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Ultralight camera
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Brad Smith
(DocOne) - F

Locale: Southwest
Ultralight camera on 11/12/2009 18:57:44 MST Print View

What would you recommend for an ultralight point-and-shoot digital camera?

Ideally something with reasonable picture quality, optical zoom and perhaps AAA batteries for longer trips so I don't have to carry a charger. Not looking to spend a bundle since I already have several nice (heavier) cameras.

I noticed some models like the Casio EXLIM are down around 3.5 oz. What are you using?

Kier Selinsky
(Kieran) - F

Locale: Seattle, WA
Re: Ultralight camera on 11/12/2009 19:23:13 MST Print View

without making a specific recommendation, i'd suggest sticking with cameras that take AA or AAA batteries. Much easier to bring back ups of those, or stop in a town to pick up extras, than with the cameras that have proprietary batteries.

Dan Durston
(dandydan) - F

Camera on 11/12/2009 19:35:44 MST Print View

I like my Canon SD780 IS. It weighs about 4 oz for the body and 5oz total with a battery, card and a homemade bubble wrap case. It's small, shoots HD video, 12 megapixels, has image stabilization, 3x optical zoom and being a canon, it takes good pictures. Price is a reasonable $250 MSRP.

If you are doing thru-hikes then I agree that you want a camera that uses AA or AAA batteries, but if you don't do much of that then I think rechargable pack is best. On a recent 4 day trip I took 222 photos with this camera and about 15 minutes of video. The camera indicated a full battery for most of the trip and only occasionally blinked to 2/3 battery on the final day. I wasn't using the flash that much (maybe 25 shots) and it seems like I could have easily got 500 shots at that pace. So as long as you don't go crazy with the flash I think a rechargeable pack can suffice for 1-2 week trips, depending on how much you like to snap pics.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Ultralight camera on 11/12/2009 20:04:29 MST Print View

I would recommend searching forums. There have been a lot of discussions recently about this. My choice is the Canon S90 when the focus is backpacking. It's the lightest (8oz)/cheapest ($400) camera whose image quality doesn't consistently disappoint me. There are lighter / cheaper cameras but I don't like the images they capture. I don't worry about AA batteries. If I need a long runtime I bring an extra camera battery which tend to provide more power/oz than AAs. If a couple batteries weren't enough I would do a solar recharger.

If a trip is about pictures, then I have recently started to take a Panasonic GF1 which normally has the 20/1.7 mounted and a couple of other lens in a domke wrap.


Edited by verber on 11/12/2009 21:30:43 MST.

James Naphas
(naphas13) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Light, not ultralight camera on 11/12/2009 20:26:20 MST Print View

I'm using a Canon SD880IS, and had a Canon SD870IS before that managed to get thrown out with some recycling last Xmas. The weight is 5.8 oz fully loaded. Best thing about it is that it's got a 28-105 equivalent focal range, which is wider than most P&S cameras, which really helps when you're taking landscapes. Got it for around $250. Picture quality is really good for most things, with the exception that it is a bit difficult to use when trying to get a macro shot. Looks like it has been replaced by the SD940IS, which is a little lighter. No idea how the image quality is on that, though.

Took a look at a review on Mark's S90...nice. As usual, Mark finds the best practical solution for a lightweight backpacking equipment need.

Edited by naphas13 on 11/12/2009 21:25:08 MST.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Powershot SD960 on 11/12/2009 21:56:40 MST Print View

I just spent some time trying to chose a camera for hiking and general take everywhere family snaps. I wanted at least 28mm at the wide end and also HD video. I settled on the Powershot SD960, which got solid reviews and was "reasonably" priced here in NZ. So far I have been impressed. If I hadn't wanted HD video for family use I would have gone with the Sony W300.

If you have the money go for the S90 - it looks fantastic and I was sorely tempted. I just couldn't justify the cost , wanted HD video and already have a lot of DSLR gear that I use for my work. If you just want to record your trip, post images online and make a few prints I don't think you will be that disappointed with the quality of many of the compacts around today. The array of different models is a bit overwhelming though!

Nate Davis
(Knaight) - F

Locale: Western Massachusetts
Canon Powershot on 11/13/2009 00:18:36 MST Print View

I highly recommend getting a camera from the Canon Powershot series. They're durable, seem to be fairly weatherproof, and you can find them for great prices if you buy used on Amazon. I just picked up the SD790 for less than $150 and it's in great shape. I'd recommend the SD780 over the SD790, though, as there's a roughly 1.5 oz difference that I wasn't aware of when I bought it. The reason seems to be due to the increased size of the digital screen and lack of viewfinder. My guess is that same issue will hold up with other models, so a smaller screen is better for ultralight.

Still, at 5.7 oz it's an amazing camera.

Gordon Smith
(swearingen) - MLife

Locale: Portland, Oregon
Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 on 11/13/2009 01:53:00 MST Print View

I think for backpacking a nearly perfect camera is the Panasonic DMC-TS1. It's 12 megapixels, has 4.6x optical zoom and shoots HD video. More importantly the camera is shockproof and it's completely waterproof to a depth of 10 feet. It weighs 6.5 oz with battery. The battery is a rechargeable lithium-ion which is far lighter and more compact than AAs or AAAs. Since the battery is tiny and relatively inexpensive it's trivial to carry a spare or two.

I say the DMC-TS1 is a "nearly perfect" camera because it doesn't allow enough manual control for my liking. But as a rugged, compact, point and shoot with good to excellent image quality I think it has few, if any, peers.

The DMC-TS1 is the camera Ryan Jordan used to shoot the video for this story.


Edited by swearingen on 11/13/2009 02:04:01 MST.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Panasonic Lumix DMC-TS1 on 11/13/2009 07:38:23 MST Print View

We played with the DMC-TS1 when getting my daughter ready for a trip to the rain forest and snorkeling this summer. It was a great size, familiar controls since we have other Panasonic cameras, and the shock / water resistant would have been useful. We had hoped that it could be her use everywhere camera. We passed on it because the images were really soft (even at low ISO) and the details dropped out quickly as the ISO went up. But it all depends on what sort of images you are going for. I typically prefer oil paints to water colors... but there are a lot of people who like watercolors.


Edited by verber on 11/13/2009 07:39:38 MST.

Gerald Magnes

Locale: Upstate NY
Panasonic DMC-TS1 on 11/13/2009 08:06:06 MST Print View

I just went through the same process of looking for a replacement, general use point and shoot camera that I would also use for both hiking and paddling activities and settled on the DMC-TS1. As others have noted, it's pretty compact, although not quite as small as some of the Canon Elph series and some others. It certainly fits into a shirt pocket or hip belt pocket very easily.

I've only had it a couple of weeks and haven't yet really had an opportunity for much use, so I can't speak from real experience on its merits. For me the wide angle and water proof features were very important, given my desire for outdoor and specifically paddling uses. Regarding Mark's concern about image quality, the reviews of its image quality as compared to other water proof, shock proof cameras were quite good. I'd summarize them by saying that it was noticeably better than those in its class and compared favorably (although perhaps not quite as good overall) in image quality to other similar cameras that are not water and shock proof. Apparently you do give up a bit by going for the water and shock proof features. Image quality can be subjective though, and I think one reviewer out of a number I looked at was less impressed with the image quality. Another feature I considered was the presence or absence of an optical view finder. Unfortunately the DMC-TS1 and other current water proof cameras don't have optical viewfinders, which means that if you're on a long trip and trying to conserve battery use, you don't have the option of using the optical viewfinder instead of the lcd screen. Some of the other very compact and highly rated point and shoots still do retain the optical viewfinders along with the lcd screens.
Hope that's helpful.


Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Panasonic DMC-TS1 on 11/13/2009 09:14:57 MST Print View

From what we saw this summer the TS1 did seem to be one of the better waterproof cameras from an image quality perspective. But that's not saying a lot. Most reviewers use pretty average P&S when making the non-waterproof camera comparisions, not compared to best in class cameras like the LX3, G11, S90, etc. Our 3 or 4 year old Fuji F31 + waterproof housing had better image quality than any of the waterproof cameras we tried. That's what my daughter ended up taking. Not the lightest or smallest option, but it worked for her.

If you are looking for a small, light weight camera that is environmental proofed the TS1 does look like the best choice today. It's what I would pick up if I was really concerned. Since I don't do a lot of watersports and tend to be pretty careful with things I haven't found weather sealing that important to me.


Edited by verber on 11/13/2009 09:20:33 MST.

Gordon Smith
(swearingen) - MLife

Locale: Portland, Oregon
TS1 Sharpness on 11/13/2009 12:18:06 MST Print View

My experience with the TS1 is that it's very sharp at the wide angle end. As you zoom to longer focal lengths the image does soften, but it's still reasonable for most purposes. Noise is reasonable up to ISO 400 but becomes noticeable beyond that. Certainly it's on par in that regard with other point and shoots. I haven't had the TS1 for very long but I have a gallery with a few shots here for anyone curious about its image quality.


Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
DMC-TS1 on 11/13/2009 15:24:44 MST Print View

I was very tempted by the DMC-TS1, as it has a lot going for it. However, the water and shock proofing was a nice to have rather than a must have, and intuitively I felt it wouldn't be up to the image quality of similarly priced competitor models and reviews seem to confirm this. Image quality will I am sure still be very usable and if you need the water/shock proofing it is one of the best. At the end of the day the best camera is the one you have with you,

Carter Young
(kidcobalt) - M

Locale: Western Montana
Canon s90 on 11/13/2009 17:09:02 MST Print View

I'm thinking that the Canon s90 will be my next point and shoot: it's the right size, the image quality is outstanding for what it is, the high ISO noise is reasonable, and it shoots RAW with full manual control. It is frightfully expensive.

My usual walk-around camera is a a Canon g9 that I either carry in a jacket pocket or wear around my neck. It's not exactly light, but the controls, image quality (when kept at ISO 200 or below) and tank-like construction are all nice--as is the 210mm equivalent long end of the zoom. 35mm equivalent on the short end is a little long for scenics, however.

This spring I went on a multi-family backpack trip in Big Basin State Park (CA) and carried a Canon XSI with the 18-55 IS zoom, and I'm glad I did. Even in fine weather it's incredibly dark under the redwood canopy, and everything was shot at either ISO 400 or 800. This was the heaviest single item I carried on that trip, and I just hung it around my neck (without a bag) the whole time we were walking.

I think optical viewfinders on small cameras aren't worth much except for prolonging battery life, but carrying an extra lithium battery isn't much trouble at all. I also find that today's cameras are weatherproof enough for my needs, and I use all of them in the snow and rain without any trouble.