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Essential Drone Photography Tips

Picked up a drone and not sure where to start? Here are my 12 tips for improving your drone photography. 

Love them or hate them, there is no denying that drones have made an impact on photography around the world in the recent years introducing a whole new genre of photography in capturing angles that previously would have required a helicopter/plane to capture. 

Use Google Maps to plan your shoots

The hardest thing for me when buying a drone was finding locations to shoot which would look good from above. I didn’t really know what I was looking for or how to find them. It’s pretty easy these days when planning a shoot with your regular camera to open up Instagram and quickly find some locations to photograph. The best way to find locations to photograph with a drone is by using Google Maps Satellite view. 

But what are you looking for when you have Google Maps open? Here are some things which I’ll look for when scouring my local areas:

  • Finding unique angles through fish farms in Southern Tasmania

    Unique patterns – Try to find things which wouldn’t normally be interesting if captured using a regular camera. Take the image to the right as an example of the unique patterns of a fish farm in Tasmania. 

  • Contrasting colours – Try not to let one colour dominate your shot. Instead look for other colours which allow you to create a colour harmony (i.e. one colour being the opposite of another colour to provide a greater visual experience). This guide on TigerColor has an introduction to the different colour harmonies to get you started.
  • Objects which can look interesting from above –  Basketball, tennis courts and garden mazes are just some to get you started. Bonus points if you manage to find one in a pretty location such as by the ocean or in a nice forest area.
  • Using the stunning road of the Great Ocean Road, Victoria to separate the shot

    Use shadows to your advantage – Found a lone tree? Why not fire up the Photographers Ephemeris and plan for when the light will be falling behind the tree to create some harsh shadows.

  • Dividing lines which separate your shot – Look for elements which help frame and seperate your shot. Often when shooting a seascape location, I will use the road to separate the sea and foliage area. 
  • Keep it simple – And finally, like regular photography, it pays to keep things simple by looking for a strong composition element in your shot and reducing clutter.

Fly where there’s no point

One thing I love about drone photography is that you can arrive at a location, feel a bit uninspired on what you are seeing as you set the drone up and then manage to find something when you get it up in the air and are viewing the area from the above.

For this reason, I recommend buying a second battery for your drone with one to be used for scouting and the other for photography.

Panoramic stitching

With most drones now coming with a panoramic mode built in, the panoramic mode on your drone is a great way to expand your image size when one image won’t quite cut it.

I’ll occasionally use both the panoramic and AEB modes of my camera to both maximise the size and dynamic range of my shot.  It’s a bit of mucking around but the results are great when used for the right image.

Shoot at a low ISO

As drone technology continues to evolve, we have seen image quality drastically improve over the last few years. While there is no denying the image quality in the latest Mavic and Phantom drones are superb, there is still room for improvement particularly around the low light capabilities of current generation drones. When shooting at the lowest ISO possible (generally ISO 100), image quality is fantastic. It is when you start dialling the ISO up which is when you see degredation to your image quality through unwanted noise in your image.

Shoot in RAW mode to maximise the highlight and shadow recovery when post processing

For this reason, always shoot with the lowest ISO possible with your done to maximise the image quality output. At times especially in low light conditions, it will be unavoidable that you will need to shoot with a higher ISO in low light conditions. But when you can… Try keep the iso down to the lowest level possible to retain image quality. 

Shoot in raw

Like shooting with your regular camera, it’s recommended to always shoot in RAW mode on your drone. By doing so, this maximises the shadow and highlight recovery when you post process your images.

Bracket images

Finding the camera on your drone isn’t quite getting the dynamic range you’re used to on your DSLR camera?  Often I’ll shoot in AEB mode (a technique I’ve written about previously) which allows you to capture different exposures of a scene to maximise the dynamic range.

Depending which AEB mode you choose, the camera will generally capture an under exposed, neutral exposed and over exposed image of the scene. Bracketing your images is especially useful when shooting in sunrise or sunset where the light is often uneven and harsher in parts. By bracketing your images this allows you to retain the detail in your highlights and shadows which would have otherwise been lost due to the constraints of the drone sensor.

Don’t limit yourself to a certain type of angle

Experiment with different angles. This image shows two angles of the same location.

Aspect ratio

Most drones now will come with the ability to shoot in 16:9, 4:3 and 3:2 formats. The first two more favour video shooting with the later being more commonly seen in digital cameras. It’s worth noting that on the DJI Phantom 4, the 3:2 aspect ratio provides the highest resolution/megapixel:

  • 3:2 Aspect Ratio: 5472 × 3648 = 20 MP
  • 4:3 Aspect Ratio: 4864 × 3648 = 17.7 MP
  • 16:9 Aspect Ratio: 5472 × 3078 = 16.8 MP?

I personally use the 3:2 aspect ratio as I prefer to crop the image in post processing however my best advice would be to have a play and see which works best for your shooting style.

Shoot with tripod mode

Tripod mode is best applied when shooting video as it slows the speed of your drone down for those silky smooth shots. For those shooting with a DJI Mavic, tripod mode will slow the movement of your Mavic down to 3.5 kph (or 2.2 mph) or for people like me with the DJI Phantom, tripod mode will slow the movement of your drone down to 9 kph (or 5.6 mph).

Tripod mode is also helpful for when shooting photography to minimise any sharp movements if you were to accidentally touch the controls in between shots. Often I will use tripod mode when shooting multiple images to stitch later as a panoramic image. 

Use neutral density filters (at the right time) for long exposure shots

If you’ve read my blog before, you will know that I’m a sucker for neutral density filters and playing around with long exposures.

The benefits of using a neutral density filters on a drone are similar to when used on a normal camera where it allows you to reduce the amount of light hitting the camera sensor. By doing so, this allows you to capture long exposures with the camera during the day (see photo below) or shoot video at different frame rates which provides smoother footage. 

Using a neutral density filter allowed me to capture this 0.6″ second exposure. Blurring the water nicely.

One of the tricky things about using neutral density filters on a drone is the lack of tripod support to stabilise your camera for getting those sharp images. For this reason, I generally shoot my drone long exposures around the 1-2 second mark in calm conditions. Longer exposure times are still possible in calm conditions but you may notice a loss of sharpness when viewed zoomed in.

When planning a long exposure photo with your drone, don’t forget that the higher the altitude you fly your drone the stronger the wind conditions will be. For this reason, you may need to photograph at a faster shutter speed to counter the wind. Often, I will shoot at a lower altitude for long exposure shots as this allows me to shoot at a longer shutter speed due to the reduced wind conditions. 

Rule of thirds overlay

While you’re getting started with drone photography, a good way to help with the framing of your shots is by using the rule of thirds overlay. Through having this enabled, this will ensure that your shots will be framed accurately which reduces the need to crop your images during post processing.

Shoot in the right light

The mistake most photographers make when starting out is that they rarely photograph in the right light and will often go out and hope to get nice images in harsh daylight sun. Drone photography is no different and is best in low light and golden hour settings.

Enjoying that golden hour light

My favourite times to shoot with my drone is either sunrise or sunset and the golden hour periods around this time. By shooting during this time, you will get a nice soft and warm light on your images. Alternatively, I also enjoy shooting on overcast days as the light will often be diffused with no harsh light hitting your object. Generally overcast conditions work best for when photographing waterfalls.


The above list is far from complete but forms some of my essential drone photography tips. If I’m missing anything, free free to let me know in the comments and I’ll include in a future revision. Thanks for reading!

– Alex

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Best Camera Bags for your Next Adventure

While planning for a road trip from Melbourne to Perth last November, one big part of the planning was making sure I had the right equipment with me for the trip. One thing that I wanted to get right was the style of bag I took on the trip. As I was flying back to Melbourne once we reached Perth, I needed something that would be able to carry all my gear but at the same time, I wanted something lightweight for days where I knew we would walking a decent distance to get to a location and didn’t want to lug all my gear (including laptop) to the spot.

So what did I end up doing for my roadtrip from Melbourne to Perth? Like any photographer, I procrastinated madly over camera bags for a month leading up to the trip and wanted to share based on my research, what the best backpack, sling, shoulder and roller bags are available on the market.

Let’s be honest, as photographers we’re a nit picky bunch and we all have our own requirements when it comes to look and feel to the sizing, style and material. This means there isn’t one bag on the market which is the best camera bag for everyone as not one bag will suit everyones requirements but there sure are a lot of different options on the market.

What to Consider When Buying a Photography Bag

When I was researching what camera bag I wanted for my trip, there were a few things that I took into account when looking at bags. Some of these are obvious but hopefully help you with your own research:

Style of bag: Camera bags like a lot of other gadget bags come in varying styles from full hard-on cases, sling bags, waist bags to backpacks. The style of the bag ultimately comes down to how you are going to use the bag and where you are going to with the bag, for example, lugging a roller bag through outback Australia would be impractical but does a sling bag provide enough room for all your gear?

Size of bag: The size of the bag also like the style is dependent on choice, size of gear and where you plan on heading to with the bag. There are smaller camera bags like the [amazon_textlink asin=’B00J8V1INU’ text=’Lowepro Passport Sling III Bag’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 830c9934-185f-11e7-8800-2fa24aa2a298′] which work perfect for those trips down to the beach where you know you only need your camera, one lens and some filters but what about bigger trips where you need a longer zoom and another lens or two where bags like the [amazon_textlink asin=’B00173FOQY’ text=’Think Tank Airport Security V2.0′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 94deabd6-185f-11e7-8de4-1fff5154f21f’] comes to mind.

Comfort: Buying a camera bag that’s comfortable should be a priority especially if you’ll be having it with you for long hours either on a bush walk (or hiking for my American friends) or if you’re shooting with it attached to your body.

Budget: Not everyone has hundreds of dollars to spend on camera bags especially when they’re starting out and have just shelled out a fair bit of coin on getting a camera and lens setup. There are very decent camera bags which won’t cost you an arm and/or a leg but serve you well. Amazon owned camera bags – [amazon_textlink asin=’B002VPE1WK’ text=’Amazon Basics’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 3672a754-1860-11e7-91bf-49520dc3cf9e’] come to mind. But then for those that do have the budget, there are some great bags in the mid to higher end like the [amazon_textlink asin=’B008OQUX22′ text=’Lowepro Photo Hatchback 22L’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 516a7e9d-1860-11e7-93af-b70b20a42e4c’] which come with additional features and quality over the cheaper bags.

Protection/Material of bag: Another important thing to look out for when buying camera bags is what type of material is used to make the bag? This is important because of weather elements and locations where you’ll be having the bag(s) accompany you to. Obviously a hard shell case like the [amazon_textlink asin=’B00NV6JTBG’ text=’Lowepro Hardside 300′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 7349262e-1860-11e7-aa03-ad11cfe0c128′] is great when you’re travelling on a plane to fully protect your gear if it’s thrown around but this is quite large and cumbersome to lug around when you’re not travelling on a plane. This is where larger bags such as the [amazon_textlink asin=’B002DW99H8′ text=’Case Logic SLRC-206′ template=’ProductLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 9dc66014-1860-11e7-8de0-c98569614713′] which generally have some form of waterproof material is ideal for those shorter trips where the key concern is protecting your gear from water.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s go down to what camera bags are worth mentioning across the four main categories of camera bags on the market: backpack, sling bags, shoulder bags and rolling cases. Obviously there’s other styles of bags that are missing here like a waist bag or camera holster but these weren’t a style I was interested in for my trip which isn’t to say they aren’t good, they simply just didn’t fit into my criteria of what I was after for my trip. You’ll also notice that there’s quite the emphasis on backpacks and slingbags as these were more what I was looking for.

What did I buy?

I ended up settling on the [amazon_textlink asin=’B008OQUX22′ text=’Lowepro Photo Hatchback 22L’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 516a7e9d-1860-11e7-93af-b70b20a42e4c’] as it was able to fit all the gear I was taking (Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 17-40, Canon 24-70, filters and a Macbook). All in all, it’s a great bag and met my requirements of something able to carry all my gear comfortably as I was stumbling around remote parts of Australia. If I was to nitpick with the bag, my only criticism would be the big ‘Lowepro’ branding on the bag which is a bit of a dead giveaway you’re carrying a camera bag.  But other than that minor criticism, it’s a fantastic bag and will serve the majority of readers well for their next adventure. 


NameSize (L x W x H)WeightStorageLaptopTripod SupportWaterproofRatingPrice

AmazonBasics Backpack11.5 x 7.2 x 15.6860 grams (1.9 pound)Body, 2-3 lenses and accessoriesYNN[amazon_link asins='B002VPE1WK' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' 60740bd2-175b-11e7-bbc3-d5a89c9f62c5']
AmazonBasics DSLR and Laptop Backpack13.4 x 8.8 x 17.71.4 kg (3.2 pounds)1-2 bodies, 3-4 lenses and accessoriesYYN[amazon_link asins='B00CF5OGP8' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' 79505567-175b-11e7-8800-2fa24aa2a298']

Neewer Pro Camera Case16.6 x 13.2 x 5.7700 grams (1.6 pounds)Body, 2-3 mid sized lenses and accessoriesNYY*
Material only (no cover)
[amazon_link asins='B01M5FQXFU' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' 84ddae6a-175c-11e7-a0a7-4d2ec1ecaef9']
Case Logic SLRC-2069.7 x 13.6 x 18.11.29 kg (2.8 pounds)Body, 2 lenses and accessoriesYYY*
Material only (no cover)
[amazon_link asins='B002DW99H8' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' 98492542-175c-11e7-b34d-518bbe897ce8']

Lowepro Photo Hatchback 22L19.88 x 9.25 x 11.41 kg (2.2 pounds)Body, 2-3 lenses and accessoriesYNY
Comes with cover
[amazon_link asins='B008OQUX22' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' a5fd2431-175c-11e7-9c91-2f0e3c6054c8']

Manfrotto MB NX-BP-VGY12.2 x 6.7 x 18.1950 grams (2.1 pounds)Body, 1-2 lenses and accessoriesYYY*
Material only (no cover)
[amazon_link asins='B015RA4L52' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' c9cb3fd1-175c-11e7-8aa0b-a9b63e356873']

Abonnyc Large DSLR Bag18.4 x 11.8 x 5.71.6 kg (3.6 pounds)Body, 3-4 lenses and accessoriesYYN[amazon_link asins='B015RA4L52' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' c9cb3fd1-175c-11e7-8aa0b-a9b63e356873']

Evecase Camera Backpack18 x 13 x 6.31.5 kg (3.4 pounds)Body, 3-4 lenses and accessoriesYYN[amazon_link asins='B00NAQANTO' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' d493de5a-175c-11e7-adb8-17c1993a9caf']

Vivitar Camera Backpack16 x 11 x 6450 grams (1 pound)Body, 2-3 lenses and accessoriesNYN[amazon_link asins='B01G62CSP0' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' e00e1a3a-175c-11e7-b617-a132691d2126']

Burton F-Stop Backpack25.5 x 12 x 7.52.3 kg (5.1 pounds)Body, 3-4 lenses and accessoriesNYN[amazon_link asins='B00AZHAKSK' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' b9593ccb-175d-11e7-bf0e-c94a0e5582bd']

Chrome Niko Pack8 x 11 x 17.51.3 kg (3 pounds)1-2 bodies, 3-4 lenses and accessoriesYYY*
Material only (no cover)
[amazon_link asins='B00AZHCCHC' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' c3aa3b2e-175d-11e7-946f-67135e8404c8']

Incase Pro Pack20 x 12 x 91.2 kg (2.7 pounds)Body, 3-4 lenses and accessoriesYNN[amazon_link asins='B008HFIWGO' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' cd69f4a2-175d-11e7-8fc1-a56966f77072']

Langly Alpha Pro18 x 14.5 x 82.1 kg (4.8 pounds)Body, 3-4 lenses and accessoriesYYY*
Material only (no cover)

AmazonBasics Backpack

Quick Look

  • Very budget friendly coming in at [amazon_link asins=’B002VPE1WK’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 645947c5-1ccf-11e7-b6a0-b5fc56a40f8b’]
  • Roomy setup capable of holding a DSLR with 2-3 lenses
  • Made by Amazon
  • Measurements include 11.5 x 7.2 x 15.6 inches.
  • Weighs just about 1.3kg or 2.9 pounds

One of the best backpacks I came across in my research was this very budget friendly SLR/DSLR camera backpack produced by Amazon. I know what you’re thinking… A bag by Amazon?! Branding aside for a moment, it comes with some serious bang for buck and at the price point of [amazon_link asins=’B002VPE1WK’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 8f8a8f9c-1ccf-11e7-9d18-df6ea7f4ef0b’] makes it worth considering. 

The backpack is compact and has a very impressive looking main compartment which has adjustable sub-chambers allowing you to adjust the compartments to store 1-2 bodies (impressive) and 2-3 lenses. How much you can fit will ultimately come down to the size of your setup (i.e. a larger zoom like the 70-200mm takes twice the space as a 17-40mm ultra wide angle lens).

Dimensions of the backpack measures 11.5 x 7.2 x 15.6 inches with a weight of 1.3kg (2.9 pounds), and the entire backpack is made of durable black polyester (nylon).

If you have a good number of photography accessories you’d like to have with you on a trip, there are several pouches to accommodate them. Zippered pockets and compartments are strategically placed both on the inside and outside of the backpack. I find these little pouches really handy for longer trips where you need to stash away some food to nibble on or carrying 

The bag comes with normal features that you’d expect with a backpack including secure straps around the shoulder region, waist, chest area and several handles for an easy and convenient carry.

The backpack is very adjustable with straps able to hang loosely or made to cling tightly. This is particularly useful if you are carrying a lightweight travel tripod as it allows you to strap the tripod to the bag (provided it’s small enough). The AmazonBasics backpack is also heavily padded for a comfortable wear and also serves a strong shield incase of accidental drop, so your equipment is safe from a fall.

Design wise, I won’t lie, the AmazonBasics backpack isn’t going to win any awards for its design. The design is simple and quite dull. Its simple look however doesn’t affect its functionality as a lot of positive feedback from satisfied users of this budget backpack speaks volumes of its strength and usability, making it great bang for buck.

[amazon box=”B002VPE1WK” description_items=”0″]

AmazonBasics Large Backpack

Quick look

  • Roomy backpack with several compartments capable of holding a DSLR camera’s, 2-3 lenses and a few small accessories
  • Budget friendly and cost efficient
  • Weighs 860 grams or 1.9 pounds
  • Has a tablet compartment
  • Measurements include; 5 x7.9 x11.8 inches

Another camera bag worth mentioning and checking out is the large AmazonBasics DSLR photography bag. Just like the previously mentioned backpack, this is also a made by Amazon. 

The bag is roomy and can hold just about everything you need from your DSLR camera to lenses, tablets and laptops. Once again, the design of this bag comes with a modular interior with removable areas which allows you to adjust the bag to suit your equipment which ensures a secure and snug fit.

Compartments are a thing to consider in photography/camera bags. Where this bag excels over the previous bag is with the additional compartments it comes with including a tablet compartment that’s padded for added safety. I personally like this comes with padding for the tablet as it reduces the need to store the tablet in its own carry case (which only adds more bulk).

The bag is lightweight and comes in around the 860 grams (1.9 pounds) range which makes it easy to carry. Talking about the carriage, there is a shoulder strap which is very heavily padded and also adjustable so you don’t feel discomfort while wearing the bag even with all your photography equipment loaded in the bag.

So far, there are several thousands of satisfied users on retailing giant Amazon, with a good many praising the bag. I would like to think that as an Amazon branded bag, Amazon listens to the reviews and have adjusted it over time to be the bag it is today. For the price, I don’t think you can go wrong. Some serious bang for buck.

[amazon box=”B00CF5OGP8″ description_items=”0″]

Neewer Pro Camera Case

Quick Look

  • Good, cheap price coming in at [amazon_link asins=’B01M5FQXFU’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 1788c02b-1cd1-11e7-9b8e-6ffe7463af50′]
  • Waterproof and shockproof
  • Comes with a tripod holder
  • Capable of holding a DSLR camera with 2-3 lenses
  • Measures 12.2 x 5.5 x 14.6 inches
  • Weighs 700 grams or 1.6 pounds

Okay let’s move away from Amazon’s offerings, the Neewer Pro camera case is made of a durable waterproof polyester/nylon material. Has a comfortably wide interior storage space and has dimensions measuring 12.2 x 5.5 x 14.6 inches and weighs 700grams. It’s also very well padded to ensure a comfortable carry and also serve as protection in terms of accidental dropping of the case.

Like the other reviewed camera bags, this Neewer Pro camera case can hold quite a bit of gear including a DSLR camera, 2-3 mid sized lenses and accessories. The inside of the Neewer Pro camera case has a bright red color making it easy to quickly find what you’re looking for.

There are dividers added to the camera case which are padded and removable allowing you to adjust the bag to suit your needs. Total portions you can separate using the divider(s) is 6 which can come in handy when you want to customise the bag to suit your requirements. 

Outside the backpack, there is a tripod/monopod foot holder with straps and buckles to hold your camera stands and tripods/monopods without taking up internal space. Whilst also coming with waterproof material gives this another tick for me.

Weighing less than 750 grams (1.6 pounds) and can priced very reasonably under 50 bucks, you’re not only purchase a convenient carry-on bag but also one that’s resistant against the elements and gives the more expensive variants a run for their money.

[amazon box=”B01M5FQXFU” description_items=”0″]

Case Logic SLRC-206 Camera and 15.4-Inch Laptop Backpack

Quick Look

  • Has 25 years warranty
  • Made of sturdy nylon material
  • Weighs 1.2kg or 2.7 pounds
  • Measuring in at 9.7 x 13.6 x 18.1 inches
  • Has a waterproof EVA base that withstands weather elements and lets it stand upright
  • Capable of carrying a DSLR, 2-3 lenses and accessories and a laptop up to 17″.
  • Strap to carry tripod

The Case logic SLRC-206 camera backpack is one which is more than capable for those off the beaten track adventures. One of the selling attributes of this bag is its dimensions (18.1 x 13.6 x 9.7 inches) which make it one heck of a large bag to accommodate most photography setups and even large screen laptops of up to 17 inches. I’m not sure who is rocking laptops this big in 2017 with retina displays and the like but each to their own!

You can’t talk about a heavy duty backpack without mentioning the material it’s made of. This case logic SLRC-206 camera bag exterior is made of sturdy heavy-gauge nylon while the base is made of a molded EVA material that’s water-resistant. It’s worth noting that it does lack a waterproof rain cover which means it’s not 100% waterproof but the material itself does provide some safe guard against water.

Another selling point for this bag was the side straps to carry your tripod. I find this really useful for those longer walks where you may need to scale down a hill and need both hands (rather than one holding the tripod). 

Straps securely placed in the shoulder region employ an innovative strap management system which sees that excess and hanging straps are kept out of the way. The straps are also very adjustable to any fit or comfort level.

As regards to the compartment/housing areas, there’s a lot of space in this backpack which you would come to expect with a bag of this size but one thing in particular that I liked about the bag were the storage areas which securely holds your camera. The camera compartment has a neoprene hammock suspension system which lifts the camera just above the case’s bottom thus keeping it safe in case of impact.

As like most bag that can hold a camera and laptop setup, the backpack has a camera compartment as well as a laptop compartment. Both are well protected with foam to prevent damage to your expensive equipment.

Like many other camera bags, this Case logic SLRC-206 camera backpack has a main compartment that’s fully customizable with padded, dividers which are felt covered. The dividers are attached to the backpack walls using hook and loop strips so you can make a custom housing area for any and every of your photography equipment from lenses to filters. All in all, this leaves you with enough space to carry a DSLR, 2-3 lenses, accessories and a laptop. Once again it really comes down to the size of your lenses to how many you’ll be able to store. If you’re carrying a 70-200mm zoom lens then this is obviously going to take a fair chunk of space. 

All in all, this is a great bag for the price and would suit someone looking for a bag which will them to cover everything from their camera equipment to laptop for those weekends or longer away.

[amazon box=”B002DW99H8″ description_items=”0″]

Lowepro Photo Hatchback 22L AW Bag

Quick Look

  • Lowepro is an industry leader when it comes to photography bags
  • Holds a DSLR with 2-3 lenses and accessories
  • Comes with a top loading compartment
  • Ready for the rain with an all weather cover
  • Measures in at 19.88 x 9.25 x 11.4 inches
  • Weighs 1 kg (2.2 pounds)

Lowepro is a highly respected and trusted manufacturer in the industry, having been an innovative leader for years. In fact, my first camera bag was a Lowepro! This is a cheaper option but is still made from top quality material.

One thing I really liked about the Lowepro was the direction they took with the design. The bag is much more of a casual, informal design and is lightweight and comfortable to wear.  With the design direction Lowepro have taken with this bag, you’re bound to be comfortable in harsh conditions.  Speaking of harsh conditions, the Lowepro Photo Hatchback comes with an all weather cover which you can pull out and cover over your bag if the weather decides to turn nasty. I’ve used these for previous Lowepro bags in the wet and they’ve been a godsend!

The raincoat left this bag being my favourite!

With multi-functional compartments, you can store plenty of camera equipment, as well as your tablet and any other essentials.  With a body-side opening, you can access your gear quickly and easily.  This is perfect for those moments when you spot a great photo opportunity and want to quickly access your camera.

The great thing about this backpack, is that you can remove the camera box to turn it into a fully functional daypack.  This is quick and simple to do, with the convenient grab handles attached.  Your camera will remain protected inside the padded camera box and you are free to place other items in the backpack.

For me, this is a great bag for people who carry lightweight setups but need something that is both comfortable and capable of holding its own in harsh conditions. I don’t think you can go wrong with the Lowepro Photo Hatchback. My only criticism with this bag is the Lowepro branding on the bag which gives away the fact you’re carrying a camera bag but it’s not a deal breaker. 

[amazon box=”B008OQUX22″ description_items=”0″]

Manfrotto MB NX-BP-VGY Backpack

Quick Look

  • Holds a DSLR with 2-3 lenses and accessories
  • Interior sleeve is able to hold a laptop of up to 15”
  • Casual design without looking too much like a camera bag
  • Side tripod attachment makes those long walks more comfortable
  • Measures in at 12.2 x 6.7 x 18.1 inches
  • Weighs 950 grams (2.1 pounds)

This is a very simple, classic design from Manfrotto, a brand renowned for its tripods who also knows how to make a good camera bag it seems.  Like all bags, it features a removable padded compartment for your camera equipment, which is located in the lower part of the backpack.  Equipped with the Manfrotto’s ‘Monforte Protection System’ (sounds a bit exotic no?), you can ensure your DSLR camera will remain safe at all times, along with your additional lenses and other small camera accessories.  The idea behind the Monforte Protection System is to ensure your equipment remains in place even if your bag is tossed around or suddenly dropped

The 15.6” laptop compartment is a great addition and the zippered pockets allow you to keep smaller personal items, such as your wallet and keys, organised and safe.  One of the best features of this bag, is the dedicated net pocket for a tripod or alternatively, you can use the external hanging solution. I prefer the net pocket for more compact size tripods but the hanging solution works well for your regularly sized tripods which are a bit too big for the net.

This lightweight storage bag is also waterproof which means it is perfect for landscape photographers who aren’t afraid to get out and take a chance with stormy clouds in the hope of a cracking sunset.  All in all while this bag isn’t about to win any awards for its design, its use of good quality materials and smart features about it which left me rating it quite highly.

[amazon box=”B015RA4L52″ description_items=”0″]

Abonnyc Large DSLR Camera Backpack

Quick Look

  • Durable construction which comes with anti shock technology to protect your gear
  • Water resistant
  • Capable of carrying a DSLR, 3-4 lenses, accessories and a laptop)
  • Comes with side tripod strap
  • Separate compartment to carry your laptop
  • Measures in at 18.4 x 11.8 x 5.7 inches
  • Weighs 1.6 kg (3.6 pounds)

The Abonnyc Large DSLR Camera bag was a bit of a surprise pack for me being a relative unknown name in the camera bag industry. The bag comes more than capable of holding a lot of camera gear (you’re easily looking at a camera body, 3-4 lenses, accessories, tripod and a laptop).  Based on its ability to carry a lot of gear, the Abonnyc Large DSLR Camera bag is best for the people who love photography and like to carry their entire kit with them all the time.

Like most camera bags, the bag comes with interchangeable velcro compartments which makes adjusting the bag to suit your camera setup easy. Additionally, Abonnyc employs anti-shock technology to protect the contents of your bag against any falls or drops. This is great especially when you’re lugging around a heavy bag full of all your photography kit.

For me at the price ([amazon_link asins=’B00YS1OP2G’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ a31fb53e-1cd7-11e7-8e85-4fe645f9d77f’]) and the ability to hold a lot of gear makes this a bag worth considering. It is worth noting though that for a bag that comes this cheap, you do have to make some compromises in material (reviews note that the material feels a bit less sturdier than your more expensive bags) and the bag does not come with a waterproof cover like the Lowepro bags. If you are carrying a lot of camera equipment ($$) then what’s a few extra hundred?  Spend the bit extra and get something that has a waterproof cover and better quality materials.

[amazon box=”B00YS1OP2G” description_items=”0″]

Evecase Camera Backpack

Quick Look

  • Different design isn’t going to appeal to everyone but I love it
  • Capable of holding DSLR, 3-4 lenses and accessories
  • Zipper Laptop compartment in the bag
  • Interior is easily adjustable to suit your photography setup
  • The bag is waterproof*
  • Measures in at 18 x 13 x 6.3 inches
  • Weighs 1.5 kg (3.4 pounds)

The Evecase Camera backpack is one of those camera bags that upon first look you’re wondering whether it’s actually a camera bag as it its such a step away from your traditional camera bag design.

For a bag with a great design you would expect it to come with a high price. No not with the Evecase. Priced at a competitive [amazon_link asins=’B00NAQANTO’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ b890c14c-1cd7-11e7-9074-df54abe0a5d5′], the Evecase combines good design with the ability to hold a reasonable amount of equipment (camera body, 2-3 lenses, flash and accessories) plus a laptop and tablet.

One thing that really jumped out at me with the Evecase and makes it slightly different to your regular photography backpack was the way your equipment and accessories is compartmentalised compared to other bags. Rather than needing to open up the whole bag to access your equipment, the Evecase splits the compartments up with a large pocket at the front with four at the bottom which allows you to store your camera to be stored in the main area and your filters and other bits being stored in another. I find this really useful as a seascape photographer where sometimes I just want to quickly put my filters away so having a seperate sections for filters is a huge plus! Additionally, the laptop sits in its own compartment away from the camera and filter compartments ensuring that its safe and secure.

The Evecase backpack is a great backpack for someone looking for something different to your regular camera bag design. I’ve got nothing against camera bags but let’s be honest, you stick out like a sore thumb when you’re carrying a camera bag. Sometimes I’ll shoot cityscapes with more discrete bags to avoid unwanted attention which makes the Evecase all the more appealing. For me, coming in at [amazon_link asins=’B00NAQANTO’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ d22db5ad-15c9-11e7-9fe1-4fc5817adcb5′], being waterproof and holding lots of equipment makes the Evecase Camera Backpack a great bag and well worth the purchase.

 [amazon box=”B00NAQANTO” description_items=”0″]

Vivitar Camera Backpack

Quick Look

  • Enough space for a camera body, 2-3 lenses and accessories
  • Very cheap – [amazon_link asins=’B01G62CSP0′ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ e06192cc-15c9-11e7-97db-ef76e45e61e2′]
  • Able to carry a tripod
  • Space for smaller accessories
  • Not waterproof
  • Measures in at 16 x 11 x 6 inches
  • Weighs 450 grams (1 pound)

It’s really great to see some camera bag brands entering the market with designs that challenge the traditional designs without breaking the bank like this one from Vivitar. Coming with a simple design and priced at[amazon_link asins=’B01G62CSP0′ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ e06192cc-15c9-11e7-97db-ef76e45e61e2′], the Vivitar camera backpack is capable of holding your DSLR with 2-3 lenses and accessories.

The Vivitar camera backpack is a great bag at a reasonable cost but with that said, you do get what you pay for. With the nylon fabric material, this isn’t quite waterproof and lacks a waterproof bag to pull over the bag similar to the Lowepro bags. For some people, this won’t be a deal breaker but for me it’s reassuring knowing your bag is protected from the elements especially when out shooting a waterfall in wet conditions. Another criticism that I noted across reviews for the bag was the compartments lack quality and don’t support equipment as well as they should. I think this would be more of an issue if you’re lugging heavier lenses like the Canon 70-200 2.8 at 1.4kg but would be less of an issue with lighter lenses like the Canon 17-40 at 475g.

Like all things in life, you get what you pay for and some of the issues I’ve noted here may not be deal breakers for everyone. This would suit people looking for a bag that is good for short trips and you’re not expecting any rain.

 [amazon box=”B01G62CSP0″ description_items=”0″]

Burton F-Stop Backpack

Quick Look

  • Made for comfort in mind on those longer trips with a load balance waist harness
  • Holds a DSLR camera, 2-3 lenses, accessories and a tripod
  • No waterproofing
  • Measures in at 25.5 x 12 x 7.5
  • Weighs at 2.3 kg (5.1 pounds)

The Burton F-Stop backpack is a bag that has been designed for those longer trips in mind with Burton placing an emphasis on comfort. With the bag coming with waist and upper chest support straps, this ensures you’re comfortable for those longer adventures.

The bag is capable of holding a DSLR camera, 2-3 lenses, accessories and a tripod. Like most camera bags, the bag comes with adjustable internal compartments which can be adjusted to suit your camera setup.

One thing that Burton missed with the F-Stop backpack is the lack of waterproofing. For a bag which is obviously geared towards longer journeys, why would you compromise on waterproofing? For when you’re walking a few hours to a photo location, having something to waterproof your equipment is crucial and I’m really surprised Burton didn’t opt to include waterproofing. People have said you can use Scotchgaurd or Nikwax to waterproof the bag but it’ not quite the same as waterproofing provided by the manufacturer.

Would I recommend this bag? Look probably not… At the price point of Pricehere, the bag is up there with the bigger players like the Lowepro where you can get something similar with more features. That’s not to say it’s a bad bag as the design looks great and you may be happy to compromise on the lack of waterproofing but others may not.

[amazon box=”B00AZHAKSK” description_items=”0″] 

Chrome Niko Pack

Quick Look

  • Different to your regular camera bag with a great looking design
  • The bag is able to withstand all conditions with its water resistance
  • Fits a 15” Macbook Pro
  • Configurable velcro dividers which easily adjust to suit your camera setup
  • Straps to carry your tripod
  • Capable of holding a camera body, 3-4 lenses and accessories
  • Measures in at 8 x 11 x 17.5 inches
  • Weighs 1.3 kg (3 pounds)

The Chrome Niko backpack is one of those bags that suits everyone whether it be trekking a few hours into a waterfall or taking cityscape shots around crowded areas. This comes thanks to the sleek design of the bag. With the Chrome Niko, you won’t look out of place and will have a bag that is both comfortable and able to carry a large bulk of your camera equipment.

The Chrome Niko backback like all backbacks comes with interchangeable velcro separators which can be configured to suit your camera setup. The bag is capable of holding a large camera body (like the Canon 5D Mark III) and 3-4 lenses. Based on reviews, there’s quite a lot of people out there lugging a Canon 70-200, Canon 24-105, Canon 16-35 and a 50mm all while also carrying a tripod and laptop. That’s a lot of gear and makes this bag a strong contender for anyone doing some serious travelling.

With the ability to hold such a large load, the backpack provides comfortable support to ensure you don’t feel like you’re carrying a large rock around with the weight being evenly distributed across the bag and your camera being properly supported in case you were to fall.

Overall, the Chrome Niko backpack is an impressive choice for photographers because of its design and quality features. While it may be on the higher end of the price range, the bag does come with its perks including waterproofing, ability to hold a large amount of gear (including your laptop) and tripod mounts. . So all in all, it’s a great bag for people looking to have all their gear at hand for their next big trip.

[amazon box=”B00AZHCCHC” description_items=”0″] 

Incase Pro Pack

Quick Look

  • Comes with a secondary quick access zipper which makes getting equipment quickly a breeze
  • Holds a large amount of camera equipment (DSLR body, 3-4 lenses and accessories)
  • Able to hold a 15” Macbook Pro and tablet
  • Side mount to carry your tripod
  • Not waterproof
  • Measures in at 20 x 12 x 9 inches
  • Weighs 1.2 kg (2.7 pounds)

If you are an active photographer with a decent amount of kit, the Incase DSLR Pro Pack is the bag  for you. Incase have created a bag which not only looks good from the outside but also comes packed with a smart interior design with enough space for keeping a large camera setup including a DSLR camera, 3-4 lenses, tablet, laptop and your tripod.

The bag comes with interchangeable velcro dividers which make it a breeze to adjust to suit your camera setup. The velcro dividers have been developed to also ensure a snug fit which gives you that additional peace of mind that your camera equipment is well supported. The bag also comes with a secondary compartment for filters and other items which is a great feature to have when you’re out shooting and don’t necessarily want to open your whole camera.

Like some other bags in this lower price point, you do unfortunately get what you pay for. While the bag comes with a great exterior design, it is not waterproof which is a shame for the landscape photographers who are likely to come across rain on their journeys. For others though, this may be less of a concern.

Overall at the price point of [amazon_link asins=’B008HFIWGO’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 85eca4c2-1ceb-11e7-bfee-11e807321979′] this is a great bag. For this price, you’re getting a bag that is capable of holding a large amount of kit and is also comfortable for those longer journeys. For some people the lack of waterproofing won’t be an issue but for others it may. It’s just my opinion but if you’re storing a decent amount of kit including a laptop in a bag, spend the bit extra and get something that’s waterproof so you never have to worry.

[amazon box=”B008HFIWGO” description_items=”0″] 

Langly Alpha Pro

Quick Look

  • Holds a decent amount of kit (DSLR camera, 3-4 lenses and accessories)
  • Great looking design
  • Bag isn’t completely waterproof
  • Measures in at 18 x 14.5 x 8 inches
  • Weighs 2.1 kg (4.8 pounds)

While stock levels for this bag were low when I last checked thanks to this bag being a Kickstarter inception, the Langly Alpha Pro is still a bag worth mentioning thanks to its well thought out interior and exterior design.

Some people might find the design of the bag a bit unique (or even hipster?) but don’t let that put you off, with the design of the bag, you’re getting something that is perfect for the weekend away that is able to withstand all the elements with its tough leather, stylish design and rust-proof brass hardware.

The bag has been designed with three compartments, one upper, one mid and a bottom tripod compartment. Both the top and mid compartments have been designed with padded compartments which can be readily adjusted to suit the requirements of your camera setup.

The compartment design is actually really neat with with the mid compartment having enough room to fit your DSLR camera and around 3-4 lenses. The top compartment is also large and accommodates a laptop and your additional photography accessories whether that be filters or a camera flash.  While this all sounds great, most reviews generally suggest not to fill the camera to full capacity as it can become difficult to get things from the mid compartment if the top compartment becomes full and top heavy. This can be easily avoided when packing your kit by ensuring you don’t overload the top part of the bag.

Langly have designed this bag using water resistant waxeed canas which whilst not completely waterproof, provides you with adequate coverage if you were to get stuck in the rain.

All in all, this is a great backpack and I’d highly recommend it based on how much equipment that can be stored in the bag. For me the lack of complete waterproofing isn’t a deal breaker as the bag is still more than capable of withstanding some rain or a wave drenching it if you’re caught off guard. Based on the design and the functionality, I think this is a good purchase and would recommend!

Sling Bags

NameSize (L x W x H)WeightStorageLaptopTripod SupportWaterproofRatingPrice
Lowepro Passport Sling III Bag5.7 x 17.3 x 16.1"500 grams (1.1 pounds)DSLR and 1-2 lensesY*
Tablet compartment
Fabric has some level of waterproofing
[amazon_link asins='B00J8V1INU' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' 29b9eeb0-27be-11e7-bf81-eb804fc8497a']
Altura Photo Camera Sling Backpack7.7 x 17.3 x 12.1"500 grams (1.1 pounds)DSLR, 2-3 lenses, flash and accessoriesNYN[amazon_link asins='B00PV0IEDY' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' 581c79c4-27be-11e7-a248-5dc3bb19f4a2']
24/7 Traffic17 x 6.3 x 10.8"1kg (2.2 pounds)DSLR, 2-3 lenses and accessoriesY - Tablet or 12" Macbook maximumNN*
Fabric has some level of waterproofing
[amazon_link asins='B018JORFYM' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' 95e19d5c-27be-11e7-9ec9-ebc1f4965b7e']
Case Logic DSS-1019.1 x 7.9 x 15"700 grams (1.5 pounds)DSLR, 2-3 lenses and accessoriesN* - Tablet onlyYY[amazon_link asins='B00IDYS066' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' a6fe42b1-27be-11e7-9f40-b70f553105f1']

Lowepro Passport Sling III Bag

Quick Look

  • Designed for more compact setups (think a mirrorless setup with a few lenses and accessories) but is capable of holding a DSLR camera with a lens or two
  • Comfortable fit makes this ideal for those trips where you just want to quickly grab your bag with a simple setup and get out shooting
  • Bag fit is adjustable to suit different body types

This much smaller and cheaper design is great for anyone who doesn’t want the standard backpack look and is after something more lightweight and compact while still being able to cart around a decent amount of camera and accessories.  It fits a compact DSLR, an extra lens or flash, a tablet, your smartphone and any small personal items you wish to carry with you.  The removable camera insert is impact-resistant, making it ideal if you are travelling or needing to hop across rocks which may introduce sudden movement to your camera equipment.

One thing I like about the Lowepro Passport Sling III is that the tablet is held in a tablet specific pocket, featuring floating-foam construction which makes it able to withstand any sudden shakes or movements. This reduces the need to have your tablet in a separate carry case which is a plus.  You’re probably reading this and wondering why am I even bothering referring to the tablet holder if this is a bag for photographers? Good question. I don’t normally carry one with me but will often bring one for star trails where I’m not sleeping and sitting near my camera.

The bag is comfortable to wear, with an adjustable shoulder strap featuring a cam lock buckle and a removable shoulder pad.  It is a more discreet option than the Hatchback bag as reviewed earlier in the post and holds much more than you would think which makes it good for all occasions whether that be lightweight trips or stocking it up completely.  

The interior zip mesh pocket ensures that smaller items are kept safe and secure within the bag, without getting lost or slipping out when you are on the move.  The exterior pockets can store a water bottle or anything else that you may need to reach for in a flash.

I really like this bag as I find it perfect for those trips where you don’t necessarily need all your equipment but need something that’s comfortable and able to protect it as you hop around rocks by the sea where carrying a bulky square camera backpack may otherwise slow you down.

[amazon box=”B00J8V1INU” description_items=”0″] 

Altura Photo Camera Sling Backpack

Quick Look

  • Easy to rotate which works well for when you’re on the go and want to quickly pull out your camera
  • Secure fit for your camera with padded adjustable dividers ensuring your camera doesn’t move around when travelling
  • Not the biggest bag but not the smallest either with it being able to carry a DSLR camera, 2-3 lenses, flash and accessories

For people looking for a bag which is lightweight, cheap and allows them to get quick access to their equipment then the Altura Sling backpack is the bag for you. Priced at [amazon_link asins=’B00PV0IEDY’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 013aff1e-15ca-11e7-875e-6fe7c889ee7e’], this bag is great value for money.

The bag is designed for photographers who want their equipment in a rush. Thanks for the quick rotation system, the bag allows you to quickly rotate your bag and get your gear out in a flash.

As this is a sling bag, it’s not going to win any awards for camera storage however with that said, it does pretty well being able to hold a DSLR camera, 2-3 lenses (depending on size), some accessories and a mount for a tripod (not bad for a sling bag!). The bag comes with adjustable velcro compartments which allows you to adjust the bag to suit your setup. It’s worth noting that some reviews have highlighted that the dividers are a bit flimsy and could be firmer to more securely hold your camera.

Coming in at [amazon_link asins=’B00PV0IEDY’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 013aff1e-15ca-11e7-875e-6fe7c889ee7e’], the bag provides some serious bang for buck. Having a sling bag that is able to hold a DSLR, 2-3 lenses while including a mount for a tripod makes this great for all types of adventures. It’s worth noting that various reviews questioned the durability of the material used. If you’re looking for a bag for casual light trips then this is a good purchase for the money. If you’re looking for something that is able to withstand longer trips and securely hold your bag then perhaps this bag isn’t for you.

[amazon box=”B00PV0IEDY” description_items=”0″] 

24/7 Traffic

Quick Look

  • Camera compartment is fully padded even if it does appear a bit lightweight
  • Able to carry a small camera (think mirrorless with 2-3 lenses and an iPad)
  • All weather coverage
  • Weighs 1kg (2.2 pounds)
  • Has a top load compartment for personal items

With a name like the ’24/7 Traffic’ you know you’re in for a surprise or two. The 24/7 Traffic… Okay. How about I just call it the Traffic from here on in as it’s a bit tacky sounding… The Traffic is a funky looking bag which comes with some interesting features that makes it worth considering.

The interior to the bag has been designed with flexible partitions that is interchangeable to suit the layout of your camera setup. Reviews on the partitions are positive with most people confirming that the partitions provide a secure fit for your camera equipment.

The Traffic is meant to sling across the shoulder. It has a shoulder strap that is thickly padded just at the correct spot where it should rest naturally on your shoulder. You can carry it on either your right or left shoulder so both shoulders can share the weight.

The exterior of the bag while making a bold statement with the orange colour also is quite functional and comes with a rain cover which for me, was a huge plus and one of the big reasons why I opted to review it in this roundup. 

If the out there design for this bag doesn’t phase you and you’re looking for something that’s both comfortable and convenient for your next photography trip then definitely consider the 24/7 Traffic bag. For me, the ability to hold a DSLR, 2-3 lenses and an iPad/12″ Macbook while coming with a rain cover to protect your gear if the weather turns sour makes this a nice little bag.

[amazon box=”B018JORKKG” description_items=”0″] 

Case Logic DSS-101

Quick Look

  • Has a compact monopod or tripod side attachment with adjustable strap
  • Able to fit a camera body and 2-3 lenses
  • Dedicated compartment for your iPad or tablet
  • Weighs 700 grams (1.54 pounds)
  • Has top zipper and internal pocket zipper

The Case Logic DSS-101 is a great lightweight bag for your next adventure. With enough room to carry a DSLR, 1-2 lenses, tablet and some accessories, this is perfect for those trips where you’re rushing out the door and want something lightweight to pick your camera up in a rush.

The rain coat for the Case Logic left me giving it a big thumbs up!

As this is a sling bag, unfortunately you do have to make some compromise on how much camera equipment you plan to carry in the bag. Generally most people are able to carry a DSLR and 2-3 lenses but it really comes down to what lenses you are looking to carry. If we’re talking more smaller zooms like the 18-55 and a prime like the 50mm, you’re fine. It’s bigger lenses like a 70-200mm where you may come into some grief trying to fit it into the bag.  This may or may not be an issue for some but is worth noting. Personally speaking, if you are looking at carrying a diverse range of lenses then perhaps a sling bag isn’t quite the right choice for you.

Whether in use or neatly stored, you can rest assured that the Case Logic DSS-101 Luminosity CSC/DSLR Sling will protect your camera and all accessories from any elements thanks to its rain coat which fits properly over the bag. This is a big plus for me as not all bags reviewed in this article came with a rain coat (sorry I can’t resist and should refer to this as rain coer).

Additionally another thing that makes this bag a winner is its tripod side attachment that comes with adjustable hypalon strap preventing it from sliding. You have not seen magnificence until you settle your eyes on this one.

For me, this bag is the real winner out of all the sling bags mentioned, it’s both comfortable and comes packed with some great features including the raincoat, holds a tripod to the side and fits a reasonable amount of gear.  

[amazon box=”B018JORKKG” description_items=”0″] 

Shoulder Bags

NameSize (L x W x H)WeightStorageLaptopTripod SupportWaterproofRatingPrice
Havana 4818.9 x 9.5 x 12"1.2 kg (2.7 pounds)DSLR, 2-3 lenses and flashY - 15" MaxNY[amazon_link asins='B01K7JITGA' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' 0d172b38-27b7-11e7-b33f-310c2aa4f017']
Incase Ari Marcopoulos18.75 x 6 x 11"700 grams (1.5 pounds)Mirrorless, 2-3 lenses and accessoriesY - 13" MaxYY[amazon_link asins='B004DQB13C' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' 943ca4e9-27b7-11e7-8061-cd30df1d912e']
Tenba Cooper 1310.5 x 14.5 x 1"1.1 kg (2.6 pounds)Mirrorless with 3-5 lenses or a DSLR with 2-3 lensesYNY[amazon_link asins='B016PU2100' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' e23b39aa-27b7-11e7-8d80-2f547fa02144']
Canon SLR Gadget Bag14 x 8 x 8"1 kg (2.3 pounds)DSLR, 3-5 lenses, flash and accessoriesNNY[amazon_link asins='B0002Y5WZM' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' 13855479-27b8-11e7-af51-571684b337c6']

Vanguard Havana 48 DSLR Camera Messenger Bag Case

Quick Look

  • It weighs 2.7 pounds
  • Measures 18.9 x 9.5 x 12 inches
  • Has a total coverage rain cover
  • Can carry a DSLR with lens attached as well as 2 or 3 lenses, Flash
  • Has a compartment for laptop of up to 15 inches
  • Padded back and harness
  • Versatile bag, can be used as a daypack

The Vanguard Havana Camera bag comes in quite a unique design and one of the things I like about it, also comes in various sizes which makes it available for everyone from those with large collections of gear to those with smaller collections. There’s several reasons to love this backpack from the simple, clean look to added features like a total coverage rain cover. It’s not your standard Lowepro bag and that’s what I love about it.

Of course comfort is something to consider when opting for a shoulder bag and the Vanguard Havana has got that figured out. It has a harness and back that’s well padded to ensure even and utmost distribution of weight and of course comfort. I find occasionally with shoulder bags if you load them with too much equipment they can feel really bottom heavy (almost as if you’re carting a rock around). With the compartments of the Vanguard Havana, this helps with the weight distribution of the bag without it feeling like a rock on your shoulder.  

There’s also a quick-grip top handle for ease of carriage if you’d like to drag it along in your hands instead of have it hanging over your shoulder.

The bag has well padded dividers and camera insert which fits and secures your equipment well. I find this is critical for a shoulder bag which as opposed to a backpack, sometimes your gear is more prone to moving around due to the way your equipment sits when in transit. The Vanguard Havana is rated well for its ability to hold and secure your equipment when there may be sudden movement.

The Vanguard Havana is a traveler’s bag at heart and allows you to not only store your gear but also makes room for you to also pack your laptop. This is a plus and makes it ideal for those weekends away when you’re likely to go out shooting and want to edit your shots when you get back to where you’re staying.

Dimensions of the Vanguard Havana DSLR camera bag are measured as 18.9 x 9.5 x 12 inches, while the weight is 2.7 pounds which makes it decent enough to take on long hikes and shooting expeditions. Obviously this can vary slightly depending on what option you decide to take.

The Vanguard Havana DSLR camera bag won’t appeal to everyone due to its design but with that said, it makes up for it with it’s functionality of waterproofing and internal housing which ensures your equipment is well secured and ready for any conditions.

[amazon box=”B01K7JITGA” description_items=”0″] 

Canon SLR Gadget Bag

Quick Look

  • Measures 14 x 8 x 8 inches
  • Weighs 1kg  (2.3 pounds)
  • Has detachable padded shoulder strap
  • Comes with tripod straps for easy attachment and carry
  • Large pockets and dividers
  • Budget friendly

Did you know Canon makes camera bags? Neither until I started researching. Skeptically I decided to read further and was actually pleasantly surprised. While the bag isn’t going to give Lowepro a run for its money, it definitely has some good features plus who wouldn’t want a Canon bag to match their Canon kit? 😉

This bag isn’t going to win any awards when it comes to design and reeks of designs that were coming out 20 years ago for SLR cameras (pre the digital era) but at the same time, the bag does serve a purpose (which isn’t to look daggy) but be a convenient shoulder bag for carrying around a small amount of gear.  

The bag is made of a sturdy, nylon material which is water repellant and rugged enough to withstand a bit of rain.  Without a rain cover like some of the other bags reviewed here,  I wouldn’t suggest this as a bag for all conditions as the water repellant is just enough to withstand some light rain.

With dimensions listed as 14 x 8 x 8 inches, this provides a nice amount of space for your camera body, lens and some accessories. One downside noted for this bag is that the compartments aren’t as customisable as other bags mentioned here. This isn’t great as it means that you are restricted to the compartments that the bag comes with and can’t secure them to better hold your gear. For me, this is a big negative for the bag as you want something which you can securely hold your lens and not have to worry about it rocking around.

The bag can either be carried on the side via the shoulder strap which is detachable or held on the hand via its carriage handle, your preference. If you plan to carry your tripod on your trip, then the straps included would come in very handy to attach to your tripod.

[amazon box=”B0002Y5WZM” description_items=”0″] 

Incase Ari Marcopoulos Camera Bag

Quick Look

  • Great looking design
  • Not 100% waterproof but does come with water repellent coating
  • Designed to store more smaller setups (think mirrorless setups)
  • Compartments in the bag can’t be adjusted like other bags

This delightful little bag is great quality and stands somewhere in the middle price-wise.  The bag is low profile, ensuring it won’t stand out to potential thieves, and is made from heavy-duty canvas.  It also has a water repellent coating, to keep your equipment safe from water damage.  With an ergonomic, padded across-the-body shoulder strap, it is comfortable to wear and the one-handed adjustment slack pull and large side release buckle give you quick access to the contents.

This stylish offering has a faux-fur lining, so your equipment won’t get scratched due to hard materials.  The protective flap with a magnetic closure adds a real convenience to the product and the variety of storage pockets give you flexible and broad storage solutions.  It is a reasonably small bag and is ideal for compact cameras such as the Fuji X Pro 1 or Sony Alpha range.  The real benefit of this bag lies in the tightening strap, which allows you to use both hands when shooting your photographs.

The downside for this bag is that the compartments within the bag can’t be adjusted nor can it hold larger setups like a proper DSLR camera. This is disappointing as it’s a great looking bag. As the bag can’t hold my equipment, it ruled it out of selection pretty quickly unfortunately. A shame as it’s a great looking bag!

[amazon box=”B004DQB13C” description_items=”0″] 

Tenba Cooper 13 Slim Camera Bag

Quick Look

  • Has a removable and reversible weather wrap rain cover
  • Capable of holding a mirrorless camera with 3-5 lenses or a DSLR with 2-3 lenses
  • Able to carry a laptop or tablet up to 13″
  • On the pricier end of the scale when compared to other sling bags – [amazon_link asins=’B016PU2100′ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 7a9264d4-15ce-11e7-8090-2fc83baa7a62′]
  • Exterior is made of peach wax cotton canvas which works well in wet conditions and you forget to pull the rain coat on
  • No tripod strap (but would have looked a bit awkward/clunky with one)
  • Interior is silicone coated
  • Weighs 1.1 kg (2.6 pounds)

The Tenba Cooper Slim camera bag is the perfect camera bag for someone liking style with great construction and attention to detail. To begin with, its stylish exterior is made of peach wax cotton canvas (which has 20% polyester reinforcement) with two times water repellent PU coating which makes it near waterproof. 

Internally the great construction and attention to details continues with the interior coming silicone coated and water repellent which provides maximum protection to your camera and accessories. This is quite a step up from other bags which generally use a form of material as a divider. 

The Tenba Cooper bag is well sized for your next adventure. For those with a mirrorless setup, you’re able to hold 3-5 lenses but for those with a DSLR setup you’re more looking at 2-3 lenses depending on the size. Additionally the bag comes with a seperate compartment to securely house your laptop or tablet up to 13″. 

Though not adjustable, the removable hand strap is a good size length and the shoulder strap allows you to carry the case across the chest and thus giving you two different options when carrying it (as a hand carry or over the shoulder). Even when carrying a heavy load, the bottom of the bag will never give up as both the shoulder and hand strap run down the side the bag providing equal support to the bag. 

If you are looking for style and service, this is the option to go for. My only gripes with this bag is that the rain coat isn’t permanently attached to the bag like other bags. This means you can accidentally leave it at home if you’re not careful. For the price is this bag worth it? Yes as you’re getting a good looking bag that’s made from some great materials that are bound to last the test of all conditions.

[amazon box=”B016PU2100″ description_items=”0″] 

Hard Case and Rolling Cases

NameSize (L x W x H)WeightStorageLaptopTripod SupportWaterproofRatingPrice
Pelican Storm IM2950 31.3 x20.4 x12.2"12kg (28 pounds)DSLR, 4-6 lenses, flashes, accessoriesYNY[amazon_link asins='B0018LJSLM' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' d998b5e7-27bf-11e7-803e-0144d903488f']
Lowepro Hardside 300 Hard Shell Case31.3 x 20.4 x 12.2"3.4kg (7.7 pounds)DSLR, 4-6 lenses, flashes, accessoriesYNY[amazon_link asins='B00NV6JTBG' template='PriceLink' store='alexwisephot-20' marketplace='US' link_id=' 24539202-27c0-11e7-a4e4-99da08a7e5ca']

Pelican Storm IM2950 Black Hardigg Case

Quick Look

  • Limited lifetime warranty
  • Rugged in-line wheels
  • Versatile travel case for delicate equipments
  • Weighs 12kg (28 pounds)
  • Uses Press and Pull latches
  • Molded lockable hasps

This is a Pelican Hardigg product, so what do you expect? Rugged military case is what you should expect. If you are comfortable dragging a ton, then you will love this ‘bomb proof’ case.

The case is made of HPX Polymer which is a very sturdy resin that is able to resist impacts from just about any activity, whether it be being submerged or dropped from above, the Pelican will hold its own even in the harshest conditions. With the foam inserts of the bag, this allows you to customise the bag to suit your camera setup. Being able to configure the bag to your setup is great as it will ensure in the event of dropping the bag, you know your equipment will be protected and safe thanks to the snug fit which the foam inserts provide.

The case is also watertight, so you are protected from the elements. There are also five press and pull latches alongside three double layered chambers which gives your valuables a safer housing area.

The bag comes with in-line wheels (a plus over the Lowepro reviewed in the next) which is useful when you’re lugging a heavy bag like this around. Additionally the bag also allows you to secure it in transit with two padlock ready hasps ready.

Let’s be honest – due to the weight alone, the Pelican Storm IM2950 isn’t a case that everyone will be rushing out to buy. For those looking for something that is durable and will withstand all elements (think kayaking down rivers for a week) then this is the bag for you. I know a few people that use the bag kayaking trips and from all accounts, it’s amazing especially when a bit of weather gets in the boat. For someone like myself though, I don’t mean the ruggedness which the bag provides so looked for something more slim.

[amazon box=”B0018LJSLM” description_items=”0″] 

Lowepro Hardside 300 Hard Shell Case

Quick Look

  • Fits everything from a DSLR, 4-6 lenses, flashes, accessories and your laptop and tablet
  • Has waterproof and dustproof rating of IP67
  • Exterior is made of ABS polymer
  • Weighs 3.4kg (7.7 pounds)
  • Has tuck-away backpack straps
  • Standardized size to meet airline carry on requirements
  • The interior of video/photo insert are adjustable and padded
  • No wheels is disappointing considering the weight

If you are looking for a good hard camera bag that will hold your camera and all your accessories in one case while being able to double up as a backpack (this is huge!), then Lowepro Hardside 300 Hard Shell Case has brought your search to an end. You can be sure that your equipment is going to be well protected as its exterior shell is made of ABS polymer specially designed for extreme impact resistance..

Being such a large bag, the bag can be easily adjustable and suited to your camera setup whether that be multiple lenses, camera bodies or accessories – this bag has you covered. 

Whatever the weather Lowepro Hardside 300 Hard Shell Case is the case to go for as it will protect your camera and accessories from water and dust. This is owed to the fact that it is waterproof and dustproof. Perfect for those big adventures where you want to ensure your equipment is going to be safe. The bag has been designed with travel in mind with the dimensions conforming to meet airline carry-on requirements (obviously depending on your airline a bit).

One thing I really liked about the bag was the fact you don’t always have to carry it on your hand. Thanks to its tuck-away backpack straps you can easily put it on your back and be on the go. Sure, it’s going to likely weigh a ton when you’re bag is fully packed but it’s a nice feature which is new in the hard case industry. 

This is a great option for anyone looking to pick up a hard shell camera bag that is both durable and able to carry a lot of kit. I really love the fact that it comes with straps but I feel the bag falls slightly short by not having wheels. Anyone using this bag is going to be carrying around some similar weight. With the bag weighing 3.4kg on its own, you will easily hit the 10kg+ mark once you load in a camera body (850g), lenses (1-3kg depending on the lens) and a laptop. For some, wheels may be a hindrance and get in the way but I would have preferred them as it would have made it almost the perfect case for those extreme conditions trips. 

[amazon box=”B00NV6JTBG” description_items=”0″] 


Before we finish though, let’s look to close out with my favourite bags from the various categories reviewed:


Shoulder Bag:

Sling Bag:

Hard Case:

If you’ve made it this far – thanks for reading and hopefully this article has been useful for you. If you found this article useful, you might enjoy my other posts which are mostly geared towards landscape photography:

  • As far as photography purchases go, long exposure filters are one of my best purchases that I use often to get the results in my photos. My buying guide to long exposure filters provides an overview to what long exposure (neutral density) filters are, how they are best applied and what’s on the market
  • Looking to get into long exposure but stuck for ideas? My long exposure photography ideas post is a great way to get the creative juices flowing
  • Have you ever wanted to photograph waterfalls but wasn’t sure where to start? My guide to waterfall photography is a good kick start

Thanks for reading!



Posted on 6 Comments

Landscape Photography Tip – Shutter Stacking

Sunset at Heart Bay, South Australia
Howrah Beach, Tasmania
Using shutter stacking is a great technique to use in changing light conditions

One thing I love about landscape photography is the challenge that comes with trying to capture a particular moment in quickly changing conditions. An example that I’m sure some people reading this post can relate to is when photographing the sea, you see a rock ledge and think to yourself, some water falling over that rock ledge would create a nice waterfall effect over the rocks (similar to the image to the right). But as we’re all too familiar, that wave creating that nice effect seems to never come and if it does, it’s all too late and the nice sunset colour has disappeared. This is where shutter stacking different exposure times comes in as a useful trick to have in your workflow when you’re out shooting in variable conditions and know you’re about to miss the timing on what you’ve envisaged in your head. 

For the purpose of this article I’ll be looking at how you can stack multiple frames in changing light conditions but the effect can also be used to reduce noise in long exposure images by capturing multiple long exposures (i.e. 10 x 30 second exposures rather than a 5 minute exposure) to reduce noise in your image. 

Sunset at Heart Bay, South Australia
This image from Heart Bay, South Australia used shutter stacking to combine the nice sunset sky and the timing of a wave rushing around the rock

Generally when using this technique it really slows down my shooting process as I’m setting my camera up for one photo rather than running around like a mad man trying to get as many angles of the sunset as possible. So there’s a few things I’ll do as I’m taking my one photo which I’ll look to break down. If we consider the image to the right with the water rushing over the rock ledge as an example, let’s look at my process for this shot:

  1. Focus on composition – Find an interesting composition. In this case, I’ve noticed the water flowing over the rocks could come up nice with a long exposure. Oh what? The swell has dropped out and I’m about to miss the nice colour in the sky. That’s ok, I’ll capture multiple images and combine in Photoshop later using shutter stacking.
  2. Double check everything – Take some test photos to make sure everything is lined up. At this point I’ll double check what the swell is doing in case my gear is exposed (I’m hardcore but not swimming in the ocean and losing my gear hardcore)
  3. Capture your base image – With my camera firmly in position and I’m feeling confident that I’m not going to get swept out to sea, I take a photo of the scene. This image is to capture the sunset in all its glory which will form my base image.
  4. Capture the moment you’ve been waiting for – Now I wait for that wave to come through to create the waterfall effect over the rocks and complete the shot.  It goes without saying but keep your camera as steady as you can to avoid any misalignment when you got to mask the image later in Photoshop. Generally for this style of shot I’ll aim for a long exposure of around o.5″ of a second all the way to 2 seconds.
  5. Stack the images – Open the two images in Photoshop and use the layer mask tool to introduce the wave motion to my base sunset image (as roughly shown in the video below)

Let’s take a look at how the images are combined in Photoshop with this quick video I put together. The technique relies heavily on layer masking the second exposure. If layer masking isn’t something you’re familiar with then give a previous post on layer masking exposures a read or watch one of the many YouTube videos available which will quickly bring you up to speed.

For this video I tried to keep things short (as you can probably tell by my quick and dirty layer masking) but occasionally if there’s not much movement in the water I’ll shutter stack 3-4 images to exaggerate the movement of the water. The purists reading this are no doubt rolling their eyes but if the tools are available then why not make the most of them.

Thanks for reading and watching. If you have any questions about this technique feel free to contact me directly as I’d be happy to help!


Posted on

Manfrotto Befree Compact Tripod Review

Shooting seascapes with the Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 17-40 and the Manfrotto Befree

The Manfrotto Befree Compact tripod is an affordable tripod catering for people not looking to break the bank with yet another photography accessory or for those looking for something light on their next trip. Coming in at[amazon_link asins=’B00COLBNTK’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ b4541cc8-ffea-11e6-b74f-1b8225fab6ab’], the Manfrotto is lightweight (2.4kg/5.3), easy to carry and can support a reasonable camera load.

Manfrotto Befree Compact Tripod
Manfrotto Befree Compact Tripod in all its glory

The Manfrotto Befree tripod was my first entry into the compact tripod range so I was keen to write a review with the positives and negatives for anyone else looking to add something more portable to their gear. 

What makes a good travel tripod?

I’m the first to admit it – I treat my tripods terribly and I’m constantly reminding myself (and ignoring my own advice) that I need to take better care of my tripods rather than let them erode away from salt water. Over the last 10~ years I’ve worked through 3 tripods which have succumbed to death by salt water (not too bad I thought?) which has given me a reasonable understanding of what makes a good tripod (and how to waste money…)

So what makes a good travel tripod? I’ve touched on this in detail in a post where I compared some of the best travel tripods on the market before I purchased the Manfrotto Befree tripod but some of the key call outs from this post:

  1. Manfrotto befree travel bag
    Included with the Manfrotto Befree is this travel bag which you can conveniently sling over your shoulder

    Portability – A good travel tripod should be portable in both its size and weight. Generally you want something that’s no bigger than 20-24 inches when folded or more than 2.5kg in weight. The reason being is that you want something you can quickly store away in your carry baggage or strap to your bag. With normal tripods, some of these can be quite bulky which makes strapping to your bag quite difficult and awkward

  2. The Manfrotto Befree is tiny (ignore my pasty arms..!)

    Extend to a reasonable height – While not a deal breaker for me as I prefer to shoot from lower angles, your tripod should be able to extend to a reasonable height (good for when you’re stuck behind a viewing platform where there is a high fence blocking the view). Generally being able to extend to at least 50 inches without needing to extend the centre column is a good height. I prefer not to extend the centre column when I can avoid it as it’s not as stable in windy conditions.

  3. Ability to hold a reasonable load – You want something that can handle itself for different conditions whether that be supporting your camera with a lightweight wide angle lens all the way to a versatile zoom lens like the Canon 70-200. As an example, if you were to hold the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 70-200 2.8 IS, this works out to be around 2.4kg. Most compact travel tripods are able to handle this load but just something worth noting and considering when looking at travel tripods as this is one area where they can really vary. 

With these items in mind, how does the Manfrotto tripod fare? To be honest, actually really well considering the price.

Manfrotto Befree Compact Travel Tripod


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[su_note note_color=”#2aa92e” text_color=”#ffffff” radius=”5″]Pros[/su_note]

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  • Weighing in at 2.4kg or 5.3 pounds you barely know this is in your bag.
  • Coming in at[amazon_link asins=’B00COLBNTK’ template=’PriceLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 20554f82-008d-11e7-baf1-b3ee293d6cb5′], Manfrotto branded tripods don’t come much cheaper than the Befree range. This is great value for the money.
  • Holds a reasonable weight of 4kg making it more than up for the job of holding a heavy setup like the Canon 5D Mark III and Canon 70-200 which comes in at 2.4kg
  • Included travel case is useful for when travelling and on the move. Being able to store the tripod in a bag and put over your shoulder is handy as this thing is tiny. For comparison sake, have a look at the size difference compared to my shoe.
  • Centre column can be inverted for macro photography or to get low for unique angles


[su_column size=”1/2″]

[su_note note_color=”#d5132e” text_color=”#ffffff” radius=”5″]Cons[/su_note]

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  • Stability issues when the centre column is fully extended
  • Time consuming to pack away into travel bag
  • Ballhead is limited for panoramic photography. As a travel tripod you will be no doubt wanting to capture the occasional panoramic of a scene. Generally a 3 way tripod head (like this [amazon_textlink asin=’B014Q0RGK6′ text=’Manfrotto 3 way head’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 945bd8ed-008f-11e7-9969-71848c336c93′]) works better for panoramic photos where you’re able to fine tune the movements of the photo. 
  • No hook on the centre column to add weight to balance it in strong winds. With past tripods I would clip my camera bag to the tripod to add some additional support. Unfortunately this isn’t possible with the Manfrotto Befree but if you get creative I’m sure there’s DIY ways of adding a hook to make it more stable.



 [amazon box=”B00COLBNTK” title=”Manfrotto Befree Compact Tripod” rating=”4″ reviews=”1″]

The Manfrotto Befree compact is a great tripod for the money. With some of the cons listed above, these are only natural trade offs that come with choosing to purchase a compact sized tripod. For some, having a tripod that is lightweight and portable will be enough to outweigh being constrained when it comes to panorama photography. 

Shooting seascapes with the Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 17-40 and the Manfrotto Befree
Shooting seascapes with the Canon 5D Mark II, Canon 17-40 and the Manfrotto Befree

After using the tripod a few times in different conditions from a windy afternoon at Cape Schanck (a seascape location) to walking around Melbourne on dusk taking long exposures, I’ve found the tripod to be a good all rounder and I’m glad I made the purchase. I’ve noticed when the tripod is fully extended with the centre column out, this can make the tripod feel slightly unstable and not something I’d be keen to leave the camera on unattended on in windy conditions.

Manfrotto befree ballhead
The included ballhead which comes with the Manfrotto Befree while good… Does have its limitations.

If being able to have the tripod extended to its maximum in windy conditions is important to you then perhaps a more sturdier and heavier tripod is more for you. But with that said though, I can’t think of how often I ever shoot with the tripod fully extended and I’m sure this is similar for most people.

So all in all, this is a great tripod and worth the purchase price for anyone looking for a lightweight tripod to take away on their next trip. 

By purchasing the [amazon_textlink asin=’B00COLBNTK’ text=’Manfrotto Befree through Amazon’ template=’ProductLink’ store=’alexwisephot-20′ marketplace=’US’ link_id=’ 1a12d0b2-0133-11e7-b715-d538e5bb178f’] not only provides you with Amazon’s competitive pricing but also supports my blog at the same time (costing you nothing :)). A big thank you if you do decide to purchase through my affiliate link.

If you have any questions about the tripod feel free to drop a message as I’d be more than happy to help.

Thanks for reading,


Posted on 7 Comments

Long Exposure Filters Buying Guide

Neutral density filters are a great way to get creative and explore long exposure photography. With most manipulation to a photograph happening during post processing, it’s a refreshing change being able to get creative in camera with the various effects of long exposure photography.  The purpose of this article is to give you an overview of long exposure filters, how they work and what’s best based on your budget. 

Personally I recommend the NiSi long exposure kit paired with the NiSi’s circular polariser for anyone looking for the perfect long exposure filter kit. Whilst a bit on the pricey side, you are getting high quality filters that won’t affect your image quality which can be an issue with colour cast issues which comes with other brands like Cokin or Hitech. 

What is Long Exposure Photography?

An example of where a neutral density filter was used to slow down a moving object while keeping surrounding objects sharp

Before we start talking about the pros and cons of different neutral density filters, let’s get back to the basics for a moment. Long exposure photography or slow shutter photography, is where your camera uses a slower shutter speed to blur moving objects in your shot while keeping other parts of your image sharp and in focus.

Let’s look at this with a real world example of a long exposure image from Flinders Street Station. By using a slower shutter speed, I’ve been able to blur the passing traffic while the rest of the frame is sharp and in focus. This is just one of  the various styles of long exposures you can capture. My long exposure photography ideas has many more styles for you to explore from waterfalls to dark starry night skies, long exposures can be used at any time during the day with or without filters. 

What is a Neutral Density Filter?

Circular or Rectangle? 

Example of a rectangle neutral density filter setup

If you asked me this question 2-3 years ago when the Lee Big Stopper and NiSi rectangular circular polariser didn’t exist, I would have suggested stacking a mix of both circular 10 stop neutral density filter like the B+W 110 10 stopper and a rectangle graduated neutral density filter like the Cokin Z-Pro .9 filter on top of one another.

It was a painful process where you would screw your strong B+W 10 stop filter on first, then screw the filter holder adapter, mount the filter holder on top of this and then finally, slide your graduated filter through the filter holder. Fortunately things have come a long way with neutral density filters and circular polariser filters coming in rectangle form which leads to left stuffing around.

The reason I personally prefer going rectangle is that it makes changing filters a breeze and your process isn’t slowed having to screw/unscrew filters to setup for a shot (not so much when your fingers are frozen!). Instead you’re able to just slide your filters in or out of the filter holder and you’re away (literally a 2-3 second job). Much better. But the old way still works with that said 🙂

Example of a circular neutral density filter

Quick and Easy to Change

But this isn’t just about me being a princess and feeling the cold, having the ability to quickly change and remove filters is great when shooting with the more stronger neutral density filters (like the 15 stop Lee Big Stopper). 

Due to the filter being so dark, you’re unable to look through the viewfinder and compose your image when the filter is attached. This leads you having to take off the filter to compose and focus your photo and then re-attach. There’s been many times when I’ve accidentally left the autofocus on after screwing my B+W 10 stop and Cokin graduated neutral density filters on and then lost my focus as the camera can’t find a focus point (due to the strength of the filter). This can be especially frustrating when using a rectangle graduated neutral density filter on top of a circular screw filter as you not only have to remove the circular screw filter but also the lens screw adapter and rectangle filter holder. Instead if you were using just a rectangular system, there’s no unscrewing to recompose your image but just sliding your filters in or out. Much more convenient if you ask me! 

Greater Control

Another issue with circular screw on filters is controlling the location of the GND transition. As the transition isn’t as pronounced it can sometimes be difficult to get the GND exactly how you want it especially in low light conditions like sunrise or sunset. For this reason, I much prefer using rectangle filters where the graduation is more pronounced and can be easier to slot into place regardless of light conditions.

What Strength Level?

For this image I used a graduated neutral density filter to darken the sky

Neutral density filters come in all levels of strengths from blocking out 1 stop of light all the way up to blocking out 15 stops with the Lee Big Stopper. Deciding on what strength neutral density filter to use depends on your scene in terms of light conditions and what you are trying to achieve. 

If you are simply looking to balance the sunset sky against the land then the strength of your neutral density filter will depend on the light conditions at the time. If you’re shooting at the start of the sunset when there is still strong light, this is when you would look to apply a stronger strength neutral density filter. Towards the end of the sunset is when you would look to pull out a weaker strength neutral density filter as the light starts to fade. 

From personal experience – I’ll generally use my 10 stop filter for the first 15-30 minutes of the sunset but will put it away as the light starts to fade. I find as the light rapidly fades the filter really struggles to capture enough light and you’re left having to increase your ISO to accomodate the low light conditions which introduces unwanted noise. At this point I’ll either use a 6 stop neutral density filter or just shoot wide (F22~) at the lowest ISO possible (ISO 50) to get the slow long exposure times I’m after.

Using a 10 stop neutral density filter allowed me to capture this 5 minute exposure during the day

If you are looking to get creative with your photography and capture long exposures during the day (we’re talking exposure times of a few minutes) then this is when you will pull out the stronger 10+ stop neutral density filters like the Lee Big Stopper or NiSi 10 stopper.

By using these filters which block out a significant amount of light, you won’t be able to see through the viewfinder when the filter is applied due to the strength of the filter which can make composing a bit tricky. 

What is a Graduated Neutral Density Filter?

How soft, hard and reverse graduated neutral density filters are best applied.
How soft, hard and reverse graduated neutral density filters are best applied.

The difference between a graduated neutral density filter and a solid neutral density filter is that part of the filter will be neutral density (dark) and then transition into transparent (clear). The transition from dark to clear comes in different variations including soft edge, hard edge and reverse graduated neutral density filters which I briefly describe below:

Soft Edge GND

NiSi Soft Edge Graduated Neutral Density Filter

The top part of the filter is 100% neutral density and gradually lowers in strength to 0%.

This is my preferred type of filter and is best applied where your horizon level is uneven and you may have objects appearing above the horizon level. Generally if there are objects above the horizon which become darkened by the soft GND, you can generally dodge (brighten) this back in Lightroom/Photoshop to bring back the detail.

Pros: Great for scenes where you have objects sitting above the horizon as you can position the filter at 90° to avoid the object on the horizon
Cons: The gradual transition can be soft so occasionally you will need to stack multiple soft edge filters to get your desired effect

Hard Edge GND

NiSi Hard Edge Neutral Density Filter

The top half of the filter is neutral density and does not gradually transition to clear like the soft edge graduated neutral density filter. Hard edge graduated neutral density filters are best used in seascape photography when balancing the exposure from the sky to the land.

An example of how not to use GND filters. Notice how the filter has darkened the cliff? A big no no!

For best results, I only use hard edge graduated neutral density filters when there isn’t any objects on the horizon (i.e. surrounding cliffs). The reason being is that any objects on or above the horizon will darken which will lead to a loss in dynamic range to your final shot which can be difficult to recover in Lightroom/Photoshop.

Pros: Works great when there are only clouds above the horizon to darken the clouds nicely
Cons: The sharp transition from dark to clear makes these limited to scenes where there are no objects (i.e. cliffs) above your horizon

Reverse Level GND 

NiSi Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter

The reverse level graduated neutral density filter goes from clear at the top, to dark in the middle and then to clear again.

Think of a reverse level graduated neutral density filter as the ideal filter for when the sun is just about to pop on the horizon.  These aren’t as common as other graduated neutral density filters but can be handy when trying to capture the sunburst effect as the sun dips below the horizon.

Pros: Best used for sunset or sunrise photography when the sun is sitting on the horizon
Cons: Only effective when there is a sun bursting on the horizon so they become quite a specialised filter for the price

Are Neutral Density Filters Still Relevant as Technology Advances?

Most definitely!

There are some effects like day time long exposures or shooting directly into the sun on sunset which is only made possible by using neutral density filters like the Lee Big Stopper or NiSi graduated neutral density filter kit. Sure, you can imitate some of these effects in Photoshop with lots of image stacking but it’s not quite the same as capturing the image in camera. 

As technology has advanced I must admit that I’ve found myself using my graduated neutral density filters less as camera sensors have become more forgiving and post processing techniques have evolved with exposure stacking. Not only are sensors coming with higher megapixels but also with greater highlight and shadow recovery which means that you can sometimes get by without needing to use graduated neutral density filters.

A before and after with the easy to use Graduated Filter in Lightroom

Quite often I’ll apply the same effect in post using Lightroom’s graduated neutral density filter. Sure, this won’t work for every situation (i.e. when you’re shooting directly into harsh sunlight) however for other situations where you’re simply looking to emphasize the colour of a sunset sky, Lightroom’s graduated neutral density tool works great allowing you to decrease the brightness of the sky as you would with a normal graduated neutral density filter. 

Can the a digital workflow fully replace physical neutral density filters? I’ll leave that to another post but in my opinion, no, not at the moment anyway. 

Choosing Neutral Density Filters

Which Filter is Best for You?

Using a graduated neutral density filter allowed me to properly capture the light bursting on the horizon

Anyone who is serious about landscape photography needs a graduated neutral density filter and at least one strong neutral density filter in their bag. There’s a couple of reasons to why I recommend this:

  1. Flexibility in quickly changing light conditions – Having a strong neutral density filter in your kit allows you to continue taking long exposures in the later stage of a sunrise or early stage of a sunset. I’m not sure about you but there’s been many a times when I’ve photographed a sunrise and stuffed around in the dark for too long and only found a good spot to photograph as the light started to become stronger. At this point of the sunrise, it becomes harder to take a long exposure due to the amount of light hitting your camera meter. By having a strong neutral density filter available, I’m able to put this on my camera and still obtain the effect I’m after like the nice blurry movement of waves crashing against a rock
  2. Balancing harsh light in a scene – We’ve all been there, the sun is beginning to set and you want to capture an image just before the sun dips below the horizon to capture that burst of the suns last light. Unfortunately your camera has other ideas and will struggle to expose the image. This is where a graduated neutral density filter comes in handy and helps you balance the exposure of the harsh sunlight against the land
  3. Creativity – We can’t all be blessed with great light against jaw dropping locations so sometimes it takes a bit more to get that shot. In these situations sometimes I’ll experiment with a strong neutral density filter to capture a long exposure to add a bit extra to the image, whether that be the blur of passing clouds or the movement of the water. 

Neutral Density Filter Buying Guide

Showing the difference a strong neutral density filter like the Lee Big Stopper can do to your scene with this long exposure image

So taking these reasons to why I love neutral density filters, here are some of my favourite neutral density filters available at the time of writing. Unfortunately neutral density filters don’t come cheap but I’ve tried to make all attempts to include a range in different price brackets.

Like most things in life, it pays to spend and get the best you can afford as this will ensure superior image quality.With the midrange and budget price brackets, the filters aren’t perfect and can introduce colour cast to your image (a purple tinge) when using multiple filters at a time. Part of the reason the high end filters are more expensive is that because they don’t have any colour cast issues like the cheaper filters. 

My recommendation for people looking at the different price brackets and unsure – If you’ve used neutral density filters before and know they will form an essential part of your kit, just buy properly the first time. If you’re sitting on the fence and haven’t used them before, start off with the more affordable range first to see if you get a taste for them before splashing the cash. 

High End

NiSi and Lee are the producers of the best filters in the high end market. For many years, Lee had a firm grip on the market but in recent years, NiSi have started to make a presence with their filters which are slightly more affordable than the Lee range and offer just as good, if not better, quality than the Lee filters. Plus I’m a sucker for Australian based products.

If you want a great set up, I would strongly recommend the NiSi long exposure kit with comes with the required adaptor, a 6 stop and 10 stop neutral density filter. Add a circular polariser and graduated neutral density filter and you will have yourself a very nice kit. 

Yes I agree it is a lot of money to spend on filters but with this setup you will be fully equipped to photograph long exposures during the day, waterfall photography and for sunrise or sunset photography. The perfect kit for a landscape photographer. 

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For those that don’t want to break the bank on the premium end of the market or aren’t sure whether neutral density filters are for them, I’d recommend a mix of filters from a strong long exposure like the B+W 110 10 stop neutral density filter (great for capturing daytime long exposures), a Hoya circular polariser for assisting with reducing the glare and getting a longer exposure time for photographing waterfalls and lastly, a set of Cokin Z-Pro graduated neutral density filters

Contrary to what others say, the Cokin Z-Pro filters are actually good bang for buck provided you know the constraints of the filters. As an example, if you stack all three graduated filters at once, you will get some harsh purple colour cast coming through the filters meaning an unwanted purple colour at the top half of the frame which you may or may not want. I’m assuming you may not want… Although I may have cheated a few times and used the colour cast to my advantage for dull sunsets… 

[box type=”info” style=”rounded”]If you really want to experiment with long exposure photography on the cheap why not DIY a neutral density filter with welding glass?[/box]

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Examples of Long Exposure Photography

Examples of different long exposure photographs
Examples of different long exposure photographs

Some of my favourite long exposure photographs are of water (I love the sea if you can’t already tell by expanding the image to the right) but there are plenty more options whether it be long exposures of traffic at night or capturing the movement of clouds at a location over the period of 5-10 minutes (creates a cool effect!).

[box style=”rounded”]Looking for ideas to plan your next shoot? Give my long exposure photography ideas post a read for some ideas and inspiration[/box]

Most of the images in the right image were made possible by having neutral density filters which allowed me to take 5~ minute long exposures during the day. They allowed me to turn an otherwise dull scene into something different and unique from the effect of a long exposure (like the pylons beneath the jetty).


I hope this buying guide for long exposure filters has been useful and answered some questions. Please don’t hesitate to reach out via my contact form if you have any questions as I’d be more than happy to help where I can.

Thanks for reading,