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buying a new backpacking camera
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Matt F
(matt_f) - MLife
buying a new backpacking camera on 08/14/2009 22:35:39 MDT Print View

Hi all -

I'm looking to purchase a new camera in the next two weeks (prior to a Superior Hiking Trail thru-hike in northern Minnesota), and am looking for recommendations.

Here are my preferences: wide angle (between 25-28 mm on the wide end), best picture quality (duh), less than $300. Bigger zoom is better, as are intuitive/responsive controls. Lighter is better, and I'm specifically looking for something in the 5-8 oz range.

I've found that the compact digital camera market is a tough one to keep up with, and the on-line reviews i've waded through so far haven't led me in a particular direction. Thanks in advance for any advice/recs, and i promise to post a few trip photos with whatever camera i wind up with.

Matt

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: buying a new backpacking camera on 08/14/2009 22:47:17 MDT Print View

The obvious recommendation is the panasonic LX3, which incidentally was reviewed just the other day on this site. It has excellent image quality compared to most compacts, and a fast, wide angle lens (24mm equiv).

The only issue is it is out of your price range... selling for around $500 at B&H Photo/Video at the moment. You might be able to pick up a used one on ebay for $350 or so.

You might also consider the Fuji Finepix F100fd, or one of the Canon IXUS series cameras... they should be under $300 and are smaller and lighter, and have 28mm wide angle. Manual controls and image quality doesn't match up to the LX3 or the Canon g10 but they are still pretty good unless you want to do big enlargements.

Oh, the other thing is the LX3 has a relatively limited zoom lens owing to the ultra-wide angle and fast speed (it is f2.0 at the wide end and f2.8 at the long end). It is 24-60mm equivalent so maybe not long enough for your liking. In which case, if you want small and light (not canon g10) I would check out the Canon IXUS and Fuji F100 I mentioned above.

Edited by ashleyb on 08/14/2009 22:49:28 MDT.

larry savage
(pyeyo) - F

Locale: pacific northwest
regardless of camera on 08/22/2009 11:37:09 MDT Print View

Regardless of camera choice a serious consideration is the ease of charging or carrying spare batteries for longer trips.
Some brands are more friendly then others.

Matt F
(matt_f) - MLife
bought a fuji finepix f200 EXR on 08/22/2009 12:51:08 MDT Print View

I pulled the trigger on a fuji finepix f200EXR for about $300. It should be arriving shortly, and I'll try to give some feedback and sample shots after my trip the second half of september.

Thanks,

Matt

Edited by matt_f on 08/22/2009 12:55:25 MDT.

John Larson
(j.larson) - F
backpack camera on 09/19/2009 08:57:43 MDT Print View

don't be sad

Edited by j.larson on 10/16/2009 06:34:45 MDT.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
buying a new backpacking camera" on 09/19/2009 17:31:21 MDT Print View

That Fuji takes an NP50 battery rated at 240 shots. They are lighter and smaller than 2 AA .
Curious about this comment "or one of those rechargeable, can't do nothing with it when it dies in the wilderness batteries?"
What exactly do you do with dead AAs that is different ?
Of course with a bit of effort and two days of sunshine you could re-charge them , however you could also have another 5-8 spare "proprietary" batteries for the weight and bulk of a charger...
Realistically , 400 or more pictures are more than enough for even a long (10-14 days)trip; not that many do that without re-supplying. The Fuji charger is much lighter and smaller than any solar re-charging system, so even on a through, at worst, taking 3 batteries and the charger one would only need to re-charge every 3-4 weeks max.
But , if you do have a better solution, please let us know.
Franco

Ali e
(barefootnavigator) - F

Locale: Outside
"buying a new backpacking camera" on 09/19/2009 17:45:20 MDT Print View

It all comes down to power management. With a camera like the G11 you can shut off the live view look through the view finder and double the exposure's. Also try and avoid using the zoom and flash. I always have my camera preset in the custome function to 35mm, if I need to get closer I walk closer. If I need more coverage I back up. If this wont solve your problen you migh be ready to step up to a SLR with multiple lenses. I find I get better quality by cropping rather than zooming. Just my 2cents. Ali :)

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: "buying a new backpacking camera" on 09/20/2009 05:03:01 MDT Print View

Hi Ali

Since even Amazon still have the G11 as 'pre-order', and I haven't found anyone else actually delivering yet, pray tell where you got yours?

Cheers
(I need to replace my A95 ...)

Chris Townsend
(Christownsend) - MLife

Locale: Cairngorms National Park
buying a new backpacking camera on 09/20/2009 05:54:50 MDT Print View

Roger, checking various reviews it looks as though the G10 may be better than the G11 for outdoor photography. Here's one reference:

http://jefflynchdev.wordpress.com/2009/08/21/comparing-the-canon-g10-and-g11/

I haven't used either camera by the way! I have seen results from the G10 and they are pretty good for a small sensor compact but the IQ doesn't compare with images from the Sigma DP1 or Canon 450D.

Ashley Brown
(ashleyb) - F
Re: buying a new backpacking camera on 09/20/2009 06:00:27 MDT Print View

Agree with Chris. Save a few bucks and go for the G10. The G11 is no better... arguably worse actually.

The G10 is pretty chunky for a "compact" camera though...

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: buying a new backpacking camera on 09/20/2009 10:52:20 MDT Print View

A pro's take on the G10 vs. G11.

http://visualsciencelab.blogspot.com/2009/09/considering-smaller-and-smaller-cameras.html

It's clear from the available S90 images that the G11 (same chip and engine) will be vastly better than the G10 at higher ISOs and will have stops better dynamic range. That Canon is backing off the pixel count is loud, if tacit admission that they overreached on the G10.

It's probably safe to expect the G11 will have much faster reflexes as well, which is always appreciated regardless of the shooting situation.

As to the S90, while the lens performance looks a bit soft off center in early images it seems to do a lot of things right, at a fraction of the G11 weight and bulk. Any lightweight photographer in the market will give it a long look as an option.

Cheers,

Rick

Chris Townsend
(Christownsend) - MLife

Locale: Cairngorms National Park
buying a new backpacking camera on 09/20/2009 11:13:12 MDT Print View

I have to admit that I wouldn't actually choose a G10 or G11. If I was looking for a small sensor compact with zoom lens I would go for the Ricoh GX200. The ergonomics of Ricoh's GR and GX cameras is far better than on any other camera and the results look as good as any from similar size sensors.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: buying a new backpacking camera on 09/20/2009 11:35:53 MDT Print View

Hi Chris,

Completely agree on the GX series. Great lens (24mm eq.), terrific layout and the brilliant accessory EVF (finally imitated by Panny for the forthcoming GF1). I've used a GX100 a bit and really enjoyed it. In the States the prices have softened too, making them quite competitive against the other high-end compacts. Very limited distribution though (two dealers for the entire country). Ricoh is a very quirky company.

Cheers,

Rick

Chris Townsend
(Christownsend) - MLife

Locale: Cairngorms National Park
buying a new backpacking camera on 09/20/2009 11:57:55 MDT Print View

Ricj, I've only handled the GX cameras but I have tested the GR-D1 and am currently testing the GR-DIII. Lovely cameras - I just wish the output was comparable with the Sigma DP series, which are inferior in every respect except for the IQ. My only other problem with the GR-Ds is the fixed lens. I need a zoom lens. If the IQ was equivalent to the DP/APS-C DSLR sensor I'd use a GX camera for everything.

As it is, as I really would like to reduce the weight of my camera gear I am interested in the Panasonic GF1 and the Olympus EP-1, especially the former due to the EVF.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: buying a new backpacking camera on 09/20/2009 12:04:13 MDT Print View

I've been using my GX200 for about a year now and, after 35 years of using SLR's, I've gone to using it almost exclusively now. It can't do everything an DSLR can do, but the great weight and size difference and the excellent photo quality plus ergonomics makes it a joy to use. I bring it with me everywhere now and my photography has improved tenfold just because I now always have the camera with me and I don't hesitate to take lots of pictures. The ergonomics are so good and intuitive that when I first got the camera I was able to operate it in the dark without having used the camera before. Battery life is superb; during my three week trip to Canada last month I only had to change the battery once, and that is after using the camera every day, all day.

One feature that I'm loving is the square RAW format. It is challenging me to see things in a new way and break conventions that I had established over the years. I've also found that most of my photography has returned to my early years taking B & W.

The only big criticism I have is that in darker conditions the noise is simply awful. Shooting anything above ISO 200 causes unacceptably grainy images.

Here are a few recent images:

Photobucket

Photobucket

Photobucket

Edited by butuki on 09/20/2009 12:34:14 MDT.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: buying a new backpacking camera on 09/20/2009 16:06:32 MDT Print View

Hi Chris

I had a look at the Jeff Lynch web site. I was not impressed by his review, not at all.

He criticises the reduction in number of pixels, especially for outdoors photography. I am sure that Canon made this decision for very solid technical and commercial reasons: better noise performance and better dynamic range. I'll buy that one any time.

He criticises the articulated LCD screen over a fixed LCD. I don't always use the LCD screen, preferring the OVF, but when I do need to use it (esp tripod shots) the articulation is extremely useful. I would be reluctant to rely on a fixed LCD.

In addition, to use an LCD screen you have to hold the camera at arms length (at my age) - a stupid tourist way of taking photos. I note that most top-end cameras now boast about the quality of their OVF!

He HOPES that the noise performance of the G11 is better than that of the G10. Well, considering the amount of effort Canon have put into achieving this, along with the reduction in the number of pixels, and the quoted figures, I think he is waffling a bit.

Sorry - a bit amateur imho.

Cheers

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: buying a new backpacking camera on 09/20/2009 16:16:34 MDT Print View

Hi Rick

Thanks for the URL.

> 1. A fast, sharp lens. 2. A very quiet operation.
Useful

> 3. Low noise up to at least 400 ISO.
Yes please!

> 4. A professional hot shoe for all kinds of flashes
> and flash triggers!!!! 5. Raw file capability.
Nice in theory, but few will actually use them.

6. Fast shutter response.
Good.

> 7. A flash sync capable of going all the way up to 1/2500th of a second.
Yeah, some have been rather slow.

> And finally, 8. A solid metal body.
For outdoors - YEAH! That's one thing that has always had me worried.

> Assuming that your style of photography is the "captured moment" or "street" photography
For outdoors while walking - yeah! I just haven't the time to get out and set up a DSLR from my pack each time.

The 'faster reflexes' would be nice too.

All that said, I will have a look at the other cameras proposed as alternatives, so thanks guys.

Cheers

Chris Townsend
(Christownsend) - MLife

Locale: Cairngorms National Park
buying a new backpacking camera on 09/20/2009 17:14:43 MDT Print View

Hi Roger,

I must admit I'd only skimmed the Jeff Lynch review. I agree with some of his points though.

The number of pixels depends on whether you want better noise performance at high ISOs or better resolution at low ISOs. I prefer the latter but that is probably because I am shooting for print publication and my editors want low ISO shots with high resolution. I've gone from 6mp to 8mp to 12mp DSLRs over the last few years and the IQ has improved noticeable each time. Of course with small sensor compacts it may be that 10-12mp is the maximum for quality and that Canon overloaded the G10. However see this feature on Luminous Landscape comparing the G10 to medium format:

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/kidding.shtml

With LCD screens I don't care whether they are articulated or not as I mostly only use them to check the histogram not for composition. I require an OVF or EVF. One of the disappointing aspects of the Olympus E-P1 is the lack of a viewfinder. In this respect the Panasonic GF1 with optional EVF looks better. I use the optional OVF with both the Ricoh GR-D and the Sigma DP1.

As to noise performance well it ought to better of course but to hope it will be is all anyone can do until test reports appear. As you well know just because a company claims something doesn't mean it is so!

As it is, if I wanted a zoom compact I'd go for a smaller, lighter one than the G10 or G11 - the 12mp GX200 with its 24-72 35mm equivalent lens.

jim strong
(climbinggoat) - F
new camera on 09/20/2009 17:18:10 MDT Print View

I have a canon that takes aa batteries. anytime it gets cold it sucks to use it.

I don't have much experience with digital camers, still have an slr

are the new rechargeable batteries that come with these camers succeptible to cold weather variations?

One suggestion I have, is turn off the big display, and don't look at your shots until you get home. good way to save batteries, and maybe you can leave the chrger at home.

Edited by climbinggoat on 09/20/2009 17:24:41 MDT.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
buying a new backpacking camera on 09/20/2009 20:19:47 MDT Print View

Jim
A few suggestions.
Try disposable Lithium batteries and or the Sanyo Eneloop.
Also you can keep the batteries in your pocket and shove them in before use.
Franco