Posts in Gear
Hitting the Road: Away Travel Carry On Review

I’ve almost always been a backpack traveler. Ever since a long trip to England with a big, clunky suitcase, I’ve been a convert to the grab and go style of travel packing. Well, that is until I decided to try an Away suitcase. 

On our last trip to London, Kim and I gifted each other with one of Away’s “The Carry On”. I’d seen a lot of friends post pictures of rolling this neat little bag all over the world and wanted to see how it matched up against my lifestyle of carrying everything on my back. 

This is not a sponsored post. We paid full price for our Away bags and have not been contacted for a review by Away. Any links you see are Affiliate links which give us the commission to help run this site if you decide to buy anything, at no extra cost to you. 

Style

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For Kim, we picked the Limited Edition “Paris” colorway that is glossy black with a midnight blue zipper and lining. I was lucky enough to get one of the Limited Edition collaborations with Star Wars in the Hoth colorway. The hard shell is a milky type clear look with a lining of probe droids that you can faintly see through. 

After I deplaned in London, I got no fewer than four comments from people on the Tube about how cool my Away bag looked. No backpack has ever gotten that type of recognition before. 

Kim’s glossy Paris colorway tends to show scratches a bit easier than my clear one so I’d recommend sticking with a more matte color. I didn’t baby my Hoth bag at all and it really held up and still looks brand new. 

Functionality

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The Away bag’s built-in divider really helped compress and cut down on our packing. Like most people, I have a tendency to put a few more things in that I actually need on a trip and with the Away bags compression system and zippered divider, it was easy to get everything in and still stay organized. 

The front side is a zippered compartment that I opted to put things like shoes, my Dopp kit and bulkier items that might move around. The main compartment is covered by a compression pocket that I used for socks and boxers with shirts and pants underneath, cinched down to save room. 

I was immediately surprised by the amount of stuff I was able to fit in such a little bag. It's designed to make it easy to adapt to a Carry On Travel lifestyle. 

Ejectable Battery

I have a tendency to get to the airport pretty early. This usually means that I’m fighting off other passengers for the few available outlets at the terminal so that I can use my phone on the plane. This is where the TSA approved ejectable battery on the Away bag came in super handy. I was able to sit wherever I wanted while charging my phone and reading The Spy Who Came In From The Cold

Once on the ground in London, it was easy to eject the battery and drop it in our day bag for a quick phone recharge while walking around the Tate Modern. I’ve never really wanted this option in a bag before but it was super helpful on more than one occasion when we spent all day walking. Definitely a plus. 

Roll, Roll, Roll

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As I carry more camera gear with me, it’s become increasingly common to carry two bags with me whenever I travel. I’ve settled into using the Peak Design 20L Everyday Backpack to carry my Sony a7Rii and accessories so any other backpack for clothes and books just didn’t make sense. 

With my Away bag and the built-in luggage strap on my Peak Design Everyday Backpack, moving from car to plane to Tube to walking has never been easier. I’m less tired since I don’t have to carry anything through the airport and switching back and forth is simple. 

My first stop in London was at Blackfriars Station. I was able to get out of the Tube, slip my backpack over the Away bag’s handle and roll right on over Blackfriars Bridge. The Hinomoto wheels on the Away bag are smooth and never once posed a problem, even when navigating cobblestones and streets. 

Ease of Use

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Coming from using a backpack almost exclusively, I was surprised by how easy my Away bag made my trip. Rolling through the airport definitely made for less tired arms and it’s so compact that when I had to navigate stairs, it was light and easy. 

During our trip, we changed accommodations a couple times (Kim changed a few more since she mostly stayed with friends) and rolling through all types of terrain was simple. The divided compartments helped keep everything in place when opening and closing and the hardshell case kept everything safe and secure. 

Customer Service

On our way back from London, Kim’s compression pocket came loose from its bracket. Away has a Limited Lifetime Warranty, so we contacted their customer service and they promptly sent us a packing slip to send the bag back in for repair or replacement. It was a simple and hassle-free process. 

When I received my Away bag, the packaging lacked a British plug adaptor for the ejectable battery. A quick Facebook message to the company and they offered to ship me a replacement to where I was staying in London so I wouldn’t miss out on a single thing on my trip. 

Every step of the way we were contacted by a real person who did everything possible to make us feel like special customers. I haven’t experienced that level of customer service in a while. 

My only qualm would be that when Kim’s bag came back from being repaired, it was a bit damaged on the outside and the box it was in was barely hanging on. I imagine that was probably UPS’ fault, but it definitely could have been handled better.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a versatile bag that prioritizes ease of use and style, I’d highly recommend the Away Carry On travel bag. Its mix of functionality and style at such a low price point is hard to beat.

I look forward to traveling with mine for years to come. Away may just have converted me from a backpacking lifestyle. 

Sony 24-105mm f/4 G Series Lens: A Travel Review

When I packed my bag for four days in London this summer, I limited myself to a pretty small camera setup. It wasn’t quite as small as my trip to Paris and Amsterdam where I only took a 50mm lens with my Nikon D750, but it wasn’t far off.

Into my bag went a Sony a7RII, a Sony 50mm 1.8, and the new Sony 24-105mm f/4 G Series lens. Actually, I picked up the 24-105 specifically for this trip. I’m not the biggest fan of zoom lenses in general, but the versatility and small build of such a long lens intrigued me.

Luckily, it arrived two days before I took off. Thanks, FedEx.

Look and Feel

The first thing I noticed was the build quality compared to the 50mm I owned. Every bit of it felt high quality and able to withstand a tough day of shooting anywhere in the world. When attached to the a7RII, it looks like it was built to be an upscale kit lens. The focus hold button midway up the barrel is also a great addition that doesn’t get in the way when not being utilized.

Weight

So the tradeoff with a zoom lens is usually in the weight department, you gain more focal length and lose portability. For the 24-105mm I feel that the tradeoff is more than fair. After lugging it around the streets of London pretty much every day of the trip, the extra 1.46 lbs (663 g) didn’t bother me at all.

Sure it’s not as light as the newer Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8, which is a fantastically light 1.2 lbs, but the Sony 24-105mm makes up for that lost weight and aperture with some fantastic images, a longer focal length, and ease of use.

Images

Like I said before, I’m generally not a zoom lens fan, but when you need to be out all day taking photos, a lens that can cycle through focal lengths quickly and without having to change aperture can be invaluable.

 Sony 24-105mm at 87mm, 1/320 sec. at f/7.1. ISO 100.

Sony 24-105mm at 87mm, 1/320 sec. at f/7.1. ISO 100.

One of the first things that drew me to the 24-105mm was a review on PetaPixel where photographer QT Luong talked about how he doesn’t usually shoot with wide open aperture. I’m pretty similar in that way, especially when it comes to traveling. At only f/4, the 24-105mm is slower than the Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 but having that extra 25mm in focal length was what really hooked me.

When I take travel shots, the majority of them are outside and don’t call for stopping down my lens to f/2.8 or below. Sure I don’t always get that smooth bokeh when staying at f/4, but I do get more control over what is shown in the image. For me, that’s the critical part.

 Sony 24-105mm at 75mm, 1/320 sec. at f/4. ISO 100

Sony 24-105mm at 75mm, 1/320 sec. at f/4. ISO 100

The Sony 24-105mm f/4 allowed me to walk around and take some beautiful portraits, landscape shots, and medium-range street-style photos without having to change lenses once. The in body image stabilization also comes in really handy when shooting at the longer focal lengths.

 Sony 24-105mm at 51mm, 1/40 sec. at f/4. ISO 400

Sony 24-105mm at 51mm, 1/40 sec. at f/4. ISO 400

Travel

When I went to Paris and Amsterdam in 2015, I took my Nikon D750 and only a 50mm lens as a way to challenge myself photographically. Since that time I’d switched to a much smaller Sony body and wasn’t as concerned about the weight factor of carrying around more than one lens. The 24-105mm fit perfectly in the bottom of my Peak Design 20L Everyday Backpack, attached to the Sony a7RII.

 Sony 24-105mm at 105mm, 1/500 sec. at f/9. ISO 200

Sony 24-105mm at 105mm, 1/500 sec. at f/9. ISO 200

With the weightiest piece in the bottom of the bag, I rarely felt it as I walked around the British capital. My camera setup was actually slightly more substantial than when I did the 50mm challenge, but the smaller form factor made it easier to hold on my body all day.

Conclusion

If you’re looking for a lens that can do it all right out of the box but is still an upgrade over a kit style lens, the Sony 24-105mm f/4 G Series might be precisely what you’re looking for.

After working with the 24-105mm for almost six months, it’s easily one of my best purchases for the Sony E-mount ecosystem.

You can view more about the Sony 24-105mm f/4 G Series lens here and purchase it on Amazon using the button below.

Why I Switched From Nikon to Sony

If you’ve spent any amount of time with a photographer, you’ll have no doubt heard about their preferred brand of camera and why it’s the best thing to use.

For me that was Nikon. I started with a little Nikon D3200 that was a perfect beginner camera. It had all the main manual functions that I knew how to use at a pretty low price point.

After that, I picked up a Nikon D750 and was entirely in love with it. I paired it with a 24-120mm f/4 zoom lens, a 50mm 1.8 and an 85mm 1.8 D series lens. The 85mm was my absolute favorite, and I couldn’t get enough of its swirly bokeh and tack sharpness. 

 Shot with a Nikon D750 with a Nikon 24-120mm lens in Austin, TX. 

Shot with a Nikon D750 with a Nikon 24-120mm lens in Austin, TX. 

The D750 was the perfect mix of functionality, style, and effectiveness. I was able to capture 1080p video with the ability to switch quickly back to a brilliant portrait style camera. 

Travel

 Shot with a Nikon D750 with a 50mm 1.8D lens in Paris, France.

Shot with a Nikon D750 with a 50mm 1.8D lens in Paris, France.

In 2016 I packed up my D750 and a single 50mm lens for a trip to Paris and Amsterdam. The ensuing photos are some of my absolute favorites, but the experience of carrying around the D750 with a small lens and battery pack was less than ideal. More and more I found myself trying to pare down my kit for a lighter travel load, and the D750 wasn’t cutting it. 

A full day of walking around the canals of Amsterdam left me with a pretty sore neck and back. 

Video

Another breaking point was the inability to shoot 4K video and Nikon not having a line of dedicated video camcorders. I didn’t want to invest more money in a system that wasn’t compatible with my future endeavors. Canon has the C-series line of pro camcorders, and Sony’s FS camcorders are quickly catching up while Nikon focuses mainly on DSLR’s.  

Finding a Replacement

I narrowed my options down to the Canon 5D Mark IV and the Sony a7Rii, but after going into a store and handling both cameras, the small form factor of the mirrorless Sony easily won out over the bulkier Canon. 

I based a lot of my decision on ease of use when traveling and the a7Rii beat the 5D Mark IV on size alone. I pack almost exclusively in a carry-on so space is premium and the smaller footprint of the Sony won out.

 Shot with the Sony a7Rii with a Sony 50mm 1.8 lens in Seattle.

Shot with the Sony a7Rii with a Sony 50mm 1.8 lens in Seattle.

My kit now consists of the Sony a7Rii with a Sony 50mm 1.8 and the new Sony 24-105mm f/4 which has been incredible. 

Lens Mount

One of my favorite things about the Sony system is its ability to accept other company's lenses through adapters. You can put an adapter on a Nikon, but you lose a lot of the functionality. With something like the Metabones EF to E T Smart Adapter you can use all the autofocus functions of Sony cameras while using newer Canon lenses. 

 Shot with a Sony a7Rii with a Metabones T Smart Adapter and a Canon 70-200mm IS lens in Houston. 

Shot with a Sony a7Rii with a Metabones T Smart Adapter and a Canon 70-200mm IS lens in Houston. 

Drawbacks of the Sony a7Rii

My biggest qualm with the a7Rii is that its small size means that battery life is pretty awful, especially when shooting video. The batteries themselves are tiny and don’t hold a charge for very long. I’ve found a bit of a compromise by rigging up an external battery pack that extends my shooting by a ton, but it adds to the bulk. To be clear, it’s only a small problem, but can be annoying when traveling and not going back to your home base all day long. 

The new Sony a7iii has a unique style battery that is said to almost double the battery life of the NP-FW50 battery that fits the a7Rii, which I’m eager to try out. You can read more about the new a7iii here

 Shot with Sony a7Rii with a Sony 50mm 1.8 lens in Seattle.

Shot with Sony a7Rii with a Sony 50mm 1.8 lens in Seattle.

Conclusion

I’ve had my Sony setup for about seven months now, and I can’t remember a single time when I’ve regretted the switch from Nikon. After spending some time traveling with the new setup, the smaller weight, superior video specs, and fabulous low-light capabilities have only confirmed that I made the right choice. 

Now to get my hands on a Sony FS5 and see how my set of lenses looks on a full-fledged pro cinema camera. 

A Tour of London's Hat Shops

If you've seen any pictures of me, you'll immediately know that I'm a hat person. Not your standard American style ballcaps, but fedoras, flat caps and the like. British history is full of men and women wearing gorgous adorenemnts (Royal Wedding, hint, hint) and you can find the perfect chapeau to compliment your style in London. Whether you're looking to emulate Tommy Shelby from Peaky Blinders or Lord Grantham from Downton Abbey, London's hat shops have you covered (literally.)

1. Lock & Co.

You can't mention hat shops in London without talking about Lock & Co. The oldest hat shop in the world started in 1676 and is one of the oldest family-owned business still in existence. They outfitted Sir Winston Churchill with his trademark Homburg and Bambridge hats and even created the Coke Bowler for Edward Coke in 1849. Find the very best of British heritage hats at No. 6 St. James Street.

The shop is quaint and full of history, hats, and panache. If you're looking to delve into British hat history, or visit the Kingsman storefront next door, Lock & Co. is the place to go. 

 

2. Bates Gentlemen's Hatter

Boasting a beautiful shop on Jermyn St., Bates Gentlemen's Hatter is the logical next stop after Lock and Co., possibly because it's just around the corner. With a presence on Jermyn St. since 1898, Bates offers handmade Panama's, a large selection of caps, and a showcase of fedoras and trilbies. It would be almost impossible not to find a hat that fits your liking at Bates. They even have a store in Paris if you decide to take the Chunnel over for a short visit. 

3. Christy's Hats

Tucked away in a small shop in Prince's Arcade off Jermyn Street, Christy's is a delight for the hat-wearing man. Started in 1773 by Miller Christy, this British heritage brand has outfitted the UK Police, Brad Pitt, and even Marlon Brando's Don Corleone character in The Godfather. Christy's boasts a rich heritage with prices a bit under some of the other shops listed here. I picked up a brand new flat cap (pictured above) and my very first packable fedora in delightful olive green. The helpful staff will get you kitted out with a perfect fitting hat for any occasion in no time.

4. Stumper & Fielding

Last on the list is a bit more fashion forward than some of the other shops. Stumper & Fielding in Notting Hill is a great shop to visit when you're perusing the Portobello Road Market. Featuring hats, men's and women's fashion, and an Instagram worthy store, S&F has a bit of something for everyone. If you're new to hats, this is a great place to start as it won't break the bank and you'll get a lot of ideas of how to wear your new headgear. 

In Transit: Tan Leather

Whether commuting on the train or working at a coffee shop, a touch of tan leather can class up any look. My leather iPhone case has been a staple of my every day carry for years now. It patinas beautifully and feels great in your hand after it's worn in.