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08-22-2010, 04:30 AM - 1 Like   #1
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Weather proofing - how necessary?

Hi folks. Sorry if this has already been discussed ad infinitum but your input would be much appreciated.

I will be heading off backpacking in the next few months. I intend to be away for several years and it will mostly be real low budget stuff, camping etc.

I've been using my old Pentax K100 since I was 16 - that's, er, around 30 years - and I love it to bits. But practically, I realise that now is probably time to embrace the digital age.

I am wavering between the K-x and K10D. The K-x because it's small (I'm a wee female, have small hands and will be carrying my world in my backpack), the shop assistant recommended the AA batteries for travelling plus there's the good high ISO performance to consider (I loathe flash and prefer to make the most of available conditions for more atmospheric pictures - also, I don't think I could physically carry a tripod of top of everything else).

BUT ... bearing in mind that I'll largely be camping and outdoors, how much more important would it be to consider the weatherproofing and sturdiness of a camera like the K10D? Are there other factors I should be bearing in mind?

Lastly, I'll probably settle for a standard 18-55 lens for weight reasons but would it be worth considering taking a wider angle lens too? The first part of my trip is to the decidedly non-budget extreme Antarctic (Ross Sea) and I'm thinking icebergs.

Many thanks for bearing with me and, again, I would be most appreciative of your recommendations.

08-22-2010, 05:07 AM   #2
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Even with a weathersealed camera I wouldn't advise to expose the camera to pouring rain. The key benefit in my view is that it is better sealed against dust which is a major enemy. You would of corse need a weathersealed lens to go with it in order to benefit.

A good dust blower is essential in any event and perhaps it is more important to think about the batteries. If you cannot expect to be able to recharge the K10D, you definitely should go with the K-x. The best batteries would then be AA lithium (like Energizer e2), they seem to last forever.

I don't think you need anything wider than 18mm that often. I would be more concerned with the long end - 55mm is faily short (think whales and penguins). When I recently was in Greenland I used a longish focal length the most.

If you can lug it you could consider two camera bodies, so that you not only have a spare but also (as long as they both work) avoid changing lenses. 18-55mm WR on one camera and a 50-200 WR on the other would be close to ideal for the trip you're embarking on.

Mamory cards is the third consideration (either carry plenty or a portable hard drive (or netbook) for storage).
08-22-2010, 06:06 AM   #3
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As someone who shoots primarily outdoors in all weathers, I'll add a couple comments to Ole's advice.

Carry a small portable umbrella and wear a wide-brimmed hat (two inches or so). One or the other (sometimes both) have been of considerable use to me when shooting in rain and snow. The umbrella provides shade in hot sun, too. The hat can be turned upside down and placed on the ground when you want to set the camera or lenses down for some reason (to make a pitstop, for instance, or as a platform for changing lenses).

I bought a K200D almost two years ago because of its weather seals, but I use the standard 18-55mm kit lens, as well as a Pentax 50-200mm telephoto. Neither is weather sealed, but I've used them trouble-free in all weathers. Though some dry snow has fallen onto the lenses and camera, and misty rain has as well, I've had no problems. Just carry a dry clean cloth (bandannas are perfect) to wipe the lens bodies and camera dry. Outfitting your lens(es) with a UV filter(s) helps keep the front element pristine. Consider carrying a small lens cleaning kit.

The K200D was my choice only in part because of weather sealing. The real selling point was the ability to use AA batteries. This has proved to be a very good thing. If I was buying a new DSLR today, it would be the K-x because of the ability to use AAs, even though it's not sealed like the K-7 or K200D (no longer made). I use Sanyo Eneloops rechargeables and lithium cells (Energizer) as backups. No other rechargeable batteries are worth using. They last a long time between charges (I get a couple thousand non-flash shots at last check) on the Eneloops, and the lithiums work at least even longer. Be prepared with backup batteries all the time, because when those two kinds of batteries die, they die instantly.

I like the 18-55mm kit lens, but wouldn't want to rely on it alone, so am glad to have the 50-200mm as well -- I tend to shoot at the low end and high end, with less in between. I'm considering getting a lens which spans that range of focal lengths so I can avoid swapping lenses and reduce bulk in my kit when cyclotouring, but that has a drawback as well. If you have only one lens and it is damaged, you're out of luck. A second camera body would be nice, but for now I rely on a point-and-shoot (Canon A590IS, which I bought before going to Pentax) for quick shots and awkward situations.

Lastly-- Keep sand out and off the camera and lenses. It's a killer.

Have a great trip, and post some pictures to the forum when you can!
08-22-2010, 06:26 AM   #4
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Just a thought: the K200D (which I use, and will keep alongside my next camera) has both the weathersealing of the K10D and the AA batteries of the K-x. So why not pick up a used K200D? With a DA 18-55 WR it makes a great and inexpensive WR kit. The K200D does not have the high-ISO capability of the K-r but as I understand it was an improvement on the K10D in high-ISO (in spite of using the same sensor).

Just a thought.

08-22-2010, 06:34 AM   #5
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I was just browsing - it appears that you can still get a new K200D from them (or one of their affiliates)! So the K200D could be an option and it is not quite as heavy as the K10D.

For a one-lens outfit the Pentax-DA 18-250 (or Tamron 18-250 which it is based on) is well-liked by many. It is discountinued, though, and fairly slow (f/6.3) a the long end. The zoom ring on the Tamron version doesn't hold up well and may not survive your trip.
08-22-2010, 06:35 AM   #6
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I think it's worth it mostly for the resistance to dust. I use the K7 and DA* lenses and have not had issues yet with dust getting into the camera or lenses here in Afghanistan. I have been using it around helicopters landing and kicking up a LOT of dust and no worries so far I just brush it off when done.

As for rain, I have used mine in a couple thunderstorms and drenched it. I would probably not do that and leave it wet for a long period of time but it remains unscathed by weather so far. I would say that rain can be mitigated by an umbrella or a large brimmed hat for most use.

The K7 with a pair of WR lenses was about 1200-1300 dollars. I can't comment on them for dust but I did purchase that setup for my brothers birthday and he has had no issues in the northeast (not a lot of dust).

08-22-2010, 06:54 AM   #7
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Instead of K10 you should probably opt for the K20, they are cheep these days and finding a power outlet along the way is easier than most people think... Just make sure to have a couple of spare batteries along... and the 18-55WR lens... There you go, your perfect backpacking kit that's not afraid of moisture or dust...
08-22-2010, 08:13 AM   #8
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A lot of good options have already been suggested by previous posters.

I'd suggest looking at something like this Vortex Media Storm Jacket Cover for an SLR Camera with a Medium Lens Measuring 7" to 15" from Rear of Body to Front of Lens, Color: Black: Electronics

It's smaller than the hat or umbrella and I love mine.

Also, for general storage there are some very good waterproof bags for purchase. I saw a lot of options the last time I was at REI - although there are many other options out there too. Having those bags will ensure dust and water are kept out when the equipment is not in use.

As far as power goes, I've had 2-3 universal power adapters and all have worked just fine in Asia and Central America. I normally try to run everything through an iGo (since it also conditions the power) but was not able to do that for my K10D because they don't have an attachment for it. My other toys (iPod, etc), however, always were attached through the iGo just because I saw lots of power spikes that worried me. I was able to find AA batteries everywhere I went - they are very universal.

08-22-2010, 09:06 AM   #9
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Being outside, trekking and camping for a long period of time will take a toll on your gear and it's likely to get wet at some point no matter how hard you try. My K10D has taken a beating and held up so far so I can vouch for it's durability. A DSLR with lenses will be a lot of weight to haul around for a long term trip. As much as I love my camera, to be absolutely honest, I would look for a quality, weather resistant P&S like the Optio WR90. It has pretty good zoom range and macro capability. Long distance backpacking will take a toll on your body. A DSLR with an extra lens are going to be like rocks in your bag. Most people who set out on long distance treks start out with all the "essentials" you see on lists in outdoor magazines. By the end of the first month, half of it is usually shipped back home.
08-22-2010, 09:12 AM   #10

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If you don't get a weather sealed camera, and just by chance if your camera gets damaged from bad weather, how likely will you be able to find a replacement (or repair) in the time frame that you need it? This would put a major dent in your trip, right?

Just for that fact that you plan to be gone for a few years backpacking, camping, and roughing it, I would suggest getting a weather sealed camera. Better safe than sorry.

Also, if it hasn't been mentioned yet, look into Eneloops for AA batteries. They hold a charge longer than other AA's. Even with a few sets of these, you won't have to find a place to recharge nearly as often as you would with other AA's.

Oh, and carry an excess of SD cards.
08-22-2010, 09:18 AM   #11
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aljie... It seems to me that if you are a diminutive woman, the K10 and K20 maybe be a bit large and heavy for long-term use. Not that you couldn't pick these cameras up and use them, of course. But they might not be as comfortable in hand and may also become a bit fatiguing for the long-haul. Plus, every square inch and every ounce matters when you're packing for global travel. That's why I'd still recommend the K-x. And, if you're going to places like Antarctica, I'd recommend the kit with the 18-55 and 55-300 lenses:

Pentax K-x Digital SLR Camera: Electronics & Photo

A leftover K200D is also a good option. The compromise there is that, in return for weather resistance in a package that's a bit smaller and lighter than the K10/K20 (but not quite as light as the K-x), you're limited to ISO 1600.

Now... if you've played with a K20 (better option than K10) and really have no problem with the size and weight, it's still an excellent possibility. A K20 with the Pentax 18-250mm (assuming you can find one in time) would be a good arrangement, as you wouldn't have to change lenses. Or a K20 with the 18-55 WR and 55-200 WR lenses would give you pretty much all the weather resistance you need, at the price of an extra 100mm at the longer end (compared with the 55-300).

The truth is, if you're not using weather-resistant lenses, it's probably not that important to insist on a weather-resistant camera body. And all DSLRs can take a few sprinkles of rain on them.

If I were in your place, I still think I'd opt for the K-x and with two lens kit I mentioned above. And I'd make sure I'd have a weatherproof case for it. Also, bring a few clear plastic bags. They pack down to almost nothing and if you simply must use the camera in foul weather, cut or tear a hole in the bag large enough for the front of the lens to poke through and put the camera in the bag.

Lee Runge is the only one here who has mentioned the K-7. What kind of budget are you on? Because a K-7 with with WR lenses might offer almost everything you need in terms of size, weight and weather resistance. The only issue here is power as the camera has a proprietary lithium-ion battery and doesn't use AAs. But people who do a lot of world travel with cameras should be the ones to tell you how important this is.
08-22-2010, 09:23 AM   #12
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I would take a different tack. Try some of the new point and shoot cameras, and focus on the travel zoom cameras. DPreview looked at the latest batch of travel zoom cameras recently. They really are about as 95% good as SLR's in decent light, are much more compact and weigh a fraction of an SLR+lenses. And coming from the film era, the P&S cameras are incredibly good, routinely shooting up to ISO 400-800, etc. Since they are "sealed", meaning you can't change lenses, the P&S's are going to be much easier to keep dry and clean. You can even take a small lightweight tripod that works great with a P&S, whereas a tripod for an SLR in a backpack is not really practical.

The new micro 4/3 cameras are a step up from the P&S's, and have their own advantages (size, weight) and disadvantages (no viewfinder, expensive, custom batteries).

Sure, you can't get the neat effects like dramatic macro shots, shooting in dim light, etc with a P&S, but for a several year trip like yours, I just couldn't imagine lugging around a dSLR+lenses. At some point, your backpack is going to get lost, stolen, squashed or submerged - just a fact of life, traveling for a couple of years.

If you really want an dSLR after considering the P&S cameras, go for a K-x with the kit lens. This is a fairly disposable system, and you won't be out a huge chunk of money after it gets lost, stolen, squashed, or dunked in water. The kit lens is a decent lens, inexpensive, and the K-x is about the lightest weight and smallest dSLR, with AA batteries you can find. AA batteries are a huge win. When you are stuck on a ship in the Ross sea or in some remote location, AA's might be the only thing you can get.

I did a trip much like yours back in the early 1980's, with a Nikon FM and 3 lenses - that's how old I am! After a couple of months, I just sold the camera and lenses, and bought a cheap film camera. It was just too much to carry around. I did have the Nikon in Antarctica (a long story), and it was great to have, just too unique a place to NOT have a SLR. But for general travel, it was too much...

Alright, bring the flame responses on!
08-22-2010, 09:47 AM   #13
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Lee Runge is the only one here who has mentioned the K-7. What kind of budget are you on? Because a K-7 with with WR lenses might offer almost everything you need in terms of size, weight and weather resistance. The only issue here is power as the camera has a proprietary lithium-ion battery and doesn't use AAs. But people who do a lot of world travel with cameras should be the ones to tell you how important this is.
I actually use the Battery Grip attachment for my K7 mostly to utilize AA rechargeable. I'm using two dozen Powerex Immedion's right now as I travel about. The Pentax Li-ion is used in the body as a backup reserve.

The Pentax battery will take at least 700 shots before it dies it's a good battery, but I prefer using AA as I can just pop in more if needed.

I carry a bunch of adapters as I run into 110/220 and a few different 220 plugs.

Im not sure what your budget is but the DA* lenses have been pretty good for water but one has some dust in it that I noticed earlier today (60-250)

This place is about as bad as it gets for that kind of thing though.

08-22-2010, 09:58 AM   #14
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Weather proofing - how necessary

To everyone who has responded to my query, a big, big thank you for all your well considered - and practical - recommendations. This was my first post to the forum and I am so impressed with the help you have offered. Now, it will be a couple of weeks before I will be in a position to actually buy anything, so there is plenty of time to mull over all your advice. I certainly hope I manage to take some photos that are worthy of uploading here. Again, thank you. I'll give it lots of thought and hope to provide feedback soon. Best wishes all. Aljie
08-22-2010, 06:17 PM   #15
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I can speak from my personal experience with DSLR cameras and rain. The vast majority of my photography is nature and landscape type work. Therefore, I am often out in the rain when I shoot. My previous camera was an Olympus E-500 which I love, but it is not weather sealed. There have been several occasions when I have been shooting in a steady rain only to have my Olympus stop working totally or the buttons will start acting oddly due to moisture getting in. On many of these occasions I have had to open my cameras battery compartment and the memory card door and set the camera in a sunny window for three or four days till the inside dried out. That Olympus still works great and appears to have no long term damage. But I always worried each time it happened that that would be the last time the camera would work, plus I have lost several opportunities to shoot due to the camera needing to dry out.

My K7 is weather sealed and as already been mentioned weather sealed does not mean waterproof. I am still very careful to keep the camera from going for a swim or getting splashed really heavy. But just today I took the K7 out in a moderate rain shower and shot three hours worth of photos in and around a local swamp. It never missed a shot and didn't suffer any ill effects. Of coure when I got it home I made sure to clean it real good, but its in the case right now and ready to go should I choose to shoot tomorrow.

I would hate to be in the middle of a camping/hiking trip and to be unable to shoot for several days while my camera dried out.

As for the batteries. I have three of the Pentax batteries that I charge before I hit the road and find that I can shoot to my hearts content and never have to worry about running out of power. Of course bringing the recharger along in the trip and plug it into the car power keeps me in power should I need it.

Just my two cents.

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