Packing my bags for Italy - need some help on equipment at DVinfo.net

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Sony HVR-A1 and HDR-HC Series
Sony's latest single-CMOS additions to their HDV camcorder line.


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Old May 8th, 2006, 06:06 AM   #1
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Packing my bags for Italy - need some help on equipment

This summer, I am going on a two week holiday in Italy where I will visit Rome, Florence, Sienna, Napels and Sicilly (and maybe some other cities). I want to make sure that I have the right equipment with me. So far:

- Sony HDR-HC1E
- Sony VCL-HG0737Y
- Rode NTG-2 directional microphone
- Spider Brace 2
- Manfrotto tripod
- Sony NP-QM71D

The following things are on my short-list:

- Rode Deadcat Wind Muff
- Extra Sony NP-QM71D
- Quick charge unit

Furthermore, I need a good bag for the transportation of all my equipment. Prerrably something that can be carried in the field easily. I want to have my equipment with me all the time, so it must be comfortable and I must be able to wear it all-day while walking and sightseeing.

Furthermore, Italy is very sunny. In sicilly, the summers are really hot with sun all day. So I am almost sure I need something to stop down the light falling into my lens. I guess that means that I need a ND filter and at least a UV filter. Does anyone have experience with these filters?

Finally, I need a good cleaning kit for my camera/lens. I am not sure if I will encounter any dust but I want to be prepared for that.

I hope someon can fill me in, also when you also did a trip similair to mine in a nature park or on a holiday in a remote country. Thanks.
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Old May 8th, 2006, 09:48 AM   #2
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I had a sound guy with me when I went years ago. With that in mind...

we had a small luggage two-wheeler. That helped cart stuff around and you can fold it up and stash it quick.

The power system is 50 Hz, so whenever you shoot interiors you will see a "flicker" or "strobe" effect. I adjusted the camera to a 1/100 shutter. I lost about a stop of light, but it fixed the problem. I was able to purchase power adapters for their wall outlets from a travel store, and most of my gear was switchable to the larger power output there (210 watts+-?). I shot a lot of stuff in low light with a Hitachi 3000 and a BetaSP back. Took a lot of chances, and I wasn't sure if my job was going to be there when I got back, but the footage turned out great.
Candle light at a vinyard..3 tenors singing at a 400 year old castle... ah yeah. Florence was amazing.

Good luck to you.

Jeff Patnaude
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Old May 8th, 2006, 10:02 AM   #3
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Sorry- I forgot to mention the filter info.

The UV doesn't really do much but protect your lense. You need a "French Flag, or a mattbox. A French Flag is an arm with a clip on it that attaches to the camera. The other end has a metal (or whatever material - you can improvise this too) square that you can position to shade the camera.

ND filters are great to have- make sure you get a Polarizer first. That will reduce the light by a stop and take out reflections and glare.

Of course, I always recommend a small travel book on the local language.
Even if you mess up- they always appreciate the effort (unless their French).
Ciao,
Jeff
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Old May 8th, 2006, 12:51 PM   #4
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Definitiely take a 37mm circ.polariser filter. Some people don't like them on Hc1/A1 as they report grain in deep-blue skies, but for sure take one. Also i'd take 37mm UV filter for lens protection from finger-prints, dust, dirt, airborne water.

Really i recommend strongly a lenshood for the Y lens. Cavision make one i think : LH77 ?! (something like that - do a search for Cavision on this site).
Shooting into strong sunlight will cause flare on a wideangle lesn like that unless it's IMMACULATELY clean. They're almost impossible to keep super-clean all day long, and you will suddenly notice this when shooting into (or nearly into) direct sunlight and all the little bits of debris on the surface of the lens flare out and reflect sunlight. The camera can and will focus on this debris on the front element.
Solution : get a Cavision lens hood, check front element (and rear element) of the Y lens (and cam's own lens) at the start of every day and periodically throught the day.

Cleaning:
Use a blower-brush as a first step. If that's not enough, use microfibre cloth. If that's not enough, add a SMALL amount of lens-cleaning fluid to the microfibre cloth. also people speak highly of the 'Lenspen'. Do a search on B&H site for "Lenspen". Quite cheap.

You'll only get flikcer on a NTSC camera in Europe (50Hz mains frequency) when under fluorescent lights. Shouldn't happen much. Be aware of it indoors but i doubt very much you'll encounter them.

Definitely good advice about phrase book - i would never go to a foreign country without a smattering of phrases to at least ingratiate yourself a bit with the locals. pretty rude to expect the whole world to speak english.
Generally, the smaller the town, the less the locals will speak english.

I *think* you can plug your cam straight into teh socket (provided you have an adaptor) - certainly PAL cams can take 110V and 240V. I would check this first though. Some Euro countries have 220-240V.

Final thing : *BE CAREFUL IN EUROPE IN SUMMER IN GENERAL BUT ESPECIALLY ITALY, AND ESPECIALLY NAPLES AREA - the thieves are VERY VERY GOOD*. They are on the lookout for tourists with expensive equipment and you do NOT want to excessively advertise your gear. Obviously if you're shooting, you're shooting, but ALWAYS be as compleltely aware of your surroundings as you can, always be aware of where you gear is, your bag is. If you put your bag down, shoot 2 minutes footage, your bag may no longer be there. Keep everything zipped up ALWAYS. Never wander even 5feet away from a bag you've put down. Use small locks if you can on a zipper (travel locks).

Naples especially can be BAD for this, - a classic method they use (especially with women) is to zoom past on a motor scooter and just snatch handbag or whatever. OR a guy on foot will snatch camera / bag and his buddy zooms by 5secs later on a scooter (with another guy riding pillion) - the 1st guy throws the bag/camera at the guy on back on scooter, ......everyone gone in 10seconds. I don't want to worry you but unless you're on the ball as a tourist you may have a theft which could ruin your trip.
Oh final thing - be aware also of hoards of kids running round you - they try to distract you and swipe stuff out of your bag / pockets / backpack.
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Old May 8th, 2006, 01:01 PM   #5
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Thanks for your great advice. I would like to clear up that I have a HDR-HC1E, or in other words the PAL version. Furthermore, I speak spanish near fluently and Italian has very much in common. I do have two travel guides from Capitol (well-known) for Italy in general and Sicilly in specific.

You mentioned the thieves. I had a discussion about non-expensive vs. expensive bags in another thread. One of the main reasons why I want a professional bag is that they are from kevlar and very hard to cut open with a knife. Furthermore, they have locker zips which cheap bags often do not have. Glad you brought it up, cause I had forgot to mention this.
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Old May 8th, 2006, 05:19 PM   #6
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muy bien!

have a fun time over there. Don't get paranoid about the street-thieves but i just thought i'd mention it. hopefully you'll come back and say 'what thieves?!' - thats a perfect result.
PAL version can take either 110V or 220-240V so all you need is a physical plug to adapt to italian power-socket.

Siena is nice - lots of cobbled narrow streets, and a nice big central plaza thingy with i think a big church / cathedral (it's been a few years..).

If you have time i thoroughly recommend visiting the ruins of Pompeii and walking up Mount Vesuvius - just a few miles from Pompeii. Both aren't far from Naples. Vesuvius isn't that big actually and there's a road that goes up from the base almost to the top. You can probably walk it in about 2 hours. From there, it's a steepish walk up the lava rocks to the crater. Great views, lot of history, and....... overdue to erupt again !!
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Old May 8th, 2006, 05:30 PM   #7
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My wife recently returned from a trip to London. She bought one of those power converters before she left. It fried her hair dryer. I would recommend taking along a digital voltage meter for checking things out before plugging a piece of expensive equipment into the power supply.
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Old May 8th, 2006, 06:21 PM   #8
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Voltage in Italy is definitely 220-230V, 50Hz.

I would double-check with Sony that your camera will be fine to re-charge in a 220V environment. But i remember Floris said it was a PAL camcorder and so that should be fine for plugging straight in. - it's really the power-supply itself that needs to be able to 'cope' with 220V Ac. Output from the power-supply will be the same (something like 12V DC) for both the PAL and NTSC versions. So i think it's just a question of making sure that the power-adaptor that you got with your A1 camcorder is going to be fine in 220V situ.

I'm not sure why, if someone's bought a power-converter (essentially a transormer that changes AC voltage up or down) should fry their hairdryer. A power-convertor's job is to take the 240V you get in UK and convert it to 110V that is suitable for the USA-purchased hairdryer. Clearly if it fried the hairdryer either it didn't work properly or was used at an incorrect setting. (if there's a 2-way switch on it, obviously it needs to be set to input 240V and output 110V).
The hairdryer will defintiely fry if you give it 240V AC and it's designed for 110v AC, and you haven't used a voltage-transformer.
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Old May 9th, 2006, 05:27 AM   #9
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Does anyone have a link to a good cleaning kit / or seperate parts that they have experience with and that have the best price / quality balance?
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Old May 10th, 2006, 09:43 PM   #10
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I lived in Florence for four years and I strongly urge you to keep your wits about you (and your equipment) while near the train station, the Duomo and the Ponte Vecchio. Same goes for Termini station in Rome. For the most part, 75% of the theives are gypsy looking types, often young women carrying a small child. The deal is that they try to distract you with the baby or a newspaper and while you're not paying attention, away go your goodies. I got to know a few of these girls (platonic to be sure) and they are just mixed up kids who are taught to lead this kind of life by necessity. Just walk with purpose, head up and looking forward. Keep your hands on your bags and you'll do fine. Buon Viaggio!
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Old May 11th, 2006, 06:50 PM   #11
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I roughly planned my journey today. We will fly from Eindhoven (Netherlands) to Pisa. We'll find a place to stay in Pisa. From Pisa, we will visit Florence, Siena and Lucca and do a few days on the beach. Then we will travel to Napels via Rome (but won't visit it yet). We will stay in Napels for two days, of which one day we will visit Pompei / Vesuvius. From Napels, we will go to Messina (Sicilly) from which we will visit Palermo, Corleone and some of the other beautiful places on the island. Then we will travel back to Rome (long trip by train!) and stay there for three days and fromt here fly back home!

The only thing left now is to get my gear sorted out and complete!
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Old May 11th, 2006, 07:04 PM   #12
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Gear and places to go

Hi Floris,
If you haven't bought a bag, try the Tamarac 752 Adventurer. It is plain looking strong, and you can carry all your stuff, and have on your back while you shoot.

It is a still photo bag with a big bottom compartment, and two backpack top compartments. All the zippers can go to the center and are covered, cutting down the opportunity for snatch and grabbers.

And it doesn't look like a camera bag.

http://www.tamrac.com/welcome.htm

Go to daypacks/backbacks.

The Sony charger with your camera works fine with 220 in Italy; all you need is a Euro converter plug. You can buy 'em on line, at a travel store or at the airport when you land.

If you are in Pisa, and have the time, Cinque Terre, (The five towns) is great. The Italian version of the Rivera.

Happy Trails...

Jack Hubbard
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Old May 11th, 2006, 07:13 PM   #13
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I am not sure which one you mean, but the model 5547 or the Adventure 7 looks pretty good to me. However, I am not sure if it can hold the HDR-HC1 with Sony Y wide-angle lens and Cavision LH77 and QMF71D battery attached, so not seperatly, but in standby/ready-to-shoot status.

Thanks for your tip regarding Pisa, I will write it down!
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Old May 12th, 2006, 10:33 AM   #14
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just a typo correction Floris : it's Naples, not Napels.
(well actually to be accurate it's Napoli....Naples is just the non-Italian spelling of the name).

Also, be careful on trains too in Italy. All kinds of theft stories. Be careful especially not to fall asleep without securing your gear VERY well. Take locks for all zips etc. with important gear inside, and i reco a metal cable to secure stuff to fixed object/railing.
Italian thieves praying on sleeping tourists is, unfortunately, not uncommon.
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Old May 12th, 2006, 03:15 PM   #15
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Your right about the name. In The Netherlands, we speak dutch, and Napels is the dutch translation of Napoli. I must have messed it up as I normally tend to use the Italian names as I think they are nicer to speak out.

Thanks for the advice on thieves. I have already been in Rome and have witnessed robbers in action at Termini and in the metro and I am always very careful with my bags. But you cannot be careful enough, so thanks that everyone reminds me of the thieves so I definately won't forget!

I have sorted out almost everything. I only need some more help with the bag. What I am looking for is a bag where I can place the HDR-HC1 with Sony Y wide-angle lens and QMF71D battery ATTACHED. It would be great if the Cavision LH77 lenshood could also stay on the setup. Furthermore, I take the Rode NTG-2 with Deadcat, cables and chargers, tapes and spare batteries. The Spider Brace 2 stays home but I would like something on the sides to attach a tripod so I can carry it all with one bag on my back.

That makes me ask another question. I now have a really heavy and sturdy Manfrotto tripod but am looking for something much lighter, smaller but still stable and strong to serve as my travel tripod. Any suggestions? I am thinking about aluminum or carbon fiber instead of metal.
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