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DSLR vs. Micro Four Thirds vs. Compact for Backpacking

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DSLR vs. Micro Four Thirds vs. Compact for Backpacking

Postby richlong8 » Wed Dec 12, 2012 4:29 pm

I thought it might be interesting to get some viewpoints out there on this subject. I know it has been explored before, but gear is always changing. I am just an everyday shooter, but I do like getting good photos of beautiful locales in the High Sierra. For me, carrying a DSLR like a Nikon 5100, for example, and a lense(s) is too bulky, and heavy for my taste, when I am backpacking. I like the convenience of a compact camera like a Panasonic LX-3, which i used for a couple of years, but as I am focusing more on taking decent photos, the difference in quality is more apparent. I tried a Micro Four Thirds, and there is a lot to like about that system. I am currently trying a Sony Nex-6, which I reallly like, more than the 5N, because the controls are more manual, and I find it easy to use. However, the same problem that many have noted, the lack of lenses, is a question for me. I don't want to have to use a heavy adaptor and other lenses to fill the lens gap. It defeats the purpose of having a nice, small, light backpacking camera. They have come out with a new Sony wide angle zoom lens. I am not sure the quality of the Sony 10-18mm justifies the high price tag. Waiting for more reviews on that one. Good quality wide angle is my first priority in backpacking lenses. I am even considering a wide angle prime for quality purposes. Cost is an issue. If I can get equivalent results with Micro Four Thirds for much less cost, it is worth it to me. Any opinions on camera/lens combinations? I have tried the Olympus OM-D, and I like it, and the lenses, but sold it. I prefer the controls on the Sony Nex-6 personally. It is hard to compare the 2 systems right now, until I can get out into the backcountry and do some shooting.



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Re: DSLR vs. Micro Four Thirds vs. Compact for Backpacking

Postby John Dittli » Wed Dec 12, 2012 5:12 pm

I feel it really comes down to what you want to do with your photography. If it is never going to be seen other than on the screen (or small prints), then lens quality and sensor size is really of little importance.

I haul around a full frame dslr and heavy glass because:

--I'm hopelessly old school
--I shoot mostly ultra wide
--I need files of maximum resolution

I wish none of the above were true, my pack would be much lighter
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Re: DSLR vs. Micro Four Thirds vs. Compact for Backpacking

Postby fishmonger » Thu Dec 13, 2012 7:42 am

I mostly use a DSLR, extra lenses, tripod, filters because I know that stuff works. I find that good quality compact cameras always compromise in some area, such as the Sony Nex not being something I can hook up to my time lapse/panorama bot, since they don't have a wire release jack. Some of these things can be hacked, but in the end you don't save much weight on the body alone when you still have to carry the good glass and tripod to get similar image results. If you feel that stuff is not important enough to warrant all that weight, then it's point and shoot time with a small and lightweight zoom, and that's fine for those trips.

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Re: DSLR vs. Micro Four Thirds vs. Compact for Backpacking

Postby richlong8 » Thu Dec 13, 2012 8:20 am

Thanks for the response. I am probably an in-between guy. I carry a tripod, but not pro-quality. It is a Sony tripod, not a piece of junk, but just enough to support the camera. If I used heavier lenses, and a heavier body, I would need a heavier tripod. I have been using self timer, but am changing to using a remote for shutter release. I have been using filters, especially neutral density, and polarizer, because of the high contrast lighting so common in the Sierra. I am learning Photoshop, and I am using Raw. I want to be able to experiment with HDR, if it will help a slightly flawed photo. With bag, camera, tripod, filters, spare battery, and a just 2 lenses, it ends up being a fair amount of bulk and weight for me, even using Micro Four Thirds or Sony NEX instead of a Nikon or Canon, for example. If weight and bulk were not an issue for me, I would no doubt use a consumer level DSLR with good lenses. I may end up with one anyway, and just use another lighter setup for backpacking.
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Re: DSLR vs. Micro Four Thirds vs. Compact for Backpacking

Postby fishmonger » Thu Dec 13, 2012 1:52 pm

how much does that Sony tripod weigh? I used to carry a pretty heavy tripod until I found a great deal on a discontinued Benro carbon fiber tripod on amazon (like $110 or so). This really cut down the weight in my pack enough that I don't leave it behind any longer. If you're patient, you may find something that is more robust and lighter than what you have and it won't cost as much as a gucci Gitzo. Apart from that, if you have a remote, there's always the "flat rock" tripod, which I used many summers, just put some gaffer tape on the bottom of the camera so it won't get all scratched and use the resources of the Sierra to support your camera. Obviously won't work for all situations, though.

For super light trips (only small lenses) I actyually built a tripod out of old tent poles and a table top tripod - 6 ounces, packs easily, does the job on a light camera. There's some info on how to do that on BackpackingLight.com. Cost me 5 bucks and works great with lighter DSLRs as long as you don't try any extreme angles and use a remote trigger.

HDR - gets boring very quickly. If you shoot raw and your camera has decent dynamic range, just using Photoshop and knowing what to do with curves in Camera Raw will get you almost all the range compression what you may want to tolerate visually, unless you are into the (very much overused) look of surreal HDR, for which you will have to shoot multiple frames. It's a great tool for extreme contrast (e.g. indoor dark room, sunny outside scene).

the only filters I still carry are a good Polarizer and ND 8x. I used to carry a gradient ND and some close up filters, but rarely ever used them. Tripod and HDR in software can make up for a gradient ND if your subject is static landscape.
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Re: DSLR vs. Micro Four Thirds vs. Compact for Backpacking

Postby richlong8 » Thu Dec 13, 2012 4:27 pm

I have a graduated ND and another all gray one. I was experimenting last year on several trips with putting the lighter half on a darker lake surface, typically at morning, and the darker half on the sky, which was brighter, to try and reduce the contrast. Getting good exposure can be tough at times, so I try to bracket. I think that is what I did when I took this one.
Image
The Sony tripod weighs 1.5 pounds, and it is sturdy. Part of the weight loss is because it is a little shorter than the standard tripod, but it works pretty good for 1.5 pounds, and it the cost was minimal, <$25, from Amazon. But I would consider a better one, standard size, if I could pay about 100, and it was real close to 2 pounds, instead of three and >, like most seem to be.
I am still just learning the basics in Photoshop, and I am learning on Elements, to begin with. It is amazing, really, what you can do with that program. I have a pic that I took of myself fishing in the High Sierra, where I made the common mistake having an underexposed face in a bright setting on a lakeshore. So I am trying to figure out how to brighten the face exposure just a bit, so the pic can be salvaged. My wife likes it, except for my face, which is dark under the cowboy hat. Thanks for the advice. I don't think there is a perfect camera or solution, I just need to choose the compromises I can live with. If I can take as good of a photo with a Micro Four Thirds with a good lens, but smaller sensor than a Sony Nex, that only has an average lens, I will probably use the Panasonic or Olympus body with thier lenses. I am 57, and I don't want to carry a huge DSLR outfit around the mountains.
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Re: DSLR vs. Micro Four Thirds vs. Compact for Backpacking

Postby tim » Thu Dec 13, 2012 7:23 pm

I have the Sony NEX 5n and really like it. When we bought it they had a bundle with the 18-55mm and 16mm together for only $99 extra. So when on day hikes I take the 18-55 (and sometimes the 55-200 we bought later, for the eclipse last May) and on backpacking trips I use the 16mm. Not as flexible but with that lens it's as small as a compact camera, and the digital zoom isn't bad when needed.
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Re: DSLR vs. Micro Four Thirds vs. Compact for Backpacking

Postby richlong8 » Thu Dec 13, 2012 7:31 pm

I have been using the Sony Nex-6 the last month, with the 12-50mm kit lens, and I really like it. Very small lens, and camera combination. The 16mm gets a lot of bad reviews for lens quality. Too bad, the size is great for backpacking.
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Re: DSLR vs. Micro Four Thirds vs. Compact for Backpacking

Postby RichardCullip » Thu Dec 13, 2012 8:54 pm

If my wife let's me borrow it, I'll be trying the extremely small and compact Sony DSC-RX100 on my next trip. It's her Christmas present (she's the family photographer) and I will have to wait until after Christmas before I can give it a try. Based on reviews it's supposed to have excellent image quality and good low light capabiliity. It's got to beat hauling around a bigger heavier DSLR or Micro Four thirds camera and will be a big step up from my Pentax Optio W60.
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Re: DSLR vs. Micro Four Thirds vs. Compact for Backpacking

Postby richlong8 » Thu Dec 13, 2012 9:59 pm

I hear that is an amazing camera. Good luck.
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Re: DSLR vs. Micro Four Thirds vs. Compact for Backpacking

Postby flyfisher70 » Sun Feb 17, 2013 8:46 pm

I'm in the process of lightening my pack weight just because I want to take my DSLR camera with me on my next backpacking trek. I have a Induro C314 tripod that's 4lbs.9oz, not including the ballhead, a Canon 5D MKII which is just over 2lbs with the battery. I will pair it up with a Canon 17-40. Not sure of the weight of the camera with this lens but it's not very light at all. Add the RRS L bracket that needs to be on the camera body and my set up it going to be fairly heavy.

I know some of you have to be carrying heavy camera gear from some of the amazing photography I've seen here on HST. What gear are you guys carrying with you? How heavy is all your gear? It might sound kind of crazy to try to lighten my other backpacking gear so that I could carry even heavier camera equipment, but it somehow makes sense to me. I know for a fact I can get much nicer image quality to hang on the walls from a full frame camera, than I could with a point and wish it comes out nice camera.

I curious what you guys are carrying with you.

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Re: DSLR vs. Micro Four Thirds vs. Compact for Backpacking

Postby KathyW » Tue Feb 19, 2013 8:30 am

I've been playing with an Olympus OM-D E5 for the last couple of months. I've been dragging it around with a Zuiko M ED 9-18mm f/4.0-5.6 lens. So far so good, but it's a big learning curve for me because I moved up from an Olympus XZ-1. I'm hoping that I'll have some idea how to use it by summer.
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