A topic that I find brings hard core travelers together is that of photography. From the casual hobbyists to the super-shooting pros, cameras and related gear have been at the heart of many a conversation. Bodies, lenses, post-processing are all hotly related topics. Who makes the best kit – Nikon or Canon? Or maybe you are a renegade like me who shoots Sony or Olympus? Whatever you choose, it is important to remember that the best camera is whichever one you have with you. When I started traveling in my 20s, my camera was a film Minolta and it was fantastic. Rugged and well-loved, it bore the marks of many a trip.
I used to shoot for a living but these days I am purely a hobbyist. Late to the digital party, I switched to Nikon gear the middle of last decade, ultimately acquiring several D series bodies with my final bodies being D3s. These were amazing cameras and with my favorite lenses (50 1.8, 70-200 2.8, and 85 1.8) I was all kitted out for any situation. Once I stopped shooting for money, I felt it was overkill especially since the large heavy bodies were a lot to lug around and attracted too much attention on the road.About two years ago, I sold off all my gear and started anew, this time with a micro 4/3 kit from Olympus. Smaller, lighter, and surprisingly robust this system works just as well as any full-frame kit for my needs. It took some getting used to, especially the digital viewfinder, but since the principles of photography never change (composition, light and shadow) the curve was merely technical. It is important to understand how these lenses work out in focal length. Multiply the mm by two. For example, my 17mm shots a focal length of a 35mm. If you want to learn more about the differences between m4/3 and DSLR, check out this article.
These days, my setup is light, nimble and perfect for shooting in exotic locations or random happenings around the house. There are a few downsides, like sometime slow focus, but overall I am glad I made the switch! Now, after ALL that context, let’s get to the kit!
- Olympus OM-D EM-5 Mark II body ♥
- Olympus OM-D EM-5 16mp body
- M.Zuiko 17mm 1.8 prime lens (my go-to lens)♥
- ED 14-150mm 5.6 zoom lens (a good travel lens for daylight shooting)♥
- 15mm body cap lens (a fun little addition and great for street shooting)♥
- M.Zuiko ED 45mm 1.8 lens (a gorgeous lens for portraits and details)
- FL-600R wireless flash (big one)
- FL-LM3 body flash (x2 small ones with one on flash foot)♥
- Not pictured: Pixel Pro 100m wireless shutter release
- Not pictured: Spare BLN-1 batteries and charger ♥
- Not pictured: SanDisk Extreme 16gb SDHC cards (7)
- Not pictured: Apple Lightning to SD card reader♥
When I travel, I take everything marked with a ♥ in the list above. I almost NEVER shoot with a flash, preferring the low light capabilities of prime lenses, but I do find tucking one of the tiny FL-LM3 flashes in the bag is a good idea for those rare occasions when I need to manufacture light. It looks like a lot but it all stows nicely.
When I am in-transit (plane, train, boat) I put the lenses in neoprene pouches and the body in a leather pouch with the accessories and that all goes in my personal item bag (usually a Le Pliage large zipper tote). Then, once in my seat, I attach the 17mm to the body in case there is something photoworthy along the way (hint: there usually is!). When it comes to the spare batteries and charger, those get popped into my other bag and since I am a light packer, there is always space.
That’s everything I need to shoot my travel photos (nighttime, action (ish), landscapes, street photography, etc. but I do have a wish list, small it may be.
- M.Zuiko 8mm fisheye lens
- M. Zuiko Digital ED 75mm f1.8
- I had this but returned it as it was extra slow to focus. After reading several reviews, it is possible I got a bad lens, so I may want to try again.
- Ona Bowery camera bag
Here are a few photos, taken with the kit above. These represent the OM-D EM-5 capabilities in manual mode (daylight, nighttime, close up and landscape) and are .jpgs straight from camera, no post-processing or editing (hence the water spots in the first image =D ).
What do you think? Could you shoot with a mirrorless camera? Is the kit enough for your style of travel photography? Did I miss something? Let me know in the comments!