Never Take a Toy Camera to the Tour de France

Tour for Kika

Last Sunday I planned to shoot the pros as they circled the Champs Elysees but after a brief scout decided there was no easy way to get a good sight line down the fast side with the barriers pushed back at least 6 feet from the course. Accreditation seemed unlikely even if I could figure out where the media center was, so I decided to dump my gear at the hotel and forget about the race. Later as Juli and I walked around we discovered the team celebrations on the Champs were still underway, and all I had with me was the Canon G9. I tried to shoot a couple of images of AC and Astana but laughed at the results because of the glacial shutter lag.

That was amusing but when Frank and Andy Schleck both stopped two feet in front of me to embrace and greet friends, I really was caught with my pants down. I managed one passable portrait and resolved never to walk around with a toy camera again on a trip where I had my real gear with me (my shoulder be damned). One of these days the camera makers are going to give us something portable with the shooting performance of a DSLR.

18 Responses to Never Take a Toy Camera to the Tour de France

  1. Dan H says:

    Hi Michael,

    It’s amazing how the shoe is on the other foot for you in this situation. Welcome to my world of photography! If only the majority of the visitors to here had the skill and opportunity to both take and share fantastic images as you do, on this occasion you are in our position!

    The Kika tour has been great to follow as you have updated us all, what and where to next?

    II’m giving you prior warning, I’ll be picking your brains via e-mail shortly ;-)

    As always many thanks,

  2. Jon Moss says:

    Well, that’s still a great shot Michael :-) Pants down indeed, we’ve all been there!

  3. Nice portrait! I fully agree with your resolution. I have an IXUS 100 (PowerShot SD780 IS ELPH), but use it mostly as a pocket camera while riding, and drag around the D300 as much as possible.

  4. Wes says:

    I love that a G9 is a “toy camera”. I was expecting a Holga or something. :)

    Have you used any micro 4:3 cameras? Still not the same as an SLR, obviously, but a huge improvement (imo) over any point and shoots. I love my GF1! With the fast prime lens it’s a great walk-around camera. It beats always lugging around an SLR setup.

    • The “toy” designation is a little unfair but in the approximately 30 seconds Andy was standing there I’d have shot at least 20 tack sharp images with my 1D4 if I’d kept it with me. The micro 4:3 cameras might be great but I can’t see investing in another system at this point. It’s the shutter lag that just kills the point-and-shoots. You see an expression, press the button and capture something else entirely.

  5. Clyde says:

    Micro 4/3s is certainly a better option than any old-school point-n-shoot. Seems like a no-brainer…except you have to figure out the best configuration for you.

  6. Wes says:

    Yeah, I’m a casual shooter (though with a few published images), so I’m more than happy with just the GF1 + 20/1.7. I love shooting fast primes, so this is a great package in a (relatively) small package. I got tired of lugging around my SLR, especially on rides. The GF1 will even fit in a jersey pocket in a pinch, although that’s not ideal. :) I don’t really feel like I invested in a new ‘system’ per se since I’m quite content to stick with that one relatively fast, normal (40mm equiv) lens with the body. Otherwise I was lugging around the SLR for when I wanted to focus on photography and otherwise toting around a slow little Canon digital Elph.

  7. PK says:

    The best camera is the one that you have. I also believe in karma – what if you had your pro gear with you would you be at this spot at this moment and capture this great portrait? My guess is no – because you would be busy with what was your original objective.

  8. Hank says:

    Get a Leica M9 with the new 35/1.4. Image quality equal to a pro DSLR with a tiny size (but big cost)

  9. Henry says:

    If you want pro DSLR quality in a small package get a Leica M9. Great image quality, superb fast lenses, small size but unfortunately very big price.

  10. My walk about is the 5D 11 with the 20mm Voigtlander lens, small package quite light without the battery box and you know the quality.


    20-20 hindsight of course.

  11. Dave Wyman says:

    Once in a while – a great while – I like using my little Rollei 35. It’s definitely not a toy.

    There’s no shutter lag, it features zone focusing (yes, that’s a feature), it doesn’t need a battery, there is no lens diffraction at f/22, it’s 40mm lens is fairly fast and, um, oh yeah, it uses film, which means gratification must be delayed.

    Yes, it’s incredibly out-dated, but sometimes less can be more.

    What an awesome trip you had!

  12. Jason C. says:

    Been there, done that… but like PK stated, who knows? In any event, I think you snagged a incredible image of a Champion…

    Love your site/blog, soon to be a regular visit for me.

    Thanks for your great work and reviews.


  13. Juan says:

    One day we will have it all in a small size but the time has not yet come. And while the M9 is a great option, it costs as much as a very decent steed and that is too much (for me) for a second camera. From the current available options I would try the Canon S90 on the (c) custom setting that you would set for your street photography needs. Great quality for a very pocketable camera that is with you during those times when Andy gets in front of you unexpectedly.

  14. Don says:

    Starting to understand your displeasure with point and shoot shutter lag. My Leica D-Lux 3 takes great photos when you can find what you’re shooting. Please don’t move. I may need to upgrade.

  15. David says:

    Guys, you’re worrying about the camera weight, which wasn’t Michael’s issue when leaving his hotel that day. The issue was how uncomfortable he was going to be carrying around a camera, and he decided to take a light camera for that reason.

    You may have seen the rstrap ( that allows you to carry around a camera in comfort. I’m not a rep for them, and in fact I wasn’t impressed with how they executed their concept, but there are many examples online of people who made their own version (do a google search for ‘build your own rstrap’ to see). I made one using stuff from and it’s stellar. I can carry as heavy a camera as I like all day, and even run in it with two hands free.

    Michael, take a look at rstrap’s site, and let me know if you’d like to see photos of mine. They’re so simple to build, you could do it in an hour.

    That said, it was a pretty stellar picture you took anyway!

    • Thanks David. Finding the right carrying system (I’ve got several) is so important. When I decided to dump my gear at the hotel I probably should have kept one body and a 50mm lens with me. I just figured I wouldn’t see any cycling for the remainder of the day. It was one of two or three times during the month when I left my cameras elsewhere and regretted it. I’ll take a look at those links, thanks