D40 or GF1 for travel?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by NickD, May 23, 2010.

  1. NickD macrumors 6502a

    NickD

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    #1
    This September, I'm purchasing a one-way plane ticket and embarking on a journey around the world.

    I really want to purchase a decent camera for this season in life, as there will be plenty of opportunities and exciting things to capture.

    I've been talking to a few people about what specific camera I should purchase for this trip. Though these recommendations have been all over the map, the two most common suggestions are for me to purchase a Nikon D40 or a Panasonic Lumix GF1.

    Honestly, I'm not quite sure which camera will be the best for all-around photography as I travel. I've used both cameras to a degree, but not extensively, and I've never been enough of a photography nut to make an educated decision on which would be best.

    Between the two cameras, the size and weight does not matter to me. I would be comfortable with either camera as each are fairly compact and lightweight.

    What suggestions and thoughts do you guys have?
     
  2. G.T. macrumors 6502a

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    #2
  3. NickD thread starter macrumors 6502a

    NickD

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    #3
  4. G.T. macrumors 6502a

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    #4
    Thats what I did lol. Then I brought the GF1. While I love the 20mm prime, I don't often find myself needing to zoom, but you may want the 14-45mm lens it also has image stabilisation.
     
  5. leighonigar macrumors 6502a

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    #5
    I've never done a trip like the one you describe, though I would love to have the guts to do so.

    If you think the size is not an issue, I'm not going to quibble, but I would be concerned about powering my camera. Are you going to be able to plug things in regularly? I guess you will if you're staying in hotels, but otherwise might an AA-powered camera be an idea? trade off though, because AAs are generally less long-lasting and reliable than l-ions, in my experience.

    On the Nikon front, the D40 is undoubtedly a great camera but I would also think about the D5000, which should have significantly better image quality, especially in low-light, and it also has video. If you want video particularly and favour the DSLR route, don't discount the Canon 550D.

    I'm sure there are people here with actual travel experience, hopefully they will chime in with better advice. People generally seem to say 'stick to what you know', i.e. keep the camera that you've got, to eliminate problems, but you've got ages to get the camera and test it out, so you should be fine.

    All modern cameras are fine, I think I would be more concerned about getting the compact lenses, flash, memory cards and bag right.
     
  6. Gold89 macrumors 6502

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    UK
    #6
    I would be tempted to just take the GF1 + 20mm lens and leave it at that. Still an excellent piece of kit to get those shots but will not weigh you down or distract you from the traveling.

    Think of it as following in the footsteps of Cartier-Bresson et al who shot using only a 50.
     
  7. ManhattanPrjct macrumors 6502

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    Oct 6, 2008
    #7
    Hi Nick,

    I did something like what you're planning last year - I spent 5 months in Asia on an open ticket.

    I think what camera you bring will depend in large part on how you plan on traveling. I went the "guerilla" route and only brought one small bag (a week's worth of clothing) and didn't bother with my Macbook (you'll thank me later on that front). This makes airports and security checkpoints much easier, as well as figuring out where you are going to stay once you land in a new place.

    If you go my route, I'll give you some advice that will probably be counter to what anybody here has told you - get a nice P&S like the LX3 and S90. You will want to be weighed down by as little as possible, and these cameras can capture about 80%+ of what you'll see (maybe more, depending on you style).

    If you are checking bags and staying in nicer places, step up to a small DSLR setup (like the D40).

    I don't have much experience in the 4/3s arena, but it may be the size/performance compromise you need. However, the S90/LX3 are cameras with which you can discreetly sneak into a lot of places (temples, museums, etc) where even a bigger camera will stand out... and you don't want to be an obvious tourist/target, do you?
     
  8. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    #8
    I would suggest the D40 with the 18-200, there are bound to be times when you want to photograph things that are far away, and the superzoom would allow you to do that without having to change lenses.

    Paul
     
  9. leighonigar macrumors 6502a

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    #9

    Of course, Panasonic make a 14-140mm which gives very similar views for micro four thirds. I don't know how good it is. I guess it's smaller than the nikon, but the kit would be more expensive.
     
  10. runlsd macrumors 6502

    runlsd

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    #10
    In terms of portability, the GF1 wins hands down. I own the GF1 after using the D80. The D40, unlike the D80, lacks a internal focus motor meaning that it reduces the D40's autofocus-compatible lens choices.

    The D40 is replaced by D3000/5000. It is a bit outdated at this point. But it is still a capable DSLR. What you gain from the size is faster operation, including autofocus. The GF1, while it is generally understood to have the best autofocus speed in its class, still comes short of a DSLR. If you never had a DSLR, no big deal. If you have, you might notice it a little bit.

    There are areas where I miss my D80 a lot. The AF-points are easy to change. There is an optical viewfinder. It has a nice grip... etc.

    I'm still getting used to my GF1 after buying it in February. The IQ doesn't impress me. For example, on aperture priority, it chooses slow shutter speeds and ISO combination that doesn't always produce sharp images. I'm still getting used to the grip. Sometimes I turn on the camera and put it right up against my face but there's no viewfinder! (unless you want to buy the EVF)

    That being said, I still think I'm way more likely to take my GF1 traveling than my former D80 + 18-200mm, 50mm combo.

    If you want to expand to a DSLR at some point in your life, might as well get the D40 and get a head start. Have you looked into the D5000? You can get a D5000 for the same price range as the GF1.

    Obviously by going with a Nikon, you'll have a vast lens selection. The MFT lens selection isn't great right now. You can use an adapter to mount other lenses to your GF1 but most are manual focus only.

    Anyway, I hope that wasn't too scattered. I'm watching House as I wrote this.
     
  11. RainMeister macrumors member

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    Sep 16, 2008
    #11
    On a trip like that, I would place a priority on total kit size and weight.

    A difference of a few pounds may not seem like much for a weekend outing, but after several weeks of travel, you'll start to feel every additional ounce and wish you had less.

    You'll also no doubt be traveling to places where thieves target tourists. You'll want a discreet-looking camera that is going to attract less attention, and one that can be stored in your daypack (in lieu of an additional camera bag), as you're going to want fewer pieces of loose luggage to keep track of.

    The GF1/20mm combo is very nice; the fast lens will offset any disadvantage it may have versus DSLRs at higher ISOs. One downside of that combo is that at 20mm (40mm equivalent), it's not going to be wide enough, particularly indoors and in urban centers. That means adding a zoom, which adds weight/size and starts to defeat the advantages of the m43 form factor, although the total kit will still be smaller/lighter than a DSLR.

    A quality p&s like the Canon S90 is a good alternative. I find it surprisingly good in low light when shooting at the wide end of the lens (f/2). The image stabilization built into the lens helps further with low-light static shots (Panasonic pancake lens lacks image stabilization and their zooms are slooow). The S90 also has a very useful zoom range equivalent of 28-105. The one downside is that the image quality will not be as good as a DSLR or a m43 for larger (more than 11x14) or heavily cropped prints, if that really matters to you.

    It's all about compromises. As a DSLR equipment junkie, I will say that taking more equipment can cause one to become too pre-occupied with getting "the shot" at the expense of enjoying the journey. My advice is to keep it simple.
     
  12. NickD thread starter macrumors 6502a

    NickD

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    #12
    Thanks for all the advice everyone.

    This is really good and has given me a lot to think about. Right now I'm investigating the GF1 with the both the 14-45mm AND the 20mm lenses. I appreciate the extra range of the 14-45mm, but I love the idea of the 20mm f/1.7 prime as well. The 20mm does not add much bulk or take up much space at all, so I believe it shouldn't be a problem to carry two lenses with this set-up.

    Thoughts?
     
  13. runlsd macrumors 6502

    runlsd

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    #13
    I would save the money on the either one for may be a 14-140mm or whatever they might release in the future. Owning both seems a bit redundant to me. the 14-45 doesn't give you that much extra on either end, although there will be times when the little zoom becomes useful. I own the pancake. There are times when I wish I had more at the wide angle and telephoto range but the 14-45 wouldn't get me what I want anyway.. If I need wide, I want wider than 14 or if I want longer, I want longer than 45mm.. that's just me.

    Anyway, if you get both, buy the GF1 + 20mm kit and the 14-45mm separately. In most places I looked, the 20mm is a little more expensive than the 14-45mm but the kit price is the same.
     
  14. G.T. macrumors 6502a

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    #14
    I say if you can afford both lenses do it. As I own the 20mm I can tell u it will fit in my pocket, but a bag might be more comfortable. It doesn't take up much room.


    I'm in UK and saved about £100 on 20mm by buying it as a kit. Though now I'm looking to the 14-45mm, reviews of the 14-140mm I think say its a bit overkill as in the out spectrums of the zoom image quality suffers (may be wrong). Remember the 14-45 will be equivalent to 28-90 so its not too bad. A 14-140mm is expensive, I say get GF1 with 20mm and 14-45mm, but thats my opinion.
     
  15. spice weasel macrumors 65816

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    #15
    Just my two cents:

    I haven't used or even touched a GF1, and I don't know how good it's picture quality is compared to a D40, D3000, or D5000. But I'd say that your two options are to either take an SLR with you or cut weight and space and take a much smaller camera like a Canon S90. I don't see the GF1 saving you all that much space, really.

    I've humped my Nikon dSLR up and down mountain trails in Nepal, all across Europe and Japan, in sea kayaks on both coasts, and across more miles of trail in more conditions than I can remember. It never seemed like a burden, and I'm glad that I did. The shots I got were amazing, and made it all worth it.

    Now, if you are going to be in some shady places where a big SLR will scream "mug me," then go with a small point-and-shoot.

    Lots of advice from lots of different people. In the end, it's a tradeoff between comfort, picture quality, and control over your images.
     
  16. El Cabong macrumors 6502a

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    #16
    Having lugged my Nikon around the world as well, I usually prefer to take my 18-200 with me, and maybe my 50mm. If I were to go the GF1 route, I'd prefer the 14-140mm Panasonic lens over the 14-45, easily (although I'd be really tempted by the older 14-150mm Leica, though I don't know how well legacy 4/3 lenses autofocus on u4/3). In any case, when not knowing what I'm going to see during my travels, I'd prefer to have the flexibility to shoot 95% of what I want to shoot with a single lens, even if it means a slight hit in image quality.

    As far as the advantages of [Brand X] DSLR over u4/3, the differences in image quality are minimal in normal shooting conditions. From DPReview's review of the GF1: "there's no getting away from the fact that the GF1 (like the G1 it's based on) is capable of capturing a subtlety of detail that puts it ahead of most consumer DSLRs - just as long as you use good glass and are prepared to accept you'll need to shoot raw to actually realize its full potential."
     
  17. NickD thread starter macrumors 6502a

    NickD

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    #17
    Well at this point, I've pretty much settled on the GF1. It takes great shots and is extremely durable and compact.

    Still haven't decided what to do about lenses though. My family bought a GF1 with the kit 20mm f/1.7 and I love the range of light I can work with. However, I still do find myself in situations where I'd love a 50mm prime or a zoom lens.

    Thoughts?
     
  18. runlsd macrumors 6502

    runlsd

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    #18
    I happen to have a Nikon 50mm f1.8. I'll have to find a F mount to m4/3s adaptor to use this lens. There are tons of lenses you can attach to the GF1. Some C-mount lenses can be had for much less.

    My kit is GF1 + pancake. While I feel like I need wide/telephoto sometimes, the 20mm f1.7 forces me to think about composition more..
     
  19. RainMeister macrumors member

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    #19
    Are you wanting a 50mm prime as a portrait lens? Keep in mind that the focal length of a m43 format lens is equal to 1/2 the focal length of a full frame camera lens. Thus, a 50mm prime in m43 format is equivalent to a 100mm full frame lens, which is a focal length typically used for portrait and macro photography. For most travel, I find that fixed focal length of little use.

    As between the 14-45 and the 14-140, do you want the flexible range of the latter, or the compact size, lighter weight and presumably superior image quality of the former. In the DSLR world, a lens that spans too large a focal range is known to produce inferior IQ. Hence, pros and prosumers typically prefer multiple quality zooms (e.g., 24-70, 70-200, 100-400, etc.) to one super-zoom (e.g., 24-300) covering the entire range.

    In my travels, 95% of my shooting needs are satisfied with a 24-105L lens mounted to a 5D, with a fast prime (28 or 50) tucked in the bag. For the rare occasion that I need to zoom in, I just crop the image during post-processing. While there will be image degradation in doing so, I've found the IQ of the cropped image no worse than the uncropped images taken using my daughter's consumer zoom lens (75-300IS). If I know I'm going to need a long telephoto (usually sports, wildlife), I bring out the 70-200 f/2.8IS or the 100-400IS, both of which are large and heavy.

    But this is all based on my shooting interests and style. You need to figure out what you like to take photos of and match the lens to your shooting needs.
     
  20. jaycee520 macrumors regular

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    #20
  21. iMaccore2 macrumors regular

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    #21
    If it's not to late I would really urge you to go with the d40. First, because the 18-55mm kit lens is amazing. For everyday shots, the 18-55 is perfect. The second reason is battery life. The d40 battery will last for over 1,000 images and can last months on standby, a plus for someone who is leaving and doesn't know when their next chance to charge up will be. Lastly, is that it is a true DSLR, with a true DSLR sized sensor and therefore DSLR image quality. Don't be fooled by megapixels, if they are all crammed onto a tiny sensor, the image quality will not be good.
     
  22. NickD thread starter macrumors 6502a

    NickD

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    #22
    Alright guys, another camera has entered the fray...the Sony NEX-3 and NEX-5.

    My primary concern originally was that either model would be really awkward to handle on a regular basis, however it turns out that the NEX is a very comfortable camera to shoot with.

    Size-wise, they're perfect for travel, and they also get points for the great sensor size.

    Any other thoughts on these 2 cameras?
     
  23. robzr macrumors member

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    #23
    Whether you take something compact or something large is up to you, if you are backpacking and travelling light then something compact sure would be nice. Also, when you are in a more poor country, a smaller, more compact camera won't be as obvious a target for theft and just sticking out like a tourist. You'll also probably find yourself bringing the camera along more often the smaller it is.

    I have a GF1 and a GH1, and the GF1 + 20mm is great for a small-ish setup (tho nowhere near as small as the S90; it's not a "pocketable" combo unless you think stuffing it in a large jacket pocket and having it bulge out is pocketable; I don't). If I wanted more of a pocketable camera, I'd go for a S90. If you use any lenses other than the 20mm, the size advantage of the GF1 quickly disappears over the larger m4/3rds cameras. The built in EVF is great on the GH1, the optional one for the GF1 is pretty low res, but would allow for a modular setup. The GH1 is more comfortable with the finger grip, and the swing-out LCD is nice. If you shoot in bright sunlight, the rear LCD on the GF1 is going to drive you nuts. When shooting in low light, the EVF is very nice as it allows you stabilize the camera to your face and use slower shutter speeds.

    Keep in mind the GF1 has no in body IS, and the 20mm is not stabilised. You may want to consider the Olympus bodies (E-PL1, E-P2) which have in body stabilisation, built in finger grip and a much better optional EVF; they may be a better pairing with the 20mm. Hopefully Panasonic will address some shortcomings with the GF2 but I wouldn't buy a GF1 right now.

    The Sony APS-C mirrorless cameras look interesting but I personally wouldn't buy a Sony, they don't have a good track record of supporting their cameras, right now there is no selection of lenses, and the bodies are very lacking of controls; they don't seem to be getting a good reception from photographers. There are some advantages to larger sensor though, better low light performance, better bokeh, and adapted lenses will make more sense with a 1.6x crop factor vs. a 2.0x as you get on m4/3.

    If I were you, my choice would be between a S90 and a E-PL1.

    regards,

    Rob

    PS - one last advantage of Olympus; the JPEGs look nicer, if you aren't doing RAW + post processing then you will probably be happier with your shots. And on your trip, I'd imagine you will be doing more JPEG shooting for space and editing considerations. It would suck to come back from a 1 year trip with thousands of RAWs to post process, who has the time...
     
  24. carlgo macrumors 68000

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    #24
    In any case, whatever the camera design or brand, I would take a zoom to have easier access to a greater variety of shots without the need to crop a bunch of wide-angle images.

    On vacation, you will not have much opportunity to wait around for the perfect light and will you be taking intimate photos of old people in yurts?

    You will be more of a volume shooter, on the go, hating to have to change a lens. So, whatever camera you get, and the D40 with 18-200 is a great vacation combination, do take a zoom. I think you will be a lot happier.
     
  25. runlsd macrumors 6502

    runlsd

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    #25
    Have you had a chance to handle the NEX-3 or 5? The small size is definitely an advantage in terms of traveling. But smaller isn't always better when handling a lens interchangeable camera or even a DSLR. I always liked my D80 better than my friend's D40 as I found the D40 too small.

    If you go with the GF1, you have Olympus/Panasonic m4/3 lenses to choose from. If you go with the NEX system, you can only use the NEX lenses. This is not using an adaptor, of course.

    There were some sample photos with the NEX-5 with pre-production Sony 16mm f2.8. They were too soft. Dpreview recently posted production level 16mm f2.8 shots, and again, softer than the Olympus and Panasonic pancakes.

    The NEX system is not really an option until it is released and formally reviewed by the mass in my opinion..
     

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