Category Archives: Equipment

SmallRig leather camera case for Nikon Z fc

A few months ago I bought a Nikon Z fc camera with 16-50mm kit lens and a 50-250mm telephoto lens.

Whist my professional kit is full frame, I do like to have a crop sensor camera around for the reduced size and weight. I was previously using a Nikon D7000 but this was showing it’s age so I decided to trade up. 

This is my second mirrorless camera, my first having been a Sony A7, which I got for a bargain £649 a couple of years back. I like the A7 but I’m primarily a Nikon man, although I do also have a Sony RX100 for the pocket value.

One of the reasons I went for the Z fc  was of course the retro looks. It’s a lovely looking camera and gets noticed when I’m out and about with it. 

I was therefore intrigued when I saw on Nikon Rumors that SmallRig were selling a very affordable half case and strap that complimented to Z fc’s classic looks. The SmallRig case and strap are available on Amazon for just £42.90 and mine took just a couple of days to deliver.

I’ve not used a half case before so had little idea about how it would fit or feel. I looked for reviews and customer images but there was little more than the usual stock marketing shots available online and very few reviews. Most of these were of the case attached to the camera.

So here are my first impressions of the case and a few photos.

Although I had no preconceptions, I was surprised how firm or stiff the case was. Not that this was at all a bad thing. It fits easily but snugly. The fit is good.

The materials are good quality and I would expect them to last. The stitching is well finished and both the strap and case should last a lifetime.

The case initially feel a little awkward as it changes the size and shape of the camera, but I quickly got used to this.

The strap is quite easy to fit too. I had previously been using the triangular clips provided with the camera to attach the strap but took these off to attached the new strap with the round clip that came with it.

Other than that there’s not much to say. This is an excellent case and strap and I would not hesitate to recommend them. 

Photos taken with Nikon D750 and Z5

Mirrorless fun

At the back end of last year I decided to dip my toes in the mirrorless world – not with any intention of abandoning all the Nikon gear I’ve bought over the years, but more to get an idea of the mirrorless experience. 

I’d heard and read many good things about the Sony A7 range, right from the very first full frame model they launched back in 2013.  The original A7 is still available today and at a very reasonable price, so I decided give it a whirl.  Despite being seven years old, the A7 has a perfectly respectable spec if all you want is a serviceable full frame stills camera. It might not have some of the advanced features a demanding photographer might want but all I wanted was something to get to know what it was like working with a mirrorless camera.

And I wasn’t disappointed.

Sony A7 full frame camera

The Sony A7 is a great camera – light, easy to use and with excellent optics. Sure, the low light performance isn’t anywhere near my Nikon D750 but that’s not why I bought it. Whilst I’d heard bad things about the menu system, this didn’t really bother me to be honest.

So, after getting acquainted with the camera, one of the first things I thought I’d try was using it with some of my old Pentax lenses. I still had some old glass left around from the days before digital, when I’d shoot with Pentax gear. 

I bought a simple Gobe adaptor and dug out a couple of old lenses – a trusty Pentax SMC 50mm f/1.7 prime and a Tokina SD 70-210mm lens. Initial results with the Tokina were uninspiring, but the 50mm proved to be far more fruitful.

Sony A7 camera with Pentax 50mm lens attached

The 50mm SMC was the standard lens fitted to most Pentax cameras during the 70s and 80s and has a solid reputation. Like most prime lenses it is very sharp.

Used with the A7 and Gobe adaptor, operation is completely manual.  so I set up focus peaking in the EVF and monitor to help with focusing. 

The lens gave some excellent results, although wide open at f/1.7 it was a little soft. However, stopping down to f/2 and beyond produced some very sharp images.

It should be remembered that when using a basic adaptor like the Gobe, no metadata is recorded from the lens.

Unedited shot at f/4.0 1/500th ISO 100. Click for full sized image.
Unedited JPG file shot at f/4.0 1/2500th ISO 100. Click for full sized image.

As well as these outdoor shots I’ve also tried taking the camera and lens on a couple of stage shoots and it performed very well.

I’m not going to go in to any detailed analysis of the performance of the Pentax + Sony combo (if that’s what you’re in to try this). The exercise was simply to see what could be achieved and how the combination handled.

My pro kit will continue to be my Nikon D750 and associated lenses and I’m in no hurry to migrate to a new system, especially given the investment I’ve made in Nikon and the cost and logistics of moving.

A Good Advanced Compact: Sony RX100M2

For a while now I’ve been looking for a good, advanced compact camera – something that takes better photos than a smartphone but without the heft or bulk of a digital SLR. My quest brought me to the Sony RX100M2, an affordable, lightweight “travel camera” (or whatever you want to call this class of camera) that delivers excellent results.

The original RX100 was launched in 2012 and is now in it’s sixth iteration, each revision improving on the last. Unusually, all six versions are still made today and are available at prices ranging from around £300 to £1150.

Because I was looking for a simple point-and-shoot, albeit with greater control and higher quality than you’d normally find in a point-and-shoot, I went for the M2, the second in the series, which I picked up at my local John Lewis. 

The Sony RX100M2 features a Carl Zeiss f1.8 28-100 (equiv) lens and a 1″, 20.2MP CMOS sensor. Online reviews are excellent and at 280 grams it fits comfortable into a jeans pocket. 

The f1.8 lens makes it particularly good for low-light usage  whilst overall image quality is excellent.

I’m not going to go in to detail about the camera so check out reviews online to find out why I chose this little gem.

Working With Off Camera Flash

I’ve never been a great one for flash photography, partly because of the nature of work I do and partly because of the flat and lifeless images flash photography can produce. I’ve always been aware of the creativity that flashguns afford but it’s only over the last couple of years that I’ve started using flash seriously and creatively.

Naturally I have a flashgun – a Nikon SB-700 that I use occasionally for fill-in flash.  Much of my work is stage photography, where creative lighting is already part of what I’m shooting, so flash is unnecessary. For parties, events and functions, where ambient lighting is also an important part of the scene, I use slow-sync flash to light the subject whilst still capturing the lighting from disco lights or other effects.

I’m now being tempted in to the world off off-camera flash, thanks in part to my recent discovery of the AmazonBasics Flash, an insanely cheap flashgun available from Amazon for just £26.

This unit is, as you’d expect from both the name and price, basic. It has no TTL metering or any other wizardly. It’s just a flash, powered by 4x AA sized batteries that can be manually set to one of 8 intensity settings. It also has a wide angle diffuser and a bounce card. It also comes with a hot-shoe stand and a waterproof bag. Build quality I would describe as adequate.

The flashgun has three settings – Manual, S1 and S2 – the latter of which provide a slave mode that allows the unit to be remotely triggered. It is compatible with a range of cameras, including Nikon, Canon, Ricoh, Olympus, Panasonic, Fuji, Pentax and Samsung.

I found the unit worked right out of the box with my Nikon D600, using it together with my SB-600.

In the image above I held the Nikon speedlight in my left hand whilst the AmazonBasics flash was mounted on a tripod behind me and to my right. I remotely triggered the shutter using an infrared remote.

Off camera flash is a relatively new practice for me and I hope to be experimenting with it a lot more now that I have two strobes to play with.

To find out more about the AmazonBasics Flash, go to

Occasional Lighting

I frequently carry around a set of slimPAR38 LED spotlights. I use these as a contingency for events where the lighting falls short of what is necessary for good coverage.


One example is a  Year 6 Prom I covered where lighting was not provided for a surfboard simulator. Without the PAR cans the only other lighting option would have been the venue’s main fluorescent lighting, which would have seriously compromised the atmosphere (and accompanying disco!)

Another example was a music event where the main lighting bar was obstructed by decorations, meaning that the performers faces were in relative darkness. I was able to use the PAR cans as uplighters at the side of the stage, which dramatically improved the lighting.

The lights are typically set to slowly fade through the colour spectrum but can also be configured to provide static lighting.

These lights have made otherwise un-photographable events possible, with very little overhead. They are easy to set up and adaptable for any event, either to provide direct lighting or simply to add atmosphere.

Think Tank Retrospective 20

The quest for the perfect camera bag is journey that many photographers are familiar with. For those that have yet to find the ideal bag, the Think Tank Retrospective may bring that search to a conclusion, if you’re prepared to spend the money. I bought mine online from Speedgraphic after reading lots of positive reviews. Unfortunately it appears there are virtually no shops that stock the Retrospective so I had to buy purchase sight unseen and based purely on photographs and Youtube videos.

Photo of camera bag

I was looking for something to replace my Lowpro Event Messenger 150, which I’d outgrown, so I plumped for the larger Retrospective 20, which at 13″ x 12½ x 7″ is not a small camera bag. I fact it may be too large for the average photographer, but given the negligable cost difference between this and the smaller Retrospective 10, I chose the 20.

All of the reviews I read commented on the quality of the bag – and indeed the materials and manufacture are top class. One reviewer remarked that you could probably tow your car with the strap and he may well be right. This is a bag that is made to last not years but decades. And the quality doesn’t stop with just the physicakl properties of the bag. Think Tank have put a lot of thought in to the design as well.

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