So, in April, we will do the Manaslu circuit and I'm already giddy like a little boy about this endeavour.
Being a hobbyist photographer used to log around a lot of gear all the time, I was obviously wondering whether I should bring the DLSR kit along or not.
The kit weighs around 2.1 kilograms (body with 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm lenses) and the alternative would be my Fuji X-T10 with 12mm, 18mm and 35mm lenses at somewhere below 1kg.
I won't bring my tripod, except for a little Gorillapod or similar tabletop tripod to do some long exposures with the clouds and waterfalls and stuff.
The reason, why I'm asking, is the following: There's 1 porter per trekker, so we don't have to carry too much ourselves.
Obviously, I don't want to use the guy as a mule, so I'm packing lightweight with everything else anyways.
However, last year I brought both the Fuji and the Nikon to Norway and ended up disliking the Fuji for most applications, especially in the woods and at night. The results I got from the Nikon were simply a lot better. (Also, green foliage from the X-Trans sensor drives me mad.. I hate it!)
Long story short: Is this one of those treks, where you don't go for the sake of photography and can easily compromise a little quality-wise for the sake of saving weight, or would you do your best to get the best possible results because it's possible that you'll never get there again?
These are some examples I got with the Fuji 2 years ago when roadtripping the USA:
Angel's Landing in Zion
And the Horseshoe bend in Arizona
The camera performs great when you stay out of the woods and go about your business during the day
The problem is, there's supposed to be loads of woods on the Manaslu trek...
How much of your Fuji dissatisfaction is a RAW converter/processing issue? How much of your forest understory challenges could be resolved with faster lenses?
If starting fresh a mirrorless kit with weatherproof body and lenses in whatever sensor format you prefer would give the best combination of performance:weight. Can you adapt your Nikon lenses to their new mirrorless body? You don't say whether they're APS-C or 135 format.
I've retired my DSLRs but continue using some of the lenses in a mirrorless environment. However, I stick to mirrorless lenses backpacking because they're much smaller. I necessarily pack the camera gear last, so what I take varies, depending on how long and challenging the hike is. Never been lucky enough to have a porter!
Also, I assume batteries and charging opportunities are an issue. I pack batteries based on a daily shot budget. Storage cards are so big now they aren't a limiting factor.
I shoot fullframe exclusively, but the Z7 isn't an option. Compared to the D810, the weight savings aren't that big to make up for the hassle of having to cary several extra batteries and dealing with a tiny screen instead of my beloved mirror, especially since the lenses are just as big/heavy...
I once made a comparison with Fuji/Nikon, comparing equivalent (in speed and field of view) lenses, and the full frame Nikon came out only a few grams heavier, but with much more resolution. Obviously, I bring slow (f/2) lenses for the Fuji and save space/weight that way, but that's okay for snapshots.
The Fuji issue has plagued me for years.. The "best" converter (iridient) couldn't help, neither can the the cameras jpg output.. It's all an inacceptable ugly mess. (the newest sensor looks slightly better - due to higher resolution, but the Bayer array they used first is simply superior!)
I never shoot kit zooms, only primes, so speed was never an issue (although, those pics above came from the 10-24/4 ois zoom lens that I sold in frustration after seeing those hundreds of wasted images from the redwoods...)
If I want to go "point and shoot",I bring the Fuji. Otherwise, it's always the Nikon.
As best as I can tell a Z7 upgrade would net a 3/4 pound weight loss and a pretty big resolution increase. I'm hesitant to dive into a brand new system in the first generation.
If I were starting from the beginning I'd look at an A7RIII and a few key lenses, but I'm not launching a major expedition and learning a new system is quite painful. I'm in decent shape, having large, small, long, wide and fast options in a single system. While not 135 format it has a very effective high-res mode that, however, requires a tripod or some support.
Given that you shoot only primes and didn't like zooms, I think that you would be disappointed by not taking your DSLR. You might want to consider paring back a few of your primes to save on weight and crop in post.
I gave it some more thought and will probably only bring the following two/three lenses: 24/1.8 (for landscapes, snapshots while hiking, streetlife, etc.), 58/1.4 for portraits and streetlife (instead of the 35/1.8 and 50/1.8), and 85/1.8 (but not sure about that one, since the Manaslu circuit is supposedly "very close to the mountains", so there's not much to be gained from a tele landscape lens.. and the 58/1.4 makes for an amazing portrait lens) That's 1- 1.3 kg with caps, hoods, and always-on filters for dust protection
Will bring a Feisol TT-15 with my small Tiltall ballhead for panoramic shots, long exposures and the likes (that's 500g)
With the body, L-plate, and 2 spare batteries (= 3 full batteries means I don't need to bring the charger along) that'll be a total of ~3 kg
With the Fuji and that tripod, I'd still get to around 2 kg, because I would have to bring my 12mm, 18mm, and 35mm lenses, the charger with spare battery (batteries last 5 times less than on the DSLR).
Man, I even dreamt about bringing my Leica R5 along with 28/2.8, 50/2, and 90/2.. but that's heavier than the Nikon setup above
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