Years ago I trained as an Army photographer and became fascinated with the equipment, starting out with the standard issue 4 by 5 press camera and soon stepping up to the amazing new 35mm roll film camera that was all the rage in the early 70’s. I’ve gone through many cameras since that old Mamiya-Sekor and haven’t liked them nearly as much. Picture quality dropped considerably with digital technology and pinhole camera lenses, although most people don’t notice that extra level of distortion.
Some solutions I tried over the years included a second-hand Minolta single-reflex SLR which totally made me happy on my backpacking trips until I slipped on a log crossing and lit fifteen feet down on the boulder-strewn stream bed. Lucky for me I landed on my backpack, but unluckily for the Minolta it was tucked inside. It was never the same after that, and a later replacement with another secondhand Minolta only brought more problems due to aging internal circuitry. Time change and eventually we must change with them.
I thought I was getting a good deal back in the 90’s when I bought a lightweight SLR in the Minolta style, on sale just as the industry shifted to low resolution digital cameras on the consumer price level, but the plastic lens didn’t come up to my standards. A succession of improved 35mm film cameras followed, some of which worked fairly well. I have quite a collection stored away, along with early digital cameras that won my heart easily since in spite of low picture quality you just can’t go back to roll film after the ease of working with unlimited digital media.
The good digital cameras always remained out of my price range but Alice’s adventurous purchase of an Aiptek video and still camera convinced me to take the plunge myself and get one of my own. I’m extremely satisfied with the quality of the images and amazed at the range of features. The camera is lightweight and compact, and the rechargeable battery has such a long operating lifetime that unless you literally want to film video for hours you won’t run out of camera juice on a hiking trip.
I can use the Aiptek to transfer my old collection of martial arts videos to DVD. It replaces my digital audio recorder with one of its own, again cutting down my pack weight by a few ounces, and has all the features I need including zoom, time-delay triggering, and a built-in flash. It’s simple enough to operate that I actually don’t need to take the manual with me and spend a few minutes deciphering it every time I want to take a picture of the deer that disappeared a few minutes ago. I can push buttons, click through menus, and find my own way without totally messing things up.
Two faults: it’s not waterproof, but I’ve never owned a camera that was; and it doesn’t quite fit my tripod. If I shim a rubber band between the camera base and the tripod mount it works just fine.
For another opinion and some more technical data on the Aiptek camera see Alice’s post about the Aiptek on Free Range Human, and take a look at a backlog of photos taken with it.