need help choosing a first camera for climbing and mountain biking

Started May 15, 2013 | Discussions
rides bikes
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need help choosing a first camera for climbing and mountain biking
May 15, 2013

I do quite a bit of climbing and mountain biking, and I'd like to get into photography, I've always loved looking at good pictures of my sports and I think I've gotten some sense of what I like in a photo over the years. Over the summer I just want to take some decent pictures and videos of my sports and the places and mountains I see as I travel for them. Along the way, I'd like to pick up some books and such and be able to achieve some degree of proficiency with a digital camera (working with the various settings and such).
I'm afraid a point and shoot would offer quality that is unimpressive, or not much better than my iphone, which I'll have with me anyway. I'm also worried that a point and shoot won't be a good platform to learn about the technical aspects of photography on, due to having less control over the photos. On the other hand, I'm afraid a DSLR is just too bulky in sports where weight and space are both extremely limited (if it's too much of a pain in the ass to lug around I'll never take any photos). Furthermore, I could only spend $600 at the very most, which probably isn't much for a dslr. Would a mirrorless/micro 4/3 sort of camera be a good compromise? It'd be a platform with enough control to learn photography on, decent quality, smaller than a DSLR. For a mirrorless, the panasonic G5 looked cool, for a DSLR, I'd considered the Nikon D5100.

Any suggestions for what camera I should consider buying (or general noobie photography advice) would be awesome, I really want to get going with learning photography but I'm so confused by the different options and don't want to end up regretting a purchase. Thanks!

Nikon D5100 Panasonic Lumix DMC-G5
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Cailean Gallimore
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Re: need help choosing a first camera for climbing and mountain biking
In reply to rides bikes, May 15, 2013

This is a ruggedised compact camera.

This  is a Micro four thirds camera.

This  is a Sony NEX camera.

This  is a Samsung NX camera.

The DSLR you mention is pretty good.

The Nikon would be fine, too.

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rides bikes
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Re: need help choosing a first camera for climbing and mountain biking
In reply to Cailean Gallimore, May 15, 2013

Thank you for the suggestions! For my purposes (learning photography, decent photo/video quality, preferably not huge) is there one type you think you'd lean towards or is it kind of a personal preference thing where I'd have to try each out?

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trekkeruss
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Re: need help choosing a first camera for climbing and mountain biking
In reply to Cailean Gallimore, May 15, 2013

You can add the RX100 and Canon G1 X to the list of potentially suitable cameras. Oh, and some Fujifilms as well.

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Cailean Gallimore
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Re: need help choosing a first camera for climbing and mountain biking
In reply to trekkeruss, May 15, 2013

trekkeruss wrote:

You can add the RX100 and Canon G1 X to the list of potentially suitable cameras. Oh, and some Fujifilms as well.

Yeah, that's true.

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BBbuilder467
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Re: need help choosing a first camera for climbing and mountain biking
In reply to rides bikes, May 15, 2013

The G5 combined with a 14-42PZ, 45-150, Meike auto extension tubes, and 9-18 Olympus lens would probably be the smallest, lightest, most complete outdoor system you could get.

With the Panasonic features, that's everything from 18mm to 600mm equivalent including macro capability with an EVF the size of a full frame.

You wouldn't have to have everything initially or carry the entire system, but over time, that's basically the outdoor system you're likely to assemble.

I have a similar system for similar purposes and if I had to go from scratch today, that's what I'd start with. Or simply go with a Panasonic LX5/7.

I've noticed that Nikon dslr users are a little more drawn to the Panasonic m4/3 as a substitute if they downsize. Not quite sure why. All the outdoor/nature related authors I study or follow using Nikon tend to directly apply to my Panasonic system. I almost forget they're explaining a different system. Visually, the EVF reacts more like an optical viewfinder than a traditional liveview.

Once you get familiar with the control system, it's not hard to study the procedures.

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Robert Anderson
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Re: need help choosing a first camera for climbing and mountain biking
In reply to rides bikes, May 15, 2013

Sony RX100, near DSLR quality that fits in your pocket. Full control over shutterspeed, aperture, ISO, HDR, DRO and it shoots in RAW as well. Movie mode is also excellent.

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MarkInSF
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Re: need help choosing a first camera for climbing and mountain biking
In reply to rides bikes, May 16, 2013

rides bikes wrote:

Thank you for the suggestions! For my purposes (learning photography, decent photo/video quality, preferably not huge) is there one type you think you'd lean towards or is it kind of a personal preference thing where I'd have to try each out?

You can learn photography on any camera with a full complement of manual settings.   Compacts usually have fewer buttons/dials (there are exceptions, like the Nikon P7700), so you have to use the menus more to change settings.   Mirrorless cameras vary from models with few controls, designed to be unintimidating, up to models with controls much like a dslr.   Having more dedicated buttons/dials is good, but not absolutely essential, but having them sure is nice.

The Panasonic G models are designed for serious photographers and have very nice controls.   Historically, the GF line were the simpler models with minimal controls, but the new GF6 reverses that trend a bit.   It is a more serious camera.   The new G6 also looks excellent, with some substantial upgrades from the G5, most notably the OLED viewfinder and very good WiFi features.   Nothing much wrong with the G5 or the older, but very similar G3, available very cheap.   The GX1 is also marked way down.   It lacks some features, like the viewfinder, but has nice controls still.   The high-end GH models have even more controls, but make sense maainly if you expect to shoot a lot of video, their strength.

The less expensive Sony NEX cameras seem to rely a little more heavily on their menus, but they are still pretty nice.   The NEX-3N has the advantage of being tiny for a camera with such a big sensor.   It is a bit limited in its features compared to more expensive NEX models, but they are also a lot bigger and heavier.   This would be a very easy camera to carry, and adequate for learning.

The entry-level Olympus E - PM2 has weak controls, so not ideal for your purposes, but it is a little camera capable of fine results.

There are other models, like the Samsung NX1000, a bit clunky and cheap feeling, with slow performance.   And the clearance priced Nikon V1 (that I own).   It has very limited controls and requires excessive menu diving, but it's a delightfully quick camera with an amazing autofocus system that no mirrorless system has yet to equal.   But the controls are bad.   They bug me constantly.   For people who want to shoot in auto it's a great choice.

And, of course, there are dslrs, which I won't get into much.   The new Canon SL1 is trying to be a dslr that's as small as a mirrorless model.   What compromises that entails I don't know.   The Sony A57, technically an 'slt', not a 'dslr'  is on clearance and marked down a couple of hundred to about $500.   This is a popular line with video shooters since entry-level dslrs are pretty bad at video and the Sony models are OK.   The A57 has an electronic viewfinder you may find acceptable, which you can use while shooting video, unlike a dslr vf, which blanks out.   The A57 can also track focus on a moving object, if that matters to you.   It's certainly priced right and offers an interesting in-between option.  It's smaller and lighter than many dslrs.

In conventional dslrs, the Pentax K30 is a neat little model with some features not usually found in an entry-level model, like weatherproofing (most lenses aren't) and a big, bright pentaprism viewfinder.   Pentax doesn't offer anything like the lens selection of one of the big companies, but the K30 is a nice deal..   It's also pleasantly small and light.

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