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Nobody would disagree that a camera is an absolutely essential travel item (here are my 15 must-have travel items). Mirrorless cameras are a godsend to travelers. They are smaller, cheaper, and lighter than DSLRs, but have exceptional image quality. However, choosing the best mirrorless camera for traveling is no easy task.
If you’ve spent any amount of time on this travel website, you may have noticed that I sometimes take some pretty OK photos. I don’t consider myself a professional photographer, but I have sold some photos over the years to travel magazines, news websites, and even a couple books. So I guess that means something, right?
For people who aren’t familiar with photography, the first question they often ask when they see a stunning travel photo is, “Wow, what kind of camera do you use?”
In my opinion, the camera and lenses don’t matter as much as other factors. Most cameras nowadays can take pretty amazing photos. The camera is a tool, but what matters more is the photographer’s skills, knowledge of the equipment he or she has, and post-processing of the images.
Having said that, I do really love the camera, lenses and other gear that I have carefully selected after doing tons of research. In this post, I’m going to introduce the camera I use for all my travels, and why I like it so much. This camera has been on the road to dozens of countries with me. To be fair, I’ll also cover some cons and challenges to using this camera.
Overall, I think this is an excellent mirrorless camera for traveling, whether you want to upgrade from a smartphone without going too big, or downgrade from a DSLR because it is too big.
My Mirrorless Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5 II
(Click the image or here to see price on Amazon)
About four years ago, I made the switch from my enormous DSLR camera to a mirrorless one. I’ve never looked back.
If you don’t know what a mirrorless camera is, these are significantly smaller and lighter than DSLRs, and in my opinion, the photo quality is just as good. They lack a reflex mirror, and sometimes some other features, but for the average photographer, and even any professional photographers nowadays, they are more than good enough.
Once I decided to make the switch, I spent countless hours researching which mirrorless camera to get. There are so many specs to get bogged down with, but in the end my quest led me to the Olympus OM-D E-M5 II.
Features of the Olympus
The Olympus OMD EM5 Mark ii essentially ticked all the boxes for what I wanted in my new camera. While I really don’t want to get too detailed with the specifications (you can find all of those here), these are some of the features that first attracted me to this camera:
- Small size and light weight (like all mirrorless cameras)
- Weatherproof: Can handle some light rain, snow, etc.
- Touchscreen that can flip around for selfie shots or taking photos at weird angles.
- WiFi for transferring pictures to other devices while traveling.
- Vintage camera look (I went for the silver body)
- Excellent range of lenses to choose from
What I love about the Olympus
When I first switched from my huge DSLR to the Olympus omd em5 mark 2, I fell in love with photography all over again. Suddenly my camera gear was less than half the size and weight. As a result, I ended up taking my camera out way more often and shooting more pictures.
Around the same time, I spent some time learning how to use Lightroom better, and the quality of my pictures just skyrocketed in no time.
Because this camera is so much smaller, it’s easier to handle. Thanks to its impressive image stabilization, I’m often able to get great shots while holding it with just one hand, and it doesn’t give me a sore back from carrying it around my neck all day like the DSLR did. When traveling with young kids, this makes a world of difference.
Regarding the Olympus specifically, I find the camera has amazing image quality. I’m blown away by the pictures I’m able to get with it, especially once I adjust the shadows & highlights to really bring out all the detail.
I love that all of the buttons on the camera are totally customizable. After I got those configured the way I wanted, I almost never change them.
Last, this camera and its lenses are quite a bit cheaper than comparable ones on a DSLR. Combined with the fact that the lenses are so much smaller and lighter, it’s easier and cheaper to get more of them. The money I made selling my used DSLR and lenses was almost enough cover my brand new Olympus and lenses.
Cons of the Olympus
While I really love the Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II for traveling, it’s not perfect. Here are a few downsides I’ve found over the last four or so years of using this camera.
Compared to DSLRs, the batteries of mirrorless cameras run out way faster. I carry four around at all times.
You also must be aware that the image size is 4:3 (hence the name “micro four-thirds”) whereas DSLRs are 3:2. For this reason, my pictures with this camera don’t match the size of photos I shot in the past with my DSLR.
The Olympus almost has TOO many features. This was a little overwhelming at first, but once I studied the instruction manual thoroughly, coupled with some online research, it all started to make sense. There are many features that I just never use.
While it’s nice to be able to customize all the buttons, the options are so extensive that it takes a while to get used to.
If shooting in RAW, the ORF files have to be imported using Olympus software. I find the software too slow to work with, so I have export TIF files (which are huge) to work with them in Lightroom. I’m totally used to this workflow, but it took some adjustment to get used to at first.
Because there are so many little buttons in different places on this camera, I sometimes accidentally push one without realizing it.
The New Olympus Mark III
(Click on image or here to see on Amazon)
I haven’t upgraded yet because I’m still totally happy with my Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II, but the Mark III version was released in late 2019. You can still buy the Mark II, but the Mark II is only a few hundred dollars more, so I would recommend going for the new one.
Here are some of the improved features on the Mark III:
- Higher resolution (20MB vs 16MB)
- More auto focus points (121 vs 81)
- Better high res mode (50MP vs 40MP, for taking some crazy hi-res shots)
- Improved video
Here is a more detailed comparison of the differences between the Olympus OM-D EM-5 Mark 2 and Mark 3.
Photos Shot with My Olympus OM-D EM5 Mark II
Here are some random shots that I’ve taken with my Olympus OMD EM5 Mark ii. All of them were shot in RAW, imported with Olympus Viewer 3, and edited in Lightroom.
There are a lot of great cameras out there today. No matter which one you decide to get, take them time to understand its features, practice a lot, and you will surely be able to capture some amazing shots.
For me, the Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II has proven to be an excellent camera for travel. I’m always happy with the photos I manage to get for use on this website. There are even more features than I’ll ever need, and more than anything, I just love the small size, which allows me to pretty much wear the camera whenever I’m traveling. That way, I never miss a great photo opportunity.
I hope you have found this Olympus OMD EM5 Mark II camera review helpful, and happy shooting!