Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Getting back into the swing of things/Focus on Imaging

As soon as I thought I was getting back into the swing of posting, I fell pretty ill and hadn't the energy for anything. I'm well on my way to recovering now though so I should be able to catch up on posts. I wrote the following about a week ago but I was still having internet trouble. That's now been resolved (at last!).

So, on Wednesday March 10th I went to an event called Focus On Imaging. It was being held in the NEC in Birmingham and it took us around 4 hours to get there. It was well worth it though. There were hundreds of stalls to go to, and it took me over an hour to go around the perimeter. I don't think I saw every single stand. Next time it may be better to go over a period of a couple of days, especially how poorly the trip was organised. Anyway, less of the negative. It was well worth the trip and resulting exhaustion at the end of the day because I managed to get my hands on some bargains. The first thing I bought was £5 worth of magazines with lovely pictures in which I figured I could look at for times when I'm feeling uninspired. They were going for £2 each but he was saying he had a deal on for students that he didn't want others to know about and asked us to keep quiet about it. They usually cost around £8 each so I managed to make a massive saving there. Walking around the stalls I saw some unusual stands, there were some massively oversized things to highlight different product features, like the zoom and face recognition. I took a snapshot with my phone of a huge camera. If you walked behind it you'd see a massive screen pointing at another stand, so if you stood in front of the lens long enough it'd show facial recognition. I tried to get a snapshot of the back but my phone ran out of memory.

               Not quite as compact as you might think!

My favourite stall there was probably the Jacob's stall, as they had so many great deals spanning 3 or 4 stalls each selling different kinds of products. I'd had my eye on a Lowepro Computrekker rucksack for quite a few months now but hadn't taken the plunge and bought one just yet. I found it there for £90 with the help of somebody working there called Rachel who was very helpful and friendly, and I managed to get the guy behind the till down to £85 (not a massive saving but as Tescos says, every little helps!) and in my opinion it's well worth the money I paid for it, even though it's still probably quite expensive for a bag. It's built to last and endure, and it holds everything I need it to. 

It has space for 2 SLRs, and around 5-6 lenses OR a compact medium format system, along with space for a large notepad computer (most 15.4" screen laptops fit, my 15" unibody macbook pro fits perfectly) and lots of room for accessories. There's loads of room in the front pocket for my lunch and some pens, paperwork, keys, phone, purse, whatever, and there's a pouch that unfolds at the front along with some bungee cord to hold a tripod snuggly in place. I found a clip inside the front pouch and after wondering what it was for, I figured it'd be perfect for keeping things I often lose in the depth of my bags in place for easy finding later, like keys, my phone and possibly my purse. There's lots of other little pockets to put things in and the ones inside the camera section are laminated mesh, so they'll be weather proof. 

The sections inside the camera compartment are fully adjustable as they attach very securely with velcro. So securely in fact, it's sometimes hard to un-attach them! On the outside at the bottom of the bag there's a compartment held closed with velcro which contains the all-weathers proof cover which stretches over the bag and can be tightened with a bungee cord. This will probably also double as an anti-theft cover as thieves would have a hard time getting into the front-most compartments without my knowing about it. All of the zippered compartments are secured even further from the outside with lips that cover the zipper and a clip that fastens over the zipper to prevent it from opening. The bag also has adjustable straps on the front attached to the bag and very padded shoulder straps which go over the sternum and across the abdomen, further aiding the comfort of wearing the bag. It has lumbar support and a padded mesh back, and a carry handle at the top. All sections inside are very padded, and I have no fears about carrying my laptop around inside of it. It's probably safer in there than in my other laptop bags! 

As you can see, I'm very very happy with it, and it has more than enough room to keep all my future lenses and bits and bobs, including my laptop, lunch, and whatever else I decide to take with me like chargers and batteries. This is great because it now means I won't have to use my college rucksack anymore (which is literally falling apart at the seams) and I'll be able to take even more around with me in complete comfort, including my lunch :)

I'm going to be lazy and link you all to the Lowepro website for an image of this, there's loads of images of it everywhere and I'm still not feeling up to faffing around with my camera much unfortunately :(

The last thing I bought was something I had looked at previously but had decided to hold out on for a while. It wasn't on my list of priorities at the moment, but as I passed the stand I couldn't help but have a look and a demonstration. It was another Jacob's stand and the item in particular that had caught my eye was the Spyder 3 Elite. The interface looked great and very easy to use, the results were good and the price was the cheapest I'd ever seen it. He was pretty unbiased from what I could see and based on him telling me that (he came across as very trustworthy, genuine and friendly, he also worked for a company that sold the other products and he had used all of them), and he made sure I understood that the Spyder series was his personal preference. A guy passed me during the demonstration and said "It's amazing, get it! Seriously, it's really really good!" and then walked back into the stall. He stopped me on my way trying to find the Calumet stall to find the Huey and Colormunki calibrators too (which was mostly unsuccessful, the place was huge and Calumet had run out. The guy telling me about the Spyder suggested I have a look at the others first) telling me that he wasn't just saying it, he was entirely serious. We had a quick chat and then I said I had to go since I was running out of time and didn't want to leave without a calibrator. 

I eventually found a stall selling something called the Xrite. It turned out that he was working for a company that owned both the other companies that sold and manufactured the Huey and the ColorMunki. I found out that the Huey was geared towards gamers and the ColorMunki was going to cost around £300, so they were both out of the window. I decided that the Xrite looked a bit cheap and it also crashed on the mac he was using, which wasn't a great selling point. The interface looked clunky and overly complicated, and I heard words like complex and tricky. It was going for £115, which was more than the Spyder 3 Pro, going for £89. It also didn't have an ambient light sensor which the Spyder Pro does, and while that isn't really necessary for my mac, it will be for future monitors I'm going to buy. He also told me that the other two calibrators were more of an entry level calibrator and his was a pro model. He didn't mention the Spyder, and after I asked him what his stance on it was, he reluctantly told me that that was his competition. The guy in the Spyder stall with his confidence in the product and generally trustworthy attitude won the sale, and in the end, as you can guess, I went for the Spyder 3 Pro for £89. By the time I'd got back to him around 10 or 15 mins later, about 3 of them had been sold - they were flying off the shelves. I can upgrade it to the Spyder 3 Elite for around £40 in the future if I really want as the hardware is the same. I'll be saving money there too as the Spyder Elite was going for £125 ish on the day, and usually sells for around £175. I was very happy with what I'd just gotten and now the next thing on my list is a tripod!

I'll be going to Focus next year too, probably over the space of a couple of days to take away the stress and exhausting nature of a day trip. It's so worthwhile going and I'd recommend it to anybody looking for a bargain. I got demo disks, there were talks and demonstrations, I entered competition draws and you get lots of helpful advice and save a lot of money. Go next year!

UPDATE: Since I wrote this my Spyder 3 Pro has stopped working. I'm going to try and get it replaced under guarantee. It was fine one day, and then all of a sudden stopped working. I have no idea what's caused it but I'm not too happy about it.

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