Saturday, October 9, 2010

Working Kit

In the Old Days my working travel kit was made up from three Nikons and three Leicas. Nowadays my old friends live in an equipment cabinet and my daily image-making tools are all digital. Sic transit gloria.

I use two Canon SLRs that are extremely capable instruments, but are also big, heavy, and require a take-along camera bag for lens, batteries, filters, and all the other stuff that I feel I might need when I use them.

But my ideas about working kit are slowly morphing into something very different. On my latest trip to Ireland I took along my biggest and heaviest Canon, with a couple of lenses, plus a little Panasonic Lumix point-and-shoot. Admittedly it's a point-and-shoot with a Leica-designed lens, which really does make a difference. I found myself making the majority of the images I shot on that trip with the Lumix, while the Canon SLR waited in the camera bag (usually back in the car).

One of the people on my trip had a little Sony pocket-camera that I was much impressed by. Instead of the shutter-like lens protector, which I distrust, it had a sliding panel that both protected the lens and turned the camera on and off when slid up and down. I was so impressed with it that I ordered one of my own as soon as I got home. (Actually, I ordered it on-line while I was still in Ireland.)

The Sony I bought is slightly different from the one that inspired the purchase. I went with a "ruggedized" version that is water- and temperature-proof and drop-damage-resistant as well. It is so small that it fits easily and comfortably in a shirt pocket or a front pants pocket. Since it arrived I have carried it with me in a pocket at almost all times.

In the interests of my newly evolving working kit I also bought an upgraded Lumix. This one has a fast f/2.0 Summicron Leica-designed lens that covers a range of 24-90mm (in 35mm equivalencies) and takes a removable viewfinder so that I can use it at eye-level just like a "real camera." I've never taken to the arms-length LCD screens, although I use them out of necessity.

The Sony and the second Lumix will make up my new travel kit, with the first Lumix as a back-up. All three cameras together weigh a pound and a half: the body alone (with no lens attached) for my Canon weighs two pounds.

There must be a trade-off, and there is. I'm giving up long telephoto capability and also losing some megapixels. But both the Sony clam-shell and the Lumix are capable of making 12x16" images and the Leica-lensed Lumix can give the larger Canon a run for its money. Pixel count is only part of the story of digital image quality.

At any rate I now have a working travel-kit that will fit in my pockets and do a lot better than a merely good job on about 95% of the pictures I want to make. In the event that I feel I must make a long-lens shot I can always sacrifice a little absolute quality and make use the digital zoom feature that reaches out to about 500mm in old-time 35mm terms. On this last trip I found no use for such a lens.

I'll try to get some pictures of this kit soon.

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