Grand Canyon Hike - 4 Camera Recommendations

Discussion in 'Digital Cameras' started by P G, Dec 8, 2003.

  1. P G

    P G Guest

    Hi all,

    I am planning on hiking down the Grand Canyon around Christmas time. I want
    to take a good camera along. I have a 2MP camera, and am thinking that
    given that I may not do this again for quite some time, I am better off
    taking a 5 or 6MP camera along. Based on my weekend research, here are 3
    choices that came up:

    1. Minolta Dimage G500 5MP
    2. Canon S50 5MP
    3. HP Photosmart 945 (5.3MP and 8x opt zoom)
    4. Canon EOS Digital Rebel (the new Digital SLR)

    My questions are:
    1. Given that I don't have a collection of SLR lenses, what benefit does a
    SLR really give me? Other than going from 5MP to a 6.3 MP. Its
    significantly more $ than the other 3 choices, and its not clear to me what
    all the performance benefits will be. I went to Canon's site and saw that
    the SLR sample photos were simply gorgeous and instantly fell in love.
    Then, I saw the sample images for the Canon S50, and instantly fell in love
    again :)

    2. Any advice on tradeoffs in the first 3 cameras listed? The benefit of
    the HP is the 8x optical zoom, for roughly the same price the G500 and S50
    only have 3x optical zoom.

    P G, Dec 8, 2003
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  2. P G

    Chris Brown Guest

    Control and image quality. I've seen 5 megapixel zoom compacts that couldn't
    compete with the images from a 3 megapixel D30 because the D30 has much
    cleaner output, thanks to its larger pixels.
    Chris Brown, Dec 8, 2003
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  3. P G

    Al Dykes Guest

    My experience taking a camera into the mountains is that a wide angle
    lens is a must. My favorite film lens is the 24MM Nikon, and I didn't
    comsider a digital camera I could afford until the 300D came out, with
    the 18-55 lens. That makes it 30MM, not very wide but wider than any
    P&S I'm familiar with. I may keep my Nikon FE2+24MM lens combo.
    Al Dykes, Dec 8, 2003
  4. P G

    ßowser Guest

    The Digital Rebel is the best, since it has the best output.

    However, there's something else you may want to consider: batter life. How
    long are you going to be on the trail? Taking a second CF card is not big
    deal, but if the battery dies, you have nothing.
    ßowser, Dec 8, 2003
  5. P G

    Frank Weston Guest

    The first thing you should know about and DSLR, is that compared to other
    digitals, they are very large and very heavy, and they require a lot of very
    large, very heavy and very expensive lenses. Since you're hiking, the size
    and weight issue may be very important to you.

    The advantage to a DSLR is not necessarily a greater number of pixels, but
    the extreme high quality and versatility of the lenses that can be mated to
    it. However, without experience, and between now and Christmas, you won't
    be able to get that experience, you would never be able to make use of the
    capability of these lenses.

    My advice is to pick a more flexible and easier to use non-DSLR. There are
    some good ones to consider that will mate with simple and cheap wide angle
    and telephoto adapters and have more than adequate pixel count. Here would
    be my short list:

    Nikon 5700 more expensive, but more pixels, and more zoom with a better
    lens. With adapters for wide and tele, expect to pay about $1200 new, but
    good used deals are available for way less. You'll need a camera bag.

    Canon A80 less expensive, smaller and lighter, way more compact, but with
    very good image quality. With adapters for wide and tele, expect to pay
    about $650. There's also a neat underwater housing available. This camera
    could be carried in a pocket.
    Frank Weston, Dec 8, 2003
  6. P G

    Dave Oddie Guest

    I thnk that is an important factor.

    Also the other important factor mentioned elsewhere is the wide angle
    capability you may need for where you are going.

    You don't need to get the 300D/DRebel to get circa 30mm. The Nikon 5400 is
    28mm, the Olympus 5060 27mm and the Minolta A1 28mm. These are all smaller
    and lighter than the dSLR option.

    You can add converter lenses to the 5400 and 5060 to get even wider (19mm with
    the Oly 5060) but they are big thing to carry so defeats the object of going
    for these more compact camers in the first place.

    Dave Oddie, Dec 8, 2003
  7. P G

    Chris Brown Guest

    OTOH, the Canon EF 15mm f/2.8 fisheye is pretty small and light, and gives
    the equivalent horizontal field of view to a 19mm rectilinear lens on a 35mm
    camera. I tend to prefer the fisheye projection for landscapes as well.

    A 300D with one of these wouldn't be terribly heavy at all. The lack of a
    lens cap might be a bit of a pain though.
    Chris Brown, Dec 8, 2003
  8. P G

    Dave Cohen Guest

    Well, I was there last April, and the first thing you better get is some
    warm boots, we had snow. Anyway, I was using a very modest canon A40. I
    would say A80 should do fine. Take a tripod and practice panoramic shooting.
    I don't think it's easy to capture the beauty of all you can see with one's
    eyes but you'll have a lot of fun trying. I like the canon A series, you get
    long battery life and it's to carry spares.
    Dave Cohen
    Dave Cohen, Dec 8, 2003
  9. P G

    DHB Guest

    Frank Weston said it quite well. A DSLR would give you the best
    potential quality but it's also considerably heaver, larger & there is a
    greater leaning curve to it than a quality non DSLR.

    With that said I would consider something smaller. Canon's A80 & S50
    are both good choices & each has some advantages over the other. The A80
    easily accepts filters & lens converters with the purchase of an inexpensive
    adapter. The S50 offers Canon's RAW mode which may be of interest to you
    depending on if you plan on doing much editing of your pictures.

    Power is always a consideration when hiking / camping or being away from
    the AC power grid to recharge batteries. The A80 runs on 4 "AA" NiMH
    rechargeable batteries & has very good battery life. The advantage of "AA"
    cells is that there are several small solar chargers available to recharge
    them & you may wish to consider this if you will be away from the AC power
    grid for several days. You will likely have lot's of sunshine so attaching
    a small charger to the outside of your back pack so it can charge a extra
    set of batteries during the day might be an advantage.

    Lastly, a small quality camera like the A80 or something similar will
    likely met most of your every day needs for years to come. Thus the
    investment you are considering should be considered with it's usefulness to
    you after the planned trip as well.

    There was an individual that posted to this news group about 3 months
    ago. He also did a Grand Canyon hike /camping trip & he posted his before &
    after comments about his picture taking. He expected to be in need of both
    wide angle & telephoto but was surprised to find that most of his pictures
    were wide angle & macro with very few telephoto shots. Thus you may wish to
    consider a camera with a very wide angle lens or a wide angle attachment &
    good macro abilities because there are a lot of little things you may wish
    to capture as well.

    For anyplace as large as the Grand Canyon you can never get it all in a
    single picture even with a wide angle lens. So consider taking a small
    light weight tripod so you can do a level pan taking overlapping pictures so
    you can "stitch" them together for a full panoramic picture. Most digital
    cameras offer such modes & the software to combine the pictures. There are
    also separate companies that provided reasonably priced panoramic software
    to stitch your pictures together better & offer additional features as well.

    You may also wish to make sure that the digital camera you select has a
    manual mode so that you can take long exposure pictures of sunsets &
    sunrises on your tripod. A final note: take a cheap disposable 35mm camera
    as well, it's rarely a good idea to have all of your eggs in 1 basket no
    matter how good that basket may be!

    Hope you find something useful in all of this.

    Respectfully, DHB
    DHB, Dec 8, 2003
  10. P G

    jean Guest

    I hiked the canyon with my second digital camera, a Kodak DC240 which was a
    bit of a battery hog. At that time I only had one good set of NiMh
    batteries so I turned off the LCD completely and only used the rangefinder.
    Did the down and up trip in two days, took many many pictures, almost
    filling my then big 64Mb card. The batteries lasted the whole time and I
    threw away the bad ones the day after when my strenght returned.

    If I had to do it over, I would take my Drebel, an extra battery, all the
    cards I have as well as my other digicam (S400). No real need for long
    lenses because a wide angle is better suited. I would also take some
    pictures I could stitch together, up, down, left and right.

    jean, Dec 8, 2003
  11. P G

    CR Optiker Guest

    Lots of good advice. Some opinion...that are intended to
    stimulate your own decision process, not make your decisions follow.

    (1) already mentioned is size and weight suggesting that an "all-in-one"
    camera might be best, but, don't expect there to be no tradeoffs in
    performance. DSLR with appropriate set of lenses/accessories gives maximum
    performance with maximum flexibility - and maximum size and weight.
    (2) high pixel count may be very useful when you see things you want to
    shoot, but can't get to a location for best composition - at home, you'll
    crop to compose because in the field, you couldn't compose ideally
    (3) long zoom may be important for the same reasons as (4), but 10X without
    stabilization could be a problem, though not necessarily in bright daylight
    (4) for me, macro is always important - the closer the better
    (5) as mentioned, the ideal may be tough to get in the few weeks remaining
    before may have to settle for less, especially if you are
    considering any of most recently released cameras.

    I guess that if I had to make that decision with my experience level and
    preferences, it would take me a while to do my homework, but my parameters
    aren't yours. However, sinc eyou already will have a snapshot camera along
    for...well... for snapshots...I'd go for a camera offering more potential
    for creativity and for bringing home those few rare shots that will hang on
    your wall for a long time. I'd start with a short list of cameras with 5 MP
    or more, and with greater than 5X optical zoom, and new enough to have been
    reviewed no further back than early 2002.

    From Steve's list of cameras with 5 MP or more and greater than 5X optical
    zoom, that then includes: Fuji S602 (6X, reviewed April 02); Fuji S7000
    (6X, reviewed Oct 03); HP 945 (8X, reviewed Nov 03); Minolta 7Hi (7X,
    reviewed Sept 02); Minolta A1 (7x, reviewed Aug 03); Nikon 5700 (8X,
    reviewed May 02); Sony F828 (7X, reveiwed Aug 03, but not yet available). I
    won't buy an HP, the Minolta 7Hi had terrible reviews on battery
    consumption, and the Sony isn't yet available.

    My own recent short list was the Nikon 5700, Minolta A1 and Fuji S7000 - I
    bought the Minolta. I seriously considered 4 MP cameras, so came close to
    buying the Oly 750, and if I wasn't willing to go with the bulk of an
    SLR-like camera, that would have been a strong contender.

    As always...just my opinions
    CR Optiker, Dec 8, 2003
  12. P G

    Steve m... Guest

    <stuff deleted>

    Batteries for DRebel are available at Walmart for $25. They are even
    higher in mah capacity than the Canon ones.
    (1300mah vs 1100mah) Plus, the rebel will take a CR2016 Battery as well.

    Steve m... (got one today)
    Steve m..., Dec 9, 2003
  13. P G

    P G Guest

    Hi everyone, thanks for the wonderful replies. AFter reading and thinking a
    bit, here are my thoughts:

    - Image resolution is important to me as I do plan on enlarging, maybe to
    11x14 if I get a worthy shot

    - The most important thing everyone has replied here, other than accessories
    such as batteries/tripod is getting a wide angle lens.

    - A worthwhile digital camera with wide aperture and high pixels would be
    upwards of $500
    - Anything upward of $500 would be hard for me to justify,

    (drum roll)

    - I am thinking of falling back to good old Film!
    I am now leaning towards a film SLR such as the Minolta Maxxum 4 which my
    local Costco has for around $200 (I went after work today!), with a 28-80 mm
    lens (they also have a Canon EOS, but that one has a 35mm minimum focal
    Weight, sure, that would be a downside, but if all other requirements are

    BTW, without spawning a film vs digital debate, I am assuming that a good
    film (ISO 100) will at least equal 5MP. Since I don't take such photos
    often, this will be my specialist camera, augmenting my 2mp snapshooter for
    "mundane" use.

    The cheap disposable is a very good idea, BTW, thanks for reminding me. We
    ran out of batteries in our last vacation and boy was I sorry we didn't have
    a backup.

    As always, comments welcome. And thanks again everyone!

    -- Paul
    P G, Dec 9, 2003
  14. P G

    Frank Weston Guest

    A canon A80 with a wide angle adapter will weigh in at about $500 and will
    deliver excellent 11x14 prints.

    Do you really want to juggle rolls of film for a week or two. Wouldn't you
    rather know you got the shot right when you take it than to wonder for
    weeks? How will you feel if all the shots are bad when they come back from
    the lab a month later? Do you want to rely on a photo lab to determine the
    correct exposure and color balance of your images?

    Given that the image quality of the A80 will be roughly equivalent to what
    you could get from a $200 film camera, the issues of portability,
    convenience, and image manipulation weigh very strongly in favor of digital.

    You did post to a digital newsgroup after all.
    Frank Weston, Dec 9, 2003
  15. P G

    Ray R Guest

    I have done the hike a couple times. Last Month I did South Kiabab to Phantom
    Ranch and back up the Bright Angel Trail as a day trip. 18 miles in 12 hours.
    At 63 I am a slow walker. I brought my Canon PowerShot S230 and took
    120 pictures. Two factors to consider. I do not like a weighty camera
    from my neck. It is a hazard on more hikes that are more challenging then GC.
    I would not have taken as many pictures if I had to stop and get equipment out
    of my pack. A pocket camera is a real plus hiking.

    Second factor is with a digital camera and good stitching program MP becomes
    less of a factor on wide scenics. Take a lot of pictures, stitch them
    and you have a lot of MP. I have done panoramas with camera vertical in
    that turned out great. I have a picture that has 35 images of me taken on a
    top that is a 360 degree panorama.

    A third factor is with a less costly camera you don't have to be as cautious
    damaging it. A small pocket camera is less likely to suffer damage than a
    Ray R, Dec 9, 2003
  16. P G

    max Guest

    "Frank Weston"
    Your advice is probably very sound, but the most importains difference
    between digicams and dslr's has not been mentioned, and it is rarely
    mentioned . No it is not the lens selection, no it is not the pixel or that dslr
    are heavier or bulkier. One thing nobody talks about is image - they produce
    two very different kinds of images. Digicams make tv like images, where
    everything is more or less in focus, good for landscape and macro photography,
    and documentary if only they did not for the most part have the long responce
    time from when you press the shutter to the picture is taken.
    Dslr images are photographic in nature, the images look like photographs as
    they used to look or as they look in magazines, fashion, sports, advertisement
    and portrait, where ever you want a selective focus point and a blurred fore-
    and or background. No matter some digicams are labled prosumer or they
    are built into a mobile phone, they make the same kind of image. The reason
    is they all use a small image chip, whereas dslr's use a bigger one.
    That is what one should consider when moving into digital photography IMHO.
    I'm just a happy amateur, but I think my images illustrate what I mean with the
    use of shallow depth of field, if you're interested. ;o)-max-
    max, Dec 10, 2003
  17. P G

    CR Optiker Guest

    Max...excellent point! You're right...that point seems to be missing.

    It's true that it's the smaller chip that drives the "all-in-focus" but
    it's not just the chip. The smaller chip drives shorter focal length lenses
    for the "normal" image we get accustomed to with a flim 35 mm camera - ie,
    the ever-present "35 mm equivalent focal length" annotation we always see.

    "Normal" focal length is defined (rule of thumb) as the diagnonal of the
    format. Maybe somebody else can explain why for 35 mm film format at 36 mm
    x 24 mm, the diagonal is around 43 mm, but "normal" lenses are typically
    50-55 mm. Anyhow, applying the same to a 6.6 mm x 8.8 mm CCD (for example)
    gives a "normal" rule-of-thumb focal length of 11 mm. We all know that as
    the focal length gets shorter, the depth of field gets greater, and in
    fact, for very short focal length lenses, everything from barely in front
    of the lens to infinity can be in focus. That's the clue to cheap cameras
    with fixed focus lenses - search hyperfocal distance for more detail. We
    also know that telephoto lenses have relatively shallow depth of field.

    That's the underlying reason why digicams with small chips produce overall
    in-focus images, and DSLRs with large sensors can provide a more 35 mm-like
    image with more selective focus.

    Good post! Thanks!
    CR Optiker, Dec 10, 2003
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