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Photo gear recommendations
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Daniel Collins
(Diablo-V) - M

Locale: Orlando FL
Photo gear recommendations on 08/30/2013 22:16:26 MDT Print View

Hi all.
I have been doing photography for years and now I'm trying to go light, having a hard time deciding on a system for light backpacking. I need something that can do 11X17 prints and look good. I own a micro four thirds system with two lenses (Lumix G2) and a bunch of Canon DSLRS, but both systems are too heavy. I also need telephoto ability for wildlife shots, and I want to skip the idea of using a monocular, using the camera instead if needed.
So far the only thing that I have found that comes close is the Panasonic Lumix FZ200.
The cam will be chest mounted at all times so that I can convince myself that it is not a part of my base weight.
For a tripod I found the Tamrac Zipshot at 9 oz.
The FZ200 is 18 oz and the batteries are 2.4 oz each.
I have read the post regarding the carbon tubes with the mini bendable tripod and binder clips and am not so keen on the idea, although the light weight of that setup is astonishing.
I reviewed many of the current waterproof pocket cams and they are light, but the picture quality is not there. BTW I also need to be able to record in RAW and be able to step down beyond F8, which the FZ200 will not do. I am very open to suggestions please.

James Lee
(JLeephoto) - F

Locale: Triad
On the edge on 12/16/2013 08:47:30 MST Print View

I'll preface this by saying that though I'm a professional photojournalist, I have rarely used long lenses and then only on the sidelines of professional sports.

Not what you're wanting to hear but, what you're attempting to do ie: use a long lens to photograph animals while backpacking with a super light kit, is a VERY tall order. The longer the telephoto, the more stabilization you need because the slightest movement gets transmitted back to the image. Nature photographers carry very heavy tripods and heads not only to support the weight of their equipment, but to STABILIZE it.

The camera you are looking at has a "fast" 2.8 lens to maximize light entering the lens which is a good thing. But to consistently handhold a 600mm lens, you would need to be shooting near 1/1000th of a second. A tripod will help you lower that speed, but the 9oz tripod you suggest won't let you lower it much. Hanging your pack from it would greatly improve the stability but since the tripod will only hold 3lbs, that won't work either. Add to those issues, less than perfect ground to set-up and any bit of wind, and I'm afraid you're going to be disappointed with the results. I think you'd need to go to a 3-4lb carbon fiber tripod capable of holding maybe 12lbs. and hang some weight (rock bag) from it.

That said, your best that your best bet might be just to just stick with a hiking pole monopod and find your subjects in bright enough light to shoot at @1/500th. I've personally never gotten into wildlife photography precisely because I'm not willing to carry the weight necessary to stabilize long lenses in relatively low light. Good Luck.

James Lee
(JLeephoto) - F

Locale: Triad
Stepping below f8? on 12/16/2013 08:53:58 MST Print View

Just noticed your desire to step down below f8 and can't figure out why that would be desirable with such a long lens? Your need for a high shutter speed seems to negate that unless you're shooting in very bright conditions with little/no tree cover? Since most nature photography takes place in shaded areas near sunrise/sunset, it would seem you'd want to open up to the largest aperture possible to get the shutter speed necessary.

Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
Re: Photo gear recommendations on 12/16/2013 09:45:46 MST Print View

You're probably going to have to sacrifice one of the things you're asking for (weight/IQ/zoomability). The superzoom cameras like the FZ200 can remain small because they have a really tiny sensor. I'm a field biologist and most of us use cameras like the Panny for work because they're so versatile and compact, but a 11x17 print isn't happenin.

If you want to sacrifice weight/size and keep ability for long telephoto and IQ/print size, I'd stick with micro 4/3.

Sacrifice long telephoto but have great IQ in a tiny and light package: Sony RX100

Sacrifice IQ/print size and keep long zoom at a decent weight and size: Go with something like the FZ200.

Unfortunately, I don't think you'll be able to have it all...

Peter James
(pbjames) - F

Locale: High Sierra
Sony RX10 on 12/16/2013 14:48:31 MST Print View

I'd also look strongly at the new Sony RX10 (not to be confused with the RX100). It's quite similar to the FZ200, but has the much better performing 1" sensor, same as the RX100mkII. The telephoto lens only goes to 200mm equivalent, but with 20 higher-quality megapixels, the images should be more croppable than those from the FZ200.

The others have made good points regarding compromises. You can't have it all. FZ200 compromises image quality for size/weight. By comparison, the RX10 compromises a bit of telephoto reach for image quality.

I would have thought that u4/3 with the Panasonic 100-300 would have been the ideal solution for you. Reasonably light, quite good image quality, and reach up to 600mm equivalent. Are you sure that u4/3 is too large?

Another possibility would be a Nikon 1 (preferably the V2) with FT-1 adapter and Nikon 55-300 or 70-300 DSLR lens, which would give you an 800mm equivalent, with DSLR-speed continuous AF, and 14MP of 1" sensor goodness. Probably wouldn't be smaller than the u4/3 solution, but would have better AF and more reach. Plus the ancillary non-telephoto lenses would be smaller due to the smaller sensor size, should you want them.