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08/20/16 Trouble at F-Stop? Maybe, Maybe Not

F-stop main page no1

F-stop main page no1

 

There has been a lot of negative press about F-stop recently.  It seems that there are many claims about long wait times, orders never shipping and extremely long back order times.  I had noticed earlier this year when I tried to order a Shinn backpack, that F-stop was showing them 4 to 6 weeks from being in stock.  I was not really in much of a hurry to get the pack in January, so I waited.  F-stop has come out with a new Orange color, that I really wanted as I hike during hunting season in Arkansas and bright orange is help against getting shot.  I finally got around to ordering and found that the Shinn was still sitting in the same status, 4 to 6 weeks, etc.  About this time some negative posting starting to appear and also some negative web based articles on the company.

It seems that some claim that they had paid for packs months ago, and still had not received anything, but they had paid at the time of the order.  Also several articles were concerned about the Kickstarter campain that F-stop had for a new pack.  I personally am surprised that F-stop went this route as that is not what I would do with a large company i.e try to gain funding via a Kickstarter.  However the owners are young and they are working a different business model.  The Kickstarter was supposedly cancelled and then issues came up about money again, since it seems that none of the money paid into the Kickstarter will be paid back?  Not sure on that but it started a big wave that F-stop was gone, going under, no longer in business etc.  Many folks reported that they were down to just 1 person in Customer relations, etc.  Not sure about that either, but here is my story, and it’s a lot more positive.

I called them, (yes I actually picked up the damn phone and called them). On the first try, I got a person at the other end of the line named Mick.  I mentioned to Mick I wanted a Shinn and XL-Pro ICU, in the orange color.  I also told Mick that I was starting to hear some really negative things about F-stop and I did not want to order a pack for $500.00 and then wait 6 weeks, never get anything, and then have to worry about getting a credit.  To my total surprise, Mick said just order it, and email the company (with their attached form on the website) and that he felt that he could get a orange Shinn shipped to me within a week!  He also told me that the only hold up was the extra wide ICU for the Shinn, that these were taking longer to be delivered to the US.  I was really not wanting the extra wide ICU, just an XL Pro ICU.  The issue is that the Shinn is about 3 inches wider and thus the XL Pro ICU will not fit tightly.  After talking to Mick for a while, I realized that the Sukha was the pack I wanted.  He gave me the same information, order a orange Sukha, and XL-Pro ICU and he felt I would have it ship in about a week.  Facts are F-stop shipped the pack and ICU in 3 days to me and I had it 4 days.  Free shipping!  To be honest, I sure that more folks will at least call F-stop as it seems they can manually get some things done.

BTW the Sukha is a great pack, and I will write more about it in a while.

I have now seen that one of the top company officials has written a formal note on the F-stop blog, mainly to talk to the delays in getting the product from China.  Hopefully F-stop will get this issue fixed and soon as with the modern web, it’s hard to recover from really negative press.  Again I stress, if you want an F-stop pack, give them a call and see what they can do for you.

Photographer’s Notes:

Everyone knows that about 3 years ago F-Stop packs came on the photo scene and they pretty much revolutionized the market.  The most important aspects of their new design were:

  1. Integrated ICU inner containers that would hold the camera gear and were 100% removable from the pack.
  2. The main opening for the pack was moved to the back instead of the front, which as far as I know had never been done before.

F-Stop came out with several packs of varying size and weight, but the ICU’s were all interchangeable.  The packs were made in China, and then shipped back to the US.  Really nothing new there.  And as their name grew across the photographic world, F-stop continued to come out with new packs, and new materials.  I have never figured out the percentage of the market that F-stop has over Lowe, but I have to feel based on all the forum posts I read, F-stop did very well in those first few years.  My first pack from F-stop was the Satori, which was a moderate to large pack and it served me very well.  I have used this pack extensively over the past 3 years, and have never had any problems with it.

The Satori was the first pack I purchased from F-stop and as I am 6′ 2″ tall, this pack always fit me a bit low.  However the pack itself was excellent in construction.  You have to get used to the opening up against your back, but that doesn’t talk long.  ONE note, if you are with another person who doesn’t understand the F-stop design, don’t ask them to move your pack unless you know that the back is zipped up.

With the Sukha, F-stop came out with a pack mainly for carrying long telephoto lenses, but I also figured that this pack would be a better fit for me and I was correct.  F-stop is now also using water-resistant fabric and they have a new material on the bottom of the backs as can be seen in the couple of side by sides I have posted.  This is much heavier black nylon than my Satori has.  There are also some changes to the ICU’s as the new style allow you to removed the top foam padding which is a nice feature.  The Sukha has a huge carrying capacity, as it will hold the XL Pro ICU and with that installed in the pack you still have 1/4 of the pack left for other items.

Hopefully F-stop will continue to produce these excellent backpacks and bags well into the future.

 

08/18/16 Capture One “error when processing a file” under Windows systems

This error:

Capture One error when processing a file

Capture One error when processing a file

has become a considerable pain in daily processing for me with Capture One Vr 9, (all versions) under Windows 7,8, or 10.  If you have noticed this error in your processing, please reach out to Phase One and let them know about it.  You can read more about the problem in this article I wrote by clicking on this link: Capture One error when processing a file.

 

 

08/16/16 A few notes on the Dynamic Range of the Phase One IQ100

Early mornings are some of the best times to photograph the Buffalo River.  This is from Buffalo Point.

Early mornings are some of the best times to photograph the Buffalo River. This is from Buffalo Point.

I am starting to get a better feel for the Phase One IQ100 and just where the dynamic range of this amazing digital back performs.  You can read a lot more this in a new article I just published over on photosofarkansas.  This article covers some discoveries I have made in regards to handling both shadow details and recovery of highlights.  You can read more about it here.

08/15/16 Phase One Cable Release–New product announced

Recently Phase One finally announced the “final solution” for a cable release for the XF camera.  Not what I had hoped for but this is it as shown in the photo below.

Phase One cable release

New Phase One Cable Release Bob

Back in the June 2015 time frame, Phase One announced their new XF camera body, which replaced the aging DF/DF+ bodies.  The only difference in the DF and DF+ was improved AF performance.  But as all who follow Phase One know, the XF, was a big announcement and a all new camera body.  The features of the XF are endless and since the announcement, Phase One has continued to add more features via firmware updates.  But one little issue was either overlooked or just not important enough and that was the remote release.

In the past, the DF/DF+ and for that matter all previous modern camera bodies made by Mamiya all took a standard 8 pin coiled cable release.  This was a basic simple design, that allowed the remote shutter button to fire once or lock down.  Period.  But it worked and was pretty darn hardy.  I have dropped mine in the water several times, and once the pin outs were dry, it worked fine.  Phase at the announcement of the XF did not make any statements about a remote, only that the camera could be fired remote via Capture Pilot/iPhone etc.  But there are times that you don’t either want to carry the additional gear or just don’t want to mess with the wifi issues so a basic cable release is a nice feature.  I have also heard from plenty of studio shooters who also prefer having a true cabled remote release.

Briefly during early 2016, Phase One did release some of the older Mamiya 8 pin cable releases, modified with the 12 pin connection.  These were from what I have been told only made in limited numbers since Phase One had something else in mind for a cable release.  My thoughts went to a modern intervalometer, so something with a digital readout like all modern cable releases, but instead Phase One came out with the Bob.  See in the above picture the basic Bob.  Note also the cost is $399.00 U.S. Yes, I said $399.00.

The basic Bob, is just what you see in the picture.  Note that it has two addition ports towards the bottom.  These can accept a older style cable release (Mamiya 8 pin) and the new and still not released XF external power supply.  In the picture below you can see all of this put together.

Phase One remote Bob and various connections

Phase One remote Bob and various connections

Now you can see where all this was heading.  Which is great for power users.  There is no information on the XF Power supply that I can find, i.e. NiMh or Lithium battery.  Hopefully the later.  But you can now see the why Phase One put 12 pins on the XF for the remote connection, so that the power can be transmitted via the 4 additional pins.  There is also no information as to if the IQ100, or IQ350, or IQ380 all of which have the Phase One Power Share feature, can also be powered when the XF Power supply is attached.  This would be a nice feature.

So I guess when all is said and done, more than likely you will be out around 700.00 for the whole solution.  Only you can state if this is all worth it.

Photographer’s Notes:

I am disappointed that this all that Phase One will now offer.  And I would have much rather had the offering to just purchase the old style Mamiya DF cable release modified to the 12 pin layout.  These were briefly available in the US, but not by my dealer and I waited too long to purchase this cable release as I was under the impression that “more were coming soon”.  Live and learn, when you see it if you need it buy the damn thing.  I find it very surprising still that nothing was available when the XF was announced.  But even worse Phase One knew that they were not going to make many of the modified Mamiya remotes, (8 pin to 12 pin) and should have allowed those of us who know that they would have gained considerable use from this order one while the limited supply was out there.

This is overkill for a photographer working the field, outdoors as look at the total number of cables that will be hanging around if you use the XF power supply.  And if you don’t you still have a lot of non weather sealed connections on the Bob as it appears that all three ports are just standard pin outs.

There may be some great new yet to be announced feature still coming, but it still can’t justify the $399.00 cost for this type of solution, when the basic Mamiya 12pin Phase One solution was $139.00.

In my work, I would still prefer to have a cable release, but one with the button style that the older Mamiya release had as it will be a lot easier to hold in the hand.

Old style Mamiya Cable Release

Old style Mamiya Cable Release

If there is any good news from this, at least you can add the old style remote to the Bob on the right side as the Bob also seems to have a shorter straight cable instead of the coiled one.  But you are still out the $399.00 or so and there is still no date as to when any of this equipment will start to ship.