Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Camera Gear

My 1st Camera, Iloca Quick B Fixed Lens Coupled Rangefinder

Camera gear can be a bit of a problem when you're trying to reduce pack weight. I started out with a fixed lens rangefinder and separate exposure meter and the first camera I bought was an SLR, an Olympus OM10 to be exact. That was back in around 1982 and apart from a brief period with a Nikon D70, my 1st DSLR, I've always used Olympus SLRs, usually carrying 2, one with a print film and one with slide film. I never really took to compact cameras whether 35mm or digital and therein lies the problem, D/SLRs and their associated paraphernalia weight vastly more than a compact. There are some really good compacts on the market, I'd probably go for a Panasonic LX-3 but I simply prefer the operation and eye-level viewfinder of a D/SLR.

1st of Many, My Olympus OM10

Olympus OM1N, Fully Manual with Mechanical Shutter. The Battery lasts for Years as it only Powers the Exposure Meter, the camera still works without a battery

I had been using an Olympus E-3 but combined with the 14-54 f/2.8-3.5 lens it came in at almost 1.5kg which was a bit too much. I'd always liked the look of the E-400/410/420 which are very much in the style of manual focus SLRs, a small body without bulge to hold a large capacity battery. Eventually I bought an E-420 + 14-42 f/3.5-5.6 lens from Argos. The camera + lens is almost half the weight of the E-3 + lens at just over 700g. Thats a welcome weight saving but I'm really waiting to see how micro 4/3rds pans out, there are currently 5 models but nothing so far ticks all the boxes for me although the Panasonic offerings appeal to me more than the Olympus ones.

Velbon V-Pod

In addition to the camera and lens I carry a small tripod, I read about it on Dave Hanlons blog and decided it would fit the bill as Dave uses an Olympus E-400 DSLR similar to my own. It isn't the strongest or tallest tripod on the market but can just about manage the E-400/420, best of all it only weighs about 280g.

Filter and Accessories

Polarising Filter

Memory card Wallet with IR Remote, Spare CF Card and VF Cover

The other items I carry are 2 x spare batteries, an ND4 neutral density grad filter, a Cokin A Series filter holder with one of the slots removed to make it pack easier, they normally have 3 slots to allow you to fit a combination of filters but I only carry one system filter anyway. A lens wet-wipe and lens cloth in addition to the aforementioned all fit into a neoprene pouch designed for a Minidisc player. I also carry a screw in Polarising filter and use a Sandisk CF memory card wallet to carry a spare CF card, IR remote and viewfinder cover, the wallet is attached to the camera pouch on a thin mobile phone lanyard and stays in the bottom of the camera pouch together with the Polarising filter. I always used CCS (Camera Care Systems) pouches in the past and although CCS are no longer in business I managed to find a new CCS Snowflake pouch on ebay.

E-420 c/w Hoodhat

I normally carry the camera with the lens hood attached ready to use and having lost my lens cap I use a 'Hoodhat' which is basically a neoprene cover that slips over the lens hood, I find them quicker to use than lens caps which can be tricky to remove with gloves on.

The Complete Set

The complete set-up weighs in at 1533g which is outrageous compared to my wife's Panasonic FX-150 that I sometimes borrow but old habits die hard and it's just one more compromise I'm prepared to make.

Olympus E-System DSLRs

Panasonic Lumix


  1. A nice set, Richard - and lightweight compared to what I carry :D I need to get around and buy a 2nd battery and some filters, good that you reminded me of that.

  2. Hi Richard, you and Hendrik must be the most dedicated bloggers I read. I still haven't got around to reading your recent stove and ski posts yet :)

    Margaret has an E-620 and I can really see the benefit of the small body and lenses, in particular when humphing it around all day in the pack. My own camera kit [cutdown for hiking purposes] still weighs about 3.5kg, but it's part of what I enjoy about hiking, the pictures I bring home afterward and the time I spend in camp making them after a feed and dram :)

    I've toyed with the idea of leaving it all at home and enjoying the lighter pack, but am now gripped with fear of seeing something amazing and being cameraless...

  3. Hendrik, it does most of what I need and I like the way it operates but like most things cameras are very much a personal choice, the best camera is the one you're comfortable with and have with you.

    McAlister, enjoyment is what it's all about :-)

  4. Nice post. I see a lot of familiar kit there. Still very attached to the OM10 but digital is just so much easier that it stays in the cupboard. That little Zuiko 50mm standard lens is still the best utility lens I've evered owned. Loved it! Got the 25mm pancake for my E400 and though its a fine lens it's just not the same (you just can't get the razor sharp depth of field so characteristic of the old 50 prime). If I was happier with teh 25mm I might take it as my only lens on some trips. The E400 with a 25mm is about as compact as an SLR can get. Noticed somehwere earlier that you'd used a 50 on the E400, any good?

    I think the future for backpacking lies in the new bread though. Not convinced by the EP1 but the GF1 looks better. There's the new Samsung NX10 too. An APS-C CMOS sensor in a body similar in size to the PEN/GF1, electronic viewfiner, built in flash the works (preview here: http://www.dpreview.com/previews/samsungnx10/). Things are moving so fast in this sector that I feel the perfect camera is just around the corner. Then again, I've felt like that for 20yrs :-)

  5. Thanks Dave, really it's thanks to you that I ended up going for thr E-420 (and the Velbon V-Pod)

    I like the OM 50mm, I've used it on both the E-3 and E-420 and it's a nice lens, very fast at f/1.8 compared to the current range, especially the kit zoom. I use it primarily for very shallow DOF as it's too long on the E-System bodies at an effective 100mm for general use. I did try an OM 24mm f/2.8 but it wasn't as good as the 50mm but very compact on the E-420.

    Ideally for shallow DOF/Low light without having too long a focal length the Leica (Panasonic) D Sunnilux 25mm f/1.4 would be a cracking lens but certainly not compact as it's an f/1.4.

    I noticed the Samsung but the problem with an APS-C sensor on a compact body is that the lenses will always be bigger than the m4/3rds ones, probably bigger than some of the standard range E-System lenses.

    I've tried the Panasonic G1 (m4/3rds) and it's a fantastic camera, the EVF is like no other EVF I ever saw, it's smaller than the E-420 but weighs the same. The newest Panasonic DMC GF-1 is very compact and if my wifes FX-150 is anything to go by the build quality will be top notch and matched with the 20mm f/1.7 it would be a really compact camera, it has a flash but unfortunately no EVF.

    As you say the perfect one must surely be just around the corner.

  6. Hey Richard,
    after recently carrying my Benbo trekker around the Mournes for only one shot, the 1.7 kilo saving of the v-pod looks very attractive. Having the exact same set up of E420 and 14-42, could you tell me how well the v-pod holds and whether its stable enough for long exposures while extended or retracted?

  7. Hi Keith, I don't think the V-Pod is stable enough for long exposures, it's fine for self portraits etc but thats about the limit unless you keep it closed down and there's no breeze. I won a tripod just before Christmas 08, a Manfrotto Modo, it's a bit more stable but I've only just let a mate borrow it and can't remember the exact model number off hand. It weighs just under 1kg.

  8. Cheers for getting back so quick! If it can handle a couple seconds when not extended too high then that would nearly do for me. If it can't handle a couple seconds when low to the ground I might give it a miss. I'm nearly curious enough to warrant the 13 quid price tag it has on Amazon.

    I've seen the froto before but at nearly a kilo it doesn't really hold the same interest in weight savings, and if I'm prepared to carry a kilo I'd probably just take another one for the versatility and stability the benbo would give me, please forgive me lightweight Gods.

  9. It should handle a slow shutter speed but it's difficult to say for sure if it'll do what you need.

    Looking at the downsides the legs aren't infinately adjustable, you can have them set at different lengths but only by a section at a time, there's also a leg brace which means you can't change the angle of the legs and there isn't a quick release plate which means screwing the camera on and off when you need to use it.

    Against that it's under 300g.

    One you need to try for yourself I think.

  10. Again, cheers for the swift reply :)

    Compromises are rather user specific, so I think I might have to just give it a go, if all I can get is some self portarits and a couple more f-stops then it won't be a complete waste. If I can get a second or 2 exposure here and there then its even better. It'll be bettter than no tripod ;)