Choosing the Right Camera For The Job: Travel & Hiking

Reader Patrick wrote in to ask:

While I am currently 90% lean towards the X-E2, I have only one concern: if take travel/hiking into consideration, how would the weight/size of X-E2 be a issue compared to the E-M5? Furthermore, what do you think of the newly released E-M10? I am also interested in how you carry your camera on most of days (i.e. designated bag, pouch, etc.), since I can’t find any camera case satisfies me and I don’t intend to invest in another bag.

Although I answered him with a quick answer already, I wanted to expand on my thoughts a bit more. This is not as easy of a question for anyone to answer as it would seem. I am going to break things apart a bit and include all mirrorless cameras in my advice, but ultimately give you an answer that fits within the bounds of his question. Here we go.

Travel

Personally I think the best travel camera you can buy is the Fujifilm X100s. Here’s what Ken Rockwell has to say on that camera:

No camera captures life like the Fuji X100S, and it’s so easy to carry everywhere around your neck.

But the X100s is also fixed lens camera and therefore not everyone’s cup of tea. Even though I’ve spent limited time with the camera, I do think Rockwell is right — it’s one of the very best cameras out there. So the ultimate travel camera to me is the X100s, but that doesn’t fit the bounds of the question asked.

Between the X-E2, E-M5, and E-M10 — which one do you choose? That’s not an easy answer, because the next question is: what lens do you want to use?

If your answer is simply a small pancake then I think the E-M10 wins out easily. It is very capable, very small, and all around pretty fantastic. But if you want to answer “a fast 50mm lens”, like the 35mm f/1.4 on Fuji, or the Panasonic 25mm f/1.4 on the OM-Ds, well then my answer shifts back to the X-E2.

The reason being: once you add the 25mm on to the OM-D, the camera size advantage becomes a moot point — all three cameras now become something too large for a pocket. Thus, the X-E2 is my pick as it will give you a higher quality (better and bigger sensor) overall and I think better optics.

So if you want a really great small camera among those three for traveling, the E-M10 is the pick, but only if you pair it with the Panasonic 20mm f/1.7 lens. Otherwise the X-E2 with the 35mm f/1.4 is the winning combination for interchangeable lenses.

Hiking

Hiking isn’t the same beast as travel. For me the best hiking camera would be the Fujifilm X-T1 as it is weather sealed, no anti-aliasing filter for a higher resolution image, and much more. The X-T1 seems built for hiking: SLR like, but really small and really light. No brainer if you ask me.

However, once again, that answer doesn’t fit the bounds of the question as asked to me. But ‘hiking’ means different things to different people. To me hiking means getting out in the Cascade, or Olympic, mountain ranges and strapping on a backpack for a 5-12 mile journey. To me it means there is a better than 50% chance you are going to get wet.

Naturally then I would have to say the E-M5 as it is the only weather sealed camera of the lot. And in reality, among those three choices, I truly think the E-M5 is the best bet. The E-M5 feels made to be out on a trail, like the X-T1’s baby brother. My only reservation is that most lenses that are really great for the E-M5 are not weather sealed.1

So for hiking then: E-M5 and I would go with a 17mm lens.

For Hiking & Travel Then

This is a bit tricky because I think you have to choose which of the two activities you are doing more of, and optimize for that activity. Obviously, I would choose the X-E2, or ideally the X-T1, as I think the qualities of the Fujifilm X-system far out weigh that of the Micro Four-Thirds system (but that’s highly subjective).

Lets say though that you travel equally as much as you hike. In that case it’s the OM-D E-M5 in my book that takes the winning seat. It’s a bit easier to stash with the 20mm on it, it is tough, it has 5-axis image stabilization, and weather sealing.

So, for both activities, it’s the E-M5 because you have to optimize for the harsher conditions and in this case the harsher condition would be hiking (typically).

On the E-M10

My thoughts on this little beauty are pretty much going off of only the specs and what others say as I have not handled it, but it generally looks great. The lack of weather sealing really won’t be a big deal for 90% of the people out there. I’ve traveled and hiked with tons of non-weather sealed cameras and have never seen an issue, but don’t assume that means you won’t run into one.

For me the biggest drawback to the E-M10, and the reason I would think long and hard about the E-M5 over it, is the lack of 5-axis image stabilization. The 3-axis system by all accounts is still killer, but I’ve used the 5-axis system and it is almost all the reason one needs to buy the E-M5/1.

How I Carry My Stuff

Some days you just feel like you want to take some great pictures — you are in the mood — while other days you just want to drag along the camera “just in case”. So for the former I take my kit in the Ona Bowery bag which I wrote about.

Actually that Bowery bag will fit in my Goruck GR1 nicely if I need to carry both bags at the same time.

Outside of that, for the days when I just want to have the camera with me, I carry the X-E2 with the 27mm f/2.8 pancake lens and a spare battery in the Goruck GR1 Field Pocket (inside of my GR1 backpack). It doesn’t offer a ton of padding, but it offers enough and it keeps the camera free of scratches.

Questions?

If this just made you want to know more, get in touch.


  1. Personally, I wouldn’t let that stop me, just wipe it down and you should be fine. At least I was always fine. 

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Article Details

Published
by Ben Brooks
6 minutes to read.


tl;dr

Reader Patrick wrote in to ask: While I am currently 90% lean towards the X-E2, I have only one concern: if take travel/hiking into consideration, how would the weight/size of X-E2 be a issue compared to the E-M5? Furthermore, what do you think of the newly released E-M10? I am also interested in how you […]