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Advice? Light Beginner Travel Kit -- zoom + prime or two primes?

Discussion in 'Native Lenses' started by wibblywobbly, Oct 16, 2014.

  1. wibblywobbly

    wibblywobbly New to Mu-43

    Oct 16, 2014
    Hi everyone!

    I've been reading quite a few threads here the past few weeks to get acquainted with the micro four thirds system and I've learned so much! You are all so helpful! This will be my first foray into the non-P&S camera world, so as you can imagine, I could use a lot of advice :redface: So a little bit about myself: I'm planning on traveling for a 3-4 months next year before starting grad school, and since I'm pretty new to photography, I thought I'd get a head start in learning and practicing before leaving.

    I'll be going for the EM10 in terms of the body, but while I know I want a compact setup that's compatible with student-budget backpacking (i.e. cheap hostels, all luggage with me at all times, etc), I'm completely torn on how to approach the lenses. I'm taking a gap year and living/working in Seoul at the moment, which means while I'm on a budget, it seems most lenses are more affordable here.

    Based on what I've read so far, I've narrowed down my choices to these:
    14-42mm EZ ($200 -- same price whether in kit or not)
    12-32mm ($225)
    17/1.8 ($350)
    25/1.8 ($375)
    45/1.8 ($250)

    My budget is around $1000, and given the EM10 goes for $520 here, I have room to buy two lenses. So here are the options I've thought through:
    1. Compact zoom + 45/1.8 since the longer focal length isn't included in the zoom range.
    2. Compact zoom + 17/1.8 since the "normal" lens will be more useful in every day shooting and to practice with.
    3. Body + two primes (most likely 17/1.8 and 45/1.8) since I'll probably want to transition to a set of primes in the future anyways.
    4. Other suggestions??

    So the question is, which option, and if option #1 or #2, which compact zoom?

    The reason I've included the 17/1.8 over the 25/1.8 in the options above is that I'm guessing a slightly wider lens will be more useful when traveling and it feels like I'm getting a better "deal" with the 17/1.8 because of the discount compared to US prices. I'd love to hear arguments for the 25/1.8 or other lenses (maybe something wider than the 17? The 14/2.5 goes for $185 here), however!

    Something I've noticed is that I rarely zoom -- not when I had a P&S, when I'm snapping pictures with my phone, or when I was borrowing a friend's NEX6 with the kit zoom -- including when I've travelled in the past. I'm not sure if it's just laziness or if I'm more comfortable with wider angles, but if I can't get the "image" that's in my mind's eye with the default FOV, I just move on. Since I'm new to all this, I'm curious whether learning to use zoom is an important skill. If it is, I'll obviously opt for options #1 or #2, but if it's not, I'm leaning towards option #3. I'm also curious whether people have a preference for one of the zooms over the other. I'm torn between getting the EZ to stay consistent brand-wise vs going for the extra 2mm. Any arguments for either?

    Thanks so much!

    PS. Since I have a bit of time before I really "need" a complete setup, should I wait until next year for the new Olympus body? I'm guessing it will lead to some discounts on the current bodies, and if the new model is something like an EM10 with weather-sealing, I might consider that instead. Is this worth it or should I just get out there and start shooting?
  2. OzRay

    OzRay Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 29, 2010
    South Gippsland, Australia
    Ray, not Oz
    If your current P&S is has a zoom lens, download this software: http://www.vandel.nl/exposureplot.html, and use it to analyse the most frequent focal lengths that you use. That will at least give you a starting point. No one can really advise you what is best for 'you', all advice will be tainted by personal preference.
    • Like Like x 1
  3. gryphon1911

    gryphon1911 Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Mar 13, 2014
    Central Ohio, USA

    I would get the Oly 17/1.8, 45/1.8 and the 40-150/4-5.6 and call it a day.
    So much latitude with that kit.

    If you need wider and don't want to spend a bunch, check out the Oly 9mm f/8 body cap lens.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Nov 7, 2010
    First off, welcome aboard.

    As much as I prefer primes, and the 17/1.8 & 45/1.8 combo, I think in your shoes I might go for the 12-32 + 25/1.8 combo. The 12-32 would be my choice because I think the 24mm FL will be more valuable than the extra reach with the 14-42. The 25/1.8 because it gives you decent versatility for a prime. Good for low light; can work for portraits; good general use FL.

    The other thing to consider is the not yet released Panasonic LX100. $900 for a 24-75mm f/1.8-2.8 lens. Can't beat the versatility, but I'd certainly wait for early users to report any issues and provide some definitive idea of image quality. Given that you are talking about building a system, a fixed lens camera makes little sense, but if the LX100 is as good as specs sound it will be an awesome travel camera.
  5. wibblywobbly

    wibblywobbly New to Mu-43

    Oct 16, 2014
    Thanks for the suggestion! I have the Panasonic ZS3, which is widest at 25mm, and have used the NEX6 with the kit lens at 24mm (never zoomed with either), but my phones have been 30mm and 35mm (which I had to use when I lost of ZS3's charger during a longer trip). Maybe I just have no sense for what focal length works for what kind of shot :tongue: I've got a lot to learn!

    I've seen the 40-150, but I'm really trying for something compact, since I'll be traveling with one overly-stuffed backpack the entire time. I'll definitely check out the body cap lens though! Looks neat!

    Thanks for the welcome! That's actually a very compelling argument for the 12-32 + 25. I was leaning towards the 17 because though I'm unfamiliar with different focal lengths, it seemed like I had been most exposed to the normal/wide range and would be more comfortable there -- I'll have to see if I can get used to the 25mm though! I'll try to borrow the NEX6 again and use it at the 50mm equivalent.
  6. barry13

    barry13 Mu-43.com Editor Subscribing Member

    Mar 7, 2014
    Southern California

    What do you like to photograph?

    I was just in Seoul a couple weeks ago; I took a LOT of street pictures (people mostly), including nighttime.
    If you want to do street, esp. at night, the Oly 17mm f1.8 is an excellent choice. Something even faster would be better at night but there aren't a lot of faster choices, esp. small and with A/F.

    The next new Oly OM-D is expected to be a successor to the E-M5.
    The current E-M5 is weather sealed; I noticed it seems to rain a lot in Seoul; you might consider the current or new E-M5, with a weather sealed zoom such as the 12-50mm (which is also decent for macro but is not very small) or the 12-40mm Pro (expensive, heavier) or Pana 12-35mm.

    Non weather sealed: the non-pancake 14-42mm lenses can be found second-hand for well under $100, often only slightly used. I think I've seen the Oly new as low as $125. The Oly is still quite compact and light.

    My understanding is that WiFi is the main feature lacking on the current E-M5. Some vendors have been selling them at a big discount; look in the Deals section, there was one last week from a USA Oly dealer, new with zoom lens for $599.

  7. edmsnap

    edmsnap Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 20, 2011
    Edmonton, Alberta
    If you're comfortable with wider angles, what about the Olympus 9-18mm? I prefer wider angles for travel lenses - the 9-18 is great. That and the 45mm for low-light would pass your budget, but be a pretty killer low-weight kit.

    If the kit is just for the trip, then it's a pretty big investment and you might want to consider that the P&S could meet your needs. If you're expanding into photography, then pull the trigger - why wait? There's lots of other things to photograph besides a future trip :smile:
  8. brettmaxwell

    brettmaxwell Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 8, 2012
    I had the 17 and 45 on and EM5 for a long while, it's a fantastic kit. I would do that, or 14/25/45.
  9. PMCC

    PMCC Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 18, 2013
    IMHO the best course of action now is buying the EM10 with the 12-32 now. It would cover most you need focal length-wise. Then you have nearly a year to decide if 32mm is too short (and go 45mm or 60mm), or if you need more low light capacity /shadow DoF at your favorite FL.
  10. AussiePhil

    AussiePhil Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jun 1, 2014
    Canberra, ACT, Aust
    Easy for backpacking - option 2 with the 14-42EZ normally attached to the camera as it is so compact and the 17,1.8 for nighttime shots.

    I only own the O45 in the listed choices and whilst a great lens it's not the one i would take on your sort of trip. The zoom gets you daytime versatility with various focal lengths for different situations.

  11. SojiOkita

    SojiOkita Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 23, 2014
    I own both the Panasonic 12-32 and the Olympus 14-42 EZ, and in the end I only use the 12-32.
    It feels right on the E-M10 and it has two major advantages for me over the 14-42 EZ: it is not an eletronic zoom + it starts at 12 mm.

    I thought that the electronic zoom ring would not be a big deal, but it is (for me). The more I try to use the 14-42, the less I like it.
    (and I don't like the fact the zoom expand/retract itself each time I put the camera on/off).

    It's not about optical quality, because both are very decent kit lenses (12-32 is a little sharper, 14-42 a little more homogeneous at the wide end, and with less purple fringing).

    I think the Panasonic 12-32 si nearly a perfect match for the E-M10 as a light kit lens.
  12. davdenic

    davdenic Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 14, 2014
    David D.
    Hi. For outdoor travels I like use 12-50 40-150R. It covers all the needs and usually I don't need fastest lenses due I shot at f/8
    For cities and street photography 9-18, 20 1.7, 45.18 to cover architecture, low light situations, street and portraits and low light.

    Here my USA trip https://flickr.com/photos/8142655@N07/sets/72157647617993058
  13. nardoleo

    nardoleo Mu-43 Veteran

    Apr 2, 2013
    I would recommend a zoom + the 17mm. Depending on you, but i realise that often when travelling i dont have the opportunity to change lens and a zoom really comes in handy.

    The 17 is for the night and indoor shoots.
  14. alex66

    alex66 Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jul 23, 2010
    I will say that the 12-32 is far and away the lens that has exceeded expectations, I did not expect it to be nearly as good as it has turn out to be. So if you want a zoom and I would say they are very useful to have go for that one unless you go for one of the 2.8 zooms. I can say the 45 is a great little lens as is the 25 but I have not got the 17mm mentioned so can't pass judgement. If you find you eventually want a tele zoom the 12-32 had a partner lens that is coming on the market, looks small and could be a good choice.
  15. CiaranCReilly

    CiaranCReilly Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 18, 2012
    Ciaran Reilly
    I usually bring Panasonic 20/1.7 and Olympus 40-150 on travels, but have added the 9mm bodycap on my latest trip. These and a GX7 fit in a small Olympus Street Case and are very light and manageable. The Olympus 40-150 is really a very small lens in person, I'd definitely check it out for reach if you have any interest in wildlife along your trip

    Sent from my Nexus 7 using Mu-43 mobile app
  16. Edmunds

    Edmunds Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 16, 2012
    My advice is, do not underestimate the convenience of a normal zoom during travel.

    I do sometimes travel with just primes, but since travel presents you with different types of picture taking opportunities, I have to change lenses constantly. As in CONSTANTLY. With capital letters.

    Which lenses to take depends entirely on where you are going. City trips around Europe - don't go without a wide angle. SE Asia - a long portrait lens is excellent. Africa - a long telephoto, etc. Think about where you are going and what kind of shots you will take.

    Also, the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 is cheap and is a great compromise between the 17mm and 25mm FOVs. I have it and I am surprised by how often I use it.
    • Like Like x 1
  17. listers_nz

    listers_nz Mu-43 Veteran

    Nov 22, 2013
    Christchurch, New Zealand
    I bought the 12-32mm to have a compact kit option, and to be honest I haven't really used it. My travel lens of choice is the Panasonic 14-140mm (new F3.5 version) - not small, but no bigger than the Oly 40-150. That plus the Oly 9-18mm (for the occasional wide shot) and the Pana 20mm (for low light) were the only lenses used on the last family holiday, despite taking the "full kit".
  18. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    I'd say it depends on your destination, your photographic interests and your priorities. My 'minimum' kit for non-far away travel is a Sony RX100, my 'Normal' backpacking kit (i.e. going somewhere I've never been before, a little exotic, and exploring) is an E-M1, A7r, and a selection of lenses. If I'd have to choose a single lens it would be a normal zoom with 12mm at the wide end, because that suits my style. A single prime would be a 35mm FF equivalent (so a 17/1.8 in oly land).

    As for overstuffed backpacks, maybe look into going a little more ultralight/taking along a little less stuff? I haven't been to hostels recently where a sleeping bag is an essential piece of travel kit, and I can live out of my F-Stop Loka for a month without trying to hard in warmer climates, and that's a 37 liter bag with the bottom third full of 5kg of camera gear, and another 7kg of non-camera stuff (2 pants, 3 T-shirts, 2 light shirts, a sweater and a lightweight waterproof, plus some socks/underpants don't weigh that much)...
  19. davdenic

    davdenic Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 14, 2014
    David D.
    Whatever you buy my advice is: don't follow too strictly the rules enjoy your trip and have fun. :) 
    Sometimes using the wrong lens can give another point of view.
    I really like for example shot with long tele in typical wide landscape views. Here for example at the Grand Canyon http://flic.kr/p/pnutHf
  20. LowriderS10

    LowriderS10 Monkey with a camera.

    May 19, 2013
    It really depends on your personal preference.

    I have been shooting with a wide zoom + a fast prime as my travel kit for years and have gotten tons of great photos and very few missed ones out of it. I shoot with the 9-18 and the 45, but the 9-18 may be too wide for some.
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