Best Backpacking Cameras 2018

This post takes the BS & mystery out of finding the right camera. A camera that meets YOUR needs & YOUR budget. And you don’t need an expensive camera to take superb backpacking photos. Some of the best lightweight backpacking cameras cost far less than you think. You might already own one!

The best backpacking camera is the one you have with you

Or put another way, the best camera is the camera you can quickly pull out and shoot. Many superb photos have been taken on iPhones. Being in a beautiful area and taking a photo in the right place at the right time matters far more than the camera.

That being said, if you are in the right place at the right time, some cameras take better photos than others. This post will help you 1) find your “best” camera and 2) give you techniques to get the most out of it when hiking or backpacking.

This photo was shot with a sub $500, semi-pro camera. The Sony a6000 with stock 16-50mm kit lens 

2018 Highlights


Short on Time?  Skip to One of These

In addition to “The Two Cameras I Take on Almost Every Trip” (below), you can jump to:

best backpacking cameras

Cameras I take backpacking: L to R, iPhone, Sony RX100 and Sony a6000 or a6500. There is no right choice! Each camera has its strengths and weakness. BUT the Sony a6500 on the right has almost 3x the resolution of the other two – 15 pMP vs 5-6 pMP.

The Best Backpacking Cameras

I take the following two cameras on almost every trip:

  1. My Smartphone, iPhone X (but it could be an 8 or 8 plus, or a Google Pixel…)
  2. My $498 semi-pro Sony a6000 camera. With its light weight and great image quality challenging far heavier cameras that cost 2-3 times or more, it’s not surprising it’s the best selling camera in its class!

While my iPhone takes great pictures, at some point there is no substitute for a “true camera” like the Sony a6000 with a good lens. This is especially true if getting top notch photos is a serious trip objective. The table below shows why this is so.

* n/a values for iPhone(s) are unknown. But given their image sensor is 6.5x smaller than the RX100’s you can assume that Dynamic Range (ability to capture light and dark), High ISO (low light) performance, and Color Depth are all lower. BUT! here’s the huge caveat that closes the gap between smartphones and traditional cameras. The new iPhones (and other high end smartphones like the Google Pixel) are intensely applying sophisticated “computational photography” (software image processing) to significantly improve dynamic range, color, contrast, texture, etc. of their photos. See more on how to utilize this power below.

Perceptual Megapixels

Perceptual megapixels” (pMP) is a measure of the “sharpness,” the actual detail resolved in the final image.  pMP is the resolution of the combination of a particular lens and camera—not simply the native resolution of the camera sensor! As an example, for most 24 MP, APS-C (crop sensor cameras like the Sony a6000, Nikon D7200 or Canon EOS 80D) the perceptual megapixel resolution final image maxes out at around 17 MP or around 70% of the native 24 MP sensor resolution—even with the best and most expensive prime lenses. Zoom lenses typically resolve less, especially inexpensive ones. See more about perceptual megapixels here.

best backpacking cameras

I have a 20×30 print of this on the wall in my bedroom: I used a semi-pro camera with a sharp lens to capture fine detail and handle the huge dynamic range between the afternoon shadows and the bright snow and glaciers of the Andes in full sunlight.

Camera 1: A Smartphone – BUT Intelligently Used

What’s Good About Smartphone Cameras for Backpacking

  • Under the right conditions, and with the right technique they take some stunning photos!
  • “Zero cost” — You likely own a smartphone with a good camera, so zero additional cost
  • “Zero weight” — You’re likely  bringing your smartphone anyway, so no additional weight
  • Easy and fast to use (and you are likely proficient with it)
  • They do double duty as the best hiking or backpacking GPS

And the Newest Smartphone Cameras Kick Ass!

The new iPhones (and other high-end smartphones like the Google Pixel) are intensely applying  “computational photography” (sophisticated software image processing) to significantly improve photos. This includes dynamic range (ability to handle large differences from the lightest to darkest parts of the photo), color, contrast, texture, and even focus to their photos. The improvements can be dramatic. So much so, that many times the photos from the new smartphones often look better than photos from much larger “traditional” DSLR cameras. It may take a lot of editing of photos from a traditional camera to clearly see the benefits of a larger sensor.  That being said,  read my article:

10 hacks and accessories for better smartphone hiking photography

It will help you get the very best out your already great smartphone camera.

smartphone hiking photographyBasic Smartphone Photography Accessories L to R: [Joby GripTight Tripod at (REI) or new JOBY GripTight ONE GP Stand] both better for larger phones & are more adjustable), iPhone X on a JOBY GripTight ONE Micro Stand (smaller & lighter), Apple headset used as a remote shutter release, a Bluetooth Smartphone Camera Remote Shutter (Joby), Jackery Bolt 6000 mAh USB Battery (keeps phone charged for days of use),  Black Diamond Headlamp (gets you safely to and from the magic light of dawn & dusk for superior photos).

Camera 2: Sony a6x00 – when high quality photos are a major objective

best backpacking cameras

The full Sony a6000/a6500 kit: Peak Designs CapturePRO (mounts to backpack shoulder strap), Peak Designs Micro Plate (mounts to camera bottom), Pedco ultra-pod II (small tripod), Sony NP-FW50 Battery, and Newer® Fish Bone quick release for tripod head.

For me, the Sony a6000 is a clear choice for serious backpacking photos. It’s an incredible value at less than $500 for a semi-pro camera! With the right lens it has superb image quality challenging heavier cameras that cost far more. It’s light, and is easily carried on the shoulder strap of my backpack. I have the option of a number of great lenses, many of them inexpensive. And perhaps most important, it is super fast to use with an excellent electronic viewfinder (EVF). In summary, it’s the perfect complement to my iPhone.

And here is how I use that system backpacking, so I have immediate access to my camera at all times. The camera is surprisingly light and non-intrusive while I hike.

For me the maximum weight of a camera is determind by what I an comfortably carry on the shoulder strap of my pack.

For me the maximum weight of a camera is determined by what I can comfortably carry all day on the shoulder strap of my pack. Pictured is a Sony a6000 camera with the stellar Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens (22 oz total wt). They are mounted to a Peak Designs CapturePRO on the shoulder strap of my pack. View a 15 second video below to see this fast system in action.

My Sony a600x System

Camera Item Oz Comments
Camera APS-C
crop format
Sony a6000 w kit 16-50mm lens*
new model: Sony a6500
16.0 Among lightest 24mp APS-C cameras. With the right lens, it has image quality equal to much heavier cameras camera’s costing far more.
Sony a600 or a6500 – How To Choose?  See more below
Battery spare Sony NP-FW50 Battery (1.5) Alt less $: Wasabi Power Battery (2-Pack) & Charger
Mount Peak Designs CapturePRO 110g 3.8 Take more photos! Fast access to camera!
Attaches to backpack shoulder strap
Mount Peak Designs Micro Plate 25g 0.8 Needed to clear a6000’s hinged LCD screen
Mini Tripod Pedco utra-pod II 114g, 4.0 oz For small mirrorless SLR cameras
Tripod mount Newer® Fish Bone quick release for tripod head 51g, 1.8 oz For quick attachment of camera with Peak Designs Micro Plate
 Full tripod For serious photos (only 920g) Sirui T-024X Carbon Fiber Tripod w C-10S Ball Head one of the lightest and best. It’s the tripod I’m holding in the lead photo of this article.
Remote shutter Wireless remote control JJC Remote Control for Sony A6000 – reduce camera shake on tripod.
Protection Gallon Freezer ZipLoc To protect camera gear from rain
TOTAL 20.6 ounces

Photo: Dolly Sods Wildness with the 16 oz Sony a6000  with stock zoom lens (in table above). I needed a small tripod, because 1) it was in the magic light of evening, and 2) I wanted  a slow shutter speed (~1-2 seconds) to get a slight blur of the water.

Sony a600 or a6500 – How To Choose?

I’m guessing many of you are confused as to which of these great cameras to get. To help you to decide on the right camera for you, I’ll try to summarize the key pro’s and cons:

Sony a6000: The a6000 has the same 24 MP resolution but is a few oz lighter than the a6500. It has a huge advantage in price. Currently it’s $448 vs. $1198 for the a6500. With that extra $750 you can buy some nice lenses and still come out ahead. E.g. the Sony 18-105mm F4 G OSS and/or the new Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN Prime Lens (24mm to equiv. for great landscape shots). The a6000 with both lenses will significantly outperform the more expensive Sony a6500 with the kit 16-50mm lens. The a6000 doesn’t have in-body image stabilization but if you stick to the image stabilized Sony lenses (OSS) this no big deal. On the other hand, if you are shooting with a non-stabilized lens like theSigma 16mm f/1.4, you’ll end up on a tripod sooner in low light to get sharp photos.

Sony a6500: The a6500 has the same 24 MP resolution but but has 1/2 stop more dynamic range than the a6000. This the maximum range of light to dark it can capture and still retain detail in the photo. But the most important upgrade to the a6500 is image stabilization built-in to the camera body. This means that you can shoot hand-held far longer in low light with non-image stabilized Sony lenses like the super sharp  Sigma 16mm f/1.4.  This is a pretty big deal for hikers and backpackers. Finally the a6500 has a touchscreen display. The best part of this is just touching the screen where you want focus. I find this especially useful to get super accurate focus when shooting on a tripod.

a6x00 lens upgrades

As noted in the table at the beginning of the article, you can get almost 3x better resolution with higher quality, but heavier and more expensive lenses. They are especially helpful if you think you might want to make large prints from your photos. My favorite lens for most trips, despite its weight and moderate cost, is the Sony 18-105mm G Series Zoom (far left in the photo below) and the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 Prime Lens.


If good photos are a serious objective for your trip, here are some lens upgrades I frequently use: On camera is the Sony 10-18mm F4 G OSS zoom (15mm to 27mm equiv.); center is the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 (normal lens); and far left the Sony 18-105mm F4 G OSS lens (27-160mm equiv.) Not pictured the game-changing landscape lens: the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN Prime Lens (24mm to equiv.)

Type Lens Oz Comments
Additional High Quality Zoom Lenses
Allpurpose Zoom Sony 18-105mm F4 G OSS 15.0 Personal favorite (27mm to 160mm equiv.) Carries nicely on pack shoulder strap. Sharp, reasonably light. Good price. Image stabilized.
Wide Zoom  Sony 10-18mm F4 G OSS   8.1 Very wide angle (15mm to 27mm equiv.) Great for landscape/dramatic perspective. Image stabilized.
Additional High Quality Prime (fixed focal length) Lenses
Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN Prime Lens  14.3 Game-changing lens for backpacking landscape photographers. Fast, superb resolution, 24mm equivalent. Use dawn & dusk. And low cost! Great w image stabilized a6500 for handheld use.
Normal HQ  Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens  9.5 Highest resolution lens for camera. Wide aperture for low light. Great w image stabilized a6500 for handheld use. Or a tripod w a6000
Normal HQ Sony 35mm f/1.8 Prime Fixed Lens  6.2 Fast, superb resolution, normal lens. Use dawn & dusk. It has image stabilization, so perfect with the non-image stabilized a6000
Budget Lenses (but good!)
Landscape Sigma 19mm f2.8 DN, w hood  6.1 For landscape. Light, inexpensive. 2x sharper at 19mm than the a6000 16-50mm kit lens
Normal budget Sigma 30mm f2.8 DN, w hood 5.7 Low cost good resolution for only $199! Light.
Mild-tele Sigma 60mm F2.8 EX DN Art  6.7 Mild-telephoto/portrait lens. Super high res! Only $240!
Astrophotography Lense(s)
Astro lens Rokinon 12mm f/2.0 Wide Angle 8.6 Lens of choice for APS-C astrophotography. Inexpensive given its wide angle and speed!

Killer sub-$1,000 setup that can take down far heavier cameras costing 3x more:  Pictured the game-changing, super sharp landscape lens, the Sigma 16mm f/1.4 DC DN Prime Lens (24mm to equiv.) with the Sony a6000 camera mounted on a Mini Tripod Pedco utra-pod II.

A Point and Shoot Camera that Can Run with the Big Dogs – My Third Camera

The very light and compact Sony RX-100  crushes smartphone cameras. It has image quality approaching the Sony a6000 with kit lens. This is in part because it has an image sensor 6.5x larger than the best smartphone sensors. It also has a high-quality Zeiss zoom lens. As such, the Rx100 occupies a valid but narrow niche between smartphone cameras and mirrorless cameras like the a6000.

But note that the RX100 has its limitations:  It is just a bit too large and heavy to be truly “pocketable.” Its image quality is not quite as good as the lower priced Sony a6000. And finally, its single lens while similar in performance to the a6000 kit lens, is not interchangeable.  Thus, the RX100 cannot match the 3x better resolution of interchangeable camera lenses for the a6000, like the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 Contemporary lens. Finally, it’s a bit delicate and needs to be treated with care.



The Sony RX100 Kit

Camera Item Oz Comments
point & shoot
Sony RX100 (280g) 10.0 Highest image quality for a P/S camera. But pricy!
Large sensor, good in low light, has EVF
Older versions of Sony RX100  If you don’t need the latest/greatest you can save $
And these are still great cameras!
Battery spare Sony NP-BX1 (24 g, 0.8 oz) Alt: (2) BM NP-BX1 Batteries & Charger
Tripod P/S JOBY GorillaPod (44g) 1.5 For smaller P/S cameras. Also Pedco UltraPod
TOTAL 11.5 ounces

Hacks to Get Good Photos Handheld – No Tripod Needed

Non-technical Canyon Backpacking in Utah

Handheld photo with a mirrorless camera similar to the Sony a6000. The low light of the deep shade of the canyon late in the day was a challenge. A fast(er) lens, moderate 1S0 increase, and image stabilization all helped to keep the photo sharp with good color and low noise — without resorting to a tripod.

One of the major tenets of serious outdoor photography is that you need a tripod to get good results. But this not necessary true. There are some good options to steady your camera for reasonably-sharp photos before you need to resort to using a tripod. These also have the advantage of being a lot faster to use vs. setting up a tripod. And of course you don’t have the extra weight of carrying a tripod.

The following hacks, when combined, can gain you 6 to 8 stops (camera shutter speeds). This means that a photo goes from a completely unmanageable 1/2 of a second shutter shutter speed (super blurred when handheld) to a very manageable 1/120 of a second shutter speed which should give you a nice sharp photo!

  1. Image Stabilization, +2-3 stops: Check to see if your smartphone, true camera and/or lens has image stabilization (most do). Built-in image stabilization (IS, VR or OSS) gains you about 2 to 3 stops (shutter speeds) when handheld. This goes a long way to increasing the number of shots that you can take without a tripod.
  2. High ISO, +2-3 stops: There have been dramatic improvements in ISO performance (low light). For true cameras Sony probably leads the sensor technology here. Both the RX100 and a6000 have sensors with low light performance challenging that of much larger sensors. This gains you 2 to 3 stops. The RX100 (“working” high ISO ~600, about 2 stops) and a6000 (“working” high ISO ~1400, about 3 stops). For a smartphones like my iPhone 6+ its base ISO goes from around 32 to a working high ISO of around 125, so around 2 stops. [But note this is still far less than the ISO 600 to 800 of the Sony cameras. This an inherent downside of the smartphone’s sensor being 6x smaller than the RX100’s sensor.]
  3. Fast Lens, +2 stops: For true cameras, purchasing a f1.4 to f2 lens will give you about 2 stops over a basic f3.5 to f4.0 of point and shoot lenses and many DSLR kit lenses. If you aren’t striving for depth of field, a faster lens will increase the number of shots you can take hand-held.

Hack – Improvise a “Tripod” to Stabilize your Camera

You can get much of the benefit of a tripod to stabilize your camera by improvising a “tripod.” You can brace your camera up against a rock, tree, or even your trekking pole. Remember to squeeze off that shutter gently! Better yet, you can use folded garment (or other prop) on top of a rock, or fallen tree to make a an  improvised tripod/camera rest. Now that you are not holding the camera, remember to put the shutter release on a 2-second delay for sharpest results, or use a remote (see gear lists above).

For the Sharpest and Highest Quality Photos – Use a Tripod

But even with all the hacks above, if you want the very sharpest photos, ones that will enlarge to 20×30″ and hang on your wall, you will likely need a tripod of some sort. This especially true during the low light, “magic hours” of dawn and dusk. In those instances you want low ISO (~100 true cameras, ~32-50 smartphones) and and aperture of f/4 or more. This leads to shutter speeds in the range of 1/2 of a second or longer, not remotely doable handheld. The good news is that for just a few ounces you can get a perfectly serviceable mini tripod.

5 Most Important Features for a Backpacking Camera

Sometimes to get the highest image quality (e.g. 20×30″ prints to go on your wall), you need a sharp prime and a small tripod. In this case the Sony a6000 camera with the super sharp Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens  (50mm equiv. – normal lens) or Sigma 16mm f/1.4 Lens (24mm equiv. -landscape lens). At only 22 oz, this camera/lens combo has image quality equal to or exceeding the very best, and much heavier & costlier APS-C camera systems.

Mini Tripods

Any serious backcountry photographer should consider taking a small ultralight camera tripod like a Gorillapod or UltraPod. Compared to the techniques mentioned earlier, they provide better camera positioning and stability at a fraction of the weight of a full-sized, conventional tripod. These mini-pods are far from perfect. At some point, when conditions get difficult enough, there is no way around a “real tripod.”

  • JOBY GorillaPod. My choice for point & shoot cameras like the Sony RX100.
  • Pedco ultra-pod II 114g, 4.0 oz. This is my first choice for a smaller mid-sized cameras like the Sony a6000. Just put the shutter release on a 2-second delay and you will get sharp results even in low light.

A Light and Compact Full Sized Tripod

Finally, you may need (or want) a full sized tripod. This is especially true if photography is your main trip objective. One of the lightest, “full-sized” tripods with true stability for a camera like the Sony a6000, is the 2 pound Sirui T-024X Traveler Light Carbon Fiber Tripod with C-10S Ball Head. While heavier compared to the Gorilla-pod or UltraPod, it is far more stable and provides better camera positioning. And it extends all the way up to 58 inches, for a convenient non-stooping work height. Finally, the Sirui packs down to only 16″  so it easily fits in your pack.

And remember to use remote shutter release like this JJC Remote Control for Sony A6000 to reduce camera shake on the tripod. Or set the camera’s shutter to a 2 second delay.

How I Carry my Backpacking Camera – or how to get more photos

For me, it’s all about the speed and ease of taking a photo. Since I changed to using the Peak Designs CapturePRO mounting system on the shoulder strap of my pack, I get 2 to 3 x more photos per trip. More than I ever got with a point and shoot camera in my pocket!

Note in the video how quickly and easily I put my pack on with the camera already attached to my shoulder strap. No camera spinning around and twisting up the shoulder strap.


Lead photo above: Author working in Iceland with light but serious photo gear. [Photo credit – Peyton Hale]



This post contains affilate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on the these links, a portion of the sale helps support this site at no additional cost to you. I do not receive compensation from the companies whose products are listed. For product reviews: unless otherwise noted, products are purchased with my own funds. I am never under an obligation to write a review about any product. Finally, this post expresses my own independent opinion.

By | 2017-12-22T15:08:04+00:00 December 19th, 2017|Beginners, Camera - Photography, Gear List|112 Comments

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  1. Will November 24, 2015 at 4:35 pm - Reply

    Great article Alan! I did the “found” tripod thing for a while – but always found myself missing shots and generally being frustrated. The Ultrapod does such a great job that it’s really worth the wait. Sometimes I still bring a full size with me. I have a carbon version of the 3 Legged Thing that when stripped down weighs in at 1.5lbs. Amazon also makes a nice knock off for half the price.

    I keep debating on going mirrorless – but first I’ll have to get over the lack of a view finder! Any experience with the latest Canon family mirrorless cameras? I have too many lenses to abandon at this point.

    • Alan Dixon November 25, 2015 at 5:55 pm - Reply

      Yes Will, I second using an Ulrapod. Not a lot of weigh for good stability and great adjustability. And the electronic viewfinder in the a6000 is excellent. It gives you 1) easy daylight view-ability, 2) the ability to stabilize the camera by pressing it to your face, and 3) most important, unlike optical viewfinders, the EVF is what you see is what you get. That is you see all the contrast issues (e.g. blown highlights) and other problems in the electronic image that an optical view finder won’t show you.

      As to Canon Mirrorless, they’ve been very late to the game. The EOS M is still so recent that dpreview only has a preview of the camera: “Canon is the last big player to show its hand, and its initial entrant – the EOS M… To all intents and purposes it’s a mirrorless version of the recently-announced EOS 650D T4i, but with a simpler interface that’s designed to be more approachable for novice users.” So, it’s a decent sensor technology but not outstanding.

      Do understand about having a bag full of lenses and not wanting to change from Canon–expensive and inconvenient at best. All that being said, Sony is killing people with their sensor technology and many Canon users (especially outdoor photographers) are changing to the Sony camp. I owned a Canon T3i and sold it and lenses when I bought the a6000.

      • Will November 30, 2015 at 2:45 pm - Reply

        Cool, thanks. I’ve heard good things about the Sony’s as well. I might take a chance on the a6000! Something for my Xmas list. How is the battery life? I’m used to getting through a long weekend, sometimes even 4 or 5 days with one battery in my Canon.

        • Alan Dixon November 30, 2015 at 3:13 pm - Reply

          Battery life is OK–certainly not a high point for the camera. Stated battery life (CIPA) of 360 shots. And that’s at room temp I think. I got about 4-5 days of use on the GR20 in Corsica. I haven’t had the camera out in super cold yet so can’t comment on cold Wx battery life. Spare batteries are light and inexpensive. My strategy is to always bring 2 spare until I fully understand battery life under my shooting style/conditions. If it’s cold, its a good idea to keep a spare battery warm in your pocket to quickly swap in if needed.

          I would suggest getting or something of the ilk.

          • Will November 30, 2015 at 3:54 pm

            Thanks Alan, that’s not as terrible as I had feared. My Canon batteries do not like the cold at all – and have a life span of hours at best in the teens (when in the camera). So I’m used to swapping throughout the day from spares I keep in my pockets. I haven’t come up with a better way around shooting in the cold.

  2. Mike December 1, 2015 at 3:39 am - Reply

    I have been looking at the Sony RX 100 as a backpacking camera. Do you think the value is there in the mark III for the extra $150? Is the original RX 100 close to the mark III in terms of picture quality? I would rather pay out the money for the less expensive camera. I am far from a professional photographer. I am really looking for a nice point and shoot that will take much better photos and video than a standard cell phone.

    • Alan Dixon December 1, 2015 at 3:44 am - Reply

      Given your criteria, you will do fine with the earlier models. I think you’ll be pleased with the photos. -Alan

  3. George Schlossnagle December 28, 2015 at 4:30 pm - Reply

    I have a sony rx100iii and have taken it on a number of backpacking trips (grand canyon, john muir trail). I find the leaf-shutter-like ‘lens cap’ fouls very easily in desert/high desert type environments. I’m (with some regret) moving back to my Fujifilms, which don’t suffer from this problem (and are more of a pleasure to shoot). I really wanted the rx100iii to work out though.

  4. Bruce Johnson January 10, 2016 at 3:50 am - Reply

    Thank you for an informative article, Alan. I have gone a similar route, taking a Canon S110 on short or non-photo intensive trips, but using a mirrorless for the longer trip where photography is an important activity. After some research, I decided to go the Olympus EM-5 route, with a 40-150 zoom and a 25mm f1.4 Leica prime. With the micro 4-3 sensor there is a slightly smaller image, but the lenses are a more mature group, and the 150 with the onboard telephoto feature gives me wildlife shots at a 600mm equivalent. The EM-5 has excellent image stabilization as well. The Sony was my other choice. They both put out beautiful images for a minimum of weight compared to a DSLR. The new site looks great!

  5. Tj January 18, 2016 at 3:16 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan,
    “The best backpacking camera is the one you can quickly pull out and shoot”
    So, in that thought, which quicker to pull out and shoot:
    A smaller lighter camera that will be easier to stick somewhere handy or a larger one that is weather sealed, so it can stay out in all but the worst weather?

    Specifically the LUMIX GM5(tiny but needs to be in a more protective pocket) vs the OM-D E5MkII, which is weatherproof.

    • Alan Dixon January 18, 2016 at 4:12 pm - Reply

      A great question Tj,
      The short answer is that if you like your OMD-eM5mkII, and don’t mind the weight increase over the Lumix Gm5 then by all means take it–great camera, superb array of lenses! The trick is mount your eM5 on the shoulder strap of your pack using the Peak Designs CapturePRO listed on this post. This usually gives you faster camera access than digging a camera out of your pocket. (And the light eM5 is a perfect fit for using the CapturePRO.)

      I am en-route back from doing the Torres Del Paine trek in Patagonia. I had my Sony a6000 mounted to my pack with the CapturePRO the whole trip. I think I only put it inside my pack for a few hours of hard rain.

      Oh, and I will point out that when it’s raining hard enough to require a waterproof camera it usually crap conditions to get a good shot–low light, low visibility, fog, mist, and lots of water on your lens. You really gotta want to document that situation. One exception to this would be something like Packrafting where getting wet is not associated with heavy overcast, rain and low visibility.

      Actually the better reason for having an environmentally sealed camera is usually dust and sand, especially when combined with strong wind. This can be a camera killer in places like Utah or Patagonia.

      Hope this helps, -Alan

      • Alan Dixon January 18, 2016 at 4:32 pm - Reply

        Oh, and for folks with non-environentally-sealed mirroless, crop-format, and full format cameras Peak Designs makes the Shell. It may make sense to use this for both rain and in dusty environments. The small size is appropriate for most small mirroless cameras like Sony a-Series and u4/3 cameras.

  6. Austin April 25, 2016 at 3:52 am - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    I’ve been a huge fan of your website the last few months, don’t know if you remember me. I’ve been thinking about the subject of backpacking photography for a about a year now and am trying to decide what I want to choose as my first serious upgrade from the world of phone cameras and point-and-shoots.

    My primary question is whether you ever have taken a DSLR backpacking on a serious, fast, UL off-trail trip such as the SHR, SoSHR, WRHR. I was thinking about getting the Sony a6000 w/ 16-50mm lens, but it turns out that I can get the Nikon D5300 DSLR w/ 18-55mm lens for a bit cheaper, and based on what I’ve read, I could do considerably more with such a solid entry-level DSLR. The body of the Nikon D5300 is only 16.9 oz, so not horrible actually. I’d like to upgrade prior to my summer trips (a week for your SoSHR including Mt. Sill, 5-6 days for Skurka’s WRHR, and more relaxed on-trail trips with my wife to Glacier and Yellowstone). My thinking has been that I pack very minimally with base weight almost always sub-8lbs., so a little extra weight sacrifice for the DSLR would be acceptable to me. Plus this guy’s setup with his DSLR hanging at the side of his thigh actually looks pretty manageable in terms of comfort and camera security and accessibility ( Plus I wouldn’t mind quickly stowing it in the main body of the pack for the occasions where terrain is extra treacherous (e.g., Snow-Tongue Pass, Frozen Lake Pass, Sky Pilot Col, etc.).

    Would love to hear what you might choose in my position, or if you have any relevant experience to share regarding taking a DSLR on any of your serious trips and how it went for you.



    • Alan Dixon April 25, 2016 at 11:01 pm - Reply

      I have taken my a6000 with 16-50 mounted on the shoulder strap of my pack (Peak Design mount) on the GR20 in Corsica, considered the toughest trek in Europe. Tons of scrambling and climbing over rock. I only took the camera off twice on the trek. I also took it on the Torres de Paine (complete trek) and never took it off. And I can put the pack on and off without taking the camera off the shoulder strap or having that shoulder strap spin and tangle (there’s a trick to it.).

      The key to getting a ton of photos is to have it readily available on your shoulder strap. If it’s inside your pack you will get few photos. I see the system you mention. Whiteout having used it… it 1) looks like it would bounce around and get in the way while scrambling and 2) would take about 3-5x longer to take out and get a shot and put back vs. then Peak Design mount (which is around 3-5 seconds). I have a video where I put on my pack (with camera mounted to shoulder strap) take the camera off the mount shoot a photo and put it back on the shoulder strap mount. It takes less than 15 seconds. You could do this as well with your light (8lb) BPW.

      Guessing that your Nikon is light enough to use the PD Shoulder strap mount with a smaller kit zoom, but you’d want to test it out a bit before a trip. Hope this helps, -alan

      • Alan Dixon April 25, 2016 at 11:06 pm - Reply

        It also helps if the lens has a zoom lock. My 16-50 doesn’t need one (it does it automatically). But my 18-200 zoom has an actual lock that keeps the lens barrel from “zooming out” when it is mounted in the vertical position on the shoulder strap mount. That works fine. And let me know if you are interested in seeing said video. -a

        • Austin April 27, 2016 at 3:38 am - Reply

          Thanks so much for the great response, especially your experience on the GR20. I’ll definitely be going with the peak designs mount option. And would love to see that video if you don’t mind.

          Is dust and grime buildup a problem with the camera so constantly exposed? Do you cover it all? Or leave lens cap on?

          One other big question I have as a newbie to the world of advanced photography that I’ve been really curious about: do you find yourself using the kit zoom lens more often, or your 19mm f/2.8 prime more often? Which one do you feel produces a higher percentage of your favorite photos?

          Still torn on Sony a6000 or Nikon d5300 since they’re priced identically with kit zoom included on Amazon right now!

          • Alan Dixon April 27, 2016 at 10:20 pm

            I really wouldn’t get to wrapped up deciding between the two cameras. Either would do you fine. As they say, it’s the pictures that you take that make the difference.

            Actually your other two questions are related. As to exposure: if the camera is out and used it will get some exposure. Thus I try to limit the $ of camera gear to a modest investment–one I am willing to part with if something bad happens. Thus the a6000 with kit lens at well under $800 is an amount I am willing to put on the shoulder strap of my pack and subject to some environmental exposure (if it’s really bad like rain, it goes back in the pack). So far camera and lens have done fine in two years. I use the 16-50 about 95% of the time backpacking. Its cheap. Its light and compact. It has about the right focal lengths for backpacking photos. It just works (with the obvious limitations of not being tack sharp below about 20mm and I am careful not to shoot below that except with good reason–maybe 10% of my photos). Occasionally I will bring the 35mm Sony (as a backup lens for big trips) and for dusk and dawn photos due to its large aperture and image stabilization.

            Hope that helps, -a

  7. Kenneth July 9, 2016 at 2:14 am - Reply

    Alan, this is a great post. I have also used the Peak Designs strap mounting plate system with my Olympus EM-1 with great results. The EM-1 is another great option for a full-featured camera when you don’t mind carrying a bit more weight. It is also splashproof and freezeproof so can be used in the rain or snow, or on very cold nights.

    I know there are as many opinions about the best camera gear to take hiking as there are hikers and photographers put together, but I would also like to offer one other general type of camera as another alternative option. Most of the big brands now offer very good waterproof/weatherproof cameras. I personally carry an Olympus TG-4, which has a lot of features that make it perfect in the pack when weight is a concern:
    – Has a relatively fast (f/2.0) and very wide (25mm equiv.) lens
    – Offers features that advanced amateurs will like, such as the ability to shoot in RAW, fully manual exposure controls if desired, focus stacking and extended macro modes, etc
    – Is completely pocketable. I carry it in my front pocket often. When backpacking, with my setup, the camera fits into the zippered hip belt pocket that is built into my pack (Gossamer Gear Mariposa), so it therefore adds zero weight for additional clips, bags, etc that would otherwise be needed to carry it. It’s also immediately available and in my hand to shoot in a flash. I absolutely agree with your statement that “the best backpacking camera is the camera you can quickly pull out and shoot.”
    – The camera is fully outdoor-proof: waterproof to 50 feet underwater, dustproof, freezeproof, shockproof, crushproof. Besides being absolutely perfect for the rigors of being taken into the wilderness, this feature alone offers at least three distinct advantages:
    o I can pull the camera out and use it whenever I like, capturing the moment exactly as I am experiencing it…weather and all.
    o I do not need to carry a heavy, clumsy weatherproofing case for the camera, nor store it in a waterproof baggie.
    o It opens up the possibility for more creative photography with shots taken while swimming, natural features underwater, shots in heavy snow, etc.
    – The camera has built-in altimeter and compass functions, and also has a built-in GPS tracking function to track your path. For me, I use a paper map in the field but also like to see where I’ve gone digitally when I get back home, so this fits the bill perfectly.
    – If I carry my phone also, the camera can be fully controlled from my phone via wi-fi (with a live screen shot sent to the phone), which makes taking tripod selfies and group shots as easy as can be.

    The camera is light enough (9 oz) that it works great with my ancient Ultrapod. I have bought several other ultralight tripods since the Ultrapod, but none have matched the simplicity, sturdiness, and versatility of the Ultrapod. The Ultrapod is genius on the trail. With the “V” cross-section of the folded tripod and its built-in Velcro strap, it can be easily and quickly mounted to a hiking pole to make a very sturdy monopod. Or, two hiking poles crossed at the top along with a length of line staked to the ground make a “real” tripod for low-light shots, again with the Ultrapod strapped to one of the poles. Of course the Ultrapod can be used as a tripod all by itself with very good results too.

    My entire camera kit, including camera with wrist strap, Ultrapod, spare battery, a polarizer filter (a must for wilderness photography in my opinion), and small case to put the pol. filter in when I’m not using it, weighs in at 12.5 ounces. I can add a macro flash ring for just another 0.3 ounces.

    I think it’s also worth mentioning the use of the classic “string tripod” as another super light option for helping steady your hand-held shots. I won’t go into the details of this device but if you use a piece of line that you’re probably already carrying in your pack, you’ll just need to buy a 1/4-20 eye hook and nut to build this…just a few added grams in your pocket. If your camera has a large enough wrist strap attachment hole you might not even need the eye hook. Google “string tripod” and you’ll find a ton of info out there on how to set this up and use it…super easy and you’re probably already carrying the necessary materials anyway!

    Anyway, I’m not trying to sell anyone on the Olympus TG-4 specifically, but I just wanted to offer another idea for ways to make sure you get the shots you want without a lot of worry about ruining expensive camera equipment out in the wild.

  8. Kevin Welch August 2, 2016 at 10:02 am - Reply

    I was wondering if you looked into the TrailPix Tripod option, it uses your trekking poles and a collapsible third leg to make a ultralight tripod, with a standard ball head the thing weighs in at just over 200 grams

    • Alan Dixon August 2, 2016 at 11:56 am - Reply

      I haven’t Kevin. But at times the height would be most welcome. For me the major con would be the time to set this one up. Might be fine in camp but on the trail not so much. I you do try one let me know what you think. Best, -Alan

  9. Sam September 8, 2016 at 6:21 pm - Reply


    Allan Question. Recent college grad looking for a new camera to start my photography business. I will be shooting fashion and wildlife but mostly on fashion bc that is where the money is. I have been looking at the Canon EOS bundle on amazon and wanted to see if anyone had experience with this camera? I have used Canons at school and some classmates said they like theirs. I also found that listed the EOS as one of the top cameras of 2016. Any input would be appreciated greatly!

    Thanks everyone!

    • Alan Dixon September 8, 2016 at 6:57 pm - Reply

      Sam, best of luck on your photography career. Yes, in terms of cost and weight either the Nikon or Canon APS-C cameras would be good choices for fashion shooting but still light enough for wildlife/backpacking photography. And the APS-C cameras will also be a lot more cost effective than going full-frame. If you are going the DSLR (mirrored) route the Nikon D7200 would also be an excellent choice. There are some super zoom lenses for it. Like the Sigma 17-50mm F2.8 EX DC OS HSM, Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM A (amazing lens!), Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 EX DC APO OS HSM. All of these zooms out perform most of the Nikon prime lenses. And there is the amazing Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC HSM A. Many of these Sigma lenses are also available for Canon. Cheers, -a

  10. Henrik October 3, 2016 at 12:45 am - Reply

    Hello Kevin and Alan,

    I’ve used the Trailpix for two years now and at 80g (less if you use a point-and-shoot) it’s worth the weight. Often I’ll just leave it attached to the camera (Sony NEX7 usually sitting in a Zpacks chest pouch), so sticking it onto the trekking poles takes just a few seconds.

    • Alan Dixon October 3, 2016 at 2:06 am - Reply

      Henrick, that sounds like a great system too. Using a trekking pole as a mono-pod is great. Best, -alan

  11. Kevin January 5, 2017 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    I am kind of torn between the a6300 and E-M5 ii…I am doing a nobo thru hike on the AT and plan to take an Ultrapod but mostly do hand held shooting. I want a wide angle for landscapes with a fast aperture for astrophotography but all lenses for the a6300 that fit this bill are not stabilized. I like the a6300’s larger sensor, better video capabilities and battery life, but can’t quite get over it’s lack of IBIS. Do you think IBIS would be necessary for hand held hiking shots with a lens that is not stabilized? I liked your review on the E-M5 ii but how would you stack that up head-to-head against an a6300? Even though the a6500 is a bit out of my price range, would it be worth spending the extra $ to gain IBIS??


    • Alan Dixon January 5, 2017 at 6:30 pm - Reply

      The Sony is best if you want the absolute highest resolution images with the greatest dynamic range and color depth. The Sony is capable of 16 perceptual megapixels (pMP), which is about as good as it gets for 24 MP crop sensor cameras. The Sony is also the better camera for serious video. But there are caveats.

      1. To get the highest resolution, you’ll need fixed lenses most of which are not image stabilized (really the Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC DN C Sony E). That means that you’ll need to shoot off of a tripod to get the highest resolution. (The possible exception to this is the Sony E 35mm f/1.8 “normal” lens, but with only 11 perceptual megapixels.)
      2. The camera body and lenses are not environmentally sealed against rain/dust.

      That being said there are two nice stabilized zoom lenses for the Sony a6000 and a6300, albeit moderately expensive and not super light. The Sony E PZ 18-105mm F4 G OSS at 9 pMP, and the Sony E 10-18mm f/4 (also stablilzed) at 8 pMP. Both are faster and have better resolution that the kit Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at only 6 pMP. The Sony E PZ 18-105mm F4 G OSS is probably your best bet if you want a good image quality in a general purpose stabilized zoom. It is the lens I have gravitated to in spite of being bulkier and heavier than the kit lens. It and the Rokinon 12mm F2.0 below for super wide and astro work would make a cool kit! [And steer clear of the Sony 18-200 zoom lenses unless you absolutely need the reach of 200mm, the resolution is not there!]

      The Olympus is best if you need and environmentally sealed camera and lens combo (OM-D EM-5 II and 12-40mm F2.8 PRO). Right now the the EM-5 II and 12-40 PRO lens is on Amazon for $1,600. This Olympus body/lens combo has about the same 9 pMP as the Sony with the 18-105mm F4 G OSS. The Olympus has has a nicer viewfinder, better controls and a useful tilt touchscreen display. It also has in body stabilization allowing you to use any lens stabilized greatly increasing your range of handheld shot opportunities. Also there are a huge number of u4/3 lenses than E mount lenses for the Sony. But there are caveats.

      1. The very best u4/3 lenses limit out at around 11 pMP vs. 13 to 16 pMP for the Sony.
      2. The smaller u4/3 sensor limits image quality vs. the larger APS-C sensor of the Sony. High ISO performance ⅓ stop less, 5% less color depth, and 8% less dynamic range vs. the Sony.
      3. Video Spec is not as good as the Sony. (If you want to shoot serious video the a6x00 series is what you want.)

      As to astro work, you’ll definitely be on a tripod so stabilization not an issue. And the Rokinon 12mm F2.0 NCS CS Ultra Wide Angle Lens Sony E-Mount (NEX) is likely the lens of choice for Sony E. You could also use the 10-18 at around 10mm for astro work. Just make sure you turn off the OSS when shooting from the tripod.

      And just to confuse things a bit: The a6500 body is both dust-moisture resistant and has in-body image stabilization. Unfortunately at time of writing there are almost no dust-moisture resistant lenses for it. But at least your camera body is reasonably protected if not the lenses. I have not really had problems with shooting in light rain as long as I protect the camera between shots.

      Hope this helps, -alan

  12. Ingrid January 25, 2017 at 3:31 am - Reply

    Do you think a6000 would survive Southern Utah…. dust concerns…..

    • Alan Dixon January 25, 2017 at 12:27 pm - Reply

      Yes Ingrid, it will work assuming reasonable care. I have taken my a6000 on numerous multi-day trips canyoneering in Southern Utah. Many of the pictures in this article “Non-technical Canyon Backpacking in Utah – a how to guide for getting started” were taken with the a6000. A few thoughts: I would not take it out in the middle of a raging windstorm. I might not put the most expensive lens on it (I usually take the 16-50). I would definitely use a UV filter on the front of the lens. Have a great trip. S Utah is a wonderful place! Best, -a

  13. BradR January 31, 2017 at 3:14 am - Reply

    Alan, I am going to Alaska for a 12 day trip this summer and am bringing my iPhone 6s to aid in navigation (will have Caltopo paper maps and compass). Since I am doing that, I am contemplating just using my iPhone camera and not my normal p&s to save weight (12 days worth of food is heavy!). What are your thoughts on that and how does that effect battery life (on airplane mode of course and will have battery pack)? Any other tips or tricks for getting the most out of a cell phone camera?

    • Alan Dixon January 31, 2017 at 4:20 pm - Reply

      This is a great Q Brad. The short answer is that for a 12 day trip, assuming no recharging mid-trip you might (or might not) be better off weight-wise also bringing a p/s. It boils down to whether the battery weight to re-charge your iPhone will exceed the weight of the p/s with its extra battery. One thing you will need to do with your iPhone is to test it. Since it’s a 6s, the battery is likely far from new. You’ll need to do a day hike in airplane mode, taking a few GPS locations and mapping w Gaia, taking what you think is a reasonable amount of photos, and trying to minimize “chimping” (extended time reviewing photos). Then recharge the iPhone with your external battery and see where you are.

      As to the iPhone picture tips and tricks: 1) Get an App to manually control your iPhone like “Pro Camera” or “Camera+.” This will give you control over focus, exposure, ISO, etc. 2) Understand that low light is not the iPhone’s strength. You might want to invest in a small tripod and bluetooth remote to stabilize the iPhone for low light work, while keeping the ISO within reasonable limits and eliminating camera shake. (See my Holiday Gear Guide Inexpensive for some options). And finally 3) if you shoot video you might consider getting the “Filmic Pro App” (See my Holiday Gear Guide Mid-Range for some options).

      Hope this helps, -alan

  14. BradR February 5, 2017 at 3:12 pm - Reply

    Thank you for your help Alan. What are your thoughts on “Snapseed” – it’s program that was recommended to me but it appears to be mostly post possessing.

    Though I always take lots of pictures backpacking, I am a “auto” guy and figure the camera is a lot smarter than I am.

    • Alan Dixon February 5, 2017 at 5:03 pm - Reply

      I like it fine, but you are correct it is a post-processing tool.

      > Though I always take lots of pictures backpacking, I am a “auto” guy and figure the camera is a lot smarter than I am.

      That may be so, but still I think it might be good keep in mind what the foibles and limitations of an iPhone camera are. And when you encounter a situation that may challenge it (might not be often): say like low light, you might want to be aware of your options (and have the tools?) to take some corrective actions. Your choice tho. Best, -a

  15. Roger Gorman February 16, 2017 at 3:08 am - Reply

    Some people take photographs of travel, and some people travel to take photographs. My camera of choice at the moment is a Canon 5ds R. I never carry any more than two lenses and usually one. Newest favorite is the canon ef 35mm f1.4L II.

    • Alan Dixon February 21, 2017 at 7:37 pm - Reply

      Sorry for the late posting of your comment. I am just back in the US after two weeks in remote areas of country and with absolutely no internet whatsoever. I carried a Sony A7R II and a single lens with great success! So, yes sometimes full-frame is where it’s at. All the best, -alan

  16. Mike Wickham April 27, 2017 at 7:16 pm - Reply

    A camera that I really like for backpacking is the Nikon Coolpix P530 (I actually have the older P510). It’s not small enough to put in your pocket, but at 19 oz. is very lightweight. It has a 42x superzoom (24-1000mm equivalent) built in. So it can take wide shots or zoom in to a bird’s eye, without changing a lens. $269 at B&H.

    I use these connector straps to hang it off my backpack:

    • Alan Dixon April 27, 2017 at 9:22 pm - Reply

      Thanks Mike. That strap system looks interesting.

  17. Paul May 16, 2017 at 11:07 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    Thanks for a great article! I’ve been pouring over it for days and following links, random thoughts, etc, and am left with a question: what are your thoughts on the a6300? Is it worth the $400 over the a6000? I appreciate your advice about stressing about the difference between two good cameras but it is a lot money.

    I plan on the a6000/a6300 body and a 35mm f1.8 lens. Debating if I want to buy/carry the kit lens.


    • Alan Dixon May 16, 2017 at 11:53 pm - Reply

      Paul, the a6000 is a way better value than the a6300. I would get it with the kit lens. As long as you aren’t going to print at 40×60″ and use it sparingly below 20mm it’s not a bad lens. And for only $150 with the camera it’s a great value. So that and the 35mm f/1.8 should do you proud. Enjoy!

      Oh, and FWIW the next logical upgrade would be to the a6500 for it’s in body stabilization. Then you can use a huge inventory of non-OS Sony (and non-Sony) lenses when backpacking without needing to use a tripod (most but not all of the time). But sadly at that price it might make more sense to upgrade to the a7r II. You get a lot more camera for the $. -a

      • Paul May 17, 2017 at 12:00 am - Reply

        Thank you, Alan. I needed that shot of good sense. So one more question: would you suggest the 35mm f1.8 or the Rokinon 12mm f2 as the second lens?


        • Alan Dixon May 17, 2017 at 12:09 am - Reply

          Depends on how much astro work you want to do. If yes, get the 12. If not get the 35.

          OTOH the 12 and the 16-50 would make an intersting combo both for daylight and astro work. Note: I have not had great luck manually focusing a variety lenses with the a6000. It usually requires a photo review to see if I got it right. When I use the auto focusing on the moving spot, focusing is always dead on wherever I place the focus spot. Could be that my eyes are getting bad. YMMV. -alan

          • Alan Dixon May 17, 2017 at 12:13 am

            And for astro you can always tape the 12 to ∞ as confirmed by daylight tests. Or I sometimes put two pieces of masking tape on the lens and focus ring and pencil mark them to be aligned at ∞. Best, -a

  18. Mike May 17, 2017 at 4:18 pm - Reply

    Your article is perfect for me as a backpacker who never really owned a good camera. Thank-you! I do have one additional question… I have the A6000 with the 16-50 stock lens, but I want to be able to take an occasional landscape photo that I can blow up to possibly 30×40 or so. Is it possible to get a reasonably sharp photo this size with this camera and the sigma 30mm or maybe Rokinon 12mm prime and the ultrapod? Also, is there an acceptable way to piece together photos so I could get a sharp landscape print composed of several photos taken with stock lens and save the added cost/weight of the prime lenses?

    • Alan Dixon May 17, 2017 at 6:56 pm - Reply

      Hi Mike and congrats on the a6000. First the 16 to 20 mm is wide enough for many landscape photos [most of mine end up at around 18-22mm]. And with care off of a tripod, shooting at around f/5.6 or f/8 (the optimal aperture for the lens) and keeping it at 20mm or above you might well get a 20×30″ print. You need to have it very steady on the tripod, use a remote or timed shutter release and make sure you have good focus. I would try that fist. And if you do shoot at 16mm, shoot RAW so that you can do your own distortion correction (if needed). The in-camera distortion correction at 16mm is what creates the greatest loss of image quality. And again keeping the camera steady, and nailing focus are Jobs #1 and #2 for a high quality image!

      Yes, you can stitch multiple photos together, say using the 30mm Sigma. Do a bit of reading on a good technique. But one thing for sure, you want go into manual mode and lock exposure. Otherwise it will be almost impossible to match tone and brightness where you stitch the photos together.

      Obviously the Rokinon 12mm would solve this (18mm 35 equiv.) and should make some very dramatic landscapes. But you do need to be careful with a lens that wide or the heightened perspective effects can get out of hand. This is more and more evident and you move the lens further away from level.

      Have fun with the new camera, -alan

  19. Dan May 22, 2017 at 3:50 am - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    Great article! I already have the a6000 with 18-105 lens and was looking for something specific for landscape/astro. I see the Sigma 19mm f/2.8 has a pMP of 10. What is the pMP of the Rikinon 12mm f2? as well as the Sony 10-18 f4 OSS?

    Lastly, how would I go about calculating the pMP myself? This way as more lenses become available I won’t have to bug you 🙂 Thanks!


    • Alan Dixon May 22, 2017 at 7:51 pm - Reply

      Dan, Sony 10-18 is 8 pMP. No pMP data on the Rokinon 12mm. What test data I see shows it to be very sharp in the center and good at the edges. Overall image quality is good from f/2 to f/11. Peak resolution is from f/2.8 to f/8 (best at F/4 and F/5.6). It would make a great astro lens, and a very good landscape one as long as you are OK with manual focus. Best, -alan

  20. Chris May 23, 2017 at 1:13 am - Reply


    Any suggestions for having a second lens readily available (not in the pack) with the peak designs setup for the a6000? Is there a hip belt you use…?

  21. Will Shipp May 24, 2017 at 8:22 pm - Reply


    This is a great article. Thanks for taking the time to do the research and write up for us backpackers who also enjoy photography.

    The Peak Designs Capture Pro was an excellent recommend. I previously used a Cotton Carrier system to my pack shoulder strap but all of the carrier straps would get in the way and end up driving me nuts which trying to adjust my backpack. The Capture Pro is so sleek and simple.

    Do you have any experience with the Sony Alpha a7S? I have used a Nikon D750 for a while and can’t bring myself to spend money on a crop sensor again. I am willing to spend the extra $600 over the a6500 for a full frame sensor camera but I’m not sure if this is the best mirrorless choice on the market at that price point. The weights seem comparable.


    • Alan Dixon May 25, 2017 at 2:36 am - Reply

      Will, I had the same thoughts on getting the A7 vs. the a6500. I decided that the A7R II was a better upgrade and a better value. I’ve been using my A7R II on the Capture Pro with good success. And the a6000 and A7R II complement each other well. Best, -alan

      • Will Shipp September 14, 2017 at 11:11 pm - Reply


        I recently picked up an A7R II. What has been your go to backpacking lens for this camera? I’ve been looking at the Sony AF 16-35 f/4.

        • Alan Dixon September 15, 2017 at 12:28 am - Reply

          Yup, the Sony AF 16-35 f/4 is likely the lightest, best landscape focal lengths and best value.
          One thing to consider is that the f/2.8 is not that much heavier and at at 16mm f/2.8 can double as a decent Astro lens.
          And the f/2.8 is sharper edge to edge than the f/4. But it costs more too.

          Hope this helps. Good shooting, -a

  22. Patrick May 29, 2017 at 10:00 pm - Reply

    Great site and we appreciate your replies to questions, rare on sites. The rx100 is a fine lightweight for landscapes but how about wildlife? I take mainly landscape wilderness pics (on an old small sensor 10x, planning to upgrade) but couldn’t take bird or animal pics without its10x.
    Do you miss not having a moderate or longer zoom?

    Your 3.6x rx100 must be sharper than the 10x 1″ sensor lumix tz 100, but wouldn’t the tz be more versatile? Or would a teleconverter, digital zoom or cropping for distant wildlife work on a 3.6x camera?


    • Alan Dixon May 30, 2017 at 7:08 pm - Reply

      Hi Patrick. This is a great Q and one that there is no easy answer. While there are a great number of light, inexpensive options for landscape photos… the same is not true for telephoto wildlife photos.

      1. The best, lightest and semi-inexpensive option that would get semi-pro quality images would be the sony a6000 with the 18-105 lens. This would give you (27mm to 160mm, 35 equivalent) or around 6x. Given the high res. of the image you could likely crop to get the rest of the way to something like 10x.
      2. Also look at a Olympus EM-10 II with their inexpensive and very good 40-150mm zoom lens (80mm to 300mm equiv). This combo would do well for wildlife work and not break the bank or your back.
      3. I would think that the RX 100’s 24-70mm equivalent, even with cropping is not going to do what you want.
      4. If you aren’t on board with the a6000 or EM-10 II, then your best option is to do some research on some of the newer 10x zoom cameras. In particular looking at any resolution tests that might be available. Since this class of camera does not get run through the technical test wringer that info. may be a bit harder to find.

      Sorry not to be more helpful, but this is not an area of my expertise. But I would be very interested in what you find. You might even look at the larger, fixed lens super zoom cameras in the range of 10-16 oz vs. the compact ones. Let me know what you turn up. All the best, -alan

  23. Patrick May 31, 2017 at 4:15 am - Reply

    Thanks for the prompt responses, no need to reply to this. I noticed the pics I’ve blown up are not zoom, so another idea: light, low zoom rx 100 for me, hike with someone with a tiny sensor zoom for wildlife.

    I was hoping I couldn’t tell the difference in sharpness between the 10x Lumix zs 100 (aka tz100) and the Sony rx100 but I can (imaging-resources has comparisons.) Interchangeable lenses are the best but I’d like to keep <`lb (do annual 100 mile, 6 day mt hikes, planning to do longer.)

    • Alan Dixon May 31, 2017 at 7:29 pm - Reply

      Sounds good.

      And if that doesn’t suffice, for serious wildlife photography that is both low weight and low cost the Olympus EM-10 II (with kit zoom actually quite good) paired with a 40-150mm zoom lens (80mm to 300mm equiv.) would be a most excellent setup. Just put it on your shoulder-strap using the Capture Pro. Probably 1/4 the weight and cost of most wildlife photo setups. Best, -a

      And personally I find that I don’t mind or notice the camera weight when I carry it this way. And access is actually faster and easier than pulling a p/s out of my pocket. That being said, I just spent a week using my RX-100 III on a bike trip in southern France. It was in the back pocket of my riding jersey. -a

  24. Ryan May 31, 2017 at 12:13 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan,
    Really enjoy the content on your site.
    You seem to view pMP as the arbiter of image sharpness, but I’m confused about how it is measured. Namely, the same lens seems to change in pMP as you change camera sensor resolution, despite staying with the same crop factor. (i.e. the same lens will have a pMP of 11 on an 18 MP APS-C sensor, and 13 on a 24 MP APS-C sensor). This is confusing to me; from a physical standpoint, the resolving power should be limited by either the sensor or the lens, whichever is less. Since the pMP is well below the sensor resolution, the lens should be limiting, but in that case changing sensor resolution shouldn’t alter the pMP! Somehow, either the sensor and lens resolving power are conflated in a manner that isn’t physically intuitive, or DxoLabs’ method of calculating pMP is based on a formula that isn’t representative of reality in some way. I imagine the folks at DxoLabs are pretty smart, so the former seems more likely, but I don’t understand it. Care to shed some light? Feel free to get technical; I’m a Ph.D. candidate in the physical sciences (though obviously not in optical physics haha).

    • Alan Dixon May 31, 2017 at 7:16 pm - Reply

      Ryan, I am an engineer and also find this not entirely intuitive. So yes, “the sensor and lens resolving power are conflated in a manner that isn’t [at least in part] physically intuitive.” Here is some DXO Mark info on why they replaced MTF measurements for pMP.

      Should help explain pMP a bit. But in essence, it tests the acutance of a camera & lens combo (based as it would appear to the human eye) and equates it an equivalent MP resolution sensor paired a perfect lens. -alan

      • Alan Dixon June 1, 2017 at 7:20 am - Reply

        And the vast majority of losses are from the lens. Many inexpensive zooms reducing resolution by over 50%!

        Altho the sensor/camera itself also have losses, so even with a perfect lens you would not get all 24 MP out of the Sony a6000’s sensor. In the real world, even with the best cameras and superb $$ lenses you get around 85 to 90% of the camera’s native sensor resolution. -a

  25. Shane June 18, 2017 at 8:21 am - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    Was just wondering how you rate the Olympus em5 mark ii against the Sony a6000/6300. Will the em5ii produce similar quality with the pro lenses? I’m due to upgrade and am wondering if the 2 year old mark 2 is still as good as the current aps-c cameras.


  26. Shane June 18, 2017 at 8:52 am - Reply

    I actually just read your analysis of my query over on the em5ii review. But feel free to add any extra thoughts. 🙂

    • Alan Dixon June 19, 2017 at 1:12 am - Reply

      Sorry for the late reply Shane. Super busy weekend and I’m just getting to answering comments. Yes, this is an excellent Q. I have answered most of it in a January 5, 2017 at 6:30 pm in a reply to comments on this post. I have reproduced it below. If you have any more Q’s feel free to ask. Best, -alan

      The Sony is best if you want the absolute highest resolution images with the greatest dynamic range and color depth. The Sony is capable of 16 perceptual megapixels (pMP), which is about as good as it gets for 24 MP crop sensor cameras. The Sony is also the better camera for serious video. But there are caveats.

      1. To get the highest resolution, you’ll need fixed lenses most of which are not image stabilized (really the Sigma 30mm F1.4 DC DN C Sony E). That means that you’ll need to shoot off of a tripod to get the highest resolution. (The possible exception to this is the Sony E 35mm f/1.8 “normal” lens, but with only 11 perceptual megapixels.)
      2. The camera body and lenses are not environmentally sealed against rain/dust.

      That being said there are two nice stabilized zoom lenses for the Sony a6000 and a6300, albeit moderately expensive and not super light. The Sony E PZ 18-105mm F4 G OSS at 9 pMP, and the Sony E 10-18mm f/4 (also stablilzed) at 8 pMP. Both are faster and have better resolution that the kit Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at only 6 pMP. The Sony E PZ 18-105mm F4 G OSS is probably your best bet if you want a good image quality in a general purpose stabilized zoom. It is the lens I have gravitated to in spite of being bulkier and heavier than the kit lens. It and the Rokinon 12mm F2.0 below for super wide and astro work would make a cool kit! [And steer clear of the Sony 18-200 zoom lenses unless you absolutely need the reach of 200mm, the resolution is not there!]

      The Olympus is best if you need and environmentally sealed camera and lens combo (OM-D EM-5 II and 12-40mm F2.8 PRO). Right now the the EM-5 II and 12-40 PRO lens is on Amazon for $1,600. This Olympus body/lens combo has about the same 9 pMP as the Sony with the 18-105mm F4 G OSS. The Olympus has has a nicer viewfinder, better controls and a useful tilt touchscreen display. It also has in body stabilization allowing you to use any lens stabilized greatly increasing your range of handheld shot opportunities. Also there are a huge number of u4/3 lenses than E mount lenses for the Sony. But there are caveats.

      1. The very best u4/3 lenses limit out at around 11 pMP vs. 13 to 16 pMP for the Sony.
      2. The smaller u4/3 sensor limits image quality vs. the larger APS-C sensor of the Sony. High ISO performance ⅓ stop less, 5% less color depth, and 8% less dynamic range vs. the Sony.
      3. Video Spec is not as good as the Sony. (If you want to shoot serious video the a6x00 series is what you want.)

      As to astro work, you’ll definitely be on a tripod so stabilization not an issue. And the Rokinon 12mm F2.0 NCS CS Ultra Wide Angle Lens Sony E-Mount (NEX) is likely the lens of choice for Sony E. You could also use the 10-18 at around 10mm for astro work. Just make sure you turn off the OSS when shooting from the tripod.

      And just to confuse things a bit: The a6500 body is both dust-moisture resistant (but not sure it is up to the standards of the Oly) and has in-body image stabilization. Unfortunately at time of writing there are almost no dust-moisture resistant lenses for it. But at least your camera body is reasonably protected if not the lenses. I have not really had problems with shooting in light rain with the a6000 as long as I protect the camera between shots.

      Hope this helps, -alan

  27. Bruce Johnson June 21, 2017 at 2:32 am - Reply

    Thanks for your tips. I read this entire thread, and it is very instructive, especially with the links to various places. I have an Olympus EM-5, and have been using the Clip from DP for almost a year. It is great on a daypack as well as a backpack. I go for wildlife and want to start doing astro in the Rockies. The 40-150 is cheap and sharp; it is my primary lens when hiking. The built in doubler in the EM-5 lets me get an effective 600mm if the subject is in the center of the viewfinder, with minimal loss of IQ. I have a Panasonic 20mm 1.7 that I was going to use for astro stuff and general wide angles. It is tiny and easy to carry. Would I be better off using the Rokinon or the Olympus 12mm 2.0? Thanks,

    • Alan Dixon June 21, 2017 at 6:02 pm - Reply

      Hi Bruce, glad the EM-5 is working well for you. And the 40-150 might be the best telephoto lens value on the market!

      As for Astro, the critical thing is to be able to get correct ∞ in the dark. This is easily done by confirming manual focus for the lens during daylight and either taping it there, or at least making marks on the lens barrel so you can repeat it. With focus-by-wire lenses (most auto focus lenses) this can be difficult to impossible to replicate. That is why so many astro people like the manual focus Rokinon.

      The Olympus 12mm 2.0 is a focus by wire lens, so there is no way to tape it or set marks to replicate ∞ focus at night. So unless it has a visual indicator, it would not be a good choice for astro work. BUT some of the newer lenses like a Zeiss Batis 18mm lens I just tested (on my Sony a7RII) do have a visual focus distance display in the cameras EVF. With some daylight testing, I confirmed that
      best focus is about 1 or 2 “visual slider notches” past first ∞ in the a7’s viewfinder. Seems to be fairly repeatable. Best, -alan

  28. Grant July 28, 2017 at 8:59 pm - Reply

    Going backpacking and curious, I only have the 18-50mm kit lense. I am looking into a lense to do mainly backpacking landscape photos, but as you can imagine, that means great night time star photos. Would you suggest

    Sigma 19mm f/2.8 DN Lens for Sony NEX E-mount Cameras (Black)


    Rokinon RK12M-E-SIL 12mm F2.0 Ultra Wide Angle Fixed Lens

    – You listed these above but i cant decide which will be more versatile.


    • Grant July 28, 2017 at 9:12 pm - Reply

      To expand on this, sorry for auto correct, kit lens is 16-50mm. I am looking for something that is very versatile, but the main purpose of the camera is landscape and outdoor photography, sunsets, mountain ranges, etc. Astro would just be a bonus. An ideal and budget option would be great. Love this article, already sent to tons of friends.

      • Grant July 28, 2017 at 9:19 pm - Reply

        or maybe even Sigma 30mm F1.4. last comment lol

        • Alan Dixon July 29, 2017 at 3:36 pm - Reply

          Good Q’s grant. Many of these lens Q’s have been addressed at least tangentially in previous comments. But I’ll try to summarize and hit the high points.

          For lenses better than the 16-50 are two major choices. The two nice stabilized zoom lenses for the Sony a6000 and a6300/a6500, albeit moderately expensive and not super light.

          • The Sony E PZ 18-105mm F4 G OSS at 9 pMP, and the
          • Sony E 10-18mm f/4 (also stabilized) at 8 pMP.

          Both are faster and have better resolution that the kit Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 lens at only 6 pMP.

          The Sony E PZ 18-105mm F4 G OSS is probably your best bet if you want a good image quality in a general purpose stabilized zoom. My wife Alison loves the lens.
          But if you are primarily intersted in landscapes [which it sounds like you are] you might consider the 10-18 lens. When I was in Iceland a few weeks ago, almost everybody was using a zoom lens of this equivalent focal length about 75% of the time. Either the Sony E 10-18mm f/4 on an a6000 or a 16-35 on a full frame a7R II. Choice is a personal one as to which you’ll find more useful for your shooting style and intended subject.

          Finally, the 10-18 is smaller and lighter than the 18-105 but it is also more expensive. And I will point out that the kit 16-50 zoom is weakest below around 20mm, so the 10-18 neatly fills that hole. It would also be a slightly better astro lens since it is much wider but at f/4 it will be limited on exposure time. And since it is a focus be wire lens, getting infinity right for Astro work can be done but it takes a bit more effort than just taping a manual focus lens to infinity like the Rokinon. For focus by wire lenses, you’ll need to figure out where true ∞ is–usually it’s an indicator (viewfinder focus field) setting just before or just after ∞. You’ll need to do some daylight testing be precise on this one.

          So if you are truly intersted in serious Astro work the Rokinon is hands down the best choice for the money. And with some care in focusing it would be a good landscape lens as well, albeit you’d need to be careful to control rather dramatic perspective shifts (if not wanted) when it isn’t level.

          Hope this helps, -a

          BTW given your priorities of landscape and astro, I do not think the Sigma 30mm F1.4 would be a good fit. It’s a nice short portrait lens and my favorite studio lens, but has limited landscape potential. -a

          • Grant July 30, 2017 at 2:07 am


            Really appreciate the thoughtful and in depth response. I know there were similar answers before so i appreciate you combing and tailoring the answer for me. It sounds like for my needs, the sony 10-18 is best lens (however more costly, but worth it as well) , the Rokinon is a good Astro lens because manual, and can be a good landscape with some work. So where do you see the Sigma 19mm f2.8 DN, w hood sitting between these two?

            Thanks again for your work, really great stuff. I got the Sony a6000 (largely because this article ) and am soon to buy the Peak design capture pro . Am i understanding correctly that i need the micro plate due to the lcd of the A6000?

            Thanks again,


  29. Tim August 4, 2017 at 10:45 am - Reply


    Did you ever find out if you can record video remotely, start and stop, on the a6000? Thanks.

    • Alan Dixon August 4, 2017 at 11:17 am - Reply

      I did and it it does. I also replied via message last night. Best -alan

  30. Anthony August 11, 2017 at 9:05 pm - Reply

    What are your thoughts on or experience with the Zeiss 16-70mm lense?

  31. Alan Dixon August 11, 2017 at 9:28 pm - Reply

    The only serious lens to compare it to would be the Sony E PZ 18-105mm F4 G OSS. Compared to it the Ziess is 120g lighter and more compact. Definitely a plus for hiking and backpacking. It’s also 16 vs. 18 on the wide end which is more significant for landscape photos than the mere 2mm might indicate. They are both f/4 so a tie there. The 105 has significantly longer reach, which is super nice for wildlife (I used it this way often) when day hiking and backpacking and as a travel lens. Optically they are quite similar which is essentially a nod to 18-105 given its lower cost and significantly longer zoom range.

    My choice was for the Sony 18-105. But I could see others that wanted the wider zoom an lower weight going with the Zeiss.

    In comparison to the kit 16-50 both are optically superior. The only advantages of the kit lens is very low cost and incredible compactness. Not trivial attributes for a backpacking lens. Hope this helps. Warmest, -alan

  32. Doug Rush August 29, 2017 at 1:51 am - Reply

    Hi Alan, thanks for the detailed and well researched article. I’ve been trying to merge my love of photography and hiking/backpacking for awhile and have been lugging my Nikon D7100 everywhere, often with heavy lenses, and am eager to go much more lightweight. I still want to be able to enlarge photos (sometimes to 20×30 if they’re good enough) but I am no professional. I was ready to get the Sony a6500 with the Sony E PZ 18-105 lens but then noticed upon reading your comment threads that you have recently used the Sony A7R ii. That camera seems top-notch to say the least but the cost is twice as much as the a6500 and the size and weight go up as well. My question is whether after using the A7R (and assuming you can still clip it to your backpack strap, which I’m a fan of) is it worth the extra cost and weight when compared to the a6500?? I’m still leaning toward the a6500 camera (mostly because of the price) but I wanted your objective opinion since you have used both. Is it a mistake to go with a6500 (or 6000)? Is the A7R ii the new king of backpacking cameras in your opinion and I would be foolish not to upgrade now despite cost and weight? Thanks for your time and opinion. Best wishes!

    • Alan Dixon August 29, 2017 at 3:21 am - Reply

      Doug, heading out early tomorrow am for a 130 mile trip. So a brief response. The Sony A7Rii is just barely carry-able on the clip. I took the camera Trekking Cuba and managed fine with it tho. The A7Rii was fantastic for day hiking and photography in Iceland. But tomorrow I am heading out for 130 miles on the AT and I am brining my a6000 with one zoom lens.

      So, it just depends on what you want out of the pictures. In the end it’s so much your personal shooting style, how much resolution do you *actually need*, the upper limit of the photo weight you are willing to carry, and what your budget is. And that might vary on the type of trip your taking; a technical and need low weight trip vs. a not so technical and photo oriented trip, where you might be willing to carry more camera weight.

      The absolute fixed lens resolution of the Sony A7Rii ranges around 35-37 pMP vs. a6500 topping out somewhere around 16, and just for one Sigma 30mm lens. With zooms things become even more in favor of the A7Rii which has a lot more high quality zoom options. The are a number of zooms in the 30+ pMP range for the A7Rii vs. the best zooms for the a6000 at only around 8-9 pMP (and there are only two). Sony is far more serious about producing FE lenses than E lenses.

      On the upside the a6500 is lighter and less expensive–altho not as much lighter or less expensive as you might think when you total all things up. But for many people 8-9 pMP is fine. And for both cameras correct technique matters more than pMP; you need to nail focus, exposure, and eliminate camera shake for a good photos and get the most out of your camera. All those are more important than the pMP resolution.

      Hope this helps, -alan

  33. Mickey Jetpur September 26, 2017 at 5:25 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan, I am considering trading in my Canon 70D and lenses ( just too much weight for a hiker!) for the Sony a7rll. What lenses would you suggest? I would prefer a zoom.

    • Alan Dixon September 27, 2017 at 4:46 am - Reply

      Hi Mickey,
      Apologies for the late reply I have been in the backcountry. For the standard zoom you two options are the Sony 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 FE OSS which is light, inexpensive ($275 for int’t version) and quite sharp in the middle. And the Sony VT* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens which is heavier, a lot more expensive but sharper in the corners. Those would be the obvious choices for an all around lens for backpacking. [I own both and use both.] The advantage of the 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 for backpacking is if you end up damaging it by accident (possible backpacking) then you are not out a ton on $. Wishing you good shooting. But if you are going for the highest quality photos, edge to edge you may want to the 24-70 f/4. Warmest, -alan

  34. Mel September 28, 2017 at 2:15 pm - Reply

    When you did the TDP O circuit which lenses did you find most useful? Did you wish you had brought a lens that you didn’t? I own the a6000 with only the sigma 30mm 2.8, Rikinon 12mm, and the 55-210mm. We will be in TDP for around 9 days hiking. I am willing to invest in a new lens since this is a bucket list trip for us and probably won’t be back again anytime soon. I’d like to be able to print decent size as I sell some of my work. But also just want amazing pictures. Pairing down the camera equipment so I don’t negate all my other weight savings is a challenge. Lol any lens recommendations based on your time there? Also I have the peak designs clip and Pedro tripod per your recommendations that I recently bought for our trip. So I don’t have to tote the Siriu carbon fiber.

    • Alan Dixon October 3, 2017 at 3:26 pm - Reply

      Apologies for the late reply I have been in guiding the backcountry for the last two weeks. Good Q’s.

      Here’s my (very personal) take on lenses for the a6000. I prefer zoom lenses backpacking–but for high quality photos you need HQ zoom lenses. For landscape work (most of TdP) my first lens of choice would be the Sony 10-18mm F4 G OSS. Light, easily carried on your shoulder and about 50 to 100% sharper than the kit 16-50mm lens. It’s plenty wide enough to capture the wide TdP landscape or create dramatic foreground/background perspective shots. For an all purpose lens (still carryable on the PD shoulder clip) would the Sony 18-105mm F4 G OSS which will pretty much do it all if you don’t need to get wider than 27mm equiv. on the wide end (it’s Alison’s favorite lens). It will allow you to get wildlife shots. In summary, one lens I would take the Sony 10-18mm F4 G OSS, two lenses and I would add the Sony 18-105mm F4 G OSS.

      And if you already have the RX100 you might use it in combination with the 10-18 to extend your focal length to 70mm equiv. a pinch. Wishing you a great trek. That would save the weight and cost of the 18-105. Warmest, -alan

      • Mel October 3, 2017 at 3:37 pm - Reply

        Thank you you so much. Hope the backcountry was great! Is the f4 of the 18-105 limiting at all on dreary days in Patagonia?

        • Alan Dixon October 3, 2017 at 3:40 pm - Reply

          With the OSS and proper use of ISO you should be fine. At early dawn or late dusk I would suggest going to the Pedco tripod.

  35. melissa October 1, 2017 at 11:11 pm - Reply

    I forgot to mention in the above that I will also have my rx100 m1 as a back-up camera.

  36. Jeff October 12, 2017 at 1:40 am - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    I just stumbled across your site and this is extremely informative, thanks for this piece. A couple questions,

    1. How did you find the pMP for your iPhone and, Sony RX100 V and A6500? They seem to be missing from the lens database on DxOMark. I am trying to figure out the pMP of my Google Nexus XL. I’d also like to try to find the pMP of certain lenses mated with the Sony A7, but they only seem to have the A7R and A7Rii.

    2. How did you find the working ISO of your phone and cameras? Is this by testing at home based on what you can tolerate, or is this also on DxOMark somewhere I cannot seem to find?

    3. Do you carry a polarizer? I can’t seem to live without mine but not sure if this has been supplanted by modern post processing software.

    Thanks in advance, this is a great site and I can’t believe I just found it, via Andrew Skurka’s post on cameras. I’m looking forward to your part 3 on travel electronics with laptops! I hope you put a section on post-processing in there.

    Keep up the great work,

    • Alan Dixon October 12, 2017 at 8:40 pm - Reply

      Hi Jeff, some good Qs. I try and answer them as best I can. 1) Took me a while to find this one. It’s inferred from ”
      Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II Lens mounted on Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 II : Tests and Reviews.” I am assuming it’s a very similar lens on subsequent models. 2) Again, not so easy for phone cameras. But by reading, data-mining a ton of online reviews, looking at their graphs, reported values, test photos, etc. and connecting the various pieces of information. And yes, by some self testing. I would say that some of the phone values are more “ballpark” than precise measurements. Working ISOs for cameras are directly from DXO but correspond reasonably well with my real-world experience. 3) With both my a6000 and a7 II carry a Formatt Hitech circular polarizing filter and Formatt Hitech neutral density filter(s) along with their holder.

      Hope this helps. Warmest, -alan

      • Jeff October 13, 2017 at 5:52 pm - Reply

        Thanks for your reply, Alan!

        I have an RX100 so was wondering if I could safely derive its pMP from the RX100 II lens test as well. Thanks for explaining your ‘working ISO’ process as well. My Nikon D750 has a cool feature that allows setting a ceiling on auto-ISO so I was wondering about that.

        To another commenter above you were debating A7 vs A6500 and decided the A7R II was a better value. I am looking to dump my Nikon D750 (beautiful images, but too heavy), looking at the A7 or A6500 and was wondering as to how you derived the ‘better value’ of the A7R II?

        I’m guessing you ran some numbers on pMP/oz and pMP/$ but neither the A7 nor A6500 are tested, and I was interested in running the same calculations.
        a) is it safe to assume pMP of the Sony A6500 mated with a certain lens has more or less the same the same pMP as the A6000, and
        b) A7R II at 42MP + 16-35 f/4 = 26pMP while A7R at 36MP with same lens = 16MP, is it possible to attempt to derive a pMP result for the A7 (24MP) with the same lens? Or was the A7 eliminated for another reason?

        I realize this is a somewhat dorky/detailed question and if there is a source online to explain this that would save you the trouble of a reply that would be great. If you’re ever in the Leavenworth/Wenatchee area of the Cascades in Washington and need a place to dry gear and do a load of laundry, feel free to look me up, it’s the least I could do for your help!

        • Alan Dixon October 15, 2017 at 8:02 pm - Reply

          Hi Jeff, apologies for the late reply. The A7R II has a maximum ISO setting and also maybe more critical a minimum shutter speed setting. Both very useful.

          >I’m guessing you ran some numbers on pMP/oz and pMP/$ but neither the A7 nor A6500 are tested, and I was interested in running the same calculations.
          > a) is it safe to assume pMP of the Sony A6500 mated with a certain lens has more or less the same the same pMP as the A6000,
          Yes and yes.

          > b) A7R II at 42MP + 16-35 f/4 = 26pMP while A7R at 36MP with same lens = 16MP, is it possible to attempt to derive a pMP result for the A7 (24MP) with the same lens? Or was the A7 eliminated for another reason?
          For many lenses if you look at the “mounted on:” selection box you can find a dropdown list that has has the A7 as an option. E.g. the 24-70 has a score of 28 pmp on the A7II and 17pmp on the A7. And the new f2.8 version it’s 34 vs. 24. If the A7 isn’t listed for testing with a lens you can make some guesses based on other A7II to A7 lens comparisons but they are only guesses.

          Warmest, -alan

  37. tdkehoe November 26, 2017 at 3:31 am - Reply

    I’ve used a Sony RX100 Mk I, a Sony a6000 with the 16-50mm kit lens, and now I have a Sony a7 with the 24-70mm Zeiss lens. If I were to count my most best pictures, the RX100 would be the winner. I can get it out of my pocket fast (no fumbling with a lens cap, etc.), hold it one handed while running, and it’s pretty darn weatherproof. The Mk I lacks a viewfinder and I find the viewscreen difficult to see, especially in bright sunlight, but the Mk III has a viewfinder, plus a sharper, wider lens (24-70mm equivalent).

    I never liked the a6000’s kit lens, and the reviews rate it as one of the worst lenses made. Also the a6000 isn’t weatherproof, you have to keep it dry. I used a Lowe case attached to my backpack’s shoulder strap. You can upgrade to the 16-70mm Zeiss lens but for the same price I sold my a6000 and bought the a7 with a 24-70mm f/4 Zeiss lens. My a7 takes much better pictures than my a6000, and weighs only six ounces more. It’s the smallest and lightest full-frame camera ever made.

    AFS cameras look like good deal until you buy better lenses. There isn’t much of a used market for high-end AFS lenses. Few AFS owners buy a second lens. But the a7 can take any lens made in the last fifty years (with adapters) and the market for used full-frame lenses is huge. Full-frame owners buy (and sell) lots of lenses. I bought Sony A-mount 20mm and 70-300mm lenses, for around $250 each. DXoMark says these lenses are as sharp as the new lenses, they just lack the modern electronics for image stabilization, and I usually have to manually focus.

    Next year I’m hoping to upgrade to the 36MP a7R, it’s the same weight as the 24MP a7. I also want to get Sony’s 16-35mm f/4 lens, as I’ve gotten into night sky pictures. I can’t afford a a7 II, and I’m not sure the extra five ounces is worth the weight just for image stabilization.

    I carry a TrailPix 6-ounce tripod. It uses my trekking poles for two of the legs. I need the tripod for night sky pictures and for waterfalls.

    • Alan Dixon November 27, 2017 at 4:35 pm - Reply

      Hi tdkehoe,
      Apologies for the late reply. I took some time off during Thanksgiving to be with family. Thanks for your positive comments about Sony cameras. FWIW I have had good luck with my a6000 in light to moderate rain. And I find that a shower cap greatly extends the time I can leave it on my shoulder in light to moderate rain. I do find I get good results from both the 18-105 and 10-18 zoom lenses. Neither are cheap but are about 2x sharper than the kit 16-50. And then there is the super sharp Sigma 30mm f/1.4 lens, and the soon to be coming Sigma 16mm f/1.4 that should be equally sharp!

      As to the A7s, I would agree they are great cameras with tons of lens options both by Sony and other Mfr’s like Sigma, Tokina, etc. Some have great image quality and low cost. Note that while very pricy, the new 16-35mm f/2.8 lens is supposed to be the sharpest zoom lens on the market for that range. It’s only a few oz more than the f/4 version. And at 16mm and f/2.8 it’s supposed to be decent astro lens. But yeah, at over 2K it’s not in many people’s budget 🙁 That being said, I am still trekking around with my 16-35 f/4 which I use about 80% of the time. Warmest, -alan

  38. Pando December 7, 2017 at 1:47 am - Reply

    Fantastic info here. As a backpacker, and planning a thru-hike, weight is constantly on my mind. As are the advantages/disadvantages between the Sony A6500/6300/6000 you mentioned and the Fuji line. I seem to constantly be bouncing between the A6500 with 18-105 f4 OSS (@ 31oz) and the Fuji X-T20 with 18-55 kit lens (@ 24 oz). Fuji is lighter but the Sony is more robust/weather sealed and has IBIS. Video isn’t a big deal to me…or at least not a primary concern. I love the X-T2 but at 18 oz for the body only…that’s getting into dslr territory for me.

    Coming from a Nikon D800, they all feel light (at the start of a hike). But I also find myself liking the rangefinder-style. I’m right eye dominant and have a, uh, fairly large nose.

    Any chances you’d be reviewing any of the Fuji line for us? I find your information much more readable and user-friendly than any of the comparisons I’ve read online and having it come from someone who’s facing the same dilemmas of weight vs performance is very helpful.

    Thanks for the great work.

    • Alan Dixon December 7, 2017 at 1:56 am - Reply

      Hi Pando, all good thoughts. A bit late here but will try and address your Q’s tomorrow. Oh, and a modest update to this for 2018 is already in the works. Best, -alan

  39. Pando December 11, 2017 at 12:18 am - Reply

    Thanks Alan…really looking forward to your update. And just when I think I’ve made a decision I come across the Fuji X-E3 at 11.9 oz. I swear, these camera manufacturers want to drive us crazy. But, I guess if there was one perfect camera with all the features we want, there wouldn’t be a need for different models…or choices.

    • Alan Dixon December 12, 2017 at 12:52 am - Reply

      Pando, for weight and image quality of the camera body that looks like a great choice. So long and the ergonomics of a smaller camera work for you. And if Fuji (or 2nd parties like Sigma) have the lenses you want. Sometimes the right lenses matter more than the right camera. I suggest that you do an A B between the Fuji X-E3 and Sony a6xx series, comparing the two cameras with the actual lenses you want to use vs. just looking at camera body spec’s alone.

      And I really don’t know what the answer will be… Actually looking at the very good tests results of the stock 18-55 zoom, the Fuji X-E3 should do you fine. Altho it’s 2.5 times the price of an a600 with kit lens.

      And the obvious price to performance to weight challenge combination from Sony would be the a6000 with 18-105 zoom. That might well outperform the Fuji X-E3.


      Best, -alan

  40. Pando December 12, 2017 at 11:39 pm - Reply

    I appreciate your help. I ended up going with the Sony. I wear my camera on a Peak Design clip and the Fuji options were taller. I like the ability to use third party lenses as well (Sigma 30 f1.4 was my first addition, plus 18-105 and the 12mm Samyang). I like the aesthetics of the Fuji’s but I just kept having this nagging skepticism about the X-Trans sensor. Maybe it’s unfounded, but using proprietary lenses, a proprietary sensor that requires a proprietary editing program to “get the best out of the images”…left the conspiracy theorist in me questioning it all.

    I’m sure I would have been happy with either compared to lugging a Nikon D800 around 🙂

    Again, keep up the great work and thanks for your input.

    • Alan Dixon December 13, 2017 at 2:42 am - Reply

      Good choice Pando. Wishing you many years of taking stunning photos. Warmest, -alan

  41. Brian December 21, 2017 at 5:50 pm - Reply

    I’ve been looking at the Sony and Canon bodies you’ve recommended, and it looks like none of them have a GPS for tagging photos. What’s your workaround for this, if you have one? I have owned a couple of the rugged/waterproof point-and-shoots and have found the GPS tagging to be a nice feature.

    • Alan Dixon December 21, 2017 at 5:58 pm - Reply

      Excellent Q Brian. I usually do GPX tracking when I hike or backpack. I can do this either on my iPhone (using GAIA GPS app) or on my Suunto Ambit which doesn’t drain my iPhone battery. I can then use the photos time and date to get it’s location via the .gpx file. You can save the track file (.gpx) in the same folder as your photos. I know some serious pro photographers that use this technique. Hope this helps,

  42. Jeff December 26, 2017 at 11:41 pm - Reply

    Hi Alan,

    I enjoyed reading your 2018 refresh. Will you be writing about your full frames or have you gone back to your Sony A6000/6500?

    Hope you have a wonderful new year!

    • Alan Dixon December 28, 2017 at 3:53 pm - Reply

      Right back at you Jeff. Yes, will be doing a full frame pice for 2018 as well. Will almost certainly be a separate article as the price will be prohibitive more most of my readers (except for serious photographers that also have a minimum of $3K to $5K to dump on a FF camera system). And the weight will likely be prohibitive to most of my UL backpacking readership and likely a fair portion my lightweight backpackers as well.

      But yes, Alison and I have both a7R II and a7R III cameras along with a bunch of great lenses that we have been putting through their paces since our trip to Cuba early this year. Something like 7 countries and a lot of US destinations. Stay tuned. Best, -a

      • Jeff December 28, 2017 at 7:20 pm - Reply

        Thanks, Alan, how do you protect it during transport in that HMG review you just posted? Roll it up in clothing? And do you post-process on the road from your phone or wait til you get home? My Nikon has wifi connectivity and I can selectively move photos to my smartphone to process with Google Photos or Lightroom Mobile but I still prefer my desktop PC at home, but open to any ideas you and Alison have. Happy new year!

  43. Sid December 31, 2017 at 1:36 pm - Reply

    Peak Design came out with v3 of the Capture clip, so probably should recommend purchasing that instead of the older CapturePRO clip.

    V3 updates: “Way smaller, way lighter, all-metal build, ultra-smooth machined/anodized finish, hella comfy ergonomic design.”

    • Alan Dixon December 31, 2017 at 2:19 pm - Reply

      Thanks Sid! Warmest, -alan

  44. Jared January 2, 2018 at 5:51 am - Reply

    Have you tried the sigma 16mm f/1.4 yet?

    • Alan Dixon January 3, 2018 at 7:18 pm - Reply

      Jared, good Q. I got my lens just before the holidays. Between visiting with family and friends and some very cold weather, I would say I am still in the eval range. From what I can tell from limited use — it is quite sharp edge to edge from about f/2.8 on (and very good in center even at f/1/4). I will update this article when I have put the lens through its full paces. Likely when we get a solid stretch of above freezing weather. Warmest, -alan

  45. Mark January 2, 2018 at 3:55 pm - Reply

    Hey Alan, a big part of what I like to do on the trail is shoot video while I’m hiking and at camp (like a vlog for my own use or to show friends and family). I’ve been using my phone, and have decided it’s time for an upgrade. How does the a6000 fair for shooting video? I’m also looking to get a gimbal to go with it for silky smooth video, any recommendations there?

    • Alan Dixon January 3, 2018 at 7:32 pm - Reply

      The a6000 does very well at video (and the a6500 even better). And the 18-105 lens is also very video friendly with a silent motorized zoom. The other mirrorless camera to look at if your primary goal is video, would be the Panasonic Lumix GH5. It’s a better video camera — actually nearing pro quality — and many pros do use it as their video camera of choice. But the Panasonic is a ton more cost ($2K) and for stills its smaller 4/3 sensor not quite a match for APS-C cameras like the Sony a6x00 series cameras.

      And for what it’s worth the new iPhone X is supposed to shoot some stunningly good video. Here’s an Fstoppers video comparing the iPhone X to the Panasonic GH5. It’s a far narrower gap than you might think!!

  46. Stan January 16, 2018 at 6:04 am - Reply

    Thanks for the terrific advice. Sony has just announced that a new 18-135 lens will be available in February for about the same price as the 18-105. The 18-135 appears to be smaller and lighter than the 18-105 (yay!), but the 18-135 has a variable aperture (3.5 to 5.6), so at full zoom this lens requires more light than the 18-105’s constant f4 aperture. Does the smaller size and weight make the new lens an attractive option, or would you stick with the 18-105? Also, there is some online buzz that, once introduced, the price for the 18-135 may drop. If you still recommend the 18-105, at what price point, if any, would the 18-135 become a good value? Thanks again.

    • Alan Dixon January 17, 2018 at 3:35 am - Reply

      Stan, good Q’s about the Sony E 18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Lens. This is all going to boil down to resolution. I don’t think that the aperture is all that big a deal as long as the lens can resolve around 9 pMP or better. 11 or higher would be wonderful! But given the price and the zoom range I would wait for some resolution numbers from reliable testers (and I don’t see any at this time) [Some of the Sony E “travel/kit” zooms have met a “price point” with resolution lower than the their G series lenses. And as far as I can tell this is not a G lens.] So until you know the resolving power of the new lens, you can’t make any price vs. value decisions. Let’s hope it’s great. All the best, -alan

  47. James January 22, 2018 at 12:27 am - Reply

    Alan, I currently don’t have the budget for the Sony a6000, which is something I am saving for. The price also rules out the point and shoot RX-100. So that leaves me with my iPhone 8+ for the time being. I do know the limitations associated with the iPhone camera. I noticed that you haven’t mentioned any of the additional lens options that are made for the iPhone. I’ve heard good things about the Moment lenses. Have you used these at all? If so, is it something you would recommend?

    • Alan Dixon January 22, 2018 at 12:54 am - Reply

      James, unless you actually “need” a wider or longer lens than the two currently on your 8+, I would zoom with your feet, rather than purchasing additional lenses. Instead I would focus on perfecting your technique to get the best out of the excellent camera and lenses in in your 8+. Reading my 10 hacks and accessories for better smartphone hiking photography. But that is just the tip of the iceberg on tips and tutorials on using your iPhone camera.

      Keep in mind that any add-on lens you use on your iPhone will to some extent your degrade your image (more lens elements, more air to glass surfaces, more flare, less resolution, etc.) If you really need a wide angle and can’t get further away then those losses might be reasonable*. Same would be if you can’t get close enough and need a longer lens. But I find for most of my iPhone backpacking photography the focal length of the lens is not a big issue. The wide-angle lens is a 28-mm f/1.8, and the “telephoto” lens is 56mm f/2.4. So not bad at all! (with the caveat that I have sometimes wished for a something in the 16mm to 24mm range but not often enough to warrant an add-on lens).

      * That being said by all means play around with a wide-angle clip on lens and see if it works for you and if the image quality is good enough that you like the pictures. All the best, -alan

  48. Ryan February 1, 2018 at 8:54 am - Reply

    Your site has been extremely helpful in my purchase of a Sony a6000. I am planning to bring this camera to Patagonia in a few weeks and am interested in adding a wide lens primarily for the vast landscapes. I am wondering if the new fast and sharp Sigma 16mm would do the job in place of the more expensive but flexible Sony 10mm-18mm. I would prefer to only have one wide angle lens while backpacking the O-circuit. If you had to choose between the two, what lens would you go with in that range?

    • Alan Dixon February 4, 2018 at 11:54 pm - Reply

      Ryan, apologies for the late reply. Somehow your comment slipped through the cracks 🙁

      And crap, that’s a hard Q. I guess I would go with the 10-18. Both for its widest zoom range 10 vs 16mm. And for its greater versatility as a zoom vs. prime lens. That being said you have to be OK with a final (actual resolution) of around 8 pMP. And for most web and even moderate print sizes that should be fine. Just make sure you get everything else right like focus, cameara shake, etc. Wishing you a great trek. Warmest, -alan

  49. Noella February 4, 2018 at 2:37 am - Reply

    Hi Alan! This post has been hands-down the best and most informative one I’ve ever read; incredibly well-written and educational yet easy enough for inexperienced novices like me to learn. It’s also very admirable that years after you’ve originally posted it, you’re still on time with your replies. You’ve instantly made a fan out of me. Keep it up!

    A few quick questions: how do you protect your a6000 while backpacking? My biggest concern between the the a6000 vs a6500 is the lack of weather sealing protection on the former. As much as I want to instantly buy the a6000, it always comes back to whether I’d want to invest in a camera knowing that it doesn’t have that extra layer of resilience like its successor. Frankly, I can’t imagine a Ziploc bag being durable/waterproof enough to cover it from the elements. When your camera isn’t strapped to your backpack, do you place it in a waterproof stuff sack or just the Ziploc bag? Do you have any special gear or tips that you’d recommend when it comes to this? Thank you so much!

    • Alan Dixon February 4, 2018 at 11:21 pm - Reply

      Hi Noella, glad you like the post. First I have not really had problems with shooting in light rain with the a6000 and Sony/Sigma lenses as long as I protect the camera between shots. And even some water on the surface has not caused any problems. I recently used the camera on the rain soaked Irish Coast with no issues. [Read that the a6x00 series cameras are likely more “light rain resistant” than Sony can legally state.] That being said I am sure it isn’t up to long exposure in hard rain. But in that case I have had good luck with my hiking partner holding an ultralight backpacking umbrella (Montbell) over the camera. Also in light rain you can use a standard shower cap to cover the camera. I do this often when shooting off a tripod in intermittent rain. If the shower cap is clear you can even compose a shot an lift it quickly of the front of the lens when you take your shot.

      As for storage in hard rain. I usually make my own camera case consisting of bubble wrap and packing tape. And I put that inside a gallon freezer Ziplock. When I put this inside my pack I have never had problems with my camera getting wet or damage by impacts. And for carrying on you chest you might consider Zpacks Multi-Pack – 4 in 1 Backpack Lid / Chest Pack.

      Finally if you really need to shoot in the rain. You might consider Olympus for an environmentally sealed camera and lens combo (OM-D EM-5 II and 12-40mm F2.8 PRO). Right now the the EM-5 II and 12-40 PRO lens is on Amazon for $1,600. This Olympus body/lens combo has about the same 9 pMP as the Sony with the 18-105mm F4 G OSS. The Olympus has has a nicer viewfinder, better controls and a useful tilt touchscreen display. It also has in body stabilization allowing you to use any lens stabilized greatly increasing your range of handheld shot opportunities. Also there are a huge number of u4/3 lenses than E mount lenses for the Sony. But there are caveats.

      1. The very best u4/3 lenses limit out at around 11 pMP vs. 13 to 16 pMP for the Sony.
      2. The smaller u4/3 sensor limits image quality vs. the larger APS-C sensor of the Sony. High ISO performance ⅓ stop less, 5% less color depth, and 8% less dynamic range vs. the Sony.
      3. Video Spec is not as good as the Sony. (If you want to shoot serious video the a6x00 series is what you want.)

      Hope this helps, -alan

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