Why Olympus Mirrorless Cameras are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Why Olympus Mirrorless Cameras are Top Notch for Travel Photography

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From entry-level to pro, the Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds OM camera series has something for every aspirational travel photographer.

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Camera – Olympus Mirrorless E-M1 with kit lens at 38mm, 1/250th, f/14, ISO 400.

Are you looking to get serious about your digital photography and move up to an interchangeable lens system? Or maybe you are looking to upgrade to a pro level weatherproof transportable system?

Are you off on a journey of a lifetime and looking to record every moment? You want to be sure there’s no danger the camera won’t be up to the task – so which will you take along?

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Camera – Olympus mirrorless E-M10 Mark II, Lumix G 20mm lens, 1/125th, f/2.2, ISO 200.

The Olympus OM Micro Four Thirds system could be heaven sent. In this article, we’ll look at the OM-D E-M10 entry-level camera and the top of the range OM-D E-M1 through almost 12 months of use.

Why Olympus mirrorless systems are phenomenal travel cameras

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus EM1, kit lens at 14mm, 1/5th of a second, f/22, ISO 3200.

This was taken handheld, showing just how good the image stabilization is on these cameras.

The important considerations for travel cameras are size and weight, versatility, durability, performance, and picture quality. Ideally, you want a light-weight system that will easily move between landscape, street, and portrait photography.

Let’s look at each of these considerations in turn.

Size and weight

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

The flagship model Olympus EM-1 weighs in at just under 500g (1.1 pounds), the smaller and lighter EM-10 at an incredible 342g (0.75 pounds). Both are smaller in size than my hand.

Incredibly, they both fit in a parka-style coat pocket when fitted with a 14-42mm kit lens. Look at the size of my Sony DSLR in this picture below to see just how much of a space saving there is comparatively.

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

There are obvious advantages to the smaller cameras in regards to luggage on a plane, and carrying gear around all day. But the small size is also non-threatening if your shots include passers-by. Plus you can take it places where professional style cameras are not allowed.

The Micro Four Thirds System also means lenses are much more compact. For instance, the Olympus 75-300mm zoom lens measures 130mm and weighs in at 430g (just under a pound). The equivalent focal range for a full frame camera is 150-600mm. That kind of glass for a DSLR would weigh in at about 3kg (6.5 pounds)!

Versatility

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

There is a good range of lenses available for the Micro Four Thirds mount including ranges by Lumix and Panasonic, as well as Olympus. The range will take you from a fish-eye pancake lens, through wide-angle primes to long zooms. The image stabilization system built into the camera means the lenses are both light and affordable.

Extension rings with electronic connections to allow your lens and camera talk to each other are also available allowing you to make the best use of your available lenses. Two lenses and one converter will take you from wide-angle to macro to long zoom without missing a beat.

Durability

Both these cameras look and feel solid and durable. Having used them both for almost a year in sometimes inhospitable conditions and on long hikes, I have had no issues with these cameras or the lenses I use.

If you look at the pictures the condition is still like new. They even get taken along on motorbike and camping trips in the winter!

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus E-M10, 40-150mm zoom at 150mm, 1/400th, f/7.1, ISO 200. Despite the dark and overcast day, the camera produced good detail straight out of the camera in this JPEG image.

Performance and Picture Quality

Firstly, I should mention I am using systems that were current when they were purchased at the beginning of 2017. They have both been upgraded since with some notable improvements. The EM-1 now has a Mark II version with a 20MP sensor rather than 16MP chip, and improved AF tracking. The EM-10 moves up from Mark II to Mark III with more minor improvements.

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

The camera has a fantastic viewfinder with 100% picture coverage as well as a touch-control rear screen, a feature that will feel familiar if you use a smartphone. A massive range of buttons allows you to set up the camera to suit your style with several where you can assign the functions. The menu system will feel familiar if you’re a DSLR user. It has a very useful one-click user “Myset” comprising four customizable options for configurations that you use frequently.

My set screen - Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

The 5-axis stabilization is excellent, making handheld shooting easy and rewarding. The AF system has 81 points and is surprisingly good though tracking is not up to that of the weightier and roomier APS-C cameras. This is one of the trade-offs for having the compact size.

As the cameras use electronic viewfinders or the rear LCD screen, batteries get used up quickly. Battery packs are available, but this adds to the size. So if you attach one the camera won’t fit in a pocket anymore.

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus E-M1, kit lens at 35mm, 16mm extension tube, 0.3-second exposure, f/7.1, ISO 400. I adjusted levels in post-processing to lighten the image and create a fine art feel.

All the photographs in the article are taken with either one or the other of these two cameras, so you can judge for yourself the quality of the results. The newer versions of these cameras can only be even better.

The cameras provide great results for landscape photography, handling a range of tones well, especially with the added use of the HDR function to bring out details at both ends of the scale.

At lower ISO levels, up to 1600, there is little evidence of noise, although it increases in the dark areas as you approach that mark. Quality is acceptable up to ISO 6400, in my opinion.

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus E-M1, 82mm, 1/200th, f/9, ISO 1600. Look, I’m Pinnochio! Grab shot – love the skin tones and the AF got the near eye, spot on.

Skin tones are good, producing great portraits and color handling is great. Low light shooting isn’t a problem for this camera, especially at the lowest ISO.

Millstone beach - Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus E-M10, Lumix 20mm, 1/80th, f/1.8, ISO 200. Fabulous colors despite the overhead canopy and reduced light.

CONCLUSION

Both of these Olympus mirrorless cameras are fantastic pieces of kit for almost every situation. Picture quality is good, handling with the stabilization is awesome, AF and exposure are solid. With an entry-price of about $500 for the EM-10, the value is terrific.

The pricier EM-1 is also a good value, especially when considering the price of additional lenses. A Mark I at less than $1100 represents astonishing value. However, I do aim to upgrade to the EM-1 Mark II when finances allow, knowing I already have a decent range of accessories for it.

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus E-M1, 75-300mm lens at 270mm, 1/40th, f/6.7, ISO 400. The quality of this shot is fantastic, just look at that tail!

As a travel camera, I don’t think these two Olympus mirrorless cameras can be beaten at their respective price points. If you are new to system cameras, the EM-10 would be a fantastic introduction, with its straight-forward layout. A more seasoned photographer may prefer the customizable options and total control of the EM-1

Why Olympus Mirrorless Four Thirds Camera Systems are Top Notch for Travel Photography

Olympus E-M1, kit lens at 22mm, 1/60th, f/22, ISO 2000 using Aperture Priority. Straight out of the camera JPEG file. Great results even if you’re not a Photoshop fan.

Either way, you won’t be disappointed with the results. You can take that once in a lifetime trip knowing you’ll bring back images of your travels to be extremely proud to show off to friends.

Read more from our Cameras & Equipment category

Janice Gill is an award winning artist and photographer who loves to share ideas, insights, and skills. She is particularly interested in cross-pollinating techniques between creative genres to create something unique. She can often be found not only watching paint dry, but photographing it too. You can share in her journey around the countryside of the UK and steal more tricks from Janice’s Blog.

  • Guillermo Rosas

    Compared to the FUJI XT-2 how does the Olympus system compare? I’m thinking about selling my Nikon gear and get either the FUJI or the Olympus System.

  • I have the Fuji X-T1 and X100F and love them both. They have APS-C sensors. The biggest differences are they are larger than the Olympus cameras but the Olympus are Four Thirds sensors (smaller with a 2x lens factor) so it depends what is priority for you – size of the camera or large files?

  • One hundred percent agree with this! I switched my Canon 60D for an Olympus OM-D EM5 a couple of years ago and haven’t regretted it for a moment. It’s easy to carry it in my bag, although my viewfinder cover comes off very easily and I recently had to glue it back together. I use it at higher ISOs and lower shutter speeds than my 60D and the results are superb. The only change I’d make would be to replace it with a EM5 mkII or an EM1. Love it!

  • azcavalier

    In late 2016, I realized I was never taking my DSLR anywhere because of the size. So, I sold everything I had…two camera bodies, a bunch of lenses, filters, flash, battery grip, etc, and it netted me enough to get the Olympus OM-D EM5 Mk II, the 12-40mm PRO lens, and the 14-150mm. I can’t tell you how much I love this kit. At work, we needed a camera, and they actually sprung for the OM-D EM1 Mk II, so I get to play with that as well. Here are some sample photos taken in Hawaii with my EM5. The underwater photo was taken with an Olympus Tough camera.

    https://www.flickr.com/photos/25939479@N03/albums/72157677256070463

  • Arnie Ferriol

    Olympus has gone a long way in regards to mirrorless although, I used to have both I just notice the Fuji has that “IT” factor I think because of its TransX, bigger sensor and XF lens and the jpgs out of the camera are phenomenal.

  • Janice Ayers

    Glad you love your kit too. Your shots of Hawaii are gorgeous.

  • I will have to agree on both counts. I regular shoot JPG with my X100F and they’re great. The camera profiles for ACR in LR and PS are really good too.

  • Ron Berman

    Yeh, but look at the size of the lenses compared to the equivalent Olympus units.

  • walwit

    You are right Ron I have the Fuji XT-1 with 18-135mm lens which is very good but kind of difficult to carry everywhere, I think I’m going to solve this with the much recommended Fuji 35mm f/2 wr lens.

  • that’s a good option!

  • Kyle Wagner

    and then you look at sony and it is even smaller with a larger sensor!

  • Janice Ayers

    Hi Kyle, Sony produce great cameras and I have one myself. However to match that larger sensor you need much larger and heavier glass. The Micro four thirds system keeps lens size extremely small. You wouldn’t believe the size of my macro lens for my Olympus compared with the similar spec lens for the Sony. ?

  • Niklas Isberg

    I switched from Nikon D700 to OM-D EM5, upgraded that to EM1. Had M. Zuiko 12-40/2.8 PRO and 45 / 1.8. Fantastic lenses, sharp as a tack. I wasnt that pleased with the dynamic range though. I found that with Oly you have to expose to the right and with ISO over 3200 the quality drops. That may be just me though, I’m a bit of a pixel peeper. Olympus is great for travel and street photography but if you shoot a lot of low light stuff that requires fast shutter speed, stabilization is plus minus zero. Also shallow DOF is harder to get with M4/3 because of the smaller sensor. That is one of the reasons why I changed back to Nikon.

  • Had a OMD EM5 for about 5 years now but always felt it never quite matched the Canon 5D MK II. About 8 months ago I moved up to the OMD EM1 MK II and the 5D is now gathering dust and EM5 is now in the hands of my wife…. I’ve used both for travel but I think the the EM1 MK II is the most versatile and robust but you are paying for that. Lens is big factor too. Some of the Olympus pro lens are quite big but compared to their equivalents in full frame it’s a non issue.

  • Guillermo Rosas

    I’m mostly into Street and documental photography. Part time weddings. I like the nikon system but hauling a DSLR with lenses its a pain.

  • @disqus_eybGOGuHWI:disqus For a wedding I’m use my Fuji no hesitation. Not sure re: Olympus. If they want anything printed large will it hold up? For street and documentary mirrorless is the way to go for sure.

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