Minimalist Travel Photography Gear – This Is What I Use

Regular readers will know that I have been moving towards smaller camera gear.

Well having got back from Canada how was my minimalist travel photography gear? It was pretty good to be honest. In this post I will tell you all about my much-reduced amount of gear for travel photography, the good, the bad, the annoying and the not needed!

I hope that this post inspires you to take less gear out with you and concentrate on taking photos – this has certainly worked for me!!

First, here is the stuff I took for a weeklong trip to Canada.

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Yep, this is all I took for a week long break to British Columbia in Canada, visiting Vancouver, Whistler, Pemberton and all places in-between!

It might look a lot when laid out like this, but this is the least amount of gear that I have taken. And there is some more work to do to get to the minimalist set up I am after. But I am getting there.

Why am I writing about this?

Well this all started last year when I went on a two-week trip to Rhodes, and apart from photographing sunrises I did not get my Canon 6D out of the boot of the car at all. I was basically fed up with the bulk of my gear. Now this is not solely down to the size of my Canon gear, although that is part of it. It is also because I take too much stuff that I do not need.

Is mirrorless micro four thirds gear the travel photography answer?

In part yes. Sure the gear is smaller, but it is not that small that on its own this is the answer. When I stick my 12-40mm F2.8 Pro lens on the front of an Olympus micro four thirds body it is quite a chunk of glass.

Sure if I used the 12-42mm pancake lens I good could get my Olympus EM10 Mk 2 in my pocket, but that is not my lens of choice.

Basically less gear is the other part

I always pack too much gear. For this trip I packed much less gear, and some of it I did not use. I will get onto that later but let’s start with the good stuff.

What did I like about my minimalist travel photography gear?

Well I liked the Olympus OM-D EM10 Mk 2. And the 12-40mm F2.8 Pro lens.

I didn’t use the 40-150mm lens – to be fair other than to make sure that it works I have not needed this lens yet.

What did I like about the Olympus OM-D EM10 Mk 2?

Well it is quite new to me, so there is still the novelty factor, shiny new syndrome. A quick word about the camera and the main things I liked, and I will get on with the rest of the gear.

The size of the camera

As I said before the lens is quite a lumpy thing but that is my choice to use a Pro lens, but the camera is still smaller than my Canon 6D – smaller to make a difference.

The amount of space in my camera bag for other stuff.

I managed to get my camera and lenses in the bottom section of my Peak Design Everyday Backpack, leaving loads of space for other stuff.

I actually had a half empty bag for the flights to and from Canada which was different. And my bag was much lighter and did not have bulging sides.

The Electronic Viewfinder (EVF)

I love the EVF on my Olympus camera. This is the first time I have owned a camera with an EVF, having spent a lifetime taking photos with SLRs and then DSLRs, all of which have an optical viewfinder. Not that there is anything wrong with that.

Changing the focus point on the touch screen

I did not know how much I would take to the touchscreen, but it has been brilliant. And I mean brilliant in helping me to take photos. One of the main uses I have found for the touch screen is to change the focus point just by touching the screen where I want the camera to focus.

I do not want technology just for the sake of it – I want technology that helps me take photos.

The tilting touchscreen

Another thing that I really like and will be even better when I get the EM5 with the rotating/ tilting screen.

I like to take photos from unusual angles, high and low, and the tilting screen helped me with that.

The clarity of the screen

Yes the screen is brighter and easier to see. I have not tested it in Greek sunshine yet, but things are looking promising. And next month I will be trialling this little gem of a camera in Greece which I cannot wait to do.

One handed operation

I was able to walk around the Granville Island market in Vancouver and quickly raise my camera, focus and shoot with one hand, which was actually easier than doing this with my iPhone which was brilliant.

This is as close as I get to street photography!

The levels on the camera

Yes the Olympus EM10 has horizontal and vertical indicators in the viewfinder which I absolutely love.

Another word on packing gear.

I took a rear lens and body cap meaning that I could separate the camera and lens meaning they took up even less room in my camera bag.

And what about the other gear?

I also liked the Peak Design cuff – this was a big improvement on the strap that I was using, and this clever wrist strap tightens nicely around my wrist but is easy to remove – another great product from Peak Design!

And my favourite travel tripod

Yes, my good old Manfrotto Pixi is even more at home with my Olympus EM10 on it – I set it up on the top of the Whistler Gondola and recorded the skiers flying by down below – I did this whilst drinking a lovely hot coffee at the summit.

This is the scene, and here is one of the videos. I forgot to photograph my iPhone on the tripod but here it is rested on the window cill before I rememberd that I had my mini tripod to hand!!

Taking videos with my iPhone

Here is the video

What did I not like?

It is not all sweetness and light - there were things that I was not happy with that need sorting.

There always are……

The way the camera sits in my camera bag.

This is something I need to look into. The camera is so small there is no logical place for it to be secured on the top section of my Peak Design Everyday Backpack, which is where I like to have my cameras. My Canon 6D sat nicely in the top section of my bag – well it filled it to be fair!

No GPS

This is something that I really miss – the GPS on my Canon 6D was an invaluable tool, and my Olympus EM10 does not have this. I am going to have to look at how I can sort this when I get the EM5.

There is a work round for now – take photos on my iPhone and I can copy and paste the GPS data into the metadata of the photos taken with the Olympus camera, but this is a faff I can do without to be honest.

This is the main sticking point at the moment that needs to be sorted.

The fact that the widest I could go was in full frame equivalent 24mm – I want wider than that.

I use a 17-40mm lens in addition to my 24-105mm lens. And when I use the 17-40mm lens most of the photos I take are taken at the 17mm end.

So the question is this – do I get the 7-14mm lens? This will give me a super wide 14mm focal length. One for the future methinks.

The grip on the camera

The grip on the OM10 is too small for me – I am used to the big chunky grip on the Canon 6D to be fair. When I get the EM5 I will buy the grip that will sort this issue out.

The way that the tripod sits in my camera bag.

An unexpected annoyance was the way that my new travel tripod, the Peak Design Corey, sat in my camera bag. This needs looking at – I ended up with the tripod head either pointing up above the top of the bag or face down getting damaged.

Has this camera changed the way I take travel photographs?

Yes, In a number of ways,

I use it more and noticed that I have less photos on my iPhone. Not good for immediate use but as this is not really a priority to me definitely a good thing.

HDR

I have done more single image captures. This is in part down to having the wonderful EVF. Talking of which.

EVF and live in viewfinder exposure compensation

I used AV mode and exposure compensation pretty much the same way I did with the Canon 6D, but enjoyed it more, especially the instant feedback in the EVF of the image capture.

And what about things that have not changed?

Yep there are things that have not changed which is a good thing - this is not an exercise in binning everything I have been doing in the past after all!

Go to focal length

I still start wide and zoom in when required. So 12mm is my default focal length, as was 17mm with my Canon 6D.

I am going to analyse the focal lengths that I use – after all if I only ever use 12mm I might as well get the 7-14mm Pro lens and give myself room to play in the ultra wide arena.

What gear did I use?

  • Olympus OM-D EM10 and 12-40mm Pro lens

  • Pec Pads and Eclipse lens cleaning solution

  • Spare batteries and charger

  • Spare memory cards

  • Manfrotto Pixi for videoing skiers on the mountain

  • And what gear did I not use?

  • My brand new shiny three-legged thing tripod

  • My Platypod

  • My 40-150mm lens

Did I miss my Canon 6D?

No, not really. I was quite happy as I was.

And I have noticed since I got back from Canada that I am missing some of the features of my Olympus camera which my Canon 6 does not have, especially the EVF and touchscreen.

I know that newer Canon cameras have these features – it is just new to me with the gear that I have.

And some of things have very quickly become instinctive to me. I have started touching the LCD screen on my Canon 6D to change the focus points, but this is not a touchscreen, so nothing happens!

What about my ageing mince pies – sorry eyes?

I have adjusted to the smaller camera just fine, as the screen is much bigger than the one on my Canon 6D, and the EVF is much clearer and easier for me to read.

I should write an article titled “Cameras for the over 50s!” – actually that is not a bad idea.

I was concerned that I would struggle to read the dials and screens on a smaller camera, but this has not been a problem at all, which is a pleasant surprise.

A word about my Canon gear

My Canon gear still works wonderfully well and is still what I use for my commercial architectural photography work. This post is not a mirrorless is amazing/ DLSRs are so last year post. Nor is it an Olympus is better than Canon post.

No – my Olympus micro four thirds camera gives me options which are always good. And having some shiny new (albeit second hand) photography gear does help.

I am not knocking DLSRs or Canon – there is still a big place for both.

Lessons learned for the future

I think that the EM5 Mk 2 with grip will work even better.

Do I need to get a wider lens? I am going to stick as I am for now, and for my next trip I will take the other body with these two lenses.

I did not miss the longer focal lengths, meaning that my choice to buy the 12-40mm lens instead of the 12-100mm lens was the right thing for me.

I will hold the thought that the 7-14mm lens might be my go-to lens,

The one thing that I need to work out is a camera bag. I have contacted Peak Design and asked for their advice – lets see what they come up with.

Update – the good folks at Peak Design have got back to me and advise that I use the lower sections of the camera bag, which is not great as I want the camera to be sat on top of my camera bag so I can access it – one for me to work on.

I do have an idea.

My camera and my iPhone

The other thing which I mentioned earlier - I used my camera more than my iPhone to take photos. This is a good thing – the reason that I started looking for other gear was because I found myself not using my Canon 6D on a trip last year – it sat in the boot most of the time.

Now this is not good for the immediate access to images that my iPhone gives me – this is of course one of the brilliant things that an iPhone does.

But this is not the biggest thing for me, so I can live with it. I am more concerned about capturing the images I want whilst I am away which I can work on when I am back in my office.

Summary

This post is all about the minimalist travel photography gear that I used on a trip to Canada – there is a bit of refinement, but I am on the right road to having just the gear I need with me.

Rick McEvoy

I will write an update in June after my next trip and see how I got on using my new gear photographing a Greek Island with lots of sunrises!

Please check out my post next week which is all about Pinterest, the social media platform which is actually useful.

Rick McEvoy – travel photographer, writer, blogger

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