Obviously I have too much time, and I can't shoot much being trapped in this tiny miserable room during lockdown in Malaysia, so I thought hey why not do a podcast style, longer format videos of me speaking to you guys? The difference between this new series and my usual videos is - I can speak more freely and openly in a more relaxed manner, commenting on various topics on photography industry, trends or new products, as well as sharing a little bit more about myself. The idea has been lingering at the back of my mind for a while now, and I finally did it. First episode has just dropped and you can see the video here (click). 

New video series #ROBINSPEAKS. Episode 1 is here, go watch it now (click). 

The problem with making videos on YouTube - for the algorithm to work, typically for smaller channels your videos cannot be too long. Ideally it has to be around 10-12 minutes mark, anything too long will hurt the channel. Therefore, I am making these videos in the new series not really to grow the audience, but to engage the current audience. I am not reaching out to new people with these longer format videos, but to speak more openly with my existing followers, blog readers or YouTube subscribers. I will discuss more lengthily on topics without worrying about time limit or dragging the video too long, I will be more candid and casual about answering difficult questions and I will share more information about myself. I guess this is a more effectively way to open myself up and to connect to people that actually do care. And I know, you guys are here, and many of you genuinely care. I appreciate that, and I thank you for being here. 

For this first video of #ROBINSPEAKS series, I started it easy with several topics. I shared what happened recently on the E-P7 and 8-25mm lens releases and I was not informed about the products before launch and did not get any samples for reviews. I also shared my current situation and how I am coping with the recent total lockdown in Malaysia. There was a little photo sharing on the jumping spider I blogged about yesterday, perhaps it would be beneficial for the YouTube audience who do not come to this blog. Also, I took this opportunity to answer some YouTube comments directly, some asking which camera wrist strap that I used, what happened to my body (I look different now), questions about video shooting and also flash on E-M1 Mark II. I took my time to answer these questions and also sprinkled some interesting facts about me, for those who wanted to get to know me better. I don't intend to go on more than 30 minutes long for each video. Ideally, maybe around 25-30 minutes mark would be tolerable. I don't want these videos to become like an hour long podcast, even I can't stand listening to my own voice for that long. 

Do let me know what you think of this new format video, and if you want it to be a regular thing. Do you think 30 minutes is too long? What topics would you want me to discuss or talk openly about in future episodes? Let me know! 

Last but not least, huge thanks for all the kind messages and positive vibes, I appreciate your support and honestly, you just being here made all the difference. I am truly fortunately to have this wonderful and caring community of blog readers/YouTube subscribers. Don't worry, I am doing OK, I just need to go through what I have to go through, I have always been honest, and I will continue to do so, sharing a bit more about myself here, and in my videos. 

Please support me & keep this site going:
Side Note: Stop asking me about the newly launched Olympus E-P7 and 8-25mm PRO lens. I don't have them. There is nothing I can tell you more than what you already know from the official announcements. 

I guess it came with no surprise that the total lockdown which was placed in effect from 1-14 June was now extended to end of the month (news article here). The partial lockdown started in May (total lockdown started June), and it has been a month and a half I was trapped in my tiny little room. Currently the numbers of daily reported new cases are still running high with no signs of coming down, even after a month and a half long of various lockdowns in place (including 2 weeks full lockdown) and it is also reported that we are running out of hospital beds. If the numbers don't come down and situation does not improve, who knows maybe the whole country will be locked down for more months to come. Quite a depressing thought and seriously there is nothing anyone, or I can do at this point, but to just try to stay sane as long as possible. 

And I found a tiny jumping spider in my room. Hello!

What big eyes you have! Too bad the fangs are hidden, the fangs do look quite cool too. 
This image was obviously cropped. Full uncropped images more down below. 

I'd rather have my room clean from any insects, bugs or spiders, but I guess these little creatures are everywhere and I can't keep them out 100%. So the next best thing is to take out my macro gear and take some shots. Those of you who suggested "hey Robin why don't you do macro photography in your room?", I ask you this - ARE YOU HAPPY NOW?

The shooting technique was quite straightforward and I have shared several times here over the years. If you want the full rundown of what I did, you can go to my macro shooting technique blog entry here (click). I also did a video showing how I shot my insect macro here (click). I have shared EVERYTHING from what lens, what camera, what settings, how to get the shot, wireless flash, how I diffuse my flash, seriously every single detail! I did not hide anything. 

I don't think the spider will survive long. I saw a lizard lurking around somewhere. 

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III, M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro, FL-LM3 flash attached on camera, FL-50R Olympus flash fired wirelessly off camera, diffused with a square softbox. 

General camera settings: 1/160, F8-11, ISO200, Flash on manual, adjusted accordingly. 

Lighting is critical for macro, there are many ways you can light your subject. The popular choice is using flash, and just make sure it is diffused properly. Using a large softbox is a safe technique. 

That Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens is an optical wonder. Even after all these years the lens is possibly the best macro lens in the market. The image quality it renders is second to none. 

There are many, many ways to get a good macro shot. To get sufficient magnification (getting close and have the subject appear large in your frame), you can either use a dedicated macro lens like the M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro, or use various other techniques like extension tubes, macro converters, or even reversed lens ring attachment. You can even use a combination of different methods (say a macro lens and an additional converter) to achieve even more magnification. There is no right or wrong, just find the right method for your needs. 

Insects, or in this case the jumping spider did not stay still for very long. It jumps, because, you know, the name jumping spider. I don't think setting up a tripod and shooting using manual focus is very practical. I need to move whenever the spider moves, no matter how slightly. Being able to shoot hand-held is a huge bonus point. The Olympus cameras support powerful 5-Axis IS, which helps stabilize the live view on LCD or EVF, you don't get crazy shaky viewfinder when framing the spider. The active image stabilization will aid in steadying your view, which prevents headaches and help the shooting process much smoother. 

The spider was quite cooperative. It did stop and pose for me for at least a few seconds before jumping off. It did not seem to be afraid of me, it was just moving around merrily, but not away from me, or hiding in impossible spots. I did not get many good shots, but just a few good ones. 

I somehow wish the spider was green, or blue in color, but I guess that's too much to ask for. 

I quickly realize shooting too low of an angle, though at the eye level of the spider, may not be the best composition option. The spider was hiding in between gaps, though not disappearing from me completely, it did not die deeper into the gap. On normal cases this would be difficult to shoot because of dim light. This explains why I used the wireless flash off camera, I can position the light wherever I want and get sufficient light to hit the spider. 

This was an uncropped image, showing how small the spider was. This image was at full 2:1 magnification. Meaning this was the maximum magnification that the lens is capable of, and the spider was probably only 8mm in size (half of the frame, which was 17mm in length). 

I should have probably stopped down the aperture further for this shot to see more of the body and legs in focus. 

Another close crop, still revealing massive amount of fine details. 

I know some of my friends would catch the insects from their garden or the park, and then freeze them in the refrigerator. The bugs are cold blooded, they won't die, but the low temperature will slow them down. As they were frozen, then they would move the bugs and pose them in grass or leaves or branches and even spray them with droplets of water, making the dramatic look. 

I think that is cruel, inhumane, and falls into the category of animal cruelty. Please, I beg you, don't touch the bugs. Leave them alone. Please be a little more respectful to nature. 

I don't know how to feel about the extended lockdown, with high possibilities of further extension. To be entirely honest, even shooting that tiny spider was not so fun any more. I miss being able to find more colorful bugs to photograph. And if I bring my camera out to the park, I get fined RM10,000 (USD2,500), even if I was shooting bugs alone. 

What happens to a man when is confined in a small space against his will for an extended period of time? Maybe I will be a case study. We will find out, won't we?

Please support me & keep this site going:
Side Note: No I don't have the newly launched E-P7 and 8-25mm lens. I was not informed about the launch and found out the same time as everyone else.

It has been 5 years since I reviewed the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and today I still actively shoot with the camera. I personally believe that it is the best value Olympus camera out there at the moment, and arguably the best value Micro Four Thirds camera for professional use. You may choose to disagree of course. I have been shooting professionally with E-M1 Mark II as my main workhorse since 2017, the year I left Olympus Malaysia and became a full time photographer, and I have also shot countless personal shutter therapy sessions with my E-M1 Mark II. I want to share my thoughts on why I think E-M1 Mark II is still a great recommendation for anyone who wants to get into Micro Four Thirds system, or those who want to upgrade to something more serious from entry level camera systems. 

Of course I have also made a video discussing the exact same topic, you can find the video here (click). 

E-M1 Mark II is fully weather-sealed. The splash-proof is important for me, as I do shoot in rain. 

Best served with a cup of overpriced coffee

IMAGE QUALITY
E-M1 Mark II shares the exact same image sensor as E-M1X and E-M1 Mark III. While E-M1 Mark II was launched 5 years ago, it still produces the exact same image quality as the latest flagship cameras from Olympus. The same image sensor renders the exact similar 20MP resolution, high ISO performance, dynamic range capability and color reproduction. You do not gain anything more or get better image quality even if you get the latest and greatest from Olympus - this fact places the E-M1 Mark II from 2016 in a very interesting position, you can still achieve the best possible image quality Olympus has to offer without upgrading to their latest offerings. 

E-M1 Mark II's image quality is more than good enough for me and what I do. I understand many photographers would spend more money to get the best of the best, and you don't have to justify how you spend your money. I do wedding photography, portraits, event coverage and lifestyle products, all do not require crazy high megapixel count, in fact 20MP is more than sufficient for all that I do. I have never encountered a situation where dynamic range was not enough, or shooting in too dark of a situation where high ISO is a problem. I use PRO lenses, as well as F1.8/F1.2 lenses which allow me to gather more light and shoot better in darker environment. I also do flash photography, and will bring in extra lights if needed. I have done exhibitions (printed images as tall as 6feet), published my work in local magazines and believe me, you can do plenty with that E-M1 Mark II if you know what you are doing. My clients have been happy with my deliveries over the years (if not why did they keep coming back?). That's all that matters - the camera gets the job done effectively. 

HANDLING
Image quality is not everything. An important factor to consider is camera handling. To me, handling either makes or breaks the camera, and a lot of photographers don't talk about this in their reviews. No matter how amazing your camera is, shooting 10,000MP, ISO2billion and has 55 stops EV dynamic range, if it can't fit your hands well, and you don't feel comfortable using the camera for longer shooting duration, you won't enjoy using the camera, and you won't be able to work with it effectively. 

This may be subjective, but I personally believe E-M1 Mark II has the best handling of all cameras today. I have tried as many cameras as I can from all camps. Obviously I have not tried everything, but I do have access to most cameras from the connections of photography friends in my network, which is not small by the way. The beefy grip fits my fingers perfectly, there is a thumb-resting area and the camera just feels right and comfortable in hand. Yet the camera is still quite small in size, striking the right balance of not being too small and light, in case you need to handle larger lenses, eg the longer telephoto PRO lenses. I cannot say the same for 99% of other cameras out there in the market, there is just something wrong or off in most ergonomics or designs, even from some of the highly regarded cameras out there from other camps. I acknowledge that we may have different hand shapes, sizes, finger lengths, etc but to me, E-M1 Mark II suits me the best. 

Fits my hands perfectly. Best used with PRO lenses. 

The design does scream serious business. OM-D flagships do have the PRO look, which is important to me as a professional working photographer. 

If coffee is not available, hot chocolate will do too. 

5-AXIS IMAGE STABILIZATION
When my ex-colleague told me that he could hand-hold the E-M1 Mark II (not launched at that time) down to about 5 seconds shutter speed, and get away with sharp images, I did not believe him. I was still working for Olympus when the E-M1 Mark II was released, that was the last product launched by the company before I left. Then when I finally tried the camera myself and actually could stabilize my shots using just hands down to 5 seconds, it blew my mind! What trickery was this? 

I am not saying that you can shoot all your shots at crazy shutter speeds. That's not what I am trying to imply. The 5-Axis Image Stabilization helps significantly in boosting your confidence in getting blur-free images. It mitigates most hand-shakes when shooting the camera without tripod, and it is super effective. You can shoot at 1/10 second, half a second shutter speeds, which are traditionally dangerous and will get you soft images, without having to think twice now thanks to the 5-Axis IS. That opens up a whole world of shooting possibilities, that you may not have to use tripods or monopods in a lot of situations that you normally do. You do not have to constantly worry if you will blur your shots accidentally, your camera will take care of that, and you just focus on getting the right composition, lighting and moment! Less problems to worry about, thanks to the 5-Axis IS. 

E-M1 Mark III and E-M1X have made even more improvements when it comes to 5-Axis IS, but I found that the E-M1 Mark II is already so good, it made a huge difference in my photography. E-M1 Mark II's 5-Axis IS is significantly better than the older E-M1 and E-M5 Mark II by miles. If you have used these cameras you will agree with me that the improvement is quite noticeable and made a huge difference in real life shooting. 

RELIABILITY
The last important point I want to talk about, having used the E-M1 Mark II for 5 years now is reliability. Some would argue that this is actually the most important point to talk about. I would not disagree. 

There is a difference between a working, professional photographer that earns a living from his shoots, versus an enthusiast or hobbyist shooting just for fun. When you are on a job, you don't want your camera to fail. There will be dire consequences. Of course we carry backups to our cameras, and also backups to our backups just in case. The reliability of our equipment - how rugged, the build quality, shooting in harsh conditions, how far we can push the equipment, all this matter more if you are getting paid to shoot. The last thing you want to think and worry about is having your camera or lens fail in the middle of the shoot. 

The E-M1 Mark II is built like a tank, the body is made of magnesium alloy. I need to move fast and I cannot think too much about cameras bumping into another person or a table along the way. I need a solidly constructed camera body to do my job, not something fragile that I have to babysit all the time. It should be able to survive dents, knocks and even mild falls with not much to worry about. 

The full weather-sealing has saved me multiple times over. I have had several jobs outdoor, shooting events (product launch, building openings, sports/family day for companies) where it suddenly rained. I cannot just go to my clients and say "oh sorry, it is raining, I have to stop shooting because my camera cannot survive the rain". Thankfully my E-M1 Mark II (my backups E-M1 bodies) is weather-sealed and can handle the rain, also I have PRO lenses which were all weather sealed as well. Rain or shine the shoot must go on. 

I cannot say the same about cameras from other brands. I have seen flagships from other camera camps fail in the rain, while I was still clicking away with my E-M1 Mark II (and before that, E-M1). The level of weather-sealing Olympus implemented in their OM-D system and PRO lenses is of another level!

Do you have E-M1 Mark II yourself? Share your experience!

E-M1 Mark II is so small, yet it takes big pictures!

Looking at the asking price of E-M1 Mark II now, it is about half of the retail price when it was launched. Yet the E-M1 Mark II delivers the same image output as the latest and greatest flagships from Olympus, offers great handling, solid build, reliability and powerful image stabilization. E-M1 Mark II has never failed me over the past 5 years and have delivered fantastic results over and over again. It is an easy recommendation to any one who looks to upgrade to a better camera body but not necessarily want to splurge on the most expensive newest camera. You can't go wrong with E-M1 Mark II. 

Please support me & keep this site going:




On the 6th day of total lockdown in Malaysia, my friend Irene sent me homecooked laksa! Not just any laksa, but Sarawakian style laksa which is a rarity in Kuala Lumpur, and it is almost impossible to find a good one at the shops here. A little bit of home away from home does make things a little better in such difficult times. Thanks so much Irene! I took this opportunity to take some shots of the laksa with my cameras (yes I finally took them out and not use my smartphone this time).

A delicious bowl of Sarawakian home cooked Laksa!

The broth/soup is prawn based, hence freshly cooked prawns go very well with the noodle dish

Must use rice vermicelli/meehoon for this dish. No other types of noodles allowed. The rice vermicilli can absorb the soup very well. 

On the photography side of things, I realized I need a lot to work on when it comes to food styling, I am so bad at this. I guess the fact that I was already so hungry did not help, I decided to just quickly shoot the images and swallowed the whole bowl immediately after. Setup was quite simple, one light with large square softbox overhead, slightly angled. I used my Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III because it was the nearest within my reach, and the batteries are still charged. I shot with M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 for the full bowl, and the close up of prawn and noodles were done with M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 PRO instead. Color is straight out of camera, and I did very little tweak this time. Not like I am going to sell these images or anything, but gosh that laksa was delicious. 

About Sarawak Laksa.
Description taken from source here (click). 

"A typical bowl of Traditional Sarawak Laksa usually consists of rice vermicelli, omelette strips, shredded chicken, beansprouts, prawns, fresh coriander and lime. It's broth is made using a laksa paste consisting of sambal belacan, tamarind, lemongrass, herbs and spices with a little coconut milk. Hence, it has a fine balance of aromatic herbs and spices with a subtle hint of sourish and chili note and not overly rich and creamy."

A lot of misconceptions about Sarawak Laksa, especially those from West Malaysia who has not stepped foot to Borneo, or tried the authentic version of this noodle dish. Sarawak Laksa is not a curry dish. Curry noodles are different, curry is curry, and curry is not made from prawn paste. This laksa is also not prawn noodles, though it is heavily based on prawn and is served with freshly steamed prawns. Penang has very good prawn noodles, and they taste nothing alike Sarawak Laksa. I enjoy Penang's prawn noodles just as much, but it is just not the same. Also, the bastardized versions sold here in the west always made several mistakes - the broth being too sweet (not sure why they need to add sugar, the taste is supposed to be savory, not sweet), using wrong types of noodles, either with meehoon that is too thin or yellow noodles that do not absorb the soup well enough. 

Anthony Bourdain claimed Sarawak Laksa is the breakfast of Gods

Laksa is our breakfast, or brunch meal in Sarawak. Anthony Bourdain claimed it was the breakfast of Gods. I could not agree more. If you have tried it, you will agree too!


Please support me & keep this site going:
It has been one full month since the Movement Control Order (MCO3.0) was implemented in KL, the exact date was 7 May, and almost one week since full lockdown in the whole country was imposed on 1 June. The number of daily new infected Covid-19 cases show no signs of slowing down, we even saw a sharp rise in the past one week, leading to the government's final decision to have a full economic and social lockdown starting June. Things are looking quite grim for the country and us, Malaysians. The government even had to specifically ban "outdoor photography". That did not stop me of course, but being prudent I did not bring out my camera, but just shoot with the smartphone Samsung S21 Ultra whenever I was out getting supplies or buying food. At the very least, we are still allowed to do that. In KL, public parks are banned and we can't even jog or walk out in the open. I shall share some of the shots from my smartphone here, and also my thoughts on the current lockdown situation. 

Took this in the laundry room, the sun shining sharply behind me, casting deep shadows. 
Malaysia is now under total lockdown, and we are not even allowed to step out of our houses without good reasons, not even exercising in the park, and public parks in KL are banned from the public. My itch to shoot and create content is still there, and I need to scratch it somehow. I gathered a few Olympus cameras that I have, plus a few that were borrowed from Olympus and friends (some were overdue for return, but hey, lockdown and everything right?) and I thought, wow, I do have quite a few cameras to play with. Then the idea came, what if I made a video just to show off the shutter sounds from each camera? I did a quick search on YouTube and found nothing on shutter sound from Olympus cameras! 

The first Olympus DSLR using Four Thirds image sensor format. The legendary E-1, launched in 2003, 18 years ago. 
The setup for the shooting process was quite simple, I used one light, and placed the microphone as close as possible to the camera. I recorded everything with E-M1 Mark III and M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens, except for the shot of E-M1 Mark III which was then recorded with E-M5 Mark III. The video output matched perfectly. I did not tweak the audio at all, except lowered the ambient sound pickup immediately before and after the camera clicks. I did this because I was living in an apartment bedroom with thin walls and windows, just by an open highway, it is impossible to get 100% zero sound environment even when I was filming in the middle of the night, which I did. 

In the list of 12 cameras, I managed to include the first Four Thirds DSLR Olympus E-1, which was launched in 2003 and also was known to have a very quiet and sweet shutter sound effect. I also managed to fit in the latest system camera - Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III. I have the oldest and newest Olympus system digital cameras in the mix (at least at the date of publishing). Among other notable cameras include various OM-D and PEN cameras over the years, and I even threw in the Olympus Air, which did not have a shutter unit at all, and it emitted fake electronic shutter sound effect via its speakers. I thought that was kind of ironic and funny at the same time. 

Unfortunately, I wish I have a few more popular cameras like the E-M5 Mark II, or the fan favorite PEN-F in the mix. I wanted to wait and see if I can ask around to borrow but then now everything is so impossible to do with the nation-wide strict lockdown and I guess, let's do this first, even if the list is not really complete.

I did have an E-520, my first Olympus DSLR that got me into photography, and fell in love with Olympus, but somehow the camera decided to act up and did not turn on at all. Not a surprise, I have tortured the camera a little too much over the years. I also have a faulty E-P5, which had a dead screen. I can still press the shutter and it will still click, though I cannot set the self-timer. I'd probably be able to do so if I have an external EVF (VF-2, 3 or 4), which I don't have at the moment. Having the E-520 and E-P5 into the mix would have been cool. 

The whole process was so fun and enjoyable to do, the filming took a little over an hour, time well spent I must say. 
PEN E-PL7 which I borrowed from a friend to do a comparison shoot against a smartphone (Xiaomi's Poco X3) half a year back and I have not returned the camera yet. Oops. 

OM-D E-M10 Mark II, which I wanted to make a video discussing how this is the perfect E-M10 and Olympus should build their future E-M10 cameras based on this, but never got to do it before the lockdown. Another borrowed unit, and I should be returning it soon too. 

This was mine. E-M5, I got this as a back up to E-M1, which I did use as my professional shooting workhorse for many, many years before I upgraded to E-M1 Mark II. I still really like the original E-M5 a lot. 

I set all the cameras to self timer for consistency sake, so you don't see my hands/fingers in the frame, and the video emphasized the camera as the center of attention. The shutter speed was fixed at 1/80 sec. I tried various shutter speeds and I figured 1/80 was the sweetspot - not too fast that you don't hear the first and second curtain, and not too slow that you feel there was something wrong with the camera. I have to admit some cameras like the faster newer models E-M1 Mark II and E-M5 Mark III sound much better at 1/60 sec, or a bit slower, because the shutter unit was so much speedier in response. But I want to keep it consistent for all cameras, so at the end I decided to go 1/80. 

I did the video in vertical/portrait orientation, I think much to a lot of people's annoyance. I was experimenting with YouTube #SHORTS, that has two criteria - the video must be less than 1 minute long and it must be in portrait/vertical orientation. I am still new to this YouTube game, and this was my second #SHORTS video, but I also realized if I don't try new things I will never learn and grow. Since this video did not have any talking head shots, and it was solely on camera clicking, I thought the #SHORTS format suits this perfectly. Only time will tell how this will perform on YouTube. Whether it will do well or not, it does not matter, at this point, I just want to give new things a go and besides, there is not much I can do being in such tight lockdown situation. 

Out of the 12 cameras, I am sure many of you owned at least one, or even several. Which shutter sound is your favourite? Do tell! I am curious. 
Please support me & keep this site going: