Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Fei Seong & Lih Shiong: Actual Day Wedding Photography

Last weekend, I had the privilege to be the official photographer for dear friends Fei Seong and Lih Shiong, both wonderful ex-colleagues I have known since my engineering days many years ago. I have also covered a casual outdoor pre-wedding portraiture shoot of them about a month ago (click here to go to that blog entry). As usual, I used my trusty OM-D system with M.Zuiko lenses to cover this beautiful wedding. Here is a preview of quick initial edits. 


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Matti Sulanto from Finland

I had a visitor from Finland this morning joining me for shutter therapy, Matti Sulanto. I think this is probably the first time I have met anyone from Finland! Matti has got quite a story to tell in his photography journey, he has started decades ago in professional photography in the film era, moving on to the digital age, using many different formats. Previously he was using Nikon full frame system which he has since then switched fully to Olympus. The turning point was the introduction of electronic viewfinder that worked so well, changing the way he shoots, having the "what you see is what you get capabilities". He has never looked back, while he still flirted with other brands such as Fuji (which he did for a year), he found himself coming back to the Olympus OM-D system. His reasons: the camera that is so reliable, and yet small and light, producing image output that is more than good enough for everything that he does. Also, he commented that the current OM-D E-M1 is a camera that can do anything! 

It was such a breath of fresh air, listening to testinomies about the Olympus OM-D system from a real professional photographer! I have written lengthily from a photography enthusiast's point of view, but I dare not represent the voice of professionals. Nonetheless, it was clear that more and more prominent photographers are switching to OM-D and it is very clear that mirrorless is the future.

I brought Matti to my favourite street hunting ground, Chow Kit. I sure hope he liked the place, and found some nice shots there as well!

On another note, my M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 has been missing from me for the past 2 months, I loaned it to a friend who travelled to Japan and Australia for holidays. The 25mm F1.8 was returned to me just a few days ago, and boy, did I miss the lens so much! I decided to just use this one lens for today's session. It was a short session, as I did have something occupying me in the afternoon. It was great to have the lens back and I foresee myself using it more and more.

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8

Meet Matti Sulanto from Finland, an Olympus OM-D professional user. Check out his amazing photographs at www.sulantoblog.fi

Sunday, December 21, 2014

From World's Fastest Autofocus to No Autofocus

It was a lazy, lazy weekend, I was hanging out with friends, shooting on the streets with the still new to me full manual legacy lens, OM Zuiko 55mm F1.2, which I have used on the OM-D E-M5. For the first few times I used the lens it was very awkward indeed, and I admit rather difficult for me to do my usual street shots, considering I have always been so used to the blazing fast Olympus autofocus system. Taking the AF away was like ripping apart a limb from me, and I felt somewhat handicapped. Nonetheless, in life we are rarely complete, we usually do not have everything that we want or need, hence we strive, we struggle and we work harder. The lack of AF allows me to push myself further, and plan my shots more carefully, rather than just machine-gunning my way around. 

I am proud to say that after many attempts in using the manual focus lens, now I am getting more and more comfortable with it! My reaction is a lot quicker and my estimates are more accurate now. 

Although the lens requires a lot more hard work, gosh, at the end of the day, when you nail it, the shots came out very rewarding indeed. I do like the look of the out of focus (bokeh) area this lens is rendering, and when stopped down to F2, or smaller, the images are VERY sharp indeed. 

My settings on the OM-D E-M5, using the OM Zuiko 55mm F1.2 lens:

1) Aperture Priority, with constant fiddling of exposure compensation to get the exposure balance as I judge on the fly through the electronic viewfinder (what you see is what you get)

2) Image Stabilization set to focal length 55mm. This is crucial, to ensure the IS works with the lens and not cause unwanted shake. 

3) Magnify 7x on focus area for manual focus assist. I used the magnification preview while manual focusing, to aid in getting a tact sharp in focus image, and this worked very well so far. No, focus peaking did not help (we have been through this before and I do not intend to get into another discussion). I assigned the magnify function to Fn2 button. 

4) White Balance adjust in Post. There is something wrong with the white balance engine using a non-digital lens, it was not as consistent and accurate as I expected, hence most of the white balance was adjusted manually in post processing. 

5) I rarely use F1.2 wide open, I normally stopped down a little, in between F1.2 and F2 (I am guessing around F1.4 or F1.8). Still having a 55mm at F1.4 to F1.8 can render superbly shallow depth of field. For subjects further away, or in scenes I require more depth of field, I do stop down the lens to F4 or even F8. 

6) Shutter speed was watched carefully, not to go below 1/50sec, since I was shooting hand-held all the time. 

7) Contrast was boosted significantly in post-processing. The out of camera images lack contrast generally. 

Jackie and Calvin

Into the Morning Light

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Darren Ashley and Paperplane Pursuit Live at #Ohhsome Festival 2014

Last weekend, on stage for the #Ohhsome Festival, one of the act I was looking forward to, besides WongFu Productions and David Choi was our local star, Darren Ashley. Halfway through Dash's performance, John Oommen, the lead singer from another band, Paperplane Pursuit came up and did a duet to their now very popular song on the radiowave, "Beat of Your Love". When John went on stage, the crowd went on the overdrive frenzy mode! I joined in the cheer and I personally that this was the best performance for the whole night at #Ohhsome Festival. 

Do check out their cool stuff at the official Youtube Channels:

All images were taken with OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 Pro Lens



Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Round 2 with the Zuiko OM 55mm F1.2 Lens

I am loving the good old OM lens, Zuiko 55mm F1.2 the more I use it. I have forced myself to just use this one lens on an Olympus OM-D E-M1 this time, shooting people that I get the opportunity to meet over the weekend. Using the 55mm F1.2 on the E-M1 is a lot easier in comparison to the E-M5, mainly due to the much larger, brighter and higher resolution electronic viewfinder in the E-M1, allowing much faster and easier manual focusing. Although the E-M1 has built in focus peaking to assist manual focusing, I still find it rather difficult to use for critically sharp photographs, and I resorted to the slower magnify the area to focus method, for better accuracy. What is the point of shooting if you cannot even get the images in focus in the first place? Accuracy is almost always more important than speed. 
All images were taken with Olympus Zuiko OM 55mm F1.2 lens, mounted on OM-D E-M1

Meet Pekchekkia and Akiraceo, both very prominent comic bloggers in Malaysia, whom I am proud to know personally. They came over to give a presentation/speech at the #Ohhsome festival. 

Cyril Dason, the founder of Sarawak Bloggers, and one person whom I know can make things happen with sheer determination and will power. Congratulations to Cyril on the newborn baby girl! 

Shaun Nykvist, one photographer from Brisbane, Australia that I envy so much, for having the opportunities to travel all over the world and shoot amazing photographs! Shaun is also an Olympus shooter, with amazing street, travel and underwater photography in his portfolio!

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Wong Fu Productions and David Choi Live in Malaysia at #Ohhsome Festival 2014

I have been a huge fan of Wong Fu Productions for many years. I followed Wong Fu even when I was in my university days, since they first released their Yellow Fever (I saw the video some time in 2007 I think). Wong Fu Productions is perhaps, one of the biggest motivations to me, to pursue what I love doing, and dare myself to go the distance. I can relate to Wong Fu very well, considering two of the core members Philip Wang and Wesley Chan share the same age as me, but look at how far they have come and all their huge accomplishments! They started from filming just for fun in college, and as the Youtube age hit the internet, they took advantage of that and over time, they have improved in their film productions in every single possible angle, from script writing to cinematography. Their passion to go further, dedication to their art and surely, pure determination have brought them far..They made it, and they made it HUGE, turned their passion into a living dream, and have inspired millions of people around the world. 

When I heard Wong Fu was coming to Malaysia, I MUST go and see them. I managed to do that earlier this evening, at #Ohhsome Festival happening at Avenue K, Kuala Lumpur. They travelled halfway across the globe to Malaysia, and I must snap a frame or two of their photographs!

Oohsome Festival was a celebration of the power of social media, including Youtube, Instagram and Facebook. Many social media experts or celebrities, both internationally and locally were invited to perform, or deliver talks to inspire the general crowd. The headliner was surely Wong Fu Productions, and along with them also appearing on stage the same evening was David Choi, whom happened to be one of my favourite non-mainstream artists. Seeing both David Choi and Wong Fu, my Saturday night could not have been spent better. It was a night to remember, though my feet hurt so much from standing for more than 5 hours securing the standing spot before the final appearance of Wong Fu on stage. It was all worth it. 

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko lenses 40-150mm F2.8 PRO or 75mm F1.8

David Choi performed about 5 songs on stage, and totally melted the hearts of all the girls there. 



Monday, December 08, 2014

Olympus OM Zuiko 55mm F1.2

So Christmas is near, so is my birthday and I decided that I deserve something to pamper myself with. I decided to splurge (OMG) and bought something which I do not really need, but I do desire to have, an F1.2 lens. Unfortunately the Panasonic 42.5mm is just too far a stretch out of my affordability. Hence I settled with something low key and more wallet friendly, the old OM Zuiko 55mm F1.2 lens. 

I know the lens is an old one, and it comes with a bagful of imperfections. I totally understand that at F1.2 the image is soft and I do need to stop down to at least F2 to obtain reasonably useful and sharp results. I also understand that such lens will exhibit plenty of other flaws such as chromatic abberation, and well, I think many of you can fill in the blanks better than I do. The main point is not enough obtaining a perfect lens or the best lens, if I wanted that, I would have gotten so many other amazing digital lenses from both Olympus and Panasonic. The idea of using an old lens, was purely just for the fun of it. Who cares if my images are not exactly that sharp, who cares if they were all technically flawed? This is probably one of the cheapest F1.2 lens I can ever get (the CCTV lens does not count) and I am loving it so far!


Thursday, December 04, 2014

Sometimes, the Oneplus One Took The Shots

Of course I went to the streets with my trusty OM-D and PEN cameras but some scenes compelled me to take out the Oneplus One and shoot. 

Like the following few shots.

Gloves

Monday, December 01, 2014

Olympus Stylus SH-1

After all the heavy shooting in Vietnam, I suddenly felt the urge to use something simpler and more down to earth for this weekend's shutter therapy session. I wanted to use the Stylus 1 but I could not find one in the drawer hence I took a quick look around and found this baby, the Olympus Stylus SH-1. It caught my attention mainly because of the PEN styled classic design, and as I inspected the camera further, I realized the one important fact about this camera which not many people know: this is probably one of the very few compact cameras (well, that Panasonic FZ1000, which is not exactly a compact, due to the SLR-sized body) with built in 5-Axis Image Stabilization. The SH-1 has a 24x zoom range, which is massive for a camera of such small size, sporting focal length of 25mm wide angle to the farthest tele end of 600mm. Typically most people would shrug off superzoom cameras in a compact body, since anything beyond 8-10x zoom is deemed useless when the camera is shot hand-held. Nonetheless, the inclusion of 5-Axis IS changed that, and I was eager to see how much the 5-Axis IS benefited the long zoom of SH-1. 

This is not a review of the SH-1, think of this blog entry as me having fun with the camera, bringing it out for one full day, coming home with some quick snapshots. 

Olympus Stylus SH-1, image taken with OM-D E-M5 and M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens, the SH-1 being lit by an LED ringlight, and two small LED torch-lights. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Shutter Therapy in Hoi An, Vietnam with OM-D E-M1

I spent the past few days in the picturesque coastal town of Hoi An, Vietnam. Finally, I managed to get some time away from work and just click the shutter button away, while doing that in a quaint, small and peaceful town. I have not had much chance to travel around and I really should have made more effort to explore South East Asia more, there are so many beautiful places, rich in culture and various tradition, all screaming photography opportunities to be discovered. 

I brought along Olympus OM-D E-M1 as the primary camera, an E-M5 as a back-up in case something happens to the E-M1, and four M.Zuiko lenses: 9-18mm F4-5.6, 45mm F1.8, 75mm F1.8 and 40-150mm F2.8 Pro. When I was walking around doing my shutter therapy, I did not bring everything with me of course, usually only one camera (E-M1) and about three lenses (40-150mm Pro stays behind, unless the extra long each was needed). E-M1 and the three lenses weigh less than 1.5kg, all fitted into a small shoulder sling camera bag, easy to carry around without feeling any strain on my shoulder or neck. In comparison to my older days with DSLR E-5 and the Four Thirds lenses, this new combination of E-M1 and smaller lenses made such a stark, huge difference in terms of portability and convenience. And with the 40-150mm F2.8 pro lens, the total weight comes to about 2kg only! 

Beautiful Hoi An, near sunset

Friendly Hoi An farmer

The shops and buildings are old, but with beautiful, traditional design, staying in tact. 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

About High ISO Shooting with Olympus

I have noticed several comments, here on my blog as well on forum discussions, mentioning how it was almost impossible (ok, impossible is a very strong word, or simply put as "unlikely") the shots I took with Olympus cameras (E-M5, E-M1, E-M10) exhibiting so little noise, looking so clean when I was shooting at high ISO settings (ISO3200-6400). 

Before we step any further in this subject, I would like to clarify a few items. I never mentioned that you do not see noise in Olympus high ISO shots, and surely I also did not mention that the shots were "clean" and "noise-free". I always, always have been careful when it comes to touchy subjects like high ISO shooting, and I always mentioned my high ISO shots were "good enough" and noise was handled, or controlled well. Noise is present in image even at lower ISO settings, it is either the noise was smoothened out by in camera processing or too negligible to be detected with normal computer screen views. How tolerable the amount of visible noise in high ISO varies from person to person. I was perfectly fine with E-M1's ISO6400 ouput, but showing the exact same image to a friend, he cringed even at the sight of some luminance noise (which I was perfectly fine with since it did not add any destructive effect to the image, instead adding "structure" which looked nice, in my own opinion). 

I do have to reiterate that Olympus cameras CAN shoot very good images, and I shall put a stop at ISO6400 here. Yes we can go higher and still get away with usable images, but we all know there are other "higher end" cameras that can do better. The problem here is, many people thought that I somehow miraculously managed to shoot "supposedly" clean ISO3200 and ISO6400 images. 

ISO3200, Olympus OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens

ISO6,400, OM-D E-M10 and M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8

Monday, November 17, 2014

Burger in Flash

I know there are many die-hard believers of available light photography, who would rather throw their cameras down 20 storeys high building than choose to use flash in their photography. 

I am a strong believer in available light. If you have seen even just 2% of what I have posted on my blog, you would see that more than 90% of what I shoot (street photography mainly) were done without aid of additional artifical  lighting. However, I do not deny the advantages of enhancing an image using flash photography. I certainly acknowledge that careful and strategic use of flash can open up a whole new world of possibilities. 

It all comes down to the ability of the photographer to understand the light, and apply it in his photography. Light is not perfect all the time. While most of the time utilizing available light may be the best solution, there are times the available light was simply terrible, or insufficient. Recognising that the light condition is poor, we have a few choices to make: 1) forget about shooting, lighting is everything, thus poor lighting = poor photographs 2) shoot anyway, and screw lighting. available light is king (you must be delirious) and 3) find ways to counter the poor lighting, for example, using flash!

I have encountered this situation while having dinner last night. I was served with a plate of beautiful burger, begging to be photographed (I know, I know, the internet is overflooded with food photographs, but do forgive me this one time to demonstrate my point in flash photography). I tried shooting without flash, and I did not get the shot that I wanted. No, the camera was perfect capable in shooting low light conditions, images came out clean despite high ISO setting, and I had an F1.8 lens so it was not an issue under low light. The problem is the light was poor, being flat, and uninteresting, with poor color cast. The initial image came out dull and honestly, not appetizing to look at. 

Olympus OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8
1/25sec, F2.8, ISO400, FL50R, TTL +1.3EV, bounced directly off ceiling

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Day Out at Sekinchan

When the week was long and it weighed you down, and the weekend came, the only thought that came to mind was run away as far as we could from the city. My friends and I did just that over the past weekend and we decided to do a day trip to Sekinchan (about 2 hours drive away from Kuala Lumpur). It was not exactly a spontaneous plan either, originally this outing was intended to be a model portrait shooting, but somehow plans got shifted last minute and we decided to just head out and have some fun, being silly exposing ourselves under the blistering Malaysian sun, stuffed ourselves silly with cheap and good seafood and just randomly clicked the shutter away, Somehow it was not really a photography trip, and I did not want to focus on shooting so much, but I did come home with a few shots that I was rather happy with. 

I brought along a Silver Olympus OM-D E-M1, and M,Zuiko lenses 45mm F1.8, 25mm F1.8 and the kit lens M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3. I also brought along the E-PL5, as a second body, with the fisheye bodycap lens attached to it at most times. 

This was easily my favourite photo of the day. We actually drove past this scene and I requested the gang to turn back so I can capture this. I know there really is nothing that spectacular about this shot, but everything seemed just rightly in place. There were the strong major colors, bright yellow and red against bold green and soft blue background, there was a reflection by the water and the nunbers on the container added some interest to the overall rather simple and straight forward photograph. The lighting for this scene was just nice and I could not have asked for better. Nothing fancy, but it caught my attention!

Sunday, November 09, 2014

OnePlus Fan Gathering, Malaysia

I have to admit, after using the Oneplus One phone for about almost 2 months now, I have completely fallen in love with it. I have also reviewed the Oneplus One's camera capabilities here (click) and did some slow shutter speed experiments (click). The few outstanding features I like about the phone, is the high flagship specifications, long battery life (can last me whole day with just a single charge) and more importantly, it was priced ridiculously low, about half of what other competitions in the similar range were offering! 

When Jackie Loi alerted me about the first ever OnePlus Fan Gathering event in Malaysia, which happened earlier this afternoon, I immediately registered. I went with Jackie of course, and was glad to find so many attendees. Somehow it felt really strange seeing so many people using the same phone as you do, all in the same room. Indeed OnePlus user base in Malaysia is growing strong, and I am very happy to be a part of this vibrant community. If you have not known by now, the OnePlus is setting up a local office in Malaysia, which the OnePlus One phone should be made readily available to be purchased by Malaysians. 

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko lenses 45mm F1.8, 25mm F1.8 and 9mm F8 fisheye bodycap lens. 

NEVER SETTLE, the tagline for OnePlus. 

Not bad for the first official OnePlus event in Malaysia, so glad to see such high turnout. 

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Robin Shoots Pre-Wedding in Singapore!

When dear friends and ex-colleagues, Fei Seong and Lih Shiong asked if I were willing to do some outdoor portrait shooting for their pre-wedding albums, I immediately jumped in and made it happen. This entire weekend was spent at the beautiful locations of Singapore, which I have never done any assignment shoots in before. Fei Seong and Lih Shiong were gracious to have me around and we had plenty of fun roaming around Singapore. 

Considering I was quite inexperienced with wedding shoots (especially so for pre-wedding), I insisted that the couple get an actual professional photographer to do the official photographs, which they have done so. That took a huge load off my shoulders knowing that they already have their primary set of photographs taken, and whatever I am delivering will not be in the "make it or break it" situation, Nevertheless, I took this opportunity to learn and push myself further. I cannot use the "beginner's card", at some point I do have to get my feet wet and dive in altogether. Only by exposing myself to something I rarely do, I can improve. 

LIST OF GEAR
Primary Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M1
Secondary Camera: Olympus OM-D E-M5
Third Back-up camera: Olympus PEN E-PL5 (always, always have a back-up)
Primary Lenses: M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8, 25mm F1.8 and 9-18mm F4-5.6
Secondary Lenses: Panasonic 14mm F2.5 and Olympus 9mm F8 Fisheye Bodycap lens
Olympus FL-50R Flash, used off-camera, fired wirelessly when needed
Olympus FL-36R as a back-up flash (in case FL-50R fails)
Flash Softbox: Gamilight Square 43 (portable, and light, fold-able to flat form)
Tripods, small, light, and cheap, two units, one for the flash + softbox combination, and one for the camera when needed. 
Bags for camera and lenses: Think Tank Urban Disguise

The priority was lightweight, and we walked the entire day from location to location, in combination with commuting via public transports. I have the Think Thank Urban Disguise bad to fit all cameras and lenses, while another long carry bag for the softbox (folded, flat, easy to store and carry) and two tripods. The tripods may be the super cheap, unsteady, unreliable ones, but boy were they small and light, and they did their jobs well. 

Here in this blog entry, in less than 24 hours from the time of shoot, I am showing quick preliminary edits of selected photographs.


Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Simplicity, Again

Sometimes, we (myself included) tried too hard, by taking numerous considerations on lighting control, camera settings, composition options and many other (fill in the technique of your choice) tricks to get the best image possible. Sometimes, I put all that aside, found a good subject, and just whacked the camera directly without much thinking. Sometimes, these shots work very well indeed, and one of them was this man in the unbrella hat. Simplicity works, because the umbrella hat and the friendly look in the man's eyes were compelling enough to make the shot happen. Why black and white? I did not like how the overly colorful umbrella did not match his shirt and the background colors. 

Rainy Days
E-M5 and M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Olympus Vintage Art Filter

With the introduction of the latest Olympus PEN E-PL7, and now made available to the OM-D E-M1 via firmware upgrade 2.0, Vintage Art Filter is one interesting new feature that I think many will find useful and enjoy using. I was never a huge fan of the original Art Filters, with the lack of blog posts of photos showing me using them here. Nevertheless, the new Art Filters really added something different this time, and I must admit they looked better than before. Vintage Art Filters may not be entirely original since they surely were derived from the many filters used all over the "Instragram" internet age. However, I find myself loving the Olympus Vintage Art Filters, all three of them, so much that I am shooting an entire shutter therapy session today with only Art Filters applied. 

Weapon of choice was OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens

Vintage Art Filter 3

Monday, October 20, 2014

Long Exposure Photography Fun with Oneplus One Camera

One of the stand-out built in default camera app of the Oneplus One (by Cynogenmod) is the ability to do slow shutter speed, up to 8 seconds long. I have explored the capabilities of the Oneplus One camera and found that it performs admirably well in general shooting conditions (please read here if you have not). In this blog entry, I shall explore the camera further by doing long exposure shooting. The choice of camera app this time was the default camera app, instead of Camera FV-5, because the slow shutter speed in the default app can capture full size 13MP images (while the Camera FV-5 is limited to 2MP, which is actually the direct live view feed from the LCD screen). 

I am going to be honest and start off by saying, in order to do long exposure photography you do need to have some fundamental understanding of photography basics. You need to know how to control shutter speed, aperture and ISO, and you need to know about metering and general available light circumstances. I can share all the settings and steps I took to produce the images shown here but they will not be much of a help if you cannot understand why and how I applied them. Please do read up on photography basics if you intend to pursue any kind of photography further, even if it is just mobile phone photography. 

And yes, I do intend to share my techniques and setup. 

Oneplus One in action, image taken by Olympus PEN E-PL5

Kuala Lumpur City Skyline
4sec, ISO79, F2

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Shutter Therapy Goes On

It felt like it has been centuries since I last did any street photography. The previous few weeks were occupied with the M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 Pro lens, and I had very specific purpose in mind when I went out to shoot. Obviously the long PRO lens was not a suitable street photography lens, so I decided to shoot other subjects, which worked out well for the lens. This weekend, I finally had some room to breathe, and I am glad I can finally do my shutter therapy, doing my own thing and just shoot whatever comes to me on the street without having "objectives" preoccupying my mind all the time. 

It was a solo photowalk, and I do miss the times when I roamed the streets alone. It is not exactly adviceable to do so in streets of KL, since we do have quite a high crime rate here now. Nonetheless, it was refreshing and just the session I needed to clear my head off the dramas and traumas in life. 

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 and M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 or PEN E-PL5 and Panasonic 14mm F2,5

Coffee after shoot. 

Pink

Monday, October 13, 2014

Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 Pro Lens Review Extension: MC-14 Teleconverter, Continuous AF with Tracking and Quick Comparison with M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 lens

Important Note:
1. I am an Olympus Malaysia employee. 
2. This is a user experience based review, based on my personal opinion which can be subjective.
3. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High Quality) via Olympus Viewer 3.
4. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
5. Minimal post-processing applied to the images, with slight brightness/contrast balance tweak. All images were almost as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping for better presentation.

This blog entry serves as a review extension to my original post M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 Pro Lens review, so if you have not read that first part, kindly do so before proceeding to this extension. The reason why this extension exists is because I did not cover three items in my original blog post: 
Shooting with Olympus MC-14 1.4x teleconverter for M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 Pro lens
Continuous AF with Tracking capability of the lens
and comparison with M.Zuiko 75mmm F1.8 the sharpest M.Zuiko prime lens

I intend to cover all the three items in this blog entry. 

Before we start, let's have a look at how fast the focusing speed of the M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 Pro lens is. I mentioned it was very fast and accurate in my previous review, and I also believe seeing is believing. I have recorded a video of the touch AF (shooting by touching on LCD screen of the OM-D) in action, and you will see how blazingly fast the AF of the lens is. That implementation of new Dual VCM (voice coil motor) mechanism works very well!




SHOOTING WITH OLYMPUS MC-14 1.4x TELECONVERTER ON M.ZUIKO 40-150mm F2.8 PRO 

Olympus has released a teleconverter MC-14, which multiplies the focal length of the M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 Pro lens by 1.4x, and losing the aperture brightness by one stop, from F2.8 widest to F4. Therefore, with the teleconverter MC-14 attached to the lens, you effectively obtain 56-210mm (in 35mm format, it is 112-420mm), at constant aperture of F4, which is still very respectable for a zoom lens. Obviously the purpose of having the tele-converter is to add that extra far reach, and that 40% longer foal length does make a difference when you do need to get a little closer.  Considering that the main gain is the focal length, it is only prudent to use this converter when the 150mm longest reach is insufficient, because if you intend to shoot mostly within 150mm, without the teleconverter you get brighter F2.8 aperture. 
The MC-14 teleconverter is so small and light that it does not add to any significant weight to the lens. It features a protruding element which inserts right into the rear of the 40-150mm F2.8 pro lens, which has a hollow opening. With this specific design, the teleconverter cannot be used with any other lenses, and is tailor made only for the M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 Pro lens. The MC-14 still maintains the weather-sealing properties of the lens and OM-D body combination.  

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Shoot Model Portrait

Just sharing a few more photographs from my recent model photoshoot with Nicole. Honestly, I did not do much, all the posing were done by Nicole. I was a terrible director, and I just told her to be herself and did not force her to do any of the poses she did. If you think the photographs turned out good, it must be all her. I was merely there snapping away with the OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens. 

My part? Just watch how the light fell on her, and compose. The location was a city/urban street with morning light, and most photographs were taken under shade with soft lighting. 

My inspiration for portrait shooting? Kirk Tuck. Though I know I am miles away from what he can do with his portraiture work, and probably my shots look nothing like the ones he could do, but hey, everyone gotta start somewhere. 


Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO Lens Review

Important Note:
1. I am an Olympus Malaysia employee. 
2. This is a user experience based review, based on my personal opinion which can be subjective.
3. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High Quality) via Olympus Viewer 3.
4. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
5. Minimal post-processing applied to the images, with slight brightness/contrast balance tweak. All images were almost as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping for better presentation.


Finally, the review sample for the long awaited Olympus M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens has arrived, and I have found some time to go out and shoot loads of images with it. This marks the release of the second M,Zuiko Pro lens line-up, the first being the M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8. 



Here is a super brief summary of the key highlights of M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens:

1) Very Small and Lightweight telephoto zoom lens - half the size and weight of Canon and Nikon's 70-200mm F2.8 lenses

2) Full Weather Sealing - splashproof, dustproof and freezeproof

3) Superb, sophisticated optics design - featuring 5 ED (Extra Low Dispersion) elements, one super ED lens, one EDA (extra low dispersion aspherical) lens and one HR (high refractive index and dispersion) lens. 

4) World's first Dual Voice Coil Motor (VCM) Focusing Mechanism, for super fast AutoFocus

5) Great Close-Up Shooting Capability, almost pseudo macro - minimum focusing distance at 50cm from the front element of the lens, with magnification of 0.41x. 

If you have not read my full introduction to the M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 Pro lens, kindly do so here (click) before proceeding with this blog entry. 

You may find the full specification of the lens at Olympus' official site here (click). 

I have written previously about the key highlights of the pro lens and my initial thoughts. I will not be repeating myself again here and in this particular blog entry I will jump straight into discussing the results and findings I have gathered based on my 2 full day shooting experience with the M.Zuiko 40-150mm Pro lens. For my review images, I have used the OM-D E-M1 body, with the HLD-7 battery grip holder attached to it at all times. Unfortunately I do not have the new telecoverter MC-14 with me at this moment, and I shall be testing the teleconverter separately in near future. 

So what did I do with the lens for the past 2 days?

I went to Zoo Negara, since it was the easiest access I have for animals, or anything resembling wildlife, which I believe this lens will be used for. Considering I grew up in a city/urban environment there is no way I am venturing into the jungle and get eaten by snakes. Or crocodiles. So I figured zoo would be the best place to try out the general capabilities of the M.Zuiko 40-150mm Pro, and they even had a newly opened butterfly garden inside the zoo, which was convenient for me to test the close up shooting ability of the lens. The second day was spent shooting portraiture, which I must say I am not very good at. I seldom shoot an arranged portrait of a model, but I do have experience shooting strangers on the street. I don't think zooming in across the street would do my lens test any good, and this lens is just not the right lens for the usual street shooting tasks. Therefore I arranged a model, Nicole whom I have worked with before in an Olympus event, and spent half a day blasting the shutter away on her. I have also walked around the city area with this lens, shooting whatever that caught my attention. 

150mm, 1/640sec, F2.8, ISO500

150mm, 1/1000sec, F2.8, ISO1600

Monday, September 29, 2014

OnePlus One Camera Review

I have been overwhelmed with all the heavy camera talks and news going on from Photokina week with launching of so many new photography products, and me having spent all of my last weekend at a photography centric event, the Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival (KLPF) 2014, meeting hundreds of people, all three full days discussing, debating and sharing about photography products. For once, this particular weekend, I decided to leave my Olympus gear behind. No that did not mean I am not having my shutter therapy, I still do that faithfully. Instead I chose to shoot with something a lot more basic, and simpler. I turned my mobile phone photography mode on, and shot the entire weekend with just my mobile phone. This allowed me to forget most of the technicalities of carrying an advanced system, went back to basics, and just enjoy myself without thinking too much. 

Considering I was already planning to shoot heavily with the mobile phone, I thought why not do a camera review for the phone I am currently using, the OnePlus One. I have searched around the web for information about the camera, not much came up. Therefore, I shall add in my part, reviewing the phone from a photography enthusiast's point of view, how the camera performs, evaluating the image output and see if this OnePlus One camera can deliver. 

Do take note that I am not a tech junkie, I will not be discussing about other aspects of the phone, and concentrate solely on the camera and imaging performance of OnePlus One. I have no connections to OnePlus and I bought the phone entirely out of my own pocket (to replace my dying Nexus 4). I will not do technical analysis and you will not find any charts, graphs or numbers in the results. What you will see are plenty of photograph samples, taken in a course of two days at multiple locations. I believe the findings are best discovered by experience, shooting on the field, and I am merely sharing my user experience using the camera on the OnePlus One phone. 

OnePlus One in action. Camera App used was Camera FV-5 

Taking a closer look at the back camera, 13MP BSI image sensor, with F2 lens, and 27mm equivalent focal length in 35mm format

Sunday, September 21, 2014

KLPF 2014 Day 2

The second day of Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival 2014 has ended, boy was it an exhausting day, but a fulfilling one. There were so many awesome people who came up and say hi, and I was thrilled to meet many familiar and new faces. 

Today we had a loyal and very talented Olympus user, Amir Ridhwan, someone I look up to greatly, and someone I have learned a great deal from when it comes to insect macro photogaphy. Most of my macro shooting techniques were derived from Amir's and he was truly a great inspiration. We were proud to have him on the main stage at KLPF, delivering his talk "Small Gear, Big Pictures". Listening to his speech, I could not help myself but just be in awe, feeling deeply motivated by a fellow photography enthusiast. He shared many truths about photography learning journey, and from many of his stories I can identify with a handful of them! 

The man himself, Amir Ridhwan, do check out his Flickr Page, he has got some awesome stuff happening there. Thank you so much Amir for being such an inspiration to me, and we MUST go out and shoot some beautiful spiders in the jungle some time soon. I miss those sessions!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival (KLPF) 2014 Day 1

It is that time of the year again, Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival is happening and Olympus Malaysia is participating! I am of course, stationed there full time, so if you happen to be there, please do drop by Olympus and say hi!

We have plenty of activities lined up for KLPF 2014, and here is a list:

1) Free Professional camera and lens cleaning service for Olympus users 

2) Live Demonstration on Olympus Capture (tethered shooting) on a studio set up environment, and Keystone Compensation, both new awesome features in OM-D E-M1 Firmware 2.0 upgrade (only on Saturday and Sunday, hence no photographs from Day 1, Friday)

3) Touch and Try with our latest cameras, PEN E-PL7 and OM-D E-M1 Silver version, both launched very recently!

4) Amir Ridhwan will be on main stage, delivering his talk "Small Gear, Big Pictures" on Saturday, 4pm! 

5) Sanjitpaal Singh will be on main stage, speaking on "Journeys and Discoveries through Photography" on Sunday, 1.15pm!

6) Lots of great deals, promotions and unbeatable packages if you consider to grab an OM-D, PEN or other Olympus gear at KLPF!


Day 1 as usual was less hectic and we expect heavier crowd coming in the weekends. Nevertheless, many thanks to many friends who came to say hey and cheered me up. I hope to see a lot more of you soon!

It has been a long day (started early, ended late, and here I am blogging with plenty of photos), so the photographs will appear in a rather random manner.

All images were taken with OM-D E-M5 and mostly M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens. All SOOC JPEG. I was too tired to bother about any post-processing at all after standing on my feet for all day. 


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Don't Underestimate The Kit Lens: Olympus M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 on PEN E-PL7

In the spirit of the frenzy happenings at Photokina, churning out endless announcements of latest photography products, pushing the advancement and technological barriers, I have chosen to put all the gear measurebating aside today. How did I do that exactly? Simple, for my shutter therapy session, I chose to shoot with one lens only: the Olympus Kit Lens that not many people cared much about, M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6. 

Kit lens is not something most people would want to stay with very long after their first system camera purchase, many looking for options to upgrade to pro zoom lenses (normally with constant bright aperture, eg F2.8), or adding prime lenses. It was not a surprising fact, since most kit lenses bundled with entry level camera (and in a handful of cases, mid-level to even higher level APS-C DSLR cameras) were usually performing less than mediocre, in terms of overall image quality. When setting up with prime lenses or higher grade zoom lenses, the original kit lenses become pale in comparison, generally not as sharp. 

However, let me ask you this. 

Have you used any Olympus kit lenses before? 

From the DSLR days, the Zuiko Digital 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 (Four Thirds version), which I used extensively for 2 years before upgrading to better lenses, to the latest offerings from Olympus Micro Four Thirds line-up, such as the M.Zuiko 12-50mm F3.5-6.3, and even the lowly, often underrated 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 2R. If you have used ANY of the above mentioned kit lenses (like really put them to good use) mostly bundled with Olympus cameras, you will realize that Olympus makes some of the best kit lenses out there, ever. I may sound like I am exaggerating, but I have photographs to show in this blog entry, and believe me this is not the first time I am blogging about the goodness of kit lens. 

Accompanying the kit lens, I used the latest Olympus PEN E-PL7. This time, I had the BLACK version. 

Prayers

Warmth
Who says kit lens can't render shallow depth of field?

Monday, September 15, 2014

Multiple Olympus Announcements: M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO Lens, OM-D E-M1 Silver and Firmware Upgrade 2.0

It is that exciting time of the year again, with Photokina happening, and all camera manufacturers pushing out new products and making huge announcements. Today, Olympus has officially announced 3 important updates to their Micro Four Thirds system range:

1) The highly anticipated M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO Lens
2) OM-D E-M1 Firmware 2.0 (available for both current E-M1 Black and the new Silver version)
3) OM-D E-M1 Silver


This is perhaps the only image that I have with ALL 3 new items combined: E-M1 Silver (already comes with Version 2.0 Firmware) and the M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 Pro lens


Olympus OM-D cameras have been highly successful, and well received by many professional photographers and photo-enthusiasts (much like myself) alike. Even DPReview.com awarded E-M1 the "Product of the Year 2013", and E-M1 has garnered praises from prominent photography bloggers such as Steve Huff and Michael Johnston (TOP). Since the introduction of the OM-D, Olympus has been targeting more serious photographers, mainly professional photographers and serious hobbyists who shoot in demanding and challenging situations, requiring a reliable camera system that will deliver the results. In this continuous effort, Olympus has placed their focus in developing the PRO range of M.Zuiko lenses, with the release of the M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 lens and now, the newly launched M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 PRO lens, a professionally built telephoto zoom lens to match the earlier standard wide zoom lens. In addition to that, the E-M1 has a major firmware upgrade, adding plenty of useful features, adding value to E-M1 users. 

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Taking Up The Challenge: Shooting with only M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 on Olympus PEN E-PL7

Note: For those of you Olympus users coming to Kuala Lumpur Photography Festival this coming weekend, there will be free professional camera and lens cleaning services for your Olympus products! Do not miss out. 


I planned to shoot with only the kit lens this weekend, since I have been using mostly prime lenses these days in every photography sessions. The forgetful me after a long week of work did not bring home the M.Zuiko 14-42mm EZ pancake zoom lens, hence I shall be doing the kit lens only shoot some other time. When I asked myself what else I could do differently this time for my shutter therapy session, I looked at the "fringe" lenses that I have. M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 is not exactly a lens which I would use as my first choice, and I will find every excuse to use any other lenses that I have. I have explained before why I am not the classic 35mm shooter, and I will not do so again, but lets just say using the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.8 is quite a big challenge for me, and I am taking that challenge up today. Nope, no 45mm F1.8, no 25mm F1.8, just sticking to ONE lens for all day. 

The day started with Pudu Wet Market, and it was extra wet today, due to heavy rain during our shoot. I was with Joseph and Nik, both awesome photographers whom I have known from my active days shooting with the Sony gang. We had a coffee break, rather long one actually, until the rain tamed down a little before we continue clicking our shutters away. Thankfully the rain did gave way and we still had plenty of chance to grab some shots. I was armed with the PEN E-PL7, which unfortunately is not weather sealed. I would have worried less if I was using my own OM-D E-M5, which I decided to leave resting at home. 

I did not have any agenda or anything particular I wanted to achieve in this shooting session. Heck, I was not really doing any tests or further review for the E-PL7. This was my weekend, my only time free, and I wanted to do something for myself, and my shutter therapy has only one purpose, to make me happy!

Noodles and Seafood

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Answer Comes to Those Who Seek

A few years ago, a friend bragged about how superior his camera system was, being able to capture by continuously focusing on a flying dragonfly. No one knew how he did it, No one saw how he did it. I did not have the answer.

A few years later, the answer revealed itself to me. If you look at this image, it was not that difficult to guess how I got this Dragonfly in Flight photograph. It was so simple, so easy, that sometimes we seek answers at all the wrong places. Note that I was using Single-AF, not continuous.

Image taken with Olympus PEN E-PL7 and M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens. 

Well, I could have said along the lines of "OMG the E-PL7 has improved Continuous AF that it can track flying insects!". That was the exact same thing that the friend did years ago, with his system. 

I guess those who have shot enough dragonflies will know the answer. I shall keep it open for you to guess, if you have not already known it!

Saturday, September 06, 2014

To Achieve That "Robin Wong" Look

I find it rather humorous how people can refer to certain look and feel to photographs that look "Robin Wong". Truth to be told, I have not successfully developed a distinctive photography style yet (unlike established photographers, such as Ming Thein and Steve McCurry, one look and you know those are their photos), and I am still in the process of experimentations, trying out different techniques and shooting methods, deciding what works and what do not. I believe photography is a dynamic process that require us to continue to study, dare to try out new and different approaches and push beyond our boundaries of comfort. Growth in photography takes time, and I, like everyone else am still learning. 

However, I have received so many comments here, as well as email and requests on my FB Page asking me to share my "magic settings" or post processing tricks to produce the images I always show here. No one put it better than Tom Hogan when he blogged about "There is no such thing as Magic Settings" (click here to read). I agree with Tom, there really is no special technique or settings that work universally, every scene in photography condition changes, and no matter how we optimize the camera it will never be the same being used at different locations and by different photographers who obviously have different preferences and mindset. I think it is very crucial to acknowledge that what works for me, what I do and practise in photography may not necessarily be the most suitable choice for you, or any one else. Also, there is no right and wrong, just different approaches to get to where you want to. 

Since the requests have been made multiple times, I shall share what I can in this blog entry. No I will not give you that "cheat sheet", instead I will share my thoughts and experience from my shooting background. Why I did certain things in specific manner, and the logic behind my choice of general camera control and setting. 

All images in this blog were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M1 and M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens. . 

Innocent Eyes

Monday, September 01, 2014

Olympus PEN E-PL7 Review Extension

As promised, I have been busy shooting with the Olympus PEN E-PL7 for the past few days, and I have come home with plenty of images. In case you have not noticed, I have changed the way I did my camera review, I no longer broke the review into several parts. Instead I have said everything that I needed to say in that one part of E-PL7 Review. This particular blog entry shall serve as an extension to the main review, with more sample photographs, and perhaps jotting down a few points and thoughts which may have been missed out. Therefore, before you proceed to this review extension, please make sure you have read the Olympus PEN E-PL7 Review here (click). 

For this review extension, I shall be exploring a few items: High ISO Shooting, Low ISO Shooting and 3 Axis Image Stabilization both in video and still shooting. I originally intended to cover a few more items (eg improved focus peaking, etc) but I then decided I should not cramp too many things within one blog post. This is not my last time using the E-PL7 and surely, if time permits, I can do more extensions. As an extra, I have also provided 14 full resolution image samples for download at the end of this blog entry. 



Thursday, August 28, 2014

Olympus PEN E-PL7 Review

Important Note:
1. I am an Olympus Malaysia employee. 
2. This is a user experience based review, based on my personal opinion which can be subjective.
3. All images were shot in RAW and converted directly to JPEG (High Quality) via Olympus Viewer 3.
4. General camera settings, Noise Filter = OFF, Contrast/Saturation/sharpness = 0, White Balance = Auto (with an option maintain warm color = OFF), Gradation = Normal
5. Minimal post-processing applied to the images, with slight brightness/contrast balance tweak. All images were almost as good as straight out of camera, with minimal cropping for better presentation.


Olympus OM-D series cameras have been getting much attention and now, it is time to shine the limelight onto the original Olympus PEN series cameras. Currently Olympus PEN series are sub-categorized into the PEN Premium (E-P5) and PEN Lite/Mini (E-PL6/E-PM2). The new Olympus PEN E-PL7 which is launched today is not exactly positioned as a successor for the PEN Lite/PEN Mini category, but an upgrade to a level between the E-P5 and E-PL6. Therefore, the E-PL7 generally retains the important aspects of PEN Lite, such as being extremely small and light yet at the same time sports a solid and premium built, much closer to the flagship PEN E-P5 in construction. 

I have had the privilege to bring the PEN E-PL7 out for some quick shutter therapy action and based on that I am reporting my user experience review of the camera. This will be written from a non-technical point of view, and more emphasis will be given on how I feel and experience when I was actually shooting with the E-PL7 in real life situations. I have brought the E-PL7 to several locations at KL streets and the KL Bird Park. 

Here are some quick highlights of the camera features and specifications:
1) Designed and Optimized for Selfie usage - Flip down screen for self portraits
2) Smartphone Connectivity with Built in Wifi
3) Similar core performance and capabilities as the OM-D E-M10 
(Similar 16MP Sensor with Truepic 7 Image Processing Engine, 3-Axis Image Stabilization)
4) Small and Premium build
5) New Art Filters: Vintage and Partial Color

I will not bore you with the details, for full specifications, kindly visit the official Olympus Page here (click). 
The new Olympus PEN E-PL7 and M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ Pancake Zoom lens

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Olympus Macro Walkabout at KL Butterfly Park

Earlier this morning, I was leading a group of Olympus photo enthusiasts to shoot insect macro at Butterfly Park, KL, and boy it was a fun morning! Together with me was Amir Ridhwan, an Olympus enthusiast who shoots mainly macro, someone whom I have looked up to and learned a lot from (my own macro shooting techniques were derived from his own). We spent about 3 hours in the park, attacking all sorts of bugs and spiders. Most of the participants do not have the M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 macro lens, and was only using the humble kit lens 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 but I assured them that the lens was already very good to begin with, enabling quite decent close up shooting, something that kit lenses from other manufacturers cannot do. 

When the walkabout was happening I did not do much shooting myself. Instead I spent all the time doing demonstrations and guiding the group to get the shots. Therefore, only after the sessions ended at noon, that I stayed back a few more hours at the park shooting for myself, getting some shots as shown in this entry. I have not done macro for a while now, and it was nice hunting the bugs again. There was just something about shooting macro that gets me, and I shall save those thoughts for another blog entry perhaps. 

Also, if you have not known Amir Ridhwan, please visit his Flickr Stream here. He has so many amazing shots. 

Personally, I armed myself with the OM-D E-M10 with both 12-50mm and macro lens 60mm F2.8. I also work with the FL-50R external flash. For full description of how I got my macro shots (camera setttings, flash reflector, and shooting techniques) please visit my blog entries here and here

Before we start, lets take a selfie! Taken with E-M10 and the fisheye bodycap lens, 9mm F8. Trust me that body cap lens is built for taking selfie, it is so wide I can still do distortion correction to correct the curved lines (due to fisheye effect of the lens) and still have a very wide coverage for this group shot. And image sharpness was quite reasonable too. 

M.Zuiko 12-50mm kit lens, 1/400sec, F6, ISO200. macro mode enabled, no flash
Amir Ridhwan was using TG-3 primarily and demonstrating the microscopic capabilities of the camera. He got too up close and personal with that mantis. More photos later leading to this shot, at the end of this entry.