Architecture camera-lens kit for travel to Europe

Written by Gary on June 15th, 2010

I am off for a conference trip to Rome, Stockholm, Copenhagen and Amsterdam in October this year, and am deciding on which cameras and lenses to take with me – after all it s a long way from Australia to change my mind.

I am mainly interested in photography of urban architecture, streetscapes, and cultural activities, and if I can get to more rural settings perhaps some nice landscape work.

I will be wanting to travel as LIGHT as I can but still have high image quality and versatility.

A clear IN for the trip are the following:

  • Panasonic GH-1 Micro Four Thirds camera
  • 10x zoom lens (the excellent Lumix 14-140mm) for general purpose use
  • Leica-D 25mm f/1.4 Four Thirds lens with M43 adapter as my main walk around lens and for low light (unfortunately, I do not have the much smaller and lighter Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens)
  • OM 135mm f/2.8 with OM adapter for indoor conference use / videos from the back of the theatre – its a nice combo – just set MF, WB, manual exposure and you are ready to record all that good information you would otherwise forget.
  • small tripod
  • no-name inexpensive backpack

Now what will I do for those tallish buildings in cramped spaces so I don’t have to angle the camera upwards and create convergence distortion?

I thus compared my Canon 1D MIII with the Canon 17mm tilt-shift lens at maximum shift upwards in portrait mode with my GH-1 in 16:9 aspect ratio with Olympus Four Thirds 7-14mm lenswould I miss the tilt shift lens that I love so much?

Interestingly, using both cameras at the same subject distance and parallel to the subject, the 7-14mm lens at 7mm provided almost the same height coverage to the top of the subject, but with much more bottom coverage and a little more width coverage.

Thus, the GH-1 with 7-14mm lens will give me similar angle of view to top of a building but with a lot more crop options – for instance,  I could crop the bottom 1/3rd off to match the the same image crop as the Canon on full shift and end up with an 8mp image vs a 10mp image on the Canon – not a great deal of loss.

The other advantages of the 7-14mm lens is that I can choose 4:3, 3;2 or 16:9 image aspect ratios, use it for video work, or use it on my Olympus E510 and gain autofocus and image stabilisation to allow 1/2sec-1/4sec hand held shots for motion effects.

But the obvious main advantage of the GH-1 with 7-14mm lens is that the combination is 1kg lighter, it is smaller, the battery charger is SO much smaller, and the kit is cheaper to replace in the event of a loss or breakage.

Now, my conclusion may well have been different had I owned a Canon 5D MII full frame high resolution body instead of a 1.3x crop 10mp Canon 1D MIII, although the weight and insurance would still be major issues.

So, that settles it very convincingly, my 2nd camera kit will be the Olympus E510 with 7-14mm lens and 50mm f/2.0 macro – these are what I shot with for the far majority of my photos on my Italy holiday in 2007 with and it was an awesome combination – see here.

That leaves me with one last question, can I afford to take my beloved Olympus 50-200mm f/2.8-3.5 SWD lens as well for those special shallow DOF, beautiful bokeh shots (although the 25mm f/1.4 and 50mm f/2.0 lens will give some good options for this but without the telephoto reach)?

Note: for an even more compact and lighter, cheaper system, one could use the Panasonic Micro Four Thirds 7-14mm lens instead of the Olympus Four Thirds version but of course, it could not be used on an E510 body – having said that, if  had that lens, I would be wanting to buy an Olympus E-P2 to take instead of the E510!

The acid test is – can I fit the kit with a 1.3kg laptop in the 5kg carry-on cabin baggage limit?

This is the beauty of the Micro Four Thirds System – you get to take more equipment within the weight limit, although my ideal system of currently available gear for travel would be:

  • Panasonic GH-1 with 10x zoom 14-140mm kit lens
  • Olympus E-P2 with EVF and Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens
  • Panasonic 7-14mm lens if doing urban work or Olympus 9-18mm lens if doing landscapes
  • perhaps the Olympus 50mm f/2.0 macro for Four Thirds while we wait for Olympus to make a Micro Four Thirds version
  • Cokin ND gradient filter with adapter for the 14-140mm and 9-18mm lens

Such a system gives you high quality photos with focal length range in 35mm terms of 14-280mm as well as low light capabilities of an image stabilised 40mm lens (in 35mm terms) at f/1.7 light capturing capability, plus you get the BEST quality HD video available on dSLR systems courtesy of the new firmware hack for the GH-1.

Some would add the Lumix 45-200mm lens, but personally, I wish they would make a compact, high quality, Micro Four Thirds 200mm f/2.8 lens (preferably image stabilised), or if they must do zoom, then a compact 100-200mm f/2.8-4.0 (please, not another f/5.6 lens!).


11 Comments so far ↓

  1. Murray Lord says:

    I also wish they would produce a longer, faster MFT telephoto, though in my case I would prefer a 300mm f4 for wildlife. But would such a lens be any smaller than a Four Thirds lens (if one existed). I guess it might be a bit narrower?

  2. admin says:

    A compact 300mm f/4 would be brilliant but the same size as a Four Thirds version as there is no significant advantage of the M43 over 43 for telephotos.

    However, it should be smaller than the Canon 300mm f/4 as it does not need to cover the same image circle.

    I suspect a 300mm f/4 would be a bit clumsy on the small M43 body.

    A Four Thirds 300mm f/4 with contrast detect AF would be more versatile and would allow use on Four Thirds with fast phase contrast action AF, and potentially on your M43 with contrast detect AF for more stationary subjects, at least until contrast detect AF is fast enough.

  3. admin says:

    Given that Olympus already have a 150mm f/2.0 which could be combined with their excellent EC-20 2x converter to give 300mm f/4 (600mm in 35mm terms), perhaps a more likely compromise might be a 250mm f/4 which could be made more along the lines of the dimensions of the Olympus OM 200mm f/4 which is about the biggest lens I would enjoy using hand held on a M43.

  4. Simon-K says:

    Hello, Gary!
    It’s amazing and unbelievable! There are two cameras on the one photo… one – is my lovely C8080 and second – GH1 that I thinking to buy or not. In my Oly I love everything, but its short zoom, small screen and relatively slow focusing (especially in low light)…… I am not a professional photographer like you, however IQ is main priority for me; I trying “artistic” landscape shooting, shooting of architecture, animals and love macro. Unfortunately, there is no any universal compact ultra zoom with better IQ than C8080’s. Thought about the new FZ100, but afraid IQ will be worse than C8080’s because FZ’s sensor essentially smaller and I looking for something BETTER than C8080. So, it seems GH1 might be much better choice. I think to improve macro abilities with 14-140 + Raynox-250 configuration.

  5. Simon-K says:

    For C8080 I have HOYA’s circular polarizing and UV filters, thinking to buy the same for GH1 if I’ll choose this camera. At the end of September I going to travel in Italy and Switzerland, so there is no a lot of time for doubts. Only two moments are better in FZ100 (as for me) : speed focusing(shooting) and the price.

  6. Simon-K says:

    I really and gladly appreciate people sharing their knowledge and experience with others.

  7. Simon-K says:

    Best regards,
    p.s. Sorry for my inconvenience with my wrong and poor English – my native language is Russian.

  8. admin says:

    Hi Simon, I am sure the GH-1 will suit your needs very well indeed.

    For macro, you could easily get an Olympus OM 50mm f/3.5 macro from Ebay cheaply and MFT-OM adapter if you do not wish to buy the expensive Panasonic 45mm f/2.8 macro.

  9. Simon-K says:

    Hello, Gary!
    Thank’s a lot for the answer! This autumn I’ll buy the GH-1. I see you more prefer an Olympus OM 50mm f/3.5 than Raynox-250. Could you, please, explain why?

    • admin says:

      In general, a dedicated macro lens tends to give better results optically than an add-on lens, but I have not compared to the two options myself.

  10. Simon-K says:

    I think you absolutely right. But I admit more difference in price than in IQ between dedicated macro lens and Raynox-250 🙂 .