Equipment - tools of the trade: May 2006 Archives

Frequent readers know that I've been working on a ethnodocumentary film about disabilities in Japan. I spent three weeks over winter shooting and I'm going back again next week to shoot some more. I've already gotten a rough cut of one film (on mental illness) done, which I've been screening to a limited audience.

I shot the footage using two cameras, the Canon XL-H1 and the Sony HDR-HC1. Both are HDV or high-definition DV camcorders, shooting in 1080i. The images from both of them are simply stellar. The Canon has a much better lens, better sensor, better on-board sound, XLR jacks, etc. but the Sony can be taken to places where the shoulder-mounted larger camera is too indiscreet.

I'll be taking the same rig back to Japan. Here is my modified equipment list, you can compare to what I brought last time to see that very little has changed.

I've blogged before about my problem with my PowerBook's Toshiba hard drive. It started the click-of-death and died without giving me a chance to back it up. I ended up managing to recover the data before. For more info, see my earlier blog entry:

Since that incident, I've become more aware of the need to have a live backup. I'm so dependent on my laptop that a week without a computer just doesn't work. All of my lectures are on the laptop, my publications, etc. etc. I simply can't work without it.

I've now been taken to using SuperDuper! to clone my laptop drive occasionally to an external drive. It takes about 30 minutes, but it yields a bootable backup drive. I first used the program when my PowerBook started freezing up and I had to send it in (bad lower memory slot). I cloned the drive and then realized that having a bootable clone was a Very Good Thing. So I've kept at this, cloning/backing up every week or so.

Now cloning won't help you restore data that you accidentally deleted a month or two ago (unlike an incremental backup), but that's rarely a problem for me.

In my continuing series on camping and biking equipment, here is a link to making your own backpacking gear (tents, packs, stoves, cookware, etc.).

Need to rent camera equipment (bodies, lenses, lights, etc.) while in the field in Japan? Many pros recommend National Photo. MapCamera has also started up their own rental side-business. Have any recommendations of your own?

I was checking around Japanese camera web store pages (such as MapCamera) and it seems the street price of the Epson R-D1 has dropped to around ¥179,000 ($1656) in anticipation of the R-D1s which is a minor upgrade and which will retail around ¥250,000 ($2400; see

I strongly feel that sub-$2000 is the price level that Epson always should have always sold this 6-megapixel rangefinder for. See my article on the R-D1/D1s for more info.

There are apparently no plans to market the R-D1s in the United States and prices for the R-D1 are still hovering around $3000 (B+H for example).

I'm off this summer for 6 weeks of trekking across the Silk Road in China. I think it'll be an experience of a lifetime -- and an opportunity to take some great photographs. But that's not what I want to blog about today. Today's topic is: Purity of Essence .... errr... water (in a Strangelovian sense)

That is, in the nether reaches of the world, you're not always guaranteed to have fresh water. Even in Beijing and Shanghai, you're warned not to use the water from the hotel taps for drinking -- instead, boiled water in thermoses or spring water in sealed PET bottles is provided.

When I went to my travel doctor for the usual pre-travel battery of injections (HPA, HPB, DtP, tentanus, and influenza), he also recommended that I think about purity of water as well, since Western China is still developing. The main fears that I have about water are:

  • Viruses: Hepatitis (even with vaccination, it's best to avoid exposure)
  • Parasites: cryptosporadia and other protozoa, etc.
  • Bacteria of all sorts
  • Industrial pollutants: pesticides, heavy metals

When hiking in the American backcountry, I've usually relied on iodine tablets such as Potable Aqua or my little MSR filter. But my MSR filter (which didn't work against viruses such as Hepatitis) was lost in the Black Hole of Moving and Iodine doesn't work against Cryptosporadia. My doctor recommended chlorine dioxide tablets, but I noticed that it would take 4 hours of treatment before they killed all the little buggers.

Being a gadget-girl, I couldn't fail to notice the latest high-tech weapons race against ailments of the stomach and liver. (more after the jump)

I'm a sucker for LED lights. I'll have to post a review of my little 3 watt and 5 watt collection sometime. But in the meantime, here are some geeky posts:

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This page is a archive of entries in the Equipment - tools of the trade category from May 2006.

Equipment - tools of the trade: April 2006 is the previous archive.

Equipment - tools of the trade: June 2006 is the next archive.

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