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ZEISS DTI thermal imaging cameras. For more discoveries at night, and during the day.

Reviews by Keith Reeder

  • Roomy, versatile, imaginative design
  • Needs some thought about what clothing to wear under it!
(Price paid 99 UKP)

The Lowepro SlingShot 300 AW is described by Lowe thusly:

Perfect for photojournalists, the SlingShot 300 AW uses a unique sling design to go from carry mode to ready mode in just seconds. Carried comfortably on the back, it easily rotates to the front so you can get to your camera quickly. The SlingShot 300 AW holds an Pro SLR with zoom lens attached 5-6 extra lenses, cables and accessories and has a full access lid to make loading it a snap. This feature-rich bag also includes a built-in memory card pouch, micro fiber LCD cloth and two generous organizer pockets. Its certain to surprise even the most demanding photojournalists.

On the face of it, this is an accurate summary of the qualities of this bag, but there is a bit more to it than that

The Good
Its obvious that the SlingShot 300 comes from a company that has years of experience in designing and making excellent camera bags.

There is more than enough room in the central section of the 300 to carry a Canon 30D with grip attached, fitted to a Canon 100-400mm IS and Kenko 1.4x TC.

I can also carry my spare 30D body, 50mm lens, Leica 832 bins, 2 batteries, loads of CF cards, Giotto Rocket blower, Photochute portable hard drive and lens cleaning cloths in the main section.

Theres an organiser pocket on the front of the bag which typically holds wallet and mp3 player with loads of room to spare.

At the top of the bag there is a further storage area which will hold a water bottle, energy bars, sunglasses, baseball cap and other odds and sods.

Pretty clear then, that it can carry a lot of gear I havent yet filled it up in use.

The attention to detail is excellent. For example, when a camera is placed in the bag, a built-in microfibre cloth protects the LCD a very nice touch.

The big thing about the SlingShots though, is the way they are designed to allow for rapid access to the camera. The asymmetric strap goes over one shoulder only, and allows the bag to swing from back to front in a second.

Cleverly, this changes the orientation of the bag so that the main compartment faces upwards allowing full access to the camera simply by opening the zip a few inches.

It all works perfectly, and is a very intelligent design.

The AW in the name indicates that there is an All Weather (ie waterproof) cover, and that does its job without fuss.

There is also a padded hip belt which does a very good job of spreading the load if youre faced with a full bag and a long hike.

Build quality is faultless.

For me though, the best thing by far is that not having straps which go over each shoulder, I dont have the problem of the straps digging in when I raise the camera to my eye.

I cant imagine Im alone here: good camera hand-holding technique demands that you tuck your elbows tight into your torso, and this causes the thick and pretty solid straps on other camera bags to dig into the armpits/chest.

This is uncomfortable (Ive actually ended up with bruises after a long day) and presumably by pressing hard on nerves it actually causes a tremor in my arms, which is a bad thing for sharp shots.

The Slingshot eliminates the problem at a stroke, and to me this advantage is in itself enough to make the bag worth buying.

What about the downsides, then?

The not so good
Clearly, this is a cleverly designed, well made bag. But it is perhaps a victim of its own cleverness.

The SlingShot 300 was introduced purely because other bags in the series (the 100 and 200) were popular but too small for some folk. The 300 satisfies that design brief, but therein is the biggest problem.

A bigger bag means a heavier bag, and the weight of the entire bag and its load is placed on a single strap which crosses the front of the body from right shoulder to left waist. This can and does cause a noticeable restriction on breathing, which can be pretty unwelcome if youve some walking to do.

The cross-body strap also has the effect of trapping body heat in your clothing its a bit like having a belt cinched up across the top of your jacket, making ventilation a problem.

The third issue and again it relates to the strap arrangement is that you really need to make sure youre wearing clothing that the bag and strap can slide across easily: try to use a heavily loaded bag over say, a fleece, and youll be tied up in knots of your own clothing in no time as the fleece gets dragged around with the bag.

Even given these caveats I rather like this bag, but using it does warrant a bit of forethought if you want to get the best out of it and be comfortable while youre using it.

Ive found that the ideal thing to wear with the SlingShot 300 is a Buffalo pertex windshirt (or similar).

The pertex is very slippy, so theres no dragging of your clothing, and the Buffalos full length pit zips ensure tons of ventilation so you wont overheat.

This doesnt help with the weight of course, but the solution to that is pretty obvious really - put less in the bag!

To be fair though, as long as you can keep comfortable and cool by wearing the right kind of clothing, the SlingShot does a very good job, all told.
  • Sharp at all focal lengths, versatile, handles well, robust
  • None that could be addressed without making it into a different lens...
(Price is in UKP, not dollars)

Gene obviously had an unrepresentative sample...

To agree with the majority here, this lens really is as good as it gets for its intended purpose.

Sharpness, contrast, saturation - all of the IQ buttons in fact - are pressed by this lens, and I simply DO NOT GET bad pictures that I can blame on the lens. In fact I am routinely made to shake my head in surprise at how good this thing makes me look!


The IS is superb - I am a big fan of stabilisation - and I remain baffled by people who try to suggest that IS is somehow other than a good idea: anything that makes the shooting platform more stable HAS to be an advantage, and IS surely is that.

I have very usable pictures down to 1/15 thanks to IS...

Build quality is fine. I accept that the push-pull zoom is not for everyone, but it is easy enough to get used to.

The Dust Trombone allegation is unfounded in my opinion - and I routinely shoot on local beaches with very fine sand, in stiff winds, without any particular dust issues.

I have no problems either, with AF speed - even on flight shots.

Assuming that there is some validity to complaints that older 100-400mm lenses were subject to significant variation in quality control which could mean softness at 400mm, it seems safe to say that newer lenses are routinely fine - owners of new 100-400s seem to be very happy with how sharp their lenses are.

I know I am!

A highly recommended lens.
  • Build quality, ergonomics, speed
  • The image!!
Not a review, but my experience of the D200, warts and all.

Sadly, while there are many positive things to say about the D200, they are all pretty irrelevant in my view.


Because in the experience of many D200 users who have used the camera in less than perfect light (myself included), this camera is incapable of capturing detailed, acceptably low noise images.

I mean pretty everyday shooting conditions too - just the kind of dull day we see for much of the year in the UK: as soon as you venture beyond about 400 ISO, the D200 turns even your best efforts into a ridiculously noisy, smeared, over-processed mush...

These two 100% crops are - believe it or not - pretty representative of what many of us have seen out of the D200, in normal shooting.

http://www.birdforum.net/attachment.php?attachmentid=46937&stc=1&thumb=1 http://www.birdforum.net/attachment.php?attachmentid=46938&stc=1&thumb=1

The first is admittedly underexposed (only by -2/3), but note - 100 ISO!!!

The second has +2/3, and is 560 ISO.

Apart from NEF-jpeg conversion (using Nikon Capture) and cropping, nothing has been done to these pictures, and all in-camera processing was off.

They are disgusting.

You will read Nikon obsessives blame the photographer for shots like these, usually accusing us of under exposing the image then pushing it in post processing.

Not so. The camera simply will not function well in less than ideal light, or so many of us have concluded.

Bear in mind that with bird photography, you often want to dial in a bit of negative EV to avoid blowing highlights: yet we\'re told to over expose to avoid noise - but then you end up in a world of blown highlights..!

The exposure sweet-spot is so small, and so hard to get right first time (birds do not generally allow you to take an exposure reading, shoot, check the histogram, adjust the exposure, recompose and shoot again) that in a very real sense the D200 is effectively unusable in a lot of the shooting situations I and many other users encounter day in, day out.

I believe that by shoe-horning an extra 4 mps into an APS sized sensor, the sensitivity of each individual photosite has been reduced so much (smaller photosites = less light per photosite) that the camera needs to over amplify the signal from the sensor to make up for its low native sensitivity.

Unfortunately, rather than providing hi-fi amplification, they seem to have used the equivalent of a Marshall stack, resulting in the most horrendous distortion of the image.

Furthermore, I think that Nikon has realised this, and has implemented very crude in-camera noise reduction processing which I believe is on all the time, and not only at 800+ ISO as the manual would have you believe.

The NR processing is very good at smoothing out noise, so if you want to shoot low light gig shots, weddings, parties - anything where detail is not important - then the D200 will probably serve you well: switch to Auto-ISO, switch the in-camera NR on, and blast away.

But if you want to capture any fine detail, then unless you are in light that allows better than 400 ISO (bearing in mind your required shutter speed and aperture) then - well, have another look at those pictures...

There are also known focussing issues with the D200. Nikon has implemented biggest in class AF sensors, which is great for some shooting, but which will readily overlap your intended subject if it does not fill much of the frame, meaning that the auto focus will acquire something else.

Nikon has acknowledged this issue, providing the following helpful advice:

find a better AF target at the same distance and use focus lock, or use manual focus!

Yeah, that will work for bird photography...

It also appears that there is an metering issue with the D200. Simply put, it would seem that the meter sees less light than (say) my D70 in a given situation, using the same lens and camera settings, as far as I can match them (I shoot in Manual mode all the time, incidentally).

This means that if you use Auto-ISO (which I consider to be a brilliant option), the camera will ramp up the ISO value higher than it needs to be. If you use one of the auto modes, then you will either get a lower shutter speed than you would expect, or a different aperture than you might anticipate.

To get an idea of what I mean, search for D200 in the gallery. You will find some good shots, and some horrors.

Almost without exception the good pictures are in great light.

Many - most - of those in poorer light display exactly the kind of blocky, smeared, horribly noisy, no-detail mush that my pictures above display.

Furthermore, there is a significant amount of chatter on internet discussion groups about D200 noise.

I am by no means the only one who feels this way about the D200.

Oh - banding is still around too, with most if not all D200s (even the newest) being capable of producing this artifact, and again, often in normal shooting conditions. Both of my D200 bodies have had banding in addition to the other problems I mention.

To close this user report, I have to say that as of today (15 June 2006) I no longer own a D200, having finally wrung a refund out of the retailer. This money is buying me a Canon 30D.

I can guarantee though, that this negative report will result in a fervent rebuttal of my observations - doubtless hinting at it being a lack of technique that is at fault.

Well, I can point anyone who is interested at a wealth of evidence to support what Ive said about the D200 as a bird photography camera, if they care to PM me.

In any event, I am keen to hear what it might be about my technique (or the lack of it) that would explain those marsh harrier images...

To closely paraphrase another ex-D200 user who now happily shoots with a 30D, if my technique was to blame for my problems with the D200, I am making exactly the same mistakes with my 30D, and yet I get much better results...
  • Sharp, versatile, fast focussing for a non Sonic Drive motor, stabilisation is EXCELLENT
  • Not light, would be even better with a sonic motor
This lens has been a permanent fixture on my Nikon D70 for a while now (since November 2005) and initially I had my doubts about it - there seems to be a real learning curve involved in getting the best out of the lens.

Now that I am used to it, I have nothing but praise for it.

The obvious selling point is the in-built stabilisation (OS in Sigma-speak).

Gyroscopes within the body of the lens suppress unwanted camera/lens shake, and it really works.

The system takes a second or so to spin up to speed (which caught me out when I first started using the lens and started complaining about it being no different to my other lenses! ;)) but it does this while acquiring focus, so there is no a problem there.

While I agree that good hand holding technique goes a long way without stabilisation, I am in absolutely no doubt whatsoever that the extra help provided by those gyros can make all the difference.

This can mean the ability to use a lower shutter speed, smaller aperture of lower ISO (or any combination of the above) and still get sharp shots; or - and this is the true advantage of OS in my opinion - it allows you to pull worthwhile shots out of the hat in really marginal conditions which you might not get otherwise.

So it might not be an essential, but I for one would not want to be without stabilisation when shooting handheld.

It has two stabilisation modes (three if you include off!)

Mode 1 deals with horizontal and vertical movement - ie normal use - and mode 2 compensates for vertical movement only, supposedly for use on moving subjects, motor sports and the like.

Mode 1 is the only only option I use - I switch the stabilisation off if I am panning - but the option is there is you want or need it.

Unlike some of the newer Canon stabilised lenses, the Sigma stabilisation needs to be switched off if you use it on a tripod.

OK, enough about the stabilisation...

The optical quality of the lens is excellent.

Like many lenses, it seems to be sharpest stopped down a tad (mine lives at f/7.1), and I have no concerns at all about using it at 400mm on my D70, in full expectation of sharp, well saturated, contrasty images.

Sharp throughout the 80-400mm range though, it has been useful for impromptu landscape shots at the short end.

A versatile lens, then.

It has a twist mechanism for extending the body (like the Nikkor 80-400mm VR, and unlike the push-pull of the Canon 100-400mm USM IS) and has a lock button (which only works at the short end) to prevent lens creep - the lens extending under its own weight when moving around.

I have to say though, that lens creep is not a problem with my lens.

In good light it works quite well with my Kenko Pro 300 DG 1.4x teleconverter, and I can get OS and AF (albeit slowly), but in truth I try not to rely on that set-up - the lens is happier on its own.

At 1.75 kg (3lbs 14 oz in old money) in no way could you describe it as a lightweight, but I routinely carry it and the D70 around on a neoprene strap for several hours without any problems.

Build quality is certainly not a concern either - it looks and feels particularly robust and well thrown together, and has a real air of quality about it: nothing "budget" about this lens...

The Nikon mount version of this lens has a built-in AF drive motor rather than relying on the drive in the camera body (maybe this is also true of other mounts).

This makes it fast focusing for a non-sonic drive lens, and I have had no problems on that score: but with a sonic motor it would be unbeatable, IMHO (and I bet that the next version of the lens has the Sigma Hyper Sonic Motor - HSM).

The lens might give the impression that it makes a bit of noise when focusing, and in truth it is louder than an HSM lens - it has to be, as there are gears being driven.

But the truth is, the noise is noticeable only because the source is only a few inches from your ears when the camera is in use: hold the camera at arms length, activate the AF, and the motor noise is little more than a whisper - not remotely loud enough to disturb the bird.

Not the fastest lens out there, making it an F/4 would add considerably to bulk, weight and cost and would take it straight out of the unique niche it is currently in.

In my experience then, the lens delivers everything I could reasonably expect of it: it is versatile, it provides great image quality, the OS does precisely what I want it to do... and all in a convenient, manageable package.

In an Ideal World it could be faster (in both senses of the word - an F/4 with HSM would be spectacular) but, given that much the appeal of the lens lies its relative compactness and ease of use, I am more than happy with it as is - the rating of 9 simply reflects these Wish List improvements.