Wonder what photography and rock climbing have a couple things in common?
Gear, and pontificating about the right gear for the right job.
This week I’ll be sharing the best cameras for casual and semi-pro photographers to carry for climbing.
Regular Joe Dirt Bag or Semi-Pro
Climbing is always pretty inspiring, and at least 90% of the time the views are more epic at the top of a hard route.
So, are you a regular climber who wants to snap some photos along the way, and at the top? Or are you an aspiring pro photographer who wants to take it to the next level?
The differences between these two goals will help you determine what path to take.
Your investment in time & equipment will be different if you have professional aspirations. Expect to spend more for equipment and time working on the photography than the climbing.
So read on for my recommendations for wherever you fit on this spectrum.
If you’re like most climbers you want a camera to shove in your pack and sling to your harness on routes.
If your goals are:
- Catching great views
- Personal evidence you were there.
- Giving or Getting Beta. Posting the route on Mountain Project, etc.
If any of these goals line up with yours. I’d keep my eyes set on an all weather point and shoot camera or a rugged case and tether for your phone.
Major camera manufacturers are going to have a range of outdoor friendly cameras.
What About Features?
- Megapixels? Megapixels these days are marketing terms. Anything above 10 will give you plenty to work with, and most modern cameras can give you this no problem.
- How’s battery life? Look for a camera that will last you the entire day or even a full weekend trip.
- Video important to you? If so 1080p or better is a good place to start.
- Lanyard? It is always nice to have a built in lanyard, but you can always tape cord onto the camera, or take a case. Don’t drop the camera EVER!!
- What Memory Cards? I’m a big fan of SD Cards, and I rely on Sandisk. I’ve heard good things about Lexar cards as well. My only advice here is not to buy no-name brands for cheap.
- Look for cards with 16GB capacity and you should be good for a day or quick weekend trip.
- Canon PowerShot D30: Waterproof, GPS, Image Stabilization for your pumped forearms. :)
- Nikon 1 AW1: A little expensive, but has a lot of great features.
- Nikon COOLPIX AW130: It is waterproof, a little more durable compared to the Nikon 1 AW1
- Fujifilm FinePix XP90: This looks to be a great option, and like the others in durability.
If you’re outdoorsy you’ve likely got one of these. Put a lanyard on it, or attach it to your harness and you are golden. GoPro - Cameras: Anything released by these cats in the last year or two is going to be more than enough.
- GoPro - Cameras: Anything released by these cats in the last year or two is going to be more than enough.
- Olympus Tough TG-5: This is a cool looking camera. If you are especially rough on things this is the way to go. It is a great one for trad climbers or off-width climbers. :)
If your goals are:
- Putting photos or video into any sort of portfolio.
- Submitting your photos to school, magazines, or competitions.
- Shooting photos that involve more thought than a snapshot.
- Improving your skills with composition, leading lines, or any other artsy terms.
If the above goals resonate with you in any way, and you take your photos seriously. You don’t mind putting in the time to create some awesome shots of your friends slaying hard routes.
You also don’t mind setting up a top rope so you can practice getting shots of your friend’s faces as they climb hard. :)
What About Features?
- As with the previous section, megapixels are so last century. Any modern camera is going to get you there.
- If you want something to grow into look for a full frame camera with anything at or above 18-20 Megapixels.
- Otherwise, anything above 12 Megapixels is usable for a lot of serious work.
- Interchangeable lenses. Will help you improve your ability to capture different kinds of photos. Such as; close ups, wide shots, and tight shots.
- Battery Life. This is especially important because you’ll be using your camera more. You can and should plan to have extra batteries, but you’re going to be using your camera more here.
- Video? Again 1080p, or 4k video is an awesome thing to have in your camera if it is important to you.
- Fast Burst rate. 5–10 fps is enough for most people to shoot climbing action. You may catch less if you’re on the lower end of the scale. Climbing, for the most part, doesn’t often involve a lot of fast non-stop movement anyway.
- Good Autofocus. Most modern cameras by the big manufacturers will do a great job at this. Canon, Nikon, and Sony are good choices.
- I shoot most of my work now with Sony A Series equipment. Particularly the Sony A7ii and A7Rii have been amazing for me and my work.
- Sony A6000, A6300, A6500: This series is a very close second for me. These are crop sensor cameras but have fast burst rates and stellar autofocus capabilities.
- Nikon D5600: A great crop sensor entry level camera that’ll more than get the job done.
- Nikon D500: This is a great entry level full frame option.
- Nikon D5: This is what the big boys play with for sure. It has a steep investment to get it, but if you’ve got the cash and skills to use this beast it is very capable.
- Canon EOS 80D: Is a great entry level full frame camera that’ll get the job of a rock climbing photographer done.
- Canon EOS 7D MARK II: Middle of the road between these two. Plenty of speed and capabilities to shoot climbing.
- Canon EOS-1D X Mark II: This is the beast for the Canon line. Similar expense, durability, and capabilities as its expensive friend the Nikon D5.
I’d love to hear your tips and recommendations.