Category Archives: Photography

Photojojo Lens Set

Photojojo Lens Set

The Photojojo Lens Set for android and iPhones works simply by adhering a small metal ring for each lens to mount on your smartphones rear camera for additional photography features.

Ease of Use, Performance:  5/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  5/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

photojojo lens set
Photojojo Lens Set

My first digital camera was the Canon PowerShot A610 with a 5 megapixel sensor which was a powerhouse at the time I bought it in a compact camera. Today my Samsung Galaxy S4 has more than twice the megapixels in a size that surprises me every time I take apart the same model phone.

I work at a cell phone repair shop and see every day the tragedy that befalls phones as well as tablets and other devices but phones have really taken over in today’s technology. They do lack a few features of those standalone cameras with notable features like aperture and exposure settings but most notably lenses.

lens mount rings on s4
Lens Mount Ring on S4

Having the ability to add a lens to the camera would be great but the body of the Galaxy S4 and other similar smartphones does not make this easy. Enter the new market of the attachable lenses for smartphones with the Photojojo Phone Lenses being a really great choice.

Photojojo has a whole set of lenses that attach to your smartphone with a simple magnetic ring and metal adhesive backed ring that sticks to your camera. The metal ring with adhesive comes in two varieties with the iPhone variety having a small dent for the microphone that sits close by the camera lens.

super fisheye lens on galaxy s4
Super Fish Eye Lens on Galaxy S4

The other models of phones including my Samsung S4 can use the full metal ring that has adhesive to secure it to the phone right around the rear camera. Once you install the metal ring you’re ready to shoot simply by placing any of the five lenses right on the ring and taking your shots.

The five lenses make up a six lens series with the wide angle lens being able to split into a macro lens simply by unscrewing the wide angle section. The macro/wide angle lens is the start to a full range of photography add-ons for your smartphone with the two fisheye lenses, telephoto lens and the polarizer finishing up the set.

fisheye lens
Fish Eye Lens

The two fish eye lenses add the curved view with the super fisheye adding a larger amount of distortion to your view with a full 235 degrees. The classic fisheye lens has a 180 degree view while the telephoto lens is a 2X zoom to get you closer to your subject.

The polarizer adds glare reduction so you can take clearer and sharper pictures while the combined macro and wide angle lens adds both close up photography and a larger field of view. All the lenses are made of quality aluminum and high clarity glass that are higher quality.

super fisheye
Super Fish Eye Lens

I have seen cheap photography lenses, add on filters and other things made from plastic and cheap glass that you could see the defects in and the Photojojo lenses are clear and well made. The magnetic attachment is simply a ring magnet on the base of each lens that adheres to the metal ring you stick to your camera.

On my S4 the ring sits right on the rounded square cover over the rear camera and I have not had a problem on two Galaxy s4 phones using the lenses. The lens attaches well and is hard to knock off which was one concern of mine but the major one I had was ease of use while out taking photos.

without polarizer
Without Polarizer

If you purchase the full lens kit you also get a small woolen pouch that zippers shut while each lens in the kit has a plastic cover and a lanyard attached to a small metal disc to protect the lens base. Whether you buy the kit or lenses separately you get a cover for each side of the lens for protection and several of the adhesive backed rings.

I have checked iPhones and several other brands of phones and the metal rings will fit on most of the ones I have seen in the repair shop I work at. The lenses attach easily and have great clarity as well as doing exactly what you would expect which is enhance your photography ability.

with polarizer
With Photojojo Polarizer

I was first interested in the macro lens due to my work on smartphones and wanting to capture the occasional snapshot of detail on a device I’m working on. The macro lens works great and you can see with a comparison between the shots without the lens and with it that you can get much closer with it.

Due to a lack of manual focus the camera just cannot focus on what you want when you’re close so macro photography does not work well with a smartphone without some help. The macro lens adds the ability to get really close and get detail that you cannot otherwise get.

circuit board with macro lens
Circuit Board with Macro Lens

closest my s4 will get and still focus

Closest the S4 will get and still focus

1x zoom with close up lens

1X Zoom with Close Up Lens

4x zoom with closeup lens

4X Zoom with Close Up Lens

The polarizer works well to reduce glare and for more realistic color in photos both indoors and outside but I was surprised at this shot indoors of our foster dog Mysty and how well it turned out with the lens. The other lenses add a great variety to photography using you smartphone and I truly enjoyed checking out the variety of lenses available with the set from Photojojo.

Each lens costs about $20 and the kit of all five lenses comes in at about $100 but you can also order a couple of other kits with an additional lens or just 3 lenses. The Photojojo lenses are the best solution for adding features like macro, fisheye and polarizing without gimmicky apps or software solutions.

Photojojo Website
Photojojo @ Amazon

Easy to mount and use
Lens covers are easy to use as well
No gimmicky mounts
Can be used with a phone case


Pelican 1660 Case

The Pelican 1660 Case is a fantastic storage and transportation case that is watertight and has an automatic pressure equalizer along with options for internal protection.

Ease of Use, Performance:  5/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  5/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

I received some very neat die cutting machines from Sizzix and Spellbinders but wanted to make sure they are protected when I transport them to classes I teach through 4-H. The Pelican 1660 Case is the perfect size for the Sizzix Big Shot Pro as well as for electronic equipment and other valuable objects.

The Pelican 1660 is 28.2 inches wide by 19.66 inches long and 17.63 inches tall not including some extra space due to the measurements being the optimal. At the very lip of the case the width is 29 inches by 22.5 and 13.5 inches tall with the lid about 3.5 inches tall.

The interior dimensions of 28.2 by 19.66 is the very bottom of the case which is a real switch when looking at cases and totes because most companies put the largest dimension of the case. Instead Pelican puts their smallest dimension on their site so you know if something that size will actually fit inside their case.

The Pelican 1660 is a large case that could easily fit a desktop computer inside along with a 27 inch monitor but you would have to remove the stand from the monitor. I am going to use the case exclusively for the Sizzix die cutting machine so that it can be protected when I bring it along to classes.

The tough case is made from a polypropylene copolymer that has an open cell core and solid walls for a tough but light weight structure. The other materials like the wheels and handle are a similar tough plastic while the O-ring seal is made from EPDM that is a synthetic rubber.

Pick N Pluck foam
Pick N Pluck Foam

The 1660 has seven latches and four stainless steel protected padlock loops to secure the equipment in the case as well as stainless steel pins in the three hinges. The latches are a snap shut type that is replaceable for a tough long lasting case that will not wear out quickly. The bottom of the case has a luggage handle that pulls out from the bottom of the case and has two positions for use and a stored position.

The Pelican 1660 comes in three different versions with and without foam padding and one version that has two levels of padded dividers. The padded dividers are a way to protect smaller equipment while the Pick N Pluck foam allows you to customize the padding to your needs.

The 1660 I received came with three 4 inch thick Pick N Pluck foam pieces that fit inside the case to protect your equipment or electronics. The Pick N Pluck pieces have an outer solid foam about a half inch thick and the inner foam is partially cut from top to bottom to allow easy removal of each half inch square.

inside the  Pelican1660
Inside the Pelican 1660

You can pick out any half inch squares to make an outline of whatever you want to store using the foam for custom protection inside the 1660. There is also a bottom one inch thick piece of foam that is slightly smaller that fits on the very bottom between the indents for the wheels and the handle.

The top also has a foam insert that is half solid and half egg crate for protecting the top and cushioning items when moving the case. All four pieces of foam are loose with the three Pick N Pluck pieces and the top fitting snuggly while the bottom piece is loose.

Protection of the things inside is what the Pelican cases are all about and the 1660 is tough, tough enough to stand on without breaking. Military, governments, bands, universities, schools, collectors and just about anyone who wants to protect their valuables and cargo are users of Pelican cases.

bottom of pelican 1660
Bottom of Pelican 1660

The Pelican 1660 Case is a perfect case for larger items just like the Sizzix Big Shot Pro but also makes an excellent case for other equipment and electronics. The Pelican 1660 comes in Black, OD Green and Desert Tan with the colors being made into the copolymer instead of being painted on.

The Pelican 1660 Case costs about $340 while the 1664 which is the 1660 case with the dividers costs about $475 and has the model number of 1664. You can buy the Pelican 1660 and other pelican cases form Amazon, popular photography sites and Amazon but a large site that has a great selection is called The Pelican Store.

big shoot pro in pelican case
Big Shot Pro Inside Pelican Case

I highly recommend the Pelican 1660 as the perfect carry and protection case for the Sizzix Big Shot Pro and other equipment or electronics.

My Pelican Case Video

Pelican 1660 Case Website

Pelican 1660 @ The Pelican Store

Tough and Durable Case
Customizable Foam Insert
Additional divider trays available
Latches for watertight storage


Adobe Premiere Elements 12 Review

Adobe Premiere Elements 12 Review

Adobe continues to produce a mediocre video editing product in Premiere Elements that has good features but brings good computers to their knees with crashes and system freezes. Ease of Use, Performance:  2/5 Look & Feel:  3/5 Features:  4/5 How much I enjoy: 1/5 Recommendation:  2/5 Stars Adobe Premiere Elements 12 Premiere Elements 12 would be a great video editing program like its big brother Premiere Pro but lack of smooth video editing on what is supposed to be supported Windows systems ruins my experience. Premiere Elements 12 does have a good organizer that is also used by Photoshop Elements but the similarity between both Elements programs ends there. Premiere Elements 12 continues the same fully featured program as previous editions but systems running slower and crashes do not make this a welcome release. I have had problems with previous releases of Premiere Elements and this release just continues the same problems even on new computers. Adobe Elements Organizer I had little to no problems using the organizer and selecting clips and videos as well as moving them around in files so I have no gripes about that part of the program. The organizer can help when you have numerous video clips and keep things neat and tidy but video editing can be problematic. Video editing is another question as my system slowed down and crashed numerous times on two different computers with more than the system requirements that Adobe lists. I am using a 3 GHz processor and 16 gigabytes of memory while their minimum is a 2 GHz CPU and 2 GB of ram. Autocorrecting Video Clip Video editing is pretty straightforward if you are used to the program and some if its small quirks but I found other programs that worked better. Adding video clips is as simple as can be but editing them down takes patience and some work while other factors can be troublesome. I really like the cut tool right on the marker where your video is currently at but other features seem intentionally difficult or simply unintended. Most of the issues I was having and smaller problems were corrected in patches while the crashing still happens and my system is sometimes brought to a standstill. Rendering Video Editing, adding clips and using tools like text for menus, changing speeds of clips and just about everything else I did worked well overall but the program just drags my system down. I had to continually render the video to ensure things stayed smooth and often crashes would have me restarting my computer and starting an edit from a previously saved spot. I have no problems with this type of behavior in Premiere Pro and even used the same video clips to make sure I was not having a problem from the hardware used to capture video. I have Premiere Pro CS5 installed on the same computer which works just fine but Premiere Elements 12 just crashes too often to be a usable tool for video editing. Guided Help Video editing should not be a system drain and while I do not have a top video editing system my computer handles Premiere Pro and other editing programs just fine. Premiere Elements is still not worth paying for due to this system crashing and freezing up on me. Many features of Premiere Elements work just fine but Premiere Elements 12 just continues to be a problem even though I am using a new computer with different video than I did on previous editions. I just cannot recommend Adobe’s newest release of Premiere Elements, the program continues to have bugs or problems and I can use other programs without the hassles. Premiere Elements 12 @ Adobe Premiere Elements 12 Review @ Pros Video editing works most of the time Organizer handles video clips well Cons Crashes and freezing system

Photoshop Elements 12 Review

Photoshop Elements 12 Review

Adobe Photoshop Elements 12 brings a great new feature with Adobe Actions for script like editing while the main features of professional image editing remain a standard of the program.

Ease of Use, Performance:  4/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  4/5
How much I enjoy:  4/5

Recommendation:  4/5 Stars

Adobe Photoshop Elements 12

Adobe Photoshop Elements has been and continues to be the best low cost photo editing program that has both image editing and a powerful collection of tools that are user friendly. Photoshop Elements 12 also has an extensive organizer that allows you to keeps things nice and tidy no matter how many photos you have.

Photoshop Elements 12 is still a packaged program that you can use for both MAC and Windows computers and has a full set of features. Still a packaged program may seem a bit odd but last year Adobe took most of its popular programs and went to a subscription based system.

Many of the popular and expensive programs are now purchased through a subscription service where you pay monthly or yearly while Elements continues to be a standard package. Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements are still a standard deal but only Photoshop Elements gets my recommendation again this release.

Check out my upcoming review of Premiere Elements 12 to see why you should avoid that but Photoshop Elements 12 does get at least my begrudging recommendation. Photoshop Elements 12 still has some great features and works extremely well for simple to advanced image editing and organizing but a few problems do creep in.

Adobe Elements Organizer

Photoshop Elements 12 requires an internet connection to activate the product before you can begin to use it as a regular program. If you are not connected to the internet the program will behave like a trial version and work for thirty days then tell you to connect to the internet to continue using it.

If you think this is not a problem I do know people who have laptops they use for personal use but do not connect them to the internet. Customers are also complaining about this on the Adobe forums because they have volume licenses and are needing a way to install them on numerous computers.

During this activation it is required for each license to input an Adobe ID which means for every computer you want to install it on you would need to create a new account using separate email addresses. The forum thread about this had someone trying to install Elements 12 on 50 computers which would be a huge task to create 50 separate accounts using 50 separate emails.

I’m not sure if the individual resolved his issues or went to another program but it is this kind of basic design carelessness that Adobe has me scratching my head about. It’s like the company is trying to lose customers and the newest edition of Photoshop Elements and Premiere Elements is no different.

photoshop image editing at its fiinest

Photoshop elements once you get past the installation and activation does work well and continues to be a very user friendly program. When you first open Photoshop Elements you are given a Welcome screen with choices for image editor or organizer.

On the Welcome screen is also a setting to have the program open either editor or organizer in the future as well as display or hide the Welcome screen. If you decide to hide the Welcome screen you can always go the help menu to return to it as well as having the option on the menus to open the other part of Elements whether you’re in the organizer or editor.

The organizer is a handy to keep things neat and tidy with simple to use controls and a filing system that allows you to organize but also store images in the cloud. The organizer can search your system and try to automatically organize images according to media type, people, places and events.

Adobe has brought their Revel cloud based storage to Photoshop Elements with easy album and image upload and retrieval on other devices like tablets and phones. Other organizer features include easy tagging, map location of images and even a quick edit feature.

Using Adobe Actions

Image editing using the main editing section ranges from basic to about as advanced as anyone would want for semiprofessional photographers with cropping, content aware fill and actions being the range. Simple cropping, red eye removal and filters to change images from vibrant colors to black and whites are basics of image editors nowadays and Photoshop Elements has been a standard for this for years.

Advanced features where the program can copy parts of images and move them while keeping the image around the moved object a part of the background works well when you want it. Some features are not going to be used much and some are more common but all the features I have tried in all the versions of Photoshop Elements have worked without many problems.

Actions is a new tool that is a great way to edit and improve images using other peoples scripts or lists of edits or you can create your own. Actions are a list of image edits like crop, create layer, add a color fill to the layer and then change exposure.

You can record a list of edits into an action and save that action for future use in image editing but it takes some work to get an action that works well for you. This can become a time saver in your work flow when you have numerous images to edit and have the same tasks to do on each one like I do for my product reviews.

Actions do not work all on their own every time and sometimes you do have a little tweaking and adjusting to get them to work for some of the steps. I am very impressed with this feature and can easily see how it can make editing easier and you can find a wide range of actions online for free and ones you have to pay for.

Photoshop Elements 12 continues to make your image editing an easy task but also continues to add features that make your job easier as well as more enjoyable. While some features like the activation may be a killer for some Photoshop Elements does continue to be a great image editor and organizer.

I still recommend Photoshop Elements 12 as a great image editor for easy editing and a fully feature program for enthusiast and novice photographers. Photoshop Element 12 is available from Adobe directly as a download or from retailers like Amazon as a package for about $70.

Photoshop Elements 12 @ Adobe

Photoshop Elements 12 @ Amazon

Easily edit images
Plenty of great features
New Actions simplifies editing

Internet connection & Adobe ID Account required for installation & activation

Lowepro Urban Reporter 250 Messenger Bag Review

Lowepro Urban Reporter 250 Messenger Bag Review

The Lowepro Urban Reporter 250 is a medium sized messenger bag designed for both smaller laptops and DSLR cameras with accessories and more.

Ease of Use, Performance:  4/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  4/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

Lowepro Urban Reporter 250 Messenger Bag

The Lowepro Urban Reporter series of messenger bags is a set of camera bags designed around photographers needs to carry both camera gear and other essentials. The Urban Reporter line of bags come in three sizes with each more roomier but essentially the same.

The Urban Reporter 250 can fit a 13 inch laptop and is 16.3 inches wide, 6.9 inches deep and 11.2 inches high with a removable inner case. The inner removable case has a top flap and is padded with movable Velcro dividers but does not have a carry handle.

The messenger bag without the padded case would be great for text books or as a day bag with enough room for a change of clothes. The padded case can hold a DSLR camera with a regular or long lens and a flash with a couple extra lenses with plenty of room for gear.

Urban Reporter Removable Case

While not a large bag the case does have room for plenty but I also found out the narrow width of the messenger bag does cramp my DSLR when I have a battery grip attached. My Canon DSLR has a battery grip that increases the cameras height by a couple inches which does make it too wide to fit in the Lowepro Urban Reporter while attached.

While using the messenger bag it was easy enough to remove the grip when storing the camera and the case had plenty of room for the camera body and the grip with a lens and more. I fit the camera with lens, two lenses and a large flash along with the battery grip in the case while reviewing the bag easily.

The Urban Reporter 250 has a carry strap with a removable pad but the main flap has two snap closures that are a bit of a surprise in this age of quick release buckles. The flap closes just fine and the snaps do keep it secure while the angled edge where the flap connects to the body keeps gear inside the bag.

Urban Reporter Interior

The side pockets have a snap closure while each side pocket also has a mesh divider for keeping things secure inside like water bottles when you want to use the pocket open to hold something tall. The front zippered pocket has a smaller zippered pocket on the front flap and another on the back with two pockets without a zipper and a business card pocket.

Inside the main compartment the tablet or laptop pocket is padded and has a soft velour like material to prevent scratches and keep your laptop in great condition. The carry handle that is on the top of the bag is adjustable which is a nice feature that Lowepro includes on several of their bags.

The Lowepro Urban Reporter 250 is a great camera bag with the one exception that it is not wide enough for a camera with a battery grip in place. The Urban Reporters width is only 6.9 inches but with the padding this equates to about four inches which is the width of the dividers.

Urban Reporter Messenger Bag on Luggage

The dividers inside the case are four inches wide while DSLR cameras are usually about this width when measured from top to bottom without a grip. This is not much of a problem and only requires removing a grip if you commonly use one to fit the DSLR in the bag easily.

The materials and stitching are all high quality and the bag does come with a unique feature in a loop made from the back pocket that fits over a handle for roll around luggage. This loop is created from the rear pocket that has a zipper on the bottom instead of the top to create either a pocket or a loop to hold the bag on a roll around.

I have been using the Urban Reporter for a few weeks for meetings where I have been taking pictures as well as carrying a couple tablets and other gear. The Urban Reporter makes a great laptop bag for smaller laptops as well as a general messenger bag to carry stuff to meetings and other events.

Urban Reporter w/ Gear

The bag looks to be a good one for a wide variety of uses as well as tough enough to withstand years of use so I highly doubt this will be needing any repairs anytime soon. The Lowepro Urban Reporter 250 is a tough and good looking messenger bag designed with the photographer in mind.

I highly recommend the Lower Urban Reporter as a durable and versatile messenger bag in three sizes to fit your needs both in photography and gear.

Urban Reporter @ Lowepro

Urban Reporter @ Amazon

Removable inner case, adjustable carry handle
Padded laptop/tablet compartment
Plenty of room for gear

No rain cover
Not wide enough for DSLR w/ Battery grip installed

Lowepro Nova Sport 17L AW Shoulder Camera Bag

Lowepro Nova Sport 17L AW Shoulder Camera Bag

The Lowepro Nova Sport L17 AW is a shoulder camera bag that holds your DSLR and essential gear with a top loading bag that includes space for your camera, tablet and a few extras.

Ease of Use, Performance:  5/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  4/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

Lowepro Nova Sport 17L AW

The Lowepro Nova Sport 17L AW Shoulder Bag holds your DSLR camera with plenty of room for some extras including a tablet and flash as well as lenses. The 17L AW is 14 inches wide, 8.9 inches deep and 9.3 inches tall with padding inside and an extra removable case.

The 17L AW should bag has a full main interior pocket, removable inner case and two front pockets with a zipper pocket on the front flap. The front flap is held in place with two snap closures that are on the corners of the front flap for extra security.

The inner case also has a top closing draw string that can be used for extra security to keep things in your bag when needed such as on flights. The Lowepro camera bag has a unique angled flap where it attaches to the body of the bag that creates fold over sides when the front flap is closed so no gear spills out the sides of the top.

Lowepro 17L AW w. Camera & Gear

The side stretchable pockets are perfect for quick access while the rear pocket holds a special surprise in a zipper on the bottom of the pocket. The bottom zipper instead of a top one opens to create a loop that can be used to hold the camera bag on the handle of roller luggage.

The two front pockets are smaller pockets perfect for a smartphone or batteries while the front zippered pocket would work great for the DSLR manual or other pamphlets. The main area of the 17L AW has a space for a tablet while the main removable camera case is handy for storage and for use separately as well as extra padding.

The removable compartment has a fold over pull string that closes the main compartment when inside the bag or out and you can fold this over outside the inner bag to keep it out of the way. The removable compartment has handles on each side for easy removal and carrying while the inside has removable Velcro dividers.

Inside the Nova Sport

You can arrange the interior to suit your gear while the padding on the interior compartment and the front and back of the main bag protects your gear. The Lowepro bag comes with an attached rain cover while the nylon offers some added protection from the elements.

The rain cover that easily covers the entire camera bag is in a pocket behind the rear pocket and is attached to the bag with a nylon strap. When the rain cover is not needed it stores quickly in the pocket and will not fall out with a Velcro closure on the pocket.

I have used the Lowepro should bag for carrying my Canon DSLR camera along with an extra lens and flash but also fit a tablet or two and a few extras like batteries. I also used the Lowepro 17L AW to carry a model robot made of LEGOs for my weekly First Lego League meeting when I had to take the robot home for some troubleshooting.

Rain Cover & Compartment

The Lowepro bag is a handy size for many uses including cameras and other electronics and makes a very handy carry case with its top handle and shoulder strap with padding. The bag does have the removable interior case which is a unique feature so you can use both separately or together.

I am very impressed with the quality of the bag and checking the seams and stitching I only see top quality sewing with no loose or messy seams. The bag has held up just fine with my limited use and I am sure it will last a good long time as well because of the Lowepro reputation.

Lowepro has a very good reputation for their products when looking at their line of camera bags on Amazon with a four to five star rating for their bags. I did not find any bags on Amazon that had less than a four star rating from customers who bought their bags which is quite impressive.

Rain Cover in Place

I highly recommend the Lowepro Nova Sport 17L AW should bag for a nice smaller sized camera bag that also has room for a lens or two with a tablet.

Nova Sport @ Lowepro

Nova Sport @ Amazon

Removable interior padded case
Quality materials and stitching
Plenty of room and pockets
Unique handle sleeve


Lightroom 5 Review

Lightroom 5 Review

Adobe has released the newest version of Lightroom with several new features to Lightroom but the subscription based licensing that Adobe has started using is not part of this release.

Ease of Use, Performance:  4/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features: 4/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

Lightroom 5

Lightroom 5 is Adobe’s answer to a professionals work tool for image organizing and editing in the same program that allows users to organize tens of thousands of images. Lightroom has always been about organizing and about being able to edit images quickly but RAW image editing is also available from simple menu choices.

Adobe may have made a mistake by changing most of their software releases to subscription based products but Lightroom 5 is still a boxed package you don’t have to pay for more than once. Lightroom 5 is seeing a bit more front line recognition as a professional photographer’s resource for editing and organizing your images and continues to gain features that are worthwhile.

Lightroom has always been about image editing and organization using non-destructive editing and batch image organization in an easy to use environment. Lightroom has a very different look and feel to it than Photoshop but for a professional photographer who needs an image editor and an organizer Lightroom has been a popular choice.

Working w/ Organizer

Lightroom 5 brings a few new features with an advanced healing brush, upright straitening tool and radial gradient tool for image editing. New organization tools include smart previews, video slideshows, improved book creation and location based organization for better handling your collections.

The image editing tools help to make Lightroom a better tool for photographers to edit and enhance images that need some touching up but not as much as a dedicated program would. The editing features in Lightroom include almost as much as Photoshop but Lightroom has the image cataloging and collection features going for it.

New features that are noteworthy for collections and organizing are the Smart Previews with others mainly being tweaks and improvements to existing tools. The main improvements in Lightroom 5 over the previous version is a few new tools that have been carried over from Photoshop and now being usable to Lightroom users.

To understand why it takes time to add a tool that already exists in an Adobe product needs a little understanding of the difference between Lightroom and Photoshop. Lightroom is all about work flow while Photoshop is all about image editing without worrying about keeping originals.

In Lightroom you can edit images and organize things how you want but the original images are left unaltered and in the same folders you placed them in. Photoshop alters original images so if you want to save the original you have to make sure you don’t overwrite it when saving your image.

Lightroom 5 Image Editing

This means that every time you use Lightroom on an image it will automatically save the images you edit as a new image instead of destroying the original. Lightroom is built from the ground up to account for retaining the original image when you edit and moving a feature from Photoshop to Lightroom means they also have to build the tool or feature over again.

Features that already exist in Photoshop take some time to create for Lightroom so it is kind of exciting for Lightroom users to see features that already exist for Photoshop users. Every new release for Lightroom usually includes a few features that have already been released for Photoshop with tweaks to existing features included as well.

Lightroom 5 opens to the familiar interface that has collections, folders and publishing services on the left side menu. The right side menu has editing features along with some organizing functions and your metadata and commenting choices for more organizing features.

To work on folders or collections you can move images around by dragging and dropping into new or previous folders or collections but collections work a bit differently than folders in Windows. Collections tag photos no matter where they are so images in separate folders can be grouped together for editing or organizing.

Gradient Filter Lightroom 5

This may sound like an odd way to do things but for photographers who work in both single customer and multiple customer work this can be effective. Keeping images in their original folder but being able to organize them into collections works really well for photographers who work with a lot of images.

A good example would be a photographer who wants to do a bit of advertising and sets aside a dozen images from various clients to use in a print or online advertisement. He can label images he uses for the ads that are located in client folders as a new collection and easily find them using the collections in Lightroom instead of saving copies in a new folder.

Lightroom is all about being able to organize large amounts of images so you can easily find what you need as well as being able to jump into some decent image editing. To edit you can choose between quick editing and a more in depth choice by simply opening the develop selection on the menu bar or you can perform a quick change using presets.

Lightroom 5 does an excellent job of professionally organizing images with the option to edit them with some pretty competent tools without going to the extent that Photoshop offers. I highly recommend Lightroom 5 as a standalone image work flow program that allows organization and editing for images in the same program.

Lightroom 5 @ Adobe

Quick and easy image organizing and image editing in one program
Non-destructive editing
Easy to use organizing tools
Good set ogimage editing features

Somewhat steep learning curve

Joby GorillaPod Focus + Ballhead X Review

Joby GorillaPod Focus + Ballhead X Review

The GorillaPod Focus makes a unique flexible tripod that is great for location shooting using those full sized DSLR cameras and camcorders that creates a solid platform.

Ease of Use, Performance:  5/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  4/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

GorillaPod Focus

The GorillaPod Focus is a sturdy flexible tripod that comes with the Ballhead X as a bundle for a great tripod and ballhead set for both professional and amateur photographers. The GorillaPod Focus is made for larger cameras and camcorders up to 11 pounds and can easily handle all DSLR cameras with a wide variety of lenses.

The GorillaPod family of tripods all feature a unique ball and socket leg joint construction that allows each leg to be bent and positioned. The legs are 11 inches long with each joint piece being about an inch long and the end pieces of each leg being tipped in rubber.

GorillaPod Focus Ballhead X

Each joint piece also has a rubber ring around the middle so these points hold on to objects when the legs are wrapped around them. Each leg can be used to wrap around objects like fence posts and tree limbs or just positioned for a steady tripod that can be easily positioned on uneven ground.

The GorillaPod Focus is designed to use the legs to wrap around objects with the ball and socket joints of each leg allowing them to bend in a circle or straight. With the bendable legs you can wrap one or all three legs around objects as well as use a couple legs to wrap around an object and the third as a support leg.

GorillaPod Focus Hanging Around

The tripod allows you to position your camera where you want it regardless of odd angles using a smaller tripod that is easier to carry. The GorillaPod Focus is only about a foot long and is easy to carry along with you in the field as well as in crowded areas where space is a problem.

The smaller size allows you to keep your equipment weight down as well but still have the flexibility you need as a professional photographer. The Focus is made for getting the shot you need with as little equipment as possible and the tripod works extremely well for this.

Focus w/ DSLR

The Ballhead X comes with the bundle package and is a professional ballhead that has one thumbscrew for rotation and the second for tilt. The ballhead works well and is made from quality aluminum that also includes a removable head plate that releases using a thumbscrew.

The GorillaPod Focus and Ballhead X make a great pair and work well together as a great tripod that is very versatile and worth the price. When a full sized tripod is just too much to carry and you want the versatility of a professional tripod that is only a foot long the GorillaPod is a great choice.

Mount of GorillaPod Focus

I found an easy way to carry the Focus using a couple of Velcro straps that have a triangular ring that can hold snaps from a carry strap. The Velcro straps are from a tool belt and the carry strap is from a camera bag but I am sure there are other ways you can figure for carrying your GorillaPod.

The GorillaPod Focus and Ballhead X bundle is available from a wide variety of online and local sellers including Amazon and the Joby website. The GorillaPod Focus and Ballhead X bundle costs about $120 and is a fantastic tripod and ballhead for DSLR cameras and camcorders.

GorillaPod Carry Strap

Joby and other companies like Cinetics have released several accessories for the GorillaPod tripods like levels, skates and suction cups.

Flexible legs for various positioning
Small sized for portability
Sturdy aluminum for most parts

Carry strap not included

Joby/GorillaPod Website

Cinetics Website

Think Tank Mirrorless DSLR Mover 30i Review

Think Tank Mirrorless Mover 30i Review

The Think Tank Mirrorless Mover line of camera bags fit the mid-sized mirrorless and smaller DSLR cameras with a full sized pocket for the iPad in a quality shoulder or hand bag.

Ease of Use, Performance:  5/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  5/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

Mirrorless DSLR Mover 30i

The Think Tank Mirrorless DSLR line of camera bags fit the mid-sized cameras known as mirrorless cameras such as the Fuji X-Pro 1 or the Leica M8. The Mirrorless Mover line will also nicely fit a smaller DSLR such as the Canon Rebel line or the Nikon D3200 but also fits an iPad in the padded pouch area.

The Mirrorless Mover bags all use high quality materials such as YKK zippers, ballistic polyester with DWR coating for waterproofing and metal hardware. The Mirrorless Mover 30i is 11 inches wide by 5.7 inches deep and 8.9 inches tall with enough room for an iPad in the pouch.

The pouch is next to the inner side of the bag that rests against your body when using the removable shoulder strap. The Mirrorless Mover 30i also has a rear slot for use with a belt such as the Speed Belt that Think Tank sells.

Inside the Mirrorless DSLR Mover 30i

You can also use a variety of other belts which is what I did on a couple of recent hikes in local wildlife parks where I used a tool belt I am also reviewing. The slot is three inches wide when flat so a two or two and a half inch belt fits well and the tool belt I used was very comfortable with the Mirrorless Mover.

The Mirrorless DSLR Mover has a top flap held in place by magnets with a wide zippered pocket that has the rain cover and another smaller pocket. The inner compartment has a small mesh pocket for smaller items while the main pocket has three Velcro dividers.

One of the dividers has four small pockets for SD cards while the main iPad pocket easily fits your tablet like an iPad or Nexus 7. The dividers make it easy to customize the main compartment for your camera setup which works well for my Canon EOS Rebel.

Rain Cover for Mirrorless DSLR Mover

The Mirrorless DSLR Mover worked extremely well for my Canon DSLR and small trips like hiking in parks and the zoo where we go a couple times a year to catch shots of critters. The hikes made a great trip for the Mirrorless Mover and its convenience as a belt bag for my camera and an additional lens.

I easily fit the DSLR camera with the common 18 to 55mm lens or the Tamron 18 to 250mm lens I commonly carry while hiking and taking photography trips. The Think Tank camera bag also has the rain cover in case you get caught in the rain which is seam sealed for protecting your photography investment.

The shoulder strap is removable and the sides of the bag where the shoulder strap attaches both have pockets with one being a stretch pocket while the other is polyester. The Mirrorless DSLR Mover 301 makes a fantastic medium sized camera bag for smaller trips or day excursions.

Mirrorless DSLR Mover w/ Canon Rebel

The bag has all the pockets and handy spaces for your gear and has enough padding to protect it on your trips even from bad weather. The Mirrorless Mover 30i is a great camera bag for those smaller mirrorless bags and for smaller DSLR cameras with an additional lens.

I highly recommend the Mirrorless Mover 30i for the perfect midsized camera bag that is good looking as well as convenient for mid-sized cameras.

Mirrorless Mover 30i @ Think Tank

Quality materials and rainproof
convenient handle and removable shoulder strap
Slot for use as a belt camera bag

Absolutely None

Cotton Carrier Vest System for 1 Camera

Cotton Carrier Vest System for 1 Camera

The Cotton Carrier Vest System is a harness that holds your DSLR snug to your body when snapped into the socket but easily accessible for those action shots.

Ease of Use, Performance:  5/5
Look & Feel:  5/5
Features:  4/5
How much I enjoy:  5/5

Recommendation:  5/5 Stars

Cotton Carrier Vest System for 1 Camera

The Cotton Carrier Vest System for 1 Camera is a harness to take the load off your neck for that DSLR camera and almost any size lens due to the Lexan receptacle and lens strap. The Cotton Carrier Camera Vest is an over the shoulder vest that has a Lexan socket right in the front.

The adapter that fits your DSLR camera is made from aluminum and is tough enough to withstand the rigors of the field for nature and action photography. The Cotton Carrier System comes with an adapter plate that fits Arca-Swiss, Manfroto and Gitzo brands of quick release tripod systems.

Cotton Carrier Whats in the Box

The Cotton Carrier Vest also has a lens strap to hold your lens and secure it tightly while the camera is locked in place on the vest. To lock the camera on the Lexan receptacle you simple turn the camera so the lens is pointing off to your left or right and lower the adapter into the receptacle.

Turning the camera so the lens points down will ensure the lens and camera stay in place on the vest no matter the activity like climbing, biking or simply keeping up with the action. The aluminum adapter that mounts to the bottom of your camera is tough and the Lexan receptacle means no breaking of the most stressed point in the system.

Cotton Carrier Attaching System

The vest itself has a padded front with well sewn seams and a good quality webbing to hold the vest in place while the straps are Velcro in the back. You have the two main straps that go over your shoulders with Velcro ends for an additional adjustment along with the buckles on the front.

The vest has a belt that goes around your torso above your waist that continues with a strap that goes over the lens if you are using a longer lens with the Cotton Carrier Vest. Other little features include the thick rubber pad that protects your camera bottom and the two straps that help hold your camera both while in the receptacle and while shooting.

Cotton Carrier Attaching Straps


The one add-on I received with the vest is a hand strap that loops on the rubber pad and your attach point for the cameras strap where the two straps secure the camera to your vest. The vest is all top quality sewing and well-made materials for a professional quality photography system that is fantastic.

I could not recommend this any higher as the perfect solution for holding your camera while doing activities and needing your camera ready in seconds. The vest has four attach points for the straps or other gear while the lens strap has a Velcro flap to tuck it away if you’re not using it.

Cotton Carrier

The Cotton Carrier is comfortable and fits a wide variety and build types of people so the camera vest does work well for many different people. The vest has a variety of additional add-ons like the hand strap that costs $35 while the Cotton Carrier Vest for 1 camera costs $150.

The camera vest is a fantastic way to keep your camera secure on the trail while biking and simply getting around the scene while trying to capture every shot. I highly recommend the Cotton Carrier 1 Camera Vest as the perfect way to carry your DSLR camera with a variety of lenses securely.

1 Camera Vest @ Cotton Carrier

Professional Quality
Securely holds DSLR with long lenses
Fits a variety of sizes
Quick Release mounting system