All That I Have Left Behind

I wanted to bring the new Olympus PEN E-PL5 out for a test run earlier this evening after work, but I was down with flu and cough and my whole body was feeling really weak and tired and all I wanted to do was lie down and sleep. Apologies for the delay but I was was very sick, and I will have a full day wedding assignment tomorrow to cover. Rest is priority now. 

Therefore I got home early from work, and as I tried to catch some light nap, I could not sleep. Feeling a little restless, I turned on my PC and found that stack of very old photographs. Photographs of a life I used to live. Now that life seems so far away. It has been 4 years. In the midst of not feeling well and total exhaustion  (physically, mentally and emotionally) from everything around me. looking through these photographs actually brought tears to my eyes. Tears of sadness and joy mixed together. The photographs looked so vivid, yet I knew they were nothing more than just memories now. Memories that I will fight all I can not to forget. 

All images were taken with Kodak Easyshare CX7430 and C-875. 

It was funny how I was so happy using just a point and shoot compact camera back then. Never thought I would venture into the world of digital SLR photography and got to where I am today. Life was simpler back then, so were my photographs. 

Olympus PEN E-PL5 Preview

We know well enough how capable and powerful the Olympus OM-D E-M5 is, which was released earlier this year, claiming the spot of the best micro 4/3 camera body (at the time of writing) and coming very close to some of the best APS-C DSLRs. It was no surprise that the OM-D E-M5 has become a huge hit, and I am sure Olympus is very proud of what they have accomplished so far. However, as wonderful as the OM-D E-M5 may be, it could be a little overwhelming, being over-ambitious with heavy functions and features, some that casual shooters or average hobbyists may not need. I acknowledge it is great to have a weather sealing on micro 4/3 cameras, but honestly how many people actually are willing to battle the force of nature and get themselves drenched just to get the shots in heavy downpour? Yes, having magnesium alloy body is good to provide that extra protection for the camera in rough handling situations, but you should have seen some of my friends. They treat their cameras like porcelain vases, handling with so much care that even after a year of use, you won't be able to find a tiny scratch on the camera. My point is, OM-D E-M5 is not necessarily built for everyone, especially when it comes with so much functions and features that many may find not relevant in their photography needs. 

Take away the weather-sealing, take away the magnesium alloy body, take away the built in Electronic Viewfinder (you can still have an option to attach an external electronic viewfinder), take away the incredible new 5-Axis Image Stabilization (I did say how amazing this IS is right?), you get a much toned down, humble presentation of the new PEN E-PL5. The beautiful thing about the E-PL5 is that it uses the exact same 16MP image sensor as the OM-D which has been proven by many reviewers (DXOMark, DPreview, etc) to be delivering very high image quality. Instead of the new 5-Axis IS, the PEN E-PL5 uses the old, yet trustworthy Image Stabilization system on all their PEN bodies, which is still very acceptable. Basically, my summary of the E-PL5 is a combination of everything that made the original Olympus Micro 4/3 PEN system work (small footprint, lightweight, feature packed, full customization), and add to that the image quality of OM-D. 

The back LCD monitor can be tilted upward and downward for difficult angle composition. Very useful for waist level shooting. 

Close Up Street Portraits

Of all the things I have done and experimented on the streets, the ones that really get the kick out of me, and I enjoyed the most doing would be shooting portraits of strangers. Like, really, really close up portraits, headshots, with their eyes gazing straight into my lens. Perhaps some people may find these shots to be overly simple and straightforward, with no additional meaning or message whatsoever, but I find the simplicity and straightforwardness extremely compelling. It was that brief moment of connection between me and the stranger, it was that window of unspoken communication when my shutter button clicked. The stranger's presence was acknowledged, and the trust of having their photograph taken by another complete stranger was also evident. 

Green Lantern

I am a big fan of Green Lantern.

Olympus PEN E-PL1 and CCTV 25mm F1.2 lens

Literally, and of course the DC Comic's version.

Shutter Therapy Resumes

It was in the midst of a busy weekend, rushing out my blog reviews for the Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens, as well as having a full day photo-assignment to shoot a Wedding out of city. Nonetheless I still managed to squeeze a bit of time for some shutter therapy in between. 

All images were taken with Olympus DSLR E-520 and 14-42mm kit lens. 

Stepping into the box

Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro Review: General 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.

This blog entry is a continuation from the previous entry: Part 1 of Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro lens review (click). 

In Part 1 of the M.Zuiko 60mm macro lens review, I emphasized specifically on how the lens performs in terms of image sharpness and auto-focus reliability in real life macro shooting conditions. In the tests I have performed, most of the images were shot at very high magnification factor, and they were all extreme close up conditions. Therefore, in this Part 2 of my review, I shall do the opposite, use the M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 lens in non-macro shooting circumstances, or more appropriately put as a general all-purpose lens. At 60mm focal length, this lens can be considered as a medium tele-photo lens. 

In this particular compilations of images displayed for Part 2 of the 60mm lens review, I have been shooting at various locations, but most of the images were taken at Pudu Wet Market, Kuala Lumpur. The location of shoot provided me with ample variety of subjects to play around, and I specifically targeted subjects that reveal plenty of tiny details and textures. What other better place than a market with plenty of animals (live and dead), vegetables and fruits to attack. Furthermore, wet market is a place always busy with activities and packed with people, thus opening great opportunities to use this lens for some light portrait shooting. In my Part 1 of the M.Zuiko 60mm macro lens review, we know that the lens performs exceedingly well in macro shooting. Now, how does it fare in non-macro shooting?

Also, in this entry, I shall discuss on a few flaws of the lens (yes there are some) and the things that I wish the lens can be improved on.

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 60mm F2.8 macro lens (mounted on Olympus OM-D E-M5) 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 Joy of Selling Petai  1/80sec, F/2.8, ISO250

Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro Review: Extreme Close Up 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.

UPDATE 1: 21/9/2012 7.00pm
[1]  A group of enthusiastic and amazing local Malaysian photographers, a group called ZUIKOHOLICS led by great friend and macro shooter Amir Ridhwan have also posted up their review for this beautiful Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens (click here to go to the review). Amir's macro photography work has become a strong inspiration and influence to me, and I looked up to him as a mentor and friend. I am glad Olympus has also loaned them the 60mm macro lens for testing and reviewing purposes. Do check out their site, and say hi!!
[2]  In addition, Ming Thein, no stranger in the world of photography gear review has also posted up his review of the Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens. Ming Thein specializes in product photography (his work with close up expensive watches is simply astounding), hence it is significant to hear what he has to say, coming from a professional environment. Click here to go to Ming Thein's review. 

I have had two full day shooting experience with the newly launched Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens, kindly loaned to me for my blog review purposes from Olympus Malaysia, and I have so much to say and share with you beautiful people. If you have not read my initial impressions of the lens, please kindly do so here (click). For this round’s review of the M.Zuiko 60mm macro lens, I shall break it down into two separate blog entries, discussing primarily on the different purposes the lens is used for: Part 1 – extreme close up macro shooting and Part 2 – general purpose shooting. In this particular first part of my review, I shall put more emphasis on the Image Sharpness and AutoFocus performance of the 60mm macro lens. In addition to that, I shall also try my best to answer how well does the M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens perform in comparison to its older sibling, the much revered Zuiko 50mm F2 macro lens?

Before we dive right into the review, 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 60mm F2.8 macro lens (mounted on Olympus OM-D E-M5) 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 from many professional review websites such as DPreview and DXOmark. 

1/60sec, F/5, ISO200

Zuikoholics Also Reviews Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro

Just to divert your attention to dear friends at Zuikoholics Malaysia, which Olympus has kindly loaned them the new M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens for testing as well. They will publish their own full review of the lens too. For now they have released a teaser. Do pay them a visit and say hi !!

I shall be releasing my full review in one or two day's time, I have almost completed writing my Part 1. I can't wait to publish it !! 

Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro Lens Preview

Olympus Malaysia has once again approached me with a new product in their micro 4/3 system line-up, the much anticipated Olympus M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro lens. This is the first Olympus dedicated macro lens released for the micro 4/3 line-up, and its development was initially announced at the same time of the Olympus OM-D E-M5 launch in March 2012. The official announcement for the M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro launching would be today, 17th September 2012. I was privileged to be loaned a review unit for my own testing purposes over the weekend, and I am currently still in the process of shooting (well, in Malaysia we have a long weekend, hence effectively today is still a public holiday) and gathering material for my usual review write-ups in this blog. As for now, I shall post up a preview of the M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 lens, and my initial impressions. 

I Can Smell my Flash Burning.

I was shooting earlier today with my 3 year old Olympus FL36R flash, and suddenly I smelled something burning.... and I realized it must have been the flash. I pointed the head of the flash (where the white bulb is) and gosh... it smelled like some chicken wing BBQ gone wrong. Ok, maybe I was very hungry when I was shooting, but you get the idea. 

Olympus FL50R. Here I come. 

River of Light

First and foremost, a HUGE congratulations to Sanjitpaal Singh, a dear friend, and a great photographer who has just won the International Photography Award (IPA) for the pro category Nature (he won second place). Sanjit is no stranger to this blog, in fact, most of you will recognize and remember him from my Olympus OM-D E-M5 review series earlier this year, he was the man behind all the videos and he was the reviewer for the video part for the OM-D. Sanjit, you have made us all very proud, and I know, more and more great accomplishments will come your way. Stay true to yourself, and keep that passion burning brighter. 

I was joining the Google + Photowalk Malaysia today with a group of crazy fun photographers, and the venue for shooting was Forest Research Institute of Malaysia (FRIM). We went into the jungle trail, trekking and hiking our way up to the canopy walk, and I must admit it was quite a challenging walk physically. Little did I expect, I believe I have come across the spot where Sanjit took that winning photograph for his entry to IPA. I was not entirely sure if this was the place (well, Sanjit could have taken the similar shot at some other rainforests anywhere in Malaysia) but the scene looked very, eerily similar. 

Now my question to you is: Do you believe in coincidences? I am not sure if there is such thing as a photography god, but if there is, I would like to think that I was given some sort of a message or sign. Not sure what it is, but the timing of the events were too beautifully arranged to be just a coincidence. Lets hope I am not reading into this the wrong way. 


"You are the shelter from the rain, and the rain that washes me away" 
by Jars of Clay (I Need You)

It was an unexpected Thursday night of the weekly shutter therapy session that the sky decided to cruelly pour on us. To most people, that would be a cue to stop and give up the session for the night. Not to us, well, the fun has just started. I know, call us crazy, but if you have the heart to shoot, rain or shine, you will still shoot. The weather is not an excuse !!

With an umbrella on one hand, camera on another, we attacked the streets of Bukit Bintang, capturing some of the most liveliest expressions and mood ever. Ideas, inspiration and motivation all came from Luke Ding

All images were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and kit lens 14-42mm. Flash was used, and ISO was set to between 1600-3200. 

Casting a Net

I was going through some of my older photographs and there was a set taken at a Beach near Carey Island. Since I am currently stationed right in the middle of the Kuala Lumpur concrete jungle, visits to a beach is rare and far in between. During such visits, I would surely try to shoot as much as I can. 

The above photograph was taken with the Olympus DSLR E-520 and the old Zuiko 40-150mm F3.5-4.5. There was so much chromatic aberration in the originally taken photograph, enough to make any sane modern digital photographers flip inside out.  I still liked the image, hence I did some color manipulation (some sort of cross processing, but whatever it was I wanted it to look that way specifically). 

I envy those of you who live so near the beach, or places outside of city with plenty of beautiful landscapes (mountains, green hills/park, open space, lake, river, etc). I wish I am away from this concrete jungle, away from urbanization, sometimes. 

The Photographer's Mind

I have been reading one of Michael Freeman's beautifully written books, The Photographer's Mind. Indeed that book is highly recommended for learning photographers who wish to see their world more creatively, and with broader sense of perspective when it comes to composition consideration and more interesting overall presentation of photographs. I find myself learning many useful tips as well as agreeing to most of the arguments put forth. Certainly it was refreshing to venture into something a lot more than just my simple and sometimes too direct approach to photography. Surely, there is a lot more to just attacking the subjects straight on, there are many other considerations that are often necessarily to create a much more compelling and impact-ful photograph. 

All images in this entry were taken about a week ago (during the long weekend), with Olympus DSLR E-520 and 14-42mm Kit lens.

High Sun
One of an important things to do, especially when you are presenting your photographs in a series, is to create an opening, or establishing shot. This is important to create the sense of location and time, allowing your viewers to be there and connect your photography subjects better. Looking at the image above, one can easily tell that the time of shoot was noon (sun was high) and it was taking place in an urban setting (tall buildings). Of course, the elements that I wanted to include in this image were strong contrast between shadow and light. And I did mention more than once that I like that star-burst effect, right?

The Neglected Compact Camera

I intended to do my shutter therapy today with the Olympus PEN E-PL1, only to realize on the way out of the door that the battery was not charged, and the camera had been used for two shooting sessions already. Initial alternative was to either use the DSLR E-520 or E-5, but I made a change of mind in that very last minute, to take out my much ignored compact point and shoot camera Panasonic Lumix LZ8. If you know that I have this compact camera (which I bought 3 years ago) stashed somewhere, you must have been following my blog for quite a while now, and I have you to thank for. The Panasonic LZ8 was my everyday camera that I used for documentation purposes on for my day to day work on a construction site, and I paid little attention to using the camera on my own non-work activities. However, a camera is still a camera, and why not give this lowly, budget, neglected, looked-down upon camera a spin? Will the camera work for street shooting?

The camera that I use for day to day work, but almost never for my shutter therapy. 

Drama on the Street

It has been about more than a month since I last used the Olympus DSLR E-5 shooting on the street, putting it aside, I chose to use my older E-520 and E-PL1 alternatively instead. In the course of the past few weeks I have also experimented with a few rather unusual methods, including the use of flash on my street shooting, as well as going a little extreme on my slow shutter speed shooting. I have also used the kit lens, shooting mostly at 14mm wide end, something that I rarely did previously. After spending much time and effort going around doing things that I do not usually do, finally, today, I decided to move back to my comfort zone, and just be myself, shooting with my favourite lens 50mm F2 macro, and executing my usual style (no flash, no extra crazy stunts, just direct, simple approach) of getting close for close up street portraits. Oh wait, that was not really street photography strictly speaking if they were portraits of strangers looking into my camera, but seriously, who cares? 

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

Drama on the Street
A shop owner was hitting a beggar (not sure if the broken arm was real) with a wooden stick. I shot this from across the road, but they noticed me and I was like "oh crap I better move fast" and so I hurried away. In situations like this, you do need a longer focal length. 

In Full Glorious Color

Alright, I admit I have been a little overboard with black and white images lately, and almost everything that came out from my street shooting sessions have been presented in monochrome. I will not go into the long discussion of black and white versus color photography, because I see them both as entirely different mediums of photography, and each should stand on its own, and has nothing against each other. The comparison of which medium is better would be inappropriate, because both has their own set of strengths and weaknesses. Both color and black and white are fully acknowledged as important and valid photography approach, and in order to understand and appreciate them, it is crucial for the photographer to explore them together. 

Therefore, in this blog entry, all my images taken shall be shown in full colour. All images were taken with Olympus PEN E-PL1 and CCTV lens 25mm F1.2

The rise of Nikon Film army. Luke Ding and Nick Wade, shooting company for the night. 

Young and Free

They say that if you do not look at your photographs immediately after you took them, setting them aside for a while and looking at them much later, you will be able to "edit" your set of photographs better, because you are not clouded by false judgment based on apparent "temporary emotional connection" to the photographs that you have taken at that given moment of time. So many people have come to believe and practice that, but somehow, I do not see myself agreeing at all. I was looking at a set of photographs taken at a rural village about a few weeks ago. I am still pretty much in love with my initial selection of photographs, and my thoughts and reasoning of selecting the first filtered set have not changed. However, something interesting happened. As I look through the full set one more time, I found more photographs that I thought could have been selected in the first place. Instead of narrowing down to less photographs, I actually added MORE. The extra few that passed the second round editing process are presented in this blog entry. 

To view the original set of images, please go to the blog entry here (click). 

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

The Weary Path

A Visitor from Switzerland

This evening has been an extra special one, because I have a visitor who came all the way from Switzerland to Malaysia, and we met up over a dinner session in a local Chinese Restaurant. This was my first encounter with anyone from Switzerland (he was actually a German living in Switzerland), it was an exciting session of cross-culture and photography thoughts exchange. We had plenty to talk about our own background from different countries, and of course, sharing our passion and love for photography, which was the medium that connected us from two very different parts of the world.

Meet Thomas Moser, an IT Specialist, and a passionate photography enthusiast. 

Shooting Against the Light

One of the things that I like to do to add some variety to my series of shots, whether it is for paid assignment or simply for my usual shutter therapy sessions, would be going directly head-on against the strong source of light. In classical sense of describing this shooting condition, most people call it back-lit. I believe that strong back lighting can create very intense visual appeal, which should be used sparingly, at suitable circumstances, and not to be overly done. A few back-lit shots in a series of photographs would be interesting, but too many of them will become repetitive and uninteresting. 

Photograph courtesy of Nick Wade (Flickr)

Early Morning Shoot

It was a glorious Sunday morning, with clear skies and intense morning warm light shining into every single subject that crawled on the streets. With a bunch of street crazy people, Scott Chung, Kelvin Ng, Luke Ding and Nick Wade, we attacked Petaling Street, one of the most frequently attacked locations for street photography. Before we started our hunting, we filled up our stomach with some of the best breakfast you can find in town. The stall owner claimed that their signature dish, Chee Cheong Fun has been around for no less than 70 years !! The best way to start the morning off was to stuff our stomach with plenty of delicious food. 

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-520 and Zuiko Digital lenses 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 kit lens or 25mm F2.8 pancake. 

Top Left: Porridge with Shredded Chicken
Top Right: You Char Kueh
Bottom: Signature dish Chee Cheong Fun with Homemade sauce. 

The Learning Photographer

Recently I am getting more and more questions, some which got me into deep thinking. One of them was asked by several friends in person, and from readers through emails: Why don't I run some sort of photography workshop? It was not an easy question to answer, because the real truth was that I never wanted to conduct any workshop in the first place. The reason that came to that was because I do not believe I even qualify to teach anyone anything. I do not have the credentials, or any sort of credibility that I can have anyone to refer to. My work has not been published anywhere else except in local magazines and newspapers which happened some dinosaur ages ago, and I do not exactly participate in competitions, wrote any books, or held any photography exhibitions at all. If suddenly there is this funky photography workshop conducted by Robin Wong, one might wonder who the heck is this guy, an online blogger who reviews Olympus gear? Get real !!

It is not a shame for me to admit openly that I am after all, nothing but a learning photographer, much like the majority of new-comers to photography. I do not see myself higher than anyone else, nor do I wish to impose that sort of perception. I am still in the midst of discovering my own photography style, I am still in the progress of experimentation when shooting. There are so much more to explore, things to learn and experience through this long journey of photography. Therefore it is no surprise that most of my writings in this blog cater more specifically to the general learning crowd. The one unexplained phenomenon was that I unexpectedly received many visits from those who are far better skilled and experienced than I am, for that I have been truly humbled and felt very honored.  

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus DSLR E-520 and Kit Lens 14-42mm F3.5-5.6

When I am on the streets, when I come across such irresistibly cute creatures, I would take a pause, and play with them for a while. Being on the street is about doing what you want to do. If you found that nice ice cream stall and in that mid-day hot sun you just have to have something cold, buy yourself one !!