This may come as a shock to many of you, but I strongly believe it is not entirely unforeseen or unpredicted that I have decided to join Olympus Malaysia in an official capacity. I am now an employee and surely, this will change things.
When I started this blog, I have no idea I would venture so deeply and passionately into the photography world. As I picked up my first DSLR Olympus E-410, I fell in love with the Olympus E-System, and have been a fan ever since. I have been blogging about my photography adventures and sharing my photographs week after week without fail, for the past 8 years. This was a personal blog, meant as place for me to post up personal photographs and share my almost too random thoughts, often even covering true events happening in my life. And then about 3 years ago Olympus Malaysia contacted me and asked me if I would like to do a review for the Olympus E-5. Of course I would say yes and I did it, and ever since, everything changed.
Since my first review of the Olympus E-5, and many other Olympus products after that, I have always served as an independent blogger reviewing the camera from a photography enthusiast's point of view. I never did anything too technical and all my reviews were strongly based on real life user experience and how I would use the camera or lens for my own shutter therapy sessions. I strongly believe that a photography review should be heavily photography based and that was the reason why I always prioritized in producing photographs that are of at least a certain standard to be used for my blog reviews. For some unexplainable reasons, I must have done something right because I have attracted so much attention and have accidentally built a growing audience, that many have returned for regular blog visits even when I am not doing reviews. The response to my review of Olympus gear has been overwhelmingly positive, and many have used them as an unofficial benchmark for photography related reviews. This certainly has become probably one of the largest accomplishments of my life, which I am truly proud of, and happy about.
Unfortunately, gaining readership and popularity also expectedly drew in some unwanted attention. I do get people who have been questioning the validity of my review work, whether if I am biased. Yes, my blog is a personal blog with very subjective opinion, and I lean toward Olympus because I am an Olympus fan and I never did anything to hide that fact. Some even went as far as stating that I was paid by Olympus and that I am one of their "marketing stunts". I have no other way to convince them otherwise but my connections with Olympus has been strictly limited to gear reviews only thus far. I never get any tips or insights about the latest camera news, nor was I told about any of the future plans and releases of Olympus products. Olympus came to me when it was very near to the launch of the new products, and I did my part in reviewing the products and after I returned the gear to them, that was the end of our engagement. Everyone was happy, I get to play with the latest gear (most were amazing and beautiful) and review them on my blog, while Olympus gets the exposure through my blog readership, which is quite sizeable during its peak with about 50,000 page views within 24 hours (highest during the OM-D E-M5 reviews). Considering all these facts, to say that Olympus bought me was false. I have never received anything from Olympus apart from the Olympus E-5, which was a payment for three photographs Olympus Japan bought from me to be used for advertising purposes in 2010.
I was a Civil Engineering graduate, and I have been working in a local Geotechnical Engineering consultant firm in Malaysia for the past nearly 5 years. I love my job as an engineer, and I love working with my colleagues in that company. I was exposed to many interesting projects with developments all around the city, and I have spent so much effort and time to build by career. However, I believe it is not too difficult to see that over the years, my passion and hunger for photography grew larger and larger. For every second that I did not spend working, my mind was occupied with photography world related thoughts. I would find every single opportunity to make some camera shooting happen, combining with my involvement in reviewing the camera gear, photography related activities have taken whatever that was left of my free time. I was drawn to photography and I even started taking paid assignment jobs that include actual day weddings and events coverage.
So why Olympus Malaysia?
I guess, the opportunity came and I have to decide if I were to go on with my mundane, not so exciting life of a Geotechnical Engineer, or take the chance and do something completely new, something completely different, and something that is completely related to what I love: photography and gear. I like shooting and I like to play with cameras and lenses. I thought this would be a way for me to make a difference in my life, to take what I do best, a step further and see how far I can go from here. I know I can contribute to the growth and advancement of the Olympus Brand. Lets give this a try and I do feel very positive about this!
I am not saying that I am leaving my engineering career behind and not to look back ever again. I have an engineering degree and I have some working experience. Being an engineer has taught and trained me well in many areas of life. I was shaped to see things logically and learned to formulate practical solutions to problems. I was brought up in an environment where technical accuracy is important and we have very low tolerance to error. These are the strong foundations that have always helped me in my photography technical background, and I have no issue controlling and using the camera efficiently. I have always stressed that my major problem with photography was not so much on the technical side of things, but the lack of artistic sense which most engineers do suffer. I don't think you can find many creative engineers around, no offence to engineer readers!
I guess, the biggest question here is how will this change of job affect my blog here?
I have always emphasized on honesty and transparency, hence the decision to announce my employment with Olympus Malaysia here, and now. What are the core reasons I have started this blog? To share my photography work, and voice up my random thoughts on photography and life in general, those core motivations to blog will remain and I see no reason why they cannot be done concurrently with me working in Olympus. I will continue on with my shutter therapy sessions and I am more than willing to share my photography adventures here. That will not change, and as usual whatever random thoughts and philosophical debates or ideas coming out from my mind during those shutter therapy sessions, I will do my best to pen them down right here.
The gear related reviews however, will probably face some consequences. Shall I stop all review related blogging considering the fact that everyone knows now I am on Olympus Malaysia's payroll? Even if I did continue to blog on Olympus gear review, what is the point of doing so since there is conflict of interest?
I will still do my blog review as usual. And you know what? Some things can be even better.
I understand if I will not be as credible or believable as a reviewer as before, but if you look at it from another perspective, nothing has really changed that much. I have always, always been an admitted Olympus fanboy, and I took every opportunity to show that. What separated my blog review from many other bloggers is my casual approach to photography, being very user experience based driven and heavily relying on real life sample photographs to demonstrate my points. I may not be the most reliable source to trust when it comes to camera advice but my photographs do not lie, and I have been providing even full size image samples for downloads. I have always did my best to be as straightforward as possible in my reviews and I have been the first reviewer to highlight some of the issues of the previous Olympus gear, such as the less than stellar Continuous AF performance on the OM-D E-M5 as well as its lower than expected battery life. In addition to that my notion of not being too impressed with the 17mm F1.8, though personal has been reflected by a few other fellow photographer/blogger reviewers.
On another hand, I have not reviewed any other brands, but Olympus! If I did review Canon or Nikon gear, then by making comparisons and conclusions, I would be gravely misleading and biased. Looking at the history of my review, I have never said this camera is better than that camera or this lens is sharper than that lens. Whatever comparisons I have made was within Olympus' own cameras and lenses family.
This time, I have FULL access to any gear and lenses, which mitigated one of the limitations from my previous review sessions. I believe that will make the review even more flexible and I can respond to requests for testing of certain features even better!
Nevertheless, I would leave this page open to you all beautiful readers. I would like to hear your thoughts of me joining Olympus Malaysia, and do share your opinion!