Short Break Shooting: Ditching the DSLR for Travel Photography

Olympus E-P1, Zuiko 14-42 f/3.5-4.5, ISO400, 14mm, 1/90th, f/4.5, -0.5EV

I recently returned from a short break with my family, where I was able to shoot for fun, to record the holiday and make some nice images. I deliberately didn’t take along my professional camera equipment, because I knew I’d start taking the photography too seriously, wanting to spend more time preparing and shooting than would be fair on my family…and, to be really honest, I didn’t want to feel like I was back at work.

The Kit

So I grabbed my Olympus E-P1 micro 4/3 outfit. The whole bag – camera, three lenses, flash, accessories – weighs just 2kg (4.4 pounds): my Canon EOS 5 with 24-105mm f/4L USM weighs over 1.5kg (3.3 pounds).

The Canon is a better camera in almost every way except for cost, size and weight, but these were the reasons I bought the Olympus in the first place.

I highly recommend you find something in your photo gear budget for something lighter and easier to carry than your DSLR – I’ve had a Canon G7 and considered the latest model before going with the Olympus because of its interchangeable lenses and much larger sensor.

I only wish the Olympus E-P2 (reviewed here) had been available at the time because the electronic viewfinder and microphone socket would have been useful. Such is life with digital gear: it is superseded quickly. Olympus’ new cameras look great.

I love the 17mm f/2.8 pancake lens on the E-P1. Google this lens and you’ll find pixel-peepers who criticize it, and they are probably right: but for handheld shooting in the reportage style it is awesome.

Olympus E-P1, Zuiko 17mm f/2.8, ISO400, 1/750th, f/4

The standard zoom is the Olympus Zuiko ED 14-42mm F3.5-5.6, a versatile, compact lens with quality optics, but its maximum aperture is a bit slow…as is the Olympus ED 40-150mm F4.0-5.6, but I don’t mind so much a slow maximum aperture with a compact telephoto zoom, because making long lenses fast also makes them very bulky, heavy and expensive. I wasn’t going to buy the 40-150 until I saw this deal from B&H. The Olympus adapter lives on the 40-150 permanently. An FL36 flash, off-camera flash lead and spare battery round out the kit.

My short break was boat based, so there was another reason not to take the Canon gear. The E-P1 kit wasn’t cheap, but I’m willing to take more risks with it than the 5D Mk II. Some of my most pleasing shots were taken from the water. A portrait of my son after he’d just stood up from underwater really shows him in his new favorite environment. Shots of the sub-tropical rainforest just north of Sydney are very pleasing, while the stills and video I shot of the small mud-dwelling crabs would have been a lot harder to shoot with the Canon gear.

Without a Laptop

Olympus E-P1, Zuiko 14-42 f/3.5-4.5, ISO200, 42mm, 1/250th, f/9

For the first time in eons I actually traveled without my laptop, opting to just take my iPad instead. The Olympus shoots to an SD card, so it was easy to transfer images – and the 720p videos – to my iPadand view them, which impressed the kids, too.

Getting away from home and not being under pressure to shoot for work meant I could take my time and shoot images which really only needed to please myself, so I was shooting flowers, interesting patterns in staircases, very touristy record shots – even boats in the rain.

If you’ve ever had to deal with a cranky travel partner because you spend too much time taking pictures, maybe it’s time to consider some gear which is lighter, smaller and faster to use for those times when it’s not JUST about shooting.

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