Electronics: Camera Kit, Laptop, and Backups
One of my main goals in this journey is to document much of what I’m learning and experiencing along the way – mostly in still photographs, with some occasional video. Since I plan to travel light, I started researching smaller pocket-sized cameras. I didn’t want to be lugging around huge camera bodies & lenses, which would shout out, “hey, check out this gringo tourist and his fancy gear!”
Initially I checked out some of the waterproof and ruggedized point & shoot cameras, such as the Olympus Tough Series. These would definitely survive the trip, but the quality of the images would be lacking – plus, no possibility for interchangeable lenses. After a recommendation from a coworker, I then seriously looked at the Canon S95, which packs a lot of quality into a very small size. It shoots in RAW and full HD video. They even offer a waterproof case, plus some lens kits. But these are not true interchangeable lenses, so for me a deal-breaker. On an adventure like this, the S95 would better serve as a secondary camera, but be slightly lacking as a main.
I was then turned on to the Panasonic Lumix GF2. This is a professional-grade digital camera with interchangeable lenses, but in a smaller package, utilizing Micro Four Thirds lenses. This model shoots RAW at 12.1 megapixels, plus full 1080 HD video. With a pancake lens, it is almost a pocket camera (and could be easily stuffed into a jacket or cargo pocket. The basic kit comes with a decent “photojournalist” lens (14-42 mm, f3.5 – which equates to a 28-84 mm on a larger DSLR). I immediately picked up a fixed 20 mm f1.7 lens, which is awesome for low-light situations and shallow depth of field shots. Lastly I purchased a larger telephoto lens; 45-200 mm f4.5, which has built-in optical image stabilization. With a supply of filters, a few spare batteries, and plenty of SD cards, I should be ready for a variety of great photos while out on the road. Over the past few months since purchasing this camera, it’s been a pleasure to shoot. And I look forward to having more time over the next several months to further master this piece of equipment, as well as hone my photography skills.
Full camera kit, with Pelican for protection
Compact travel camera with 20-mm pancake lens
Ever since coming to work for Expeditions West & Overland Journal 3.5 years ago, I’ve converted over to be Mac-only. Honestly, I don’t have a lot of desire to ever switch back to Windows, even though it’s much less expensive to purchase that equipment. In my opinion, the hassle-factor just isn’t worth it. And like the Lumix GF2, Macs are a pleasure to use. And sticking with the lightweight theme, the 13” MacBook Air is an ideal laptop for this type of travel. Plus, the aluminum case and solid-state hard drive help to make it “ruggedized” (with no moving parts). The built-in SD card reader makes it easy for me to load photos into Aperture without the need for any external adaptors.
MacBook Air — lightweight & powerful
Now comes the most important part: backups. Being on the road for such a long time, I will surely generate a lot of data. And much of this data will be irreplaceable if lost – namely, the photos. A tradeoff for the solid-state drive in the MacBook Air is that it’s quite small – only 256GB. I will store only my most current and best photos on this internal hard drive, so will need to have some external hard drives to store the rest. And in the unfortunate event that my laptop gets stolen or broken, I will want to have a full backup.
Built in with all new Mac operating systems is a program called Time Machine, which makes a full backup of your computer. I’ve had great luck with this program – not only for recovering individual files, but also for restoring entire machines. My main backup drive will be a LaCie 1TB Rugged Mini. This drive is shock-, rain-, and pressure-resistant, and is connected & powered via a USB 3.0 cable. This will also serve as an external Aperture library for older and less-important photos not stored on my laptop’s hard drive. I plan to do backups daily to this hard drive, and store it separately from my laptop.
1TB ruggedized drive & Magic Mouse, atop the Air
Since video takes up a lot of space, I will not be storing these files on my laptop. For this, I plan to have a two 320GB WD MyPassport hard drives. These are both slightly smaller in size than the LaCie Rugged Mini, and use USB 2.0 cables. One will act as a video “scratch” drive for unprocessed videos, and the other will house video projects in-process and completed videos.
Since no data is safe until it is backed up three times, I will attempt to have other redundant systems in place. My “big daddy” backup will be a LaCie 2TB Desktop Rugged XL. This drive requires 110 V external power, and connects via USB 2.0 interface. It will act as a backup of all my data, and will be stored in a very hidden and secure place in the vehicle. I’ll only bring it out to update the backups about every week or so.
Backups galore: 2TB & 1TB LaCie drives, 320GB MyPassport drives (left to right)
But what if a major catastrophe occurs, and all of the data in my truck is lost or destroyed? As Internet connectivity allows, I plan to upload any crucial documents and important photos/videos to online repositories such as Google Documents. In addition, I plan to burn CDs/DVDs that I can mail back home as an additional offsite backup. Thankfully I’ve never lost any data, but I don’t want to press my luck on this upcoming adventure. Like they say, “Plan for the worst, hope for the best.” If I stick to this plan, it will be one less thing for me to be constantly worrying about.