Panasonic Lumix 14mm F2.5 - I Want More Pancake Lenses

I have owned the Panasonic Lumix 14mm F2.5 pancake lens before, many years ago, and I decided not to keep it because it is quite similar in size to the Olympus 14-42mm pancake kit lens, which offers a versatile zoom range. I admit the Panasonic 14mm is still smaller, being a prime lens it offers sharper optics and overall better image quality and the F2.5 brighter aperture is beneficial in low light environment. However, the Panasonic 14mm is also slower to AF and it does suffer severe purple fringing (chromatic aberration) issues when used on Olympus bodies. I loaned one from a friend recently and brought the Panasonic 14mm mounted on my own Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III for some street photography sessions. I got to say, I do enjoy using it, being so small, light and slim in design, and I am very happy with the image output that it delivers. 

I have made a video sharing my experience using the Panasonic 14mm F2.5 lens, watch it here:

I have blogged about the Panasonic 14mm F2.5 before, several years ago, and I shall not repeat myself writing my thoughts on the lens all over again. Instead, I shall share my fresh photographs taken from my recent street photography outings. I personally am starting to love the wider angle coverage for my street shooting, and I am slowly improving my use of wide angle photography. That was the main reason I got the Fujifilm XF10, to force myself to use wide angle, being a fixed lens on the camera with no zoom options, or interchangeable lens capability. I can totally see the Panasonic 14mm F2.5 being the perfect alternative for Micro Four Thirds shooters who want a truly compact 28mm equivalent prime lens. It should be quite cheap on the used market now and won't put a dent to your wallet, yet it does offer a significant upgrade over the kit lens when it comes to image quality. 

Surprise, I Got Myself FUJIFILM XF10

Happy New Year 2021 to all you awesome people! I hope you have had a great start to the new year, and boy have I a surprise here. I got myself a Fujifilm XF10! I want to share the reasons I decided to get XF10 and also my experience using the camera for a short holiday trip to Penang recently. There are many things that I do love about the XF10, and a few things that dislike about it. For those who prefer to watch this in a video format, I have also made a YouTube video here:

Some disclaimers first - I have no affiliation to Fujifilm Malaysia, and I purchased the Fuji XF10 with my own money. Therefore, this is an independent assessment of the camera's performance, and what I share here is entirely from my own subjective experience and opinion using the camera. Also, this is NOT a review of the Fuji XF10, because the camera has been around since 2018 and you can find plenty of review articles and YouTube videos available online. I don't think I have anything new to add, but I can share my images shot with the XF10, and my own personal experience handling the camera. All images were shot in RAW and post-processed in Capture One Pro. 

So let's get the obvious question out of the way. Why a Fujifilm XF10?

At this moment, starting January 2021, I am no longer an Olympus Visionary. I have not heard from any JIP representative, no one contacted me, so I am currently not tied to any camera brand in particular, and FINALLY I am free to explore any other cameras out there with no contractual restrictions. The first thought that came to mind was to look for something affordable, compact and easy to bring about, and the Fujifilm XF10 checked all the right boxes. Having large APS-C sized image sensor in the camera with wide angle fixed lens, all in a truly compact form factor, with really beautiful design to boot, I just could not resist getting one. Ming Thein, a fellow Malaysian professional photographer and friend has spoken very highly of the XF10 (click here for his quick review), so what could possibly go wrong? 

It is a new year, and getting a new camera to start the year fresh was just what I needed. 

A Short Break & Some Changes Moving Forward

I am taking a short break from blogging, YouTube and almost everything else for the next 2 weeks. That means no new blog post, no YouTube videos, and any other updates until early next year 2021. The break is much needed, and before I go offline I thought it would be great to catch up, chat with you beautiful people about how life has been for me in this awkward 2020 and also moving forward, I do intend to implement a few changes on my content and vlogging/blogging approach. 

For those of you who prefer to watch me talk while multitasking doing something else, here is the video version:

I have been posting regularly to my YouTube channel since July 2019, and I ensured I updated two new videos every week without fail continuously for the past one and a half years. I was actually impressed at my own consistency and how I kept up with these updates, despite some challenges that I faced along the way. For those of you who are not aware, it is extremely crucial to post as regularly as possible to YouTube to get the algorithm to work on your favor to grow the channel. 

What some people may not realize is how exhausting it is to have to come up with fresh content and ideas, week after week, and persistently filming new videos. Oh you have no idea what happens behind the scenes, people just easily assume that I spend 10-15 minutes talking in front of the camera and then just like that - BOOM there is a new video! If only life is that easy. From scripting to finally publishing a full video, sometimes it takes me more than a week. If it is a simple video, I can complete everything within a day or two, but if it is a full on camera or lens review, I will take several days or even more than a week sometimes to just thoroughly test the gear and get sufficient sample photographs. Only through the photographs I can analyse the performance of the camera or lens and plan what I want to say for my review. I am not like some other reviewers who touch the camera for an hour and start making a full video review, which tells you nothing about the camera's actual real life, practical performance. I shoot and shoot and shoot before I start talking. 

Oh don't even get started on the post-editing part. I am very new to YouTube and video production, I learn as I go. It takes me a lot more time to edit something as I have to find tutorials and learn it while I am doing it. 

My point is, I am tired. And I do need to have a hard pause. I need to breathe, and I need time to just figure things out, what works, what does not and how to strategize this channel moving forward. 

Do not get me wrong, I love what I do, from start to finish, in every single video, and I am always inspired and touched by the kind and warm comments from people who watch the video. I have very positive comments on how my videos helped some people understanding their cameras better, or some may not even know about certain features or tips on OM-D cameras until they watched my video. I am truly glad I have contributed in whatever small ways I can, and because I know my videos do have a small impact in the community, that I still continue making them and I thoroughly enjoy the entire process. 

But I am human, and I get exhausted. I just need some time off. 

Image by Van Ambruce Ligutom. Used with permission

The year 2020 has been especially weird for most people. My photography business took a huge hit. I guess there will always be a part of me that wondered how things could have been, if there was no Covid-19. 
I started going full time doing photography in the year 2017, immediately after I quit my day job in Olympus Malaysia. 2017 was the year I started to get my feet wet, I did get just enough jobs to get by, and I was still figuring things out. It took some time for the business to grow. The year 2018 was a better year and I was finally getting more jobs in 2019, and I can slowly see the business has become sustainable and I have returning clients who valued my work. At the start of 2020, finally, huge opportunities started to land - I have secured some relatively huge contracts. I genuinely thought to myself early this year, this was it, this year 2020 was going to be the year that the business takes flight. I was finally seeing the fruition of all my hard work, and that reality was so close within grasp. 

Who knew the Covid-19 pandemic hit so suddenly, without warning, and just like that, my entire calendar of shoot was wiped empty. The government implemented a full lockdown in March, we were not even allowed to step foot outside the house with the exception of emergency or getting essential needs (groceries, food, medical supplies, etc). All non essential work and activities were cancelled, no events, no weddings, nothing. We can't even walk freely at the park, you will get fined and sent to jail. We were forced to stay home, and obviously any photography business, or any business at all, took a huge dive. 

The lockdown was partially lifted in June, and we have multiple partial lockdowns happening again from time to time, with varying restrictions in place. I did get some jobs coming in, thankfully there was still some income, but I have to admit the horror - 2020 was the worst year for my photography business since I started out in 2017. I got the least amount of jobs, and the shoots that I had did not pay well. 

I should stop complaining at this point, because I know some people had it worse than me. I should be thankful that I still get to do what I love to do - photography. Some of my friends have to quit what they do, and did something else to survive. Some lost their jobs, some had severe pay cuts. Every one is struggling and there are no happy stories. 

I was fortunate to have started my YouTube channel way before the lockdown and just managed to grow it in time to generate some income by the time the pandemic hit. It was not much, but any small amount is still good to help sustain myself. 

I am extremely grateful to you beautiful people, each and every one of you who are here. I appreciate you just being here. I thank many who have generously bought me coffees and kindly contributed to my PayPal, those have helped me tremendously through these challenging times. You have no idea how meaningful it is to know that the community truly cared, and I do have people who support me and believe in me, and I will be forever thankful. I have said many,  many times, there is no Robin Wong without you beautiful readers! (or now, I should say audience, which encompasses YouTube viewers).

Image by Van Ambruce Ligutom. Used with permission

Moving on, starting fresh next year 2021, I do want to make some changes to my blogging/vlogging approach. I acknowledge that many of you come to my YouTube channel for tips and tricks on how to optimize the use of Olympus cameras and lenses, and also explanation on how some Olympus specific features work. Whatever tips and tricks that I know I believe I have shared them completely in my videos, and if you have been with me ever since my blogging days you will know I don't hold back. I share everything here. I am not saying I will stop making tips and tricks videos, if I have something to share, of course I will still make those videos. What I am trying to say here is - I need to move on from these type of content. 

I want my blog and channel to be even more photography focused. I want to discuss the core of photography, I want to shoot more and share more photographs. I want to talk about the process of photography and I want to bring you along my shutter therapy journeys. I am a professional photography, I shoot for a living, I also shoot just for the fun of it, my lifestyle revolves around photography and I want to share that joy with you as much as I can. Yes there will be still gear reviews (which photographer does not like gear?) but more importantly, I must emphasize on photography as the central content, moving forward. 

I am sure at this point some people will be asking - Hey Robin, are you still going to be an Olympus Visionary in 2021? Honestly, I don't know the answer. And to be blunt, I'd say, if they wanted me to continue to be a Visionary, I should have heard from them by now. I have not had any news, so seriously, if I were to be honest with myself, I'd say, I don't think I will be a Visionary any more. You know what, that is perfectly fine with me too!

I am truly honored and privileged to have become an Olympus Visionary for the past 2 years, the ride has been insanely fun and fruitful. I have met so many talented and amazing photographers along the way, I have travelled to some really fun parts of the world and I have contributed actively to Olympus, and I am extremely happy and proud of the work that I do as a Visionary. It was a chance of a lifetime, like a dream come true if you ask me, and I would not have asked for more. But I cannot be an Olympus Visionary forever, and I believe at some point, I do have to move on. Now may not be such a bad time!

Image by Van Ambruce Ligutom. Used with permission

Again I would like to thank you guys for staying with me, for believing in me, and for supporting me on my photography journey. I feel truly blessed to have the community standing behind me, and I am glad I can make content that does contribute something, even if it is something small. Shutter therapy must go on. 

I do have some surprises coming for early January, do stay tuned for that. I won't tell you what those are, if I did, then they won't be surprises, right? I am excited to share them with you, and I can't wait for 2021!

Until then, Merry Christmas, have a wonderful celebration during this holiday season, and I will see you again early next year!

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Mini Photo Project with Olympus M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5-6.3 IS

Several months ago Olympus came to me with the opportunity to be featured for the Global PRO Gallery. The task was to shoot some sample images with the newly launched (then) Olympus M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5-6.3 IS lens, specifically images that are not wildlife, animal or sports centric. I really appreciate the trust in my capability as a professional photographer and was honored to be selected to shoot for the PRO Gallery, unfortunately this came at the worst of times. Malaysia was under lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic, all events were cancelled, no non-essential activities were allowed, there was very little I can do with the lens with so many restrictions in place. Nevertheless I did a mini project with the lens, and submitted my images, and thought it would be awesome to share them here. 

Here is the video version of this article, for those who prefer to watch, than read an article. 

Disclaimer: I don't own the Olympus M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5-6.3 IS lens, it was on loan from Olympus, about the same time I was reviewing the lens before it was launched. I had it for a while longer to do the shoot for the mini project, and I have since returned the lens to Olympus after that. All images were shot with Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III, also loaned from Olympus. Ultimately the images were submitted and did not make it to the PRO gallery. 

Credit: Tang Chun Cheuh

Naughty Babe Dirty Duck - Abundant Porky & Duck Meat Goodness

Last Sunday, Jackie, Jaslyn and myself decided to get together to celebrate Jaslyn's belated birthday, and after a long discussion on where to eat for lunch (typical Malaysians) we went to Naughty Babe Dirty Duck. I think the name instantly won me over, sometimes branding is crucial and in this case it worked on me. Not only was the name playful, but it tells clearly what kind of dishes to be expected from the restaurant. I thought this would be a fantastic opportunity to give the OM-D E-M1 Mark II some work out since it is not doing much these days, and I brought along the M.Zuiko 12-40mm PRO since it was Sunday and I was in a very lazy mood. 

Here is a video that I did sharing about some practical food photography tips. This video was made a few months ago, in April if I remember correctly, during the full lockdown period in Malaysia. I was stuck at home, so I filmed the whole thing (my talking head shots) at the balcony. Situation now is not that much better either, though we are allowed to move around, I am still hesitant to do street photography or shoot if it was not a paid job. How I wish things can return back to normal soon. I thought sharing this video here would be appropriate since this post is about food photography, and you will find a lot of my previous food shots all compiled into that short video. 

Coming back to the Naughty Babe & Dirty Duck adventure I had with my friends last Sunday, the food was scrumptious! If you love pork and you love duck, this is a good place to explore within Selangor/KL area. I am no food expert, so I am not the best person to describe the taste of the dishes, or give a full review of the restaurant (I see a lot of "reviewers" trying so hard I cringe every time), so I shall just share what I can do the best - shooting some shots of the food that we ordered! 

Pork Tomahawk
Sous Vide Sakura Pork Tomahalk with Roasted Corn & Bacon Ham

Duckie Burger
Special Duck Meat Burger with bacon, cheese, blueberry mayo and potato confit

NBDD BBQ Pork Ribs 

Dirty Duck Linguine
Sautéed with onion, garlic & basil, with smoked duck breast sliced and truffle oil

I am not sure about you guys, but I love shooting food, especially when they are so well presented! It has become a ritual to shoot food before I eat them, which I think would be an annoyance to some people, but I am mindful not to take too much time. Of course it helps if you dine with like-minded people who also are as crazy as photography as you are, after all, if you truly are passionate about photography you will want to shoot everything and anything. The inner curiosity and appreciation toward anything beautiful and photo-worthy - food definitely qualifies. What better way to appreciate food, by taking a beautiful shot of it?

I have always shot my food pictures with M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8 lenses, and I still prefer to carry them around since they are so small and tiny. However, I got to admit, I seldom use F1.8 wide open when I shoot food, and I found myself stopping down to F4 or narrower to achieve more depth of field - I want more parts of the food in focus and look sharp in my images. If I was shooting so close up to the food and have the aperture set to wide open F1.8, it will only be that 2 strands of noodles in focus, and everything else is blurred! That is not how food photography works, you want to reveal the texture, the glossiness of the oil, every little detail counts. It makes sense to shoot food with M.Zuiko 12-40mm PRO lens, and if I do need that isolation and shallow depth of field effect, at 40mm zoomed in all the way, with aperture at F2.8 I can still get pretty blurry background. 

Do you enjoy shooting food as much as I do? I know the best part is to devour the delicious meal after the camera exercise. Do share your thoughts!

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