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Anyone carry a rangefinder or fixed-lens camera?
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By Jon H
From Boulder
Jul 8, 2013
At the matching crux
Calling all photo nerds! Strongly considering picking up a Fuji X100s for climbing photography. I'm not necessarily looking to discuss the merits of the specific camera itself, but rather the pros/cons of shooting with a single, fixed, prime lens that can't be changed. Obviously this limits your perspective and options, but the tradeoff is much higher image quality than a point and shoot, while still coming in a relatively small and light package that fits in a pocket.

Anyone done this? Anyone have insight? Will be mostly climbing 7-10 pitch alpine rock and ice. Close enough to my limit that bringing an SLR is out of the question.

Discuss!


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By wfscot
From Boulder, CO
Jul 8, 2013
I think it depends a lot of what you're trying to take pictures of. When I'm climbing, I find that I want to take a mix of shots of the surrounding scenery, which generally call for something like 30-35mm (35mm equivalent) as well as action shots of my partner, which call for something much tighter (say >=70mm). Assuming you're the same, I think you're going to struggle with a fixed focal length lens for the 2nd category of shot. Taking the partner pics with a wide angle makes them look pretty tiny and often loses perspective on the climbing itself.

The other thing I would recommend you consider is durability and weather resistance. I'm guessing the X100s is quite delicate and not the least bit weather resistant. That means you'll have to provide some protection via a case and/or backpack, which is going to make it much harder to get to. Likewise, assuming you're climbing somewhere where afternoon thunderstorms are a possibility, you'll always have to worry about rain and make sure you have a way to cover it up mid-pitch. That pretty much means always wearing a pack, which is quite a limitation. In my experience, those sorts of concerns usually translate to leaving the camera at home.

My personal preference is to carry one of the rugged cameras. The fact that they're shockproof and waterproof means that I can clip it to my harness, not worry about rain or banging it around, and then easily get to it when I need it (with one hand, even, if I've got my partner on belay). In terms of image quality, the early rugged cameras were pretty terrible, but the newer ones are much better, including some f2.0 lenses. They're certainly nowhere near the X100, but they get the job done. I would personally recommend the Lumix line, but there are other good options if you look around.

FWIW, I also sometimes carry a nicer camera (either Nikon dSLR or my Lumix MFT) for print-worthy shots of the surrounding scenery. I keep it well padded and protected from rain, though, and it really only comes out on top or perhaps at a belay. For this use, I think the X100 would fit the bill very nicely.

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By Brendan N. (grayhghost)
From Salt Lake City, Utah
Jul 8, 2013
Hesitate no more, buy it.
Getting two or three banger shots with a fixed lens is much more enjoyable than getting ten mediocre shots with a more versatile point-n-shoot.

T-Rex, Pipedream Cave, Maple Canyon, Utah
T-Rex, Pipedream Cave, Maple Canyon, Utah


Special Forces, The Compound, Maple Canyon, Utah
Special Forces, The Compound, Maple Canyon, Utah

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By Jon H
From Boulder
Jul 8, 2013
At the matching crux
wfscot - One thing I completely forgot about was weather resistance. Good call. I'm not too worried about ruggedness, I'm pretty careful with preventing bangs and bumps, but afternoon T-storms are a definite concern. Something to think about.

Brendan - beautiful shots. What camera were they with?

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By The Phoenix
Jul 8, 2013
The Phoenix
Probably not what someone stoked on old school cameras would want but for our climbing trips we bring my Canon G10, it's an amazing camera, lightweight small, 15mp and takes amazing shots.

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By Brendan N. (grayhghost)
From Salt Lake City, Utah
Jul 8, 2013
X100s

A .05 cent ziplock bag does pretty well for afternoon thunderstorms.

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By divnamite
From New York, NY
Jul 8, 2013
If you are just shooting climbers at the bottom of the route or have the freedom to move about (jugging a line), the fixed lens are fine. If you are actually leading or belaying on multi-pitch routes, it can be a pain. Since you'll be tied into anchors, you are pretty limited to a few feets of movement, you'll have to be very creative of your shots.

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By Jon H
From Boulder
Jul 8, 2013
At the matching crux
Brendan N. (grayhghost) wrote:
X100s


Ha, perfect. Any pro tips on the camera for me? Any limitations that you've found? Settings that have proven helpful? Have you taken it up any multipitch trad routes yet?

I managed to find a single one in stock across 15-16 camera stores across the country and it's on the way to me now. I also snagged some spare batteries and the Nikon wide-angle adapter (1/2 the price of the Fuji branded one).

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By Cor
Jul 8, 2013
black nasty
The only draw back IS the fixed lens. If you get the right camera, it will have the
same size (large) sensor that a DSLR has. Usually you don't need a big zoom...
Wide angle is better for depth in climbing shots. (skiing too..)

I use the Canon G1x Has a DSLR sensor, 4x optical, full manual, RAW format.

It is a great camera, with a nice metal body. Very durable! I have slammed mine
down into snow, soaking in many times! Still works like new!

This camera also is the one I have used to get photos published.
My next one is in the new summer Alpinist coming out (climbing life section!)

Hope this helps a little,
Cory

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By Davis Stevenson
From Flagstaff, Arizona
Jul 8, 2013
Following up a new route out in the Mojave Desert.  Info coming soon maybe?  Fun 5.10 hands and fingers.
I've actually been considering a rangefinder or folding camera for myself. I currently carry a body and 35mm, 50mm and 135mm primes, this works well when I'm on a rope and can position myself how I want, but I would never take this on an alpine route or anything long. Dropping the 50 and 135 and taking a fast 85mm or 100mm would work great, but it's still a lot of fiddling.

I second what someone said above-- You'll be much happier shooting primes than zooms if you're going to do any kind of printing. For web viewing, zooms are great, but unless you shell out a metric tonne of cash on an SLR zoom, you won't get as nice colors, and you'll get plenty of distortion. I haven't seen a P&S or compact camera that'll take pictures worthy of much of anything besides sharing with friends... Even low end DSLRs for that matter.

The Fuji rangefinders are stellar choices, and often superior to DSLRs unless you are shooting fast action, or at the extreme telephoto. A few wedding photographers I know have been using them, too, as their usefullness goes way beyond portability and IQ (actual flash sync at 1/500). I'd be nervous about taking one climbing though... they're incredibly pricey and one swing and slam on a rock could easily take it out.

Personally, I've been thinking about branching into Rangefinders when I need to go faster/lighter than even a compact 35mm SLR... Specifically an old Leica III, or more likely, a Russian knockoff. For web viewing, a scanned piece of film with a couple minutes of color correction will be just fine, and I've even been happy with cropped frames printed on 8x10s from even the cheap Fujicolor stuff that's less than $2 a roll. For the price and compactness, you could spend under $200 and get a pair of functioning old Zorki or Fed bodies with, say, lenses in the 35mm and 90mm range. Crop them a bit if you want tighter frames. They'll look just as good viewed on a computer as digital, especially if you spend a bit more on film. You could even forego any kind of metering... Sunny 16 rule, and watch your shadows if the light conditions change; frames with a lot of light or dark rock in them will throw off auto metering anyway. Color print film has something around 14 stops of EV range, and overloads more pleasently than digital, so if you read up for 20 minutes on exposure, you should get great results. Plus, there's no digital components to get fried.... Even if it gets what, with a little know how you could tear down lenses and bodies and get them working again-- expecially old primes.

I know I'll probably get flamed again for mentioning film, but I figured I'd throw it out there-- easy to use, correct, and print, and vastly cheaper.

The problem with compacts and P&S cameras is more often the sensor, and I believe Sony just came out with an FX sensor compact camera with a zoom lens... haven't heard any reviews yet, but as far as IQ at the sensor level goes, it should blow away any sub $1k DSLR.

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By Davis Stevenson
From Flagstaff, Arizona
Jul 8, 2013
Following up a new route out in the Mojave Desert.  Info coming soon maybe?  Fun 5.10 hands and fingers.
Brendan N. (grayhghost) wrote:
Getting two or three banger shots with a fixed lens is much more enjoyable than getting ten mediocre shots with a more versatile point-n-shoot.


+1000

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By Jon H
From Boulder
Jul 9, 2013
At the matching crux
Davis Stevenson wrote:
I know I'll probably get flamed again for mentioning film, but I figured I'd throw it out there-- easy to use, correct, and print, and vastly cheaper.


Interesting perspective. Not a bad idea either. I'm not a "spray-and-pray" shooter. A couple years shooting MF and MFDB did away with that propensity, so a roll of film would probably last me 20 pitches. I don't have my darkroom anymore, but at this point I'd be quite happy just sending out my film to Adorama.

Davis Stevenson wrote:
I believe Sony just came out with an FX sensor compact camera with a zoom lens... haven't heard any reviews yet, but as far as IQ at the sensor level goes, it should blow away any sub $1k DSLR.


Yup, just announced by Sony. And yours for the incredible bargain price of $2700... if it ever becomes available.

We'll see how the S100x treats me. I'll report back in 2 weeks after the trip!

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By jack s.
From Kamloops, BC
Jul 9, 2013
Mean Green P2
Just get the xpro. Then you can have a similarly awesome camera. If you are Alpine climbing, you can just take the prime lens that fits your trip the best. When you go sport climbing the following weekend, you can switch to the 55 to 200 zoom. Best of both worlds. The prime lens does require a bit more thought and effort, but it is more fun. I haven't found weatherproofing to be an issue with my camera. It would probably be bad to leave it out in a solid downpour, but I don't usually climb in that much rain...

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By Davis Stevenson
From Flagstaff, Arizona
Jul 9, 2013
Following up a new route out in the Mojave Desert.  Info coming soon maybe?  Fun 5.10 hands and fingers.
Jon H wrote:
Interesting perspective. Not a bad idea either. I'm not a "spray-and-pray" shooter. A couple years shooting MF and MFDB did away with that propensity, so a roll of film would probably last me 20 pitches. I don't have my darkroom anymore, but at this point I'd be quite happy just sending out my film to Adorama


That's about the rate I shoot. Adorama's printing is awesome, too, especially for digital and scanned chromes; the metallic printing they do is stellar. Especially since you know photography quite well, you could even scoop old RF's with dead meters up and if you're in harsh conditions, who cares what happens to the body?

Jon H wrote:
Yup, just announced by Sony. And yours for the incredible bargain price of $2700... if it ever becomes available


Dear lord....

For that $$$ you could snag a Leica M3 and all the stellar glass you really need...

EDIT:

That Sony would actually be a damn bargain in comparison to an M9, especially when you consider that they make an $11k 50mm prime...

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By Freddy.Mondale
From Boulder, CO
Jul 31, 2013
Any update on the X100s? I like the look of the camera and am thinking of getting one once they come back in stock.

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By wfscot
From Boulder, CO
Aug 1, 2013
Here's a new MFT option that looks to be pretty epic:
engadget.com/2013/08/01/panaso...

Combine those with the Lumix 12-35mm (24-70mm equiv) f2.8 zoom and you at least have some range while still having art-quality optics.

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By Matt N
From Santa Barbara, CA
Aug 1, 2013
OTL
Get an RX100 and enjoy how small it is while climbing. Using a prime and 'zooming with your feet' isn't the easiest if you're on the side of a rock.

I really like 24mm on the wide end for landscapes, so I'm likely to grab an LX7 when they drop to $300 again.

or wait another year and they'll be a whole slew of new options

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By Brendan N. (grayhghost)
From Salt Lake City, Utah
Aug 1, 2013
Freddy.Mondale wrote:
Any update on the X100s? I like the look of the camera and am thinking of getting one once they come back in stock.


Still working great. Such an amazing camera. This shot uses the leaf shutter to sync a small strobe at 1/500 and f/2 to fill in the shadows during full sun.
Emily Harrington at Psicobloc 2013
Emily Harrington at Psicobloc 2013

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By Jon Zucco
From Denver, CO
May 10, 2014
yaak crack Red Rock Canyon, NV
Are there any cameras similar to a Fuji X100s but for like a 3rd of the cost?

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By mozeman
May 10, 2014
I shoot with a Sony Nex-7 normally and when going on long climbs I take a sony Nex-5 with a 16-50 power zoom lens....I have also used the sony RX100

Both cannot be beat and are substantially better than any point and shoot ( the NEX series has a sensor the same size and DSLR's but the same size as the x100s)

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By Dobson
From Butte, MT
May 11, 2014
Jon Zucco wrote:
Are there any cameras similar to a Fuji X100s but for like a 3rd of the cost?


The X100 and X100s are pretty unique.

When you say "similar", what do you mean? Similar sensor, focal length, size, control layout, leaf shutter, or viewfinder? What is it about the 100s that appeals to you?

I recently switched to an X-E1 with 18-55 and 35mm lenses, and I love it.

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