HR Kit: Camera

Me and the 350D on the TMB 2005  

For me, creating pictures of what we see when we wander about in the mountains is a large part of the enjoyment. Obviously you can take very nice pictures using amazingly small digital cameras, I used to. But to get the control over the image that I want I need a DSLR camera.

Power

Spare batteries are going to be more reliable than carrying a charger and hoping to find somewhere to plug it in. I’ve found that five batteries will last me more than ten days in an EOS 350D with the camera being on all day. However it was set to enter standby within thirty seconds and consumes little power that way. Other cameras may be more power hungry.

This year I’m carrying a 400D (the 350D was written off by salt damage) and one of the lenses is an IS (image stabiliser) which also takes some battery power. I’m planning to stick with the five batteries on the assumption that they might last but I should be able to find a couple of places to charge them along the way. So obviously I’ll be carrying a charger, with a continental plug and the flex cut down and joined with a special joint intended for the purpose.

Original Canon batteries are extremely expensive. Around £40 (60€/$80). Copies that appear to work perfectly well can be had on ebay for around £5 to £7 (7€/$10 to 10€/$14).

Memory

I shoot in RAW because it gives me the most latitude to “develop” the image on the computer at home. So each image is over 10Mbs. I also only keep around ten percent of what I take meaning I can happily bash through 1600 frames in a week of walking. So I’m carrying a total of 22Gbs of memory cards with me.

Some people like to use some kind of large capacity mini hard drive, like an Archos for example, to backup photos onto. But I’m very wary of relying on a hard drive since hard drives will fail. It’s not that they might fail, it’s that they will fail eventually, rather like light bulbs. I’m sure many people don’t realise that by keeping pictures on one hard drive at home they are not exactly risking that they might lose them but are really risking when that will happen.

Of course flash memory will fail as well, but it’s solid state, no moving parts, and so is far less prone to feeling unwell after being shaken about in a pack for a fortnight.

Beware when buying memory cards that there are many, many fakes out there and they can be very hard to spot until you receive them. I now only buy from large, respected, on-line retailers like Amazon or Pixmania whose prices are quite comparable to the fakes that often appear on ebay.

Waterproofing

I’d probably use an Exped for a smaller camera but for a DSLR I’ve found the Ortleib Aquazoom is perfect.

Without the shoulder strap it weighs 224gms making it around 20gms lighter than the much smaller Lowe Pro case combined with an Exped bag that I used with the 350D and the standard 18-55 lens.

It’s completely waterproof. I recently tested it out (deliberately!) in a Swedish lake and found that it floated and was 100% watertight.

It comes with a wide shoulder strap that has a good shoulder pad with a scoop to go around your neck. I don’t usually use the shoulder strap though, but instead thread the load stabiliser strap on the hip belt of the rucksack through the belt loops on the back and have it at my side. It means I can put away the camera quickly when it rains and get it out speedily once it stops. However it can take some getting used to since it prevents you swinging an arm while you walk as it gets in the way.

I got mine from Needle Sports (shown wrongly as “Aquacam” at the moment) who have to order it from Germany but it took less than two weeks to get to me. (I had the Aquazoom Plus at first but the lid would allow wind to blow rain up under it so it went back).

Lenses

I started out using the standard 18-55 Canon lens but although it’s a really nice lens, when taking landscapes it conveys so much more to be able to use a wider angle. Hence I recently bought a Canon 10-22 EF USM. I’m very pleased with what I can now show of the mountains but the real surprise was how well it works when taking pictures of groups of people. Because you’re often quite close to your subjects you can’t always fit everyone in with a normal lens, but with the 10-22 you can almost see both the people sitting either side of you at once. Almost.

The other lens is a Canon EF-S 10-22mm USM. This moves the actual lens about, as fast as your hand shakes, to keep an image stable. Which nearly removes the most common cause of blurry images; camera shake.

I find it very useful in low light because it allows you to use a longer exposure time that would normally require a tripod, without having to carry a tripod.

It’s zoom is also coming in handy for picking out things like wild horses in the Welsh hills without getting close enough to scare them.

Lens Cloth

Microfibre lens cloths work extraordinarily well. I cut out about a 6X6cm square and keep it in the bottom of the Aquazoom bag. It only weighs about a gram. I’ve been thinking recently that I ought to keep it in an Integral Designs silnylon stuffsac (4gms) to stop it picking up grit with which to scratch the lens but dislike the extra messing about.

 

3 Replies to “HR Kit: Camera”

  1. Read a lot about the fake memory cards as mentioned here. Amazon also occasionally will have fakes and I frequently see plenty of grey-market goods up there from sellers such as IJT Direct who sell products under the other names, Bentham Ltd and Beamontz – that’s a really dirty player – they are supposed to be a distributor for ink products but buy in fake and grey product from China too.

    Good sellers do exist on Amazon and Pixmania is pretty good too with it’s pan-European reach. yesterday I purchased a card from http://gomemory.co.uk who seem to have good ratings off their own site. It really pays to research where you buy your branded electronics from, especially when it comes to flash memory.

  2. Thanks for the info Mike :)

    As I said on this post, I’ve only been buying from Amazon and Pixmania but even the I’ve been careful to only buy direct from them (rather than them acting as an agent for another vendor).

    Thanks for the tip about gomemory – I’ll probably try them next time around.

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