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Getting into photography
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John West
(skyzo) - M

Locale: Borah Gear
Getting into photography on 09/22/2010 12:57:25 MDT Print View

So, one of the first things I always pack with me is my camera. Never would I leave behind it to save weight. After looking at some of the photos on here in the trip reports, its amazing how nice of photos some of you take. I just use a cheapo Nikon point and shoot i bought awhile back for like $150. It takes decent photos, but I think it would be cool to be able to mess with exposure settings, shutter speeds, and all that kind of stuff. My nikon doesnt let me do any of that.

What would be a good camera to get started into the world of backpacking photography?

Eric Lundquist
(cobberman) - F - M

Locale: Northern Colorado
Re: Camera Intro on 09/22/2010 13:21:39 MDT Print View

It really depends on what your end goal is here. Are you looking for huge resolution, low light, choice of different lenses, etc...?

Many lightweight backpackers choose to balance the weight and quality of a camera and end up with the Canon S90 (now a S95 version is available with the added feature of video). It's a lightweight camera with an f2.0 lens which is great for low light images. It also has the professional controls for ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed. These are the most important features to look for in a camera as you're upgrading. Look around the forums for posts about the S90 I'm sure that its something you'd be interested in.

I was going to go that route before the Sony NEX system came out a few months back. I'm receiving mine today and will let you all know how it works out. It's not as lightweight as the S90/95 but it allows for multiple lenses. It's about twice the cost of the S90/95 though and a little more advanced in my opinion.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Getting into photography on 09/22/2010 13:28:49 MDT Print View

"What would be a good camera to get started into the world of backpacking photography?"

Hi John,

Hooboy, that's a wide open quesion. You're right that a lot of P&S cameras either don't allow control overrides or they do, but the controls are buried deep within demented menu systems. Not ideal for shooting on the go!

Any camera with a "PASM" mode dial gets you to the desired settings, so at least insist on a camera with a dial control. If you want to stay small, several pro-quality compacts from Canon, Panasonic, Ricoh and the like will fill the bill, and add RAW file capability for the time you want to dig into extensive image manipulation on your computer.

Most "superzooms" have mode dials and of course all dslrs do too, as do the relatively new mirrorless system cameras from Olympus, Panny, Sony and Samsung. These, of course are bigger and heavier than P&Ss, but you may find yourself migrating towards them anyway, due to the vast lens selections.

Used cameras are a nice option for anybody on a budget. I'd guess you could get, say, a Canon G9 for a relative song. It's a solid and fully featured compact from a popular series, with very good controls.

I'm hesitant to recommend specific new models without know what your size, weight and cost targets might be. As you know, there are a thousand models for sale on any given day.

Good luck,


Tohru Ohnuki
(erdferkel) - F

Locale: S. California
Re: Getting into photography on 09/22/2010 13:31:51 MDT Print View

"What would be a good camera to get started into the world of backpacking photography?"

Oboy, as with everything, there will be a tradeoff of quality, versatility, weight and cost. If you are looking to upgrade from a simple point and shoot, try looking at 'enthusiast' cameras, the Panasonic/Lumix LX-3 or the new LX-5, the Canon G11 or G12 and the new Nikon P7000.

For a further increase in quality and versatility, but with a penalty in cost and weight are APS-C scale compact cameras, some examples include the Sony Nex-3 and Nex-5, the new Fuji X100, the Olympus EP-1 EP-2, Panasonic/Lumix GF-1.

Further up are DSLRs and the new electronic viewfinder/interchangeable lens cameras, look at sites like and for examples...

Brian Camprini
(bcamprini) - MLife

Locale: Southern Appalachians
Compare results not just features and get some skills on 09/22/2010 14:50:45 MDT Print View

There are some great camera suggestions in this thread, but remember that you can still take excellent photos with the camera that you have. Lots of fancy, small sensor, (and very expensive) cameras take pretty mediocre pictures in my opinion--many are just marginally better than your current point and shoot. It comes down to the sensor size and type more than anything else to me. I'd urge you to either use Google or the search function on Flickr or similar photo sharing websites to see actual images taken with different cameras. (i.e. go to and in the search box type in Lumix LX3 or Sigma DP2, Sony Nex 5, etc). When you consistently see images from a camera that really move you, then decide if it's worth the money. Yours is the only review that really counts.

Although you have limited controls on your camera, you might be surprised what you can do with some skills; learn how (and when) to force the flash, practice your composition, macro photography, play with the ISO and white balance settings, etc. Take a class. My son has an old Nikon Coolpix L4 that I took some pretty decent pictures with recently: Any skills you learn on a cheap camera will really help when you have more options at your fingertips.

Finally, whatever you get, make sure you will use it. Don't get a heavy DSLR unless you really are going to carry it around your neck and not in your pack.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Getting into photography on 09/22/2010 15:02:16 MDT Print View

There is no "one size fits all" in the world of cameras, or even in backpacker cameras. If you are just trying to document a backpack trip, then almost anything will do, including your existing camera. The trick there is to learn how to force more of the manual functions out of the camera. If you are trying to get artsy, then some good cameras have been mentioned in this thread. Again, the trick is to learn how to do it, and a lot of that can be accomplished through sheer practice, plus spending a lot of time at the computer with Photoshop. As soon as you have a specialty, like wildlife photography, you are forced into a (big) DSLR camera with interchangeable lenses. You end up spending more money on lenses than you do on the camera body. My typical camera load on a backpacking trip runs from 7 to 11 pounds.

I was camping in Alaska for a couple of weeks, and the camera gear amounted to 75-80% of all of the weight that I carried.


Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
Getting into photography on 09/22/2010 17:31:09 MDT Print View


Edited by rmjapan on 06/17/2015 01:28:21 MDT.

carl becker
(carlbecker) - F

Locale: Northern Virginia
Getting into photography on 09/23/2010 10:53:19 MDT Print View

F8 and be there is a good rule. Shoot in the magic hours just after sunrise or before sunset. Storm's can be very dramatic. Study photography and practice. Find pictures you like and find out how they where made. Decide how large you want the image to be reproduced, a 8x10 print 4x6 print or web, the larger the reproduction the more you need high base quality. Get a tripod for sharper images or longer exposures. Set a budget. Most camera's will deliver good results if the user knows how to use them. Don't get hung up on megapixel's, try to find a camera that is quick when the shutter button is depressed. I suspect you can get much more out of your current camera.

Tohru Ohnuki
(erdferkel) - F

Locale: S. California
Re: Getting into photography on 09/23/2010 15:09:31 MDT Print View

"Starting out, I would first spend money on a book or class for learning good composition techniques before buying another camera."

Agreed. Most digital cameras, even inexpensive point and shoots can create a high quality image. Since with modern cameras the focusing, exposure and color balance can be handled for you, the real thing is what it's pointed at and why. What is included in the frame and what is cropped out; content and composition. Ask the question, why am I shooting this, and how can I best do it?

If you really want to get good, go to your local library and browse the photography section, pull books at random and look at the images and see what other people have done. What looks good and why, what moves you and why. A textbook like the one by Upton and Upton can help with the technical reasons why something looks the way it does. For landscape photography this is a good resource:
The Luminous Landscape

Edited by erdferkel on 09/23/2010 15:10:55 MDT.