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Over the summer my wife and I took a few weeks and went to Europe. We did a lot of traveling around in private cars, airplanes, boats, public transit, tour buses, the whole travel experience. I was a bit torn about the camera situation. Although my wife and I do a great deal of domestic travel plus a little Canada here and there, we don’t do the big 8 time zone deal much. As a matter of fact my wife hadn’t been back to her home country (Scotland) in over 30 years and I had never been to the UK myself. So I had every intent to get lots of pictures and I wanted the best photos possible.

As many of you know, I have a full frame EOS-R with a gazillion EF lenses and and another pile of vintage lenses I can adapt to it. I also have my trusty APS/c Canon M5 and a full suite of native glass plus a bunch of adapted lenses as well. I also wrote a review recently of the Canon G7X Mark II with its 1 inch sensor. In a perfect world where I hire a ‘caddy’ to carry my camera bag, I take the EOS-R with all of my EF L series lenses and adaptable glass. That world doesn’t exist for me however. The EOS-R was only manageable if I took maybe two lenses. Which two? Why only two? We walked several miles a day and on one day in London we logged over 9 miles, ON FOOT! We did 1.6 miles while at the Tower of London alone. I’m not schlepping 30 pounds of gear in crowded environment for miles on foot! That would literally suck the fun out of our trip.

The EOS-R and her beautiful 24x36mm sensor makes gorgeous images with a high level of dynamic range (for a Canon at least) with excellent opportunity for post work if needed. But some of you that follow this blog and my low-budget YouTube videos know just how much camera gear I can stuff into a tiny little camera bag with the EOS M5. I had to decide on lots of lenses or lots of sensor. Now before I go on, Sony E mount lenses are much smaller than either RF mount lenses or EF lenses. So Sony full frame users would not have as big a struggle with this as I did. But even the A7 series cameras are quite a bit bigger than the A6000 series or the EOS M cameras.

For me the decision was actually easy. M5 and G7X Mk II. The G7X Mk II was the camera I took when we were out at a pub or just visiting with relatives. The rest of our adventures were photographed with the M5. I have a small Tenba camera bag I have owned since the 1980s and it is only large enough to hold 3 12oz soda cans, plus a small front pocket. That’s it. Inside that tiny bag I carried the following equipment:

  • EOS M5 body with EF-M 32/1.4
  • EF-M 11-22mm IS
  • EF-M 18-55mm IS
  • EF-M 55-200 IS
  • Samyang 8mm fisheye EF-M
  • Canon Speedlite 90EX
  • 3 extra camera batteries
  • 2 extra memory cards
  • Selfie stick
  • mini-tripod

All the foreground gear fit into the bag shown (hand in frame for scale)

Yes! All of that in a bag that would otherwise hold 3 12oz soda cans. The camera charger was kept in my suitcase. The whole system weighed about 7 lbs. I will make the case again for a small MFT or APS/c camera for traveling. It was a joy not having to carry a big heavy bag. I was also well equipped to make a wide variety of images with fish-eye all the way to 200mm which on that camera is a 320mm equivalent. This could be replicated with a Sony A6000 series system as well. But if I had used an A7 Mk II I would only have fit 2-3 lenses instead of 5! With my EOS-R that bag would not have worked at all really unless I had brought a bunch of small manual focus rangefinder lenses in M mount or if I owned Canon’s all in one RF 24-240mm IS.

I was delighted with the versatility and the quality of the images I was able to bring home. We found ourselves in a number of tricky situations requiring either a very wide lens or some serious tele reach. I had it all in that tiny little bag.

Europe tends to be a bit crowded especially in the cities. It was rather useful to use that little Samyang fish-eye. I used that lens ALLOT. At f/5.6 I could hyper focal that 8mm to get everything from 2 feet to infinity sharp. At times I would simply hold the camera over my head using the flip down screen and take a picture. That technique proved very useful in several situations where I would not have otherwise captured a usable image. It also proved to be quite fun in other situations. I took well over a thousand images on the trip that spanned a couple of weeks. I had about 300-400 good keepers and a couple of dozen shots that I really like. The M5 performed very well, we were in Iceland, Scotland, and England, so it rained fairly often. The M5 is not officially weather sealed but it seemed content enough in a damp environment. Although I was cautious, I didn’t let a little rain get in the way of my picture making. After all I live in Western Washington, it is known to rain here on occasion 😉

In short I feel that for traveling where photography is secondary to the overall experience, take a micro four thirds or APS/c system, preferably the latter. Had I taken my EOS-R and a suite of my L series lenses, many of my images would have been superior, some of them much superior. I would, however certainly have left the EOS-R behind for a large portion of my trip and relied too much on the G7X Mk II, so overall I would have inferior images; a few great shots and a bunch of mediocre shots. I have some images I made on the trip below but I also want to show some possible alternative light weight options for travel with different systems that might also fit in my tiny Tenba bag; take a look below:

The M5/M6 simple approach

  • Canon EOS M5 with EF-M 18-150 IS
  • Canon EF-M 11-22 IS
  • extra batteries, selfie stick or minipod, extra mem card

The Sony A6000/6100/6300/6500/6600 approach

  • Sony A6000 series body with 18-135mm OR high quality Zeiss 16-70mm
  • Sony E-APS/c 10-18mm
  • extra batteries, mem cards, minipod

The Sony A7 approach

  • Sony A7 series with E 24-240mm OR high quality 24-105/4
  • Voightlander M mount 12mm/5.6 with adapter

EOS R approach

  • EOS R or RP (RP is smaller) with Canon RF 24-240mm IS or high quality RF 24-105 L
  • Voightlander M mount 12mm/5.6 with adapter
  • Extra batteries / mem cards

The Canon SLR approach

  • Canon Rebel SL3 with EF-S 18-200 IS
  • Canon EF-S 10-18mm IS
  • extra batteries/mem cards

The Nikon SLR approach

  • Nikon D5500 with DX 18-300mm VR
  • Nikon DX 10-20mm VR or high quality 10-24mm ED
  • Optional Nikon DX 10.5mm fish-eye
  • Extra batteries / mem cards

Bare in mind that the so called “super zooms” like the 24-240 or 18-300, 18-135, 18-150 etc. tend to be inferior lenses whereby your are trading image quality for the convenience of such a range. But the most important thing to remember is the best camera/lens combo in the world is the one you have with you! If your camera is so bulky and inconvenient that you decide to leave it in your hotel room, then it sucks.

Below are a few images from the trip, you’ll find that I got a fair bit of use from that 8mm fish-eye lens. Also you will see the only real disadvantage to the smaller APS/c sensor was in the super low light shots like the second shot of St. Mary Abbotts Church at the bottom of the page. I had to push that shadow detail up and it got pretty noisy 😦

St Mary Abbotts Church, Kensington, London M5 with EF-M 11-22 IS at 11mm

From the Tour Bus, London. M5 with Samyang 8mm

The ruins at St. Andrews, Scotland M5 with 11-22 IS at 22mm

Performer at the Tower of London, M5 with EF-M 55-200 IS at 200mm

The Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland M5 with Samyang 8mm

Wifey poses with piper on the Royal Mile, Edinburgh, Scotland M5 with 32/1.4 at f1.4

Hand held selfie, Castlegate, Aberdeen Scotland M5 with EF-M 11-22mm IS at 11mm

Buchannon Street on the Style Mile, Glasgow, Scotland Canon G7X mk II at 9mm (24mm)

Red Phone Booths, Edinburgh Castle, Scotland M5 with Samyang 8mm

Edinburgh International Festival, Royal Mile M5 with Samyang 8mm

The Hub, Royal Mile Edinburgh, Scotland M5 with Samyang 8mm

On the Tube (subway) in London. M5 with Samyang 8mm

The Tower Bridge along the River Thames to Canary Wharf from the 33rd floor of the Shard. M5 with EF-M 18-55 IS at 35mm

Dunnottar Castle, Scotland M5 with EF-M 11-22 IS at 17mm

Young couple selfies in ancient St. John’s chapel at the Tower London, M5 with Samyang 8mm

Traffic Circle near Trafalgar Square, London M5 with Samyang 8mm

The Doctor is Out, Glasgow Scotland Canon G7X mk II at 9mm (24mm)

St. Mary Abbotts Church (very dark inside) Kensington, London M5 with Samyang 8mm

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The EOS-R and EOS-RP are Canon’s first two entries into the full frame mirrorless arena. I have an EOS-R it was the first full frame from the camera giant and they followed up with a discount version 6 months later called the RP. In effect the R is a mirrorless 5D Mk IV sans a few pro features like dual card slots, and the RP is the mirrorless 6D Mk II. The RP is notably smaller and more compact than the R. Many pros are wondering why Canon has not launched a true “professional” body yet. I would argue that they already have. Technically the EOS 5D Mk IV is a “pro-sumer” body. This connotation suggests the camera is a “light” pro camera for the serious amateur. But my experience is that many real working pros use the better pro-sumer bodies because often they do not need the crazy 14 FPS shooting speed and may not want the extra heft. They may also want to carry more than one body.

The EOS-R falls squarely into this area. Perhaps Canon isn’t ready to launch a camera aimed at their marquee top pro market which is a super fast focusing, high speed, camera system for shooting sports. Maybe Canon feels that the event photographers, journalists, and studio shooters currently using the 5D series will be delighted to switch to the EOS R and that could be an excellent testing ground for the system. Maybe, maybe not.

But the biggest piece of evidence has to be the lenses. Canon launched the RF system with not one, not two, but THREE L series professional grade lenses including a world’s fastest standard zoom lens, the ridiculously awesome RF-28-70mm f/2.0 L. Nikon did not launch a single pro-grade lens at the launch of their Z series but offered a clearly superior pro-grade body with the 45mp Z7. Hmm, $3500 camera with no pro grade native glass? Nikon has launched a pro grade 24-70mm f/2.8 recently and they have been rumored to be working on a NOCT 58mm f/0.95. That is really cool actually. I think Canon had it right however going for the glass first. Now Canon has announced three more L series RF lenses to replicate the classic EF “Holy Trinity.” This is a 15-35mm f/2.8 L IS, 24-70mm f/2.8 L IS, and 70-200mm f/2.8 L IS. Yes image stabilizer in the fast glass and did you notice the extra millimeter on the wide side? I did.

Now I am not knocking Nikon here. Nikon’s Z cameras are quite nice and for Nikon users are probably a Godsend. I am a Canon shooter so I have a natural bias, but this is not a review or comparison blog post. I’m just glad to see Canon is taking the mirrorless system serious this time. I was over the moon about the Original EOS M, that camera however was very underwhelming. Yes I still bought one and I actually loved it, but that was because it took all my EF glass and let me have a great compact system camera. Sony’s A6000 kicked its butt in almost every measure. Canon released the mediocre M2 upgrade that improved AF and added WiFi. It was not until the 3rd iteration that Canon finally got on track. The M3 was a fantastic camera and the follow up M5 and M6 equally so. Thankfully Canon has taken the opposite approach with the EOS R as they did with the M series. Just consider this: Canon to date only has 8 native lenses for the M series. 8 years, 8 lenses. In that same time they have launched 7 bodies. WTF? They have not launched any real “pro-grade” lenses for the M series despite offering a reasonably designed and equipped M5. Well the RF system is taking a much better approach. After less than one year, they have two bodies and 10 lenses either in production or announced for this year. 8 of those lenses are professional grade, L series lenses. Canon really is ‘all in’ on RF glass. I am delighted with that.

Full disclosure, I only have one native RF lens and it is the RF 35mm f/1.8 IS Macro. That lens by the way, is a great lens. It doesn’t have the L series build quality but it performs very well offering a bright f/1.8 aperture, image stabilization, and a super close focus that gets right down into macro territory. Solid lens and only $479 brand new!

Now the reason I do not have any of the three L lenses from launch is not complicated. The 24-105mm f/4 L IS is a fantastic lens, but I already have the EF version of that lens and I rarely use it. To sell off my old lens for maybe $400-$500 so I can buy the same thing for the RF albeit a much better version, it still seems reckless, especially since it is perhaps my least used lens. The 28-70mm f/2.0 L is so freaking cool I would own it just because, that is if I had more money that brains. I do not. Now let’s be VERY clear, that lens for an events photographer or a journalist is worth every single penny of that $3000 price tag, but I am neither of those. The 50mm f/1.2 L was a lens I was very interested in. When Canon launched it the price tag came in at a whopping $2200 and the EF version sells new for only $1400. I won’t get $2200 worth out of that focal length. By all accounts it is likely the best optically performing 50 mm lens Canon has ever made, and would likely challenge any 50mm lens ever made by anyone. 50mm is my classic lens range, I use a lot of old school glass for that focal length.

I am seriously Jonesing for the announced RF 15-35mm f/2.8 L IS. This lens will almost certainly come in well above $2000, but that is a bread and butter lens for me. I currently have a EF 16-35mm f/4 L IS. I don’t need the f/2.8 speed but I do want the IS and now I will have BOTH and an extra bit wider to boot. Totally worth it.

Canon will probably offer a super sports RF body in the next year or so, in the meantime many working pros will gladly shoot a mirrorless version of the 5D Mk IV, why not, they are probably shooting the 5D series anyhow. Most pros shooting Canon or Nikon do not have the top end Canon 1D X Mark II or Nikon D5. Sports pros at the Super Bowl, wolr Cup, and Olympics  are definitely shooting those top end bodies, they need the super duty build quality, epic weather sealing, and crazy fast frame rates. But a lot of serious professional photographers are using cameras like the Canon 5D Mk IV, Nikon D 850, and Sony A7 III. Nikon’s Z7 and Canon’s EOS R fit nicely into that group.

 

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