From 20yr old Nikon to digital - for motorcycle travel?

Discussion in 'This or That?' started by canuckgser, Mar 27, 2013.

  1. canuckgser

    canuckgser Mu-43 Rookie

    Mar 26, 2013
    First post - so go easy on me!

    I am coming back into photography after a ~15 year hiatus - I used to shoot a lot of slide film (a mix of landscape and travel photography, plus the usual family record taking) on my Nikon 801. I still have some good AF lenses (180 2.8, 28-80 zoom, 105mm 2.5, 24mm 2.8) and had assumed that I would just get a digital body at some point and move into the digital age. I have some olympus digital point and shoot camera's that I've been using for the last 10 years, but mainly just for 'was here - saw that' type of record keeping.

    The problem with my Nikon setup is that it is large and heavy! I find I just don't keep it with me, and it is a burden to carry around. I do most of my photography when traveling, and these days I travel most often by motorcycle - so size and weight are a big factor, as is durability and resistance to vibration/ moisture and dust - although not necessarily any more then a regular travel/ backpacking situation I guess.

    Speaking with a another motorbike riding photographer recently, he mentioned the M43 format, and I've been looking into it since. Initially I had assumed that I would naturally purchase a full (35mm film) sized sensor because - hey, I appreciate quality right? that's why I used to shoot 50 and 100 speed fuji film! However, in all honesty, I realize that most of my pictures these days will be viewed on a computer screen anyway and I have been really impressed with photo's that I'm seeing while doing a little research on some of the more compact camera system, in particular the M43.

    Initially I had also figured on maybe getting a fixed lens camera like the Canon G15 or something but looking at the M43 systems, it seems like there is a lot to offer for not much more $.

    OK - so here is my ask. I want something that is simple and easy to use. That being said, I'm willing to pay a bit more for quality and durability. I appreciate good, fast lenses but I can't afford, nor do I need professional grade equipment. I'd say I used to shot most of my pictures with either my 24mm (landscape) or my 180mm (which was just so nice for picking out people) as they were also my two best optics. However, I don't at this point have a great interest in having to master a whole lot of new features, in particular digital file manipulation. Maybe at a later date, but for now I am hoping to find something relatively simple that will give me good results out of the box with my existing knowledge of light/ time/ aperture. It has to be quick and fun to use, I'm afraid that I will end up with a camera that is overly complicated, and it will prevent me from just picking it up and taking pictures.

    It seems that the Olympus OM D5 is the hot camera right now, and while it's price isn't out of reach, it will limit the lenses I can buy as I'm not ready to spend much more then around $1500-1700 on a new setup (and less would be nice!). I like the look of the E-PL5, which is half the price, as well as some of the Panasonic bodies which seem to offer quite a lot of value. I'm undecided on an viewfinder - would be nice, but maybe not a deal breaker for me - my eyes are not great and I appreciate a big LCD screen. For a quality body that offers a simple interface- what do you recommend?

    There are lots of variations on the basic zoom lenses, both in the 14-50 range, and the 50-150 range. I am thinking I can probably afford to pay for and carry 3 lenses - so what would those be? I am not sure that 14 will be wide enough - and there are not a lot of options in the 12 or under range. what 3 lenses would you recommend, particularly if at least one of them was a wider or telephoto zoom?

    Any other tips or advise appreciated. My key points:
    1. quality, but easy to learn for a digital novice.
    2. 3 lenses as a start, trying to keep the total weight and size down.
    3. spend more on the body (OM D5) or get a cheaper body and spend $ on the lenses?
    Thanks for your help!
  2. BigTam

    BigTam Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 19, 2012
    Dortmund, Germany
    Real Name:
    I can't help you much with the body question, I have only ever had the EM5 for m43.

    On the lenses question, two points: the EM5 is weather sealed, which may be a plus point for you, and so is the kit 12-50. That would give you the 24mm-equivalent you seek, and the kit lens seems to be better than its price would suggest.

    I prefer a little wider for travel, and use the 9-18 a lot.

    For long, the Olympus 40-150 is tremendous value for money. Light, fairly small, good image quality.

    In summary, I would recommend an EM5 with kit 12-50, and the 40-150 for long. Small, light (less than 2 lbs / 1 kg), not too expensive. You might want to add a fast prime for indoors/low light at some point; the Panasonic 14 or 20, or the Olympus 45: all relatively inexpensive, good quality, the choice depends more on the focal length you prefer.

    PS: set up the EM5 using the sticky threads here; then you can use it almost like a point and shoot, but still have full control.
  3. WasOM3user

    WasOM3user Mu-43 Veteran

    Oct 20, 2012
    Lancashire, UK
    Real Name:
    Having also jumped from film to m4/3 I would also make the same recommendations as "tam".

    The image stabilisation of the OMD is nothing short of amazing - if you are traveling light e.g. no tripod this will be a real help as will the sealing with the kit lens. Out of the camera JPEG's are stunning. In bright sunshine the EVF is a must for me.

    I also have been surprised with 12-50 lens as it's better than reviews suggest - displayed on a HD tv or Retina iPad it will not disappoint - if you go 1:1 on a good monitor at the longer focal you will see it's limitations. The length upsets the handling slightly but I'm used to using small OM primes so you may find it different.

    I bought mine as a kit because there was an offer on the 45mm (free!!) and that is also a stunning lens. Take advantage of any offers available at the moment.

    I have also been using the 40-150 (my daughters) and again under normal tv/iPad there is not a real issue.

    You will find it will take time to
    A set the camera up as you want because of the level of customisation available ( loads of good advice on the forum)
    B take the grin off your face whilst using it.

    Longer term the nearest to your favourite 180mm is the Oly 75mm - not used it myself by everyone says it's one if the true high end performers. As I don't have enough cash I'm using my Film Tamron 90 SP f2.4 instead and for macro. Although the two lenses will get you going longer term or for larger prints I'm going for primes (14, 25 and 45)
  4. Just Jim

    Just Jim Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Oct 20, 2011
    Get a Panasonic GX1, they are going pretty cheap these days, the sensor is good, and put your money into the lenses you want. Seeing as you want light and easy I suggest the pancake primes for the wide end. They're fairly cheap. Or just hammer in on the 12-35 2.8 plus the GX1 and pick up some lenses later on the wider or longer end as you need. And then upgrade the body in a year or two.
  5. Geoff3DMN

    Geoff3DMN Mu-43 Veteran

    Feb 29, 2012
    Castlemaine, Victoria, Australia
    Real Name:
    I'm a motorcyclist and one of the main reasons I bought a micro 4/3rds camera was to enable me to take photographs that were close to the quality of those I could take with my Nikon DSLR kit.

    In practice I find that there is little difference in IQ but that the AF on the Nikon is better and the out of camera JPGs of the Olympus are better.

    However my bike is a Harley Switchback with side pannier cases and I've got space to carry an OMD and 3 lenses in a small(ish) camera bag, if I was riding a sports bike then I'd have bought something even more compact than the OMD, possibly something like the Sony DSC RX-100.

    It can depend upon how much carry space you've got and a lot of motor bikes have almost none.

    If you do go with the OMD then I'd suggest either the twin lens kit 14-42 and 40-150 (or the 14-140 for convenience) and a fast prime for low light to go with them 20mm panasonic perhaps. IMHO the 12-50 isn't worth the extra money over the 14-42.
  6. drd1135

    drd1135 Zen Snapshooter

    Mar 17, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Real Name:
    I also carry my E-PL5 on the bike in the saddle bags. I have an HD Road King, so room isn't an issue, but I could also carry this kit in a tank bag. Small bag with the E-PL5 with the 45, 14, and maybe the 40-150 in a lens sleeve since stuff can be far away in rural areas. I've carried Pens for 3 years now and so far the vibration hasn't killed them. I do find I like the VF-2 when I use the 40-150, however. The advantage of the E-PL5's flip LCD is that you can shoot from waist level, which is much more stable than holding the camera out from your body.
  7. juangrande

    juangrande Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 2, 2012
    Something different. Buy a Fuji x20 and a Panasonic G5. You can use the Nikon 100 and 180 on the G5 for excellent reach and quality. You'll need good light or a mono-tripod because there is no image stabilization. Other than the 75 oly ($900)and 35-100 panny ($1300) no m4/3 lens will be near to the quality of those two.The OMD would be a better choice, but twice the money.I have the 180 AI-S ED and just love the quality and ease of use on the OMD. The fuji x20 has a large sensor for a compact, and very straight forward user interface with good manual controls and a nice fast zoom. It also has a good optical viewfinder( unlike the canons) which, for me, is imperative. I use reading glasses and the LCD is nearly useless w/o them, not to mention bright sun washes out every LCD. This will get you going for around $1100 or less. You could find a well kept used OMD-EM5 for $750. Hand held shots with your 2 Nikons would be no problem with this camera. The fuji could be kept handy for most shots. The other set up would be more for planned shots anyway.
  8. madogvelkor

    madogvelkor Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 22, 2013
    If money for the body is an issue, the Panasonic G5 will give you the best bang for your buck. The SLR style body is probably more similar to what you are used to with the Nikon, though adding a grip to the OMD would be similar too.

    The other way to go would be for an E-P5 or GX-1, though you would need to buy the EVF attachment and an external flash. It does give you more flexibility though, since you can make the body smaller buy not using those attachments.

    The Olympus body will give you the advantage of in body image stabilization, which is nice if you want to use your old lenses -- though they will be manual lenses only.

    You could probably find some equivalent lenses to what you are used to, though the quality might be a little different. Just keep in mind the effective FOV is twice what it was with 35mm, so if you want to duplicate the 28-80, you'd use the 14-42 (or 12-50 for a bit bigger range).

    If you do get an E-P5 or GX-1, you can make a nice compact package using the powerzoom 14-42, or one of the pancake lenses like the 14mm.
  9. slappy

    slappy Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 14, 2013
    Guildford, Surrey, UK
    where are the sticky threads you mention for EM5 set up please?
  10. mblevins

    mblevins Mu-43 Rookie

    Mar 4, 2013
    My experience:

    - I used to have an 8008s (US version of 801) back in the day, I would carry it in my tank bag.

    - When I moved to digital, I bought a cheap body (D50) - I actually liked the camera, but I would rarely take it + my lenses anywhere unless it was a "special" trip.

    - I bought a high end compact (Canon S90) - I actually still like it, its portability was incredible, but taking pictures was just not that satisfying.

    - I recently bought an OM-D, and I love it. Size-wise, it is slightly smaller than an old FE-2 I used to have, and I love the controls and EVF. It isn't pocketable like my S90, but it is small enough I keep it in my work backpack, and I carry it with me all the time. Definitely easy to pop in your tank bag. If you're looking at primes, the Oly 12 f2.0, 17 f1.8, and 45 f1.8 map to the Nikkor 24, 35 and 85 (the 45 is really a 90 equivalent, but close to the 85 prime).
  11. BigTam

    BigTam Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 19, 2012
    Dortmund, Germany
    Real Name:
    Slappy, my mistake: look on dpreview for the EM5 set up guide. That's a good starting point. And the OM-D thread under Olympus cameras here is good, too.

  12. guzziknight

    guzziknight Mu-43 Veteran

    May 18, 2011
    I made the switch 2 years ago for the same reason as you: I travel on my motorcycle. I had an Olympus E-600 and thought I would just add on with my E-P1. Ended up buying another m4/3 body and sold the 4/3 kit. I kept the 11-22mm though since it's such a great lens.

    I carry 2 bodies, 4 lenses, accessories and a tripod on my bike now. Works great. If I'm really hurting for space, I leave 1 body or lens at home.

    As far as bodies, you may want to look at the E-P3, used for around $300 now. If you have to have the new sensor, I'd go with the E-PL5, much cheaper than the OMD, and then you can get some great glass to go with it.
  13. canuckgser

    canuckgser Mu-43 Rookie

    Mar 26, 2013
    Thanks everyone, valuable feedback all. To summarize some of what I'm hearing:
    It seems that people are pretty attached to the EVF - I guess it is hard to see the LCD screen in bright light (I know my phone is!)? That makes sense. That would give the G3/G5 & OM D5 a vote over the GX1 or E-P5. At first it seemed like the E-P5 might be a cheaper and smaller OMD5 option, but if you add the viewfinder the price is pretty close.
    Mixed reviews on the Olympus 12-50. I am considering this lens, mainly because 14mm equivalent isn't wide enough for me, and I don't think I can afford the well regarded Olympus 12 F2, yet anyway. Frustratingly few options in this focal length. I'd happily pay $400 for a 12 f2.8.
    The image stabilization really works?
    Not many have mentioned the Panny zooms - which seem to be a good value and get excellent reviews. Any comments on these lenses? Any real gems, particularly in the under $400 range?
    Like the idea of at least one fast/ small lens - hearing some great things about the Lumix 20mm. Not a huge fan of that length - but maybe I just haven't played with it enough. Maybe one of the 17mm's

    I like the idea of being able to use my old (but good) Nikon lenses, but in reality they are just too large to lug around for the kind of traveling I do.

    Both my motorbikes have saddle bags, but I like to keep my camera handy - so ideally fitting in a small tank bag is the best way to go. At least the body and a main lens for quick shots. Plus, the tank bag is typically what I pull off and take with me when I leave the bike parked somewhere.

    thanks again, and keep the advise coming - I'm taking notes :)
  14. canuckgser

    canuckgser Mu-43 Rookie

    Mar 26, 2013
    thanks that makes sense. Are you using an add-on EVF on your P1 or PL2? How do you find the kit is holding up to the vibration, dust, etc.?
  15. ducktapeguy

    ducktapeguy New to Mu-43

    May 16, 2011
    I don't have any experience on motorcycles, but I had similar requirements and background when buying a new hiking/travel camera system. I went from a Nikon F, to various small point and shoots, to large full featured point and shoots, and eventually ended up here. My primary concerns were a balance between image quality and portability. Like you said, most photos are viewed at monitor resolutions, so full frame DSLR's were overkill for me, considering I probably would never be printing anything at poster size.

    My photo gear right now is a GX1 (recently updated from GF1) with 20mm 1.7 and 14-140. The 20 stays on most of the time because of it's size and if I need low light capability, and the 14-140 handles almost everything else. I am still deciding on a third lens to round out kit, I bounce back and forth between wanting a ultrawide zoom, a simple and compact 14mm, the 12-35 zoom, or a ultra fast voightlander. But I've never been in a situation where I thought I was really missing a photograph because of lens selection.

    My vote is to spend money on the lenses and save the money by getting a cheaper body. The bodies are getting cheaper and better every year (main reason I picked up a new GX1 for $300), the lenses tend to stay about the same price. In a couple years I'll look at picking up an OMD when the price drops to $300, in the mean time the GX1 will hold me over.

    Also, I must be one of the only ones that have never had a problem with the LCD, in any kind of light. I briefly thought about getting the EVF when I had the GF1, but after using it for a few years I realized I never missed it. Even in bright sunlight, I can see enough of the screen to compose a shot. Although I can't always see the finer details, I can always take the shot then look at the playback to see if I need to take it again. The small size and ability to fit in cargo pants or jacket pocket more than makes up for not having a viewfinder, and not always wanting to hold the camera at eye level gives me more interesting shots sometimes.
  16. GFFPhoto

    GFFPhoto Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2013
    Great advice, and the GX1 is a great camera (I have one and love it), but just a caveat since you are intending to go JPEG only. Some folks here (myself included) like Olympus JPEG rendering better than Panasonics. Olympus tends to be more saturated, warmer, and produce punchier images. Panasonic are cooler, more natural, and more "realistic". If you plan to shoot RAW it doesn't matter, but if you are going JPEG, take a look at the output from both and see which you prefer, because they are different. Both will produce fantastic images right out of the camera, and I suppose you can't go wrong with either choice, but they are different enough to where you will likely have a preference.

    Edit: Im sure internet searches will provide head to head examples.
  17. BigTam

    BigTam Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Mar 19, 2012
    Dortmund, Germany
    Real Name:
    If, as you say, 14mm isn't wide enough, and the 12mm f2 is expensive, then you really have two options: the kit 12-50 for about 200 $/EUR, or the 9-18 for roughly the same price as the 12mm. At f5.6 and up, it's hard to see a difference between the 12 and 9-18, so it boils down to low-light vs. flexibility. The 9-18 is clearly better than the 12-50, but the latter still produces good shots in reasonable light.

    Up to A4, 8 x 10 or Monitor/TV, no problems with any of them.
  18. guzziknight

    guzziknight Mu-43 Veteran

    May 18, 2011
    I haven't had any issues with vibration, maybe because I carry the kit in a well padded case.

    I have a VF3 for my E-PL2. The E-P1 doesn't take an EVF. I really don't use it very much, only on really sunny days. I can see the screen pretty well. If you're going to get one, I'd recommend the VF2, which is more money, but much better resolution. I don't love the VF2, but it works.
  19. canuckgser

    canuckgser Mu-43 Rookie

    Mar 26, 2013
    I think you make a good point about investing in lenses instead of bodies when faced with a compromise. A good lens remains a good lens far longer then a camera body, which seem to upgrade and change with unreasonable rapidity. However, the camera body is the main interface, which is why I'm trying to find something relatively 'easy' to shoot with, that I can pick up and get good results without having to read a manual for 3 hours. I'm leaning towards spending a bit less on the body at this point, and trying to get a least one or two premium lenses i the focal lengths that I use most (12 , short telephoto) and something cheaper that will cover a wider range. I appreciate your feedback on the EVF's as well - I'm not sure that will be a must have at least at the beginning. If I can pick up a light and small body, it would be a great second body if I upgrade at a later point. The nice thing about this format is that I would actually consider having two bodies and actually use them. Nice if you are using fixed lenses.
  20. shawngibson

    shawngibson Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 9, 2010
    Having used both a 5D/85 1.2 and E-P3 with kit lens, 20/1.7 and 50 macro in my pocket on both a Ducati and a Sportster, I must say, the only one that was comfortable was the E-P3 Pany 20/1.7 combo, the rest while wearing them around my neck were bulky or heavy. The 5D/85 on a 3500 km trip through the eastern States left me practically in traction for weeks lol. Small and light are critical, for sure, and by small, I mean pancake lenses. That is, if I were to do it again that way. Nowadays I'd just put it all in a napsack, so any M43 solution would probably work quite well.