – so I imagine the Cotton Carrier excelling in these situations. But I really haven’t done more than play with it in my office, so I’m only guessing at this point. I think for some applications this is a killer product. For others I’d feel self-conscious looking so para-military, but remember I travel and shoot in places where this isn’t just a fashion issue, it’s a safety issue, so I might be more sensitive to it.

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  9. Author

    @Anita – I thought the same thing. In fact before I knew it was named after the maker, I was like “Cotton Carrier? What is this some kind of Baby Bjorn for cameras? That’s silly!” But you can hardly make fun of the name if it’s someone’s name. Still, a re-branding might be good 🙂

    And yes, they are different bags. VERY different. And I need more of them 🙂

  10. Hi David, I had to laugh when I read your comment, “Really, they’re different bags.” (spoken like a true bag-lover). 🙂

    The Cotton Carrier might need a sturdier sounding name.

  11. These came out shortly after I had purchased Bowens “portable” kit.

    Whilst these are definately portable, I’m interested to see how you use them in the field. That battery pack is going to present its fair share of challenges 🙂

    I find that when shooting in England, I’ll mostly use my Bowens kit, but when traveling abroad, I’ll stick to speedlights.

  12. Author

    Ron – that was my intial thought but buying just the plate clamp from RRS or Acratech would allow you to put the cotton carrier plate on and off quickly and easily. That’s what Andy Cotton does, I haven’t picked up a clamp yet. Does this make sense or am I not explaining it well?

    You’d need one of these:

  13. The Cotton Carrier looks like a pretty clever design. But it also looks like it wouldn’t work with an L-bracket. Is that so? If it is, then I would expect it to be less popular with those who use tripods regularly.

  14. Author

    @Mark – Really, they’re different bags. I love the antidote – it’s great, and it’ll carry a laptop where the Kiboko won’t. But the kiboko has an incredible harness for hiking. So I’d call one a great travel bag, especially if you want to do one carry-on and take a laptop, and the other an adventure bag, especially if you carry longer lenses.

    Thanks for the heads-up on Nik – they’re next on my list to demo.

  15. David, how would you compare the Kibobo bag to the Think Tank Airport Antidote? I’m pretty happy with that one but you’ve been so positive about the Kibobo that I wonder if I’m missing out on something?

    BTW, I use both Nik and OnOne. Love the Silver Efex Pro and Dfine from NIk and the Phototools and Photoframe from OnOne.

  16. Author

    @Marco – Yeah, it’s either a really good idea, or a really, really bad one! Not sure yet. I’ve thought about this on and off for a couple years. It couldn’t be a commissioned assignment and the lucky winner would have to fight the Legendary H to the death first, but we’ll see… 🙂

  17. I think that Mitchel Kanashkevitch was doing something similar too on a motorbike trip in Asia – not sure what came of it. It was a chance for one lucky person to do a trip with him..No fees involved – self financing more as a companion /assistant.

  18. Author

    @Marco – It’s true. I apologize now for the temptation. 🙂 Thanks for suggesting that the Cotton Carriers folks shell out for dinner – I’ll take a free night out anytime 🙂

    @Claude – I haven’t tried the Nik stuff but i know alot of photogs who use both Nik and OnOne. the Nik Silver effex seems to get alot of praise.

    @JVL – i like the way you think! Scary, but innovative. 🙂

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  20. Vistek has the Ranger Q’s here in Canada so yeah, I’ve been eyeing them (and I actually know and like using my 580’s too!). Doing a lot of mobile work having something powerful and portable is a godsend. Albeit not a cheap one.

    Elinchrom is top o the line and I, currently, certainly am not. It’s good in a way, a cost structure that is slightly prohibitive really makes me concentrate on my photography over the impossible number of gadgets out there that [strike]get in the way[/strike] assist. I think this is a natural pairing with your lastolite skylight too.

    Now you’ll need another bag/person just to carry this on assignment. Maybe that can be your next giveaway: “leave a comment to carry my stuff! Pay your own way!”

  21. As soon as I heard about the kiboko bag earlier this year, and checked out the official site I knew this was the bag I wanted. It’s not cheap, but it definitely seems worth it. The amount of space this bag offers in such a light package is amazing. That Quadra is also on my wishlist. But, again, it’s quite expensive. In regards to the OnOne plug-ins, would you recommend them over the Nik Software plug-ins?

  22. I don’t know about PSW being an evil temptress as much as DDC (yes, that’s you David DuChemin)….

    The cotton carrier….the answer to my prayers as I wander around the backs streets of Cairo trying to look inconspicuous yet carrying 2 cameras and goodness knows what else and spending more time trying not to knock them as I wander.

    I have already placed an order, and have cheekily suggested to them that, given the influence you have in all your readers lives, that they should be taking you and the good Mrs D out for a bloody good meal – as I am sure that you will single handedly push their sales up by some considerable factor!

    Oh dear, better go and look at onOne now too, though I shall try and desist so that I don’t fall into the “got all the toys, shame about the lack of photographic skill” box!



  23. Hi !
    I’m also very interested in the Quadra. But I wonder if the power is enough to overpower the sunlight. I think 400W/s is perhaps not enough. Have you try it in the direct sunlight ?
    Kind Regards.

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