Saturday, February 28, 2009

Olympus E-System Gathering Take 2


It was interestingly late when the announcement was put up at the Olympus Malaysia website on a slow and lazy Thurday pertaining to the Olympus E-System Gathering happening on the coming Saturday. Fortunately I kept myself updated these days, and I managed to sneaked in with a rather last minute RSVP. This was the second casual gathering (the first was held around 4 months ago) officially organized by Olympus Malaysia specifically for Olympus DSLR users to promote the latest and upcoming camera models. Also, this event served as a platform for the DSLR users to come together and meet other users of the same system to share and learn, as well as to interact with those inside people working for Olympus Malaysia.

MARMALADE CAFE, MONT KIARA

*click* image to for larger view



E-SYSTEM BUFFET

*click* image for larger view





The second gathering was held at the Marmalade Cafe, Mon't Kiara. It was a lunch meet, hence buffet lunch was served before the event commenced. The food was fantastic nonetheless, but the real buffet we were all looking for has nothing to do with food, but the buffet of cameras and lenses. True enough, it did not disappoint when the almost complete set of lenses and accesories, plus two new cameras were on display. All users were welcome to have hands on trials on anything available at the DSLR buffet table.

OLYMPUS E-30

*click* image to for larger view


*click* image to for larger view



Taking a glance at the announcement notes, it was obvious that the focus of this gathering was the newly launched Olympus DSLR E-30, a mid-level camera with heavy functions and packed with quite a number of eyebrow raising features. The E-30 is not readily available on the shelves of your nearest camera store just yet, but sure enough there were several units made available during the gathering for try-outs.

E-30 is basically a bridge camera between what I am currently using, the lower end E-520, and the professional level flagship model E-3. Notable points about E-30 would be full 11-points twin cross autofocus sensors enabling high speed and acuracy focusing (similar to E-3), swivel rotate-able to almost any direction LCD screen with quick live-view and creative Art Filters. It also incorporates all other existing features common to other Olympus DSLRs such as dust reduction system, built-in Image Stabilization system and wireless flash capabilities.

OLYMPUS E-620

*click* image to for larger view


*click* image to for larger view



OMG see how tiny it is around my fingers?

What I least expected was the entrance of E-620, physically appearing in front of everyone !! The E-620 was only announced worldwide on 24th February 2009, which was only 4 days ago, and somehow the post production models were available for hands on testing already. E-620 sits between E-520 (my camera) and E-30, and serves as a bridge rather than an upgrade or replacement over E-520. It was quite pleasant seeing the effort the Olympus Malaysia was pouring out to keep the loyal E-System fans occupied and prepared the freshly announced E-620 for us to feast on !!

The moment I set my eyes on E-620 I was sold. There is so much to love about this camera. Here is a list of things I love about E-620:

1) It is almost as light and small as E-420, yet the capabilities and features outperformed my E-520. It is a compact DSLR camera with serious imaging performance. E-620 is categorized as a mid-level performance DSLR, not an entry level.

2) First DSLR with backlit operational buttons !! This not only looks damned cool and sexy on your camera, but extremely helpful when shooting in low light conditions, eg night scenes. You wont have to guess where certain rarely used buttons are when you need them, with backlit buttons you can see all of them.

3) It has serious specifications despite its tiny size. All the complaints over E-420 were addressed and fixed over in E-620. It has a proper hand grip, and an optional battery grip. It has built in Image Stabilization too, which is a huge advantage, and an increased viewfinder size finally !!

4) 7 AF points, with 5 full twin cross AF points. Oh, the over-hyped Canon 50D has only one single cross AF point, located at the middle. ok, ok, lets not talk about other cameras or else people will start bashing me.

5) The Swivel LCD screen is also available on this unit !! How sweet.

6) Whatever my current camera can do, like the wireless flash capabilities, quick live view and all the controls and features are also available in E-620, if not already improved further.

7) Did I say it looks damned cute and sexy?????

LKM and E-30

*click* image to for larger view



ROBIN and E-30

*click* image to for larger view




AMSTRONG and E-30

*click* image to for larger view



Besides cameras and lenses being put out in the open for testing, the event also has some presentations. One was presented by a real Oly user (MFahrur), one by the Oly Marketing staff, and the last one by a professional Oly photographer who has won many international awards. It was interesting to see that the main topic of the presentation done by the Oly Staff was not on E-30, but rather an introductory review on the E-620 instead. This fact strongly indicates how strongly the marketing group will be pushing this new model to the public. The question now all comes down to the pricing. If they are smart enough to place it low enough, it might just be the next big thing.

I felt really good being there at the event. The reason? Mainly because I was surrounded with people who chose and utilize the Olympus E-System, something we have in common. It was depressing being bashed and under-appreciated by other camera brand users who would think that their cameras and equipments will always be superior along with their ever bloating size of ego. Being an Oly user for quite some time now, I personally feel that this system is better if not as capable as other systems, and under-estimating its capabilities is just plain ignorance. It is interesting and flattering I am starting to get more and more good remarks about my pictures lately, which I do not think I deserve the compliments just yet (I am nothing more than a noob actually) but at the same time ill comments have been made on my choice of camera.

CAMWHORING WITH E-30

*click* image to for larger view




Well, ask yourself, how can my pictures come out right if I am using the wrong camera?

I do admit E-system is not the perfect system, there are shortcomings. Well it does have its strong advantages that are clearly better than other systems. And standing amongst the crowd of users who agrees with me on the previous statements, was truly refreshing and reassuring.

This event itself is a rarity, I am sure currently the post-production models of E-620 are being tested and reviewed by independent camera organizations like DPreview and DCresource, but somehow it was already out there for use E-system users to toy around with. For goodness sake, it was only announced a couple of days ago. I think this could be one of the few stunning things that the Olympus Marketing successfully pulled off, considering how fierce and competitive the ongoing DSLR market is.

So should I be saving up for E-620? Lets just hope money starts to grow on trees.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Bend It All


The photos taken in this entry are dated back as far as... half a year ago. It was during the previous Matta Fair at PWTC, almost the same time I have just got my E-520. There were various stage performances, and one of the most breath-stopping was none other than this particular ballet/gymnastic demonstration done by very young dancers. They were from Genting group of performers and it was a rare opportunity for me to get this close to them and fire away my camera freely.

*click* image to see its awesomeness


*click* image to see its awesomeness


*click* image to see its awesomeness



Obviously I did not have a flash unit back then, thus all shots were performed without aid of additional lighting. Nevertheless, I find the color (original) shots to be very unsatisfactory, mainly due to the contrasting and distracting bright red background. Eliminating the colour was the only way to truly bring out the focus on the two performers. Thus, I converted them to sepia (a form of black and white, but with a hint of warmth) and boosted up the contrast and exposure levels to give the simplistic yet strong feeling out of the frame. I want their bright suits (man, super tight too) to stand out from the background.

*click* image to see its awesomeness


*click* image to see its awesomeness


*click* image to see its awesomeness




I have got to love my tele lens. The pictures were mostly taken with full zoom at 150mm, and even so the sharpness stayed faithful. I could not ask more for a budget lens.

*click* image to see its awesomeness



Note: Grains were intended to enhance the "classic" feel.

Alright, do cut me some slack for updating on the fly. Will resume my normal tone of blogging once I get this mind of mine sorted out.

Monday, February 23, 2009

By The Beach


There has been silence. What have I been up to, you asked?

Nothing much. I am still in my lethargic current state of being; hence my blog entries will come about slower than usual.

Last weekend, I had a chance to tag along a group of photo-kakis to Port Dickson for a session of photoshoot by the beach.

*click* image to see its awesomeness



Normally alarm clock could not wake me up till dangerously late in the morning before work, but on a non-working Saturday I managed to voluntarily jump out of bed even before my alarm clock started to scream at an ungodly 5am. I do wonder if I am sorting my priorities right these days.

When I got out of the house it was still pitch dark, and off we drove to Seremban for breakfast. There was this really famous Hakka Mee at Seremban Pasar Besar. Filling our stomachs, our group continued the journey to Port Dickson, the nearest beach to the giant city of Kuala Lumpur. It was quite a stretch of a distance. An hour and a half decent speed driving from Kuala Lumpur just to get to the beach is not exactly an idea to be rolled over and over again.

*click* image to see its awesomeness


*click* image to see its awesomeness



This was my first time to Port Dickson, or any beach in West Malaysia. I have little expectations since almost every single person have told me horrendous things about the place: dirty waters, unclean sand, terrible facilities and so on. The fact that I have been to the Western Australian beaches with naked babes with waters painted in blues deeper than anything I have ever seen before, it was hard to fall back from such standards. Nonetheless, I do feel the Port Dickson is not too shabby either, though it could have been a lot better provided proper planning, development and management.

The intention of the visit was specific: bikini shooting. There was a spot less crowded, and considerably clean amongst the many sides of beaches. We almost had the entire place to ourselves without unsuspecting eyes glueing at us as if we were monkeys coming down from the nearby jungle.

*click* image to see its awesomeness


*click* image to see its awesomeness


*click* image to see its awesomeness




Here were the challenges I faced during the shoot.

1) Harsh sun – the sky was clear, though not dramatically blue, and the direct scorching sun was a total nightmare to the session. For some weird reasons, no one brought along reflectors to combat shadows casted on models. It was difficult to obtain nicely lit faces without part of it being completely shadowed, and this is the first big no-no in portraiture of any kind.

2) Terrible sky and background – since the sky was baby blue with traces of whitish grey, the water instantaneously reflected the dull colour, which was not to my liking. I was expecting deep blue as the main backdrop but perhaps I was asking too much.

*click* image to see its awesomeness


*click* image to see its awesomeness



3) Posing – I have to admit this is the part I am terribly lacking. I am not familiar with model poses, and not doing my homework (again) before a model shooting just proved that the results would come out disastrous. I was not spontaneous enough to come up with cool posing tips and positions for the model, and I just worked with what others were doing at the moment. I need more experience in this area, and do more research beforehand, like seriously.

4) Composition and cropping Jian kindly pointed this out to me after I have shown him a few pictures. I do agree with him mentioning that something was lacking from the pictures (I am guessing that something was the ummpphh factor), and this could most likely due to the not-so-properly executed photo composition. To be fair the background was not that interesting, but I guess what I did could be improved.

I think I should stop writing about the photo-taking notes before Jasonmumbles scream at me over MSN again for writing a long winded stress inducing entry.

*click* image to see its awesomeness



Although the main agenda of the trip was bikini shooting, I find myself enjoying the session thoroughly, photography aside. It has been a long time (more than a year) since I last visited a beach. Putting myself out in the open, it felt surprisingly satisfying. Getting my skin burned under the harmful sun, soaking my feet into the salt waters as the waves come crashing to the shore. It was invigorating.

Do keep in mind that this blog is still under semi-break status.

So how was your weekend?

Friday, February 20, 2009

Lets Break It


It has been quite a while since the last time I took a break from blogging, could it be more than a year ago?

Anyway, this will be hopefully a short, and much needed break. Do not worry, I did not run out of material to write just yet, in fact, never in my past 3 years of blogging have I ever run out of anything to say. Perhaps I have had too many things going on in my mind that many of them manifested in the blog entries. A break is necessary to sort those things out in my mind.

How long will this break be? I have no idea. Maybe 5 days, maybe a week, maybe more.

But I promise you guys I will return.

Cheers, and thanks for always being here with me, you guys rock !!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Catch of the Day


I always save the best for the last. In this entry’s case, I have saved the best for an entirely separate entry. During my bug-hunt while testing the Olympus Zuiko 35mm macro lens, I found this mean looking monster by luck. Yes, Chong, Jason and Miao, if you do not call this luck I do not know what it is. Suddenly out of nowhere, a merry fly decided to join in the fun. The fly unfortunately but fortunate for me got caught on the treacherous web, and lunch was served.

*click* image to see its awesomeness



By far, this green spider was the most evil and dangerous looking spider that I have come across in the park. The spider was rather viscous too, and the moment the fly got tangled by her web, she wasted no time and (I suspected) injected her venom to stun the prey. She left the fly alone for a short moment. Obviously the fly struggled to get free, then just a matter of seconds, the movements slowed down and gradually came to a stop. The venom must be kicking in, then as the fly stopped struggling, the spider came back to it, and with deadly speed and precision the fly was mummified. As I was leaving the spider was sucking the poor little fly dry.

It may be something spectacular to photograph and test my macro capabilities on, but the scene was unexpectedly gruesome. I have just witnessed a spider mercilessly murdered and draining the life away from an innocent fly. This could not have been any different from a lion devouring a deer. Laws of nature, circle of life. The strong preying on the weak. So much for us humans being on top of the food chain, interestingly venoms from certain species of spiders can kill us too.

*click* image to see its awesomeness



Looking at the pictures, it does seem simple and straight to the point kind of shots, but for beginners like me, it was not easy. Jason once told me macro is too easy, hence he brushed it aside since he found no challenge in doing it. My God, to me it was one of the most challenging tasks using the camera.

1) Composition was not easy.
There are distractions to minimize, background to consider and the placements of the subjects to bring out the attention. It is even more challenging to take all these into consideration in the matter of seconds before clicking the shutter, and sometimes those few seconds is the only chance you have or you miss the shot. I do admit there is a lot of work to be done to improve my compositions here. I tried getting as low as I can to the eye level of the spider, and avoid shooting top-bottom shots.

2) Focusing difficulties.
Forget autofocus, it will never focus on the exact place you want it to focus. Though I am comfortable using manual focus now, but everything just went against me as I was taking the shot. The gentle wind rocking the web, wobbling the spider and the fly constantly threw them out of focus. The spider was constantly moving, causing motion blur, and I could not fix my focus tightly. Just as I got my focus right, before clicking the shutter, I felt a sting on my right thumb as a mosquito was happily sucking my blood. I had to retrieve from the viewfinder and squat that little vampire flat, and oops.. I have to redo the whole thing again.

3) Lighting issues.
As you can see in the pictures, there were serious highlight and shadow problems. Getting the right amount of light in was one challenge, getting it on the right places is another. A more even lighting effect would be desirable, probably using macro ring flash could help solve this problem.

*click* image to see its awesomeness





4) Steadying the shots.
The most interesting subjects will usually appear at most unlikely places that you have to bend your knees and bodies in impossible positions just to inch closer and closer to your shot. Standing (or squatting) in such ungodly manner, it was difficult not to shiver and you will feel your body rocking back and forth each time you puff that breath in.

5) Getting close.
Finding the spiders was hard enough, but trying to close in your lens to them without scaring them is even worse. I read some useful tips here, for example avoid casting shadows on your subjects, and move as slowly as you can with no rapid motion towards them.

6) Oh and I have spider-phobia. Hate those little bummers.

*click* image to see its awesomeness



I have not elaborated much on the Olympus Zuiko 35mm macro yet. I think that for a budget lens, it performs incredibly well. All my shots come out tack sharp (provided having spot on focus) and the amount of details being captured in the photo was just stunning. It beats the crap out of my other usual macro alternatives, and it is marginally sharper than what my current kit lens could produce. Above all, the lens is light and really compact (the world’s smallest macro lens for DSLR) allowing me more flexibility to move around and compose my shots. A lot of people may have complaints about the fly-by-wire manual focusing, but I find it nothing troublesome at all, yet it allowed for really precise focusing.

On the shortcomings, I do feel that the length of 35mm is not long enough to comfortably shoot the subjects from a distance. And the widest aperture of F3.5 was just not fast enough to have this lens as a portrait lens either. For macro work however, I used smaller than F11 aperture so it the not-so-wide aperture should not be of any major concern here.

*click* image to see its awesomeness



All in all, I love the lens!! God help me, I am falling more and more in love with macro. Of course there is a lot more I could do with macro besides just insects and tiny bugs, but hey, lets just save those ideas for future attempts.

Robin is now officially, bug-friendly.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Wild Bug Hunt


So what should I be doing when I am low in cash, but still in high trigger happy mood? I figured I could go macro frenzy. This time, I have a real macro lens in hand, no more tricking my non-macro lenses in thinking that they were macro and forced them mercilessly to work macro for me. I have got a copy to try out, and I did not have to travel far for this trial out session. The park nearby my house which I have always been reluctant to go for jogs, I found it very inviting for insect photography. Ironic is it not, when photography comes in the equation, everything becomes willing.

*click* image to see its awesomeness


*click* image to see its awesomeness



For those of you who are new, or have not followed my historical progress in macro photography, here is a quick recap:

1) I started macro by using the standard kit lens 14-42mm combined with the Hoya +4 close up filter.
Pros: Very usable results, even at full 42mm zoom. Could get really close to the subject, as close as 5cm. Autofocus works, and combined with manual override, focusing was a breeze.
Cons: The magnification is still very limited. Even compact cameras can produce much better macro results.
To view the pictures this combination produced, click here.

2) I used my zoom lens 40-150mm for tele-macro.
Pros: Ability to shoot subjects from 1.5m or further away, and this is useful not to startle butterflies or bees.
Cons: Results are not even close enough to be considered as anything near to what macro stands for. Works only for large subjects, like butterflies with huge wings.
To view the pictures this option produced, click here.


3) I combined the tele lens 40-150mm with the Hoya +4 Close Up filter.
Pros: Capable of achieving almost full macro 1:1 magnification at full 150mm zoom !!
Cons: Autofocus was disabled, and the zoom lens suffer from serious chromatic aberration issues from 100-150mm end. There is also an adverse impact on the details captured, images appear very soft throughout all zoom range.
To view the pictures this combination produced, click here and here and here.

*click* image to see its awesomeness


*click* image to see its awesomeness




After all the experiments I have carried out over the last year, I have concluded that while the cheap alternatives to macro lenses can get you some decent and usable macro shots, but those shots are still far from what macro satisfactory standards are, and the only option to produce a good quality macro is none other than using macro lens. Of course, provided there is enough cash to go along with it.

Nevertheless, like Jian (click) has pointed out to me, all those trial sessions I have done before, though results were just so and so, they have prepared me in a lot of ways, expanding my knowledge in macro-photography. I may not be that good yet, but of course, we all improve from one point to another, and I am seeing slow but stark progress in my pictures. Throughout all the previous attempts, I have gained the following:

1) Basic knowledge about macro. Stuff like stopping the F-number to achieve greater depth of field.

2) Steadying the hands !!!! This is the most tricky part, though I have still improved, but theres still a lot to work on. To obtain that shake-free shot, you not only have to steady your fingers, but also your entire body from the way you bend you knees, hold your breath and so on. I kid you not !!

3) Manual focusing. I was totally put off by the idea of manual focusing the first time I used it, but through all the attempts, manual focusing gave me the most accurate results, as it allowed me to pin point the exact zone of focus. Although I still have hit and miss focusing manually, but I feel completely comfortable using it now, and I consider this a huge step forward.

*click* to see the awesomeness




4) Flash macro. As much as I hate to admit it, flash is VERY necessary in macro photos, even shooting under bright day. I am still improving in getting the exposures right, but having an external unit of flash improved the shots dramatically.

5) Have patience. Patience is crucial in all photography, but especially so in macro. Bug hunting is not easy, and the bugs are not readily available for you to shoot. You have to find them, under the leaf, behind the stick, and in all impossible places. And most of the times, they run away from you, or face their butts towards your lens. If you could wait just a few minutes, maybe you will spot a bug you have missed while scanning the area, or the bug may feel safe enough to come closer to you.

*click* image to see its awesomeness


*click* image to see its awesomeness




To all the bokeh (blur background in images) worshipers, and those who think that every good photo MUST have bokeh, then your ideology will work against you in macro. This is one particular field of photography where you require great depth of field to accomplish wider zone in focus. Hence, your F 0.01 lens (exaggeration intended) may be fast and bright, but utterly USELESS in macro. When you are photographing something as tiny as 3mm, you will find yourself using aperture of F10-F22, and the greater the better to obtain as sharp of a shot as possible of the entire subject. Yes you may think that just having the eye focused and the rest of the body blurred seems nice, but you will find it so hard to even just focus the eye right at such a small scale image, and in the end you end up squeezing the eye of whatever sorry insect that you were shooting because you could not get the tack sharp shot of the eye after 100 attempts.

Having said that, Olympus DSLRs have the upper hand when it comes to Macro photography, since it has greater depth of field in comparison to other manufacturing brands of cameras. I can get away with F16 in a shot to achieve that desired depth of field, which a full-framer (Canon 1Ds MarkIII or Nikon D3) will need to use F32 to accomplish the similar effect. It is recommended not to push beyond F16 when you use any lenses, as the sharpness tends to drop significantly as you stop down further. Yes, Olympus may not produce as nice bokeh as Nikon and Canon. When it comes to taking pictures of tiny bugs, it is the other way around. The less bokeh, the more area you will have in focus.

*click* image to see its awesomeness


*click* image to see its awesomeness



If you think macro is the only photography that requires greater depth of field, think again. There is also landscape, but we shall talk about that some other day.

So what are the things worth highlighting in this session?

1) Most of the bugs I have found this session were extremely tiny !!!!!! Some were as small as 2mm if I measured correctly. This truly pushed the lens to its limit.

2) The lens was capable of 2:1 macro magnification, but a lot of the time I found myself not using the maximum magnification, just to fit the entire subject. Most of the pictures here were crop-free, save a few badly composed ones, which I did very little cropping only. More magnification can be accomplished if I added on an extension tube.

*click* image to see its awesomeness




3) Spiders and dragonflies are easily found. They were almost everywhere. However, most of the spiders and dragonflies are of the same species, or closely related. I guess that is the limitation of just photographing bugs in a park, for more colourful, and dangerous looking insects, I guess I have to venture into the real jungle. *gulp

4) The baby praying mantis was TINY !!!! Less than 1cm in length. It was so cute, and I failed to capture the cuteness.

5) I know you guys must have seen macro pictures of HUGE spider eyes, and obviously this lens was not capable of doing that, unless we are dealing with much larger spiders. The spiders in the pictures are approximately 1.5 cm or less in length. Maybe using an extension tube could help?


6) My common camera settings are: ISO100, Shutter speed: 1/40s-1/80s, Aperture F12-16, Manual Focus with TTL Flash (bounce adapter attached). Setting vary from shot to shot depending on lighting conditions, and obviously the size of the bug.

7) I spent more than four hours just to capture around 80 pictures, and most of the pictures were trial and error. Most of the time was spent on hunting the bugs.

*click* image to see its awesomeness


*click* image to see its awesomeness




8) It was not easy taking those pictures, as the bugs usually do not stay still, or stay at one spot for very long. I have very limited chances to snap the pictures, some of them were truly lucky ones, and one time shot only.

9) I used manual focus all the time, setting to 1:2, 1:1, 1.5:1 or 2:1 magnification factor. Having a fixed focus, it means that the only way to get the shots was to gently rock your body back and forth until you find that sweet focus zone.

10) I think I exerted a few liters of sweat throughout the shooting session. Steadying the shots, keeping the frame right, require the whole body at work. I should bring a huge bottle of water the next time I hunt bugs.

11) How did I get so close to the bugs? Skills I tell you. Skills.

*click* image to see its awesomeness



On the whole, I am quite happy with the overall outcome of the pictures. This macro lens, 35mm F3.5 Zuiko may be a budget macro lens from Olympus, but the image quality is screaming nothing budget at all. I was quite amazed by the amount of details this lens was able to resolve, and gosh, the overall sharpness was just breathtaking. Click the images for enlarged views to pick up those sharpness. The contrast and color were typical of Olympus style, which I have grown to love very much. There are tiny traces of chromatic aberration though, which can be eliminated through post-processing. This was expected since ED element was not included in the lens. Considering the low-price tag, the capabilities and functionality in 2:1 magnification macro shooting, producing pleasingly sharp results, I think I am sold.

I shall be getting a copy soon, preferably a second hand unit, and I will make it happen.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Higher


The higher the climb, the harder the fall.

*click* to expand photo



Yet we all strive to go as far up as possible. Anyone can rise to the top, if sheer guts and determination come to play. However, not everyone can survive the fall.

It breaks in all the places you would not know would break when you hit rock bottom.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Lets Talk Lenses

When the image quality of a photo produced by a camera is questioned, there are several contributing factors that usually come in play. The most common factors would be two major elements that compose a camera of any sort: the first being the image sensor that converts light into digital signal, and secondly, the lens that gathers light into the sensor. The quality of sensors and lenses on a camera directly affect the overall output of the image, and none should be viewed and weighted in any less importance than the other.

WHAT DIGITAL CAMERA GUIDE (Christmas edition)

*click* to expand photo




Over the past year, since the day my compact camera died, I have been poisoned by so many people with differing opinions on DSLRs of various brands and their respective lenses. There was a group of people who told me that everything about Canon beats the crap out of everything else. There was another group who told me that Sony is the future. There were many people telling me Olympus is crap, and their lenses suck. There were Nikon worshippers whispering their superb high-ISO performance being the most important thing in photography. Different people. Different opinion. I get it. But when it comes to facts, the comparison in technical details cannot be argued as subjectively as opinions. Unless of course, you choose to believe that the earth is flat, and the moon goes around the sun. I can't blame you really. Some people just refuse to accept the truth no matter how obvious it was put before them.


Then one fine weekend, as I was doing my reading spree at Borders, I chanced upon this photography magazine that did something not many other magazines would dare to do, they compiled comparisons of lenses for different brands in the similar class. The more I read it, the more I realized that it has reassured my decision of choosing Olympus was undoubtedly the right one.

Canon users. Be very afraid

FIRST COMPARISON: BUDGET STANDARD LENSES

*click* to expand photo


*click* to expand photo



1) Olympus 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 => 92%
2) Nikon 17-80mm F3.5-4.5 => 90%
3) Canon 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 => 85%
4) Nikon 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 => 84%
5) Pentax 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 => 79%
6) Sony 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 => 74%

This particular group of lenses are the standard kit zoom lenses that are typically provided as a bundle with the entry level DSLR cameras. For beginners, this would most probably be the first lens they would come to know and use extensively before upgrading for other classes or replacements. Of course, for professionals or for those who know what they are doing with their cameras, they would just opt for body and go straight for better lenses. Nonetheless, this group of comparison strongly proved my belief that Olympus and Nikon produced the best optics for entry level DSLRs. I am a proud owner of Olympus 14-42mm F3.5-5.6.


SECOND COMPARISON: KIT LENS REPLACEMENTS/UPGRADES

*click* to expand photo


*click* to expand photo




1) Olympus 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 => 90%
Olympus 14-54mm F2.8-3.5 => 90%
2) Nikon 17-55mm F2.8 => 89%
3) Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 => 88%
Canon EF 14-40 F4 L USM => 88%
4) Canon 17-85mm F4.0-5.6 => 80%

Now when a learning/improving photographer is getting tired of the restrictions of the kit lens, most definitely the replacement with longer zoom range, or wider aperture would come in consideration. This upgrade not only improves functionality, but also guarantees higher image quality on the whole in terms of sharpness, less distortion and less chromatic aberration. Also, some of these lenses are available as combos with higher end DSLR camera bodies, usually semi-to professional level cameras. I have always known both Olympus' replacement kit lenses are rather superb in performance, but little did I know they topped the rest in the class !!! Again, my point is proven, Nikon and Olympus are both extremely strong when it comes to optics.

THIRD COMPARISON: ULTRA WIDE ANGLE LENSES

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1) Nikon 14-24mm F2.8 => 93%
2) Olympus 7-14mm F4 => 92%
3) Sigma 12-24mm F4.5-5.6 => 90%
4) Samsung 12-24mm F4 => 84%
5) Canon 10-22mm F3.5-4.5 => 80%
6) Tamron 11-18mm F4.5-5.6 => 74%

I am not in a rush to consider an ultra wide angle for my collection of lenses at the moment, but the effect and flexibility this particular lens can offer when shooting in tight spaces, architectures and my favourite photography category: landscape.... it will be very worth it. Oh, have I mentioned Nikon and Olympus are usually the best when it comes to optics?

As I was turning pages, holding the magazine upright with one hand and a camera on the other to snap those pictures in Borders, the security guard standing not too far away from me was already staring me with the kind of look that lion would give if you found him when he is really hungry. Then he was kind of starting to walk towards my direction, so I obediently placed my camera into the bag, zipped it, and continue flipping the magazine like nothing happened. Oh well, he just went by me and I just assumed nothing happened.

There was of course a section for telephoto (high zoom) lenses, which I did not manage to snap any pictures of. Nevertheless, I think my point has already been sufficiently made clear.

Olympus has had a long history of making quality lenses, and the optics they produced not only made it to the photography scene, but to medical optical usage as well. The lenses they produce for DSLRs are amongst the sharpest, and this would probably be one of the silent kept facts that Olympus users are proud to bear, and refuse to argue over and over again with certain ignorant group of people who talk down on Olympus Four Thirds system. I am not saying 4/3 system (which is a format for both the sensor and the lenses for the sensor) is better than others, but it is an insult to underestimate its capabilities.

Of course a single reference may not be adequate to justify the comparisons on the whole, but I dare you to dig up respected online professional reviews on digital photography such as www.dpreview.com, and you will find similar facts suggesting both Olympus and Nikon lenses outperform the others. If you truly do not agree with what this entry has to tell you, then you take it up with the magazine. I am just simply conveying their seemingly unbiased message.

So many people have asked me if I have regretted choosing Olympus, or do I have any thoughts of "jumping ship" (switching brands). But why would I do so since I have always been constantly amazed by what the camera could do for me, and even the kit lens that came with it unexpectedly did heaps of wonders. Combine the unmatched strength of optics, heavy packed features, considerably low-price point and amazing built quality, I would say what I currently own (E-520 with kit lenses) is quite tough to beat in its category (entry level).

Ok Canon worshippers and Olympus haters, come grill me alive already.