Like many photographers, I can never have enough bags. I’m scared to even think how many camera bags I’ve tried and used over the last few years. Always on the lookout for the perfect bag and thinking more about travelling light on some assignments, I was happy when the nice people over at Thinktank sent me a bag to test.

The type of bag I was looking for was easy. I wanted something that could carry a small system camera in, a selection of lenses, batteries, iPad and other bits and bobs. The usual ‘day bag’ ideals. It also needed to be big enough to carry a DSLR, a few lenses, flash, iPad, batteries, memory cards, etc.

The bag I was sent was the Retrospective 7. One of a series of bags in the Retrospective range. Constructed from and slightly weathered look textile, the Blue Slate coloured bag certainly doesn’t glare out that it’s a camera bag, never a bad thing when moving around a busy city.

The construction is good and feels like it’ll last a good few years of use and abuse. I’ve used it for many assignments now and really getting to enjoy travelling light.
Nice features like dedicated tablet pocket, internal accessory and document pockets as well as a Velcro closure system that can be muted to avoid that wretched ripping noise, ideal for not attracting attention when working in quite environments. Of course, as with just about any camera bags,  the internal dividers can be repositioned to suit personal gear storage requirements. A nice little touch here, the dividers have a shoulder flap that can be folded down so a body fitted with a lens can rest on top of them.
A removable rain cover is also included. I’d guess the textile is relatively shower-proof but obviously not going to withstand a heavy downpour.

Ok, so the important bit. What can I get in the bag?

Set 1: Fujifilm X-Pro1 with 18, 35, 60mm lenses,  EF-X20 Flash, iPad, cards, batteries and lunch.

Set 2: Nikon D800E, 70-200, 85, 35mm, SB900, iPad, cards, batteries and a pack of mints.

Both sets are more than adequate for a lot of reportage work that I do. For the Nikon setup, I could quite easily replace the 2 primes with  24-70 and 17-35. The Fujifilm setup has a ton of space over. There would be no problem getting a 2nd body in there and another lens.

During testing and use of the Retrospective 7, one thing did concern me a little. When wearing the bag fully loaded with the Nikon gear, it naturally curves slightly to fit your body. As the iPad is tucked into a rear pocket, I was worried that the weight and curvature might cause some issues for the iPad. To help prevent too much curvature I made an insert for the tablet pocket. This was simply cut from some 3mm thick hard plastic and slides in the pocket along with the tablet or into the internal document pocket. It gives some peace of mind and does seem to help the bag keep shape.

All in all, if you’re looking for something less ‘camera bag’ looking and carry a similar setup to me, I’d certainly recommend the Thinktank Retrospective 7.

 

The Nikon gear setup - D800E, 35, 85, 70-200, flash, cards, battery.

The Fujifilm setup. X-Pro1 - 18,35,60mm, flash, cards, battery, lunch.

The Thinktank Retrospective 7 in Slate Blue.

Handy internal pockets for accessories.

A quick and simple reinforcement for the tablet pocket.

 

Simply fold back and secure the Velcro closure tabs for silent gear access.

 

The complete Thinktank range can be seen here. You can also keep up to date with them on Twitter

 

 

snap of the D600 at today’s launch event

 

I call this a tea post. The kettle is on and I’m going to write this before it boils.

Just home from the official Nikon announcement of the D600. The much anticipated addition to the Nikon ‘full frame’ range of DSLR cameras.
At a listed entry price of 2000 Euro for the body, the camera is undoubtedly going to score. The cameras are going to hit the market quickly and in plentiful numbers.

I’ve heard many D700 users saying they want a replacement for the D700. The D800 was ‘overkill’ for some and without a doubt the D600 will be looked down on by some as falling short of what the D700 offered. Realistically though, a professional photographer now has the choice of 3 very capable weapons, D600, D800 or D4. We’re spoiled for choice.
To me, one detail that puts the D600 way above the D700 is the better dynamic range that the new sensor offers. I noticed this in the D800 compared to my D3 and this is pretty much the same in the D600. Better skin tones, faster image processing. 2 more advantages with the D600.

I had a quick test of the D600 and of course, put it onto the highest native ISO setting of 6400. The image is cleaner than the skin on a baby’s forehead. Way better than the D700.
Lower pixel density than the D800 will make grabbing shots bit easier, faster handling is important for some. It’s here.

Holding the D600 it feels pretty much the same as the D7000, the crop-sensored sibling. I assure you, the build quality is better, it’s heavier and feels a lot more robust. The D7000 shakes when you take a photo, the D600 feels reassuringly stable. This is also backed up with the possibility that NPS members will get NPS support on a D600. That’s saying something.

For me, the D600 body just isn’t quite tall enough for comfy daily use. I had the same problem when using the D7000 for any periods of time. I tried the optional grip on the D600 and it felt a lot more usable and compliant in my hand. The opposite of the D800 with grip, that is even larger than the D4 and feels very bulky. So if you’re large hands, I’d strongly suggest trying a grip on the D600, for comfort.

<kettle boiled, water poured into teapot>

Nikon sowed the seed of the incredibly popular and cheap D3xxx and D5xxx series and are now luring those people into fullframe photography with the D600. With the aggressive market presence of the popular mirrorless systems Nikon clearly saw a gap and went for it. I think the D600 will make people think, go mirrorless or go compact DSLR with full frame sensor.. I already mentioned that pros are spoiled for choices, the amateur market is not just spoiled, they are lured and tempted by so many options and right now the D600 is sitting there at the end of the amateur trail, leaning on the fence of the professionals.

The D600 will be disliked by some, but I am sure it will be liked by more.

I’ll have one soon for a proper field test and report.

<Tea is brewed, and then I’m back to work! Thank you for reading>

  • Peter Burkwood - Interesting to hear you early thoughts on this Rob. I am one of those D700 users and still have my doubts to be honest.

    I look forward to hearing more feedback when you’ve had more time to test.

    P

  • greg - Great first impressions… can’t wait to hear more such as how the AF compares in real world dark situations where i can see a real improvement with the d800

  • Nikon D600 - Pagina 2 - [...] 6400 is den D600 perfect bruikbaar!! gezien en gelezen van ene die op't nikon95 event was bron?? Rob Mitchell en dat de azijnpissers nu maar zwijgen tot ze zelf een foto gemaakt en met de camera! ik heb de [...]

  • Wolf - Very curious, D7000 owner here.

    I tested both the D700 and D800 to make a decision on what to buy and decided to hold out for the D600 announcement.

    My thinking now is that the price difference between D600 and D800 in Europe is so small I might as well go for the D800 to get the extra MPs for cropping, 51 focus points, a more accessible AF-ON button, 1/8000 shutter speed and 1/250 flash sync.

    I don’t really care that much for the extra FPS (5,5 on D600).

    I do like dual SD better than SD+CF (in the D800).

    I hope to rent or try the D600 soon.

To add to my hands-on experience of mirrorless system cameras I’ve recently had a short time with the Sony NEX-7. Sony Belgium kindly sent over a camera with a couple of lenses to see what I thought of it. The lenses were the Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA and the Sony E 16mm f/2.8.

My initial feel for the camera was that it was a good compact size, yet not too compact. The battery compartment gave a good grip volume on the side of the camera that made it feel very comfortable in my hand. Positive feel to all the dials on the body and a general sturdy feel to construction were pleasing to see and feel.
A couple of big plus points of any camera in this category are covered by the NEX-7. A built in viewfinder and a tilting rear LCD. I found the EVF a little to harsh on the black tones and very contrasty. On the whole it was very responsive to camera movement with no serious lag in refresh. The tilting screen was solidly made and offered a good representation of the images during playback and was very usable in ‘Uncle Bob’ mode. Oddly though, I missed the touch screen functionality that I’ve seen on the Panasonic GX1 and Olympus OM-D. A feature I once loathed has grown on me for quick and easy adjustments to settings and AF points.

The menus.
The NEX-7 was really frustrating at this level. I found the menus rather messy, disorganised and very annoying. I didn’t discover that the NEX-7 could shoot in black and white until after I’d returned the camera. Yes, I could have looked harder in the menus but I shouldn’t have to for such a basic feature. The autostitch panorama feature was easier to find. For me a much less interesting feature but of course this camera is aimed at a market that would probably find that feature more appealing.

Batttery.
Battery life isn’t too bad. What I’ve come to expect from this category of camera. A day out of trigger happy shooting would certainly require a spare battery in the bag. With all that said, leave the camera switched on and carry it around on a strap and the battery will and does drain a lot quicker. The eye sensor on the EVF detects anything that comes close and activates the camera, an unwelcome power use. I also found the EVF a lot more comfortable to use without the rubber eyepiece fitted. Strange as rubber eyepieces are generally fitted to aid use, not hinder it.

 

Hotshoe.
Again, Sony stick to their proprietary standard hotshoe, knowing full well that just about any serious photographer will buy an adaptor to allow connectivity to the world of ISO 518:2006 hotshoe accessories. Is it through stubbornness or just to be different? I don’t know. They’re not alone though, Nikon of course recently chose to use a proprietary hotshoe on their 1 series.

 

Lenses.
I’m most certainly a prime lens lover on compact mirrorless systems so was pleased the 16mm and 24mm were supplied with the camera. The lenses were clearly very different, and not just in focal length. The 16mm, nothing substantially wrong with this lens as far as I could tell and in fact an ideal combination to fit my personal desire to keep a compact camera system compact. It was very slim and fitted right in with the description of ‘pancake lens’ A good all round day trip prime lens that works out at about 24mm in real money. Nothing too wow about image quality from the lens though, very adequate but nothing to make me fall in love.
The 24mm on the other hand.. Carrying a Zeiss badge or not, it just felt a lot better on the NEX-7. Build quality was up on the 16mm and although physically way larger than I’d like, I liked using it. Wide open I had a good feel, closed up it gave crispy images, directly into the sun it had no nasty flare issues. After using both lenses, I’d forgo the w i d e 16mm for the 24mm, any day.

The rest.
Tech specs aren’t what I’m about so the rest of the usual things in a camera slide past me unless they stand out in either a good or bad way. I expect all cameras to focus quickly nowadays and the NEX-7 does. In fact you forget the camera is focusing as it’s so quick. Accurate and good in all lighting conditions. ISO range is good, like all cameras in this category the NEX-7 is at a point where strictly speaking, it doesn’t matter what ISO you use up to the mid-high range, the image is going to be perfectly acceptable. Push it or any other camera to the upper limit and it’ll start to get messy. So no surprises there at all.
Images out of the camera are reliable, colours are good and no nasty surprises. Definitely low to mid range DSLR image quality levels here.

All in all I had a pleasing experience with NEX-7. Nothing would scare me off from buying one, but there is not light flashing to tell me I should either. My main issues are, the menu system is horrible and the flash mount would need me to buy an adaptor to unleash extra creative ability.

As I write this, I’ve just caught some Twitter feed of new NEX model news being leaked. With Photokina on the near horizon and incredibly fast moving camera development, I do wonder what will Sony will do NEXt.

Below a mixed bag of images shot with the NEX-7.

;

After my report on the D800 I though it’d be a good idea to have a look at the D800E too, the genetically altered twin to the D800.
As everyone knows by now, the difference between the D800 and D800E is pretty small yet supposedly significant. The removal of the low-pass filter in the D800E was a conscious decision by Nikon to squeeze the sharpest images possible out of the whopping 36mp sensor.
However, this omission of the low-pass, or anti-alias filter does come with a word of caution from the manufacturer. A moiré pattern or optical artifact maybe be visible in some images.

My mission over the next month isn’t to bench test these 2 cameras, that has been done. I am going to use them in my day-to-day work to just see how and when and if I can see a serious difference.
This won’t be a scientific test, it’ll be my usual style of testing. I will try to make some side by side comparisons when the situations allow. For any side by side comparisons I will endeavour to use identical lenses on both cameras.

Throughout the month I will be dropping images onto twitter and my Facebook page. Reader feedback is welcome.

Follow it as it happens on Facebook or Twitter

The full article will follow.

  • Richard Devlin@Fujifilm x-pro1 - It’s hard to find knowledgeable people on Nikon d800, but you sound like you know what you’re talking about! Thanks

  • Rob Mitchell - Hi Richard,

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. I’m glad what I posted was of value to you.

  • Larry King@Digital Camera Reviews - There is certainly a lot to find out about this topic – Nikon d800. I really like all of the points you’ve made.