While on a recent family holiday, much of my time would be spent entertaining the kids so a tripod wasn't a convenient option. As an alternative I packed the Wildlife Studio's Delux Beanbag into my rucksack.
For those who don't know, a bean bag is a small pouch that's filled with dried beans, bird seeds or similar small rounded items. The stuffed bag provides a base that can be shaped to an irregular surface and the top provides a surface that can mold around a camera base or lens to offer a solid, but adjustable, wedge between the camera and the surface.
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The Wildlife Studio - Delux Beanbag: Features
Mention wildlife photography kit and a beanbag is one of those accessories that often finds it's way into conversation. The Delux Beanbag was designed specifically for wildlife and because of this it's a little different than the conventional bean bag "pouch". And is competitively priced at just £12.95.
This one has a camera platform that's roughly 8x8x20cm and two sections (legs) that splay out so it can be placed over a tree branch, almost like a peg, The depth of the leg is about 9cm. This means you have a platform that won't move when you take your camera off, unlike a normal bean bag that would usually be unstable and fall off. So, with this beanbag, all you have to do is position over a support and then you can concentrate on getting the camera seated and not worry about the bag rocking off its platform.
One leg has a key hook that can be used to latch keys onto adding more weight when it's on a branch, or as a convenient latch to a belt loop or outer loop on a bag for transporting.
There's also two mesh pockets on one side that could be used to store remote control/sunglasses filters etc while it's in use.
The Wildlife Studio - Delux Beanbag: Preparation
I'd been warned that the bag is fiddly to stuff, especially if you are using the polybeads (polystyrene balls) that the Wildlife Studio supply in a bag for £1.50. Because of this I took extra care not to make a mess. I
t wasn't as much trouble as I was expecting, the hardest part is picking up the few beads that spill out. I found the best thing to do was fill the legs first. Each leg is divided into three stitched compartments. While I'm sure there's a logical reason for this I would prefer individual pockets.
Once the legs are full you can stand the bean bag upright. This makes it easier to fill the top of the legs and most of the upper section. When it reaches the zip level carefully lower it on its side and fill the rest of the upper chamber.
It took about five minutes to fill and tidy up the spillage. You only need to do this once, unless you intend travelling and then you could empty it to create a flatpack and fill with a substance picked up at your destination. Emptying out the polybeads is very fiddly, so it's easier to use beans, but they do add to the weight.
The Wildlife Studio - Delux Beanbag: Performance
It works well. The shape allows it to sit well on a fence or sharp edged rocks where I put it to the test. There was a waterfall cascading down the cliff face on a beach I visited. I used a nearby rock to position the camera and managed to shoot at 0.6sec without any camera shake. I would have struggled to get a shot like this without a support. It also worked well on a fence while photographing farm live stock at sunset.
One thing that does concern me is the material isn't waterproof. Although I'm not likely to use it while it's raining I want to know I can rest it on a damp surface and not worry about the material leaking. and making the whole thing damp. I wonder how this will smell after continual dampening, also will the contents start to rot? I feel it needs a layer of waterproof material at least on the inners of the legs which make contact with most surfaces.
The Wildlife Studio - Delux Beanbag: Verdict
The Wildlife Studio's Delux Beanbag is versatile support that works well on tree branches, rocks and car bonnet, and the split base is also great to rest it on a car window. It's a bit of a pain to fill, and rather bulkier than I would like, but it does the job to support the camera and works well. I feel it needs waterproofing to make it more useful for most outdoor users but it's fine for fair weather users who don't want to lug a camera tripod around with them.
The Wildlife Studio - Delux Beanbag: Plus Points
The Wildlife Studio - Delux Beanbag: Minus Points
Difficult to fill
The Wildlife Studio - Delux Beanbag: