Have you ever thought about taking a smaller camera on your next vacation?  Like a point and shoot or a mirrorless dSLR?

I just returned from a trip to England, and I took only my Olympus OM-D E-M5 with me.  It was an experiment – I wasn’t sure whether I could live without the big Mark II.  But you know what?  The little OMD was perfect!

I’ve been using this camera for several months now, but wanted to wait to tell you about it until I had really put it through its paces.  For each photo in this blog post, I will show you the SOOC as well as the edited photo.  I want to make sure you see how good the photos look SOOC using this Olympus camera.  (I edited all the photos using the Lightroom 5 beta and MCP’s Enlighten presets.)

The equipment I used on this trip was:

The camera weighs just under a pound, and each lens weighs about 8 ounces.  They lenses are so tiny that I have to describe them as adorable.

This camera has a 2 times crop factor – that means that the effective length of the 25mm is 50mm (this is the nifty fifty for the Olympus OM-D), and the effective length of the 40-150 is 80-300.  That’s longer than the longest zoom I have for my Mark II.

As you can see from the next two photos, the 25mm f/1.4 creates beautiful background blur.

The camera and all three lenses fit in my purse.  For comparison purposes, the purse I carried was the Baggallini Everywhere bag.  It wasn’t huge.  My iPad fits inside the main compartment, but it doesn’t fit in the large outside pocket that you see just above the two narrow pockets in the shot below.  

I researched mirrorless SLRs for several months before deciding on the Olympus OM-D E-M5.  The features that convinced me to go with this camera were:

  • Interchangeable lenses (using the micro 4/3 mount).
  • Shoots in Raw format
  • 16 megapixels for high image quality
  • In camera edits like skin softening, shadow adjustments and saturation
  • Ability to shoot through the electronic viewfinder or using the monitor on back of the camera.  Both show you a live preview of the image, as it will appear after shooting, given the exposure and focus settings.
  • The display on the back of the camera is a touchscreen.  You can set the camera to focus and shoot by touching a point on the screen, just like the iPhone.  I used this feature a lot!
  • In camera image stabilization to reduce the effects of blur from camera shake
  • Dials – the less costly Olympus mirrorless models didn’t have dials to change exposure settings.  Shooting in manual, these dials are a must if you are going to tweak exposure for each photo without missing a shot.

There are lots of mirrorless dSLRs on the market now – they are smaller than regular dSLRs because, well, they don’t have a mirror inside.  Olympus had the biggest selection of lenses and this camera got great reviews everywhere I looked.  I can say, after using the camera for a few months, that I made the right choice.

The major downside of this camera is battery life.  I have 3 batteries for it – luckily, they cost only about $20 each.  I wouldn’t recommend leaving the house without a charged backup – these guys last no longer than a day.  Less, if you do a lot of work reviewing and editing photos after taking them.  Or if you are simply shooting lots of photos!

The camera is slower than my Mark II also, but that is too be expected.  It focuses quickly but the recycle time between shots is longer.

One other potential downside, depending on your perspective, is that this isn’t a camera that you can drop in your pocket.  Especially if you have one of the longer lenses attached.  I’m not a pocket person anyway – I always have a purse.  But this might be a reason to choose a point and shoot over a mirrorless, for those of you who want a pocketable camera.

This camera takes SD memory cards and I have an 8 GB Eye-Fi to go with it.  You can read about how I magically send my photos from my camera to my phone in this blog post.  This card worked like a champ for me throughout my trip, even in places where there was no internet connection.

When I went to the Royal Wedding two years ago, I toted my big camera with me everywhere.  It got heavy, but it was worth it to get the photos of Kate and William.  This time, however, I wanted to travel more lightly so that I could focus on getting around London quickly and seeing the sites.  The Olympus OM-D E-M5 was a great little vacation camera.

Are you going on vacation soon?  Try leaving your big camera at home – I think you’ll be glad you did!