A Visit to Lisbon – Travel Photography with Micro Four Thirds
Last week we went to Lisbon, Portugal, for a couple of days. I decided to only bring my Micro Four Thirds (MFT, m43) gear and this is a short summary of how that worked out (I have done a similar write-up before after a trip to New York).
My camera bag consisted of Panasonic Leica 15 mm f/1.7 (bought it just before this trip), Panasonic Leica 25 mm f/1.4, Olympus 45 mm f/1.8 and an old Nikkor 105 mm f/2.5. I brought both my Olympus OM-D E-M5 and Panasonic GF3 bodies in order to not having to swap lenses all the time.
I ended up using the Panasonic Leica 15 mm f/1.7 the most and didn’t use the Nikkor 105 mm at all. One of the reasons the 15 mm was my most used lens was because it was brand new and I wanted to try it out but I also find the focal length great as a general walk-around lens in the city. I could probably have used the 105 mm a couple of times but I didn’t want to lug it around so I ended up leaving it in the hotel room.
Lisbon has a lot of narrow winding streets where the 15 mm works great (the equivalent of a 30 mm on 35 mm full frame body). The lens is quite wide but not wide enough to get that extreme wide angle perspective. I use it as a wide normal lens and try to take some care when framing so I don’t just end up with a lot of uninteresting stuff in the shot.
I was planning to use the 15 mm for some shots of the trams but I found that I liked the perspective of the 25 mm better.
Like I said above the 15 mm is not an extreme wide angle and when I didn’t get that extreme wide angle distortion which can make for fun photos sometimes I think the shots from the 25 mm turned out better.
The corners of the 15 mm is a bit soft wide open but stopped down to f/5.6 it’s sharp across the frame and the large depth of focus from the MFT system makes it great for quick candids and landscapes.
I see myself using mainly two apertures on this lens; f/5.6 when sharpness across the frame is important (this also leaves a lot of the content in focus) and f/1.7 at short distances to get some background blur to achieve better subject isolation.
I mainly brought my 45 mm f/1.8 for landscape shots and I used it for a couple of those. I could have used a bit more reach sometimes but the Olympus 45 mm is a compact and versatile lens so I don’t want to swap it for a tele zoom.
All in all I’m very happy with my MFT lens collection. It would be fun to have a real extreme wide angle like the Panasonic 7-14 mm but I find these kind of lenses very difficult to use and I know it would not leave the camera bag very often. I already have a Canon 17-35 mm for my Canon system I use too seldom. I don’t feel too limited by only having primes, especially when being able to bring two camera bodies, and the larger maximum aperture opens up for other creative possibilities compared to the kit zooms. I thought about trying out one of the pro zooms (Panasonic 12-35 f/2.8 or Olympus 12-40 f/2.8) but they are large and heavy lenses (especially the Olympus) and kind of defeats what I’m trying to achieve with my MFT kit; better portability than my Canon system.
For my needs Micro Four Thirds is a really good system for travel photography. I have seen concerns about the image quality compared to full frame (35 mm) sensors but for me it’s good enough to leave my Canon 6D at home, especially on a trip where photography is not my main goal. The collection of small good primes is also something I really appreciate.