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Sunday, November 24, 2013

What Type of Camera Should I Take as an Expeditioner to Antarctica

A question I get asked frequently about Antarctica is," what type of camera gear should I take?" The short answer is as little as possible.What you see here to the right is a portion of what I take. It doesn't show the video camera or the monopod, tripod, and a gorilla pod, flash unit, laser triggers, and a mired of battery chargers. Also I have to have large cases to keep it all in for transport.

 The fact is that it depends on whether you're a photographic tragic like me who was into photography long before going to Antarctica, or your someone who basically takes happy snaps when at home and only on holidays.The short and curly of this is that you will only need a good quality point and shoot or mirrorless camera for Antarctica. If your a "photographic tragic" , you will already have all the gear you need.
To get the full benefit from DSLR's and their associated  lenses, you need to have a full understanding of what all the dials and buttons are for, have an understanding of processing software, and or are prepared to find out.My advice is if your a happy snapper, then get yourself a good point and shoot (compact) or better still a mirrorless camera that has better quality than a compact due to its sensor size being that of popular DSLR's. 

There will be times when you wished you had a bloody big lens for an obscure bird flying around,and the auto focusing capabilities of the DSLR, but in reality you will probably just frustrate yourself because it takes more than a big lens to capture birds on the wing. Mirrorless cameras will capture high quality images for most "happy snappers".

I would be reading all the camera reviews online about the various types and brands. I do not recommend phone cameras as they have very limited abilities in coping with the extreme light contrasts of Antarctica and their sensor size is so small that the quality of the image is poor. They are fine for "selfies" and party shots, not Antarctic landscapes. 

If you do decide to go with the DSLR's, buy yourself a bloody good cleaning kit. This should include a "jumbo" bulb blower, cleaning wipes or "pen" and a bucket of patience. A sensor magnifier with light is also handy. I suggest this as surprising as it may sound, Antarctica is very dry and dusty during the summer months. Dust will get into every thing including the insides of lenses which usually can not be fixed other than by a professional camera cleaning service.Removal or exchanging lenses out in the open is fraught with danger down here as dust will cover your sensor and doesn't make for good images.In terms of lens focal lengths the "zooms" are more practical to carry, though they don't give as good a quality images as a fixed focal length, but not of importance to most amateur photographers. So I take a 18-55mm,24-70mm , 70 -200mm ,75-300mm,150-500mm zooms.I could in fact leave the 18-55mm and 75-300mm zooms at home, but they are my back ups if the wheels fall off the cart so to speak with one of the other lenses.If weight and a budget is a consideration, then go with two lenses,an ultra wide, say 10-20mm or there abouts for big landscapes, and a telefocal that goes up to 300mm or 400mm for wildlife.

Regardless of what camera you purchase, get a good protective carry case or bag. Also make sure you are familiar with the software that comes with you camera, before you leave home and it is loaded onto the computer you are going to bring with you, not the one you leave at home on your office desk. A gorilla pod is also useful as a small lightweight tripod that is used for "selfies" or self included group shots.

Another style of camera which is worth considering is an extreme sports camera. These cameras are great for capturing video and stills. The HD quality of the video component on these cameras are great and due to their construction can take a fair beating. Drift and Gopro both produce great cameras.

I could go on for ages about this subject and sometimes I do, but hopefully you will be able to come up with what bests suits you between my excessive amount of gear and a mobile phone.

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