Wandering Iceland with the Olympus OMD EM1 Mark II


It has been a week now since my return from my Iceland photo trip. Honestly, I have not snapped a single picture this week. Mostly this is due to catching up at work and home, but also because I have been thinking about how I want to share my experience. Today, I’ll do my best to share that experience.

My friends and I purchased tickets to Iceland last July. Our intent was to do a dedicated photography tour, something at least 2 of our group of 3 had never done before. The planning began and as the departure date approached our gear selection discussions amplified and it was time to commit.

Over the course of the year, I tried many systems including systems from Sony and Fuji. I also considered renting a Leica M again as I love traveling with that simplicity, but in the end I settled on light weight overall and what I like to shoot, my Olympus OMD EM1. I had planned on picking up a second, used EM1 as the release of the new EM1 Mark ii was released and used EM1’s are wildly affordable and available everywhere. I thought I had it all figured out until I had the opportunity to shoot the EM1 Mark ii with the new 12-100 f4. About a month prior to departure, I sold a bunch of gear and traded my trusty EM1 in and came home with a new EM1 Mark ii and the new 12-100 f4.

What is not to like about the new EM1 Markii? I wrote about that here, but the idea of higher resolution, better ISO capability, improved noise control, a larger battery and some additional new features won me over. It was perfect. I spent the next month hiking in the cold, experimenting with the camera. I really, really enjoyed shooting it so I committedfully and went to Iceland with the following gear. All fit perfectly in my Mindshift 180 backpack.

  • OMD EM1 Mark ii
  • Olympus 12-100 f4
  • Olympus 25 f1.2
  • Panasonic 12 f1.4
  • Panasonic 100-400

Note, if you read my earlier post on my gear selection here, I left the Leica Q at home. It was too distracting, and frankly speaking, after being in Iceland and shooting in the rain and cold for hours on end, I would not have been able to use it anyway! I committed fully to just shooting the new Olympus OMD EM1 Mark ii and seeing what it could do. I went all in. And in return, despite the crazy elements and challenges of Iceland climate, I think I did pretty well and I am very pleased with my selection.

Before I get to sharing pictures, I thought I’d share a few of my personal mistakes and niggles with the camera thus far.

  • Too many dang buttons. I often took the camera out of my bag, or woke it from sleep, with something changed. One afternoon I shot Jpeg. I found myself in ISO 3200 or 6400 ruining my ability to print them the way I intend. I just made mistakes. Stupid mistakes. Just make sure you shut it off before putting it away.
  • A bit slow to wake up. For a camera with this much processing, it sure is slow to get ready to shoot. I still long for my old Nikon pro camera start up abilities. On and shoot. On and shoot. No waiting.
  • Over sensitive shutter button – Wow that thing is sensitive. Often started a long exposure before I even took the lens cap off.
  • EVF and exposure – I didn’t trust the exposure system yet and the display in the EVF. I often underexposed, further exasperating the m43 crutch of noise in the shadows. That was my mistake.

But in the end, I made do and I am excited to share what this little camera can do. Again, I am blown away by the range of lenses and kit that I brought and the fact that it easily fit in a smallish back pack that I could wear all day without issues. My kit was very intentional based on the places and things we intended to see.

I thought long and hard about how I wanted to share images. By day? By location? By lens? In the end, I figured that folks would appreciate groupings of images by lens. That way you can see just what each of them can do. I will post more series in the future with a bit more depth on a few subject matters and/or locations.

So with that, let’s get started!

Panasonic 12 f1.4 – Honestly, this little lens really surprised me. As the trip went on and the days passed, I found it attached to my camera more and more. My only two nit picks with this lens are the lens flare and the poor manual focusing when paired with the Olympus camera. I struggled immensely in the dark trying to MF when we were shooting northern lights. But, I sure loved the lens and am very, very pleased with the color and the output.

Olympus 25 f1.2 – I absolutely adore the output of this lens. That said, I did not use it that much as the landscape and what we were shooting wasn’t ideal for this lens. But it sure worked perfectly when I used it and sure love love love the output. I can’t wait to shoot more portraits with this lens in the future.

Panasonic 100-400 f4-f6.3 – This lens was a real surprise for me. It was way smaller than I expected and given I was the only one of my group with a really long lens, I used it often to try to get a different image than what they were taking. In the end, I really loved it. I know folks have reported some issues with the em1ii but I had no issues. I used it always on a tripod with IS off both camera and lens. It was a joy to use. I rented this lens and I am not sure I’d buy this lens as it is such a specialty lens, but I used it often in Iceland.

Olympus 12-100 F4 – I saved the best for last. This lens is so versatile and capable. I shot 75% of the trip with this lens attached. It’s light weight for the range & package, weather proof and the new image stablization is incredible. I often didn’t set up the tripod as I was that confident in the IS. 2 seconds exposures were no problem with good technique. Would I love this lens to be f2.8? yes, I would but I still found the images, the transitions and the bokeh to be quite good.

All in all a truly incredible trip with good friends. For my first dedicated photography trip, I think things turned out pretty well.

Changes for our/my next photo focused trip

– Two bodies – I would have used a couple of lenses more often if I could have changed the lenses. The weather was too terrible to change the lenses for much of the trip. What I started with is what I shot for much of each day.

– Heavy duty tripod – The wind. I have a decent tripod but with that 100-400 any wind at all at telephoto distances is difficult. With the car and the hiking we did, a little heavier tripod and head would have been appreciated.

Final Notes

– I do this for fun and none of this equipment was given to me. I either bought or rented from my local camera store National Camera Exchange or from Lensrentals.

– Be prepared for all weather. It changes in seconds. Seriously.

– I shot many shots in Hi Res mode but I have not opened any of those files as they don’t play nice with lightroom. I will do a future post on hi res mode. I don’t know when, but I will.

– If you are an instagram user, please check out #wanderingiceland2017 (https://www.instagram.com/explore/tags/wanderingiceland2017/) for more of my images as well as my travel partners work. It’s worth checking out for their images alone!

– Lastly, unlike the Olympus OMD EM1 mark ii launch in Iceland, no images were subjected to Olympus’ dramatic tone!

Please leave me a comment if you have a question about the trip or the gear. You can also contact me at G N A T at L I V E dot C O M.

Hope you enjoyed this. I know I sure enjoyed sharing my experiences and pictures.



"I'm a Minneapolis based photographer and a Olympus Lover. My love of Olympus cameras started with an digital Olympus E410 with 25mm f2.8 pancake lens. It was small and produced beautiful images with lovely, signature Olympus colors. From that day on I have been hooked. I later joined the m43 world with the Panasonic GF1 and from that day on, I have had at least one m43 camera at my side and in my camera collection. While this blog started because of the introduction of the Olympus OMD EM1 and my subsequent commitment full time to m43, I now own Panasonic m43 cameras as well and the focus of this blog has switched from Olympus to m43 in general. I like to travel, ride bikes, drink coffee and take pictures."


  1. Beautiful pictures , nice review. I went to Iceland in 2013 for my honeymoon and had only Olympus ep3 with Panasonic kit lens, I hope I ll go back soon. With same or similar arsenal in the bag. All the best Jason.

    1. Thank you Peter. I appreciate the comment. I count anyone that has gone to Iceland as very fortunate. Much like you, I too, want to return soon. It is a remarkable place. Good luck, keep shooting and again, thank you.


  2. Great pics and site! Thanks for the post. I would love to get my hands on the 12-100mm, if I can get over the snobbiness of f2.8 or better! The pics from it really are good! Plus there’s something appealing about being able to be lazy and just carry one lens around.

    Of course, I would love to own those two primes as well! =)

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