Advice on Lens for Euro Vacation

Discussion in 'This or That?' started by LeeOsenton, Jan 29, 2012.

  1. LeeOsenton

    LeeOsenton Mu-43 Button Clicker

    Jun 25, 2010
    Hayes, Virginia, U.S.A.
    Real Name:
    Lee Osenton
    We are saving for a trip to Western Europe next year. We are flying from the U.S. to Dublin and will fly home from Rome. With the trip quickly creeping up on me, I want to add another lens to my small collection. I will take my entire kit with me, but plan to limit what I carry each day.

    I have the E-PL2 and 14-42mm II, 17mm, 40-150mm, and FL-36R. I know there is little love for the 17mm here, but I have plenty for it and use if often. Recently, I have been trying to improve my relationship with the kit lens. I hate the collapsible arrangement and the lens feels fragile when left extended while walking around, but the results with the lens are usually very good. I just bought the hood for it and that makes me feel better about leaving it extended (silly, huh?).

    My concerns are in 2 distinct areas: wide and fast. I don't want to spend a fortune on a new E-P3, 20, 25, 45 etc.; I would rather have more money for the trip. I can afford another $500 and am weighing the prospects of the Olympus 9-18mm, Panasonic 20, or Olympus 45. I greatly appreciate insights from the experienced crowd.

  2. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    For a travel lens i can't recommend the 9-18mm enough. Small, light, takes filters, fast af, and pretty good iq. And a versatile range. You got options for landscapes as well as interiors and other cramped cityscapes. At the long end you're covering the same length as your 17 which you evidently are comfortable with. I use it as my walk around lens probably 70-80% of the time on vacation. That said if you want speed for dim interiors like churches, museums and night..the 20mm would be the smarter choice.
  3. LeeOsenton

    LeeOsenton Mu-43 Button Clicker

    Jun 25, 2010
    Hayes, Virginia, U.S.A.
    Real Name:
    Lee Osenton
    Thanks, phrenic. I am leaning this way. Also thinking about buying the 9-18mm and 20mm, and selling my 17mm.
  4. hanzo

    hanzo Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 22, 2010
    Real Name:
    Bring the holy trinity :biggrin:
    14, 20 and 45.. although switching lens often is a bit irritating
  5. Luckypenguin

    Luckypenguin .

    Oct 9, 2010
    Brisbane, Australia
    Real Name:
    The 9-18mm will eat up most if not all of your $500 budget, but is a great UWA zoom and above all it is tiny. Swapping your 17mm for a 20mm will cost you somewhere between $100-150, maybe more depending on postage and possibly Paypal fees. I wasn't immediately wowed by the 20mm compared to the 17mm, but using it inside a dimly-lit cathedral really sold me on the lens and I now use it more than any other m4/3 lens. I still have the 17mm, but I use it less since getting the 20mm.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. dhazeghi

    dhazeghi Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 6, 2010
    San Jose, CA
    Real Name:
    That would be my suggestion too. Always good to have a low-light lens, and UWA is fun for architecture and narrow places.

  7. meyerweb

    meyerweb Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Sep 5, 2011
    Without knowing your shooting style and the subject matter you prefer, I can't begin to know the right answer. I would suggest, though, that having a truly fast lens like the 20 1.7 or 25 1.4 will pay great dividends for shooting inside museums, cathedrals, and many other indoor places that either don't allow flash, or where you'll bet better results without flash. Either of those lenses will be a godsend for shooting at night, too.

    To those who suggest nothing longer than the 45, I say "hogwash". You can't always get close enough to your subject for those lenses. Your 40-150 is a great travel lens.
  8. avidone

    avidone Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 24, 2011
    Rome, Italy
    living and travelling in Europe, my advice in general would be "the wider the better"... I love the 17 and have used it the most in tourist type settings... when I used my kit lens, before the bl**dy thing broke, I was always at the wide end. I have hardly ever grabbed for my 40-150.. I would love to have the 9-18 to travel with... sure it is a very handy range

    The thing is, in Europe you usually find yourself wanting to capture buildings from pretty close up or to capture wide landscapes. Longer focal lengths may be more handy in spread-out American-type cities, but I have not been in any of those lately
  9. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    I travel to Europe frequently, and argue the exact opposite point as avidone.

    I LOVE having a long lens to pick out the fantastic details - gargoyles, etc. - and am much more frequently at the long end of my 45-200 than the short end of my 14-50.

    I would absolutely not travel without the 20/1.7. The size and speed are irreplaceable. The other lens I really enjoy for travel is the 8/3.5 fisheye.

    For the few times I need a wide angle, I am happy with stitching.

    Personally, I would leave the flash at home. Either you will be indoors and while it would work, it's not allowed; or you will be outdoors and it will not light the whole scene. The pop-up will be fine for fill flash of your family against the lit background. IMHO, a tripod would be a better use of the luggage space/weight.

    What cities are you going to visit?
  10. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    The m.Zuiko 9-18mm f/3.5-5.6 is definitely not fast. The Lumix 20mm f/1.7 is not as wide but over a stop faster than your m.Zuiko 17mm f/2.8. The m.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 is nowhere near wide.

    The Lumix 14mm f/2.5 would fit your budget and provide something as fast but wider than what you already have. I don't think that's worth the upgrade from your m.Zuiko 17mm f/2.8 though...

    The m.Zuiko 12mm f/2 would suit your requirements perfectly, but is more than your $500 budget. Maybe look for one used, if that's possible?

    The Lumix 7-14mm f/4 is also relatively fast for its ultra-wide angle, but is even more than the m.Zuiko 12mm f/2.

    An E-P3 is definitely not necessary if you have an E-PL2. The E-P3 will only give you touch control, 1080p Full HD video in AVCHD (so no 15 minute limit - video is continuous to any length), and a little faster AF. The still image quality is just as good on the E-PL2.

    I agree with both Avidone and ~tc~. A wide angle is important, but so is a telephoto. I would not limit yourself to just one lens when you're traveling so far and will probably not get this photo opportunity again for a long time! If it were me I would take your m.Zuiko 17mm (there's no need to replace that lens, which you know and use often!), then add the m.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 and a 135mm f/2.8 legacy lens (I don't like slow telephotos, which is why I wouldn't go native for that part). All that would still fit in a very small bag (along with your FL-36R of course!) and should still be close to your budget. When I say a small bag, I'm talking about the size of a young lady's purse, not an old woman's bag. :D
  11. Ray Sachs

    Ray Sachs Super Moderator

    Apr 17, 2010
    Near Philadephila
    Given that your priorities are wide and fast and within your budget, I'd concur with the 9-18 and the 20. If you can find them used, you might stay within your budget - if you can't you should still come close if you figure you can get $150 for the 17mm. I too like the 17mm a lot, the 14mm more, but you'll have both covered with the 9-18 and the 20 will handle more in low light than either. If you can find the 12mm used, that sort of gets at both wide AND fast in one lens, but not AS wide or fast and not as versatile and its a really pricey item. I did a long European trip a couple of summers ago and I took the 14-150, 9-18, and 20 - I also took the 17 for street shooting (would probably take the 14 if I took the same trip today), but if that's not your thing, you don't need a prime dedicated to that. The 9-18 was absolutely key for walking around in some of those really tight little European urban areas - the perfect lens for that trip. And the 20 for low light. I enjoyed having the long end of the 14-150, but it wasn't essential - I wouldn't have missed very many shots at all if I'd just had a kit lens with the long of 45mm.

  12. LDraper

    LDraper Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 4, 2011
    Albuquerque, NM
    I want to add my vote for the 9-18. It a very versatile lens with excellent image quality and it will let you get views in a lot of cramped spaces. It's only downside (for me) is that it is not fast. In my experience, though, that mostly only matters when you're shooting moving subjects. You can hand-hold it down to pretty slow shutter speeds with satisfactory results. I also have tha 20mm and agree with the consensus that it's an excellent lens, but I suspect that you're better off keeping the 17 and putting that money elsewhere. There are a lot of people who speak in favor of its fov over that of the 20. Keeping things light and simple has a lot of virtue when you're out and about a lot. It seems like you're almost there, just add the 9-18 : -) !
  13. NZUnicorn

    NZUnicorn New to Mu-43

    Oct 15, 2010
    I would take three lenses - a Panasonic 14mm, Panasonic 20mm and Olympus 40-150mm.

    This gives a very small, very light and relatively cheap setup. It allows f2.5 at 14mm, which is a stop better than the 9-18 or 14-42. It allows f1.7 at 20mm, which is two stops better than the zooms. It avoids collapsible lenses (the 9-18 collapses like the 14-42).

    Downsides are more lens changing and only 28mm equivalent wide angle. I would live with the extra lens changing, and stitch panoramas to cover anything wider. You might have a different preference.
  14. Wes7

    Wes7 Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 22, 2011
    You have the long end covered with your 40-150 (I used my Konica 135 frequently in Florence and Rome), so a fast lens like the 20 1.7 or even a fast 50 would be great.

    One thing I would not leave with out, no matter what, is a back-up body. This may sound frivolous, but hear and learn from my experience. my wife and I went on an amazing, once-in-a-lifetime trip through Italy, to Greece, Turkey, and back to Italy for Pompeii. We covered some of the best photographic material in the world. The trip started great- I got some amazing photographs in Venice, Florence, and Rome. The day we were going to to the Colosseum, I opened my bag to discover that the screen was shattered on my E-P1. I had to shoot with no way to frame in Rome, Athens, Siciliy, Crete, Ephesus, and Pompeii. The pictures are mostly garbage as a result.

    You can get an E-P1 or E-PL1 for almost nothing now- go look in the for sale section. All the lenses in the world aren't worth a thing if you don't have a camera to put them on.

    For the record, on the wide angle, I shot all of one picture below 20mm. I thought I would miss having a wide angle, but I never did. Many of the places I would have wanted one would not have provided enough light to get the picture at F4 or even f2.5 anyways.
  15. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    Don't know if this will be applicable but a few years ago I spent about a month in Europe and 3,00 pictures later I found that I used one lens 95% of the time. I was shooting an Olympus E-520 and took with me a 14-54, 40-150 and a 50/1.8 OM lens. I used the 14-54 almost exclusively, the 40-150 rarely and the OM50 not at all. Now, the 15-54 is a lot nicer than your average kit lens. First of all it's faster at 2.8-3.5 and it is one wonderful hunk of glass. That said it was also a super convenient range for a variety of travel shots. Next time I go I'll look for the equivalent lens in m43 (there isn't one yet) or as a fall back I'd take a Panasonic 14-45 and my Panasonic 20 for low light.
  16. f6cvalkyrie

    f6cvalkyrie Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 12, 2010
    Brussels, Belgium

    I'm living and shooting in Europe (Brussels, Belgium) and find the Panasonic range of 7-14, 14-45 and 45-200 fulfilling most if not all of my needs !
    Don't forget a good (extreme) wide-angle because the streets in our historic towns are often very narrow !

    C U
  17. Iconindustries

    Iconindustries Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    I replied to the exact same question asked just the other day. Here was my reply.

  18. kanasgowatom

    kanasgowatom Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 11, 2011
    Lens for Europe

    I just checked B&H has the Olympus 14/150 mm. lens for $500.58. I received mine last week, and am very pleased so far. It feels very solid, focus is fast, and, it is extremely light and compact.

  19. LeeOsenton

    LeeOsenton Mu-43 Button Clicker

    Jun 25, 2010
    Hayes, Virginia, U.S.A.
    Real Name:
    Lee Osenton
    Thanks, Nic

    I think I will be following your lead on this. Besides, she may not notice the difference between $500 and $650...

  20. LeeOsenton

    LeeOsenton Mu-43 Button Clicker

    Jun 25, 2010
    Hayes, Virginia, U.S.A.
    Real Name:
    Lee Osenton
    Thanks to All!

    Great to hear from so many knowledgeable shooters and especially from the locals that have the pleasure of living there and those that have had a similar travel experience.

    I hate the longer focal length, but I know I need the speed of the Panasonic 20mm over my Olympus 17mm. I really hate the cost, but so many Mu-43 users have published impressive photos taken with the Olympus 9-18mm.

    Be on the lookout for my prized 17mm next week. I am going to Philadelphia on business later this week and will be taking it for a last outing.

    Thanks for all of the suggestions, there are obviously many ways to solve this "problem".