Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tip: Secure your gear

Camera Strap and Bag Net
It's been quite a while that I did not write a good TIP on the blog but as you can image, those who can, time is not on my side for the moment... but fear not I have ordered some more so I can keep up the postings on a regular basis.

Changing dippers has been a must now and each hour that I get I try to rest and sleep the most as possible.
Me and my wife are taking turns on taking care and feeding the babies and while on my "shift" I had this almost prepared only needed to make the pictures and publish it so here it goes.

By the way... it's never too much to thank you all for the wonderful messages that have been arriving and sorry if I haven't respond to all of them but email reading and Internet access as not been so frequent as I was planning.

For all of you

Now let's start with today's tip.

After reading fellow photographer Bert Stefani blog it was with great loss that I found that he had his gear stolen while having some lunch at a big photography conference in Spain he explains:

"My bag was stolen during lunch in the congress center. We were in the restaurant that was only for the organization and the speakers and the bag was under my chair (didn’t get up during lunch). After lunch the bag was gone."

How many of you have had a similar situation?

Well I hope not many...

Knowing what I know from that country a 1000 eyes wouldn't be enough to guard your gear and there is always someone looking at you when you pull the camera and while being extremely careful with all your things there is always something that you cannot take care of and that is.. the Eye of the Beholder.

In Portugal there are no insurance companies that are willing to take the risk just because so many have abused from it in the past so now none of the companies want to do it.

I know a couple of people that had reported to the insurance companies that they were robbed or mugged just to get the money so they could buy a new camera in exchange for the older model.

This unfortunately mislead the insurance companies so nowadays there is nothing you can do (in Portugal) except get a stick, a dog, have an extra eye on the back of your head and be always in alert.


Once a fellow Portuguese photojournalist was covering a presidential rally in the middle of the crowd and had to change lenses for a better cover up so he exchanged his 70-20 for a 16-35 and put the 70-200 on his backpack.
Later on he needed the 70-200 but when he tried to pull it out someone had open his backpack, without him knowing, and mugged his 70-200 just like that in a blink of an eye, yes just like that, the bag was opened while he was taking some pictures in the middle of a crowd.

Stories like this happen quite often and what is curious is that the stolen gear never returned to it's owner :(

Maybe one day camera manufacturers would create a PIN code for our cameras just like mobiles nowadays, for sure this would not solve the problem but could prevent someone to try and steal your camera just like that.

Hey but wouldn't they still steal our mobiles with PIN codes??

OH!!! WELL!!! I think we are never safe :(

Today I leave you with 2 tips for better secure your camera and gear bags.

I had mentioned it before on my blog on a October 2007 article, you can find it here, called PacSafe.

And this time will make a full review on it because only now the store, here in Luxembourg, had it available and I finally was able to buy it.

The other one is a strap replacement for your camera, also from PacSafe, with a very good balance, very good fasten and easy locks.

Both systems feature eXomesh® Ultimate that is a multi-patented interlocking security system, giving you the ability to lock and leave your belongings.

Pacsafe's revolutionary eXomesh® Ultimate products combine the following three security features to give you the "Ultimate" in anti-theft protection :

* Slashproof eXomesh cage - a lightweight and slash proof high-tensile stainless steel eXomesh cage encases your valuables.
* Locks closed - the patented locking device cinches and locks the eXomesh cage completely closed.
* Locks to a secure fixture - an integrated, heavy duty, stainless steel cable connected to the eXomesh cage and locking device locks your valuables to a secure fixture.

Camera Strap_001

So let's begging with the camera strap.

This is a really cool strap and you can find all the details on the PacSafe CarrySafe 100 page with a price of 14,00 euros I think this is something you cannot look aside.

Camera Strap_002

What's in the package:

* Slash proof adjustable strap
* Snatch proof strap to anchor the camera or binoculars to a secure fixture

Extra features:

* Soft-cushioned breathable neck pad
* Universal webbing connectors fit most cameras and binoculars
* Spring-loaded metal clips allow the strap to be quickly clipped to camera case without removing webbing connectors from camera
* Neoprene sleeves cover joining clips for maximum camera protection and security

Camera Strap_003

Here is a picture of my heavy usage Canon strap. You can notice the rubber is coming out of it and part of the end straps are "falling" apart :)

In Lisbon I asked for a replacement and they told me that would cost something like 30,00 euros or around that. Since they are still holding the cameras I decided not to upgrade them.

Camera Strap_004

Now let's look at them side by side.

The PacSafe strap is more thinner that the Canon strap and it also has some locks that can be removed from the camera easily and you can feel the Slash proof eXomesh around it.

This stays very well around the neck and I did feel more comfortable with them than with the Canon Strap and believe me I have been using Canon Straps for years.

Camera Strap_005

Here you can see how the all strap works. You first tight the ends on the camera and then attach the locks to them.

Camera Strap_006

A closer look at the Lock and camera attaches.

Camera Strap_007

Didn't get it yet?

Well here is a simple photo that shows you how it works.

Camera Strap_008

One of the things that bother me at first was the fact that the locks were metallic and that this could injure my camera back screen but after attaching the strap to the camera and putting it at the right height, this could be a little pain in the ass because of the eXomesh wire but once you got it that's it you do not need anymore adjustments, I noticed a Neoprene sleeves that protects the lock so it won't scratch any part of your camera.

On the left side of the above photo you can see the strap with the Neoprene sleeve up and on the right side with the Neoprene sleeve down and protecting the metal parts.

I started to love this strap ;)

Camera Strap_009

Here the complete rig, camera and PacSafe strap.

I can tell you that I've never thought about changing straps until I saw this priceless PacSafe strap and I'm glad I did since this feels much more comfortable and stable than the Canon one.

Camera Strap_010

Lets take the straps into their 15'' Domke protective wraps. I use this wraps as they secure my cameras and lenses from dust and scratches while packing and traveling.

With Canon straps I had to put them on top of the camera leaving me with a tight space for good camera packaging.

Camera Strap_011

With the PacSafe strap I can put it around the camera or...

Camera Strap_012

Remove it and store it outside the camera.

This is also good because it allows me to shoot without the strap when needed.

Overall I'm still testing the PacSafe camera straps but so far I will not remove them from my cameras and for the price I do think they are a bargain.

The other PacSafe product I would like to talk to you about is the PacSafe 85 anti-theft backpack & bag protector.

Featuring patented eXomesh® Ultimate security technology, the PacSafe is an adjustable high-tensile stainless steel locking device, designed to cover and protect a variety of bags and packs from tampering, pilfering and theft.

Throw it around your pack, secure it to something fixed and get on with your adventure.

Four sizes means there is one to fit almost every type of backpack, soft-sided wheeled luggage or duffel bag.

Built for multi-purpose use. Whether outdoors, touring or adventure traveling, PacSafe's tough and expandable design fits most popular sized backpacks, duffel's or soft-sided wheeled luggage.

This is a must when you are on the move or want you bags more secure so you can spend more time worrying about your photographs than your gear.

Bag Net_001

I decided to go for the 85 model because my bags are not so big and I wanted something that could be put on my lighting kid or my carry on luggage.

They have several sizes concerning the capacity volume you want 55, 85, 100, 120 and 140. You can get more info here at their page and this one cost me around 60,00 euros.

Pricey but I think it's well worth it, just take a look of the full review and let me know if it wouldn't be better than having your gear stolen.

Bag Net_002

So lets look what's in the 85 model package:

# Adjustable high-tensile stainless steel locking device
Fits volume approximately: 55 - 85 L / 3400 – 5200 in3
# Padlock included
# Carry pouch included
# Weight: 580 g / 1 lb 3 oz including padlock
# Folds to: 16 x 10 x 5 cm / 6 x 4 x 2 in
# Key chain

Bag Net_003

This symbol is the head of the metal bag.

Bag Net_004

I also bought and additional locker since the one that came with the PacSafe 85 anti-theft backpack & bag protector models are one with keys and I'm not into keys because you can leave them anywhere or even loose them.

I feel more comfortable getting a locker with code and this particular one can be opened by a TSA agents for inspection cost about 8,00 euros.

Bag Net_005

So I've replaced the original key locker with PacSafe 700 locker and it works the same way.

Bag Net_006

Here is my carry on luggage bag it's a Lowepro CompuTrekker AW and when I'm traveling i try to take all my gear here, at least the one I feel less comfortable leaving on the bilge.

Bag Net_007

After suiting the PacSafe 85 to the bag here is what it will look like.

It too me sometime to realize how the mesh net works but after a couple of minutes you will get into it pretty easily.

The 85 is a little bit big for this bag but I do prefer to have it a little big then to not make it fit and since this was my first buy for this kind of product this was almost like a tryout, but I do think this is a good option for some other bags to as you can see on the next pictures.

Bag Net_008

Here is a picture from the side. Unfortunately the Lowepro CompuTrekker AW does not have the removable sleeves so it won't be of any good trying to put the mesh and walking around the backpack on your shoulders, anyway you can always carry this bag with the mesh by the hand strap.

Bag Net_009

This is what it will look like at the bottom of the Lowepro CompuTrekker AW. You can tight it more if you need so it prevent people from cutting the base of you bag and stole things from there.

I did not pull it tight enough but I guess you can see where I'm getting at.

Bag Net_010

One example of what you can get.

You can secure it around a table leg or some other unmovable object without the risk of someone stole it of tamper it or you can use that cable, before you close it, to attach it around some other things.

Bag Net_011

I also have a LowePro Trekker AW II and this was my carry on luggage until the airlines companies had refrain the height on carry on luggage now I cannot use it anymore for airline traveling purposes but it's used for carrying gear to locations and so on.

Here is a photo after suiting it up.

Bag Net_012

This bag is very good because you can still use it as a normal backpack even after suiting the mesh.

You simply have to put the sholder straps out trough the mesh and afterward you can use it as usual.

Bag Net_013

My latest acquisition was an IKEA traveling bag (Ref. 400 993 15) for 24,50 euros so I could put all my lighting gear in it.

This is a very good bag and you can find it at the IKEA family products and unfortunately I couldn't find it at the online catalog products so you have to check at your local IKEA.

I Can fit in it 4 Manfrotto Nano 001b stands, 4 Nikon SB-26 strobes, lots of batteries, Cables and accessories, Gels, Power Extensions, Clamps, Snoots... oh well all my lighting gear fits on one bag and since it has a rolling feature it it's very easy to carry it around.

Bag Net_014

Here is a photo of it open with all of the gear.

Bag Net_015

Another one with the mesh net, it fits perfectly.

See now why I bought the 85?

Bag Net_016

Here is a photo of the net mesh opened. On the bottom part you can see the opening and as you pull it stretches to match the size of your bag and the size also depends on the size of the mesh you bought.

The only thing that I found difficult, at first, was to figure it out how to dress the bags since each bag has it's own position depending on it's configuration but the instructions that came with it are so clear that in a minute you will manage how to dress them up.

Hope this could help you decide for a more secure bags while carrying your equipment.
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