I am helping out another friend to set up a budget Micro Four Thirds kit, and I found this Yongnuo 25mm F1.7 selling for about USD100 (actually less, it is RM385, so more closer to USD90). Unlike most other budget 25mm primes for Micro Four Thirds that are manual focus lenses, Yongnuo included AF capability and I think this sets Yongnuo apart, hence I decided to purchase this lens. I was genuinely curious to see how a budget prime 25mm performs, thus I made this quick review! And boy oh boy, it was awesome to be able to go out and shoot again, after almost half a year living in total isolation. 

I have made a video review here too (click to YouTube video). 

I really like the bright 25mm  marking on the lens, making it quite easy to identify, especially in the dark. Olympus/OM Digital Solutions, please learn from this. 
I have had a dramatic encounter the past week due to a new wireless microphone setup and I have decided to not use it after that incident. I shall keep the brand and model of the wireless microphone hidden for now, maybe I had a lemon unit, I don't know, but the experience was quite unpleasant and that I'd rather work with wired setup, no matter how inconvenient it can be. 

The video I made where the wireless microphone failed and I decided to record everything with E-M5 Mark III's internal microphone instead. 

About a few months ago, just before the lockdown, I was given a wireless microphone that includes two transmitters and a receiver by a friend. It was a gift with no strings attached, and the friend was genuinely concerned for my video-making, as dealing with long cables on shooting locations tend to be risky and anything can happen, worst case bring me tripping the cables and cameras falling down, you get the idea. The wireless microphone was kept inside the box for quite a while, because I am one of those people who is quite hesitant to change - if the old method works, why bother doing something different?

In my latest video on Low Light Shooting with Olympus, I was walking around holding the camera and lens with one hand, so surely a cable connecting the camera to a microphone would have been cumbersome. Usually, my typical video setup is having the camera on a tripod, so that is more manageable and safe to manage. Considering the risks, as well as having better convenience using the new wireless microphone for this particular shoot, I decided to give the wireless microphone a go.

I tested the wireless microphone briefly at home and everything worked well. I did not pay close enough attention to the audio recording quality, I just made sure the connection works, and I can hear my own voice from the playback. So I went out with the wireless microphone, arrived on location and filmed an entire video, which took me close to 3 solid hours outdoors. To be fair, the pairing was fast (took less than 2 seconds for the transmitter to connect to receiver after powering on) and everything worked without a hiccup. I reviewed/playback each clip through the E-M5 Mark III's speakers, which were tiny and not good enough to judge sound quality, but good enough to tell if there was sound, and the words that I was speaking. Everything seemed to work fine, and I was indeed happy. 

Until I arrived home and transferred the footage. Oh my goodness, the audio levels were all off. My voice was severely distorted and clipped. I could not figure out what went wrong, until I saw that the volume setting on external microphone (camera setting) was set to +4. I thought that must be it, I have screwed up somehow and the +4 volume caused severe clipping. I even attempted to rescue the sound by cleaning up in post, to no avail. Although I was frustrated, I did not give up. 

The next evening, I went out again. I intend to redo the entire recording, with proper volume settings. And hopefully it works this time. What could possibly go wrong right?

Second night out - the receiver module refused to turn on. I pressed the power button and nothing happened. The wireless receiver decided to act up, and practically died on me even before the shoot began. I tried resetting the wireless module (the reset pin) and nothing worked. It was not running out of battery either, I have charged it the morning earlier. How can a device fail in the field just like that?

The other solution - I plugged in the lavalier microphone (which came together with the wireless microphone) directly into the camera, and guess what? It only recorded one channel (right channel was muted) and for whatever reasons, even through E-M5 Mark III's lousy speakers I can tell the audio sounded really bad. 

My mistake? I did not bring my old microphone setup as a backup. Always, always have a backup. And have backup to that backup. 

What did I do in the end? Still persistent and did not want that evening go to waste, since I was already out and I had what I wanted to say all in my head planned out already, I went ahead and recorded the entire session with the E-M5 Mark III's internal microphone. It did not come out as good as I wanted, but the audio quality was acceptable, and was miles better than the first attempt with the wireless microphone with severe sound clipping. 

The next morning, being curious, I tried to turn on the dead wireless receiver, and surprise, it decided to switch back on. Everything worked fine, but hey, it has failed me once, it may fail me again, and I was not going to risk it further. 

Still curious, I decided to do more extensive tests recording my voice indoor with the wireless microphone setup. Here is the weird part. I have dialed down the camera's volume setting to -5, yet there was still noticeable clipping in the audio. The recording level was low, the volume was soft because of the reduced -5 level, yet when monitoring the volume meter/levels, without peaking or showing the bars reaching the red zone/limits, still within very safe zones, the audio sounded broken, distorted and just plain rubbish. I tried both transmitters, they gave me same results. I tried the microphones on board the receivers, with the included lavaliers, my own lavaliers, they all came out severely distorted, without reaching high volume levels. 

Not only was the audio distorted even when I had the volume set to -10 level (yes I tried), they sounded heavily processed, like there was some bad noise reduction and compression going on, while boosting the mids of my voice unnecessarily. It just sounded really, really bad. 

This was not really a cheap product either, retailing at about USD200, I'd expect it to be more reliable, and give somewhat decent quality recording. I understand proper high quality wireless microphone usually will cost multiple times more, but I just wanted something that works! Is that too much to ask for?

My friend Matti Sulanto has strongly suggested me to use a wireless microphone setup since we last met in person some time 2 years ago, and I wanted to take his advice up badly. But after this trauma, maybe I shall just stick to basics and work with wired connection for a bit longer. 

Yes I have trust issues. Do you really blame me?

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Dine-in is finally allowed in Malaysia and my friends Jackie, Jaslyn and I made plans to meet up for brunch. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to test out the Olympus M.Zuiko 8-25mm F4 PRO lens and do a vlog recording the day, and share it with everyone here. Do take note commercial photography and videography are still restricted due to the strict lockdown that is still in place, so my full review will have to wait - I need more time to shoot extensively to get enough sample photographs, but I will do it as soon as I can. For now, let's breathe some fresh air (more like polluted city air), drink some overpriced coffee, eat some amazing Malaysian food and catch up with awesome friends! According to Jaslyn, this was the best day since May before the lockdown started, and I have to agree with her!

The vlog video shot entirely with Olympus 8-25mm PRO lens here (click). 

My vlogging setup of the day:
Camera - Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III
Lens - Olympus M.Zuiko 8-25mm F4 PRO
Microphone - Deity V-Mic D3

I really love how versatile the Olympus 8-25mm PRO lens is for video shooting. Starting at 8mm, I get true ultra wide coverage which can be really useful for location establishing shots, and capturing as much as possible to fit within a frame. Also for vlogging, pointing the camera toward myself, 8mm gives a bit of working distance away from the camera, so that my face is not smacked right in front revealing all the facial imperfections - god I don't have perfect skin, and you don't want to see me shot with 12mm or narrower on 4K resolution, I might give you nightmares. The 8mm wide is a compelling option for video work, especially if you intend to show off the location, landscape/scenery or placing yourself within the frame of your video. 

Zooming to 25mm, I can exit the wide angle framing, and get myself much closer to the subjects, with less or almost no perspective distortion. This provides a lot of flexibility for composition options, doing all with just one lens without having to change lens. I also like that the Olympus 8-25mm goes really close, having good macro capabilities, and I can use this to shoot food and products as well. The versatility of the 8-25mm lens is perhaps the best option out there for Micro Four Thirds. Panasonic has the 8-18mm F2.8-F4, but at 18mm, it is still too wide in comparison to what the Olympus longest end at 25mm. Then there is Panasonic 10-25mm, but 8mm is surely not ultra wide at all, and not wide enough for certain framing that requires true ultra wide coverage. 

I have been vlogging the entire day, and at a time walking and talking non stop, holding the camera and lens up with one hand for more than an hour. I did not feel any strain or discomfort at any parts of my body. I did say in my first impression I wish the lens is smaller or lighter in build, but having used the Olympus 8-25mm in real life I did not think it was too big or heavy at all. This is subjective and your opinion may differ, as we are all built differently, and we hold and handle cameras and lenses differently. 

My first cup of overpriced coffee after 3 months since lockdown started. Shot with 8-25mm PRO at 8mm widest. 

Crop from previous shot, look at the sharpness and contrast! I am impressed with the Olympus 8-25mm PRO optical quality. 

Another crop, because one is not enough

Initially I wanted to shoot some photographs to go along with the vlog as well, but I know I am a terrible multi-tasker and if I try to do too many things at the same time, I lose focus and I will fail to get anything at the end. Therefore, I decided to not do images and just focus on video so that I have enough coherent footage to compile into a final content to be uploaded to my YouTube. There are still travel restrictions in place and lockdown is not over yet, so I can't just run around taking photographs anywhere in the city, but trust me, when I can, and hopefully soon, I will do a full review of the Olympus 8-25mm PRO lens. I have so many plans for this lens, and I can't wait. 

I caught up with Jackie and Jaslyn and they were the first humans I have interacted with since the lockdown started. It was nice having real, meaningful conversations in real life with friends, after being isolated for so long. And we did that over overpriced coffee and great food. I could not have asked for a better weekend. I sure hope life is slowly returning to normal, and I can continue to make content outside. While my commercial photography business will not recover any time soon (may not recover anything at all for the remainder of 2021) but I sure can put more effort in my YouTube channel and grow that platform. 

Hopefully after this, you don't have to see more videos of me being trapped in my tiny room any more! And get some fresh, hot Malaysian sun through my camera. 

If you vlog, do consider the Olympus 8-25mm PRO!

I am not sure if I will continue this "vlog" format, I will most likely return to my normal style of mounting the camera on tripod and stand still on one location, speaking to the camera. Walking while holding the camera with one hand is dangerous, and I have spoken about this concern before. I was literally walking on the roadside and for most parts, there were no pedestrian buffer and I was on the main road itself. The virus did not get me, I don't want cars to hit me. 

As for now, I shall continue to enjoy that next cup of overpriced coffee and see if I can find ways to get more shots outside for the next video/blog entry. 

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Malaysia has just recorded all time high Covid-19 new daily cases today at 9353. The numbers just keep going up. After 2 months plus of lockdown and being confined in my miserable room, we are nowhere near recovery, that light at the end of the tunnel might be just a train heading straight for us. I now have the Olympus M.Zuiko 8-25mm F4 PRO with me, which I can't do much testing (nothing fun to shoot around here), but we do have a neighborhood cat that is a bit too friendly. I thought, why not? Since there really is nothing else to do. I am sure the spider in my room is bored of me talking to him, so time to torture another creature instead. The spider could use some rest. 

How can you say no to this face?

Crop from previous image - the Olympus 8-25mm is super sharp at longest end 25mm. 

I was very pleased to report that the Olympus 8-25mm lens is incredibly sharp, based on my initial, brief testing. Nothing conclusive yet, I still need to do more extensive shoots but for now, I am happy with what I see from the images that came out from this lens. I only shared this one shot of the cat, because the other images I got were 1) my messy bedroom 2) the ugly buildings near my apartment 3) the boring parking space in the basement with lousy lighting 4) ugly sky that was about to rain 5) myself naked. Ok, maybe I made up the last item, or... did I not? You have to understand, being stuck in a room for more than 2 months, it does things to you. 
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I was not joking when I told you guys in my previous articles (and also in video) that photography and videography, both commercial and non-commercial were banned during the current lockdown in Malaysia. However, I was surprised to find out that the production that was carried out indoor, in a private space, that involved no crew or anyone except the owner of the said space, shooting food and products, was also prohibited. In the article published today the government agency/authority FINAS (The National Film Development Corporation Malaysia) raided a commercial studio that was allegedly doing a small scale shooting indoor. Unfortunately, I cannot find any articles in English. 

Press release circulated by the government agency, serving as a warning and reminder that ALL filming and production are not allowed during the lockdown period. 

The official press statement from FINAS

From my understanding, the general rule being mandated by the government during the lockdown is - no economy or social activities are allowed with minor exceptions for essential services such as healthcare, supplies and food. Photography and videography, or any commercial productions are strictly banned. Not only you are banned from shooting outdoor, now it seems clear that you cannot even do anything indoor, inside your private property. No questions here, any form of activity that is non essential (photography and video included) cannot be performed ANYWHERE in Malaysia. 

They also have specifically banned outdoor photography under the category of social activities, but I will not repeat what I have said in my previous article here. 

How the heck are we going to survive this? How does shooting food in a studio environment cause any virus infection? This does not make any sense at all. I understand that we are not allowed to move or do anything outdoor, but why can't we do anything indoor, in the private space to at least be able to earn whatever little cash possible? Struggling small business owners, photographers and videographers especially are dying out there. This is so unfair, and honestly quite unnecessary. 

I am not even sure which category "filming for YouTube" falls into. I wonder if that is wrong too. 
Well, if you don't hear anything from me, if I sudden disappear, I guess you know what happens. I am fighting as hard as I can to weather this storm, but it seems like even the government is against me, instead of helping us who are already suffering massive loss of income. 

The lockdown has been doing on for 2 months now (since beginning of May) and cases are not going down, in fact, it started to rise again. From the looks of things, I can kiss 2021 goodbye at this point. And I sure have little hope for 2022 too. 

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I have just published my first impressions on the Olympus M.Zuiko 8-25mm F4 PRO lens. My pre-order arrived, and this was my own lens which I purchased with my own money. Since Malaysia is still under tight lockdown unfortunately I cannot do much testing the lens, so no full review at this moment. I did talk about my initial thoughts and shared my reasons for adding this lens into my camera bag. I genuinely think it is a super versatile lens, I like the flexible zoom range starting from ultra wide 8mm going all the way to 25mm, the build quality with full weather-sealing, close up shooting and the ability to take filters directly. Being a PRO lens I expect the image quality to be consistently good as well. You can find my short video here (click)

Olympus' latest lens - M.Zuiko 8-25mm F4 PRO

I can't wait for the lockdown to be over so I can bring this lens out for some shutter therapy sessions. I will do a full review for my YouTube as well as this blog here, so do stay tuned for that! 

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