Monday Column: The Right Tool for a Hill Walking Hike

This Friday my brother, I and our uncle will go hiking in the beautiful Slovenian Julian Alps. More accurate: We want to get to the highest mountain in Slovenia. This is Mt.  Triglav, 2,864 metres (9,396 ft) high. It’s a two day hike, first day up, sleeping in the Kredarica hut and the next day down. It’s a 2200 meters (7,218.2 ft) rise and then descent.
First mountain hut "Triglav temple" at opening 1871

Now, I’m a photographer. So I want to take a photographic camera with me on the hike. But it’s will not be an photographic excursion, As a contributor to this blog, would be inappropriate to take with me a digital camera (I admit I will be using a small P&S for snapshots... I’m guilty). So my dilemma is which camera to take with me to the hike? Why dilemma? Take your best camera you own or camera that you could give you the best performance, or the camera you prefer the most and enjoy shooting with? Hm... Probably the best camera, none the less of its simplicity, is my Russian large format camera FKD 18x24 cm or 7x9.5 in, with its wooden tripod. It would require a Sherpa to take it to the mountain top, but they are scarce in those mountains (satire alert!). Probably the second best quality would give me (loan from my friend) Kowa 66. This is a medium format 6x6 cm camera. Here is no need for help from Himalayas but it is large and heavy and bulky. Remember the rise? Much lighter and also with enough quality would be my Canon EOS 100 and some lenses. Lightweight would be with 24 2.8 and 50 1.8 lenses. But is also too much bulk, and I already explained in the last column what’s for me analogue shooting. I have only a small backpack and must take with me all necessary for two day trip and this season in mountains has already fell first snow... 

  Secovlje Saltpans shot with Agfa Isola 1
The most lightweight option would be my Agfa Isola 1 and Altix-n. First is a medium format P&S from late fifties and early sixties. It weight’s only 300 g. Problem is that the number of exposures is limited to only 12. And it has only one shutter speed (1/30 s) and only two aperture values: cloudy f11 and sunny f16, and quality of the lens is in the lomographic territory (I like it). The other option is a 35 mm fully manual “guess the distance rangefinder” with nice 50 mm f2.9 lens. But it lacks the mf look and it’s heavier.  

 Secovlje Saltpans shot with Altix-n

I must decide by myself but I want to hear your opinion. What do you think about my options and what would you bring to that kind of hiking from your arsenal?


  1. Anonymous1/10/12 16:36

    If I had, I would bring a lightweight medium. If not, a 35 mm with one lens, up to your taste: a wide angle or a zoom.

  2. If I were you, I would choose the Canon wide angle.
    Light, precise, fast and convenient.
    Usually, when I go to the mountains, I take with me the Leica M, the 28mm and 35mm and a Rolleiflex 2.8 F. Tmax and some Ektar 100.
    If it is high mountain, and you can afford a small tripod, maybe even some Velvia 50.

  3. Thanks for your comments. Yes, every photographer has it's own preferite way of taking photographs and his own preferite camera... This will not be a photographic hike, so I will take with me my "lightwaight" medium format Agfa... I want some meniscus lens accent...

  4. My ideal hiking camera would be Fuji GA645 (preferrably Zi version). In the mountains I often want both wideangle and a little zoom (kind of portrait level zoom) which the Zi offers, although the fixed 60mm version would do as well. It's impossibly small for all-in-one AF MF camera and in fact it beats most of the smallest sensorsize/camerasize ratio AF film cameras in the world, only 35mm Olympus XA does a little better in the ratio, but 35mm is no contender when it comes to the image quality.

    Precise center-weighted light metering and its fast AF (a very rare feature on MF cameras!) is excellent for candid portraits and shooting people and catching the "spot-on" moments, while it has all-manual functions for controlled still quality shots like landscapes. It visually looks like a cheap plastic camera (ultimately probably the main reason why it never was a good seller for Fuji) so it's good for 3rd world travel, low-profile and non-imposing portrait shootings while it's proven to be very durable camera with good battery life. It's really a MF-quality without all the normal MF fuss like tripods, separate lenses, lightmeters and utterly heavy bag. With GA645 you just hang it on your neck and you're good to go for tens of kilometers of walking, if you have larger sized pocket it's a good chance it'll fit there, amazing for an all singing all dancing auto-focus medium format auto-focus camera. And that thing has even a highly usable built-in flash for those late night party shots :P .

    I'm currently in a hunt for the s/h GA645 but they seem to slowly becoming a cult cameras and prices tend to hold or even rise. But still worth to check, if you can find one at a decent pricetag.