What would your strategy be?

Discussion in 'The Watering Hole' started by Jock Elliott, Feb 5, 2014.

  1. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY
    Michael from Luminous Landscapes has filed a preliminary report about their antarctic trip here: http://www.luminous-landscape.com/locations/michaels_antarctica_2014.shtml

    At the end, he make the following comment: "There were three equipment casualties though, a Sony A7r gave up the ghost and a Nikon D610 died unexpectedly. Both will eventually visit the camera hospital and be resuscitated. The worst casualty though was a 350mm Zeiss Tele Super-Achromat which slipped off its latchless mount on a Hasselblad-to-Leica S adaptor, and tumbled into the Antarctic ocean. The sound of it hitting the icy water was chilling, if you get my drift. That was a double martini evening for the owner."

    These people paid something like fifteen kilobucks for this trip (which Michael says is as close to another planet as most of us will ever get), and to have a high-end camera crap out suddenly is just unthinkable. To me, it's as if you bought, say, a Mercedes for a critical trip from New York to LA, and it craps out somewhere along the way. I would be beyond livid.

    So, the question, if you were going on such a trip, what gear would you take for maximum reliability?

    Thinking about it from the comfort of my place by the fire, I would be very tempted to take what I already own: FZ150, FZ200 and G12 and a bunch of batteries and memory cards for each.


    - Redundant camera systems
    - Good reliability experience so far
    - Large focal range coverage
    - No lens changing
    - No exposure of sensors during lens changes
    - Small enough to stick inside a parka between shots
    - Adequate performance during 20 hours a day daylight.

    What would you take?

    Cheers, Jock
  2. Dewi Sant

    Dewi Sant Veteran

    Dec 20, 2013
    Lancashire, England
    To be honest, I'd take the cheap crappy stuff I use now and a couple of compacts for back up. I've mentioned on here before that I never use expensive camera gear, because I abuse it too much and what I don't abuse mother nature does it for me!

    At the end of the day a camera is just a tool to do a job so I don't really care what I use as long as a) it works ok. b) Gives reasonable quality, and c) won't make me want to slash my wrists if it falls into the Antarctic. Yes, i have had the comments in the past about my cheap gear, made by people with more money tied up in their photo gear than I have in my mortgage, but each to their own and I think i get decent results so far with what I've used over the years
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  3. Luke

    Luke Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Nov 11, 2011
    Milwaukee, WI USA
    I'd take a few Pentax K-5 bodies with weather sealed lenses....one body for each lens so I don't need to switch out lenses. There's loads of 'em out there for cheap now that there have been a few newer bodies. I suppose if money is truly no object, then I'd have several silver limited edition K-3 bodies in place of those. When it comes to weather sealed cameras, Pentax is my choice. And though I've never been to the arctic, they've always done me well in the snow and the cold.

    weather resistance was a big selling point to him by Luke Lavin, on Flickr
    • Like Like x 6
  4. mattia

    mattia Regular

    Dec 20, 2013
    Having actually been on an Antarctic trip (and you don't have to pay 15,000 for it, just check G-Adventures if you're willing to bunk with folks, or head to Ushuaia and book a last-minute there for 2000-3000 for a 14 day cruise), I have the following thoughts on the matter:

    1. If you can swing the money, it's the best 6000 euros I've ever spent on a vacation (my cost for 6 weeks, 4 spent wandering through Buenos Aires, Argentine and Chilean Patagonia, and topping it off with 14 days on the MS Expedition, including flights). Majestic, amazing, surreal landscapes and wildlife. Truly unique.

    2. The shooting conditions are tough, but not really super crazy tough. Antarctica around this season (Antarctic summer) is generally only a bit below freezing (-5 to -10 degrees celsius). The wind chill is the killer, however, and the big 'issue' is the same as on any cruise where salt water is involved, there is a lot of it. I had a waterproof backpack to carry the gear on the zodiacs, and tucked lens+camera into a coupius coat pocket when not shooting. At least relative humidity is low (Antarctica being the world's largest and possibly even driest desert)

    - Second issue is condensation. I popped the camera into an airtight bag (Ziploc preferred) when going back inside into the very warm ship from the very cold, very dry outdoors. Otherwise you risk water condensing on the inside of your electronics. This does not a happy camera or lens make. I would NOT stick the camera or lens inside a parka between shots. Let it acclimatize, let it get cold. Keep the batteries warm, keep the electronics away from anywhere where body heat and body moisture can contribute to condensation. The pockets on my North Face tri-climate were big enough to hold the canon 24-105 and 100-400 mounted on seperate cameras, with the cameras around a neck strap, and they're thin-walled pockets, so protect against splashes but not the temperature. You're spending hours on end outside, so nothing you can do will keep your gear 'warm' in a safe way. let it get cold. Just make sure you have several layers of gloves, including a base pair you can operate your camera with (winter golf gloves work well, with silk liners underneath and big ski/waterproof gloves over the top).

    - I do recommend redundancy, because there's literally nowhere to get another camera when you're 2 days away by boat (and contrary to Michael, I do think crossing the Drake Passage is part of the great experience). I took two 5D mark II's when I went (before the E-M5/E-M1 came out), and if I went now, I would take a pair of E-M1's, the 43 50-200 and the 12-40 (although a faster focusing native telephoto would be the ideal. Here's hoping the Pro Lens rumors from Oly are true, on the super telephoto end; 40-150/2.8 is OK, but still short, the 50-200 not super-fast focussing..) and the A7R for landscape/wide work at high resolution, and not worry about it overmuch.

    - As additional anecdotal evidence, I had one of the most ridiculous camera outfits on the ship (Pair of 5DII's, 24-105, 100-400, couple of primes; this was December 2011); most people didn't even have a DSLR, or if they did, it was a mid-level or entry-level model with a consumer zoom. Certainly nothing weather sealed. Most had compacts, only some of the 'tough and waterproof' variety, very few of the 'serious' variety. There were a very small number (like, count on one hand) of equipment failures despite this, with 100 passengers, most among the 'cheap point and shoot' toting travellers. The only mirrorless system I saw was an Oly PEN, which held up perfectly well and yielded some great shots.

    - I had full insurance cover for peace of mind - accidental damage, theft, whaterever, with a deductible of 'only' 200 euros and insured for purchase cost, not deprecated value. I have this kind of camera gear precisely for this type of trip. If I leave things at home because they're too expensive to 'risk', I should seriously rethink why I own them in the first place, since I'm not a studio photographer, nor a professional.
    • Like Like x 7
  5. Dewi Sant

    Dewi Sant Veteran

    Dec 20, 2013
    Lancashire, England
  6. Jock Elliott

    Jock Elliott All-Pro

    Jan 3, 2012
    Troy, NY

    Thanks! that is excellent information.

    Cheers, Jock
  7. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Yup. Any gear I own that I wouldn't take travelling is somewhat redundant or just a plaything if I'm honest.
  8. Andrewteee

    Andrewteee All-Pro

    Jul 8, 2010
    I would not take a new camera and I would not take the Sony A7R, and the A7R meets both of those criteria. I would take equipment I knew well, had so far been reliable and was somewhat durable. I would also take a small laptop and several backup hard drives, and I would use the filled up memory cards as backups too. I would likely shoot primarily with the Ricoh GR, which always seems to end up being my main travel camera. So, I'd take 3 GRs (one backup and one with the 21mm adapter), several batteries and a posse of memory cards. And warm boots.

    And while I would take pictures I would focus primarily on being present in the moment. It's likely I would not be there again anytime soon and it's likely that it's all changing and it will not be the same for thousands or tens of thousands of years.

    I just noticed he took the Olympus E-M1. That's a great choice too.
    • Like Like x 3
  9. mattia

    mattia Regular

    Dec 20, 2013
    I wouldn't feel super comfortable taking the A7R right now (or even the E-M1, since both are so new), but if it performs as well as it seems to be in the next year, I'd certainly take it along on an Antarctic trip in the next season (which runs roughly November to March, the Southern summer). Antarctica is really vast; wideangle is often too wide, because you can't always get super close to things/have a lot of control of your position; I'd describe a lot of the landscape shooting as 'Action Landscaping'; you can sort of predict what sort of vista you're going to see, but need to be ready to snap the shot at a moments notice, often from either a ship (stable-ish, but still moving) or a Zodiac. A few favourites were wide, many more were stiched panos (stiching seascapes is a pain) or single telephoto shots (often at 400mm on the 5DII).
    • Like Like x 1
  10. tdekany

    tdekany Veteran

    Dec 21, 2011
    Portland OR
    I'd have no issues "trusting" my EM-1 to take on that trip, but why on earth would Michael not take the 12-40 or the 12-35/35-100???

    To the OP - if you are concerned with your equipment, maybe a couple of those 50/60x mega zooms? This maybe a really bad suggestion, but they are relatively inexpensive and convenient.
    • Like Like x 2
  11. mattia

    mattia Regular

    Dec 20, 2013
    Why he didn't take the 12-40 over the 12-60 is a mystery to me - the former is the better lens by all accounts, and much faster to focus. I can understand not taking the 35-100, as quite simply, it's too short for most of the wildlife shooting you get there.
    • Like Like x 1
  12. Biro

    Biro Super Moderator

    Aug 7, 2011
    Jersey Shore
    I don't think that's such a bad suggestion. If I'm going to Antarctica only once in my life, I might toss a Fuji S1 into the case as a back up. It has a 24-1200mm zoom range, weather resistance, five-axis image stabilization and a decent EVF. Maybe it wouldn't be my primary camera but in decent light it would probably be fine. I'd hand it to my signifcant other while I struggled with my high-end gear. :biggrin:
    • Like Like x 3
  13. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin Hall of Famer

    Dec 24, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    I suspect that I would take a kit based around a couple of Olympus bodies because they are what I know and like and Micro Four Thirds is the only mirrorless system to make a decent attempt at environmental sealing so far (plus having access to the Four Thirds lens catalogue). I'd love to record a few extra crispy landscapes to a Samsung sensor for a bit of variety but I don't really buy into the notion that landscape photography needs higher resolution than anything else so I'd be fine not bringing it along.

    To the larger question...Antarctica? Umm, I'm sure that it's spectacular but if I'm honest it's waaaaay down the list of places I'd like to visit.
    • Like Like x 2
  14. Chrisnmn

    Chrisnmn Veteran

    Jul 8, 2012
    Auckland, New Zealand
    Chris Leskovsek
    I agree with Mattia, though I didnt make it to Antarctica literally due to the high cost, even with those last minute boats departing from Ushuaia, but ushuaia and tierra Del fuego are already part of Antarctica and I took two cameras with me. A Fuji x100s and a omd em5 with various lenses.

    I also did the trip during April/may which is low tourist season and tempatures drop rather quickly.

    The Fuji absolutely died (battery wouldn't last more than 2 hours or so), but the omd without any zip lock bags and sometimes shot with not weather sealed lenses had not problem whatsoever and became my main workhorse, even when sailing through the glaciers.

    I would absolutely have no problem in taking the a7 down there, and certainly I would have no second thoughts in bringing any omd AMD some lenses.

    You can see some of those photos at http://chrisleskovsek.com/patagonia/

    Sent from my Nexus 4 using SeriousCompacts mobile app
    • Like Like x 3
  15. nickthetasmaniac

    nickthetasmaniac Veteran

    Jan 20, 2014
    Launceston & Sydney
    Nick Clark
    I would likely take something similar to what Michael took:

    - 2x EM1 w. grip
    - Lumix 7-14/f4
    - m.ZD 12-40mm
    - ZD 50-200mm or the upcoming m.ZD 40-150mm
    - Ricoh GR

    Whole lot of batteries and cards, and probably a Pelican case to chuck it all in.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. drd1135

    drd1135 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jul 13, 2011
    Lexington, Virginia
    I'd buy an EM1, take my EM5 and EPM2, and an extra copy of my Oly 40-150. Maybe two extra copies. Lots of batteries and cards and a really good watertight bag. +1 to the condensation post. I'd bet that's what actually killed those cameras.

    I'd have sympathy for getting a Pentax K3.
  17. 0dBm

    0dBm Rookie

    Jan 26, 2014
    Southern California
    A dozen #2 pencils, a pencil sharpener, and a Swiss Army knife in the event that the sharpener gets lost. I'll draw what I see.
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  18. ryanshoots

    ryanshoots Regular

    Apr 22, 2012
    Actually he had the better lenses. Look again, he didn't take the m4/3 zooms, he took the 4/3 zooms. The two he took are better than the m4/3 zooms and they are not even the best of the 4/3 zooms. Olympus makes good glass for m4/3, but some of the 4/3 zooms are some of the best ever made and stand far above any m4/3 glass, but they are not seriously compact.

    Here are the reviews


    As far as what I'd take. At least two cameras in case one died.

    Here's someone that did the trip with a v-lux something or other and it didn't die.

    http://www.barbara-and-stu.com/AntarcticaArgentina-12012.htm - notes highlighting some of the trip

    how the photographer thought the camera worked for the trip
  19. Archiver

    Archiver Top Veteran

    Jul 11, 2010
    Melbourne, Australia
    Ricoh GR in my pocket.

    Panasonic GH3 for general shooting and high quality video. Lenses would include the 12-35, 35-100, and a wide aperture prime like a Voigtlander or Olympus. The GH3 is weather sealed and so are the 12-35 and 35-100.

    Leica M9 with Zeiss 21/2.8 for high quality landscapes, and Leica Summicron 50mm f2 for a natural perspective.
  20. mattia

    mattia Regular

    Dec 20, 2013
    It's arguable whether the 12-60 is better than the 12-40. It's heavier and slower to focus, albeit with a longer range. On the longer glass, no arguments from me on quality.