Camera Advice Wanted

SheilaP

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I just posted an ad in the "buy & sell" section, but I am looking for advice too!

I want to get a camera for us to take on a three week kayaking trip next summer. Only problem is, I am quite clueless in this domain.

How do you deal with batteries or charging? (We have no civilized stops.)
Do you need more 'memory cards.'
What else am I going to need?

:( I just don't even know where to start. I would like to find a second hand set up too or find out about and affordable set up.

Thanks all.
 

steele

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I am not a expert, but have some experience with this.

First you need to decide if you will be using the camera on the water. If so you will need a splash proof model or a dedicated water resistant case. This narrows your choices. If not you will still need a small dry bag to protect it from moisture even in your storage areas.

Modern memeory cards are cheap and have huge storage capacity, but you might consider at least one spare in case you go nuts with pictures or a card fails. Most retail card pakages have a table on the back indicating how many shots you will get for a given mega-pixal camera.

Many cameras have a dedicated, expensive rechargable battery. This would generate the need to travel with a photocell charger or hand crank. A better option is to choose a model that takes standard AA bateries. You could then still use rechargable AAs at home, but travel with extra single us ones on the water.

Consider a cheap mini plastic tri-pod. This will extend your photography by allowing self portraits and shooting in low light.

A good resource is dpreview.com. They provide unbiased reviews and have lots of practicle info on battery life, card type, size etc,

Tom
 

Mark_Schilling

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Just to cover the basics:

Assuming you want something with a degree of waterproofness, you have a choice of either a stand-alone, waterproof camera or a 'conventional' camera for which a waterproof housing is offered. Some manufacturers, including Canon, Sony and Olympus to name a few, produce specific housings for some (but not all!) of their models. You can also buy a generic housing that's basically a tough plastic bag with a glass lens, which many cameras will slide into. It will allow you to use many of the functions of the camera, but they're usually a bit clumsy and awkward to handle (a bit like wearing thick gloves). Since you're starting from scratch, I'd recommend looking for a camera that's either completely waterproof on its own or one for which a housing is made that is specific to that model of camera.

The other option is simply to get any digital camera and be careful about when and where you take photos.

The point has been made that many models now have proprietary batteries. If you want to recharge or replace them in the field, it can be a hassle. Probably better to choose a camera that takes a conventional sized battery (like AAs). Then you can take as many as you think you'll need, or better yet, invest in a solar charger so you can keep a steady supply of charged batteries while you enjoy sunny days on the beach (and not contribute to the ecological disaster of discarded single-use batteries).

One point that you may also consider if you choose a camera with housing is memory cards. They're getting bigger all the time. SD cards are something of a standard now, although many other formats do exist. Many cameras will accept SD cards up to 2GB, which will allow you to take a few hundred photos on a single card (depending on image quality and resolution). In the last few years another format, SDHC, has become available. The cards are the same physical size but will hold up to 8GB of data (and that figure continues to climb - 16GB cards will be released very soon). If you want to be able to take advantage of SDHC cards, your camera has to be compatible with that format. For example, my S2 is not, so I'm limited to 2GB SD cards with that camera. My A710IS, however, is SDHC compatible. That means I can shoot more photos and/or video without having to open the case to change cards - something I won't consider doing on rough water. So, you may consider getting one or two very high capacity memory cards in favour of more, smaller cards. Since purchasing my first digital camera in 2001 I've never had a card failure, so although it's a possibilty, I don't mind risking one card to all my photos (so long as you look after the cards well).

Right now my largest capacity card is 2GB, which allows me to shoot about 16 minutes of video clips at 640x480, 30 fps (the highest setting the camera has), or about 638 still images at the best image quality and resolution. I've just ordered an 8GB SDHC card which will allow me to take over an hour of continuous video or over 2500 stills, without opening the case (so long as my batteries are capable of powering the camera that long!). I'm quite looking forward to that. 8)

For extended trips, I use a portable card reader / hard drive system that allows me to backup all my images and video to a laptop hard drive (battery operated and rechargeable). So while I may only have about 5 or 6 GB of SD cards in my arsenal, I can store over 160,000 photos with what I have in my boat. So far I haven't come close to that on a single trip (about 2800 is my 'record', and I'm beginning to regret taking that many). :shock:

Then there are all sorts of other factors to be considered when selecting a camera, like how much manual control you want to have (including, for example, shutter speed and/or aperture controls, manual focusing, etc.). As you learn more about photography you may (or may not) want a camera that will afford you more freedom over controls, to capture some more visually interesting and unique images.
 

Dave_Barrie

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Mark has pretty much got it covered there. My fancy shot camera is a Canon S1 in a waterproof housing, takes great pics and it can go 130 ft down....but it is bulky. I also carry a Pentax Option W20 which is great, it fits in one of the pockets on my PFD so it's always available for the quick shots, and it's waterproof on it's own. Oh yeah, a Sony digicam in a waterproof housing, and a helmet cam as well.

I always carry a spare card or two on longer trips, they're cheap and small. For landbased trips I do what Mark does and dump pics onto my laptop...for waterbased trips where I don't want to bring the laptop along (I have a waterproof case for that too :p ) I have a handy little device that lets me dump my pics onto my iPod, which I take for tunes already.

I carry a solar charger for my batteries, all of them - Cameras, VHF, headlamp, iPod, DVD player, Blackberry etc. - free power once you've got the batteries. Don't skimp on the batteries though, the better ones pay for themself over time. And invest is some battery holders, don't let then roll around loose in a container.
 

DarenN

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Dave B;
do you have a solar charger that works with the Pentax Optio proprietary battery? link please? i have the W30 and am vexed at keeping powered up on longer trips.
DarenN.......
 

DarrenM

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Im ordering one of these!! 8)


For work...... I don't think they will let me take it kayaking... :cry:


My personal set up is the same as Daves, minus the Pentax and helmet cam

(Helmet cam coming soon tho...)
 

Dave_Barrie

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DarenN said:
Dave B;
do you have a solar charger that works with the Pentax Optio proprietary battery? link please? i have the W30 and am vexed at keeping powered up on longer trips.
DarenN.......
You bet....for the charger itself I got THIS setup. The charger is much smaller than the proprietary one. You may need to check if it's compatible with the W30 battery. I've purchased a lot of electronic items through this site and give them a very big 2 thumbs up.

And for the solar power I'm using THIS ONE...they do come on sale every so often.
 

Dave_Barrie

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Nope....it looks just the same but takes the different battery :p

And DarenN I just had a quick look and the W30 battery is a bit different. But I did find a bunch of similar chargers for yours HERE :p
 

Dan_Millsip

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Dave, what do you use for charging AA's?

(the solar panel is now on the Christmas wish list)

Apologies Shiela, for the off topic stuff -- I generally pull my Canon S3 IS out in it's naked state to take photos. If it's particularly nasty weather, I'll use my Canon S1 IS in it's waterproof housing -- same bulky set up that Dave mentioned earlier -- it works good though.

*****
 

Dave_Barrie

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I use THIS ONEit works very well...it also has a matching solar panel that can piggyback onto it so it can charge via AC, DC or Solar power. And the cool thing about the solar panels that fit on these is that they can be daisy chained together for more power...Darren and I have done that.

But I digress, I like this charger because it holds/stores lots of batteries and it fits nicely into the bag that comes with my big folding solar panel.

One thing to avoid is the rapid chargers, not only can they end up shortening the life of your batteries but they can draw too much for solar panels.
 

Mark_Schilling

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Dave_Barrie said:
For landbased trips I do what Mark does and dump pics onto my laptop...for waterbased trips where I don't want to bring the laptop along...
Sorry if my original post was misleading. No, I won't take the laptop on a trip. I have a small device that incorporates a card reader, rechargeable battery and small hard drive into a single unit about 4 1/2" x 3" x 1". The hard drive is a standard laptop-sized unit (9.5mm) so the storage space is limited only to whatever size drive you install. It's similar to Dave's iPod I suppose, but does not serve any purpose other than data storage (it's also good for transferring large work files from one location to another without having to fire up a laptop).
 

Astoriadave

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SheilaP said:
I want to get a camera for us to take on a three week kayaking trip next summer. Only problem is, I am quite clueless in this domain. :( I just don't even know where to start. I would like to find a second hand set up too or find out about and affordable set up.
Getting back to Sheila's original request:

Sounds like you are looking for a simple, lower cost system. And, maybe one of low bulk.

1. Power: Choose a camera powered by AA batteries. Shooting maybe 15-20 photos a day, few using flash, I can get by on a set of AA's (smaller cameras use only 2) for each week. Rechargeables are nice, but alkaline batteries are simple, and avoid the extra weight and bulk of a charger.

2. Waterproofness: 3 choices:

A. Small camera in a waterproof housing designed to allow the camera to operate within the housing. You'll have to look hard for this. That housing for a small Canon Mark is selling (sold?) might be a good choice if you can find a used version of the camera that fits it. It is older and only has about 2 Mpixels/picture. Mark can tell you where to get one, I suspect. The cost of the housing can equal the cost of the camera.

B. Small, waterproof (must be rated submersible) camera. Lots of these out there. You will probably want to store this in a PFD pocket so it is handy. I would not store one of these on deck. WP cameras run more than non-WP cameras, but if you stick to 3MPixels or so, maybe you can find a good one for $200?? Others will know this market better than I do. Keeping the lens water droplet-free is a problem with this approach.

C. Small NONwaterproof camera, stored in a Pelican microcase (I use their 1020) on deck. This is what I am doing, with an Olympus FE-130, which has a 3x zoom lens and 5.1 MPixels (the more Pixels/picture, the better the resolution). Cost: about $20 for the case, and $150 for the camera. [Choose the case to fit the camera: depth is the limiting measurement.]

This works well on relatively mild waters; not so well on rough waters or in places where there is a lot of salt spray. You have to unsnap the case (lanyarded to the deck), pull the camera (keeping it away from wet hands), snap the case (a one-hand job), shoot the picture, and then reverse the process. This is easier to do than it is to describe. Sometimes I slip the camera wrist loop into my teeth, paddle a few yards to a new position, and shoot a couple photos this way before returning the camera to its case.

Global considerations:

Pixels/picture: 3 MPixels is enough for paddling snapshots. For higher quality, better-resolution shots, you will want 5 to 7 MPixels/photo. You'd think more Pixels would be better in all cases, but shooting from a moving, tippy platform makes camera motion the limiting factor for most such shots. OTOH, if you expect to shoot while on land, then you can make good use of all those extra Pixels for arty shots of driftwood, companions, tidal forms, sunsets, etc.

Zoom: optical zooms to 3 power are about the useful limit shooting from a kayak because of the unstable, tippy shooting platform. Digital zooms do not give good resolution at higher zooms because they just take a smaller bite out of the original image, using fewer Pixels. You can do that later, at home, with simple image cropping.

Viewing: those lovely LCD screens do not work well in glary conditions or bright sunshine, especially if you are in the bifocal age bracket. If possible (Canon seems to have many models with this feature), get a camera that has one of those little peepholes called an optical viewfinder. It is what all point and shoot cameras used to have, before the digital business took over. Usually, you can turn off the LCD screen, and use the little peephole, and prolong battery life, too.

Image Stabilization: The single most useful "advanced" feature for shots on the water. Camera motion effects are greatly minimized, allowing use of a camera with fewer Pixels. Note: you probably will not find true IS on smaller, cheaper cameras. "Digital" IS is not as good as true "Optical" IS, in which a little mechanism senses camera motion and physically tunes the lens to minimize motion effects on focus. Canon makes some great versions of true IS.

How to proceed: Find a camera (or two) which has the features you want, and then go to Steve's Digital Camea reviews, which are comprehensive, relatively unbiased, and delivered in a consistent format, making model-to-model comparisons easy. Steve: http://www.steves-digicams.com/cameras_dig5.html (linking to the selection of 5 MPixel cameras; fish around and you can find ones with more Pixels, and fewer Pixels)

When you have a couple choices in your sights, report back, and get the real low down on the choices from the many gearheads here. As you can tell, they are really into this stuff!

Hope this helps.
 

SheilaP

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Hey thanks everyone!!!!!!!

I like the off topic info, I am just learning that much more! (Its why I post here! LOL! :lol: ) Solar powered, who would have thought? I thought that was still an idea not a reality! We have a little crank flashlight that charges a cell phone, not that it is much use kayaking...

Thanks Steele & Dave for seeing that I may have needed some beginner info. Yes I did! Maybe someone should host a kayaking/camera info workshop! (Mark :wink: )

Space is going to be very tight, so I am leaning toward that "disposable battery" option I think. Money is also a concern. I wanted to spend $200 or less, although if persuaded...

Darren are you planning on making a movie or something? Shall we bring you along as a film crew? :wink: (Although I wouldn't want anyone filming me after that many weeks of saltwater showers! See pic below, that is what saltwater does to my hair! LMAO!)


With all these 'gigs' leaping about, I am still hoping that someone upgrades and I can grab something second hand! 8) I have the time to wait. (7 months and counting.)

Mark, I want a camera like the one you have mounted to your boat! :shock: Now that would be handy!
 

Mark_Schilling

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SheilaP said:
Mark, I want a camera like the one you have mounted to your boat! :shock: Now that would be handy!
That's my A710IS in its waterproof housing. I use a RAM suction-cup mount to secure it to the boat, with a tether just in case (yes, the tether gets used more often than you may think!). If this is the route you decide to go, we can venture into that topic later - but they are very good mounting solutions for any device (cameras, GPS's, PDAs, laptops etc.) to virtually any platform (boat, car, bike etc.).

Astoriadave said:
Small camera in a waterproof housing designed to allow the camera to operate within the housing. You'll have to look hard for this. That housing for a small Canon Mark is selling (sold?) might be a good choice if you can find a used version of the camera that fits it.
Yes, I still have it. The camera it fits (Canon A400) is a very good little unit, if a bit basic in terms of functions. It's 3.2 megapixels, and used ones have been selling on eBay lately for around $40-55 US. You may also be able to find a used one more locally.
 

Astoriadave

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Oh, man, Sheila, that rig Mark has would be just about ideal for you as a "starter" arrangement: bomb proof, idiot proof, and a very good, low cost option.

No, Mark did not tell me to say any of this, but the camera is small, has an optical viewfinder, and the housing eliminates any concerns about trashing the camera while in use. If I lived in Canada, I would spring for it myself. I have had very good results with Canon, and my existing method (the Peli drybox on deck) is less than ideal for the kind of paddling I do.

If you can get hold of a decent used one (eBay away!), I'd say go for it!

You might want to nail down the case first. I imagine Mark's price would be very tough to beat.
 
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