A camera to walk 1400 miles with

Discussion in 'Photography Equipment & Products' started by mhafweet, Jan 25, 2009.

  1. mhafweet

    mhafweet TPF Noob!

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    This summer I am walking 1400 miles with a small group of people to photograph the historical reenactment of an exodus. This is my first major project as a photographer. My goal is 25,000 photos. This is not a documentary; I want to take beautiful, emotional, artistic photographs. I'm looking at spending ~1,200 (up to 1,500) getting fitted out with an SLR and other equipment.

    This is my first SLR camera, so sorry if some of my questions are stupid. Here is a list of what I am planning on taking with me and I'm looking for feedback. I don’t know what brands/models/etc I want, so I’d love recommendations on equipment you love.

    Camera needs:
    -High resolution and clarity
    -Durability (This is a hike. I will have to carry this camera on rough trails for 118 days, and if I happen to take a small spill I need my camera to still work)
    -Speed (when I turn my camera on, I want to be able to snap a picture within one second of flipping the switch)
    (nice things in order of priority: intuitive controls, soft flash option, long-exposure [I want to be able to hold the shutter open all night], fast burst, customizable shooting modes, great optical zoom, easy/fast ISO access)

    My friend has a Nikon and I really like the feel and heft of it, but I'm open.

    Lenses:
    (ANY advice on lenses is awesome. I know almost nothing about them)
    -something... normal. I don't know what size that would be... I also want something that will make it easy to adjust my depth of field. Sorry, I know this is vague. I have never had to buy a lens before...)
    -telephoto
    -wide angle
    -non-vignetting lens adapter?
    -UV filter, maybe stacking polarizing filters?
    -anything else you recommend?

    Bag:
    -very water resistant (We're sleeping in ghetto tents. If it rains, my camera can’t drown.)
    -toploader with a chest harness option
    -well cushioned; my camera would have a high probability of surviving an 8 foot fall inside it
    -durable; zippers and harness connections that outlast the fabric
    -pockets for an extra lens, batteries, cards and maybe a water bottle
    -Light and compact as possible (I have to carry this on my person 24/7 for 118 days.)

    A few I'm looking at:http://www.acmeclimbing.com/index.asp?PageAction=VIEWPROD&ProdID=2090
    http://www.ebags.com/product_detail...15&sourceid=COMJ0001&AID=10293324&PID=1726759
    http://www.ebags.com/case_logic/sport_slr_camera_backpack/product_detail/index.cfm?modelid=121078


    Other equipment:
    I need to go pretty light because I have to carry almost everything I take, but at the same time, I don't want to be under prepared. This is the other equipment I'm planning on...

    -Secondary camera, Pentax Optio WPi, for rainy days
    -Memory cards (probably 4 - 4GB cards. Adequate?)
    -Extra batteries (What last the longest, and will recharge over and over and over? How many should I have?)
    -My laptop, currently has 47 open GB. Has Gimp open source editing program on it. (laptop will NOT be in the camera bag)
    -Chargers for laptop and batteries (will go in the laptop bag)
    -Lens cleaner (how much will I need? There will be a lot of dust)
    -Assorted plastic bags
    -A list of photo-opp ideas
    -Pad of paper (and pens) for collecting email addresses of people I photograph
    I'm not planning on taking a tripod, except maybe for taking star photos… I’ll be in a very low-pollution area, which would make it really fun to do. I just don’t want to carry it...

    Misc information that might be useful:
    I don't know yet what my access to technical connections will look like, but someone is doing a video documentary of the trip. There will be a few sporadic news reporters. The director of the program is incredibly nice and wanted me to let him know if I needed anything (so if you have suggestions for things you would want if you were in my place, throw them out there). There will be 350-400 people on the road at any given time, excluding a few crew members.

    We’re traveling across the Great Plains (Iowa City to Salt Lake). We leave on April 27th, I'll be in Iowa a day or two early. Here is the website: Mormon Trail Handcart Trek 2009

    Any thoughts/suggestions?

    Thank you for your time!
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2009
  2. potownrob

    potownrob TPF Noob!

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    What comes to my mind is a used Nikon D200, since you liked your friend's Nikon. This model might not have the best weathersealing (though very good) but it should work well for your purposes. It can also be had for around 600 USD on amazon.com and keh.com (and probably other sites too). Then you have 500-800 to invest in lenses and accessories. As for lenses, others with much more experience than me will chime in, but it sounds like a fast standard zoom lens and a telephoto lens with VR or IS (if you don't go with Nikon) will do the job. I don't think you will necessarily need a 50mm fixed lens if you get a good f/2.8 standard zoom lens like the Tamron 17-50 or Sigma 18-50 f/2.8 (the Nikon 17-55 f/2.8 is amazing but will cost close to 1000 USD). The Sigma and Tamron are both under 400 USD. The Tamron might not hold up as well as the Sigma since it's more plasticky and doesn't feel as solid, but a lot of people use it professionally with no problems. Then you can get something like the Nikkor 55-200 VR for around 200 USD and you're set (other than bags and other accessories).
     
  3. Holy Ghosted

    Holy Ghosted TPF Noob!

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    I would really look int finding an Olympus E1 and a 14-54 lens If you wand telephoto I would add the 50-200 both those lenses and the E1 are weather resistant so being out in the rain is not going to hurt the camera (with the lens on it.) This set up will cover fairly wide angle 28mm to 400mm equivalent. If you do get any uv filters or polarizers I would suggest B&W MRC. As far as Bags go most of your big manufactures make water proof and water resistant bags, I would make sure that what ever bag you get is very comfortable for you. It would be a great Idea for you to go to a camera shop and spend some time with a bag befor buying one. I would suggest taking a few weeks to do so if you could, 1400 miles is a distance you can not cut corners. as far as how many card you will need will depend on you and if you shoot jpg or RAW or both and a few other things The good news is that CF and most other kinds of cards are sold in half the towns you will be going through.
    I do not know if this covers every thing but it should get you a good start and that is the area I would look on your budget needing something weather resistant and reliably tough. I have know a Few E1's to take some serious falls and one was down a rock bank into a stream "SUBMERGED" and it still works to this day.
    I hope this helps
     
  4. Jaq

    Jaq TPF Noob!

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    You should know a few things about SLRs first, because you're making a few assumptions based on PnS.

    Almost all newer dSLR turn on in a matter of milliseconds. (note that I say almost because I don't know of any that don't, but I can't be sure).

    Almost all dSLR's have a bulb option, which allows you to keep the shutter open as long as you require.

    "Soft-Flash" is ambiguous. Do you want to be able to control the flash output? Almost all dSLRs have this option. Or do you mean diffuse? You can make your own diffuser with a piece of paper or cloth. If you want a real flash look for a hotshoe flash, the on camera flashes are alright, but once you get 15+ feet away or diffuse them, they might not be enough for what you want to do. Not to mention, you can't bounce them.

    Optical zoom has nothing to do with the camera body, only the lens (except for the crop sensors)

    dSLR's are designed to have quick access to all major shooting functions, and many minor ones, including ISO.

    You will want more than 16g of memory for 25,000 photos. Shooting in normal-fine I get ~300 photos on a 1/2g card with a 6mp camera. You do the math. Try 4 8g cards (they only run $15 online) (Don't shoot in RAW. For anyone doing more than 50+ photos RAW will just be a pain and force you to spend hours converting and tweaking when you can just set it all up in camera and get just as good of quality and results, and save a ton of memory).

    As for weather resistant, I recommend a sealable plastic bag. Few systems are water-tight, and you will be very limited in lenses and bodies. Most cameras can handle a little water and varying temperatures (I've taken my D50 on the Maid of the Mist and it did very well). How hard is it to just throw it it a plastic bag? Especially if your case is water resistant.
     
  5. Mike_E

    Mike_E No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    If you are going to be in the bush for 118+days then you do NOT need a DSLR! Or at least not one that you can afford. (if I were going digital I wouldn't settle for less than a D3)

    You can't really expect to take a 12 hour exposure with anything that uses batteries to hold open the shutter. A: it burns up the batterys and B: it burns up the camera.

    Speaking of batterys, how are you going to recharge them? How are you going to make sure it stays dry in a downpour? (getting your camera wet ruins the camera and voids the warranty and digi cams are the worst) How are you going to save your files when your cards fill up? (you really would want CF cards for their durability if you do go digi)

    If you have to have auto focus then get an F5, if you are going to be out of touch for long periods of time then get one of the older manual Nikons (or an F4 which can use the pre-AI lenses which are even cheaper!). I harp on Nikons not because I own a few but because they were the Pro's choice in the era you need to get back to and are as sturdy as any made and Pro Nikons use AA batterys which you can get anywhere or use rechargeable ones and take a hand charger.

    As far as lenses go you can get more bang for your buck with AI (manual focus) lenses but in any case I'd have a wide angle, probably a 24mm f/2.8 on your budget, these have a little distortion but not much and if it bugs you then go with the 28mm. You'll need a 50mm f1.4 for low light and general shots.

    After this it gets dicey. The rest of your budget can be spent on an 80-200mm or a 105mm macro. I would get the 80-200mm f/2.8 and some extension tubes. You can get a developing tank and pick up the chem to develop your own negs if you like or you can mail off the film and have it sent to your P.O. Box as you come to a town. Most anywhere has a place that will sell 35mm film so if you call ahead -check with your travel guide- you may not have to pack all that much film. Fuji Superia works very well and can be had most anywhere.

    Have a great trip,

    mike




    OBTW, The F4 or F5 do very well with an SB 24 or up flash which can be had for under $100 as opposed to the SB 900 which goes for $400.
     
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2009
  6. anubis404

    anubis404 TPF Noob!

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    You're not going to be able to have all that for $1500, compromises are going to have to be made. My suggestion would be a Nikon D200 (which is fairly rugged), a Sigma 18-50 F2.8 HSM, a Nikon 80-200 F2.8 AF-D, and maybe a wide angle if the budget allows. The D200 body can be had for $525 if you look hard enough, the Nikon 80-200 for $650, and the Sigma 18-50 for $375. That puts you $50 overbudget. If you could spend more, I would suggest a Nikon D50 body as a backup. This can be had for $300, but that puts you $350 overbudget. We haven't even talked about bags yet, that's easily another $100-$150. If you shop right and only take the essentials, you'll only be ~$150 overbudget.

    But, if you want to cheap out on lenses, you could be on budget. Instead of the 18-50 and the 80-200, you could get the 18-70 and the 70-300. These lenses are less durable, slower, and the optics don't compare. But, they will save you money. You could also try a combination of the two (18-70, 80-200).
     
  7. mhafweet

    mhafweet TPF Noob!

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    Okay, here's what I've decided so far:

    -Nikon D200
    -Nikon D40 back-up. I prefer D40's performance to the D50, especially with color. Are there major usability issues I should know about that make the D50 superior? Lenses for D40/D200 are mutually compatible, right?)
    (I'm at ~$880 here, which leaves me 620 for lenses, batteries, cards, and a bag)

    Should I be scared of a refurbished camera body?

    I'm still flirting with lenses... one problem: How can I tell if a lens is truly good or not? I've been looking at product reviews but I'm getting irritated because no one seems to know what's going on except that their photos look "better". I've read up what lens names mean, I'm just not sure what features make the biggest difference.

    Is a Nikon AF/DX 18-105mm f/3.5-5.6 G ED VR for $300 a good buy?
    And Nikon AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED for $200?

    About recharging and dumping photos, I am 95% certain I will have access to electricity. Video documentary people are coming along too, and they are going to need power/storage too. Next week I'm going to talk with the program director again and he'll get me connected with tech personnel.

    Thanks again!
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2009
  8. KD5NRH

    KD5NRH TPF Noob!

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    I'd also look at a few dollar-store-cheapie 35mms. They're likely to be better quality than some disposables, cheaper than the disposables if you get a good multi-roll price on the film, and still absolutely disposable.

    You're not going to whip out even a $100 camera when there's a 50/50 chance it'll get trashed by weather or a fall, but with the cheapie, your worst possible case is that you lose one roll of film and a $1 camera. Some even have an ISO hotshoe.
     
  9. usayit

    usayit No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    My recommendation would be the Canon G9 or G10 (perhaps two for backup). Lots of batteries and an image tank. The lightest tripod you can find and flash with off shoe cord. They will fit your needs and allow be easy on the physical demands of the trip. If you are struggling to keep up on the hike, it will show in your pictures.

    Mike does have a point about the issues of digital on such a trip. This is when a completely mechanical camera and film might also be an advantage. If this were my decision, Pentax LX (professional weathersealed lots of features and very small) paired with the completely mechanical K1000. I think most people would still stick with digital.
     
  10. anubis404

    anubis404 TPF Noob!

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    Nope. Nikon's whole AF and AF-D line do not autofocus with the D40. I don't debate that the D40 is a better camera than the D50, but the lack of an AF motor is annoying at times. If you decide on an 80-200, you are limited to MF which makes it nearly useless for wildlife.

    No. All of my bodies have been either used or refurbished and no problems so far. Just make sure you have a week or so to test everything out and make sure its ok.

    I hear ya. There is no way to really give an accurate rating on the lenses IQ. All you can do is look at tests and take people's word for it. Most of the time, a photographer writing a review will not have tried one lens and its competitor lens.

    Both are very good lenses, however they are kit lenses. The build quality is not excellent. The Sigma 18-50 F2.8 can be had for only $75 more than the 18-105, and it is worlds better. In fact, if you shop right, you can get the Tamron version for only $25-50 more. This lens has professional optics, and competes with one of Nikkor's professional lenses.

    As for a telephoto, if the 80-200 is out of your budget, go for the 70-300VR. I haven't tried it myself, but I've heard very good things about it. It has good optics, VR, and a longer reach than the 55-200.
     
  11. potownrob

    potownrob TPF Noob!

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    D40 won't be able to auto-focus lenses that do not have the built-in AF motor, meaning you'll have to manually focus any lenses you may get that don't have the motor. The D200 can AF and meter any AF lens and meter just about any older manual focus lens if you input the lens info in the camera. As a back-up camera I would go with something like a D50 or D70 (if not a good p&s camera like a Canon G9, Nikon P80 or Panasonic FZ18) since they can AF lenses without the motor (they don't work well with older AI lenses like the D200 does though) and they can be had for cheap. Keep in mind the D50 takes SD (not SDHC though) cards while the D70 and D200 take CF cards.
     
    Last edited: Jan 27, 2009

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