View Full Version : Best digital camara for backpacking?

03-16-2006, 07:12 PM
Over the years I've gained as much enjoyment from watching game as harvesting it. I started taking photos last year with an Olympus 200 Sylus water-resistant 3meg camara. But when I compare my photos to many of the photos on this forum I feel short changed. What is the best light weight, weather resistant, high quality camara for backpacking. Any input would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks and good hunting!!

03-16-2006, 07:30 PM
I've been playing with my new HP Photosmart R717 camera. It's a 6.2 MP. Here are the specs:


One thing I can tell you, don't get a Kodak EasyShare CX7310. I've had one for about 2 years, and it's not well suited for backpacking at all. The on-off switch is right on top where it catches on everything. Once it switches on, the batteries don't last long. It's close-up focusing ability is terrible.

So far, I like the HP. It gets mixed reviews on CNET.COM, but still scores an 8.7 out of 10. It sure is a step up from the Kodak!

03-16-2006, 07:39 PM
The (now dated) Canon Powershot S200 has done a remarkably fine job for me in a small package. The newest versions obtainable in the East (Japan, China, Korea) are tiny electronic marvels!

Anyway, I felt the need to upgrade and am now enjoying the Konica Minolta Dimage Z5. A little larger frame, but oh so sweet with the image stabilized 10X optical zoom and rapid fire processing capability. Can't wait for the snow to come off the highcountry!

03-17-2006, 04:56 AM
You've now hit on one of my passions, photography. Haven't done as much lately as I would like but I think I can point you in some informative directions. At heart I still have a medium and large format film photography passion but digital has many advantages, not the least of which is the light weight. For reviews on digital cameras check out the following three sites:

Imaging Resource (http://www.imaging-resource.com/)
DPReview (http://www.dpreview.com/)
Digital Camera Resource Page (http://www.dcresource.com/)

Originally I was leaning towards a Casio Exilim P700 but have now decided to go with either a Canon Powershot G6 or a Sony unit. However, there are good units from Olympus and Panasonic that bear investigation also. Be warned that perusing the above sites might confuse you more than help. /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/laugh.gif

I would start by listing your important criteria (such as weight) and eliminating the cameras that don't meet it and then reading the reviews. Another interesting website is My Product Advisor (http://www.myproductadvisor.com/mpa/camera/inputSummary.do) which walks you through a step by step detailed analysis of what you want or need and then presents you with alternatives - pretty neat actually.

The kicker with all of this is that if you don't make up your mind, in 3 months there will be a whole new slew of cameras to think about. If you have any specific needs let me know and I'll see if I can give you a few suggestions. Good hunting. /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

03-17-2006, 02:32 PM
I have the Casio Exlim EX-Z750 which I like a lot. Great pictures and video + long battery life. The one draw back is that it is water resistant and not waterproof like the all weather Olympus. I recommend you look at Amazon.com reviews. I believe they are an excellent information source since the reviews are first hand. I would also second Myproductadvisor.com to start off with. It asks you questions on attributes you believe are most important and makes recommendations based on those. The reviews are impartial and exhaustive, but very helpful. I think your biggest challenge will be deciding on what to get. There are so many choices.

03-17-2006, 03:16 PM
Canon PowerShot A620 (http://www.dcresource.com/reviews/cameraDetail.php?cam=766)

I got the A610, same thing except its 5 MP instead of 7 MP. 5 MP is plenty for me. And it fits in my shirt pocket. Also uses AA batteries, which is huge! I hate spending $40 on a proprietary batteries. They tend to hold less and less of a charge over time. So I was up to 6 of them with my last camera. ChaaaChing!!!

It's a great backpacking camera, small etc. Lots of features. Love the 4x zoom!

If I wasnt backpacking I would get something with an image stabelizer and a stronger zoom. But those are not pocket size - yet /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/laugh.gif

03-17-2006, 03:55 PM

I don't know when you will see a higher optical zoom ratio but cannon is releasing the SD700 IS in April. It has 4x optical zoom, an image stabilizer and is 6mp. If it holds with the other cameras in the SD line it should be ballpark 6 ounces. I'm waiting on this to become available and hoping I can mate it to my spotting scope for digiscoping. If that proves possible it will most likely be my next digital camera.


03-17-2006, 07:27 PM
After 40 years of being an avid amateur photog, I've recently made the switch from film to digital (except for my medium format Mamiya which digital still can't even come close to). I bought a Nikon D50 SLR to replace my old film Nikons and Nikkormats and a new p/s (no that's not what you think, it means point and shoot although most of the compact cameras on the market are pieces of s*** designed by folks who make vcr's not cameras.) After much study I settled on the Casio EX-Z750. It's made out of metal not plastic like some of the better known brands and it has instant operation, easy navigation through simple menus and has all sorts of clever features and excellent ease- and speed-of-use lacking in Nikon and Canon compacts. It has 7 megapixels, (and if you understand pixels, you know that's all you can use, do a google on the pixel myth.) It has a 3 x optical zoom and don't get conned into thinking that digital zooms are worth more than a tinkers damn because all that is, is the camera throwing imaginary pixels into your image. It also has full manual controls if you need them. It's super easy to use, and even gives usable images at ISO 400 unlike most other compacts. It has a sharp, clear and HUGE 2 1/2"LCD, that's as big as a $5,000 Nikon D2X. It has an 1 1/8" sensor, much bigger than most fixed lens compacts. It uses SD memory which is becoming the defacto standard and here's a biggie, it has great battery life. Do some research, I think this is the best value in a compact (and boy is it compact!) Mostly, I think compact fixed lens digi cams are a small step up from phone cameras, good to throw in your glove box or your wife's purse, but I suppose if you're looking to really cut weight on the trail, they can be justified. /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

03-17-2006, 07:42 PM
elmbow, what's the ballpark price on that?
And thanks for the info.

03-17-2006, 07:43 PM
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Originally posted by muddy_spud:

I don't know when you will see a higher optical zoom ratio but cannon is releasing the SD700 IS in April. It has 4x optical zoom, an image stabilizer and is 6mp. If it holds with the other cameras in the SD line it should be ballpark 6 ounces. I'm waiting on this to become available and hoping I can mate it to my spotting scope for digiscoping. If that proves possible it will most likely be my next digital camera.

Harry </div></div>And just when I thought I had everything I needed...
Just like computers, wait a month, and it's out dated!
Thanks for the update Harry! Sounds nice!

03-17-2006, 09:19 PM
Smoke, here it is at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/B0007KQWDC/kenrockwellcom/104-1977200-9524706

03-17-2006, 11:12 PM
You'll always hear the saying, "it's not the camera, but they eye behind it that makes the picture," and while that's partially true, and especially so in the realm of film, it doesn't fully hold it's weight in the realm of digital as we're beginning to see better cameras able to capture better images as technology develops. But don't be discouraged, either. Understanding light and how to correctly compose and expose an image is FAR more important than having a 6K camera. Now if you do get all that, then sure, it doesn't hurt. /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

But just because it's a 3MP camera, don't let it discourage you. Example with a 3MP Canon Powershot:


I think you're lucky that now, more than ever before, you're dealing with a roster of cameras that can meet and exceed film in some respects, all in a small, compact, efficient package. I won't be able to shed too much light on the current list as I don't shoot with compacts often, but when I do, I like both Olympus models and Canon Powershots. In fact, my last shoot in Chile was with a Nikon D2X, D70 and I kept my little sidekick Powershot A95 in the bag. Because we were working in rough terrain, I kept the expensive stuff in the pack and the compact on hand moving from location to location. Some of the best captures were with it, simply because it was small and accessible. If you're using this primarily for camping, hiking, and the like, don't forget that smaller is better. Some of the compacts these days aren't even that compact, and if you jump on a shiny new camera that's too bulky to keep on hand, you're going to miss a helluva lot of photo opportunities.

Also keep in mind that above 8MP, you're not improving image quality considerably by jumping up to 10 or even 12MP. In fact, you won't even notice a difference until you start printing beyond the 11x17 range, simply because above 8MP, the image size (# of pixels) is not increasing by any drastic amount, like you would see going from a 3MP to an 8MP camera. So, megapixels are NOT everything. Features like broad ISO range, exposure controls, minimal shutter lag, manual settings, OPTICAL zoom, and control over aspects like white balance really can make or break a compact camera and your photos. Canon seemed to fill that for me.

And as someone who shoots with Hasselblads, D2Xs, and D200s on assignment, I am astounded by this man's simplicity:
Alex Majoli: Compact Photojournalist (http://www.robgalbraith.com/bins/multi_page.asp?cid=7-6468-7844)

Great read!

03-18-2006, 09:19 AM
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Originally posted by elmbow:
except for my medium format Mamiya which digital still can't even come close to </div></div>I agreed with that not long ago (and still do in some respects), but I'm shooting with the Hasselblad H2D now, and if you're looking for the digital replacement of medium-format, this finally does it and does it extremely well. I still can't entirely give up MF film though; too much sentiment instilled in my Mayima! /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

03-20-2006, 08:53 AM
Elmbow you said the Casio is easy to use, how easy? I need REAL easy. That is the reason I have not yet "gone digital" cause the things have too many buttons and stuff to fiddle with before you take the picture. My little Olympus (film not digital) is ideal cause it takes great pictures and all I have to do is take it out and push the button. I may be one of those who doesn't get a digital camera until I can't by film anymore (I have only recently attempted mastering a CD player cause almost all places in town don't carry tapes anymore).

03-20-2006, 09:58 AM
I have an Olympus Stylus digital camera (4 mp). It is small (fits in a shirt pocket) and water resistant with a 3x zoom. I've used it for 2+ years now and not a single problem. I don't know why you would need much more resolution. And it is very easy to use. I would strongly suggest looking at their newest model.


imported_Scott Cunningham
03-20-2006, 10:14 AM
I use a Fuji E-550. Its a 6.3MP camera, cost about $300 or so. It turns on and is ready to shoot in about 2 seconds (very important for those fleeting opportunities). It has an optional flash (on or off). Its small, uses AA betteries in a pinch (the supplied Rechargeables are FAR better though). A little bit bigger than a pack of smokes. Easy to use. Many additional features (ncluding a mpeg movie setting).

great little camera

Bush Loper
03-21-2006, 10:59 AM
I've used a Canon SD400 for quite awhile and have been satisifed. The camera isn't as versatile as my Nikon, but it sure is sweet to stick it in a shirt pocket. Plus, I can take a bunch of pictures with a 512 MB SD Card.

03-21-2006, 07:13 PM
Dang Snakey, you may be a lost cause. I've owned about 5 compact digitals now counting the ones I've bought for kids Xmas presents and I think the Casio is easier than most but even it has way too many buttons for a "Brownie" man. I'm ok with technology but when I went from my old film cameras with all of about 5 controls to this new Nikon D50 it floored me. It has a bigger CPU than the Cray super computer. Don't let the gadgetry and all the buttons of these cameras keep you from taking the digital plunge. Most of them will let you get to basic point and shoot picture taking rather quickly. Spend one quiet evening with the camera, the instruction book and no beers and you'll be taking great pictures in no time.

03-21-2006, 07:19 PM
elmbow... dont forget... there is the downloading to the computer part. /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/laugh.gif

03-22-2006, 04:25 AM
If you want real simple find a used Kodak DC280. It's only 2 megapixels but it is really only a 4 button, one switch camera. Not the lightest thing out there but very simple.

03-22-2006, 06:02 AM
Ksnake..first we crawl, then we walk then.......... /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

03-22-2006, 08:29 AM
Elmbow that part about taking point and shoot in a short period is comforting. I will have to wait until my wife goes out of town to spend a quiet evening with the camera (and then hope she doesn't find out). As for the computer part, I'll let the daughter or wife do that since that is way beyond me. Both of them have digital cameras and computers so that end should be covered. Has anyone used the in store plug it in and print it out machines? How do they work?

03-22-2006, 09:06 AM
They're pretty easy. You hit the nail on the head: you plug it in and print it out. If that's what you feel comfortable using, it does the job. It's on gloss Kodak or Fuji paper, and the color rendition is usually okay. Sometimes skin tones come out looking a little red or magenta, but film technicians behind the counter are usually more than willing to help with any fixes. My mother loves using the machines; it's easy enough for her to understand, and she's not looking for gallery quality prints, either.

04-12-2006, 07:48 PM
Vernon, or anyone with input on the olmpus sp 350. This looks like a good camera, I have had a few olympus products and havent had any functional problems. I am not able to compare their performance against other cameras, but have been satisfied. My parents,sisters family and my family will be going on an alaska inside passage cruise this summer and I am thinking about upgrading from my 4 meg olympus for the trip. I would also consider packing this camera into the backcountry on hunts. What do you think?

04-13-2006, 05:03 AM

Just did a little research on the Olympus SP-350. Looks pretty good with a few caveats. The wide angle end of the lens maxes out at the equivalent of 38mm on a 35mm camera. Not real wide. There are add-on lenses that will take it down to around 26mm. Also, the SP-350 uses xD Picture Cards instead of the more common SD or CF cards. They are usually more expensive and not all card readers support them.

Here's a quote from a review that questions the performance of the camera.

<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body"> Camera performance is, without a doubt, the SP-350's biggest weak point. While the camera starts up quickly, it's all downhill from there. Focus times are just fair, shutter lag was noticeable (which was very surprising), and shot-to-shot times can be lengthy, especially if you're using RAW mode. The continuous shooting modes were nothing to write home about, either. Playback speeds were slow as well, especially when RAW images are displayed. Low light focusing performance was a little disappointing for a camera with an AF-assist lamp.

Thankfully the SP-350's photos were pretty good. Images were well exposed with accurate color (most of the time), good sharpness, and low noise and purple fringing levels. I was also impressed with the camera's high ISO performance. Redeye was a problem, but the in-camera redeye reduction tool was able to knock it out.

About the only other negatives I can think of relate to the camera bundle. While I like the Olympus Master software, the 25MB of onboard memory is too little, and it would've been nice if Olympus threw some rechargeable batteries in the box.

I have mixed feelings about the Olympus SP-350. While I like the design, features, and photo quality, the camera always felt sluggish when I was using it. While I'm not asking for D-SLRs speeds, it would've been nice if the camera was at least as responsive as other cameras in its class. The SP-350 gets my recommendation, but with the footnote "not the best camera if you want to take or view pictures quickly". </div></div>The camera is light and has several features but you could probably do better. I still lean towards the offerings from Canon and Sony.

04-13-2006, 06:02 AM
mathewsbow1, lots of good advice here. It's been a while since I've been real serious about photography (I minored in photojournalism and for a while was semi-serious about nature photography) but the point about it being the photographer rather than the camera is still valid. I would recommend either taking a course or finding some good books on basic photography if you haven't already done so. Although the technology has changed, basic techniques have not. Exposure and composition are still the keys to good photos. You might find your current camera does better than you think while learning what you really want in your upgrade.

I haven't been shopping for digital cameras in a couple of years so I'm a bit behind on models but from my recollection, Pentax and Olympus were the two companies with the most choices in water resistant cameras. I have a Canon S50 and keep it in it's padded bag in a freezer zip-loc. It's not really ready for the sudden shot but then again p/s type cameras aren't really meant for that type of outdoor photography anyways. You're always going to get better pictures if you take the time to set them up properly. A tripod of some sort is essential to really good photos, particularly during the best periods for getting shots (morning and late afternoon/evening). For backpacking and a p/s I use an ultrapod set up on a rock or log. It only weighs 1.6 ounces and if you use one along with setting your self-time, you can get surprisingly sharp photos in low light. The Bogen gets left behind for some reason -- probably because it is several times the camera's weight.

There are a couple of really good digital camera review sites on the web. I don't have the addresses anymore but just do a search for "digital camera review" and you'll find them. Some of the reviews are way more technical than you'll need but they certainly help.

Finally, you mentioned in your post that you enjoy watching wildlife. If it is nature photography you're really interested in, your best bet is a D-SLR with a good quality zoom and good tripod. It is very difficult to get good wildlife photos with a point and shoot and even some of the hybrids with large zooms have too much lag to take good photos of animals.

04-13-2006, 06:26 AM
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Originally posted by Vernon:
I still lean towards the offerings from Canon and Sony. </div></div>I'm boycotting Sony. Ever since they installed a trojan (Google "Sony Rootkit" to read about the crap they pulled) onto my computer when I purchased a music CD and tried to play it on my PC (funny, pirating music is safer!). It took me a week to clean the rootkit out of there /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/mad.gif and that was only after lots of research, and running a program that could have potentially fried my PC because the rootkit was designed so that you cant remove it! /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/mad.gif But I digress....

I do however like Canon! /images/%%GRAEMLIN_URL%%/smile.gif

04-13-2006, 02:30 PM
Vernon CCH and Ksnake Thanks for the feedback I must have been sleepy when I looked at the olmpus 350 last night, I didnt notice that it wasnt an sd card. One of the main areas of improvement I would like over my current olympus is brighter pictures indoors and out. It almost feels like my camera has a 2mm exit pupil and I want a 5mm exit pupil, That is the best way I can describe it in binocular terms. Would an slr help in that area or will it take an external flash. I am sure an external flash would help, but would just going to a different camera make a difference in that area? Thanks Dean

obscurious ronin
04-13-2006, 05:10 PM
it was time to upgrade from my canon s30 and upon reading mention of the A620 above, i decided to get one...i HATE those proprietary batteries and was thrilled to find a camera that takes AAs...i'm VERY happy with this camera...it'd be great if it weighed less as i strive to keep my packweight as low as possible, but the AA battery thing is worth the weight...great camera, as far as i can tell...takes good pictures, lots of shooting options and features, quick to start up...at 7.2 megapixels, i don't think i'll need a new camera unless and until this one dies...

great price too - i paid $300, but i've seen it for $261 recently.

04-14-2006, 05:43 AM
Many point and shoots don't take external flashes. Can't say for yours. Yes, it will make a huge difference inside. The included flash on most point and shoots is best used for closer up people pictures and fill flash. They will not fill up a room, especially one that is poorly lit. An SLR would allow you to use and take advantage of all the features of a nice external flash. Check the guide numbers for any camera you are looking at and you can compare them for power. Some are definitely more powerful than others, particularly in the hybrid SLRish models. That said, have you adjusted the ASA setting on your camera? Most are adjustable and by increasing it, you can take better pictures in lower light at the expense of image quality.

obscurious ronin's point about the AA batteries is a good one. I also hate proprietary batteries. The challenge is that AA models are much more limited and can really cut down on your options. If there is a camera you like that is powered by AA batteries, I would give it serious consideration.

04-14-2006, 10:04 AM
Keep in mind, too, that what CCH mentioned as the ASA #s are also known as ISO #s. They both measure the "film sensitivity."

04-14-2006, 08:06 PM
Thanks for the input on the ISO ad ASA #s I will check and see what mine is set at. Does that adjustment to those properties slow the shutter speed? Dean

04-15-2006, 07:42 AM
Those adjustment can allow you to shoot at a higher shutter speed and still get the correct exposure. With regular film you buy different ASA/ISO speeds such as 100 which yields higher quality, less grainy photos or 400 which allows you to shoot at higher shutter speeds in lower light at the cost of "graininess". Frankly, I'm not sure how it works with a digital camera as you don't have film to change, you are simply changing a setting on the camera to allow it to perform differently (similar to the example above). Maybe someone with more experience can address the image quality question when it comes to changing ASA/ISO in a digital camera? I just keep mine at 100 and try to shoot within its limitations.

04-15-2006, 09:30 AM
Some non-SLR digital cameras can take external flashes. These are usually known as prosumer models. Note that unless you're doing macro work a flash won't make any difference outside for wildlife or landscapes (unless you're real close to the wildlife). ISO speeds on a digital camera do affect the graininess of the image in a similiar ways that it does with film.

04-15-2006, 07:46 PM
<div class="ubbcode-block"><div class="ubbcode-header">Quote:</div><div class="ubbcode-body">Originally posted by Vernon:
ISO speeds on a digital camera do affect the graininess of the image in a similiar ways that it does with film. </div></div>Right on. Just like you would switch between 100ISO film in a film camera for bright, well-lit days and 400ISO for all-purpose shooting, or even higher 1600ISO or 3200ISO film for really low-light situations, think of changing the ISO # on your digital camera as changing to different film for different lighting scenarios.

I'm going to avoid confusing you with all the stop-compensation technical jargon, but think of it like this: when you don't have enough light to get a picture right, you need to do one or all of these things:
1)Increase the ISO
2)Open the aperture (lower f numbers)
3)Slow down the shutter speed

Obviously, if you're trying to capture movement, or you're handholding the camera, #3 isn't what you want to do or the image will blur, so you can increase the ISO to higher numbers (although you're get "grain" or "noise" added to the sharp picture, much like film grain), or open the aperture (generally, on point-and-shoot models this is automatically done). So think like this: you want a 'faster' picture? Change your ISO to higher numbers.

04-30-2006, 07:28 AM
I think I have decided on the nikon d50. Now I need to choose the lens. The more I read the more different opinions I get. The 18-200 would be a do it all which would be nice, but the higher f stop and distrotion IE. pincushion... may be to great.? I will be using the camera for kids pictures inside and out, soccer games, and nature photography, an alaskan cruise this summer. My mom and dad are taking my family for their 50th wedding ann. So maybe a fixed 20 to30 low f stop for inside and then a 70-200 or 300 zoom for out side nature and soccer? The speed of the autofocus would be important for soccer, and from reading it sounds like some zooms are a lot quicker to lock in than others. Any info on which way to go would be great. Thanks Dean

one-eyed Bob
04-30-2006, 08:37 AM
The best lens available for under $800 is the Nikon 70-210 f4-5.6 D. There are several similar lenses which are cheap and NOT the same lens. This one has a metal lens barrel, and it put together with screws. Focus is lightning fast and quality is great. I didn't know any of this until I recently purchased one with some other photo gear and read a review which I will try to reference for you. The review says they sell for $500 since they are discontinued. You can see one on ebay 7612899511 which sold for over $300. I am going to list mine later today, but if you email me first I would sell it very reasonably for a fellow Kifaru fan.