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Landscape Photography on a Budget??

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Re: Landscape Photography on a Budget??

Postby SirBC » Sun Apr 29, 2018 3:21 pm

I imagine that those of us who have been bitten by the photography bug have had to face the price vs. quality dilemma at one time or another. And for landscape photography you also have to factor weight into the equation.

BSquared wrote:So my fundamental question is, are those of us who carry these small, inexpensive cameras (most of us, I'm guessing) simply doomed to produce nothing but mediocre landscape photographs,


No, there is hope! :) Using a price point you mentioned of ~$500 I think you have a few options. Most of them would require purchasing used gear. Places like Adorama and B&H sell used gear with (I believe) a return window. Ebay often (always?) has a money back guarantee if the item isn’t as described or doesn’t show up. Forums like FredMiranda.com have marketplace feedback so you can see how others rate their transactions with a seller.

BSquared wrote:So: where should I start? What do you think of the criteria that I put in my first post:
    manual exposure and focus,
    good wide-angle capability,
    RAW capability, and
    large sensor
Anything I should add? Maybe a large sensor isn't really necessary? (That would sure cut the cost!)


The two most important factors in image quality are going to be the quality of the sensor and lens. Larger sensor cameras will (in general) be larger and heavier and have larger and heavier lenses. You will have to decide in which direction you want the quality vs. weight equation to tip.

Lighterweight options:

1. Sony RX100 IV

Sony now has had five iterations of the RX100. Because the RX100 IV (released 2015) is now not the latest version it can be had for a discount when buying used. This is a “fit in your pocket” sized camera but it has RAW, manual mode, 4K video, image stabilization, and an electronic viewfinder. It’s been well reviewed for landscape photos. A 550px.com and Flickr search shows some nice shots. Everything I’ve seen points to this as being an excellent option for landscapes with a 35mm equivalent focal length of 24-70mm. An Ebay search shows completed listings of the camera going for ~$450-$550. You can find the RX100 I and II versions for less, but as thelinked article shows they have some significant downgrades, such as lacking a viewfinder.

The disadvantage of this and other fixed lens cameras is that you had better like the focal length and quality of the lens that the camera comes with because you are not able to swap out lenses.


2. Sony a6000 with 16-50mm (35mm equivalent of 24-75mm) len
s

B&H and Adorama both have this NEW for $548 so I would imagine you could get this used for $100-$150 less. This combination originally retailed for $800 but because there have been two new cameras (a6300 and a6500) in this line it is now much cheaper.

Compared to the RX100 IV the image quality of the a6000 *should* be better, but that depends on a few things. You can see a comparison of the a6300 (one generation newer than the a6000) and the RX100 IV here.

The kit lens is not a great lens but I think it still would compare favorably to the rx100. For landscapes you are often bringing up shadows when postprocessing and the a6000 would have an advantage here with it’s better sensor. The real advantage of the a6000 is that it is part of a system. If you ever decide to move up to another E-mount camera you can use any of the lenses you have purchased for the a6000. You can also get far better lenses that the 16-50 kit lens, but they will cost much more money. For example, one of better wide angle zooms for E-mount is the Sony 10-18mm, but it costs $750. However, you would have the option to rent this lens for around$50 per week. But the point is that you have the option of adding more lenses or upgrading to a new camera with same lens mount.


Unlike the RX1000, the a6000 doesn’t have image stabilization and it doesn’t shoot 4K video. For me, not having image stabilization would be a serious consideration. I happen to own a a6300 and the 10-18mm lens and while the a6300 doesn’t have image stabilization, that lens does have it built-in.

3. Olympus OM-D E-M1 with 14-42 mm (35mm equivalent of 28-84mm)

This weighs 1 ounce more than the a6000 but the controls appear to be more user friendly. It is a micro four thirds camera so the aspect ratio of 4:3 is a little more “boxy” that what you get with a 3:2 aspect ratio. It is now a five year old camera and there has been five newer models in the line since this one was released. I see a refurbished copy with the lens onEbay for $420.

By all accounts it is an excellent camera and well suited for landscapes with a lot of nice photos on Flickr and 500px.

One really interesting feature that I don’t think any other manufactures have is a “Live Bulb” mode where you can see in real time (including the histogram) what your long exposure image looks like as you are taking the photo. This video shows LiveTime (simliar to LiveBulb) and how you could use it.

Similar to the Sony a6000, here you are buying into a “system” and can buy/rent new lenses and upgrade to newer versions as wanted.

Heavier and larger camera

1. Canon 60D with 18-200mm (35mm equivalent of 29mm-300) or 10-18mm or 10-22 (35mm equivalent of 16-29mm/16-35mm) or any of hundreds of other available lenses.

This camera has excellent image quality for an APS-C camera. There was one on ebaythat sold yesterday with the Tamron 18-200 for $350.

Both the Canon and Tamron 18-200 have image stabilization. This camera and lens system will be quite a bit larger and heavier than the others mentioned above but it does get you into the Canon ecosystem and all of the lenses that Canon and 3rd parties make. That $350 ebay sale would be less than all of the others above and even though the 18-200 is not a great lens (compared to really good lenses) it likely would have image quality as good if not better than any of the other cameras listed above. The ergonomics will also be better than the others (excepting perhaps the Olympus). There are some very impressive photos on 500pxand Flickr.

I think any of the above would get you where you want to go and all would have image quality much better than what you are getting with the Lumix.

BSquared wrote:
Wandering Daisy wrote:So do you think a small tripod is worth the weight


Excellent question! I've been wondering about that, too. I just pointed my Lumix DMC-TS10 out the window at a nice glistening pile of rocks (it's mud season here in VT), and it said it wanted to shoot at 1/80 sec, not *nearly* fast enough for a shot at maximum telephoto IMHO.


For me a tripod is essential for landscape photography and I take one on every trip. Having said that, I don’t use it unless I have to. If I am shooting at 14 mm and 1/250 second, putting it on a tripod isn’t going to get me a sharper shot or a sharper print. Having to take my backpack off, get out the tripod, set it up exactly to the composition I want, I find that it just gets in the way of the creative process and I don’t do it unless I have to, either because of shutter speed or if I’m going to be focus stacking or blending images (although even in those cases I’ve handheld shots before). Looking over my portfolio I I probably used my tripod on ~80% of the shots. Having said that, I had my tripod with me 100% of my shots.

In your above example of shooting at 1/80, this is where image stabilization could help. It’s pretty amazing what stabilization can get you. I know that I could hand hold my 70-200 at 200mm and 1/80 and get a tack sharp image with stabilization turned on. Now, I would make sure to use good technique when taking the shot and take a handful of frames too. Even down to 1/30 of a second I bet I could get a keeper if taking a handful of shots.

And there are some shots I just would have missed if I wasn’t able to handhold the shot. This one was taken right off the highway along the Icefields Parkway in Alberta. We pulled over and I jumped out and got off a couple of frames (200 mm and 1/160) before the light died and the scene went flat. The light didn’t come back over the next 15 minutes when we had to leave and I would have missed the shot if I would have first tried to set up my tripod expecting the light to stay around.

ImageOne by David Young, on Flickr


This one was taken at the Eureka sand dunes. I did have time to set up my tripod if I wanted to, but I didn’t as I was shooting both this scene directly in front of me and another one to my right and I was quickly going back and forth between the two as the light was constantly changing and the people on the dunes were moving, so a tripod would have just gotten in the way.

ImageRain Dance by David Young, on Flickr


Anyways, while l 100% recommend getting a tripod I would also suggest you don’t feel like you have to use it 100% of the time. I’ve been shooting where I’ve seen someone walk up to a spot and before even looking at compositions they just start pulling out their tripod and extending the legs without even knowing what their shot is. Maybe they needed it, maybe they didn’t but scouting your composition and exposure first is always a good idea.

Good luck with your camera search. It will be fun to see what you choose and the photos you get with it.
-------------
Dave | flickr



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Re: Landscape Photography on a Budget??

Postby fishmonger » Mon Apr 30, 2018 7:12 pm

I rarely use a tripod. Too lazy. Low light and I'll lean against a tree or find some rocks to put the camera on, then use mirror up and a tiny remote trigger. Most hikes, I bring a small custom tripod to use with hiking poles when I want to do night sky shots. When I am really serious about the photo part of my hike, I carry a carbon tripod that adds 2.5 pounds to my pack, although even when I do bring that thing, I rarely take the time to actually use it.

I found ways to take shots that usually require a tripod by using the terrain - the first shot below is with tripod, second with the camera resting on a few rocks I convinced to create a perfect platform for my camera.

1/25s f/22.0 with an old manual focus Nikon fisheye (optically the sharpest fisheye Nikon ever made, 30 years ago). Tripod needed as there was no rock to put the camera there (in the stream)

Image
Bubbs Creek bubbling as always


The shot below is a 13 second exposure, ancient manual focus Nikon lens ($90 on ebay), super light. The ND filter I put on that lens to get the exposure cost me more than the lens. Nikon D600 (used today dirt cheap for a full frame DSLR with a great 24mp sensorr)

Image
Middle Fork San Joaquin River below Garnet Lake


And then there is that little gizmo tripod substitute I recently used for night skies. When going solo, I have to find a stick for the third pole, or bring some sort of carbon spare tent pole along, but it's far lighter than my Benro tripod. Tedious to use compared to the proper tripod, especially in the dark, and during the day it's just a hassle to use when you can get away with hand holding. There are great videos about how to properly hold a camera that if you actually practice those those techniques can buy you a few f-stops before things get fuzzy, but here's the little thing I bring for really long exposures:

Image
Trailpix tripod rig

example (16mm fisheye again)
30 seconds, f/4.0 on D600

Image
4th of July night in the High Sierra

and one from last year,
25 seconds f/4.0 with the same fisheye lens, same trekking pole tripod plate rig with D810 camera this time.

Image
Aligned with the universe

Only one of the lenses I usually carry has image stabilization, but it has been my experience that stabilized images aren't sharp as they could be. Just turn that off unless it's a candid camp site shot or something else you'd otherwise miss. Some mirrorless cameras now have in-body image stabilization, so any lens you mount on them can have some extra low light range, but those are more expensive cameras, especially the full frame options from Sony.
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Re: Landscape Photography on a Budget??

Postby BSquared » Sat May 05, 2018 10:19 am

Thanks so much to all for extremely helpful comments. I'm particularly grateful for sirBC's list, because it's really concrete and therefore an excellent starting point for shopping.

Would it be reasonable to add the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 to the list? It seems to have similar specs and cost on the used market to the 60D but weighs much, much less. What do others on the Board think of the Rebel SL1 as a step-up camera for a backpacker?

Thanks again, all! =D>
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Re: Landscape Photography on a Budget??

Postby maverick » Mon May 07, 2018 11:10 am

PM sent.
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

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: Landscape Photography on a Budget??

Postby zacjust32 » Mon May 07, 2018 6:17 pm

BSquared wrote:

Would it be reasonable to add the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 to the list? It seems to have similar specs and cost on the used market to the 60D but weighs much, much less. What do others on the Board think of the Rebel SL1 as a step-up camera for a backpacker?

Thanks again, all! =D>


I was also looking at the small frame DSLR's, but more at the Nikon d3400. Are these viable options for a beginner or am I better off getting a point and shoot?
Hiker, adventurer, fabricator, tinkerer, theologian, and occasional student. http://www.zacjust.blogspot.com
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Re: Landscape Photography on a Budget??

Postby richlong8 » Tue May 08, 2018 11:35 am

I am not a pro, just someone who likes great landscape photos, and I have been guilty of trying a lot of cameras, trying to strike a balance between weight and quality when am backpacking.
Currently, I have 2 cameras. The first is the Panasonic GM5, and I use the Panasonic 12-32m lens with this camera. Total weight: 10.5 ounces, shoots RAW, shoots in manual w/lots of choices, has a viewfinder, etc; Micro 4/rds sensor which delivers a good image, for the money, in my opinion. This camera is in the same general class as the OLympus OM-D mentioned above. I use the Trailpix tripod setup with hiking sticks with this camera, because it is so light, and the results are pretty good. About $400-600 cost, usually only available used, on Ebay or other auction sites. My second camera is more ambitious: a Fujifilm XT-1, weighs about 15 ounces, and I use a 16mmF1.4 lens w/this camera when hiking, that weighs about 13 ounces. This is a mirrorless camera in the ASPC format, in the same class as the Sony A6000, mentioned above. The Fuji is a much greater commitment to carrying a better camera that weighs more, and I carry a tripod that weighs about 1.5 pounds when I use this outfit, esp. since the 16mm is not an image stabilized lens. So that is my take. Both outfits have advantages and disadvantages. If i am on a very strenuous trip where every ounce counts, I take the Panasonic. Shorter trips, the Fuji XT-1. I can see a difference in image quality between the 2,with a nod to the Fuji, camera has a bigger sensor, but the 16mm lens is a very high quality lens compared to the Panasonic 12-32, which is actually a pretty good lens. Cost is 2x, about $1200 total. I think the person behind the camera is more important than the camera. A great photographer can coax great photos out of an I Phone, but there are built in limitations if you use a phone or a point and shoot compared to a better quality camera that can use different lenses and filters. Maverick,SSDave and others are the experts here,and when I look at their photos, it is not just about the print size. The quality of lens matters, not just the camera.
Last edited by richlong8 on Wed May 09, 2018 8:43 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Landscape Photography on a Budget??

Postby BSquared » Tue May 08, 2018 1:37 pm

My humble apologies for the misspelling on my original post: Lancscape photography, indeed! :\ Ah, well. I fixed the initial post (and therefore the title of the thread), but of course all the previous responses still have the silly misspelling. My bad.
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Re: Landscape Photography on a Budget??

Postby maverick » Tue May 08, 2018 2:30 pm

My humble apologies for the misspelling on my original post: Lancscape photography, indeed! :\ Ah, well. I fixed the initial post (and therefore the title of the thread), but of course all the previous responses still have the silly misspelling. My bad.


Corrected B2. ;)
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I don't give out specific route information, my belief is that it takes away from the whole adventure spirit of a trip, if you need every inch planned out, you'll have to get that from someone else.

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: Landscape Photography on a Budget??

Postby richlong8 » Wed May 09, 2018 9:09 am

BSquared wrote:Thanks so much to all for extremely helpful comments. I'm particularly grateful for sirBC's list, because it's really concrete and therefore an excellent starting point for shopping.

Would it be reasonable to add the Canon EOS Rebel SL1 to the list? It seems to have similar specs and cost on the used market to the 60D but weighs much, much less. What do others on the Board think of the Rebel SL1 as a step-up camera for a backpacker?

Thanks again, all! =D>


I think the Canon SL1 is about the lightest DSLR out there, but you might want to consider the Nikon D5500 if you are thinking about a DSLR. The NikonD5500 is only 20 grams heavier than the Canon, and most review sites would say it is a better camera. Cost is about the same for either camera if you shop around. The "elephant in the room" is the lens you are going to use. Most folks would recommend a wide angle for landscape photography, and wide angles from Canon and Nikon tend to be quite large and heavy, and expensive.
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Re: Landscape Photography on a Budget??

Postby SSSdave » Wed May 09, 2018 9:46 am

Few other serious landscape and nature photographers have discovered multi row column panoramic stitch blending or focus stack blending in post processing that I began soon after acquiring the 24mp APS-C A6000 in early 2014. That allows me to carry considerably less photography gear weight than if I was using a full frame DSLR with similar complementing set of lenses. Although I carry the Sigma 19mm, I infrequently use it outside of recording videos and rather stitch blend using the Sigma 30mm and 60mm primes. I've been surprised how much one can learn using a manual panoramic head. And though carrying a lower weight I am making larger with greater resolution images with those versus what is possible with our largest most expensive DSLRs. The tradeoff is more post processing work. I have the Nodal Ninja 3 MKII manual panoramic head that again weighs much less than one would need for a head for a full frame DSLR.
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