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On our trip to Brazil I lugged my entire Nikon system (two bodies, six lenses, two flashes, tripod) on my back (Think Tank ShapeShifter bag) through four airports, three countries and miles and miles of Brazilian mountain jungle. It wasn’t fun.
Now with word that some airlines are reducing the weight of carry on luggage to 10 kg this is going to end our ability to carry as much equipment as I did to Brazil (Think the Brazil bag tipped in around 25+ kg.) Carrying all this equipment and the tripod just about killed my wife (Just kidding. She’s sturdier than that!)
So what to do?
My recommendation for the DSLR crowd is to take one camera with something like an 18mm to 200 or 300mm lens and wear it around your neck plus pocket a 50mm f/1.8 lens in a protective lens bag for shooting in available light. My light Nikon D-90 can handle 64-gig memory cards (not all cameras can handle these big cards if they’re what’s called a “class 10” card) which hold 8,000 JPG images or around 4,000 raws. If you’re afraid of having all your images on one card use 16-gig cards which still hold an enormous number of images and download them to your IPad or WiFi your images to your SmugMug or Flickr site but only if you have a no-cost Internet interface. Add a flash in your checked in luggage and a Gorillia mini-tripod and you’re done.
Want to take more equipment?
Then it’s time to add a vacation camera kit to the mix.
For quick trips to the Caribbean I take an Olympus XP-15o. I got it on sale for around $200 and it works just fine. The image quality isn’t up to DSLR standards but it’s more than good enough for shots around the pool or in the pool for that matter. Take it out on the beach with abandon (I’d never take my DSLR onto a sandy beach especially if there’s any wind kicking the sand up.) and don’t worry about somebody spilling a drink on it. There are better rugged cameras out there but I picked this one up due to the price.
But my new favourite system for vacation shots is the Olympus Pens.
I’ve got an older E-PL1 (again bought when the dealer was getting rid of this older model for $250 for the body) and a super nice E-PL2 which shoots just about as good as my D-300. Two camera bodies and six lenses fit into a Think Tank Urban Disguise. All of this, including the bag, comes in at seven kilograms well under the 10 kilogram limit.
Now I’m adding a new Olympus E-PL5 which has the same 16-meg sensor as the fabulous and much lauded OM-D E-MR which some have called the camera of 2012. Some reviewers claim that either of these cameras based on sharing the same sensor can outshoot any DX-format DSLR and only full-frame DSLRs shoot better images. Amazing.
The biggest issues I had with my Olympus Pens were they couldn’t keep up when it came to my style of special event commercial photography where I can shoot hundreds of images an hour and thousands in a day. The cameras didn’t focus fast enough or recycle fast enough. The E-PL5 is said to focus instantly and shoots up to 8 frames per second which used to be unheard of except for the most expensive DSLRs (I’m talking cameras that cost $3-$5 K each.). On vacations, the Pens were perfect as either was easy enough for my wife to shoot on auto and I could make them sing on manual.
With DSLR image quality, quick focusing and recycling between shots I might be able to get away with using the Olympus kit on some of the special event I do. That’s a bonus.
But here’s the kicker. I am finding it a tough slog to carry two Nikons (both with extra battery grips) with a couple more lenses (usually the very fast and very heavy 17-55mm f/2.8 and the still fairly large 12-24mm f/4 super wide) plus a flash and side battery pack (needed on dull days to light up my subjects) plus a camera bag. This setup weighs in at 20+ kilos.
I often end up walking around just with two cameras, one flash and battery pack on my belt and that’s still around 10 kilos.
So the Olympus kit is half the weight. Yes the Olympus batteries need to be changed out after 300 shots (the Nikons go all day) and there’s no way the flash will keep up in the same way the Nikon will but at the end of the day the Olympus images are just as good (maybe even better as I’m not as tired) as the Nikon images.
And, again on vacation or casual shooting, there’s nothing better.