Sunday, June 29, 2014

More M.Zuiko 25mm F1.8 Goodness

I was out shooting about at Pudu, a place I have not visited in quite a while. The sky was a little hazy and Kuala Lumpur has been extremely hot lately with no trace of rain for weeks now, hence it was not exactly a fun thing to just walk around drenching your shirt (and possibly all other parts of your cloths) in sweat. Nevertheless, I managed to grab some shots, and hey, that is all that matters and shutter therapy must go on!

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

Look at the camera!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Ariff AB: An Unexpected Encounter

It was a mid week that I decided to go to The Bee at Publika, where the Feedback Open Mic session was held, allowing local performing acts to go on stage and showcase their acts. It was entirely open, so I did not quite know what to expect. I was pleasantly surprised that a local singer, Ariff AB whom I have been following for quite some time now made an appearance! Not only that, because I popped up more than once in his shows, he started to recognize me and he knew me by name! Sometimes, you just have to be out there, and good things will happen.

Finally I got my hands on Ariff AB's CD Album, titled "Transmission", and I have been looping the tracks for more than a day now. I particularly love his life performance, with powerful vocals and very unique sound that he creates in his music.

To find out more about Ariff AB's music go to his Official Youtube Channel here (click). 

Image and video were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M10 and M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens.


Here is a video clip of Black and Blue, which was shabbily recorded. I panicked when the song started and I just pressed the record button without much thought. Should have just went manual focus, instead of C-AF mode in the video!!! Did I ever say I suck at shooting videos?


Oh and check out that amazing 3-Axis Image Stabilization on video, shooting hand-held with 45mm F1.8 lens, not bad eh?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Jalan Masjid India Night Market: An Official Olympus Photowalk

About 7 people turned up for the Night Photography Outing by Olympus Malaysia earlier this evening (just hours ago) and I was glad to lead this group of passionate Olympus shooters along the famous night market at Jalan Masjid India. 

Shooting at the market at night was both fun and challenging at the same time. Fun, because a lot of activities and items sold are unique to the night market, and the atmosphere is rather interesting due to huge congestion of crowd, as well as mixed multiple source of lighting (flourescent, LED, tungsten, etc) all creating a rather different set of photography outcome than shooting during daytime. Challenging, because the place is too crowded, having limited space to move about, and being at night, low light conditions are encountered at times. 

I had great fun being out there with the group of Olympus users, and I sure hope they felt the same way too. I managed to dispense a bit of sharing on some camera techniques, and composition perspectives. Our intention was to get people to shoot more and more with our Olympus gear, and I do hope they have gone home with beautiful images. 

Here are some of my own images, taken during the photowalk session, some were done to demonstrate a few points I was sharing, such as getting shallow depth of field, shooting against bright light, getting close-up and approaching strangers to take their portraits. 

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

Portrait of a Stranger

Friday, June 20, 2014

The ISO12,800 Cat

Yes yes, we all know how superior those full frame cameras are when it comes to low light shooting, producing clean high ISO images. Now the envelope (popularized by Ming Thein) is being pushed further and we are seeing cameras capable of doing impressive ISO numbers, at the moment, as high as 400,000. Steve Huff even posted his teaser image of the Sony A7S image shot at ISO80,000. 

We all want the camera manufacturers to produce better and better products, surely, and we do not want the imaging technology to stay stagnant. We live in an interesting era now, and I am just excited to witness even more amazing stuff coming. 

While everyone is lusting for astronomical high ISO numbers, I am actually very content with what I have, and what my gear can do now. Here is a shot of a cat, who hid away in a narrow gap underneath a table. It was so dark that, even at wide open F1.8 (I was using the 45mm F1.8 lens), I shot the image at ISO12,800 to achieve shutter speed of 1/20 second. The cat moved of course (animals never stayed still) and I fired multiple shots to ensure there were a few that was taken when the cat stopped moving. All images were perfectly in focus (ISO12,800 is considered low light to me, if it is not to you, I do not know what is) and thank goodness for that miraculous 5 Axis Image Stabilization, I can nail this shot hand-held. 

The ISO12,800 cat


It was not a very good shot of the cat. You can see that the cat was afraid. Afraid of me chasing him into that narrow gap. But hey, sometimes, even negative emotions can produce a different outcome in a photograph. I know usually show happy and bright images. Sometimes, I do things differently. 

Some people say that what is the point of shooting such an image when you know you can't print it large. Well, I don't print it large. When I shot this cat I did not intend to print it all. In fact, I knew the image will suffer loss of detail and will not be good being viewed at 100% (believe me you don't want to). However, I also know that I will be showing it just for blogging purpose, and being reduced in size, it will be perfectly fine. Aren't we consuming images being viewed on webpages most of the time? Facebook, Websites, Flickr, 500px pages, and the likes?

I acknowledge everyone has different levels and standards of what is "usable" in terms of high ISO noise tolerance. To me? That cat is perfectly acceptable. 

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Upcoming Events: Bird Park and Night Street Outing

If you are in Malaysia and if you have time to spare this Saturday (21 June 2014), please join me for super fun photography outings. In the morning we have KL Bird Park outing, a place I have visited a few times for my previous gear review purposes. In the evening, we will have night street photography outing, capturing KL night scene. 

Both events are free, but open to Olympus users only!




You do have to register, so kindly check out the event pages:

I personally think that the Bird Park is an awesome place to shoot, and to relearn the basics of photography, eg hand-holding the lens and camera steadily (using long zooms), making sure you watch your camera settings (birds can hide in shades and can be in the open harsh sun), and build up your patience. It is not particularly difficult in comparison to shooting wild birds in the forest but you will still need some hard work to achieve decent shots!

KL Streets are vibrant and lively at night. There are so many things to see and shoot! This will be the perfect opportunity to test and push the OM-D and PEN cameras to the limit in low light shooting conditions, and I can assure you the cameras will deliver.

If you use Olympus, if you have itchy hands and want some shutter clicking action, please join me. After all, these events are FREE!


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Simplicity. Less is More.

I went to Chow Kit again this morning, with a group of wonderful friends. I decided to just keep things as simple as possible, and not think too much. My constant belief is that simplicity works. 

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 with M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens, and PEN E-PL5 with 9mm F8 Fisheye Bodycap lens. 

Portrait of a Stranger. 
Looking through the entire set, this was the only photograph that I was truly happy about. I mean I do like the other shots, but this particular portrait was the one that had the "YES It was exactly what I wanted" moment as I shot it. 

Saturday, June 14, 2014

The Curry Puff

Malaysia is a land of awesome food. If I were to start shooting and documenting local food in Malaysia, it might probably take years to finish. One of the popular food, as well as my personal favourite, has always been the curry puff (locals call it Karipap). Basically it is sort of like a pastry with curry fillings. The fillings can vary from just vegetables (potatoes, etc), or mix of vegetables and meat (chicken), cooked in curry. 

So I decided to stop by a road side curry puff stall, and started shooting away. 

What Curry Puff looked like, before deep frying

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Walking on Water

I was invited by Ron Lau (Olympus enthusiast) to participate in an official outing by Photographic Society of Petaling Jaya (PSPJ) last weekend. I went to a beach near Banting (about an hour and a half drive away from Kuala Lumpur) for some beach portraiture shoot, and of course to catch the sunset. There were nearly 40 members who joined this outing and it felt like a grand activity!

I was not so much of a model/portrait shooting kind of person so I shied away mostly when the model shoot was taking place. However when the sunset approaches, I went crazy with the shutter and gosh, I could not remember the last time I saw a sunset by the beach (well, it was about 2 months ago in Perth but that felt like a lifetime away). While I enjoyed shooting but being there out in the open, seeing the majestic sun being swallowed by the ocean, there is just some healing quality to it and I needed that after all the late nights and hectic city environment I spent most of my time in. 

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 or PEN E-PL5 and M.Zuiko lenses 75mm F1.8 or 9mm F8 Fisheye Bodycap lens. 


Saturday, June 07, 2014

The Myths About Olympus Micro Four Thirds System

I am sure if you lurk around online photography forums, you will find certain assumptions on the inferiority of using smaller sensor systems such as Olympus Micro Four Thirds system, in comparison against APS-C or Full Frame cameras. While most of the claims were generally true to a certain extent, in several cases the fact has been stretched and pulled to serve the biased opinion of certain measurebators and camera bashers. 

So here is a list of popular myths about Olympus Micro Four Thirds system:

1) Poor low light shooting, can't use high ISO. 
I am fairly happy with images I obtain from my E-M5 and E-PL5 up to ISO6,400. In fact the high ISO images were better on the newer E-M1, with noticeable improvements in noise control and detail retention. 

2) Inability to create shallow depth of field (blur background)
While it is true that the larger the sensor size the shallow the depth of field will be, I did not find any issue creating shallow depth of field for my shots. Using lenses such as 25mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8 helped me to achieve blurred background, and the great thing about Olympus lenses, they are already very sharp wide open, and you can take advantage of shooting at F1.8 without compromising detail loss. 

3) It is harder to hold and steady smaller cameras, with bigger DSLR providing better handling
I admit coming from a DSLR usage for many years (E-520 and E-5), the E-M5 seemed rather small, and not as comfortable to hold in the beginning. All it took was just a few shooting sessions to readjust myself and I never looked back. You just have to change the way you hold the camera. Since it is much lighter, you do not have to spend too much effort stabilizing it. That 5-Axis Image Stabilization, once you have experienced how it helped to keep your shots steady, it is difficult to shoot with another camera without it! Only Olympus users will fully understand this. 

4) Smaller sensor has limited dynamic range
Technology is getting better and better, and I do not find myself in a situation where dynamic range limitation would destroy my shot. In fact, in comparison to APS-C sensors, the dynamic range is on par (I have tried a handful of recent APS-C DSLR models from various brands). However, I must admit though, full frame cameras do have that extra bit of flexibility, retaining details from highlights especially. To work around this limitation on my Olympus cameras, in situations of extremely harsh lighting condition, I would choose to underexpose the image to preserve the highlight, and in post processing I would lift up the shadows. The shadow detail retention on Olympus cameras is quite good actually. 

5) Smaller cameras like OM-D are just for enthusiasts or hobbysts, not for professional or serious use. 
While I do agree that the OM-D was mostly targeted toward advanced users, especially hobbysts, the fact remains that more and more professional photographers are adopting the OM-D system in their professional workflow. You ask who they are? Here is a list of TEN from all around the world (click here). 

6) DSLR has much more reliable autofocus
Not entirely true. In Single Autofocus mode, Olympus OM-D and PEN cameras are actually fast enough to challenge even the most expensive DSLR cameras out there. Yes, in terms of AF tracking Olympus cameras are still admittedly behind, but hey, E-M1 has made a significant improvement and surely things will get better and better. If the continuous autofocus tracking on Olympus camera is on par or surpassing the competition, I don't think there are many more points left to attack Olympus. 

7) You need super high megapixel cameras to achieve super sharp images
Higher megapixels do equal better resolution and better fine detail reproduction, but that much extra megapixels are meaningless if you do not have equally capable lenses to resolve all that resolution. On the other hand, even a slight error (miss focus, camera shake, lens imperfections eg corner softness, chromatic aberration) will be amplified and be more destructive to your final image output. Olympus system took care of this by having high performing optics in the M.Zuiko lenses, and the application of 5-Axis Image Stabilization that has been highly acclaimed thus far. 

8) Fuji/Canon/Nikon/whatever other cameras have great colors. 
Personal choice, and preferences. I personally like what I see from Olympus cameras. People have always asked me what I did in post processing to get the colors they see on images on my blog. I do not know why it is so hard for people to believe that I did not do much post processing at all and the colors you see are almost identical to what came out straight from the camera. 

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 and PEN E-PL5, with M.Zuiko lenses 25mm F1.8, 45mm F1.8, Olympus 9mm F8 fisheye body cap lens, and the Panasonic 14mm F2.5 lens. 

Shallow depth of field achieved by 45mm F1.8 lens. Creamy, smooth, buttery bokeh, shooting at F1.8 wide open, yet the lens is super sharp. 

Monday, June 02, 2014

Charmaine & April

This weekend, I had the privilege to be the official photographer (together with photographer Jason Lioh) covering the wedding of Charmaine and April. This marks the second time I use Olympus Micro Four Thirds system for a full photography assignment, and I believe I am getting comfortable with my current setup. It was a beautiful wedding, with plenty of spontaneous emotions and great moments, plenty of photography opportunities. I found myself enjoying the shoot more than expected, and with the permission of the beautiful bride, Charmaine, I am posting some quick edits here as a preview. Bear in mind I just came home from the wedding dinner reception about a few hours ago. I then unloaded the images, made some quick processing to the selected few and blogged here right after that. 

A few photography notes:

1) I was running with two cameras setup: firstly the OM-D E-M5 with 45mm F1.8 or 25mm F1.8 attached, depending on shooting conditions, and a permanent FL-50R flash attached on it, and secondly the PEN E-PL5 and the Panasonic 14mm F2.5 or Olympus 9mm F8 Fisheye Bodycap lens, and the FL-36R flash attached. 

2) Flash was used in 99% of the photographs. 

3) The addition of 25mm F1.8 lens was very helpful, especially in situations where 45mm F1.8 was too tight and I needed a wider coverage, but not wanting to use a full wide angle lens. This happens a lot more than I anticipated, and I was glad to have a great Olympus 25mm F1.8 lens. 

4) Olympus focusing was amazingly fast and reliably accurate. It nailed focus almost perfectly, the few misses were due to my own fault. Yes, I do make mistakes, and sometimes I curse at myself after I have made those mistakes. 

5) For some macro shots (the Golden Dragon and Pheonix rings) I used the 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 kit lens, set to macro mode, and it did well. Flash was used of course. 

6) This was probably the first time someone used the 9mm F8 fisheye body cap lens (I could be wrong, just assuming here) for an actual paid photography assignment. In wedding photography, not everything has to be tact sharp and technically perfect. The most important things to consider are capturing moments successfully, and convey the overall ambience and happiness. The 9mm F8 fisheye added some uniqueness to some of the photos, without being overly distorted like a true fisheye lens. 

7) I was not too happy with the Panasonic 14mm F2.5 focusing performance on the E-PL5. Sometimes it decided to misbehave, and hunted for a bit. Sometimes, it decided to gave me wrongly focused image, and this happened because I was rushing the lens. I was shooting a wedding, I needed to be quick, I cannot be waiting for the lens. While there are many things I love about this lens, the focusing can be a let down, in very demanding situations. 

8) I did bring along a 75mm F1.8 lens (borrowed). Which I found no use of it at all. I was the official photographer hence I had the privilege to go very close. 45mm F1.8 did wonders. Oh how can I ever survive without the 45mm F1.8 lens (obviously there was that ZD 50mm F2 macro but lets not go there now). 

9) I came home with 2667 images from the two shooting sessions (typical Chinese Styled Wedding, morning ceremony and evening reception dinner), filling up nearly 40GB of RAW files. I shot only in RAW.


Enough talking, here are some shots from the wedding. I shall add a few more in a day of two, when I have time to process a few more images.