Choosing The Perfect Camera for Adventure Photography

By Michael O'Keeffe | 4.2.2019

Adventure photography has become increasingly popular in the photo world as social media becomes ever more prominent and smartphones continue to produce higher quality images. While today’s phones can take decent photos, these cameras are still limited and many lack the features necessary to take your photos to the next level. If you find yourself interested in expanding your photography skills, upgrading to a more advanced camera can make a big difference.

For those just beginning to get into adventure photography it can be overwhelming to know where to start when looking for the perfect camera for you. In addition to the features any emerging photographer should look for in a camera (image quality, durability, cost, range of features, etc), I have listed a few camera features that adventure photographers should specifically look for when purchasing a new camera.

Weather Sealed

As an adventure photographer, your camera as well as yourself are going to be exposed to the elements. Rain, snow, cold, heat, dust, and even salty sea air can do serious wear and tear to a camera that is unprotected. There are certainly different tricks and techniques that can be utilized to protect your camera against these elements, but fortunately many of today’s cameras are weather sealed. This technology reduces exposure to moisture and dust from the outside that can be potentially harmful to a camera. While it is still good to be mindful of a camera’s exposure to the elements even with the weather sealing, this advancement is a great feature to have when out in the backcountry.

Camera Sensors

When selecting a new camera the words “full frame” and “crop sensor” will come up frequently. Essentially, these terms refer to the physical size of the sensor. Larger sensors usually have larger pixels, which have benefits in terms of lowlight performance and depth of field. More practically, the two types of sensors have different fields of view. For example, a crop sensor camera will have a smaller field of view than a full frame (hence “crop”). This crop could make it difficult to get great shots in small spaces (do to the smaller field of view) and will mean you will have less flexibility.

Does this mean a crop sensor camera is not as good? Not necessarily. For one, crop sensor cameras are much more affordable than most full frame cameras, making them perfect for those just starting out. In general, full frame cameras provide a higher image quality, but in today’s market there are crop sensor cameras that feature exceptional image quality. At the end of the day, a good photograph will still come down to the composition created by the photographer, whether you are using a full frame, crop sensor, or smartphone.

Camera Weight

When it comes to hiking, and especially backpacking, every ounce counts. This is why weight is important when choosing a new camera. If you are in the market for a camera with the greatest range of settings and features, such as a full frame DSLR camera, there is not much in the way of getting around a heavier camera body. However if money is no object, the new wave of mirrorless cameras are changing the game with lightweight designs that feature many of the amenities of other full frame DSLR cameras making them an adventure photographer’s dream.

Interchangeable Lens

So far we have only discussed features of what to look for in a camera body. However, that is only half of the camera. Lens are an essential and crucial aspect of photography no matter what subject you are shooting. Upon first glance it would seem buying a camera with interchangeable lens can be an expensive endeavor, but many entry level cameras today have ditched the standard optical zoom for interchangeable lens capabilities making it much more affordable. Having different lens in your camera bag can allow your photography to be much more versatile, even if your camera doesn’t have the most advanced settings.

Manual Settings

In adventure photography, finding a camera with manual settings is important as it allows for more creative control over your photographs. While learning these settings takes time and practice, a camera with a greater range of settings means you won’t outgrow the camera as quickly. In photography, light and composition are everything. As an adventure photographer, you are forced to work with the light you are given. During the golden hours of sunrise and sunset things change quickly. Having a camera that allows you to adjust more of your shooting parameters means you can better adapt to changing conditions.

Camera Suggestions

Nikon D5600 - $696.95 w/18-55mm lens

The Nikon D5600 is a perfect starter camera at an affordable price! This crop sensor camera packs 24.2 megapixels for exceptional image quality as well as 1080i HD video. The camera also features great low light capabilities, awesome lens selection, and even allows you to shoot stunning timelapse videos. The fast shooting speed and Wifi capabilities allow you to be ready for ever changing conditions and action shots. Not to mention the compact design which makes it perfect for travel. Overall, the Nikon D5600 blends entry level ease of use with the advanced features of a pro DSLR making it a great camera for those getting started with adventure photography!

Sony a7 iii - $2198.00 w/28-70mm Lens

The mother of all adventure cameras, this small, lightweight camera is future of adventure photography! This mirrorless full frame camera is ideal for both the novice and pro, offering 24.2 megapixels for crisp images as well as 4K resolution video. The camera also features an impressive autofocus feature set, continuous shooting, and wide ISO range of 100-51200, making it ideal for low light shooting. The Sony a7 iii’s main drawback is a small lens selection which may turn off more experienced photographers. However, the camera’s ease of use and lightweight design, combined with its exceptional image/video quality make it a near perfect adventure camera!

Canon EOS 6D Mark II - $1899.00 w/24-105mm Lens

This compact full frame DSLR camera is light and versatile for its class, making it a great adventure camera. The camera offers a 26.2 megapixel sensor for high quality images with an ISO range of 100-40000 which is essential for low light and night shoots. The camera also offers sharp autofocus, continuous shooting, 1080i HD video, and even has a timelapse feature that will stitch timelapses into a movie file right in the camera. Not to mention it is weather sealed and offers an adjustable LCD back screen.

Michael O'Keeffe

Michael O’Keeffe is an adventure photographer based in Seattle, WA. Since moving out west four years ago he has spent much of his free time traveling all around the West, hiking and taking photos along the way. He hopes through his photography he can share his passion and love for these wild places to hopefully inspire people to get out and explore these beautiful landscapes as well.

Choosing The Perfect Camera for Adventure Photography

By Michael O'Keeffe | 4.2.2019

Adventure photography has become increasingly popular in the photo world as social media becomes ever more prominent and smartphones continue to produce higher quality images. While today’s phones can take decent photos, these cameras are still limited and many lack the features necessary to take your photos to the next level. If you find yourself interested in expanding your photography skills, upgrading to a more advanced camera can make a big difference.

For those just beginning to get into adventure photography it can be overwhelming to know where to start when looking for the perfect camera for you. In addition to the features any emerging photographer should look for in a camera (image quality, durability, cost, range of features, etc), I have listed a few camera features that adventure photographers should specifically look for when purchasing a new camera.

Weather Sealed

As an adventure photographer, your camera as well as yourself are going to be exposed to the elements. Rain, snow, cold, heat, dust, and even salty sea air can do serious wear and tear to a camera that is unprotected. There are certainly different tricks and techniques that can be utilized to protect your camera against these elements, but fortunately many of today’s cameras are weather sealed. This technology reduces exposure to moisture and dust from the outside that can be potentially harmful to a camera. While it is still good to be mindful of a camera’s exposure to the elements even with the weather sealing, this advancement is a great feature to have when out in the backcountry.

Camera Sensors

When selecting a new camera the words “full frame” and “crop sensor” will come up frequently. Essentially, these terms refer to the physical size of the sensor. Larger sensors usually have larger pixels, which have benefits in terms of lowlight performance and depth of field. More practically, the two types of sensors have different fields of view. For example, a crop sensor camera will have a smaller field of view than a full frame (hence “crop”). This crop could make it difficult to get great shots in small spaces (do to the smaller field of view) and will mean you will have less flexibility.

Does this mean a crop sensor camera is not as good? Not necessarily. For one, crop sensor cameras are much more affordable than most full frame cameras, making them perfect for those just starting out. In general, full frame cameras provide a higher image quality, but in today’s market there are crop sensor cameras that feature exceptional image quality. At the end of the day, a good photograph will still come down to the composition created by the photographer, whether you are using a full frame, crop sensor, or smartphone.

Camera Weight

When it comes to hiking, and especially backpacking, every ounce counts. This is why weight is important when choosing a new camera. If you are in the market for a camera with the greatest range of settings and features, such as a full frame DSLR camera, there is not much in the way of getting around a heavier camera body. However if money is no object, the new wave of mirrorless cameras are changing the game with lightweight designs that feature many of the amenities of other full frame DSLR cameras making them an adventure photographer’s dream.

Interchangeable Lens

So far we have only discussed features of what to look for in a camera body. However, that is only half of the camera. Lens are an essential and crucial aspect of photography no matter what subject you are shooting. Upon first glance it would seem buying a camera with interchangeable lens can be an expensive endeavor, but many entry level cameras today have ditched the standard optical zoom for interchangeable lens capabilities making it much more affordable. Having different lens in your camera bag can allow your photography to be much more versatile, even if your camera doesn’t have the most advanced settings.

Manual Settings

In adventure photography, finding a camera with manual settings is important as it allows for more creative control over your photographs. While learning these settings takes time and practice, a camera with a greater range of settings means you won’t outgrow the camera as quickly. In photography, light and composition are everything. As an adventure photographer, you are forced to work with the light you are given. During the golden hours of sunrise and sunset things change quickly. Having a camera that allows you to adjust more of your shooting parameters means you can better adapt to changing conditions.

Camera Suggestions

Nikon D5600 - $696.95 w/18-55mm lens

The Nikon D5600 is a perfect starter camera at an affordable price! This crop sensor camera packs 24.2 megapixels for exceptional image quality as well as 1080i HD video. The camera also features great low light capabilities, awesome lens selection, and even allows you to shoot stunning timelapse videos. The fast shooting speed and Wifi capabilities allow you to be ready for ever changing conditions and action shots. Not to mention the compact design which makes it perfect for travel. Overall, the Nikon D5600 blends entry level ease of use with the advanced features of a pro DSLR making it a great camera for those getting started with adventure photography!

Sony a7 iii - $2198.00 w/28-70mm Lens

The mother of all adventure cameras, this small, lightweight camera is future of adventure photography! This mirrorless full frame camera is ideal for both the novice and pro, offering 24.2 megapixels for crisp images as well as 4K resolution video. The camera also features an impressive autofocus feature set, continuous shooting, and wide ISO range of 100-51200, making it ideal for low light shooting. The Sony a7 iii’s main drawback is a small lens selection which may turn off more experienced photographers. However, the camera’s ease of use and lightweight design, combined with its exceptional image/video quality make it a near perfect adventure camera!

Canon EOS 6D Mark II - $1899.00 w/24-105mm Lens

This compact full frame DSLR camera is light and versatile for its class, making it a great adventure camera. The camera offers a 26.2 megapixel sensor for high quality images with an ISO range of 100-40000 which is essential for low light and night shoots. The camera also offers sharp autofocus, continuous shooting, 1080i HD video, and even has a timelapse feature that will stitch timelapses into a movie file right in the camera. Not to mention it is weather sealed and offers an adjustable LCD back screen.

Michael O'Keeffe

Michael O’Keeffe is an adventure photographer based in Seattle, WA. Since moving out west four years ago he has spent much of his free time traveling all around the West, hiking and taking photos along the way. He hopes through his photography he can share his passion and love for these wild places to hopefully inspire people to get out and explore these beautiful landscapes as well.

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