Nikon D4 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 handheld — 1/800 sec, f/2, ISO 400 — map & image data — nearby photos
Jidai Matsuri (“Festival of the Ages”) 時代祭
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 70mm — 1/4000 sec, f/3.5, ISO 1000 — map & image data — nearby photos
via a wider lens on a second camera body
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 handheld — 1/800 sec, f/2, ISO 500 — map & image data — nearby photos
back at 300mm on the main camera body
I did something yesterday that I'd never done: I went out shooting with two camera bodies.
I often go out shooting with one body and many lenses, changing lenses upwards of 70 times on a long and interesting outing, and this works well for what I like to do, but when I added the Nikon D4 to my Nikon D700 at the start of the summer, I specifically thought it might be nice to have two bodies when out among the festive crowds at Kyoto's Gion Matsuri festival, one body with the huge Nikkor 300mm f/2, and another with a wider lens for the occasional “establishing” or “context” shot.
With two-body shooting in mind, sometime back in the spring I bought a Peak Design “Capture” camera belt mount system. It's a smartly and lushly-fabricated piece that oozes quality, and the color palette aside, it feels like something Apple would design.
I've never used it.
Not long after receiving my Capture unit, I got an out-of-the-blue email from the folks at b-grip, about their belt-mount product, asking if they could send me one because perhaps then I'd blog about it. I replied “Sure, why not?”, and eventually got a box full of belt/backpack camera-carrying accessories from their Japanese distributor.
I'd never used them, until yesterday.
When accepting b-grip's offer, in my mind I created an obligation that, good or bad, I must indeed write about it. And if I'm going to write about it on my blog, I want to have real-world experience to share, and therein lay the problem: I soon realized that in most situations I photograph in, I'd feel like a total dork with an extra camera jutting out from my hip. (Conversely, I feel just fine with my hip-mounted camera bag, though perhaps ignorance is bliss.)
Gion Matsuri would have been a great opportunity, but it turns out that I didn't get the chance this year because Anthony had just broken his finger. So, I refrained from using either belt-mounted system at my disposal until yesterday, where two perfect opportunities presented themselves.
The first was the Jidai Matsuri festival (“Festival of the Ages”, 時代祭), as I wrote yesterday, it's more or less a big re-enactment parade, and is one of Kyoto's three main festivals (along with Aoi Matsuri and the aforementioned Gion Matsuri). There are lots of old/interesting costumes, but it's difficult to get a shot not ruined by a gas station or power line in the background, so I thought I'd have better luck with a telephoto lens that throws the background out of focus, and hence I broke out my 300mm f/2, which is about the size and weight of a tank turret, a sight that always brings out big smiles of wonder. With that lens in action, I could attach a small car to my hip and people wouldn't notice, so it was a great chance to try the hip-mounted second body.
I attached The Big Heavy Lens to my everyday camera-carrying accessory, a Sun Sniper Pro slider strap (similar, I believe, to a popular product from Black Rapid). I like it because it lets me just drop the camera to my side, or sling it around to my back to get it out of the way, but the camera is always instantly available. I use this strap almost every time I go out, regardless of lens.
(Warning: if you get one of Sun Sniper's straps and decide you want to upgrade the camera screw part, you won't find out until you get it that installation requires cutting the strap and sewing it back. Yikes!)
For the second camera body, to be worn on my hip, I used a simple (but still large) Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8. I specifically chose the b-grip solution over the Peak-Design unit because the base part that attaches to the belt extends far enough down to keep the camera comfortably pointing straight down; with the Peak-Design unit, the heavy camera torqued the belt attachment, twisting it uncomfortably, causing the lens to flop into my leg. I can mitigate the problem to some extent by removing the D700's vertical grip (and I did that yesterday anyway), but in this respect the b-grip seemed better for me.
And so I went out to catch the tail end of the parade...
Nikon D4 + Nikkor 300mm f/2 — 1/800 sec, f/2, ISO 2200 — map & image data — nearby photos
Secretary general of the Heian Shrine Religious Association
Nikon D700 + Nikkor 24-70mm f/2.8 @ 31mm — 1/2500 sec, f/3.5, ISO 1000 — map & image data — nearby photos
When I ventured out, a ripple of “what a camera!” went through the crowd, which tickles me. When I brought the camera up to bear on the “dandy hat” guy whose photo leads this post, he immediately noticed and kindly gave me some nice poses while holding eye contact with the lens.
(I also noticed that my light workouts have paid off handsomely... I could hand-hold the 8kg lens quite easily. The shots of the “dandy hat” guy are all hand held, though after a while I did sometimes switch on and off to my monopod as well.)
I wore the second camera body on my right hip (I'm right handed), and realized that was a mistake with the b-grip unit because it requires two hands to get the camera out (which is an advantage of the Peak-Design unit... you can unlock and release the camera with the same hand that holds the camera, so with practice you can do it all with one hand in one fluid motion.)
It felt awkward to reach across my body with the left hand to release the lock, so when the second two-camera opportunity came a few hours later, I put the hip-mounted camera on my left side, and it felt much better to reach across with my right arm to grab the camera while the left hand released the lock.
That second opportunity was the Kurama Fire Festival, a half-hour scooter drive into the mountains to the north of Kyoto. It has a lot of fire and ash, so I did not want to be changing lenses. I picked my longest and shortest f/1.4 lenses, my 85mm f/1.4 for the main camera on the Sun Sniper Pro strap, and the 24mm f/1.4 for the hip-mounted spare.
I should point out that the b-grip belt mount comes with a nylon-webbed belt, as seen on their home page. The one I received was just a tad too big to easily thread into the unit, but I didn't want to use it anyway... I just threaded my normal belt through it, leaving a crisp, clean solution that didn't invite pathetic apprehension about geekiness.
All in all I felt pretty happy with my two-camera solution, so will definitely use it again when the opportunity presents itself.