(Product images used with permission from www.iWorkcase.com)
When shooting outdoors, it's often difficult to view images on your camera's LCD screen and check focus, especially when it's bright and sunny outside. For personal work this isn't too much of an issue (the autofocus technology on today's cameras is very reliable) but for commercial work - although I'll always pitch to shoot at dawn or dusk or in late afternoon light - a brief will often dictate the need to shoot all day and it's imperative an Art Director and I can see the LCD screen, even at high noon, so we can check composition and ensure critical focus.
On really sunny days, I'll make use of a Hoodman loupe, a lightweight device which fits over your LCD screen and shields the sun so can see your images. It works perfectly but I've found it's often tricky to simultaneously hold the camera, play back the images and zoom in whilst using the loupe.
The iWorkcase is an on-location workstation specifically designed for Apple Macbooks. I believe it's ideal for outdoor photographers on commercial advertising shoots and for portrait and architectural photographers or others who have a need to shoot outside the studio and check capture on location.
I'd first seen the iWorkcase in YouTube footage posted by US photographer Joey Lawrence . It was in the background of a 'behind the scenes' video Joey had posted of an environmental portrait session he had with US actor Michael K Williams. After a bit of research on Google, I worked out what the product was and I sent the manufacturer an email.
iWorkcase is the brainchild of Daniel and Immanuel Maeir from Germany. The principal parts of their iWorkcase location workstation are simple. Included in the price is a waterproof and shock-resistant laptop case (which Immanuel confirmed as a Pelican 1490), a firm, pre-cut foam inlay matched to the dimensions of your Macbook (I purchased an iWorkcase 2 Retina / Special Edition for a 2013 Macbook Pro but you can buy other inlays to suit your model of laptop - also available are 15" and 17" Macbook versions), a foldable screen to shield your screen from the sun, a thick cloth that enables you to completely block out the light, a piece of plastic that lifts your computer off the foam unit to aid the circulation of air and an external coupling plate that accepts traditional screw-in or Arca-Swiss tripod attachments. There's also an additional, optional iWorktablet attachment (not for iPads, which I first thought, but for using a mouse or Wacom tablet) and Hyperjuice 1.5 150 or 1.5 220 batteries for working as long as possible.
(What's not included in the iWorkcase is the means to transfer images from your camera to your laptop. After some research, I opted for a CamRanger wireless transmitter device to send images wirelessly to my Macbook and a Tethertools USB cable as a backup).
What I like about the iWorkcase
- I love the ability to see and share images on a big screen immediately after I've shot them (but that's more a plus of the CamRanger wireless transmitter or the Tethertools cable I use alongside it rather than the iWorkcase)
- Being able to take my laptop out in the field in a super protective, waterproof case also puts my mind at ease (but, again, that's a forte of another manufacturer (Pelican) rather than iWorkcase).
- What Daniel and Immanuel have done is build on this and designed a really fast, simple way for a photographer or digital technician to set up a laptop for tethered shooting on location. All the parts are good quality materials, they're simple and they work well - the foam inlay and accessories (purchased separately) are situated underneath the laptop and the sunshield unit and black cloth sit on top. The sunshield especially fits quickly and securely and you're ready to start shooting in minutes. Neat touches like the feet on the case for using it without a tripod, the velcro attachment for the cloth (and the air circulator) and the air circulator itself show that they've thought about the product in use and it appears they've designed it (and updated it after feedback) for optimal use.
What I'd like to see improved
- 'Flyability' - It's not Daniel or Immanuel's fault but, if you're travelling abroad, the Pelican 1490 case the iWorkcase sits within is too large for a second piece of hand luggage. You'd either have to check it (carrying your laptop by other means) or have an assistant carry the case as their main hand luggage. The latter's not a bad idea as the case is not that lightweight (4.5kg without the Macbook). I'd suggest it's most suited to shoots where you're in a vehicle or you're not far from the beaten track (though if you do plan on carrying it up and down hills, see a potential lighter weight suggestion below*).
10th October update - Immanuel has advised me that '[he] developed the iWorkCase as an digi tech myself and I used the iWorkCase for hundreds of shooting days around the globe. All of my colleagues use it all the time as hand luggage extra bag, so you can store your Macbook and HyperJuice battery in the iWorkCase and get rid of weight the check in guys ask for ; - ) This usually works 100%'.
- Comfort - The carrying strap provided with the iWorkcase isn't very padded and I found it uncomfortable after a period of time. I use a spare strap from a LowePro Toploader AW75 camera bag
- Space - I'd prefer to be able to store more items underneath the laptop (e.g. tethering cable) so all the technology I needed for on-location photography was in one place. The iWorkcase 2 workstation has pre-cut space to accommodate a few memory cards, a Hyperjuice MBP 1.5 150 or 1.5 222 battery, a CF card reader and up to three portable hard drives, depending on size (definitely not three WD ones). If you choose not to take a battery, the CamRanger does fit in, as does a tether cable, but it's a very neat fit and I'd be wary about damaging the laptop when I close the case (something the manufacturer warns against). There's also a risk I'd run out of power. Plus there would be less foam and therefore less protection for my laptop. It's not a great hardship to carry the additional tethering items, or a power cable, separately.
- Pelican 1490 - See US photographer Chase Jarvis' location workstation video for possibly (but likely not) the original laptop on-location workstation
- Pelican 1510 - UK photographer Tom Barnes made his own location workstation with Trekpak inserts
- Inovativ Digicase Pro - Excellent looking product originally based around a Pelican 1510 but now uses an SKB case. Includes a cheeseplate and clamps for securely attaching your laptop inside the case -
- Inovativ Digicase Lite - A lighter weight version of the Digicase Pro using what looks like a Pelican 1490-sized briefcase and a t-shaped cheeseplate -
*Lighter weight option - All the above options are still fairly heavy and likely not appropriate for shoots far from the beaten track. If you have a need to view images on a separate device on location and you want to travel lightweight, you could take just the black cloth and the CamRanger or tether cable and carry your laptop in your backpack (my 13" Macbook Pro fits perfectly in my F-Stop Loka and F-Stop Satori backpacks). Or you could share images from your camera to an iPad or your iPhone with a CamRanger wireless transmitter and use the cloth to shield the screen. It's not ideal but it works.