Saturday, December 11, 2021

A perspective on taking expensive rigs outdoors

And the Peovi brand is $135
Every now and then I see a posting from someone with a radio like the IC-705 who is hesitant to take it outdoors due to the "cost of the radio".

If they do take their expensive radio to such a harsh locale, they first must take the precaution of embedding it into a metallic frame that adds to the inconvenience of operating the radio and makes it a bit less portable - but provides the illusion of protection.

I suppose some actual protection is offered if the unlucky IC-705 owner is considerate enough to drop the rig in such a way that it hits the ground in the correct orientation.

On my recent trip to Colorado I met a lot of other people who, like me, were there specifically to photograph the beautiful scenery. Many of us had traveled from other states. None had cheap cameras.

I ended up having a few lunches with two other photographers. One was  a hobbyist like me; the other was a pro who had a medium-format Fuji which is certainly not a toy by anyone's measure.

How did they, and everyone else, protect their cameras? By having them affixed to our tripods, slung over our shoulders as we walked up and down trails, looking for compositions. Rocky trails, steep trails and sometimes slippery trails.

Our safety plan was this: Don't drop the camera.

From this perspective, the idea of putting a cage on an IC-705 to protect it on the treacherous car-to-picnic-table journey is absolutely absurd. If I want actual protection for it and its accessories, I'll put them in a case or Icom's backpack.

Like the camera, my IC-705 will remain cage-free.

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13 comments:

VE9KK said...

Good afternoon John, yup I remember hauling our Nikon's around with pricey big ass lenses and no protective anything. As for a radio my old KX3 had only side handles and a plastic cover for the screen when in transport. I have seen some ops not even peel off film that is over the LCD for years.
73,
Mike
VE9KK

K0RGI said...

Love those "free range" radios! That's part of the reason I like to use my SG-2020 in the field. It's built like a tank, so normal bumps won't hurt it. And, if I were to somehow damage it, it wouldn't be much of a monetary loss. I long ago amortized its cost.

John AE5X said...

Hello Mike - I agree that the plastic cover is helpful in protecting the knobs and, of course, the side panels are needed for this. But the cage thing...it's just radio bling or eye-candy. We have useless doodads for cars and (especially) trucks - I've bought a few myself in my younger years, but pretending that a cage protects a radio is a bit of a stretch. Remember "bras" for cars?!

73,
John

John AE5X said...

Free range and no MSG in my radio! If you ever decide to sell your SG-2020, please let me know.

73,
John

Tony AE0KW said...

I think the main issue with the cages, is that it's the best that can be done with the design of the 705 - there simply aren't places on the side for panels to screw into like with the KX3.

I've got the side handles and cover for my KX3, and it's saved my bacon countless times. Once I dropped it in the security line at an airport, and it definitely prevented an expensive repair. The side handles are a convenient way to set the radio down face-first, if not out at park, in the shack as well.

John AE5X said...

Good point, Tony - if you want to protect the front of the radio, a cage is a necessity. What I'd like to see is some sort of L-shaped cover that screws into the 1/4" socket on the bottom of the rig and extends in such a way as to attach a cover to the front of the radio. It could be easily removed for operation, then put back into place when the radio is being transported. Much less obtrusive than an encompassing and mostly-permanently attached cage.

73,
John

Thomas Witherspoon said...

It's so funny you bring up this topic, John. I was just speaking with a fellow POTA activator this weekend and he admitted that the only radio he takes to the field is his X5105, "because if I drop it, I can get another for $550" he told me. Thing is he has an Elecraft KX3 with roofing filter and side panels (almost identical to my own) but can't bring himself to take it to the field for fear of hurting it. I reckon he's got $1600 invested in it at this point. He asked my opinion and I sort of jokingly replied, "1.) I'd definitely take the KX3 without hesitation--it's 5 times the radio of the X5105 and 2.) simply try not to drop it." :)

I'll be the first to admit that, out of the field radios I have, I feel like the IC-705 is the most vulnerable (at least, the screen), and I tend not to choose it over, say, the TX0-500 or KX2 for Summits On The Air. This really has more to with the "brick" form-factor of the IC-705. It's a little less accommodating than the KX2 and TX-500 in my field pack.

But if you think about it, the IC-705 costs $1300. I'd venture to guess that the latest/greatest iPhones and iPads can cost about the same, but we tend to absolutely abuse those gadgets and don't think a thing about it. And laptops, too!

I agree that the IC-705 is a great field radio and as long as you do your due diligence protecting it in transit, there really shouldn't be a problem.

Part of me wants to get a cage for the '705. Another part of me doesn't want to bulk it up, though. So it is what it is! So far, at least. :)

Cheers,
Thomas
K4SWL

John AE5X said...

Good morning Thomas,

Yes, I thought about the phone analogy. Mine lives in my back pocket when I'm out & about, the center console storage area when I'm driving. I never give its protection a 2nd thought and I doubt many people do with theirs either. The glass used for phone/tablet screens is really not fragile and neither is that on the IC-705. I can't count how many times I've dropped my phone onto all kinds of surfaces - simply because I'm sometimes careless with it...far more careless than I would be with the Icom.

The photography trip solidified my opinion - there I was, wandering about in the Rockies actually thinking about when I might activate the San Juan mountains as a POTA. And it hit me that not one of the photographers I saw had a caged camera. They make them, for some camera models, but no one bothers because we know that (A) it would impede the operability of the camera (and radio) and (B) the primary purpose of these cages is to enrich the designer/seller.

The KX2/3 and IC-705 were tailor-made for the outdoors. It's ironic that many ops un-do a degree of their portability in order to feel comfortable using them in their intended environment.

73,
John

Dave New said...

Alain Briot explained why he never carries his camera on a tripod anymore, after he picked his up and slung the tripod over his shoulder, only to have his medium format camera and best lens go flying off and crash into a boulder along the trail. The deal is that you can't always depend that you remembered to tighten the tripod mounting rail (arca swiss style) before moving the setup, and all it takes is one time of forgetfulness to wreck a lot of nice equipment.

The only time I suffered a camera equipment loss due to damage was when I trusted my camera to an unattended cheap tripod while setting up in a parking lot. One of the tripod legs was not locked securely (bad design) and it fell over with my best camera and lens, breaking them both, in the middle of a photography workshop, a thousand miles or more from home. I had a backup camera, but it was a much older camera, and it fairly ruined the remainder of the workshop for me. I had my camera and lens repaired, and also bought a 'twin' backup camera, so if I ever had another failure in the field, I could switch and not skip a beat. I also invested in a proper tripod and mounting system from Really Right Stuff. That tripod has taken a beating on many workshops since, and I've only had to replace a foot I lost on a trail someplace. As for my cameras, I put a Really Right Stuff right-angle bracket on each, so I can quickly switch from horizontal to vertical format, without changing my framing. I know that ball mounts can be flopped over from horizontal to vertical, but once you've done that a few times in the field you will see why anyone serious about tripod usage will go with the right-angle brackets.

Of course, I've never had to resort to my backup camera since, but I do haul it out on a regular basis and use it, to keep it limbered up, just in case. The cost of a backup body is small compared to the expense of the trip, and the fact that you may never get a chance to shoot that location again, especially in whatever favorable lighting you had. Also, lots of locations are simply never the same again. Alain made in image in Canyon de Chelly during a snowstorm of Spider Rock, with a very interesting old tree in the foreground. The next time he visited, the tree was gone, having fallen in to the canyon, so that particular situation could never be repeated.

John AE5X said...

The law of averages was bound to catch up with Alain at some point - he probably spends 100+ days/year at photography. I doubt a camera cage would have protected his camera any more than one would protect a radio. Here's one for a popular pro camera:
https://www.smallrig.com/smallrig-cage-for-nikon-d850-2129.html

Zero real protection from that $100 gadget - but it probably gives a false sense of security to whoever uses it, thereby increasing the risk of damage.

I recently (after years) made the switch to Arca-Swiss. I had been using a Manfrotto quick release which is much more secure but is not compatible with an L-bracket. I think there is an Arca-Swiss QR though now available - I need to check on that.

73,
John

K0RGI said...

John - I'll do that! They have their quirks, and I've read of significant problems with some, but I've been very pleased with mine.

Meanwhile, my KX3 maintains permanent residence on my shack desk. Not that I'm worried all that much about damaging it - I've occasionally used it in the field - but it's the nicest (and smallest) full featured radio I can imagine using at my very compact operating position.

Anonymous said...

You know, I've never thought about the inconsistencies in my own thinking...caring 'oh-so-gently' with the KX2, and slinging many times that much dollar value in camera equipment over my shoulder as have hiked the Colorado wilderness (I get to live here). Over 30 years ago, I schlepped a Mamiya RB67 medium format camera many miles into the Weminuche wilderness to shoot it in B&W film. I recall that it was rolling around in the bottom of my backpack much of the trip. I've never had a hint of malfunction or damage to camera equipment. Radio and Photography...great pairing of hobbies. 73, Scott K7DXT

John AE5X said...

Mamiyas and film - I rememeber those days! Mine was a C330 TLR. My favorite breakfast place in Ridgway has a sign on the wall that says "If you're lucky enough to live in the Rockies, you're lucky enough". I agree.

73,
John