Posts in Travel
Londoners - A Film by Oliver Astrologo

There’s no place on earth quite like London. Truth is, it’s such a hard city to capture on film with its diversity of culture, ethnicity, architecture, lifestyle, and more. It’s a city best experienced in person but if you haven’t been, filmmaker Oliver Astrologo does a bang up job of giving you a glimpse.

Filmed over a two-year period, Astrologo calls this “one of the most demanding and challenging projects” of his career. He gets up close and personal with everyday Londoners and really captures the grittiness and the frenetic pace of life in the British capital.

I’ve always admired the attention to detail in Astrologo’s editing, especially his use of myriad cuts and bringing in native audio and sound effects. It really pulls you into the city he’s exploring. He also manages to capture the feeling and uncertainty that exists around Brexit by bringing in current news footage and using bluer, cooler tones that evoke a coldness to the opening sequences.

The simple narrative that is almost hidden throughout the whole film really makes for a satisfying look at life in London.

You can find more of Oliver Astrologo’s work on his Vimeo page here or on his website here. Check out some my personal favorite films of his on Japan here and Venezia here.

The Fuji X-T3 in New York City: A Travel Camera Review

For the last few months, I've played around with a Canon A-1 film camera to help gain some insight into the analog method of taking and developing pictures. The prism focus mechanism and the manual turning of knobs made me feel liberated, like I was the one creating the final product. That feeling can get lost in the hyper processing power of modern day DSLR and mirrorless cameras but shooting with the Fujifilm X-T3 is the closest thing I've found. From its vintage stylings, a hallmark of most Fuji cameras, to its ability to digitally recreate prism focusing, the X-T3 puts the fun back into shooting digital images.

Fuji X-T3 with 27mm lens. ISO 2500, f/3.2, 1/40sec.

Fuji X-T3 with 27mm lens. ISO 2500, f/3.2, 1/40sec.

Going All In With Fuji

In late 2017 I switched from a Nikon D750 system to the Sony a7Rii because it was a smaller system that came with better video options. I also owned a smaller Fuji X-T20 that I used for street photography, and in 2018 I began to enjoy taking more photos with the Fuji than the Sony. Since I already owned a few Fuji lenses, I sold my Sony a7Rii and bought the new Fuji X-T3.

Fuji X-T3 with 27mm lens. ISO 3200, f/3.6, 1/250sec.

Fuji X-T3 with 27mm lens. ISO 3200, f/3.6, 1/250sec.

The Fuji X-T3 in NYC

I recently took the X-T3 for a spin on the streets of New York City during a trip with our friends from Boozing Abroad. For most of the trip, I used the Fuji 27mm f/2.8 pancake lens, one of the best travel lenses you can own for street photography. It's light, tiny and takes sharp images, especially in the f/5.6 to f/8 range. Unlike the smaller X-T20 that we've had in the house for over a year, the X-T3 feels substantially more like a professional camera. It sports dedicated knobs for ISO, shutter speed, and exposure compensation that compliment the super quick autofocus system. The Fuji 27mm lens doesn't come with the traditional aperture ring that most Fuji lenses sport due to its small footprint, but the front and back scroll wheels of the X-T3 stand in quite nicely.

To turn the X-T3 into an even more digital/analog hybrid, I tend to turn off the screen and only use the electronic viewfinder (EVF), so I'm looking through the viewfinder, changing ISO, shutter speed, and the aperture through manual controls, and even focusing manually at times.

Fuji X-T3 with 18-55mm lens. ISO 3200, f/4.5, 1/250sec.

Fuji X-T3 with 18-55mm lens. ISO 3200, f/4.5, 1/250sec.

APS-C or Full-Frame?

I first chose Sony because of the a7Rii's full-frame sensor and video capabilities, but over time came to find that in the shooting that I like, full-frame isn't as big of a factor. The Fuji X-T3's APS-C sized sensor (a smaller size, compared to a full-frame 35mm sensor) is more than capable of providing a shallow depth of field.

Another perk of an APS-C sized sensor is that the lenses usually cost less than there full-frame counterparts. I picked up the 27mm pancake lens used for only $270 and just got a used Fuji 35mm f/2 lens for $350. Up and down their lens lineup, Fuji lenses cost less because it takes less glass to cover a smaller sensor area.

Fuji X-T3 with 27mm lens. ISO 250, f/7.1, 1/60sec.

Fuji X-T3 with 27mm lens. ISO 250, f/7.1, 1/60sec.

Functionality

One of my biggest complaints about the Sony a7Rii was the battery life or lack thereof. With the X-T3 I can get well above the 300-350 shots per charge that it's rated for and only changed the battery once while out shooting all day in New York City. It's a small camera, so the battery is still pretty small, but the key is to make sure you're powered off between uses. A great new power feature is the X-T3's ability to charge over USB-C, even while in use. This comes in handy when filming 4k video without the optional battery grip.

One thing the X-T3 does lack is in body image stabilization, which can make shooting video handheld a little hard. For most of what I do, it's not a problem, but it lags behind the competition in this area.

Fuji X-T3 with 27mm lens. ISO 500, f/2.8, 1/40sec.

Fuji X-T3 with 27mm lens. ISO 500, f/2.8, 1/40sec.

Adaptability

A few weeks ago I picked up a K&F Concept adapter that lets me use my old manual Canon FD lenses on the X-T3. I haven't gotten to do a lot of shooting with it yet, but early results are encouraging. I've found it very satisfying using an older lens on a new camera, especially in street photography. The Canon 50mm and 28mm FD that I use are small and blend right into the camera's vintage aesthetics.

Fuji X-T3 with 18-55mm lens. ISO 160, f/5.6, 1/210sec.

Fuji X-T3 with 18-55mm lens. ISO 160, f/5.6, 1/210sec.

Conclusion

If you're looking for a small camera that takes stunning pictures and has all the new video features that you crave, I recommend the Fuji X-T3. From its vintage look and feel to the ease of taking pictures that look great straight out of the camera, you won't be disappointed. Don't let the smaller sensor fool you; this camera has excellent depth of field and works well for landscape, portraiture, travel, and more. Plus, at only $1399, you'll save some money over the full-frame competitors and be able to afford some more lens options.

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Mini Berlin

When you’ve never been to a place, everything about it seems small and dreamlike. As a child, I used to go to Six Flags - Astroworld in Houston and was overwhelmed by the enormity of it. Flash forward ten years and walking across the entire park only took 15 minutes. Not only had my height changed, but so had my perspective of the world, even though Astroworld stayed the same.

As we prepare for our trip to Berlin later this year, that same feeling has hit me. Every bit of Berlin I’ve experienced has been second hand through books and film. The thing is, I’m eager to keep that childlike wonder about me as I roam Kruezberg and Potsdamer Platz. Sure I’ve been to other places in Europe, so the scale of the city won’t surprise me, but I want other things to.

I ran across this new video from filmmakers Efim Graboy and Daria Turetski that uses tilt-shift lenses and photography to picture a mini Berlin, people teeming about like toy models. It reminds me of watching a Wes Anderson movie and only makes me want to visit the city sooner.

You can see more from Efim Graboy and Daria Turetski here.

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.