16 November 2010

Cameras for Peru

COLUMBUS--I wonder when the sad day will be when I decide not to take a film camera. Happily, that day has not yet come.

While trying to decide what equipment to take I was deeply conflicted. My primary camera is the outstanding Nikon D3 but the D3 has some serious drawbacks for traveling. First and foremost it is large, obtrusive, heavy and expensive. And owning only one it is my primary workhorse for all those portrait and wedding and Stateside news and documentary jobs that pay a lot more of the bills than travel and humanitarian documentary work. I didn't want to carry the big Nikon because if anything happened to it I would be in trouble for upcoming jobs and, well, I didn't want to literally carry it.

I decided initially to make do with my Leica M6ttl and the Canon G9 but it also seemed irresponsible in this day and age to go on a trip almost certain to produce sellable images with no digital camera but a point and shoot (albeit a very good point and shoot). The obvious solution was a new camera! I considered a number of options and those came down to a smaller, less-expensive Nikon D-5000 or one of the new Micro 4/3 systems from Panasonic or Olympus. All the research and my own personal preference led me to believe of those two it would be the Panasonic but I was unable to find one anywhere in Columbus. Finally, I was able to handle one at Dodd Camera in Cleveland and, well, it was pretty amazing to fall deeply in love twice in one year!

The Micro 4/3 system places a sensor about half the size of a 35mm sensor but around nine times the size of a point and shoot sensor, large enough for good detail and to achieve a shallow depth-of-field. The camera has interchangeable lenses and almost no shutter lag, all in a package the size of the G9, a large point and shoot. There are also adaptors enabling one to use nearly any other camera system's lenses.

I bought the Panasonic GF1 with the 20mm f1.7, which on a Micro 4/3 camera is a normal lens. I also got a Leica M mount adaptor and the optional Electronic Viewfinder. I replaced the labeled strap with a black canvas Domke strap. The GF1 and the Leica M6ttl go in a black Domke F3X shoulder bag along with 35mm and 50mm Leica lenses and a 15mm Voigtlander. These all, via the adaptor, can be mounted on the GF1 with an approximately 2x magnification factor. For the GF1 I have four 8GB and four 4GB SDHC cards and for the Leica six rolls of Fuji Neopan 400 ASA, six rolls of Ilford HP5 and two rolls of 400 ASA Fujichrome slide film. I also have an 4GB Flip HD Video Camera and Kristina will carry my Canon G9.

Now all I need is a llama posing in front of some Inca ruins with a cloud-wreathed Andean peak in the background!

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