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CHOOSING YOUR PHOTO AND VIDEO EQUIPMENT FOR THRU-HIKING AND ULTRALIGHT HIKING TRIPS

November 16, 2017

 Article published at first in Thetrek.co, wrote by us https://thetrek.co/thru-hiking-photography-gear-8-factors

 

If, like us, you intend to give priority to photography during your thru-hike, there are a few question to ask yourself before taking the plunge and buying expensive gear.

 

Reflex pro, semi-pro, Hybrids, Compacts… Nowadays, the offer in the photography market is dizzying and it is often difficult to find oneself!

 

What kind of camera do you need? Do you need lenses? Which ones? What about accessories?

 

The offer is gigantic but your needs are often well defined, so don’t get lost.

 

If you are going to Thru-hike or Section-hike for weeks or months, this adventure will probably be a positive upheaval and undoubtedly an episode of your life which you will be glad to have traces.

 

Before you invest in photo equipment, define your needs and constraints.

 

I have been fashion photographer for 8 years. Jumping to outdoor photography brought a new whole bunch of questions on the table.

 

Here, my goal will not be to convince you to invest in this or that camera, but to help you asking yourself the right questions and to address all the important criteria to choose your photo material for hiking. To serve as an example, I will share with you the questions we had in mind selecting the equipment for our photographic works

 

 

 

 

Reflex, Compact, Hybrid: Whats are we talking about ?

 

Compact

 

Compacts cameras are known for their small dimensions. The lenses are non-removable and retract into the camera once it power off. The zoom capacity can vary from 3x to greater than 10x.

 

You'll be able to adjust exposure, however focusing is auto as it doesn't possess a manual focus ring because of its retracting lens.

 

Compacts may be the cameras for novices but also for the weight concerned people and the majority of the thru-hiking photographers. Its very small format leads it to be a really handy tool and auto functions make its use quite simple in lots of conditions. These cameras can provide great outcomes for everyday usage. Some of the best Compacts are trully excellent.

 

 

 

Hybrid

 

 

The Hybrid Camera is a Compact with a larger sensor capable of accommodating interchangeable lenses. It takes again the format of Compact often small, but also inspired by the Reflex and its modular lenses system: quality of  lenses, great aperture, depth of field…

 

The Hybrid functions as a Compact: ease of use, electronic viewfinder, auto-focus with contrast measurement.

 

Lenses are often interchangeable but do not have an optical viewfinder. Each brand has its dedicated lenses park only compatible with the brand’s enclosures, which can be quite restrictive. But the hybrid lenses parks are growing, thus offering more and more choices.

 

The hybrid category is actually where we found our winner 🙂

 

 


Reflex / DSLR (Digital.Single.Lense.Reflex)

 

The main difference between a DSLR, a Compact and an Hybrid may be the direct purpose of the lenses. A mirror placed facing the sensor, returns the light picked up by the lens to the sensor. As soon as the shutter is hit, the mirror rises allowing the light reaching the sensor. It is the “click” that we hear. Unlike Compacts and Hybrids which gives you the opportunity to view the image on the screen, the viewfinder from the DSLR simply presents the truth.


The lens is changeable, allowing your camera to become adapted towards the particular requirements of each photograph type. Also, the sensor is a lot bigger compared to a Compact or Hybrid which enables greater picture quality and elevated abilities during the night or with poor light.

 

All settings could be controlled Manually, which provides great freedom in lots of conditions.

 

 

 

 

 

Since we speak now exactly the same language, listed here are the 8 essential factors you need to consider when you choose your ideal and particular photo gear:

 

1. Solidity

 

The durability from the devices are a vital qualifying criteria in most outside activities. We're most often afraid to bring a Reflex in this sort of hike, nonetheless, the pro Reflex continue to be utilized by greater than 90% from the photo reporters, and this is also for its sturdiness. Today, manufacturers are making cameras with excellent standards of waterproof resistance and solidity.

 

What to keep in mind ? :

In which conditions will I use this gear?

Will my camera be permanently inside a hiking bag or protected in the photo bag?

Am I going to face difficult climates?

Am I going to utilize it intensively every single day?

 

The choices to make

Don't neglect the significance of the sturdiness of the hardware, it is necessary that you have a blind trust in it!

 

For Hybrids and Compacts, you will find standards when it comes to water resistance and robustness, check it out prior to making your decision. On the majority of sites, comparators will help you to see clearer.

 

Within the situation of DSLR, in an equivalent cost, frequently it's easier to choose a former professional model, frequently stronger, rather than absolutely wish to acquire the most recent model with increased functions however a lower built.

 

 

Prior to deciding, it's interesting also to consider the protective accessories that you could find for a specific camera.

 

What about us ? :

To thru-hike for a year and half, we all know that it'll be required for us to get solid, well-proven equipment, durable, stable with sufficient prestige to profit from your efficient after-sales service. When the very New Olympus - OMD Em1 MKii got a lot attention from us it's also due to its capability to face any weather!

 

 

 

2. The topics photographed

 

It may be very frustrating to become missing of the wide position lens to photograph a landscape or on the other hand not so that you can take pictures of those you mix without approaching within two meters. Selecting your objectives is going to be crucial.

 

Here is among the limits from the Compact: whether or not the zoom provides you with frequently a great variety, the lens isn't interchangeable.  To some degree the Hybrid gives more freedom and a few brands have certainly great lenses options but, taht's why Reflex are great: how big the optical park is. If you go searching for a DSLR the options are going to be almost unlimited.

 

What to keep in mind ? :

What do I want to photograph?

Am I currently rather focused portraits, sport or do I want to get equiped for landscape?

Maybe both?

How about night?

 

Tips :

If the lenses offered your camera brand appear too limited, have a look at other manufacturers like Sigma or Tamron or at adaptations rings. They permit to interchange the frames between different brands, for instance you are able to mount a classic Nikon lens on the Olympus camera. They are occasionally supplied with a digital nick for that focus and may then present good alternatives, or perhaps fill gaps inside your lenses collection.

 

What about us ? :

Within our pictures, we love to combine portraits with landscapes and life scenes. In video we don't use a zoom and try to choose to work our frames with fixed focal lengths. Furthermore, we frequently find ourselves taking photos in low light conditions which naturally pushes us towards high aperture lenses and for that reason fixed focal lengths.

 

 

Side note concerning the Reflex:

There's two sensor sizes:

  • Full frame, what are same size because the usual 35mm (24×36)

  • The APS-C (Advanced Photo System type C) 25×16

All these sizes has advantages: when the large sensors really are a guarantee of quality, the APS-C possesses a bigger zoom factor while being less cumbersome.

 

For instance, to photograph wildlife or sports epic trails shot, it might be wise to go to an APS-C. With a sensor having a small area, the look is “cropped”: the focal length is multiplied (between x1.4 and x1.6 with respect to the manufacturers).

 

Example: A 200mm lens with an APS-C is the same as a 300mm on the full frame. And clearly, both of these lenses won't have exactly the same cost.

 

 

 

3. Picture Quality

 

Various factors lead towards the magic which makes a digital image what it is.

 

The amount of megapixels matches the amount of pixels around the sensor. It also matches the resolution of the image but additional factors have to be considered like the sensor size, the lenses quality, the device's processor…

 

As you can tell, megapixels are not everything. Today, we can see cell phones with more megapixels than professional devices, the difference continues to be quite obvious yet.

 

What to keep in mind ? :

What would be the medium of diffusion of the images?

Will I shoot images in large format or are they intended for a screen?

Will I shoot a great deal during the night or even with low light?

Do I wish to use large aperture (lots of blur)?

 

Megapixels? Size sensor? Processor? It can be hard to figure out what determines an image quality. This is a couple of lines that may as fast be described in a number of pages.

 

 

 

The sensor consists of photovoltaic cells that appraise the amount of light and its color. This luminous intensity will be changed into electric energy. The sensors capts the energy and transfer it as an image. A pixel thus remains comprised of several voltaic cells, known as photosites. Thus, with equal quantity of pixels, the photosites may have less space and will also be smaller sized on the small sensor than they are on a full frame sensor.

 

If those photosites are too close from each other, they causes interferances. These interferences are the reason of the digital “noise” within the photos, quite simply degradation of the images traduced by colored dots on the image. Mostly in the blacks.

 

Smaller sized photosites also receive less light because of their small area, producing a drastic diminution  of the quality as the brightness decreases because they need to power up to capture the light, this occasion even more interferances. For this reason large sensors tend to be more effective during the night.

 

 

Additionally to the amount of pixels and how big the sensor, it's also the processor that will play a vital role within the image restoration process by conducting a treatment on the photo a posteriori.

 

The choices to make

It depends on your requirements and your financial allowance. You'll have understood by now that all those factors are interdependent. Consider a well-balanced package that fits your most typical needs without restricting yourself for eventual extra needs. Your equipment must take full advantage of one another. Setting a poor lens on the 50 megapixel won't get you very far…

 

In heaven, the very best-in-class camera combines: high-quality optical components, an ideal size sensor for optimum light capture, enough pixels to capture every detail of a picture and incorporates advanced image processing through the processor.

 

Tips :

- For those who have a limited budget or a restricted weight capacity, evaluate your  requirements when it comes to picture quality and final medium to help make the    best choices and don't overburden or ruin you unnecessarily.

- Try the gear, project yourself in tangible conditions.

- Don't aspire to do clean night shots with small sensors !

 

What about us ? :

As being a professional photographer for around 10 years, It's my job to use DSLR full frame. Having the ability to make large prints of my images is really a priority and  a minimum of 20 megapixels is pretty much needed, with the highest quality possible for my weight concerns. As we do quit often pictures at night, at the camp, or in the low light conditions, it is important for us to count on a camera able to manage well obscurity.

 

 

4. Shooting Video

 

In the following paragraphs we won't talk about the real video cameras but from the versatile cameras.

 

Many of you, are willing to shoot pics and vids with one device. Video standards are continually evolving, so is our eye, frequently critical and demanding, it expects increasingly more quality.

 

Video means a complete different dimension, different problems, delicate post-production… Making video remains a genuine challenge if you wish to produce quality content.

 

 

What to keep in mind ? :

Do I want to shoot video?

What quality am I targeting?

On which support will I publish my pictures?

Do I need stabilization? Mechanical or digital?

What would be the conditions for filming?

Do I want to color grade my rushes?

What exactly are my requirements when it comes to movement, traveling, etc.?

Will I do editing quickly or when I come back home?

 

The choices to make

It's now possible using the material found in a backpack to film images that will have needed the job of a large number of professionals a couple of years back. These technical evolutions enable us to talk about wealthy, lively and often unpublished content.

 

A couple of cameras whose video capacities made the nobles are striking on the market of photography. If like us, you're willing to create great videos, take a look at those, Olympus E-M1 MARK II, Panasonic GH5, Sony A7SII, Canon 5D MKIII, Fuji X-T2, Leica Sl,…

 

Think versatility and focus your requirements again. Today, you'll be able to shoot wonderful images with so little equipment. Many great videos happen to be shot with smartphones. These films even have festivals dedicated in lots of countries.

 

For additional versatility with relatively low weight impact, it might be interesting to include an Action Cam or perhaps a drone in your bag. Many thru-hikers combine a smartphone as well as an action cam and go with no camera…

 

 

The most recent action cams available on the market come with an excellent stabilization. We like the Garmin Virb 30 for this and it's more realistic and less contrasted image. The dynamic range of the Garmin Virb 30 is another amazing advantage.

 

 

When it comes to drones, whether it has lengthy been impossible to shoot beautiful videos without loading a drone far too heavy and cumbersome , mostly throughout a through-hike, 2017 was the year of incredible items like the super clever mini drone, Spark from DJI. The Spark weighs some 300 grams and it's feautures are breathtaking!

 

 

What about us ? :

The Video is a big part of Deux Pas Vers L'Autre, shooting videos without cluttering an additional camera was vital but we didn't wish to compromise on quality. So we’re looking for a camera that’s as efficient for video as for photography. For camera movements we'll equip ourselves of an ultralight Shoulder Rig that may also be used like a tripod. Among the crazy features of the Olympus OMD EM1 mkii a very important one in our case is it's internal stabilization.

 

A steadycam? What for ? Using this camera we'll obtain buttery smooth footage handheld.

 

 

Furthermore, for more dynamism in our videos and since it'll be hard to film footage in a few instances, especially during tough passages, or unfavorable climates, we made the decision to embark around an Action Cam, our heart selected the Garmin Virb 30

Finally, because we believe it will likely be fantastic on the course like ours to capture from the sky the richness from the landscapes of our dear Europe, we'll embark a Drone DJI Spark. This is something absolutely unique so far.

 

We'll return in greater detail around the aspects associated with the video recording inside a next article.

 

 

 

5. Weight

 

Ah… The load! An important factor yet so hard to combine with other factors. Lightness, sturdiness and quality rarely combine.

 

VS

 

What to keep in mind ? :

Am I going for a week hike or a thru-hike that lasts several several weeks?

What exactly are my loading capacities?

Will I be alone? Can others assist me with transporting some gear to split the load?

Can i manage reduce the weight of the rest of my bag somehow?

 

The choices to make

Be reasonable with the weight you decide to carry! Did you taste ultralight hiking? It's unequivocal!

 

If thru-hiking, in case your goal is to take photographs as much as exhaust yourself, you might be enticed to take more stuff than you'll need. This, friends is a serious mistake. Overloading you additionally to being traumatic for you will slow you down and can certainly finish up disgusting you of this crazy hike.

 

What about us ? :

With 2PVA, we attach importance to photo and video content. It represents on the side many concessions over outdoor equipment, clothing, camping gear, which is defacto, minimalist. Our total photo and video equipment weight will be between 6 and 8 kgs.

 

The reduced weight is clearly also one of the reasons we went crazy for the Olympus OMD EM1 MKII. 576 grams so about 20.3 ounces with no lense. 150 grams lighter compared to Panasonic GH5 ... and only for the body…

 

 

 

6. Cost

 

You basically can equip yourself for a couple  hundreds euros or a few thousands… But you won't end up producing the same quality of medias... Let's be honnest there is no magic.

 

What to keep in mind ? :

What exactly is my budget?

Do I risk to break my equipment sooner or later?

Is there a risk it gets stolen?

Should I buy material which i know not loosing value too quickly?

May be the equipment second hand? Reconditioned?

Do I have an insurance?! If not, what am i waiting for to subscribe one?

 

What about us ? :

With Deux Pas Vers L'Autre to be able to carry such a weight for 20km every day and still produce quality content we're purchasing quite costly gear. Although not without insurance! Take care of your gear, regardless of cost, if you use it, cherish it, you will need it tomorrow as well...

 

 

 

7. Battery autonomy

 

In many situations, battery life of the equipment isn't a decisive factor. When thru-hiking, or just long distance hiking, electricity could be rare and the weight of extra batteries a handicap, this becomes a real subject.

 

 

What to keep in mind ? :

How battery autonomous is my equipment?

Will I have always access to electricity?

Can I charge my gear with usb wire?

With an external battery? A solar charger?

 

The choices to make

It's a parameter which i counsel you to actually study if you're brought to publish a  chronicle withing a regular frequency or are compelled to often share your media on the road.

 

Compact products are lightweight however they frequently over consume energy (screen, etc.). Additionally, their batteries are frequently small , the charging may  then become more difficult. Similar to cars, the less electronics, the less chance of battery problems. A Reflex camera has the benefit of not requiring a screen so you visualize your image what will save you precious cell duration.

 

For External batteries,there is tons of choice out there. How difficult is it to understand all those standards, speeds, wires, plugs... Compare them !capacity, watts in total, watts per ports (if you want to recharge laptop type devices), the charge duration of battery, the weight …

 

Tips :

I frequently tell myself you need to manage battery autonomy exactly like you would do with your water supplies. You don't want to run off battery when reaching the summit for sunrise.

 

 

What about us ? :

With constant roaming we need to be sure that we understand perfectly the battery cycles of our gear. It can become something easy to manage and you can easily adapt.

Additionally, all of our device but large batteries (for speed reasons) can be charged in fast USB, including the computer. We use a quick multiple charger, which enables us to centralize the charging and save energy and weight.

 

8. Processing files

 

Within the situation of long hikes or thru-hikes, also comes the entire topic of processing files.

If you need to produce and share content on the go, you might need a computer or perhaps a tablet. You should picture your equipment as being an chain which should be perfectly oiled. Your laptop should meet the same requirements as the rest of your your hardware: sturdiness, quality (power), weight, excellent care service, low energy consumption… the whole system has to run perfectly, including software and everything should be protected.

 

What to keep in mind ? :

Do I need to develop my pics and edit my videos on the run?

Do I have deadlines to respect for the photo reports or videos?

Can I wait to be back home to to edit everything?

Are the devices all suitable for one another?

 

The choices to make

Some recent types of notebooks available on the market benefits a little volume, lightweight and therefore are packed of power, obviously there is the Dell XPS 15, that is a incredible device, but the Macbook Pro 15 inches, the Gigabyte Aero 15   and also the Blade 2017 are fantastics.

 

I strongly discourage you against having a computer in your backpack in case you do not absolutely need it. If you don't have to produce HD videos, thre are several solutions. For example hybrids or tablets usually offer enough power and have a great screen to operate on pictures.

 

 

If have to operate post-production on your videos, a laptop remains your best option. The tablets, although functional, are still too weak and their dedicated software will not allow you to perform heavy operations.

 

Finally, you will have to wonder about data storage. Send by mail your hard drives and USB sticks may be a good and safe option. With respect to the weight of the files as well as your personal organization, you'll take into consideration the cost, the weight and the capacity ratio without failing to remember the transfer speed which not fast enough, could be stopping you against working out of your external drives and for that reason waste some battery life.

 

 

Tips :

Set up a perfect workflow before departure., store preciously your media, build a glossary for you media labels… Get organize!

 

What about us ? :

In case you want to edit videos in 4K format (run calibrations and animations on a dedicated software) throughout the trip, you'll have to take with you an efficient laptop. We chose a 15in with perfect color display, great battery length, modern connectivity for fast and easy transfers, good after-sales service and proven solidity. We chose the Dell XPS 15.

 

Regarding the storage options, we have not made our decision yet but we are carefully studying the USB keys, SSD and other memory cards… Many things are possible, it's a tough reflection but we need to secure our data! Don't even think of sending a hard drive without having a backup! We'll update the content to  keep you posted about our choices.

 

These imperatives are ours and it's important to notice that every project is unique and therefore faces specific needs!

 

Whether you’re going for 3 days or a year, whether you’re looking to power a blog or shoot large-format photos for exhibits, your needs are different and the issues that arise will be different. In any case, time spent doing a thorough market research will certainly save you a lot of white hair and should bring answers to many of your questions.

 

If you get the chance, test the gear! Possibilities can be rare based on where you live but if you get the chance, get it done!

 

Some information may not be available in the original manual. On the web, you will notice many alternative information, hacks and methods that are most of the time very useful. YouTube is really a gold mine for those details.

The quantity of websites offering hardware tests is astronomical, don't let yourself be frustrated, read and browse between the lines.

 

Get as many sources of information as possible and double-check. Do not stop your investigation after one good review, there are plenty of them. You should also try to search in other languages, don't hesitate to allow Google to translate, although imperfect, translation will give you important information about an article.

 

Finally, look around for available accessories, it might be better to choose a gear with versatile accessories or good protections.

 

To finish be sure to find very soon the final list of our photo and video equipment on our Gear List and on the Gear Page of our Website

We truly hope this will help you to see clearer through your next investments!

 

Nil

 

 

 

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