Traveling through Europe for 8 Months with an Olympus OM-D by James Cox

Traveling through Europe for 8 Months with an Olympus OM-D by James Cox

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the best photography site on the net. Like many others I have been enjoying your no-nonsense real world reviews of gear for some time now. A little about me: I’m 28, married and currently traveling Europe for 8 months with me lovely wife.

At home (Australia) I work as a photographer. Splitting my year between school/graduation photography for a company and my own freelance wedding and commercial work.

Until we left on our trip I had been taking almost no images for myself. I have spent the last 5 years roughly, shooting almost exclusively for clients. When we were getting set to head off I knew I didn’t want to lug around a Full size SLR and a few lenses for that long. I had a full wedding and commercial kit setup but hated the idea of lugging around the bag I use for work, on a holiday.

So, thanks to your site in particular, I landed on an Olympus OM-D. I took a punt and bought some lenses before it actually came out and thankfully it (OM-D) landed at my doorstep 2 days before we left. Prior to reading your thoughts I had always dismissed small sensor cameras as merely point and shoots with a few bells and whistles added.

I bought it initially for its size and weight and have since been blown away with the image quality. It’s not quite at a DSLR level (I had been using a D3S for most of work) but for what it is, it’s amazing.

So we took off. At the time I had the OM-D plus a 7-14mm Panasonic, 25mm Panasonic and the Olympus 45mm. I was set. Since then, on my travels having been so impressed with the whole system I added the Olympus 12mm whilst in Basel, Switzerland. Then a couple of months later whilst in York, UK I grabbed the Panasonic 100-300mm. Then a couple of weeks ago in Amsterdam I managed to find the Olympus 75 1.8.

My travel kit has now grown pretty full, but I still manage to carry it all, everywhere without a care in the world thanks to lightweight nature of the whole system.

That was a long pre-amble…

Having not taken a whole lot of photos for myself over the last few years I had kind of lost the enjoyment of finding images I liked for no other reason than… I like them. This trip and this camera system has brought that back in a big way. I have loved the chance to spend as much or as little time as I want putting the camera to my eye.

I think sometimes as photographers, either professionally or as enthusiasts you can almost feel the need to always be photographing and that all the shots you take, need to be great.

The chance to not photograph all the time has made me all the more inspired when I do life the camera to my eye.

Having said that, in the past 5 months of travel I’ve chalked up over 20,000 photos on my little OM-D. So maybe I’ve been lifting to the camera to my eye more than I realise but it hasn’t felt like effort one little bit.

Here are a few random photos from the trip so far, they are by no means amazing photos but they are simply the photos that I enjoy looking at and remembering the places we’ve had the privilege of visiting. Each of these shots somehow, in my mind, sums up our own personal experience that these places provided us.

They’ve all been edited to my liking, which I have found changes all time.

1.Barcelona, Spain – Olympus OM-D – 7-14mm @ 7mm – f4.0 – 1/30 – iso 2500 This was taken in Barcelona, after visiting too many churches over the past few months this one took the cake. It’s in the Roman quarter of the city and actually had coin slots in which you pop .50euro cents if you want the lights to come on so you can see who you are praying to.

2. Brugge, Belgium – Olympus OM-D – 45mm – f4.5 – 1/160 – iso 200

 Following a good walk in and around this beautiful city we were wandering down on the canals and this cute pooch was hanging out the window. We went back the next day and he was in the exact same position. It’s things like this that give places feeling. Plus I love dogs.

3. Amsterdam, The Netherlands – Olympus OM-D – 45mm – f1.8 – 1/100 – iso 200

 A striking orange bike caught my eye whilst wandering the canals. After having just visited a WW2 Resistance Museum in which it was detailed how the colour has been so important to the country over so many years, this somehow resonated with me at the time.

4. Isle of Skye, Scotland United Kingdom – Olympus OM-D – 12mm – f2 1/50 – iso 2500

After a wonderful day of driving around the beautiful Isle of Skye in Scotland with some french backpackers we picked up, the majestic highland cows were feeding by a fence and having a farming pedigree I took this one for my mother.

5. Porto, Portugal – Olympus OM-D – 25mm – f2 – 1/30 – iso200

 Porto in Portugal amazed and humbled us. It’s beautiful whilst falling into a state of disrepair at the same time. Waiting for our tram I caught this girl sitting so peacefully in the corner of my eye just moments before the tram pulled up.

6. Avignon, France – Olympus OM-D – 45mm – f1.8 – 1/40 – iso 640

 Whilst enjoying the Avignon Festival we caught this amusing show. It was in french and we didn’t understand a word of it. Judging from the hushed and shocked reactions it was filthy and quite wrong I’m sure. We sat there happily all the same.

7. Ruffigan P. Fritz – Olympus OM-D – 25mm – f1.8 – 1/400 – iso 200

 Taken 2 days before we left – The first photo from the OM-D. After reading your post a couple of weeks ago my wife actually got quite emotional. The hardest thing about going away for such a long time is leaving our beloved little guy behind. He’s a mini Schnauzer and I’m not too embarrassed to say has more than one song written about him. He’s staying on my parents farm for the duration of our trip and has brought such joy to us since we picked him up 18 months ago.

I would love to finish by saying that without photography, big parts of our lives can be lost or merely diluted in our minds over time. Photo’s can have the ability to bring back memories beyond themselves. Looking at photos takes us back to the places, sights, sounds, smells and most importantly, emotions that this wide and varied world has to offer.
If any of the readers of the site would like to follow the travels they can subscribe to my Facebook page. I’ve been photos up for my family mainly but I’m more than happy for anyone to see them.
Thanks Steve and once again I can genuinely say that you have been a huge influence in not only my photographing life but also many others I assure you.
From Steve: Thank you so much James. The photos are beautiful and I appreciate the kind words as well as this fabulous article!


  1. Thanks for taking the time to write the article.

    Quick question about the 7-14 – did you notice the magenta casts that others are complaining about with that Panasonic lens and your OM-D? I’m looking for a really portable ultra-wide setup and am torn between the 7-14/OM-D combo vs a NEX-6/10-18. My OM-D is on order but I’m wondering how big an issue this really is.

  2. Good to read of your adventures. I did the same – spent a year travelling around Europe (I’m also Australian) when I was 28. Back then it was film cameras and I had 28, 50 and 400 primes. If I was doing it again today I would seriously consider the same set up as you – though the lack of good telephotos for bird photography might well keep me with my Canon set up.

  3. Thanks James for both the wonderful photos and the article, I really enjoyed them.
    Out of interest, which of all those lenses did you enjoy using the most and why?

  4. Excellent pcitures, James. I am planning on upgrading my E-P3 to a OM-D and buy a Pana Leica 25mm. I cannot get a good answer on whether the “rattlesnake” sound is or isn’t an issue.

    What was your experience? Did it make much of a noise when you were using the OM-D + 25mm combo?

    • The sound is there but it is minimal. Not nearly as loud or chattery as it was on the E-P3. Did not bother me in the slightest the few times it made the chatter on the OM-D. Very quiet now.

      • This got me thinking… if I can somehow learn to live with the less-than-ideal lack of controls on the E-PM2, I can travel super light & tiny and still get the OM-D image quality. It might be a sacrifice worth making (also saving GBP400 in the process).

    • The rattlesnaking with the OM-D has only happened to me occasionally and after turning the camera off and on, it generally goes away. I’ve noticed it really only happens if you change the lens while the camera is on.

  5. Mate, these are some seriously awesome images!! Very distinct style! Great read too. Will definitely follow your work via facebook.

  6. Man, your photo’s are good! Don’t be so modest. I like the Amsterdam picture the most and you caught a very good scene there. I am Dutch and recognized it immediately. Keep up the good work!

  7. Great article and wonderful pictures.

    For some reason the pictures embedded in the article are all a bit blurry (from the downsampling i guess) compared to the linked ones – so click on them.

  8. Wonderful pictures. I especially like the one in Skye with the rugged animals, beautiful wild flowers and rolling hills. It really captures the atmosphere of the place.

    Did you ever think of travelling “really light” and carrying just one zoom like the panasonic 12-35?

    • Cheers mate,

      When I left there wasn’t any zooms that I liked the look of. Since then they’ve come out with some good ones. But personally I like primes.

  9. Excellent pictures James, there’s even one taken in my country 🙂
    I am totally with you regarding the OMD: it’s by far my best traveling companion. My messenger bag with the OMD + the Oly 12mm + 45 mm + Gorillapod + a couple of filters + two spare batteries and I’m all set to go, at a minimum weight !

  10. I am sure that your journey through Europe, taking photographs that you want to take, will be of benefit in your commercial photography – no clients breathing down your neck must be a joy.
    Lovely set of pictures, together with your eloquent descriptions – I enjoyed looking at them very much.
    As a fellow dog lover I am sure that you and your wife are going to get one hell of a welcome back from your four legged friend – 8 months must be an eternity in a dogs life (only joking). Our two Jack Russell Terriers have a mad moment even when I return from a short trip to the local supermarket.

  11. Fantastic read and some amazing shots. All unique and beautiful in their own ways, I especially loved the colours in number 4. I also have an OMD which I would primary use whilst travelling. I see by your photo’s that you don’t appear to have favoured any one lens (maybe the 45mm), are you able to rank the lenses in order of usefulness whilst travelling?

    • Hi Peter, thanks for the comments. In order (for travelling) I would say
      12mm – Very versatile
      45mm – Good if you want to compress the image and get a little isolation.
      7-14mm – Some of the things in the world are huge and you can’t always step back.
      25mm – Easy to fill the frame with
      75mm – Nice for people etc. But I’m no street photographer.
      100-300mm – Good at concerts and sporting events etc.

  12. Thank you James for this good read and the really nice photos, which speak for themselves. I’ve got one questions concerning your the equipment though. You said you picked up the Olympus 12mm in Basel (btw, I am from there, hope you enjoyed it;) ). Why that while already having the Panasonic 7-14mm? Basically I am going back and forth which one of these two lenses I should purchase…

    Thank you and kind regards!

    • Thanks Michel,

      I grabbed the 12mm for a faster wide angle. Later in the year we’re heading up north into Norway o hopefully see the northern lights so it’ll come in handy then. Basel is awesome by the way, I wish where I am from had a fresh market like that.

  13. Love the photographs. I enjoyed them all, especially 3 and more so number 4, beautiful capture, lovely colours in that! Only one I’m not keen on is number 5, bit washed out – but I’m nit picking.

  14. I am struck, first, by the skill and sensitivity of the man behind the camera. What a lovely set of images. I’m sure they absolutely add another layer of meaning and memory to what must have been a great trip. Second, the IQ, particularly colour and tonality (as far as I can judge from jpegs), are lovely. I have never tried MFT, but personally I love the 4/3 aspect ratio. I often end up cropping images made on 3/2 and wish the digital camera makers would offer more choices. There really is nothing to compare with the diversity of film formats – 35mm, 6x45cm, 6x7cm, 6x8cm, 6x9cm, 6x12cm, 6x17cm – although I suppose the economics of sensor manufacturing favour standardisation.

  15. “So we took off. At the time I had the OM-D plus a 7-14mm Panasonic, 25mm Panasonic and the Olympus 45mm. I was set. Since then, on my travels having been so impressed with the whole system I added the Olympus 12mm whilst in Basel, Switzerland. Then a couple of months later whilst in York, UK I grabbed the Panasonic 100-300mm. Then a couple of weeks ago in Amsterdam I managed to find the Olympus 75 1.8”

    there is no better thing than travelling and shopping :). Great article and great pics James !

  16. Your words are inspiring and truly capture the heart and mindset of photography. You’ve had your OM-D nearly as long as I’ve had my Kr and I can say that we have both captured the essence of our experiences, just with a different feeling. Beautiful photos along with a wonderful story. Technically speaking, your pics leave nothing to be desired. Bravo!

  17. Great photos! Please share your tips on configuring the OM-D to your liking – there are lots of options and I am sure there are many here who’d like to know some of the best ways to set the camera.

    • Thanks Brad, as far as configuration; if you mean physically; I would definitely use the first half of the battery grip. If you mean settings wise; I use the dial around the shutter button for aperture. The other dial for shutter speed and the f1 button for iso. It feels like an SLR that way (albeit a small one).
      I can’t speak for the modes etc. as I have only used the camera in manual and raw. Hope this helps.

  18. Thanks for a great article and really beautiful shots. That seriously is an inspiration for me to use my cameras more and to try harder!

  19. My God what a great read. I think you just convinced me to save up and upgrade my EP-3 to one of these OM-D next year.

    The images are striking, specially number 6…it has this avant garde feel to it. The one of the little girl in Portugal.

    I agree with your view on photography. I could care less about technicalities (well I do, but it is not the most important thing), but even though my own photos are not perfect sometimes they bring me emotions that even put me to tears at times. Those are the ones I cherish, and you convey emotions very well in these few examples.

    You, sir, now have a new follower on Facebook.

  20. Speak for yourself. You said that these are, by no means, amazing photos. I beg to differ. They are amazing photos! It goes to show, once again, great photos are not taken by cameras but by people.

  21. Great pics! I’m glad you’re having a good time in Europe. My wife and I, (Canadians), have lived here on and off for 15 years, and the photo opportunities are never-ending.
    Excellent article. I hope it encourages people to get out and do it.

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