Swiss Alps Camera: Choosing a lightweight rig for the mountains
Next week I join a group of railway enthusiasts for an excursion to the Bernese Oberland in Switzerland. The family can stay at home, this is real anorak stuff we're discussing here, not for the faint hearted. We wend our way from London to Paris by train, then via Strasbourg to Bern and on to the alpine village of Wengen, nestling under the watchful gaze of the Jungfrau and the daunting north face of the Eiger. We will be spending our time visiting mountain railways and sailing the twin lakes of Thun and Brienz, with a special rail trip to the lofty Jungfraujoch, the Top of Europe at 3,571m above sea level.
I am already very familiar with the area; it has been a frequent haunt over the past 30 years and I've seen it in all seasons: Squelching, boiling, snowing, misting. So I have a fairly good idea of what to expect. And high on expectations is good photography, assuming the notoriously fickle mountain weather can cooperate with adequate visibility.
So what camera(s) to take? As usual, I am making lists and changing my mind up to the last minute. I do admire my friend George James who has but one camera, the Leica M-P, and (currently) uses but one lens, a nifty fifty. Such dedication. And, I have to say, his excellent pictures are all the better for it.
Call me fickle, but I can't resist upping the choice, with the packing angst that comes as a direct result. Further complication comes from the need to try out different cameras and then write about them. The Leica Monochrom is in for review but George, wisely, advises I should not mount a new, relatively unfamiliar steed. And, we both agree, the alps deserve a spot of colour. The alternative, which I have decided on, is the Leica Q. I need to build up the portfolio for a future Macfilos story, so here is the chance to have the one camera, one lens. George, I am sure, would be proud of me. Almost.
But wait a bit. What about all those distant peaks? Won't they be lost in my 28mm wide-angle landscapes? Don't I need something a bit longer? Maybe I will find some willing portrait victims with feathers in their hats? Probably, so into the bag has gone the little Fuji X-T10: It's a featherweight and doesn't make much much difference to the overall load.
To accompany it I did consider the versatile 18-135 zoom but I finally settled on minimalism in the shape of the the 56mm f/1.2 prime. It is my favourite X system lens, isn't too heavy and handles well. Taking two cameras, with no temptation to change lenses, does have its advantages over one camera and a bagful of lenses.
So, in these lightweight cameras I have a choice between two great primes, the f/1.7 28mm (easily cropable to 35mm or 50mm) on the Leica and the longer 85mm on the Fuji. Decisions made, all packed.