I know I have been awfully silent for the past few days, and I have been rather occupied with work lately. Nonetheless, this weekend was a highly anticipated one, not only by me but also by dozens of other Olympus faithful users. There was a gathering held for Olympus users, organized officially by Olympus Malaysia in conjunction with PEN Lovers (non-profit local user support Facebook group, led by Koon Yik). This particular gathering session allows the attendees to touch, try and play the newly launched Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 lens which I have recently reviewed.
All images in this entry was taken with Olympus DSLR E-5 and Zuiko lenses: 25mm F2.8 pancake, 50mm F2 macro or 50-200mm F2.8-3.5 (non-swd version)
Nicole giving the OM-D and 75mm a try !
Arriving at an unusually early 7.30am, I met up with some of the bunch for breakfast before the event started. All participants were meeting up for registration and briefing at Bonton Restaurant, Lot 10. The crowd was broken into 6 groups, and each group has a leader and a model. The leader will bring his group (which consists of about 7-8 people) and the model to designated location for street portrait shooting. The division of locations was crucial to avoid different groups to clash or bump into each other, we do not want too many photographers shooting a few models in a confined limited space.Shooting locations were scattered all around Bukit Bintang and Pavilion KL area. Each group was also loaned an Olympus OM-D with the M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 mounted for trial shooting. The participants were allowed to use their own SD card slotted in the OM-D while shooting and bring back the files for full pixel-peeping pleasure. Since there was only one unit of 75mm on the OM-D, the participants who wished to try the lens out would have to take turns of course, and it was pretty flexible because the shooting duration provided was about 2 hours starting at 9.00am, and everyone was expected to return to the Bonton restaurant by 11am. Thankfully everything returned, including all OM-D and 75mm lenses. Or else I do not think we might get any chance for any future events in collaboration with Olympus anymore.
Obviously, the highlight of the day was the model shooting on the street of Bukit Bintang, and the chance to try out the spanking awesome 75mm lens, which was specifically designed to shoot portraits. Since I have had my own fair share of handling the lens previously during my review work on my blog, I did not try it out this time, and knew better to allow others more chance to have a go with it. Generally everyone was rather pleased with what the lens could do and oh, the extremely shallow depth of view the F1.8 produces. The usual complain was as expected, focal length of 75mm being a bit on the long side and having to take that many steps backwards to have the framing they wanted in mind was not something very favourable. Nonetheless we were shooting in open space, and space was not a limitation in this sense. A little bit of getting used to the slightly longer than usual length was needed, and I am sure after a few happy shutter clicking, the framing should not be much of an issue. The sharpness of the lens and the amount of background blur this lens is capable of creating surely have made up for the odd focal length.
I was shooting primarily with the Olympus Zuiko 50mm F2 on my DSLR E-5, and I do use the beautiful 50-200mm from time to time for super compressed perspective. Somehow, I must add that longer focal length is actually advantageous in shooting outdoor portraits such as this session. The extra long focal length (we are talking about 100-200mm) maintained very proportionate facial features and body figures, because at that focal length the lens was virtually free of any barrel and perspective distortion. Having such balanced look is important to keep the model look elegant and flattering. This is just something shorter length lenses such as 50mm or 35mm cannot do, because at such short length, the proportion of the head, hands, legs and body sizes would all look not natural at all, and worse, if care was not taken, or if you moved in too close, your model might appear cartoonish and unrealistic (imagine face being stretched wider, or head bigger than body). There is a reason why the pros prefer to use longer focal lengths to shoot portraits, to keep the natural and balanced look. In addition to that, shorter focal length captures too much background, and if your background was not something you want to add into your composition, dealing with too many distractions will surely add more headaches. I prefer a straightforward take: plain background and the focus goes straight to the main subject. Using longer focal length (the longer the better, trust me) will ensure super compressed background, leaving very little chance for unwanted elements in composition. Yes, you have to stand that many steps backwards, but the results is worth it.
Can't get the kind of bokeh 75mm F1.8 produces? The only other alternative is shoot at longer focal length. 200mm F3.5 should be able to give you even shallower depth of field. That was what I did in this session, and many of the shots I did not even have to zoom in all the way to 200mm.
I was assigned to a group which was led by Shivan, a friend whom I have known since my early days of using Olympus gear many years ago. The model was Nicole, which was very easy going, sporting, and great to work with. In my group itself there were many people that I actually know, including usual suspects such as Yeow, Mun Keat, Ian Lee and Gerald. We had a wonderful time shooting Nicole along the streets of Bukit Bintang. Initially my main worry was that Nicole would be inexperienced in posing or looking into the camera, but all fear was gone once we saw how spontaneous she was and how she did her thing, being all natural and elegant at the same time. You all would know that this sort of model shooting is not something that I do often, and obviously I do not excel in this area of photography. But I admit it is very fun to be out there just shooting something other than strangers on the street. Being with a bunch of friends, working with people that I actually know, and shooting an arranged model was something I needed for this particular weekend.
My Group, all attacking Nicole at the same time. Wilson, Yeow, Shivan, Mun Keat
Mun Keat using that tilt screen !
Shivan, our leader for the day.
After the shooting session, with everyone covered in sweat and puffing our way back to the restaurant, we were greeted with bottomless iced cold drinks, that itself was a great treat. When all the groups have finally returned, we were asked to be seated inside the restaurant for some brief talk and presentation. The first presentation was done by Tang, an introduction to the 75mm lens, and what the lens can do. Highlights included the high resolution that the lens can resolve, the high quality bokeh and also the superior construction and solid built of the lens. Then the lens was said to be available on local shops in Malaysia some time next week, retailing at official pricing of RM3299. I sure hope the price would go down below RM3000 for street pricing.
Tang's presentation was brief and informative at the same time. The second speaker for the day was an invited guest, Ming Thein. I am sure many of you from the micro 4/3 community would know who Ming Thein is. He has also recently reviewed the OM-D E-M5 on his blog. He is now a full time professional photographer, which was interesting and refreshing to hear what a commercial photographer had to say about OM-D and micro 4/3 system as a whole. Before the OM-D he has been using the PEN Mini E-PM1 since late last year, and he even used both the PEN Mini and OM-D for his commercial paid jobs. He said, for most of the jobs, the OM-D did surprisingly well, and one of his area of expertise which caught my attention was shooting macro images of watches. If you are familiar with macro shooting at all, you would know it is no easy task to shoot watches. Do pay his blog a visit and see what he can do with OM-D shooting those beautiful watches. He does not only use Olympus OM-D and micro 4/3 system, he also actively uses Leica (he has got an S2, that is one hell of an expensive camera if you ask me) as well as Nikon D800. Unlike myself, a pure Olympus user only, I am sure his opinion and experience with micro 4/3 will benefit many who have used multiple camera platforms.
Ming Thein shared his professional work, mostly on watches, food, as well as architecture. Those are the areas of his expertise, and he spoke passionately about them. He was not selfish and was very generous is sharing some of his lighting setups and tips on getting some of the challenging shots. I am sure the audience was equally impressed with his shots as I did, and enjoyed his sharing tremendously. He has also been loaned the Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 for review, and he came up with the same conclusion as I did: the lens is incredibly sharp (he even ranked it on the same league as some of the Leica superb lenses) but you have got to know what you want to do with the lens ("having a clear vision on what you are doing" are his actual words). He further praised the lens as almost "technically perfect". I could not agree more with him.
Ming Thein also mentioned that he will post up his review of the 75mm lens on his blog soon. So do keep an eye out.
Crowd Gathering for the Talk and Presentation
It was a full house
Olympus Staff standing by. OM-D is plastered on their chest or back.
William doing his part in documenting the event.
Kee Nyap delivering his opening speech.
Tang giving the first presentation.
My great friends, Wendy and Chun Chow also attended the event. Wendy was trying out my new lens, the 25mm F1.2 CCTV lens.
While I was back at the restaurant, I knew I would not have that much chance of shooting, but my hands were itching uncontrollably. Hence, during the speeches, I stole the chance to have some very quick snaps around me. Everyone was seated down, thus it would be rude for me to stand and walk around the place, so I decided to just sit at where I was, and shoot whatever I can with my 25mm pancake or the 50mm macro, alternating from one lens to another for near and far shots. I did not get perfect framing, mostly due to obstructions of people in the foreground. If I was really serious about grabbing good shots I might have moved myself and be more hardworking, but hey, lets be respectful and not cause a disturbance. I did what I could, and gosh, the lighting was unbelievably dim. I had to bump up the ISO to 1600, and sometimes 3200 to achieve sufficient shutter speed to prevent hand shake blur. Not a very wise thing to do with my now aging E-5, and evidently you can find ugly noise all over the images. No worries, they can all be cleaned easily with noise reduction programme, but I was lazy to run them, but hey, in my defense, I still can tolerate them. It was not like those shots are for a paid assignment or anything serious, so please do cut me some slack.
Less steps in my workflow means I can push out this blog entry faster, and I always believe in updating event coverage blog entries fastest possible, because a hot bowl of noodle soup is best served while it is still hot.
I know I must have missed out many people, but whoever I could capture from where I was sitting, I shot them.
After the talks and presentation, lunch was served. That was another highlight of the day. If you know us Malaysians at all, we all love FREE food, and we would stuff ourselves silly. I came in particular for a few reasons, and one of them, shamelessly I admit, was food. We had buffet lunch with fusion western and asian food. I remembered the spaghetti and fish were actually very good, I had two servings. A happy, satisfied Malaysian here. A note to those who intend to plan any events in Malaysia, pay extra attention to food. The best way to make any Malaysian happy is through their stomach first. No questions, seriously, it is just the way we are.
Ian Lee, Steven, Koon Yik and Dan Loke. You will find them on my blog at least once or twice before.
Mun Keat and Luke Ding
Joshua !! Hah, I remember you this time !
Wong CY, and gosh, what was that dude doing with that lens pointing so near you????
Ananda, the dude in red attacking me with the E-PL1.
Sanjit, the dude who worked with me on the OM-D review closely not too long ago.
Ming Thein delivering his presentation. That watch was one of his many magnificent macro watch shots he has shown today.
Q&A session with Ming Thein
During lunch, the attendees for today's event also was allowed to go into another room to further molest the OM-D with the 75mm F1.8 lens. There were five units available for testing, which was very generous of Olympus Malaysia to provide for further testing.
I think Olympus Malaysia did a splendid job, in colloboration with Koon Yik (the founder and leader of PEN Lovers) in organizing this 75mm Walkabout event. To be completely honest, I did have my initial doubts and hesitations, knowing that the turn up would be huge (we are talking about more than 50 people), but the whole thing was very organized and carried out very systematically. It was not an easy feat managing that many people all at once, with minimal hiccup. Not including those few that just decided to show up without proper RSVP (Malaysians, please, learn to confirm your attendance to events by proper RSVP on time). I believe the models being hired for shooting was a nice touch, allowing the participants to try the 75mm lens on, and at the same time have great fun shooting alongside many others with similar interests when it comes to gear choice. It was not only just an Olympus Malaysia event, but it was also a personal one, allowing the existing micro 4/3 shooters to meet each other and expand our circles, making new connections. Kudos to both Olympus Malaysia and Koon Yik.
OM-D and 75mm for further testing.
The metal hood makes the lens look a lot bigger than it actually is. Not sure if this is a good thing though.
Yap Tzee Meng having a go again.
To me, I have truly had a great time. Model shooting was fun, I managed to get some shots that I do like, having the chance to catch up with some friends I have not seen in a while, and of course, getting to meet some new friends, including Ming Thein for the first time. Ming Thein told me that my blog reviews was one of the reasons that pushed him to purchase the OM-D, and I was flattered !! I sure hope to be able to do some shutter therapy or be involved in any projects with him in the future.
Weekend is here. I killed one day off with a wonderful event. You know me well enough, yes, the remaining shall be spent with MORE shutter therapy.