"Ben Hendel"

Lens Flipper Review

[Editor’s Note: The folks over at LensFlipper ( http://www.lensflipper.com , @LensFlipper on Twitter) offered to send us  a review unit of their new product.  This is Ben’s take on using the equipment – Keith]

The LensFlipper is a solution to a problem you probably didn’t know you had. While roaming around Disney, or on a vacation to a national park, it can be very difficult to find a convenient place to swap the lens on our cameras. The LensFlipper, in instances like this, operates as a third and fourth hand, holding your on-deck lens for you while offering you a spot to place the lens coming off your camera.

[Editor’s Note: I would have killed for something like this when I was shooting High School Football games since I don’t have a second body to keep a second lens on. – Keith.]

How does it do such sorcery? Well, the LensFlipper is essentially two Nikon lens-mounts (or Sony or Canon), and sandwiched between them is a pair of pivot points on opposing sides of the device. It looks a bit like a teleconverter from the outside, albeit one with a shoulder strap. The idea in using the LensFlipper is that it is already holding one lens for you, and you can attach the lens coming off your camera to the other side, flip it over, and detach the other lens so you can mount it on your camera. Because the LensFlipper holds onto your lenses like your camera does, there’s no need to fiddle with any rear lens caps. Additionally, since it is based on the same collar technology that holds a lens onto your camera body, the lenses lock into place with a satisfying click, and require a button to be held down before they can be removed. Finally, there is a rubber “body-cap” that fits over the unused spot on the LensFlipper (once you remove one lens, there’s an open spot; this is not a device that allows you to carry two lenses around without a camera bag) to prevent dust from getting inside, and thereby on the inside of your lens when you store it on the LensFlipper.

I specifically went into EPCOT one day with a minimum of gear to test out the LensFlipper. This deviated from how I normally visit the Disney Parks, but I’ll get into that later. I carried my Nikon D610 with my Nikon 28-70mm f/2.8 attached, and locked my Irix 15mm f/2.4 to the LensFlipper, and headed in for a day with Flower and Garden. One major benefit to my change of gear is that I did not have to go through bag check; I was able to jump in a shorter “No Bag” line. Throughout the day, I can honestly say that the LensFlipper worked as advertised. It was very easy for me to swap back and forth between my 28-70mm and my 15mm lenses. I never had to crouch down on the ground or rest lenses on top of trash cans. I never had to dig through a bag for a lens or a back-lens-cap so I could switch lenses. It was all very convenient, and I barely noticed the small cloth strap bandoleering from my right shoulder to my left hip, the opposite of how I carry my Nikon on it’s BlackRapid Sport strap.

I really only have two complaints about the LensFlipper, as it is incredibly good at what it does. First, because it is only supported by a shoulder strap, one needs to be careful when leaning forward to take a picture. In EPCOT’s Flower and Garden Festival’s Butterfly Gardens, I wanted to get closer to a butterfly than my 28-70mm lens allowed, and when I leaned in to take the shot, my 15mm lens came swinging forward wildly, bouncing off the fencing. No damage was done, thankfully, but I was a lot more careful with the LensFlipper after that. My second, and biggest, complaint is that it’s on a shoulder strap. I do not often carry only one lens with me when I go anywhere with photography in mind. I usually carry some sort of bag, which allows me to carry an extra battery, an air-puffer, my remote-shutter release, a lens-pen, a MagicBand (to sync on ride photos to my Disney account; I wear a watch on my left arm and a FitBit on my right, leaving my wrists quite cluttered), and other accessories. It’s annoying enough having my BlackRapid strap caught under a backpack or messenger bag strap; having the LensFlipper under there would just add to the tangle and chaos. I would really like a solution so I could attach the LensFlipper to my bag, and am thinking of rigging up something to do just that on my own.

To conclude, the LensFlipper is very good at what it advertises itself as doing. It just so happens that I don’t operate in a manner that’s very conducive to keeping the LensFlipper on me full time, at least in it’s current form. If you don’t head into the parks with a huge bag all the time, then this is the solution that lets you easily take a second lens with you.

[Editor’s Note.  Thanks again to the team at LensFlipper for sending us this review unit.  They make models for Canon, Nikon, Fuji, Sony A, Sony E, Pentax K, and Micro 4/3rds.  They also make a Clip that looks like it would be perfect for people like Ben and myself that head into the park with a monster bag of gear into the park.]

Caring for Giants

Yesterday, Walt Disney World debuted a new behind-the-scenes tour at Disney’s Animal Kingdom called Caring for Giants. An hour long, Caring for Giants is centered around elephants.  You learn not only how Disney cares for them, but researches them and uses that research to benefit elephant populations around the world. At $30 per person, this tour is well priced for what you get.  Disney says it is for kids all the way up to grown adults, but there is a minimum age restriction of 4 years old. The tour does take place in some backstage areas of Animal Kingdom, so that is something you’ll want to keep in mind if you have little ones and don’t want to shatter the magic of Disney for them.

All that been said, if you or someone you know loves elephants, this is a tour for you. Disney has ten elephants on property, three males and seven females. If your guide says that Animal Kingdom has 3.7 elephants, and then asks what that means, you can confidently reply that it’s a ratio, and it tells how many males and females they have. That’s the last bit of trivia I’ll give out; I do want you to learn new things on this tour, after all! Another unique element of this tour is that you are allowed to bring a camera with you and use it on the tour in a designated area. No backstage pictures are allowed.

There are tons of these tours a day, and they seem to leave every half hour. That being said, you will need to contact Walt Disney World Reservations to go on this tour.  You meet your tour guide by the entrance to Kilimanjaro Safaris, in what I believe used to be a camera supplies kiosk. Once checked in, you’ll get a lanyard with your name on it; be sure to turn it over because there’s a surprise on the back! From there, you’ll be lead backstage to your Adventure Vehicle, which is themed! This should show you just how committed to an incredible experience Disney wants to give you on this tour. They didn’t have to theme your transport van, but they did and it looks awesome! On your walk to the vehicle, be sure to look to your left and catch an awesome view of the mountains of Pandora.

Along the ride, your guide will point out various aspects of backstage Animal Kingdom as you take their “ring road” to your destination. That road goes around the savannas of Kilimanjaro Safari, and so you will see various night homes for the four-legged friends you’ll see on that attraction. See if you can figure out which holds the giraffes!

Soon you will arrive at the elephant house, where you may see your first glimpse of an elephant up close. As we passed by, baby elephant Stella’s father was hanging out. Then, a short drive down a gravel road and we were at the elephant berm, an elevated platform at the back of the elephant pastures. The views of the elephants were spectacular. You are much closer to the gentle giants than you are on Kilimanjaro Safaris. Disney says you are 80 to 100 feet away, but it feels closer. The animal expert you meet there is full of knowledge, and our’s said to keep our eyes on the elephants and that she would not be offended if she talked to our backs. We were allowed to touch elephant tail-hair, told how to tell the various elephants apart, and also given an update on two-month-old Stella’s growth and new social habits.

Halfway through our approximately 40 minutes on the berm, we spoke with an African cultural representative who told us about Africa and the elephants that live there. We learned why they are called the keystone of the savanna, and the pivotable role they play in keeping African ecology going. We learned how research helped discover a natural solution to keep farmers’ fields safe from elephants coming for an easy meal, and also provide them with a bit of extra income. We were told of a man who takes snare wires meant to capture elephants for their tucks and turns them into art of the animals they’re meant to ensnare. And then all too soon, we were asked to board our Adventure Vehicle and headed back to Animal Kingdom proper.

This tour is one of my favorites on Disney property, ranking up with Behind the Seeds. At $30 per person, I feel like it is a tour everybody should do. Seeing elephants so closely, learning about them, was a truly unique experience. As a photographer, I was able to take incredible pictures. My girlfriend, the elephant fanatic, was able to be closer to the largest animal in the world than she ever thought possible. I just wish we had more time on the berm; I could have stayed there all day!