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Touring and digital cameras

Old 11-10-03, 09:32 PM
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Touring and digital cameras

32 days to go until my long awaited Tasmanian tour. With all the major issues sorted out, I now start looking at minor things such as how to handle the 250+ pictures I expect to take on this trip. Previously I've used 35mm cameras on other tours, but this one is going to be a little longer than the previous ones (meaning more rolls of film to look after) For some time I've been considering buying a digital camera, and I figure that now is a particularly good time to do so if I intend using it on this tour.

I have a couple of issues here. The first thing is battery life in terms of number of pictures. How many pictures (just looking for a rough ball-park figure) can I expect to get on one battery/set of batteries? Which models of camera should I look for that might offer superior performance in this regard? Would I end up spending more $ on batteries than I would on rolls of film?

Another thing is how many pictures before refreshing the memory card? I have a tendency to get pictures I take on tours enlarged, framed and hung on my wall -- so I'll expect to be using a reasonable degree of resolution to achieve this (I've heard "3 megapixel" mentioned somewhere). Again, what size memory card would I be looking at in order to achieve maximum performance here.

I'll add that there aren't many big cities in Tasmania. About the only places I could have any realistic expectations of burning photos onto CD's are Hobart, Launceston and Devonport. This could mean a couple of weeks (I took 100 photos in two weeks in Victoria last year) between emptying the card.

Of course, the other option is to stick with my current camera, and simply post rolls of film home as I use them up.

Anyway, sorry to go on. I'm just wondering how others have dealt with this issue.
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Old 11-10-03, 09:53 PM
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I have several memory cards for my cameras and really don't worry too much. The price has come down to the point where they are reasonably affordable, comparable to buying rolls of film, but reusable too. It's THE best option if you can't convert them to CD right-away. I currently have 3 cameras but have gone through 6, 2 of them used disks, and the other 4 all use the same type of memory card. VERY cost effective.

As for batteries, if you aren't using the LCD on the camera, you can expect decent battery life, regardless of the camera. I had a Sony that SUCKEd up batteries since the pictures were stored on a disk, with memory cards, this is much less an issue. Additionally Digital Zoom, although not as good as Optical zoom doesn't chew up the battery like Optical zoom.

Like everything in life there are trades offs, when I am worried about battery consumption, I don't use the LCD, I like landscapes and don't use zoom much anyway except at home when batteries aren't an issue for "macro" type close-up functions.

The most notable change for me is the quantity of pictures I take since I went digital. It's so easy to snap some extras just in case, and delete all but the best of the same subject, without wasting film or developing the duds!
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Old 11-10-03, 10:11 PM
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One camera option worth looking at would be Sony Mavicas which use floppy discs and/or CD re-write discs where on an extended tour images can be downloaded quickly and sent away practically at any PC terminal. One downside to these cameras is their slightly larger size.

George
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Old 11-10-03, 10:18 PM
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I'm extremely happy with my Canon A70, which was $300 American. It's got 3.3Megapixels, which is great for the 11X17 prints I've made. If you are looking more for blown-up poster sized prints, a 4 Megapixel might be worth it for you. The Canon digital elph is a great option, and very compact. I've got a 126MB card, which holds all the pictures I've ever took at once, like 90 pictures at the highest resolution setting. For longer periods, though, I'd get a 256MB card, which will give you twice as much. Also, if you get 2 sets of rechargeable Nimh batteries and a quick charger, you can charge the extra set if you stop somewhere with electricity for a few hours.

One thing to remember is that if you are taking tons of pics with a film camera, it will end up costing you much more in the long run. You can always delete the pictures you don't want right there on the LCD screen on a digital camera, thus freeing up more space.
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Old 11-11-03, 06:35 AM
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Things that I will add if you're not worried about weight/size of the digicam is you probably at least want 1 gig of memory if you're going to be writing huge files at the largest picture size and least compression, perhaps 2 512MB memory cards or so. It's nicer to have say 4 256MB cards rather than 2 512MB cards but it's all a tradeoff. It's more redundancy to have more smaller ones but of course it takes up a little space. Also, the larger MP cameras are typically larger and the more optical zoom you have, obviously the lens is going to be longer.

What I've found is that if you're carrying a digicam that's small enough to fit in your back pocket, you take more pictures, rather than having to decide is it worth it to stop and dig through one's panniers/trailer to get the camera, no matter how much to the top it is. The tradeoff with this is the smaller cameras are usually smaller MP so when you're enlarging pictures, you kind of want to shoot large photos to begin with and with the least compression. You might want to make sure the camera has a RAW mode (usually stored in a TIFF).

Batteries, cameras that use regular AA batteries will be more flexible on extended tours, check that. Lithium AA batteries will be better if the region you'll be in is cold.

Having said that, I have a Canon Powershot G3 that I've used and it has a battery pack that has lasted me for a weeklong backpacking tour and also a 200 shots from this year's Tour De france. I only used the LCD for a 2 second review of each frame and the battery had no problems at all. Check out all the digicam websites, most of them will list how many "exposures" it will take on a fresh set of batteries given a certain criteria.

How large enlargements are we talking about? 3MP is a good place to start and they're at a good price point now with the whole bunch of 5+MP cameras out there.

As far as recycling memory cards, if you do bring the PC cable, you may be able to unload your images to a hard drive at an "internet cafe" or some place you can have access to a PC with imaging software. Then you can dl all the photos to the hard drive and perhaps FTP it to your website/ISP or at worst, email it as an attachment...

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Old 11-11-03, 10:07 AM
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well, i'm not up on the newest and latest as i bought my Canon S200 2.1 pegapixel 1 1/2 years ago and have been so happy...

battery life: you basically have 2 types:
1) "regular" AA batteries (or AAA or whatever)
+ can buy batteries anywhere
- the batteries do not last long
2) rechargeable batteries - either NiMH or Lithium Ion
+ much longer life
- expensive, so much recharge either 1 or 2

will you be in hotel or somewhere so once a week you can you recharge? that should be enough if you get a good Lithium Ion battery

Memory/storage:
options:
1) buy enough memory to store all your photos. i take 2.1 mp photos and on my 12 day bike tour last summer i had some space left over with 64MB (daily reviewed and deleted unwanted shots). a friend of mine had 4mp and 512MB and even had room for videos
2) burn photos on a CD -- i'm not up on what's in Australia but i bet there are places that will do this for you in less than 1 hr for a reasonable fee --- then once a week or so burn the CD, erase the card and keep going

unless you are on a very long trip (> 2 weeks) AND you will have no way to recharge batteries and burn a CD once a week or so, i would say digital is WAY better than normal camera --- you can take WAY more pictures and then erase the bad ones --- plus even if you burn CDs the cost of developing and printing 6+ rolls of film is not trivial (might even pay for a comparable memory card). with digital you only pay to print the photos you choose (i personally have taken around 2000 photos in the 1 1/2 years i've had my camera and only printed about 15 photos)
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Old 11-11-03, 11:02 AM
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Some good advice in here, Chris. I particularly agree what Jay H has to say. I use a Canon Powershot G2 (4 MP) and can normally more than fill the memory card on a single charge (256mb card = about 120 highest resolution images), and that's with most shots taken on the LCD. Without using the LCD, the life of NiMH batteries can be quite astounding. It doesn't take too long to freshen up the charge, either - I'm sure you'd be able to do this while having coffee/lunch etc here and there. Taking a large proportion of daytime shots will play in your favour too - less flash = longer battery life.

Keeping the camera small will make you more inclined to pull it out for quick snaps, but as it sounds like you're pretty serious about your photography I'd say this won't be too much of a concern.

My advice to add: im my opinion, ignore the digital zoom. There's no advantage in using digital zoom over cropping the images yourself when you get home. Buy a camera with a decent optical zoom and you'll be laughing. It'll be slightly bigger to carry, but if it's to become your primary camera it'll be worth it. A larger diameter lens will allow more light in faster, thus giving you better quality shots particularly in low light situations without flash (or at least where the flash is not effective e.g. scenery/landscapes).

I'd say get 3MP or 4MP. There won't be a noticable advantage with going to 5MP and you'll pay a premium. We've blown up images off our camera to 11x15 with no quality questions. We fit around 120 images on a 256mb card. Decrease the resolution slightly and you'll fit more images while still having plenty of quality for enlargements.

256MB flash cards seem to be the value proposition at the moment. I just ordered a 256MB SD card for my PDA yesterday for $70US. To step up to 512MB was slightly more than double ($150US), but may be worth it if you want to avoid carrying a second. CompactFlash cards are noticeably cheaper, but also quite a lot larger for carrying spares. The cards should come with a sleeve, so just keep it in that and you should be fine to throw it in a pannier and change them out - the cards seem to be very tough little blighters...
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Old 11-11-03, 11:27 AM
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Getting a good optical zoom on your camera will add to the size of the camera
it will greatly enhance the pictures you take. On your tour it will be a space
versus quality decision you need to make.

When I bought my camera about a 1 1/2 ago, I saw converters for most types
of memory cards that allow you to put the memory card into a thing that looks
like a floppy disk. Then you can use the floppy drive on any computer to
download them. They aren't great for use at home and stuff but might be just
the thing for a tour.

When I was in Germany last summer I took about 500 or 600 pictures over the
6 months I was there. I think I only changed the batteries about 3 or at most
4 times. Spending a large amount of time viewing the pictures on your camera
will eat the batteries the fastest.

Can't wait to see the pics you take.

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Old 11-11-03, 11:50 AM
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FYI, I bought a (type 1) 512MB CF card I believe in May '03 for $129 with a $30 rebate so it came out pretty cheap. They have Type II CF cards which supposedly faster read/write times which you may be interested in, especially with the higher MP cameras and if you like to take multiple shots really close to each other, like action shots at a bike race. For me though, I take mostly landscape shots and panoramics so the write times aren't that big a deal. Most of the shots I take aren't higher than 1024x768, sometimes going to 1600x1200 for the better ones. At that rate with the least compression, you can store 5-6 HUNDRED shots in a 512MB CF card...

Get yourself one of those cheap bendable tripods, I don't know how many times I am on solo bike rides or hikes that I use that to take timed self shots. The G3 has a neato device that allows you to swivel the LCD so you can see it while being in the frame and also has a remote control device so you can release the shutter via remote control. Not that big a deal since you can't see the tiny LCD if you're anywhere further than a couple feet but the gee-whiz factor is there.

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Old 11-11-03, 01:37 PM
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I'm getting ready to buy a Minolta DiImage Z1, which sells for $300-350US. It's a 3 megapixel camera with high-quality optics and a 10x optical zoom.

What I cared about most when selecting a camera:

1. Image quality. Based on tests on sites like www.steves-digicams.com, this one is plenty good enough for my needs.

2. Manual exposure controls plus good autoexposure settings.

3. Really big optical zoom.

4. AA batteries rather than a proprietary-design battery. This is IMO non-negotiable. While you normally would want to buy rechargeable lithium AA batteries and a charger, if you get stuck in the field you still want to go to the corner drugstore and buy batteries.

5. Compact physical size and relatively low weight.

6. Quick shutter response and fast cycling time between shots.

7. Common media type (CF or SD) that's available everywhere. Some cameras use media that's not sold at places like Walmart.

The Z1 was the camera that, in my research, seemed to best meet my needs. I hope that the reality lives up to my hopes.

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Old 11-11-03, 04:29 PM
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Hey, I'm planning to switch to Digital real soon now and have been doing some research. The best places for consolidated reviews and (US at least) prices are DealCam and Steves Digicam. I have more or less settled on the Canon A70 (gonesh9: good to see such a positive from a fellow cyclist) which several places sell for around US$250. It uses compact flash cards which at this point are basically the standard and are super cheap (256MB for US$50) I just want to have a photo record of my travels for web journal, email etc., type usage and this camera seems pretty ideal. Probably more camera than a dilettante like myself needs, but with tech you always need to buy beyond what you need if you expect it to be useful for more than a year.
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Old 11-12-03, 02:39 AM
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Wow! Some great advice here. Thanks for the input. I would reply to everyone individually but I'm a little pressed for time right now. I'll definitely be going digital after that. Just in response to one or two questions that have come up:

Generally I like to enlarge my pictures to 12x8" or something similar. 3-3.5MP would be sufficient for this, no? The optical zoom sounds useful -- I tend not to crop images that much anyway, so a digital zoom might be a little redundant.

Just on the trip itself, I'll be there for about four weeks. However, apart from the towns/cities I mentioned earlier, there's barely another town on the planned tour >3,000 -- Although I should be able to access power points every few days if I plan it right.
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Old 11-12-03, 06:54 AM
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As far as ultimate portable power, have any of you seen those Brunton solar power cells they sell, some that output both 12v and 6v that can operate GPSs and portable devices. The ones that I have seen are only good for small power for small portable devices, but the one that I just saw that wasn't on Brunton's website before is this:

https://www.brunton.com/catalog.php?i...category_id=42


17 ounces, with enough juice to power a digicam and rolls up into a tube. Looks like a wicked cool device for expedition sized tours. Just an interesting concept, what do you you guys and gals think about that? It's expensive though...

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Old 11-12-03, 07:26 PM
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I have used 35mm cameras until now, but I'm trying to save money to afford a digital camera before spring is over. I feel that my current camera is somewhat difficult to predict if a picture will be good or not. I agree with most of what have been said, especially image quality (of course), and the use of ordinary batteries. Get at least one 256mb memory card and 3MPixel (that's usually about 2048 x 1536).

I have never mailed rolls home, but on one tour it got a bit ridiculous riding around with fifteen rolls in the handle-bar bag. On day/weekend rides I would bring only the digital camera; however, on longer tours I will bring my old camera along as a backup. It's not fun if it breaks far away from civilization (and that's usually where stuff breaks).

That solar cell will be interesting.. when I have a few hundred $$$ that I don't know what to do with .

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Old 11-13-03, 06:37 AM
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Brunton does make cheaper, more affordable ones that are like $80-$120, but they seem a little more fragile and not as cool as the roll up solar cell.

One thing nobody mentioned, avoid buying those CF microdrives that offer a buttload of memory, they're not as durable as the regular type I or type II CF cards because they are like literally a tiny hard drive, and I think they cost more per megabyte too...

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Old 11-13-03, 07:50 AM
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I have to second the reccomendation for the Canon A70. I just got one of these and absolutely love it. You can shoot pics with this thing fully manually, fully automatically, and use the shutter or aperture priority settings as well. Nice for a camera this small. I also have a Minolta D'Image 7, but find myself reaching for this one much more frequently. Another nice feature of this camera is the available lens adapter which allows you to use a telephoto or fisheye lens on it. These lenses are pretty compact as well. If you are into watersports at all you can also get a waterproof housing that is rated down to something like 120 feet. The biggest difference I notice between all the 3.2 megapixel cameras is ergonomics. Once you step into that resolution, the cameras all seem pretty good, but the feel of each in your hand is immensely different. If at all possible, try to get a chance to handle several different cameras before you make your choice. Batteries: I have found that I can fill a 256mb card with images at the highest quality setting with one charge on a set of 2200mAh NiMH batteries using the A70, so if you have two sets of batts and a quick charger, it sound like you will be good to go.

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Old 11-13-03, 02:33 PM
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Originally Posted by Jay H
As far as ultimate portable power, have any of you seen those Brunton solar power cells they sell
Those seem pretty expensive relative to their power density. I got a 10-Watt panel for around $95 (BP MSX-10). It's not flexible, but since I had the panel more-or-less permanently mounted on my rear rack, I didn't need any flexibility.

I took my Canon G2 out on tour with me; it takes excellent pictures, but if I was buying a camera specifically for touring, I might have chosen something smaller and lighter. Still, it worked out great. I used the solar panel to charge it (it uses a proprietary battery), and downloaded the photos to the mini-laptop computer (Fujitsu P1120) that I carried with me. So I had about 20GB of space for photos and was able to charge the battery whenever I wanted to. Probably not a solution Chris is necessarily looking for right now, but I thought I'd throw it out there just to further expand the range of possibilities!

I also used the computer for all my maps, and to connect to the Internet with my cell phone, and both of those were kept charged by the solar panel as well.

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Old 11-14-03, 03:10 AM
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If you are used to taking slides and doing slides shows of your trips, digital cameras present sort of a problem. Sure one can use a digital projector. But, the price on those things has only recently come down to $1000, and the bulbs are expensive when they need replacing (they give a couple thousand hours of service). It is easy to do a slide show on a TV, but you get TV quality images.

That said, we took three cameras to Europe (one for each of us), two film and one digital (a Canon G3). We ended up taking way more pictures with the digital camera than the other two partly due to it's capabilities. A big plus for digicams is the opportunity to see the images, then and there. We'd cull images in the evening, thereby regaining memory space.

I really like the G3 for reasons of battery life and camera versatility/capabilities.

If travelling in a foreign country and planning on using rechargeable batteries, make sure you have a power adapter capable of the voltage and frequency AND a plug adapter.
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Old 11-14-03, 01:06 PM
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sakarias, maybe I don't understand your reply, but you can get shareware software that will do a slideshow without having to downconvert to TV resolution. Of course, the shots don't look half as nice on a computer but sometimes the TV slideshow is good enough for travelling purposes. I also have a G3 and have used the camera's built in slideshow mode while travelling and it is adequate. At home I would use a monitor of course.

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Old 11-14-03, 01:32 PM
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Originally Posted by Jay H
sakarias, maybe I don't understand your reply, but you can get shareware software that will do a slideshow without having to downconvert to TV resolution. Of course, the shots don't look half as nice on a computer but sometimes the TV slideshow is good enough for travelling purposes. I also have a G3 and have used the camera's built in slideshow mode while travelling and it is adequate. At home I would use a monitor of course.

Jay
Yeah, doing a computer slide show in no problem. I use Macs, so iPhoto or GraphicConverter are great. But, when using a standard TV as the display device the image quality is no where near as good as the 1024x768 pixel image on my computer screen and no where near as good as the same computer image on a 1024x768 pixel digital projector, or the equivalent image in slide format projected onto a screen.
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Old 11-14-03, 04:44 PM
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Sakarias, do you get the feeling that some of these youngsters don't understand that you're talking about actual *analog* (gasp!) film slides?

Were you as discomfitted as I at Kodak's announcement that they're leaving the slide projector business next year?

Rich ("infinite resolution") C
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Old 11-15-03, 07:21 AM
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One nice benefit from Canon is that some of the digital damera batteries will work with certain video cameras. One match is the S30-45-50 battery works with the Elura 50. Nice if you want a small DV cam and to buy less batteries.
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Old 11-16-03, 04:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Rich Clark
Sakarias, do you get the feeling that some of these youngsters don't understand that you're talking about actual *analog* (gasp!) film slides?

Were you as discomfitted as I at Kodak's announcement that they're leaving the slide projector business next year?

Rich ("infinite resolution") C
Yup, sometimes I feel real old. I was talking recently to a friend who has been in computers "forever" except his first desktop computer was some PC clone, where as mine was an Apple II (not a II+) -- before the 5 1/4" floppy disk drive.

Egad. No more carousel projectors. I missed that announcement. It's also getting still hard to have Kodachrome film developed and mounted. The relentless march of "progress."

I am hanging onto and still using my 25 year old Canon F1. Still a very good camera; and, no battery necessary.
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