"Woodland Path" captured out on a hike
What is the best hiking camera? This is an open ended question that will get a different response depending on who you ask. The best hiking camera for one person won’t be for another, and the best hiking camera for you will depend on your wants, your needs, your expectations, your budget and your specific requirements.
If you have absolutely no idea or are open to all suggestions the following may help you find the best hiking camera for you……….
Fixed lens camera
The smallest and lightest hiking camera is the fixed lens camera, and if you want hassle free and quick photo taking this type of hiking camera is going to be right up your street. There are many different types of fixed lens cameras available, in fact the market is flooded with them, and the models range from the cheap and cheerful point and shoot types to the top end models offering full manual control.
If you want a good hiking camera the point and shoot cameras are a waste of time and best left well alone. If you want a good hiking camera with a fixed lens you need to look to the top end models where you will get features including full manual mode, aperture priority mode, shutter speed priority mode, a good quality sensor (i.e. one found in budget dslr cameras) and the ability to shoot in RAW to name just a few.
These top end fixed lens cameras are aimed at photographers who want to take high quality photos and want full control over the exposure, all wrapped up in a small and user friendly package. These top end fixed lens cameras are capable of capturing photos that are good enough quality to sell, and I am living proof of this. I have a fixed lens camera and I have managed to sell several photos captured with it, which is pretty cool.
The fixed lens camera I use is the Canon G1X, and I have to say it is a fantastic little camera. The G1X is small, light and I can carry it around all day without any aches or pains. This camera offers shutter priority mode, aperture priority mode and full manual mode. The standard automatic modes are also available – but no enthusiast uses these so these are a bit of a waste of time in my opinion. The G1X has an articulated screen (which is very useful for taking photos at different angles) and also has a view finder, which is pretty rare on this type of camera. The Canon G1X is an excellent camera and if you want a small and light hiking camera you can’t go far wrong with one.
If you want a hiking camera with the option to change lenses you are going to have to stretch the budget a little and buy an interchangeable mirrorless camera. As well as offering all of the usual automatic shooting modes, aperture priority mode, shutter priority mode, full manual mode and the chance to tweak other key settings these cameras allow you to choose the best lens for the subject you are taking photos of. There are various types of lenses for mirrorless cameras, including ultra-wide angle zooms, wide angle zooms, standard zooms, long reach zooms and fixed focal length primes. In addition to this there are also macro lenses, fish eye lenses and other specialist lenses.
Interchangeable lens mirrorless cameras are as powerful as dslr cameras but they are smaller, lighter and more portable, which is why they are ideal hiking cameras. That said, a mirrorless camera with a super zoom lens attached is still a big and heavy set up, and not one I would want to go on a five hour hike with. On the other hand a mirrorless camera with a pancake lens is a very small and light set up (that is not much bigger or heavier than a fixed lens camera) which I could carry around all day and not feel any pain at the end.
There is an interchangeable lens mirrorless camera for all budgets and the choice of models available is getting bigger and bigger as the popularity of mirrorless cameras grows. All mirrorless cameras have the same basic features (automatic shooting modes, aperture priority mode, shutter priority mode and full manual mode, exposure compensation etc.) however the higher up the model range you go things do change. The top end mirrorless cameras tend to have:
At the end of the day the more you spend on an interchangeable lens mirrorless camera the better and higher spec the features it has.
Over the years I have had the chance to test a few mirrorless cameras and whilst many consider Olympus and Fuji the market leaders I have to say that I don’t share this opinion. Don’t get me wrong, I think both produce very good mirrorless cameras (I did have an Olympus EP as a hiking camera for a couple of years) but there are better mirrorless cameras out there.
Since Canon released its first mirrorless camera I have to say that I have been a big fan of all of them and the most recent Canon M5 is simply awesome. The Canon mirrorless cameras are tough, durable, well made and ooze quality. The Canon mirrorless cameras are comfortable to hold and use and feel “right” in the hand, and a pleasure to use. These cameras are also packed full of features that are easily accessible without having to delve too deep in the menu, so you can change all the key settings quickly, efficiently and whilst looking through the view finder. The Canon mirrorless camera accepts Canon EF and EF-S mount lenses (with an adaptor) which makes them an ideal back up to Canon dslr users. I shoot a Canon dslr and have invested in many L series lenses that I use with my Canon M series camera. I originally bought the Canon M as a backup camera and as a hiking camera, however I find that I am starting to take it out more and more.
Another mirrorless camera I own is the Sony A7 and this is another mirrorless camera I recommend. Even though I have invested heavily in Canon L series lenses and other photography equipment I was drawn in by the full frame sensor, which is absolutely fantastic. This camera is small, light and when I use a pancake lens with it I can carry it around with me and not even feel it on my shoulder. The image quality of the Sony A7 is simply awesome and the image quality is stunning. The Sony A7 is damn expensive and so are the lenses, which is why I only have one for it. I have bought an adapter that lets me use my Canon L series lenses with it, however it is fraught with problems (auto focus can be hit or miss, there are times when the aperture doesn’t change when I adjust the dial to name just two) so it is a bit of a waste of time. I use the Sony A7 camera as a hiking camera when I want to take landscape photos only. If I want to use longer focal lengths, i.e. over 35mm, or take macro shots when I am out on a hike I take the Canon M camera.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.