Monday 15 May 2023

Photography Post: New camera, lens & accessories

New camera and lens

Since 2016 the Sony a6000 has been my main camera and it has been excellent. It’s been on every walk since I bought it and has taken many thousands of photos - 42,244 according to Lightroom and that of course doesn’t include deletions. However it is beginning to show its age and has developed a few quirks, most annoyingly it changes settings and opens menus at random. My half dozen batteries are fading too, only taking half the pictures they used to before needing recharging. They never lasted long anyway and on anything longer than a day walk I always carried four of them. Pondering this I decided I needed a new camera and new batteries. That was some time ago and the camera quirks have got more pronounced and the battery lives shorter. Rather than ponder I decided to actually do something and started looking for a replacement for the a6000.

Now since the a6000 was launched in 2014 there have been five successors in the a6xxx series, though none since 2019. Looking through the specs of these five cameras one stood out, the a6600. It is heavier than the a6000 – 503 grams rather than 344 grams but it has a much bigger battery meant to last over twice as long so I shouldn’t need to carry so many spares. The a6600 also has two other advantages – a flip-up mirror for selfies and vlogging (this might encourage me to do more videos!) and built-in stabilisation, useful for non-stabilised lenses. There are plenty of second-had ones available and I’ve bought one in excellent condition from MPB, a company I’ve used before for both buying and selling and who I’ve found reliable with great service.

Sony a6600 & Sony E 11mm lens

Along with the camera I bought, new but on sale, a Sony E 11mm F1.8 lens. This replaces the Samyang 12mm F2 lens I’ve had since 2015 which I’m selling. Now the Samyang is a good lens and I’ve taken some great night shots with it, which is the reason I bought it. However it’s a fully manual lens with no electronic connections to the camera. This means no autofocus, which the Sony 11mm has, though this isn’t a huge deal in an ultra-wide-angle lens, but also no record of settings. I’ve recently been using DxO Photolab 6 and DxO Deep Prime for processing raw files (more on this in future posts) and have found the results superb. Having lens information is crucial for this. DxO has a huge database of cameras and lens but this can’t cover non-electronic lenses like the Samyang that provide no information. The Sony 11mm is recognised by DxO.

The next two weeks I’ll be out camping in the hills with the Sony a6600 and the Sony 11mm lens. I’ll find out just how long the camera battery lasts and when I’m home just what results I can get from images taken with the 11mm lens in DxO software. I hope I’m not disappointed on either count!

Peak Designs

I’ve also been trying out some products from innovative camera accessories company Peak Design, namely the Capture Camera Clip, the Leash, and the Travel Tripod.

Capture Clip plate attached to camera base

The Capture Clip is a two-part device that lets you carry your camera securely on a rucksack strap or a belt and access it almost instantly. Now I’ve always carried my camera in a padded bag slung across my body which gives reasonably quick access whilst providing protection against rain or knocks. I really wasn’t sure how I would like having the camera hanging free.

Capture Clip in place

The Capture Clip consists of a plate that screws onto the base of the camera and a two-part Clip that fastens round the strap with two screws, total weight 84 grams. The plate slides into the clip and immediately locks into place. I tried it with my biggest and heaviest camera and lens combination – the Sony a6600 with Sony E 70-350mm lens – which weighs 1.2kg and it felt very secure on a walk over rough boggy ground where I was lurching around a great deal. It also felt comfortable and once I was used to finding and pressing the release button I could have the camera to my eye far faster than when removing it from a bag.I also tried it with the a6600 and lighter Sony E 18-135 lens (863 grams total) and this was also fine.

Sony a6600 & Sony E 18-135 lens attached to the Capture Clip

Of course the Capture Clip gives no protection against rain or knocks so I would still carry a waterproof camera bag for use in rain or when scrambling. How useful the Capture Clip will be for multi-day backpacking I’ll find out on my forthcoming trip.

Peak Designs Leash

On first attaching my camera to the Capture Clip I immediately discovered that the dangling camera strap was a nuisance. As I rarely actually use a camera strap I’ve always stuck with those that come with the camera. These however are hard to remove and hard to adjust. The one with the Sony a6600 does have quick release buckles so most of the strap can be easily removed but this still leaves fairly long pieces of webbing with chunky buckles hanging down in the way. To solve this I bought a Peak Design Leash. This is a brilliant strap. It attaches to the camera with tiny anchors that can be released very quickly and which are then barely noticeable, and it is very easy to adjust. I might finally start using a camera strap quite often.

Peak Designs Travel Tripod alongside the Sony a6600 with 70-350mm lens

Along with the Capture Clip Peak Design also loaned me an aluminium Travel Tripod. This is also brilliant, the best tripod I have ever used. But it’s also the heaviest at 1.56kg – there is a carbon-fibre version but that still weighs 1.29kg. The tripod I’ve used for many years, a now battered Velbon V-Pod weighs 281 grams. When I wrote about tripods for backpacking back in 2017 I gave one at 396 grams as the heaviest I’d consider as a replacement for the V-Pod.

Sony a6600 with 70-350mm lens on the Peak Design Travel Tripod

The Peak Design Travel Tripod is superbly designed. It’s very compact for the size, fast to set up, and easy to use. A camera fitted with the Capture Clip plate can be slid onto the ball head very quickly. I took the tripod on the same walk as the Capture Clip and set it up on a breezy summit. It easily supported my camera with 70-350 zoom lens – a combination that’s too heavy for the V-pod but then I’d never take that lens backpacking. If the weight doesn’t matter this is a brilliant tripod. I’d love Peak Design to make an ultralight version.

Just Mobile Shutter Grip 2

Using a smartphone for more serious photography and especially for videos over the last year I quickly came up against the limitations of trying to hold it securely and without my fingers getting in the image so I looked for a clamp with a shutter button to make this easy. The first one I bought was inexpensive and did make using the phone easier. It only had one position though. Then I discovered the Shutter Grip 2. This is another brilliant accessory. It not only provides a solid handle with a wireless shutter button but has a built-in selfie stick and a tripod thread. It can also be used as a phone stand. It weighs just 68 grams and is now something I wouldn’t be without. It really makes a huge difference to smartphone photography.I'll take some pictures of it in use on my next trip.



  1. Hi Chris.
    Interested in the Capture Clip - I too have been pondering how best to carry my SLR to allow easy access but also some protection. 40 years ago SLRs always seemed to come in a case which attached to the body (usually the tripod bush), provided some protection and, most importantly, only needed to be opened to take a picture, rather than needing the camera to be completely removed - which made for quick access but also a degree of protection. I've searched in vain for something along these lines. I don't suppose you're aware of anything like this made these days?

    1. Hi Patrick, I don't of any cases like that I'm afraid. I've used padded cases for years (decades!) and find these easy and fast enough for access.

  2. I have used and enjoyed many of Peak Designs' products, especially the straps and bags. The carbon fiber version of the their tripod has replaced all other tripods for me, and it often comes along. However, I often use a monopod with a light ball head when walking, or just a ball head on my PacerPole, to steady a hand-held camera. Image stabilization also reduces the need to for supports, except for times when you need to take a picture of yourself in camp, etc.! Capture Clip is great, but I find myself using a Shimoda Top Loader or Hyperlite Mountain Gear Camera Pod, which offer more weather and dust protection, not to mention insulation from Arizona sun. I also pack along the Peak Design Shell, which is very light.

    1. Thanks Bill. The Hyperlite Camera Pod looks interesting. I sometimes use a ballhead on a Pacerpole too. My tripod is an ultralight Velbon V-Pod which is fine for my mirrorless aps-c camera as long as it's not very windy.

  3. Matthew Gemmell16 May 2023 at 15:11

    Hi Chris I have been using an a6000 for the last three years and recent bought the Peak Design Capture Clip. I can quickly and easily transfer it from my running rucksack to my trekking rucksack and also the strap of my Peak Design Sling bag. I find it to be very good and keeps the camera stable even when running but especially when walking. I also have tripod heads which match the PD base mount on the camera and it can go straight into my tripod, monopod or mini tripod. I have completely done away with neck straps and have a wrist strap which can clip on and off the camera. An additional use for the wrist strap is that I can loop it through the chest strap of the rucksack giving extra security. In fact when I take a photo I remove the camera from the Capture Clip but it is still attached to the wrist loop and chest strap. I can even mount the camera on my monopod whilst this strap is still in place and take photos or walk. An additional wee safety measure which helps avoid dropping the camera hopefully.

    I love the PD Capture Clip and the base plate never leaves my camera but the clip moves from bag to bag as needed. Not cheap but well worth it.

    1. Thanks Matthew. I'm certainly impressed with the Capture Cip. Since writing the post I've used it on a backpacking trip in rough country and found it very stable.