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Good, affordable digital SLR for PCT?

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Good, affordable digital SLR for PCT?

Postby tterrall » Wed Apr 20, 2011 10:25 pm

I am planning on doing a large section of the PCT this summer, from the Columbia River to Mount Whitney. I'd like to upgrade my camera for the trip and am planning on making the jump to a digital SLR. I'm used to carrying a large, super-zoom Canon point and shoot, so the weight and bulkiness don't bother me. I am a little concerned with damaging the camera with constant bouncing around and packing and unpacking. Does anybody have any recommendations on the best SLR for long-distance backpacking? Is the improvement in picture quality worth the inconvenience of packing a large camera? Are the cameras durable enough to withstand a couple months on the trail? Thanks for advice!



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Re: Good, affordable digital SLR for PCT?

Postby maverick » Thu Apr 21, 2011 9:58 am

Hi Tterrall

Welcome to HST!
I think the most important questions is, what are your planning to do with the photo's?
If they are going to be for either web, or small post card size photo's to share with
family and friends, than stick with what you have, not need for a DSLR.
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: Good, affordable digital SLR for PCT?

Postby Mike M. » Thu Apr 21, 2011 1:33 pm

TT, if you decide to move up to a DSLR, battery life is the critical factor for long trips. Most DSLR are powered by proprietary lithium ion batteries that are rechargeable. These batteries tend to lose their charge over time whether you use them or not. For a two month trip, you would need to bring along 5 or 6 batteries, depending on how many exposures you take. Solar chargers are available; I'm not sure how bulky or reliable they are.

Pentax makes two entry-level DSLRs that use AA batteries, the K-x and the K-r. The K-x is last year's model -- it uses AA batteries exclusively. The K-r is the latest model; it uses a proprietary battery, but can also handle AA batteries (but you have to spend extra money to get an adapter).

I own the Pentax K-x. It is a great camera. I get 2500 exposures per set of four Energizer Ultimate Lithium non-rechargeable batteries (see: http://www.amazon.com/Energizer-Ultimat ... B00003IEME). These batteries do not lose a charge over time and are rated to perform in in extreme temperatures (as low as 40 degrees F).

Both of these Pentax models are well built and can stand up to months in the backcountry provided you don't slam them around. Neither are weather sealed (most affordable DSLRs are not). One significant drawback to any DSLR is related to the fact that they support interchangeable lenses. That means they are prone to dust getting on the sensor. All come with sensor cleaning functions, but you'll still get some shots with spots caused by dust on the sensor. These can be Photoshopped out later. If you do hike with a DSLR, bring a hand held tool for blowing dust off the sensor, like this: http://www.amazon.com/Giottos-AA1900-Ro ... 525&sr=1-7.

I bought my K-x last year, but opted to carry my old Canon point and shoot camera on my annual two week trek. This year I'm taking the K-x.

Mike
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Re: Good, affordable digital SLR for PCT?

Postby rlown » Thu Apr 21, 2011 1:40 pm

Mike M. wrote:These batteries do not lose a charge over time and are rated to perform in in extreme temperatures (as low as 40 degrees F).

Mike


Mike,

Given that most nighttime temps are below 40 up there, how do you protect your batts?
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Re: Good, affordable digital SLR for PCT?

Postby maverick » Thu Apr 21, 2011 1:59 pm

Rlown wrote "Given that most nighttime temps are below 40 up there, how do you
protect your batts?"
When traveling during the day in cold day time temps I keep mine near my body inside
my jacket, and at night inside my sleeping bag.
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Re: Good, affordable digital SLR for PCT?

Postby rlown » Thu Apr 21, 2011 2:19 pm

maverick wrote:Rlown wrote "Given that most nighttime temps are below 40 up there, how do you
protect your batts?"
When traveling during the day in cold day time temps I keep mine near my body inside
my jacket, and at night inside my sleeping bag.


Yeah. Guess I was asking, as nighttime is the worst for batts.

Cam sleeps with me. day trips, it's out, but 4 backup bats.. good to go.
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Re: Good, affordable digital SLR for PCT?

Postby Mike M. » Thu Apr 21, 2011 2:31 pm

My bad. The Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries are rated to minus 40 degrees F. They are extremely tolerant of low temps. No need to baby them or sleep with them when it gets cold.

Mike
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Re: Good, affordable digital SLR for PCT?

Postby maverick » Thu Apr 21, 2011 2:52 pm

Mike M wrote "The Energizer Ultimate Lithium batteries are rated to minus 40 degrees F".

Sure it's rated to -40, but how long would it last in those temps, compared to regular
usage in normal temps is the question, but I do not intend to test this any time soon.
I really believe if you are frugal/conservative with the functions on your camera that eat
up your battery life they will last quite a while, but I would still carry back ups.
I will not be missing that special shot because I did not have enough battery life or back
ups with me, that's for sure.
My 1 DS Mark 3's batteries last a long time, well over 1000 shots, but I still carry 2 extra
batteries because of the night time photography I do, and just in case one of them died
on me for some unexplainable reason.
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Re: Good, affordable digital SLR for PCT?

Postby Mike M. » Thu Apr 21, 2011 3:40 pm

Right. The real issue here is how a long-distance hiker, one who intends to be in the trail for two months, can keep his camera going for the duration of the trip. He'll either have to invest in a number of backup batteries and sprinkle them along his resupply route, or carry them all with him for the duration of the trip.

The advantages of the AAs are: they last much, much longer than the typical DSLR battery; they do not leach a charge; they perform well in cold weather; and they are relatively inexpensive (compared to the rechargeable proprietary batteries).

Obviously, the advantage of rechargeable batteries (of which I am a big fan) is they can be recharged hundreds of times. Great for when you are in civilization, but not so great on the trail. Also, as these proprietary camera batteries get a little older, they lose their stamina. In civilization, If you are going out on a shoot, you will want to freshly charge both your in-camera battery and your backup. There's no need for that with the AA lithiums. They last for years in the camera, without degradation. The only limiter appears to be the number of actuations. All bets are off if you use the DSLR's "live view" function, which seems to suck up battery juice.

Mike
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Re: Good, affordable digital SLR for PCT?

Postby fishmonger » Fri Apr 22, 2011 8:06 am

I've done several JMT hikes with Nikon D40 and D90s. Batteries lasted up to 500 shots in both cases, and that even in mid September with sub freezing nights, and no special care for the camera. I don't even use a pouch - just hang it around my neck unless it's raining.

For the D90 I bought a battery grip so I can use 6xAA lithiums at resupply sites. Those last about as long as the internal battery, maybe a little longer. Adds a few ounces, but I like the feel of a larger body, nor am I into the UL thing. I compriomised enough by going with these small bodies in the first place.

The lenses is really where the quality is at - and good lenses tend to cost more than the "affordable DSLR"

so it's a compromise to begin with. You can do good with much smaller modern 4/3rd size sensor point and shoots if weight is of big concern and lense exchanges aren't really part of the plan.
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