MacLife

Niko Pack Review

Having a photo shoot on the other side of town in the pouring rain with no way to get there but on a bicycle (or parkour) is going to require a special kind of camera bag, and Chrome is betting you’ll want their new Niko Camera Pack for your pricey gear on such a day.

Chrome built their reputation as a leader of San Francisco–made, hand-crafted messenger bags with the kind of aesthetic that appealed to the skateboarders and bike messengers who founded the company. Known for their straps with vintage seatbelt buckles, Chrome bags have become as much a fashion statement as fixed-gear bikes and wearing your keys on a carabiner. Thankfully, the newest addition to Chrome’s camera bag line comes without the seatbelt, and favors more serious photographers who have a lot more gear.

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This model isn’t made locally (unless you live near Guangzhou, China), but it’s still backed with lifetime warranty for defects and carries their assurance of being “bomb-proof.” I did not try to blow it up, but it has been dragged around for the past few weeks, on four different shoots, and this is what I crammed into its main compartment: 15-inch MacBook Pro (without sleeve—the laptop compartment is padded), Nikon D800 with battery booster and 
17–35 2.8 attached (hood reversed), Nikon D3 (body only), 24–70 2.8, Quantum Turbo SC, and 2 radio slaves. In the top compartment, which I like to call the “junk drawer,” you can fit some pretty big items: Nikon 70–200 2.8 (wrapped), an SB-28 flash, as well as various cords for the laptop, flash, and chargers. It wasn’t graceful packing, and it weighed 29 pounds, but it proved the awesome carrying-power-to-size ratio of this bag. This is largely accomplished by using thinner padding inside and out. And while I still think it’s a safe bag, I certainly wouldn’t throw it around.

The adjustable chest strap is fantastic both on and off the bike, but I found the padding of the shoulder straps simply adequate. I also found the adjusters unnecessarily made of metal, as they tended to thwack anything nearby when swinging the bag around. The branding is downplayed nicely to a simple logo on the outer tripod/skateboard straps, and the textured foam backing will be appreciated on humid days. The waterproof zippers aced my garden-hose test, but their design also makes them sluggish for quickly retrieving your camera, and the top-compartment zippers would be greatly helped with longer pulls. Also, the bag tends to tip over sometimes since the base isn’t totally rigid. And that’s something you don’t want to happen on wet ground.

The bottom line. It’s taken me years, but I’ve finally learned there is no perfect camera bag, only the right bag for the right day. There’s a lot of competition in this price range, but for fans of Chrome products who skate or bike from shoot to shoot, and don’t carry the heaviest lenses, this bag will be as dependable and stylish as they’ve come to expect.

Review Synopsis

Product: 

Company: 

Chrome Industries

Price: 

$180

Requirements: 

Fits up to a 15-inch MacBook Pro, plus camera(s) and other gear.

Positives: 

Holds a boatload of gear for its size. Durable and weatherproof. It doesn’t look like a camera bag. Straps on the outside can hold a tripod.

Negatives: 

Slow zippers. Divider system lacking. Shoulder straps need more padding. It ain’t cheap.

Score: 
4 Great

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Badland Review

Ferrying a flock of afro-adorned critters through a ghastly gauntlet of increasingly menacing shadow machines is a challenging, sometimes messy affair in Badland. It's easy to get swept away by the gorgeous scenery cycling in the background of each doom-filled stage, but failing to focus on the dark traps springing to life in the foreground does not bode well for your gaggle. This interesting and visually distinct one-button game layers unique mechanics around its simple premise to keep you tapping along even when your cute crew gets shredded to pieces over and over again.

The eerie landscape is full of menacing gears, saw blades, pneumatic pistons, explosive spores, pinching spikes, and other dangers waiting to whittle down your troupe down in size and number. While there's little explanation as to the particulars of why, your task is to navigate each harsh environment and make it through to the other side with as many of your little pals intact as possible. Placing your finger on the screen makes your flock flap their tiny wings and rise, gaining forward momentum in the process. Letting go makes them descend and slow down. While your primary mode of transport is simple, your mission is anything but.

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Navigating stages quickly becomes an exercise in fast-paced puzzle solving, as different power-ups and obstacles are thrown into your path. Items can speed up your movement, make your critter multiply into many smaller ones, and cause your horde to grow or shrink in size, among other effects. These help or hinder you, depending on what's coming up along the deadly path ahead. The fact that there's precious little time to think and react makes stages even more heart-pounding in nature, since stragglers are consumed as the screen scrolls forward. Luckily, forgiving checkpoints make up for some of the more brutally unflinching stages, and the overall creativity found throughout the sadistic level designs is impressive.

The bottom line. Simple, gorgeous, and brutal, Badland is a real treat for the senses that marvels as it challenges.

Review Synopsis

Product: 

Company: 

Frogmind

Price: 

$3.99

Requirements: 

iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or later

Positives: 

Amazing art style. Simple, intuitive controls. Inventive stage designs.

Negatives: 

The challenge can grow frantic in spots.

Score: 
4 Great

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