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Steven NY

A Bean Bag Question

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I will be buying a bean bag for my Mid-September Tanzania safari.  Most of the vehicles have them, but I do not want to take a chance.  I will be shooting with a Canon 80D and a Sigma 150-600 (c) lens.  I'm not sure about how small of a bag I can get away with.  The Vest man has a Mini which looks like it might be good.

I've seen hundreds of photos of photographers using bean bags.  Doesn't laying the barrel of the lens on the bag inhibit the use of the focusing ring?  Doesn't it also inhibit zooming?  If I'm right, than the solution is to place the lens bracket on the bean bag, which would leave the barrel off the bag.  Does that suggest using a smaller bag?

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Yes the zoom ring and focus ring may be difficult to use and may be accidentally turned on a bean bag and you need to consider and be aware of that. However it is actually no different to hand holding, where the same can happen. You need to be aware and act appropriately, such as by lifting up the lens when you want to zoom. Resting the lens foot on the bean bag is an option but this is hand holding with a rest and not as stable. It is a good compromise sometimes. If your lens barrel rotates when focusing then you need to do this though. You can also add a ground pod (a tough plastic or metal foot onto which you can screw the lens foot and which may need a riser (Here for an example, although a frisbee style design is more common). A wider or longer foot increases stability significantly 

 

Another alternative is a bean bag with a bolt and plate built in like this for example. It is generally not designed for long lenses but there may be bigger ones, and in any case it is more stable than hand holding, especially if you use good hand-holding technique in combination.

 

In general, the bigger the bag the more the stability. But with that lens you don't need more than a medium-sized one. One with two pouches that can hang over the window will generally be better too. But a compromise is okay. I take a smallish one and place another on top of it when available, for example. 

 

if you are going to shoot out of the top of the vehicle do consider your height. Unless you are a bit over 6 foot or plan to stand on the seats (limiting) then the ground pod with riser on a bean bag solution will usually add too much height. 

 

Buy one without filling as it is easy to get the filling when you are there. However if you do get a big bag do not fill it with rice as it will weigh a ton! The bigger the bag the bigger the beans ideally - air being light. 

Edited by pault

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I think Pault covered it all re the zooming and focusing. Just be aware of it. I often seat the lens on the foot and it doesn't seem to be detrimental...if I need a very slow speed then I might rotate the collar up. 

 

I also second his choice of beans over rice...we filled ours with rice in India and I could barely lift it, lol. Beans are much lighter and almost as stable.

 

In Tanzania you will most likely be in a pop-top vehicle (see if you can verify that.) If so, I'd suggest, if possible, bringing two bean-bags...one a molar type which hangs over the window sill (I like this one as its small and stable enough for your lens--I've used it with the Nikon 200-400) http://www.vertexphoto.com/camerabeanbagtv/ 

That works well with the windows in the vehicle that open and allow for eye level shots.  But when standing and using the pop-top, the flat bean bags like the Kinesis Safari Sack work better.  They can be left attached to the roof racks as needed, as they have buckles/straps to do so.

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Thanks for your responses.  I will be shooting from a pop-top.  I think I'll bring one small to medium bag.  I'm looking at Kinises, Tamrac Sabi Gura or the Vest Man.  I also like something called "the Grizzly."  The medium looks good to me.  

It looks like my  theory that the bean bag could affect focus and zoom, was correct.  I'm surprised I've never seen or heard anything else about it.  Since deciding to go on Safari I've watched dozens of videos and read blog after blog.  

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Do keep in mind that even in a pop-top vehicle, it is often much better to shoot from the lower windows, assuming they slide all the way open. The angle is much more pleasing especially if an animal is rather close by. That's when the molar bean bag comes in handy.

 

Have you seen this Andy Biggs video?  This is great info for shooting from a pop-top and the lower windows which explain what I mean.

 

http://www.theglobalphotographer.com/the-global-photographer/2011/4/4/how-to-photograph-from-an-open-roof-safari-vehicle-in-east-a.html

 

 

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Posted (edited)

I bought a molar style one which I think gives better stability as you can hang it both sides of the door/window but decided to fill it with polystyrene beads for lighter weight knowing I wouldn't be able to find any when arriving in Africa. The downsize is the volume it takes up in your suitcase, however, I got around that by taking it as additional hand luggage and no one queried it as they assumed it was my neck rest which in fact it also turned out to be. It works brilliantly if you wedge it between the window of the plane and the backrest of the seat ( depending on the type of plane of course) giving me a perfect pillow. Best sleep ever on a long flight!

Should you be challenged at check in you can always empty the beads and just take the bag.

 

Edited by Dave Williams
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Haha... great multipurposing @Dave Williams  That reminds me I better wash mine one day soon.

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19 hours ago, Dave Williams said:

fill it with polystyrene beads for lighter weight

 

kitty litter works well too and is also good for lighter weight.

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I have a couple of bags which are just 5" x 3" and about 1" thick. These are typically velcro'ed to a wooden bracket with a slot in, covered in felt, that slips over the car's window. Even at such small size, they are quite stable enough.

 

I also tend to place the lens foot on the bag, and have not noticed any difference in IQ between foot up or down.

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2 hours ago, Geoff said:

 

kitty litter works well too and is also good for lighter weight.

 

Multi purposing opportunities with that too Geoff ! 

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The video prepared by Andy Biggs was exactly what I wanted to see.  Answered my question perfectly.  He has good info on his site.  Thanks for the link.

 

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I like Kinesis bags - mine is the big one and you can use adjustable straps to mold it into a molar-like configuration that stays put easily on vehicle windows.  But it also flattens out if you loosen the straps.  

 

I bought mine filled with lightweight plastic pellets and I never take them out, just carry the filled bag with me on safari.

 

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