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.






BOTH CAMERAS IN IDEAL STREET PHOTOGRAPHY MODE. THE OLYMPUS SPORTS A 20MM f1.7 (40mm equivalent) THE CANON WEARS A 50MM f1.8 (50mm equivalent). CANON = 1050 grams. OLYMPUS = 566grams

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



  1. Most interesting…. I have just acquired a Panasonic Lumix G3 with a 14-42 lens, a bit of a step up from the old Nikon Coolpix, whose pics, although 10 mp, I never really thought were as good as my previous Olympus point & shoot at 4mp. Now just have to learn to use it.

  2. A brilliant choice of camera Angie, that is the Lumix equivalent of my camera, absolutely top class. I have a nice little collection of lenses for you to try in October. Looking forward to it.

  3. Hi David – way to go! I have also purchased a Panasonic Lumix G3 to replace my wonderful but terribly heavy Nikon D300. So much easier to carry around on holiday, particularly on a bike, and when hillwalking. I actually use it mainly with the 14-140mm which is admittedly just as heavy as the 18-200mm that I had on the Nikon (though it does incorporate image stabilisation). However, the whole package is still much lighter and more compact. And I can carry around a 100-300mm (=200-600mm) very easily, compared to over 2kg of heavy metal that was my Sigma 120-400mm – wildlife photography whilst cycle touring is now an option! …and a very dinky little 45mm macro. Have to admit that it’s not as pretty as your retro little Olympus though! Midsummer in Scotland yesterday was 11 degrees C and pouring with rain – very much looking forward to 3 weeks in the sun in Bali in July!

  4. hey, great to hear from you Niall, interesting how many of us are turning to M4/3, how about Tom? Interesting to know what he makes of it.
    I once had a 14-140 lens with my GF1, was a bit of a problem to hold it steady without a view finder though, this is one of the ares where the G3 and EM5 score well above the GF1. Having said that the GF1 is a splendid camera, always will be.
    I guess that you will have a change of flight somewhere on the way to Bali, if you happen to be stopping over in Thailand or Vietnam do let me, would be great to meet for a drink.

    • Looks great David. I love my 5D2 and L lenses, and would not get rid of them, but after seeing Niall’s, I would like a mirrorless 4/3 system like the G3 for travel where weight or space is limiting, I must say.

      • Ah, Tom, hello sir, good to hear from you. I remember us having a bit of chat in Tibet about M4/3. I think that as you are suggesting it is horses for courses. Recently my brother and I hade a few days MTBing in Devon and despite his uncertainty as to whether or not to take his EOS-5D he eventually took his Lumix M4/3 and a small tripod and got some results with which he was far happier than he had expected to be.
        Interestingly I was reading recently that when 35mm film was first introduced it was referred to as “small format”. I guess that the curent “full frame” sensor size was designed to keep digital and film compatible rather than to create the optimum sensor size.
        I think it is an interesting time in the development of photography.
        More importantly though Tom, how is the home brew coming along?

        Cheers D

  5. The 14-140mm definitely unbalances the camera, but it’s fine using the viewfinder. I wouldn’t even contemplate buying one of these cameras without a viewfinder – the quality e-viewfinder was a definite selling point. I’m surprised that so many of the new 4/3 don’t have them. Impossible to use anything above a very small zoom without one.

    Tom is still carting his giant EOS 5D around, with tripod strapped to the back of his bike and ridiculous sized panniers with his spare lenses, kitchen sink and spare curling stone!

    Flying to Bali direct from Amsterdam and back via Singapore and Paris. Will give you a shout if I’m ever in SE Asia – be nice to see you in Edinburgh sometime if you fancy a visit.

    Cheers, Niall

  6. Ah, so you and Tom have different outlooks on this new fangled technology then. Quite right about the view finder situation when using a long lens, but with the 20mm pancake lens it all worked jolly well.
    Have a good trip to Bali Niall and hope to catch up somewhere along the way.
    Cheers, D

  7. Really interested to hear how you get on with the OMD. Looks like a great little camera. I tried the GH2, which I liked, apart from how plasticky it is, and how slow the buffer is with RAW. Takes an age to review pics after a burst of shots. Is the Olympus any better?

    That 12mm (and the 45) look really nice. As does the 12-35 Lumix… Some really nice lenses finally in the M43 range.

    Have fun getting your bike together!

    • Hello Cas, Being magnesium the OM-D certainly steers clear of being plasticky. You mention the new 12-35mm X lens which being weather sealed would team up perfectly with the weather sealed OM-D I think.
      I can vouch that the Olympus 45mm lens is fantastic, in my opinion it is optically the best quality lens I have.
      As for high speed burst in RAW buffering and review time, in a very unscientific test I rattled of 20 exposures in around 4 second on high speed burst and it took approximately 7 seconds before I could view them. 10 high speed RAW frames takes around 4 seconds to buffer before they can be reviewed. Not bad I would say. Not sure how the View finder is on the GH2, but compared to the external VF on the GF1 the Olympus is leaps and bounds ahead. All in all I love my GF1, but the Oly takes M4/3 to the next level, oh, and did I mention the styling is rather nice?
      Looks like you are having a great time in SA, inspires me to return.

  8. Pingback: Olympus OMD Update «

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