As a foreword, this post has by no mean the pretension to be the state of art and is not sponsored at all (though, I wouldn’t mind).
I’ve been riding my bike for decades and the only time I carry camera gears with me is while mountain biking. As you can guess, mountain biking can be harsh, not to mention the crashes, that I seem prone to. I used also to snowboard with the camera, and landing flat on the camera gear is almost a trademark of my own.
I always found quite frustrating to own expensive gear and carry a cheap point and shoot camera while visiting gorgeous landscapes, and ending with shitty image quality.
But who’s willing to risk several thousand of money, lost in a blink of a crash?
There is also another problem; weight and volume. Being female on bike, it’s even more challenging, as I’m no sherpa.
I’ve tested, many, many, too much actually, gears and hopefully found a good solution, for the time being.
The first question a photographer on the go needs to answer; what to expect from the gear? As I do no wild life, the camera AF can be abysmal, as far as I’m concerned, I couldn’t care less. Thus, I can rule out the most expensive and recent camera models.
For landscape, what I need is a camera with a decent sensor, at least 24MP and excellent dynamic range. Preferably full frame.
The third point on the list is size; if finding rather small cameras can be easy, small lenses with good quality is another story.
The bag is one of, if not the most, important thing. Because it needs to be comfortable, large enough to actually carry more than the camera, not weight twice its content and be solid.
My gear list
I’ll start with the bag, because the available space will determine the camera gear. I know it might sound odd to do it that way, but finding a hiking bag that is designed for photography gear proved to be a challenge.
The one I’m using is Mindshift rotation 180° trail (16L). The bag contains a separate camera bag that can be slide over the waist, thus removing the need to unload the bag, take 5min wrestling through the picnic which just split on the camera, and eventually find the camera. Wait, where’s the viewfinder cap? It all happened..so having a separate compartment for the camera is a luxury.
Another advantage, painfully tested for you, is that it is crash proof. I fell from 4m, rolled several times, crashed on the back and not only the bag is really sturdy, but the camera gear survived without complains.
Because as much as solid the bag can be, I wouldn’t risk cameras over 1000CHF. What I settled for is a second hand Sony a7R.
Why the a7R? Because it has a huge dynamic range, still one the best, not bad for a camera from 2013 and is a 36MP full frame sensor. Of course, it’s now discontinued, but if one is patient, it can be found for less than 700CHF.
Another reason I prefer the a7R over its more recent model, is because it has no IBIS (Sony’s stabilization system). With the many repeated shocks endured while riding a mountain bike, to say nothing about the crashes, I don’t think such delicate electronic would survive for long.
I shall also mention that this camera is rather small and relatively lightweight at just 465g. The Sony a6100 for instance, is merely 400g. Sony’s latest flagship, the a7R IV weights 665g.
After having bought and resold countless lenses, I settled for Tamron 28-75 and 17-28 combo. They’re both lightweight, small and produce really sharp pictures.
If not the price, I would have bought the Sony 24-105 instead of the Tamron, but for the price of one Sony, I have two Tamron.
But this is personal preference, if anyone is reading this, I would suggest digging into one own pictures collections and find out which focal range is mostly used.
Going really cheap
The cheapest and smallest option that I used for many years and still use from time to time is a Sony a6000 with a Samyang 12mm f2. Less than 800chf, the a6000 is a beautiful 24MP crop sensor with an excellent dynamic range. As of 2020, the Sony a6100 is a great replacement of the a6000, with a much better AF. On the lens side, apart from the Samyang 12mm, the stock 16-50 lens does its job. Of course, it has many flaws, but for pictures taken in daylight and invariably ending on social medias with a ridiculous low resolution, that’s fine.
I owned Canon mirorless system for a while, the M100 actually. But resold everything. The reasons are that the m100 has no viewfinder, which can be a pain in sunny conditions and the sensor isn’t up to the Sony a6000, dynamic range speaking.
But it’s a good alternative nonetheless; the m100 mounted with with the m11-22.
There are times where I don’t want to carry a camera bigger than a cell phone. I found out that the Sony RX100 serie are beautiful travel compact cameras. Unfortunately, they are by no mean the cheapest and Sony increases the prices at each new release.
The good news is that the old models are still available. Thus, one has 7 models to choose from.
After having tried several RX100, I got tired of Sony outrageous price policy and ended with a Lumix LX10/15. Same 1” 20Mpx sensor as the RX100’s, without the bell and whistle, like graduated gray filter and eye af, but less than 400chf.
The best drone for photography, in my opinion and as of 2020 is a Dji Mavic Pro 2.
But it’s quite expensive and heavy when being carried all day long. The Dji Mavic mini 2 is my favorite companion for biking. Now, if someone can explain why bother manufacturing a drone less than 250g to pair it with a huge 2kg remote controller?
When I need to travel lightly, I have several options; the combo Sony a6100, Samyang, stock lens and Mavic mini is aroung 1.5kg for a drone and camera.
Otherwise, I switch the a6100 for a7r and Tamron lenses and end around 2kg of gear.
If the Mavic Pro 2 is preferred, then 2.5kg of gear is what my shoulders have to endure.
I hope that I gave some thoughts for food. In case you wonder, I’m no Sony fangirl. I’ve been using Canon’s camera for the last 20 years, but got tired of large DSRL and waiting for Canon to finally produce a sensor with good dynamic range.
Also, I’m only speaking from experience and cannot afford to buy all the systems available out there to test them. So, it could be that some better solutions exist.