image of four small black cameras on a patchwork quilt

Running With Cameras

I love photography and I love running. I am just now getting back into shape after a longer-than-I-thought break from running. Most of the time, because I am covering very short distances from home as I stumble and wheeze into fitness, I don’t bring anything with me, other than a house key tied to my shoelace. Occasionally, I do want to bring a camera with me and if, and when, I run longer distances, I want to keep track of the progress and scenery or for the interesting and mundane along the way. Mostly, though, I just thought it would be fun to combine two of my favorite things. Up until now, I have mostly run sans camera except for a couple of monumental races: running with a dear friend and my niece in costumes of feather boas and plastic tiaras at the Bolder Boulder 10K, taking shots of the novelty of running in costume and also in the novelty of a new-to-me-my-first-digital-camera in the late aughts, and then a few years ago, I ran a marathon (so far my only one) and used my phone to take photos of the crowd at the start line and a few snaps along the route to document the life-long dream.

three women in blue and white shirts with tiaras and pink and white feather boas with lots of people in the background in a running finish line studio photo

backs of lots of people's head at the starting line of a race clouds, trees, and early sky visible in background of photo

Figuring out which camera to take with me on daily runs is not unlike figuring out what camera to take on a day trip or a longer vacation. Pros make decisions around which cameras and lenses to bring for shoots, based on clients, subjects, and conditions among many factors, I imagine. Anytime we bring along a camera and if there are choices, we consider what we’re taking photos of, the weight and space of the camera and lenses, the environment, and even the medium.

For running short distances around my neighborhood at this beginning stage of fitness, I want something light. Frankly, even at longer distances or runs to more scenic spots, I still want something light. I don’t want a camera on the run to be my strength training. I am not doing video, and I really don’t want footage (ooh, that’s a good running photography pun) of me running, so I don’t need, nor do I possess, an action camera. I take photos with film and digital and instant, but I can’t imagine where or how I would hold a sweaty instant photo, so that leaves film and digital. I want something small. Every camera I own fits into the small and relatively light category. Even my DSLRs and SLRs are on the petite side when paired with small lenses, but I can’t really imagine whipping out the Nikon D40 on a run. That thought does make me giggle, though.

I want something fairly simple. I am not a multi-tasker. If I am taking photos on a run, that’s a bit of a misnomer. I will be stopping to take the photo, and probably gasping for air as I do so. With that in mind, I still want something easy to use. I mostly run in residential neighborhoods, on sidewalks and occasional roadsides, tracks, and trails, so I want something durable, not precious or too expensive, if I accidentally drop it. There’s the obvious choice of bringing my phone, which I will do (sometimes), but there’s still the fun of having a camera. There aren’t a lot of great pockets in my running clothes, so I will mostly be holding the camera in my hand. More and more this points me to, well point and shoot cameras. Luckily, I already have these cameras in both film and digital forms.

sidewalk with small grey and white feather

Last summer, I had a fleeting thought that I would buy cheap cameras and then resell them, so I took a chance on a couple of cheap camera lots in online auctions and ended up with a couple of boxes of mostly junk that I dropped off for electronics recycling (nothing even cool to save for camera tinkerers). I kept the good cameras and realized I needed to put aside the shortly-held dream of being a camera reseller (maybe a story for another time). In addition to some cute and cheap little film point and shoots, I did end up with a lovely working digital point and shoot: a Lumix SZ7. It’s smaller than a deck of cards and fits in the palm of my hand. It’s completely automatic and when the strap is looped around my wrist, I really can take one-handed shots. Every once in a while, the lens cover doesn’t completely close or open, but it’s easy to guide it closed with the tip of my finger when it does stick. I am not a pixel peeper, so I don’t care that it has a tiny sensor, but I do enjoy that it has a fairly wide field of view on the short end of the lens. The camera may not be rugged, but I am not too worried about it and I have gotten some fairly decent shots (for me) in my dog walks and ambles around the neighborhood, so I think it’s up to the task for my running jaunts.

I also chose another small digital camera to take with me occasionally. This one I bought in the winter of 2020, because I wanted a little waterproof camera that I could take out in the winter or to play with underwater. When I looked up the price of newer waterproof cameras, I almost choked, and immediately went and found a cheap older one online that someone was selling because they didn’t use it anymore, a Fuji XP50 for $30. It’s tiny and about the same size as the SZ7. This one says it’s water, shock, dust, and freeze proof and I believe it. I have tested it out in the water and when I bought it, it stayed for hours in my mailbox on a below freezing day, and as soon as I opened up the package and put the battery in, it powered on right away. I figure this will be perfect for longer runs, or if it rains, or just when I am super sweaty, and it will likely survive if I accidentally drop it.

two metal turquoise chairs with grass, dirt, and weeds on ground, and background of wooden fence

Now, I also want to sometimes bring a film camera. So, I have a couple of options here: one is the Vivitar IC101, a little plastic fantastic with the fake panorama mask that I adore. It’s light and easy to hold, no flash or batteries to worry about, and there is even a little sliding lens door cover that prevents me from taking shots when it is closed. When I want to be a little more sophisticated with my photography on the run, I have a little Olympus Infinity Stylus Zoom. Yeah, I know it has some super expensive siblings (those Mjus with the prime lens), but I was excited to find this a couple of years ago on a $20 untested-online-buy-it-now gamble. I have put a few rolls through it, and it’s also my frugal film project camera, and the clamshell fits perfectly in my hand. Again, that little clamshell cover will prevent me from accidentally taking errant shots. The little 35-70mm zoom is also nice for some everyday variety. These little Olympus cameras were all touted for their weather and water resistance, so it gives me a little reassurance that it will be somewhat sweat proof.

picture of outside basketball goal and background with shadow on a grey concrete playground with winter trees and houses in background, sunny day with blue skey

grey sidewalk with shadows of metal curves and birds, with a tiny bit of grass at bottom of frame

So, there it is. Four cameras for running photography, or for on-the-run photography. Yeah, it’s an abundance of options, when just one camera would do the trick. To be clear, I only run with one camera at a time, but sometimes it’s nice to have choices. I can see where it might be fun to take one shot a day with one of the film cameras, or one photo per kilometer or something, but for now since I’m really huffing and puffing, and I don’t want to restrict or make the running photography complicated, it’s just stop and take photos when I need or want, or maybe as a way to disguise my stopping to breathe as a photo moment. Here’s to running and photography and stopping to breathe in the beauty along the way.

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About The Author

14 thoughts on “Running With Cameras”

  1. I don’t run but do hike and walk quite a bit with my wife. I attach my XF27mmF2.8 R WR pancake lens to my X-T3, and voila, I have a lightweight (body+camera is 623g) compact digital. I love it. My wife gets annoyed that I constantly stop to capture a photo.

    1. Khürt, that sounds like a great set up! Lightweight with a good camera and prime is ideal. I do admire a pancake lens. I scrolled through your photos on your blog, beautiful pictures. Thanks for sharing the link. I’ve bookmarked it so I can read more later. Yes, those spouses and friends who accompany a photographer when they’re getting a great photo do get annoyed, don’t they? I always like to say they get a moment to enjoy the scenery while we’re noodling around for the photos. 😉 Thanks for reading and commenting!

  2. Great article!

    While a bit off-topic, I bought a boxed, almost new Lumix DMC-ZS8 – which is almost identical in size to your SZ7 – off the ‘Bay for US$35 and then modified it to shoot full spectrum. With an appropriate filter screwed into a filter ring I super-glued to the lens, I’m able to shoot true infrared, (72A filter), true UV, (200-400nm Kolari filter. A bit pricy, but passes only UV), or visible spectrum, (cut filter replacing the one removed in the mod). The results have been spectacular and have added a new dimension to my craft!

    I only mention this because of where you run and the access you have to multiple photo opportunities. Many think that Infrared and UV photography is costly, when in fact, it doesn’t have to be. The camera modification was simple to perform and took only an hour or so to complete. You can find an instructional video on YT if interested.

    1. Dan, that’s so cool and it’s perfectly on topic since we all love photography and cameras!! It’s so funny that you mentioned this, because last summer, I bought a used ir converted Lumix ZS35 for $100 off Mercari. I bought it from someone who didn’t know anything about it, but the camera was in great shape and came with extra batteries and a charger. I have taken it around a bit. I didn’t mention this camera in the group above, because I don’t know what conversion was done (and I’m not sure how to tell, since it’s internal) and I still have so much to learn about infrared photography. That’s so cool that you did your own conversion. It would be fun to do your own conversion! Very tempting! In fact, you’ve convinced me to try this! Thanks for sharing! Have you written about it for 35mmc? If not, please do!! And you’re so right, that the conversion doesn’t have to be costly. That’s actually a great note for photography in general, there are always great ways to make things cheaper and more accessible. Thanks for reading and commenting!!

  3. Hi Kary!

    I picked up a ZS7 for a loonie two years ago. It’s a great little camera, with fantastic lens. At least I think so. I bike a lot, and the little Lumix fits into my zipped pocket for shots I see riding the Bow River Pathway system here in Calgary. I also take it on rambles in the mountains. Any of my cheap, plastic point-and-shoot film cameras are fair game, for the same – as long as they fit in my pocket! I’ve been using a cheap (free!) Yashica that has three shots left on a roll of 36. I hope to present my “findings” here, soon. But seeing and reading about the ZS7 – even on a film site – was a morning treat!

    1. Hi, James! I want to buy a camera in Canada, just so I can say it picked it up for a loonie! 🙂 I think we actually have two different, but very similar cameras! I had to look them up and yep, there’s both a ZS7 and an SZ7! Looks like they were released within six months of each other and look very similar in size and lens scope. You get the vaunted ccd sensor methinks! Anyway, it is so great to have a small camera to take with you and your pathway system in Calgary sounds lovely! Can’t wait to see your findings on the Yashica! Yeah, it might be blasphemy that I mention digital cameras on this site, but I remember reading that over the years 35mmc has grown to include all kinds of photography, so you could also share your digital adventures, too!! Thanks for reading and commenting! 🙂

  4. Really enjoyed reading this. I just sold a little Panasonic Lumix and now you have made me wonder why I did… well I was trying to do what you wanted to do and not really making anything out of it. Thinking of the size shape and capabilities of the Lumix… yep selling it was a mistake. This weeks project is playing with a crazy analogue 80s Minolta AFZ that as also an easy carry. My problem is can’t leave home with just one camera ever. Great article, thanks.

    1. Paul, I apologize for the late reply to your comment! Oh, I feel your camera selling regret! That’s a bummer. I am fairly new to the joys of those lovely little Lumix cameras, and you’re right, they’re quite good in terms of size, shape, and capability. I feel so lucky with this one, having found one in a camera lot purchase that was mostly a bust, except for it. Hope you can find something else that fits the bill! Playing with a Minolta AFZ sounds fun! I had to look it up and found a fun article by Hamish! I really love all things Minolta, they really produced some wonderful and fun cameras, and maybe it’s because I can remember the “Only from the minds of Minolta” tagline and lament that they aren’t around anymore just adds to the love. Have fun with whatever camera, and hope you’ll share your Minolta AFZ adventures on 35mmc! Cheers!

  5. I run and also hike quite a lot. I always carry my iPhone but like you prefer to also take a compact camera.

    When running I take a Canon S95. It’sa lovely tiny little thing that has really nice controls and will shoot in raw and full manual if you want to. It easily fits in a pair of trail shorts pocket so very easy to take on each run.
    The results are high quality considering its size

    For hiking I can increase the size a bit. The lightest and most compact will be my Dony RX100 v. Or step it up with my fujifilm xe3 with tt artisan 25mm.

    1. Hi Shaun, sorry for the late reply! I completely missed replying to your comment! I just looked up the Canon S95! Gotta love a small camera that will also give you manual controls and raw files. You’re right, when hiking a larger camera isn’t so bad. I’ve heard good things about both of your Sony and your Fuji. Would love to see some of your running/hiking photos! Consider an article for 35mmc, please! Happy trails and happy photography! 🙂

  6. I have been going through a similar thought process recently. I ran my first running event last Saturday (a half marathon cross country through the Peak District). I had my phone with me but really wish I had a small point and shoot film camera in my running vest. I think I might find a Rollei 35 as they are small, simple, beautiful and my grandad shot all his family holiday slides on one back in the day. I’d need a little waterproof pouch for it.

    I’m tempted by the Olympus here though!

    Great article, I’ll do a 5 frames when I have made a decision and taken it out for it’s first run.

    1. Hi Rob, I apologize for the late reply and late approval of your comment! I somehow missed this! Your half marathon through the Peak District sounds lovely, congrats on running it! A Rollei would be great for runs, and significant since it runs (pardon the pun) in your family! A little waterproof pouch sounds like a great addition! The Olympus has been a nice accompaniment on runs. I was lucky I found this one so cheaply! Apparently any rare relation to the Mju ii can make them pricey, but with patience and luck, I hope you find one! Can’t wait to read your 5 frames article!

      I think it would be fun to use a roll of 24 exposure roll of film on a marathon run and hope for a bonus one or two extra shots, a shot for each mile. I’m not quite there yet, mileage wise, but something to work toward, both physically and photographically. Looking forward to your article and to see what you end up choosing! Happy running! Thanks for the comment!

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