Olympus M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 Review: Macro Shooting at Butterfly Park, KL

Side Note:
1. This is a user experience based review.
2. All images were shot in RAW and developed to JPEG in Olympus Viewer 2.
3. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color set to OFF), Gradation = Normal
4. Minimal post-processing applied to the images. Only exposure compensation (brightness/contrast) and cropping performed for better consistency and overall presentation. Apart from that, the images were as good as straight out of camera (color and sharpness)

Today I was contacted by Olympus Malaysia, the newly launched Olympus M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 was finally available for my testing and review purposes.

Only F3.5-6.3?

A lot of buzz has been surrounding this new lens since its announcement, particularly the negative reaction towards the slow aperture range of F3.5-6.3. That alone is sufficient reason for many people to look away from the lens, and I must admit I cannot blame the crowd, expectations of larger aperture lenses have been the craze as of late. I personally think that Olympus has always prioritized size/weight over performance ratio, thus keeping the size small enough and comfortable enough to be used on the current PEN micro 4/3 bodies, the F2.8 constant aperture that everyone wanted would have doubled the size and weight, making it impractical at this stage. I dare admit that I too, wish that the lens had been wider in aperture, but I am not the lens maker, and we were given this new lens as an option. Choices are good, and we should not turn down this lens so quickly, even before looking at the other good things that it brings.

Photography Should Not be Chained by Rules

It is my Birthday today, and interestingly it is a public holiday here in Malaysia, because Christmas fell on a Sunday, and the following Monday (which happened to be today) is the holiday replacement. Too bad Malaysia does not have public holiday for Boxing Day, or else, tomorrow will be another holiday too. Nonetheless, we make do the best that we can with what we have, and I surely have utilized this holiday fruitfully.

I started the day by clearing out a huge amount of back-logs on my pending previous paid photography assignment/jobs. I was quite happy with the pace and amount of photographs cleared within half the day, and when afternoon came, I got myself ready to storm the streets. It is strange, since it was my birthday, I felt like shooting alone. It has been quite a long time since I last shot on the streets alone, and I started to yearn for that solo street hunting session. Together with my faithful Olympus DSLR E-5 and the “still getting used to it” Sigma 30mm F1.4 lens, I attacked Jalan Masjid India and Chow Kit, both my favourite street hunting grounds. Gosh, I have not enjoyed myself this much for a long, long time !!

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Sigma 30mm F1.4

Special vehicle

Yet Another Birthday Dinner

It is coming to the year end already, and I shall refrain from my usual lengthily written blog ramblings. I shall just post photographs, and let them speak. I have just turned 27, and boy, what an adventurous year it has been for me. Lots of ups and downs, as usual, but development on the photography side of things have been very exciting and optimistic. Looking back now, there are more reasons to be thankful for, and celebrate the occasion. Dear friends, Chun Chow and Wendy brought me out for a nice dinner in Chilli’s, Mid Valley. Considering my birthday being so close to Christmas, it was more of a combined birthday and Christmas dinner. Since all of us are away from our hometown Kuching, having each other on this auspicious occasion is the closest thing to being with family that we can get in this giant city of Kuala Lumpur.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Sigma 30mm F1.4
Note: food descriptions taken off the official Chilli's website.

A combo of three favorite starters. Generous portions of our Chicken Crispers mouth watering Wings Over Buffalo and Southwestern Eggrolls with sauces for dipping.

Brief Encounter with Olympus M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 at DCIM 2011

I was so looking forward for this long weekend, that I can finally find more time for shutter therapy. Waking up early Saturday morning, I prepared myself for a street shooting session with a friend and fellow Olympus PEN user, Simon. As I stepped outside the door, the sky poured down like there was no tomorrow, and sadly, the shutter therapy session had to be cancelled. Nonetheless, not all was lost, because there was a significant event happening this weekend, the DCIM (Digital Camera, Imaging and Media) Show 2011 at Mid Valley Convention Center, Kuala Lumpur. After having a light breakfast, we flew to Mid Valley to geek out on cameras.

There were many things to look forward to in this particular DCIM show. Most of the newly released cameras were showcased and available for public molesting, I mean, try-outs. You can just grab the camera, plug in your own memory card, take all the photos that you want and bring home the memory card for your pixel peeping and chimping pleasures. This would be the best place to just drool over that camera you have been eyeing for and wanting to swipe your credit card for due to the valid and forgivable excuse of the holiday season. Come on, its Christmas, show some love yo !!

All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Sigma 30mm F1.4 lens.

Pan Mee at OUG for breakfast

Quiet Surprise

It was near to Christmas, which means, my birthday is coming really soon. Gerald invited me out for a nice dinner after work today, and I decided to go along, since I have been craving for some good steak. Nothing beats a heavenly grilled slab of beef to perfection. I admit, I am a carnivore, and I love being one.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Sigma 30mm F1.4 lens.

Gerald, the kind friend who has done a lot to make this dinner happen.

Smacked in the Middle of Bokeh Goodness

I know, I know, we should not shoot wide open all the time. Bokeh is indeed overrated, and overused in many shooting situations by most photographers (modern, digital photographers to be exact) everywhere. It has become a trend and redundant somehow. Everyone yearns for that creamier, smoother background blur. Instead of blurring the background to oblivion by using large aperture lenses, I personally do think that there are many other alternatives to isolate your subject and bring out the creativity in your photography work. Nonetheless, having obtained my first F1.4 lens, please allow me to indulge in the sin of bokeh just for a bit. I promise I will return to my usual self.

I am still at the experimental stage, of getting to know the Sigma 30mm F1.4 lens better. How to get to know the lens? Well, just know the wonderful bokeh that it produces !!

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Sigma 30mm F1.4, unless otherwise mentioned.

Sigma 30mm F1.4 on Olympus E-5

I have recently purchased a new lens, and for the first time in my history I got a lens which is not from Olympus, but a third party lens maker for the Four Thirds standard, Sigma. I bought myself (a used unit, at an irresistible bargain) Sigma 30mm F1.4, and today was the day I took the lens out, mounted on my Olympus DSLR E-5, for a spin at my favourite street hunting spot, Pudu.

Please bear in mind this entry is not intended to be a review of any sort. This Sigma 30mm is a rather old lens, and many information on what this lens can or cannot do, and how it performs have been openly and abundantly discussed everywhere on photography forums and many useful review sites. I shall not add on to the already vast available information. Instead of worrying about the lens’ capabilities, I just brought the lens out and shoot. Like, really shoot, for my usual shutter therapy session. Lenses are not made to shoot test charts or for you to awe at its technical perfection. Lenses are made to work with your camera body to produce wonderful photography work!!! Now stop chimping and lets go out have some shutter action and fun.

Meet Eric Kim

It was quite an unexpected encounter that I managed to meet up with one of today's highly regarded international street photographer, Eric Kim. Eric is from LA, and he just finished his workshop in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, stopping by Kuala Lumpur for a while before conducting his next workshop in Singapore. Thanks to Luke who was kind enough to call me in to meet up with this famous street photographer.

Me and Eric. A very sporting and cheerful photographer !!

Lonely Rock in the Night Sky

No matter how many times I shoot the moon, no matter how much the same they appear to be each and every time, I never get tired of doing so. I guess it is a way to marvel and capture the natural beauty that still remains natural, something not very common these days in the place I live in.

100% crop from original image.
Olympus E-5, ZD 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 mk1, shot at 200mm, F5.6, ISO200, Handheld

And everytime I use the 50-200mm to shoot the moon, I cannot help to admire its incredibly detailed image output. It was especially true tonight as the sky was completely clear.

Am I the only one who look to the sky at night?

The Visual Interest

Some of the common questions I have been receiving lately, and not exclusively particular to me only, but those questions are also generally being shot everywhere, especially the online forums would be:

1) What are the best camera settings for this camera (eg E-5 or E-P3) that you always use?

2) How do you take a good photograph? What are your recommendations and advise?

To be honest, those two questions are extremely subjective, and there are no fixed answers !! If I were to sit down and started to type on what goes on in my mind and how to do what I am doing now, I probably need days to finish, and by that time, I can compile a book out of it. Many people are searching for easy ways out, and shortcuts. There are no shortcuts in photography, which I have stressed many, many times in my many blog entries.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digitial lenses: 50mm F2 macro and 25mm F2.8 pancake

Small bike

Bak Kut Teh

I was never exactly a fan of Bak Kut Teh, but I don't hate it either. However, no thanks to Jasonmumbles who had crazy cravings for this delicious claypot brewed pork simmered in a complex mixture of herbs and spices, I had fallen into the victim of tagging him along, and I have gotten my fair dosage of the sinful meals.

Any Bak Kut Teh Lovers out there? I know of some people who could die if they do not have their dosage once in a while.

A Day Out in Sekinchan

Weekend came, and it was an exciting one, because I was joining a group of friends to the far end of Selangor, a district called Sekinchan, which is famous mainly for two reasons: 1) the paddy field and 2) the fishing village. We started our journey from KL at early 7am in the morning, and attacked the paddy field before lunch. We had the fisherman’s village covered after lunch, and that wrapped our day full of shooting, catching up with friends, and lots of laughter. God knows how much I need such relaxation after consecutive weekends of wedding assignment one after another. I need to shoot just for myself, and myself only, and I felt like going far, far away from the city.

Sekinchan is a very peaceful place, and the folks there are very friendly. So far no one rejected us when we have their photographs taken, and they gave us the warmest welcome. This village area is completely void of tall buildings and it is nice to see the sky dominating the landscape wherever you turn to. The sky was extra dramatic earlier today, with clear blue with puffs of interesting cloud formation. The lighting grew harsher and harsher towards noon, and basically the landscape photos near then have become almost useless, due to the limited dynamic range on my 4/3’s system. Nonetheless, I captured what I could, and snapped away merrily without worrying too much about the image ouput and the technicalities of the camera. I was shooting for myself after all, and who cares if the photographs do not exactly come out “award winning”, right? I wanted to make sure I have fun, and plenty of fun I had with my friends.

the boy who greeted us at a coffee shop in Sekinchan. He followed me around so I snapped a photo of him.

Paddy field. Simply love it.

Of Emptied Glasses

It was only halfway through the week I felt like every single ounce of energy has been drained off my body. Gosh, I thought i could last longer. I guess, I am only human.

Image taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and 25mm F2.8 pancake lens.

A glass of Semillon sounds reaaaaaaaaallly gooood right now. Owh I should have kept a bottle or two handy.

Speaking of Composition

The one important aspect in photography that separates the outstanding photographers from the others is none other than composition. Even if you have mastered the technical execution to maximize the best output your camera, with all the creativity in post-processing, and having the best possible subject and photography opportunities in the world, but if the composition adopted was not successful to bring out the best potential from the photograph, the image would still fall short from being excellent. Yes, composition is that important, it is either you make it, or break it with the composition you choose to execute in your photography style.

There are so many guidelines and rules available, written again and again by different photographers over the decades on how to compose a subject, and create a photograph. I have read a dozen or so guidelines, and to be honest, I did not quite remember much from what I have digested from my research, and the only one rule that I remember and actively applied all this time is the classic Rule of Thirds, which has proven to never fail in most situations. Interestingly, I have received numerous praises and noteworthy positive comments on my composition techniques of my photography work that I have displayed on this blog, but to be honest, there was never really any composition technique to begin with. I did not have any specific formula to follow, or some strict guidelines to adhere to in composing my shots when I go out and shoot. I do not exactly think that my shots exhibit any unusually creative or out of the ordinary composition, they were mostly pretty straightforward, and nothing special. Nevertheless, from the many feedback I have gathered, it is clear that my composition works for my photography style to a certain extent, and I believe it is more crucial to share what goes on in my mind when I am composing my shots, rather than the non-existent rules or guidelines that I follow. I do have some “to-go-through” list of items to consider while I am composing my subjects, and I shall share those considerations in this blog entry.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 pancake lens.

Kay Tee & Kimberly

It was a long weekend which was much looked forward to, mainly because there were a few events lined up and anticipated for, and one of them being an Actual Day Wedding assignment, which I had the privilege to help out and shoot alongside a friend, Jason Lioh (the official photographer for the day). This particular assignment was more difficult than usual, mainly because interstate traveling was involved, and we had a really tight schedule. We took a bus down to Malacca on Friday night, stayed overnight and readied ourselves the following early Saturday morning by 6am. The Bride's house was in Malacca, and by noon we had to travel back to Kuala Lumpur to the Groom's house. Through all the hectic and rush, I did have plenty of fun, and this was one of the most expressive couples I have shot in a while, with plenty of laughters and emotion bursts throughout the day.

Since Jason Lioh commented that my previous entries were rather too length and become uncomfortable to read, well, lets keep this one simple and short. I shall just let the photographs to the talking instead.

All images were shot with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital lenses: 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, 25mm F2.8 pancake and 50mm F2 macro.

Sudden Need for Shutter Therapy

After work today, I rushed down to the city to run some important errands and settle some urgent matters. In the midst of rush and time-chasing, I felt the sudden urge to whip out the PEN which I carry with me all the time these days, and started snapping away. After finishing up all the items I had in my to-do list, I looked at my watch, and there was enough time left for some shutter therapy action, before the sun went down. It was already approaching sunset, and the light was dying fast. Without wasting much time, I did what I could, no matter how brief the shooting session was, it was done at my own pace. And I enjoyed myself thoroughly. At the end of the walk, I felt, recharged and refreshed.

All images were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and Pansonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 pancake lens.

Sunset sky

Hello Andy Pang

Had dinner with a few friends ealier this evening, which extended to a mamak teh tarik session.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 pancake lens.

For the Love of Olympus

'I am a great believer in product… we make world-beating cameras, wonderful lenses, sexy-styled bodies’ – Michael Woodford, ex Olympus CEO. (source here).

Many of my readers have sent me emails, and some even commented on my blog, asking my opinion and thoughts on the current drama happening over in Olympus Japan, suffering the crisis of financial scandal that has received much undesired negative attention world-wide. I was reluctant to comment on the issues, mainly because we do not yet at this time of writing have solid evidence and full story on what actually happened. Everything is still under probe and investigation. So far we have only bits and pieces of information there and here, and it is saddening so see everyone so quick to come to such horrific conclusions and speculations. Whatever truly happened, the damage has already been so extensive, I only wished things did not turn out this bad for Olympus. However, after reading what Michael Woodford, the ex Olympus CEO said in his interview with the Amateur Photographer (UK) as quoted earlier, I felt something stirred inside of me. Yes, I agree whole-heartedly with him: Olympus did make world-beating cameras. Yes, Olympus has many wonderful lenses. And yes, Olympus camera bodies are sexily styled indeed!!

I am a proud owner of Olympus cameras and lenses, and I love them all. I have used them all extensively, as I have generously shared my photography work throughout the past few years on this humble blog of mine. I am here to tell you all that I love Olympus still, and I will continue to support this beautiful camera and lens maker in whatever small ways that I can.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and 25mm F1.8 pancake lens, or 50mm F2 macro lens.

Practical Photography

We have all heard the famous saying by Robert Capa: If your pictures aren't good enough, you aren't close enough.

Very true. However, if you get too close to the lion you might get your head chewed off. That is also true.

All the time we hear tips and tricks on how to improve photography, we read books on certain photography techniques, we do our research online on that cool DIY flash diffuser setup, and we are eager to implement all the knowledge and theories into our photography workflow. Sometimes, we just have to sit down and think a little bit, and distinguish which is practical, and which is not. Being a practical photographer can save us a lot of time, effort, and of course, prevent our heads from being chewed off by the lion.

A huge part of the artistic and technical process of making photography happen involves being practical all the time. This requires the photographer to prepare, adhere and troubleshoot with practical mentality when it comes to a shooting session, whether it is a paid assignment or simply for leisure. Being practical means being sensible, knowing whats best, deciding what is important, and practicing what works and avoiding what does not. Practical photography encompasses the gear setup, shooting process/techniques, expectations.

All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 mk1.

Ping Pong Balls and Highway

I was assigned to a an inspection task along a running highway, and I had the rare opportunity to walk along the highway which is restricted to normal pedestrian access. I walked a total of more than 6KM (both sides of the highway together) under hot afternoon sun, recording down defects or any issues observed on the highway. Not exactly one of the most glamorous job in town, but I did get to enjoy the KL view in my slow walk.

Images in this entry were taken with Nokia C6-01 camera.

Kuala Lumpur

found a goat under the highway, while I was inspecting the piers holding up the highway.

I did not have any camera with me (except for the office camera for documentation purposes), and I did not carry my own camera around for safety reasons. I whipped out my phone, and voila, there it was, a camera !! Who cares if it is not high resolution, who cares if it has lousy colours (the colours are so unbearable I had to convert the images to monotone), who cares if I cannot create bokeh. I just snapped away the beautiful view of Kuala Lumpur skyline.

During my walk on the highway, I have had time to think about a lot of things.

I felt as if I was a ping pong (table tennis) ball. I am being tossed around all the time, sometimes, I am being screwed, sometimes I am being smashed. People will never care if I get dented or broken, they just whack the ball as hard as possible. After all, how much does a ping pong ball cost anyway? Although the ball is important for a game (admit it, without a ball, there is no game), but the ball can be easily thrown aside and be replaced by a new one.

Man, life sure sucks being a ping pong ball.

Happy Birthday Yeow

It was one unsuspecting Tuesday night we decided to have a get together session, not just an ordinary chit-chat yum cha session but for a surprise birthday celebration for a dear friend, Yeow Chin Liang. He has been an important friend to many PEN Lovers, and he is the backbone of this group. He has always been vividly active and encouraging members of PEN Lovers to shoot more, share more photos, and most importantly, spreading the poisonous GAS (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) amongst ourselves. His catchphrase (which many of us would use frequently as well) is "buy buy buy!!!"

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and Panasonic 20mm F1.7 pancake lens.

An Actual Day Wedding Photographer's Challenge

One of the basic requirements for most wedding photography assignment in KL, mostly relevant for Chinese Wedding ceremonies on actual day coverage, would be creating a photo-slideshow comprising images taken from the morning session of the wedding ceremony. The said photo-slideshow presentation is to be produced just in time for presentation to the guests during the reception dinner, which usually happens on the evening of the same day.

Many local wedding photographers would find this photo-slideshow to be a huge challenge, worrying about whether they have enough time to complete the photo-slideshow presentation before the dinner. I faced the similar problem as well on my latest photography assignment last weekend. The shooting assignment started at ungodly 5.30am in the morning, and the whole morning was killed off by the preparations, brother-sister war, the traditional tea ceremony at the bride and groom’s place, etc. As the final itinerary of the day ended, it was already about 2.30pm, and I have to depart to the dinner location at 5pm. Arriving home at nearly 3pm, that left me about less than two hours to create and complete the previous mentioned photo-slideshow presentation. This was not looking very promising, because on usual other assignment I had the entire afternoon (at least 3-4 hours) to complete the slideshow.

Nonetheless, I cranked up my speed and I did what I had to do.

Same Day Edit Photo-Slideshow (for reception dinner presentation)


For optimum viewing please watch the Youtube Video in full 720p resolution.

Shutter Therapy at Pudu, Again.

I have come home from a wedding assignment last night rather late. It was an exhausting full day shooting which started at ungodly 5.30am, and it stretched the entire day until late night, and I have squeezed out every ounce of energy left in my body to finish up this session. As I got home, the first thing I did was transfer the photographs, did some backup, and while the backup was running I took a quick shower, and after that, I lied dead on my bed until morning alarm screamed. My body begged me to sleep in but my heart wanted to spring out of my room into the streets for some shutter therapy good times. God knows how cranky Robin can get in the following week if he does not get his usual dosage of shutter therapy on his weekends. Heh!!

I took a train down to Pudu to meet up with two friends, Luke and Kelvin. We had a quick breakfast, and after that we attacked the streets of Pudu like we never attacked any streets before. I know, I know, some people will think I am crazy. A full day shooting wedding, and most people will just put the camera away and wont even think about clicking the shutter button for a while. Me, on the other hand, have a very different opinion. As I have spent my all shooting for other people, to balance it up, I need to shoot for myself only, thus the shutter therapy session to counter the draining effect of the photography assignment. Yes, it gets exhausting thinking about camera settings and composition angles, but you see, if you truly are putting your whole heart into photography, your focus would be the outcome of your photographs, not your camera settings and composition angles. The focus should be on subject content, and the initial intent even before the photography process began: what are you shooting, and why are you shooting

All images were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 pancake lens.

Stuck on Mum's back

Simple Things Make Me Happy

Side Note: Thanks Yeow and Mun Keat for the kind gesture, I really love the gift you guys brought all the way from Taiwan. You guys made my day.

Just a simple gathering with friends, with some minor gossipping good chattering, catching up on each other's ilves, having some gear talk and sharing thoughts and exchanging ideas on all sorts of issues, while blurting out-of-proportion laughters loud enough to shatter the window glass, these simple things make me very happy.

All Images in this entry were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and Panasonic 20mm F1.7 pancake lens.

Simon Leong (click) and the sexy red leatherish skin on his Olympus PEN E-P3.

An Afternoon Walk by Myself

It was a public holiday and I felt very lazy, not wanting to travel too far to the city center, and not wanting to stay still inside my room either. Hands were still itchy and not being fully satisfied with the few previous shutter therapy sessions. Hence, still wanting to play with the loaned Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 pancake lens, I mounted it on the Olympus PEN E-PL1 and just started roaming around in a park very near to where I stay. It was in the afternoon, the sky was cloudy, with mild breeze, making it quite a comfortable walk.

Did I have anything specific to achieve in this session? Not exactly. Can you say that I was walking aimlessly? In a way, yes. However, I did want to snap some photos, to a certain extent, I want to see what this Panasonic 20mm pancake can do in good day light. Nonetheless, the laziness kicked in, and I was too engrossed with the slow and peaceful afternoon walk I did not exactly worked the camera out much. I did snap a photo there and here, but hey, sometimes, you just have to put down the camera, and smell the fresh air. Well, not that we get that much fresh air in Kuala Lumpur, but you get what I mean. Being trapped in the delusional world where everything is viewed through the viewfinder (or electronic live view on the LCD/OLED monitor) can be intoxicating and exhausting at the end of the day. So yeah, it has become a relaxing walk, a stroll along the park. With loads of thoughts flying around in my mind.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 lens.

Red amongst the greens. Standing out is not easy. You allow people to attack you.

Batu Caves

I had made a promise with friends Anston and Fattien for a macro shooting session. However, Fattien does not have his macro lens with him hence we decided to make a quick change of plans. We were all eager to shoot, and our hands were unbearably itchy for some shutter clicking action. I suggested Batu Caves, and much to my surprise, they both agreed !! Hence, after a quick breakfast, we drove all the way to Batu Caves for our Sunday shutter therapy.

Batu Caves is one of the many tourist attractions in Kuala Lumpur, and is a significant landmark that carries immense religious importance for the Hindu populace in Malaysia.
Here are some excerpts from Wikipedia:

“Batu Caves (Tamil: பத்து மலை), is a limestone hill, which has a series of caves and cave temples, located in Gombak district, 13 kilometres (8 mi) north of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It takes its name from the Sungai Batu or Batu River, which flows past the hill. Batu Caves is also the name of the nearby village.

The cave is one of the most popular Hindu shrines outside India, dedicated to Lord Murugan. It is the focal point of Hindu festival of Thaipusam in Malaysia.”

If you happen to stop by KL for the first time, you might want to consider this as one of your shooting destination, lots of friendly people, and the limestone cave itself is a marvel to look at. The location is very accessible from Kuala Lumpur city center, about just less than an hour drive away (taking into consideration of the massive traffic jam we get here).

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko 25mm F2.8 pancake lens (for most shots) and 8mm F3.5 fisheye lens (for wide angle shots)

I tell you, for some weird and unexplainable reasons, kids love me.

Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 Pancake Lens

Luke Ding was kind enough to lend me his Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 pancake lens for my usage on the streets. Thanks dude !! You rock.

Before I moved on allow me to clarify that this is NOT a review of any sort for the Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 lens. I have had the rare opportunity to extensively tried this lens on and I shall share my honest opinion and points of view while shooting with it on my street hunting sessions. The main reason why I did not want to push out a user-experience review is simple: I was using the pancake lens on my own Olympus PEN E-PL1 body, and I strongly believe that to bring out the len’s full capability, you will need to mount it on a native Panasonic Micro 4/3 body. The Af speed and accuracy, the lens distortion and CA correction view in-camera software and overall compatibility may not be fully optimized for the use with my E-PL1 body, hence the images produced from my shooting may not accurately represent what the lens should be doing at its best. Hey, lets just set aside all the boring technicalities, and start to just really, really enjoy using the lens, shall we? I surely did not want to have a thousand and one considerations running through my head as I used the lens for the first time, I just wanted to have fun, and having plenty of fun I did with this wonderful lens.

So cute !!

Embracing Imperfections, Chasing Simplicity

One of the issues growing as a photographer is trying too hard to be perfect. I may not speak on behalf of professional photographers or "those-who-have-been-in-the-field-forever", but as a developing and learning photographer, I see myself falling into the traps of wanting to be perfect or doing too much to avoid mistakes. Then it comes to a stage where the process of shooting becomes too stressful, because the checklist of "to-do items" and worse, the superbly long list of "what not to do"have dictated the overall shooting experience. Keeping in mind at all times the rules and regulations of what is supposed to be a good photograph and acceptable practice in getting the right shot can be rather daunting and exhausting at the same time, and it slowly saps away the joy of shooting in the first place. Oh dear !!

The more you read, the more you explore the advanced techniques of photography, the more you know, the more confused you can be. Imagine, before clicking the shutter button, you are haunted by so many things happening in your head all simultaneously at once, how to compose the subject, which aperture to choose to achieve adequate field of view, the right ISO for the right lighting to minimize the digital noise, is the shutter speed fast enough to freeze motion, is the light coming from the right direction, how was the white balance compensated for the stray colour cast, am I standing too near, should I zoom in, should I use wide angle instead, how do I get my subject to look at me without giving me that awkward stare, what if I was standing at the side instead… goodness gracious the list of considerations go on and on and on can be rather scary when you really went through my train of thoughts. Then the traumatizing questions started to kick in, did I miss anything in the “must do” checklist? Back to square one, we are.

Trying too hard and too much at one time can be disastrous, and hey, where is the fun of shooting?

All images in this entry were shot with Olympus DSLR E-5, mostly with Zuiko Digital 50mm F2 macro lens , and a few with 25mm F2.8 pancake lens.

The sky was green. Cross Process Art Filter applied.

Sony Alpha 77, a Close Encounter

I was out having dinner with a group of cool friends. Everything was fine until a Sony Alpha 77 popped out of Jack's camera bag. Then I realize my saliva was dripping all over not because of the food, but for obvious camera lust.

The Sony Alpha 77 is a beast. The electronic viewfinder is fluid, and very clear. At 2.4 million dots resolution, and very high refresh rate, I must say it was rather astonishing. The autofocus was very fast, though we were in a dimly lit Old Town Cafe, and the high ISO shooting performance up to ISO1600, tested and previewed on location was rather impressive. Overall handling of Alpha 77 was very good, the grip was substantial enough for good balance even with larger lenses (there was a Minolta 70-200mm F4 AF lens), and the weight of the body was lighter than my own Olympus E-5. Oh my did you see how the LCD monitor screen can tilt and turn? This camera is truly an interesting package, showing how ambitious and how forward thinking Sony truly is. Just a brief encounter with this latest camera from Sony can tell you why Sony has had a strong history and steady footing when it comes to electronics market and branding. Their innovation is unquestionable, and they know how to push the right buttons on the consumer demands.

All images (unless otherwise mentioned) was taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital 25mm F2.8 pancake lens.

In Loving Memory of Olympus 35mm F3.5 macro

In case some of you guys who only started to follow my blog recently, you may not know that I previously used to own the Olympus Zuiko Digital  35mm F3.5 macro lens. I must admit that letting the lens go was one of the hardest decision I have ever made.

Spending time looking through old photographs I have made in the year 2009, I cannot help but to marvel at the capabilities of the 35mm macro lens. It has 2:1 magnification ratio (when used on 4/3 sensor), captures amazing details and sharpness, has really realiable autofocus even shooting at close distance, yet was so reasonably priced, possibly the cheapest fully digital and autofocus capable macro lens in the market. It is so difficult not to love this lens. I have had countless adventures doing macro hunting throughout my limited time with the lens (spent almost a year with it), and I have learned a great deal about macro and photography in general through this lens. It has taught me much, and it has been a huge part of my learning process. Those of you who have not picked up macro photography, do not even dare to brag about technicalities and mastering the camera controls. Seriously, pick up macro photography, then we will start talking.

All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-520 and Zuiko Digital 35mm F3.5 macro, with the external flash FL-36R, in the year 2009.

Who says you cannot get bokeh at F3.5?

Warming Up to Petaling Street

Before I dive into this week's beautiful shutter therapy session, allow me to introduce something rather awesome, which I think many of you will like. My friend Ivan's band, Silent Scenery (click) has just released their official music video on Youtube. It is a music video for one of my favourite tracks in their new album, These Still Moments (OMG!!! I am looping the tracks on my PC and MP3 player now). The music video has "interesting" hints and traces of satirical underlying messages, do check it out and show some love guys !!!

Stop Motion and Fragments

To find out more about Silent Scenery, go to the following links:

About a month ago, Luke Ding has asked for a shutter therapy session with me on the streets, and I gladly agreed, but I had to delay the session due to extremely busy schedule I have had. There were so many things happening back then and finally, I have had some spare time for myself and this very glorious Sunday morning, I attacked Petaling Street together with Luke, who armed himself with an Olympus E-P3 and the deadly 45mm F1.8 that the entire world is getting crazy about, partly due to my fault for writing so shiningly about it in my earlier user-experience review blog.

Hey, it was not entirely my fault, even Steve Huff wrote beautiful things and sang praises for the 45mm lens in his own review.

All image in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and the Zuiko 25mm F2.8 pancake lens.

Silent Scenery @ Pipit Wonderful Market 7

Construction progress at site is coming to an end, hence I am regaining my freedom on Saturdays. This particular weekend, there are two major events which I have been anticipating, the first being the PEN Lovers 1st Anniversary Luncheon, and subsequently, it was Silent Scenery (my friend, Ivan is in the band) performing live at Central Market for the Pipit Market Seven. Life has suddenly become beautiful and hectic once again. The Pen Lovers Luncheon (which I intend to blog about in a separate entry) ended just after 3pm, but I unknowingly lazed around hanging out with the beautiful people there until 3.30pm, leaving me less than an hour to get from Subang to downtown KL before Silent Scenery starts their live performance !!

John & Aarynn: Wedding Anniversary @ The Art Cafe

It was on last Monday night that I received an unexpected call from a friend, John Wong (who blogs regularly using Olympus gear too), inviting me as the photographer for his second wedding anniversary dinner with his beautiful wife, Aarynn, the following Tuesday night. I hesitated in the first place because I would not want to be the "third person" while the lovely couple were having their romantic dinner, but once John explained that I will be joined by two more friends, a professional pianist and a female vocalist, I immediately agreed to the invitation.

The dinner was held in a really cosy and fully private dining place called the Art Cafe in Petaling Jaya. I have not been to the dining venue before, hence I did not know what to expect in terms of lighting and other shooting conditions (space/constraints). Therefore, I decided to just go with the flow, and brought along my primary shooting gear: Olympus DSLR E-5, together with 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, 50mm F2 and the external flash FL-36R.

A Spin with 25mm Pancake

To all my Indian readers, Happy Deepavali !!

Since it was a public holiday, it was the perfect opportunity to fulfill some of the pending promises for photo-walk sessions with some photo-enthusiast friends. This shutter therapy session, I was joined by a new friend, Chun Chung, together with familiar faces, Choon Wee and Jason Lioh. We attacked the familiar Petaling Street of Kuala Lumpur.

In this particular session, I only used the Olympus Zuiko Pancake 25mm F2.8 lens, all the way with my E-5. I did bring along the fisheye and my staple lens, 50mm F2, but surprisingly I did not switch lens even once throughout this morning. Therefore, I can conclude that the 25mm pancake lens is surprisingly flexible and versatile, almost usable in every shooting situations. Not bad, coming from a budget standard lens, though I must admit the performance in terms of sharpness and overall image quality is no where near any of the High Grade Zuiko lenses. But hey, expectations and measurebating aside, the lens delivered what it promised: a good all around performer for everyday general shooting. It is hard to find any fault with the pancake lens, really.

Top left: Chun Chung
Top right: Choon Wee
Bottom left: Jason Lioh
Bottom right: Robin Wong (me of course)
Everyone is having a piece of that Leica M9 !!

The Smile for a Stranger

Street photography is a form of real life people documentation process, especially taking portrait shots of random strangers encountered on the streets, and is no easy task.

It is either you grab a photograph of total randomness, capturing the feeling of awkwardness between the subject's response towards your camera pointing at them directly, or producing a completely different outcome: your subject being connected to you, with an eye contact or facial expression that engages the viewer, and speaks out strongly. It takes time for the subject to get comfortable with you, giving you a natural look and it does not just happen quickly. Sometimes, it does not happen at all.

The look in the eyes are extremely important: does your subject look at you angrily, as a threat, or a person he wants to shove that huge thorny durian he is holding into a random orifice of your body? Likewise, the facial expression or the smile tells all the stories of the person: does your subject see you as a complete stranger? Is he comfortable being around you? What is he thinking when he is looking at you and your camera?

A good example was the photograph above of a random kid I found on the street, clinging to his mother. Initially, the kid was rather shy, and hid away from me. The mother was kind enough to allow me to snap some photographs. Hence, I moved closer, and smiled. I believe I do have a good smile, because my subjects have been responding very well to my smile this far. The kid slowly warmed up to me, but still gave me that cold, curious, "who the f*** are you" kind of stare.

Soon enough, the kid let his guard down, and smiled in such an adorable manner, it was the most beautiful smile I have seen in a long, long while.

I had my E-5 and the 50mm F2 pointed at the kid all the time, ready to spring in action. More by sheer luck than skill (though I was indeed ready), I captured that shot, and this is one shot that I am most happy about from my recent collection of street hunts. There is so much going on in that simple photograph, which begs the question, what made the boy smile the way he did?

The Return of an Old Friend

I have made an impulsive purchase just a few hours ago, and boy, have I not felt this good in a long, long time !!

It was the Olympus Zuiko Digital 25mm F2.8 PANCAKE lens !!

I have had quite an interesting history with this pancake lens. The first week it was launched in Malaysia (about 3 years ago), I bought it without hesitation and I was very happy with the lens I almost brought the camera (then Olympus E-410) with me everywhere I went to. Until several weeks later, something happened (click) and the pancake was snatched away from me. Not too long after that, I made another purchase, knowing how much I loved the lens and would benefit from the compact, light and small design. After using the lens for about a year later, I decided to sell it off to fund for my current super wide angle lens, 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 which was more important, and needed for most of my paid photography assignment.

The Pancake lens, Looks sooooo cute on my E-5 don't you think?

Street Photography, My Style

The street is full of photography subjects, ranging from portraits, still life, old architectures, urban landscape to urban decay just to name a few. The choice of subjects and the appeal would differ from one photographer to another, as we see things differently, and approach photography with individual unique styles. I have been receiving overwhelmingly positive remarks on my street photography work lately, and I have you all beautiful readers to thank for. I have also been requested (on several occasions) to share what goes on and around during my usual shutter therapy sessions, where I would attack my subjects on the streets. I shall gladly share whatever I can, including some tips and tricks on getting my usual shots. However, do bear in mind that my photography techniques are just my own preferences, since there is no right and wrong in photography, and you may choose to agree or disagree with my methods of execution. Choose the style that works best for you, and you will only know what works and what does not by shooting more and more. Also, street photography is a very, very wide genre, with various definitions.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5, Zuiko Digital Lenses: 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, 50mm F2 macro and 50-200mm F2.8-3.5

I like catch-light, and I usually made sure they are seen on my subject's eyes when I do close up shots like this.

Be Consistent

One of the many important aspects that I believe is extremely important in anyone’s growth in photography, particularly for learning/amateur photographers is consistency. I have seen many people trying too hard, and exploring too many things, with their minds scattered all over the places without proper focus and concentration towards a clear and aimed direction to lead to. Being consistent in every aspect of photography, may it be technical execution, photography vision and choice of gear can influence your overall pace of improvement. Of course, if you are a professional photographer or have been practicing photography for many years, you know what works best for you, but for many new-comers to photography, they do not even know what they want to do, and what works for them, or what not. Therefore, my sharing here is only valid for mostly beginners and new-comers to photography, the group of photographers that I can relate myself to better.

1) Be CONSISTENT with your Choice of Gear

Jumping ship from brand to brand will not improve your photography that far. Upgrading to that more powerful lens does not necessarily upgrade your skills either. Shooting with too many mediums all at once, trying too many different cameras and setup will lose your focus and screw up your learning process. Pick one main camera system, with some basic lenses to begin with. Start simple, and learn to master your simple setup before you progress further. Learn how to bring the best in your equipment, manipulate its weaknesses while exploiting its strengths to bring out the maximum potential of your setup. How can you decide whether your camera is bad or good, if you have only been using it for a few months, with very limited hands on shooting experience with it? I shudder at the thought of some friends upgrading straight from an entry level DSLR to a full frame (or even more advanced the rangefinder such as Leica) but they could barely control their basic camera system well enough. How do you know if you have maxed out the capabilities of your camera, and not explored the power that is stored within it? It is often prudent to stay with one camera and one system, while consistently shooting to know the system inside out. Only through countless shutter clicks that you will come to reap the benefits of your consistency of camera choice, and see the stark improvement between the photograph you took with that same camera now, than a year ago.

It does not matter which choice of camera you want to shoot with, the important thing is to stay consistent with it. No camera is perfect. However, being able to deliver consistent results with the camera you have known very well, makes a huge difference than using a powerful camera that you can barely master.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-520

Public display

Voigtländer Nokton 25mm F0.95

Not too long ago, during a "teh tarik" session with the fellow PEN Lovers, I have had a chance to have a very quick try on the much sought after Voigtländer Nokton 25mm f0.95 lens. Koon Yik, the founder of the PEN Lovers group (click to find out more about the group), have the 25mm F0.95 lens, hence I grabbed it from him and mounted the beautiful lens on my Olympus PEN E-PL1. My goodness..... the bokeh... at F0.95 wide open, was unspeakably wicked.

All images were taken with Nokton 25mm F0.95 on Olympus PEN E-PL1 (except for first and last image)

The lens actually looks very small in hand, the size and weight was just right for a PEN sized camera.

All the Negative Comments

Side Note:

I have revamped my Portfolio Blog where I gathered and showcased almost all my paid-assignment work. Kindly visit the page and do let me know what you think !! Go to the Portfolio Page here (click).

I am still trying to decide whether I should convert to a new layout for this main blog, incorporating Google’s new Dynamic View. You can test the new Dynamic View here (click). Any feedback is appreciated.

I used to know this unimaginably bitter photographer who never failed to find fault in every single photography work he has come across, except for his own work of course. He would have a long list of complains about any other photographer’s work, condemning their unimpressive style, non-existent originality and questionable creativity. He often criticizes how photographers these days lack the insight to “read” photographs, and how they lack the element of “artistic sense”. I too, have been a victim through his cruel bashing and unforgiving attacks.

I guess it all comes down to each person’s personality. What do you choose to see, and how you approach people and life in general is strongly reflected in your photography as well. When I am presented a photograph, I would not immediately mark it down and kill it off instantly. I would ask myself what I do I find unique and different in this photograph, what made the photographer choose this subject and why did he adopt the techniques he used to make the shot happen. I choose to see the good things that the photograph speaks, rather than pointing out exclusively the negative points only. Often, the vicious online community (such as photography forums) would pick on technical faults such as poor composition, badly executed lighting, inaccurate white balance, distortion, etc etc. Consequently, how would a newcomer to photographer feel when the first photograph he posted to be commented and criticized received more than a dozen sledgehammers pounding repetitive morale destructive blows?

A Day in Ulu Tamu

I have been rather occupied lately, with the wedding assignment spanning the course of more than two weekends consecutively, the first one in Bali, and subsequently at Kuala Lumpur, cutting me off my usual supply of shutter therapy for nearly three weeks. By now, you would know that a Robin without his usual dosage of shutter therapy is a grumpy and unhappy Robin. Therefore, after all the assignment was over, I promised myself a relaxing weekend to rejuvenate and recharge myself, which of course includes loads and loads and loads of shooting just for myself only. You have no idea how itchy my hands were!!

It was close to weekend that I was invited by a dear friend Gerald for a full day out shooting to Hulu Selangor area, to explore a Orang Asli (native aborigines) settlement at Ulu Tamu. Initially I declined the invitation because I wanted to spend time just by myself only. After giving it some thought, I changed my mind to join Gerald, Yeow and Mun Keat for this day trip out of Kuala Lumpur, mainly for the following reasons: 1) I really need to spend time with friends, especially those friends who have been there for me, and supporting me all these times, declining their offer would have been just plain selfish on my own part, and 2) A shooting session far, far, far away from the hectic and busy Kuala Lumpur sounds tempting. Hence, we made our way early morning to this Kampung (village) which is near Batang Kali district.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital lenses: 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, 50mm F2 macro, 50-200mm F2.8-3.5

Mun Keat trying out the much-discussed 45mm F1.8 on his E-P1. Oh, you just got to love that skin on his E-P1 !!


I found an extremely skinny cat. I had my ever-ready Olympus PEN E-PL1 with 14-42mm mk1 kit lens mounted on it. I zoomed in the lens to the furthest 42mm end, at the widest F/5.6 aperture opening. I moved myself closer and closer to the skinny cat. I fired one shot, *CLACK*, the skinny cat got scared by the shutter sound of the PEN and decided to disappear.

Olympus PEN E-PL1, ISO400, F5.6, 1/500sec

Seriously, Olympus, please dampen the shutter sound on your future PEN bodies !!! We do not have the mirror slapping sound but the mechanical shutter unit is still rather loud, especially when the surrounding is quiet.

Shoot to the Moon

I saw the moon tonight. I fell in love with it. I could not stop gazing into it. Hence, I picked up the camera, and shot the moon. I shot and shot and shot.

Taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko 50-200mm F2.8-3.5
ISO200, F/8, 1/400sec, handheld

For some unexplained reasons, many people have thought that to shoot the moon, a tripod is necessary to hold the shot steady. That was a total bogus, because I found my metering (spot) read 1/400sec average, which was more than sufficient to hold the long lens steady. There was no need for tripod at all. I purposely underexposed the moon to reveal the texture on the brighter region. The Olympus Zuiko 50-200mm did not disappoint.


I still feel a little disoriented after the Bali wedding assignment, though it has been more than a week since my return to KL.

Prized possession.
Olympus E-5, 50mm F2, ISO 1000

One of the most beautiful smile I have seen in a long while.
Olympus E-5, 50mm F2, ISO 1000

One day, I shall make a visit to Bali, strictly for street/travel and landscape photography only. One day.

Calvin & Mabel: A Wedding in KL

Remember the couple that got married in Bali not too long ago (click here if you have not read that entry), Calvin and Mabel, my friends whom I have known from Perth, that I had the honor and privilege to be their photographer? That was one week ago, and subsequently they flew to their homeland and had another wedding reception in Kuala Lumpur. Again, I was the photographer for them. But before the reception dinner, we went around the hotel and snapped some portrait shots of Calvin and Mabel.

Initially I intended to bring the couple out to the Taman Tasik Perdana which was not too far away from their hotel for an outdoor portraiture shooting. Nonetheless, considering the tight schedule of the day, it was decided to just shoot within the hotel compound.  The biggest challenge was not being fully prepared for this shooting session, because we did not anticipate the last minute change of venue, and I did not do prior research on the hotel locations. We explored the places such as the restaurants, lobby and even some scenes were shot inside the suite they were staying in.

I shall not elaborate too much in this particular entry, and just share a few favourite photographs I have selected.

All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5, Zuiko Digital lenses: 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, 50mm F2 macro, 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 and 8mm fisheye.

KLPF (Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival) 2011

If you are in Kuala Lumpur this weekend, and you have not been to KLPF (Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival) 2011, do make a visit to Mid Valley Convention Center, it is happening right now, from Friday to Sunday (7th October 2011 to 10th October 2011). I have just got back from KLPF, and boy, it was one place full of camera porno-graphy !!! So many things are going on in there right now, and the highlights include the major camera manufacturers showcasing their latest products and technologies, some great promotions for gear and accessories (including bags, memories, flash equipments and tripods) as well as many photography talk and seminars going on at different stages all over the Mid Valley Convention Center. I went in with a group of friends whom I have known through the locally setup Olympus PEN Lovers.

I guess the main reason why I went was to molest some of the newest cameras that rolled out into the market recently, which I have not had my hands on. There are some very sexy cameras, and they were all gathered in one centralized area for everyone to play with. Free demo is available, and of course, like any other crazy photographers out there it was indeed a great opportunity to feast our lust for lenses and camera bodies. I spent a great deal of time fiddling with some of the newest cameras, especially the Sony A77, Sony NEX C3, and not to forget, the new offerings from Olympus PEN series such as the Lite E-PL3 and the Mini E-PM1. Everything looked extra sexy in the photography fair where possibly thousands of professional photographers and photography enthusiasts flooded the hall and drowned ourselves in our own saliva.

Nikon J1.
Too bad those are mock-up models only. The design is not half as bad as I thought they looked from the images I saw online. They actually looked not too bad.


Just a quick sharing of a scene that caught my attention on my way home from work. Always remember that there are those less fortunate than us. They too, are human. They too, feel pain, hunger and sadness.

Image taken at Chow Kit
Olympus E-PL1, 14-42mm Mk1, ISO2500

The next time you kneel down and pray to God, please remember those in need. And ask yourself, what can you do, and how will you act?

Even that half-eaten Big Mac you threw away can help them make through the day.

Calvin and Mabel: A Wedding in Bali

Hello beautiful people !! I am back to Malaysia, and boy, what an adventurous ride for the past four days. I travelled to Bali, Indonesia to cover my friends' wedding ceremony, as well as doing some pre-wedding shots at the surrounding locations of the breathtakingly stunning looking island. It was a full on solid four days of shooting and and shooting and shooting and I have come back with a truck load of photographs !! Here is a preview, comprising of small selection of my favourite photographs in this blog entry.

This was my first Destination Wedding assignment, and I was very nervous and excited at the same time. There were many uncertainties and doubts in the beginning, but thank goodness everything went smoothly and beautifully. The sky was perfect for all the times of shooting, including the actual day of wedding ceremony itself, and no one could have asked for a better weather on such an important occasion for Calvin and Mabel. I have known both Calvin and Mabel since my university days in Perth, and it was indeed a huge thing for them to get married. They did it with style in Bali, and I was honored and privileged to be the invited as the photographer for their most special day.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR: E-5 and E-520, Zuiko Digital Lenses: 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, 50mm F2 macro, 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 and 8mm fisheye.

The wedding ceremony was held at Infinity Chapel at Conrad Resort, Bali.