camera for kilimanjaro?

Best friend is heading to kilimanjaro this year and her birthday is coming up. Want to give her a camera to take for the trip. Looking for suggestions from any of you with experience on difficult climbs. Ideally something she’d be able to keep using after she got back.

How much does she enjoy taking pictures? How important is a camera to her? How much hiking/adventuring has she done previously? Does she want to haul it around with her everywhere?

We have had point-and-shoots and graduated on to a mid-quality SLR. But for our recent trips (backpacking, European cities, Florida, car camping), we went back to a $100 point and shoot due to size and just not wanting to worry about it. However, we just got a GoPro Hero 3 white? for $159 (black friday amazon) and it will be our primary camera in the future for most adventuring. It is industructable, waterproof, and meant for outdoor use.

Primarily for stills or video? While most can do both, they are better at one than the other.
For stills go for one of the “rugged” cameras that are shock/water/dust/drop proof. (search for “shockproof” cameras & you’ll find them from pretty much every major player. I like
For video either a GoPro or a Garmin VIRB, which adds GPS info in.

While planning a European trip two years ago, didn’t happen but that’s not the point, I looked at my nice digital slrs and decided a mirror less digital was a better choice due to lower weight and smaller size. At that time the Sony NEX-3 with two lenses was my choice, but there are many more choices now and one of them might be right for your friend. Oh, and if they have a smart phone, Sony now makes lens cameras that use your smart phone for control and display. Then can save image files on either the lenses memory card or the phones.

Remember that she is going to have to carry whatever you get, and on the last day, when you wake up super early to spend the next several hours trekking slowly upwards in the cold and dark, you really don’t feel like carrying much of anything heavy or bulky. Especially since at that altitude/temperature, you have to carry your camera inside your coat, to prevent it from freezing, anything bulky could be less than ideal - when I climbed, in the end-days of film cameras, I eventually got so tired of my old-school camera with the giant lens that I let it dangle outside my coat; if froze and was useless at the summit. It thawed and worked fine once we descended, but I didn’t get to use it at the summit.

So, my two cents votes for something light and small.


I have a variety of cameras for skiing, hiking, and mountaineering. For a trip like Kili I’d want to take a relatively small but versatile high-quality camera. I’d probably go with something like a Canon G16 (or G15 if you want to save some money) because I like the optical viewfinder. Otherwise I’d go with something a bit smaller like the Canon S120. The zoom ranges are relatively modest but for mountaineering you really don’t need a big zoom. What you want is a good, large sensor, good fast lens, and all the features you need. These cameras have these, as do a few others from different manufacturers which I’m less familiar with.

Having a nice video mode that allows optical zoom, optical image stabilization, good burst mode, excellent low light performance, are all excellent features to look for in an expedition camera, but the basic ability to take a great shot with control over the camera is what I look for.

An alternative is to look for a small ultra zoom camera like the Canon SX170 which gives you a lot of flexibility at the cost of image quality, low light performance, and quick focus. For some applications that is a good choice but it’s not one I’d use for a mountain climbing trip.

It would be very easy for me (not being there) to say, ‘Sure. Go on & Hump a Nikon D7000 & a 5 pound bag of lenses, some big-assed charger, and a tripod on up in your pack.’ Weight means everything when you do something like that.
So, instead, may i please recommend the highly durable one-ounce Pentax WG-1 or 2?

But don’t turn on the GPS until you are Right at the top. It burns battery. But DO take several pix fast at the top with the GPS on before turning it off. Slaps the words back down the mouths of the nay-sayers who babble that you never went, But Fast… :wink:

It used to be that a camera was a lens which could hold film (bigger the better) flat long enough to expose it.
Now it is a lens with a chip (more pixels the better).

Using a nice lens on a cell phone gives you the worst of both worlds - the cost and weight of a good lens + the piss-poor image quality of a chip which iis found in a phone, not necessarily intended for images.

You have a real bitch of a situation here (unless the person has no interest in taking photographs and is happy with snapshops) - a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to get some killer images, against not wanting to take 2 mules to carry the gear.

Find a good image processor and play that against available lenses - a wide-angle is indicated for landscapes (I have a shot taken with a 20mm which justified the (substantial) cost of that lens all by itself - using the zoom at 28 would have been a huge disappointment - a zoom is rarely as good as a fixed. A second lens would be the mid-to-near tele zoom - use it for the snapshots of the group, the campsites, etc.

If you want to trade the safety of a shock/moisture/dust resistant vs the precision and resolution of a real SLR - how safely can this person transport a camera and extra lens?
If it is going into a rigid pack, spare clothes wrapped around it will be enough. If it is on a sling around the neck, maybe…
Too many variables
Level of photographic expertise
Snap shots OK, or do you want to make the cover of Time?
Number of shots/hour (shock resistance if it is going to be out of the pack all day)
Willingness to carry weight

I read this article yesterday which seems appropriate. It recommends the Panasonic GX-1 priced around $400-$500 (previous models would likely be considerably cheaper).

Whichever camera you buy, be sure to buy some spare batteries as well.

Warning - I was investigating new Panasonics recently and nearly got the GX-1 until I discovered that its compact size is partly because it doesn’t have a viewfinder, just an LCD screen. Not the best for taking shots in high mountain sunlight. You can buy an externally fitted viewfinder for it but that increases the bulk and costs nearly the same as the camera.

Instead I got a Lumix G3 which has a decent compromise between size and performance and absolutely excellent video capability (though it’s not great at high ISO). It’s very light, and with a pancake or wide-angle lens it’s scarcely bigger than a compact digital.

My preferences when hiking/trekking is to have a camera that I can wear on my sternum strap or hip belt - the Panasonic GX-1 with a reasonable lens seems too big for that. The best camera is one you have with you and available at all times. My experience is that a small form factor camera with no interchangeable parts is the best for that.

I’ve taken a lot of mountaineering shots with my Nikon Coolpix. The base can screw into a monopod (which can double as a walking pole) for some very clear shots.

Note that this is a budget camera. 10 megapixels- not bad, but surely you could do better these days. It does not have a hair-trigger response either. In fact I am thinking about replacing it, but mine is ~5 years old and has held up well on all sorts of outdoor trips (including mountain summits). The main attraction is that it is very very small and has a decent (5x) zoom. A good shot from it makes a beautiful print, and the video/audio is workable too. And carrying extra batteries is a snap, they’re tiny.

Hey guys,
Thanks for all the replies.
I had originally thought to just lend her my nikon d5100. Nice camera and not worth so much that I’d cry if it suffered a mishap. But the weight issues kicked in. She’s going to have to lug the thing as has been mentioned, so can’t be too heavy. And from experience lugging that thing around all day (with lenses and such) it wouldn’t be fun to do w/low oxygen on the last day. So basically that’s out.
Then it struck me that the battery may be a big issue on this trip. She’d have to lug extra batteries, or chargers of some sort. Weight issues once again (which also applies to any camera w/interchangeable lenses).
Now she’s got an iphone (one of the 5 series I believe - a later model not sure which) and I’ve been reading they take good pictures. Anyone have any experience with using these? I can always spring for one of those safety cases (hella cheaper than a full camera that’s for sure).
As far as specific cameras were concerned I was thinking something along the lines of these sport/waterproof cameras (like the ones reviewed here.
Any opinions?
thanks again guys.

I have a Pentax WG-1 which is modestly rugged and can survive being dropped into water and will withstand sub-zero conditions. The batteries are small and light. It’s been superceded by the WG-2 and WG-3.

Google throws up a review of the WG-3 here and note the alternatives here.

That article specifically mentions the Panasonic Lumix DMC-FT5 as a better alternative, but it’s £100 more.

I’d be worried about the battery dying on the iPhone with no way to switch in a new one, unless she brought along one of those solar chargers or external battery pack(s). Also the storage on the phone is very limited.

I’d just go with a point and shoot maybe like the ones in the article (minus the Nikon), a couple extra batteries (available on amazon), an extra card or two, whatever adapter she’ll need for the plugs where she’ll be traveling for the charger, and a nifty little case to carry it all. That little Sony looks cool.

The most critical things whatever she uses (or maybe already has?) is that she doesn’t run out of batteries and/or card space. Shooting video can use up both in pretty short order.

It’s an amazing trip, a dedicated camera really will get much better images than the iPhone. Even a modest Point&Shoot will do better than the iPhone in most situations and there are much better choices if you spend just a touch more. One big advantage of cameras with optical viewfinders is that you can turn off the LCD and save battery power. I rarely use the screen on backpacking trips and the camera lasts much longer. Combine that with two extra batteries and I can shoot for a week if I’m careful, more in warm weather. And iPhone battery life isn’t going to be any better than a camera, probably worse.

The shockproof/waterproof cameras are great if you’re going to be at a construction site or on the water but I haven’t found them needed for hiking/backpacking/climbing. I just keep my camera in a ziplock in the rain and I’ve subjected to my cameras for years of abuse with no ill effects. The waterproof cameras sacrifice too much in image quality for them to be worth it for backpacking, IMHO. If I was spending a lot of time in a kayak I’d get one, but not for hiking.

That’s a good point. I guess in my mind I was thinking of “future uses” like holiday travel where she might use it at the beach and such. You think the image quality is that much worse? Keeping in mind that she’s NOT a photographer (or even has interest in photography beyond getting the pics) and I very much doubt she’d be printing much more than your usual 4x6 if even that. I think I’ve seen her print a large format once.

She’s already carrying a solar charger - I think she was taking her phone along anyway (work reasons though). No idea how effective it would be in this situation.

Quartz: the dpreview site mentions that the WG3 apparently doesn’t fare very well when comparing battery life and filming. It was in a list of “rugged” cameras on the site.

Hmm… I’m guessing the question now is should I go for a non-rugged but better camera or a rugged camera for upcoming future travel? (apparently the canon s120 is a good value).

If she’s just planning on taking snapshots then it really doesn’t matter much. The biggest advantage of a better camera is going to be manual controls (which she may never use), better movie modes (true HD and optical zoom during filming), and low light performance. The rugged cameras are good for snapshots in rough conditions, but hiking isn’t really rough conditions unless you’re in a hurricane or blizzard.

If she’s just taking snapshots, something like the Canon ELPH 115 will do the job very well for under $100 with more zoom and better image quality than a rugged model. For a trip like Kili though I’d want to capture the scene with more, but she may have different goals. The key would be to get 2-3 extra batteries just in case. You can buy the manufacturers batteries for full price (usually $20-50) or by 3rd party versions for much less.

Something that uses standard batteries, and carry a lot extra. Special proprietary batteries can be lost and it is hard to get them charged sometimes.