A Camera for Climbers

It's been great to receive compliments about the photos I've taken over the last few months! I've been excited to get back into an old hobby and share our travels. I've got a pretty simple utilitarian system that I actually take with me and the amazing locations we're in do the rest.

I've been waiting for the confluence of camera size and function for years, alternating between various DSLRs (great quality, too big for me to actually take anywhere) and mirrorless micro four-thirds and APS-C cameras (great size, technology not up to par for quality). The needs are simple: lightweight and portable to stuff in a crash pad, to sling on my neck for long hikes, or to hitch to tree limbs above rocky ground to get a good angle on a bouldering project. My tune's always been "the ____ camera's great, but," until now... I got a Sony a6000 right before our trip and continually impressed even myself!

Sony a6000 gear System fits into a small bag I throw in my climbing gear (ruler for reference):

The camera itself is only 1lb, ~5" x 2.5" x 2.5". I have small hands and the grip fits perfectly, and it'll fit in a small purse.
Sony a6000 size Sony a6000 size Sony a6000 size

Other notes:

  • Gone are the dark Sony days of proprietary cables and memory cards. I never would've thought I'd see that from Sony, and they're pushing the mirrorless market forward more so than Canon and Nikon.
  • Fast autofocus. Mirrorless DSLRs have been struggling, but Sony's by far leading mirrorless technology.
  • All the functions you'd probably need from a DSLR and highly customizable menus and buttons, including back button autofocus.
  • The 20mm fixed lens is incredibly small. It doesn't win any quality awards on its own but it's really impressive for its size.
  • Dynamic range is absolutely stellar. You can pull shadows up and highlights down, especially in landscape photos.
  • Electronic viewfinder is amazing. It continuously shows how the photo will turn out so you don't need to review and readjust after each snap like with a DSLR.
  • Sony's assisted manual and assisted autofocus is superb with the electronic viewfinder.

Improvement wishes but not back-breakers:

  • The screen articulates up in a single plane to 90 degrees, which is great for shooting on the ground but not ideal for setting it up in a tree. Would be better with a full articulating screen.
  • No image stabilization, but with such a wide lens that's usually not a problem.

On post-processing:

  • I edit in Lightroom ($10/mo license). ~90% of the time I only touch the highlights and shadows sliders (lightening shadows and darkening sky); ~10% of the time I'll also touch the white and black sliders. Night photos are more involved.
  • I never use Photoshop. OK, I've done it like twice fooling around with star shots, but it's not in my repertoire.
  • Darktable is a free alternative to Lightroom, but it's only available on Linux and Mac.

I've been so impressed with the a6000, and with my extra time off this year, I just got a Sony a7ii full-frame mirrorless camera with a 16-35mm lens so I can shoot wider angle and night shots, but the a6000 has a spot in my climbing gear.