Review: Tenba Cooper 15 luxury canvas and leather camera bag



I love heirloom items. Things that are made beautifully and made to last. Things that you want to show off, that you will use for decades, that you can pass down to your kids. In the camera bag world, functionality reigns so while the market has plenty of tough and well-made bags, elegant style often takes a back seat. That's why when I saw the new Cooper Collection from Tenba, the selection of bags stood out. 

"Everything you love about Tenba's rugged durability can be found here, wrapped up in a beautifully refined package, right down to the hand-riveted leather zipper pulls. Welcome to a world with redefined luxury and craftsmanship." Yes, please! 

A winner, but not for everyone

Tenba Cooper Collection has four bag sizes, the Cooper 8, Cooper 13 Slim, Cooper 13, and Cooper 15. As someone who travels with a 15" laptop and Canon DSLRs, the largest bag, the Cooper 15 seemed most fitting for what I need when I am carrying gear from place to place. 

The moment I opened the box and smelled the (admittedly completely intoxicating) fragrance of leather and felt the smooth canvas, I realized something: this bag is not for me. This is an amazing bag, there's no two ways about it. But it has a certain target audience, and I reluctantly came to the conclusion that I am not it. 

The Cooper bag is gorgeous, and I'm an animal photographer. I work in dirt, mud and wet sand. Even on my cleaner shoots in urban settings, I'm working with dogs who slobber and shed, or am dropping my bag on dirty surfaces while I photograph some city critter. The bag features a waterproof, full-grain leather base panel that is also abrasion resistant, so it has some protection for wet or dirty surfaces. But still, this is not a bag that should endure the kind of abuse I put my gear through. It might be different if this were tan waxed canvas that looks good with some scratches and stains. But this is ultimately a bag for an urbanite. I can see street photographers, photojournalists working in urban areas, travel photographers, or photographers doing on-location shoots for portraits loving this bag. But not necessarily wildlife photographers. 

Also, this bag is an odd mix of too large and too small for me. It barely fits my usual city walk-around kit of my Canon 1D X, a prime lens, my Olympus OM-D E-M5 with two small lenses, extra cards, batteries, lens wipes and other accessories, and my laptop with charger. So the inside is a little small for my gear of choice. Yet when I put it on, the bag looks huge on my 5'2" frame. I couldn't get it to sit comfortably on me, nor in a way that didn't make me look like a turtle with a low-slung (but gorgeously made) shell. 

While I am not the target audience for this bag, a dear friend of mine is. So I handed the Cooper 15 over to my stylish buddy Erick, who has impeccable taste and high standards (and who photographs people in clean settings).  He put the bag to the test for three months, and it came through with flying colors. 

Erick's Review

I understand that Jaymi doesn't think much of the Tenba Cooper 15 as a wildlife photographer's camera bag. Fair enough, the Tenba may not be ideal for a real jungle. But I think it's a fantastic camera bag for the urban jungle. Here's why: 

  • I have a rangefinder/mirrorless, three lens camera system, and the Cooper 15 can easily carry both of my main cameras (lenses attached) and another lens, plus a lot more when I travel. It's now my go-to travel camera bag. It's much more limited with the larger bodies and lenses of a DSLR system. It can, however, carry a Canon 5D Mark III with the 24-105mm on the camera, and two other lenses. 
  • There are pockets for days on this bag for accessories. In addition to the cameras and lenses, it'll hold an iPad Pro 9.7, a 13-inch Macbook Air, chargers and cables for the cameras, iPad, iPhone, Apple Watch, filters for the lenses and a mini tripod. 
  • The design is stylish but understated. The graphite-colored canvas and leather is of high quality and is likely to age well. It doesn't scream out as a camera bag, and when it gets noticed, people appreciate the aesthetic. It also comes with a nice weather cover (the WeatherWrap) for those times it's caught outside in the rain or snow. 
  • It has a double zipper cover system that makes things both convenient and secure. There's a zipper on top of the main cover flap, and then under that, another zipper over the main bag compartment. With the zippers open, this allows you to pull out a camera without the need to flip open the main flap. But if the main bag compartment zipper is closed, it makes it harder for someone to swipe something out of the main compartment, which can be a real concern when traveling. 
  • It can be carried either over the shoulder or by a leather handle (when both of the cover zippers are open). It also has a luggage slot on the back so you can slide it onto the handle of a rolling luggage bag. Even when fully packed, it's nicely balanced, so you can carry it for long periods even when weighted down. Those options make trudging across an airport or exploring the city streets a lot more comfortable. 

These are the high points that stood out to Erick during testing, and in fact, he had nothing negative to say about the Cooper 15 at all. We both agree that for photographers who want to carry just a few pieces of gear for walk-around photography, indoor shoots, or low-key outdoor shoots, and for those who want to prove they have good taste as well as enjoy an incredibly functional bag, then the Tenba Cooper Collection is one to seriously consider. 

You can get more details on the specifics of this and the other bags in the Cooper Collection on Tenba's website. 

For the record, the Timbuk2 Espionage backpack still reigns supreme as my go-to city and travel bag. It doesn't look like a camera bag, which is always a bonus when in the city, holds a 15" laptop, and is really flexible for fitting gear and other necessities. For wildlife work, I use the Mindshift Gear BackLight 26L backpack for short hikes and the Tamrac Expedition 8x backpack for bigger outings when I need to bring my 500mm lens along. I adore these three backpacks. The perfect messenger-style bag for an animal photographer -- one that is beautiful but can be rugged without causing me guilt and anxiety for beating it up -- I have yet to find. I'll take recommendations in the comments! 

Review: Sigma 120-300mm f/2.8 EX DG HSM Lens


Wild gray fox photographed with the Sigma 120-300mm. Shot handheld at 300mm, f/3.5, 1/500, ISO 400.

Wild gray fox photographed with the Sigma 120-300mm. Shot handheld at 300mm, f/3.5, 1/500, ISO 400.


I've been intending to write this review for months now, ever since this lens provided me with perfect performance during an unexpected encounter with a deer in hot pursuit of a coyote

I was particularly excited about testing this lens for urban wildlife. I mostly use a 500mm for wildlife but it would just be ridiculous to take that out in a city park. I'd get way too much attention from both passers-by and muggers. The best walk-around lens for urban wildlife is something rugged that covers a range between 100mm to 400mm and this lens offers it. The 120-300mm range is great on any camera, and when I put it on my Canon 7D, I get the equivalent of 192mm-480mm. Another reason this lens is so appealing is that it shoots at f/2.8 across board.  Considering I'm usually out at dawn for urban wildlife, that's a huge plus - I actually stand a chance of capturing quickly moving animals in low light! 

I have to admit that my first experience with this lens was a little rocky. The company sent me a copy that had problems with soft focus. Even with micro-adjustments, the lens wouldn't provide sharp focus on its target. I asked about the issue and they let me know that's indeed a problem with the copy, and sent me a different copy. Likely, quite a few people had tested the first copy before I got my hands on it, so the soft focus could have been a problem arising from being banged around during multiple shipments. I can't say for sure. But what I can say is when the second copy arrived, it looked banged up and yet worked perfectly. So this lens can likely take a beating and still function just fine (a necessity for those shooting wildlife) provided you get a copy that works correctly. 

The performance of the second copy quickly wiped away the reservations I had with this lens based on a frustrating first experience. In fact, by the time I had to send the lens back, I really, really didn't want to part with it. 

Just as most lenses tend to be their sharpest a couple stops down from wide open, this lens is sharpest when shooting f/5.6 to f/8. I found if I opened up to f/3.5 at the widest, I was still happy with the results, though I was almost never happy with images shot at f/2.8. But he fact is, even if wide open doesn't produce the best results, this is not really a deal breaker. More important to me is that I have that option if I really need it, and I can shoot at any focal length without having to stop down. 

Another issue is that while this lens is wonderful for low light, the speed at which it can find and lock on to and follow subjects in low light can be a bit sluggish. Considering that's an important part of my shooting, I found this to be a bit of a problem. But again, this is not unusual in telephoto lenses and it is not a deal breaker. There are ways to get around this problem by ramping up tracking speed in your camera, adjusting the focusing distance on the lens, and of course, if the situation calls for it, manual focusing. If you can get your settings correct, then this lens can lock onto subjects quickly enough, even in the shadows of underbrush at twilight. 

Speaking of subjects in the shadows of underbrush at twilight, let's move on to some sample images. 

300mm, f/3.5, 1/160, ISO 4000, handheld, cropped in. 

300mm, f/3.5, 1/160, ISO 4000, handheld, cropped in. 

I used this lens when photographing a family of wild gray foxes. They typically don't really get moving for the night until dusk when light is quickly disappearing. This female was sitting under a tree just after sunset. In order to get any shot through the weeds, I had to lie on my back in an awkward angle, handholding while basically maintaining a half-sit-up.  Zoomed all the way in to 300mm and opening up to f/3.5, I could manage to get only about 1/160 of a second as my max shutter speed and that was after bumping the ISO up to 4000. Considering the circumstances, this shot really shows how great the image stabilization is for this lens, as well as the kind of possibilities that open up for shooters working with moving subjects in low light. I'm sure the image would have been sharper if I'd had my gear on a tripod, or propped on a log or rock. Most of the time, this lens is one that a shooter will use handheld, not on a tripod, so the fact that you can get this kind of performance from a lens even at a low shutter speed and with a bit of shake says a lot about it. 

To note, at 7.47 lbs, this thing is heavy. I will fully admit to having a little soreness in my arms and shoulders the day after I first used this lens. But, it wasn't so bad once I got used to it and knew how to balance the weight, and a little accidental exercise is never a bad thing. However,  I couldn't hold this up for long periods without my arm starting to get a bit shaky. And, the weight did make it a little awkward to zoom all the way from 120mm to 300mm as I couldn't do that in one smooth motion and still balance the lens. On a tripod, neither of these things are an issue, but again, I doubt most folks will use this with a tripod. 

300mm, f/3.5, 1/500, ISO 1600, handheld, no crop. 

300mm, f/3.5, 1/500, ISO 1600, handheld, no crop. 

After I pushed the tracking speed as fast as it would go, I could follow speedy subjects all over the place without a focusing issue, even at dawn. This coyote was photographed just as the sun was coming up. I was able to maintain perfect focus on her as she trotted across my path. 

Below is a different coyote, shot just after sunrise but in the shade of trees. The lens didn't have an issue quickly locking focus. 

252mm, f/5.6, 1/60, ISO 2000, handheld, cropped in. 

252mm, f/5.6, 1/60, ISO 2000, handheld, cropped in. 

Below are sample shots with the full image and 100% zoomed in so you can see the image quality: 

220mm, f/4, 1/640, ISO 1000, handheld, no crop, no post-processing

220mm, f/4, 1/640, ISO 1000, handheld, no crop, no post-processing

100% zoomed in

100% zoomed in

300mm, f/3.5, 1/320, ISO 1600, handheld, no crop, no post-processing

300mm, f/3.5, 1/320, ISO 1600, handheld, no crop, no post-processing

100% zoomed in

100% zoomed in

120mm, f/3.5, 1/320, ISO 2000, handheld, no crop, some post-processing

120mm, f/3.5, 1/320, ISO 2000, handheld, no crop, some post-processing

100% zoomed in

100% zoomed in

Despite a slightly rocky start, my overall experience with this lens was really positive. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend that anyone looking for a telephoto zoom for sports and wildlife should look into this beast. But I would recommend that folks rent a copy for a couple weeks to make sure you love it first, or make sure you buy it from a company that has a good return policy so you can test out sharpness when the lens arrives. It wouldn't surprise me if people choose this beautiful lens over any others with a similar range. The price point of $3,600 may feel a little expensive to some, but it is a really reasonable price for what you get with this lens. It offers so much flexibility in shooting, and you can tell Sigma spent a lot of time and effort in perfecting one amazing piece of equipment. All in all, this is something I would love to add to my kit one of these days. 

If you'd like to look through reviews that offer details on specs and sharpness performance, I recommend these from DPReview, FStoppers, and PetaPixel

Coyote in Black and White



Anyone who has known me longer than about 10 minutes is well aware that I'm infatuated with canids, and that my favorite species is canis latrans, also known as the song dog, the American jackal, the prairie wolf or, of course, the coyote. 

I spend a lot of time focused on this animal. Equally as loved as it is vilified, the coyote thrives regardless of what humans think about it. Yes, it is a beautiful animal and yes it is also fascinating, but I think it is this graceful thumbing of the nose at us people that makes me like coyotes above all other species.

The scrappy little brother to the wolf, the wily wild cousin to domestic dogs, the coyote gets on with life whatever the challenges. Unlike so many other larger animals, the coyote thrives in the face of - and sometimes because of - our plowing over of the earth. Rather than be pushed to smaller and smaller margins of wilderness, the coyote sees what openings we've created in golf courses, cemeteries, suburban lawns and urban parks and moves right on in.  

Tenacious, elegant, and a sense of humor. I couldn't ask for more. 

This set of images is of a single female who I spent about half an hour watching. It doesn't matter the conditions or the amount of time spent with an individual - time spent with a coyote is always special. 

Returning to film: An exploration of film choices for landscape photography


Joshua Tree NP at sunrise in December. Provia 100F. © Jaymi Heimbuch

Joshua Tree NP at sunrise in December. Provia 100F. © Jaymi Heimbuch


As I started writing my post about Mastin Labs film presets for wildlife photography, I developed an itch for shooting film again. There was just an artistic lure that started tugging at me. Within a couple weeks of publishing the piece, I gave in to it (to my wife's barely contained exasperation).

I haven't used film in about 10 years. It's been a long time away. In fact, I sold my long-stashed-away Pentax MZ-7 and zoom lens in 2009 for about $50. I'm kicking myself for that now. I'd figured digital was the only thing in my future and I'd never use the film camera again so, clean it out of the closet. Should have known. But not having that camera anymore gave me a chance to go back even farther in time as I searched through eBay listings.

I'm now using a Pentax K1000 and a 50mm f/2 lens for the purely nostalgic reason that this is the very first camera and lens combo I ever used when I got serious about photography. It just feels good in my hands - the weight, the construction, the irresistible feel of the shutter button and the satisfying sound of the curtains sliding open and closed. It's a great camera. And it was only $100, which in the world of expensive photography equipment feels like pocket change. Score! The only other gear I'm using is a tripod and a cable release. No piles of filters or various lens options. Just me, a camera and a handful of film. 

Another new thing for me is dealing with a lab. Back in the day, I either developed film myself and printed my own prints in a darkroom, or gave my rolls to Costco and asked for 4x6s. Luckily a wonderful lab is right around the corner from me. Photoworks SF does a great job and has been really helpful and supportive. That's important because it's kind of overwhelming and intimidating to wade into the film world again. And basically I'm starting out as a newbie. It's a really fun, though expensive and humbling, side hobby to my focus in wildlife and conservation photography. 

The first thing I needed to do in this little venture was discover which film I like best. So I bought five different types recommended to me by various sources and started shooting. 

All of the following is based on my experience of shooting 12 rolls of film, trying to figure out what I like most specifically for landscape photos. Every image shown below is how I got it back from the lab - except the Provia, for which I deepened the blacks in Lightroom and also show some side-by-side color corrections. 

This is all in the spirit of fun and experimentation, and of course is entirely subjective. So enjoy what I've written here, and take it all with a grain of silver halide.

 

Ektar 100

I will just start out with a favorite. Ektar 100 has quickly become my top choice for landscape photography. Okay, okay... I have only shot one roll. But I shot it after trying out four other film types. So I can say with some certainty, this one is easily a top choice. It isn't finicky about exposure and has amazing dynamic range. It handles contrast well, captures shadows and highlights without issue, the colors are wonderfully saturated without going overboard. This is just an easy-going, beautiful film and I love things that are easy-going and beautiful. I can't wait to load another roll into my camera and go on a hike. 

Ektar 100 at 1 second at f/16 

Ektar 100 at 1 second at f/16 

Ektar 100 at 1/2 second at f/16

Ektar 100 at 1/2 second at f/16

Ektar 100 at 1/60 second at f/2.8

Ektar 100 at 1/60 second at f/2.8

Ektar 100 at 1/60 second at f/14

Ektar 100 at 1/60 second at f/14

Portra 160

I had a notion that I would really love Portra 160 for sunrises and my first roll proved my hunch was right. This film is about as easy-going as the Ektar in terms of happily capturing highlights and shadows and being forgiving when slightly under- or over-exposed. The difference is it has softer colors. Because I'm a big fan of rich colors, Ektar beats out Portra 160 for me, but only by a nose. I have another roll of Portra 160 in the fridge calling out to me and I'll be taking it on a sunrise hike soon.

Portra 160 at 4 seconds at f/16

Portra 160 at 4 seconds at f/16

Portra 160 at 1 second at f/22

Portra 160 at 1 second at f/22

Portra 160 at 1 second at f/22

Portra 160 at 1 second at f/22

Provia 100F

This is a gorgeous slide film and I've seen it transformed into miraculous images in the hands of experienced film photographers. But for low-maintenance me, I found it to be too fussy. It doesn't handle contrasty scenes very well, so doesn't easily work for the kind of shooting I like to do (shooting into the light) without needing graduated filters. It also leans toward blue tones, so a warming filter or color corrections of the scan are often needed. It does work pretty well if shooting toward the west at sunrise or east at sunset. When the light is more even, it seems to really shine. 

Another thing is with slide film you have to be quite careful about your exposure. If you over-expose, your highlights are shot. If you under-expose, goodbye shadow detail. It is much too expensive both for the film and for processing costs for me to risk getting exposure wrong over and over again. So, while Provia is gorgeous, I've nixed it as an option for me for now. But I do love what it does with clouds. 

Provia 100F at 1/60 second at f/2.8

Provia 100F at 1/60 second at f/2.8

Provia 100F at 1/60 second at f/5.6

Provia 100F at 1/60 second at f/5.6

Here's a sampling of images that show what Provia can do when shooting with soft light. Though, even here, I would want to do a touch of post-production work on these images before calling them done. 

Here are a couple examples of the film's blue color cast. The original scan is on the left, and the image color-corrected to be more accurate to the scene is on the right. In the first example, I took a few frames of the ocean because I loved the pink light that was happening on the water at sunrise. But the film basically thumbed its nose at the pinks. And in the second example, the lichen I photographed is a very pale white-green color. The film picked it up with far more blue-green than it really has. A warming filter would probably have fixed this in camera. But I'm filter-free. I will probably come back to Provia in the future when I have more experience and can do what the film wants, rather than tangling in an (expensive) fight with it. 

Jaymi-Heimbuch-84200007-01.jpg

Fuji Pro 400h

It's no joke when people say this film is at its best when you over-expose. In the two test rolls I shot, the photos I liked the most were those that I over exposed by at least a stop or two. While it has a nice dynamic range and beautiful grain, this film is a bit ho-hum for me. I know folks love it for great skin tones and for events such as weddings where soft, cool colors are often preferred. But as someone who doesn't photograph people and who likes rich, warm colors and plenty of saturation in nature photos, I don't think I'll be picking up more 400h. Lovely film, just not for my use. But that's all part of experimenting. Have to try it to know for sure!

Fuji Pro 400h (Didn't keep settings notes)

Fuji Pro 400h (Didn't keep settings notes)

Fuji Pro 400h (Didn't keep settings notes)

Fuji Pro 400h (Didn't keep settings notes)

Fuji Pro 400h (Didn't keep settings notes)

Fuji Pro 400h (Didn't keep settings notes)

Fuji Pro 400h (Didn't keep settings notes)

Fuji Pro 400h (Didn't keep settings notes)

Fuji Pro 400h (Didn't keep settings notes)

Fuji Pro 400h (Didn't keep settings notes)

Fuji Pro 400h (Didn't keep settings notes)

Fuji Pro 400h (Didn't keep settings notes)

Portra 800

Ok, so the way I feel about Ektar 100 for landscapes is the way I feel about Portra 800 for walk-around general use film. I LOVE this film. It is so warm, so rich. The grain can admittedly be a little much sometimes, but that can be a plus in some ways. Having a lot of grain reminds me of the process of creating a photograph and feeling the overall mood and concept of an image, rather than analyzing the details for perfect sharpness and clarity. There's no pixel peeping in film! So a lot of grain is pretty much fine with me. 

Portra 800 at 1/8 second at f/11

Portra 800 at 1/8 second at f/11

Portra 800 at 1/500 second at f/2.8

Portra 800 at 1/500 second at f/2.8

Though I am getting back into film for landscapes, I found myself mainly photographing my dog with Portra 800. He's always with me for these morning hikes, and I just leaned toward photographing him instead of the scene. I can't put my finger on why, but this film seems to make a lot more sense with a specific subject within a landscape, rather than as a landscape film. Maybe it's the grain after all -- it just works with a live subject better than a landscape scene. Maybe it's the fact that at ISO 800 it's fast enough that I can actually hand-hold my camera at sunrise and sunset and so can more easily capture my dog in scenes. Maybe it's that I'm a wildlife photographer and not a landscape photographer so a frame doesn't feel quite complete to me unless there's an animal in it. I don't know. But I do know that for me, this is a must-have film for general use. Completely in love with it. 

Portra 800 at 1/500 second at f/2

Portra 800 at 1/500 second at f/2

Portra 800 at 1/1000 second at f/2.8

Portra 800 at 1/1000 second at f/2.8

Portra 800 at 1/250 second at f/2.8

Portra 800 at 1/250 second at f/2.8

Portra 800 at 1/1000 second at f/2.8

Portra 800 at 1/1000 second at f/2.8

Portra 800 at 1/500 second at f/2

Portra 800 at 1/500 second at f/2

Lab work

One thing I've learned so far is that equally as important as film choice and exposure settings is great communication with your lab. The technicians doing the processing and scanning are making specific choices that affect the outcome of your image. If you let them know what you shot and what you're hoping to get from your images, you'll have a much more satisfying experience. 

For example, I tried overexposing a couple frames of Portra 800 to see how well it can handle keeping highlights. I knew I was overexposing by a lot, so when I got Scan 1 back from the lab and saw the blown out highlights, I figured I just went beyond the abilities of the film. However, I liked the image enough that I wanted a larger scan file, so I took the negative back to the lab. Either another technician handled the scans or the first technician made a new choice about the brightness, because check out all the detail that was actually still on the negative that now shows up in Scan 2. 

 

Portra 800 at 1/1000 second at f/2 - Scan 1

Portra 800 at 1/1000 second at f/2 - Scan 1

Portra 800 at 1/1000 second at f/2 - Scan 2

Portra 800 at 1/1000 second at f/2 - Scan 2

I understand the decision the technician made the first time around - the exposure here really gets the dog's face, and especially eyes, to stand out. But I much prefer Scan 2 because I have more flexibility to make adjustments to the scan in Lightroom, brightening the image to my taste without losing detail. I can't bring the detail back with Scan 1. So now I know to tell the lab that my preference is to have a nice bright image but to maintain detail in the highlights. Problem solved! 

Technicians at the lab control much of the look of your final image, from exposure to color corrections. Check out the huge difference in the rescan below. 

Portra 800 at 1/250 second at f/2 - Scan 1

Portra 800 at 1/250 second at f/2 - Scan 1

Portra 800 at 1/250 second at f/2 - Scan 2

Portra 800 at 1/250 second at f/2 - Scan 2

This is a great example of why learning how to communicate with a lab and getting on the same wavelength is such an important part of film photography. You work together to get the best image. (Unless of course you have your own film scanner. I tried that, and totally would rather have a lab do it for me!) Luckily, adjustments can be made at the lab or at home, so there is still quite a bit of flexibility for the final results. 

If you want an analysis of film choices for landscapes from a pro, I've found this article by Alex Burke to be really helpful. 

I'm entirely open to advice and input from experienced film users in the comments. Maybe what you have to say will save me some money in experimentation, and that I warmly welcome!

Portra 800 at 1/1000 second at f/2

Portra 800 at 1/1000 second at f/2

Photos © Jaymi Heimbuch. All rights reserved. Most photos on my site are available for purchase as prints. If you see an image in a blog post that you’re interested in, please send an email. I’d be happy to work with you to create a print you’ll love.