So I am leaving the "mirror" behind. DSLR cameras have accompanied me on every major trip I made to date. But this is about to change now. I have tried with mirrorless camera first time in 2009 I think. My very first one was Panasonic GF 1. I sold it in few months later as I was not really convinced. Few years later I was after a "carry around" camera that could be with me all the time to complement the big DSLR body. I bought into a Fuji X system. And guess what? I am loving it. Slowly but surely it is transitioning from complementary camera into a workhorse. I feel bad for my big camera as it collected a far amount of dust now. During my last trip to Himalayas in May 2014 I noticed I used Fuji X100S backup camera more than DSLR. It was always at my side as it is small and light weight. Easy to take out whenever opportunity arises and it is inconspicuous enough not to be easily noticed as tourist with camera. Bulk of DSLR is also an issue, especially on high altitude trekking or climbing.
Video capabilities are also very important and one cannot overlook the advantage of mirrorless system for video production. I am increasingly getting interested in moving pictures to complement my still work. Few days ago I got myself Panasonic GH4 for this reason. I also used DSLR for video on Himalayan trip but in most situations I couldn't even see the back screen in bright sunlight let alone judge the exposure and focus. Here an EVF of mirrorless camera puts DSLR to shame. It is worth to note that I am not planning to invest in too big or complicated rigs. Plan is to go as light and minimal as possible.
Where I am going?
This time around I plan to climb Chulu West. It is a 3 week long trip in Himalayas with summit at 6,419 m. I hope this trip will be rewarding for me as adventurer and also as photographer. On trip like this weight matters. In high altitude everything feels heavier. I caught myself thinking more often about leaving big camera behind or selling DSLR gear altogether. Although I still didn't manage to do it , the decision to leave it behind on this trip has been made (with a bit of doubt). Many praised the life without DSLR before me and I thought I am going to give it a shot. So what will I be taking with me?
For stills I am definitely relying on Fuji X-T1. It is a nice little camera with manual dials which I love. Image quality is excellent, it is weatherproof and this trip sounds like good time to put it really through its paces. Glass-wise I take the Fujinon 14mm and 56mm lenses. I do not have any zooms. As a backup camera I probably take Fuji X100S. Although I had second thoughts on this and I maybe designate this role to GH4. But I have to say during walkabouts on the streets of Thamel district in Kathmandu the X100S realy shines. That is exactly the set this camera is at its best. Only thing that I have in back of my head is relatively small resolution of 16Mpix. I like to shoot big vistas and higher megapixel count would help but I am going to try my best and try to create stitched panoramas. Coming from 36Mpix full frame DSLR this is a huge drop. So I see how it goes.
I plan to shoot video extensively. I did on my previous trip to Mera Peak. I enjoyed the process but I mostly relied on my small GoPro camera. DSLR felt clunky and not so easy to use especially when switching between still and motion modes. This time I take the acclaimed Panasonic GH4 with me. I am just starting to get into video and I don't have too much experience so I will see how this goes. This will be real run and gun style. I don't have any rig, audio equipment not tripod with fluid head. It will be all about getting the most of what I have. As I am still learning I am not expecting National Geographic style documentary but practice makes a master and I intend to incorporate video into my creative process from now on. I also take GoPro camera as my backup.
I sold my big aluminium tripod and got myself smaller carbon fiber one. This one is lighter and more compact so I can actually take it with me and use it. I'll add a set of Lee filters and variable ND Tiffen filter for video and I am good to go. I'll pack all this into MindShift photography bag. Set of spare batteries, lens cleaning kit and memory cards are things I don't even have to mention.
All this seems actually like lot of gear but I believe it is much lighter and more compact that it would be with DSLR, 2 lenses and backup camera on top of that. I feel pretty comfortable to carry these all the way to base camp and for summit push I can take only one camera with me and maybe a small GoPro. This will depend on circumstances like weather, my overall strength etc. I can leave rest of the gear in the camp. These are only my initial ideas and final packing list might change. I have still few days to change my mind :)
I am very anxious to go to Himalayas again. This is second trip this year I will be going over 6,000 m. Oddly enough this is second trip that happens few weeks after major disaster in the mountains but let's think positive and hope for the best, Watch out for the post from the trip early 2015. As always, I'd love to hear your thoughts and comments.