Whether it’s the requisite summit shot on top of a mountain or a picture of an amazing sunrise over the ocean, photography has become a default part of any big adventure for me. When going fast and light, I carry a small Pentax Optio digital camera with 3-megapixel resolution. It fits in a pouch no larger than a cigarette pack and does a fine job for photo album snapshots.
On trips where photography is more of a priority — or where the scenery cannot be ignored — I bring my new big-gun camera, the Canon EOS 20D. This single-lens-reflex (SLR) digital camera has pro-level features and compatibility with dozens of lenses. It has 8.2-megapixel capture, which is enough resolution to produce huge, detailed photos up to 16 × 24 inches in size.
For usability in the outdoors, the camera has its pros and cons. Next to the point-and-shoot cameras most people have, the 20D seems huge, as it weighs 1.5 pounds and measures 5.7 × 4.2 × 2.8 inches without the lens. But from a durability standpoint, Canon (www.usa.canon.com) does make the camera capable of taking some abuse. It has a stainless steel chassis and a sturdy magnesium-alloy body.
It also has long battery life and auto-power-down features to save juice, which is a big plus when you’re on the trail and away from a power outlet for a couple days. Canon specs the camera’s minimum operating temperature at 32 degrees F, though I’ve used it in temps below zero. (I did have to stick the battery in my armpit for a few minutes to get it warmed and ready before an ice-climbing photo shoot, however.)
Developed with photojournalists in mind, the 20D can take continuous photos at up to five frames per second, with a total burst of 23 photographs in a row at that speed. This amazing feature lets you fire off a round of exposures at a moving subject — a skier hitting a jump or an eagle swooping at a fish, for example — and you’re almost guaranteed to get the shot you were hoping for.
Other advanced features include nine-point autofocus, a shutter speed that can be set from bulb (continuously open) up to 1/8,000 of a second, professional-level white balance controls and a flash that adjusts and compensates in accordance to the exposure. I found the camera’s controls and menu system to all be easy to use.
The 20D comes with a lithium-ion battery pack, a charger, a neckstrap, software and a one-year warranty. It costs around $1,600 with a standard 18-55mm lens.
For storing photos in the camera, I use Lexar Media’s (www.lexarmedia.com) new 80X CompactFlash card with 2 gigabytes (GB) of capacity. This much storage space lets you take and save hundreds of photos. The card, which can write data at up to 12 megabytes per second, has performed superbly while handling the 20D’s large, unruly but ultimately extremely high-quality images.