Sore shoulders at the end of a day after touring a city? Take a look inside your camera bag. I’m writing this post because the solution to my pain (besides some physiotherapy) had to do with switching to a mirrorless camera for travel to France. It’s lighter, more compact, and still takes great photos. Crazy, but true. What I did might help prevent you from getting aches and pains or possibly solve your problem.
A DSLR Or A Mirrorless Camera For Travel? Which One Is Better?
In order to answer this question, let’s take a look at what was in my bag and see if the mirrorless can do what a DSLR could do.
A DSLR camera or digital single-lens reflex camera has a mirror that reflects the light coming in. It hits the prism and sends the image to the sensor and then your viewfinder. This mirror and mechanism require more space and weight. Hence, a heavier, bigger camera.
My Canon DSLR Camera
I loved my Canon EOS Rebel XSi DSLR camera. I say loved because I sold the camera and every single accessory associated with it. It was just too heavy, especially for travel photography. Picture this in my knapsack:
- Canon DSLR with 18-55mm lens
- Canon 18-200mm telephoto zoom lens
- Canon 10-22mm wide-angle lens
- Extra batteries, filters, lens hood, etc.
Total weight: over 1.7 kilograms (3.7 pounds)
Imagine carrying that all day on your back. As I have (had) some problems with my shoulder, I just couldn’t imagine carrying this equipment all day, even though I was extremely happy with the photos I took.
What Is A Mirrorless Camera?
A mirrorless camera is also known as a Compact System Camera or Micro Four Thirds Camera. (Four-thirds refers to the sensor size and 4:3 image aspect ratio). The sensor that is used is smaller than those used in DSLRs. The light that comes through a mirrorless lens, goes straight to the image sensor.
I know many people are using their smartphones to take photos and some do an incredible job; however, I like to use interchangeable lenses. Mirrorless cameras give me this option yet are also lighter and more compact than DSLRs. Where you really notice the difference is the weight of the camera especially when zoom telephoto lenses are added.
In my research about mirrorless cameras, it has been found these cameras can take just as good if not BETTER photos than those taken with a DSLR. The pictures I have taken so far have definitely proven this. I’m sold!
My Olympus Mirrorless Camera
I have purchased the following based on the “feel” of the camera, the ease of use, and obviously the quality of the photos.
Model: Olympus OMD E-M10-Mark II
Kit lens: 14-42mm f/3.5 – 5.6
Wide Angle To Portrait Lens: M. Zuiko 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO
- weather sealed
- provides a 24-80mm equivalent focal length range
Wide Angle Telephoto Zoom Lens: M. Zuiko 14-150mm f/4.0-5.6
- weather sealed
- vacation lens
- provides a 28-300mm equivalent focal length range
Total Weight of camera + kits lens + wide-angle lens + zoom lens = 793 grams (1.7 pounds) or less than half the weight of the Canon!
The Olympus body and three lenses are significantly lighter than the Canon equipment. My version of the OMD-E 10 has been updated to newer versions (Mark III and Mark IV) but the major difference between them is the addition of 4K video, and LCD screen on the back of the camera, and a 20MP sensor.
Over the past number of years, Olympus has consistently been chosen as one of the Top 10 Mirrorless Cameras by many photographic review websites, including Techradar. I feel the pros outweigh the cons and bringing a mirrorless camera for travel to France has been the best decision I’ve ever made. There are many brands besides Olympus that make great compact travel cameras and they include the Sony Alpha A6000, Panasonic Lumix, and Fuji.
Pros And Cons Of The Olympus Mirrorless Camera
- lightweight, small, compact camera
- retro styling
- well-sized, easy to use controls on the top and back of the camera
- 16 Megapixel
- image quality: very good
- uses interchangeable lenses: uses Micro Four Thirds lenses which both Olympus and Panasonic make, so I can buy a Panasonic zoom lens for my Olympus camera
- faster shutter speeds
- has all the features of a DSLR such as autofocus, programmable, aperture and shutter priority modes, image stabilization, etc.
- has video (my old camera did not)
five-axis image stabilization built into the camera body: it adjusts for and compensates for any camera movement. Because it’s built into the body of the camera, not the lens, you can attach a lens without image stabilization.
has wifi which will enable me to wirelessly transfer photos from my camera to my iPhone or tablet. (IOS and Android supported). The Olympus Image Share app has these features: Remote Control, Import Photos, Edit Photo and Add Geotag. You can also change other controls such as exposure all via your device.
- battery life is short because it uses OLED and electronic viewfinder. With my old DSLR, I could shoot over 1000 photos but with this camera, maybe 325 before I have to change the battery
- video is not 4K, but that actually doesn’t bother me
- menu and the learning curve is a bit steep. The instruction manual is 167 pages long and could be better written. For example, I had to email Olympus to get clarification on the battery level settings.
- the battery charger doesn’t just plug directly into the AC outlet. You have to attach a cord first. This is a pain when travelling as it takes up more room in one’s luggage.
Good News For Travellers
I recently found a solution: a Stub Plug Adapter For Camera Battery Chargers. You can purchase it at B and H Photography and through Amazon for $4.40. Its technical name is the “NEMA I-I5P to IEC C7 Right Angle Power Adapter” and it replaces the need for an AC power cord. It just plugs into the charger and works like a charm.
Since travelling with a lighter camera, a mirrorless travel camera, my shoulder problems have disappeared. IN addition to the lighter gear, I am also careful to use a proper knapsack with hip pads that can support the extra weight when I hike. Certainly the exercises my physiotherapist gave me helped, but I really believe the real reason was that my shoulders were no longer lugging a ton of camera equipment.
Do full-frame mirrorless cameras exist? Yes, and all the major brands carry them. But you’ll pay for the luxury of having a large, full-frame sensor, which is ideal for low light, high ISO situations. Prices can start at $2000 and the weight can be 1.5 pounds and up, so you’re starting to lose that weight advantage over a DSLR.
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