I have access to and use a lot of cameras yet I choose to travel with an Olympus OM-D E-M5II. Here are just 7 reasons why Micro 4/3 offers the best cameras for travel photography.
1. Size and weight
Cameras like the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II, Pen F and Panasonic GX-8 are small, light and well-built cameras. When you are looking for a camera for travel photography you have to consider just how much you want to carry with you. Yes the Sony A series are in some cases equally as small but then add in a decent zoom lens and a couple of primes and the difference in weight grows substantially. I carry with me an Olympus EM5II, Olympus HLD 8 battery grip, Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro, Olympus 25mm f/1.8, 45mm f/1.8 and 75mm f/1.8. My Olympus system feels modular in nature. I can choose to go from really small and light using just the EM5II and the 25mm 1.8 or I can add the grip and use the 12-40mm Pro lens on the fully gripped body for extra battery life when I am on extended shoots.
2. Image Quality
Cameras from Olympus and Panasonic offer me a lightweight system without compromising on image quality. Some people will say you need a full frame camera and you may, if you specifically want the most shallow depth of field possible and the best high ISO noise performance. However if most of your photography is not shot in pitch black conditions at night and you don’t just want one eye in focus for portraits then Micro 4/3 is more than capable.
The differences between Micro 4/3 and APS-C in anything below 3200 ISO are negligible. In fact in a blind test I would be willing to bet 95% of people could not tell what sized sensor was used between the two. It more than meets the standards needed to submit your photos to stock photography sites and earn some cash to pay for all those trips. Add in the incredible in-body image stabilisation and you can shoot at much lower ISO’s than using other cameras without IS. So not only can you shoot at lower ISO’s to give the best possible image quality but you may not need to drag your tripod with you everywhere. The OM-D E-M1 Mark II allows you to get sharp hand-held shots at shutter speeds of 1 second and longer. I have printed 30×20″ prints from Micro 4/3 and hung them and most importantly sold them in galleries. They stand up well when proper technique is used.
Image quality is great on Micro 4/3. Prints up to 30×20″ at gallery quality, more than good enough to sell for stock. What more do you need?
3. Lens Choice
Micro 4/3 offers a huge range of lenses so that whatever your shooting style there is bound to be a lens that fits. The system has lenses from the tiny Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 up to Pro grade zooms like the Olympus 300mm f/4. In general the lenses are very sharp. I love the results from my Olympus 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro. I’d go as far as to say it is my favourite zoom lens of any system (and I have used a lot of Canon L glass and the Nikon 2.8 zooms). Want the best value portrait lens in the World? Pick up the Olympus 45mm f/1.8 for around £200 and you got it. That little lens is sharp and incredible value. It also takes up virtually no weight in your bag.
My Olympus prime lenses. From left to right the 25mm 1.8, 45mm 1.8 and 75mm 1.8.
I find that these complement my 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro lens perfectly.
Take a look at the huge range of Micro 4/3 lenses available here
When you are considering which camera is best for travel photography you have to remember that often you don’t have a lot of time to get the shot. You may be working on a deadline or maybe your family are waiting for you and asking you to hurry up because they want dinner. If you are using a standard DSLR with an optical viewfinder it is quite likely that you will take the shot and then have to check it on your rear LCD screen to see if the exposure is correct, is it in focus, how are the colours etc. I remember shooting with a Canon 5D MK II for years and as good as that camera was, there was a process required to get the shot that I wanted. It involved checking my image on the rear LCD screen, then correcting the exposure, re-shooting and so on. It might often take 5 shots to get everything perfect. All the time your family are giving you that look that says, we are bored now, hurry up. With an electronic viewfinder what you see in the viewfinder is what you get in your final image. No more chimping on the rear screen afterwards. Select your settings and take the picture. You already know that you got the shot. Now it’s time to go and enjoy dinner with a happy family.
5. Image Stabilisation
I cannot overstate how useful it is to have image stabilisation built-in to the camera body. There are so many benefits. It increases your keeper rate. No more blurry photos because you had too much coffee that morning and your hands were shaking. No more worrying about getting sharp food shots when you are in poor light in that restaurant. Simply select the ISO, aperture and shutter speed you want and the IS system will do the rest. Tack sharp food shots and great IQ because you could use a lower ISO setting. Don’t want to lug a tripod around with you. No problem as the latest in body IS has you covered for shutter speeds as low as a few seconds. Not only does this allow you to keep your ISO low but it gives you creative flexibility to use slower shutter speeds in order to blur water or show movement without having to carry tripods. Your travel photography will become more creative and your back will thank you later.
In-body IS means that you can leave your tripod at home more often.
I have traveled to every continent except the Antarctic. I have lived in many countries and one thing that I have always found is that with a smaller camera you can take photos without gaining too much attention. If you are carrying around a hulking great DSLR with Pro f/2.8 lens attached then you stand out like a sore thumb in many countries. It also feels a little awkward when you are carrying around gear that costs more than the average annual salary of a worker in some countries. Being discreet allows you to blend in (or at least not stand out as much) and get photos that just wouldn’t be possible with a DSLR and huge white lens attached. When people see DSLR’s they get a little camera shy, their expressions often change and they may even wish to avoid being photographed altogether. Pull out your cute looking Olympus Pen F and it is a totally different story. You will look like a tourist, an amatuer but that’s great, Just what you want because you know that inside your ‘cute’ ‘inexpensive’ looking camera the image that you just captured is just as good as your DSLR could have done.
If you’re a striving creative who wants to add to their skill set and portfolio then you will probably want to get in to video. It is a great way to bring your audience with you and show them the beauty of the places that you visit. Micro 4/3 offers all of the above benefits while giving impressive video quality. My OM-D E-M5II offers full HD video at up to 60 frames per second. That allows for some slow motion capture . It even has the ability to create slow motion in camera. Combine the decent video quality with in built image stabilisation and it is no longer a chore to set up and create travel videos to go along side your photos. The Olympus OM-D Em1 II offers 4k video with excellent quality. If you are really serious about video then Micro 4/3 offers the best video camera below a full blown pro rig in the form of the Panasonic GH5. It gives you Internal 4K/30p 10-bit 4:2:2, 4K/59.94p and 50p shooting with 10-bit 4:2:2 external output or 8-bit, 4:2:0 internal at 150Mbps IPB, 1080 video at up to 180p, Pre-config rack focus mode, Waveform and vectorscope monitors, Paid upgrade for V-Log video capture with preview display using luts. This will be my next investment as I get more and more in to video work.
So there you have 7 reasons why Micro 4/3 make the best cameras for travel photography. I didn’t even mention that they offer some of the best built and most weather sealed cameras, the benefits of the 2x crop factor for wildlife shots or that manufacturers such as Olympus often upgrade the cameras throughout their life cycle to add improvements and new features. That is the sort of customer service and product support that gives me confidence to buy their cameras.
If you want to look in more detail at how Micro 4/3 compares against APS-C sensors then I did a comparison here
Want to make sure you get the sharpest photos possible then check out my article here
If you want to buy any of the cameras mentioned in this article then you can do so at no extra cost by purchasing through my Amazon links. Thank you if you make any purchases as it really does help me to keep this site going.
What camera do you use for your travel photography? I’d love to hear your thoughts below.