Lightweight Travel Photography

If you have read my blog you realize that I have moved from a heavier Pentax DSLR, the K-7, to a couple of Olympus micro four-thirds cameras.  I have been downsizing the weight and volume to a level that is more manageable for carrying while at the same time maintaining sufficient image quality with my cameras.   My intent was to carry two Olympus cameras, the E-P1 and the E-PL2 with me as I travel to have total interchangeability and a backup if anything goes wrong with a camera or lens.

While my latest micro four-thirds camera, the Olympus E-PL2, is quite small and very good, it is still not a pocket camera … unless it is a jacket pocket.  While it is smaller than the K-7 system, the camera still feels like you have a small brick in your jacket pocket.  In addition there are times when I don’t expect to be taking pictures, but still desire to have a camera with me, so I started thinking whether I could reduce the volume and weight even further … and found that I could.

If I replaced one of the micro four-thirds cameras in my travel bag with a point & shoot (P&S) camera I could go lighter.  The problem with this approach is that while I have had many P&S cameras over the years I always eventually became dissatisfied with their image quality; but, I decided to take another look.  I started researching current P&S cameras (those with much smaller sensor sizes) to find which was the best and if they were good enough.

I found in the literature that the Canon S95 is the smallest, pocket-able camera with the highest image quality.  Another feature that was desirable was a camera that took raw files as well as jpeg since that would give me a little more leeway to process the pictures and the S95 does.  Rather than for me to go into the specifications of the camera, etc., I suggest that you look here: S95 on the web.  Make sure that you look at its’ competitors since they all have something different and the S95 might not be the best for you.  In particular, this ePHOTOzine article shows some of the differences quite well.  For me, the Panasonic LX5 was not as easily pocket-able due to its’ slightly larger size along with the protuberances, and the new Nikon P300 doesn’t take raw pictures.  I also looked at the Olympus XZ-1 but it is also larger than the Canon S95, more expensive, and there are some questions about the XZ-1’s image quality.

One of my favorite web sites has this article about the S95.  It pretty well sums up the advantages as they relate to me.  But, it takes more than a good review to convince me to spend that kind of money on a P&S.  I was still concerned about the kind of images that could be taken with it by ordinary photographers, so I kept looking for more information and came across this web site …  It has many pictures submitted by S95 users.  Take a look through the pictures and I think you will see why I decided to give the camera a try.

The following is a photo of the S95 along with my E-PL2 and the lenses that I most use on it.  As you can see, the S95, with 28 – 105mm effective optical zoom, is smaller than the E-PL2 with its’ lenses.  I just got the S95 and haven’t taken any pictures yet.  I’m still waiting for the weather to warm up and stop raining so I can put it in my pocket and go for a walk.   While you can see the size differences below, it also translates into a noticeable difference in weight when carrying in a pocket:  193 gm for the S95 versus 480 gm for the E-PL2 with the 20mm lens.

From your left is the 14mm lens for the E-PL2, then the Canon S95, then the E-PL2 with the 20mm lens on it, and on your right is the 14 – 150mm lens.  Notice that I have the wrist strap on the E-PL2’s left side.  I have done that since I find it easier to carry it in my left hand by the lens when the 14 – 150mm lens is on the camera.

These are the lightest, smallest, travel-light, walk-about camera systems that I have found (so far) that gives me sufficient image quality.  When I’m not expecting to be taking pictures I can just put the S95 in a pocket in case I do see something.  When I’m traveling, or just out to take pictures, I will use the E-PL2 with one or more of the lenses shown above with the S95 for backup.  I won’t take the 14 – 150mm zoom unless I know I will need it since I’m growing more fond of just shooting with primes.


  1. Pingback: Bought a Pentax K-5 DSLR « Everchanging Perspective
  2. Pingback: Photography | Headlandsartgroup's Blog