Just editing some of my files from this past summer, and I ran across this picture from our August Iceberg to Bremner Mines trek. I shot this photo with my little Nikon pocket camera, a Nikon Coolpix L22. I started carrying a point and shoot (P&S) this summer, for the first time in I don’t know how long; too long!
It’s definitely nice to have something handy and accessible, without trying to deal with a larger SLR hanging from a strap while hiking. I generally carry my SLR or SLRs inside my backpack, stashed away where they won’t get (a) damaged and/or (b) left behind quite so easily. It’s SO easy while backpacking to stop and take a quick break, put something down, and walk off without it. That sucks when it’s a can of bear spray or a Nalgene, but it REALLY sucks when it’s something like an SLR, and insanely expensive.
So this summer I hiked with a trusty little Nikon Coolpix L22 in my shirt pocket – the perfect size for a P&S camera. I miss the image quality, of course, when I get home to view the images, but I mostly miss the functionality of the camera in the field. This could well be simply because I’m not as familiar with that camera as I should be, and so I just “point and shoot”, rather than fussing with trying to make some kind of manual controls. There were a few times when I really thought “man, I wish this camera would let me do x-y-z” – which of course I could easily have done if I’d had the SLR in my hands.
But backpacking is the art of compromise. And what I might give up in functionality and image quality, the P&S makes up for it with accessibility and the ease of grabbing that quick shot. It’s nice for those snapshots when you don’t really need the power and functions of the SLR.
I will say, one of the benefits, for me, of the P&S is NOT it’s weight. Sure, it’s ridiculously light, and MUCH lighter than any of my SLRs (even without their requisite lenses); but I still carry the full SLR rig anyway, so I didn’t really save any weight with the Coolpix, I just added more gear to the trip. Not something I was hoping to do.
At the moment I’m wondering if the best option for me isn’t something along the lines of the Sony RX-100 – it has more functionality, much better image quality, shoots RAW files, and would allow me to leave behind the camera gear on some trips. That could well be worth it. Of course, I’d still carry a tripod along; but I could leave out a camera body, 2-3 lenses, some filters, extra batteries, and so on, which would be nice.
On the other hand, I may just go back to carrying/shooting the DLR. I’m excited to bring the new D600 into the backcountry; it’s so small and light, I think I’ll like it a lot for backpacking trips. The smaller size makes it not only lighter weight, but much easier to deal with hanging from a shoulder strap on my pack. I just need to make sure not to leave it behind anywhere. Always, always, ALWAYS do a dummy check before you head off from a break!