Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Olympus E-5 Review: Night Street Shooting at Jonker Walk, Malacca

Side Note:
1) The loaned Olympus E-5 is an initial production unit.
2) This is a user-experience, non-technical oriented review.
3) General settings: Picture mode - vivid, Saturation 0, Sharpness +1, Contrast 0, Noise Filter low



Before I dived into my next write-up on what I have done with Olympus E-5 in Malacca, allow me to direct your attention to my friend, Frederick Yap. He is an active Olympus user, and he was generous to offer me a place to stay in Malacca over the weekend and spent a great deal of time guiding me around for shooting there. Thanks Fred!! His hands have become unbearable itchy with E-5 right in front of him (who wouldn't be? Right?), so I decided why not I let him have the camera for a little while, and see what he can do with it? I am quite sure most of you would love to see something different apart from what I usually cook up in my usual blog entries.

Frederick, E-5 and the Droplet Experiment

In the morning, while we were at Taman Seribu Bunga as I have blogged in my previous entry, Frederick whipped out his OM lens, the 50mm F1.8, and plugged in a few extension tubes to transform it instantly into an extreme macro manual lens. He intended to capture the water droplet with a flower being displayed within the droplet. His execution and technique to produce this particular shot was not easy, as it involved extreme magnification via manual focusing, lots of trial and error on placements of subjects and position of the lens, and employing the wireless TTL Flash.

A Flower on a Flower.
Photographed by Frederick.
OM 50mm F1.8: 1/250sec, F/16, ISO800, Wireless TTL Flash



His photograph that stood out at the end of the day was nothing short of stunning.


Frederick, E-5 and Pre-Wedding Shoot

Later in the afternoon, right after our walkabout in Malacca town area which I have also included in my previous entry, coincidentally Frederick's friend were having a pre-wedding shoot by the sea side. We decided, why not just drop by for a little while, and join in the fun? Since there was only one E-5, and it was Frederick's friend's pre-wedding shoot, I decided to hand over the E-5 to him again, and commanded him to make some good shots out of it. Again, he did not disappoint.

Danny and Stephy
Photographed by Frederick.
7-14mm F4: 1/1250sec, F4, ISO400, wireless TTL Flash (with Super FP)

Please take note that this was just a very brief shooting session, and none of the photographs were used commercially, or being paid. We just went in to see what the E-5 can do. It was approaching sunset, and the sky was just beautiful. Frederick used 7-14mm lens, and I helped him by holding the FL-36R flash off-camera, being triggered wirelessly and fired from the top left corner side of the image frame, to provide illumination to the subjects. This is a two-point lighting system, a very basic setup, one coming from the pop-up built in E-5 flash as gentle fill light, and one wireless off camera flash as the main light.

Who would have thought the Olympus E-5 would be used to take pre-wedding shots on the very same weekend? Everything happened so spontaneously !! Frederick was astounded by the sharpness/resolution, high ISO handling, as well as the improved flash control and handling of E-5.

Malacca Seaside Sunset
Photographed by Frederick
DRAMATIC TONE Art Filter applied. 7-14mm F4: 1/40sec, F/4, ISO400

Please head over to Frederick's entry (click) for more photographs that he has created with very, very limited time I gave him with the Olympus E-5. I am sure you will be pleased from what you see there, since all his shots are rather different from mine.


Alright, PLEASE COME BACK after viewing Frederick's photo-blog. I still have plenty more to share with everyone.

A Stroll along Jonker Walk

So after the pre-wedding shot, which was after the sunset, we went to Jonker Walk, Malacca for dinner, and conveniently some night shooting. I have been to Jonker Walk a couple of times now, and I knew this was a great place to do some Night Street Shooting. The place was very famous, and always flooded with people. There were many vendors selling all sorts of stuff ranging from cloths, accessories and local food. Everywhere was full of smiles and laughter's I felt so compelled to shoot all of them. There were many beautiful lights and colours, my photography sensor was beeping all over.

Clip on Fans. 11-22mm F2.8-3.5: 1/125sec, F/2.8, ISO1600

Mini Displays. 11-22mm F2.8-3.5: 1/30sec, F/3.5, ISO1250

Fresh out of the oven. 11-22mm F2.8-3.5: 1/160sec, F/2.8, ISO1600

Cheerful vendor. 11-22mm F2.8-3.5: 1/160sec, F/2.8, ISO1600


Sugar Coating, literally. 50mm F2 Macro: 1/250sec, F/2, ISO1600




Low Light Shooting with E-5, Again.

If you have done night street shooting before, you would have noticed a few challenges that can destroy otherwise a great photography opportunity. Obviously, this can be considered a low-light condition, hence shooting without flash (which can be annoying in public) only means you need to bump up the ISO sensitivity. I shot mostly from ISO 1250 to 1600, and I found myself not needing anything beyond ISO1600. I am not some crazy people who would shoot ridiculously with high ISO in any situation. I only use it when necessary.

Sugar, fruits and sticks. 50mm F2 Macro: 1/100sec, F/2, ISO1250

Chocolate on the outside. 50mm F2 Macro: 1/100sec, F/2, ISO1250

Night Dim Sum: 11-22mm F2.8-3.5: 1/50sec, F/2.8, ISO1600

Lights in a cage. 50mm F2 Macro: 1/500sec, F/2, ISO1250

Multiple Mixed Lighting Condition against E-5 White Balance

Besides low light, the street was bathed with multiple mixed lighting. There were the street lamps, fluorescent lamps from the vendors, some tungsten, and God knows what other odd lights all blending in together creating a dreadful nightmare for the camera's white balance handling system. I would not claim that Olympus E-5 white balance was perfect, but I dare say it handled such mix lighting condition very well. I set the White Balance setting to "Auto", and it nailed the balance in nearly all shots. The colour casts from the original source of light can still be evident in all the photographs, but they were all balanced, and looked very "believable", without being destructive to the overall presentation. When I look back at the photographs, I can feel as though I was really on the streets, because the colour representation was quite "true-to-life". This is something that I really, really love about Olympus.

Mini pancake. 11-22mm F2.8-3.5: 1/80sec, F/2.8, ISO1250

A table of selection. 11-22mm F2.8-3.5: 1/80sec, F2.8, ISO1250

Hammering it hard. 11-22mm F2.8-3.5: 1/50sec, F/2.8, ISO2500

Not the right choice. 11-22mm F2.8-3.5: 1/80sec, F/3.5, ISO2500

Grilled Cuttlefish. 11-22mm F2.8-3.5: 1/40sec, F/2.8, ISO1600


Low Light AutoFocus

One of the challenges that I have constantly mentioned during my street shooting sessions (all of them were during day-time) was the speed of Auto-Focus, especially when it comes to moving subjects, or spontaneous reaction to a moment that suddenly jumped right in front of you. I used three lenses in this shoot, 7-14mm, 11-22mm and 50mm macro, and I found all lenses performed rather well, even under low light focusing. They locked on focus fast, though my subjects were moving constantly. Added the high ISO shooting to boost up the shutter speed, I could freeze the rapid motions, which was very impressive. Yes, the autofocus has improved, and in low light situations, I find my shooting with E-5 to be very pleasant.

I really love shooting in Malacca. The people there were friendly and warm, in stark contrast to my usual street hunting places in KL.

Drummers. 50mm F2 Macro: 1/250sec, F/2, ISO1600

Munching on snacks. 50mm F2 Macro: 1/320sec, F/2, ISO1600

Jonker Walk, Malacca. 7-14mm F4: 1/20sec, F/4, ISO1600

Tabletop Motorcycles. 7-14mm F4: 1/125sec, F/4, ISO1600

Colorful accessories. 7-14mm F4: 1/60sec, F/4, ISO1600

I have always thought that shooting with a small camera can save you a lot of trouble on the streets. You can shoot unknowingly, and being less threatening with a smaller camera body, instead of a large DSLR black meanacing body. In contradiction to that, I felt completely comfortable with Olympus E-5, which was something I did not expect at all. I thought the weight and size would kill me, but the more I use it, the more I want to use it. I initially did not plan for a long walking session, but I have covered more than I have originally intended. I do not deny the advantage of having smaller and lighter camera bodies (such as my current Olympus E-520), but having blazing fast AutoFocus speed on the street, I think that is irreplaceable.

Sisterhood. 50mm F2 Macro: 1/160sec, F/2, ISO1600


Sleepless on Jonker. 50mm F2 Macro: 1/30sec, F/2, ISo1250


Alright, that is all for this segment of my user-experience based review. I remember I have read somewhere in the forums that someone commented on my low-light shooting at Aquaria, KLCC not too long ago being something that not everyone would do frequently. I love street shooting, but the reason why I chose Aquaria, KLCC was because it represented a more extreme challenge for the camera, hence putting it to difficult tests.

Nonetheless, in both cases, the Olympus E-5 performed rather well.

I have probably one or two more (still have not decided) entries coming up, before I round up my user-review episodes. If you have some feedback or questions, please feel free to drop a comment below, or email me directly. I will try my best to get back to you as soon as I can.

53 comments:

  1. Hi Robin,
    thanks for this new episode of your user-experience E-5 review.
    While I'm rather suspicious regarding tests, your review was exactly what I needed to convince myself that the E-5 is the perfect addition to my E-30

    And by the way: I just love your pictures.
    Thank you very much again for sharing. Visiting your blog always is a delight and I definitely will keep on doing so even after you will have finished your E-5 review.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hi Donparrot,
    Thanks so much for your kind words !! You are just too kind.
    I strongly believe E-30 is already a very capable camera. E-30 would definitely make a great second camera alongside E-5.
    It is my pleasure and passion to take photographs. Thanks so much for your support.

    ReplyDelete
  3. As always excellent photographs! Your pictures makes me want to go to Malaysia one of these days. Any user experience with the previous e30 model?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Eric,
    Thanks so much for the compliments.
    Malaysia is indeed a beautiful place. Do come over for a holiday, you will not regret it.
    I have not used E-30 for shooting extensively, only encountered it briefly. My impressions on E-30 generally is very good.

    ReplyDelete
  5. wooo low light!! seems like you are reviewing it for a very long time eh robin.. yours already ah.. hehehe

    great reviews on the E-5, your skills and eye does it justice! Doc Raymond was telling me how impressed he is on your abilities.. :):)

    aaron

    ReplyDelete
  6. Hi Aaron,
    Thanks for dropping by. Also thanks for the kind compliments, I appreciate them.
    Aiyo, where got long time. I got them first time for 3 days, and second time for 4 days only. So total time only one week la.
    Eh, how come you and Dr Raymond got so many secret meetings never find me one?

    ReplyDelete
  7. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  8. Hi Robin
    Thank you for your great work in the weekend.
    Your picture is great, read great art.
    your review was exactly what I needed to convince myself that the E-5 is the perfect upgrade and addition to my E-510.
    I like the E-5 pictures, also when doing high ISO.
    Thank you very much again for sharing.
    I will visit your blog more often and enjoy your art.
    Have a nice day
    Finn

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi Finn,
    Thank you so so much for your encouraging remarks !! They are very inspiring. I appreciate it a lot.
    Photography is my passion, and I love to just randomly go around making photographs happen.
    I would not consider myself an artist (there are too many greater artists than I am out there) but I am developing my artistic vision, and slowly, i will improve.
    Thanks so much for your support.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Hi there...
    Thanks for linking my blog here and it's really a nice outing that day and looking forward for the next one... :) Nice shots as usual~ ;)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Great series at the market- I agree that the noise level at high ISO is acceptable and would be a marvel to bring it out for such shootings. You really tested the E-5 to the fullest, given the limited time. Bravo!

    ReplyDelete
  12. hey Amir,
    thanks so much for your compliments. You are doing very well yourself. Can't wait for your remaining series.

    ReplyDelete
  13. wow great entry on the street food and life in malacca! oops i've not been commenting much on your blog these days

    -Marcus

    ReplyDelete
  14. Hi Marcus !!!
    Long time no see. I have wondered where you have gone to. Nice to hear your voice again !!

    ReplyDelete
  15. Great post. It appears the higher ISO of the E-5 is much more usable than my E-3/30. Now I'm even more excited for this camera.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hi Ian,
    Thanks for the compliments. Definitely the high ISO handling has improved significantly.
    It is by far the best 4/3 camera.

    ReplyDelete
  17. thanks Robin!!

    Very good review. Salute!

    ReplyDelete
  18. Hi Nelson,
    You are most welcome !!

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thank you for the fun and useful review. Are the High ISO shots cleaned up at all? The lack of noise is just amazing to me, my E-510 is just shamed!

    ReplyDelete
  20. Hey Tim,
    You are most welcome. I did not modify the photographs except minor tweak in the overall exposure balance. It is not a shame to use 510, it is still a great, and legendary camera from Olympus. It is an honor to own one, I am sure you have enjoyed using it all this time. I have enjoyed my E-520 very much, and still loving it.

    ReplyDelete
  21. I also have a 510 and i'm absolutely shocked with your pictures. There are a housand miles of difference between the ISOs of both cameras. Anyway i still lovin' my 510.
    Thank you for the good work.
    Cosmo

    ReplyDelete
  22. Hi Cosmo,
    There is a great difference between E-510 and E-5, mainly due to the fact of huge generation gap. Technology is advancing very fast these days.
    However, I still think E-510 is a very capable and great camera to use. I have an E-520, and I am still loving it.

    ReplyDelete
  23. One heck of a damn helpful hands-on review. (pardon my language) Keep it up bro.

    ReplyDelete
  24. People forget that we use cameras to take pictures period. The quality of the DSLR cameras has passed what our eyes can differentiate. If you expose to the right, then you can shoot great low light pictures with a F2.0 or F2.8 lens. Because of in camera IS, the shutter speed can be lowered, unlike say Canon's primes without IS.

    Nice job. Look at the picture quality. We want sharp, colorful images with good DR.

    The E-5 can do the job in the right hands.

    ReplyDelete
  25. hi Anonymous,
    Thanks for the compliments mate, I appreciate it. Sometimes extreme language can express our ideas better I believe.

    Hey Kaptnk,
    I agree that the DSLR these days have what it takes to make really good pictures. With the right settings for the right conditions, we can get really impressive results.
    Thanks for the compliments mate !!

    ReplyDelete
  26. Yo Robin, after reading & looking at the photos here, i know what my next camera body will be. All that is needed now is just a good excuse..lol. Keep up the good work...benten

    ReplyDelete
  27. Hello Benten,
    For birding and macro photography, you will really benefit a lot from Olympus E-5. The amount of details and sharpness captured are crazy, and the much improved high ISO handling really can help make a shot, or break it.

    ReplyDelete
  28. Nice Pic, I like your pic. Great!

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  29. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  30. Thanks for the review and the lot of samples. The only thing that hurt me is the "bad" image quality at 1600 iso compared to peers.
    Was the noise reduction active or not when you shoot?

    ReplyDelete
  31. Hello Wedding photographer France,
    It was my pleasure to do the hands-on review. I set the noise filter to "low" and noise reduction to "off" at all times.

    ReplyDelete
  32. Great review, Robin!

    I own a 620 and due to Olympus decision to keep only the Ε-5 for the 4/3rds I was considering moving to Nikon. Your work with the Ε-5 makes me reconsider!

    Keep up!

    P.G.

    Greece

    ReplyDelete
  33. Quite sweet! I would not genuinely have any excuses for something such as this particular right now, but if I actually accomplish, I'll be sure to come back! Just about all I could say is until this will be insane great!

    ReplyDelete
  34. I have a background in surrealist night photography, and music journalism. 90% of my photos over the past decade were taken at night. In any other style, I would leave it to other professionals; but I have some tips for this troublesome style.
    Robin had great insight. Switching WB to auto is ideal. Contrast should be your priority in low light settings. If you want to play with WB, Olympus cameras like the E-520/E-5 have WB bracketing. I recommend bracketing in the +6/-6 option for G/A. The color variations of street lamps, candles, etc. will show you how gorgeous night photos can be.
    Robin plays with large apertures. This is great for speed. But I swear to smaller aperture use at night. They are tougher shots, and you risk blur. Yet the detail, and depth-of-field at night is rare, and enchanting. Robin shot some DOF photos with still figurines. This is an excellent time to try a smaller aperture shot. If you hold your camera strap taut against your neck, and brace your left elbow against your chest with your hand holding the lens from below, you create counter-force to steady your shot. Shoot at the end of your out-breath.
    Night photography feels intimidating, and dangerous. Trust your instincts. It is dangerous. Robin's choice to remain in a high traffic area and capture low-threat subjects is a great, safe strategy. But if you want to shoot in low-traffic areas (ex: a train station at 2:00 AM), or if you find an alluring subject (ex: a drug deal), yet your instincts make you question the idea, here are some field-tested techniques to keep you safe, and maximize your opportunities:
    Embrace your adrenaline, but trust your instincts. Unless shooting, hide your camera. I wear a grungy leather jacket ($30 Salvation Army), and carry a faded sweatshirt (not red!) that I drape over my camera whenever I'm not shooting. Trust me, it works. Sometimes, I shoot from under the sweatshirt, pretending to be interested in something other than the subject. These photos take practice. But they can capture raw, uninterrupted human experience. My preferred method is to confidently approach a subject. Smile (think friendly thoughts). I get the best results by saying, "hi, I'm a journalist working on a story about the local culture. Would you mind if I took a few photos of you?" Reveal your camera. 4 of 5 people are flattered, and will agree. You now have a willing subject. Be thoughtful of their time, and body language. But be bold. Ask them to do what they had been doing before you introduced yourself. My opinion: this style is more interesting when subject appears unaware/uninterested in you. Help them act casual (ex: if they smoke, ask if they want to smoke). Control the situation in a professional, non-threatening manner. Some subjects will even change location with you, and shoot again. Express thanks, and move on. *Never involve money in a threat situation! Many threat subjects may ask you for cash for photo. Say you have a strict policy against financial exchange for subjects. You respect their choice, But you think they're intriguing, and look great (non-suggestive) and you would be honored if they let you take a photo. 3/4 of them will agree. *Flashing your wallet always raises risk. *Never trust anyone to take you somewhere. *You must control the situation. If they lead conversation (ex: ask many questions), you are at risk! Sense a threat? Give excuse, and leave. In high danger areas, consider carrying a flashlight stun-gun. They look like flashlights, and are flashlights. In a bad spot, just the sound of a stun-gun can prevent a worse one. Check local CWP laws. :)
    I learned these tips the hard way, having been mugged 3 times in 2 days in the New Orleans French Quarter (knife-point, gun-point, knife-point). If I knew these tips, I would have been safe. I have since conquered the French Quarter, and beyond. Night photography has risks, and technical difficulties. But the photos... unbelievable.

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