Sunday, March 5, 2017

OT: Downsizing for the road

Anticipating another overseas trip--to Africa, this time--I'm once again toying with buying a travel camera. Regular readers may recall (Hah! Just kidding. I know there aren't any regular readers, except bots) that I've been down this road before, in this post and others.

Our tour company, Overseas Adventure Travel, is very strict about luggage on this particular trip, small aircraft being involved. So strict are they that weeks before the trip they sent us each a mandatory duffel bag. That and a daypack are all you get. Susan and I have traveled enough by now that we're able to pack lightly and efficiently, so the duffel isn't a terrible inconvenience. We're trying out some "packing cubes" to help us organize but it seems manageable.

The daypack, however, presents a problem. My daypack is my camera bag: a Lowepro Fastpack 250. In it I carry my Nikon D750, Tamon 24-70 zoom, Nikkor f4 70-200 zoom, my old Nikkor 50mm normal, and the usual array of batteries, charger, filters, extension rings, SD cards, pens, pencils, flashlight, etc.

There are actually two problems. First, at 13 pounds the weight of this kit is becoming unpleasant. Second, I need more space in the camera bag for non-photo stuff like rain gear and carry-on necessities. On past trips I'd sometimes shift a lens or two into my suitcase if they weren't needed that day, but a floppy duffel bag isn't the place to keep lenses. The Lowepro is close to the carry-on size limit for this trip, so a bigger pack won't work either, even if my aging back could handle the weight. What to do?

You gearheads can guess where this is going: mirrorless micro four thirds cameras. They've been around a while...long enough for capable used ones to appear...and they are small and light. I've taken the plunge and purchased a used Lumix GX7 with the Lumix G f1.7 20mm kit lens and a new Lumix G Vario 45-150mm f4-5.6 zoom.

There will be compromises involved. Battery life will be one. In Vietnam I was draining a battery before lunch shooting with the Canon PowerShot G1X Mark II and I fear the GX7 may have the same problem. It seems to be the price of using electronic viewfinders or screens in lieu of optical. I'll probably spring for a second battery, but at $49 they aren't cheap. My 24-70mm Tamron, which is my primary landscape lens, will be staying home and I'll miss it. Image stabilization might not be as good as my full-frame gear, and I doubt the low-light performance will be as robust.

The positives will outweigh the negatives, one hopes. Lighter and smaller gear are the main attractions. I'll have a 300mm (equivalent) instead of the Nikkor 200mm that is a bit short for wildlife work, and it will weigh in at 234 grams instead of 922 grams. The camera body and normal lens are similarly slimmed. A feature I look forward to trying is the truly silent electronic shutter mode. Combined with a rotating eyepiece it should make candids and street-shooting less intrusive. And if everything fits easily and feels light, I might see fit to take a monopod along.

No comments:

Post a Comment