September 16, 2011 Gear

Sony NEX-VG10

The only way I can understand Sony’s NEX-VG10 camcorder is to think of it as an experiment. In general, I’m all for experimentation, especially when it leads to new and unexpected designs. But there is a difference between previewing a prototype and asking people to pay money for a finished product, and in my opinion, (more...)...

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September 5, 2011 Sony NX70U Gear

Sony NX70U

It’s Fall 2011 and Sony at last is whole-heartedly embracing progressive video throughout its camcorder line, including the brand-new professional-grade NX70U, which utilizes the all-new and long-awaited 1080-60p AVCHD spec, recording full HD video at 28Mbps. A quick glance at the compact NX70U reveals a wealth of features seemingly ideal for documentary (and backcountry) videography (more...)...

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August 28, 2011 The Vaporlock Gear

The Vaporlock

While I’m thinking about carabiners, let’s take a quick look at Black Diamond’s Vaporlock, which Black Diamond says is the world’s lightest full-function “pear” locker. That means the Vaporlock is an HMS-stamped carabiner, with a larger, offset shape specially designed for belay use, and of course a screwgate to lock the gate shut while in (more...)...

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August 24, 2011 Canon XA10 Gear

Canon XA10

I am revising my opinion of Canon’s XA10 professional HD camcorder—upward. Interestingly enough, I’ve revisited test footage of the XA10 as part of a comparison with a newer camcorder, and…I have to say I like the XA10’s footage a lot better. Why the change of heart? In part, it’s because I initially mis-processed XA10 footage (more...)...

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August 24, 2011 Black Diamond Nitron Gear

Black Diamond Nitron

How does Black Diamond’s new Nitron screwgate compare to their Vaporlock carabiner? While they appear similar, there is at least one notable difference. But first, the similarities: on my scale the Nitron weighs 1.8 ounces. The Vaporlock weighs 1.8 ounces also. According to Black Diamond’s spec, the Nitron is actually two grams lighter than the (more...)...

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July 30, 2011 Contour Issues: High Contrast & Snow Gear

Contour Issues: High Contrast & Snow

If you’ve got a Contour helmet cam, or if you’ve ever watched any of my helmet cam videos, like this or this, you’ve probably noticed that the camera is particularly inept when it comes to dealing with bright, snowy scenes. Highlight detail tends to wash out, leaving obvious and ugly blank, featureless regions of white. (more...)...

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July 20, 2011 Nikon D7000 Gear

Nikon D7000

If it weren’t for the D7000’s annoying tendency to overexpose certain kinds of images, I think I could honestly say there is not a single digital frame I’ve ever taken that wouldn’t look better if I had shot it with my Nikon D7000. The D7000 is a formidable photographic tool, capable of handling nearly every (more...)...

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July 10, 2011 La Sportiva Electron Gear

La Sportiva Electron

La Sportiva’s snazzy trail-running trainer, the Electron, has become one of my footwear favorites—though perhaps not exactly in the way Sportiva intended. The Electron offers an intriguing blend of lightness and support. It is certainly not the lightest of the light, but at one pound, nine ounces per pair, it is quite light given the (more...)...

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June 26, 2011 Jetboil Sol Ti Gear

Jetboil Sol Ti

Ever since I got my Jetboil PCS stove, I haven’t used another backpacking stove in the backcountry—that’s how much I like it, despite the extra weight. But there’s a new sheriff in town, and its name is the Jetboil Sol Ti, offering improved cold-weather performance at very nearly half the weight of the venerable PCS. (more...)...

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June 13, 2011 K2 Wayback Gear

K2 Wayback

As its name implies, K2’s Wayback is a touring/ski mountaineering-specific plank designed for longer and deeper forays into the backcountry. The Wayback weighs in at a respectable 6 lbs 8.5 ounces per pair, while offering 88mm of width underfoot. Yes, this is a tad skinny by today’s freeride standards, but for that compromise you’re getting (more...)...

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When there is snow, SierraDescents is Andy Lewicky's California backcountry skiing and mountaineering website. Without snow, sierradescents becomes an ill-tempered hiking and climbing blog.

Pray for snow.