information and recommendations given here are those of the webmaster.
on this site are my results.
Don't get obsessed with photographic
gear, most of my photographs that I have published on this
site (those in the
were taken using a now obsolete mid-range completely manual and
mechanical 35mm film camera (a Pentax MX) mainly using a standard
50mm lens for scenery and general shots or a 100mm lens for wildlife.
Photographs are made more by the photographer,
less by the equipment and once you get to a certain level of ability
(lower than you might think) spending more has little effect. It's
always nice to have high quality, highly featured equipment - just
don't expect it to compensate for pointing it in the wrong place
at the wrong time.
Digital cameras are now the norm. When I first wrote this
page in 2001, I said that I wouldn't take a digital to Antarctica
as my only camera. Times have moved on however and digital cameras
are now of a quality, price and reliability that they can be used
as the only camera with confidence.
|Digital - Sensor size counts more than
You may have heard that there is more to digital cameras than
the number of pixels. For a number of years now camera manufacturers
have produced digital cameras with increasing pixel counts, but
without the corresponding increase in picture quality, why is this?
Shouldn't an 8MP camera be twice as good as 4MP? a 16MP four
times as good?
Pixel number alone is misleading, it should be considered in
conjunction with sensor size as well.
The rectangles below are the actual sensor sizes for four currently
available digital cameras of similar pixel count.
As the sensor gets smaller, the pixels are
squeezed closer together and quality of image suffers. The
advantage of a smaller sensor however is that the camera itself
can be significantly smaller. Camera size and weight are also given
for a comparison, though no comparison is made of features that
the cameras have, each is one of the best rated in its particular
class. There are other sensor sizes currently in use, those shown
are amongst the most frequently encountered.
Note the huge jump in sensor size in mm2 between the
two SLR models and the two point-and-shoot models and the difference
in pixels density. This explains why larger SLR cameras deliver
far better quality results than smaller models with the same number
of pixels - Sensors - size matters!
Sensor size is comparable to format with film cameras.
e.g. Nikon D90
Compact Digital SLR
e.g. Lumix DMC-G1 - SLR
Larger Point and Shoot
Compact Point and Shoot
e.g. Olympus Stylus 9000
23.6 x 15.8mm
12.3MP = 3.3 MP/cm2
17.3 x 13mm
12.1MP = 5 MP/cm2
7.6 x 5.7mm
14.7MP = 34 MP/cm2
6.13 x 4.60mm
12MP = 43M P/cm2
103 x 77 mm
(5.2 x 4.1 x 3 in)
84 x 45 mm
(4.9 x 3.3 x 1.8 in)
78 x 46 mm
(4.3 x 3.1 x 1.8 in)
60 x 31mm
(3.8 x 2.4 x 1.2 in)
SLR stands for Single Lens Reflex. It means that you look through
the taking lens (it only has one), and so see exactly what the sensor
sees. Just before the photograph is taken a small mirror that enables
you to see flips up and out of the way so the light falls on the
sensor (some recent models such as the Lumix G1 above, do not have
a mirror to further reduce size and weight, view finding is electronic
only via the sensor).
Large sensor - high quality images
Usually solidly built
Often have a full range of manual
and automatic settings
Fully featured (more so than point
Faster response times, shutter, focusing etc.
More ergonomic functions, buttons and dials rather than
long choice button accessed menus
Large and bulky
Additional lenses can
Possibility of getting dust on the sensor
when changing lenses
Point and Shoot
Small and light
often with high ratio zooms
More affordable (because
nothing is ever described as "cheaper" any more)
Simple to use, pick up and use straight away
sensor means lower quality images
Limited range of features,
particularly manual over-ride
No interchangeable lenses
lens" has a focal length of 35mm on most digital SLR's,
this means that the camera sees whatever your eye sees with no magnification
and no wide-angle effect. What follows refers to DSLR's rather
than digital compacts where focal lengths differ due to the smaller
Most cameras these days come with a zoom lens which gives a range
of focal lengths from wide angle to short telephoto. Anything less
than 35mm is wide-angle and any greater is telephoto.
For the majority of shots, you won't need much longer than
200mm. There are many zoom lenses that will cover the range from
50-200 and you will probably use them for the vast majority of your
photographs. Something over 200mm is nice to have, but prices soon
rise dizzyingly and you are now entering the realms of the very
serious photographer and will hardly ever be used by any other than
the photography buff or professional (not least because such lenses
are heavy and cumbersome to carry around).
Likewise wide-angle lenses down to 25mm are commonplace
and affordable, below this prices increase very quickly.
preference is for two zoom lenses, one of around 25-50mm and one
of around 50-200mm.I feel that more extreme wide angles (less than
25mm) are a matter of style rather than necessity. You will find
you may develop a liking for other lenses as you progress as a photographer,
for instance I also have a 55mm macro lens that enables me to take
some very close-up shots and doubles up as a portrait lens
too, the focal length giving a pleasing perspective while keeping
just the right distance from the subject.
Fixed lenses are lighter in weight than the zoom equivalent,
have a larger maximum aperture (they are brighter to look through)
and will always be of better quality than a zoom. Lenses longer
than 200mm are essential for much wildlife photography - but not
in Antarctica, you can get close enough without them.
the old days of film, it was the cost of the film that limited how
many pictures the non-professional photographer could take. One
of the biggest changes with digital is that as long as you have
enough memory cards, you can keep going all day long and then when
you've downloaded the pictures, you're clear to take another
load without any extra cost.
With the cost of memory cards
coming down all the time and now being a small amount of the cost
of the camera itself, there's no reason to not have enough memory.
If you have a DSLR camera with in the region of 12MP, Start
with 2 x 8Gb cards fir still pictures, if your camera has
a video facility, 2 x 16Gb may be a better start point. As you use
your camera more, you'll get an idea of how many you need, as
a rule of thumb I try to always have about 50% more memory capacity
for a photographic trip/journey than I am likely to get through.
digital SLR in particular will need it's own case. While it
is possible to get a backpack dedicated to camera gear, this will
be over the top for most people. My own preference is for a padded
case that can be worn around the waist on a belt for quick access
without wearing the camera round the neck, more easily accessible
than in a back pack and more freedom of movement than a shoulder
bag. This case and belt can be put into your backpack along with
your other gear for protection and ease of carrying.
should always have a skylight filter on every lens you have to protect
it from damage, a polarizing filter can be useful too to get some
good deep blue skies and clouds.
Beyond this - forget it.
I've never seen a single good wildlife or landscape shot that
has been enhanced by the use of a "creative" filter. To
(mis) quote Samuel Johnson they are the "Last refuge of a scoundrel".
must if you're a wildlife fanatic and a "nice to have"
if you're not.
I see you recommend avid wildlife watchers should take binoculars
- everyone should have them! It is very annoying having to share
your binos with someone for that rare glimpse of a distant blue
whale or even just getting a better view of scenery!"
- Robert Burton Antarctic tour guide and lecturer.
Binoculars are described by two numbers "10 x 50"
for instance. The first number is the magnification and the second
is the diameter of the front lens in millimeters. This tells you
first of all how much bigger things appear and then how much of
it you see at that magnification, (a bit like looking down tubes
of different diameters). A front lens diameter of 50mm is fairly
common, but the binoculars will be quite bulky, anything less than
this is described as "compact", much easier to carry about,
but a smaller diameter tube to look down.
A magnification of 10 or 12 is about as much as most people
can manage to hand-hold without shaking about all over the place
and is generally most useful . Don't go for the "most powerful"
binoculars you can get, you won't be able to hold them steady
without a tripod or something to brace against.
If your pocket will stretch to it there are now "image stabilizer"
binoculars available. These have an electronic method of eliminating
shake and reducing curvature of field.
Image stabilizer binoculars
Quality digital camera
Standard lens, around 25-50mm
Short telephoto lens, 55-200mm
Longer telephoto, 300mm
Skylight filter for each
Polarizing filter for standard
Blower brush and lens tissues
to keep it all clean and dust-free
# Minimum kit, a zoom lens
can be used to cover this range
Photographic pages -
1 - Equipment | 2 -
| 3 - Digital