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[at-l] AT Camera - Staring from Scratch
Jan: Don't take this as gospel, but if I were starting from scratch, I'd stick
with an old fashioned film camera. The guy who ran the camera workshop, both
digital and film, at the ATC conference last year, strongly advised against
digital for a thru hike.
Things change rapidly in the digital field so I don't know what he would advise
now. But film has been around for about a century. With minimal effort most can
get good film shots.
Pixels are the key to good digital. Most experts recommend four megapixels for
presentation quality prints or slides. A digital slide projector runs around
$3000 to $4000 the last time I checked. A quality film slide projector sells in
My current camera is an Olympus Stylus Zoom 140. It's an almost totally
automatic point and shoot. It has a zoom lens which means it takes every thing
from Wide angle pictures (zoom 38) to long focus (zoom 140)(telephoto), which is
handy for animals at a distance and close ups of flowers and small things. (Yah.
It's counter-intuitive, but closeups require the telephoto setting.) All the
basic instructions are contained in a 3 by 4 inch booklet that comes with the
camera. My camera currently sells for around $250 at discount shops. It weighs
11 ounces. I hiked the trail with a similar camera in 1993 and it worked until
years afterwards. It died when a grandchild spilled coke on it. Coke eats the
electronics. Identical cameras except for a shorter long distance focal lengths
can be had for $100 or so.
Similar digital cameras or equal attributes sell for at least half again as
much, and best quality up to four times as much. But you save on film costs.
Print film is okay if you just want albums, but a thousand or two thousand
prints in an album makes for pretty boring viewing by all but the most diligent
long distance hiker. It takes more will power than I have to create a "for show"
album of just the best.
Slides force you to to select only the best. My slide show uses three 80-slide
trays for a total 240 shots (out of around 1,800 that I took). I can pop through
them in 30-40 minutes if I resist giving all the details of all the pictures
that almost nobody wants to hear anyway. Questions that people really want to
know about fill the presentation out to an hour.
Print film is available everywhere. Slides take planning. You pretty much have
to buy in advance and have someone ship you the rolls as needed. Walmart
occasionally has good film prices, but the cheapest tends to be mail order from
the numerous places that advertise in Shutterbug Magazine, available at every
I worked out a film and processing deal with a local photo lab, mostly for
convenience sake, though they gave excellent service and were pretty