Camera Nerds - The Lost Coast
Choosing what camera gear to carry on a long distance bike trip is always a challenge. Over the years I have spanned the gamut from the simplicity of a smart phone to the complexities of DSLRs and mirrorless bodies. Often for me, the over-arching theme is what types of images am I hoping to capture and what is my intended goal for said images. Am I shooting to simply blog or am I looking for large print worthy images? Am I traveling in a capacity that allows me to carry a bit more gear or am I very much constrained by size and weight.
Since adopting a purely Bikepacking style of traveling, size and weight have often been key components in any decision that I make. An exception to this was my trip last year to Alaska where I knew that I would have to use rear panniers in order to carry the amount and type of food needed for a self supported tour. That decision opened up the opportunity to carry a D800E DSLR and a set of larger Zeiss lenses with a small NEX-7 as my point and shoot body.
For the recent Lost Coast trip, I knew that I needed to travel light, so I opted for a very minimal kit, at least minimal in size and weight. I chose to carry my little Nikon V1 with 10/2,8 lens as my go to on the bike 'grab' camera. For a bit higher quality imagery I carried the Fuji X100s and the Fuji X-E1 with a XF 35/1,4 and the XF 60/2,4. This entire kit, with batteries, easily fit in a Think Tank Hubba Hubba Hiney pack that was attached to my handlebars with velcro straps.
What was so interesting to me about the choice of camera gear was the distribution of both the images that I shot and then the distribution of images that made the final cut for my Lost Coast Photo Essay. To say it was not what I expected is an understatement. Here are the final stats:
Images captured on the entire trip: 3527 images
- Nikon V1: 1603
- Fuji X-E1 w/35: 196
- Fuji X-E1 w/60: 268
- X100s: 1460
That proved to be a fairly reasonable result given that the Nikon V1 was my go to camera on the bike. It was the camera that was most easily simply grabbed and shot while cruising along on the bike. At camp or for more methodical shooting I would turn to the Fuji's to do the job. As you can see, I really did not like the X-E1 very much otherwise I would have used it way more than the little X100s. The X100s is just a lovely little camera to hold and shoot. I look forward to seeing what Fuji does with that little guy.
However, what was really amazing to me, although I guess not totally unexpected, was the distribution of images that I used to tell the story. These were images that I selected not only for their meaning to the story, but also because I felt they were nicely crafted images from a Image Quality (IQ) perspective. Now, before this trip, I was shooting almost exclusively for a year with a Nikon D800E and Zeiss glass. Widely considered to be one of the finest cameras ever made. So my definition of IQ is a bit biased in one direction.
The final image selection: 118 images
- Fuji X100s: 43 images
- Fuji X-E1 w/35: 9
- Fuji X-E1 w/60: 20
- Nikon V1: 46
Folks, the Nikon V1 can be had for a little more than $200 on the used market w/10mm lens, which is exactly how I acquired mine. This little camera and those image distribution numbers just blow me away. I want to beat the crap out of Nikon because they have allowed this little guy to be pummeled by the media when the reality is, if your target is the web or small (11x14) print, this camera just rocks. It still has the fastest, most reliable, AF of any small camera. Yes it has a few warts, but it produces absolutely solid B&W images.
I admit, I am not a fan of its color, but as anyone who follows my efforts these days knows I am turning almost exclusively to B&W imagery, and the little V1 does B&W beautifully. This camera at the current price points, should be in every adventurers bag. The V1 uses the older Nikon batteries and they just last, so you can take a little V1 with the 10/2,8 lens, two batteries, and go shoot forever. To say I am a fan is really an understatement.
Other than promoting the little V1, which really was not my main intent, I wanted to highlight how you can go create a compelling visual story with just about any camera out there today. They all take great pictures, which means, like it always has, it is about the person behind the lens, the one that chooses when to push the shutter button.
Learning to see, before you pull the trigger, is what it is all about.