Trip Planning Continues – Moving from Film to Digital

So the next big planning hurdle for the trip is how will I be shooting  my still photos?

And there is an irony to this question.

With only one exception I am only going to places that I have already been (this of course is the nature of the trip).

So I will only be replacing and augmenting photos from my collection not really expanding on them.

Part of me considered not shooting stills at all – but since I wouldn’t know what to do without a camera in my hand the question remains.

The first step is to establish what I won’t be shooting:
1) No 3D
2) No Panoramas
3) No VR

It is hard to let those go – but it is an awful lot of equipment.

My regular camera is a Pentax MZ-30 35mm film camera.

On my last 3-week trip I took 120 rolls of film and at 24 photos/roll that is 2880 photos.
(On my two week trip to Peru I took close to 2600 photos)

Rolls of film can range in price (from $1.30 to $2.50 depending on the ISO) and at an average $2/roll of film and then another $3.88 for processing and printing (at Costco) my photo costs would total $705.60.

The same 2880 photos printed at $0.13 each from a digital camera would total $374.40 for a savings of $331.20.
This ignores the added discounts from the fact that not all the photos would get printed and the time saved from scanning my negatives.

I own 4 lenses for my Pentax:
Tamron 17-35mm
Tamron 70-300mm
Vivitar 28-210mm
Pentax 50mm

I scan my 35mm negatives with a Nikon Supercoolscan 9000 ED which gives at 4000 DPI gives me between 20 and 22MP.
I like the digital ICE feature as well as the grain removal tool – though I find I also like what NeatImage does for me in post.

To migrate over to digital I would want to stay with Pentax and I am considering a K20D 14.6 MP dSLR.
This has vibration reduction in the camera so I can still use my older lenses with it.

The first problem is the magnification factor of 1.5 that comes with a non-full frame sensor.
I know for a fact that my Tamron lenses are designed for digital – the others would work but I would want to test  for quality.

My lenses then become:

Tamron 17-35mm = 26-53mm = wide but not super wide
Tamron 70-300mm = 105-450mm = very telephoto
Vivitar 28-210mm = 42-215mm = we will see if this lens works
Pentax 50mm = 75mm prime

On my trip to Peru I didn’t bring the Vivitar because of it’s vignetting – this should go away with the smaller sensor.
The only reason I brought the 50mm lens was because I was scared to travel with a gap between 35mm and 70mm.
I used the lens maybe 4 times – I really do love shooting with a wide angle lens the best.

Because I need ultra wide angle for my castle photos I would need to get an additional 12-24mm (18-35mm equiv.) lens.

Step one – purchase new camera and lens = $1160

Looking at lenses again I keep seeing this Pentax 55-300mm lens (with great reviews) for $300.
That would eliminate the Tamron 70-300mm, the Vivitar, and the Pentax 50mm.
I like the idea of fewer lenses.

Now what else do I “need” for my still camera kit.

Well it comes with ‘a’ battery which with LiveView off and no flash averages to 530 shots.
While more than enough for a single days shooting – I still want a spare battery.

A spare battery is another $40 and an extra charger (with car adapter) is $18.

I was tempted by the other accessories like the add-on grip that holds the extra battery but for $130 I don’t think I want the extra ‘heft’. or the infrared remote – which while ‘cool’ is something I won’t use – since I am never in my own photos nor will I be able to shoot on the sly with it. I also don’t need the AC adapter because I won’t be near any.

This brings us to the matter of memory cards.

Shooting in the Raw+JPG mode I should be able to fit about 100 pictures on a 4GB card.
If I shoot 3000 pictures I will need about 120GB of storage. Film is starting to look cheap again.

So how do I get 120GB of storage?

Well I don’t.  Instead I get some reliable memory cards – in this case  3 – 8GB High-Speed – Name-Brand cards.
Each 8GB card can hold 200 images so that should be good for a day and also be ok in case one -gasp- dies.

But that is only 600 pictures (and 24GB) so how do I store more?

I have been investigating the various “photo safes” that are on the market that allow you to transfer your SD card to a portable HD.
Years ago I owned an early model called a Terrapin Mine.  It was bulky and bizarre but it worked well.
Most of the products on the market have mixed reviews – people love em – people hate em.
If I am going to do this I will go with the ColorSpace O by Hyperdrive.
It has the best of the ‘works well’ reviews and you can install your own hard-drive which I figure is better because I can pick
the brand and size. It also will read and display the RAW files so I can use it as a viewer too!

The problem is – do I really want to put all my eggs in one basket?
As a film photographer I only have several worries:
1) X-rays
2) Crushing/Opening the roll
3) Losing the roll

I know how to combat x-rays (fast talking and lead bags)
and after years of travel I keep all exposed rolls on my body at all times (in case of loss).
As for damaged film – I carry a changing bag and accessories in case of emergency.

But with this – hardware failure looms – and it is so scary!
Even if I purchased this device for $250-$350 dollars the only  way I would be happy is if I purchased two of them!

I could bring my laptop – but I don’t want to lug it around France (and I plan on having some repairs done to it while I am out of town).

One thought is to get one of those little Acer Netbooks and an external USB hard-rive as backup.

I like this idea because I have two copies on two devices that are small enough to keep on my person.

The problem is if the notebook dies – I can’t get the data to the USB hard-drive.

I even looked into portable DVD burners!

My concluding logic is as follows:
I will get a Netbook and a ColorSpace so that I am as secure as possible and both should be small enough to keep on my person.

One last item!

I have been looking into GPS data loggers.  They are so powerful and so inexpensive these days.
I think it would be great to be able to track exactly where I was when I was shooting and to route the entire trip.
At first I was a little apprehensive because the one I like holds – ‘about’ 3 weeks of data – but since I am getting the NetBook I can monitor how full the device is getting.

I really like the look of the GiSTEQ PhotoTracker and my friend Mace went out and got one and is in love with it!

So what will my digital kit look like?
-Pentax Camera + Lens = $1160
-Pentax 55-300mm Lens = $300
-Extra battery + Charger = $60
-3 8GB Memory Cards = $180
-ColorSpace + HD = $260
-Acer Netbook = $298
-GiSTEQ PhotoTracker = $80
-Tamron 17-35mm= Already Own
-Camera Wraps = Already Own
-Blower = Already Own
-Cleaning Supplies = Already Own
-Camera Strap = Already Own
-MemCard Safe = Already Own

What won’t I bring (that I usually do)?
-Stereoscopic Camera
-Light Meter
-Panoramic Camera Mount
-Small Digital Camera
-Fish-eye Lens
-Changing Bag
-Film Shields

So what does all this get me?
1) Less equipment – it really is just one camera
2) Instant Feedback – which I admit I do like
3) No development or processing costs
4) Cheaper printing costs
5) No scanning time
6) Vibration Reduction
7) Kick ass new Wide Angle and Telephoto Lenses
8) GPS Data Tracking

I think it is doable.

Next up – let’s talk Video Equipment!

[Re-posted from my University Blog & Edited 07/01/2011]