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09-07-2016, 12:57 PM   #1
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Compact vs 3-prime kit for travel?

I am planning a multi-week trip to SW France, and photography will be a big part of the trip. We will be doing a lot of point-to-point walking (6-12 miles per day) with everything on our backs. No car, no suitcase, only smallish backpacks - but no camping gear, either.

I have a 3-prime kit, built around my Pentax Kx which is small and light relative to some other APS-C bodies and primes - BUT - I'm beginning to think it's too much to carry. I'm trying to decide how much image quality I might be willing to sacrifice for convenience and comfort.

My 6 year old, 12 MP, APS-C camera is hardly state-of-the-art, but I am mostly satisfied with the images I'm getting from my 3 primes:
Pentax-DA 35mm F2.4 AL,
HD Pentax-DA 21mm F3.2, and
Pentax-DA 70mm F2.4)

Everything fits in a LowePro Event Messenger 100 which measures about 11" x 7.5" x 6", and weighs about 4.4 lbs (2kg), including spare batteries, filters, etc. Problem is, the camera bag won't fit in the loaded backpack, so I will need to have the camera bag on my shoulder every step of the way, even if I'm not in full-photo-mode.

A Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX100, or a Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 III, or equivalent, would greatly reduce my kit (and my bank account) - but how much image quality will I loose? (I am not even considering any sensor less than 1" - nor will I buy anything with a zoom which does not open up to at least F2.8.)

I don't expect the compacts and their zooms to match my APS-C plus a prime, but will they be at least as good as the kit zoom which came with my Kx (SMC Pentax DA L 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 AL)? I'm guessing that higher pixel counts and modern sensors will partially offset the difference in size between a new micro 4/3 or 1" sensor and my old Kx?

And when comparing the weight of compacts to my Kx kit, about how much should I figure for a spare battery and charger. (My Kx takes AA batteries, so I don't have to carry a charger!)

The Kx is is the only digital camera I've owned, so I have no personal experience with other formats. I would hate to spend the price of a travel compact, and then decide I'm not happy with images.

Actually, I'd hate to spend the money, period; maybe I should should just stick with the the 3-prime kit?

Final use of the images will probably be limited to web viewing, slide shows on TVs and computer monitors, and a nice photo book no bigger than 13" x 11" - so I don't need uber quality, but I'd like to get as much as I can afford.


Last edited by runswithsizzers; 09-07-2016 at 12:59 PM. Reason: added kit zoom specifics
09-07-2016, 01:50 PM   #2
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11X13 is pretty small and the Sony RX100 mkIII can handle that no problem.
I am happy with mine and have taken 2 trips with it so far. The 24mm wide end is real handy. For travel and smaller prints, it is hard to beat.
09-07-2016, 02:10 PM   #3
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In a similar situations I don't bring the small camera bag and just use neoprene wraps for the gear and put two primes in a small lens wrap. Then those items can just go in the main pack. Or if you wear cargo pants or a jacket with generous pockets the lenses at least and maybe the camera can go in pockets. Then I put the camera around my neck when I need to be ready to shoot.
09-07-2016, 02:29 PM   #4
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QuoteOriginally posted by mattb123 Quote
In a similar situations I don't bring the small camera bag and just use neoprene wraps for the gear and put two primes in a small lens wrap. Then those items can just go in the main pack. Or if you wear cargo pants or a jacket with generous pockets the lenses at least and maybe the camera can go in pockets. Then I put the camera around my neck when I need to be ready to shoot.
Actually, I have been investigating that exact same option!

That is, maybe the 3-prime kit will be more manageable if I can re-package it. When I am looking for photos, the camera will be around my neck, no problem. I will want to be able to get to the other 2 primes without taking off the backpack, but I've seen neoprene lens cases with snaps or carabiners to hang them from belt loops or pack straps. Then when I'm not in photo-mode, I can put the camera in it's wrap and toss it in the backpack. The extra batteries, filters etc can stay in the backpack all the time, so I wouldn't really need the camera bag.

There will be times when I'll want to leave the backpack in the hotel room, but I do have a vest with lots of pockets I can use for day trips.

So far, all the neoprene camera wraps I've seen are made to go over the kit zoom, which makes them too long for my needs. Not a big deal, but I'd rather not have a wad of empty neoprene to pack. Do you know of any camera covers made to go with a shorter lens?

09-07-2016, 02:41 PM   #5
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For years I never had zooms, and travelled with a Leica M & 35, 50, & sometimes 90 mm lenses. I didn't change lenses much, but picked one for the day and found the pictures that suited it. A few years back on a study tour of Israel / Jordan I took a super zoom compact digital instead. It was quite useful, and I've used the pictures projected for lectures often since.
However, now I'm back to picking a f.l. lens to use for the day, and fitting the shots to the lens. Don't fret over the lens you don't have, just find the good pictures for the one you do have.
09-07-2016, 02:54 PM   #6
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Does your backpack have a waist belt?
If so perhaps you could use a couple of Think Tank lens pouches attached to it. That would give you access while you have your pack on. You could throw a Think Tank Thin Skin belt in the pack and use the pouches on it when you are not wearing your pack. There are also quite a few camera pouches from Think Tank that work with the system.
I use the system for event and travel photography and it works great.
09-07-2016, 03:08 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by runswithsizzers Quote
Actually, I have been investigating that exact same option!

That is, maybe the 3-prime kit will be more manageable if I can re-package it. When I am looking for photos, the camera will be around my neck, no problem. I will want to be able to get to the other 2 primes without taking off the backpack, but I've seen neoprene lens cases with snaps or carabiners to hang them from belt loops or pack straps. Then when I'm not in photo-mode, I can put the camera in it's wrap and toss it in the backpack. The extra batteries, filters etc can stay in the backpack all the time, so I wouldn't really need the camera bag.

There will be times when I'll want to leave the backpack in the hotel room, but I do have a vest with lots of pockets I can use for day trips.

So far, all the neoprene camera wraps I've seen are made to go over the kit zoom, which makes them too long for my needs. Not a big deal, but I'd rather not have a wad of empty neoprene to pack. Do you know of any camera covers made to go with a shorter lens?
When I had the K-x I think I found the Zing wrap was a decent fit with just a little "slack" at the lens end when using a prime like the DA 15 but using a pancake like the DA 40 doesn't work because of how it is designed to secure by looping over the lens. Now that I'm using bigger cameras I use a Clik wrap which is a little less form fitting but since it can be tightened and secured with velcro it can take up that slack if needed.
Either of these can be nice to put on the camera even if you have it over your shoulder or around your neck to protect from the elements and bumps.
09-07-2016, 03:20 PM   #8
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I really enjoyed my K-r sensor as well (same sensor as the K-x). I can walk around with the DA 35 2.4 on it (and now on the K-S1) all day long and not even feel it's around my shoulder. The DA 21 and 70 would work very well in my pockets if I had them! I would just use that, honestly.

09-07-2016, 04:37 PM   #9
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I use this bag Domke F-5XB RuggedWear Medium Shoulder and Belt Bag 700-52A B&H with camera with lens attached plus two additional primes.... I carry it always....really small nice bag.
09-07-2016, 05:13 PM   #10
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The DA21, DA40, and DA70 are all so small that they can be thrown in a pocket easily, especially without their hoods...and on top of that they all provide excellent image quality. From my understanding the K-X isn't very big or heavy so throwing it over your shoulder or around your neck shouldn't be hard. You could also consider a small mirrorless camera (like a sony nex or fuji x) and a 3 lens kit for them, the sigma 19, 30, and 60 for the E-mount are cheap-ish. I have a NEX-5T with the collapsible kit lens for snap shots, but the quality of that lens lags behind what my pentax kit can do, the three sigma primes would probably be better than the kit lens and maybe on par with (or slightly behind) the limited primes on the pentax. The LX100 and RX100 III are both interesting cameras. I've done some research into both but I can't justify spending the extra money when my K-01 with the 3 DA limited kit I have will do just as well if not better.
09-07-2016, 05:21 PM   #11
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When backpacking (in my younger years), my rule of thumb was to minimize weight by simplifying my gear. Multi-purpose equipment was essential; redundant items were left out of the bag to cut ounces/grams.

My recommendation would be a simpler camera and no extra lenses. The two alternative cameras you mention would probably work well for you, while cutting down the weight and extra bags/hangers/pouches. As others have mentioned, you'll find plenty of opportunities to take great pictures with either of those (or other) choices. After a week on the hike, I think you'll be happy to not dig into your bag for lenses, fiddle with bits, or worry about dust getting into the camera.

Also - since photography will be an important element in your trip, have you considered a back-up camera? Or, would you plan to buy a replacement in-country should your main camera fail?

Have a great trip!

- Craig
09-07-2016, 05:30 PM   #12
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for urban walk around + for maximum compact, I would just take 21 + Gorillapod + zip-lock bags (in case of rain) with me.
or 21 and either 40 or 70 pick one. I never have a DA21 but I had FA20 and IMO, it's enough for both day and night shooting in urban environment.

it's a shame Pentax made WR body but DA limited lens are not WR lenses. (so I have to carry ziplock during rainy season! )
09-07-2016, 05:45 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by pakinjapan Quote
for urban walk around + for maximum compact, I would just take 21 + Gorillapod + zip-lock bags (in case of rain) with me.
or 21 and either 40 or 70 pick one. I never have a DA21 but I had FA20 and IMO, it's enough for both day and night shooting in urban environment.

it's a shame Pentax made WR body but DA limited lens are not WR lenses. (so I have to carry ziplock during rainy season! )
Yeah that is another good point, the lack of WR. As far as picking what lenses to bring for urban walk around, the DA21 on the body and the DA40 in pocket. As a portrait photographer I like to have the DA70 in the other pocket just in case the opportunity arises.

The compact cameras are nice and all, but I like the ability to upgrade without having to replace everything. With a ILC, you can upgrade from the body (like from the K-X to a K-70) at any time and keep your existing lenses. Sure dust and such can be an issue, but there are a few things you can do to prevent that (turn off the camera, hold the camera face down, etc etc). This is just another one of those "whatever works for you" type threads that we can't really answer, the OP will have to figure it out. We can only suggest whatever worked for us in the past.
09-07-2016, 07:01 PM   #14
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QuoteOriginally posted by c.a.m Quote
When backpacking (in my younger years), my rule of thumb was to minimize weight by simplifying my gear. Multi-purpose equipment was essential; redundant items were left out of the bag to cut ounces/grams.

My recommendation would be a simpler camera and no extra lenses. The two alternative cameras you mention would probably work well for you, while cutting down the weight and extra bags/hangers/pouches. As others have mentioned, you'll find plenty of opportunities to take great pictures with either of those (or other) choices. After a week on the hike, I think you'll be happy to not dig into your bag for lenses, fiddle with bits, or worry about dust getting into the camera.

Also - since photography will be an important element in your trip, have you considered a back-up camera? Or, would you plan to buy a replacement in-country should your main camera fail?

Have a great trip!

- Craig
Yes, I'm sure I would be happier with the smaller cameras WHILE HIKING. Except for the unfortunate necessity of paying for one, and then learning how to use it.

The question I am trying to answer is this, Will I be equally happy when I get back home and start examining the photos from my once-in-a-lifetime trip? That is, compared to my 3-prime kit, how much image quality will I be sacrificing for the comfort and convenience of the smaller kit? A little bit? A lot? I'm guessing the compact camera images will look OK on a TV slideshow or small computer screen, but will they look good printed at 16" x 20" if I want to hang one on the wall?

As for back up, on past journeys I've usually carried a second body, but on this trip I will not. I've been told that Pentax is a popular brand in France, so, hopefully, if I drop mine in a river I can find another one that will work with whichever lenses I have left, and worry about paying the credit card bill when I get home.
09-07-2016, 07:48 PM   #15
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I would take the K-x with whichever lens you use most (for me it would be the 21mm), and add a small camera w/ zoom lens.
-- Keeps everything simple
-- covers you if a camera breaks
-- does not depend on a new camera you aren't totally familiar with
-- gives you options of which camera to pack and which is out **
____
** In my experience hiking w/ others, if the camera is not out it is not usually used, unless the potential image is very compelling.

Just saw your comment about picking up another Pentax in France if need be--in which case likely go w/ the K-x and 3 lens kit--as it works, saves you money, good quality, and you are used to it/it is comfortable to use.

Last edited by dms; 09-07-2016 at 08:03 PM.
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