Best Digital SLR for Kayaking - Mountain Buzz

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Old 10-13-2008   #1
bwest's Avatar
Denver, Colorado
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Best Digital SLR for Kayaking

Im looking for advice from those nasty photographers out there. What camera are you using? What is the best, or at least some high quality digital slrs to use on the river. I know some have water resistant gaskets and such that are specific to wet environments. What takes the best photos?

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Old 10-13-2008   #2
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i camera that isn't in a water tight case, unless its a pelican case or watershed bag.
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Old 10-13-2008   #3
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keep them dry but i have a nikon d40 with 55-200 mm lense and also the canon EOS is good
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Old 10-13-2008   #4
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Originally Posted by bwest View Post
Im looking for advice from those nasty photographers out there. What camera are you using? What is the best, or at least some high quality digital slrs to use on the river. I know some have water resistant gaskets and such that are specific to wet environments. What takes the best photos?
It really depends on what you are looking for, quality, or ease of use. I don't know of any DSLRs that claim to be waterproof. I picked up a Nikon D300 this spring. It has some nice features like 6-8 frames per second and 51 tracking autofocus points. These two features are nice for capturing fast moving objects, but not necessary. The problem with that camera is that it's huge. I have to strap its case in between my legs when I paddle. (I could cram it in the stern, but then it's hard to access.

A smaller camera is nice. The new D90 is cheaper and smaller than the D300, but it has many of the nice features of the D300. It will also record Hi-Def video clips (~5minutes).

I agree with the other post that a long zoom range is really nice for paddling. Do you really want to carry and change out multiple lenses?

If you really want to get a lot of shots you cannot beat those little waterproof point and shoots that fit in a PFD pocket. You can feel safe snapping from the middle of the river. Not something that I'm willing to risk with the camera that I bought.
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Old 10-13-2008   #5
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I second the compact camera comment, but if you've got your heart set on a DSLR, the brand new D90 would be the way to go. The Nikkor 18-200 VR is a solid lens for kayaking because you can zoom in from wherever or get real close and not cut anything out. You really aren't going to find a waterproof DSLR unless you buy a bulky and expensive case or keep it in the pelican until you're off the water and have dry hands.
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Old 10-13-2008   #6
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Im using a SLR-like point and shoot Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ18 with a small pelican 1150 to be exact. A four foot cam keeps it around my waist and it fits between my legs in my boat. Has burst shooting and can do like 7 FPS. 8.1 megapixels, 18x optical zoom and is pretty hearty standing up to moistness. Ive used the predecessor model for commercial kayak photography, and we have ones that are two-three years old and are still going strong. I dont see the point of a huge SLR with multiple lenses with all the super high quality, small point and shoots out there. Especially if you want to take it in a boat. Also, check out those olympus 10.1 megapixel, WATERPROOF and shockproof, point and shoots they talk about it in a recent thread. is probably the best camera review site ive seen.
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Old 10-13-2008   #7
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I have carried a Canon 20D with a 10-22 f/3.5, a 28-75 f.2.8 and a 70-200 f/4 in a drybox on my raft. This represent a great system for pro shooting on a budget and keeping weight lowish - about $3000. But even on a raft this is a pain in the ass to cart around - about 20 lbs in its peli case. In a kayak there is no way. Changing lenses on the river isn't too bad on shore, but in a moving boat it is a dangerous operation - dropping a $1500 camera or a $500 lens in the river would ruin your day.

As a previous poster mentioned the nikon 18-200 VR is a fine lens and covers most of the focal range. Both Tamron and Sigma also make similar super zooms. If you really want a DSLR I would buy the smallest body, a canon XXXD or a nikon D60/80/90, and a super zoom lens, probably the Sigma 18-200 OS - It rates better then the Nikon equivalent or the Tamrom 18-250. All of the super zooms are of lower optical quality than the above mentioned set-up, but pictures are more about the image than the image quality.

At the end of the day I also have to agree with Willie that unless you are shooting images for money, a point and shoot is so much smaller lighter and more convenient it is probably the better choice. The Olympus and Pentax waterproof cameras are the most spontaneous cameras out there, and since they can handle the abuse you will take them with you to a lot of places that a heavy and cumbersome DSLR won't go. Places like hiking and backpacking, skiing, out to the bars, and in your life jacket for quick shots. The DSLR with its relative weight, bulk and cost needs special treatment and can be a pain in the ass. If you are getting paid to shot - do it, otherwise you will probably be happier with something smaller. IMHO.
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Old 10-14-2008   #8
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First off... no camera "takes the best photos". It's who's behind the shutter that matters.

That being said, there are definitely cameras out there that will perform better than others in what you're looking for. There's good info above, but I'll chime in as well...

I personally use a Canon 30D with a 28-135 or 10-22 lens in a Watershed in my boat. If my camera was 1/4" shorter, I'd go for a Peli 1200. Probably a more expensive setup than what you're looking for though.

Most any SLR with weather resistant sealing are usually the top of the line (ie $5000+ for just the body alone) cameras.

There's some great PS' being made right now. The Canon G10, Nikon P6000, Sigma DP2, Panasonic LX3 are the "top of the line" as of right now and shoot some damn fine pics... the big disadvantage is the lack of FPS over an SLR.

You may want to consider a film camera... less expensive, more FPS for your buck.

If you're dead set on a digi-SLR then check out the new micro-fourthirds cameras coming out from Olympus/Panasonic (Panasonic G1 is the only one out at the moment). They're THE smallest SLRs available. The Olympus E420 is also pretty damn compact.
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Old 10-14-2008   #9
Woodland Park, Colorado
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Definitely agree with storm11, that its the person behind the shutter that matters first and foremost. I would also look for a used body and lens combo to avert a large dollar loss should water get where you don't want it to.
Canon's pro bodies are almost waterproof when combined with certain dust/waterproof lenses. They all have gaskets at every conceivable entry point and a pro photog who shoots ocean sailboats said that he washes his bodies off under a faucet at the end of the day. I'm sure he is careful about not allowing water into the lens opening while the lens is off the body. Bodies that fall under this category are the 1DII, 1DIIn, 1DsII, 1DIII, and 1DsIII. The 1DII and 1DIIn are 8.3mp at 8.5 frames per second and can be found for ~$2000.00 on the used market depending on how many shutter actuations are on them. I currently have a 1DII which I have finally decided to sell after having it sit in storage the past year in case you are interested. It is in perfect working order and has ~40,000 shutter actuations. I am now using a 1DsIII (21mp at 5fps). Even though these 1D bodies can withstand shooting unprotected in a good rainstorm, I would still suggest only using them from a land based position because of their cost. A used 30D or 40D would be a better choice for shooting from a raft, for the decreased financial setback if the worst happens. You could use an EWA Marine waterproof flexible case to shoot with if needed, since you can then use your DSLR under water as well as on a raft.

Lenses to mate with one of the above bodies would be a 24-105mm IS(ImageStabilized) or a 100-400 IS(ImageStabilized). The 24-105 is weatherized but the 100-400 is not. The 28-135 ImageStabilized lens mentioned above is also a very good choice, but is not weatherized. There is also a Canon 28-300 IS lens which is an excellent focal range for a river, but it is heavy (similar in weight to the 100-400 IS.

The above choices for Nikon are also good performers and the VR(Vibration Reduction) feature on the lens is a plus.

Waterproof P&S cameras such as the Olympus and Pentax models in the 7-10mpxl range would be something to have along for on-river shooting. Their drawbacks are their small sensor size which creates "noise" issues (especially at higher ISO's) when printing above 8x10's. The images are fine for web exhibition though.
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Old 10-14-2008   #10
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These aren't out just yet, but I'm thinking they are going to be a great balance between slr quality, versatilty, and speed and a compact cameras size. Panasonic DMC-G1 Hands-on Preview: 1. Introduction: Digital Photography Review

Still won't do anything for waterproofness but they might fit in a smaller peli.
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