1st Time Parents Camera Guide

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As an photographer we all love to sit and think about what kind of gear we need and what we would like to go do with that gear. I caught the photo bug as a high school student in my sophomore year shooting a Canon AE-1 with a pretty basic zoom lens. Spent a lot of time goofing off an shooting lots of rolls of film learning the program functions of a SLR (IE: P, Tv, Av, M). In addition to those we also learn a great bit about film development and how to print.

Fast forward 10 years and film is obsolete with few people using it and development centers not processing it anymore. The digital revolution has begun… This is where photography has gone. Why I shoot Canon DSLRs – no reason at all other than I had that old AE-1 and they have some cool looking white lenses that cost a lot of money. After owning about 5 different Canon DSLRs I’m pretty comfortable with them now and find I can navigate all the menus pretty easily.  But I can say it really doesn’t matter with the big two Canon or Nikon. I think Nikon probably has the edge on certain things and Canon has an edge on other things. I’d tell people to buy what your friends have that way if you want help or want to try out a lens you’ll have a few people to lean on. The most important thing to remember is that the lenses are the most important part. I’ll focus on Canons cause that’s what I know.

So here is my list  – I’ll start with the most basic kit for family, kids, and light travel shots and work my way up to a more advanced kit for a more advanced shooter. I’ll not dive into top end pro-setups because if you a pro needing help choosing a camera you’ve come to the wrong place.

Level 1 ($1200):  This is what I would tell any new parent or grandparent wanting to get good shots or kids, on vacation, or learn the hobby.

Level 2 ($1500 upgrades): Building on what we have before I would upgrade lenses first – sell the 18-55mm IS (should get around $100-$120)

If you find yourself shooting more people – These are excellent choices for fast focus and sharp pictures

If you shoot more travel & landscapes shots than people then choose this lens. You’ll still have your 50mm f/1.8 for people.

Level 3 ($2500): Again adding to what we have already bought. Sell the T5i (should get around $450) or keep it as a second body

  • Canon 70D Body – http://amzn.to/1erNvHT - Also uses the same memory card as your T5i. Has much faster focus system and better image quality.

If you shoot a lot of people you may find yourself wanting more reach with your lenses this is a great upgrade.

4Runner Lift Guide – Spacer Lifts

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On the 5th Generation 4Runner there is a ton of questions about suspensions systems and what people should get to run what tires. I put together this bit of information more as a beginning for people just starting out in the suspension modification game. These are just my recommendations and don’t cover half the available options. Please see http://www.toyota-4runner.org/5th-gen-t4rs/156378-5th-gen-tire-fitment-guide.html#post1550444

First you need to identify what suspension system you have:

Standard:What I’ll call regular for lack of a better word, comes with “regular” shocks and springs. It’s a coil-spring independent double-wishbone front suspension with stabilizer bar in the front and a coil-spring 4 link with lateral rod rear suspension with stabilizer bar in the rear.

XREAS:You can identify this by looking at all the shocks, they will have a hose coming off of it. This is a full system dependent on each corner, shocks are cross-linked creating a X pattern, thus the name. More information (Link to

K.D.S.S.: In the KDSS (Kinetic Dynamic Suspension System), a cylinder is installed to each of the front and rear stabilizer bars. The front and rear cylinder upper chambers and the front and rear lower chambers are each connected by a pipe. The hydraulic circuit is filled with high-pressure suspension fluid. The stabilizer control ECU controls the stabilizer control solenoid valves according to input signals from sensor.More info and links here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kinetic_Dynamic_Suspension_System

You can have Standard, or a combination of K.D.S.S. with standard, or you can have XREAS. If you have XREAS and want to keep it you are limited to the top spacer lifts.

1. Daystar

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Daystar Comfort Ride Strut and Coil Spring Spacer Lift Kits are designed to improve ground clearance, allow use of large tires and enhance the performance of the vehicle. They are made from high density polyurethane that ensures long lasting durability. These kits facilitate easy installation.

Current Price – $135
Link to purchase – http://amzn.to/OiHlhi

2. Toytec

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Front: 3″ Front Lift Spacer Kit — CNC Machined From T-6 6061 Aluminum or 2 1/2″ lift spacers available in plain silver aluminum, Black, Red, or Blue anodized spacers & 6 longer top plate spacer studs. (3″ lift spacers only). Rear: (2) Rear 1 1/2″ coil spring spacers.Works great with stock shocks. NOTE: 3″ front spacers are Not recommended for 2010+ models and will leave the front of your vehicle sitting higher than the rear. Choose 2.5″ spacers from the drop down for ’10+ FJ and 4Runner, 2010+ models without XREAS USE Kit FJ3-RCC for a level front to rear kit.

Current Price – $240
Link to purchase: http://toyteclifts.3dcartstores.com/3-lift-leveling-kit-for-FJ-4Runner-Works-with-XREAS_p_162.html

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Best Spacer Lift for your FJ & 4Runner! Included in kit:Front: 3″ Front Lift Spacer Kit — CNC Machined From T-6 6061 Aluminum Also available in black anodized for additional $20.00, select from options below. 6 longer top plate spacer studs. Rear: (2) 2″ Lift Rear ToyTec “super flex” coil springs. (10% increase above stock capacity and spring rate for the best ride and flex). *Not Advised For Vehicles With XREAS*

Current Price – $320
Link to purchase – http://toyteclifts.3dcartstores.com/3-FJ-Lift-Kit-WSpacers-Rear-ToyTec-RCC20-Coils_p_160.html#

3. Revtek

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All Inclusive Kit. Uses Same Proven Tech As Our Other Toyota Lifts. Allows For Tires Up To 285/75 On Positive Wheels. Complete System Includes Rear Shocks. Reduces Front End Dive And Roll. Utilizes OEM Shocks And Struts.

Current Price – $470
To Buy Link – http://amzn.to/1f4eML6

4. Readylift SST

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ReadyLift Smart Suspension Technology Lift Kit includes 2 rear OEM style blocks that have the OEM integrated bump stops, 2 coil spring extensions, OEM cast style panhard bracket, 2 front bump stop extensions, carrier bearing spacer, 2 OEM shock extension brackets and all needed hardware. It provides a fast and safe way to bring the front of the vehicle with the rear. This lift kit is easy to install and does not affect the factory OEM ride quality or comfort. It is backed by manufacturer’s limited lifetime warranty.

Current Price – $410
To Buy Link – http://amzn.to/1mnmZ4Q

5. Truxxx

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This 3″ lift and level kit is the one to use if your looking to fit larger wheels and tires, increase ground clearance and just enhance the look of your 2003-2007 Toyota 4Runner 4×2 or 4×4 with or without X-Reas Suspension.

Current Price – $185
To Buy Link – http://amzn.to/1ld36NC

7. Rough Country

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Rough Country 765S – 3-inch Suspension Lift Kit with Nitro 9000 Series Shocks for Toyota

Current Price – $200
To Buy Link – http://amzn.to/1h8Guqk

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Rough Country 760.20 – 3-inch Series II Suspension Lift System with Premium N2.0 Series Shocks

Current Price – $250
To Buy Link – http://amzn.to/1jo9woI

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Rough Country 760P – 3-inch Series II Suspension Lift System with Performance 2.2 Series Shocks

Current Price – $300
To Buy Link – http://amzn.to/1nOZQd3

Leveling a 5th Gen 4Runner

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On a 2003 to 2014 4Runner there are two easy ways to level out the 4Runner.

1) These 3/4″ Toytec spacers that go on top of the coilover assembly.

http://amzn.to/1l8mCL8

2) These 5100 Bilstein struts/shocks – but because they are valved differently than the factory shocks I would recommend doing all 4 struts/shocks. The fronts can be set with the spring perch at 0″, 0.85″, 1.75″, 2.5″ – set them on .85″ for a level truck.

http://amzn.to/NBO1q1

Instructions are here to install.

http://www.toyota-4runner.org/5th-gen-t4rs/86370-sp8ball%92s-mod-thread-stealing-other-poster%92s-ideas-since-mid-2010-a-6.html

My 4Runner Lift Recommendations

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On the 5th Generation 4Runner (this can also go for 2003-2009 4Runners) there is a ton of questions about suspensions systems and what people should get to run what tires. I put together this bit of information more as a beginning for people just starting out in the suspension modification game. These are just my recommendations and don’t cover half the available options.

I’ll start with cheapest lift and work my way up to the most expensive out of the box kits you can buy.

Spacers Addition Lifts: – these either go on top of the coil-spring and under the mounting plate or are top mounted.* The general consensus in that the ones 2” or below are better under the mounting plate and the ones 1” or below are ok on the top. You can combine them by using a 2” under spacer with a 1” top spacer to obtain a 3” lift. Some people use these to get rid of a the factory rake or just to help with the driver’s side lean.

The only spacer lift I’d recommend is the Daystar and really the only excuse I can justify even recommending this is that you want to keep XREAS.  – Typical kit is 2.5”/1.5” and can be bought all over the place including here at Amazon.com

Suspension Replacement Lifts: These are the “best” and most expensive lift kits.

To run the OEM sized tires at 265/70/17 or 275/70/17, which is more than capable size for most people I would recommend these:

Front – Bilstein 5100′s in the front set at 1.75″ lift (third notch from the bottom)

Rear – Bilstein 5100′s & Daystar 1.5″ Spacers

To run the oversized tires at 285/70/17, which is the best size for 2-3″ lifts in my opinion. I would recommend these three options. With all lifts over 2″ in the front I would recommend getting new Upper Control Arms. My remendation unless you go with an Icon Stage 2 or higher kit is the Camburg Ball Joint Arms with Moog BJ’s already installed from wheelersoffroad.com 

Option 1:

Front - Bilstein 5100′s in the front set at 2.5″ lift (top (4th) notch from the bottom)

Rear - Bilstein 5100′s & SAW 1.5″ Springs

Option 2:

ARB Old Man Emu lift kits available at www.toyteclifts.com – a lot of times sold as light or heavy, but can be pieced together to create a more custom style pending on what the actual needs are or what you want.

Front – lifts include #90010 strut and either 884,885,887 springs
884 – use with stock weight – no bumper or winch
885 – use with either a bumper or a winch (70-180lbs extra)
887 – use with a bumper and a winch (180-230+ lbs. extra)

Rear – Lifts include #60080 or #60081 rear shock with either 889, 898, 899 springs – buts some also use 895 (15mm shorter than 889) or 895e (25mm shorter than 889)

Toyteclifts.com Superflex Springs – Stock/medium load use #60020
889 – medium load use #60080
898 – heavy (440lbs extra) use #60080 or #60081
899 – extra heavy (880lbs extra) use #60081

Option 3:

Icon Vehicle Dynamics Kits available at www.toyteclifts.com – probably the most versed kits for the 5th Gen – they offer “Stage” 1-6 starting at around $1500 to over $6,000. Everything is customizable and you can mix and match to create a custom kit.

Smittybilt Receiver 2″ D-Ring Hitch

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This could be one of the most helpful thing to have when trying to either get someone else or yourself out of a sticky situation. This should be your first purchase when starting the Overland build. If you can’t get out of a mess or help someone else get out then you shouldn’t be out there.  The 2011 4Runner SR5 4×4 that I’ve chosen as my platform don’t have the best areas to tie up to. The factory put a metal loop under the rear end, but if you were to use it you would probably rip the bumper off the back.  Its really there so if your ever towed they’ll have a place to put the chains. 2″ BALLS ARE NOT SAFE AND WILL SHEAR OFF WHICH COULD CAUSE INJURY OR DEATH. If you need a recovery point in the rear this should be your first option.

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Here is a link if your interested in purchasing. Normally under $30  - http://amzn.to/OssDUM

Induro AP2 Tripod Kit From Midwest Photo Exchange

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I got my Induro AP2 tripod kit into from midwest photo exchange. I paid a whopping $98 w/ free shipping.It was packaged nice.Nice box and comes with padded cover.

For a $100 this thing is pretty strong – has about a 20lb working weight and is made of aluminum. I think it weighs around 6lbs.

pretty nice little 3 way head – it can be replaced for use of ball head.

good rubber feet

nice foam grip

Standing next to the a 7” door for size and scale.

Overall really nice little tripod – if you have any questions just ask away.