DSLR with its assortment of accessories and lenses, all kept to minimal and neatly packed in a camera bag, can still be a heavy load to carry around all day. How do I cope up with it? What other options exist?
Weighing in the options (no pun intended)
Mirror-less or DSLR – In one of my earlier articles, I had discussed about why I use a DSLR. Do read this up – Why do I use a SLR/DSLR?. Just to recap, electronic viewfinder disconnects me from photography. Then there are technical challenges with the close location of lens to the sensor, the battery usage and sensor heat. Regardless of how popular the mirrorless are becoming now a days, for me they still have a long way to travel, even if I compromise with the viewfinder.
Compact Cameras (including bridge cameras) – The best compact cameras and bridge cameras that I have come across also fail to provide simple settings like shutter-speed, aperture, exposure compensation etc on dedicated knobs or rings. Hunting through menus and remembering what each button doubles up as, is not my cup of tea. Secondly, lack of raw format capturing in most such cameras is a big negative. I love to post-process my photographs to get the image that I had visualized. (Post Processing RAW)
Mobile Phone Cameras – These are good and quite capable. New phones have really excellent cameras as have been shown repeatedly by some professional photographers as well. They did end up proving that it is the person behind the camera that matters. Coming to real world, they are still not as capable as even the least expensive of dedicated cameras. I use my phone to capture photographs, every once in a while but they are in no way a replacement for my cameras. (Do read this – Another Hill Trip – Phone vs Camera!)
Rangefinders – When I say rangefinders, my brain always thinks of Leica. In the digital era, these are the only worthwhile rangefinders that have all the proper options. Fuji X100 series cameras are like poor man’s Leica with one fixed lens. Some other companies have also tried their hands at rangefinders but ended up creating advanced compact cameras instead. However for me, Leica is one of the best light-weight options available out there. Too expensive for me at present!
DSLRs – After considering all the available options, DSLRs seem to be the most viable option for me. They have the required features to make my life easy. This brings me back to the original problem – weight!
(Distant hills with early morning haze – photographed from a high vantage point)
If you are a DSLR user and carry at least one spare lens, try handing over your camera bag to your spouse for a few minutes. A conservatively packed camera bag weighs more than a laptop bag or even the large shopping bag like handbags that females from all around the globe seem to go crazy about. Would you go hiking with such a weight? The photograph above was clicked by me after climbing a small hill with my fully packed camera bag and that included the all-metal body primes that I am so fond of. The climb would have been far easier without the camera bag, but then the real bliss was when I was on the top and capturing the photograph.
This article is not about how to reduce weight but more of an explanation that the reason I carry this weight is because I still do not have an alternative. Mostly for the purpose of informing all my family members and friends who have at times held or carried my camera bag! God bless them. I do have a whole lot of people ready to help me.
When I think of my photography habits retrospectively, I realize that there have been times when I have gone out for photowalks with some bird photographers and yet left my long tele back home. Was it the aversion to carrying weight or was it my attraction towards a different kind of photography? Was the aversion to carrying weight, a result of my interest in something different, or was the interest in those other subjects, a result of aversion to carrying weight?
I love photography and can carry reasonable amount of weight with me. Most photographers will agree, heavier the lens, the better built it is supposed to be. All the camera bodies that have dedicated knobs, rings, buttons etc for each function also somehow are heavier than other inexpensive cameras. So yes, some amount of weight is fine and is sometimes actually desirable. (I have found a few light lenses too that are excellent in quality)
The ideal solution for me however would be a Leica rangefinder with a pair of good primes. Now begins the search for someone who can gift these to me. 😉
Till the time this happens, I am going to work on building my muscles and stamina so that I can occasionally haul my long teles too on climbs across the hills…. and you thought that photography was easy?