Dan's Outside

I go, I see, I do, I walk, I think, I like…

Current Photo Equipment (July 2007)

Cait (who posts at Light of Morn) recently asked about the gear I use for my landscape/mountain photography, so I think I’ll take that question as an opportunity to summarize what I use these days.

Camera: I lug a Canon 5D digital SLR (DSLR) around on the trail. The 5D is a full frame DSLR, with a 12 megapixel sensor that is essentially the same size as 35mm film. This provides certain advantages for my photography: higher resolution for large prints, wide angle lenses are truly wide, smaller apertures are usable for DOF control, somewhat better dynamic range, better noise control. There are some downsides, but they are worth it for me: cost is more than twice that of more common “crop sensor” DSLRs, size and weight are greater.

Lenses: I try not to succumb to Lens Fever, so I use a small set of good Canon lenses: EF 17-40mm f/4 L, EF 24-105mm f/4 IS L, EF 70-200mm f/4 L, and 50mm f/1.4. While I may take all four on some hikes, more often I take a subset. On pack trips where weight becomes a significant issue I may take only the 17-40mm and the 24-105mm lenses.

Tripod: On shorter hiking trips (and car supported trips) I use a very large and relatively heavy carbon fiber Induro C313 tripod. This is often too large for backpacking, so I substitute a smaller (though not exactly tiny) carbon fiber Velbon 540 that is lighter and packs more easily. I fit an Acratech Ballhead to whichever tripod I use. I do shoot handheld sometimes, but I almost always use the tripod for landscape work.

Packs: Like many photographers, I’m always looking for the perfect bag or pack – even though I know full well it doesn’t exist. I use a Lowepro Rover AW for longer day hikes, since it can carry my photo gear and enough general equipment and food/water for serious hiking. I’m fond of my Lowepro Slingshot 200 AW for shorter hike and urban photography. When backpacking (and sometimes on longer day hikes when I’m heavily laden) I carry my camera in the Lowepro Topload AW bag with a chest harness. Sometimes when I carry only the 5D and the 24-105 lens I may use a Mountainsmith lumbar pack.

Other stuff: I use a remote release (“cable release”) with tripod shots. I sometimes use a circular polarizing filter. I carry a bunch of extra memory cards and batteries when I’m out for a longer period of time.

As you can imagine, you need to be pretty committed to doing photography if you are going to carry all this stuff on the trail – and I’d forgive any of you who decide to go with something a lot lighter. Fortunately, you can do some very nice photography with less expensive and lighter gear these days.

Canon, Nikon, Sony, and Pentax all sell very nice crop sensor DSLRs these days. Because they use smaller sensors than my full frame 5D, the cameras can be smaller. In addition, smaller and lighter lenses will provide the same reach. The Canon Rebel XTi/400D (or the previous model, the Rebel XT/350D) with the 18-55mm kit lens can do a fine job. I’m sure that equivalent models from the other manufacturers are also quite excellent. Some of the smaller “point and shoot” cameras also perform well and can be quite small and light.

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July 25, 2007 - Posted by | Photography

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