I’m getting ready to leave for my next assignment – a trip up to the Canadian province of Quebec with a 2012 BMW R 1200 RT. What cameras and lenses to bring is always part of the puzzle. The BMW’s got a pair of decent-sized panniers, but I don’t consider that an invitation to pack my big zoom lenses. After all, I still need to pack underwear, my French to English translation book, and pants. Instead, I try to pack a small but high quality camera kit that can deliver magazine-quality images while enduring the rigors of the road. Here’s what I’ve got so far:
Pentax K-5 DSLR
Pentax K-01 “mirrorless” camera
I always bring two cameras in case one malfunctions. In the past that’s meant two DSLR’s, or sometimes a DSLR and a high quality compact camera. This time, I’ve got a pair of Pentaxes. The K-5 is, pound-for-pound, the best APS-C DSLR currently available. Not only is it significantly smaller than similar cameras from Nikon and Canon, but it’s also weatherproof. Perfect for the road.
The Pentax K-01 shares the same high-quality sensor as the K-5 but in a slightly smaller package. It uses the same lenses and batteries as the K-5 so it makes a great companion. And it’s built like a small tank. This will be its first trip, so we’ll see how it goes.
Pentax DA21mm F3.2
Pentax DA40mm F2.8
Pentax DA70mm F2.4
B+W Filters (ND and Polarizing)
One of the things that first drew me to Pentax (I’ve previously shot with Nikon cameras) was their collection of small, high quality prime lenses. They’re called “pancakes” and you can see why. The DA40 is particularly small, it’s about ½” thick when mounted on the camera. If the bike has a topcase I’ll often splurge and bring the bigger zooms, but on this trip I’ll go smaller. Prime lenses can be a bit more challenging to use than zooms as you can’t just zoom in or out to frame your shot. With prime lenses you’ve got to think a bit more about the photo you want to take, move around to get the right angle, and then potentially switch lenses to get the right focal length. The upside is that you are forced to think more deliberately about taking the photo, which often yields a better image.
One of the other benefits of the Pentax prime lenses is that they all have 49mm filter rings, so I can share the same set of filters for all of my lenses. I no longer use UV or skylight filters to protect the lenses. With proper care and feeding, lenses are more durable than many think, and UV and skylight filters can introduce flare and other issues. Instead, I’ll use high quality B+W ND (Neutral Density) and Polarizing filters when needed.
I hope to test out the DriftHD and Contour ROAM video cameras while on the road, so I have to leave some room in the bag for these cameras plus their chargers. That’s another reason to go with the smaller prime lenses. It’s just a little bit here and a little there, but it adds up quickly.
You may or may not have noticed it in the photo, but all the gear described above sits quite nicely on an Apple iPad. I’ve got the 64Gb model, specifically for photo and video storage. As long as I don’t lose the little white SD card reader I’m all set.
This photo, of course, doesn’t include everything. There’s also a tripod (Velbon Ultra Maxi SF) as well as a means of mounting the video cameras to the bike (most likely a Manfrotto Mini Clamp, Super Clamp and Magic Arm). And the chargers, the memory cards and other things that eventually make their way into the bag. At the end of the day, this “other” stuff is likely to take up more space than the cameras themselves, but that’s what it takes to get the shots for the magazine.