Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Early Morning Life at the Wet Market

In the lazy weekend morning, life is bustling at the local wet markets. Early morning light is usually the best for available light photography and being at a place full of activities and friendly people just gets your finger clicking the shutter button away endlessly. How can you not enjoy shutter therapy when there is so much life to see, to touch and feel, and to shoot! Was it worth sacrificing that 2-3 hours worth of morning sleep to get out there and shoot? Certainly, for whatever sleep loss I shall compensate right after I got home from the shutter therapy session, with the satisfaction of memory card filled with good sights and memories I have encountered and experienced!

Burn

Monday, February 24, 2014

Happy Birthday, Jason!

To a dear friend, Jason, Happy Birthday!


Sunday, February 23, 2014

Exploiting the Strengths of Olympus Stylus 1

About a month ago I have reviewed the Olympus Stylus 1, the new flagship advanced compact camera. The day before the review was published, I released a teaser blog entry (click) that displayed 7 images taken from Olympus Stylus 1, and I asked my readers to guess what camera was used to take them. 90% of the people guessed it wrong, with answers wide ranging from E-M10 (then not released yet) to M.Zuiko 40-150mm F2.8 Pro lens, 25mm F1.8 lens and 75mm F1.8 lens. The consequence was unintended, as I posted the teaser to give myself some time to compose my blog entry which I did not manage to publish in time. Nonetheless, one very important point was shown from that teaser blog entry and the wide responses from the crowd: the Olympus Stylus 1 can produce excellent results. In this particular blog entry, I want to explore the relevance of an advanced compact camera such as Stylus 1, as well as its strengths and how to exploit them in order to optimize image output from the camera.  

Kindly take note that this is NOT a blog review of the Olympus Stylus 1, as I have already published my review here (click). Kindly treat this as an extension to that original review, and I will be posting a whole new set of images taken with the Olympus Stylus 1 here. I went to Pudu Market, Bukit Bintang Area and KLCC, spending the whole Saturday to gather these images. I call that, a shutter therapy with revenge. After all, it was fitting to counter all the traumas and dramas that happened after my comparison blog entry recently.



RELEVANCE OF AN ADVANCED COMPACT CAMERA

With all the availability of smaller and very capable cameras such as Micro Four Thirds system (Olympus and Panasonic), Sony NEX system, Fuji X-series and even Nikon 1 system, compact cameras are slowly and surely losing its ground, mainly because the small and lightweight advantage is not unique to compact cameras anymore. In fact, with the quality of camera smartphone catching up, certainly the spot of compact cameras are severely threatened. This leaves very little room for the slot of compact camera category, and I strongly believe it still has its place but only for the compact cameras offering very unique features and shooting capabilities that smartphone cameras cannot do, and bridging the gap to higher level cameras. 

The answer to the relevance comes in the form of new generation advanced compact cameras such as Sony RX100 (mk2), Panasonic LX-7 and of course, Olympus Stylus 1. All these cameras (in varying degrees) offer capabilities that are superior to ordinary compact point and shoot cameras. In the case of Stylus 1, the long zoom (10x zoom, 28-300mm lens) with constant bright aperture of F2.8 throughout the full zoom range, capable low light shooting, fast focusing, high quality Electronic Viewfinder (similar to OM-D E-M5) yet having a very small and light package, I still think that Olympus Stylus 1 is a good choice for many photographers looking for a second camera, or an advanced everyday camera (travel would be perfect). Sure at its price point, you can get a DSLR or a mirrorless ILC camera, but I shall point out one very crucial point: lens versatility. With a basic DSLR or Mirrorless ILC camera, the kit lens usually is only 3x zoom with varying slow aperture (F3.5-5.6) and has rather limited close up shooting ability. The Stylus 1, on the other hand offers 10x zoom all the way to 300mm, and has very decent macro shooting. The lens is sharp from wide all the way to the farthest tele-end, maintaining wide F2.8 aperture, which is no small feat. 

Yes, we know that cameras with larger sensors will have definite advantage and lets not get into that argument. I wanted to talk about the things we can do with Stylus 1, and how that camera can help get images that other ordinary compact cameras may not be able to do (certainly the smartphone cameras cannot for now) and may even render results similar to larger sensor camera systems in some ways. 

All images were taken with Olympus Stylus 1, and post-processed. 


1/50sec, F2.8, ISO100, 270mm

Friday, February 21, 2014

Penang Shutter Therapy with Olympus OM-D E-M10 and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8

I thank you all beautiful people for showing up and taking some time to respond to my previous blog entry (here). I appreciate the show of support and the kind words. Photography is about shooting and sharing images, and I will continue to do so regularly on my blog. I have enjoyed doing so for so long and I will continue doing so here, you will see. 

I was away to Penang for almost one week for business trip, and while I was there, I only had very little time to go out and shoot on my own. With whatever little time I had, I used the Olympus OM-D E-M10 and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens to shoot on the street, and gathered a small collection of photographs to be shown here. After all the dramas happening recently, I decided to just shoot the way I wanted to shoot, processed the images the way I wanted to process them, and just share the photos here as my usual shutter therapy sessions. I enjoy shooting on the street, I love the 50mm perspective, I have come to love the new OM-D E-M10 and the M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens, and I really fell in love with Penang streets. I think Penang is a street photography heaven. I only wish I had spent more time there and explored further. It was such a joy to just shoot and not think about anything else for a while. 

Rest assured my review blog entries are still on the way. I needed this tiny break. I needed to just shoot for myself, not for reviews. I hope you guys enjoy the photos, as much as I did shooting them. 

Cendol. Shaved ice with red beans and grass jelly in coconut milk mixed with palm sugar. Penang's heaven comes in a little bowl. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

About My Gear Review

There is a strong reason why I have always chosen not to do any comparison (except within Olympus' own products) in my blog reviews. It is just impossible to answer every single question from everyone. 

If you have been following my review work for a while now, you will understand that my methods of reviewing a new gear may be unconventional and less technical, but more practical and closer to real life usage of the gear. Cameras and lenses can do only one thing, to take photographs. Therefore my review style has always been consistent, using the new camera or lens to take as many meaningful photographs within the short period of time I was given as I can. Based on the outcome of the photographs I have gathered and the experience while using the gear, I compose my review. Consequently my review was not meant to be an all-in-one definitive guide, but merely a crude indication of what you can do with the camera and lens (not what the camera and lens can do for you). 

I do not do technical tests (charts, graphs, numbers), I do not shoot in very controlled laboratory environment, because there are other reviewers doing so, and there is no way I can do better than the big boys like DXOmark and DPReview. Why should I do what I know will be done and within my limited resources and capability I might not even be able to reproduce results with similar accuracy? Let's leave the numbers, graphs and charts to those who really know what they are doing. While those big boys are focusing on getting as technically accurate data as they can with controlled tests, I on the other hand provide you with different perspective of the gear, how it does out there in the open, in the hands of a photographer-enthusiast. 



Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Shooting Studio Portraits with the Olympus OM-D E-M10. Or, Something Like That.

I had access to studio equipment last weekend, hence I thought why not do something completely different, something I have not done before for my blog reviews. Friend Carmen was generous enough to "volunteer" (more appropriately, becoming my victim of this experiment) as the model of the day. Kudos to being such a sport, Carmen!  


E-M10 and 75mm F1.8

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Review Part 2: High ISO Shooting

Important Note:
1) I am an Olympus Malaysia employee. 
2) This review is a user-experience based review, from a photography enthusiast's point of view. 
3) All images were shot in RAW and converted to JPEG via Olympus Viewer 3. Noise Filter = OFF, Gradation Normal, Saturation, Contrast and Sharpness set to default "0". Image Setting Natural, Auto White Balance with Warm Color OFF. 
4) The images were almost straight out of camera, with slight exposure (brightness/contrast balance) tuning and white balance tweak. 

This is a continuation of my review series for Olympus OM-D E-M10. If you have not read Part 1, kindly do so here (click) before jumping into this Part 2 entry. 

One of the must-tackle question for any digital camera reviews these days would be about the low light shooting capability of the camera, more specifically, how is the high ISO shooting performance of the camera? 

Olympus OM-D E-M10 uses the exact same sensor as OM-D E-M5, which is not necessarily a bad thing, considering that the OM-D E-M5 was the first camera to truly raise the bar of image quality of Micro Four Thirds system to be on par with competing DSLR cameras, surpassing even quite a handful of them. Further to that, the E-M10 actually utilizes the latest image processing engine from Olympus, Truepic 7 which is also used by the flagship model OM-D E-M1. Therefore the E-M10 does benefits from better high ISO noise control theoretically, considering the Truepic 7 does have advantages especially for images taken at upper ISO settings of 6400 and above. 

In this particular blog review Part 2, I have dedicated the whole entry in testing the low light shooting performance of the Olympus OM-D E-M10. I have gone to a live performance of a famous local band Seven Collar T-Shirt, performing at No Black Tie, Bukit Bintang last night. It was the perfect location to torture the camera since the venue was extremely dark with the need to push up the ISO becoming a necessity. There is no point of turning up the ISO setting unnecessarily just to test the ISO numbers, and my logic of testing high ISO has always been finding the shooting condition that truly requires the need to bump the ISO up. 

Bear in mind for all images in this entry I have turned the Noise Filter to "OFF". 

MZD 75mm F1.8 lens, 1/80sec, F1.8, ISO6,400

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Olympus 9mm Fisheye Body Cap Lens Review

Important Note:
1) I am an Olympus Malaysia employee. 
2) This review is a user-experience based review, from a photography enthusiast's point of view. 
3) All images were shot in RAW and converted to JPEG via Olympus Viewer 3. Noise Filter = OFF, Gradation Normal, Saturation, Contrast and Sharpness set to default "0". Image Setting Natural, Auto White Balance with Warm Color OFF. 
4) The images were almost straight out of camera, with slight exposure (brightness/contrast balance) tuning and white balance tweak. 

Taking a short break from reviewing the Olympus OM-D E-M10 and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens after publishing my first part for both products, I shall now review something less serious and a lot more fun: the Olympus 9mm Fisheye Body Cap lens. This is the second body cap lens from Olympus, after the 15mm Body Cap Lens. 

Do take note that the 9mm Fisheye Body Cap Lens does not have an M.Zuiko branding label, meaning it is not a part of Olympus M.Zuiko product line-up. Therefore, the optical performance of the lens is definitely not on par with any M.Zuiko lenses. It is designed as a lens cap accessory in the first place, without any electronic contacts resulting in no communication with the camera body when mounted on. Consequently there is no autofocus and the aperture opening is fixed at F8. The only limited control you have is the manual focusing lever at the bottom front of the lens for quick focusing. 

Main specifications of the Olympus 9mm F8 FIsheye Body Cap Lens:
9mm Fisheye, fixed at F8 aperture
field of view 140 degrees
Lens Construction 5 elements in 4 groups
2 Aspherical Elements 
Ultra thin 12.5mm thickness and very light 30g

The unique point about this body cap lens is the fact that it is designed as a Fisheye lens, selling at a rather low price point.



Monday, February 03, 2014

Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 Review Part 1

Important Note:
1) I am an Olympus Malaysia employee. 
2) This review is a user-experience based review, from a photography enthusiast's point of view. 
3) All images were shot in RAW and converted to JPEG via Olympus Viewer 3. Noise Filter = OFF, Gradation Normal, Saturation, Contrast and Sharpness set to default "0". Image Setting Natural, Auto White Balance with Warm Color OFF. 
4) The images were almost straight out of camera, with slight exposure (brightness/contrast balance) tuning and white balance tweak. 

I have been getting a lot of requests asking me to do my review of the new Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens. I am still in the midst of reviewing the Olympus OM-D E-M10, but I figured why not pushing the M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens out first, since this is one lens that I have been anticipating for a long time. 

Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens, some technical specifications:
Lens Construction 7 groups 9 elements
Closest Focusing Distance 25cm
Size 57 Diameter, 42mm length
Filter thread 46mm
There is an option to attach the new Macro Converter, M-CON P-02 for higher magnification shooting. 
Lens Hood included (I hear some say Halleluia!)

To carry out my shooting test on the field, I used the OM-D E-M10 for this blog entry. I tried to shoot a wide range of subjects, including environmental portraits, headshot portraits, close-up shooting of various subjects including food, as well as a bit of tight landscape. Whenever possible I did my best to highlight the shallow depth of field rendering of the open wide F1.8 aperture. On the other hand, I also explored shooting with various aperture opening, stopping down to gain maximum depth of field. So how does the M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens perform, in terms of image quality (sharpness, technical control of distortion and chromatic aberration), autofocus performance, and how does the lens handle with the new OM-D E-M10?

1/80sec, F22, ISO200

THE CLASSICAL 50MM PERSPECTIVE

I will be frank with you from the start, I am a 50mm shooter when it comes to wider perspective. (just to clear off some confusion, 50mm focal length in traditional 35mm format is equivalent to the M.Zuiko 25mm for Micro Four Thirds format). While I have no issues utilizing wider focal lengths and I do acknowledge the importance of using wider lenses when necessary to accomplish certain photography goal, the magic always happens for me, something I can describe as the sweetspot of turning the vision I had in my mind into photography reality, when I use the 50mm perspective. I have tried my best to love the M.ZUiko 17mm F1.8 lens, though it was great but I cannot quite achieve what I "saw" in my mind. I fully understand that this is subjective and can be a personal preference that differs from photographer to photographer, but if you are asking me to recommend a focal length to learn and improve in photography, and have something versatile and flexible to use in almost all shooting conditions, this new M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 lens is a must have lens in my book.

Saturday, February 01, 2014

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Review Part 1: Handling, 3-Axis Image Stabilization and the New M.Zuiko 14-42mm EZ Lens

Important Note:
1) I am an Olympus Malaysia employee. 
2) This review is a user-experience based review, from a photography enthusiast's point of view. 
3) All images were shot in RAW and converted to JPEG via Olympus Viewer 3. Noise Filter = OFF, Gradation Normal, Saturation, Contrast and Sharpness set to default "0". Image Setting Natural, Auto White Balance with Warm Color OFF. 
4) The images were almost straight out of camera, with slight exposure (brightness/contrast balance) tuning and white balance tweak. 

Today is the first day of Chinese New Year, and there is no better way to start this auspicious year of the Horse with a new review of the Olympus OM-D E-M10 and M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ Pancake Zoom lens. 

The Olympus OM-D E-M10 and the new Pancake Zoom kit lens 14-42mm EZ were designed to be paired perfectly together, creating a very small and lightweight combination, pocket-able yet aiming to provide the well received OM-D experience. The OM-D E-M10 goes all out against the stereotype set by traditional DSLR equivalent category: big and bulky, cheap plastic build, typical ugly design, lack of direct buttons/controls and controls and stripped down features and lower overall performance in comparison to higher tier DSLR categories. The E-M10 though slotted in "premium compact", promises to deliver high image quality, superb performance and new advanced photography features, the core aspects that made Olympus OM-D line cameras stand out from the competition. Without weather sealing and magnesium alloy body and with 3-Axis Image Stabilization instead of 5-Axis from the E-M5/E-M1, being smaller and lighter, how does the E-M10 fare? Today I have been out shooting whole day and I cannot wait to share the images and my thoughts with you beautiful people!

As usual there will be multiple part review, and in this Part 1 I shall be discussing on the performance of the new M.Zuiko 14-42mm Pancake Zoom lens, and to answer the most popular questions: How is the handling of the E-M10 considering it is so small and light? And now that we have 3 Axis Image Stabilzation instead of 5-Axis, is it good enough?  In my later entries, I shall explore other capabilities of the camera such as high ISO shooting, autofocus performance and the camera features like WIFI connectivity, time lapse shooting, etc. 



I am going to break my tradition and do something rather different in this review part. Instead of the OM-D E-M10, let's talk about the new M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 EZ Pancake Zoom lens first. The reason is because I practically fell in love with this lens! I know it is just a mere kit lens, but do bear with me, I find it to be more than capable in delivering very good results, and most important of all, it is made to match the E-M10 perfectly.