Help me choose travel lenses & accessories!

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by nandystam, Mar 9, 2012.

  1. nandystam

    nandystam Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 16, 2011
    Melbourne, Australia
    I know there are several threads of this nature already, but I think I've read so much my head will explode :biggrin:

    Here's my travel situation: I will be travelling mid-year to Poland, with a few days in Singapore and a long-ish stopover in Helsinki. It's mainly sightseeing, but I also have some tickets to some of the Euro 2012 soccer matches :smile:

    What I'm looking for is advice on what lenses, a camera backpack, or tripod to take (or buy, if required).

    My skill level is somewhere a bit above beginner. I had an E-620 for a while and spent a week in San Fran using the old 25mm pancake and never took it off, although there was probably one or two cases where I could've used the kit lenses I had. I know how to utilise depth of field a bit so I'm not just a point-and-shoot type, but I'm not as skilled as most of you :smile:

    Here's what I currently have:
    • Oly E-P3 and VF2
    • Oly 14-42 II R kit lens
    • Panny 20mm f1.7
    • 14-54 mkII (with 4/3rds adapter)
    • Gorillapod (can't remember which one)
    • Benro tripod (can't remember which one, but it won't fit in my luggage.. well not in one piece anyway! It's not the travel angel ones)

    I see most people use the Oly 14-150 or Pan 14-140 for travel. I know it won't stack up against the 14-54 II in the same range (or am I wrong?), but what about in comparison to the 14-42 II R? Would the 14-150 be my best option in this case?

    I know the Panny 20mm is perfect indoors so that is definitely coming with me. I got the 14-54 on previous advice here, it's a little weighty but I don't find it too bad overall. I've found with a strap on the E-P3 I can pretty much carry it by the lens, but one handed shooting is not really possible :)  I have no concerns with the AF speed, plus the close focus is a nice. However the size and extra weight flies does go against the concept of micro 4/3 a bit.

    I've noticed a lot of people mention how in their European travels they've used a wider lens (like a 9-18) more often than not. I know this is hard to answer, how essential would it be?

    I'm not sure I'd use a tripod that much. I'm guessing the Gorillapod will do? I used my E-620 + 25mm with it so I think it'll handle the weight of any micro 4/3 stuff without much of a problem.

    My last issue is a backpack to carry whatever I take with me. I know most people go for other kinds of bags, but I'd prefer a backpack as I'd rather*have something that can take the camera gear plus a few other bits (food, drink, other small items). I saw the Dolica DK-30 mentioned in a thread, it looks pretty huge, but the DK-10 might be a better fit? A sling bag that can split the strap in two might also work.

    I also saw the Case Logic TBC-307 which is a bit smaller, but should accomodate the E-P3 plus lens in the top, and maybe an extra 1 or 2 in the bottom plus some other bits and pieces.

    I do have the means to buy (or sell) a few items if required, so I'm open to most suggestions. I guess my ultimate aim would be to travel as light as I can without giving up too much in terms of photo opportunities.

    I know I've raised a few different questions in this post, so feel free to answer some or all.

    Thanks in advance! :smile:
  2. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    What kinds of subjects interest you? You can go blind on flower photography in Singapore.

    Personally, I could never travel without a lens with some reach - 45-200 in my case.
  3. nandystam

    nandystam Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 16, 2011
    Melbourne, Australia
    Thanks for the reply.

    I don't mind flower photography, but I guess scenes/landscapes/buildings are more my go. I suspect I'll end up at the Singapore Zoo so that reach could come in hand there too.

    Sounds like i'll need width and length? :smile:
  4. kinlau

    kinlau Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Feb 29, 2012
    A lot of people like to use an ultra-wide in Europe because of all the old buildings and narrow streets. I certainly known I could have used one in Rome, Florence and Venice.

    Longer lens is a matter of taste, my most used lens on my GH2 is the Panny 100-300 with ETC turned on, that's over 2000mm equiv in video, but that's what I need for birds and wildlife.
  5. My minimum kit would be:

    Two bodies
    One UWA zoom
    One Super/Travel zoom
    A few primes (small enough not to make a big difference in size weight of your kit)

    I'd tend to mostly leave the superzoom attached to one body and rotate the UWA and primes on the other, although I could just as easily go with a combination of UWA and longer prime, or a long and short prime. Carrying two bodies is something I never considered when I shot exclusively with DSLRs but now I wouldn't have it any other way, especially when the m4/3 bodies are so small and it is relatively inexpensive to pick up a slightly older but barely less capable second body.
  6. hypervel

    hypervel Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 30, 2011
    At this stage, I'm on a tiny minimalist bent and have held ( temporarily ) fast with the 14-140 and 20mm. A few other lenses will soon be romanced by me.....
    I'm quite happy at the thought of travelling with just the two of them. Now, I should note that I've been heavily experimenting with the 14-140 in 2x JPEG mode to moderate satisfaction. It will not do for art nor clarity. It is usable, however, and is better than cropping a straight 140mm shot in my experience. I bring this up because size and weight are at a premium during travel. As long as distant shots aren't necessarily the order for travel ( thinking wildlife, zoos, Alaska and such) then a similar lens combo could do.
    Otherwise, I'd add a 100-300 to round it out without compromise.

    Heck, I've even JPEG doubled the 20mm and hazard a guess that it will do for smaller prints. I'm not pushing doubling. Simply passing on a better than nothing variety of experimentation results.

    If I was to go somewhere special, I'd be a lens buying fool.
  7. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    For traveling or any occasion, true wide-angle capability is important to me. I find the need for wide-angle coverage far more often than telephoto when traveling.

    14mm (28mm equivalent) typically just isn't near wide enough for my liking, so any of the 14-xx kit zooms are mid-range lenses for me.

    On m4/3, the 7-14 (14-28mm equiv. angle of view) is fantastic - this lens is simply stunning in the crisp, dramatic, sweeping imagery it is capable of. Costly, but dear.

    When traveling, in spite of having a lot of m4/3 gear with me, I use my LX5 a lot, and mostly with the 18mm-equivalent wide angle lens attachment on the camera. This adaptor lens allows the LX5 to zoom from 18mm-68mm (equivalent) while the camera lens itself gives 24-90mm without the attachment. The LX5 with the WA attachment is a compact, potent and versatile little imaging tool indeed!

    Though I do have and will keep the cherished 7-14 Pany, I plan on adding the 9-18mm Oly zoom as well. I find the 9-18mm range even more useful, generally, than 7-14mm range as a walk-around lens (even if it may not yield quite as strikingly dramatic results). The longer reach at 18mm makes the 9-18 lens a bit more versatile and yet still achieves a respectfully broad field of view at 9mm.

    Cutting to the chase... if I were you, I'd order up a 9-18 in a hot hurry and never look back. :) 

    As for the longer end, I hold the 14-140 Pany is high regard. The IS on this lens is exceptionally effective, the reach at 280mm equivalent is significant, focal length range/versatility is high, and the results are very crisp. Not a small nor lightweight lens, but it delivers the goods for sure! For me, this lens would be far more useful than zooms like the 100-300, which I find only very occasional use for.

    If need be, limiting the number of lenses to carry, I think one could get by quite well with the 9-18, 14-140, and something fast like the 20/1.7 or the 25/1.4.

    While I appreciate the compact form and the crisp imaging 14-45 Pany (or 14-42 alternatives) to cover a modest middle range, they're not much for wide, nor for long, really. As compact, mid range zooms, however, they certainly do deliver excellent results in a very compact format.
  8. Livnius

    Livnius Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Jul 7, 2011
    Melbourne. Australia
    Hey. You got some awesome kit there....the ep3 + evf and the 20/1.7 is a dream basic setup and killer compact combo.
    The 14-42 can be versatile for those days when you have some activities planned and want the one lens so no need to do anything there.

    I'd agree with the others and say add an ultra wide zoom for sure....the 9-18mm Oly is perfect for travel, nice and compact and a good performer. If you have the cash to splash and want the top of the line no matter what the cost, and have the spare room, then go the whole hog and get the Pany7-14mm ULTRA ultra wide.

    Perhaps a longer zoom would be useful too....the 45-200 Pany gets some good reviews and is at a good price point. And again, if you have the cash to splash and have the space.....the 14-140mm Pany superzoom would be crazy.

    Tripod ???? ......up until recently I had a Vanguard Nivelo, super light and compact, fit easily into back-pack, only cost $70 ...BUT....was an epic fail. Flimsy with a good degree of wobble and in the end began to fall apart.
    Just the other week I forked out $170 for the Benro Travel Angel with a top ball head and quick release mechanism and I cannot tell you how much more impressed I am with it. Easily backpack size, super stable and strong, quick release clips for the legs and an absolute breeze to setup and/or close....can hold about 10lb of camera gear I believe.

    Good luck and have fun you lucky so and so :wink: ....I went to the Euros in 2004 in Portugal and again in 2008 in Austria/Switzerland....ABSOLUTELY NUTS ...I am so jealous right now ! The party vibe in those towns on game day is incredible, so much color and excitement...a real buzz.
    Did I mention the food is have so got to hit some of that crazy Polish ghoulash ....mmmmmmmmm
    My father is Croatian so I guess I pickep up a passion for soccer and the Croatian team through him :) 

    Go to Europe and have a blast mate....and take HEAPS of photos :2thumbs:

    PS. Check your messages !

  9. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Three things I would add would be a Lumix 100-300mm, m.zuiko 9-18mm (or Lumix 7-14mm if you can afford it with the rest of the suggested gear), and Olympus FL-600R flash (if you're traveling mid-year, this one will be available by then). I would pick up any of those before a super-zoom, considering that you've already got both a fast prime and a fast zoom (both are very sharp as well) to cover the "standard" range (nor would I bring the kit zoom, for the same reason).
  10. brianb032

    brianb032 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 10, 2011
    I spent some time around Poland and Ukraine last year and I only packed the 20mm. Tbh, I can't ever remember missing a shot or looking for one with a lens I didn't have. Cinsidering that fact, I think your default kit will more than suffice. Save the money for beer, borscht, and sausages.
    • Like Like x 1
  11. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    Most of my photography is travel stuff. I've had M43 equipment pretty much all over the world in the last few years. Galapagos, Southern Africa, Turkey, Russia, etc. It seems like I do some fine-tuning after every trip. Here's what I'd suggest for a general Panny-based travel kit. It would be similar for Olys I think:

    "SLR" body with articualted LCD. Mine is a G1. Second best would be one of the rangefinder style bodies with an EVF.

    9-18mm zoom. IMHO 24mm (equivalent) is the minimum wide angle requirement to get any sense of space for interiors. WIde example:


    14-140 zoom. This is a heavy lens, but it replaces two. I found that the 14-45/45-200 combination didn't work well -- required too much lens-changing outside. The 90mm-equivalent break point was just wrong for me. Here is an uncropped shot with that lens, also using the articulated lcd.


    I usually carry only a monopod. Get one strong enough to use also as a walking stick and the shortest collapsed length you can find. Any cheap little ball head with a quick-release will work but the QR must be of the spring-loaded automatic type not the screw-clamp type. The latter requires three hands to use; one for the camera, one for the monopod, and one for the screw. The Manfrotto RC2 is an example of the spring type.

    After hauling both a Gitzo tripod and a Gitzo monopod around Southern Africa, I ditched both in favor of this: BENRO C2192TB1 Carbon FLAT Tripod Kit * C2190TB1 upgrade | eBay It's 30% lighter and much less bulky to carry. For your trip, though, I'm not sure I'd carry more than just the monopod and the ball head.

    You probably won't need it for your current trip, but a 100-300 is IMHO necessary for wildlife.

    An extra body is A Nice Thing to have. If you are traveling alone or with a private guide, it's not a big deal because you are able to stop and switch lenses if you need to. If you are traveling with a group where you don't control the movement IMHO having both lenses mounted is worthwhile. Having two bodies is also insurance against one dying or being stolen.

    Batteries: For each camera, one in the camera and one (charged) in your pocket. If you're carrying two bodies, even with identical batteries (a good thing) you'll need two chargers so you can plug both in overnight. Every evening the batteries from the cameras go on charge and the charged ones in your pocket go into the cameras.

    Oh, yes: Imodium and Ibuprofen. :) 
  12. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    Are you trying to kill the guy? Do you know how much beer, borscht and sausages those lenses will buy him? He won't make it home after ingesting all that! :eek: 
  13. brianb032

    brianb032 Mu-43 Veteran

    Jan 10, 2011
    He could spread it around a bit by throwing a vodka party for everyone in sight; a bottle for each. The problem? You can forget about going home.
  14. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    WA and especially UWA is an acquired taste. IMHO, where I go, I end up with too much "junk" in the scene - and why I prefer to add a tele instead.

    X4 on the Benro travel angel

    My Singapore pictures are here:
  15. I think I'm the exact opposite, lol. A lot of my favourite travel shots have been taken with a UWA, and yet I have very, very few taken with a tele. With the 14-140mm I think my days of taking a dedicated telephoto lens travelling are virtually over.
  16. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    I'm with ~tc~ in my personal taste. I always prefer to isolate my subject for a "cleaner" composition. But as a commercial photographer this is natural, as all my photos have one central subject to focus on (usually the thing which is getting me paid). On the other hand, I know wide angle is the most popular for most travel photographers, who are interested in capturing an entire scene of interesting tidbits (and as a result can capture some spectacular frames which I wouldn't)...

    ~tc~ is spot on that it all boils down to acquired taste.
  17. flash

    flash Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Apr 29, 2010
    1 hour from Sydney Australia.
    For "me" the problem is that as I use the 14-54II, I can no longer palette the 14-140. The difference is significant. I much prefer the 45-200. I have a very good copy of that one. The 14-54 is also a pretty good macro lens. So based on "my" preferences I would suggest....

    9-18. I really regret selling mine. Great lens. Great range. In any city it's the perfect walk around zoom.
    Gorilla pod.

    For these you'd just need a large bumbag or a small backpack. I'd just get anything you can secure easily and add a Crumpler insert. Or if you really need a photo backpack then look at the smaller Kata bags. I have a couple and they're my preferred small kit backpacks by a long way.

  18. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    Personally, I find the 9-18 an indispensable travel lens. It fits a sweet spot of value, IQ, size/weight, and UWA ability (plus filters if neccessary).

    I would also highly consider the 40-150mm. A small investment at 110-170$, small and gives pretty decent performance. If you're not sure if you'll need a lot of telephoto shots it gives you a lot of reach for a laughable weight. Seriously, I swear it's not much heavier in the hand than the kit lens.
  19. nandystam

    nandystam Mu-43 Regular

    Aug 16, 2011
    Melbourne, Australia
    Thanks for all the replies everyone, this is what makes this such a great forum :smile:

    Oh, and I dislike borscht :biggrin: which leaves more room for beer and vodka!
  20. ~tc~

    ~tc~ Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Oct 22, 2010
    Houston, TX
    One other thing in the tele vs UWA debate ... Much less IQ downside to stitching vs cropping. :) 
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