Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Long Tuesday

Yesterday (Tuesday) was the Prophet Mohammad's birthday, hence we had a national public holiday in Malaysia. Still suffering from post-holiday syndrome coming back from a long Chinese New Year break a week ago, this little day off, no matter how brief, was much appreciated.

I felt that I have stretched my Tuesday a little longer than expected. I woke up rather early, in hopes of doing some shutter therapy on the streets. I know, I know, which crazy dude would give a long morning sleep in a pass, right? Working full time in a city means you have very little time to yourself, and I really treasure my time that I spend with my camera and gear.

As I got up to the glorious sunrise in the morning, I felt the urge to do something different. I decided to just take a walk around the park near where I stay, and did a little macro hunting instead. It was a short walk, lasted a little more than an hour, and I did not shoot much, but I did get some shots I was happy with.

All the above macro insect images were taken with Olympus E-5 with Zuiko 50mm F2 Macro.
General camera settings: shutter speed 1/80-1/100second, Aperture F8-F11, ISO 200, wireless TTL-Flash fired off-camera from one side.

It has been quite some time since I last did a proper macro shooting. I miss the times I spent in the woods, searching for anything interesting, usually colourful insects and any variety of spiders to photograph. Macro, particularly insect photography was an unusual obsession that I picked up, and I sure would love to shoot more macro again some time, if I have enough friends to do it with. There is just something about macro that is different from other genres of photography, it sucks you dry off your concentration in the process of nailing that one shot. You need to squeeze out every tiny bit of technical perfection to capture the properly exposed, and focused shot. Considerations of creative/unusual lighting setup, focusing techniques, as well as some body bending yoga and ninja breathing techniques to steady your shot can be quite challenging.

Although the walk in the morning was a short one, I did enjoy myself thoroughly. It was just a public park after all, for more interesting insects/bugs, I will need to find a more virgin forest, probably further away from the densely populated city. It was a walk that I enjoyed, the walk that I needed to clear off my mind. A perfect start of the day.

As I got home late morning, I received a call from a dear friend Gerald, confirming that David Chua (a great photographer friend) was free for lunch. Kind Gerald drove all the way to my place to fetch me up, and we met up with David Chua and David "Living" Ching at Subang for some seriously heart melting Bak Kut Teh lunch. Great food accompanying a good morning walk, and a fellowship with fellow Olympus users/photographers and friends, how much better can my day get?

The following images were taken with Olympus E-520 with 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens.

BAK KUT TEH... Ohhh Heaven...

Dry version.

Wet/Soup version.

The Bak Kut Teh was indeed very good. It was my first time trying the Bak Kut Teh in Subang, and I must say the quality rivals the ones you find in Klang or any other Bak Kut Teh places. We had two versions, the soup and the dry servings, and they were both cleared out, into our stomachs in matter of minutes. We liked the dry version so much, we ordered another serving.

I had the chance to molest David Chua's Olympus OM-1, the legendary Olympus film camera. It felt like a brick, so solid and tank-like that you can use it to knock someone cold unconscious and the there wont even be a slightest dent on the metal-built camera body. David asked me if I would ever give film photography a try. I should have answered "maybe", but somehow my reflexes got the better of me and "no" came out of my mouth instead. I guess a part of me has always been curious about film, and the wonders it can bring, but the other part of me kept telling myself "why spend money on film cameras and the accesories when you should be saving up for that next lens you are aiming at for your DSLR system?" Oh well, lets not go into this debate now, and leave it for another entry, on another day.

Olympus OM-1 Black Edition

OM-1 and the E-P2 (with Pana 20mm F1.7) at the back.

Side Note: Gosh, 14-42mm, though just a meagre kit lens, can do such superb close up/pseudo macro shots. Very impressive short focusing distance. And no compromise in terms of details/sharpness at all. Yes it is not as sharp as the 50mm f2 or any HG/SHG lenses, but seriously, for its low budget price tag, to be able to achieve such image quality, how much more can anyone expect?

In the morning macro session, I brought my Olympus E-5 out with the 50mm F2 Macro lens, together with the FL-36R flash which was being fired off-camera, controlled wirelessly. However, in the afternoon, I decided to give the E-5 a rest, and whipped out my old, trusty E-520 instead. The lens I brought out to play: 14-42mm F3.5-5.6, the kit lens. Gosh, I miss using this lens !! Those who complained about how bad the kit lens is should be shot in their anus, because even after using E-5 with HG (and some SHG) lenses, coming back to E-520 and the humble 14-42mm, I still think they can measure up, and does extremely well for its intended uses. And the joy of using something much lighter, more compact and simpler, was priceless.

What David pointed out was true, Whatever camera you use, DSLR, compact point and shoot, Rangefinder, Film, medium format, etc etc, a good photograph is a good photograph. So true !!

After the long lunch/chat session, we decided to stretch our legs a little bit, and just walked around the neighborhood. That was when I switched to my 50mm F2 Macro, mounted on the E-520 and just walked around with this setup. Was the autofocus slower and less reliable on E-520 in comparison to E-5? Yes. Was it a pain when the lens started to hunt, and hesitated to lock in focus? Yes. Was E-5 significantly sharper than E-520? Yes. Did any of these facts bother me? No. Did I enjoy the shooting session? Definitely !!

The following images were shot with Olympus E-520 with 50mm F2 Macro.

The infamous David Chua.



Lounging by the petrol/gas station.

I understand very well of what E-5 is capable of, and the limitations of E-520, but if I just stop comparing, and just pick up whichever camera, and focused on making photographs happen instead, the sooner I will be happy because photography is all about shooting. Coming home, looking at the photographs on the screen, I was rather happy with the results that the E-520 can churn out. At low ISO settings, the details were crisp, colours were radiant, and the photographs screams Olympus all over. Facts about Olympus: 1) Compact, small, light system 2) Superb quality kit lenses and 3) Unbeatable colours (undeniable, Olympus colours rocks).

We had to cut our shooting session short, as the sky started to threaten with lightning and thunder.

A day with macro shooting, great companions, awesome food, and a street shooting, only meant a day well spent.

If you do not know what shutter therapy is, you obviously have not met me just yet. Shutter therapy may just be the next best thing after sex.


  1. The most important is how u handle the "weapon", no matter how smart u are :)

    Nice photo man!

  2. Anston, long time no hear from you. Thanks mate. We must catch up some time soon.

  3. I like the word "anus" and "sex" in your post. But don't get me wrong, I am straight. LOL... Oops... I forgot, I like the word "infamous" too... it depicts how "hated" am I by some wedding photographers out there. (obviously after some thrashing I did in my 2009 blog posts). Hahaha...

  4. gosh your kit lens shot makes my kit looks like a child's play toy :p

    not sure am i wrong but somehow my m4/3 kit lens seems cant to deliver such clear shot like yours, is it due to the material elements in the lens?

  5. Hey David,
    Perhaps I should have applied some mild censorship in my writing !! LOL.
    You are infamous for the right reasons. You have inspired many photographers, professionals and photo-enthusiasts (like myself), we all appreciate your generous sharing and kind support, all the time.
    Your trashing you did were necessary. We all need some dosage of truth, no matter how painful or hurtful they can be. We need someone to stand up and start saying enough is enough.

  6. Hello Gerald,
    There is difference in optical quality between the original 14-42mm for the 4/3 system and the 14-42mm for the micro 4/3 system, but the difference is negligible.
    To obtain super sharp photograph:
    1) Shoot at low ISO
    2) Lower your noise filter, OFF it you want to.
    3) mitigate all blurring by proper hand/camera holding technique
    4) make sure your image is FOCUSED accurately. Slight mis-focus means soft, unsharp output. This is very crucial.
    5) Make sure your lighting is good: to have enough contrast/depth in your photograph.

  7. "Shutter therapy may just be the next best thing after sex."

    I just love this quote, can women possibly understand this? ^^

  8. Hey JS-Chong,
    LOL !! Thanks. I guess there is no point explaining to them eh? Some things are better kept to ourselves.

  9. Hi Robin,
    Sarawakian Olympus user is proud of you,maybe one day we have TT in Kuching thru Sarawak blogger.
    Wow !!! at least someone is still talking about E-system not 'PEN' that is ongoing here & there.Well, you know what i mean :)

  10. I have been shooting professionally since 1986 and I still have some great Minolta bodies and lenses in their bags in the closet. Not sold them yet like my medium format. Great gear but I love shooting with Olympus digital more. If you ever come to the USA I would love to show you around. I would like to say though, we just don't have bugs like you do, nowhere. Amazing photogrqaphy Robin.

  11. Hey awang,
    thanks for your compliments, I appreciate it. Yeah having a walkabout session in kuching with sarawak bloggers sounds great!! Olympus 4/3 Dslr system shall live on.

    Hey Carl,
    thanks for the compliments!! I am very sure many people do enjoy olympus cameras like we do. I think to find more exotic insects you will need to venture into the jungle. I would also love to visit the states one day!!

  12. Strangely I find the your photos from the E-520 nicer than the E5

  13. Hey andrew,
    maybe because I love e-520 a great deal!!

  14. Heyo.

    Looks like you can't stop taking photos huh. Haha. I like that.

    Can't say much about the kitlens as the poison you gave me last Sunday still sticking. xD

    Took me quite the effort to pass it to my financier to get the result. =D

  15. Hey Snow,
    Ahhh, glad to see the poison working in your bloodstream.
    So has the financier approved your next acquisition?

  16. Hey Robin,great shots!I have used many cameras but settled for Olmypus OM system in the late '70s for about the same reasons as you.However average Olympus DSLR generally don't shoot video not to mention full-HD. Sigh !! I have many OM-System friends who switched brand !

  17. Hello Billy,
    Glad to hear from you. OM era was indeed a golden time for Olympus, and it is sad to hear people going away from it !!
    Video implementation is still very new to DSLR. It has many potentials, I am sure the development will be more interesting in the coming few years.

  18. Ooo... Haven't try the dry version before. Is the BKT shop located around SS14?

  19. Hey Chong,
    It is in one of the shops near to Inti Subang. Not really sure where ahahha

  20. Have you tried using manual OM lenses on E520 and how is the setting for the right exposure like?

  21. How could you do all that in one day?
    Great pics

  22. Your last statement... "Shutter therapy might be the next thing after sex".. Well, if that's your take.. then your future wife must be into photography too.

    I bet you both will enjoy your lives together =)

  23. Hello Billy,
    Unfortunately I have no experience with OM lenses on E-520, I have tried them but never shot with them extensively to give a constructive comment.

    Hey Cyril,
    LOL we shall see what happens in the future. if it comes true, you can come to me and say "I told you so" ahah.

    Hey Analogic,
    Public miracles are Godsent. Hence we make full use of it !!

  24. Robin: wonderful photos with the magical E-520. Also loved your macro shots with the E-5, that's much much more than what I could ever get on a short walk!

    Billy: I have the OM 1.8 50mm, a "young" one made in Japan (serial number > 3 Mio). And these are wonderful. See my tagged photos on Flickr: - really love that small lens. But still I'm happy that now I've got a ZD 2.0 50mm macro as well.

    and cheers,

  25. Robin,

    let's meet next time I'm there - my brother-in-law lives close to Subang airport, he's working and making lenses for Canon. Would love to join you for one or more of your shutter therapy walks...


  26. Billy: sorry, didn't really answer your question. For the OM Zuiko, I always use aperture priority mode, and almost always center-weighted measuring. When fully open at f=1.8, you can overexpose 1/3rd or even 2/3rds, and most probably you'll end up with a correct exposure. That light loss within the body is caused by the bigger rear opening of the lens, so that light isn't reflected completely by the mirror, and not measured - you can either work around this (like I do), or put a small black self-made "ring" or carton etc. in the rear of the lens. Search the DPReview Oly DSLR forum for this if you're interested.

    That light loss is pretty much gone at an aperture of 5.6, so at f=4, if you dial in +1/3rd, that's more than enough in my experience.

    Hope that helps,
    and cheers,

  27. Hello Wolfgang,
    thanks so much for your sharing and explanation, I am sure Billy will find it useful.
    When you do pop by kuala lumpur do let me know, surely we must hit the streets together.