Thursday, October 11, 2012

Lessons Learned - Cameras on the Trail

I love my camera. It ain't for everyone, and most backpackers would probably prefer a smaller, lighter camera. Perhaps one that's water proof. But I wanted the image quality that comes with a big sensor, in a package that wasn't as bulky or as heavy as a DSLR. So I carry a Fujifilm X100.

My thoughts on cameras for hiking (here).

During my northbound Georgia section, I carried it in a padded nylon case by Tamrac. (Upper right in photo at right) Their Tamrac 5693 Digital 3 Camera Bag (Black) is a perfect fit for the X-100. I put a shoulder strap on it and slung it over my shoulder after I put my pack on. The camera was accessible that way, and well protected. If it rained, I put the whole thing in a dry bag, and stashed it in my pack.

When I had to go home with my knee injury, I spent a lot of time cutting weight out of my pack. That case weighs 7 ozs ... Almost half a pound! It had to go. But what to replace it with?

I spoke with another AT hiker who carried an X100, and he said he just slung it over his shoulder so that it was always accessible. And if it rained, it went into a dry bag. This made sense to me. I mean cameras of this quality are shirley sealed against the weather, and I'd have a dry bag at the ready.

So, that's what I did from Maine through Vermont. Somewhere along the way, I heard from my buddy as to how his camera had suffered significant dirt and water intrusion to the point that Fuji would not honor the warranty. He never had it in the rain, but sweat dripping off his nose, and coming through his shirt apparently carried dust and dirt through openings in the body for switches and buttons.

I researched whether the X100 was weather-sealed and found this statement on a Fuji Finepix X100 page:
No. With a fixed lens, there's minimal chance of dust finding its way on to the sensor, but suitable precautions should be taken in damp or dusty conditions.

To be fair, it looks like the only camera in this market segment that is weather resistant is the Olympus OM-D, and it's a micro four thirds camera.

I had been concerned about the amount of condensation I'd seen on the camera back from sweat off my shirt, the possibility of sweat dripping off my face, or about drops of water dripping from a water bottle - tho I had never seen any. My friend's message was timely because my power switch was getting progressively tighter, and my warranty was about to end. I shipped it off to factory repair, and they returned it with the note "Replaced top cover, adjusted, cleaned, inspected. Repaired liquid damage as courtesy."

With two thirds of the trail to go, I need to determine how to protect the camera without strapping on excessive weight? I went to the font of all X100 knowledge, the X Series Camera Forum, and found folks had recommended the Op/Tech Digital D-Compact Neoprene Pouch. It's a clever design in that it is basically an envelope that wraps around the camera, with a small plastic snap hook on the end of a short tether. It snaps to one's shoulder strap so that when you open it up and pull the camera out, the cover hangs out of the way. The X100 fits with both a filter and a lens shade.

And it only weighs 2 ozs!

This looks like a pretty good solution that should help protect the camera from bumps, bruises, water, sweat, dust and dirt - Albeit at the expense of a short delay in getting the shot.

Op/Tech makes these cases in several sizes to fit most cameras, and their website lets you enter your camera make and model to find the one that fits yours best.

How do you protect your camera on the trail while keeping it ready to catch that "decisive moment?"


"Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter." - Ansel Adams