This page desperately needs updating, as it still says 35mm cameras are preferred over digital ones.
Yes this may have been true some years back (remember when a 640x480 cam cost $600+ and weighed 500g ?), but now, a digital cam is an excellent choice, and a better one in my personal opinion...

I use a Canon S100, and although it is not the BEST resolution and the BEST picture quality; it is small, and very robustly built. A 'compact flash' card nowadays is available in 128mb or 256mb (and bigger) for not that much money at all, so you therefore can store many, many images. One possible problem with the S100 is its relatively short battery life. Something that has to be addressed for a long hike.
Did I mention it's robust? The picture quality is quite good, but if you a really looking for a GREAT quality, a camera with a bigger lens is a must, such as a Canon G1 or G2. (Sorry, I favor Canon, it's a personal thing! ;-)

18 October 2003



Taking photos along a hike can be very rewarding, especially when viewing them at a later date to remember the good (and bad) times on the trail, friends one met, animals one observed, etc., or to show them to friends and family.

This is 'luxury in the woods'! Choosing the 'right' camera is the first step in realising this reward. Ultralight hiking and photography do go together, although a compromise in picture quality is somewhat necessary.

Click here to go back to top of this page.


 Camera Basics

There are two basic camera types available: traditional film cameras, and digital cameras:

  • 1) Film Cameras:
    The quality with the traditional film cameras is dependent on: a) the size of the film being exposed; b) the quality of the camera itself (especially the lens), and; c) the quality of the film being exposed.
    The best picture quality is achieved with a large format camera (e.g. 4.5x6 cm and up); these are used by professional photographers. The most widely available film size is 35 mm. The camera selection for the 35 mm format size is also the largest.
    A new film size is the APS (or Advanced Photo System). This APS system allows three different picture sizes, including Panorama. The 110 format was a very popular format in the 70s and is still available today, although only a few cameras still use this film size. The so-called spy camera uses a tiny film size of 8x11mm; this one has been around for a long time, and is almost (but not quite) exclusive to the MINOX company.
    As a general rule one could say that the smaller the film size, the smaller and lighter the camera can be made. So, for the ultralight hiker, a smaller-format camera is the way to go. Now, one has to decide how small, for what cost, and with what picture quality — it's a trade off!
  • 2) Digital Cameras:
    The newer digital cameras are getting smaller, cheaper and better. The quality of the picture is given by the amount of picture pixels (or resolution).
    A digital camera capable of 640x480 resolution will not produce as good as pictures with 1280x960 pixels. The more pixels the more memory is taken up in the camera, because the picture file becomes larger. Some digital cameras use fixed in-camera memory to store the pictures; others use swapable disks or memory cards. Generally speaking the more you pay and the newer the camera, the better the picture quality and the more pictures can be stored.

Which one of the two is better? Who knows? There are lots of pros and cons for both types. I personally think that the film camera is still superior to the digital camera in regards to weight, picture quality & price. The digitals are catching up though!

Click here to go back to top of this page.


 Film Format Sizes

There are many different sizes available; many, many, many. This lists only a few commonly available ones. If you think we're discriminating by not including your favourite format, then please let us know by e-mail, and we'll include it here.
Some common film sizes follow.

Film Format / Size Comparison






35 mm


Actual Image Size:






Area in %:
(compared to 35mm)







The Spy Camera

The 70s Hit

The New One, with neat features

Most Popular

High quality, high price, and heavy

APS: Advanced Photo System allows to just drop in the film cartridge. The film cartridge itself displays whether the film is exposed or not. This is pretty handy if you find the cartridge at a later date and can't remember if exposed or not. This film allows for panoramic photos to be taken, but keep in mind that the negative remains at 16.7 x 30.2 mm; and that the photo size is a matter off cropping. There are three different sizes selectable on the camera (normally): standard (C), wide (H) and Panoramic (P). Only the wide or (H) setting allows for maximum negative size utilisation. You can take pictures only in this format, and cut up the photos yourself once you see them in print. The enlargements made automatically in the panoramic (P) setting are almost too big for the camera and film quality, unless you have a top-of the-line-camera.

35 mm: Most 35mm cameras, especially the SLR's are too bulky and heavy for ultralight hiking. However, there are very good and very light compact 35mm cameras available at a reasonable price.

Special note: Beware of some Mail Order Processing companies. They will offer you 'free' 35mm film, as long as you have them developed in their laboratory. This film is sometimes taken from cinema film stock, which is a lower grade product. Although they will normally develop and make prints off your regular films (Kodak, Fuji, etc.) with good results, you should try and avoid the 'cinema film', because normal film processors will not be able to develop these films at all! To make sure you are using normal 35mm photo film, check to see if you can find 'Process C-41' on the packaging.

Click here to go back to top of this page.


 More stuff to consider...

Slides or Print?
Another consideration will be: slides or prints. This will normally be pre-determined by your photographical habits in the past. For new-comers to photography, regular colour print film is advisable. As a basic rule of thumb, one could say that a slide film is only suitable if slide presentations are going to be made, or the pictures are going to be enlarged (slide film gives better contrast).

What film works best?
There are a few main suppliers of film, most of which are good. I'm not going to go into photography here any more, but a Kodak Gold is an always-good choice. Fuji makes good film too. A ISO100 film gives best detail, but only if you have good light. An ISO200 is a good all rounder. To take photos of non-moving objects in low light consider a lightweight tripod. Black & white film gives some nice variations in picture taking. The ultralight hiker will choose the most pictures per cartridge, e.g. 36 pictures for a 35 mm film and 40 for a APS film, etc.

Most cameras nowadays use lithium batteries. These are relatively expensive, but worth it. It's extremely important to make sure a spare battery unit is available. Depending on how many pictures you take, and on your camera, you might find yourself changing batteries for every 100 photos you take!

Self Timer
A self-timer is a nice feature to have, since it allows for 'self-portraits'.

Click here to go back to top of this page.


 Ultralight Hiking Cameras

The ideal hiking camera should be very light, strong & easy to use; produce good pictures (in print or slides); be waterproof or water resistant; have a built in flash, and a self timer, and be reasonably priced. Based on all of that, the following cameras and accessories come to mind. If you know others, please let us know.
Note: not all of these cameras meet all of the above criteria.

Item  Picture



Quick Rating
Sharp VE-LC1  


263.1 g
9.28 oz

Not good enough quality for landscapes. Too heavy.
Olympus Stylus Epic 170.4 g (6.01oz), including film & battery! (no lanyard), weatherproof!  Buy Now!

 35mm Film

170.4 g
6.01 oz

 One of the best!
Yashica T4 Super, or T5, weatherproof!  Buy Now!

 35mm Film

190 g
6.7 oz

 One of the best!
Fujifilm SMART Quicksnap SUPER SLIM one-time use 25 exposures (41.0 g !!)  Quicksnap Super Slim


41.0 g
1.44 oz

Must be the lightest camera available!
Kodac ADVANTIX 3200AF  


193.4 g
6.82 oz

Nothing special. 
Canon EOS 850 SLR, 50mm lens  

 35mm Film

780 g
27.5 oz

Lovely camera, but just not an ultralight item! 
Mini - Tripod Buy Now!

  - - -

76.7 g
2.71 oz

Light for a tripod, but still: 2.7 oz extra weight!





Click here to go back to top of this page.

HomeHikingGear ReviewsShoppingPicturesLinksFeedback

Copyright © 1998-2003 • MAL • All rights reserved
Last updated: 19 October 2003