Trip report: 3 weeks in China with the OMD

Discussion in 'Olympus Cameras' started by ilsiu, Jul 9, 2013.

  1. ilsiu

    ilsiu Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 4, 2012
    I recently completed a three week family vacation in China and would like share my photography related experiences.

    I want to stress that this was first and foremost a family (myself, wife, 8 year-old daughter, 5 year old son) and not a photography trip, which means I was mostly limited to shooting in harsh mid-day light and my kids needed much of my attention; i.e. didn't have much time to deliberate camera settings, composition, or setting up a tripod. So I needed something that delivers near-DSLR quality and is also compact, light, and ready to shoot at a moments notice.

    Cut to the chase: my m4/3 kit performed well for me. Any deficiencies in my photos were mostly due to lack of compositional skill, post-processing skill, and good available light. I chalk it up as a good learning experience. I started building my m4/3 system a few months ago in anticipation of this trip. I already have an APS-C DSLR system (Nikon D7000), but wanted a smaller, lighter system that had lots of flexibility but didn't give up too much image quality. When Olympus ran their OMD kit promos a few months ago I jumped in. Here's what I eventually ended up taking on the trip:

    Equipment list:
    - Olympus OM-D E-M5
    - Olympus 14-42 II
    - Olympus 45-150 R
    - Olympus 0.8x wide angle converter (WCON)
    - extra battery (third party)
    - RRS L-bracket and grip
    - circular polarizer filter
    - 3 and 6 stop ND filter
    - Nodal Ninja MK3 panorama head
    - Jusino TK-225S compact tripod
    - Pixel Rook radio trigger set (for wireless shutter release)
    - Knockoff of Maxpedition Fatboy GTG bag
    - microfiber cloth
    - 32 GB (1x) and 8 GB (5x) SD cards

    Places visited (specific sites):
    - Beijing (Summer Palace, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Great Wall)
    - Xi'an (Terracotta warriors, City wall)
    - Chongqing
    - Yangzi River/Three Gorges
    - Zhenjiang (Jinshan Park)
    - Shanghai (Bund, Oriental Pearl Tower, Nanjing Road)

    I ended up with ~2600 images spread out over three weeks. Not sure exactly how many shots the batteries were good for, but I ended up needing to change batteries every other day.

    What I was happy with:
    - Total kit weight is much lighter and more compact then my equivalent DSLR kit. Really appreciated the weight savings as we did a lot of walking in very hot and humid weather (one day it reached 104 F)
    - AF was fast and accurate most of the time (missed focus a few time in low-light situations); overall I felt it had better success rate in good light than my DSLR (most of my images were of relatively stationary objects, so tracking AF wasn't needed)
    - RRS grip fits my hand very comfortably
    - IBIS worked well
    - Haven't made any prints, but pretty satisfied with ISO 3200 for web images
    - used the 150mm focal length more than I expected, glad I had it available (well worth the $100 special kit price I paid for it)
    - Loved the exposure bracketing coupled with high shutter release rate - just press and hold the shutter button and three shots are fired in quick succession
    - Liked the EVF; shadow and highlight blinkies were very useful
    - Loved the SCP
    - the tilt LCD was handy for overhead and stealth shooting
    - Tripod is very compact and surprisingly stable even at full extension (but not sure how much critical sharpness it cost me)
    - Shoulder bag allowed very quick and easy access to camera and lenses. I greatly prefer it over a backpack.

    What I didn't like:
    - lost the cover to the hot shoe accessory port
    - wish there was a quick and easy way to switch between different mysets (I don't consider holding down FN1 a good solution) thus I didn't utilize mysets and relied on the SCP and menu diving
    - Hate the LCD/EVF autoswitch, it's way too sensitive. Turning it off takes SCP away from the LCD (when camera is in EVF mode)
    - piece of the eyecup broke off and was lost
    - wish I could customize the SCP (would add bracketing and myset selection)
    - wish I had a faster lens for indoors/low light situations
    - wish I had a better wide-angle solution (WCON has noticeable barrel distortion)

    Other comments:
    - Expect for Jiuzhaigou, skies were terminally grey and hazy.
    - I assigned AF-ON to FN2 button, magnify to REC (didn't record any video on this trip).
    - All lenses were used; most used was the 14-42 followed by 14-42 + WCON.
    - Only used the panorama setup a couple of times; only used the tripod a few times. This was mainly due to large crowds and not having much time for setting up (although the NN does setup pretty quickly for a panorama head). I was also discouraged by the grey skies (i.e. wanted to save stitching for when there was great light).
    - only used ND filter once
    - used CP filter extensively in Jiuzhaigou. This was my first time using a CP and I may have gone a little overboard, but it was fun to use
    - had to use 3200 ISO alot more that I thought I would.
    - I thought metering was pretty good, but I did bracket a lot since it was so convenient and ended up using a few of the bracketed shots instead of the nominal exposure.
    - my bag was just able to fit my entire kit; I would've like some extra room to hold snacks and light rainjacket but without having a larger bag.
    - I can change lenses faster than with my DSLR, but I still don't like doing it; would prefer a two body+lens setup. A mythical 10-40/2.8 and 50-150/2.8 would be perfect :smile:
    - Just an initial impression, but I feel like the low ISO (<400 ISO) shots generally match the image quality I was getting out of my DSLR. At 1600 ISO and higher I feel like my DSLR does better (and auto focuses better as well).

    Overall I was pretty satisfied with my equipment (if not the weather). The main limitation was low light capability - I really would've liked either better high ISO capability or faster lenses (or both).

    Finally, here are some of the actual photos and link to the complete set: Travel pics - I-Liang Siu (iliang)'s Photos

    Feel free to comment and hope this is useful to someone!











  2. MajorMagee

    MajorMagee Mu-43 All-Pro

    Feb 24, 2011
    Dayton, OH
    Beautiful images of China. I've been there a couple of times and I don't remember ever seeing a blue sky.

    My last trip was done entirely with just the PL 20 mm on the E-PL1 because it's small, lightweight, has great clarity / color rendition, and can handle the full range of close-ups, indoors / low light and outdoor landscapes.
  3. Iansky

    Iansky Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 26, 2009
    The Cotswolds, UK
    Some really nice images here, I love the colours on the buildings and the architecture in the old style, it is so majestic and beautiful.

    I do wish the image of the terracotta warriors was from the front rather than the back as it is one of unsung wonders of the world and must be a staggering spectatcle to see in the flesh.
  4. ilsiu

    ilsiu Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 4, 2012

    Thanks; I have a front view shot too!
  5. xdayv

    xdayv Color Blind

    Aug 26, 2011
    Tacloban City, Philippines
    Some very nice photos and thanks for sharing your thoughts!
  6. scott0487

    scott0487 Mu-43 Regular

    Jul 10, 2012
    Steamboat Springs, CO
    Very much appreciate your report -- it's always good to hear people's real life experiences and to see what worked for them and what didn't. You have some great shots there. Thanks.

  7. heedpantsnow

    heedpantsnow Mu-43 Veteran

    Jul 24, 2011
    Very nice shots! I especially like the intersection of old and new in the photo of the bridge under construction (Chongqing I assume?).
  8. nstelemark

    nstelemark Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    May 28, 2013
    Halifax, Nova Scotia Canada
    Very nice - Thanks!
  9. RevBob

    RevBob Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Jun 4, 2011
    NorthWestern PA
    You got some great shots! I appreciated your commentary, particularly the pros and con's. Thanks. :thumbup:
  10. Iansky

    Iansky Mu-43 All-Pro

    Dec 26, 2009
    The Cotswolds, UK

    That is such an incredible view and to think of the time & effort that has been put into these just unbelievable.

    Thanks for this.
  11. Photophil

    Photophil Mu-43 Regular

    Nov 24, 2012
    Atlanta Georgia area
    Very nice images. My wife and I were there in 2009, and I have at photo of the Terracotta Warriors almost identical to yours. We had visited the Terracotta Warrior exhibit in Atlanta in February of 2009, and decided then and there to see the real thing ourselves. We found it overwhelming, and no photo can truly do justice to it.
  12. ilsiu

    ilsiu Mu-43 Regular

    Dec 4, 2012
    Thanks to everyone for their encouraging comments.

    Good guess! It was taken from the lobby of the Hongyadong hotel, which was renovated in 2006. So I guess it's really the intersection of pretty new and very new :) 

    Totally agree, it's hard to convey just how large and vast this space is.
  13. caimi

    caimi Mu-43 All-Pro

    Apr 13, 2012
    middle US
    Judging from the images you posted, your trip to China was a big success. Nice work.
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