“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”
(warning: I am biased towards Canon. This can be applied to other brands with their similar products as well)
Of course, you could go with a sleek mirrorless setup like Canon's EOS M - but for me, I couldn't deal with not having a viewfinder and the incredibly short battery life that results from constantly using the LCD screen.
Another option would be Canon's new SL1, which seeks to fill the lightweight category while still offering a viewfinder and the resulting battery life that will last you a full trip through the great outdoors. This may do the trick for you, but for me I had problems with the following:
- The kit lens quality was simply disappointing for my standards. I tend to greatly value 1) sharpness of an image and 2) excellent bokeh for backpacking portraits (see the images below for an explanation). The range of the kit lens, the small maximum aperture (f/ 3.5 - f/ 5.6), and the glass just weren't producing results I enjoyed. I much prefer fixed lenses for the sharpness they provide, even at low cost, or L-series zoom lenses (much more expensive, as achieving sharp images across a zoom spectrum takes more work on the lens-maker's part!).
- Being primarily a Western landscape photographer, I just couldn't achieve the wide-angle shots I was so accustomed to getting with my full-frame body and wide-angle lens.
- I just didn't feel hipster enough. I recognize this should have probably been the #1 concern.
For me, I prefer very nicely rounded balls of light (achieved by shooting at maximum aperture) for Christmas Photography to give the feel of Christmas lights in the background without distracting from my subject (notice how the sharpness serves to pull attention toward the subject - this is why I greatly value sharpness).
For backpacking, however, I value something very different - I want a soft background that still gives a feel for the extraordinary landscape by which the subject is surrounded. I don't care so much about the 'roundness' of the balls of light. In this respect, a smaller maximum aperture (like f/5.6) may serve to limit my possibilities, forcing me to get closer to a subject to achieve the effect I want.
Since I know I am going to be compromising quality anyway when I choose to bring a smaller camera backpacking, I seek to both expand the potentials of my creativity and maximize my chances of ending up with a workable shot that I actually want to use. I use film.
Here's the setup:
1) I said it before - using B+W film simply makes you a better photographer. Rather than pointing and shooting at anything and everything and seeing how it turns out, you must become a student of light, composition, texture, and contrast. You must think about the scene far before you ever put the camera up to your face. If you don't already know, there are some amazing health benefits and job benefits to working the right side of your brain in such a manner.
The major downside? ISO is pretty much locked into place. On the bright side, the ISO sensitivities of the DSLR models described above pretty much suck anyways, so you would typically be using them in the 400 to 800 range at the highest anyway.
With this in mind, though, I use tmax 100 on trips that I am expecting bright conditions and plan to be using larger apetures to produce background blur. This allows me to stay in range of the cameras shutter speed capabilities and my own handheld shot capabilities. Of course, if you bring a tripod with you why not use tmax 100? On trips where I don't want to bring a tripod and I am expecting cloudy conditions and use of small apertures for crisp landscape shots, (like my trip to Pingora) I use tmax 400.
Furthermore, film cameras like the Elan will be capable of using lenses that you already have and use on your main DSLR. Sweet!
Lastly, your film camera will be full-frame. Oh sweet beauty!
Well, you have made it to the end. You deserve a paleo cookie. If you benefited from this information, please share it and then get out there, shoot photos, and share your story with us.
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