Ren Bostelaar: Snowy Van, Toronto, 2012
Winter has returned to the northern hemisphere, and as the days get shorter many photographers think about going into hibernation mode. Don’t let this happen to you! Snowy scenes and wintery cityscapes can make for excellent photo opportunities, but only if you have the right gear. I’d like to share a couple recent additions to my gear collection that I’ll be using as I try to get through another cold, dark Canadian winter.
Manfrotto Lino Pro Field Jacket
Manfrotto is best known as a manufacturer of high-quality tripods and lighting supports, but they’re making an effort to crack the high-margin photo apparel business with a line of stylish jackets, soft shells and vests. These are very high-quality pieces that list for prices that surpass the cost of some of their more expensive hardware products, but they’re also somewhat frustrating to use.
I have one of their Pro Field Jackets, and although it’s loaded with clever features that are clearly the result of long hours of field testing and consultation with working photographers, it’s not perfect. It does manage to boast a surprising number of pockets, large and small, despite being trim enough to fit in to any dress code. Two padded pockets on the lapels are generous enough to fit a pro DSLR and lens, and they are supported by a set of internal supports that distribute the weight across the wearer’s shoulders. Nice touches like an integrated microfibre screen and lens cleaner, zippered pockets for small accessories and memory cards, and heavily reinforced and lockable epaulets for camera or camera bag straps make it a useful companion for assignments of any length. As a jacket, though, it comes up a bit short. The designers may have had a damp European winter in mind, and the material would surely have helped cut through Rotterdam’s wet winter air while I was there. For Canada, it just doesn’t boast enough insulation to be a practical solution for the season’s iciest days. The sleeves, in particular, are noticeably thin and force the wearer to bundle up with a think sweater underneath.
Pros: Plenty of useful pockets and a well-designed camera and camera bag support system
Cons: Too heavy for the fall, too light for the winter, extremely expensive
Note: sizing is European, and tends to run a little on the slim size
Freehands Photography Gloves
Freehands produce a line of gloves marketed to photographers and smartphone/tablet users. Their distinguishing feature - finger and glove tips that fold back to allow the user to temporarily restore the dexterity that gloves so efficiently steal - isn’t new. The execution is pretty much right on, though. A discreet set of magnets hold the fabric flaps back while the tips are open, and a nicely tailored pattern of fabric and stitching affords the other digits a surprising amount of precision in any configuration. Conservative styling helps them blend in with most attire more nicely than most “smartphone” gloves, though their website reveals that they have a whole host of different colours and styles. Like any glove that’s designed to open, inevitably some cold air sneaks in, but these are an extremely warm pair of gloves. I use them for winter bicycling as well, and they handle that job easily. The palm materials and pads give the wearer a very good “feel” of whatever they’re handling, be it a camera or brake lever.
Pros: Great “feel”, clever magnetic finger-flap holders
Cons: A bit tight in the wrists through all sizes, not quite enough insulation in the folding flaps
Disclosure: I occasionally receive promotional consideration from vendors and suppliers who wish to have products included in my online or podcast reviews. I do not let these considerations influence my reviews and recommendations.
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