Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Think Tank Digital Holster 20 review

Recently I went looking for a case to hold my Canon 40D with a range of lenses attached and ended up buying a Think Tank Digital Holster 20 after trying out several in the shop (Morris Photographic in Chipping Norton) from Lowepro, Kata, Crumpler and Tamrac. This review covers my experience of it so far.

Ever since I stopped using “ever ready” cases with my old film SLRs I have tended not to use a case to protect my camera with lens attached; rather I have relied on transporting them in a camera bag such as my Lowepro Magnum or just wrapped them in a fleece and stuffed them into a rucksack.

Recently I was going on holiday flying by Ryanair and wanted to put my camera and lenses in carry-on baggage. When travelling I try not to look like a photographer so I use a non-descript rucksack with photo gear inside it. Ryanair’s cabin baggage sizes are, however, quite tight, being 55 x 40 x 20cm – the 20cm (4”) restriction being pretty small, so I needed to be more careful than usual about carrying and protecting my photo gear.

I wanted a case to protect my camera with a lens attached (normally an EF-S 17-55 f2.8 IS zoom, but I wanted some flexibility to put a longer lens on if possible) that would take up as little space as possible in a small rucksack, be able to meet the 20cm thickness restriction and weigh as little as possible. Many of the options available did not meet the 20cm criteria, but the Think Tank Digital Holster 20 did. It also had a number of nice additional options on offer (more about them later), so I bought it. The photo below shows it with the 40D in it.

Think Tank Photo is a relatively new kid on the block, in Europe at least, and I had not seen any of their products before. Their mission statement says:

“We are a group of designers and professional photographers focused on studying how photographers work, and developing inventive new carrying solutions to meet their needs. By focusing on “speed” and “accessibility,” we prepare photographers to Be Ready “Before The Moment,” allowing them to capture those historic moments that reflect their personal visions and artistic talents. For some companies, it is only about the product. For us, it is more: It is about supporting photographers doing their job. If we can design products that help photographers travel easier, take pictures faster, and organize their gear more efficiently, then we will have accomplished something beyond the bags themselves.”

At first glance their equipment looked a bit old fashioned, which probably means that it is designed to do a job other than look good in the shop, but when I came to try out all the options the Digital Holster 20 met my needs best.

Think Tank offer a range of five Digital Holsters (10 to 50) which can be seen here. All of them offer their “pop down” feature – which allows the holster to offer two different lens lengths options. Essentially the bottom portion of the holster has a zip around it which holds it in the closed position for the shorter option or you simply unzip it to allow the full length of the holster to be used. The photos below show the holster in the short and long configurations.

The holster is made out of a thick’ish black ballistic nylon type outer material; a relatively thin foam padding down to the “pop down” section, where it becomes a soft pliable padding, and a combination of grey smooth and brushed nylon inner. The whole holster feels solid but not bulky and it can stand up on its end (lens down). It therefore fits inside my rucksack without taking up unnecessary space or weighing too much, while offering reasonable protection against every day wear and tear.

My Digital Holster 20 in the closed configuration holds my Canon 40D snugly (with a Really Right Stuff L-plate fitted) with the Canon EF-S 17-55 f2.8 IS lens attached, with lens hood reversed (it will just take it with lens hood attached, but it feels too tight for comfort). With the holster at full extension it takes the 40D with a Canon 70-200 f2.8 IS lens attached, with lens hood reversed and the tripod ring and Arca plate attached – although it is much easier to fit in with the tripod ring rotated to the portrait position with the raincover taken out to create a bit more space. There is space to take a lens about 25mm (1”) longer than the 70-200 f2.8 IS if need be.

With the internal divider supplied it is possible to place another small lens, extender, extension tubes etc into the bottom of the holster; depending on what lens is fitted to the camera.

I discovered by accident that there is an added unexpected benefit to having this variable holster length option. Essentially when closed the extension material is squashed up into the bottom of the holster and this acts as an excellent impact buffer for the contents. I found this out by accidentally dropping the holster with the 40D + 17-55 lens attached (lens hood reversed) onto a stone floor (I extremely rarely drop my cameras etc as I am normally pretty paranoid about protecting them, but accidents happen…). The whole lot landed lens cap down and I immediately feared the worse. It, however, landed right on the end of the holster where the squashed up extension material was thickest and to my immense relief everything was absolutely fine. It almost certainly paid for itself many times over in that one incident, especially as I had only taken a compact as backup with me on holiday.

The Digital Holster 20 has the following features:
  • Variable lens length option
  • Detachable seam sealed raincover
  • Adjustable LCD protection pad inside the holster
  • External pocked for memory cards/batteries etc
  • Adjustable internal lens separator
  • Carrying handle mounted on the lid of the holster
  • Zipped clear compartment inside the lid
  • Clear business card holder underneath the external handle
  • Rotate or lock mechanism for use with Think Tank speed belt
  • Comes with a removable shoulder strap
  • Comes with a “No rhetoric warranty” see here for details

Key measurements (note these are somewhat different from those quoted in Think Tank’s literature and are measured from my own Digital Holster 20):
  • Width: 21cm (inc buckles & pocket)
  • Length: 24cm (closed) to 33cm (extended)
  • Thickness: 14cm (With 40D + RRS L-plate inside)
  • Weight: 535g complete
    400g exc. the shoulder strap
    340g exc. the shoulder strap and raincover

Comments on features:
The raincover sits neatly inside the holster in its own Velcro closed pouch, attached to the holster with a ribbon fixed with a Velcro tab, so it is easy to remove and fit or simply to leave behind to save weight (it weighs 60g) and space inside the holster (it does take up quite a bit of room inside, so if space is tight taking it out may help). It is made from a thin black rip-stop nylon type material and has two elasticated draw strings secured with toggles to seal the cover in place. It is, however, not the simplest cover to install that I have experienced – I guess it has to accommodate the holster in its two length configurations, so it is a bit more complicated than it might be. The toggles make sure that there is a snug fit over the lid protecting the zip, and covers the whole of the front, sides and bottom of the holster, but leaves an uncovered patch at the back (presumably to allow attachment to the speed belt?), much like the cover on my Lowepro Magnum. So it will protect from rain but not dropping into water; not surprising since it calls itself a “raincover” and does not claim to be waterproof. Below are front and back photos of the raincover in place with the holster in its closed configuration.

I would recommend trying the raincover out before using it in anger as it took me some time to figure it how best to fit it the first time I tried it. The All Weather cover on my Lowepro Magnum is much more intuitive and easier to fit with its elasticated edges and Velcro fastening.

The LCD protector flap also allows you to stow something else above the camera, such as a camera strap, inside the holster without it rubbing directly on the back of the camera/LCD display.

The external memory card/battery pocket is useful. It is outside the foam padding of the main holster but if you overfill the pocket it will intrude into the body of the holster. I found that it would comfortably take two spare 40D (Canon BP-511/512 type) batteries in it, either side-by-side or end-to-end. I keep spare memory cards in the pocket inside the holster’s lid.

I tend to leave the shoulder strap off this type of bag (in fact I left it in the shop when I bought it to take on holiday and only got it back when I returned – Morris Photographic kindly rang me to tell me that I had left it on their counter) and use the carrying handle or if I really want a shoulder strap I use the one fitted to the camera – in my case an Op/Tech neoprene strap. In due course I might fit a couple of Op/Tech’s quick release tails to the D-rings on the holster so that I could transfer the strap from the camera to the case if need be.

Since I did not buy the Think Tank speed belt at the same time I can not comment on the ease of use or usefulness of the Rotate or lock mechanism.

The Digital Holster 20 is thoughtfully designed and well made, without being bulky. The versatile variable length “pop down” feature allows me to use it for a wide variety of camera/lens combinations.

It does everything I asked of it and most probably saved a lens and/or camera body when I dropped them on a stone floor – I am very happy with my choice.

I have no connection to any of the suppliers or retailers mentioned in this posting other than being a happy customer.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Epson Stylus pro 4800 inkjet printer error codes

Recently I had a "Service Req." message come up on my 4800. There have also been a few questions on Forums about what various error messages mean, so I thought I would post a listing that I have for the Epson 4800. This is not an official Epson listing, but it appears to be accurate in the few cases that I have had to use it

Firstly please excuse the lack of formating of the listings below, but it would take me too long to put it into pristine formatted text and it would never arrive - I think anyone looking for the info should be able to find it here.

There are two types of error codes. Those indicating a maintenance issue that can usually be sorted out by resetting a counter or checking something is still OK after its nominal end of life. The second set are service errors that may need a technician to fix them, although many of them seem to respond to a certain amount of informed and sensible "fiddling" about; in some the descriptions indicate the action that should be taken to resolve the problem.

Error Codes (Maintenance)

0002 Carriage Motor / Ink Tube end of life (Clear Carriage Motor Counter)

0004 Nozzle check error

0008 RTC error (Real Time Clock) (Check the Battery and reset the Date and Time)

0010 Multi Sensor Error

0020 Print Head life counter (Reset the Head counter)

0040 Cleaner Unit end of life (Clear the Cleaner counter)

0080 Date is not set (Set the date and time (RTC))

0100 RTC Battery low (Replace the battery, and reset the RTC)

0200 Paper feed roller life (over 75,000 sheets) (Reset the ASF counter)

Error Codes (Service)

00000088 RTC (Real Time Clock) data is corrupted

00000101 Carriage Motor life (Reset Carriage Motor Counter, check for leaky ink tubes)

00000103 RTC (Real Time Clock) battery is defective

00000105 Print Head end of life (Inspect print head and reset head counter)

00010000 Paper Feed Motor encoder check error (Check Sensor and Timing Disk)

00010001 Paper Feed Motor out of step

00010002 Paper Feed Motor overcurrent (Check for mechanical binding of the feed rollers / motor)

00010003 Paper Feed Motor in-position time-out

00010004 Carriage Motor encoder check error (Check sensor and Timing Disk)

00010005 Carriage Motor out of step

00010006 Carriage Motor overcurrent (Check for mechanical binding, If not replace motor)

00010007 Carriage Motor in-position time-out

00010008 Servo interrupt watchdog time-out

00010009 System interrupt watchdog time-out

0001000A Carriage home position error (Check Sensor and mechanical components)

0001000C Platen Gap home position error (Check Sensor and mechanical components)

0001000F Carriage Motor PWM output faulty

00010010 Paper Feed Motor PWM output faulty

0001001B Head driver (TG) temperature error

0001001D Carriage servo parameter error

0001001E Paper feed servo parameter error

00010020 CSIC read / write error

00010022 Ink type error

00010023 RTC (Real Time Clock) (Reset RTC)

00010025 CSIC ROM communication error

00010026 RTC (Real Time Clock) communication error

00010028 Head error

00010029 Unidentified NMI

0001002A Carriage ASIC ECU error

0001002B Paper feed ASIC ECU error

0001002D Cleaning Unit end of life

0001002F 360 DPI writing time out error

00010030 Multi Sensor failure (1. Check sensor, 2. calibrate sensor, 3. replace sensor)

00010031 ASF (Auto Sheet Feeder) home position error (Check Sensor and mechanical components)

00010032 ASF (Auto Sheet Feeder) Drive Switch error (Check Sensor and mechanical components)

00010033 Exit Roller home position error (Check Sensor and mechanical components)

00010034 Eject Roller lifted (Customer Safety Sensor on the eject roller)

00010035 Pump Home Position Error (Check Sensor and mechanical components)

00010036 Type B 1394 (Firewire) board installation (Remove Firewire Card / not allowed)

00010037 Print Head thermistor error

00010038 Head Driver thermistor error

00010039 PG adjustment value NVRAM error

0001003A PG adjustment value NVRAM error

0001003B Carriage Lock / Cutter Error

0001003C Carriage Lock / Cutter Error

0001003D Carriage Lock / Cutter Error

00020000 NVRAM error

00020002 SDRAM error

00020003 BOOT program SUM error

00020009 Flash memory SUM error

0002000A Program load error

0002000B Internal memory shortage error

0002000C Review error

100000E0 CPU address error (load misalignment)

10000100 CPU address error (storage misalignment)

10000180 CPU reserve command code exception error

100001A0 CPU slot illegal command exception error

100001C0 AC disruption (AC Power) (Unplug and wait 30 sec., then plug back in)

100005C0 CPU DMA address error

0003xxxxx –

0Dxxxxxxx CPU error


Thursday, 10 July 2008

Epson 4800 Error message - Service req. 100001C0

I was printing quite happily on my Epson 4800 one evening recently, but the next morning the automated nozzle check sent by Harvey Head Cleaner did not print and there were a couple of flashing red LEDs and the printer’s LCD display was saying “Service req. 100001C0”. What to do?

I was about to set off for the day job so I just had to leave it flashing away as I had no idea what to do, but fear the worst...

I did a quick web search that evening and found very little, but a couple of posts seemed to think that turning off the printer was the solution.

I had a look at the Espon Field repair guide that I have and found the following in the error codes section:

AC disruption (AC Power) (Unplug and wait 30 sec., then plug back in)

I have the printer plugged into a
power surge protector block so there should not have been any problems and no other equipment was saying that there had been a power outage, but...

So I turned off the printer and left it for a day while I got on with the day job again. When I turned on the printer there was a lot of whirring while it went through its “auto something or other” routine (see previous postings for my thoughts on this) which I watched with a lot of trepidation as this often converts a perfect nozzle check into one with one of more colours completely missing.

Eventually it told me to press pause and then went into it’s “Ready” mode.

I ran a nozzle check and it came out perfectly, so all was well again.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Review of the Giottos MH 1302-655 ballhead used with a Gitzo GT1541T Traveler tripod

For some time I have known that the best way of improving my on-the-move photography was to use a tripod, but I have always balked at carrying my normal tripods and at the cost of the specialist lightweight travel tripods such as Gitzo’s Traveler range. This year I finally decided to take the plunge, but was not sure about the ballhead.

Gitzo offer three traveler tripods (full details here) – the GT1541T and the GT1550T are the ones that interested me. They are about the same weight (1kg), with the GT1541T having a four section leg configuration; the GT1550T has five section legs, folds slightly smaller (35.5cm long vs 41cm) and comes with its own miniature ballhead (G1077M), while the GT1541T does not come with one. With the G1077M head the maximum load capacity of the GT1550T is only 2kg, although the legs on their own seem to be rated at 4.5kg. The rating for the GT1541T is a much greater 8kg.

With my normal tripods I use either Kirk BH-1 or BH-3 ballheads with Arca type quick release platforms and plates – I equip my DSLRs with L-brackets from either Really Right Stuff or Kirk (RRS by preference, but they don’t have an importer in the UK, whereas Kirk does, and customs duty and “fees” add about a 30% price premium to buying direct from RRS) and have a selection of camera and lens plates, and quick release platforms from Wimberley, Kirk & RRS – so one key criterion is that the travel tripod must be Arca compatible. Below is a list of my key criteria for choosing the tripod/ballhead combination:
  • Arca quick release system compatible
  • Maximum load capacity of at least 4kg
  • Lockable panoramic rotation capability
  • Adjustable friction control for the ballhead
  • Side notch to allow the head to flop over if necessary
  • Tripod socket of 3/8”
  • + as light and compact as possible
The G1077M fails on several of these criteria: it is not Arca compatible; it’s maximum load capacity is only 2kg; it has a rotating base but it is not lockable; there is no friction control on the ballhead – it is small and light, but it does not do what I wanted.

Also I am happier with a four section leg tripod than a five (quicker to set up and less spindly) so I chose the GT1541T Traveler tripod (accepting that it is slightly less compact than the GT1550T). I was, however, not aware of any suitable ballhead to partner it with. The smaller Kirk ballhead I use, the BH-3, weighs in at 560g so is hardly the ideal partner for the lightweight GT1541T.

My search was pretty fruitless until I received a “Birds as Art” bulletin from Art Morris extolling the virtues of the Giottos’ MH 1302-655 ballhead – if you go here and scroll down the page to the section titled “The Perfect Tiny Ballhead for Wimberley and Mongoose Users” you can see Art’s review. Essentially it met all the criteria and was as compact and light as I could imagine. Failing to find one for sale anywhere in the UK (there were some with non-Arca platforms) I bought one direct from Birds as Art in the US, which arrived in about 10 days – pretty good and great communication from them as well.

Details can be found on Giottos’ web site here.

The ballhead designation is MH 1302 with the 655 part being the Arca compatible quick release platform. It is rated at 8kg, weighs 320g, is 92’ish mm tall and has all the functions I wanted. It also has a bubble level in the platform and the tightening knob

The first thing I did was remove the safety stop (with a 2.5mm Allen key) as I wanted to use all the Arca plates I have and they will not work with the stop in place – this was easy
and then play around with it on the GT1541T. Below is a photo of the set up.

Installed on the Traveler the whole lot weighs 1.3kg.

One of the unique features of Gitzo’s Traveler tripods is that their legs fold through 180° making it just a bit shorter. Gitzo’s diminutive G1077M ballhead is designed to fit inside the legs when folded – does the Giottos?

Well, not really. There are three control knobs on the MH 1302 (ballhead tension, friction control and pan lock) which are set at 90° to one another (you can clearly see this in the photo above).

Since the ballhead sits inside the folded legs of the tripod at least one of the knobs rests against one of the legs (see photo below) – they would have to be 120° apart to be able to sit between the legs of the tripod. This is OK, but it of course means that there is a chance of damage either to the ball head of the tripod leg if they are crushed. I have decided to either travel with the ballhead dismounted, attaching it (which takes no time at all) when I want to use it or to not fold the legs back in transit.

Does it produce a stable photographic platform with the Traveler?
In a word – yes. I recently took the rig on holiday to Tuscany where its light weight and portability meant that I had it around when I needed it in low light dusk situations, as well as using up as little as possible of my luggage allowance. I also took with me my new Canon 40D, which I equipped with a generic Wimberley plate until I get around to buying an L-bracket.

The photos below show it in use in both horizontal and vertical mode, with the tripod centre post at full extension. In all the cases I used it in it performed perfectly. I have not experienced any slippage, so when I tighten the head the lens stays pointing where I intended it to.

The Giottos MH 1302-655 ballhead partnered with a Gitzo GT1541T Traveler tripod makes an excellent travel set up. The load capacity is fine and the kit produced excellent results with the lenses I have used (up to 200mm on a Canon 40D).

To make it just that bit better Giottos could space the knobs out at 120°, or some other mix of angles so that allows them to fit between the tripod's legs, and make them a bit smaller perhaps to fit in between the tripods legs with they are folded back – that really would make a magnificent combination.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

English manual for a Canon macro twin lite MT-24EX

I recently bought a used Canon macro twin lite MT-24EX flash system, it was in mint condition and came with a manual, but unfortunately (for an English speaker) it was in French! I thought that it would be easy to find an English version on line but Canon do not seem to offer it. This is where I eventually found two.

I initially searched for a MT-24EX manual and could not find anything other than other people looking for one. Eventually I twigged that if my manual (see image of the cover below) was for both the Macro ring lite MR-14EX and as well as the MT-24EX and that the MR-14EX came first in the heading I should probably search for the manual for the MR-14EX as well.

Using this search strategy I did manage to find two copies.

One 11mb pdf manual at:

And one at around 25mb at Safemanuals:

Both indeed only mention the MR-14EX in the download title. But sure enough both cover the two macro lites (MR-14EX and the MT-24EX) and are in English.

The 11mb manual is more neatly copied at one page of the manual per pdf page whereas the 25mb version is a straight (well actually it is often quite un-straight) scan of an actual printed version of the manual with two pages per page in the pdf.

The 25mb version is (not surprisingly) much higher quality in terms of image and print reproduction, but there is quite a lot of print through from page to page and the pages are quite skewed at times, although not losing anything significant. The 11mb version is pretty poor for image reproduction, but much neater and the text is easy to read.

Below are copies of the same page from the two versions for you to compare, although the conversion from pdf via Photoshop to a jpeg (required since blogspot does not support pdf file uploads) has not done the larger version any favours as it looks much lighter in the jpeg than in the pdf:

Extract from the 11mb version

Extract from the 25mb version

So for speed of download and neatness go for the 11mb version. For ultimate reproduction quality, but less neatness, go for the 25mb version