What camera to take on the Camino?

This is a subject of endless fascination for me.

As technology changes, my attitude to cameras changes considerably.

I’ve just read an article written by an accomplished National Geographic photographer. He took the new iPhone to Scotland, and shot 4000 pics in 4 days. The shots are terrific. Here’s his article: Nat Geo/iPhone 5S pics

Here as well is a review of the new iPhone camera on dpreview.com – the best and most knowledgeable website for digital photography: dpreview.com iPhone 5S review

Here’s my take on it:

As most of you know, I’ve been taking photos professionally since I was 17 years old. I’ve always used Nikons and Leicas. But I love the Fuji digital cameras too for more compact work, principally because they’ve put a huge amount of R&D into their sensors, which is the heart of any camera.

I ummed and aaahed before deciding which camera to take with me on my Camino. I wanted to take my big Nikon D700 – a full frame professional level camera – but it was too heavy. And my smaller D3200 didn’t have exactly the lens I needed. So I settled on a little Fuji X10 camera, which turned out to be ok. Not great, but ok.

The size was good, ease of use was good, but I was always limited by the sensor. The small sensor didn’t allow for a large dynamic range. I shouldn’t blame the camera though – I chose to shoot jpeg and I should have shot RAW, which would have given me the dynamic range I craved.

I dismissed my iPhone 5 as an option for a camera for several reasons –

  1. It was a fixed lens, and any zoom functionality would come at the expense of image quality.
  2. It was an even smaller sensor than the X10.
  3. It wouldn’t allow me to use selective Depth of Field.
  4. Using the camera would drain the battery fast, and I needed the phone to work as a phone, too.

Seeing this Nat Geo photographer’s work though has made me reconsider the iPhone somewhat. And reading the reviews is also making me rethink.

The great advantage of using an iPhone as a camera when you’re walking the Camino is of  course that it’s small, light, and it’s always with you.

If I were to do another Camino in the next couple of months, what camera would I take?

I still wouldn’t use the iPhone, for the reasons above. But I have my eye on the new Fuji professional X series of cameras. There will be a new X-Pro2 out soon, and next week the X-E2 is being announced.

Both these cameras have a large APS-C sized sensor which allows for a big dynamic range as well as low light shooting. They also have interchangeable lenses and the lenses are very fine glass. They’re a pro-level camera yet they’re relatively small and light.

All that said – I think now with this new iPhone 5S and its updated camera, it is a very real alternative to a big lumbering expensive camera.

But in the end, choice of camera is so so personal. And as is proven time and again, it’s not the camera that creates a great shot. Look at what that Nat Geo photographer did with his iPhone!


18 thoughts on “What camera to take on the Camino?

  1. I wouldn’t use an i Phone anyway Bill, Apple are too restrictive in their products. You have to use iTunes do do just about everything, you cannot carry a spare battery because you cannot change the battery and it doesn’t take an sd card. It is a sealed unit. I use a Samsung S3, takes great shots, I can swap the battery if I can’t get it charged on the road, I can pop out the sd card and use it in a computer and the music and photo galleries are all drag and drop. Its the difference between operating in a walled garden and open plains. Its also about half the weight.
    But then I am biased, I hate apple products. 🙂


    • haha – Pat – yes, that’s one of the downsides to using Apple products.

      I love ’em. I bought an Apple IIe in the early 80s, and had Apple Mac stuff ever since.

      But I am sometimes annoyed at the closed system, as you say. And the battery life of the iPhone is crap.



  2. Bil, As you know, I used my iPhone 5 for my Camino and I was completely satisfied with it. I bought a point and shoot digital, but it lasted only a few days. So when I returned, I took it back. I considered getting a bigger “professional” camera, but since I am not a professional, why do I need to spend more money on a camera, and as you said, my iPhone is always with me, so I can take any spontaneous picture at any time. Think I will stick with what I know, and learn how to get more out of it. Besides, it mates nicely with my iMac and my iPad mini. 🙂 I like everything Apple except the stock price, which kicked my butt last fall and winter. It has to go back up, right? WRONG!!!!! 😦

    I have often said I have never had a free lesson. That remains true. I have had a very expensive education, and sometimes I still wonder if I know anything. Steve


  3. Bill, I know nothing about photography. I am a “point and shoot” kinda gal. However, after reading a post of yours about engaging with the subject and taking time with each shot, I have tried that a bit on the Camino. I left my trusty Panasonic at home and am using a tiny Canon Ixus camera, which I choose because of the size – fits in my pocket. Quality is not great, but the memories will be good.
    I have seen many different cameras being used- some are huge, some are phones or iPads, some are tiny point and shoot.
    Depends on so many factors.
    Anne 📷 📹 📱


    • Hi Neville,

      Yes, they’re a very fine camera – and they have a large sensor. Their specs are also impressive.

      Can’t go wrong with that camera.



      • A friend of mine who I met a couple of years while walking the camino introduced me to this camera. He took the same camera again when my wife, he and I walked in France last year, and again when we walked the Via de la Plata this past spring.

        While I still have my old Nikon D70, I have a Sony NEX 6 penciled in for an addition to the family.


        • HI Neville –

          yes, it’s a very fine camera, with a good lens. All the reviews have been terrific.

          I still love the Fuji X system though – but I’m a Leica guy from way back, and I just love that form factor.

          By the way, have you bought my book yet???

          (I bought yours!!!)




    • haha – yes, I saw this. It’s what pisses me off about Leica. They are making cameras which are objects of desire, not necessarily working tools.

      Can you imagine Cartier Bresson or Robert Capa or W Eugene Smith buying a camera like that? Even Larry Burrows. (a great Vietnam war photographer who always used Leicas)

      Nah – they’ve become prestige things for the stupidly rich. I had a M8 for a while (digital) and it was a piece of crap. I sold it.

      I still two Leica M6s however – rangefinder film cameras – and all my Leica lenses. The M6s are classic cameras. My Leica lenses are:

      18mm 21mm 24mm 28mm f2 34mm f1.4 35mm f2 50mm f1.4 75mm 90mm

      Incredible glass. Shame that Leica is now pitching its cameras to prestige seekers, not real photographers.



      • well at $10,000 for the regular models, it will be a long time before I would ever consider getting one. Can not imagine what it will go at the auction – I am guessing $20 k or more.


        • Yep – as a charity thing, it’s good for raising money.

          But as a tool for imaging, it’s overpriced and under-spec-ed

          I had a big row with some of the people on the Leica forum on dpreview.com, when I dared to suggest that the Leica was something less than perfect.

          They got hysterical.

          How many news guys do you see using a Leica? None. How many pros do you see using a Leica. None. Or next to none. Maybe one in a thousand.

          Not properly weather sealed, no real buffer for RAW, lousy ISO performance – I could go on and on.

          Prestige cameras, but not for real shooters. And I say that as someone who’s had Leicas – film and digital – for 25 years. Including 2 R8s with a full set of lenses.

          I speak from experience!



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