Entries in f-stop (8)


F-Stop Micro ICU + Fuji X system

In a previous post I showed my F-Stop Small Pro ICU filled with Nikon gear in a Loka pack. I've been travelling more with my Fuji X-Pro1 kit recently, and the Small Pro ICU is overkill for my needs with that gear, so I picked up the Micro ICU (8/8/14 update...this is not the same as the Micro Tiny that is currently available. It looks like the version of the Micro that I have isn't currently available.). The Micro is the same width and height as the Small Pro, but it's a full 3" less deep (i.e., there's more room behind the ICU for other gear in the pack). Here's a shot of the Micro ICU loaded up in the Loka with the following Fuji X gear: 

  1. 55-200 lens + reversed hood
  2. 14mm lens + reversed hood
  3. X-Pro1 with mounted 35mm lens + hood
  4. 18mm lens + hood
  5. 60mm lens (no hood)


If you wait long enough, sometimes you can stop waiting

A little more than 6 months ago, I posted about some things I was waiting for. Here's an update, as things have started to fall into place:

1. & 2. Summer vacation and a trip to Europe. We had a nice summer, but didn't get out of the country. I don't want to jinx things, but things are starting to come together for summer 2014 that might satisfy both of these.

3. The Fuji 10-24mm f/4 lens. This still hasn't been officially announced, let alone released. Although it's on Fuji's lens roadmap, at this point there's nothing solid on its arrival. Rumors say it is going to be big and expensive. For now, the excellent 14mm f/2.8 will "have to do." Update: At $1000, I haven't pulled the trigger, although it looks like an awesome lens. I'm also interested in the recently announced 56mm f/1.2. That will be great for my concert photography, but it's another $1000. Sigh...Update #2: It's not a heavy as I feared.

4. My F-Stop Gatekeepers finally arrived, but until today there was no word on the final piece from my order from the spring: the rain cover for my Loka. Heard today that it was finally shipping. I'll believe it when it arrives. Update: the rain cover arrived. After about 8 months, my order is now complete.

5. And on the same day #4 shipped, the iPad Air was released. I have my hands on one, and am looking forward to putting it through its paces. I just purchased my first movie on iTunes (I have downloaded TV shows and music before), and will be posting about that in the future.

So, what "stuff" is still on my list? That's a good question. I'd like to get a Hiscox guitar case at some point, and an octave mandolin would be fun. But for now, I'm pretty satiated (and I need to start saving for #1-2)!


F-Stop Loka: What's in there?

I previously wrote about receiving my F-Stop Loka unexpectedly, just in time for a trip to the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival. Here's a shot of what fits in the small pro ICU. Note that it's just deep enough that a small lens in a case (here a 10.5mm fisheye) can fit on top of the 70-300mm lens attached to the camera body.


F-Stop GateKeepers: Alternatives

An interesting feature of the F-Stop backpack system is that GateKeeper straps can be added at various positions on their bags to enhance the functionality. I ordered a few of these to go with my Kenti and Loka packs, however they are chronically backordered and I'm not sure when they will arrive (see update at the end of this post).

I ran across this strap from Tom Bihn (below) that looks to have very similar clips as the GateKeeper straps; it likely would work, although the webbing seems significantly longer than necessary and would probably require some modifications to get the length right (i.e., so that there's not too much excess strap).

Update (June 26, 2013): here's another alternative from MindShift:

Then recently I was at my local REI and found these Gear Aid Quick-Attach Tri-Glide Buckles (also available at EMS), which looked like they would fit nicely into the GateKeeper attachment points on F-Stop packs.

Paired with some 1" webbing straps, I figured they would work as an alternative to F-Stop's own GateKeepers straps. The webbing straps at REI were by Redpoint and come in different lengths (24", 40", and 60") and colors.

Here's a shot of the clips attached to the Kenti...Not sure that green was the best color choice, but it illustrates this alternative system pretty well. The total cost was about $15 for these two straps (two 2-packs of clips and one 2-pack of straps). 

Update #1 (July 29, 2013): The F-Stop website has shown Gatekeepers as "in stock" for a while now. I was on vacation and assumed that my backorder would ship and be waiting for me when I returned. However, they weren't, and an email on July 22 from F-Stop support confirmed that they handn't shipped. Somehow my backorder got lost in the shuffle and didn't ship; I wouldn't have known this if I wasn't periodically checking their page to know that they were in stock. The nice person at customer service said they would ship ASAP...But they didn't. A week later and still no Gatekeepers. With a follow-up email I learned that they bungled the shipping again. Hopefully they shipped today; I'll update if/when they arrive.

The interwebs are filled with similar comments, but I'll restate what others have observed: F-Stop makes an awesome product, but their availability, (back-)ordering, and shipping reliability leaves much to be desired...

Update #2 (August 2, 2013): Although the person I emailed with on Monday (in Update 1) said "they will ship today," just now (Friday) I got an email with shipping details. According to UPS a "shipping label has been created" and (maybe?) the are actually shipping today...five days after F-Stop said they had shipped. Well at least hopefully this is out of F-Stops hands and I only need to rely on UPS now...

Update #3 (August 7, 2013): The Gatekeepers have finally arrived, and they are slick. I seem to have ordered two more sets than I need (my guess is that when ordering, I didn't realize they came in pairs), so I have an extra set of both the long and short straps. Next time they go out of stock at F-Stop, they'll be like gold.


Surprise arrival: F-Stop Loka backpack

I recently received a few hundred dollars out of the blue for some work I did a a couple of years ago (the gift that keeps on giving!). Earlier this spring, when looking for a new camera backpack, I debated between the F-Stop Loka and Kenti, with the Kenti eventually winning out due to its smaller size (i.e., fitting under an airplane seat). Given that F-Stop bags and accessories are perpetually backordered for months on end, I decided to order a Loka and small professional ICU (more on the ICU system below) with my new found money, figuring that it wouldn't be here for many months. Much to my surprise, it shipped within a few days of my order, and was delivered from their warehouse in Hong Kong in under two weeks. While the Loka was in stock on their website, the ICU was out of stock, so I'm shocked that they were able to deliver so fast (i.e., their website and actual inventory seem out of sync). As awesome as their products are, there are chronic issues with availability and I seemed to have lucked out. (note: as a social psychologist, I know that scarcity impacts desirability!)

There are lots of reviews of the Loka online so I'm not intending to do that here. The key thing to note about the F-Stop system is the Internal Camera Unit (ICU). I got the small pro size, which holds my Nikon D90 and 3-4 lenses, or will easily accommodate my Fuji x100 and X-Pro1 system. If it ever is released and becomes available, the mythical large "LT" ICU is next on my list, for holding even more camera gear and a laptop. I like the idea of the large LT because should my Loka ever have to be gate-checked while flying, the ICU full of gear could be removed and I could keep my breakables under the seat in front of me.

The Loka arrived just in time for my 3-day campout at the Gettysburg Bluegrass Festival. On the trip the small pro ICU held my Nikon D90 with attached 70-300mm lens, 10.5mm fisheye, 50mm f/1.4, 135mm DC, and Tokina 11-16mm lenses (with their respective hoods reversed), and there was still plenty of space in the bag (i.e., above the ICU) for my Fuji X-Pro1 with one lens attached and the other two lenses in small cases, iPad, sweatshirt, and a stack of exams in file folders, all with room to spare. Yes, I'm a geek and had to grade while I was away...

See a picture of the pack and full ICU here.


F-Stop Kenti: What's in there?

I posted a few weeks ago about the search for a new camera backpack and my first impressions upon receiving the F-Stop Kenti. Today I had a chance to load up the Kenti and take it for a short walk (~2 miles), and I thought it might be useful to list what fit in the Kenti. It's surprisingly big!

  • Left side compartment (divider set with this side slightly larger)
    • Nikon 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR, lens hood reversed
    • Nikon D90 with a mounted 50mm f/1.4G, lens hood reversed
    • Nikon 105mm f/2.8G micro, lens hood reversed
  • Right side compartment
    • Fuji x100 in case
    • Nikon 85mm f/1.4D, no lens hood
    • Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8, lens hood reversed
  • Top compartment
    • Nothing in there now, but it could fit another lens, my Fuji X-Pro1, and/or a Clif Bar or two.

This is more gear than I'd typically carry on a hike (e.g., the 85mm wouldn't be in there; the 105mm or 70-300mm, but probably not both; maybe add my 10.5mm fisheye), but it's a good illustration of what fits. I'd also likely move one of these lenses to a lens case on the hipbelt for easy access. Speaking of the hipbelt, it does a great job transferring the load from your shoulders.


F-Stop Kenti: First impressions

My F-Stop Kenti arrived yesterday (see my post on deciding to order the Kenti here); here are some first impressions (sorry for the crappy iPhone photos, but my cameras were in the bag!): 

  • It's really well made, and I like that it comes with a storage bag to keep it clean when stuffed in a closet (although hopefully I'll be able to use it often enough that it doesn't get tossed into the closet).
  • The laptop sleeve is advertised to fit a 13" machine, and the 13" MacBook Air that I tried was a perfect fit. A 13" MacBook Pro would probably do okay, but it would be tighter. The slot is well-padded and a 13" laptop in its own sleeve would likely not fit.
  • The back slot that is intended for a hydration bladder fits an iPad nicely.


  • If you take out the interior dividers (two of them, held in place by velcro in a T-shape to create the top compartment and two side-accessed compartments), a 15" MacBook Pro in a sleeve fits in there. Of course, then you lose the well-designed area for camera gear, but in a pinch you can carry a larger laptop in the Kenti if you don't need to carry camera gear (or if you have a small amount of gear in its own padded cases). But it makes me think that the Kenti could have been designed to hold a 15" laptop without increasing the overall depth of the pack by more than an inch or so (at some point I'll post more on why I'm fixated on this point...it boils down to fact that I've got a 15" MacBook Pro although I'm trying to get to the point where I'm traveling with only an iPad and not bringing a laptop. My laptop is only a year old; if it was older I'd plan on replacing it with a 13" MBAir).
  • Although I don't have any trips planned, I wanted to test it out with some gear. In addition to my iPad in the back slot, I loaded it up with my Fuji X-Pro1 and three lenses (35mm attached, 18mm and 60mm in small LowePro lens cases) on one side (with room to spare), and Fuji x100 and Nikon 10.5mm fisheye (with attached Novoflex Nikon to Fuji adaptor, in a lens case) on the other side (with room to spare; nothing in the top compartment) and walked the few hundred yards to work with the pack on my back. The Fuji gear is admittedly very light, but basically it didn't feel like there was any gear in the pack. I can imagine that even with a heavier kit (my D90 and a few lenses like my Tokina 11-16mmNikon 105mm micro, 50mm prime, and the fisheye...what has become my standard travel kit), it would be very comfortable. Update: See my new post on fitting my Nikon gear in the Kenti here.


  • "Foliage green" = medium grey (with very slight green tint). I knew that when I ordered it (based on the pictures online, with are true-to-shade) and really like the color, but I don't think I'd ever say that this bag is green.
  • One thing I wish the that Kenti included was a place for a water bottle, although I don't really know how I'd change the design to accommodate one. I know it has the hydration bladder slot, but I don't have a hydration system (and don't plan on getting one...it seems more trouble than it's worth, at least for my uses). I suppose what I'll end up doing is strapping a pouch for a water bottle somewhere on the pack (either the hipbelt or on the back using F-Stop's Gatekeeper system).

F-Stop Kenti preview

(also see: F-Stop Kenti: First impressions | F-Stop Kenti: What's in there?)

In the lead-up to summer vacation, I figured it was time to look into a camera backpack. In the past I've used:

  • The F-Stop Brooklyn SlingF-Stop's Brooklyn Sling, a nice solution for walking around town with my Fuji X-Pro1, a couple of lenses, and iPad. On recent trips to California and New Orleans this worked really well. But for a bigger kit, laptop, and more substantial hiking (i.e., carrying a bit more non-photography gear; more flexibility and support), this isn't the right solution due its modest size. I should do a proper review of it at some point in the future, but for now see a video of it here.
  • An older 40 liter LoweAlpine daypack that I got in Alaska more than a decade ago. This worked okay, although it's a little bigger and bulkier than necessary, and my gear got a bit soggy when we were caught in a storm in Rome a few years back.
  • A light-weight backpack (the Mountain Hardware Scrambler 30) with a Crumpler Haven (large) camera insert when I was in Amsterdam, Bavaria, and Italy last year. This was mostly a function of wanting something light and packable that could be stuffed into my bigger backpacking pack for when I was traveling from city to city, and could be unpacked, filled with gear, and used as a daypack once I reached a destination city. This was an okay solution, although not the most comfortable pack when stuffed with lenses and access to gear was limited due to it being a top-loader.

Mountain Hardware Scrambler 30 and Crumpler Haven

Here's what I'm looking for in a pack (at least for this summer vacation, which doesn't include living out of a large backpack and could have some nice hiking opportunites; update: check out pictures from Silver Falls State Park in Oregon here): 

  • Room for and convenient access to a camera body and ~4 lenses (my bigger Nikon kit or smaller Fuji system), along with space for a bit of non-photography gear.
  • A slot for a laptop...Not because I plan on carrying a MacBook everywhere, but for the flight to/from the west coast I'd like to keep all my gear in one carry-on. This is assuming that I take my laptop. I've started to travel only with an iPad...not sure what I'll do on this trip yet. A place for my iPad is also a must.
  • Comfort and load-carrying functionality of a good hiking daypack, including a real hip belt and compression straps for keeping the load strapped down. A rain cover is a plus too, since we're headed to the Pacific northwest.
  • Flexibility to strap a lens case, water bottle, or jacket to the outside of the pack if necessary.
  • After having to gate-check my "carry on" due to overhead space running out on a couple of flights in the last few years (and thus having to scramble to keep my camera gear from going into the belly of the plane), I'd love a pack that's small enough to fit under an airplane seat if necessary.
  • It shouldn't look like an ugly camera bag; an understated hiking/backpacking vibe is preferable.

Given my positive experience with the Brooklyn Sling, I began looking at F-Stop's other offerings. I was very tempted by the Loka and Guru. The Loka meets every one of the above criteria other than fitting easily under an airplane seat (at least when it's fully packed). I love everything about it, but it's a bit more bag than I need (update: okay...maybe I do need it). The Guru seems like a great solution, very flexible and just about the right size. But, and I know it's shallow, I don't love the looks of the bag as much as the rest of F-Stop line and it's currently out of stock anyways. And although it's smaller (in volume) than the Loka, it is not as slim as the smallest bag in F-Stop's Mountain series: the Kenti.

The Kenti meets all of my stated criteria, with one minor exception: it does have a laptop compartment, but it's limited to 13" machines and I currently have a 15" MacBook Pro (but do have access to a 13" MB Air that I could use). But it is perfectly sized for my needs (I hope!), has side access, and is built like "pro" backpacking gear. So I've got one incoming in "foliage green" (the medium grey in the photos below). I'll try to do a review once the Kenti is here next week (or once I've taken it on a trip).

Update: F-Stop Kenti: First impressions | F-Stop Kenti: What's in there?