Monday, August 23, 2010

A Day Out with Lumix

Note: All photographs in this entry were taken with Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ8

This entry was originally inspired by one of my beautiful blog readers, Bartosz Dawidowski, who shoots with a compact camera, yet producing great images. This is a very strong reminder to all of us, especially the gearheads and camera measurebators that it is the photographer that truly creates the photographs, not the camera. The camera is just a tool, without the photography vision, idea and creative input, the output will be nothing but just meaningless pixels.

The true sentiments of the citizens are echoed ever so loudly everywhere on the streets.

An abandoned shop lot accompanying an abandoned man.

Shiny, smooth, well-toned, plastic and naked butts. Shot through glass. "I'm bringing sexy back... yeap !!!"- Justin Timberlake

My Panasonic Lumix DMC-LZ8 has been sitting at home, probably getting a little lonely because I have not been touching it for quite a while. On one fine Sunday morning, I woke up to such a beautiful sky, and I decided I should leave my Olympus armada behind this time. Moreover, seeing what Bartosz has wonderfully done with his compact camera, I got fired up to take out my Lumix for a spin in the streets. I did not even charge the batteries beforehand, but in my mind I have roughly estimated that the charge remained in the batteries should last my one session. Nonetheless, should the batteries run out, I would only have to fork out probably RM5 for a set of Energizer AA batteries which are available everywhere in town. Ahhh, the joy of using a compact camera, such convenience it brings.

"Who the heck cares?" or "life is meaningless" kind of expression, don't you agree? Even cats suffer manic-depression, especially on streets of KL. A macro/close up shot, with distance of lens from the eye of the cat being less than 10cm.

Street is less traveled with on a slow and lazy Sunday.

Intense Sunday paper.

Small and Light

I have always enjoyed using compact camera. Even though I have my DSLR system now, there are times I would just pick up the compact and just shoot with it. It was really such a joy to walk around with almost no weight !! No big bags, just a tiny camera pouch which is so easy to slot into my jean's pocket. Long walk was not a problem, since the small compact camera did not put any strain on my neck or wrist.

Live View Freedom

Looking through the viewfinder all the time somehow has created a very "tunnel vision" sense of framing the photography subjects. Now, on the compact camera I was forced to use the live-view on the LCD screen to compose my photographs. Depending on many situations, using the live view can be advantageous too, since you have the flexibility of holding the camera away from your eye or head-level. You can compose your photographs on your chest level, or waist level (with a little difficulty, but not too bad) which will actually be less intimidating to your subjects than aiming at them with that gigantic body with a bazooka lens to match. The results? More natural looking people photographs on the streets !!

Finger licking good. OMG !!!! What did she just stuff into her mouth?????

Butchering the ice shank. The saw head seems rusty from the photograph. Milo-Ais, with traces of Iron-Oxide, anyone?

Sleepless in Masjid Jamek.


Furthermore, "hip-shots", or pointing the camera on your subjects without actually looking at the Live-View screen, at hip level is even easier to achieve with a compact. These are very effective spy techniques, going extremely close to your subjects (as if you are passing by) and taking a photo of them without them even realizing you nailing them down. The photographs from this kind of shots come out very natural, and since you are actually so close to the subjects, the output can be very engaging with impressive impact.

The good thing about compact, besides being less suspecting due to its small size, is not having the shutter-mirror-slapping sound !! Silent and discreet operation is possible. People do not care about you holding a camera with your hand, but they will take notice of you if you point your camera and look at them directly at the same time.

Small. What can be so small?

Vulnerability. Sometimes, I do wonder. If KL streets are indeed as dangerous as what the locals claim to be (high rate of crime: snatch-theft, robbery, etc etc), why are there so many people making themselves readily available vulnerably out in the open, in alleys and back-streets like this lady here?

Yes, I never stop encountering sleeping people on the street. They are everywhere, it is impossible not to find a few, if you walk around KL.

What the compact camera can do

Do not underestimate the capabilities of a compact camera. Many DSLR, or higher medium camera users often overlooked what a compact camera can offer.

This Lumix LZ-8 comes with a 5x zoom, which was very decent and good enough for my usual street photography coverage, from wide to a little bit of tele-photo end. This Lumix allows full manual control, hence I was shooting with Aperture Priority most of the time, with adjustable ISO levels, varying from 100-800 (up to ISO6400) depending on lighting conditions. The metering and focus were usually spot on, though I must complain that the focusing is on the slow side. Anticipating the photography opportunity early and making necessary preparations such as pre-focusing can greatly aid in working around the slow focus problem. I have good zoom coverage, full manual control on the camera, what else do I need? Right, photographer's input, which I will cover later.

Those mini-poles were positioned as guides to prevent the vehicles from getting too close. The consequence? Got run over. Is this not true about many general status in this country?

I sneaked up in front of this fella, and silently snapped a photo of him, from my butt-level.

And the story of sleepiness continues. Notice "extra" noise in the photograph. Shot with ISO800, under a shady area.

What the compact camera lacks

I have mentioned how slow the focus was, so slow that I can miss my subject by a lag of 2-3 seconds at times, with the lens hunting for focus especially at difficult situations.

Also, I have this personal hatred towards how Panasonic renders its colours. It does not look natural at all, and the green really comes out ugly. I need to spend some time correcting the White Balance (which was very inconsistent, and rather unreliable), and remove some random colour cast (which was quite minor, but still equally annoying). The Olympus E-520 nails down the White Balance all the time, and never fails to focus. Of course, this is not a fair comparison, but I must highlight what I miss when I shoot with the compact. Overall, the resolution was rather poor, and it was noticeable that the in-camera processing tried to compensate the lack of resolution by boosting the sharpness, to a point that the photos look very flat.

Ok, but I really should not be complaining this much.

Complains, complains

Typically, if you ask any DSLR user to pick up a compact camera, they will cringe at the thought of it. Their first response would be "Lousy high-ISO performance". Then they will complain how bad the photograph is, with no bokeh, or not as sharp as photographs taken with their "L" lenses. They would also complain on not having the flexibility to shoot in RAW, so they can process their photographs to their hearts content later. Or was it to salvage a set of horribly broken photograph?

If you ask me, I would say screw all the above. Who cares about the technicalities, when you are just shooting merely for yourself, more particularly on a free and easy Shutter Therapy Session? Sometimes, I just want to forget about F-number, ISO setting, metering, and what nots, and just blardy "point and shoot". Sometimes I do not even care if my photographs come out a little underexposed, or with more noise than usual, or with excessive uncontrolled distortion. Thinking too much about technical accuracy can hinder the photography-vision, and it is good to break-away once in a while and just shoot the photographs for the fun of it. It does not have to be technically perfect, because sometimes, I want to shoot what I feel, not what I think.

A shoe on top of a pay-phone.

KL skyline, view from a 5th floor window of a building somewhere in Chow Kit. From a distance, the city looks so "modern", and your perception wil all falter when you hit the streets.

The truth is quite hard to ignore.

That was what I did in this Shutter Therapy session. Free and easy. More importantly, I get to go closer to some subjects which I could not previously, since I can freely move around with a compact camera being less intimidating. Moreover, walking around the streets of KL with a compact camera was surely safer, and less of a target, in comparison to lugging a set of lenses and DSLR body inside a bag that screams "I am a DSLR bag that with gears worth thousands of RM". Yes, on the downside, the photographs are not as sharp, or as smooth (noise-free), and they have inconsistent colours, but I do not give much of a hoot. I still enjoyed myself tremendously. I truly hope that more and more people will enjoy shooting with a compact camera, which is a dying breed.

The ultimate street weapon would have been a mirrorless system such as an Olympus PEN E-PL1, a micro-fourthirds camera which is almost as small as a compact camera, but produces stunning image qualities, which is close to DSLR output. I cannot afford such luxury (at least not yet), but if you do have the cash, it is one good buy. David Chua has written extensively on the Olympus E-PL1 review on his site, and showcased a set of really awe worthy photographs taken at night, under ISO3200. Do head over and check it out.

Stinking Cunt.

A cat under a stool. Cats do not seem to run away from me anymore. Did something happen?

It is not the camera, but the photographer that matters.

On the whole, the point I am trying to get across here, and have always been reiterated is: shoot with whatever you have, be happy with your gears, and start making wonderful photographs. It does not matter if it is a film, or a toy camera, or the top end Medium Format camera, the important thing is making more and more beautiful images, and further improve the photographer in you. Learn to express yourself in your photographs, instill your thoughts and emotions and turn your photographs into a platform for speaking your story. Everyone has something to say. And one photograph is worth a thousand words.

If you own a camera, find some free time, charge up them batteries and start shooting whatever that fancies you. Put a piece of yourself into your photographs, and then let your photographs speak back to you and your viewers in many amazing ways. Minus the cost of purchasing a camera, Shutter therapy is FREE, and available to everyone !!


  1. Didn't know you like smooth butts. Haha.

    Love the first cat photo as it shows various interpretations.

    Should have join you but my PnS camera battery kinda suck. It can barely go pass 200 shots.

  2. hey chong,
    Don't tell me you like rough butts !!! LOL...

    I love the cat too !!!

    I shot around 120 shots only, and most of them were crap anyway, so yeah, thats more than enough battery juice for you to attack the streets !!

  3. Hello, Robin!

    Wow, such a honor for me that you mentioned my name. I never was into street photography, until I saw your blog. I'm impressed every time i see your photography. You have such a talent, an impassioned eye, great sensitivity.

    The composition in "Street is less traveled with on a slow and lazy Sunday" is stunning, Robin.

    The "mini-pole" photo is also very, very nice. But the best in this set is in my opinion "The truth is quite hard to ignore" - it look like a good painting. And that is the greatest compliment for a photographer.

    Please check my Flickr gallery - I've addes some more pictures. Will be adding more tomorrow :)

  4. hey Bartosz,
    It was my pleasure to mention your name, since your photographs are very relevant to what I intended to say in this entry: compact camera rocks !!
    Thanks so much for the kind words. Nonetheless, there is still so much more to explore and discover in this life-long photography journey. The important thing is constantly being out there, taking photographs.
    I will surely visit your Flickr pages, no worries !!

  5. Hey Robin. I think you should buy a disposable kodak camera next time.

    I think you'll shot wonders with it too! Hehe.

    On a side note, if you kindly allow, can I join you if you want to go about a walkabout next time?

    Besides sulking at home, there's no other motivation for me to go out an shoot. =(


  6. Hi Snowfire,
    Thanks snowfire, I really appreciate your kind words !!
    Anyway, you are free to join me for my street shooting anytime. I will be away from KL this weekend. I think it should be wise to have a walkabout maybe after Raya? I am sure you will be very busy in the weeks coming ahead.

  7. Hehe. Thank you.

    I'll send you my no. at screw2.

    If there's anything after Raya on weekdays. Do inform me!