Need high IQ, but lightweight camera for backpacking - what would you recommend?

Started Mar 10, 2013 | Discussions thread
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jfriend00 Forum Pro • Posts: 11,430
Need high IQ, but lightweight camera for backpacking - what would you recommend?

I'm looking for a camera that I can take hiking on the John Muir Trail with me (212 mile trip over three weeks so lightweight is very important to me). My current experience is many years with Nikon D300 and 17-55 f/2.8 (and other lenses). I consider that rig to be way too heavy for this trip, but that's the type of IQ I would like in a smaller rig. For this trip, I only need a single zoom that covers a similar field of view as the 17-55 does on the Nikon APS-C sensor, but I'd like to buy an interchangeable lens camera so that it will be more flexible for other things after this trip.

I am trying to strike a balance between weight and IQ. I'd like IQ at least as good as my D300 and 17-55 if possible, but in a much, much lighter package. If I was really trying to maximize IQ, I'd go for something like a D600 and 24-70, but to give you an idea of the tradeoff space I'm in, I consider that to be way, way too heavy and the extra IQ is just not worth it to me on this trip for the extra weight.

I only plan to bring one zoom lens and I will predominantly be taking landscape shots and shots of the trail and people on the trail. The camera will be in a sometimes-dusty environment and will be out and used all the time (it will be attached to my front-side somehow for quick access).

All else being equal, I'd lean to a larger sensor (APS-C vs. four-thirds), but since all else is rarely equal, I'm not looking only at APS-C sensor cameras.

I plan to shoot RAW.

I'm not particularly price sensitive. I try to spend money wisely, but buy the best for my need.

So far, the cameras I'm considering are the Sony NEX-7 w/18-55, Olympus OM-D EM-5 w/12-50 and the Fuji X-E1 w/18-55. I'm open to other recommendations if they fit my qualifications. I'm having difficulty getting weights for all three cameras + lenses + battery + memory card because the data either doesn't specify whether it includes everything or it specifies that it doesn't include everything (but I'm still working on trying to collect the weight information since that is one valuable input).

According to dxomark, the EM-5 sensor is very similar in performance to my current D300 which I would consider acceptable. The Sony NEX-7 is a bit better, but not so much better that it rules out the EM-5. The Fuji isn't yet rated by DXO.

So, when you add in the effect of the lenses I've mentioned, which would you carry on a 3 week backpack trip in the high sierras and why?

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Fujifilm X-E1 Nikon D300 Nikon D600 Sony Alpha NEX-7
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