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Nature and Wildlife Photography Articles - Lens and Equipment protection and camo on a budget

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  • Lens and Equipment protection and camo on a budget

    Since owning a wide variety of large and sometimes expensive equipment Iíve been able to test and examine some different ways to protect them as well as add some camouflage to help make it stand out less in the wild. There are some great commercially available covers like Lenscoat covers, however these options tend to be fairly expensive (some over $150 for one lens covering) and are only made for specific lenses or other equipment and even then may have some difficulty fitting properly, some have reported needing to cut them to work or fit specific lens variations.

    I have made and tested different alternatives to these commercial coverings, and thought I would share my experiences with them and give some other options, some at fairly significant savings as well as other benefits. Most of this article will feature images about covering my 500mm F4 and Gitzo tripod, but the same procedures could be applied to practically any lens, tripod, or anything else you would like to cover for protection and camouflage.

    The first option that many people do is to make a copy of the commercial Lenscoat type covers. This consists of obtaining some neoprene material as well as a camo pattern fabric from a fabric store. You will need your lens available to make a pattern from, access to (and ability to) use a sewing machine. You can use some butcher paper or similar to create some patterns for the different sections to make sure it is cut and sewn correctly, make sure you test fit the neoprene before final sewing.

    You will want the sections to stretch a little bit in order to fit snug enough so that the cover does not move and stays secure during use. After you have everything cut, you should use some spray adhesive to secure the camo pattern fabric to the exterior of the neoprene, sewing the edges after using the adhesive would be advisable to keep everything secure over time. And sew your pieces together and you have a copy of the Lenscoat options for significantly less, although requiring a fairly decent time and effort commitment. (These images are of a well-used neoprene cover made by a friend)

    Another option that Iíve found, and which has become my favorite thing to use is to use a fabric wrap that is designed for hunting firearms and optics called CamoForm from a company called McNett. (Iím going to try not to make this sound like an ad for Camoform, however it likely will end up that way, you should know that I have no affiliation with CamoForm or McNett, and I have received no compensation for writing this, Iím just a happy customer)

    This is a heavy weight stretch fabric that sticks to itself, similar to Coban wrap used in the medical field. However this is MUCH thicker than coban and has a better Ďgripí feeling to it. There is no sticky adhesive, no tack, and it does not leave any residue on your equipment.

    So weíll start discussing covering my tripod legs.

    The CamoForm just unrolls, however since it does not have any adhesive on it, it wonít stick to anything except itself. Therefore, as you stretch the wrap onto your equipment you need to overlap each layer a little bit to make sure it adheres and stays properly.

    Then as you continue rolling the wrap onto your equipment it will stay in place, and when you get to the end, I like to make an extra overlapping pass before I cut the wrap with some good sharp scissors.

    When covering something like a lens, you may run into odd shapes or something that you may not want covered, you can simply cut the wrap as you wish, if you have some good sharp scissors and get a clean cut it wonít fray or split or anything.

    Continue covering and wrapping the sections of the lens until youíve got it all covered as you want, I prefer not to have my controls covered on the lens. After all, camouflage is mainly just to break up the shape of the large lens/equipment, not covering a small section doesnít make much difference and allows quick access to the controls. A covering could be easily made for these sections as well if that is something you prefer.

    The CamoForm is very quick to put on, easily taken off if needed, reusable, and even washable according to the manufacturer. It comes in a large variety of patterns like realtree AP, Max, Snow, various universal camo patterns (like the one I used here), solid colors, etc. each roll runs about $10-15. A single roll will probably cover a good sized lens, however you will probably want 2-3 rolls to cover a few smaller lenses and/or tripods. I have it covering my wildlife lenses, tripods, monopods, gimbal heads, Iíve even got a small tripod stool that I take with me sometimes that Iíve covered with it. Itís fast, easy, and cheap enough to change patterns if you need (perhaps to the snow pattern for winter, and AP/Max4 or universal for non-winter).

    Although the manufacturer says it can be re-used, Iíve found that removing and replacing it too much will cause loss of elasticity, so I prefer to just replace it if I need to remove it. But that is just my personal preference.

    Some people will contest that if youíre spending sometimes thousands of dollars for your equipment, what is another couple hundred for a commercial Lenscoat or similar. This is completely valid and I agree, however, regardless of cost, I still prefer the CamoForm, it has a more Ďgrip-likeí feel to it which I prefer over the Lenscoat, comes in more patterns, is easier to use on a wider variety of items, etc. Itís more of a personal preference than anything else, but itís good to know the different options available, and at only $10 per roll, itís worth a shot.
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