Iraq: Gear Preview

Iraq: Gear Preview

I am taking a few pieces of new gear with me to Iraq when I leave this Friday. Some of it was provided by partners in the work and some by my hard earned bucks.

The first out of the doc is a new pair of light weight hiking boots provided by Keen Footwear. Keen is a partner in my work. They believe in my talent and my take on photography. They are renowned for giving back to the community. So it should come as no surprise when I told Keen about my trip to Iraq they wanted to partner with me and my friends at Knowledge Stewardship.  They quickly sent me, and everyone on my team a pair of the Klamath Mid hiking boots.  These boots are amazing, like all Keen they fit snug but have a large toe box to give your little doggies and plenty of room to move. The KEEN.DRY waterproof membrane keeps the water out, keeping our feet dry. A cork and EVA heel insert cushions our steps on the uneven Iraqi terrain. This is just what the doctor (pediatrist?) ordered. On top of all that, they are a great looking boot. Thank you Keen for believing in what we are about in Iraq.

If you recall from my post back in August 2009 “Teaching Others to Fish“, the idea of this trip is to help small NGOs (Non-Government Organizations) tell their own stories without the aid of a professional photographer. I will be helping them define their vision and help them see what the story is and how to tell it through photography. Once or twice a day I will be meeting with the students, who are NGO staff for a structured class time. During this time we will be going over what makes a good photograph and what makes a good essay. I’ll be showing examples both of my own work as well as some of the masters of photography and photo essays. We will be critiquing and analyzing those images, as well as images on what they shoot throughout the day. To do this we will need a video projector. I knew one of these NGOs had a projector but we would need more than one because of other classes going on at the same time. My Knowledge Stewardship Int’l cohorts will be addressing issues like After Action Review and Reflective Practice. So to keep from having to fight over the one projector, I invested in a very small light weight video projector. It’s called the 3M Mpro 120 pico.

It is small, really small, it fits in my shirt pocket. For me this is perfect as space is an issue. Traveling with-in Asia I only get 20kg of baggage, not much when you add up all the gear I carry. The MPro 120 can run up to four hours on a single charge. It has a tripod mount, in fact it even came with a pocket tripod, albeit a pretty cheesy and useless one. I tossed it and will be using my Gorilla pod. What I was really concerned about was the brightness, at only 12 lumen I did not expect much. But the fact is, it is pretty bright. It is a very short through projector, meaning I can use it in a small cramped hotel room and shine a 50″ image on the wall. You can see from the images below, I took these in my office; how bright it is and how short the distance between the projector and the wall was, only about four feet.

The features look something like this:

Product Features

  • VGA image and 100% color gamut gives the user one of the highest quality images of any portable projector currently available
  • Two integrated, half-watt stereo speakers help transform the MPro120 into a self-contained presentation device for entertainment or business application
  • Projects eight to 50-inch still or moving image stored on a video capable pass-through device(e.g.MPR3 player, laptop computer, ect.)
  • Uses Liquid Crystal on Silicon(LCOS) technology for superb image quality and minimization of component size.
  • LED light source with 20,000 hour life means the unit is environmentally friendly and there is no need for a replacement bulb

Technical Details

  • Brand Name: 3M
  • Model: 78-9236-7713-8
  • Hardware Platform: PC
  • Display: LCOS projector
  • Minimum Image Size: 6 inches
  • Maximum Image Size: 3.2 feet
  • Minimum Screen Distance: 1 feet
  • Maximum Screen Distance: 6 feet
  • Display Resolution Maximum: 640 x 480
  • Audio Output Type: None
  • Width: 2 inches
  • Depth: 4.5 inches
  • Height: 0.9 inches
  • Weight: 5.6 Ounces
  • So as you can see, it is a very cool little tool and one that I hope will prove itself useful in the field.

    If you are a regular reader of this blog you know I use a Sony PCM D50 field recorder. It is one very tough and accurate field recorder. One thing that I like is the two microphones that can be used in an X pattern or a Y pattern. These little condenser microphones are very sensitive, almost to a fault. If you are recording an interview and holding the unit handling the noise is really noticeable. So I bought a Electro-Voice RE 50b microphone. This microphone is use world over and is favorite interview microphone. It is a specially shock-isolated, omnidirectional, dynamic microphone created for hand-held broadcast and sound reinforcement use. This microphone is so tough! How tough you ask? Well, I am glad you asked. If you need to drive a nail and you forgot your hammer or need a small defensive weapon, this will work well for either needs. Besides being tough, the sound is clear and crisp and isolates the voice well and completely eliminates any handling noise. Being a Dynamic microphone I can use it with my D50 without any preamp. So it was a natural choice for adding more versatility to field recording.

    As I said above, I leave on Friday. I hope to keep you posted. There will be internet where I’m going. But I just don’t know how much free time I will have. I will be spending two days in Istanbul on the way out. I have never been there so I hope to shot the Blue Mosque, the Ayasofya and more. But I am open to suggestions for shot lists. Tell me what you know, where to go and what to avoid?

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    About The Author

    Matt Brandon

    Matt is a Malaysia based humanitarian and travel photographer. Well known as a photographer and international workshop instructor, Matt’s images have been used by business and organizations around the globe. Matt also on the design board for Think Tank Photo, a camera bag manufacturer. In 2013 Matt founded the On Field Media Project to train the staff of non-profits to use appropriate technology to produce timely as well as quality images.


    1. Sarah

      WOW! That's awesome, Matt! And we love Keen, but are definitely going to be much more loyal now. I can't wait to see what comes of all of this! 🙂 You really have a gift.

    2. Matt Brandon

      Thanks Sarah. Yeah Keen are amazing. I have way too many of them, if that is possible. The cool thing is knowing they give back to the community. Now they are helping us help others.

    3. NameJean

      Rustem Pascha mosque – great light, beautiful blue tile and adjacent to the spice market – the food stalls near, but not in the spice market, are also lots of fun.

    4. Jeffrey Chapman

      I think I'm experiencing the uncomfortable feeling of gear lust. I want one of those portable projectors! Now I just have to endure the arduous task of convincing myself that I actually need one.

    5. foggodyssey

      Matt- After spending 4 years in Iraq (1 year military and 3 years working) I can honestly say it's a tear on your gear (esp the camera sensor). Zip-Loc bags are a God send their and a must for all your gear. I'm sure you know but make sure you take all the cleaning gear you will need as dust gets into everything. Be sure to also take some warm clothing, as most people wouldn't think but it gets cold their right now during the nights, as well as some kind of clothing that is water proof. I'm not sure where your going (assuming Baghdad) but right now is when they get rain all the time. Expect mud to be everywhere and your boots dirty as hell. I found a stocking hat to be one of the best things I had their to keep warm during the nights.

      If you have any questions what so-ever as what to expect or in general for Iraq, shoot me an email at my website and will respond ASAP before you leave out.

      Grand Bazaar is a must for some good people shots and is the oldest market in Turkey (1461). Well worth a stop as it has so many things to photography one could spend a month their. Check it out here:,_Ista

    6. bstoops

      No shortage of things to shoot in Istanbul. My personal favorite – the Grand Bazaar.

    7. Matt Brandon

      Thanks for the info. I will not be going to Baghdad. I will be in the north in the Kurdish region. But, your comments are helpful. I have been checking the weather and it look like cool days and cold night. Thanks

    8. Matt Brandon

      I love great light. So I will check it out. Thanks.

    9. peter berg

      yep nice. just got the kids (x4) a pair of keens each, and my lovely wife x2 pairs. stay well young man 🙂

    10. Mark Olwick

      Great. I just watched “The Hurt Locker” and now you're going to Iraq. I know what you're doing is right, but I”ll still worry about you!


    11. Matthew

      That’s a great mic. I used one for ENG audio for my newspaper for a couple of years. And like you said it has a reputation that it can be used as a hammer in a pinch although I never dared mar the finish on mine. Will last forever too.

    12. Matthew Crawley

      That's a great mic. I used one for ENG audio for my newspaper for a couple of years. And like you said it has a reputation that it can be used as a hammer in a pinch although I never dared mar the finish on mine. Will last forever too.



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