Canon GP-E2 Review – including tagging CR2 and JPG images from .log files

I'll fess up – I'm a gadget geek. I"ve been a touch surprised at how Nikon had been ahead of the game with a small GPS that could tag images via connection to their cameras via USB.  There were a few attempts at integrating the GPS via USB but you had to have a WFT device – which was super pricey, and you still needed a supported GPS device too – so ~$1,000 to tag images, no thanks.

I had seen other Geo-Tagging devices that would essentially log a trace and would then tag your .jpg files with their locations, but these devices didn't support RAW files, and I shoot exclusively in RAW.

I was a bit happier when the 1D X was announced and along with it was a much smaller GPS tagging device, the Canon GP-E1, that tied into the camera directly, via a utility port on the side of the camera.  Still a touch on the pricey side, but at least this unit wasn't the size of half a battery grip.

Then the 1D X was delayed, the 5D3 announced with availability just around the corner. With it – the GP-E2 was announced. I liked that the device supported both the 1DX as well as the 5D3 from the hot shoe (a curious way to get the connectivity, but it will connect to multiple disparate devices that way), and to the 7D via a usb connection.

So the die was cast. I ordered a GP-E2 with my 5D3, and hoped that it (okay – and the BG-E11 grip) would show up before I headed to California to shoot the Amgen Tour of California last week… no luck.


It was here when I got back, however; I soon had it out of its box and was ready to test – but I got broadsided by a nasty cold and have been essentially worthless (some might argue that is *not* atypical – LOL) for the last two days.

First impressions:

The device is a touch larger than I expected.  Most, if not all, of the images I had seen of the Canon GP-E2 were without a camera body in the image. So the fact that it is easily larger than the pentaprism of the camera took me a bit aback.


I was still also mulling over my reaction to the "hot-shoe" connectivity. While it would give me the most accurate data (including compass direction and angle of the camera, I think) I wondered about how vulnerable it was going to be if I was out on a moto with it in the hot shoe. I've not really had any problems with a flash mounted on a camera from the moto, so this shouldn't be too big a problem, but I'd not be able to use my flash on my 5D3 (which is how I ran things in Cali this year – pending post on that).

The thought of using a USB cable to connect the GPS to the camera seemed even less ideal from the back of a moto.  I think it would a) open the side of the camera (okay – and the GPS) to rain and dust contamination, and b) be easy to knock out of the socket when reaching for the camera, etc. So I started looking into the under mentioned pure "logging" capabilities.

Initial Setup:

So there isn't much to the device. An opening for a single AA battery, a rubber cover over the data connection, and a three position switch. Canon also include a carrying case (so you can attach the device to your belt or camera strap easily, two different lengthed cables to connect your camera to the GP-E2, and a small drawstring bag to carry the lot in. After putting in the battery (not included), sliding it into the hot-shoe of my Canon 5D mark III, and flipping on the power switch. I was able to go into the camera's menus to setup the device. 

It lets you set the date/time on your camera from the satellite signal (very nice, easier than the laptop time-set process – two shakes and my 5D3 was "accurate"). This can be set automatically, manually, or can be switched off. The other "setting" is the ability to define the "position update timing". IMHO, it is a no-brainer to set this at the minimum refresh time of every second; this still allows for over four days of logging on the device before you start overwriting older days' logs. You can view the current GPS info (lat, lon, elevation, date/time and signal strength). The last thing you can do is to calibrate the compass on the device – it shows you three sequences of movement of the camera with the GPS mounted on top to let the device align itself correctly. But compass direction of the photograph is no where on my radar – My main concern, from posting images into various image services, is to get the city, state, zip and country added to the files. This saves me tons of time; as I won't have to remember where a shot was taken while mid stage (where towns are small and go by pretty quickly).

My Strategery/Test:

I didn't think it was too necessary to try connecting the receiver to the camera – it would "just" work as advertised. After a day or two to mull it over, and enticed by statements such as "There is no need to connect the receiver to the camera" – I wanted to test with an "un-supported" camera (For direct tagging – the 1DX and 5D3 work via USB/Hot-Shoe; 7D works via USB). 

So I fired up the GP-E2 into "log" mode, hopped in the car, and did a quick run for some dinner. I had set the time on my 5D3, so I brought up that display and matched the time setting manually on my Canon 1D Mark IV.  On the drive, I shot about 50 images along the way; not really aiming, just actuating the shutter.

Tagging the Files:

The one step in the process that didn't immediately click – was how to get the log file off of the GP-E2 and onto my laptop.  The cables included with the device call the connector on the GPS end a "digital" connector, and the other end is a mini-usb to connect to the camera. I knew this wouldn't connect to my "standard" usb ports on my laptop.  Looking at the port on the GPS itself, it looked different enough that I figured I needed to find an adapter to connect the cable that came with the GPS to the laptop.

I read through the GPS manual, there was zero description on how to accomplish this. Finally, I downloaded the Canon Map Utility manual off of the software disc – it just said to "use the cable included with the camera"… Hmm… could it be that easy? A closer look showed that the outer shape of the socket on the GP-E2 was indeed USB Mini shaped. I gingerly tried it, and voila! It worked.

From there it was pretty easy. I copied the files onto my hard drive into a directory in the "normal" file structure I employ for Lightroom. I then launched the map utility.

A quick "File" > "Add Images…" to select all the files in my latest directory, voila – they now appear in the left column of the app. Then I turned on the GP-E2, connected it to the USB port, clicked the "GPS log files" tab in the utility, and chose "File" > "Import GPS log files from GPS device…" The data is now on your laptop. Now just go back over to the "Images" tab and click "Edit" > "Automatically add location information".

The system now does warn you that "If (Time difference] in the GPS log file is not set correctly…" (it goes on for a while). Essentially, if you time on your camera is off by an hour from the GPS, and you shot for two, your locations may be shifted for one of the hours and the other may not show any gps info.  Just be sure to sync your camera with your GPS before you start your shoot. I'm not sure what you could do at this point – I guess you could hop into some utility to adjust the "shot" time, then come back and refresh the data…. It would be nice if Canon let you set an offset (in both hours and minutes) so you could fix this now… perhaps that will show in a subsequent version of the software.

After you clear the warning, you have the option of reviewing your location info before you commit it to the files. You just need to click the "Save" button below the map (they put it in a very noticible blue area below the map).

The 59 files took about a minute or two to save (I should have, but didn't time it). I'm not sure what he delay was, but it may be looking up specific country, state, city, and "sub-location" aka "neighborhood" info for each image and saving it.  I'll try this again on a larger set to see if this is really a long delay… If so, I may tag the GPS info only into the images I'm pushing to my image-server… those 40-50 may go a LOT faster than 1600-1800 images from a day of shooting a race.

The Results:

The Map Utility actually has a pretty nice display – it shows the trace of the drive I took, and it puts pins in the map where each photo was taken. It is enough to know if your time-sync was on or off and you have plenty of choices on how you want it to display. It leverages Google Map data, so you have the standard "Map", "Satellite" or "Hybrid".



For Lightroom – the trace itself isn't displayed as it only has the individual image info… I guess it could play "connect the dots" but it wouldn't follow the actual path taken (unless you managed to only stay on straight roads and took a pic at each corner – LOL).  It does bring up "sub-location" – which is sort of interesting – it labeled the shopping center I drove through as a neighborhood I had never heard of. Suffice to say – it worked like a champ, and I'm looking forward to my next multi-day stage race to shoot.


The Plan:

After this quick test, I will most likely use the GP-E2 attached to one of the cameras I use on a shoot (so that 1/3 or more of the shots will be pre-tagged) and I can then tag the other images via the process above; or I can just tag the shots after exporting selected files from Lightroom if tagging 1600 images takes a long time.  I'm thinking I may just tag all the images this way as I won't have to worry about if I want to mount a flash to the 5D3, etc.

Short version – you should be able to use one GP-E3, attached to your belt, to tag all cameras on any shoot. Just be sure to sync the time on the cameras with the GPS before each shoot.

I'll post again after I've used it a bit more.

Thanks for reading; and as always, let me know if you have any questions.

- Will


First Thoughts: Canon EF 8-15mm f/4L Fisheye Zoom

Well, with the holidays fast approaching, un-coincidentally a few new bits of gear have landed in my possession lately. I've finally replaced my beaten up old P&S with a Canon PowerShot S100, I've picked up some new (well – this hasn't been that recently) ThinkTank gear for hauling gear during a shoot, and most recently – a copy of the Canon EF 8-15mm f/4 Fisheye zoom.

So, why not start with the most recent… The FE Zoom… aka – the FEZ.

I've had a lot of fun with my tried and true EF 15mm f/2.8 Fisheye from Canon, but how could I resist an upgrade to L optics, and while the lens did slow down a bit, I gained the ability to zoom back out to 8mm – giving me a full 180 degree field of view. I'd never shot with a circular fisheye before, so I wasn't too sure I'd actually plunk down the greens to get this lens, but a deal came up on a used copy and I couldn't resist – figuring that I could always flip it and get my money back if it didn't work out.

Short version – I'm not selling it…

The FEZ is a bit bigger than my 2.8, but I've also read that it is the smallest L grade lens… There has been much said about how easily the lens cap falls off with a bump in the right (or wrong) place, and many have raved about it but I'm not sure I've seen much on why folks like it… so here goes nothing. I'll start by saying this post will have more thoughts than empirical comparisons – I've taken some shots with both Canon fisheyes in a controlled space, but I'll save those for another day.

Capping it off

It seems that most folks are quick to knock the "easy to knock off" lens cap; I'll get this one out of the way so we can move on to the images. There is a lens hood that twist locks onto the front of the lens, you'll need to press a button to release it (much like the 70-200 2.8L IS II's lens hood). I've heard many reviewers kvetch about this hood – that it gets in the way when you zoom out… Um – hello – does 180 degree field of view mean anything to you? (chuckle)… The lens cap itself clips onto this hood when you press the release buttons along the edge of the cap. While it is true that this hood can fall if you bump just one of the two release buttons on the hood, I think I'm not sure there is much if any benefit to the lens hood itself (other than front element protection when around your neck, etc) so I think I'm going to tape them together. I found it much easier to just remove the pair together; pressing the button to rotate the hood off the front of the lens… this gets the lens hood out of the way for impromptu 8mm shots, and when taped together (got to love gaffer tape) the "cap" won't fall off the "hood" – they'll stay together either in my bag or on my lens.

I will throw out a caveat: I've not done much post processing to these. The office photo is right out of the camera (well – via Lightroom 3.6 default settings exported to a jpg and cropping square), and the other two have had a quick rotate to straighen them and maybe a quick whitebalance tweak and the aforementioned cropping to square, but not much else.

First Images:

I'll fall right into lockstep with the other reviews I've read and say that this lens if just plain fun… I found myself happily looking through the viewfinder of my 5D2, walking around the office, looking to see how the world looked different through it. Initially, however, I was struck by how I wasn't exactly sure what I would use it for. Soon I was shooting the daughter of someone at the office – it was fun to get the lens right in the baby's face and get the image filled by baby, carrier, blankets, toys and padding. The next image I shot was to hold the camera over my head to shoot down on all the folks gathered around the baby. Quite a fun perspective. "Vantage number one!" said the Bi-Coloured-Python-Rock-Snake… - Kipling – the Just So Stories


Immersion Therapy:

That night I went out to an area of Austin called 37th street to shoot some of the holiday lights there. I'd been there years before but hadn't been back since, while the display wasn't close to what it had been, I was glad learn that some of the residents started this year to try to restore some of the glory of the display. As I shot at one house, the sweet spot of this lens hit me… immersion. I was able to get pretty close to a group of residents and their friends as they read letters to Santa that had been left at their house (they put a table out with pencils and paper next to a large box that viewers of the lights were encouraged to make use of during the evening). As they unwound from the evening (I was there pretty late) over an adult beverage and read the letters out loud, they were great about ignoring me as I shot. What resulted was a great shot that really immerses you in that scene. There is so much detail in the image, the web version does it little justice, and I'll prob post this in my Gallery for sale shortly, so sorry – I'm not giving the high res of this one away… From the leaf detail in the tree overhead, to the curve of the candy canes along the sidewalk, to the expressions on peoples faces and the motion from the blur, to the inflatable barrel of monkeys in the tree – just lots to soak in. I'll try to make the time to do a detailed post about this image soon, with some call-outs to the detail. "Vantage number two!"


Moving just down the sidewalk, I also like the image of the scooter in the other half of their yard. I paid better attention this time to aligning the image to ensure the candy canes at the edge of the yard would line the lower half of the image. I think this one works very well too – tho the one above is my favorite.


I've a few more posts in mind for this lens, but for now – I like it a lot!

As always, let me know of any questions via the comments below, or use the "contact" link in the header above.

Thanks for reading!

EF 300mm f2.8L IS with (and without) Stacked Teleconverters

Okay – I'll admit it – up until recently, I've borrowed the 300mm f2.8L IS lenses I've shot with. It is (tho not as much as I thought it was) a specialty lens that was just what I needed for some projects (like any professional cycling race) that I hadn't committed to buying… till now.


When the lens arrived (I'll spare you typical set of pictures of every square inch of the lens – you all know what one looks like) my first question (as for most folks) was "how good is my copy?".  I managed to take a few shots around the office when I took delivery, but I had a busy day on tap, so I couldn't really play till I got home that evening. The moon was a day or two shy of being full, so I figured it would make a good test subject. In the shots I'd done at the office, I saw that I had no noticeable CA in my images at all… I decided to test with a 1.4x then 2x teleconverter handheld. I had great results (given that it was humid and fairly warm – lots of atmospheric "issues" making a great shot problematic).  Again – zero CA so far, very fortunate for me…

Handheld 5D2 w/ 300mm f2.8L IS – 2x TC = 600mm f7.1 1/400 iso 400

The next day had a criterium on tap at a nice course in an area of Dallas that has some older homes that have been converted to office space. The course is the bane of most of the area cyclists because there are no long straights – nothing but two squares connected at a corner, lots of turns.  This can be a challenge for a lens, but the 300 took it in stride… beautifully fast focus, with amazing bokeh.

1D3 – no TC – 300mm f2.8L IS – 1/1000 at f5.6 ISO 400

Stacked Success

So far – nothing was too out of the ordinary, but I was in for a surprise a few nights later. Some friends got together for a ride then dinner. As we left the restaurant I saw that the moon was just over the horizon and it was blood orange in color… Back at the house I grabbed my 1D3 and both my teleconverters.  I walked out into the cul-de-sac in front of my house, I raised the lens, half pressed the shutter, and was surprised to hear the AF kick in. It did dance a bit, but it wasn't blind hunting. It worked steadily in and locked on… 

5D2 – 300mm f2.8L IS – 2x TC II – 1.4x TC II = 840mm – 1/20th at f/8 (2.8 + 3 stops for the stacked TCs) iso 800

I snapped a few shots and wondered if it would work on my 5D2 as well. Lo and behold – it worked again. I shot a few more photos with the setup on my tripod. I knew they wouldn't be tack sharp (too much smoke, humidity, etc), but was curious just the same. I gave it an hour or so and shot some more; with the now brighter subject, the lens didn't hunt around – it just focused. In reviewing the images, I was impressed that it a) had focused, and b) had come out with just minimal CA in the images with the stacked TCs.  The CA wasn't evident in the orange photos (no color correction was done – this is how the moon looked – I think it was thanks to the wildfires in West Texas), but did show an hour or so later when the moon had climbed out of the smokey haze to shine brightly. Just a hint of cyan bleeding into the whites/grays.

5D2 – 300mm f2.8L IS – 2x TC II – 1.4x TC II = 840mm 1/200th at f/8 (2.8 + 3 stops for the stacked TCs) iso 400

The thing I should have checked (and will once I'm back in town and have my TCs at hand) was if my 70-200 2.8 will AF with the stacked set of TCs…  With the 1D3 and the 5D2 – I was using the center AF point selected, had spot metering (to help it get correct exposure on the moon) with no other special (that I know of) fn configuration.

The EXIF data on the images only show the effects of the 2x TC… they show a 600mm exposure at f5.6 – essentially two stops off the f2.8 of the lens; but it should read 840mm at f8 (with the extra 1.4x and the additional stop lost from the second TC).

Next up for the 300 – doing the AF microadjustment with my camera bodies…

As always – use the comments sections below for any questions, or use the "contact" link above.

Thanks for reading!


PRETEC P240 USB 3.0 Multi Card Reader Review

With time sensitive projects like professional bike races, every minute counts. You need to get a first image or two to your team clients so that they can update their websites as quickly as possible. So as soon as the presentations are done – the race begins (for me at least).

The biggest time lag is dumping data down from the cameras to my laptop. In the past I've tried a few USB 2.0 card readers, but had found that using a USB connection directly to the cameras worked something on the guesstimate of 3-4x faster than USB 2.0. I'll admit I've not tried any of the UDMA compatible card readers – with the functionality of my cable from camera method, I didn't think I get that great a gain in transfer speed with a UDMA compliant adapter.


That was all well and good till I purchased my new laptop last year – it had a USB 3.0 port. It wasn't long before USB 3.0 compatible external drives arrived on the scene, and the faster push of images from my laptop to my archival drive was great to have, but that wasn't my critical need. I needed data off the cards ASAP.

I'd kept my eyes peeled on the interwebs for card reader products but none were to be found till the PRETEC P240 USB 3.0 Multi Card Reader appeared in my search results. I hopped onto and saw it said "arriving 27 April", I figured I may as well jump in the queue so I ordered one – pretty cheap at $22.99.  When I got my confirmation email, it had my order date as the ship date… I hopped back on-line the next AM and it now showed they have them in stock. I ordered on a Monday, it arrived via priority mail on Wednesday. It was time to test.

The PRETEC P240:


The PRETEC is pretty basic. Just a small black box with 4 card slots on one side (SDHC/MMC/SDXC, MSXC/MSHG, microSD/microSDHC and M2), the CF I/II slot on the other; it also has a USB 3.0 port on one end. It comes with a short "connector" which conveniently tucks into an indention on the bottom of the device for more compact storage. You can also use (if plugging in with the connector may block usage of other USB ports or be too low on your device) any USB 3.0 to USB cable. I utilized the connector that came with the device. The build quality feels basic – not flimsy, but not super solid either; but with no moving parts inside, and at a $23 price point, what do you really need/expect?

Testing Methodology and Equipment:

My current laptop is a Lenovo ThinkPad W510, it has an Intel Core i7 CPU – quad 1.6 GHz processor, 10 GB of ram, and a Segate SATA 7200 rpm 320-GB hard drive. I'm running Windows 7 64-bit as the operating system. Not the most earth shattering spec, but it does the trick for me. For the data to move around I used 350 raw images from one of last years races, which totaled 7.43 GB.  I copied them onto the CF card tested into a typical directory structure for a camera: DCIM\EOS1D\IMG_####.CR2 (not sure this matters, but figured I'd keep it "real").

I tested two different cards. The one I ran the full gamut of tests on was an ADATA 533x 16 GB CF card. Tho not labeled with "UDMA" specifically on the card or packaging, I did some research before buying this and found that it is indeed UDMA compliant, and I think these tests bear that out. The second card tested was a LEXAR Professional UDMA 300x 8 GB CF card. I tested this second card mainly to see how the rated speeds of these two cards compared; once I saw how it did on the PRETEC, I didn't want to repeat the other transfer methods.

I tested four different copying methods: USB Cable from my Canon 5D Mark II to the laptop; the PRETEC P240; a Kodak 6 in 1 reader (USB 2.0 and *not* UDMA compliant), and an old Digital Concepts CF reader (USB 1.0?).  I'm pretty sure the "Kodak" and "Digital Concepts" are just branded generic readers that I've seen with different logos on them. May not be the best comparison against these 2.0 and 1.0 readers, but I figure I'm in the ballpark. I hadn't been using either one for years since the camera to pc process was working so well for me.

The copy procedure was pretty straight forward, open the cf card in one window, open a destination directory in the other, select all then drag over to the new folder and release. I started a stopwatch at the release of the mouse button and then stopped the time when the copying dialog box closed. I only did one pass for each setup as I'm not looking for statistical accuracy here – I figured ballpark numbers would translate pretty well between the methods – and with the differences I saw after running the sequence once, I didn't think any races were close enough to merit a second set of testing.

The Results:

  Time: Data Rate* Time: Data Rate*
PRETEC P240 2 min 6 sec: 62-85 mb/sec 3 min 50 sec: 32-45 mb/sec
Canon 5D2 7 min 47 sec: not displayed** not tested
Kodak 6 in 1 est 1 hour***: 2.25 mb/sec not tested
Digital Concepts est 2+ hours***: 0.92 mb/sec not tested

* Data Rate observed in "more details" panel during file transfer. The range of numbers I saw from time to time.
** The 5D2 shows as an attached device, not as a "drive"; so Windows 7 does not show data rate numbers
*** Stopped as observed "Data Rate" was so low. Estimate is the time remaining that was displayed by the transfer progress window

My Thoughts:

I had only been able to find one other review of the PRETEC P240 before I bought mine and that user had found no gain in speed over their USB 2.0 device. They also didn't comment on what speed card they had, what their computer hardware was, etc. Besides, with the cheap price, I figured it was pretty low risk – and I could always return it.


I was very happy to see that with a fast card and my hardware that I would see noticiable gains in transfer speed of images so I could get my post processing into gear in almost 1/4 the time it has taken in the past.  I was pretty used to 40 – 60 minutes of data transfer, that could be cut to 10 – 15… Can't complain about that sort of process improvement for a measly $22.99 plus shipping.

I may go ahead and test the transfer time of the 300x card via the 5D2 to see where the "card speed" threshold is using the camera as a transfer device. I may also test transfer via camera and PRETEC at the same time.  I only have 1 USB 3.0 port on my laptop, so having two devices copying at the same time could speed the process – a USB 3.0 hub and a second PRETEC may be the best bet. If/when I do more testing, I'll update this post.

As always – let me know if you have any questions – either comment below or use the "contact" link in the header.

Thanks for reading!

two press room photos copyright and courtesy of KQCooper

NewsWear ChestVest Review

NewsWearLogo So, back when I wanted to find a key piece of gear to handle/manage my camera equipment while out shooting from the back of a moto – I was steered towards NewsWear's Chest Vest by a longtime friend and fellow shooter Liz Kreutz.  I reviewed the different options available and chose the "medium" over the "digital" (has a pocket that will hold a large digital body); or the "foul weather" version, which essentially is the digital version made with waterproof material.

I had avoided the waist belt systems for a few reasons. First off I wanted to get the weight off my belt, secondly, with a lot of time sitting on a moto, I wanted to ensure things were a bit higher so I could pivot easily and not worry about getting to pockets along my hips or more around towards my back.

The one thing I couldn't find at the time (and I'll admit I didn't look before I started writing this post) was any sort of review that talked about the sizes of the pouches.  The NewsWear site only mentions different things than might fit, but not actual measurements nor an example "load out" of the gear.  This review will answer both those questions.

Measuring Up the Men's Medium Chest Vest:


There are four pockets, the middle two are the same size, as are the outside two pockets. The larger middle pockets measure (roughly) 9.5 inches high by 5 inches wide by 2.5 inches.  The other pockets are 6 inches high by 5.5 inches wide. The flaps that cover the tops of the pockets also contain pocket areas with a velcro closure across the top edge. I wanted to measure the effective usage of the pocket, so I measured from the lower edge of the velcro closure to the bottom of the pocket. The larger pocket flaps are 6 inches high by 5 inches wide, while the outer flap pockets are 5.25 inches by 5.25 inches.

Overall width of the four pockets from side to side is 20 inches, the backing extends another 2.5 inches on either side (for sewing of the waist belt and the shoulder straps) for a total width of 25 inches. I didn't want to un-do the belt setup that has worked for me to measure a maximum length of belt available, but by looking at available extra belt length I'd say you could get a total "belt" length of 47 or 48 inches. I wear mine over a moto jacket which (with the protective padding, etc) is fairly bulky, I think the "belt" (full pouch assembly width + webbing) would be 40" for my config. I do wear it a bit loose when on the moto.


There are two other pockets – along the "inside" of the belt, behind the middle to pouches – that I'd forgotten were even there. They are fairly flat, have a velcro closure at the top edge, and measure 5.75 inches by 4.25 inches wide. You might stash a passport or other key papers here, things you don't want to fall out of a pocket, but don't need super easy access to.

The construction is of heavy duty canvas/nylon. The pouches are all made of fabric panels that allow for the large lenses (etc) to easily slide into place.  I think most of the other grizzly details can be found at the site HERE.

What I Use on the Moto:


In the previous pictures, I had the gear above in the pockets. My "load out" for shooting a bicycle race from a motorcycle is as follows, although the image above doesn't have all the "smalls" I usually stuff into the flap pockets. and the thing below the Canon 5D2 body is a 15mm f2.8 fisheye, the strap kept rolling it away when it was on its side.  Also – to ensure there wasn't any confusion about what was in the chestvest vs. hanging from me when on the moto – I didn't picture the two 1D bodies I use nor the flash. Okay – enough of the caveats, on with the info…

Left most (as I'm wearing it, right most in the picture) pocket carries my quantum flash external battery. I keep my wider lens camera on the left side with the flash on it, so this keeps the cord stretch to a minimum. In the flap I keep my memory card vault, and some other basics for being on course. An allen key (you never know when a l-plate or mounting plate may loosen up on you at the wrong time), some ear plugs (for loud PA systems during podium presentations), and a lens cloth with a lenspen or two for touch-ups.

Left center pocket houses my 5D2 without the grip. The majority of my moving shots are all handled by my two sports shooter bodies – one with a 70-200 2.8L IS (right side) and the other with a 24-105 w/ flash (on the left side) – you just don't need the full frame width when moving. So I keep it in a pocket for easy assembly for a scenic or fish eye shot. In fact, my 15mm 2.8 fisheye lives at the bottom of this pocket, the padded strap above to protect the lens, then the body on top. This lets me get the body out if I want to use my 17-40 that is kept in the rightmost pocket for a scenic without having to get the fisheye out of the way first.  This flap pocket is usually stuffed with (not pictured) route notes for the day. A page from the race bible with all key mile markers, along with any notes I may have on scenic spots to try for, etc. I'll usually end up with a laminated card (thanks to my moto driver) which has all the summary info and an elevation chart with feed zone, KOMs, sprints, etc indicated.

Right center pocket (in this "full" example) has my 100-400. I don't use this much, and will usually leave it with my sherpa slash second shooter for them to use, but I'll throw it in on occasion. This is roughly the same size as the 70-200 2.8 and other lenses. So you've an idea of what will fit. The outer pocket for this usually is left to be a bottle holder of sorts. We usually end up with 1/3 liter water bottles from the race organization and one, along with some sort of sports bar to much on during the stage, will fit into the flap pocket.

Right most pocket will have my wide angle lens – usually a 17-40 f4L. It has a bit more reach than the 16-35 2.8, and I rarely if ever shoot at 2.8 during a race stage – especially since this is my "scenic" lens and even in the team areas, and after a stage if I'm shooting in a crowd, I'll have the flash running and will have more depth of field need than 2.8 will give me. The outer flap will house some spare ziplock bags, and a quick fit camera/lens cover. I've found that the disposable ones are super packable and work great. Op/Tech USA makes the one I use out of a clear plastic ( It has a drawstring to keep the bag tight against the open end of the lens; an elbow bend to the sleeve; a hole that allows you to pull the eye-cup pad off and re-mount it "outside" the bag so you are not looking through plastic; and it has enough length on the "put your hands in here" end that it will go almost to your elbow. Yes – my "full on" cover is used when I know I'm heading out into the rain, but this is a great easy to pack alternative that works well – but I digress…

My Additions to the System:

The two additions I've added to the system are not necessary in my view, but definitely helped me with my load out.  I picked up a pair of "velcro on" shoulder pads from a local dive shop. They give a bit of padding to the 1.5" wide webbing that is used for the shoulder straps, but more importantly to me was they now offer a way to secure my camera straps to my shoulders so I don't lose a camera at a critical moment. Since the velcro just wraps around the pad, I undo one of the strap sets, tuck the camera strap across the top of the shoulder strap, then close the velcro over the camera strap. I leave this one a bit loose to allow the strap to slide through the velcro without binding. Voila – I don't have a camera strap across my neck; nor do I worry about it sliding off my shoulder. It is also super easy to undo to release the strap if I need freedom of movement when off the bike or at the end of the race at the finish line or at the awards podium presentation.

The other addition is a pouch for my cell phone. I've enough different Oakley AP style bags that I have plenty of the military style modular pouches that velcro onto mil-spec vest/webbing systems. I just used one of those and velcroed it around the left shoulder strap just above the pouches. Now my phone is easy to grab with my right hand as needed. Also – with it closer to my head than if it was inside a pocket, I have a better chance of (tho not much with wind and a helmet on – nor would I answer – I'd just know to check when I got to my next "scenic" setup and was off the bike).

Overall Impressions:

What can I say – I love this product. I've now used this vest for almost two years. It has held up incredibly well, no fraying of any cloth, none of the stitching has come undone, and the velcro has been holding up well. It has served me well no matter if I'm on the back of a moto, working in a crowd at a criterium, or if I'm documenting an event.

The supple nature of the materials used make it easy to "cinch down" an empty or only partially full pocket, and it seems to move well as I do. Not getting in the way as I pivot, kneel, get around obstacles, and so on. It just works well with various amounts, sizes, and pure volume of gear you want to stow.

CV4-Me I know some of my colleagues will wear this lower than I do, at almost belt level, but I like it around my lower torso instead. It gives me freedom to get on one knee without the pouches hitting my thigh. Also – while on the moto, it puts the bottom of the pouches right in my "lap" so the gear is lightly supported but allows me to pivot freely.

The load is balanced across my shoulders, back and waist (well – and when seated, my lap), so I've yet to have any "gear" fatigue. I may be tired from a long day, but my shoulders and waist are not hurting from hauling my gear around.

I will probably get a foul weather version soon, it will be nice to have the extra space if needed, and to have the weather protection; but I'll be sure to hang on to this one.

If you have any questions – feel free to comment below, or use the "contact" link in the header.

Thanks for reading!

Copyrighted image courtesy of KQCooper