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. 

Friday, August 22, 2014

Taking a Moment of Silence to Remember MH17

Today is the first national mourning day for MH-17. To the families and friends affected by this tragedy, you have my prayers and thoughts.

Graphics and Photo Credit: Chi Kin

Monday, August 18, 2014

Photography Is About Fun

When we observe the general photography discussion over online photography community such as forums, Flickr groups and Facebook Group/Pages, the harmless discussion quickly takes dramatic turn and people obsess over technicalities and proving who knows what better, that I do not see how photography is fun any more. So what if that camera is better than that camera, so what if my lens is not as sharp as yours? What if I decide to break some rules of photography? Surely I do not want any bloodshed. 

Maybe that is why you do not see me in any forums or groups. If you have invited me to join forums or that cool new photography group you have set up on Facebook, I must apologize and respectfully decline the invitation. 

What is photography to me? It is my excuse to go out and have fun. I see photography as a form of therapy for my mind and soul and when I shoot, I will push aside all the complications and stressful thoughts. All I wanted to do with my camera was to enjoy myself, getting lost in the process of shooting nice photographs.

cross section

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Why Do I Shoot On The Street?

Olympus Malaysia will be hosting a Photo Sharing session this Saturday Morning (at our headquarters) featuring a multiple international award winning photographer, Sanjitpaal Singh. Sanjit will be sharing his latest photographs taken at various rainforests in Malaysia, showcasing amazing nature photography that I am sure many of you have not seen before. Since it is a photo sharing, this session is all focused on photography and anyone is welcomed to view Sanjit's photographs and ask any questions, so we can all learn and benefit from this session. 


Event details: Sanjitpaal Singh Nature Photography Photo Sharing at Olympus Malaysia this Saturday 16 August 2014 (10am to 12pm). Open to all, registration required. 

For info and registration head over to the Facebook Event page here (click). 


People are often amazed when they found out that I can go to the same KL streets week after week and never get bored. Some friends who initially followed me religiously to shoot have somewhat become "exhausted" of the same scene and decided to either stop shooting, or shoot other photography subjects besides street, or pursue other hobbies entirely (people do change their minds often). It takes a lot of discipline and self-motivation to grab the camera and head out to shoot, and more importantly it takes even more patience and persistence to shoot on the same streets over and over again. 

All images in this entry were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 and M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8, 25mm F1. or Panasonic 14mm F2.5 lenses

Portrait of a Street Cat

Saturday, August 09, 2014

That 2pm Breakfast

The past week has been extra crazy for me, so I was physically drained more than usual. I just could not wake up earlier this morning (Saturday) for shutter therapy, so I skipped it altogether and chose to sleep in and wake up much, much later. It felt great to be able to sleep more and that extra sleep was all I needed to recover. 

I went to the Quar/tet at TTDI in the afternoon to meet some friends, and it was my first time there. The place was reputed to serve good coffee (coffee culture is booming up in KL now, as if we never had coffee before). Hence I ordered myself breakfast (at about 2pm) and a cafe latte. Like everyone else in these modern days, before eating, I did the routine of shooting the photographs of my coffee and plate of breakfast. 

E-M1, 45mm F1.8, shot at ISO 200, F3.5, 1/6sec handheld. 

Shot with E-M5 and 25mm F1.8, at ISO400, 1/3sec, F8 handheld



I always tried to stay at lowest ISO possible, but at the same time I keep an eye out for the minimum shutter speed. I started with conservative ISO of 200 and 400, and I noticed the shutter speed was on dangerously slow side, at about 1/2 to 1/10sec (depending on how you meter the subject) There were two options crossing my mind: Option 1) boost up the ISO to achieve faster shutter speed, ideally at 1/45sec or faster if I use 45mm lens, or 1/25 sec or faster if I use the 25mm F1.8 lens, or Option 2) trust in the 5-Axis Image Stabilization system. 

I chose the latter. You know what? Shooting the 45mm lens at 1/6sec shutter speed, and the 25mm lens at 1/3sec shutter speed, and I got away with perfectly sharp images. Simply stunning!

Once you have experienced the amazing capabilities of the Olympus 5-Axis Image Stabilization, it is almost impossible to live without it. 

Thursday, August 07, 2014

Do Not Overthink. Keep It Simple

Sometimes we overcomplicate things. We tend to think too much and take too many considerations before making a photograph happen. While it is almost always crucial to have a checklist of items to tick off in order to ensure nothing goes wrong in that frame you are shooting, sometimes, thinking too much just takes out all the fun of shooting. When things get too complicated with multiple guidelines and theories to capture that "elusive" perfect shot, sometimes we lost sight of what is important. I often emphasized on keeping things simple, just go straight to the heart of the image, identify what made the image worked, and hit it right there. Simplicity has always been proven to be a good solution.



I saw this man, at the back lanes of Chow Kit. He looked friendly. He smiled at me. So I walked nearer to him and asked if I could have his photograph taken. He said yes. "click click click". Then I showed him the photograph taken, he smiled and told me he liked the photograph. I said thank you, and we parted ways.

No special technique was employed. No complicated lighting system. No super technical execution. Nothing to write a book about. However, this one photograph was my favourite from the series I have captured in the same session. This simple image somehow stood out from the rest.


Saturday, August 02, 2014

Lens Made of Rare Metal, Unobtainium: Nocticron 42.5mm F1.2

A few weeks ago I have had a close encounter with the Panasonic Nocticron 42.5mm F1.2 lens. 

Around the same time, Kirk Tuck said in his blog about the Nocticron: "It's dense because it is built with a certain amount of rare metal called, Unobtainium." 

Shaun who has that lens is in town again, and together with Bjorn we attacked Chow Kit, and Shaun was kind enough to loan me the lens made from Unobtainium for a whole morning. I was a happy kid all over again. 

The lens looks great on the E-M1