Looking at a new camera for backpacking
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Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Looking at a new camera for backpacking on 08/02/2011 19:26:32 MDT Print View

For the last six years I have been using the Olympus Stylus 720SW (5.9oz loaded) and though I have been reasonably happy with it overall it defiantly has limitations being a waterproof camera. I often end up with blurry pictures when not in bright sunlight. I have found myself looking at options like the Cannon S95 but don't know if it would be worth it for a turn camera on and press the button kind of guy. I am defiantly a hiker who take some photos and not a true photographer.

Would a camera like the S95 be overkill for a sub par photographer like myself?

Are there any waterproof cameras that are significantly better than my Olympus? I don't care about video at all.

Would I find that I take less pictures having to worry about keeping my camera protected from the rain/stream crossings? I hike in a temperate rain forest so I see a lot of rainy days. I would certainly have to change the way I do things to keep the camera protected.

Any other thoughts or cameras I should look at, Sigma, etc?

Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
Re: Looking at a new camera for backpacking on 08/02/2011 19:44:10 MDT Print View

The Panasonic Lumix waterproof camera got pretty good reviews on the DP Review roundup of waterproof models last year. Better than the Olympus model they tested, if I recall correctly. The image stabilization feature should help with the blurry photos, in any case. (I won't buy a p+s without that feature.)

The S95 is a very nice camera for a point and shoot, and many photo enthusiasts carry one. It provides a lot of control over the camera -- only you can decide if you want to spend the money to get that kind of control, but your post suggests maybe not.

I do find I take fewer photos when the weather is bad unless I carry a waterproof camera. (Which I hate doing, since we have an elderly Pentax WP model and it takes poor photos.) If I hiked regularly in a rain forest I'd get a waterproof camera.

Panasonic has two models:

http://tinyurl.com/3l25p2r
http://tinyurl.com/4vezgys

Both have image stabilization, looks like the expensive model shoots full HD video should you like that sort of thing. I may need to spend a few bucks on one of these.

Yuri R
(Yazon) - F
adadwadwad on 08/02/2011 21:49:25 MDT Print View

Overkill? Maybe... but it will also give you some features that you may end up using...

Canon Powershot SX230 HS has very good reviews and is highly recommended by many.
Pentax Optio WG-1 seems well spec-ed for a rugged camera.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: Looking at a new camera for backpacking on 08/03/2011 11:31:23 MDT Print View

Hi Bradford,

A lot of tradeoffs are made in designing bombproof cameras, and some image quality losses are part of the deal. That said, the better ones take decent pictures and a comparison test like DPR's is a good starting place.

"Blurry pictures" have a lot of causes and it would be worthwhile investigating why your missed shots were missed. Camera movement, subject movement, missed focus, and debris on the lens will all cause it. Looking at exif data of missed shots can often tell you what's happening. If you can figure that out then you can buy a camera that doesn't have those shortcomings (or at least lessens them).

Back to choices--yes, an S95 will give better results than any waterproof model, first because of its larger sensor and second, its better lens. Even somebody who's never used a camera can set it to "Auto" mode and take excellent pictures, so there's no need to be intimidated. As you gain confidence and push your photographer's envelope, you can attack the camera's extensive user controls and get shots that approach dslr quality.

Along with the S95, do look at the Lumix LX5 and the Olympus XZ-1, which are slightly larger but offer some advantages over the S95.

The Sigma DPs are a special category all their own, but I can't recommend them for the casual shooter. They're very tempermental with technique and many folks dislike the lack of zoom lenses.

Happy shopping,

Rick

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Re: Looking at a new camera for backpacking on 08/03/2011 15:59:32 MDT Print View

Good point Rick, I am not sure why I get blurry pics sometimes. Perhaps some samples would help disclose the problem:

Bad Bear Pic
Bear Picture
F-stop f/5
Exposure Time 1/2 sec
ISO speed ISO-125
Exposure bias 0 step
Focal length 20mm
Max Aperture 3.61
Metering mode Pattern
Flash No Flash
Contrast Normal
Exposure Program Normal
Saturation Normal
Shapness Normal
White Balance Auto

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Re: Looking at a new camera for backpacking on 08/03/2011 16:03:58 MDT Print View

Bad Mountain Pic
View in the Cohutta Wilderness
F-stop f/6.3
Exposure time 1/1000 sec.
ISO speed ISO-64
Exposure bias 0 step
Focal length 7mm
Max Aperture 3.61
Metering mode Pattern
Flash Mode No flash
Contrast Normal
Saturation Normal
Sharpness Normal
White balance Auto

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Re: Looking at a new camera for backpacking on 08/03/2011 16:08:31 MDT Print View

Deer
Deer in GSMNP near Gregory Bald
F-stop f/5
Exposure Time 1/6 sec
ISO speed ISO-64
Exposure bias 0stop
Focal length 20mm
Max Aperture 3.61
Metering Mode Pattern
Flash mode No flash
Contrast Normal
Saturation Normal
Sharpness Normal
White Balance Auto

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Re: Looking at a new camera for backpacking on 08/03/2011 16:12:09 MDT Print View

Shelter Bad
SpinnShelter with 0 Bag this past winter
F stop f/3.5
Exposure Time 1/2 sec
ISO Speed ISO-64
Exposure bias 0step
Focal length 7mm
Max Aperture 3.61
Metering Mode Pattern
Flash Mode No Flash

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Re: Looking at a new camera for backpacking on 08/03/2011 16:17:08 MDT Print View

Bad Waterfall
Blurry Waterfall Pic
F stop f/3.5
Exposure Time 1/3 sec
ISO Speed ISO-64
Exposure bias 0step
Focal length 7mm
Max aperture 3.61



What do you guys think? The one thing that I see is the exposure time seems quite long on all the ones other than the Cahutta pic. Just photographer error?

Rick M
(rmjapan) - F

Locale: London, UK
exposure time on 08/03/2011 16:42:36 MDT Print View

Yes, except for the "sun" pic, your exposure times are way too slow. Set your ISO to Auto.

Edited by rmjapan on 08/03/2011 16:45:20 MDT.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: exposure time on 08/03/2011 17:08:19 MDT Print View

Yup, it's camera movement due to long exposure times. I agree--find the ISO setting and set to auto so it can float upwards with low light and maintain reasonable shutter speeds. (Rule of thumb--keep shutter speed at or above 1/focal length--in this case the 35mm equivalent focal length.)

For moving subjects, set the shutter speed as high as you reasonably can.

It may be with a little fiddling you can continue with this camera and still get a high rate of "keepers."

Cheers,

Rick

p.s. I kinda like the "bear" pic--it's spooky. :-)
p.p.s. With the waterfall shot, if you'd like to retain the moving water's smooth look while sharpening the surroundings, try bracing the camera against a solid object, or even perching it atop a rock and setting the self-timer. It takes a long exposure to capture the look.

Edited by halfturbo on 08/03/2011 17:11:21 MDT.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Re: exposure time on 08/03/2011 18:26:53 MDT Print View

The ISO setting is set to "auto". Is the camera not choosing the appropriate ISO setting causing the shutter to remain open to long? Is there any way to fix that except manually setting the ISO for each picture?

Thanks for your help!

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: Looking at a new camera for backpacking on 08/03/2011 18:35:30 MDT Print View

I scrapped my Panasonic TS1 for an Oly XZ-1. The Pany never took great pictures except for the occasional rarity. I have a GoPro for packrafting now and I've never taken pictures in the rain.


Here's a sample with the Oly. This shot was taken through a plexiglass cat door FWIW.

Edited by simplespirit on 08/03/2011 18:36:40 MDT.

Michael Ray
(topshot) - MLife

Locale: Midwest
Re: Re: Re: exposure time on 08/03/2011 18:35:54 MDT Print View

It's certainly setting ISO too low to get a decent shutter speed. Not sure what your camera is capable of, but at least 400 ISO should be possible. You're pics are all 64 or 125 so its auto-ISO mode isn't very good. If you have a shutter priority setting on your camera, you could try that also.

Rick Dreher
(halfturbo) - MLife

Locale: Northernish California
Re: exposure time on 08/03/2011 18:57:16 MDT Print View

Jeez, every camera is different so it's hard to know. Certain modes frequently don't allow user overrides, but if you have P/A/S modes, those should allow you to make your own settings. Beyond that I just can't guess.

Happy hunting!

Rick

Brian Camprini
(bcamprini) - MLife

Locale: Southern Appalachians
Re: Looking at a new camera for backpacking on 08/03/2011 19:06:06 MDT Print View

Brad I think you've gotten some good advice here. I don't think you'll ever coax much more than the occasional decent pic out of that old camera of yours. But don't spend a fortune for your needs. Since you have no desire to invest a bunch of time fiddling with the camera, I'd just get a mid or low-priced Canon point and shoot. Not their higher end, expensive S95. You'll get almost the same image quality as the more expensive models if you're just using the auto settings. Check out http://www.kenrockwell.com/ and go to his recommended cameras section.

As far as waterproof goes, it's not too hard to keep a camera dry with a zip lock unless you want those pouring rain photos like our crazy flood trip this winter. But still, if something does go wrong, it's another reason not to drop major coin.

Since much of your photography is done in dark wooded forests, try to lean more towards decent low light performance over extreme telephotos and other features that might reduce the light hitting the sensor, creating longer exposures and higher ISOs. No P&S cameras excel in low light, but some are better than others.

Sigma DP2...not a good choice for you. Definitely not a point and shoot. You'd hate it. I love mine, but only when I'm in the mood to really focus on taking pictures.

Google "flickr.com (insert camera model here)". You'll be able to see hundreds of images from that camera in varying conditions. Go with what you like and don't just read reviews and specs. It's really a personal thing--there's not really a "best".

Ken Bennett
(ken_bennett) - F

Locale: southeastern usa
Re: exposure time on 08/03/2011 19:08:05 MDT Print View

I love the bear photo, it's a terrific abstract. Print that one, seriously.

The sun photo is not in focus, probably because the camera had no idea where to focus -- there's nothing in the center of the frame where the autofocus center is located.

All the others are far too long a shutter speed for handheld photos, especially without a stabilized lens. Note that they are all under lower-light conditions -- in the woods, or at dusk, etc. With the small maximum aperture available on most p+s cameras, and the low ISO value chosen by your model, the long shutter speeds are pretty much guaranteed.

A stabilized lens will help a little - I can get good handheld photos down to 1/15 or even 1/8 second with practice. But a higher ISO will make a difference, too, around ISO 400 would be a good start. You can set it manually in lower-light conditions on your current camera. And keep an eye on that shutter speed -- you should be able to set the display on the back of the camera to show it while you are composing the shot.

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Re: exposure time on 08/03/2011 20:00:01 MDT Print View

Thanks for the help, I am learning a bit about how the camera works.

After reviewing photos I have taken with that camera over the past six years, it looks like for 90% of them the camera has chosen an ISO of 64.

It might be a great abstract, but the problem was that wasn't the intent. Out of a dozen or so pics, only one came out "in focus" and interestingly it was at ISO 1600.
Good Bear

Bradford Rogers
(Mocs123) - MLife

Locale: Southeast Tennessee
Re: Re: Looking at a new camera for backpacking on 08/03/2011 20:08:25 MDT Print View

Brian,

Of course if I drop the waterproof camera how am I supposed to get shots of us doing something crazy like this:

Camprini Crossing


(this picture has water on the lens from the previous half of the crossing)


Or get the shot of me on Springer when it rained 7" on me in 26 hours?

Springer

Brian Camprini
(bcamprini) - MLife

Locale: Southern Appalachians
Re: Re: Re: Looking at a new camera for backpacking on 08/03/2011 20:28:40 MDT Print View

Jacques Cousteau was fond of these: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nikonos

Cool bear pic. Gotta love the trapped in a corner feel of a Smokies shelter. Don't rule out video--that probably would have been a good one.

Seriously, notice the grainy look in the upper left of the bear pic. High ISO does that even though it gave you better exposure. A tradeoff.