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Thread: what camera for backpacking?

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    what camera for backpacking?

    Folks, what camera would you suggest to someone who is off backpacking for a several month schlepp? They seem to want more than a good smart phone (which I imagine is how most folk would do it these days). I suggested if they want SLR features that a full-frame mirrorless with good elec viewfinder but am I leading them up the garden path? I have not kept up to date on this (recent smartphones or the SLR camera market).

    Their proposed destinations are more rural than urban so primarily Landscape and wildlife, I presume some basic architecture shots in the capital cities but nothing too crazy from what I understand.

    They are planning a journey with multi-day hikes so overall size and body weight will matter. As will battery life and size/weight of spare batteries to boot given rounds of 6-7 days without power.

    Landscape and wildlife tends to want very different lenses IIRC. I always used to think small bodies suffered from distortion and noise too - especially when you want to have telephoto. I've warned them it's like asking for the holy grail, and there will inevitably be a compromise but what's the current consensus? Is it still Sony leading the way on this sort of tech? I have not kept up to date on this and I now gather Canon and Nikon have finally released mirrorless bodies just to spice up the mix.

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    Re: what camera for backpacking?

    Budget? I mean, approx. Not much point suggesting a £2k camera if tbe budget's £200 .... and probably not much point suggesting a £200 camera for a serious photographer with a sizeable bulge in their wallet.

    Also if they already have an SLR system, then while not much help for this trip, being able to use exjsting lenses they own may be a factor.

    Personally .... while I'm pretty serious about my photography, there are times when schlepping a bag full of lenses around doesn't appeal and I bought (several years ago, so long superceded now) a reasonably high end Panasonic compact. Can't remember the model number, but something like TZ-25 or TZ-30. I timed it on model changeover and got it discounted by the shop, and a chunky cash-back from Panasonic,

    It's pretty small, fit's comfortably in a pocket, weighs naff-all and while image quality isn't up to a good SLR (with a decent lens) it's good enough for me. Batteries are also about 2,5cm x 2cm x 0.5cm so carrying several isn't a problem. The charger is about the same size as the camera.

    Ultimately, it comes down to a combination of :-

    a) budget, and
    b) the user's expectations of image quality, and
    c) how muxh tbey're willing to compromise on b) to get reduced size and weight.

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    Re: what camera for backpacking?

    Quote Originally Posted by Saracen999 View Post
    Budget? I mean, approx. Not much point suggesting a £2k camera if tbe budget's £200 .... and probably not much point suggesting a £200 camera for a serious photographer with a sizeable bulge in their wallet.

    Also if they already have an SLR system, then while not much help for this trip, being able to use exjsting lenses they own may be a factor.

    Personally .... while I'm pretty serious about my photography, there are times when schlepping a bag full of lenses around doesn't appeal and I bought (several years ago, so long superceded now) a reasonably high end Panasonic compact. Can't remember the model number, but something like TZ-25 or TZ-30. I timed it on model changeover and got it discounted by the shop, and a chunky cash-back from Panasonic,

    It's pretty small, fit's comfortably in a pocket, weighs naff-all and while image quality isn't up to a good SLR (with a decent lens) it's good enough for me. Batteries are also about 2,5cm x 2cm x 0.5cm so carrying several isn't a problem. The charger is about the same size as the camera.

    Ultimately, it comes down to a combination of :-

    a) budget, and
    b) the user's expectations of image quality, and
    c) how muxh tbey're willing to compromise on b) to get reduced size and weight.
    Not sure tbh they were a bit coy. They're not a student on a shoestring if that's what you mean. They didn't seem phased by the price of an A7II sony so I imagine a few hundred extra on the camera isn't the end of the world, though it did sound like they were having to make sacrifices (and loans) to fund the trip so I just don't know the full details. My impression is that they're usually willing to pay for performance.

    edit: I'm just off to the pub to see them. I shall ask and report back.

    Did some googling and found this size comparison site which could come in handy. Completely fails to mention lens size and weight however which is surely as important? Anyone know of a better site?

    Lastly how much commission do I charge them for this? I'm not sure Camera broker is in the loosely defined terms of our friendship. Maybe I shuold start using written agreements like Sheldon in Big Bang Theory... Just kidding. Mates are mates right?
    Last edited by ik9000; 15-06-2019 at 06:07 PM.

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    Re: what camera for backpacking?

    Well, if they're taking a loan(s) to do the trip, that would make it even harder for me, if I were in your shoes. Personally, I'm highly loan, and indeed, credit-averse. I know that, at least in theory, it's not the loan that matters but whether it can be afforded but .... so many people these days seem to work on "can I afford the finance?" My view is if you have to finance it, you can't afford it, except for house mortgages and perhaps a car loan IF it's necessary to do your job, and even then, only what's necessary for the job, not what you might want.

    I guess it comes from going from buying an expensive car outright, to a protracted and unexpected period of illness where incone dropped to £0. And you can eat through a pretty substantial pile of reserves after a couple of years of £0/month.

    My point is .... circumstances can change and bite you in the butt. And did. And it wasn't fun.

    So now, I migbt use credit cards as a convenience, but only ever as a convenience, for things I can afford and where, in the words of Martin Lewis, I "pay it off, in full, every month".

    On the other hand, if friends asked me this question .... well, I'm not their financial guardian and their finances are their business, not mine.

    I'd just be rather conflicted if my comments might encourage them to do something they can't really afford, especially if the unexpected then bites them in the butt.

    Maybe subconsciously that's why my first question was about budget.

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    Re: what camera for backpacking?

    a jolly good point. I hasn't considered that but it's not for me to give them financial planning. I will however suggest that to them just so they think about it.
    they seem confident it won't be an issue. I'm looking at Oct 31st and thinking who knows what the future holds.


    I've suggested they rent something for a few days and try carrying it around. got to better than anything else. that way they can see if it does what they want and if it is small enough. presumably there is a shop that does that.

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    Re: what camera for backpacking?

    It sounds to me if they're having to ask the question then having a complicated SLR will be a waste as it's probably going to mostly be in the Automatic setting. I would say they just need a good quality 'point and click' with a slightly beefier fixed lens and some basic white balance & iso settings. Backpacking could require one of those rugged types depending on whether this is hostel to hostel or tent to tent type backpacking. I can't imagine having a load of lenses and accessories will be desirable with all the other equipment and baggage they'll have with them


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    Re: what camera for backpacking?

    On 31st Oct, I think we can agree on that - even if hoping for different outcomes. Buf it sure as hell is uncertain.

    Another camera question is whether they are already equipped in the SLR field? If so, it might influence a back-packing system choice as, whike not ideal, it is often possible to use most lenses and accessories with next-gen cameras. In my case, I have a significant investment in Canon, which means if I went for an EOS R mirrorless, they can at least provide a bridge to buying RF lenses.

    Stepping down from that is something like the Canon Gx range, maybe G7-X.

    Or down to the fancy end of the super-compacts, like the Panasonic TZ200.

    I still tjink it comes down to expectations v. size/weight v. versatility .... all within whatever their budge is. That EOS R is £2k+, and that's before lenses, etc. And which it, and especially lenses, are MUCH less heavy and bulky, they still are quite a burden.

    I guess a lot depends on priorities. I mean, for me, going on a soecial holiday is significantly about photogrsphic opportunities. But for my wife, a photo is an aide-memoire, ir a souvenir, and a camera is a nuisance to lug about. We have different approaches. Attitudes.

    As well as budget, you need a read on where your friends are coming from, because the right advice to me and to my wife would pretty much be polar opposities.


    Note: I've used Canon in examples as I'm most familiar with them, but the same applies to Sony, Nikon, Olympus, whatever, if you're already committed to their architecture, as I am to Canon. Doing a complete change would get very, VERY expensive. New car expensive.

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    Goron goron Kumagoro's Avatar
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    Re: what camera for backpacking?

    I think my idea of back packing must be very different if lugging around an SLR and lenses is the norm.

    To me:

    On the compact end, Sony RX100 series, Canon G9x MkII

    Chunky AIO, Canon G7x MkII or G5x

    The biggest I would go would be mirrorless.

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    Re: what camera for backpacking?

    Sounds to me like a job for a bridge camera, although it's not an area I know much about. I've just had a skim of https://www.digitalcameraworld.com/b...bridge-cameras and there's quite a big price range covered. Even the smaller sensor cameras in that list should be a substantial step up from a smartphone camera, and given the shortest zoom range there is 24-400 equivalent they should cover wide landscape shots through to distant wildlife.

    Given their planned use it's probably also worth taking charging into consideration - if the camera can be USB charged, or there are USB battery chargers available (e.g. https://www.amazon.co.uk/DuraPro-Cha.../dp/B01MDUC7BW), then you can carry a vast amount of power with power banks which can also charge phones etc.
    Last edited by Bagnaj97; 17-06-2019 at 10:01 AM.

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    Re: what camera for backpacking?

    I've done a very protracted schlepp around the world. IMO if you're doing months, unless you're a pro photographer take either a decent phone camera or at the very most a high end compact. Having to lug crap around from point to point is a real PITA and I ended up ditching a load of stuff as I went.

    If he takes an SLR, he'll also have to take all the lenses/chargers etc. If you do that, he'll invariably end up with a lowe pro or branded case to keep it well packed and safe. If you do that as a backpacker, you may as well wear a t-shirt which says, "I have loads of stuff in my room/dorm, please come and steal it."

    Add to that if you're off trekking somewhere, chances are you're going to want to just point and shoot that amazing rock formation/lion/alien abduction, not faff about with lenses....

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    Re: what camera for backpacking?

    You could do a lot worse than one of the Canon Powershot series - for example

    https://www.currys.co.uk/gbuk/camera...45104-pdt.html

    Or one of the Canon G series (mentioned earlier - the G9)

    Or one of the compact Panasonic Lumix series such as

    https://www.currys.co.uk/gbuk/camera...ml#srcid=11026
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    Re: what camera for backpacking?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kumagoro View Post
    I think my idea of back packing must be very different if lugging around an SLR and lenses is the norm.

    To me:

    On the compact end, Sony RX100 series, Canon G9x MkII

    Chunky AIO, Canon G7x MkII or G5x

    The biggest I would go would be mirrorless.
    Oh, IMO an SLR is not the norm if the objective is backpacking. On the other hand, for a very keen photograoher, getting the photos might be the point of, or at least a very high priority in, doing the trip at all.

    My point is .... knowing what the backpacker wants out of it. Also, perhaps, exactly what they mean by "backpacking". After all, a few weeks ambling about the Lake District and staying in B&B's every night is rather different from hiking the length of the Appalachian Trail.

    It's horses for courses, of course, and (IMHO) critical to advising on cameras is knowing what the expectations, photographically, are going to be. Just as the Appalachian trail v. Lake District will have a major impact on equipment choice, so will what they want photo's for: personal momentos, entries for Landscape Photographer of the Year or, most likely, somewhere in-between.

    Once you know that, and the budget, you can do some serious narrowing-down.
    Last edited by Saracen999; 18-06-2019 at 01:22 AM. Reason: Tpyo

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    Re: what camera for backpacking?

    As per the above, I think understanding the needs more is important.

    I do a fair bit of travelling and a fair bit of photography, and I thought my priorities were so much on the image quality side of things that I ended up with a Sony A7rII, thinking that it was compact (which for a full frame.. is it). But in reality it's also heavy, especially the good lenses. So I hardly take it anywhere self-powered (and if I do, it tends to be with just a single lens, somewhat lessening the attraction of an ILC. )

    I have a compact rx100, which is more than portable enough, but the lens is so limiting that I can almost do a better job on a phone with multiple shots.

    So for me, I would have been better going for something like a Oly mirrorless which gives me the lens choices but is even smaller/lighter (with lens) than the 7Rii. But that's me.

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    Re: what camera for backpacking?

    Backpacking is a great way to go out into the World.

    I'd say keep it small, and simple. You don't want to lug stuff around that you don't use. When I last set off on an extended bacpacking trip, there was no digital (or internet, iPhones, iPads or laptops). The only choice was film. I took one ruggedd camera and two lenses - a mid-range zoom and a short, fast tele. I carried my film (Kodachrome).

    I'm not sure things are that different - one digital body, a fast prime (I like 50mm - a 50 Summilux would be my pick) and a good zoom, or alternatively two primes - 28 or 21, and a short tele, 90 or 135. Then you'll need chargers, spare battery, SD cards and laptop or iPad, phone and chargers for all them, small tripod and filters. So, size and weight is an issue - you're travelling with your World on your back, right? Keep it as minimal as you can. No spare body, no backup (unless absolutely necessary for places you will never return to, like Antarctica).

    The SL is just too big and heavy (though, to be honest, I would be tempted). So, that leaves a digital M or TL2, if you want a system (forget about film). Assuming you have the budget, I'd consider:

    M10 with EVF

    28 Emarit or 21 Super-Elmar

    50 Summilux ASPH

    90 APO Summicron

    You'll be changing lenses a lot (never ideal). The alternative:

    TL2 with EVF

    11-23 zoom (17-35 equivalent)

    35 Summilux (50 equivalent, roughly)

    and perhaps the longer zoom or a prime with adapter.

    You really want as little as possible, using what you have, rather than taking what you might need. I'd also consider an M10, and 28 & 50 Summiluxes and not much more ...

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    Re: what camera for backpacking?

    If my idea of backpacking was carrying a light rucksack and travelling from place to place by local transport, whilst being shadowed by an army of flunkies catering to my every need, possibly from a Landrover filled with essentials such as lavender water, toilet paper, dairy milks and a full gaming rig - then I would take an SLR and several lenses.

    However its not, my idea of backpacking is moving from place to place with essentials in a rucksack, mooching free stuff from locals, annoying everyone in pubs and trains by being completely unaware of the dimension of said backpack, regaling everyone in earshot that has no interest in your life with your story and worldly views and generally being a pain in the arse.

    Saying that, I'm old and (judge)mental.

    And I'd take the former, minus the public transport.

    and the backpack


    and I don't care much for lavender water

    screw it, what I really mean is I'd load up a motorcycle and carry a credit card. I'm sure I'd fit an SLR and a couple of lenses in the panniers
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    Re: what camera for backpacking?

    another +1 for the Canon G series, from G7 up, the 9 is amazing, the 12 is my favourite as it has RAW, tilt twist screen and amazing battery life.

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