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Time for a new backpacking camera

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Time for a new backpacking camera

Postby kpeter » Thu Apr 30, 2015 10:00 am

I have owned only four cameras in my life beginning with an Exacta in the 1970s and most recently a Pentax K200 DSLR that is six years old, weighty, but has water and dust seals. The primary reason I have refused to convert to a lighter camera was that there was nothing affordable that had a viewfinder usable in bright outdoor light. Now I see that situation has changed and a lot of EVF mirrorless cameras are available. Shaving weight is an attractive lure. Plus my old DSLR is fairly obsolete in other ways too.

I am far from an accomplished photographer--nothing like many of you pros and semi-pros. I have stuck to SLRs but have seldom used extra lenses, filters, etc. I simply can't afford as much good gear as many of you use. I do my best with kit lenses and attempt to make them work for everything from macros of flowers to wide angles of sunsets and everything in between. While I have never been a technically proficient photographer, I do have 40 years of experience and get most of my pleasure from the creative effort of setting up and framing shots--and learning to see a possible composition before the shot is taken. I mostly show my photos to family and friends and post a few of them here--seldom printing them, although sometimes projecting them on my HDTV.

I have been reading the threads here and have seen favorable comments about Sony RX-100 III and the Sony A6000. These would be at the top of my price range. I can't seem to figure out why I should prefer one of them over the other. And of course there are always a dozen alternative cameras bandied about when you read these and similar threads. I don't keep up with changing camera technology and there is a limit to what I can absorb by reading a few reviews, but I know the people here will have a wealth of practical advice!

So, something lighter than a DSLR, with a viewfinder, under $700, with image stabilization, that gives a versatile range from wide angle to telephoto with the kit lens. Am I right to be focusing on the RX-100 III and the A6000? Would there be better choices given my needs?



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Re: Time for a new backpacking camera

Postby maverick » Thu Apr 30, 2015 2:51 pm

RX-100 III review summary: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/sony-cy ... x100-m3/13
A6000 review summary: http://www.dpreview.com/reviews/sony-alpha-a6000/13

Mid-range Mirrorless roundup (including a6000): http://www.dpreview.com/articles/642864 ... ra-roundup
High-end pocket camera roundup (including RX-100 III): http://www.dpreview.com/articles/665717 ... 14-roundup

Do some reading and comparisons between the available models, see which features suit your style of shooting, what you really need, and
then look look at what the damage will be $$$.
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Time for a new backpacking camera

Postby SSSdave » Fri May 01, 2015 11:04 am

Many of those who own high end digital cameras use only a small percentage of their functionality and rarely need the level of output such cameras are capable of so they end up being more a status symbol. Also over at dpreview go into the "Sony Alpha/NEX E-mount Talk" forum and do some searching for whatever you are specifically wondering about. For your purposes the RX100 may be a better fit. Much depends on what you want to do with images especially in terms of printing. If one is just using a camera for personal uses it will probably be fine and keep your carrying weight low.

A lot of former DSLR users have moved down to the A6000 and it is what I have used for 13 months now. You can check my website to see what is possible when combined with focus stack blending and multi panel stitch blending. But to get that high end output takes a lot more than just the camera body. It does cost bucks both for hardware and software and requires extra technical skills and understanding to make it happen. To get the full pixels out of the sensor one needs to buy fixed lenses with excellent glass else the results are probably no better than a 18mp DSLR. So the full price of a top mirrorless system is at a minimum double what just that body goes for. The EVF is such a huge advantage that I use it 95% of the time. If one is more serious about close-up and macro images then the fixed system is going to be limited because with the 1" sensor one gets even less DOF. A fixed medium tele prime lens plus extension tubes is going to offer a lot more into the macro range.

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Re: Time for a new backpacking camera

Postby dougieb » Fri May 01, 2015 12:00 pm

I think you're on the right track. The truth is, digital cameras are so good these days that you almost can't go wrong. I am a professional photographer and I've used a variety of gear, film and digital slrs as well as point and shoots, mirrorless, etc and it is just amazing how many different good options are available these days. I shoot with a 36mp Sony A7R but recently tried out a RX100 III, not because it would replace my main camera but just because I wanted to see what it could do. That thing is incredible. I would fully recommend that camera, especially for backpacking. It is lightweight, incredibly capable for prints even up to 20x30, has a wide enough zoom range (quite wide on the wide end) and it is small. It isn't quite small enough for a jeans pocket but it will fit in cargo pant pockets or in a little pouch on your backpack. I understand you're used to using a viewfinder (as am I) but if you want to save some money, check out the previous model the RX100 II. You lose the viewfinder, the lens is a 28-100 instead of a 24-70 so not quite as wide, and you can't flip the screen 180 degrees to take a self portrait. Other than that, the image quality is basically identical. Also, don't be afraid of refurbished cameras and you'll save even more money $475 vs $650. The A6000 is a fine choice as well but note quite as compact, especially with a couple lenses in tow.
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Doug
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Re: Time for a new backpacking camera

Postby kpeter » Sat May 02, 2015 3:36 pm

The three of you have been fabulously helpful. It does seem to me as if the A6000 is not a great choice for a single lens enthusiast--if I could afford two or three decent lenses, then sure.

But since I can't, I think I will focus my research on the RX 100-III. My first digital camera was a Sony DSC-F717, which came out in 2002. It had an electronic viewfinder long before the latest wave, and I loved that camera until I dropped it in a creek in 2008. It might be something of a homecoming to buy another Sony with an EVF and a Zeiss lens. In fact, the more I look at it, the more I realize that the RX 100 seems to fill the same niche--given the huge technical advances--as my 717 did 13 years ago.
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Re: Time for a new backpacking camera

Postby ExploreABitMore » Mon May 11, 2015 9:25 am

We have a Canon G15 that we have been super happy with. Many folks say it's like a dSLR stuffed into a "point and shoot". Pretty sure it has a view finder you can look through, but you'll want to double check, I could be wrong. Small, lightweight and compact.

Couple down sides to it:
(1) It's expensive for a "point and shoot". Around $500 IIRC.
(2) It's supposedly more vulnerable to dust than some others. However, we found being just a little careful and mindful about that, we ended having zero problems with dust.
(3) It's only 5x Zoom. But, it still zooms a nice amount, just not as much as some.

If you can live with that, it's a really great camera.
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Re: Time for a new backpacking camera

Postby kpeter » Fri May 29, 2015 2:58 pm

After mulling over all you sage advice, I have purchased and RX iii. I will let you know how it goes! Hopefully I can take it on a June backpacking trip to try it out. Again, thanks for all the help!
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Re: Time for a new backpacking camera

Postby maverick » Fri May 29, 2015 3:06 pm

Congratulations on the purchasing of a new camera, looking forward to seeing your pictures. :)
HST= Wilderness Adventurer who knows no bounds, except for their own imagination.

Have a safer backcountry experience by using the HST ReConn Form 2.0, named after Larry Conn, a HST member: http://reconn.org
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Re: Time for a new backpacking camera

Postby kpeter » Sun Jun 14, 2015 12:20 pm

I tried out my new Sony DSC RX-100 iii, there are a few photos over on my trail report on Little Lakes Valley.

I think this was the right camera for me. If anything, it seems sharper and more vibrant than my Pentax DSLR--not a surprise since that camera was getting obsolete in many ways. I am just not a serious enough photographer to be bothered with switching lenses, and in the absence of interchangeable lenses I am not sure what the point would be for me to use anything more than this.

Its functionality is actually far more than I can master. I actually purchased and read a 300 page online book that walked me through all of its capabilities and it is nearly overwhelming. I appreciate that many of the menus have little descriptions and illustrations--that is helpful as I learn to use this. I will experiment and gradually learn what I want to use. A lot of the stuff is overkill for me, but I will play with it anyway just because it is available. I was amazed at the automatic panorama function--not sure how much I will actually use it.

And it is small. I wanted something smaller and lighter, but I had no idea how big the difference would be. I've never owned a point-and-shoot (nor have I ever owned a smart phone!) so this is a big adjustment. It took me some practice just finding little buttons and figuring out how to hold the thing without putting my fingers all over the screen.

I discovered that my old Pedco ultra tripod--which I had put away because it was too small for my DSLR, works beautifully with this little camera and that it velcros very securely to the cork handle of my walking sticks. A very secure monopod when I stick the sharp end of my stick securely in the soil. Obviously, not so good on granite! But at 2 ounces and less than $10 (free to me, since it came out of the bin!) it is a bargain.

With regard to the the EVF--I find it very useful, although I was able to take more shots using the screen than I thought I would. But I have two questions. 1) How do you keep the EVF clean? My greasy eyelashes and sweaty forehead are always messing it up, but I am not certain if there is a Q-tip type product that is used for cleaning small screens like this. 2) When using the EVF, I found light from the side to be a problem unless I operated the camera with one hand and used the other as a viewfinder shade. Is there a better solution? Years ago I purchased and used an eye-cup for my first Sony electronic camera. Since this is a pop-up that won't work.

Some had questions about battery life. I took three fully charged batteries on a three day trip, took 134 pictures and four videos, and returned with the first battery about half used. I don't know if this is typical, but so far battery life does not seem a problem to me.

If people are looking for a case for this camera or something very similar, I got a Lowepro Apex 30 AW. It seems to be just the right size and it has a pull-out rain cover that I actually used.

DSC00124-2.jpg
A blustery day, Taken with the little Pedco tripod velcroed to my walking stick stuck in the ground.
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