Best Travel Lens? (& Necessary travel gear)

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by thenextpage, Nov 10, 2014.

  1. thenextpage

    thenextpage Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 13, 2014
    Hello friends,

    I'm taking a 2 week trip to Vietnam & Cambodia in early 2015, and want to prepare my EM-5 Kit for the trip, to capture some great photos. I'll be taking my Panasonic 25mm 1.4; but want to purchase a versatile zoom lens so that I can cover nearly all my needs between 2 lenses. I'm considering either the new Oly 40-150 2.8, or the Oly 12-40 2.8. If you can offer some advice or insight into which direction to go, please share your thoughts. I'd also be open to considering other lens options. I won't need to purchase the lens until mid February 2015, so there may be some upcoming release that could be good for my needs.

    Additionally, I'd love to hear from you experienced travelers; What photo equipment/tools would you consider necessary to take on a trip like this? This will be my first time traveling to a new country since I've began practicing photography, and I'd like to do a nice job documenting the trip. So please share your thoughts on what things should be in my camera bag (and perhaps thoughts on the bag itself).

    Thank you very much!

  2. plaatje

    plaatje Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 15, 2012
    We are going to Cambodia at the end of this year. We take two e-p2 camera's with the Sigma 19mm, the PanaLeica 1.4 25mm and the Zuiko 1.8 45mm. This is one set. The other set is the E-PM1 with the 14-44 zoom accompanied with the Olympus XZ-2. Still thinking of buying a telezoom but never really felt the need. We take mostly pictures of street life and of course the highlights. We found people in Vietnam and Cambodia are easy going about photography. We almost always ask for permission (with a friendly smile or showing the camera) and mostly people react positive.
    So my advice is, don't think in lenses but in what kind of photography. Your 25mm is a beauty, both zoom lenses seem to be very good, so If I really had t made the choice I would take the 25mm together with the Oly 12-40 when I needed a wider angle....
    Just some thoughts. Wish you a pleasant trip in these beautiful countries with very nice people.
  3. plaatje

    plaatje Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 15, 2012
    Oh, I forget to tell you that we only use one e-P2, the other one is a backup.
    From the other set, E-pm1 and XZ-2 I think the XZ-2 will be the most used camera. We bought it recently because they are not that expensive anymore as a backup, but we started to like this camera and the pictures that came out of it so much that it might be a winner . . .
    As a bag I don't like camerabags so I bought a bag I like, an insert and in it will be one E-P2, the lenses and the XZ-2. We might use an EVF 3 on the XZ-2 and I like the EVF-4 on my E-P2.
    There will be a bottle of water in the bag, my glasses, and some candy, a pen, some paper, handkerchief, hat and some throw away raincoats.
  4. Gary5

    Gary5 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 15, 2014
    I would take E-M1, 12-40, 35-100, 25/1.4, polarizer, extra battery, extra cards, extra rear cap, mini rocket blower, lens pen and lens wipes in Hadley Digital bag.
  5. kwalsh

    kwalsh Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 3, 2012
    Baltimore, MD
    On my travel trips I find telephoto to not be required frequently. Obviously if you are going on a wildlife trip that is different, but this sounds like people, citiscape and landscape. The 40-150/2.8 will be rather large (in the m43 sense of large) and quite expesive without being a good focal length choice I think. So I'd go with the 12-40/2.8. To cover the less frequently needed long end of things I'd get one of the rather inexpensive but nonetheless reasonable IQ slow telephoto zooms. The 40-150/4-5.6 is a sensible choice but the Panasonic 45-150 also gets excellent reviews with slightly nicer build quality. Both can be had on sales for less than $200 and weigh almost nothing. I suspect you'll rarely need them and when you do there will be plenty of light.
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  6. Replytoken

    Replytoken Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 7, 2012
    Puget Sound
    Real Name:
    How important is weight and size? The 40-150 is substantially larger than most native lenses, and is not something that you casually pack unless you are used to carrying fast FF zooms. The 35-100 is more compact if weight and size are considerations and you want a fast telephoto zoom. Do you have the grip for your E-M5? You might find that useful, especially with a lens like the 12-40. The 12-40 balances nicely in the E-M1, but I find the E-M5 to be just a bit smaller than I would like for this lens (or for either of the telephoto zooms). If I had to carry my gear all day long on my body, I would probably pick the 12-40 and the 35-100. I used to carry fast FF zoom lenses for hours at a time, and I do not miss those days. There is a certain freedom from not being (literally) weighed down with heavy gear. Give it some consideration.

    Happy trails,

  7. Ellsass

    Ellsass Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 15, 2014
    I went to Cambodia and Thailand with a 14mm prime, 20mm prime, and 14-42mm zoom. Out of 3200 photos, I took 60% with the 20mm and 40% with the 14mm (that’s not a guess, I did an analysis in Lightroom). I took none — literally zero — with the 14-42 zoom despite having it in my bag every day for 3 weeks.

    I never felt the need for a longer focal length because there is plenty of space around things for you to position yourself and often you find yourself right on top of photograph-worthy things (e.g. Angkor temples). It’s different than Europe where you often cannot “zoom with your feet” and when you may what to shoot an object from afar for a different perspective (i.e. because of the crowds or the layout of the town).

    If I went back I would bring my recently-acquired 25mm but only for the shallower DoF. I never found myself wishing I could zoom in closer.

    IMHO you may be fine with just the PL25, though I'd add one wider lens (P20 or Oly 17) for landscapes. A few of the temples are too big for 25mm and there is forest across the road so you can't always back up until it fits, but most are set far enough back from the road that it won't matter.
  8. Ellsass

    Ellsass Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 15, 2014
    If you want to share your trip with friends and family, bring a small laptop (a MacBook Air is ideal). Each night in your hotel, go through the day's photos and share them that night. I've had much better results with this than with waiting until after the trip. First, people tend not to look through photo dumps ("here's 100 pics from my trip!").

    Second, even if you carefully select only the very best photos and space them out in small chunks people still don't engage very much in terms of likes and comments. I've had people tell me (in person, completely unprompted) that they enjoyed following along with my trips when I post each day while I'm actually there. There's something about "live footage" that draws people in. They want to see what you're doing, not what you did.

    Sadly, if you want anyone to look at your photos, you need to post them directly to Facebook. If you post them to Flickr or a personal site, and then put the link on Facebook, people just won't flip through and look at the actual pictures. I post to Facebook plus my personal site and use my personal site elsewhere (e.g. Twitter).

    Also, you need backups. Personally I bring enough SD cards for the whole trip such that I don't need to delete anything, plus a laptop. The laptop's hard drive holds a copy of the images (copied nightly at minimum) and I also use Dropbox to put a third copy in the cloud in case I lose my bags. I keep the filled SD cards separate from the laptop (my wife carries one, I carry the other) in case one of us loses our bag. Unfortunately, internet speeds are dismal in much of SE Asia so you if you are a RAW shooter you may want to consider shooting RAW + JPG and just put the JPG in Dropbox. You'll never finish uploading those huge RAW files even if you leave your machine on overnight, every night. It doesn't matter how fancy/modern your accommodations are — fast internet just doesn't exist as far as I can tell.

    If you don't have/want a laptop, there are portable hard drives with built-in SD card readers. They have their own batteries and are designed for photographers on the go. I enjoyed my Hyperdrive before I got the laptop.

    Feel free to PM me with any questions, I've been obsessively honing my process and my packing list over about a dozen trips in as many countries.
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  9. Jesse_S

    Jesse_S Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 7, 2013
    Seattle, WA
    I've been to both countries, but it was before I switched to M43. Looking over my photos in Lightroom, I would generally agree with the folks above.

    I'm a wide-angle fan, so I mostly used my Sigma 10-20 on an ASPC Nikon. You'll be in lots of temples and tight, crowded markets and such so that wide end comes in handy. I would want something wider, but if 12mm is enough for you, then the 12-40 2.8 would work well.

    Most of the rest of my photos were taken with a 30mm 1.4, so the Pany 25 has got you well covered there.

    I did use a telephoto a bit, but nothing that one of the excellent and cheap, slow teles couldn't handle (the Oly 40-150 is far better than it has any right to be for the price!)

    I would also take something small and cheap, like a backup point-and-shoot or a GoPro or something. They're good if you happen to be in a rougher part of town where you don't want to bring out the expensive glass (mostly just Phnom Phen, which has it's seedy areas) but also because hopefully you'll be zipping all over on scooters, Jeeps and boats. I went during the rainy season (recommended!) and I'm amazed that my non-weather proofed gear survived!

    One non-photo thing I would recommend, when you get there buy a motorcycle helmet. Motoscooter taxis are the way to get around and are a hell of a lot of fun, but traffic in both countries is downright deadly, as are the hospitals. Helmets are cheap there and at least give you some protection should the worst happen.

    Have fun, they are both wonderful countries, very safe (with a few exceptions like PP) and with super-nice people and are overwhelmingly full of photographic opportunities. Make sure you get out into the countryside! While Angkor Wat is everything you've heard and is not to be missed, be sure to visit other parts of Cambodia. The rest of the country has a very different feel from super-touristy Angkor and is much more laid-back and friendly. I'm particularly fond of Battambang.
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  10. alex66

    alex66 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jul 23, 2010
    Well if travelling by car I will take virtually it all, if by plane 2 bodies ideally with same batteries, a standard zoom a fast prime or two. I like the 12-32 panasonic as it is tiny and a great lens in good light, a 25mm either both are good or the 20mm plus a wide prime for insides, evening time. I also have the 14-140 Panasonic which is a good travel lens but I found I go for the 12-32 mostly, I could get away with the 25mm most of the time my eye,mind whatever just sees that way. Get used to any new gear before you go, spare batteries are a must any reasonable sized bag will do the job with either partitions or wraps for the gear.
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  11. datagov

    datagov Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 2, 2012
    New York
    I was in Cambodia a few years ago with my Canon 60D and only brought the 15-85 zoom. I wish I had some fast primes and the 12-40. It is a humid climate and light during the day is hazy and you need a polarizer all day. My best photos were portraits. The people are amazing.

    When I go back, I'll bring the Samyang Fisheye for inside the temples, the P20 which is my favorite landscape lens, the O45 for portraits inside, and my canon fd 100mm f2 for discrete portraits when I don't want the subject to know I am filming them. And I will take a mefoto tripot to get tack sharp photos inside and in dim light.
  12. thenextpage

    thenextpage Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 13, 2014
    Thank you plaatje! Very helpful information. In regards to the bag, I've read that these areas can experience sudden and frequent rain; so I'm considering a waterproof bag to carry equipment. Did you experience this?
  13. thenextpage

    thenextpage Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 13, 2014
    Thanks Gary5! Much appreciated insight... but I probably won't take a Hadley Bag, that's a bit out of my budget.
  14. thenextpage

    thenextpage Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 13, 2014
    This is perfect; thank you Kwalsh! I actually have the Oly 40-150 4-5.6, so I'm covered there. I also have the 12-50 3.5-6.3, but I;m thinking I may want a faster wide lens option.
  15. BuckarooBanzai

    BuckarooBanzai New to Mu-43

    Aug 29, 2013
    Maryland, US
    EDIT: Sorry didn't see your reply about the 40-150 I recommended below. Just don't think you'll use it much. Maybe the 75 1.8 would be an option for you?
    I love my Think Tank Retrospective 5. Low key looks, great versatility, and it comes with a raincover that can be put on in seconds. For your lens question, I would go with the 12-40 since that with your EM-5 will be weathersealed. I think you'll use that 90% of the time. Use the PL 25 for night markets and such. If you want some longer reach than 40mm, perhaps the Oly 40-150 4-5.6 for $200 US. Super lens for the price and lightweight. Between now and when you leave you may be able to get it on sale from Oly for $99 which I was able to get it for.
  16. thenextpage

    thenextpage Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 13, 2014
    Great, thank you Ken! After some consideration, I may stick with my 40-150 4-5.6 for any zoom needs; and reserve some fast lens option for a wider landscape-friendly alternative. Perhaps the 12-40 2.8 will be a good option. In any case, It's a great point in terms of traveling "light". I want to enjoy my travels and not feel weighed down.
  17. flamingfish

    flamingfish Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Nov 16, 2012
    Real Name:
    Will you be traveling at your own pace, or on a tour? I haven't been to Southeast Asia, so I have no idea what the photo opportunities are there. However, I just came back from a tour of Turkey, and the lens that lived on my E-M5 was the Oly 14-150. Because I needed to keep up with the group, I didn't have a lot of time to fiddle with lenses, so the "do-it-all" lens was what I needed. I'm sure it isn't up there in image quality with some of the other lenses mentioned, but it suited the task.
    • Informative Informative x 1
  18. ahinesdesign

    ahinesdesign Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 6, 2011
    NC, USA
    Real Name:
    The 12-40 is about as close as you can get to the perfect travel lens (as is the 12-35). The 40-150 only would be too limiting, unless it just fits your style of photography or lends itself to the type of photography you will be doing on your trip (wildlife, etc. but I would think you'd be looking at the 75-300 or 100-300 if that were the case).... If budget and space are not an issue, why not take the 40-150 "just in case?"

    The 12-32 and 14-42 II (either manufacturer) would make fine travel lenses if you need to keep costs / size / weight down, and you don't give up too much in image quality (aperture / low-light use is another story). The non-f/2.8 40-150, 45-150, 45-175 zooms are fine performers if you feel you need to pack a telephoto, and cost relatively little. I don't care for the superzoom lenses personally, but for an all-in-one do-it-all minimalist kit its hard to argue against them if they fit your field of view preferences.

    I'd also look at an ultrawide lens (just my personal opinion) like the 7.5mm fisheye or 7-14, but I have found it very easy to stitch two images of static scenes in post to get a similar view without the extra lens(es). The ultrawide comes in handy for situations where its not practical or possible to get two images for stitching, or when you just don't want to bother with stitching in post. The 9mm body cap lens might be an interesting and easy to pack solution for an ultrawide.

    Accessories I would want to take are several extra batteries, charger (and voltage adapter if necessary), lens cleaning tools of choice, extra SD cards, and small tripod. If you are into long exposure images, ND filters and more substantial tripod. If you are planning to be in locations with limited electrical access, take more batteries and consider the battery grip for the E-M5.

    For travel I like to use a Pelican case, but once at a destination, use a smaller soft bag (Domke F-5XA or similar) to carry the camera and maybe one extra lens to make access much quicker.
  19. thenextpage

    thenextpage Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 13, 2014
    This is fantastic information Ellsass! Thank you for sharing. This further confirms what I've been advised so far; that I actually will want to lean towards a wider selection of lens options. Honestly I've never shot with wide lenses, and I'm a bit frightened too for some reason. But given your explanations, I can see more clearly that wider is going to be better.
  20. kwalsh

    kwalsh Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 3, 2012
    Baltimore, MD
    You are welcome! I've only had the 12-40/2.8 for a little while now. I used it on an E-M5 to photograph our daughter trick-or-treating for Halloween a couple of weeks ago in evening twilight. Wow was it perfect for that, nice and sharp wide open at F/2.8 and I found F/2.8 to be nice balance between adequate light and adequate depth of field. It also has surpisingly nice bokeh, obviously not as shallow DoF as your 25/1.4 will give you wide open but the quality of the bokeh is very good especially considering it is a zoom. Given how much indoor and low light photography seems to come up on travel and how many stops there are between 2.8 and 6.3 on the long end I think you'd find the 12-40/2.8 to be very useful. And of course it is a weather sealed lens just like the 12-50 which since you mentioned rain is probably a good thing!

    If you've got the 40-150/4-5.6 already then I'd say you are good to go on the telephoto end already.