Compact 28mm equiv for rock climbing?
I did a search but it didn't come up with a whole lot..

I don't own a digital camera, and I've been looking to buy a compact (or ultracompact) camera for rock climbing. I've noticed from using friends' cameras that a wider angle makes shot composition a lot easier..

I've read through loads of reviews and I've noticed that:.

-most compact cameras (especially Panasonic) have issues with image quality, specifically noise at ISO 200 and greater-image stabilisation is a must.

Pretending for a moment that the world was perfect, I'd like something with a 28mm equiv. lens, good image quality, good battery life, good lowlight performance, and relatively good durability (I don't plan on dropping it, but it might get)..

Thus far the best I've come up with is the Canon SD870IS. The review mentions that it has exposure issues in shots with bright sunlight and deep shadows. Unfortunately this happens a lot while climbing..

Is there anything with better image quality and/or lowlight performance?..

Comments (6)

Apart from that little Canon I don't think you will find anything with 28mm more suitable that also comes with a viewfinder. You will need a viewfinder to facilitate one-handed use where it can brace against your goggles/nose for more stability, and also so that you can see the image in bright light. (LCDs often wash out and need to be shaded in bright ambient light, and fiddling around trying to see compromises the shot opportunity especially if already pre-occupied with climbing or other considerations.).

There is however this Ricoh GR with a prime 28mm equivalent lens, and you can attach an accessory viewfinder to the top of the camera. Note that it does not zoom..


Dynamic range (problematic blown highlights and blacks without detail) is always going to be a problem with cameras with small sensors. The best solution would be to take a film camera and scan the negatives. The next best thing would be one of the modern DSLRs that optimises dynamic range..

Practically all you can do with an ultra compact is to bracket the shots and either pick the best one or combine them later in Photoshop or; if shot on a support, use HDR software to post-process..

John.Please visit me at:

Comment #1

Consider the Sigma DP1..

It has the 28mm (equivalent) that you asked for. Image quality is probably better than any other compact, due to the larger sensor used. This sensor has particular benefits in low light..

My only doubts are that it may be a little heavier than you might want for rock-climbing (250g versus 155g for the Canon you mentioned - both without battery) ..

One of the features you asked for is Image Stabilisation. I'm not so sure this is important. Mostly stabilisation is more important / effective at longer (telephoto) focal lengths. At 28mm it might not be necessary at all. At any rate you have the option to increase the ISO to allow faster shutter speeds and reduce the risk of camera shake.Regards,Peter..

Comment #2


Thanks for all the info. It looks like image quality will always be an issue in compacts, in one way or another, and that's just something I'll have to live with if I want an automatic, small P&S. I'd think about getting more manual controls but most of the time you really only have one hand free and your attention isn't really on getting the best shot unless another party is hauling you up the route..

How much of a difference would 25mm equiv versus 28 make? I noticed Panasonic is releasing some cameras with lenses that go all the way down to 25mm..

I was thinking IS would be useful because often times it is super awkward to brace the camera against your face (sunglasses, hats, helmets, hoods, etc), or it is impossible to see your subject (e.g. shooting around rock prows, trees, over the sides of ledges)...

Comment #3

Ooo, I just saw the S80I know it's about three years old now, but it looks a little more fully-featured than the 870, and perhaps less awkward to hold...

Comment #4

You'd need a camera with a flip and twist LCD for shooting over edges and round corners like my Fuji 9600/9100. Unfortunately it is as big as a DSLR, though not impossible when clambering over rocks as there is no lens changing. No IS on it either though they have put it on the newly released Fuji S100FS..

Image stabilisation will be useful for one-handed shots, though not as useful as you might imagine. Remember, you can often brace the camera against a rock for stability..

How useful might wider wide angle be? Very... but real wide angle starts at 18mm - in 35mm camera terms - (12mm for APS DSLR). I had a 24 in my film camera days and it didn't get as much use as the 18..

I still think the small Canon 870 might do what you want. After all it's 2003 predecessor took this the other day in a gale:.

Image control:Zoom outZoom 100%Zoom inExpand AllOpen in new window.

John.Please visit me at:

Comment #5

Check out

Some of his work has been in all the big climbing mags over the last 10 years.. I knew him in high school...

My personal carry when I don't want the dSLR's, is the Canon A550 - it is only 35-140 equivalent, but good for walkarounds... and compact, has a real zooming VF.. haven't used it when climbing though...

Some thoughts...

If you are taking 'we were there' type shots and 'nice move' etc, a compact (any) will fill the bill - whether 35mm, 28mm or 20mm equivalent on the WA... often, the best shooting points are not from the belay station, but from partway up the climb..

.. yes, I do climb, mostly indoors these days, but living in Vancouver, my proximity to Squamish and the seashore has allowed many opportunities for long climbs (still working up to the stawamus chief!) and bouldering...

A small dSLR such as the Canon 350D/XT or the Nikon D40/40x with a prime 20mm lens (32-30mm equivalent) would stand you in good capability - speaking for the XT, put the Canon 10-22 or a third-party similar on it and you have a great UWA to WA zoom that works well in the type of work you would be doing - heavier than a compact, but less than a dozen carabiners (which you will carry anyway with pro..!).

The compacts will compromise you severely at ISO's over 100.. these are great in bright sun, but not so good on the overcast days... and you will *always* see the digital noise, even at the low ISO's - if getting the shot matters more than quality of the shot, pick the one which feels good in your hand (sweaty, dirty, freezing) and allows easy one-hand operation.. otherwise, think about a dSLR and a couple lenses and a larger climbing party so you can get into the interesting positions....

Cheers,S.**My XT IS Full Frame APS-C/FF of course!*****So is my 5D 35mm/FF**..

Comment #6

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