Sunday, September 27, 2015

Olympus Stylus XZ-2, Three Years Later

About three years ago, I have reviewed the Olympus Stylus XZ-2, the then flagship compact camera from Olympus. Many of you may not know this, the Olympus XZ-2 reviews were the most popular blog entries with the highest number of page views. This was further reflected by the number of emails and messages I have received asking generally about XZ-2, even to this very day! I genuinely thought that it was a highly capable compact camera, packed with all the high end features from OM-D and PEN cameras such as Touch AF, Tilt LCD screen, super control panel and having an accessory port to use an external Electronic Viewfinder. The strength of the XZ-2 lies in that Zuiko lens, 28-112mm F1.8-2.5 which is extra bright, and delivers beautiful, sharp images. 

Why a compact camera? After all I am quite comfortable using the Micro Four Thirds system (and that Fuji X100 for a bit now), but compact cameras will always have that place in my heart. I started photography with point and shoot digital compact cameras (no I did not start with film, unfortunately). I used compact cameras for a span of four years, killing three in the process of learning photography. I had Kodak CX300, Kodak CX7430, and Kodak C875. Did I wish I have more controls? Did I wish the image quality was better? Did I wish I could do more with my Kodak compact cameras? Yes, yes, yes and yes to these questions. However, did I wish I had a DSLR during those compact camera years? Did I wish I have picked up a DSLR sooner? Nope. I never regretted using the compact cameras for four years, and I would have continued using so, as I was at my early learning stage, and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience using the compact cameras with their restrictions and limitations. 

Digital cameras have come a long, long way now. The Olympus Stylus XZ-2 would have been the ultimate camera and I would have wished I had nothing more, if it existed during my early learning years with compact cameras. 

Why am I using the XZ-2 now? 

I guess, in a way, I am reminding myself that all the gear that are available and accessible to me now are more than sufficient for the kind of photography I am doing. 

I may not be able to speak for you, as your requirements and usage for photography may differ. For my own shutter therapy, I do not need a million megapixels, in fact the humble 12MP on the XZ-2 is plentiful. I do not use ridiculously high ISO numbers, I mostly stay below ISO400, and the XZ-2 allows me usable shooting up to ISO1600, hence lots of room to work with. Autofocus was not lightning fast like the newer OM-D cameras, but fast enough for shooting on the street, and generally the camera just works. The lens is amazing, with Image Stabilization built in. The camera shoots RAW, and I can run through my usual workflow with Olympus Viewer 3 in my post processing. 

Even after three years since its launch, I can pick up the XZ-2 and still be happy with it. 

Steel Bridge

Monday, September 21, 2015

5 Reasons Why Your Kit Lens is Awesome

Interchangeable camera has been popular and successful, allowing camera users the ability to change lenses and use specific purpose lenses to accomplish a wider range of photography needs. The availability of many lenses has overshadowed the original humble kit lens that comes with the camera. I myself have been shooting often with prime lenses such as M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 and 25mm F1.8 lenses. Somehow, there has been a general belief that kit lenses are inferior: lacking in many aspects of lens technicalities, do not deliver sharp and desirable results and should be replaced or upgraded to superior lenses such as fast F2.8 zoom lenses or prime lenses.

While it is generally true that prime lenses and higher grade, more expensive constant aperture zoom lenses will provide superior image quality, I think it is too quick to push the original lowly kit lens aside and not fully utilize it. While the kit lens being a bad lens may have been true in the earlier days of modern digital photography (older entry level DSLR), over the years, the kit lenses have improved optically as well as technologically. I acknowledge that the original kit lenses were not designed to outperform higher grade lenses, but as an all round performer and do it all lens, the kit lenses can provide admirable results. 

Of all the available lenses in the arsenal, I decided to go out with the lowliest, underrated kit lens, M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6. Can this lens perform on the street?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Merchant's Lane, Petaling Street, KL

I rarely blog about restaurants or cafes, but my recent discovery of The Merchant's Lane (thanks to shutter therapy buddy Amir) at my usual street hunting ground, Petaling Street just begged me to photograph the location. Yes, the location itself is quite an interesting subject to shoot. It was an old heritage building, with well preserved old architecture and interiors, sporting a rustic look bringing back nostalgic memories of the 60s, or was it the 70s? The shop lot was renovated and refurbished with the cool retro interior well maintained. Instead of modern furnishing, there were wooden tables and rattan chairs, something of a rarity in today's food eatery settings in KL. 

The best thing I like about the place is the spaciousness, without too many tables and chairs cramping the whole place like so many other restaurants and cafes that tried too miserably to fill in as many people as they can, creating an uncomfortably choking environment. That sense of large space is augmented by incredibly high ceiling, with partially exposed roof (through glass of course) letting light in from one side of the roof/ceiling. The natural light coming in during the day added a beautiful glow to the look of the whole setting!

Time to work out the magic of Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens!

Did someone not complained I did not have enough interior shots taken with the M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens during my review?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Awesomeness of Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 Lens

I was thinking about using a lens that I have rarely used for my shutter therapy session this weekend, and looking at the selection of available M.Zuiko lenses, I realized I have not paid much attention to the beautiful 75mm F1.8 lens recently. The most popular lens for my street shooting has always been the 45mm F1.8 lens, and more recently I have been shooting very frequently with a 35mm equivalent lens on the Fuji X100. I knew it was going to be a challenge using a longer focal length of that 75mm F1.8 lens, and then I thought why not?

For this particular shutter therapy session I was joined by visitors from Germany, Jochen and Cinzia, as well as another German who has been residing in KL for a while now, Stephan. Visitors keep coming from Germany, if this goes on I can compile a blog entry just featuring ALL my German visitors whom I have met in KL. 

I forced myself to just use the M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 lens for the whole outing. It is a challenge since we were shooting Chow Kit, a market setting which did not allow much working space between the camera and subjects. 

All images were taken with Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 on the OM-D E-M10 Mark II. ECG-3 external camera grip was attached to the E-M10 Mark II for added comfort and better handling.

That is one sexy looking lens, Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 mounted on the new OM-D E-M10 Mark II