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12-11-2018, 08:13 PM - 5 Likes   #1
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Galapagos kit review

My wife and I recently returned from a fantastic 10-day National Geographic/Lindblad expedition to the Galapagos.
I am an enthusiast photographer, not a professional, and thought I would post my thoughts on what I brought and share a few pictures. I hope it helps someone who is planning a similar trip.

Mindshift Photocross 13 Sling

Pentax K3ii plus 3 batteries and wallplug charger and 5 x 64GB memory cards. Peak design strap.
Olympus TG-5 and a fujifilm wrist strap.

Pentax 16-85 ED DC WR
Pentax 55-300ED PLM WR RE

13" Dell laptop w/ 256GB hard drive
1 TB Seagate Backup plus portable HDD

Overall, I was very happy with the kit.
The sling bag was perfect. I used it for the laptop, lenses, power cords and other criticals on the flights the way there. It was full to the gills, but not uncomfortable. The waist strap is a bit puny. It helps distribute the load, but I could have used something with a little padding to it, rather than a cinch strap with a clip. Once we got there and unloaded it, it was a comfy hiker and kept the contents (lens, batteries, cards, extra caps) dry and sand free during the various hikes, and swinging it forward provided a stable platform for lens and battery changes (more on that later). My water bottle fit, too. I give it a 9.5/10.

The K3ii was fantastic. Between its weather sealing and that of the lenses I brought, I was never concerned about a little sea spray on the zodiacs (the drivers were so good, it never really happened), mist on a trail, or having to be too careful. I got a little free with shooting and did a lot of exposure bracketing in TAv and I shot RAW + JPEG. Lighting conditions were generally fantastic, but I'm still learning the eye for what kind of metering to use (spot/weighted/overall). The GPS is helpful to remind you exactly where you were for a particular picture. I used its video rarely and with poor effect- I hadn't practiced that feature much, and I don't think I'll be trying it for real with that camera without more study. Lack of flash was a non-issue since you can't use a flash on the Galapagos. No camera can be everything, and for what I wanted out of it, the k3ii delivered. 9/10. There were only two Pentaxians on the expedition. He had a K5 and seemed generally happy with his experience.

The TG5 was my video/underwater camera. I was quite happy with that, too. My only complaint is that "GPS logging when powered off" is governed by a switch which is too easily toggled if your putting the camera in your pocket. Then the battery goes and you don't know why. I called it incentive to step from behind the lens for a day- it was fine. As an FYI you can't use any flashes in the Galapagos, so you don't have much chance to improve your lot with light. I think video at the Galapagos is important- they do neat things that can complement a story told by stills - and the TG5 was just about smartphone-easy for video. There were a handful of gopros on the trip, a TG4, and smartphone waterproof kits. I think everyone was satisfied.

The lenses were the right choice from my general stash. The wide angle was more important for the zodiac coastal tours than I expected. Sometimes you needed the context to put the scene into perspective- otherwise it's a full-frame bird on a cliff wall that has a verticality you can't really appreciate if you're all zoomed in. Most hikes were loop hikes and I would go out with one lens and switch halfway through. It's difficult to describe, but most of my favorite shots were with the 55-300, but I enjoyed shooting with the wide angle more. The sling bag made lens changes easy, even on a bouncing zodiac with a life vest. If I go again (I hope I do) I would consider a second SLR body, but I started using the TG5 for wide angle at the end, and it was fine. I'm not interested in the extra weight. The wildlife is extraordinarily tame and one usually has plenty of time to compose shots.

There was ample time to dump memory cards and backup in the evenings on the ship. There was no real bandwidth for cloud services, so I would not rely on that. The laptop was more a holding location for jpegs- its hard drive was a little too small to hold the RAW files and videos. I only realized this a few days before the trip and luckily a friend loaned me his TB drive. Something one should check before they think they're packed. I never filled up a card during a single day, but I felt better having the 2 extra cards for whatever reason.

Forgotten item: Polarizing filter, maybe a ND filter. Have them, simply forgot. I would have gotten some nicer sky and ocean on some of the shots, especially on the brightest days. Also carabiners and a spare set of shoelaces. But that's a different story.

Items left behind with no regrets: I did not bring a tripod or a monopod. The one guy who had a monopod always seemed overencumbered. I had a hiking pole one day, and that was a bit much to manage with a camera. Leave it home with your 600mm lens. I did not bring any macro lenses or adapters and didn't miss them either.

What I wish I had: More vacation time so I could make it a longer trip.

Last edited by hoffm141; 12-13-2018 at 08:35 PM.
05-16-2019, 07:50 PM   #2
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I only just saw this thread!

While you were in Galapagos, I was in Antarctica - also with NatGeo/Lindblad. And now I'm locked in for a trip to Galapagos late next year.

Even now I'm beginning to think about what gear I should take, so this is all useful information.
06-16-2019, 01:30 PM - 1 Like   #3
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Great images, Hoffm141!

Wow! So close to the kit that I took to Machu Picchu and the Galapagos in Sept/Oct 2018. Substitute a KP for the K-3ii, an old Ricoh WG-4 for the Olympus TG-5, an old Lowe MiniMag bag for the Mindshift Sling, a Chromebook for the Dell, a pair of Samsung 500GB T5 SSDs for the image backups. Only 4X64GB memory cards. Also, the same no tripod or monopod. I also took a K-01 and DA 20-40 zoom as backup for camera/lens failure. Only the KP, DA16-85 and DA55-300PLM lived in the MiniMag, as well as enough batteries and memory cards. The K-01 and 20-40 were a great walkaround in Peru, not much use in Galapagos.

Only had 4 days in Galapagos, as this was a combo trip with sites in Peru. Also needed more Galapagos time.
I've since replaced the Chromebook with an old 11" MacBook Air, which is much more useful to me.

As far as I'm concerned (I'm 70+, but can handle a K-1ii and an FF-converted DA*60-250), Hoffm141's and my kits are almost the ideal travel kit, even for active and rugged locations. Recent APS-C camera and the 16-85 and 55-500PLM covers it all with high quality.

Add an underwater camera for places like the Galapagos or Great Barrier Reef. Can't be beat!

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