Thursday, June 12, 2014

Trying To Lighten The Load

Until recently, all the camping I've done has been done with a pick-up truck. That meant I could bring almost anything I wanted, as long as I could make it fit into the bed of my truck. Weight and bulk were almost totally irrelevant. Now I've gotten interested in backpacking, and it's an entirely different mindset. Whatever I decide to bring, I have to carry it on my back. The ice chest full of food and drinks, the comfortable camp chairs, and the big, roomy tent can no longer make the trip. I'm also having to re-think what photography gear I take with me.

Normally when I go out on a photo hike, I carry my photo gear in a small knapsack designed for that purpose. Now, my back is carrying a much bigger, heavier pack, and there is really no extra room for cameras and lenses. The additional weight is no longer welcome either. I can't imagine going into the outdoors without a camera, so what to do?

Canon Powershot A2000 IS

I have a small "point and shoot" camera that I carry with me to work. My Canon Powershot A2000 is capable of surprisingly good quality, but it does have its limitations. It is pocket size, and has a 36-216 (equivalent) zoom lens, a zoom range which covers most of my needs. However, it has no way to manually control aperature and shutter speed, depending totally on programmed exposure. That means I can't get the smooth textured water I like for waterfall and mountain stream photos that comes from using a slow shutter speed.

Photo made with the Canon A2000. Not bad for a "Point and Shoot"!
(Click on photo to enlarge.)

Well, what about a more modern "point and shoot" with manual controls? I began to research a category of camera referred to as "travel zooms", for their diminutive size, long zoom range, and relatively high quality images. There are plenty to choose from in this category, all with various strengths and weaknesses. I had decided on the Canon SX 280 HS, which got excellent ratings in several reviews. It has a 25-500 zoom lens, which out-distances the lens I have for my DSLR! It's pocket size, and produces really good quality files. I was all ready to pull the trigger on this one until this past weekend's backpacking trip which revealed a deficiency in this kind of camera that I have decided I cannot tolerate.

Canon SX 280 HS

On this trip I brought only my little A2000. Like the SX 280 I was all set to purchase, the A2000 has only a LCD viewer on the back to compose and view your photos. There is NO optical viewfinder. I was painfully reminded how useless the LCD viewfinder can be in bright sunlight, even when shaded by my left hand. On most pictures I was just guessing at the composition, since I couldn't really see any detail on the screen. After a Saturday afternoon of guessing at what I was actually photographing, I decided the similarly limited SX 280 wouldn't work for me. I need a camera with a viewfinder.

Cameras with a decent viewfinder, either optical or electronic, are bulkier, heavier, and more expensive. That brings me back to my original problem with bringing my DSLR. Why spend money on a new camera that isn't really much smaller or lighter than what I already own? So now, instead of searching for a new camera, I'm back to looking for a way to fit my current gear onto my already aching back!

1 comment:

  1. That's the thing I dislike about my Lumix. No viewfinder. Lots of guessing sometimes.
    I hope you can find a way to carry your load. Love your photos.