Back to Basics with Olympus E-PL1

Side Note: All photographs in this entry were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1. All images were post-processed.

As I have stated in my previous entry, the Olympus PEN allows me to get right back to basics, starting photography fresh, all over again.

I have only the E-PL1 body and a humble 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens. I am setting aside the mighty E-5, the versatility and sharpness of the High Grade lenses and just strip myself down to bare essence. Although I have always reminded myself that the photographer is the one producing photographs, not the cameras, I too, like any other geeks out there can get carried away with the worldly temptations of better high ISO performance on the camera and lusting for faster and longer lenses. Sometimes, after producing a shot, as satisfied as I was with the image outcome, I did ask myself, would I be able to produce the same output with just maybe a kit lens? The answer has almost every time turned out to be hauntingly YES. Then why use such a powerful camera and lens in the first place?

Friendly Smile

At the side of the entrance to a Chinese Temple.

Guardian of the door.

We are taught to get the best in everything, to compare and discard the inferior products. However, the painful truth is that a better camera does not necessarily mean you will produce better images. By using a professional grade camera does not make you a professional photographer, if you are not able to master the demanding technical execution and generate strong artistic vision in your works. I fully agree that the tool itself is important for the crafter to get his masterpiece done, but without the skills, dedication, passion and love for the craft, the final product may not exhibit the quality and satisfaction no matter how great the tool was used in the first place. You may have the canvas and really expensive high quality oil paints but if you can’t paint, you will not be able to produce something better than a child with an artistic mind drawing away with merely a pencil on his plain white paper.

Unburned incense coil.

Love the lines.

A really grand Sikh Temple

Everything looked so alive.

Everyone is so friendly in the temple.

Eating free Banana Leaf Rice.

I don’t want to be labelled as just a photographer who uses a professional gear. I am proud of my E-5 and am really satisfied with all my current line-up of Olympus 4/3 lenses (oh my, wonderful creatures those are). Consequently, people start to associate me, my photography work and my artistic vision with the tools that I use. They claimed that “I could do what I do because I use Olympus E-5 and this and that lenses”. Olympus E-System is a great system, no doubt, and I have explored the wonders of photography world with E-System  this far, I enjoyed using the system thoroughly. Nevertheless, associating everything that I am to my camera is not the way I want people to see me as a photographer.

You do not ask the writer what typewriter he uses if you think his article is good. You do not ask what paint brush a painter uses when you awe at his magnificent painting. Instead I would ask where they found the inspiration to produce such wondrous piece of art, and the challenges and difficulties that they faced to translate the ideas and vision in their minds into their artistic output. Similarly this applies to photography as well.

I am NOT my camera, my camera does not define me or my photography work. I am a photographer (not a good one yet, a work in progress), I am certainly not just a random dude using a camera!!

Friendly conversations

Mini Statues lined up

Lovely side lighting creating 3-dimensional effect.

Who says the 14-42mm kit lens can't do bokeh?

Cheerful kids.

Therefore, I hope detaching myself from the Olympus E-5 temporarily and snapping away with the basic Olympus E-PL1 and kit lens can realign myself to the fact that photography is a lot more than just camera and lenses. There are many restrictions with the PEN, no substantial grip, slow AF, no direct dials or shortcut buttons, limited maximum shutter speed to 1/2000sec, no zoom and slow aperture (kit lens only) and basically, there are no bells and whistles with this setup that I use.

One camera, one lens.

One principle actually: simplicity.

I have always believed in simplicity. In my photographs, I usually only have one subject with one story. I tried my best to minimize clutter (though sometimes I failed to do so) and present a plain background. Yes, there are a lot more complicated approach with multiple subjects and layers and layers of hidden meanings infused together in one supposingly complex photograph, but I like to keep things clean and straight to the point. This is my own preference at the time being, as I mature in my journey of photography, perhaps my perceptions will evolve. For now, simplicity works best for me. The PEN with a kit lens could not get any simpler !!

Wanton Noodles for lunch at Petaling Street

The series of photographs as shown in this entry were taken from a shutter therapy session with Jasonmumbles and Ivy last Sunday at a Chinese Temple and a Sikh Temple at Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur. PEN, getting me back to basics, was refreshing.

I believe it is important to get back to basics, take a pause and reflect on our journey in photography from time to time. What say you? Share your thoughts, and of course, some passion for PEN if you love the system !!


  1. Eric from Edmonton Alberta4/19/2011 07:59:00 AM

    Wonderful pics as always. The EPL1 pics looks as good as the E5. I wonder how it would fair in low light? Well, I'll probably soon find out in your future blogs. Otherwise your new camera feels right at home in your hands. Keep those pics coming!

  2. Hello eric,
    thanks for the compliments, thats a huge thing considering the use of merely kit lens for all the shots in this entry.
    More photos will surely come, and yes I will share my thoughts on low light performance soon too. Cheers.

  3. Glad that you have joined the Pen Family:-) I always enjoyed your street shots. I have to agree that a photographer is important than a camera but equipment is still as important. Buy only what you required is the most important. Example, if I shoots mostly streets and outdoor, I will just stick to my 17mm f2.8 instead of spending more on a 20mm f1.7 etc.

  4. Hello James,
    Glad to find another PEN user!! Thanks for the compliments, I appreciate them.
    It is true and I agree that we only need to use what is necessary, but some people do take photography as a luxurious showcasing opportunity!

  5. Amazing pictures as usual. You make it seem so effortless.

    I find the IS to be very effective in low light. Assuming your subject doesn't move around much, I have slowed it down to one second hand held before and it is great. Effective way to bring down the ISO as well, not that it is necessary as even high ISO pictures look great.

    Looking forward to more great examples.

  6. Francis,
    thanks so much for the compliments.
    I have not had the chance to push the IS yet, have not done much low light shooting also. I will be doing so really soon. Indeed the high ISO looks very clean

  7. Hi Robin,

    Great pics again, if we give you a disposable or single-use camera, I think you still make more then great photo's.!!!

    As promised the link to our zoo adventures from me an Mandy.

    Verry kind regards

    And... MANY thanks for youre blog!!!

  8. Hello rick
    thanks for such kind words!!! I have never used a disposable camera before so that itself would be a great challenge.i am on my mobile phone now, will surely view your wonderful zoo photos once I got home later.

  9. Bartosz Dawidowski4/19/2011 07:55:00 PM

    Robin, have you compared daylight IQ between E-pl1 and E-5? I have a feeling there is not much difference between those two cameras, and that E-pl1 is just as sharp in good light.

  10. i like..i like....the photo the word u use really nice...AmyLi

  11. Hello Bartosz,
    It is hard to do an apple to apple comparison, firstly due to different lenses being used. Wait till I get a 4/3 to m4/3 adapter and mount the same lenses on both body, then I can give a better representative feedback. We both know that 11-22mm and the legendary 50mm macro would perform significantly better in terms of contrast and sharpness.

    Thanks !!!

  12. Hi Robin,

    Great pics....I like what you can do with just a simple camera.

    You may want to remove the wanton noodle pic from this blog posting. The indian temple is mostly vegetarian.

    You can delete this post after reading. Thanks.

  13. Wang,
    I thank you very much for your kind compliments.
    However, my "shutter therapy" sessions shall include any photos I find on the street, may it be vegetables, pig, or cats that can fly.
    Therefore, there was not a blog entry specifically dedicated to Indian temple here. And by now you should know there is no way anyone can make me "delete" my photos.
    Your understanding and cooperation is beautifully appreciated.

  14. Sir this is Devendra from India.Wonderful work with EPL1.Just wanted to say that the temple is a Hindu temple and not a Sikh temple.

  15. hi robyn!
    these are beautiful pictures i came across your blog while reading reviews on the EPL1 because i am about to get one
    but are these pictures straight from the camera or was there post-processing??