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Author Topic: Backpacking weight vs pic quality  (Read 7882 times)
Argentina
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« on: February 21, 2008, 05:34:02 PM »
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I'm planning to hike some or maybe all of the Pacific Crest Trail, 2.650 miles. I have been carrying a kodak point and shoot 5 MP Z740 38 to 380 equivalent lens on my previous hikes but I really need wider angle, more control like aperture control, polarizing filter etc. I would like to be able to print at least 13 x 19 high quality instead of a max of about 8x10 with the current camera.

Weight is a big problem due to Arthritis (ankylosing spondylitis) my loaded pack before water, food, camera is about 12 lbs. Which adds up too about 25 to 30 lbs with full food and water. At 25 lbs I walk fairly easily 30 lbs is painful but usualy only needed in low water long stretches, and the sierras in bear can required areas.

Town stops can be as far as 1 week apart so I need extra batteries, and I can send memory cards home and have them sent back ahead of me.

I am considering 3 options:

1. slr like point and shoot. No idea what would work better then what I have.

2. Carry an extra 3 to 4 lbs and deal with the dry sections or bear can areas. canon rebel with spare battery couple of 8 meg cards, 10-22 lens, circular polarizing filter.

3. Keep the current camera becuase its the photographer not the camera thats the problem? Work on learning to use the camera and photoshop better.

see attached photo
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k bennett
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« Reply #1 on: February 21, 2008, 08:29:00 PM »
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I am also a long-distance, lightweight backpacker. Given my knee problems, I feel your pain -- and have been reducing my own pack weight.

My feeling is that a good P+S can make decent pictures on a long distance hike. For a while I carried the Nikon 8400 for its 24-85mm (equivalent) lens. Recently I've been carrying a Canon G7. In both cases, I carry several 4gig cards, a spare battery, a polarizing filter, and a charger. I also carry a small Gorillapod -- probably the most useful accessory.

The total weight of my G-7, cards, 2 batteries, and charger is 17.35 ounces.

The advantages of the P+S are, I think, obvious: not only is it lighter than even the lightest SLR and equivalent lens(es), but it's much more compact. It's easy to carry in a small waist pack, so it's always handy for a photo, even when I drop my main pack for a break. At ISO 100 the image quality from both cameras is quite good -- enough for decent 13x19 inch prints.

Sure, you'd get better high-ISO quality from an SLR. But I find I get good images from the G-7 using the image stabilizer, ISO 100, and the little tripod.

Good luck with the PCT thru-hike. That one is on my "someday" list.

--Ken
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Farkled
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« Reply #2 on: February 22, 2008, 01:02:22 AM »
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Perhaps you can solve your own problem.  What is the primary purpose of your hike?  If it's not photography, then you probably don't want to pay the weight and space penalty.  One of the reasons for an SLR is that you can change lenses - are you going to carry multiple lenses?  The Canon G9 (among others) will give you much of what you want.  There is recent article on this site - a week or two old about using the G9 on vacation in Japan.
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micek
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« Reply #3 on: February 22, 2008, 06:48:18 AM »
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Olympus E-410 + 2 kit lenses. The camera is tiny, the lenses are very good (and small) and the focal range covered is 28mm-300mm. This is what the Olympus system was designed for. And you could add a x1.4 or x2 teleconverter for a longer reach if you feel 300mm is not enough.
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Argentina
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« Reply #4 on: February 22, 2008, 02:38:12 PM »
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Well I originaly wanted to just walk the entire length now after doing a couple sections last year i would really like to compile a photo journal with some of the better shots used for large format prints/art suitable for framing(rebel would be better?). I also would like to make a screen saver/slide show that walks you through the entire pct(canon g9 would be better for this). Then possibly plan to revisit certain locations with maybe meduim/large format gear the following year.

Okay I know the slr is made to change lens but back in the day (1970's) my minolta slr even with just one lens was so much better then any fixed lens, i'm assuming this is still the case. much sharper picrtures and way better color saturation, more control over settings. And yes I was planning on carrying just one lens to acheive the photos I want. Ill just have to hope I dont miss too many once in a lifetime shots of wildlife that are to far to be usefull with a wide angle lens. The canon g9 would need the wide angle lens attachment still half the weight but what about picture quality? Its not like I can just do this again with other gear.

I think if picture quality is close I would just take a g9 but if the 10-22 lens gives me much better quality then I'll suffer through a few extra lbs. I'll do some research on the Olympus also but I just dont have the money to try every option I'll just need to take the recomendations and gear reviews and hope for the best. Well I do have the money but when I get back I'll be buying a large format printer lots of ink, paper, computer time (faster computer maybe), etc.
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dobson
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« Reply #5 on: February 22, 2008, 02:39:12 PM »
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I personally would go with a variation on option 2. There are many times I carry my camera (20d), and lenses (17-40, 70-200), with me on long approaches and get nothing from the ordeal. But sometimes the light and scenery are perfect; it's those times I'm glad I have the equipment I'm best with.

When weight is an issue, I make some sacrifices. I'll leave the tripod at home (especially on day trips), and I may only take one lens. I also do without creature comforts; sleeping on a half length pad with the rope padding my legs, ultralight tent, etc.

Batteries and cards weigh very little per photograph. I can get about 700 frames per charge, and close to 100 frames per gig of storage. One battery and cards to match its capacity should be plenty for a week if you're frugal. If you are supporting yourself, you would need a charger (you can charge your battery in a rest area), and many cards or a backup device.

[attachment=5216:attachment]

This photo was taken during an attempt on Mount Constance, (Olympic National Park). The headwall section to base-camp climbs 3600' in 2 miles, it took us 4 hours to hike that section. Despite the pain, it was definitely worth bringing the right photography equipment.
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Peter_DL
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« Reply #6 on: February 23, 2008, 04:19:08 AM »
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... Work on learning to use the camera and photoshop better.
[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
Probably always a good idea.

I would make my choice among [a href=\"http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/specs/Canon/]Canon's top point & shot cameras[/url] i.e. the G9, the S5IS or the SD950 IS.  My personal feeling is that the digital ELPH is often underestimated; a kind of ďdonít judge a book by itís coverĒ. While itís a real pocket camera, easy to wear in a belt pouch, it seems to bear the same sensor chip as with the G9 (even though no Raw is offered). However, if you keep in-camera Contrast and Sharpening low, together with base ISO 80 and a very slight underexposure setting e.g. of -1/3, you may find enough headroom for editing later on. Can even be done in the Camera Raw module.

Actually, I bought the G9 some weeks ago and Iím now considering to give it away. When striving for pixel quality, take a DSLR to capture Raw.  But when traveling, I intuitively prefer to grasp the SD900 (predecessor of the SD950 IS). The in-between concept of the G9 didnít yet convince me. The G9 would be large enough to hold a larger sensor, to improve noise and dynamic range, but that isnít given at this point of time.

My 2 ct.
DPL

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k bennett
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« Reply #7 on: February 23, 2008, 10:49:56 AM »
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Well I originaly wanted to just walk the entire length now after doing a couple sections last year i would really like to compile a photo journal with some of the better shots used for large format prints/art suitable for framing(rebel would be better?).

Based on this additional information, I'm going to revise and extend my remarks. Here are some thoughts, in no particular order:

1. At a hiker gathering last year, I watched a terrific digital slide show of a CDT thru-hike by a couple who obviously spent a lot of time and energy on photography during the hike. They used multiple compact cameras, tripods, carried a lot of cards and batteries, etc. Photography was one of the primary purposes of their trip, and their show was terrific (if a little long.)

2. Out of about 2000 pictures in the show, they had exactly one shot from a rainy day. They just didn't shoot in bad weather. Perhaps a waterproof compact like the Pentax WP series might be a good addition to the camera gear.

3. If you take an SLR, you'll need to clean the sensor. Even if you never change lenses, it'll get dirty under hiking conditions. Compact cameras don't require this.

4. Carrying several cameras, perhaps a long-range compact zoom and a wide angle zoom, would be a decent way to cover a wide lens range with lighter weight and less bulk. Something like a Nilon 8400 (24-85mm~e) and a Canon S5 (35-430mm~e), that sort of thing.

5. A Digital SLR with a lens or two would, of course, provide better image quality, more control, quicker response, etc. It's feasible -- I have done multi-day trips with two professional bodies slung over my shoulders with big honkin' zoom lenses and extra batteries/lenses/flash in my pack. But that was strictly work-related. A D-Rebel and an 18-200 zoom would be light enough to carry over one shoulder, always ready.

6. My personal reaction to photography and hiking is very much tempered by the fact that I work as a professional photographer. I hike to get away from work, not add to it.

Good luck and happy trails.

--Ken
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John Hollenberg
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« Reply #8 on: March 05, 2008, 04:17:45 PM »
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Olympus E-410 + 2 kit lenses. The camera is tiny, the lenses are very good (and small) and the focal range covered is 28mm-300mm. This is what the Olympus system was designed for. And you could add a x1.4 or x2 teleconverter for a longer reach if you feel 300mm is not enough.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=176630\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I have taken my Canon 5D, 24-105L, and sometimes a Gitzo 1100 series tripod on some long Sierra backpacks (up to 60 miles).  However, I decided I need to lighten up a bit, as I am not as energetic as in the past.  Now trying to decided between:

1) Canon 5D with 24-105L - 55 oz. (current setup, TOO HEAVY)
2) Canon Digital Rebel XTi (which I already own) with 17-85 IS - 36 oz.
3) Canon Digital Rebel XTi with 18-55 mm IS lens - 27 oz.
3) Olympus 420 (or 520 if comes out soon) with 14-42 lens - 21 oz.
4) Canon G9 - 13 oz.

I don't generally need lenses over 100 mm (35 mm equivalent) for my style of photography in the Sierra.  Of course, a bit more with CF cards and a couple of backup batteries.

Any thoughts on the tradeoffs in image quality vs. weight?  Basically, I want the best image quality with the least amount of weight    On some trips I am too tired to do much photography, but I don't want to miss a great opportunity if the light is right.

--John
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NikoJorj
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« Reply #9 on: March 06, 2008, 04:47:04 AM »
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3) Canon Digital Rebel XTi with 18-55 mm IS lens - 27 oz.
Seems like a good deal, at least to me!

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Any thoughts on the tradeoffs in image quality vs. weight?  Basically, I want the best image quality with the least amount of weight    On some trips I am too tired to do much photography, but I don't want to miss a great opportunity if the light is right.
[{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]
According to my tastes, the IQ gap is in dynamic range : shooting raw with a dSLR, even a small APS-C one, makes a real difference from a P&S, and light is often not-so-easy (doesn't mean bad!) in the mountains.
For me, there were two other problems : the difficulty to frame in bright light with a P&S (might be better these days?), and mostly the need for a wide angle. My everyday lens is a 10-22 (on a dRebel/300d).
I hike and make [a href=\"http://nikojorj.free.fr/Coiro/]backcountry skiing[/url] with around 1kg (2lbs.) burden, yes it's heavy, but I feel it may justify itself.

But it's such a personal question... I fully understand that Ken wants to lighten the setup at the most, moreover if he needs to escape from work   .
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Nicolas from Grenoble
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BernardLanguillier
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« Reply #10 on: March 06, 2008, 08:12:43 AM »
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I am considering 3 options:

1. slr like point and shoot. No idea what would work better then what I have.

2. Carry an extra 3 to 4 lbs and deal with the dry sections or bear can areas. canon rebel with spare battery couple of 8 meg cards, 10-22 lens, circular polarizing filter.

3. Keep the current camera becuase its the photographer not the camera thats the problem? Work on learning to use the camera and photoshop better.

[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=176501\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

4. Hire a sherpa.

Cheers,
Bernard
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A few images online here!
DarkPenguin
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« Reply #11 on: March 06, 2008, 08:46:55 AM »
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3) Canon Digital Rebel XTi with 18-55 mm IS lens - 27 oz.
I'd probably start with this since you have the camera and the extra 6 oz over the 420 gets you IS.
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4) Canon G9 - 13 oz.
It is okay.  I like it a lot for shooting in the city.  I'm not so sure about using it in a landscape environment where you want a lot of details.  Of course if you're comfy shooting ISO 80 for your landscapes then it is nice.  It isn't real wide, tho.
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John Hollenberg
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« Reply #12 on: March 06, 2008, 09:27:53 AM »
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I'd probably start with this since you have the camera and the extra 6 oz over the 420 gets you IS.
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=179570\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

I think this is my best bet for now.  Cheap to buy the lens, light, IS.  May not have as much range as I would like on either the long or the short end, but I have to cut somewhere to save the weight.

Thanks for thoughts.

--John
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Philmar
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« Reply #13 on: March 10, 2008, 11:42:05 AM »
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4. Hire a sherpa.

Cheers,
Bernard
[a href=\"index.php?act=findpost&pid=179561\"][{POST_SNAPBACK}][/a]

5. Buy a donkey/mule
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An office drone pension administrator by day and a photo-enthusiast by night, week-end and on vacation who carries his camera when traveling the world:
Please have a chew on my photos:
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Colorado David
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« Reply #14 on: March 10, 2008, 12:07:12 PM »
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I have a friend who once owned a small herd of Llamas.  They were a tremendous pain at times.  He no longer owns them.
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