Antarctica for a first-timer, gear questions!

Hi everyone.

A friend recently asked me to assist him to purchase a camera for trip to Antarctica this December. It will be his first time there and also he does not know how to operate a camera. He wants to photograph landscapes and wildlife. I’m hoping to help him purchase a weather sealed camera body and lens along with any additional gear so that he may capture images for his trip.

I haven’t been there before, and am hoping to do a bit of research on my end to assist him and also would be so helpful to get feedback on gear and personal experiences of those who have traveled there.

With all that in mind, any recommendations on a camera system that’s weather sealed with solid ibis? I was thinking the fuji xt4.
Thoughts on tripod, filters, dry bag?

Does not know how to operate a camera…really? Is he planning to learn or to wing it entirely and end up frustrated with bad photos? I think the first step is to get something…anything into his hands and learn the basics of the type of shots he wants to get. I’d recommend any camera that shows an approximation of the final photo on the viewfinder and back screen. Panasonic calls this Constant Preview. That way he might recognize a good or bad exposure and then dial in a correction.

One of the Panasonic bridge cameras might be the best way to go or a Sony (Lumix FZ300 maybe or Sony RX10 IV). No lenses to change, good optics and zoom range and I think both companies offer weather sealed options. No shame in putting it in Program and doing some exposure compensation. One unit and not a lot to keep track of or manage in a group of other people, an exciting event or in bad weather.

Lowe Pro does a nice backpack drybag that should be more than up to the task. I wouldn’t go accessory crazy except for batteries, lens cleaning supplies, memory cards and a polarizing filter. If he’s really keen maybe a compact, but robust tripod. Keeping it simple sounds less stressful to me for the non-photographer.

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I’ve always wanted to photograph Antarctica but the cost is too prohibitive. I always thought that a tripod would be of little use on such a trip for landscape images because you’re always shooting from a boat - either inflatable or the mother ship. My favorite images are of floating icebergs. I would make sure the camera and tools are equipped for shooting those. Maybe a tripod would be effective if shot with a high iso.

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Stress how when shooting a snow and ice filled landscape it can be underexposed and how to resolve this. Maybe set the camera to auto exposure bracketing +/-1.5 stops. It will help if they understand and use the histogram. Good luck.

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Hi Kristen. Thanks so much for your feedback and advice! I’ll certainly keep your recommendations in mind. Yes, he’s never operated a camera so I’m sure not what his comfort level would be when he is there with camera in hand, might be a different story. I’ve also given it the thought to simplify it further by potentially recommending for him to pick up a set of mobile phone lens like those made by “Moment”. I used to own a set of those mobile lens and they were very fun and easy to use. He’s best friends with my girlfriend and she has also expressed to me that it may be easier for him with a simple set-up - he’ll be too busy enjoying the trip and may not photograph as much. We’re supposed to be going over all this next month together, see how it goes. :pray:

Hi Igor! Thanks for your feedback and thoughts of photographing Antartica. I would love to have that experience too one day, it’s a very expensive trip!! Just imagining what’s out there certainly one can dream. :slight_smile:

I’ve never photographed on a vessel or boat before, but it’s good to know a tripod may not of much use. That also sparks the question for me - what could some other challenges be when trying to photograph on a float vessel? I watched a video where Thomas Heaton was trying to do a long exposure on a canoe. He had a GFX50R on a tripod and was able to capture an ok image that wasn’t as sharp as he would like. He did later mention that if he instead used his other camera with IBIS, that he would have probably gotten a better capture. It’s helpful to keep these things in mind.

Here’s that video if you were interested or you may have already seen it if you also follow him on Youtube.


Hi Grhen. Thanks for this solid advice and feedback! I think this will be very helpful and useful for him! :pray:

Several years ago there were threads in Luminous Landscapes about equipment in Antarctica:

Thanks so much for this share!!

They latest & best iPhone, and get it now so there is time for plenty of practice.

Sorry, just catching up to this. I was in Antarctic just before the world closed in 2020. Was on a 65-foot sailboat for 12 days. If he is not comfortable with a camera, he will be even LESS so with a tripod. And frankly, you sometimes have more control by NOT being on the tripod when you’re on a vehicle that moves. Truly, I think he would likely do just as well with a good quality iPhone as anything else, since for him it will be entirely documentary shooting. And most people know how to operate a phone cam. If not that, I personally have a Samsung S22, and I often turn to its wide angle capability over my camera in outdoor situations. Their wide angle is outstanding. I almost always use my phone for making videos in these kinds of places, and you can’t look at a penguin without wanting to make a video of it LOL. I certainly made sure to have the phone with me, along with my camera, any time we got off the boat. I would suggest he put one of those knobs on the back that will allow him to hold it. Moving situation, cold hands, freezing water just you wouldn’t wanna drop it! I’m a Panasonic Lumix fan, and their bridge cameras are great, and I would normally suggest that, but more for someone who is a photographic enthusiast. But, again, if he’s not at all comfortable with a camera, why start now? Once he’s on that boat is NOT the time to be figuring it out. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to see what he’s going to see; he shouldn’t be busy studying a manual in order to look back on it later.

As to gear - he is going in December which is Antarctic “spring”. Full disclosure…I’m Canadian so I’m somewhat acclimatized to cold, damp weather LOL. Not sure where you guys live, so I don’t know what his cold tolerance is. Most days were 3 layer days - long johns/base layer, fleece and a waterproof jacket. Some days were 4 layers - an extra jacket between the fleece and the waterproof layer. The ultralite down jackets are a miracle. My hands are used to cold, but good wind and waterproof gloves will help. Mittens are ALWAYS warmer than gloves, but don’t give you as much control when handling a camera. Hat is a must; you lose a lotta heat through your head. While on the boat - do remember you’re always on freezing cold water, and that does transmit to a boat hull, so good socks and warm footwear is a given. Boots should have a really good solid tread. Dry bag for carrying anything between boat and zodiacs. I highly recommend anything made by Outdoor Research - you will find that a lotta folks who do Arctic (or Antarctic) travel swear by their stuff. For good reason. Hope this helps, wishing him an outstanding trip. It is an amazing and breathtaking landscape.

I agree with the others who recommended not bringing a tripod. Any land excursions will be in the daytime with good light. Money spent on the best IBIS he can afford would be a better option.