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Struggling with gear decisions for travelling - EPM1/OMD/Lens..

Discussion in 'This or That? (MFT only)' started by rapid, Jun 7, 2012.

  1. rapid

    rapid Mu-43 Rookie

    Apr 11, 2012
    Hi All,

    I recently got an EPM1 and I'm pretty happy with it. I also picked up the 14mm, 20mm and 45mm which are all cracking lenses.

    I'm currently going through a GAS phase with regards to the OMD, it looks fantastic.

    I'm going to be travelling for 6months-1year from this september across asia/australia/south america.

    Its a trip of a lifetime and I want to make sure I capture loads of great photos, I plan on emailing/blogging whilst I'm there and then upon return get a series of thick coffee table books so when I'm back in the rat race have something to take me back and escape :)  If I take enough decent photos then perhaps a book per country.

    My intension is to go down the OOC jpeg route, I wont have time to PP photos and tbh I want to get to a point with my photography where what I capture is correctly composed.

    I really like the EPM1, its size is good the main gripe is the screen is pretty poor so I was considering getting the EVF but this does add a bit of bulk and rules out the flash.

    One thing I have found is its quite fiddly to change lenses. My travel will be all over the place, towns, people, landscapes, things passing by quickly etc.. I'm just not all that confident that primes is the way to go to be able to 'reactively' capture moments whilst on the move.. I guess some would say 'just take the 14mm' but I dont know if being limited to 28mm equiv will give me the flexibility I would need.

    The announcement of the Panasonic 12-35mm made me wonder if this was the perfect lense for such a trip.. perhaps this in combination with the 20mm for lowlight is the best solution. I am concerned by the 12-35mm price, but I would be looking to keep the camera with me at all times.

    I then started wondering if the OMD+Kit lens would be enough to cover my requirements.. perhaps again keeping the 20mm for lowlight..

    Has anyone here had experience with travel photography on this kind of scale? I would be interested to hear your thoughts.

  2. demiro

    demiro Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Nov 7, 2010
    For that trip I think I'd want something heavy-duty and weather-resistant, like the E-M5 + 12-50, and an E-PM1, as a back up, and for when size matters.

    The nice thing about a "once in a lifetime" trip is that it's easy to justify splurging on camera gear so you can capture the memories!
  3. rapid

    rapid Mu-43 Rookie

    Apr 11, 2012
    very true demiro, it does make you think 'why not' - at the same time 1k for the OMD and 1k for the 12-35mm would be 2 months travelling in asia..
  4. s0nus

    s0nus Mu-43 Veteran

    Dec 13, 2010
    I am in the early phases of planning for a similar trip, and have recently picked up the Oly 14-150mm for the occasion. I shoot all kinds of focal lengths, and really got tired of swapping between the 14-42mm kit and the 40-150mm, especially when traveling. I'm testing the lens now to see if I like the images it renders; as of right now, I think it's a keeper.

    Originally, I planned on coupling that lens only with the Pany 20mm. However, I've been recently looking into UWA lenses and have been eyeing the Oly 9-18mm. I LOVE the compositions and shots that are possible with wide angle as members here have demonstrated.

    And so, my final lens lineup will be at least the 14-150mm and the 20mm, and possibly the 9-18mm. I have never shot wider than 14mm, and I hesitate to throw another lens in the mix as I truly travel LIGHT, but we shall see! I feel this trio gives me a huge focal range and excellent low light capabilities.

    I also plan on picking up an OMD body to replace my EPL1. :biggrin:
    • Like Like x 1
  5. artsifrtsy

    artsifrtsy Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 2, 2011
    My travel kit contains the E-M5 and Kit lens, the PL45 for Macros shots (if you want to avoid PP and want great macro shots the kit lens is just not enough), my Oly 9-18 for tight interiors and wide landscapes. Those are my essentials - just to get by.

    If I have room I add the kit flash and the FL-300 so I can use RC - nice for macro, the grip and my 100-300 zoom. If I pack it right I can even manage to get my PL25 in my Domke messenger. Throw in the iPad and I'm ready to blog.

    My last trip through South Dakota and Colorado was only for a couple of weeks and included a train ride from the San Francisco - I used every bit of this kit except the FL-300. My heaviest use was from the kit lens and the zoom - but we we're shooting lots of wildlife - if that's not a concern then you don't need the zoom.

    I may be a heavy packer :) 
  6. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    I would pick up the E-M5 with Lumix X 12-35mm/2.8 as your main camera, and use the E-PM1 with 14mm, 20mm, 45mm as your second camera. Don't go on an extended trip without a backup, and the E-PM1 makes a perfect backup because it also doubles as a compact second which can be taken as a standalone when the smallest package is needed.

    In the interests of making the E-PM1 a worthy second to the OM-D, I would also get the VF-2 viewfinder to go with it. If you can't afford that entire package, then I would sell the Lumix 14mm/2.5 and m.Zuiko 45mm/1.8 to pay for the VF-2. That would give you a two-camera kit with the ultra-compact E-PM1 + VF2 + 20mm/1.7 pancake, and the larger kit of E-M5 + 12-35mm/2.8 as your fully weather-sealed main kit.
    • Like Like x 1
  7. Hikari

    Hikari Mu-43 All-Pro

    Nov 26, 2010
    My first book published in Japan was all done with one camera and one prime lens. The accompanying exhibition was shown in the US and Japan. I am having a book published this summer taken with one camera and three prime lenses, but 90% of the work was done with one focal length, 9.9% was done with another, and the rest with the third. All of this work was done on the road so to speak. Another book I will be starting this summer was taken with two cameras each with a single prime lens.

    It sounds like the primary reason for your trip is to have fun. Carrying a lot of stuff is not fun (but then again doing this kind of photography and making books is not fun either). I would say what you have would work very well. If you swap your current camera with an EM-5, that would work too. Although a two-camera setup, each with a different prime lens is a really good solution, not only how fast you can work that way, but also you have a backup camera should one fail or get lost.

    And then there is logistics, which is more important than your camera. What are you going to do with the thousands and thousands of images you should be taking? Upload them to the cloud? Hard drives? Will you always have power to run your computer and recharge your batteries--I assume you have spare batteries. Do you have enough spare SD cards? If you lose the camera, can you get another one? And your computer? And how to backup data? Is your bag, both your camera bag and your traveling bag, going to make you feel like a donkey? You can't work when you are tired. You can't hold a camera steady under a heavy backpack. And leave energy to write up your journal everyday--you will find it really difficult to catch up even one day.

    Traveling and taking pictures is really glamourous--just ask Gary...
    • Like Like x 3
  8. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    When I travel I like to travel light and fast. Then again, I'm not a traveling photo journalist. I travel for the fun of it. Lugging gear is not my idea of fun. An E-PM1 would work great. Also, if it gets stolen you could replace it four times before you got to the cost of an OMD.
  9. crsnydertx

    crsnydertx Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Dec 31, 2010
    Houston, TX
    A friend of mine had his 5D and favorite L zoom stolen while he was on vacation in Ecuador; happened on the first or second day of his trip. Fortunately, he had brought along a Canon G12, which saved the photographic aspect of his vacation. He squeezed some good shots out of the backup, but in hindsight he wished he'd brought along something a little more capable.

    E-PM1 as backup to E-M5 sounds good to me; you give up a little but not so much as having to step down to a point-and-shoot. On my vacation this summer, it looks like E-P3 and E-PM1 will be the players.
  10. oldracer

    oldracer Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Oct 1, 2010
    Well, not in one go, but I have been to five of the seven continents. (Assuming New Zealand does not count for the Australian continent.)

    Lots of talk about bodies here. Two bodies is definitely nice. Eye-level viewfinder IMHO is essential both because you will often be in bright outdoor light and for stability with lenses longer than normal/50mm equivalent focal length.

    Lenses: 9-18mm and 14-140mm, supplemented by the 100-300mm if you want birds and wildlife. Add a monopod for low light situations and you're good to go.

    Exactly! I carry no primes. Same reason.

    Unless you are cropping a lot (bad anyway) or printing gigantic books, the zooms' IQ will have zero effect on whether your photos are good or not. IMHO there is way too much pixel-peeping and obsession with lest test charts here. IQ of the type of lenses we talk about here is completely adequate for making good photos.

    Re JPGs, why not save both RAW and JPG? Then you have the best of both worlds. If you get into a situation where write time is slowing you down, then switch to JPG if you need to.

    Carry a ton of memory cards and frequently mail cards back home to someone as you travel. Then you don't have the risk of your whole take being lost due to theft or other disaster.
  11. 6x6

    6x6 Mu-43 Regular

    Oct 12, 2011
    I think the photographic gear for such a trip should be

    Please note that I didnt add the ability to make great pics. Any current camera can do this, whether its the OM-D or the E-PM1.

    So, the E-PM1 with 14-42 and a Pany 20/1.7 is more than capable of doing anything necessary without burdening you too much.

    And if you should loose some gear in this or that way, a PM1 and its lens are way easier to replace on the road than an OM-D+expensive zoom.

    Way back in the analog days I carried up to 5Kg of NIkon gear through Iceland and the Scottish Highlands. Later I took only two Rollei 35, I made pictures no worse and walked unburdened.
  12. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    Considering how hard OMD's have been to get you'd probably get back from the trip before you could score another one.

    I also think where you're going would dicate what kind of lens(es) to take. If I were going to Costa Rica and wanting to photograph wildlife then I'd take a long zoom like my 45-200. If I were bopping around Spain looking at castles and churches I'd probably take my P20 and P14-45 and call it good. The other issue you can run into (I did in Europe) was that I assumed that there would be easy access to wifi where I could upload my photos that I was offloading to my iPad. That was not the case. Next time I'm taking some extra 16GB or 32GB SD cards for storing the files on and then when I hit the big cities get them burned to CD or uploaded at that point. a 16GB card holds something like 1500 12mp JPEGs.
  13. If I were you, I'd just get the VF-2 and be done with it. I have the same set of primes, and they are perfectly fine for that sort of trip. A $1000 zoom won't deliver better photos, and as you say: every $1000 is another month in Asia. You should think about the theft aspect too, and all the associated hassles. Really expensive kit isn't sensible, if you are traveling cheap and staying in budget accommodation.
    If you want a general purpose zoom for daytime use, grab one of the 12-50mm zooms from the E-M5, should be cheap enough, and allows semi-macro of flowers and creepy crawlies. Or a superzoom, if you are interested in photographing some of the great beasties you will encounter: Koalas, Monitor Lizards, monkeys are some that you can get close too. A 150mm lens is great to get intimate shots of that sort of encounter. If you decide to go for the zoom, then I would recommend you don't take the 14/2.5 or the 45/1.8. The 20/1.7 is what I always put on in the evening for street shots, food shots etc....you can probably more or less swap those two lenses for a VF2 and 14-150. I also use the 20/1.7 for landscapes, it is really sharp stopped down a little.
    Really, if the extra $2000 means your travel budget will suffer: don't spend it.
    If you think you need a back-up body, grab an E-PL1. Cheap as chips, and takes the same battery as the E-PM1. Shove it in a padded plastic box and forget about it unless you need it.
    • Like Like x 1
  14. sym5

    sym5 Mu-43 Regular

    Feb 21, 2012
    Sounds like a great trip. Since you seem somewhat mindful of the budget, you could get 2 E-PM1's instead of the E-M5. Put an Oly 14-150 on one and a pancake on the other (14, 17, or 20), and that should cover most of your cases without swapping lenses, and you can also add other lenses as budget allows. You should definitely get a VF2 to share between the two, since it's very difficult to frame shots on the back LCD in strong sunlight. I'd also recommend at least two spare batteries. I found myself regularly using up about two batteries on a full day of shooting.
  15. M4/3

    M4/3 Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 24, 2011
    If you plan on taking just one camera with you then yes, the E-M5 has significant advantages over the E-PM1 like faster shutter speeds in low light, extremely good image stabilization (also important for low light), tilt screen for waist high shooting, weather sealing if it rains, built in viewfinder and excellent video capabilities (due in part to the fantastic image stabilization).

    BUT, if you want to bring two camera bodies and are concerned about weight, remember the E-M5 is fairly hefty and more bulky than a E-PM1 or E-PL1. So if video and low light quality are not a top priority, you might want to go the E-PL1 body ($149 from Cameta Camera) + VF-2 viewfinder route. Some (myself included) think the E-PL1 is the best of all Oly compacts for OCC jpeg image quality and it's low light and slow focusing handicaps are mostly mitigated by using fast focusing primes like the Pany 14, 25 and Oly 45.
    • Like Like x 1
  16. DHart

    DHart Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Jan 7, 2010
    Scottsdale, Arizona
    If I were doing your trip, for camera kit itself, I would take two bodies (not very important which ones, but EVF & tilting screen would be essential to me) and three lenses, at minimum.

    For lenses: UWA zoom, standard range zoom, fast prime are essential, no-compromise lenses.

    For me, this would be: 7-14 (or 9-18), 14-45 (or 12-35, or 14-140, etc.), and 20/1.7.

    When on the run, shooting a wide variety of subjects, rapidly changing requirements - prime lens swapping is out of the question and not necessary. Good quality zooms for m4/3 render excellent IQ if you do your part well.
  17. rapid

    rapid Mu-43 Rookie

    Apr 11, 2012
    Some great responses here.. It's good to see its not just me that's confused about the best kind of setup for travel. I guess every person is different, some prefer primes some zooms.. some think camera isn't all that important others prefer the tech specs of the OMD etc.

    Really hard decisions to make though, I guess no matter what I go with I will capture some fantastic photos.

    I will just have to have a think through and try to come to somesort of decision.

    Perhaps I should spend the time I'm wasting on thinking about gear on getting out with my EPM more, learning how to capture better photos.. composition, metering etc.

    The next tech decision I have is regarding my 13" MacBook Air.. do I take it or get a cheap netbook.. perhaps downgrade to the 11" Air for portability.. or get an ipad with the camera connection kit and bluetooth keyboard..

    Having a £1000 laptop in my backpack worrys me a little to say the least.. Even if I picked up an older 11" macbook air, that at least halfs the risk/cost to £500..

    I hate being in to tech, if I was joe bloggs I would have picked up a P&S and a netbook from argos and off I would go :2thumbs:
  18. ocellaris

    ocellaris Mu-43 Rookie

    Dec 12, 2011
    I've never taken a 1+ month trip, but I've taken quite a few 1-2 week trips over the past few years. I'm a recent convert from canon. My philosophy has always been that, while bodies can be important, buy the best glass you can afford. I've tried the following over the years:

    Option A: one canon digital rebel + 2-3 high quality primes. like you and others have mentioned, swapping primes on the fly can be a major pain. If its windy and you're at the beach or anywhere dirt is kicking up, I don't like exposing my sensor to that. I also found this a relatively cumbersome setup, especially if I packed a canon flash, filters, etc.

    Option B: I picked up canon's terrific 17-55mm/2.8 lens with IS. On aps-c, it's a 28-88mm equivalent. Great lens. It was as sharp as my primes. It just didn't go to f/1.8. But it was a single lens solution for 80% of the photos I wanted to take on my trips. The downsides: I sometimes wanted a wider angle or longer telephoto. The body and lens were bulky and heavy and obvious when walking around a city all day.

    Option C: even worse. 2 canon bodies. I took the 17-55mm/2.8 and rented canon's 100-400/4.5-5.6. Plus a tripod. This was on a trip to glacier national park, Montana. I didn't have to swap lenses -- each was attached to its own body. But with all the equipment in or attached to my backpack, I felt like a Sherpa, while everyone else had there point and shoots. That said, I got some great shots, so it was worth it!

    With all of my traveling -- sometimes for work and sometimes on vacation -- the weight and bulk became annoying. As better MFT bodies and lenses came out, this route was increasingly attractive. Now I've got an e-pl3, an e-pm1, the vf2, kit lens, 20, 45, and I'm currently testing a bunch of manual lenses in the 90mm-200mm range. I'll eventually get the 7-14/4. Then my travel kit will be

    Option D: e-pl3, e-pm1, 7-14, 20, telephoto, vf2. My guess is that for nature/hiking, I'll leave the 7-14 and the telephoto on the bodies most of the time. When in a city, I'll keep the 20 mounted instead of the telephoto. The weight of these two bodies with two AF primes is half that of my rebel + 17-55. Adding the 7-14 will bring it closer, but I love that 7mm perspective!. Also, if I'm in a city, I'll have the option of locking one camera and lenses in a safe and just taking one camera and lens out for the day or evening. And that setup will fit in a jacket pocket, not bounce around my neck, take a lot of room on a restaurant table, or make me a target.

    Obviously, since Im going this route, If I were you, I'd buy another e-pm1, the vf2, and a telephoto beyond the 45mm. You can pick up terrific manual focus lenses for not much money -- eg, any of the canon, Minolta, Nikon, 100/2.8's for $160 or less. So you'ld have 2x epm1, 14, 20, a tele, and vf2. With two of the lenses mounted to the bodies and the vf2 mounted to one, thats a great, high quality, light weight, manageable kit. And if anything is stolen, they're not $1000+ items.

    Having enjoyed the canon 17-55, the pany 12-35 is REALLY tempting, but also a more expensive option. With that and a decent telephoto, whether oly/pany or MF, you could have a nice, compact, two-camera, two-lens setup. After I take my current kit on three trips this summer (Berlin, southern California, England), I may consider this option as well. Of course, a 2x e-m5 kit with the 12-35 and the 35-100 would be fantastic! But it's very expensive, obtaining e-m5's is difficult, and neither the 12-35 nor 35-100 are available yet. And my wife would kill me!

    Concerning computers and image files: will you always be staying at a hotel with a safe in your room? If not, I'd get a netbook with the largest hard drive possible.. I'ld also spend the $100ish for a large Dropbox account. Whenever you have wifi access, upload your files to Dropbox. Depending on the size of your hard drive you may not be able to sync them (where copies of the files are stored both on your computer and on the Dropbox server). If you won't have wifi, then the suggestions of buying many sd cards and mailing them are good ones (but how reliable will the mail be in areas without wifi?). Another option would be to pick up a small, inexpensive external hard drive from time to time (whenever you're in a major city), dump files to it, and mail it back to your home address. The downside of the netbook is whether you'll want to do any image editing while you're traveling. I know you can do this on the Mac air. I don't know about netbooks.

    Lots of great options. And it sounds like a fantastic trip. Enjoy!
    • Like Like x 1
  19. mattia

    mattia Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 3, 2012
    The Netherlands
    I've travelled quite extensively, including trips with major camera gear.

    My base travel setup is 1 capable camera and a good standard zoom - for Canon, this was the 5DII and a 24-105. Trips with animals? Add a 100-400. Always in the bag: 1-2 prime lenses, very sometimes an ultra wide zoom. These come out when I wanted a smaller package and lowlight capability. Also a compact/small camera.

    My theoretical travel kit for something like this would be my E-M5, my GF2 (adding a viewfinder is completely unnecessary, IMO - spend cash on glass if one of the two has an EVF anyway), and depending on budget, either a kittens (one of the 14-4x lenses, ideally the 12-50 due to weather sealing) or the 12-35, either the panny 45-200 (budget) or 100-300 (less budget) as you may well encounter wildlife.

    My actual travel kit would probably be a 5DII+24-105, E-M5+100-300, plus 14/2.5, 20/1.7, and Contax/Zeiss 50/1.4 with suitable adapters. Maybe add an ultra wide or Contax/Zeiss 35/2.8.

    I would take the pancakes along because they're stupid tiny, and can make for a nice little discreet package. Don't worry too much about gaps in zoom coverage either. Makes for a change of flavor and we're talking about a few ounces of extra weight and cheap, easily replaced glassware.

    What I would NOT do is shoot straight JPG - it's all well and good to strive for optimal results in camera, but even some of my 'prefect' shots have been made just that much better with a little RAW post-processing. This is going to be the voyage of a lifetime, record it all in as much glorious detail as possible. I'd go with plenty of memory cards, and offsite/online backup at opportune times.

    Much as I love my Mac Air, I usually don't travel with a computer, but do take a small hard disk and high speed card reader along to back up the cards at internet cafes/hostels while checking my e-mail. Or just get a large capacity iPad and an iPad hyperdrive - much smaller, lighter, better screen than any of the Mac airs, and a pretty ideal travel device.
  20. angusr

    angusr Mu-43 Regular

    Sep 21, 2011
    When I was in SA in 2005 (on a bicycle), there were internet cafes everywhere with CDs to burn photos onto which could then be mailed home. This could be done in even very small towns - it is how the locals get on the web. Of course files have got larger, but it's a good option for your best photos.

    Enjoy your trip!
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