Outdoor Retailer – Cameras and More

Post by WildSnow.com blogger | August 15, 2011      

Back through my tradeshow notes, more highlights:

Folks always ask “What did you see that was really cool?”. Since we actually don’t qualify as true rehab-ready gear junkies around here (I swear), summer OR doesn’t result in as much addiction fodder as winter, when the ski stuff abounds. Nonetheless, during any season, nothing stimulates our kleptomania like smaller and more functional cameras. In that sense, we are on a quest that remains unfulfilled. But we are closer. The truly new (camera at show was an empty dummy) Pentax Q will probably at least for a while be “the world’s smallest and lightest interchangeable lens camera.” This royal attribute will come at a price that I’ll estimate will stay in the $800 to $1,000 range if you get anything more than the basic kit. More, another price will be performance sacrifice you may make for this camera’s tiny 1/2.3″ digital sensor.

Usually, less digital camera sensor area = less performance in low light. And low light shooting is one of the fun things you can do with digital cameras. So we’ll see exactly how much less when we get to test. But the smaller sensor allows downsizing of everything, so perhaps it is appropriate. Burst mode does 5 frames per second which will be adequate for shotgun style action shooting. Video full 1080p HD. For those of you on the endless quest for starlight or special effects, amazingly (compared to most other digital cameras), the rig has a bulb mode (meaning you can open up the shutter and it’ll stay that way till you choose to close it.) Weight of body without lens is 7 ounces and the lenses are quite small and light, so weight savings with the Q is a given over probably any other interchangeable lens camera and even some fixed lens point-and-shoot type units (though, yes, that 7 ounce weight is _without_ any lens). Deployed flash rises off-camera on a nifty little retractable tower that should result in high quality flash lighting of people shots.

One biggie accessory that’ll be sold for the Q is a clip-on optical viewfinder that’ll work by attaching to the flash hotshoe on top of the camera. Ostensibly, this viewfinder thus locks into the camera’s electronic buss, and will do more than just being static. Cameras without optical viewfinders just plain blow for shooting in bright-light snow environments, so this clip-on viewfinder alone might be the killer feature in comparison to 95% of the other cameras out there.

The “Q” will be worth checking out when it goes retail in a few weeks. Pentax also has some nifty new point-and-shoots, such as the latest (12th generation) GPS enabled and ruggedized Optio WG-1. Indeed, I think the Optio has gotten to the point where we probably need to put one in our stable. Some shopping links for your pleasure:

I stopped by Cascade Designs for a brief chat and was digging their MSR stove history display. Cascade makes the gear under brands such as Therm-a-Rest and MSR. Their NeoAir inflatable All-Season sleeping pad makes less crinkly noise than other models NeoAir models, is rated at R 4.9 and again without internal insulation can be inflated by lung power without worry of internal condensation compromising insulating value. Folks are saying this can be used as a stand-alone for lightweight snow camping. If so, nifty. Shop for it.

Old MSR Stove

One of the first MSR stoves had a tin jar lid for a base. Hundred on the funk scale.

We are thrilled to report that Mystery Ranch will be making their nice albeit heavy Blackjack avalanche airbag backpack more than a pound lighter. The changes are said to mostly be in the plumbing, but a bit in the pack materials. They’ve also made the trigger handle location configurable so it won’t end up too high or low on the shoulder strap. Mysteryranch.com

All for now. “The road goes on forever and the party never ends.”


Please Enjoy A Few Suggested WildSnow Posts


14 Responses to “Outdoor Retailer – Cameras and More”

  1. Sinecure August 15th, 2011 12:57 pm

    When can we get a water/snow/shockproof camera with interchangeable lens? Or at least a long zoom single lens one? I want a big sensor, 10x zoom, water/snow proof and fit in my pocket well enough that it won’t break a rib if I fall on it.

  2. Lou August 15th, 2011 2:07 pm

    The consumer and pro-sumer camera market has always been weird. They come up with stuff that looks good to gadget and gear freaks, with little thought to actual practical features for real-world use. More, ever since microprocessors were used in cameras, they’ve been able to cripple some features so that the lower priced cameras were limited enough in features to make the pro cameras look worth the price. On top of all that, the market for ruggedized cameras is doubtless miniscule in comparison to the market for cheapo stuff. Throw in the wrench of just about any electro device being able to take a photo now, and the digital camera business gets even stranger. Actually quite amazing how many people are not carrying cameras now, but instead depending on their smart phones for that.

    End result is I don’t know if the available cameras will _ever_ get very close to the ideal for backcountry use. But they do get _somewhat_ close…

  3. Steve August 15th, 2011 3:26 pm

    Mirrorless cameras are the present and the future. Panasonic and Olympus both have M43 offerings that are ski jacket pocketable with a pancake lens. I’m currently working with an E-PL2 but the 3 is even smaller and surely will continue to get smaller still in the future. With interchangable lenses, you’ll never get pants pocket small even with a pancake. But these cameras solve the quality issue of P&S if you don’t mind slightly more bulk… basically the type of bulk that was involved with regular P&S digital cameras ten years ago.

  4. Dan August 15th, 2011 3:58 pm

    Yet still no viewfinder? Or has the Luddite in me missed something?

  5. Lou August 15th, 2011 5:29 pm

    Dan, what’s cool is it has one that’s an accessory that you clip ito the hot shoe on top of the camera. Or at least it seems cool. I’ll try to get a journalist test camera. Can’t wait, it’ll be fun.

  6. stephen August 16th, 2011 10:37 pm

    Re the NeoAir All Season mat: I got one of these two days after they made it here to Oz and have just used it on snow for two weeks.

    It’s very, very small when packed, vastly easier to inflate than an Exped Downmat 7, hopefully more reliable as well (not that that would be difficult), and seems to be close enough to equally warm and comfortable. Assuming it holds up okay – and my old Thermarest is nearly 20 – then I highly recommend it, and it’s almost certainly the most compact mat out there for its warmth and comfort.

    Re the Pentax Q: If an EVF becomes available and the IQ is decent they may be on to a good thing, provided the snobs at the photo sites don’t put everyone off before it’s even launched.

  7. Taxman August 18th, 2011 12:16 am

    Have just picked up the Olympus EP-3 (Micro 4/3rds); interchangable lenses, fairly easily accessable manual overrides (including focus), and a clip in electronic viewfinder. Not as small as the Pentax Q, but signifcantly smaller than any DSLR, therefore likely to get used a lot.

  8. Lou August 18th, 2011 6:27 am

    Taxman, let us know how that goes. I’ve been interested in that camera for a while. Wishing you tons of photo fun this winter!

  9. Taxman August 18th, 2011 3:40 pm

    Thanks Lou,

    About to leave this damp and marginal Aussie winter for a few weeks in Europe, so that will be the EP-3’s first real test. First snow test (unless I steal a few days late next month) will be in Tahoe in March. However, first impressions after a breif use last weekend are the auto focus is now very fast and good; although the viewing screen is big bright and good, nothing beats a proper view finder; so the EVF will almost certainly be a permanent feature on the camera; and quick manual focusing without a split screen and/or microprisim is difficult,

  10. stephen August 18th, 2011 7:15 pm

    Hi Taxman, I’m also interested to hear what you think about the E-P3! FWIW, I have an E-PL1 now and haven’t found manual focussing too bad. If in doubt magnification can be increased with a button press, but I’ve not done this much.

    Totally agree about the EVF – I wish it was built in or could be more securely attached.

  11. Taxman August 19th, 2011 2:52 am

    I really long for the day when they bring out a digital camera with interchangable lenses that is as easy to use in manual mode as my old film SLR and rangefinder cameras.

    Stephen, I held out getting the EP-2 and almost brough the EPL-2, but the EP-3 was announced so I held on. Even with the EVF in place, the EP-3 is still far more compact than all of the DSLRs on offer, so a bonus for travel. But yes, they do need to build it in (Olympus should have done that rather than build in the flash).

    In manual mode, you just need to get used to using the two dials on the back to adjust speed and apeture, fiddly, but not too bad (and far better than menu driven offerings). I’m well over P&S digital cameras choosing all of the options, sick of trying to capture photos in the snow using a screen (point and hope), but going BC don’t want the bulk and weight of a DSLR. Hopefully this will be the answer.

  12. stephen August 19th, 2011 7:56 am

    I don’t blame you for waiting – I got the E-PL1 a couple of weeks before the E-PL2 was announced, and would have waited if I’d seen any rumours. Still, it looks like your E-P3 has all that does plus more, so I might have to think about changing as the menus are driving me crazy. Dials are good!

  13. Caleb Wray August 22nd, 2011 6:51 am

    I’ve been playing with these new micro systems quite a bit this year. Though I haven’t used the Pentax Q yet. The Olympus E-P3 is probably the best all around offering. Both for available lenses and overall quality, however 3 frames per second makes shooting ski action a little challenging. The Sony NEX-5 shoots 7fps and you can use many available DSLR lenses on it if you have the correct adaptor, kind of defeats the purpose though, good glass is usually most of the weight in a camera kit. If one is really after the size and weight savings you can’t beat the Lumix GF3, it’s smaller than my wife’s Canon point and shoot.

    There is a lot of R&D money going into the micro market right now so I expect the technology will progress rapidly. For most it likely makes sense to hold off a few years before making the plunge. The concept sure is appealing for backcountry use though.

  14. Taxman September 16th, 2011 1:40 am

    A little further on the EP-3. Just back from 3 weeks being a tourist around Europe and getting the hang of the camera.

    Firstly size and weight. Not as handy as the put in a pocket P&S options, but significantly easier to tote around than the DLSR offerings.

    For more than 90% of the time the auto modes worked well and the auto-focus is a significant improvement over my older Olympus SP-560UZ, which had seen duty in Gulmarg, Kashmir. Manual mode has been set up for full manual operation; adjusting shutter speed and aperture by two dials at the back of the camera was a bit fiddley, but do-able; however would be impossible if gloved. Focus ease would be improved by addition of Fresnel/split screen, but screen and EVF resolution is good, so not too difficult.

    Note, no on-snow use yet but some very sunny days in Rome were tackled. EVF works well in bright light and I didn’t need to remove sunglasses to use.

    Low light performance is not quite as good as my Canon and Nikon (P & S) alternatives, but otherwise quality of photos is brilliant.

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