I have tried many camera-lens combinations for when I go walk about over the last 20 years, but one combination has been and remains my favorite – The Olympus OM-D E-M1 II Micro Four Thirds camera with the Olympus micro ZD 40-150mm f/2.8 lens.
For me, this combination is beautifully balanced, has lovely ergonomics, great image quality, awesome in wet weather with the lovely long retractable lens hood and the combination of f/2.8 aperture with 5EV image stabilisation (7EV if you get the new E-M1X) means it is great even when the light levels get low.
If I am walking somewhere I have never been before, and I am only wanting to take one lens and no back pack, then the 80-300mm coverage in full frame terms this lens provides with excellent image quality at all focal lengths even wide open means I can get almost any shot I want.
I can carry this in one hand nearly all day without getting tired – quite often I carry it somewhat precariously balanced on just my index finger on the camera grip – it just seems to balance so well.
I used this for much of my Greek islands holiday, and yesterday, I walked around parts of Victoria’s famous and very beautiful Wilsons Promontory National Park – with only this lens.
There will be times I need a wider angle shot – and for these, I can resort to my iPhone, or if I have pre-planned it, I will consider taking along the tiny Olympus mZD 12mm f/2.0 lens as a back up for wide shots.
Here are a few pics from yesterday amongst the smoke haze from the Tasmanian bushfires taken with this lens on my old Olympus E-M1 original version:
The lens is by no means perfect for every subject – if I want shallow DOF at it’s wider focal lengths to blur the background with smoother bokeh, I need to return with my Olympus mZD 45mm f/1.2 or Olympus mZD 75mm f/1.8 lenses, and whilst it has reasonable close up capabilities, if I really need macro performance then I need my Olympus mZD 60mm f/2.8 macro lens.
But what this lens allows me to do is to try a range of focal lengths to ascertain which works best for a scene so I can re-visit it, and also I am ready for whatever nature throws me – a snake, an echidna, birds who are friendly enough to allow me to get relatively close.
It means I am always ready for a transient moment in time in which changing lenses or camera would result in the shot being missed.
The Olympus 40-150mm f/2.8 lens weighs 760g without its tripod mount (which I never use), and when introduced was $US1499 but can be had for much lower pricing now. Unlike the Canon EF lenses it is optimised for mirrorless AF systems and has silent function for video work.
If you have a full frame camera, you could carry a similar focal length reach 80-300mm lens instead, something like:
- Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6 IS II USM lens
- this “consumer” lens is the same weight, but it is NOT weathersealed, optical quality is not as good, has no retractable lens hood, only has 4EV IS, lacks the MF clutch control, and you lose any image quality benefits of full frame when you have to shoot it at f/5.6 instead of f/2.8
- Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L lens
- this pro lens gives 4EV IS, weighs just over 1kg, and is about twice the price, and at f/5.6, you lose most of the image quality benefits of full frame
- Sony FE 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6 OSS
- Sony do not have a 80-300mm, this is their closest, and it weighs in at an uncomfortable 1.4kg and more than twice the price, and at f/5.6, you lose most of the image quality benefits of full frame
- There are NO current native lenses in this range for Canon R or Nikon Z cameras
That’s why I like to go walk about with Micro Four Thirds, maximum versatility, low cost, low burden, more fun.