Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Review of the Naneu K4L Adventure Series travel backpack

Before I begin the review, I’ll rewind back to covering a few of my first impressions and what I look for in a backpack:
  1. Materials used
  2. Workmanship
  3. Fit
  4. Function
  5. Areas of product strength
  6. Areas of product need

In September 2009 I spent 10 days in Utah, scouting/hiking and prepping for 2 of my photography workshops. I spent the majority of time at close to 6000’ elevations around south-central Utah.

  1. Top quality ballistic nylon – this material will easily give you years of hard use although I am not unusually rough with my gear.
  2. No concerns on the tripod holder and the heavy zippers used. Excellent stitching can be found throughout the construction of the K4L.
  3. Being taller and wider in the shoulders, it’s an excellent fit. Even someone smaller will not have an issue. Extremely comfortable straps even with a full complement of gear (see below).
  4. This backpack can carry a surprisingly healthy amount of gear! I weigh all of my luggage/gear for airline travel so there are no surprises using an Ultimate Scale. It’s capable of readout weights within 10 grams and a zero/tare function. In the upper compartment I packed the following: my 200/4 macro in a padded pouch, flash, extension cable, diffuser, 5 ND Grad filters (two 4×5 and three 4×6) in the zippered pouch + adapter ring, Cokin Z filter holder plus multiple smaller items. I added the Wimberley Plamps and diffuser discs into the side zippered compartments. There is still enough room to anticipate inclement weather – it will handle my raingear plus a polar fleece and still have room left over. In the lower compartment I packed one DSLR w/grip + 28-75/2.8 attached, 12-24, 50-200, Slik AF2100 head and spare batteries. Turns out where I was headed presented a great deal of landscape opportunities and very few macro opportunities, so for the second trip I left the heavier 200/4 macro at home.
  5. Shoulder straps and waist straps are very comfortable on the K4L – even with heavier loads.

The camera compartment is large and can be an issue for carry on dimensions on a CRJ or Embraer RJ (regional jet) or turboprop aircraft. The shoulder straps could use some materials or inserts where they attach to the backpack itself to prevent twisting when putting on the backpack. However, this is minor and perhaps a future model of the K4L will address this.

The backpack with all of the above (and a fair bit more) plus a 15.4” Dell E6400 laptop weighed in at 33lbs. For reference the K4L weighs in at approximately 5.5lbs. The loaded K4L was surprisingly well balanced yet light, considering the total weight. As surmised in my first impressions, the heaviest part of the load is at or near your waist. That weight distribution translates into little or no back strain, even with a tripod attached. The tripod slopes in towards the top of the pack so the heaviest part (base plate + tripod head) rests just below the top of the pack. This also ensures your head doesn’t get a hard knock if you jump up onto another surface. That was a common complaint with tripod carrying packs that center mount in a vertical position on the back surface of the pack.

Without a doubt, this travel backpack was much more comfortable carrying a full complement of landscape gear than anything previously used.

Caveats for the airline traveler:
Canadair Regional Jets (CRJ) and Embraer Regional Jets is the mainstay of smaller airports and lower traffic routes. All of those smaller jets/turboprops have smaller overhead luggage compartments. Therefore you must store the K4L under the seat. With your laptop stowed in the K4L, it works reasonably well due to the wedge shape of the backpack, although a min. of 2-3 inches sticks out beyond the back of the seat. That’s a close call – just once in 4 trips I was asked about plane side checking of the backpack. After a quiet conversation with the attendant and informing him of it holding camera gear, he agreed to stow it in the attendant’s locked closet just aft of the cockpit/cabin/galley area. It will not fit in the frames used for dimension checks, so be advised. I’ve never been asked nor challenged about this, but if the attendant or luggage handler at plane side ever put down their foot that could be a problem.

Of note, when I gave a presentation on my Utah trip to the photo society in early November, there was a significant amount of interest in the K4L and the newly arrived K5 that Naneu was so kind to ship to me on short notice. I believe it’s important to have packs that are compliant with the overhead luggage dimensions of the RJ series aircraft. I also let the audience know that I’m working with Bombardier Aerospace to confirm all dimensions and hopefully come up with the under seat storage capacity and hopefully come to a solution on this matter in the future. There was a high level of interest amongst the attendees for a future pack with this compatibility on regional jets.

Using the K4L in Utah:
Without a doubt, I have no regrets using this backpack for hiking at altitude. I was carrying close to 38lbs at altitude (6,000 feet) and I was comfortable with this setup. Since then I have lightened my selection a bit by being very strict on the lenses, etc. and upgrading to a new Gitzo GT3541XLS carbon fiber tripod (thank you NatureScapes!). The padding is very comfortable, has a reasonably good amount of airflow (even with no breeze) across the back when the pack is loaded up. The K4L is quite comfortable to walk/hike with a full with and very well balanced once you have cinched and adjusted the shoulder and waist straps correctly.

The access method for the K4L to the camera compartment is relatively straightforward: it is a zippered section with a heavy duty buckle to reduce strain on the heavy duty zippers. That is a very nice touch if you are traveling in a vehicle: the buckle can be quickly attached without having to close the zippers immediately, yet you can secure the camera compartment quickly this way. I would not recommend using only the buckle and not closing the zippers when carrying the K4L though. There is another zippered compartment outside the width of the camera compartment, which can be used to hold smaller items such as batteries, memory cards, business cards or any similar sized item. That includes mesh pouches to simplify organizing this compartment. This is specific to transport in the vehicle, nothing more. The laptop compartment is very well padded and can hold a 17” wide screen laptop quite nicely. My 15.4” laptop had plenty of room to spare.

The D-rings on the shoulder straps are very useful for attaching keys, compass and smaller items yet keeping them readily accessible. Nicely done and well thought out. The upper compartment is also readily accessed, as are the side pockets. I liked the zippered pouch inside the upper compartment in which I put my GND filters – very secure and against the padded back. The water bottle holder is the default location for storing the rain cover for the pack when it was received. I never ended up needing the cover but the holder is only suitable for the smaller bottles. I had a mesh bottle holder that I attached and it proved to be used regularly, especially is the drier climate at altitude in Utah.

At both the Utah trip presentation to the local photo society and the workshops, several of the participants were very interested in the K4L. I gave them the opportunity to try it on with the normal gear load and they were pleasantly surprised at the level of comfort. My understanding is that two of them will be giving up their current packs for the Naneu K4L when pursuing landscape photography. The K4L is now firmly entrenched as my pack of choice when I’m headed out for landscape/hiking photography.

I'll get some images uploaded when time permits!


Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Naneu Pro K4L Adventure series travel backpack

Received the K4L backpack on Saturday and upon inspection it's definitely a positive first impression. I normally like to take some time to discover if a product has shortcomings, because they don't always manifest themselves immediately.

Generally I like to spend some time looking at all aspects of the product:
1) materials used
2) workmanship
3) fit
4) function
5) areas of product strength
6) areas of product need

This is the first time I've tried a travel backpack, as opposed to a pure camera gear backpack. I was in a new realm and it presented me with a number of questions (camera compartment configuration, gear storage, etc.) that were slowly answered as I familiarized myself with the product. I will start off by confirming the materials/workmanship is definitely top shelf - excellent quality! I will try to post some images if time permits.

I can see why both Naneu Pro and a certain competitor offer limited lifetime warranty on their products. I do like and appreciate the adjustable sternum strap setup that allows multiple positions across the front of the chest. The shoulder straps are some of the most comfortable I've ever setup on any backpack, sweeping in as they go over the top of the shoulders. The backpack strap positions high (shoulder) and low (waist) enough to fit me correctly without issue. For reference, I am taller than average (6' 3") and have fairly wide shoulders: 4" wider than normal (according to a tailor). It includes a now industry standard rain proof cover in case you are caught outdoors with your gear. The rain proof cover is folded up coveniently in a water bottle holder. The holder is designed to handle smaller bottles. I tried a Polar bottle and it's a very snug fit. I also own another brand mesh bottle holder that is actually too large for a standard cycling style 24 oz. water bottle, but it has a drawstring to cinch it in. More testing in Utah will tell!

Initially, without pushing it's limits, I was able to store a good portion of my landscape-specific camera gear in the bottom compartment. Of course, one always wants more capacity and that would change the design, so I will hold off on stating that more is needed. In the upper compartment: my 200/4 macro in a padded pouch, flash, extension cable, diffuser, 5 ND Grad filters in the zippered pouch + adapter ring, Cokin Z filter holder plus multiple smaller items. I added the Wimberley Plamps and diffuser discs into the side zippered compartments. There is still enough room to anticipate inclement weather - it will handle my raingear plus a polar fleece and still have room left over.

Balance: despite the appearance of being very bottom heavy (protruding a great deal from the bottom of the pack), this is actually a good thing - the weight is lowered, closer to the hips and thus the well padded waist strap is even more useful. One problem I had with several pure gear backpacks for someone my height are the tripod holder setups: if you don't have it attached on the side, the backpack is unbalanced, since the entire tripod sits vertically, furthest away from you. This makes the backpack rear heavy along the entire height and harder for proper balance in more technical terrain. It also places a strain on your shoulders and back to some degree.

Another issue is that if you are not careful with securing the tripod, a potentially uncomfortable knock to the head or neck can result with a sudden forward movement when jumping or stepping forward and upward onto another surface. I was unsure as to the zippered pouch holder for the tripod: durability, etc. since it's not a dedicated heavy duty holder. Turns out the tripod attached to a 2/3 filled K4L is actually quite comfortable to walk with and very well balanced once you have cinched the shoulder and waist straps correctly.

More to follow... I'll have more insight during airline travel (fitting into overheads) to and from the Utah Photography workshop in 2 weeks - the K4L Adventure series backpack will be will be used for 10 days in Utah.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Utah Photography Workshop

Sept. 17th - 20th, 2009 OR Sept. 24th -27th, 2009

Price is $775 per person. There are only a few openings left for the Sept. 17th-20th workshop!

Come join us in the wilds of Utah to photograph one of the most spectacular, yet least known parks: Capitol Reef National Park. Capitol Reef has some of the most varied landscapes within Utah: natural stone bridges, unusual formations such as the sandstone formations of Cathedral Valley, then possibly Waterpocket Fold and the towering bluffs of Grand Wash.

We will engage into an immersion into photography over 3 days. You will be able to practice sunrise/sunset techniques, high dynamic range shooting and night timed exposures for starters. We may have a chance to photograph some North American big game animals if time and opportunity permits.

Afterward (Saturday evening), we will collectively gather round and spend some time critiquing work and discussing our efforts. Sunday we will head out again in the early morning to capture our last sunrise/landscape opportunities and wrap up the workshop, have lunch together then review shortly thereafter. Allow for scheduled departures, etc.


  1. 1. Meet and Greet Thursday night.
  2. 2. Full on for 2 days of shooting, etc. on Friday & Saturday
  3. 3. Saturday evening review in Torrey, Utah
  4. 4. Sunday AM shoot.
  5. 5. Lunch then review shortly thereafter. Allow for scheduled departures, etc. An extension into Monday is within the realm of possibility.

NOTE: If there is enough interest, a second workshop will be offered the following weekend: Sept. 24th - Sept. 27th. Already I have one person reserving a spot for the second workshop!

Planned shoots:
Hickman Bridge - shoot during early light

Early dinners each day then shoot sunset and dusk glow over sandstone formations in park (eg. Cathedral Valley).

Optional shoots:
Grand Wash, Waterpocket Fold and Goblin Valley, which is close to Capitol Reef (near Hanksville)

Here are some of the links to images from Capital Reef via a quick Google Image Search: Capitol Reef National Park Images

Torrey, UT is right beside Capitol Reef National Park, sandwiched between Dixie National Forest (2 million acres) and Fishlake National Forest.

Dixie National Forest
Fishlake National Forest

According to the forest service (just called the office in Loa, UT), we should hit fall colors - normally it's the 2-3rd week of September - see images: Dixie National Forest - Google Image Search

Therefore the window of opportunity to photograph the fall colors should be very good during the scheduled workshop dates.

Equipment list

  1. Sturdy tripod and head (ball heads are lighter and pack more easily)
  2. Digital camera (film SLR is optional)
  3. Wide angle lens - 16 mm or wider for APS-C, 24mm for full frame sensor
  4. Moderate telephoto zoom lens (eg. 50-200 or similar focal length)
  5. Long lens - 200mm is plenty, 300 or light 400 is optional
  6. Macro lens (recommended)
  7. Circular Polarizing filters
  8. Cabled or wireless remote
  9. Flash + extra AA batteries – Eneloops are the best option, charger is optional.
  10. Extra memory cards
  11. Extra Camera batteries and charger(s)
  12. Backpack or similar camera gear carry system that is comfortable for trekking.

Optional but still recommended:

  1. Standard UV filters – to protect your gear from the elements and simplify cleaning lenses due to dust, etc.
  2. Zip lock bags come in handy for stuff during the rain or sandy conditions.


  1. Rocket bottle blower
  2. ND filters

Personal Gear/Clothing:

  • Hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Water bottle
  • Rain gear
  • Hiking Boots
  • Hiking shorts/pants (both)
  • Bug spray
  • Flashlight

If you are staying longer, I suggest packing plenty of underwear, socks, etc. in case you do any stream work, etc. Pack what you need, be really hard on what you choose to bring...

Lodging and Outfitter details
Lodging: If you wish, Days Inn has a presence in Torrey, UT. Here is the link to their website reservation page: Days Inn Torrey Utah Hotel Torrey, UT 84775 Near Boulder Mountain Scenic Highway - .1 Mile, Capitol Reef National Park - 3 Miles & Slot Canyon Hiking - 5 Miles.

Price per night for 2 adults in 2 Queen beds per room is 72.50 to 85.00 per night during that time. Days Inn online hotel reservations - more search options Thus if we split costs on the rooms, it's quite reasonable at roughly $120 per person for 3 nights!

Outfitter: One option to consider: we can arrange for the outfitter (Hondoo Rivers and Trails) to work with us and they provide transport. It's listed as seen below - here is the summary...

Cost: Morning or Afternoon Session--$90 per person, with 3 person minimum
Full Day Tour--$150 per person, with 3 person minimum

Generally speaking each morning or afternoon session will last about 5 or 6 hours. On the full day tour when logistics allow, we'll return to town for siesta between sessions. All tours depart as arranged. Drinks with lunch and/or snacks provided.

Link to their photography page: Hondoo Rivers and Trails Photo Tours
The outfitter is optional and they will probably have some excellent first hand knowledge, given their history and I know other photographers have used them before. We can consider renting too. I would suggest 2 half days (one morning, one evening) with the outfitters.

NOTE: This pricing (in bold) is for the workshop only. You are responsible for any other costs (meals/lodging, outfitter fees and travel).

Sponsors: Wimberley Professional Photo Gear, Pentax Forums.

I would like to thank both Wimberley and Pentax Forums for their involvement in making this workshop a success!

Workshop Terms and Conditions

Special Notes: I will print one 16x20 image on an Epson 9880 series wide format inkjet printer on professional stock paper for you and mail it to you.

Payment Options: bank draft or certified check is preferred.

You may consider using the option to pay for the workshop via PayPal - please confirm availability before sending payment:

Utah Photography Workshop by Marc Langille

Monday, May 11, 2009

In-body Shake Reduction (SR) - how well does it work?

I decided to really test the abilities of both my long lens shooting technique and the in body shake reduction of my K10D. The following images were shot closer to the end of the day. It was very windy (20+ mph/30+ kph winds) and heavily overcast.

Taken with the K10D + FA* 300/2.8 + Tamron 1.4x MC4 AF TC = 420mm. I use Wimberley lens plates attached to an Arca Swiss Z1 monoball on a Giottos MT9360 tripod. Even though SR is on and not recommended for tripod work, your technique is just as important. I normally do not have the head locked in place - it swivels easily and I rely quite a bit on my technique. The tripod and the support system is simply to allow me to focus (no pun) on the work at hand. I am barely 6 feet away from the subjects, which is the minimum focusing distance (MFD) so the Depth of Field (DOF) is very shallow at F/5.6 and F/6.3.

Little or no cropping in these images. Only default conversion from RAW in ACR, no additional sharpening, minor Levels adjustment for the background to deepen it's hues in the second image. Taken ISO 640:

The Defender


For reference, here is another image, taken at 1/100 sec.

On Alert


Here are the links to the larger images:
The Defender
On Alert

From my perspective, SR certainly seems to work like a champ - more images are available for viewing on my website!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Enticing the Light - online interview

The good folks at Enticing the Light were kind enough to ask me to do an online interview. If you might be interested in knowing a little bit about what goes on behind the images, you are most welcome to read their interview.

Both Jose and Peter are top-notch guys and always willing to share information. I hope you enjoy the interview!


Sunday, March 22, 2009

Vanishing Resources: Earth's Moment of Truth


I’ve wanted desperately to find funding to do my own conservation project for some time now, and many are closed doors. I stumbled upon an opportunity for me to become more involved in making an impact in the world around us. I have prepared my entry for this contest: Name Your Dream Assignment Home

Microsoft and Lenovo are putting up money and a high end laptop in this contest. The winner receives $50,000 for the budget/travel/equipment and a Lenovo W700ds workstation 17″ laptop. Again, there is no prize money in this contest - it is for equipment, travel and logistics. I have posted my entry and it’s my hope that you believe in my abilities as a photographer and will consider voting for it. Your votes do not determine the winner! If I make it into the top 20 ideas in terms of public votes, then my entry goes to the judging panel.

Here is my entry:
Name Your Dream Assignment :: Vanishing Resources: Earth’s Moment of Truth

You have a chance to stay involved with this project. Part of the winner’s obligation is to report regularly via a blog on the assignment while out in the field. The potential to have an impact is significant. Make no mistake: this is not a vacation - this is personal sacrifice, long hours and potentially difficult work. Please pass the word!

Please leave a comment if you are comfortable doing that - this also pushes up my entry on the “most commented” list.

Public voting ends April 3rd, so please consider voting for this worthwhile cause!!