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Wilderness Photography The Wilderness Photography forum is for the discussion of photography (videography) gear, experience, and technique as it directly relates to wilderness photography. PBF members may also post self-owned photos that have been uploaded to the PB Gallery or as post attachments. Offsite links and offsite photos are prohibited. Please see ("sticky") instructional post located at top of threads.


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  #1  
Old 02-24-2014, 10:04 AM
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striker striker is offline
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Do I need a "tough" camera?

I am in the market for a new camera mostly for backpacking trips. Can anybody speak to whether or not a "tough" camera is worth the extra expense? It looks as though I could get a much better camera for the price if I do not have to pay for those features, however I don't want to have to worry about destroying the camera in a few trips. A lot of the "tough" features seem like overkill for example, I'm not going to be taking photos 50 ft underwater!

I am not a great photographer, I am looking for a simple, small camera with a little room to grow with settings, etc. I'm a 3 season backpacker but do encounter the usual -- rain, snow, freezing temperatures, and DUST -- pretty regularly. I am mostly concerned with getting the best value for those needs. My husband thinks we might be better off spending less on a standard point and shoot and just replacing it if needed.
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  #2  
Old 02-24-2014, 11:10 AM
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Reality Reality is offline
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With the exception of my GoPro camera (in a housing), the cameras (e.g. Canon SX280 HS) I have used in the wilderness are considered somewhat fragile.

I do my best to protect them from moisture, sand, and from falls.

If you're concerned about mishaps or durability issues, a more durable, waterproof digital camera model may be worth your consideration.

By the way, the "standard point-and-shoot" has come a long way. One can capture great photos with them.

Reality
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  #3  
Old 02-24-2014, 01:12 PM
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Grandpa Grandpa is offline
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As someone who used to haul a monstrously heavy and bulky Graflex Speed Graphic camera into the mountains almost a half century ago, and then a professional camera with many extra lenses after that, I much appreciate the smaller point and shoots. My whole pack weighs less than my camera gear back then.

There are some pretty capable small cameras with decent zoom lenses that can be purchased quite reasonably. I wear them out after two or three years but by then they have a better one available. The entire camera system weighs less than just one of the lenses I used to carry.

You can also buy padded waterproof cases that attach to your backpack that will help protect the smaller cameras or just keep it in a Ziploc bag.

Another nice thing with the current cameras is that you can buy a few extra batteries and a high capacity SD card (all of which are cheap and light) and be on the trail for days without worrying about missing a shot. The amount of film I used to carry weighed more than my current camera. I'd also spend more on film processing after a major trip than what I can buy a camera for now.

Last edited by Grandpa : 02-24-2014 at 01:20 PM.
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Old 02-24-2014, 01:57 PM
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Wildfield Wildfield is offline
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In my opinion, you don't need anything too special. Cameras are relatively fragile devices regardless the model. Me personally...I'd pick a good, reliable model that has the features I think I will need, and then buy a good case for it.

Protecting a camera from extreme temps, moisture and shock applies to any camera, in my opinion.

By the way, think of all the pro photographers who take their gear into the jungle, rain forests, battle fields, deserts, etc. While they do use high end gear, their cameras need to be just as protected from the elements as any other camera.

Good luck, and definitely let us know which camera you end up selecting.
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  #5  
Old 02-24-2014, 02:37 PM
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Reality Reality is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grandpa
I wear them out after two or three years but by then they have a better one available.
I end up upgrading every 2-3 years too - depending on how significant the new features are and how helpful they are for my intentions.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wildfield
In my opinion, you don't need anything too special. Cameras are relatively fragile devices regardless the model. Me personally...I'd pick a good, reliable model that has the features I think I will need, and then buy a good case for it.

...

Ah, way to bring it all together Wildfield. Great advice.

Reality
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  #6  
Old 02-24-2014, 04:38 PM
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striker striker is offline
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Thanks for the great advice everyone! Yes, I had looked at the waterproof/freezeproof cameras but it seems like you can get better pictures for the price with a standard point and shoot since you are not paying for the extra toughness But yes, I think it is probably true that all of these things are pretty fragile and frankly, I'm probably going to fuss over it anyway! I guess then I might be better off not paying extra for a "tougher" camera and instead get a really small point and shoot that I can keep in a nice case in my pocket to keep it safer.

I've read through a lot of the threads on this subject, but I still have no idea what kind of camera to get. Really, I do not need any fancy features, our old camera has some and I never used them. I really do usually just point and shoot... I think I'll start pricing out the newer versions of some mentioned in older threads on here. If its only going to last 2 years or so, I don't want to spend more than $200.
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  #7  
Old 02-24-2014, 04:52 PM
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Grandpa Grandpa is offline
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There are quite a few options in that price range. That's what I usually budget for and each two hundred dollars buys me a better camera than last time.

The Canon Digital Elph series is very compact but doesn't a long zoom lens and the display is a little small for these old eyes so now I look for something 3". Some of that line had an actual viewfinder but I found out I usually just framed on the screen. It fit easily in the palm of my hand.
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  #8  
Old 02-24-2014, 05:14 PM
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Reality Reality is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by striker
I guess then I might be better off not paying extra for a "tougher" camera and instead get a really small point and shoot that I can keep in a nice case in my pocket to keep it safer.
I believe that's the best way for you to go.

Quote:
Originally Posted by striker
If its only going to last 2 years or so, I don't want to spend more than $200.
There are several good cameras out there under $200.

Here are just a few features you may wish to consider:
  • Optical Image Stabilization
  • Optical Zoom (higher the better) [Disregard 'digital' zoom]
  • Low "Shutter Latency" or Lag - This might not be listed with the camera, so do a search for the shutter latency of a particular camera model. [Basically, this will determine how fast you are able to get a shot.]
  • Decent Battery Life
  • Other worthy, but perhaps less important, features: 1080p Full HD Video, Built-in WiFi,...
By the way, the megapixels (ultimately photo resolution) of the most popular brands of compact cameras are all acceptable for amateur photography needs.

The Canon SX280 HS and Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS25 are a couple ideas.

Side Note: In episode 51, of the Practical Backpacking™ Podcast, Kolby Kirk mentions a compact camera that he's taken tens of thousands of photos with in the wilderness.

Reality
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  #9  
Old 02-24-2014, 10:03 PM
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GGervin GGervin is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Grandpa
There are some pretty capable small cameras with decent zoom lenses that can be purchased quite reasonably. I wear them out after two or three years but by then they have a better one available...

You can also buy padded waterproof cases that attach to your backpack that will help protect the smaller cameras or just keep it in a Ziploc bag.
+1 to Grandpa's comments.

Like Grandpa, I've carried some pretty heavy and expensive photo gear including a view camera, and none of it had special design features which protected it from the environment. I've used Minolta X-700's in the heavy mist of a waterfall with no more protection than a rain hood, and have never had a problem.

If you are a pro going into really harsh environments regularly, dustproof/sandproof/shockproof becomes important. Most people don't need that. X-700's were always considered too fragile to be a pro camera, but I used them with no failures in the backcountry just by taking extra care with them. The traditional approach to hauling serious photo gear has always been to protect the gear like it's the most fragile stuff you own. If you take that mentality with any camera, you should find you can take almost anything you want and it will come back safe and sound. Rely on yourself, not expensive marketing features, to keep your gear safe.

Regarding waterproof, if the camera body is waterproof but the lens isn't, you still have a problem. Most people (including most pros and advanced amateurs) don't shoot in environments that require a waterproof camera. Go for a rain hood instead. They're cheap, lightweight, and you can even make your own.

If I were looking for a new camera, I'd consider image quality first, and that includes sensor type, megapixels, and whether/how big you intend to print. Printing at 13x19 with the right sensor type doesn't require uber megapixels. You can probably save a lot of money being realistic about your intentions. After megapixels and sensor type, I'd worry about lens availability, quality, and expense.

After lenses, I'd worry about only one environmental factor: minimum temps and how it affects battery drain. Some cameras go through batteries faster than others, and cold weather makes it that much faster. Again, being realistic about how often you will shoot in really cold weather will help you decide what you really need and help keep unnecessary expenses from climbing. Hike Your Own Hike, and Buy Your Own Camera based on what you want to do with it. I doubt you need fancy environmental protection built in.
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  #10  
Old 02-25-2014, 02:19 PM
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Grandpa Grandpa is offline
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On some of my earlier digital cameras, I made sure the camera worked on AA batteries because they were easily available and I could get lightweight and long lasting Lithium ones. Now, almost all of the smaller cameras have their own proprietary lithium battery and the electronics are designed to squeeze much more out of that battery than the older AA models. Also, extra batteries are quite inexpensive and take up less room than some more AAs. When I go camping and hiking, I'll have a couple extra batteries for my camera in a Ziploc. I think there are a few cameras out there that don't have a battery that can be replaced. For me, that wouldn't be an option because I'd have no way to charge it in the backcountry without a juice pack or solar charger.
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