A PERFECT TRAVEL CAMERA
I am often asked “what camera do you use”. As this blog was originally conceived to journal a bicycle journey the photography never used to cross my befuddled mind. But as time moves on and circumstances change I have been looking over my blog and wondering what it is about, and it seems to me that it has evolved into an outlet for the passions of a slightly confused fellow drifting through life in his own slightly of-skew sort of a manner.
During those years of drifting along my interest in photography has grown immensely. I originally began photographing my journeys because one of my closest friends, who happens to be a professional photographer, convinced me to do so. “You go to interesting places and do interesting things” he told me, “photograph it!” Well, there seemed little arguing with this logic, and so I followed his instructions and as time passed I began to get an insight into what photography is about, and as this insight developed so did my interest, and with the developing interest seemed to come a development in ability and understanding of what I was doing. A new awareness of light and life began to emerge. And so the blog has evolved, I think, in the direction of a travel photography blog which perhaps explains the question regarding the camera.
Two or three years back in an attempt to lighten my load I tried moving away from my cumbersome Canon DSLR camera and its two lenses to a compact. The compact was a great camera for its design brief; a point and shoot camera for the mass market; people who want a camera to make all the decisions beyond composition for them. But for the photographer who wants to take control and tell the camera what to do it is very limited.
Fortunately for me a great new system had just emerged, micro 4/3. Designed jointly by Panasonic and Olympus these cameras have a sensor half the size of a full frame DSLR but around 9 times bigger that a run-off-the-mill compact. IE, it has a sensor big enough for most real world uses. Micro 4/3 cameras offer full manual control and have a wide array of high quality interchangeable lenses that freely swap between M4/3 brands.
For several year now I have beed using Panasonic’s wonderful little GF1, a camera with an almost cult following it is the ideal camera for cycling, a point well made by both Mike and Cas. Up until recently the only lens I used was a tiny but perfectly formed 20mm f1.7 lens. With the sensor being half size this equated to a focal length in film SLR terms of 40mm. Loitering twixt the classic focal lengths of 35mm and 50mm this was the perfect lens for street photography and travel. For those of you wondering, the lens has an organic zoom system called legs.
Times move on though and now micro 4/3 has a new darling, the Olympus OM-D EM5. This may not be the catchiest moniker on the market but the camera does, to my mind at least, have the most wonderful styling. Harking back to the Olympus OM range of SLR cameras that began life in 1972 the OM-D could easily be misjudged by anyone other than a very keen observer as a relic from a by gone era. This in itself is, to my mind, a bonus for street photography. There is something disarming about odd eccentrics who travel the world by bicycle and use ageing film cameras. People from developing countries cannot quite grasp why a man from the land of milk and honey is travelling in the manner of the poor and using technology from the dark ages, and so the luddite traveler is treated with caution and kind concern from a discrete distance. The thing with the OM-D EM5 though is that beneath its ageing exterior lies one of the most advances cameras ever built for the mass market. Even that exterior is an advanced weather sealed magnesium body, a step beyond all but the most exclusive of Canon DSLR camera with the latest X version coming onto the market place at over £5000.
And it is a Canon full frame DSR that I have just been comparing my new EM-5 with. For those interested in the technical ins and outs of the OM-D EM5 there has been much written about it in recent months, a good start for real world use would be Robin Wong’s informative review, and for a more technical review look.here
I have only just begun using my new camera and now I am back in Asia I looking forward to getting to grips with it, firstly for a week or two in Thailand and then my favourite street photograph city, Hanoi.
First though, I have a bicycle to build.
All images on this post were shot using a Panasonic Lumix GF1 (360 grams) combined with a Lumix/Leica 25mm f1.4 lens, a M4/3 heavyweight at 232 grams