Great Travel Camera – Panasonic GF2

A few people have asked about what camera we have been using while on our trip, so I thought I would write up some of the details.

Before we left for Africa, we knew we were in the market for a new camera. We previously had a small Olympus point-and-shoot that we really liked since it was small enough to put in a pocket and durable enough that it didn’t need an additional case. So it was always ready. The one downside to it was the image size that was produced. We were able to print anything up 5 x 7 and it looked fine, but once we got above that, pictures became grainy.

We also both realized that since we were carrying our iPhones with us everywhere, we already had a simple point-and-shoot camera on us all the time, so the old Olympus was being used less and less. Therefore, the question became, what is out there that is better than an iPhone 4 camera, but easier to carry around than an SLR? We also wanted a camera that would always be ready like our old point-and-shoot.

I had numerous email, Skype and Google Talk conversations with my cousin Chris, which could be summarized by the following points:

  • “the best camera is the one you have on you”
  • not going to a DSLR for traveling is a smart choice
  • make sure the camera shoots RAW
  • buy either a Panasonic GF-1 or GF-2

It was that last point that Chris kept coming back to. No matter how many times I tried to only take the first three points into consideration, he practically insisted that I only buy a Panasonic GF-1 or GF-2. He admitted to being biased when it comes to cameras, but I’ve seen his work and know that he knows a thing or two about cameras.

So, we took the leap and purchased a Panasonic GF-2.1 It is definitely more of a camera then we have ever had before, but its size is definitely manageable. It is also very rugged and durable. We usually just have the camera hanging around our neck or in a small backpack without any other case to protect it, except for a lens cap. So it definitely meets our criteria of always being ready. It is also a significant step up from the iPhone 4 which is important since we didn’t want to carry another camera around if the pictures would turn out exactly the same as pictures from the phone camera we would already be carrying.

I knew nothing about the camera before talking to Chris, so here are some points for those interested in getting one:

  • the Panasonic GF-2 is based on the Micro Four Thirds System developed by Panasonic and Olympus
  • it has an interchangeable lens system with many different lenses available, but it still very much feels like a point-and-shoot with more options available if you know how to use them
  • although the lenses are different than on a DSLR, apparently there are adapters if you ever do need a particular lens for something (I will talk more about our setup below)
  • depth of field makes a huge difference in the quality of photographs
  • if you are moving up from a point-and-shoot, it is definitely a camera you can grow into

As a final note, here is our setup for what we used for our entire trip to Africa:

  • Panasonic GF-2
  • Panasonic 14 mm f/2.5 lens – this is a fixed lens which means all zoom is by foot.2 This is the lens that came with our kit. There is an option to get a 14-42 mm lens instead.
  • UV Filter – we put this on the lens the moment the camera was purchased and it hasn’t come off since
  • 2 memory cards – 8 GB (holds over 500 RAW images) and a 4 GB for backup
  • Extra Battery – the battery life is much better than our old point-and-shoot, but it was still nice knowing we had a spare, especially out hiking or in the bush
  • international plug adapters to charge the batteries
  • no additional case, just the supplied lens cap and a cap keeper
  • standard SD card reader
  • all photos were taken in RAW only, at the largest setting, Adobe RGB
  • Flickr to upload the photos
  • WordPress to host the blogs

Chris, thanks again for your camera advice. We continue to love the camera and are extremely happy with the decision! If you have anything else to add or corrections about things above, feel free to comment below.

  1. The GF-1 was no longer being sold in stores, and I didn’t have enough time before leaving on our trip to search one out on eBay. The GF-3 was actually just about to be released so there were plenty of good deals on the GF-2. I have not used or seen a GF-3, but a good review is here
  2. We opted to keep the camera footprint small and stick with just a fixed lens which meant if you wanted to zoom in closer, you had to move your feet. I will admit that some photos were cropped a bit afterwards if we couldn’t physically get close enough, to a lion for example!