Glacier in Alaska taken with 
Nikon N90s from helicopter
Photography Gear Guide
Gear We Use

Like Hiking and Backpacking, Photography is one of my many passions.  Whenever possible, I try to combine those hobbies.  I own and use a large amount of Photography Equipment, each with a specific use.  The equipment used for a car trip is much different than the equipment used on a 5 mile hike or the extreme hike up Half Dome.



Photography Gear Guide

Camera Systems
  Full-size 35mm SLR - Nikon N90S
  Mid-size 35mm Rangefinder - Contax G1
  Compact APS - Minolta Vectis 300
Film
  Fuji Velvia - 50 ASA Slide Film
  Fuji Provia / Sensia - 100 ASA Slide Film
  Kodak Gold - 100 ASA Print Film
Other Accessories
  Equipment Cases
Photography Specific Links



Camera Systems
I use 3 camera systems, each system is used in different circumstances.
Full-size 35mm SLR - Nikon N90s
Mid-size 35mm Rangefinder - Contax G1
Compact APS - Minolta Vectis 300

Nikon N90s - Full-size 35mm SLR
Nikon 28-70mm f3.5-4.5 D AF Nikon 80-200mm f2.8D IF-ED

Description
My primary camera is a Nikon N90s.  I have been using various Nikon camera systems for over 20 years and I have been using the N90s since it was introduced in 1994.  While the N90s is not a compact camera by any means (especially with the MB-10 grip attached).  It is however, a technically superb camera.

Primary Use
Because of the weight and bulk of this camera, it is used for light hikes (flat trails or trails less than about 8 miles) and car trips.  Although I have taken it backpacking I don't recommend it.

The "Hits"
The 3D Matrix Metering is almost always dead-on.  The only time it has not been accurate is in severe backlit situations.
Accurate Autofocus - Originally I wasn't a big fan of Autofocus.  I've since come to appreciate it.
Extensive Shutter Speeds - 30 seconds to 1/8000 of a second in 1/3 stop increments.
Awesome set of lenses

The "Misses"
Heavy - Compared to the Nikon F5, this camera is light, but it is still heavy.  When combined with the Nikon 28-70 f3.5-4.5 it weighs about 2.75 pounds.
Bulky - Even when not using the MB-10 grip, this camera is very bulky.

Lenses Used
I use two lenses with this camera.  My primary lens is a Nikon 28-70 f3.5-4.5D AF zoom.  The other lens I use is a Nikon 80-200 f2.8D IF-ED AF-S zoom.  Both lenses are very sharp, with the fast 80-200 f2.8 possibly being one of the best in it's class (it is also one of the heaviest in it's class).

Other Accessories
Lithium AA Batteries - Lighter and longer lasting than Alkalines
MB-10 Grip - Makes camera easier to hold, especially vertically

Nikon N90s Camera Body Specifications:
Size 6.1"(W) x 4.2"(H) x 2.7"(D)
Weight 26.6 oz. + 4 AA batteries
Film Advance 4.3 frames per second

Nikon 28-70 Lens Specifications:
Weight 12.5 oz.
Focal Range 28-70mm
Minimum Aperture f3.5 - f4.5

Nikon 80-200 Lens Specifications:
Weight 45.9 oz.
Focal Range 80-200mm 
Minimum Aperture f2.8


Contax G1 - Mid-size 35mm Rangefinder
 
Contax Biogon 28mm f2.8 Contax Planar 35mm f2.0 Contax Planar 45mm f2 Contax Sonar 90mm f2.8 Contax TLA 140 Flash

Description
I purchased this camera system in October of 1999 to supplement my Nikon system.  The primary reason I purchased this camera was my desire for a small compact camera that was optically equal to my Nikon System.  Although I haven't used this system very long, it appears to have exceeded my expectations.

I started with the just the 28mm and 45mm.  I liked the system so much, I had to get the 35mm, 90mm, and one of the small flashes.

Primary Use
The primary use for this camera system is for long day hikes and overnight backpack trips.  It is almost one pound lighter than my Nikon system (G1 with 28mm and 45mm compared to the N90s with 28-70 f3.5-4.5).  Because I like this system so much, I have even started using it for travel photography.  Many of my pictures of Egypt were taken with this camera.

The "Hits"
 
The Lenses - The Carl Zeiss lenses for this camera are truly awesome.  The pictures are tack sharp throughout and contrast is excellent.
Compact - This camera is very small.  I can hardly tell I am carrying it
Light - The camera with two lenses (28mm and 45mm) is very light (about 1.75 pounds).  The other camera system I was looking at was the Leica M6, which is awesome, extremely durable, but is much heavier.  The Contax system gives up nothing in the durability area.

The "Misses"
 
Autofocus - The autofocus system is difficult to use.  Primarily because it's a hybrid rangefinder-syle camera without really any manual override or confirmation.  It takes a while to master, but most are happy with it.  The secret is to choose a high contrast object or edge to focus on.
Easy to mis-set - It's very easy to change the exposure compensation.  I've accidentally set the exposure compensation resulting in unfortunate results.
Viewfinder - The viewfinder is smaller and darker than an SLR.  This is typical for most rangefinders.  When the 90mm is used, the image in the viewfinder is a little dark.  Since I primarily use this camera outdoors, the viewfinder brightness doesn't bother me.

Lenses Used
I use four lenses with this camera, all are reasonably fast and razor sharp.  For most hiking trips, I bring the 28mm and 45mm.  Sometimes I take the 90mm, good for that portrait shot or isolating a particular mountain range.  If I'm really strapped for weight or space, I'll just bring the 35mm as a compromise.  Either way the lenses are incredibly sharp and very compact and light.

Contax G1 Camera Body Specifications:
Size x"(W) x X"(H) x X"(D)
Weight 16.2 oz. + 2 CR2 Lithium batteries
Film Advance 2 frames per second

Contax Biogon 28mm Lens Specifications:
Weight 5.3 oz.
Focal Range 28mm
Minimum Aperture f2.8

Contax Planar 35mm Lens Specifications:
Weight 5.3 oz.
Focal Range 35mm
Minimum Aperture f2.0

Contax Planar 45mm Lens Specifications:
Weight 6.7 oz.
Focal Range 45mm 
Minimum Aperture f2.0

Contax Sonar 90mm Lens Specifications:
Weight 8.47 oz.
Focal Range 90mm
Minimum Aperture f2.8

 

Minolta Vectis 300 - Compact APS

Description
This camera is primarily used by Joy.  We bought it to use as a very small, compact, automatic camera.

Primary Use
I've used this camera only on extreme trips, to save weight.  When we hiked Half Dome, I took this camera long.  If you examine the pictures from that trip, you will notice they are optically poor.  APS cameras use negatives that are about 25mm, which significantly smaller than 35mm.  As a result, the picture quality is inferior.  Now that I have purchased the Contax G1 system, I anticipate I will no longer use this camera.

The "Hits"
 
Compact - This camera is very small.  I can hardly tell I am carrying it
Light - The camera with two lenses is very light (about 1.75 pounds)

The "Misses"
 
Image Quality - Poor when compared to my other two systems, but very good for a point and shoot.

Specifications:
Size 3.8"(W) x 2.4"(H) x 2.5"(D)
Weight 7.5 oz.
Focal Range 24-70mm (APS format)
Minimum Aperture f5.7 - f9.8



Film
I fundamentally shoot two types of film, slides and prints.  I prefer to work with Slides because they will always yield higher color saturation and finer grain photographs when compared to print films.  When properly stored, a slide will also last longer than a negative or print.

Fuji Velvia - 50 ASA Slide Film
Of all the films available, Fuji Velvia is my favorite film.  It yields highly saturated images (rich color) and it is high in contrast.  This film is very slow at 50 ASA so it requires proper lighting or a fast lens (such as my Contax lenses).  I shoot more Velvia than any other film.
 

Fuji Provia / Sensia - 100 ASA Slide Film

I shoot Provia 100F or Sensia (Provia is the professional version, while Sensia is the consumer version) when conditions do not permit using Velvia.  It's an excellent film, but does not yield pictures as saturated as Velvia.  The Provia 100F is an incredible film with less grain than Velvia.  When you use a loupe, or blow up an image grain is almost non-existent.

Fuji Astia - 100 ASA Slide Film
This is another of Fuji's 100 ASA Professional Slide Films.  I only use this film for shooting portraits.  It does an excellent job of rendering skin tones.  Velvia is horrible at rendering skin tones, and Provia is only slightly better.
 

Kodak Gold - 100 ASA Print Film

I rarely shoot print film, but when I do, it's Kodak Gold.



Other Accessories
I use numerous other accessories when photographing in the outdoors.
Equipment Cases
Tamarac Backpack Attachments

Equipment Cases

I store my camera equipment in Pelican cases.  I use these same cases for transporting my equipment to the trailhead, which often involves a certain amount of off-roading.  Pelican cases are durable, waterproof, and provide excellent protection.  I store the Nikon system in a 1400 series case and I store the Contax system in a 1200 series case.  I also use a 1500 series case to store both systems together.



Links
Contax
Fuji
Kodak
Minolta
Nikon
Pelican
Tamarac

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This page last changed 28 May, 2004