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How do you carry your SLR to and in a fine dining restaurant?


sygyzy
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This is an odd topic, to be sure, but I think this might be the perfect audience to ask. This is not a discussion about whether photography should be taken in a restaurant. But for those of us who do take pictures, particularly high end ones from the likes of Ulterior Epicure, how do you get your gear there? I was in DC two years ago and went to Minibar in a suit, riding the subway. I carried my SLR in a Lowe-Pro bag which looks great but let's face it, it's a piece of technical gear. I felt extremely out of place both outside the restaurant (imagine me dressed up wearing a nylon backpack) and inside (where I was asked if I wanted to check it in).

I am talking about situations where you are in a city without a car. A large city like NYC, Chicago, or DC where you are there on vacation and very likely taking a subway/metro. Do you just carry the camera naked, by your side, for the duration of the subway ride, through multiple stops? Do you just cab it (can get quite expensive)?

Are there "nice" SLR bags I am not aware of?

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I know exactly where you're coming from that's why I got a Billingham Hadley Pro in black. Not only is it a great camera bag but it's quite a stylish one too and great around town. They're made down the road from me, but I have no affiliation to them.

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Thanks for the recommendation Prawncrackers. I wish the site would let me see what the other colors look like. You mentioned you got the Pro version of the Hadley, did you find that too large? It looks like a large briefcase. I don't switch lenses during a service and just stick to primes. I was looking at the small or digital size.

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If you were female, you could use an emera bag http://www.emerabags.com/index.html . I lust after one.

Crumpler also makes some cool camera bags, but I find them a bit casual for fine dining.

Lowepro also has some nicer, less utilitarian-looking bags like the Classified line.

The nicest, least obtrusive-looking bags I've found were at Yodobashi Camera in Japan. So if you happen to be passing through Tokyo or Osaka (or any of the cities that have large Yodobashi Camera stores), browse around. That's where I got this Nikon bag. Still a bit large, but it's a little less "camera bag" looking.

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I don't take pictures in restaurants, but if I did, I would probably carry it without a bag. If I carried it in a bag, I think I would feel much more self-conscious about taking it out, whereas, if it is already out, its is just a more matter-of-fact experience. Besides, when I am walking around a city or somewhere where I am taking pictures, I always have it out anyway so that I can just take pics on the fly if something interests me. For me, that would include the trip to the restaurant and the outside, lobby area, bar, etc...

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Thanks for the recommendation Prawncrackers. I wish the site would let me see what the other colors look like. You mentioned you got the Pro version of the Hadley, did you find that too large? It looks like a large briefcase. I don't switch lenses during a service and just stick to primes. I was looking at the small or digital size.

No the Hadley is very compact, you can just about fit an A4 file in it. Here's a better picture, very discrete and very un-camera bag looking. Not cheap but they are fantastically well made.

Love the look of those ladies bags Rona, if I was one then I would lust after them too!

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I usually just carry the camera out in the open without a bag in that situation, where I know I'll only be using one lens. If I need another lens, I put it in a pocket or a little belt pouch. Just in general, I often am carrying a camera all around New York city, on the subway, on the street, wherever, out and ready to shoot. Haven't had a camera stolen from my person.

Billingham does make very elegant and practical cases.

I'd also recommend Urban Disguise cases made by Think Tank Photo, which are very well made, intelligently designed, and there are models that look like ordinary business or laptop cases that everyone carries in a large city. Adorama carries them.

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I propose a compromise:

  • Carry your camera in whatever bag you've got, with as many lenses etc. as you like
  • When you get to the restaurant, take what you'll need out of the bag and check the bag to pick up at the end of the meal.

Convenience, security - AND, we hope, a good meal!

Leslie Craven, aka "lesliec"
Host, eG Forumslcraven@egstaff.org

After a good dinner one can forgive anybody, even one's own relatives ~ Oscar Wilde

My eG Foodblog

eGullet Ethics Code signatory

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I think the best solution is to have a really cool looking camera, like a Leica S2. Then it becomes the equivalent of a strand of pearls: a fashionable accessory with any outfit in any situation.

Short of that, I think a fitted leather case -- one that conforms to and holds just the body with a single lens -- has a nice retro look. Rokinon is one brand that seems to be around. They run about twenty bucks.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Just use one of the new APS-C point and shoots: Canon S95, Panasonic LX5, or the Nikon P7000 coming out next month. Same exact sensor as on dSLRs -- thinking a full-frame dSLR would be just a bit crazy large to bring to dinner. These new point and shoots are fast (f/2.0), have great macro capabilities (focus down to 0.8"), and great lowlight capabilities (ISO 6400+). They do everything you might need, spit out RAW + JPEG, even HD video with stereo audio. They even have hot shoes -- but not like you'll be using speedlights on a dSLR in a restaurant anyway. And you won't ever really need to swap out lenses.

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I'm generally a fan of bags that don't broadcast that you have something valuable inside, so I tend to carry my camera in a generic book-bag-ish thing. I have a partitioned backpack for real shoots where I need all my lenses and various other accessories, but for in restaurants, one camera one lens, low profile...

"Philadelphia’s premier soup dumpling blogger" - Foobooz

philadining.com

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Here are some comparison shots b/t LX3 and LX5. Panny says the new sensor is 31% more sensitive. The pix seem to back it up. More importantly, the LX5 can be pushed to 12800 ISO with reduced MP (which is fine as most people are posting to web JPEG, not blowing up 24"x30" appetizers.) Also another bonus with P&S -- you can easily use them with the mini ~2-3" table tripod. The baby mama uses one with her P&S with timer to get dining out group shots all the time.
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From what I've read, the LX5 is a gentle upgrade from the already great LX3. I'd see if I could give it a test run or demo it in a store first before making the plunge. But I'd also give the other ones in the category a shot first. The Nikon P7000 comes out next month and looks very, very nice.

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Much on the Fuji X100 at http://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/blog_index.html

Compact fixed-lens cameras often don't focus close enough for food photography, and if they do, they don't have a sophisticated enough lens to avoid visible barrel distortion at close distances, but it looks like this one will be up to the task--at a price.

Edited by David A. Goldfarb (log)
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Thanks for the link. The thing is huge for a P&S. It wouldn't fit in my pocket. That works against it, especially for a "second camera."

I guess it all comes down to price. Dial it down and it gets more attractive... Still, extremely pricey if used primarily for food blogging. xD

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