Walker’s Tools: In My Camera Bag
November 27, 2014 • Leave a Comment
Here’s a look inside my camera bag. A very unusual bag indeed in that it is so diminutive, so minimal and so unlike the massive kits typically toted by serious photographers, such as yours truly. It’s a kit that balances my needs as a photographer with those of a good walking experience.
My last post was devoted to one user’s review of the Olympus OM-D E-M5, a camera well-suited to the needs of a walker. A minimalist camera with maximum capabilities. Light in weight, small in size but as capable as a much larger DSLR.
Small, light and capable: these are the photographic parameters for everything that goes into my photography kit. And, from the world of long distance walkers carrying their worldly needs on their backs, comes an additional parameter: if an item is not essential, eliminate it. There is no room for just-in-case stuff.
The camera kit hanging from my neck:
Lens hood. Almost weightless, this accessory dramatically increases the quality of photos by reducing flare, allowing creative backlit shots and protecting the front surface of the lens from scratches.
Camera strap. Scrap the one that comes with your camera and get the Peak Design Leash. This strap can be configured in various ways and can be quickly disconnected from the camera for those time when a strap gets in the way. But its greatest virtue is the lightweight flexible strap material that feels comfortable around the neck yet compacts nicely when you need to stuff a camera and strap into a tiny bag.
Camera filters. Digital cameras minimize the need for most filters but I consider neutral density filters (for good blurs in daylight) and a circular polarizer (for reducing reflections and creating deep blue skies) as essential. The good news is that my tiny M.Zuiko 14-42mm IIR lens takes equally tiny 37mm diameter filters. My filter kit includes three high-quality B+W filters: ND 0.6 (4x) and ND 0.9 (8x) neutral density filters and a Circular-Pol. All three weigh a mere 48 grams.
Batteries. Three of them. Two in the bag, one in the camera. As I mentioned in my Olympus E-M5 review, battery life is not one of the camera’s strong points. Three batteries are necessary for a day’s shooting on the trail. I use non-Olympus compatible batteries by Upstart (available on Amazon) and Watson (available from B & H Photo).
iPad SD Card Reader. This is essential. I need to transfer photos from camera to iPad so I can edit and upload photos to my blog site. Because I have a third generation (non-lightning) iPad, the Apple iPad Camera Connection Kit is required. The kit also contains a USB connector but I don’t use it, so it stays at home.
Cleaning. I carry the Lenspen Mini Pro lens cleaner, which has a small cleaning pad and retractable brush. I also carry a couple of Costco’s Optico Cleaning Cloths, moist towelettes for lenses. Backup cloths for a long trip are carried in my backpack.
Bag. All this fits into the smallest imaginable camera bag, the Lowepro Apex 100 AW. A tight fit to be sure, but it works. An essential feature of this bag is its rain cover. On a long walk, the camera bag goes over my shoulder, then the backpack goes on, then the camera comes out and hangs around my neck for the duration of the walk, ready for action.
The total kit - everything mentioned above and the camera bag - weighs in at 1000 grams. Compare that to the hefty 1184 gram weight of just my Nikon D90 and 18-200 mm lens; no filters, batteries straps or bags.
What’s not in the bag:
Battery Charger. This goes in the backpack. I carry one compact Upstart charger (see my Olympus E-M5 review) which means I have to be vigilant in getting a battery into the charger at day’s end and, as soon as it is charged, switch to another discharged battery.
SD Card Wallet. This contains irreplaceable photo files so they never leave my body. I use the inexpensive All-Weather Wallet by Colghan (available at outdoor recreation stores), a thin waterproof pouch that I carry in the “secret pocket” of my Tilley pants or in a money belt.
Small pack towel. I carry a small microfiber pack towel in the pocket of my Gore-Tex jacket. In a light rain, I can use the towel to dry my camera, keeping it available to take pictures without having to retreat to the camera bag.
Viewfinder eyecups. Every camera I own seems to have bits that fall off. The lens hood on my Nikon 18-200mm lens would keep falling of. I must have bought several of these overpriced pieces of plastic. With the Olympus, it is the eyecup over the viewfinder. It breaks or it falls off after bouncing against my chest for a few weeks on a long walk. So I bring a couple of spares. Fortunately they only weigh a couple of ounces.
This is an extensively tested kit that has not changed significantly over two long walks, totaling 1500 kilometres. If I was to start another long walk tomorrow, I would happily use the very same camera kit. However, I am always looking for new cameras and accessories that might lighten my load even further - of course, without compromising on camera controls or image quality. Have an idea? I’d love to hear it so feel free to leave a comment below.
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