Traveling Kit?

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by granitemouse, May 21, 2012.

  1. granitemouse

    granitemouse New to Mu-43

    Feb 27, 2012
    As of now, my "kit" (if it could be called that) consists of the Olympus EPL3 with the 14-42 II and a small Ryka camera bag. In a couple of weeks I will travel to China for a month and want to be able to maximise my camera while I'm there. I have $400-$500 to spend. What are some essentials that I need before I leave? I'm thinking:

    - 1 (2?) spare batteries & charger -- which 3rd party brand is reliable?
    - 2 (3?) 4GB or 8GB SD Cards
    - Neck strap -- Which is the best value? I've had issues with the Olympus one not staying on, so I'd look for one with a clasp not just folding over.
    - Monopod -- Are there monopods that can collapse to 1ft or less?
    - A small, inconspicuous camera bag--I might just stick to the Ryka for now, since I don't know what my kit would be.
    - One prime lens --- In terms of lenses, I really think I'm down to 3 options:
    14 2.5 vs 17 2.8 vs 20 1.7
    None of these lenses give me extra range, but they're all faster than my kit lens. Considering it would be the only prime that I have, which would be the most useful addition? I also have legacy Canon glass, would it be worth the FD-m43 adapter to have a 50 1.8 & a 28 2.8?

    I'm trying to bring just enough so that I don't find myself lacking anything. Any and all advice is welcome.
  2. jloden

    jloden Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    May 15, 2012
    Hunterdon County, NJ
    Real Name:
    Granitemouse, you might want to check out my recent "What's Your Travel Setup" thread and see if that helps you with any ideas on your kit.

    As far as your questions, I'm still a relative newcomer to photography, but with that in mind:

    1) Spare batteries - with my GF2 I carry one extra battery, which has turned out to be just about perfect. I frequently end up using both batteries but haven't felt I needed more than that.

    2) SD cards... everyone has different opinions on this, largely based on how many times they've been burned by failed cards I think :wink: I carry 2 16GB SD cards for my camera which is usually plenty of storage for me, even for an extended trip. If you take/keep a lot more photos than I do, more cards would be advised.

    3) Prime lens - if you were going to get only one prime lens out of the ones you mentioned, the 20mm f/1.7 is a great choice IMO. I don't have the 14 or 17 primes, but the 20 was my only prime lens up until really recently, and it was great for general purpose photography in low light. If you're getting it specifically for the low light performance then that's another reason I'd go with the 20mm for the f1/.7 for sure.

    Hope some of that helps - good luck in your search!
    • Like Like x 1
  3. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    I think the Lumix 20mm f/1.7 would be the most "useful" all-purpose lens for you within your budget.

    You definitely need a spare battery. I can't suggest a third-party as I only buy OEM (not because I don't trust other brands, but because I never have time to wait for stock or shipping). You need at least one spare (2 batteries) and 1 charger, though I've heard people are buying batteries off eBay for as cheap as $5 so if you can get something like that then get at least 2 or 3 spares. They take up very little space.

    For a neck strap... I prefer a hand-strap myself, with a quickly detachable neckstrap with quick-release clips. The neck straps I use are mostly older ones from the film era, or special promotions like my smugmug strap. So I can't really help you with a new retail source...

    For a small, urban-styled camera bag, consider the Lowepro Streamline 100. It looks a lot better in person than it does on the web, and shouldn't cost more than $50.

    I think Manfrotto should have a monopod to your liking which will be relatively affordable but good quality. With the purchase of a lens, batteries, and bag though, I think a half-decent monopod is pushing that $500 limit unless you can get some good deals somewhere. If you were buying full retail price, your lens would be $400, batteries $60, and bag $50. I know you could save a lot over that by going third-party, especially on the batteries. A good monopod though should run you no less than $150, maybe $100 if you're lucky. I would save that to the end to see what you have left over, as it is the more non-essential purchase out of those you listed... especially if you're using a fast lens like the 20mm f/1.7. The E-PL3 with the 20mm pancake will be an exceptionally small package, and the monopod will defeat that advantage.
    • Like Like x 1
  4. Adubo

    Adubo SithLord

    Nov 4, 2010
    Real Name:
    For a semi-fast prime on a budget BUT DOESNT compromise the Image Quality too much, I'd recommend getting the sigma 19mm 2.8 and sigma 30mm 2.8. Fast auto focus, sharp and cheap! 200usd a pop, you'll only spend 400usd for two, undeniably great primes for the price of one! (the 20/1.7 I think costs more. Not sure though ;) )
  5. dixeyk

    dixeyk Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Aug 9, 2010
    Of course we all have different ideas about travel kits and there has been a recent thread about this HERE that might want to check out.

    I'll wade in with my take on things. I like to travel light. The longer the trip the lighter I like to travel. If I were going on the same trip I would probably take the following...

    Camera (in my case a GH2)
    P20 (nice low light, great "normal FOV" and small)
    P14-45 (or whatever kit lens you have)
    2-3 16GB or 32GB SD cards (at 12MP Super Fine JPEG a 32GB SD card will hold close to 3000 images)
    spare battery (I'd go OEM)
    travel adapter plug and charger (the OEM chargers are small and light)

    ...all stuffed into my Domke F6 shoulder bag with room left over for passport, maps, souvenirs and a sandwich.

    I wouldn't take any legacy glass. It's heavier and last time I took a long trip I never once cracked it open. The 14-45 (or 14-42) kit lens gives you a wonderfully useful set of focal lengths, is decently sharp and will likely be the primary lens you'll end up using. You get WA and short telephoto and the lens should be fast enough for most conditions (and IBIS on your E-PL3 definitely helps). The 20 can come out for low light, interiors, museums etc. As far as a strap...I like using a Gordy wrist strap. I think small cameras really do well with wrist straps. My GH2 falls comfortably in hand and is always at the ready. Another option would be a black rapid strap that would allow you to sling it over your shoulder yet have it ready quickly when you need it. FWIW I have a Back Rapid and I'd still choose my Gordy wrist strap.
    • Like Like x 1
  6. ggibson

    ggibson Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 9, 2011
    FD adapters are pretty inexpensive, so that would be easy to try out if you already have some glass. Although, I personally do not enjoy manual focusing without a viewfinder. It will depend on your shooting style whether you think it is worth traveling with.

    Agreed on the 20mm f1.7 also--best all-around prime for m4/3. Small, fast aperture, flexible focal length. Get it; it's a no-brainer.
  7. Pyro451

    Pyro451 Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 18, 2012
    Massachusetts, USA
    Real Name:
    Having traveled to China on several occasions with only a P&S (POS?) camera, I can make some recommendations. I am nothing close to a professional, or expert on the subject of photography though.

    Of the three lenses you listed I would go for the 20mm f/1.7. The fast lens speed will be extremely helpful in situations where a flash is not allowed, or would be disruptive. I found myself unhappy about no flash photography, or washed out colors due to the flash all too often.

    The only downside of the 20/1.7 is the narrow field of view for indoor/shaded photos. I found many situations where I just could not back up enough to get everything I wanted in the frame (again, using a P&S).

    If I get back to China again (with any non-business time) I will definitely bring my OM-D kit. :biggrin:

    Out of curiosity, where in China will you visit?

    [edit: If budget is getting tight, you can probably still get the 14mm for $160 off ebay - split from a kit]
  8. granitemouse

    granitemouse New to Mu-43

    Feb 27, 2012
    Thanks for all of the replies! I've been reading other comments for ages, but it's really nice to have a specific answer to my specific situation.

    The spare batteries are important because we have many day trips (and I'll also be going to Thailand for a month and during jungle hikes I do NOT want to run low on power).

    In China, I will go to Beijing, Shanghai, Dun Huang, and Yunnan Province.

    In terms of the SD Cards, I'm pretty new to photography, and I'm not shutter-happy. I think 2 16 GB cards wil be enough. I'm more focused on having a spare in case of damage than I am at risk of filling both. :D

    The 20 1.7 seems like the general answer. I have also considered the Sigma lenses, but I have heard stories of quality control issues, and with less than 2 weeks until take off, I don't want to risk having to have my lens forwarded to China.
  9. Ned

    Ned Mu-43 Legend

    Jul 18, 2010
    Alberta, Canada
    At least one spare battery is important not only for the sake of longevity on a single outing, but also for the sake of overall convenience. I don't know about you, but I don't want to be a slave to a routine, and have to charge my camera's battery every single time I take it out since I don't really know how much charge is left in it. As long as you have at least one spare battery, you don't need to charge your battery with every use. You can come home, relax, not bother with your camera, then grab it again for your next outing without any special procedure. When the battery runs out you just swap it, then you can put the spent battery in the charger when you get home or whatever.

    This is also better for the life of your batteries, as you are able to use them to their full capacity before popping them in the charger again. A battery likes to be drained before being charged again.

    As for your Canon FD lenses (sorry I didn't notice the mention of them when I typed my first response), I would bring the 50mm f/1.8 but not the 28mm f/2.8. Wide angles are much better served by native Micro Four-Thirds lenses, but the 50mm will make a nice short telephoto on your system. It will also help alleviate the need for the m.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8, allowing you to concentrate your resources on wider lenses like the Lumix 20mm f/1.7. Once you get the adapter, it will also let you adapt fast telephoto lenses which are as yet unavailable in native mount, such as the 135mm f/2, f/2.5, or f/2.8. You can still find a lot of these lenses rather inexpensively.

    My only concern would be getting an FD mount adapter in time before you leave, as they're not something you can find in most local retail stores. They are usually a mail-order item. But if you don't get one in time, as long as you pick up the Lumix 20mm f/1.7 you'll be fine with just that. ;)

    Smart choice on 2 smaller SD cards over 1 larger SD card. That is a better setup in many ways... not only for the safety of your photos, but also allowing you to still shoot while unloading images as well as giving you a "reserve tank" (you motorcycle riders will know what I mean). When your first card runs out, you know you're halfway done and on your second card, instead of shooting continuously until your card suddenly runs out and you're left with nothing. Much the same concept as using two or more batteries...
  10. Pyro451

    Pyro451 Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 18, 2012
    Massachusetts, USA
    Real Name:
    If you will visit the forbidden city in Beijing you will be happy to have a fast lens to capture the covered/interior scenery without a flash. 20mm should also allow you to get good shots of the Olympic venues.

    20mm should be wide enough to get good landscapes from the great wall (assuming you will head out there). You can certainly stitch several shots to get wider for scenery. PSE is great for this.

    You should not even power up your camera in Dongguan! What happens in Dongguan stays in Dongguan! :wink:
  11. foxtail1

    foxtail1 Science geek & photo nut

    Dec 30, 2011
    Southwest Virginia
    Real Name:
    Ned, is that still true about batteries? I thought that current batteries did not need to be fully discharged to maintain battery life.
  12. Redridge

    Redridge Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 17, 2012
    No... today's battery does not need to be drained all the way down before recharging.... but I hear that drawing down the charge for a couple of cycle in the beginning of its life helps its longevity.
  13. DeeJayK

    DeeJayK Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 8, 2011
    Pacific Northwest, USA
    Real Name:
    I agree with the others that the 20mm f/1.7 is a great travel lens due to it's pancake form factor and low-light ability. I feel that it's the first lens that most :43: users should get when they're ready to expand past the kit lens.

    I think Ned and dixeyk are pretty spot on with their suggestions. I also would probably not recommend bringing any adapted lenses, particularly if you're not already comfortable shooting with manual focus on your PEN. A long trip is not the best place to try out new equipment IMO, and the weight of those older lens is substantial.

    Couple other pieces of equipment I would make sure to bring along: a small blower (like a Giotto's rocket), a lens pen and a couple of microfiber cloths.
  14. phrenic

    phrenic Mu-43 All-Pro

    Sep 13, 2010
    Yeah the 20mm is great. I'll go days without using it on a trip but its so stupidly small that i have no problems tossing it in my pocket just in case I will need it.