Camera – Lens Dilemma … all micro 4/3?

Lately I have not been able to see the forest for the trees.  By this I mean that I have been in a dilemma relative to future cameras and lenses without a chance to buy some alternative lenses and travel to try them out while taking pictures.  I have just been sitting here looking at my cameras and pondering.

As you know from previous articles, I have two separate camera systems.   I have a Pentax K-7 DSLR with the 18 – 55mm, f/3.5 – 5.6 WR zoom, a prime 40mm, f2.8 lens, and the 18 – 250mm, f/3.5 – 6.3 all-purpose zoom and I have a micro 4/3 Olympus E-P1 with the Olympus 17mm, f/2.8, the Panasonic 20mm, f/1.7, and the Olympus 14 – 42mm, f/3.5 – 5.6 lenses.  For my trip to Tunisia last April I took the E-P1 system with the 17mm and the 14 – 42mm lens since I needed to travel with no more than 11 pounds carry-on (I never check my cameras).  For my trip to West Virginia last October I took my K-7 system since I wasn’t walking much, was working out of my car, and felt like I had neglected my K-7.

My reasons for selecting the Pentax DSLR rather than a Nikon DSLR were due to the smaller size of the Pentax camera, the excellent prime lenses that they have, and because the Pentax system was better sealed against rain and dust.  I wanted to have a good, but small and light camera for walkabouts either in the U. S. or in foreign countries as well as the ability to use the camera in rain and have the ability to put a long lens on it for taking wildlife pictures in the rain forests.

After I committed to the Pentax DSLR system, the micro 4/3 Olympus E-P1 camera became available.  Before going to Tunisia I bought my micro 4/3 system and tried it out and found that I liked it a great deal and that it was much easier to carry around.  In addition I found that for the type of pictures I usually take in dry countries and for the way I display them (on the web) that the micro 4/3 system was quite good.

My dilemma now is: Could I make do with just the micro 4/3 system for all of my photography?  At the moment I need to use the K-7 in rainy weather and when I need a longer lens.  If I were to go back to the rain forests in the Amazon, or to Costa Rica now, I would definitely take my Pentax system.  My problem is:  I don’t know if I will be doing that again.  While traveling, I usually like to go to new places where I haven’t been.

Assuming that I will only be taking pictures in good weather, I could acquire a micro 4/3 all-purpose long zoom for my E-P1 … the Olympus 14 – 150mm lens or the 70 – 300mm lens.  The 70 – 300mm lens would actually give me more reach then I have with my longest current Pentax lens since the Olympus effective zoom range is from 140 to 600mm and the Pentax effective zoom range is from 28 to 375mm but it wouldn’t be practical without a tripod or at least a monopod … which just adds to the weight and volume of the system.  The 14 – 150mm (effective 28 – 300mm) lens would make a nice all-purpose travel lens … at least in good weather; but I didn’t miss having no more than an effective range of 84mm while traveling in Tunisia from the Mediterranean to the Sahara desert.  You can see my Tunisia pictures, in earlier articles, by looking under “Category” (top right of this page), just select Tunisia.  There are some 20+ different Tunisia selections.

We are considering traveling to Ireland this year and that is adding to my dilemma.  My expectations are that I won’t need a long lens (no wildlife & no distant mountain ranges) but I should expect touring in the rain.  If we were to go tomorrow I would probably take the K-7 and the 18 – 55mm weather resistant lens along with the E-P1 with only the 20mm lens for inside, low light shots; but, I wonder how often I would want to take a picture in a hard rain, and the smaller camera would be easy to keep dry under my rain jacket … hmmm, I wonder if just the 20mm lens would be enough … maybe a wider lens, the 14mm?

In the meanwhile, I am just going to continue pondering.  I also expect that my options will expand in terms of new micro 4/3 cameras and lenses becoming available this summer.  But, for now, I heartily recommend the micro 4/3 system for lightweight, small, high quality travel cameras and I’m leaning towards eventually making it my one-and-only system.  See this field review of the Panasonic GF1 (a competitor to my Olympus E-P1 micro 4/3 camera using the same 20mm lens I have) as a travel camera while traveling in Nepal.  Make sure you read past the ads clear to the end and some of the 100’s of positive comments if you have the time.

PS, I still prefer the Olympus system with the in-body stabilization system, but there are now lots of new ones to consider (click here), and more coming in the next six months.


  1. John

    I don’t think that I have meaningful data relative to my evolving decision process. There is no way to quantify the trade-off between weight & image quality. I even find that a lot of the technical data about cameras and lenses isn’t anymore than a guideline. You still have to hold the camera and try shooting with it. The best data turns out to be the opinions of lots of people and whatever you find with actually using the controls on your camera and then looking at the pictures to see what pleases you. Nothing beats trying the camera out and carrying it around and shooting with it for a few days.


  2. slpmartin

    I suspect a number of people who are looking for a lighter camera will find this post quite useful. Since I know you keep very careful data about your lenses and decision process, I was wonder if you going to publish some of that information also?