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The Backpacker's Digicam Manifesto
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Carol Crooker
(cmcrooker) - MLife

Locale: Desert Southwest, USA
The Backpacker's Digicam Manifesto on 10/17/2006 20:49:39 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

The Backpacker's Digicam Manifesto

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
A companion piece on 10/17/2006 21:43:51 MDT Print View

For a broader perspective on the advantages and disadvantages of photography in the backcountry, you might want to also peruse Colin Fletcher's Complete Walker IV. While he is (or was, when younger) an avid photographer, he also admits that the camera comes between you and the backcounty you're trying to experience. While digicams could (I assume; I don't carry a camera) be improved for backcountry use, I'd suggest that you first resolve, for yourself (there is no right answer) whether photography fits with what you're out there to do.

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
Casio Exilim EX-Z750 or 850 highly recommended on 10/18/2006 00:17:46 MDT Print View

I highly recommmend the Casio Exilim EX-Z750 (or the new 850) as a backpacking camera.

I guide small group hikes, and document it all with stills and short videos using this camera. With a little care, and understanding of the three-color(!) histogram, I can get great results. In difficult situations such as low light, backlit, night-video, multiple shots, etc.. pre-programed or custom setups are available within a few button pushes. I have owned 6 digi-cams, and for so many reasons, this one is the best overall. For the beginner, it is a great point and shoot camera, for the professional, it has amazingly advanced features. As a beginner, I have learned a lot about photography simply by learning the features of this camera one by one.

This review from a professional photographer was key in my decision to purchase:

I have enjoyed positive feedback from so many fellow-hikers, thanks to the images I captured using this camera. Short videos of the group are especially entertaining to my friends.
Like Mr. Rockwell, the reviewer, I always keep it with me.

When hiking, I carry a mini-pod (available in the BPL gear shop), a wide angle lens the size of an oreo, and in really wet situations, a Pelican 1010 case. My camera has been submerged, had the lens barrel choked with sand, dropped and abused, and exposed to extreme heat and cold. If it were to stop working, I would buy another the next day.

If you want to wait for the perfect backpacking camera, do so; but in the mean time get an 850, or a great deal on the old 750 and start documenting your adventures.

Incidently, I sometimes carry a Panasonic FX-01 for WXGA video or 8MP stills at 28mm, but even that expensive FX-01 with its Leica lens can not match the low light capabilities of my 750.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
The Backpacker's Digicam Manifesto on 10/18/2006 09:41:22 MDT Print View

Brett B,

I am looking for a new digital camera. I looked at the Casio EX-Z850 yesterday at a local camera shop. They also have the EX-Z750 and they both are the same (list price) of $399.

Can you tell me more about your "Oreo" size wide angle lens. I asked about it at the store but they said they would need more information to find the lens.

I read the review you listed and clicked on the three links to internet stores he listed. One place has that camera listed at $269.99 but I worry about that price as not being legit.

I am not in a hurry to replace my current digital camera but the one I now use is a heavy weight vs the new stuff being sold today.


Edited by bfornshell on 10/18/2006 09:41:59 MDT.

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Re: The Backpacker's Digicam Manifesto on 10/18/2006 11:06:55 MDT Print View

I like it.

I agree very strongly with your comments about electronic viewfinders. For me, an EVF actually changed the way I took pictures -- I would use center-weighted metering, and pan around until I found an exposure I liked, then lock the exposure, compose the picture, and shoot. It works for me.

The only downside to an EVF is that it makes the ergonomics much more complicated. Fumbling for buttons you can't see and often can't distinguish by feel while you look at menus is pretty awkward when your face is pressed against the camera.

I'd also mention polarizing filters. For outdoor photography with water in them (like snowfields, glaciers, waterfalls, and lakes) they can make a huge difference in the quality of the resulting photo, and even in the presence of soggy vegetation they can make a huge difference.

Plus, having a filter one your camera is one more thing between an expensive lense and the cold, cruel world. And filters are usually much cheaper than the camera or lens.

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
Related camera article on 10/18/2006 15:32:16 MDT Print View

Just ran across this - thought it might be a good adjunct resource to this article. (Can't judge it - I'm not
into photography.)

Brett .
(Brett1234) - F

Locale: CA
Z750 for $209 and wide angle lens as backpacking camera on 10/18/2006 19:29:00 MDT Print View

Short answer first: I use an old wide angle lens adapter (0.66x) from a sony video camera.
Long answer; if you look at the lens of the EX-Z750 and 850, there is no designed-in way to mount a wide angle lens. However, a large camera shop will have many wide angle lenses for video and still cameras, none designed specially for the 750.
The number on the side of the lens represents the magnification of the lens; smaller number, more "fish eye" effect. These smaller numbers effectively move the focal plane closer to the camera, so for some of the smaller numbers, the camera will not be able to focus, except maybe in macro mode.
So, starting with the smallest and lightest lens at about .7 or so, hold it up in front of the camera, and depress the shutter half-way to see if the camera can focus. Take a picture, and zoom in to the edges to check for degredation of the image. (There will be image distortion of course, it is a wide angle lens after all, but we dont want blurring).
When you find a lens of suitably wide angle, through which the camera can focus, that's your lens. It might or might not be able to 'grip' onto the open Casio lens. I just hold mine in front of the camera with my left hand while I push the shutter with my right hand.
My old oreo sized lens was sold for an obsolete old sony handycam; but there are many comparable lenses for new cameras out there. I have another huge fish eye lens the size of half an orange, on a tube, which also fits over the extended lens of my Casio; it is from an Olympus, but it is too heavy to carry.
For some reason, the little video lenses are cheaper than the big glass wide angle camera lenses, in my experience.
The 750s are cheaper now that the 850s have come out. Try froogle; heres one for $209

Hope this helps.

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
EVF?? on 10/19/2006 06:29:49 MDT Print View


My Canon A95 (prosumer) has an LCD screen which pivots out and rotates (and washes out sometimes). It's a real-time display as well as a review display after the button. I am familiar with that.

But this is the first time I have seen the term AVF. How does it differ from a real-time LCD?

Fwiiw, my A95 does give me most of what I want. Yes, it can take add-on lenses. And I have the software library from Canon which lets me program and control it from the PC. Rather fun, after you learn to read their Japanese English manual.

Edited by rcaffin on 10/20/2006 02:27:51 MDT.

Andrew Hedges
(alhedges) - F
No perfect camera on 10/19/2006 07:48:01 MDT Print View

I have been taking a digital camera backpacking since 2001, primarily with a (now outdated and in the process of being replaced) cigarette-pack sized Olympus camera that I comfortably carried in a pocket. I kept a small ziplock bag in the same pocket for really wet weather; this system worked really well and the camera proved to be fairly robust. The camera does not have a zoom, as a consequence of which the lens was razor sharp. (I don't think you could find a camera now without a zoom, although I really did not miss it at all on my trips. A good macro is important, though, as some of my most interesting pictures are of flowers or tiny mushrooms).

When I go canoe camping, I take two cameras; I larger "super-zoom" camera with image stabilization and a lot of options. This camera stays in a dry bag until we've made camp. The smaller backpacking camera, plus ziplock, is in a pocket on my life vest.

There's just not one perfect camera, or even perfect camera type - so I think for backpacking, you have to decide what kind of trip you plan to take. If you want to focus primarily on photography, you should probably take a prosumer type camera, or at least a super-zoom. If you are primarily backpacking, but would like to take some nice pictures if the opportunity presents itself, a pocket sized camera is probably what you want.

And I think that there is really a lot of choice in the subcompact camera market, with Canon, Nikon, Casio, Olympus, Fuji, Panasonic (and I'm sure a few other brands) having excellent products.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: EVF?? on 10/19/2006 11:56:03 MDT Print View

It might help to think of an EVF as an electronic replacement for the optical viewfinder, not competition for the back panel display. Every camcorder I've used has one, whether or not it also has a flip-out panel.

It's still an LCD display, but has a magnifying lens (most I've seen also have a diopter adjustment) and eyecup. They generally have a higher refresh rate and oftentimes higher resolution than the main display. That's the case with my Kodak.

The EVF cures two problems for me: it's fully protected from stray light and I can use it without glasses. My hope is that someday they'll be sufficiently bright and contrasty, and of high enough resolution to support *precise* composition and focus. When working with very fast lenses and/or shooting macro, delineating DOFs of a millimeter or two is beyond any existing electronic display, which is why the SLR is still king o' the heap.

I'm keeping my eye on where Olympus goes with their E330 concept.

Interesting that you can program the Canon from a PC!

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Re: EVF?? on 10/20/2006 02:34:24 MDT Print View

> Interesting that you can program the Canon from a PC!

I had incorporated the Canon A80 into a medical imaging device for skin cancer diagnostics. It was TOTALLY controlled from the PC. The user (a nurse) did not even know what was inside the hand-held device. Auto-focus, lock focus, white balance, take pics, transmit pics ... the lot, over the USB.

Now the really NICE bit here is that the software in the A95 responds to the same commands as used for the A80. In fact, I think ALL current Canon digital cameras respond to the same command set. OK, the latest ones may respond to a few more commands than the earliest ones. Yeah, REALLY nice!

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
The Backpacker's Digicam Manifesto on 10/20/2006 07:08:18 MDT Print View


Thanks for the information on the Casio EX-Z750.

I ordered a Casio EX-Z750 at $209.99. It looks close enough to what I want and the price was to good to pass up. I should get it about mid-week - next week.

It sure is small next to my current "Sony - Hummer 1". The Sony takes great pictures - it is just heavy and big.


Locale: South West US
Re: The Backpacker's Digicam Manifesto on 10/21/2006 18:54:14 MDT Print View


I second Brett's recommendation of this camera... I have the 850. It's small, light, takes great pictures and has a extremely long battery life (easily last me 5 days). I especially like how fast it turns on... makes it easier to catch wildlife shots.

Here's a sample picture to get you excited

A tan-lined June-bug on my porch.

Edited by oiboyroi on 10/21/2006 19:37:34 MDT.

Stephen Sutton
(SteveSteph) - F
Keeping data alive on 02/27/2008 09:52:35 MST Print View

In answer as to what happens when JPEG (or any similar format) "disappears." First, it won't happen overnight. It would take many years for something as firmly established as JPEG to "vanish." (For example, we can read "diskettes.) And then,in a pinch there's those specialty shops that for a PRICE will convert old formats to new ones.

BUT, in the digital age my advice is simple: KEEP IT ALIVE. That is, keep all your stuff on an active computer that is not terribly out of date. When necessary, convert it to new formats, which is relatively easy if done with an appropriate (fairly relaxed) time frame. For example, Photoshop Elements (my favorite) will do mass conversions.

Review your formats every year. Back everything up to a Web service like JungleDisk.

Yes, sounds like a lot of work, but, at least IMHO, that's the way it is in this new digital age.

Nate Bruno
(nbruno) - F
light weight convenience Canon on 03/26/2008 06:31:59 MDT Print View

I am an avid photographer, use the high end Canon ProDSLR's and of course nothing but the canon L lenses- best on the market.
This past weekend I was on my way up to hike the adirondacks for some snow mountaineering and realized I forgot my camera to document my summit of the peaks. Stopped at best buy, bought a Canon A590 for $170 and hit the trails.

The Camera is surprisingly light, uses AA batteries that backpackers should always have a spare set of, it's 8 megapixel sensor and IS-image stabilization di the most fantastic job of capturing great images. The sky was clear so the sun was flaming off the snow and the camera set on auto took near perfect exposures every time. Durability has yet to be tested, and the somewhat inconvenient memory card door is the same door for the batteries. So if you open the door to remove your card, be careful that your batteries dont fall out.

Christopher Williams
(clwilla) - F

Locale: The Bluegrass
A camera specifically designed for UL backpacking? on 07/11/2008 10:46:24 MDT Print View

The idea that a major camera manufacturer is going to make a camera designed with ultralight backpackers, a very small niche group within a very small niche group, is pretty shortsighted. There simply isn't the market to justify making a very small, waterproof, shockproof, etc camera that will use some mystical never-dying digital format that is designed to handle the rigors of the backcountry. Each will need to decide which is more important; sticking to an arbitrary set of rules about what and how much can be carried on a backcountry trip, or taking pictures.

The author seems to want to have a camera which does it all, along with having the ability to treat the camera as a regular piece of rugged camping gear. He's going to have to make one himself, especially when the ultralight market is so small.

His expectations are unrealistic.