Backpacking Digital SLR

After about 5 years of using my 3.3 megapixel Olympus C-3040 digital point-and-shoot camera, I decided that I was ready for a digital SLR. The Olympus has been a great camera over the years. With its fast f/1.8 Carl Zeiss lens, it has the ability to take some nice shots even in low light. The photos have turned out nice and sharp under most conditions. However, I’ve learned a lot about photography in the past few years and have felt limited by its point-and-shoot feature set. I had a Minolta 35mm SLR prior to the Olympus and was just getting up to speed thinking in terms of aperature and shutter speeds before I went digital. The Olympus supported these features, but accessing them required drilling down through a few menus. Not only that, but like many digital cameras of its day, its shutter lag requires that I anticipate shots before they happen. Much of the time I’m pressing the button as a smile is forming. I realized that I was ready for a faster camera with controls that allow me to access the functions I need quickly.As I started to research my options, my criteria for the camera and lenses were as follows:

  • Lightweight – I wanted gear suitable for taking on backpacking trips (such as my 3-week John Muir Trail hike). Therefore one of my primary criteria was that it had to be light. I did a lot of research on ultralight backpacking strategies before the JMT hike and I knew that if I really wanted to go light I could carry an ultra-compact point-and-shoot, but I didn’t want to give up the opportunities that the SLR would allow.
  • Appropriate for my photographic needs – It needed to be great for mountain and landscape photography, but just as useful when not on the trail such as at family gatherings and candid shots around the house.
  • Capable of high-quality photos (sharp, little chromatic aberation, little flare) – If I’m going to bother to carry the gear, it had better produce some worthy photos.
  • Headache free (e.g. good build quality, under warranty) – I don’t want anything falling apart on me, but if it does, I want to be able to exchange it for another one. While doing my research, I read too many testimonials in online forums from people who found that they had to return a lens once or twice that did not meet their expectations.
  • Inexpensive as possible without sacrificing the above qualities – In the spirit of Albert Einstein: as cheap as possible, but no more.

After doing quite a bit of research, I settled on the following equipment (getting as much of it as possible from a local camera store in order to make it easier to exchange if necessary):

I’m posting this information for the benefit of fellow hikers with similar criteria in a digital SLR. It took quite a while to do the research, so hopefully this information will save other people some time. Granted, the technology and product line-ups change fairly often and prices go down over time, but I think these things should prove a sound investment. Chances are a camera body with more features will come out in the next year or so, but it is unlikely to get any smaller or lighter for ergonomic reasons. The lenses should be compatible with any future body, though I’ve seen some concern about the use of the EF-S mount in future Canon camera bodies. Only time will tell.Please read on if you’d like to read more about the decision making process. Disclaimer: some of the links that I’ve included go to online retail sites. I have no affiliation with any of them. They just happen to be where I found good information to link to! Also, please note that I wrote the majority of this entry in May 2005 but didn’t get around to finishing it until November 2005. I’ve updated the text appropriately but have left the prices at the original May 2005 values. Continue reading

Bed Bug

It seems so long ago that we were talking about SIDS and whether it was safe to have Kaija sleep in our bed with us. All of those nights with her cradled in my arms, rocking and singing her to sleep… nights when she when she’d wake up crying and we’d need to figure out how long we should wait before going in to check on her… nights where she wouldn’t go to sleep with us in there… nights were she’d fall asleep but wake up as soon as we touched the door knob…Okay, so we’re still experiencing some of those nights. But tonight was another milestone for us… the first night I put her down in her “big girl bed” rather than her crib.Yesterday we moved the furniture around and assembled the bed while Kaija was spending time at her grandparents’ house. The bed is a four-poster hand-me-down that was my mother’s bed when she was a little girl. We didn’t have time to put a mattress pad, sheets or blankets on it before we had to leave for a play and a family dinner. It didn’t matter. Kaija fell asleep in the car on the way home and wouldn’t have been able to appreciate it, so I put her in her crib when we got home.This morning, when I went into her room to get her out of her crib, the first thing she did was point to the new sleeping accomodations across the room with a big smile on her face and said “Bed!” I set her down on the bed and of course the first thing she did was stand up on it and start jumping up and down.Nap time came and went. I had put sheets, a blanket and the safety rail on the bed. I tried to let her take her nap there but she was too excited to lay still. I tried reading her stories, singing to her, lying down on the floor next to the bed with a pillow and blanket… nothing worked.She was more cranky than normal tonight, most likely because of the missed nap and because started getting her ready for bed a little later than normal, but I decided to try to put her in the bed anyway. After the pajamas were put on and the stories were read, she snuggled down under the blankets and was asleep before I finished Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.