Mountaineering camera- good options?
I currently have a Pentax Option S50. It's great, because it's small, uses AA batteries (the same that my headlamp uses, so it saves me weight there, especially if I use lithium AAs). It takes brilliant, colorful bluebird sky shots, on glorious days in the mountains.
The biggest complaint is, often you're moving in the wee hours of the day; the "alpine start". The beautiful alpenglow mornings and evenings are some of the best reasons to climb.This means that I have to have a camera that will take low noise shots in an automatic mode (well, I usually have the time to stop and change it to the landscape mode, but that's about it) and the Pentax Optio S50 doesn't do it. Also, because it's a somewhat old camera now, the viewer isn't up to par; it's small and it's hard to see if the day is bright.
So, will something like a Fujifilm F30 with high ISO do the job better? Is it the higher ISO, or is it simply the issue of a camera being able to do a lower-noise shot with a meager ISO rating of 400? Please help. I'd like to pick up an F30 if it'd help, but if it won't, then I'd rather save the 350 bucks or so.
Other reasons I've looked at the F30:
The viewer is supposedly good in high and low lighting situations, and the battery life is supposed to be very good.
Thanks in advance to any replies, and please excuse me if I'm making unrealistic requests, though I don't think that I am. I've seen my climbing partner's pics, and they seem to do better in some situations.
My hiking/backpacking/skiing camera is a Canon SD300. I have been able to take very good (not excellent) low light shots by using ISO 200 and learning how to stabilize the camera by hand or using a minipod and the timer to reduce shake.
My impression is that the optics of the F30 are good but not as good as Canons or some others. Since only a few of typical hiking shots are low light I don't think I'd sacrafice overall image quality for that. Try adjusting the ISO by hand and/or using a minipod. It only takes a few seconds to set up and the shots are dramatically better.
David- Thanks for your post.
I understand what you're getting at, and these are valid points.
However, most often, I'm on terrain that is not conducive to even sitting for a few seconds. This can be because of many things, but usually it's related to a steep slope, such as this one pictured here, or because of being under objective hazard (potential rockfall, etc).
In such instances, I'd like a camera that has the most capability to take a reasonable shot, in lower light, without needing two hands or taking too much time to do it. I realize that this is a tall order, but basically the one the the best ability is what I am looking for.
Nice gully, but you should be on skis.
That could simply be a matter of adjusting the ISO to 200, which you can do with one hand on many cameras, I don't know about that one. I just ran the image through PhotoShop to adjust the balance and I think it looks better. Is this more like what you wanted?
I'm sure there are cameras that could better handle this situation, but I wouldn't give up on your camera just yet. It seems like it's more of a color balance issue than a low light issue.
Skis? Not on that route...heheh. The rock would do quite a number on the edges! Nice eye, though.
Originally Posted by David Metsky
Actually, I posted the photo to illustrate the terrain; as far as the lighting goes in that pic, the Pentax I have does quite well with that amount.
What I am looking for, is a camera that will be able to take a shot before the sun is up (lighting on the horizon), or if sitting still in camp, perhaps a shot of a moonlit mountainside? Here's a good example of what I would like to avoid.
I'd really like a camera that I can turn on, look over, aim, and get a picture such as this, with minimal noise. Is this possible?
While the F-30 will probably take that shot better, I don't think it's overall performance will be any better than your current camera. You might gain low light capability at the expense of other image quality. I think the current crop of Canons will do better than the Pentax, and this is a case where IS could come in handy. Have you looked at the Canon A700?
The F30 would work very well for shots like the pre-sunrise one you posted. Its higher ISO settings will allow you to use faster shutter speeds without underexposing the image, so you can get pictures that aren't blurry due to camera shake (which looks like the problem in the photo you posted). The thing I love about the F30 is I don't have to worry about too much noise creeping into the photo at higher ISO's.
Here's a shot taken at ISO 800, in lighting conditions similar to what you would be shooting under:
...and at ISO 1600:
Compared to the ISO 100 shot:
Alternatively, you can get a camera like the Canon SD700 IS or one of the Panasonic models (the FX01 comes to mind because of its 28mm wide angle, good for sweeping alpine vistas). These cameras have image stabilization, which will allow you to shoot hand-held using slower shutter speeds than normal, which is another way to eliminate or at least minimize blur due to camera shake. IS won't help with blur from subject movement (even a person trying to pose, standing still, can be blurry if the shutter speed is long enough), but for photos like your pre-sunrise shot, it would work very well.
Neither of the cameras have battery life performance to match the F30's, although they are pretty good for the ultra-compact class.
For a moonlit mountainside, though, you'd be better off with a tripod or at least something to rest the camera on, no matter what camera you're using. Exposing for the moon might be okay because it's so bright, but exposing for the mountainside, which is much "dimmer", would probably require a shutter speed that is too long to hand-hold. Even high ISO wouldn't reduce it enough, and IS is only effective down to about 1/8 s.
EDIT: I see that David and I posted at almost exactly the same time, and I do believe he means the Canon SD700, not the A700 (which doesn't have IS).
And I resepctfully disagree that you'd be making a sacrifice in image quality in non-low-light shooting with the F30. Although if you're looking at alternatives, the SD700 is a very good camera.
Last edited by sjseto; 07-19-2006 at 07:41 AM.
My Nikon D80 gallery
My Fujifilm FinePix F30 and F10 galleries
SLR stuff: Nikon D80 | Nikon F80 | Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5G ED-IF AF-S DX Zoom | Nikkor AF 24mm f/2.8D | Nikkor AF 35mm f/2D | Nikkor AF 50mm f/1.8 | Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM | Tamron SP AF 28-75mm f/2.8 XR Di LD Aspherical (IF) | Tamron SP AF 24-135mm f/3.5-5.6 AD Aspherical (IF) | Nikon SB-600 Speedlight
P&S stuff: Fujifilm FinePix F30 | Fujifilm FinePix F10
Accessories: Slik Sprint Pro GM tripod
You're right, I meant the SD700.
I guess my point is that sunrise and low light shots are great, but they are only a small fraction of the shots I take in the mountains. I wouldn't base my camera purchase on that alone without taking other things into consideration. The F30 might be the right choice, but without looking at all the features that I use in the mountains (zoom, video, pano) and overall image quality I couldn't give it an unqualified endorsement.
I also prefer an ultracompact when hiking, so the F30 is a little big for me.
Thanks for the replies
Ok, thanks for posting those pics, I appreciate it.
I'll take a look at them at the camera shop, here in town; I think they carry both of them.