Not So Close

I had just returned from a wedding assignment which took me almost two hours drive away from where I stay. The wedding took place at Sepang Gold Coast's premium location, the Golden Palm Tree Resort. Me and my photographer partner of the day, Fred arrived as early as 7am in the morning, and we shot a pre-wedding portraiture around the resort and beach locations in the morning. The actual day ceremony actually started in the evening, during sunset, which continued immediately to the reception dinner. All in all, it was surely a unique interesting wedding assignment to remember, and our hosts and also the newly weds have been overly generous and kind, taking care of me and my friend Fred very well. 

Coming home from a full day shoot, I just felt like taking the whole Sunday slow and easy. There was that constant nagging behind my head that reminded me to make time for some shutter therapy session, but my body just refused to move. Not wanting to just waste the whole day away, I finally decided to make a quick stroll (which then lasted less than an hour) and grab some shots. I was not exactly in the mood to go all out and attack the streets like tomorrow will never come, and I chose to shoot everything from a distance instead. Not my usual style, but it was necessary as I was not in the best of myself to approach strangers and make things work. 

All images were taken with Sony A350 and DT 50mm F1.8 lens


Middle of the Road

I am still on my "slow-update" status at the moment. Have not been out shooting much lately. It is after all still the holiday season, plus I am having a rather interesting wedding assignment this weekend, which I look forward to very much. 

Thinking through all things around me at the moment, I felt like I am in the middle of the road. Surely I have walked far enough from the edge, but I have not quite reached the other side yet, and that seemed to be quite a bit of distance away. 

What is stopping me from crossing all the way?

My Desktop and Birthday Gift

It was my 28th birthday yesterday, and as a thank you to all you beautiful people for your undying loyalty and support to this simplyROBIN blog/website, I give you a glimpse into my mini-workstation, or more like a snapshot of whatever that can be seen on my desktop. Yeap, this is where all the photo post-processing has happened, and countless hours has been spent on writing blogs, replying comments and emails. As well as monitoring what some weirdos and trolls wrote about me on 43rumors and DPReview forum sites. 

Here it is, my humble, simple, nothing-special desktop:

Merry Christmas !!

To all you beautiful people out there, have a Blessed and Merry Christmas !!

Have you seen a spinning Christmas tree?

Olympus DSLR E-520 with 14-42mm kit lens on a tripod. ISO100, F/22, 6sec

The World Did Not End, Shutter Therapy Must Go On

You know to be entirely honest I was a little bit disappointed that nothing actually happened on 21/12/2012, after all the hype, theories and dramas everywhere. Perhaps a little bit of snow in Malaysia would be nice, and I have always been wanting to see a tornado. I know it is not fun when it really happens, but seriously, life would have been more exciting if something actually happened, even not at a large scale on the 21/12/2012. Oh well...

Nevertheless, since nothing interesting actually happened, lets just put that behind us, and make something happen for ourselves. For me? I choose to go on with my shutter therapy. I was meeting up with a fellow Sarawakian friend and amazing blogger, Cyril Dason and Dinah for lunch at Pavilion, KL earlier today. Therefore I planned my shutter therapy to coincide with the lunch meet. I arrived about an hour earlier, and an hour was more than I needed when I was shooting solo on the streets. 

All images were taken with Sony A350 and 50mm F1.8

Head scarfs

Alvin & Jacklyn: Wedding Day

I was privileged to be the wedding photographer for a great friend, Alvin. It was a joyous occasion ! I was using both Olympus and Sony together for this shoot, Olympus E-5 with 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 for my wide angle needs, and Sony A350 with 50mm F1.8 for close up shots. I did use flash for indoor shooting, the FL-50R on Olympus and a third party with TTL compatibility for the Sony. Both cameras worked well together, and they delivered the results that I required. Surely this combination saved me a lot of trouble of changing lenses. 

Cheap Haircut

Maybe it is time for me to get one? RM6 is sure cheap, for a big city like KL. On a second thought why not let it grow?

Sony A350 and 35mm F1.8 lens. 

I liked how the customer was in such a vulnerable state in this photo, and the barber had that razor sharp knife.... as if saying "your neck is mine". 

Ok ok Christmas is coming. Think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts Robin !!

Sometimes Black and White Works Better

I was looking through my set of color photographs taken at Petaling Street yesterday, as I have published them here in full glorious color. One particular shot stood out, which I thought would have been much better with monotone processing. Alright I admit I was giving myself an excuse to try the new Snapseed software that I have just installed few days ago, the hype of using it to process my black and white images different is still going strong. 

The above image was processed with Snapseed. The original color image is shown as below.

Enough Black and White. Let There be Color!

I think I must have been obsessed with black and white images lately, that I did not realized I have somehow neglected the wonderful colors the old Sony A350 CCD sensor is capable of rendering. Early this morning, with the soft, warm glow of morning light, I went to Petaling Street, together with Kelvin and Nick, we attached the streets. Though the Sony A350 was an old camera, at the base ISO100, the image output is simply amazing, rich in detail and pleasing in overall color reproduction. Coupled with the Sony 35mm F1.8 lens, it was as versatile as it can be, being able to have a little bit of wide angle shooting when I move myself backwards a few steps, and at the same time, not losing my need and desire for close up portrait shooting, as I stepped in closer to my subject. The 35mm lens works very well with A350, I am comfortable and work efficiently with the 50mm equivalent focal length (in 35mm format conversion) and that F1.8 wide aperture was more than sufficient to render delicious shallow depth of field. 

All images in this entry were taken with Sony A350 and Sony 35mm F1.8 lens

They can fly

Snapseed: Post-Processing Differently for my Black and White Photographs

 So here is the answer to the questioned I posted a few days back, I got myself Snapseed, and have been trying this new software (new to me) and I am really liking the processing handling of black and white files. It does the monochrome images very differently, with added quick shortcut processing that adds interesting effects (something mobile phone users have come to love), called filters. I have come to personally love the "Drama" effects, as well as the default black and white processing, which includes flexibility of using color filters (I use yellow and orange filters from time to time to create the skin tone "pop"). The reason I am so drawn to the "Drama" effects was the quick ability to produce a little bit of "HDR" look, without having completely destroyed the image with the overcooked impression, with the option to control how much "strength" applied for the processing. One can judge how much processing and apply individually on image to image basis, and I really love how the details and separate tones just jumped out with this quick "drama" filter. It strongly reminded me of Olympus' default art filter, the "Dramatic Tone", which I loved very much, but my only complain with it was lack of control to tone down the super-processed, over saturated, black-ish look. This issue was solved with Snapseed. 

This morning, Kelvin brought along his new gear, Fujifilm X-E1, together with the amazing 35mm F1.4 lens for our street shooting. I had my Sony A350 with the 35mm F1.8, and we attacked the Pudu Market. I think I should start calling my market hunts as "Market Shooting" instead of street shooting, it would sound more appropriate, would you agree? Kelvin was giving his new, amazing X-E1 its first trial run, as I was anticipating what would come out from the oven baking of Snapseed from the files I got this morning !! Giving a new post-processing software a run can be just as fun as acquiring new gear. Ok, Ok, maybe not exactly the same, but the poor self of me who cannot afford buying new gear all the time would like to believe it is the same !! Do cut me some slack hey !!

All images were taken with Sony Alpha A350 and Sony DT 35mm F1.8 lens. 
All black and white images processed with Snapseed

Oxygen in the Market

Beautiful Strangers

It is nearing the end of the year, about time for "the best of" series of my photographs, and writing a blog to sum up the year 2012 that has been. However, as I was looking through my collection of photographs taken at Kuala Lumpur streets, I started to have a different idea, to do something rather differently. I compiled 80 of my personal favourite photographs and created a photo-slideshow, titled "Beautiful Strangers". 

And.. here it is. Enjoy !! For optimum impact, do watch in full HD !!

by Robin Wong

Special thanks to Silent Scenery for the music. 
Please do take some time to check out their awesome music, you may find them and "like" their official Facebook Page, buy their music from CDbaby or iTunes. 

The Ugly Duckling

Kodak CX7430, taken in 2005 at Swan River, Perth. 

The above image kind of reminded me of the classic children's tale "the ugly duckling". Then again, from the photograph I took, the reality was a lot less cruel than the original tale. On another thought, that white bird could just be a seagull goofing along. Whatever it was, I thought this was quite an interesting photograph. Whatever it was, that moment was very special to me. I was on my way home from the city, taking the TransPerth bus number 102 close to sunset. The bus took the riverside drive, and as I was looking out the window over the majestic Swan River, I saw huge flock (do you call them by flocks?) of ducks in the river. Though I was still about 5 minutes bus ride away (and about 20 minutes walk to where I lived) I immediately stopped the bus and got down. I had an old, now dead Kodak Easyshare CX7430, a 4MP dinosaur and I started making shots happen. 

Trying Something Different in Black and White Post-Processing

Any modern photographers will tell you that post-processing is very important, and is an integral part of the whole digital photography workflow. Only through experimentation and exploring different options can we discover new things, and learn to pick up what works for our own style and preferences.

Two cats and a bird

Of Squirrels and Monkeys

I wish Kuala Lumpur has more open parks with lusher greenery, so that our option for photography would not be stuck with everything steel and concrete. In my process of digging older photographs (which at the same time I discovered the previous entry's fashion show photos), I came across some rare squirrel shots which I did. I think I must have just acquired my Olympus E-5, and I was using the much loved 40-150mm F3.5-4.5 telephoto zoom lens. 

I Love Shooting Fashion Shows

Before we dive in with beautiful photographs of models doing fashion show, allow me to make a public service announcement.

Olympus E-System and PEN Comprehensive Workshop 
Date                : 14th December 2012 (Friday) 
Time                : 7pm - 10pm 
Venue          : Unit No.10-8, Menara 1MK, Kompleks '1 Mont' Kiara', No. 1, Jalan Kiara, Mont' Kiara, 50480    Kuala Lumpur. 
Speaker           : Mr. Sanjitpaal Sigh (IPA winner) 
Fees                : RM25 (for Olympus user), RM50 (for non Olympus user) 
Kindly log on to for registration and RSVP by 12th Dec 2012 (Wednesday) if you are interested to join. 
Sanjit is a great friend, and an amazing photographer whom I admire. We have worked together on several occasions, and one notable project was the Olympus OM-D E-M5 review (he did the video part). He has recently won an international award in IPA. 
Basic photography controls of the camera, and technical execution/understanding are very important. Do give this workshop a consideration if you intend to maximize the use of your gear. Depending on my work schedule, I might make it to the workshop !

There was a time not too long ago, when the only camera I had with me was the faithful Olympus DSLR E-520, I always kept an eye out for any free public fashion shows happening in major shopping malls, and religiously would shoot them as if I was the paid photographer for the events. I think it is difficult to explain the thrill and fun of shooting fashion shows, of beautiful models doing their thing walking down the runway. I also understand that most free shows were not exactly up to the standard of glitz and glamour as prominently highlighted in the fashion world (I know not much of that alien planet) but being a young photographer, and being a boy who appreciates female beauty, I find fashion shows very, very attractive, and an immense joy to shoot. 

I came across an old archive of unprocessed photographs of a fashion show held in July 2010 at Pavilion KL. The Olympus E-5 was not even out then. It was also the time when I just started exploring street photography (and produced almost all crappy images at that time). I think I must have just acquired the 50mm F2 lens, and I remembered myself wishing that I have brought along the 40-150mm F3.5-4.5 telephoto zoom lens instead. Nonetheless, looking through this set of photographs, it brought back a lot of memories, and surely I do miss taking fashion show photographs. Perhaps I should start hunting again. 

All images were taken with Olympus E-520 and Zuiko Digital 50mm F2 macro lens

Pudu Shooting and Sony Alpha User Gathering

I had the privilege to attend an official user gathering for Sony Alpha and NEX users at Studio Zaloon, Pudu Plaza earlier this afternoon. The event was jontly organized by Sony Malaysia and Studio Zaloon, with the purpose to enable to Sony users to get together and share their experience, photography knowledge and photographs. The gathering happened in late afternoon, and Pudu Plaza was situated at Pudu, a place which has become very frequent for my street hunting sessions. Therefore, it was only natural for me to plan my schedule to fit in some street shooting just before the event. 

I roamed the streets of Pudu, and then into the open air wet market with the Sony Alpha A350, and the 50mm F1.8 lens. As much as I loved and preferred the 35mm F1.8, somehow, there are times I really want to work with something longer. Today is the day where I felt I wanted to distance myself from my subjects, step myself backward a little, and compose my shots a little differently. Also, this was one of the rarest occasion where I actually started my shooting session close to noon, hence the lighting was a lot harsher than usual, and surely this put the A350 to test when it comes to handling difficult dynamic range situations. After all, the Sony Alpha DSLR in those days, in comparison to the competitors from other manufacturers, boasted to have better dynamic range handling. 

All images on the streets were taken with Sony Alpha A350 and DT 50mm F1.8 lens

Sweet Corn

PC Fair

Sony Alpha A350 with 35mm F1.8 or 50mm F1.8, in extremely dim lighting condition. Is it just me, or is the PC Fair downsizing? It felt a lot smaller this time around.

Old Macro Shots

I have always had strong fascination for the tiny world of insects and spiders, partially thanks to strong inspiration and much kind guidance from fellow Olympus shooter Amir Ridhwan. There was a time I dedicated most of my shooting time in the weekend looking for macro subjects, and worked very hard to improve my lighting setup and shooting techniques. I only had my trusty Olympus E-520 and the budget, yet very useful and sharp Olympus Zuiko Digital 35mm F3.5 macro lens, which I wished I did not sell off. It was probably one of the lenses which I regretted selling, and wished to buy back when I intend to get back to the  insect macro game. Then suddenly the Sony happened unexpectedly, so now the 35mm macro will have to wait. 

Digging through my old archives, as far back as 2009 (not that far back actually, but I have first picked up a DSLR in 2008, so I was fairly new back then when I took the shots in this blog entry) I found many photographs which brought back memories. There were times I braved the rain in the butterfly park, shooting butterflies with water droplets on their eyes and wings. There were times I ventured into the reserved forest in the middle of the night (we went in at 9.30pm and got out from the jungle some time between 1.00am-2.00am) for night insect macro hunt. Those were the times of real adventures I dare say, somehow the process of hunting for subjects was a huge part of the excitement. When I found something I have not encountered before, the adrenaline rush was like nothing I have felt before, and as I worked the camera and flash to capture the shots, it felt "victorious". Ok, that was not exactly the best word to describe my feeling, but it was a great feeling, and it stayed on even until now, when I viewed back the old photographs. They say that emotional connection you have when you made the photos is temporary, and you should not rely on that to judge your own photographs. Rubbish. That emotional feeling, sometimes, is what makes the whole shooting process worthwhile. Never, never disregard that. 

When you open your eyes, like really, really open your eyes, the world around you will surprise you. The beauty in nature can be hidden, and it was an indescribable joy to discover the world of macro insect and spiders.

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-520 and Zuiko Digital 35mm F3.5 macro, with external flash FL-36R. Images were shot in various locations around Kuala Lumpur, in the year 2009. 

They come in dozens

Exploring 35mm F1.8 Further

The more I use the Sony 35mm F1.8 lens, the more I feel right at home with it. The perspective it produces was just nice (about 52mm focal length on 35mm equivalent format), not being too tight, having room for plenty of background, allowing the subject to have space to "breathe". Yet at the same time, it is not too wide, it allows for some very good close up shots if needed, and I get sufficient working distance between where I stand and where the subject is, and not being overly close until they feel uncomfortable. Usually I'd say standing about 2 meters away would be ideal, and being 1.5 meters away is still alright, but working at 1 meter and nearer, people would have that "WTF" look on their facial expression, something I try to avoid. What is the point of shooting portraits of people when they look as if they don't like to have their photos taken in the first place? 

Sony A350 and that 35mm F1.8 on my hands. 
Image courtesy of Shaun the Footless Fish, taken with the Voightlander 17.5mm F0.95 lens on his OM-D. 

Amber Chia

Malaysian supermodel, Amber Chia on stage fashion show. 

Olympus DSLR E-520 and Zuiko Digital 40-150mm F3.5-4.5, with use of external flash FL-36R. 

The Quiet Morning

Important Note: I have been away for the past weekend to Batu Pahat on a wedding assignment, with very limited connectivity to Internet. Therefore I shall be replying comments and emails a little slower than usual. The weekend has been quite a fulfilling and enjoyable one !!

It was a Saturday morning, that Shaun, a friend from Brisbane whom I have shot on the street previously, called for a street shooting session. It was decided among-st the group that the shooting location would be Petaling Street, and everyone (at least those who confirmed) agreed to meet on location. However, as Shaun and I arrived, it was only the two of us, and somehow, somewhere communication went wrong and the few others who originally were supposed to join Shaun  (I personally made the confirmation), ended up on the other part of Kuala Lumpur streets. Oh well, so much for modern technologies keeping everyone connected. We decided to shoot on our own, at Petaling Street. 

All images were taken with Sony Alpha A350 and DT 35mm F1.8 lens

Big Box

Evening Sky

I was on the way out to grab something to bite, and I chanced from the corridor of my place, a beautiful sight which stopped me dead on my tracks. The sky was striking orange, with layers of dark clouds threatening rain. Against the sky there was almost completed building construction, with tower cranes, as seen to my naked eyes as only silhouettes. The tower cranes were still operating, turning around. It was a magnificent sight. 

I ran back to my room and grabbed the Olympus E-5 and attached 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 (non-swd) onto it. I took just a few shots before the sky became dull and the dark clouds took over the majority of the scene. 

That 50-200mm !! How I missed using it. What a magnificent lens it was. 

As I looked into the dying sky (strange suddenly I did not feel that hungry anymore) a few thoughts came into mind. How we civil engineers build concrete jungles and destroy whatever that is left of the natural greens. How belief and faith in people can change so much, just because perception of reality has been shifted due to real life circumstances. How honesty may not necessarily make things better, and most people prefer the buttery sugary coating of lies to keep them safe in the dark. How truth can be so effortlessly twisted and turned into whatever version of stories to fit into personal agenda, or reasoning. How human nature favors blame, hatred and war. 

Or maybe I have been reading too much of Yann Martel's Life of Pi. The movie was great by the way !! Make sure you catch it in 3D !! (and Jason Lioh will say please watch it in IMAX)

The Revelation

About two days ago, I posted something rather cryptic on my blog, which originally I have intended to be a full out defense on a very sensitive topic. I was expecting a rather negative feedback, but surprising even to me, nothing actually happened. I then realized, and strongly believed I must have attracted some of the most beautiful and kind mannered readers from the online community !!

So here is the revelation. The original topic to the blog entry here (click), was... *drum rolls...

Why I Don't Shoot Film?

If you go back to that blog entry and re-read the whole thing, everything will become clear to you now, why I said the things I have said, and the reasons I am staying with digital, and not picking up film. 

Please bear in mind that this is NOT a film vs digital argument that shall see no end. I acknowledge the strong presence, and significance of film and its rich historical tradition. Film has its place, and it is not going anywhere. I have highest respect to friends and professional photographers who still shoot seriously with film. However, to my own personal preference, my own style of shooting, and my needs when I am using the camera, I just do not see how film can fit into anything that I do, and will do in photography. Yes, my reasons are personal, so is the whole subject of gear choice itself in the first place. 

Sony A350 and 50mm F1.8

If you really look deeply into each and every photograph I have presented in that blog entry, you will find that using film will restrict you from achieving them, and there are just too many uncertainties and struggles, which are totally unnecessary. Those should not be any issue if digital gear was the option. 

Let The Photographs Speak For Themselves

It takes a lot of courage and strength to speak up and stand your ground, when your belief and practice are being challenged and questioned. However, it takes even greater courage and more strength to know when to stop, and stay silent. I have thought out a complete blog entry layout, detailing on items to elaborate a very crucial argument which I have been wanting to bring forth for quite a while now. At the same time, I also realized the repercussions that this argument may cause, and the unnecessary complications that may follow. The topic itself is a sensitive one, thus for the sake of avoiding violent internet bloodshed, I decided to hold my tongue (in this case, my fingers from typing those sentences out) and just let this slide.

I do admit that I am still fairly new to this world of photography, not as seasoned as many readers that I have. Many of you beautiful people have been shooting way longer than I have, and I must speak out with caution, acknowledging my limited experience and knowledge in this field. 

Nevertheless, I also believe that in the world of photography, photographs speak louder than words. Everything I wanted to say in the first place, everything I intended to defend, and everything I wanted to prove, are all evident, and prominently shown in the photographs I have compiled in this entry. Perhaps if you look close enough, and really study the technical difficulties of achieving each of the photographs displayed here, and how my practical execution, choice of gear and shooting considerations needed came together, you might find that what I wanted to say in the first place was quite obvious. As I have mentioned many times before, show me the photographs, and we will talk. 

Sometimes, it is important to capture a series of photographs to better illustrate what was happening. Emotions and expressions can be strongly amplified. One photograph is often inadequate.

Charcoal Factory at Kuala Sepetang

Confession, I bought a new lens a few days ago, and it was for my Sony Alpha A350. I found a very good used deal from an online buy/sell portal in Malaysia, and I could not resist. The lens is the budget, yet highly revered Sony DT 35mm F1.8 lens. I got the lens just in time for this weekend's special travel outing organized by Sony Malaysia, a photography trip to a Charcoal Factory in Kuala Sepetang. 

It was a rather hectic weekend for me, because I have just had a wedding reception dinner shoot on Saturday night in Kuala Lumpur city center, and as the dinner ended close to midnight, I asked my friend Jason to drop me off at the meet up point of the outing members in Pudu Plaza. Imagine the exhaustion from a full on shooting session, with no rest, I immediately jumped into the next outing. I packed my gear into two separate bags for the evening, the Olympus gear in one bag which I used for the wedding shoot, and entrusted to Jason to take care of it after the assignment, and another bag only with Sony gear, which I brought along for the Kuala Sepetang trip. The participants of the Sony outing gathered at Pudu Plaza at an ungodly 1am on Sunday, and we departed shortly after, in a bus which was about half full. We arrived on location just before sunrise, which was perfect for the start of this photography adventure. 

All images in this entry were taken with Sony Alpha A350 and Sony DT lenses, 35mm F1.8, 50mm F1.8 and 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens. Almost all images were taken with the 35mm. 

Drama in the smoke

Kel Wyn & Jinn Lin

About a few weeks ago I decided to give the Sony gear a chance in a paid assignment. I was shooting the Sony as a second body, alongside my main Olympus system. I had the Olympus E-5 with the super wide angle 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, and the Sony A350 with the 50mm F1.8. I used the Olympus exclusively for all wide angle shots, while the Sony for close up shooting and details. Olympus FL-50R was attached on my E-5 and fired at all times. Similarly, a third party TTL compatible Sunpak flash was on the Sony. 

Here are some photographs from the dinner reception at Hotel Maya, Kuala Lumpur. 

Carol Wong

I don't do much portraiture shooting, it is not exactly my forte, and I admit I suck at doing it. But when opportunities do present themselves, I rarely say no to trying new things, or exploring uncharted waters. 

When I was on my short holiday back to my hometown in Kuching in June earlier this year, I was shooting alongside Dr Soon Ruey who came all the way from Sabah for a medical conference in Kuching. We had a chance to shoot Carol, and the session took place in a morning, just before our delicious famous Sarawak Laksa breakfast. 

All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital lenses, 50mm F2 macro or 25mm F2.8 pancake

What is Wrong with Using an Old Camera?

I think one of the things I never quite expected when I have acquired the Sony Alpha A350, was the overwhelming response from so many people around me. The look in their faces, tells a thousand horror stories, as if I have committed one of the biggest mistakes in my life. There would be that standard set of questions on how bad is the high ISO performance, how under-performing the old camera is, and why would I waste my money on an old junk that nobody seems to care anymore. Everyone says there are better and newer options out there. Everyone is disappointed with my decision on getting the Sony. It gets really exhausting having to explain myself over and over again, and why should I have to justify my own personal choice of gear in the first place anyway? 

So I thought ok screw the comments, the A350 really is a dinosaur, so I decided to take the plunge and upgraded myself to a Sony A99. And slapped a spanking sexy Zeiss onto it too. 

Ok, kidding. That A99 belongs to a friend Jack. I would probably need to starve for a few months before I can afford one, and hopefully I don't die in the process. The sad fact of being an engineer in Malaysia. 

The Reason Why I Stay Faithful to Olympus E-5

I was flooded with three wedding assignment shoots in the past weekend, hence I did not really have any time at all for my personal shutter therapy sessions. Nonetheless it was through paid assignment that I can earn spare cash to fund this superbly expensive hobby called photography. 

It was this particular shoot, right in the middle of the highlight of the event: registration of marriage, that the sky decided to pour !! I was then armed with two camera bodies, the Olympus DSLR E-5 with Zuiko 11-22mm F2.8-3.5, and Sony Alpha A350 with the SAL 50mm F1.8 DT mounted. The rain got heavier, so I decided to rest the Sony on a shedded table, and ran out into the rain, chasing the newly weds, as they left the garden (venue of the ROM) and walked into the nearby hall. It was an important part of the event, since the couple just got officially married, and the wedding march is one of the items in must photograph list. I was shooting alongside a few friends (a photographer and two videographers), but I was the only one storming out and got myself and my gear drenched. 

Kenny & Desiree, marching out through the rain. 
Image taken with Olympus E-5 and my beloved 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 wide angle lens. 

Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 Review: Deepavali Festival of Lights

Important Notes:
1. This is a user experience based review.
2. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High Quality) via Olympus Viewer 2.
3. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
4. No post-processing applied to the images, except slight brightness/contrast balance tweak. All images were as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping for better presentation.

This blog entry is a continuation from the previous Part 1 of my Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 review (click). 

In Part 1 of my review, I have brought the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens to street shooting at Brickfields and Petaling Street, Kuala Lumpur, testing how the lens performed in favorably good lighting condition. From the street shoot I found the lens to be very sharp corner to corner even at wide open F1.8, has very good distortion and CA control, and focuses very fast. How does the lens perform in poor light? That is the only question I intend to answer in this Part 2 of my 17mm F1.8 lens review. 

As a reminder, allow me to clarify a few items. This review will be written from a photography-enthusiast’s point of view, because I am not a professional photographer. This will be a user experience based review, sharing on what I think and feel as I use the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens (mounted on Olympus PEN E-PL5) in real life shooting situations. Therefore, this is not a technical review as there will not be elaborative technical explanations, which can be easily accessible on many professional review websites such as DPreview and DXOmark.

The opening images, the city skyline of Kuala Lumpur being taken during sunset time, was shot at Jelatek. I was on the 16th floor of a low cost apartment, resting the E-PL5 with 17mm attached on my dying tripod and shot a series of images watching the sun went down. 

F/5.6, 1/13sec, ISO200

Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 Review: Street Shooting

Important Notes:
1. This is a user experience based review.
2. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High Quality) via Olympus Viewer 2.
3. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
4. No post-processing applied to the images, except slight brightness/contrast balance tweak. All images were as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping for better presentation.

Back in September, in the world's largest photography event, Photokina, Olympus has hinted that there will be one more product to be released for the Micro 4/3 lens line up, which is the M,Zuiko 17mm F1.8 lens. Thankfully we do not have to wait too long, and just a few days ago Olympus Malaysia has loaned me an initial production unit of the 17mm F1.8 lens for my testing and review purposes. 

Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 Lens Features Highlight
1) Similar Optical Performance as the renowned M.Zuiko 12mm F2 lens
2) Similar construction and build as the all metal lens M.Zuiko 12mm F2 lens
3) Snapshot focus - pull down the ring for immediate switch to manual focusing, with DOF and distance scale for zone-focusing
4) ZERO (Zuiko Extra-Low Reflective Optical) Coating for minimizing ghosting and flare control
5) Fast focusing mechanism, and optimized for video recording (MSC)

For full specifications, please head over to Olympus's Official Page (click). 

The Mystery of Disappearing Image Files

It has been quite a few weeks since I last used my Olympus gear for shutter therapy, making way for the new Sony (well, its not exactly new since the camera is a 4 year old model), which I did enjoy using tremendously and have fallen in love with. This glorious Sunday morning I decided to pick up the Olympus again, and attack my favourite street, Chow Kit with the E-5 and two wonderful lenses, Zuiko Digital 11-22mm F2.8-3.5 and 50mm F2 macro. It was great using Olympus again after all this time, I have spent about an hour plus shooting, and I knew I had some good shots which were sufficient for me to compose a blog entry. I did not quite sure how, or why I suddenly had the urge to pause for a bit, and review my images. Call it the photographer's six sense or something, I felt something was not right. To my horror..... almost ALL my image files taken in the morning, recorded into the Lexar 8GB SD card... VANISHED!! I remembered I had more than 100 photos taken already (could have been more, not sure really) but as I was reviewing the images, there was only 11 of the most recently taken shots !! Where the heck have the rest of the photos gone to???????

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


Its Pissing Down in KL

The weather has been quite harsh in Kuala Lumpur recently, starting off with unforgiving hot morning, and ending with late afternoon insane heavy downpour. Rain or shine, as long as the fingers are itching for some shutter clicking action, I will be out there shooting. Obviously when it was raining down too heavily, I would not be crazy enough to sacrifice my gear. When the rain slowed down to drizzle, armed with an umbrella on my left hand and the camera on the other, I roamed the streets attacking some interesting characters caught in bad KL weather. 

All images were taken with Sony Alpha A350 and DT lenses 50mm F1.8 and 18-70mm kit lens

Plastic Bag Cap

Attacking Strangers

I shoot on the streets at least once a week, sometimes more, if I have the time for shutter therapy. Everytime I am on the streets, I will shoot at anything that caught my attention, the stray cat, the homeless man, the abandoned car, the weird architecture of an old building, an empty bottle or even a surreal art painting on a weathered wall. One consistent photography subject that I never overlooked, and always aimed whenever I am street shooting would be portraits of strangers. I find much thrill and excitement when I point my lens toward someone completely alien to me, yet there is the sense of that person being on the street that compelled me to go near, and take the shot. 

All images were taken with Sony Alpha A350 and 50mm F1.8 DT Lens

Sony Alpha Outing at Petaling Street

The last time I participated in an open event (which was the Google + Photowalk), there was a significant number of Olympus micro 4/3 users in the crowd, hence they instantaneously recognized me as I whipped out my E-5. The next thing you know some random people actually came up to me and asked if I could take photos with them. It was like one of the most awkward moment ever, because that celebrity treatment does not suit me at all !! The attention, and the fact that everywhere I go to, in the crowd of micro 4/3 or Olympus community, it is hard to hide away and just blend into the crowd. It gets daunting, and sometimes I just wanted to be a "participant", nothing more, to enjoy the outing. 

The two full frame Sony A99 users in the group. Kevin and Jack (background). 

What Caught My Attention?

Now that I am finished with my review episodes of the Olympus Stylus XZ-2, finally, I can get back to my own Sony A350, which I have missed dearly !!

I often mentioned that it is very important to pay attention to the things and subjects that catch your attention as you shoot on the street. If the subject is good enough to make me look at it twice, it surely will appeal in the final photograph. Choice of subject content is always very important, and should not be overlooked. My subjects are usually very straight-forward and simple, most of the times the things that I can connect to very easily. This morning I went to a shutter therapy session with some beautiful friends, and with the photographs I have taken, I shall describe what drew me to the subjects.

All images were taken with Sony Alpha A-350 and DT lenses 18-70mm or 50mm F1.8 

Unusual Residence
I have always have strong fascination for strange architecture, or buildings/structures with out of the usual designs. After all, I am in the building and development industry for my main career. It is only natural when I came across such an outstanding building like this, I would point my lens toward it. 

Olympus Stylus XZ-2 Review: PEN Lovers & Conclusions

Important Notes:
1. This is a user experience based review.
2. All images in this entry were post-processed, with color balance adjustments, exposure tweak and some cropping.
For straight out of camera images, please refer to my Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3 of my review for Olympus XZ-2. 

This is Part 4 of my Olympus Stylus XZ-2 review series, and also the concluding blog entry. If you have not read my previous parts, please do so here: 

In my final part of XZ-2 review, I have used the XZ-2 together with an attached external flash, Olympus FL-50R for a photo-assignment, to cover an important event: the PEN Lovers 2nd Anniversary Lunch Gathering, which happened last Saturday (27th October 2012). So how does the camera perform in a more serious shooting environment, where results are to be expected at the end of the day? Also, I shall be doing into summary and conclusions of my four episodes Olympus XZ-2 reviews.

ISO800, F/2.3, 1/80sec
A Pen Lover trying out the Olympus E-PL5, with the new body cap lens, 15mm F8. Gotta admire the tilting screen !! Perfect for camwhoring. 


Before we go on, let me describe the background of this momentous event. PEN Lovers was started by a dear friend and fellow Olympus PEN user, Koon Yik about 2 years ago. He initiated this non-profit independent group, as a local support group for new-comers to Olympus PEN and micro 4/3 system. Often new-comers to photography in general would be over-whelmed by technical freaks and nazis in online photography forums, hence the PEN Lovers acts as a friendly platform for Olympus PEN users to interact freely, share opinion and also to spur each other to shoot, and grow together, while shooting with Olympus micro 4/3 system. In last year's 1st Aniversary, the PEN Lovers group has reached more than 200 members,  and just last week, for the 2nd Anniversary, we have now more than 700 members, with many joining from all over the world as well. This is a group that is very special to me, and I actively participate in. If you know me well enough, I do not join photography forums or other online photography communities (you won't find me in 500px or Flickr), since there are just too many internet "trolls" around, and I have dedicated most of my time for this blog (in case you have not noticed, this blog requires tremendous amount of time to maintain). PEN Lovers has not only become a photography hobby group, but also a place for me to hang-out with like-minded people, and surely we have come a long way, and a celebration was in place !!

Olympus Stylus XZ-2 Review: Macro and Wide Angle Shooting

Important Notes:
1. This is a user experience based review.
2. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High Quality) via Olympus Viewer 2 
3. General camera settings, Noise Filter = LOW, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
4. Minimal post-processing applied to the images. All images were as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping and only minor exposure/contrast correction for better presentation.

This is Part 3 of my review series of Olympus Stylus XZ-2. If you have not read my Part 1 and Part 2 reviews earlier, please do so before proceeding with this blog entry. I have covered tests of image resolution at low ISO settings as well as high ISO noise performance of the Olympus XZ-2 in my previous reviews. 

In this Part 3 of my review saga, I brought the Olympus XZ-2 out for a little bit of macro shooting, and subsequently, doing some wide angle shooting. I figured that most people would buy the camera for a few main reasons: 1) travel compact camera, capturing landscape and scenery, as well as 2) general purpose everyday camera shooting, that is capable of close up shooting.. Now lets be sensible and not expect a small camera like XZ-2 to be able to capture extreme action sports or a ballet dance in a superbly dimly lit hall. It is my belief that a good compact camera should be able to fulfill these above-mentioned two purposes: shooting decent macro/close up and landscape photos. 

Therefore, in an uneventful Sunday afternoon I brought the Olympus XZ-2 to an open park near my place for a quick macro shooting session, capturing whatever tiny creatures (insects and spiders) that I could find, and after that, headed down to the city by train, to capture some urban landscape shots. While shooting macro and landscape, I shall be reviewing the following features/functions of the Olympus XZ-2
Super Macro Mode vs 4x Zoom Macro Shooting
Hybrid Control Ring - Conveniently control multiple important functions
920k dot LCD tillable screen - is the LCD scveen good enough?
HDR Scene mode
Battery Life of XZ-2

Super Macro, ISO320, F/1.8, 1/100sec, equivalent focal length 28mm
I admit depth of field was not enough for this damselfly, but as I stopped down the aperture, it flew away. 

Olympus Stylus XZ-2 Review: Nick Davis Live

Important Notes:
1. This is a user experience based review.
2. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High Quality) via Olympus Viewer 2 
3. General camera settings, Noise Filter = LOW, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
4. Minimal post-processing applied to the images. All images were as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping and only minor exposure/contrast correction for better presentation.

This entry is Part 2 of my Olympus Stylus XZ-2 review series. If you have not read Part 1 review and my preview of the Olympus XZ-2, please do so. 

In my previous Part 1, I have brought the XZ-2 out to my usual street shooting session, and found the camera to perform exceedingly well under favorable lighting conditions, delivering amazingly sharp and detailed images at low ISO sensitivities. The amazing resolution captured was due to the high quality Olympus i.Zuiko lens, and also the Trupic 6 image processing engine, producing Olympus signature color and look in the images. 

We all know that ALL cameras perform at their best at lowest ISO settings. So how does the new Olympus Stylus XZ-2 perform when shooting at higher ISO settings? That is the only thing I want to explore in this Part 2 of my review. 

As a reminder, this review will be written from a photography-enthusiast’s point of view, because I am not a professional photographer. This will be a user experience based review, sharing on what I think and feel as I use the XZ-2 in real life shooting situations. Therefore, this is not a technical review as there will not be elaborative technical explanations, which can be easily accessible on many professional review websites such as DPreview and DXOmark. In addition to that, I will not be doing direct side by side image and performance comparisons between XZ-2 and any other cameras. Instead, I will share my opinion on how different the experience was shooting with the new XZ-2. In a nutshell, it is about what I can do with the camera, not what the camera can do by itself.

ISO3200, F/1.8, 1/50sec, Equivalent focal length: 28mm

Olympus Stylus XZ-2 Review: Street Shooting

Important Notes:
1. This is a user experience based review.
2. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High QUality) via Olympus Viewer 2 
3. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
4. Minimal post-processing applied to the images. All images were as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping and only minor exposure/contrast correction for better presentation.

When Olympus Malaysia asked me to review their latest flagship high-end compact digital camera, the Olympus Stylus XZ-2, I was unsure how to do so, because I have been shooting mainly with DSLR system, and more recently, micro 4/3 mirrorless system. I do have a budget basic point and shoot camera which I only use daily at work for documentation purposes, nothing artistic, or technically challenging. I have also heard many wonderful things about the predecessor flagship Olympus XZ-1, which I did have great interest in but never had a chance to use the camera extensively. I have just received the loaned unit yesterday, coincidentally today was a public holiday in Malaysia, thus the perfect opportunity for me to test and blog about this new XZ-2. 

This entry shall be the Part 1 of my review for Olympus Stylus XZ-2. In this entry, I shall explore the camera's capability in shooting under generally good lighting condition, with low ISO setting: how much detail can the combination of new 12Megapixels Back-Side Illuminated CMOS image sensor with the i.Zuiko lens capture? How does the camera handle, how good is the autofocus performance, and how does the camera fare for my usual shutter therapy session? I brought the Olympus XZ-2 to my favourite street hunting ground, Pudu, Kuala Lumpur.

If you have not read my mini-preview of the Olympus XZ-2, please do so here (click). 

Fruit Market
ISO100, F/2.5, 1/125sec, Equivalent focal length: 112mm

Coming Soon: Olympus Stylus XZ-2 Review

I have just came home from a meeting with Olympus Malaysia this evening, and I brought home a loaned unit of the new Olympus Stylus XZ-2, the flagship compact digital camera from Olympus, which was announced at the same time alongside the Olympus PEN E-PL5 and PEN E-PM2 during Photokina just last month. The new XZ-2 shall supersede the older XZ-1, which proved to be one of Olympus' success, being highly regarded as one of the best high-end enthusiast's digital compact camera in class at its time. And yes, Olympus Malaysia has requested me to review this XZ-2, and I shall be bringing this camera out for test shoots in the coming few days. This will be my first time reviewing a compact digital camera, but rest assured I come from a strong background of shooting with point and shoot cameras and I have killed a record of 3 compact cameras in a span of 4 years usage (2004-2008). 

Olympus Stylus XZ-2

After taking the shot I realized how dusty the camera was, with grease smears on the smooth camera body. I initially wanted to cleaned it and take another shot, but I thought the "used" look was quite interesting, and added character to the camera. Alright, alright, I was lazy. What? Who said I can't be lazy?

Falling in Love with Olympus All Over Again

It has been about two weeks since I last acquired the Sony DSLR system (A350 body, 2 lenses and a flash) and I have been shooting with the Sony only since then. It was earlier this evening, coming home from work with itchy hands for shutter therapy, I decided to go back to Olympus, which I am missing for a while now. Then that sky threatened to rain, which it did, and it poured like it never poured before, until there was flash flood happening downtown in KL. You know me, if I do not get my shutter therapy, I won't be happy. That forced me to dig out my older shutter therapy sessions with the Olympus and found some unused photographs, and oh my..... what a discovery.. or more appropriately put, re-discovery !!

All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko Digital 50mm F2 macro lens

Bear in mind that all the photographs in this entry were sort of recycled from my older collection, that did not make it to my first selection process of usual blogging routine. I have my reasons for not choosing these photographs, so they were perhaps not the best of the bunch to be used. However, having a second look, I do think these images, re-selected from a few sessions, would be sufficient to illustrate what I wanted to describe in this blog entry: Why I love Olympus so much. 

Lets begin with the amazing resolution. Take a look at the image below. 

Wide Enough

So I was at the KLCC Twin Towers after work today, chilling and having a nice drink watching the sun died, and I decided to do some long exposure shooting. Then I realized, that Sony 18-70mm kit lens, at 18mm wide end, was not wide enough to fit even 3/4 of the tower where I was standing. 

So I mounted the camera on the tripod, and did multiple shots to be stitched into panorama image, done by Hugin, a freeware pano-stitching software. 

Sony DSLR Alpha A350 and Kit lens 18-70mm

Manual Exposure, 2sec, F/8, ISO100, 2sec self-timer, camera on tripod, SSS Off
15 photographs taken (5x3 grid) for stitching

New Shooting Location

I think I have recycled my shooting locations around Kuala Lumpur with nothing new for the past 2 years, shooting on the same streets: Chow Kit, Pudu, Jalan Masjid India, Petaling Street and Bukit Bintang area. I always find each street to be unique and different and I always come home with interesting subjects no matter how many times I have gone through the same streets. Perhaps, it was knowing the streets well enough that I have felt comfortable with the streets, I was able to move closer to my subjects and shoot without the fear of the unfamiliarity toward the shooting location. 

Yesterday I was eager to shoot at this new temple that I have discovered on last week, while shooting the Chinese Opera. It was the Nine Emperor Gods Temple in Ampang. I had to take a train that stops about a kilometers away from the temple, and as I was walking toward the temple from the train station, I found that the streets there (in Ampang) was not too bad for street shooting !! It turned out that I spent about 45 minutes shooting along the 1 kilometers stretch of old shops and buildings leading to the temple, and I stopped for breakfast. I have found quite a few good opportunities here !! 

All images were taken with Sony DSLR A350 and DT Lenses 50mm F1.8 and 18-70mm F3.5-5.6

Bare and Exposed

Sony Monochrom

Alright that was a cheesy blog title: Sony Monochrom, but I was presenting everything in black and white today. I have received many comments in my recent blog posts on the color that the Sony A350 produces, mostly saying how much better the Olympus color is, and I do agree mostly on this part, but hey, lets not compare and condemn one system or another. A camera is still a camera, and its job is to take pictures. So lets take all the colors away and make the camera color blind in this entry. The truth is, I am having just as much fun with the Sony, being out there on the streets attacking strangers and any subjects that caught my mind.

All you have to do to turn the Sony A350 into a Sony Monochrom, is change the "creative style" setting from default standard to B&W. I know I know its not the same thing, the results will not be what one would expect from the real deal, but hey, a black and white photograph is still a black and white photograph. And it has a strong place in photography world, and it is not going anywhere. 

The location of shoot was Bukit Bintang, at the heart of Kuala Lumpur. 

All images were taken with Sony DSLR A350 and DT lenses 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 or 50mm F1.8

Higher and Higher

Nine Emperor Gods Festival: A Chinese Opera

Update: I was complaining about a failed Compact Flash memory card by Lexar in my previous entry (click), and guess what? I woke up to an email from Lexar Support, asking me to send in the proof of purchase and the card to see if they can fix it, or replace it for me. Now this is getting freaky, I never knew anyone would be taking my blog entry that seriously. I was overwhelmed, but I thought an apology should be in place, because I did reacted emotionally in that entry, and failure could have happened to ANY cards by ANY manufacturers, there are so many reasons and causes of card failures. I applaud Lexar's initiative and effort in reaching out to me and making sure I got the proper compensation. 

As I was heading home after work today, I was browsing the news feed on my Facebook through my HTC mobile phone, and I saw Luke Chua saying he would be shooting at Ampang Nine Emperor Gods Temple, asking anyone else free to join him for the shoot in the evening. I clicked "like" on his status, and immediately opened up Google Maps to search for the location of the temple, and means to get there via public transport.  Just as I was searching through the phone App, a call came in and it was Luke !! I thought he was reading my mind across town, and somehow he knew I would be coming after clicking "like" on his status. Seriously, I sometimes believe photographers have some sort of telepathy network that we can know and understand each other even if we don't speak!! So Luke asked if I was coming, and I said yes. 

Now I was facing a dilemma. Knowing the temple setup would be really challenging for photography, I would need my Olympus gear (and the wonderful Zuiko lenses). However in the bag I was carrying I had the Sony (because I was still testing and learning how to use this new system) instead, and if I made the trip home to change my equipment, I would be late. I decided to just head to the temple straightaway with what I had in my bag, and I took a train to Ampang LRT train station, and walked about a kilometers to the Temple. 

All images were shot with Sony DSLR A350 and DT lenses 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 or 50mm F1.8