Category: Product Reviews


A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Dakota’s Personalized Gifts. She asked if I would be willing to do a product review for her company, and I was more than happy to oblige.

I chose the Engraved Photo Marble Keepsake and sent in a picture of Isabella for them to use. Within a few days, I had this item in my hands. I was really surprised at the quick turn around. They have some great photo gifts on the site.

When I opened the package, I found a nice, solid piece of marble with a beautiful engraving of the photo I sent in. The edges have a really cool ‘wavy’ texture to them, along with a black and white marble combination. I am really pleased with the quality of this product.

You’ll notice our star model posing with her picture throughout this review. Isabella approved of this product as well. It was originally her Christmas picture. Here is the original and the finished product.

Here is a bio from Dakota’s Gifts;

We started in a spare bedroom about 5 years ago more as a part time hobby than a business with The Anniversary Rose making roses for the traditional anniversary gifts (i.e. 1st year paper, 2nd year cotton, 5th year wood etc) cutting rose petals by hand with scissors. It quickly grew from a part time hobby to a full time business, adding help and equipment to keep up. Then, we started expanding into personalized anniversary gifts. We started getting many requests from our customers for personalized wedding, Mother’s & Father’s Day and Christmas gifts etc. That’s when we started Dakota’s Personalized Gifts. Soon the business took over a second bedroom and the garage, the following year it occupying two bedrooms, the garage & a full basement. With no room left to expand we were forced to move into a commercial location in 2009. We continue to expand with new products and updated equipment all the time which allows us to produce most of the personalized items in house.

Buy It: Engraved Photo Marble Keepsake retails for $31.95. Use the following coupon codes on your order:

10OFF50 for $10 off when you spend $50

15OFF75 for $15 off when you spend $75

GRD-OCT31 for free ground shipping when you spend $35

Win It: Dakota’s Gifts has been kind enough to offer a $50 gift certificate and free US shipping to one of my lucky readers.

If you’d like to enter to win this prize, please follow this link to my new blog site to enter.  I am migrating all further posts over there.

We started in a spare bedroom about 5 years ago more as a part time hobby than a business with The Anniversary Rose making roses for the traditional anniversary gifts (i.e. 1st year paper, 2nd year cotton, 5th year wood etc) cutting rose petals by hand with scissors. It quickly grew from a part time hobby to a full time business, adding help and equipment to keep up. Then, we started expanding into personalized anniversary gifts. We started getting many requests from our customers for personalized wedding, Mother’s & Father’s Day and Christmas gifts etc. That’s when we started Dakota’s Personalized Gifts. Soon the business took over a second bedroom and the garage, the following year it occupying two bedrooms, the garage & a full basement. With no room left to expand we were forced to move into a commercial location in 2009. We continue to expand with new products and updated equipment all the time which allows us to produce most of the personalized items in house.

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I have decided to move my blog off the free WordPress site and over to my own domain that I have been paying for for years, but have left sitting dormant.  This move will allow me to have a lot more freedom with my blog.  For instance, I can customize the theme and add fun little widgets that the free site did not offer.  All of my previous posts will be transferred to that site.  I will be doing a giveaway pretty soon too!

Last month at the Libertek’s Smalbany conference, Rose and I met Michael Haley from Squiggout.  He runs a local hosting company in Clifton Park, and made a great impression on us when we spoke with him.  His products were quite impressive as well, and we decided that we would give him our business.

So, I am going to be migrating over to that site over the next few days.  I will keep everything here and check in from time to time, but future posts will be written over there.  Please be sure to subscribe while you’re over there.  See ya soon!

Last Tuesday, I found myself up in Clifton Park while running some errands. I had wanted to stop by Menneto Powersports for a few weeks, but just hadn’t had the time to get there. Since I was in the area, I popped in to see the Victory motorcycles they had in stock, and to talk to them about possibly taking one (or some) out for a test ride.

We were only in the dealership for a few minutes when John came over and struck up a conversation with us. He was very nice, and within a few minutes of telling him why I was there, he was offering us a test ride. I declined because I wasn’t properly dressed to ride, but promised I would be back the next day to take him up on his offer.

While we were there, John told us all about the bikes Victory had to offer and what made them great bikes. He truly believes in what he sells. That is a dream job to me. Having something that you believe in makes selling it a breeze. He had us sit on a few bikes and get a feel for them, telling us the features and benefits of each bike we sat on.

On our way to our weekly ride on Wednesday, we stopped back in to see John again. He was ready for us and asked what i wanted to ride. He said that he had three Victorys available for demo and I was welcome to ride one or all three. Fantastic! Sign me up! We didn’t have time to do all three, so I agreed to take one out, and when I got back, if we had time, I would take out another.

The first bike I rode was the 2010 Victory Vegas (red & white in the distance). I liked the seating position and the footpeg locations. They fit my 5’7″ frame very well. The ride was smooth and the power was adequate for the 100 inch motor. Victory doesn’t give specs on horsepower, but I found a few spots on the web that say it’s around 85hp.

When I got back with the Vegas, John came right out and got the Vegas Jackpot ready. This one was a 2008 demo and had a Stage 1 kit and a pipe added to it. The pipe gave it a tiny bit more volume over stock, but wasn’t loud by any means. Another big difference with this bike was the 250mm rear tire. It threw me off a little moving through the parking lot, as it functions quite differently than the 180mm tires I am used to.

After I got it out on the road, the tire wasn’t as bad as I had anticipated. I just had to remember that it wasn’t a 180 and take that into consideration in the corners. After a little bit, I had forgotten all about it.

The extra punch from the Stage 1 kit and the pipe upgrade was a nice improvement. The bike had a little more get up and go and it sounded a little better too. I really enjoyed riding it.

If you’re looking for a Victory, be sure to stop up and see John Pamper at Menneto’s on Route 146 in Clifton Park. They are practically giving these things away. The 2011s will be here any day and they are making room. I can’t wait to try out the new ones. I hope to try the Vision and the new Cross Country. Be sure to look for my review on them in the next few weeks.

**Photo by Rose**

The folks at Spider Camera Holster were kind enough to send me a Spider Pro System to try out.  At first, I must admit that I was a little nervous to hang my dSLR off my belt and walk around with it swinging, but it proved to be quite a nice piece of equipment.

Last week, I put it to use at the University of Albany athletic fields.  The New York Giants hold training camp here in August and I decided I would go down and practice my sports photography while trying out the Spider Pro System.

As I arrived at the athletic fields, I grabbed the heavy duty belt and clipped it on.  My first thoughts were that the material and the and the buckle were both very heavy duty and made me feel a little better about hanging my camera from it.  I then noticed that the clip that closed the belt not only had two finger releases to open it, but also a third release that wasn’t going to let the belt slip open and fall to the ground.

Spider Belt

The main part of the unit was a base called the Spider Pro Plate.  This plate comes with a built-in Allen wrench for attaching it to your camera.  When you are done with it, simply slide it right into the plate until you need it again.  It’s a great design idea!  The plate has a Spider Pin attachment that connects your camera to the belt.

Spider Plate

Spider Pin

The Spider Pro Holster Box allows you to slide the Spider pin into it and lock it into place, assuring your camera wont pop out.  There is a small latch you can flip that locks your camera into the Spider Pro for safety.  Once in there, it will stay put and wont come out.  Releasing the lock is just as simple.  Just flip the latch the opposite way, and your camera comes right out.

Spider Pro

I really enjoyed testing this product.  It was a very useful tool in the field.  If I needed to free up my hands to talk to someone or set up a shot, all I had to do was clip the camera into the Spider Holster and I was free to do what I needed to without having to set the camera down on the ground or back in my camera bag.  I would highly recommend adding the Spider Holster to your collection of photo gear.

The Spider Camera holster sells for $109.99.

***Images courtesy of Spider Holster***

Rose and I hopped on the FJR and headed up to MAX BMW in Troy yesterday. I emailed Ben last week asking him if I could demo some BMWs and write about them on the blog. He emailed back telling me to come on up and try them out. I’ve never been on a BMW, so this was pretty exciting to me. Before last night, I had no idea what all the hype was about the BMW motorcycle. What I did know is that BMW riders seemed very serious about their motorcycles and riding them. I have a much better understanding of them now. Here is how my trip to Max played out.

We arrived at the dealership around 4:30 and there were a good 20 plus bikes in the parking lot and another 10 or 12 parked out front that were demo bikes. As we got off the bike and were taking our jackets off, a car pulled up with a Papa John’s sign on the roof. We walked in the front door and start looking at the bikes. It was really busy in there, so we make our way over to an employee and asked for Steve or Craig. Ben told me in his email to look for Craig or Steve. I was directed to Craig and introduced myself and Rose. Craig was not only more than happy to help us, he immediately made us feel like part of the family. I started by telling him about my emails with Ben, and he asked which bike I would like to ride. I told him I would be happy to ride any that he would let me ride and then mentioned that we came on the FJR. Craig pointed out the K1300GT and began telling us about the bike.

The best part is that this bike has many features that are similar to those that the FJR has. The motor is the same size, and also an inline 4 on this model. It has a power windshield like the FJR and heated grips. There were a few things that the FJR didn’t have though. Like a heated rider and passenger seat, Traction control (ASC), Electronic Suspension Adjustment and cruise control. The horsepower was also a little better, 160hp compared to the Yamaha’s 140hp.

After showing us the bike, Craig welcomed us to have some pizza and a soda while he copied my license and grabbed the release form. In the meantime, we started talking to some guys that sat down at his desk to eat. The guys we met were awesome! They were in town for the Rally that MAX BMW is holding this weekend up in Pownal, VT. They came in all the way from Green Bay, Wisconsin, via Boston and Niagara Falls. These guys aren’t afraid to get out and ride!

Craig came back with the key and told me to take it for a ride, explaining the demo route that they use. He told me to ride it as many times as I liked to get a feel for the bike. Rose and I hopped on and off we went. I did the first lap at a slower speed to get used to the bike and to get familiar with the road.

When we got back to the main road and had to go left to the dealership or right to do it again, I was about to ask Rose if she wanted to go again. Before I could get the sentence out, she said “Let’s go again”. She was like a kid at an amusement park. And who was I to disappoint her? We hit the route again, this time much faster and more aggressively.

This bike loves to be laid over. I went into a corner and did my usual lean, and I could feel a huge difference over the Yamaha. The bike went over so easily. It has a great amount of power and it was just plain old fun to ride. After the second loop, we took the bike back, as it was after 5 and MAX closes at 6.

We got back to the dealership and I took a few pics of the bike to show the similarities. In many ways, these bikes are very similar. Craig met us outside and asked how we liked it. We chatted with him for a bit and he welcomed me to try out another bike. Noting the time, I didn’t want to keep them there after closing, so I declined, stating I would love to come back and try more bikes out in the future. Craig happily obliged and welcomed me to come back.

We went inside to look at some of the other bikes and met the guys from Green Bay again. You can’t find much nicer people than these guys. We started chatting with them and next thing you know. it’s 7pm. We’re still in the dealership, and they are still selling and servicing bikes. That really impressed me. The guys from Green Bay were here getting oil changes and one was getting a new tire. They had come down from the site in Pownal where MAX is holding their BMW RA National Rally. They have maps at the dealership if you want to go.

I can’t say enough about how well I was treated at MAX BMW. And it wasn’t just me. Everyone that walked in the door while we were there was treated the exact same way. The guys and gals at MAX are a class act. I highly recommend stopping by and checking out these bikes. Just bring your checkbook, because if you ride one of these bikes, you’re going to want to take one home!

Here are some specs from BMW’s web site. See ya soon!

K 1300 GT: Pricing, Options and Accessories

Base MSRP: $19,150

Premium Package: $22,595

* Xenon Light

* ESA II

* Heated Seats

* Heated Grips

* Tire Pressure Monitor (TPM)

* Cruise Control

* On Board Computer

* ASC (Traction Control)

Options

* Xenon Light: $500

* ESA II: $900

* Heated Seat: $350

* Heated Grips: $300

* Tire Pressure Monitor (TPM): $250

* Cruise Control: $450

* On Board Computer: $295

* Anti-Theft Alarm: $395

* ASC: $400

* Low Seat (31.5 – 32.3 inches): n/c

*Actual price determined by dealer. Price excludes taxes, license, options and $495 in destination/handling charges. Prices and specifications subject to change without notice.

The great folks over at LowePro have granted my wish and sent me two bags to compare for my next review.  I am really excited about this review because they are not only two totally different bags, but the are not backpacks.  I have always tried out the backpacks until now, and this will give me a chance to expand my horizons and share another option with you.  Here’s what they sent me;

LowePro Classified 160AW – This bag is a shoulder bag that will handle a DSLR with a 70-200mm lens, 1-2 extra lenses and a flash.

LowePro Outback 300AW – This bag is dubbed a ‘beltpack’.  It will hold the same camera and lens as the Classified, but also has room for 3-4 lenses and a flash.

I am off to try them both out and will have a report for you in a few weeks!  See ya soon!

When I started blogging back in January, I had two ideas in mind.  First, I wanted a blog that was about photography.  I wanted to share my love for photography with my readers, and offer help should they want it.  Second, I wanted to start doing product reviews.

From time to time, companies will send products to bloggers to let them test it out and write about them.  The logic behind this being that the blogger can get the word out about their product to many, many people with a real world opinion about the product.  It helps the company gain potential customers and gets the bloggers more traffic.

A few months ago, I started a second blog solely dedicated to product reviews.  I also post the reviews on this blog when I do them, but that blog will only have product reviews on it.  When I review a product, it goes on both sites.

I have only found a few companies so far to review products for, and would really like to find a few more.  So far, LowePro has been great about sending me camera bags to test and review.  I am trying to keep the focus of the blog to photography products, but will add motorcycle products as well.  Both genres play a huge part in my life, and I think I can bring a great deal of info to both markets.

Not only do I have my reader base, but I have Twitter and Facebook.  Along with them, I have 2,700 people that are members of The Product Review Place to share the information with.  So, the products would get a ton of exposure.  My reviews are posted on that site as well.

So, if you are a company that has a product that you need reviewed, please leave me a comment and I will get in touch with you about what we may be able to do for each other.  See ya soon!

*Image courtesy of Consolidated Freight Co.

After my review of the FlipSide 300, the folks at LowePro sent me the FastPack 350.

The FastPack 350 is a bit larger and has some extra storage space. It also has room for a 17 inch laptop.  You might recall that in my review of the ProRunner 450AW, I had a difficult time fitting my laptop in.  This was not the case with the FastPack 350.  My laptop fit in much easier.

The FastPack 350 is set up a little differently than most camera bags I have used before.   Your camera equipment goes in the bottom of the bag, and that section opens to the side instead of from the top.  Inside this area, you can store a DSLR with with a 70-200mm lens attached, along with 2 or 3 extra lenses and a flash.  There are also two velcro pockets that can hold memory cards.

Along the side of the bag, you will find a long zipper that opens to provide storage for up to a 17 inch laptop.  As I mentioned earlier, my HP 17 inch laptop fit in there with no problem at all.

The top portion of the bag opens to reveal a rather large storage area.  Inside that storage area, there is a removable zippered pouch that will hold any extras you may be carrying with you.  The storage compartment also has two velcro pockets that are great for holding extra batteries and remotes.  Along with these pockets, there are pen holders, a mesh pouch and a clip for your keys.  On the outside of this compartment, there is a zippered pocket that leads to even more storage space.  This bag has quite a bit of room!

Just like the other bags I have tested for LowePro this bag has ample padding on the shoulder and waist straps, as well as the back area.  When I was wearing this bag, it was comfortable and did not feel like it was too heavy.  I even took it on the motorcycle one day just to try it out.  It worked just fine on the bike, although I did not have my laptop in tow.

Specifications and Description from LowePro’s site;

Capacity:

1 pro digital SLR with lens attached (up to 70-200mm f/2.8), 2-3 additional lenses or flash units, 17″ widescreen notebook, memory cards, batteries and cables

Size(Interior):
11W X 6.1D X 10.6H in./
28 X 15.5 X 27 cm

Size(Exterior):
12.4W X 9.6D X 19.3H in./
31.5 X 24.5 X 49 cm

Notebook Compartment Inner Dimensions:
11W X 1.5D X 18.9H in./
28 X 3.75 X 48 cm

Weight:
4.08lbs/1.85kg

Go all day with the lightweight, comfortable Fastpack 350 backpack. It protects your pro digital SLR and 17″ widescreen notebook compactly while providing generous storage for other gear. Side-entry compartments let you quickly grab equipment and accessories, even while you’re on the move. Customize the easy-to-access main compartment with adjustable dividers. A comfortable mesh waistbelt, and an adjustable sternum strap, help distribute weight evenly. To help you make the most of this Lowepro bag take a look at our new product video.

Price: $149.99

Colors: Black, Arctic Blue/Black, Red/Black

Pros

Fits laptops up to 17 inches
Extra storage space
Heavy padding for comfortable use
Mesh side pocket for carrying water

Cons

No All Weather cover

This has been yet another great bag from Lowepro.  I really enjoy testing them, as they make a great quality bag.  See ya soon!

*Images courtesy of LowePro

When I sent the LowePro Pro Runner 450AW back to LowePro after my review period was up, I asked for a bag that was a little smaller so I could use it when I was on the motorcycle.  This way, I can combine my two loves – photography and motorcycles.  They sent me the LowePro FlipSide 300.  The FlipSide 300 is considerably smaller that the Pro Runner 450AW and a much better fit for the amount of camera gear I normally take with me when I go out shooting.  But this bag is different…

When I opened the box and pulled out the bag, I was thinking “what the ?”  The zipper for the main compartment is on the part of the bag that goes up against your back.  I don’t know if it was LowePro‘s idea or not, but I would think that this will keep water out of the main area your camera is stored in.  Good thinking, LowePro.  The bag also has chest and waist straps for secure and comfortable travel.  The padding on this bag is also quite impressive.  I wore it for four or five hours on the motorcycle and it was very comfortable.

When you open the main compartment, there is room for an SLR body with a lens attached (up to 300mm) and 1-3 additional lenses.  There is a zippered pouch in the main compartment that lets you store memory cards, chargers, cords, or whatever you want to put in there.  It is attached with velcro and can be moved or even removed if you want more space. With the bag open, the flap that swings down has a large zippered pocket in it.  I am using this pocket to store filters and even a small notebook.

There is a handy media pouch on the outside of the bag that zips open to allow storage of pens, keys, and two velcro memory card pouches.  There are two small pockets inside the media pouch as well.  On the other side of the bag, there is a mesh pouch that I used for carrying a water bottle.

On the front of the bag, there is a really handy, durable grab handle built in.  It is heavy duty with a textured under side to prevent slipping.  Also on the front of the bag is a strap to tie down a tripod.  At the bottom of the front of the bag, there is a velcro pocket that hides a tripod holder.  The tripod holder holds the tripod in place and works in conjunction with the tie down strap.

So, let’s get into the nitty-gritty.  Here are the specs from LowePro‘s web site;

Capacity:  1 Pro DSLR with 300mm f/2.8 lens attached plus 1–3 additional lenses or flash units, 1 tripod, multiple cables, memory cards, manuals and other digital accessories

Size(Interior): 9.1W X 5.4D X 15.9H in./ 23 X 13.8 X 40.5 cm
Size(Exterior): 10.2W X 6.9D X 17.5H in./ 25.8 X 17.4 X 44.5 cm
Weight: 2.6lbs/1.2kg

Price: $99.99

Colors: Black, Red and Black, Arctic Blue and Black

Pros

-Great size for hiking, biking
-Roomy interior
-Lightweight
-Durable
-Lots of pouches for storage
-Well-padded back and shoulder straps

Cons

-I haven’t found any yet.

I really love this bag.  It is perfect for the amount of equipment I have and for using while I am on the bike.  This is a bag I would really like to own.  If you are in the market for a compact bag with plenty of room for a camera, two or three lenses and some miscellaneous other accessories, this might just be the bag for you.  I highly recommend checking this bag out.

Here are a few pics of the bag in action.

See ya soon!

**Bag images courtesy of LowePro**

**Motorcycle images courtesy of Rose**

When the folks at LowePro asked me what camera bag I would like to try out next, I asked them for one that would be a little smaller so I could wear it on the motorcycle.  I spend a lot of time on the bike in the warmer months, and carrying a huge backpack is not only cumbersome, but also very uncomfortable.  So, they sent me the Flip Side 300 to try out.  Here’s what I think so far…

The bag seems to be the perfect size for the bike.  It is also a great fit for the equipment I need on a shoot.  I can fit my camera with a 18-70mm lens attached, a 70-300mm lens, a 50mm lens, and a 55-200mm lens.  There is also a pouch inside for chargers and miscellaneous other goodies you might want to carry. I took a pic with a little point and shoot last night and labeled it with what I had inside the bag.

So far, I am very happy with this bag.  I still have to get it out in the field and try it out to see how it functions.  I didn’t get to take a ton of pictures yesterday, as it was gorgeous out and the motorcycle took precedence.  Don’t worry, though – there will be plenty of pics over the next few weeks.  Until then, you will have to wait!

See Ya Soon!