Our Cameras

We’re sharing what cameras we use in case any of the info might be useful to you. Or maybe you are just curious. We use several different cameras for still pictures and video. We’ll discuss what cameras we use when and why as well as how some of the cameras have changed over the past two seasons.

Right Buddy (RB) has an iPhone 10 and Left Buddy (LB) has an iPhone 11 Pro. During Season One, LB had his previous phone, an iPhone 6. The iPhones are always on us, so they are convenient for that unexpected shot or when we don’t want to carry a larger camera. They are great second cameras for still photos and video while we are hiking. Also, the iPhone 11 has a wider angle lens than what RB can get on her Canon cameras. The iPhone 10 has two built-in lenses: a 4 mm with an aperture of f/1.8 (1x or wide-angle lens), and a 6 mm with an aperture of f/2.4 (2x or telephoto lens). The iPhone 11 has three built in lenses: a 4.25 mm with an aperture of f/1.8 (1x or wide-angle lens), a 6 mm with an aperture of f/2 (2x or telephoto lens), and a 1.54 mm with an aperture of f/2.4 (0.5x or super wide-angle lens).

The iPhones do well in low light due to their large apertures (low f-stop numbers). Because of that and their nice built-in HDR feature, we use them a lot for taking pictures inside of our van. The HDR kicks in when there is high contrast in the scene (depending on the iPhone settings), such as the poorly lit interior of the van with the bright sunlit scenery visible through the van windows.

This is the same photo without HDR. Compare it with the previous photo. Notice how the garage door (center left) and the white curtain (upper right) are over exposed. For HDR, the camera takes three pictures with different exposure settings and then smartly combines the three pictures into one so the shadows are brighter and the highlights are dimmer in the final image.

We have two GoPro’s, the HERO 5 Session (paid link) and the HERO 5 Black. The HERO 5 Session works great as a dash cam for those wide-angle shots as we’re driving down the road. It is also water-proof, so it works well as a body cam for kayaking and biking. We don’t use the HERO 5 Black as often. It is mainly used for capturing the “Sixty Seconds of Serenity” videos while we’re on our hikes. We also used it for the night-time time-lapse at Valley of Fire State Park NV during Season One. We only use the GoPro’s for video or time-lapse, not still photos. At the 4K wide setting, they are just slightly wider than the super wide-angle lens on LB’s iPhone 11.

Most of the still pictures from Season One were shot using a Canon EOS Rebel T3i with the two kit lenses that came with it, the EF-S 55-250 mm IS II (paid link -  telephoto zoom with max aperture range of f/4 to f/5.6) and the EF-S 18-55mm IS II (paid link - wide angle zoom with a max aperture range of f/3.5 to f/5.6). In addition, RB used the EF-S 60 mm Macro USM lens (paid link - max aperture f/2.8) for close ups. For Season Two, RB switched to a Canon PowerShot SX70 HS (paid link - max aperture range of f/3.4 to f/6.5) which she uses for both still photos and video.

Although the Canon EOS Rebel will also shoot video, RB rarely used it for video because the view finder is not functional for video. The view finder on the Rebel is an optical view finder through the lens, so the mirror must be moved out of the way for the video. For still pictures this is less of an issue because the mirror doesn't move out of the way until the shutter is pressed. On the other hand, video on the PowerShot is very convenient. You can use the view finder while shooting video on the PowerShot since the view finder is digital. In addition to the Movie setting, you can record video while in Program AE (P Mode). Since RB is usually in P Mode when shooting still photos, this means she can switch back and forth between still photos and video without having to switch the mode dial. It’s just a matter of pushing the shutter button for a still photo and the record button for videos. However, the Movie Mode is still needed for using additional video features, such as time-lapse.

What prompted the switch from the Canon EOS Rebel to the Canon PowerShot was a desire for a more powerful zoom lens. What sold RB on the Powershot was that she can get a wider range of shots from the one built-in zoom lens than she can get with three or four lenses with the EOS Rebel. She went from carrying five pounds of camera gear (EOS Rebel camera body plus three lenses) to less than 1.5 pounds for the PowerShot. She now does not have to waste time switching lenses, missing that wonderful nature shot. The biggest disadvantages with the PowerShot are that it goes through batteries a lot faster due to the powered zoom and the manual focus is very cumbersome. Carrying a spare battery with her on hikes has been enough, but a multi-day backpacking trip might be another story.

In order to compare the range between cameras, you need to convert the lens focal lengths to 35 mm equivalents. Both the EOS Rebel and the PowerShot are “crop” cameras, not "full frame" cameras (Crop Sensor Vs. Full Frame Camera). In order to convert to 35 mm equivalents, the focal lengths need to be multiplied by the camera’s crop factor. The EOS Rebel has a crop factor of about 1.6, so with the two zoom lenses, the 35 mm equivalent range is about 29 mm to 400 mm. The PowerShot has a crop factor of about 5.6, so its 35 mm equivalent range is about 21 mm to 1382 mm (by RB’s calculations). This was a little confusing at first because the PowerShot claims 21 mm to 1365 mm equivalent range, but the metadata on the photos report the actual lens focal length of 3.8 mm to 247 mm. RB has not calculated the crop factors for the iPhones, so she does not know what the 35 mm equivalents are for the different iPhone lenses.

RB loves the extra zoom the PowerShot gives her (1365 mm vs 400 mm). It makes a big difference for nature shots since getting closer to wild animals is not always an option. It makes the animals feel more comfortable being further away and increases our safety. The PowerShot is now the camera RB always hikes with. She is not even planning on bringing the EOS Rebel on the road for Season Three.

Shooting close up (macro) pictures with the EOS Rebel with the macro lens versus the PowerShot produce different looking pictures due to the difference in max apertures and focal lengths. It was because of that difference that she carried the EOS Rebel camera with the macro lens in the van during Season Two. However, she rarely used it. Some people may like one type better than the other, but RB does not feel that the difference is enough to justify toting around yet another camera. Here are a couple of pictures of the same subject so you can see the difference between the two cameras.

EOS Rebel with macro lens with subject about 15” from front of lens (60 mm focal length at f/4). Notice how nicely blurred the background is.

PowerShot with subject about 15” from front of lens (18.4 mm focal length at f/5). The camera was zoomed in some to try to replicate the same field of view as the EOS Rebel shot. Notice how there is more definition in the background.

PowerShot with subject a couple of inches from front of lens (3.8 mm focal length at f/3.4). The camera was zoomed all the way out to its widest angle to allow the largest aperture and shortest depth of focus (f/3.4). Notice that the background still has quite a bit of definition. Also note how wide the field of view is.

EOS Rebel with macro lens with subject a few inches from front of lens (60 mm focal length at f/4). Notice how small the field of view is and how close the subject appears to be even though physically it is about the same distance from the lens as the previous shot with the PowerShot. It is this level of detail in addition to the shallow depth of field that isolates the subject which a nice macro lens gives you. RB is willing to give up macro photography while we are on the road and save that skill for when we are home over the winter.

RB shoots in the highest available JPG resolution for each of the Canon cameras even though both of them will shoot in Raw format. The Raw format takes up more room on the memory card and requires more post processing time to convert to jpg. For the EOS Rebel, the highest resolution jpg is 18M (5184 x 3456 pixels). For the Powershot, the highest resolution jpg is 20M (5184 x 3888 pixels). Note that the aspect ratios between the two Canon cameras are a little different. The EOS Rebel produces a 3:2 aspect ratio while the PowerShot produces a 4:3 aspect ratio. RB’s iPhone 10 is set to an aspect ratio of 4:3 (4032 x 3024 pixels) while LB’s iPhone 11 is set to an aspect ratio of 16:9 (4032 x 2268 pixels). Even though RB crops many of her photos to a 16:9 ratio to work better in YouTube videos (since that is the aspect ratio of videos), she prefers to shoot with a 4:3 aspect ratio to give her more pixels to work with when cropping the photo later. Along the same line of reasoning, RB normally disables digital zoom in all of her cameras. A digital zoom just crops pixels out of the image and RB would rather not let the camera throw away pixels.

Next we’ll give you some examples of photos of the same scene taken with our different cameras and lenses so you can see the difference. The following shots are unaltered from how they came out of the camera, other than reducing the picture size to 300 pixels on the longest side for the blog post, and converting HEIC format to jpg for the iPhone pictures. All of the focal lengths are given as the actual focal lengths, not the 35 mm equivalents.

 

Canon EOS Rebel with wide-angle zoom lens at 18 mm

 

Canon EOS Rebel with telephoto zoom lens at 250 mm

 

Canon PowerShot at 3.8 mm

 

Canon PowerShot at 247 mm

 

iPhone 10 at 4 mm (1x)

 

iPhone 10 at 6 mm (2x)

iPhone 11 Pro at 1.54 mm (0.5x)

 

iPhone 11 Pro at 4.25 mm (1x)

iPhone 11 Pro at 6 mm (2x)

As RB was heading back home after shooting this camera experiment, she spotted a coyote. Of course she grabbed the PowerShot and zoomed in all the way to capture the shot!

We hope you found this post interesting and we didn’t get too technical for you. If you have any questions about our cameras, don’t hesitate to ask. We’ll be creating another post about the accessories we use with our cameras soon, so stay tuned!

Check out our related video: Our Cameras

(RB)