“Knock-Around” Rig

As great as iPhone cameras have become, there is still no real comparison (in my opinion) to images captured using a “real” camera. When I say “real” camera, I mean a camera with a sensor larger than a few microns coupled with a lens having a variable aperture and quality glass. In the early aughts, when camera phone images were much crappier quality than today, I had an original Canon 5D, with the old super-janky plastic version of the 50mm f/1.8mm (okay, not quality glass, but quality-er than camera phone glass). I picked up the body locally from a Craigslist seller for around $100. The lens was about the same price (here is a mirror selfie that I took with it 1000 years ago). I owned some newer professional grade bodies and expensive glass which I reserved for paying gigs. My motivation behind the old 5D was to have a relatively inexpensive camera that I could bring everywhere, even when I knew it would get knocked around and potentially broken. I called it my knock-around camera. The images that I was able to capture with that thing were almost as buttery as this setup, but cost a fraction of the price. As a result, I would bring that thing everywhere with me. I was caught in heavy rain on multiple occasions while carrying this rig, with no camera case to speak of (I never kept it in a case, it was always ready to shoot). One of those times a nice girl saw me trying to shelter it under my shirt as I ran to the subway, and offered me a plastic bag to wrap it in. Another time, it became so water logged that when I pulled off the lens water actually came dribbling out of it. It survived all of these adventures! After many years of good use, I gave it to my sister for a photography course she was taking, and it promptly gave up the ghost.

In the past several months, I have had more than a few instances of wishing that I had a real camera on my person at the moment to capture something cool that I was witnessing, but had to resort to an iPhone shot instead. Cue knock-around camera 2.0! Upon conducting many minutes of research and due diligence (googling “used canon 5D for sale” on my phone), I stumbled across a beautiful 5D Mk II (see image above) on a website called mpb.com for a price that seemed too good to be true. The name of the website also had me second guessing. I mean, c’mon. Mpb.com? Yeah right. After a few more minutes of due diligence (went to an actual computer and read 15-20 reviews from mpb.com customers, most of them glowing), I pulled the trigger. My next stop was the B&H website to purchase a nifty 50 and UV filter (see image below). Note: the 50mm is roughly still the same price as it was in 2008 (about $100), and the latest iteration is actually constructed a lot better than the older versions I had experienced. The UV filter is mostly just to protect the front lens element while being knocked around.

Voila! For less than $400, I have a full frame pro-level body with a 50mm prime that I can bring everywhere!

Here is it freshly mounted up-

Here is the first test snap-

A note about MPB.com–And, this is not sponcon by any stretch: I had a great experience with these guys. The camera showed up in better condition than I expected, based on the website description. It came with a decent memory card installed (not sure if this was on purpose). I also had some brief dealings with MPB’s customer service. They were responsive and cordial. The packaging in which it arrived was superb. I will definitely be using these guys for all of my used gear going forward.

Running Update – Loud Shoes Edition

First run in Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%

New Gear:

About 15 years ago, a friend turned me onto Mizuno running shoes. They are light, relatively inexpensive, and had the support that I needed for my gait an pronation. They are great shoes. I generally love me some Japanese design. Function-wise, Mizuno was no exception. They have been my faithful go-to running shoe ever since then. For some reason, however, they just keep making them uglier and uglier. From a visual design perspective, the only distinction between my most recent pair of Mizunos and a pair of granny-style mall walkers is the fact that the colorway is not white on white. I know that running is not a fashion show, but I’m running the NY Marathon in a few weeks and I want to wear some good looking kicks for the race. I’m not exactly a young buck anymore, But hey man, I’m certainly not a senior citizen yet either. Until then I’m not trying to give off any grandpa vibes with my footwear. After imagining the horror of opening up the NY Times on Nov. 8th and seeing a photo of myself running down 5th Avenue sporting old-guy kicks, I went on a quest for a non-geriatric looking pair of running shoes to race in.

I had heard good things about the brand ON. I think that they are a pretty good looking shoe and decided to try a pair. They had a nice fit for my foot and seemed okay for running…. except for the fact that the sole design is super prone to rock collecting. Given that I have been running on trails or gravel roads 3-4 times per week, they just weren’t practical. When I wore the ONs, I was forced to stop every half mile or so to remove (some quite sizable) stones lodged in the out sole. They are probably fine for city running, but I’m not going to gamble on wearing them for a marathon without having worn them on at least a few long training runs.

Prevailing public opinion (especially of non-runners) seems to be that Nike is the obvious choice in running shoes. I have had a love/hate relationship with Nike runners since my first pair of Air Pegasus that I wore in high school track. There has always been something not quite right about the way they work on my feet. The past couple of years I have picked up a few pairs of Vapormax, but mostly just for looks. I have never actually run in them. They are not comfortable at all on my feet, even just walking around the city. Summer 2020 I picked up a pair of deeply discounted Nike trail runners that I actually think are great. So when I saw the new Nike Air Zoom Alphafly NEXT%, I thought I would give them a shot. The visual design is about as non-octogenarian as it gets. In fact, when I first took them out of the box, I was worried that they might be a little much. After my first run in them, I was hooked. They are insanely comfortable and light. I only wore them for three shortish runs before breaking them out on last week’s 20-miler. Didn’t even get a blister. They are honestly the most comfortable shoe that I have ever worn and they seem to give me a literal bounce in my step. All of that said, there are definitely some drawbacks. First: they are insanely expensive as far as running shoes go (roughly double the price of the Mizunos I was using). Another downside is that they appear to be wearing out much faster than the average running shoe. The front section of the out sole is super soft, almost tacky to the touch. This is awesome for gripping the road, but I’m already seeing significant wear after putting only 50ish miles on them. Based on these facts, I’m not sure that I will be able to justify these as a daily runner. I may have to reserve them for training/racing, only. For now, I will enjoy these kicks to the maximum (as well the fresh still-in-the-box pair that I will race in next month), even if it means my theoretical photo in the Times ends up looking like that middle aged guy who is desperately clinging to youth by wearing loud sneakers! 😉

Unit Garage Panniers

One of my main takeaways from this little jaunt that I did over the summer, was that I needed to figure out a real luggage solution for my bike if I was going to be taking anymore multi-day trips. I had been passively scanning the Revzilla spam emails, and paying a little closer attention to the other bikes I saw with good looking boxes or bags affixed to them. But I didn’t see anything that really stood out to me. A few weeks ago one of my friends from Union Garage randomly sent me a message about the new stuff they had received from the Italian outfit Unit Garage. So many garages!! At any rate, I knew right away that I had found the gear I was looking for. Can’t beat that Italian design!

Initially I ordered only the side boxes, hoping that I could retain the existing rear rack. Soon after I began installation, I realized that the existing rear rack would not be compatible with the pannier racks, and ended up ordering the top case as well. The Union Garage guys were very cool about making sure that I had matching lock cores for the whole set, so that I wasn’t carrying around extra keys (or worse, forgetting to carry them).

Installing the racks to the frame was a piece of cake. Getting the OEM under-tail unit to play nice with them is a different story. Ultimately I had to reposition the indicators a few inches to the rear (the pannier kit included parts for this), and shortened the stocks down to about an inch in length. I also had to take a sawzall to the stock tail light bracket and plate holder. I ended up going with an after market plate holder, but was able to use the original OEM tail light after trimming a few inches of plastic from the original housing.

I am very happy with the way they came out. The boxes are super nice with neoprene liners and leather top straps. Now I just need to plan another road trip!! Here are a few additional photos–

Burton Glove Liners

Burton glove liners are awesome.  As a person who prefers mittens over fingered gloves when participating in winter sports, I have found these glove liners to be nearly essential on very cold days. It enables one to remove the mitten while on a ski lift in order to shoot off a quick gram or two without getting frostbitten fingers. I also keep one of the heavier weight pairs (seen above) in my jacket pockets to use as commuter gloves. Back in the days of riding the subway, they kept my paws toasty and enabled me to be a strap hanger without having any actual skin contact with the strap. Both index fingers and thumbs are outfitted with touchscreen friendly material. Seeing how it has been snowing almost every day since we have been in the Catskills, I’m really glad to have brought these with me. A wintertime must-have, in my book.

Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor 1980-1983 by Tim Lawrence

I first discovered this book from the Benji B. radio show on BBC Radio 1. I guess the author, Tim Lawrence and crew put together an LP compilation of the music that is part of the subject matter in this book. Benji played a bunch of tracks from the compilation (which were awesome) and talked up the book enough that I had to check it out. I still haven’t finished “Life and Death on the New York Dance Floor 1980-1983” yet. But I’m enjoying every chapter. If you are a sucker for NYC’s cultural history like I am, I would definitely recommend this book, whether you are a music fan or not.

Muji House Slippers

Some of Japan’s Finest Slippers, Together with the Author’s Veiny Scarred up Ankles.

First of all, everything Muji is awesome. Britt got us matching pairs of these for like $4 each. I was never the type to wear slippers around the house until these ones came along. They were one of the last items to go into the duffel when we were packing to get out of dodge. Man, am I glad I brought ’em.

Garmin 645 Music


I have had a few different GPS running watches. One was powered by Tomtom. The rest were all Garmin. This is my favorite, to date. I picked it up last year on Prime day when Amazon had it for like 50% off. The beauty of the Garmin 645 Music, is that it pairs with bluetooth headphones and I can listen to my Spotify playlists without having to bring a phone with me. This is also the first Garmin that I have owned with a built in heart monitor. Heart rate has been a fun new metric to track. The watch has all of the regular smart watch functions as well for those who want to get alerts on their watch, count steps, etc..

As far as the GPS system is concerned, it works the best of any that I’ve owned. When I have GLONASS enabled (this allows it to talk to the Russian satellites as well the GPS satellites), I rarely have to wait more than a couple of seconds for the GPS to link up when I start an activity. I use it predominantly for running. But when I was recovering from surgery I used it on the bike quite a bit. It has also been fun to wear on some hikes that we have done here in the Catskills. The only drawback is that the battery life is not great compared to other models I’ve used. But I don’t mind charging every couple of days, so whatev. It is an awesome device that I have really enjoyed using.

BR Chinos

The Author in One of His Daddest Getups | Photo: Britt

Business casual gets a bad rap for being boring, and rightly so. Boring or not, I find nicely fitting khakis to be much more comfortable than jeans. This was part of the reason that I brought these along with me. I would get sick of wearing jeans every day, and unfortunately it has not warmed up enough yet to wear shorts (other than when running). At this juncture I still have too much self respect to wear sweat pants all day (except for those days when I have been sick). Not ruling out the possibility that could change in the near future if current status quo persists.

They are super boring pants, for sure, especially when paired with dad shoes like in the photo above. They do look pretty decent with boots though. I don’t have any special affinity for Banana Republic, but they do seem to be what I usually buy. It is mostly because I know exactly how their various cuts fit me without having to try them on. Also, the perpetual 40% “discount” makes them the right price for a person who goes through as many pairs of chinos as I do.

 

Canon 5D x 50mm f/1.2

My most used rig.

I love this camera and lens combo. I have been a Canon guy since before the digital era, and this 5D is my favorite camera I have ever owned. My 50mm f/1.2 is essentially glued to this body. It is not the most versatile lens, but in my opinion the quality of images that it produces makes up for the extra work required to get the shot. I did a cheesy unboxing video over here, the day that this body arrived. I was super stoked that day, and have subsequently been stoked every time I feel the shutter click. In case it is not already clear, I heavily endorse this setup.

Laser Range Finder

If you have ever made a floor plan with a regular tape measure, you will see the value in this thing. I picked it up on Amazon for under $20. It has been a game changer, especially when measuring larger spaces and ceiling heights. Also: lasers…