Penang Street Shooting with M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO

For the most of past week I have spent my time at Penang, one of the most beautiful places in Malaysia, for work. I decided perhaps this time I should extend my stay in the weekends and have a proper shutter therapy session. I have opened this session to any one who wanted to join via my Facebook Page, and came along 4 beautiful Penang people to join me in my street adventures. I also brought along ALL M.Zuiko PRO lenses (complete set: 7-14mm F2.8, 12-40mm F2.8, 40-150mm F2.8 and 8mm F1.8 Fisheye) for everyone to try. I have personally used the M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO on the OM-D E-M5 Mark II for most of my shots shown in this blog entry. 

Initially I was very worried because it has been pouring heavily for almost the entire week. Thankfully on Saturday it was sunny, and no rain at all throughout the day. I met up with the group of enthusiastic people and we attacked the herritage area of Penang, had lunch and continued shooting all the way till sunset, visiting places such as the Penang bridge as well as the famous Penang Kek Lok Si temple. I have both Mr Ooi and Kend to thank for their generosity and kindness to have me and bring me around. 

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II and M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO

Portrait of a Stranger




A Barber Shop

Young Man

100% Crop from previous image. 
Yes that 12-40mm F2.8 PRO, crazy sharp. 

By the Road. 
Notice the blue shirts/pants

Outside a Temple. 
Another blue shirt

Flipping Bread. 
More Blue!

Blue Blue Blue and Blue!!!

Penang Famous Asam laksa. 
Blue Aprons


Fruit Seller


Almost noon


To be renovated

Again, BLUE Shirt

Hard Worker


The Majestic Penang Bridge

Same bridge, but taken with 40-150mm F2.8 PRO

By the bridge


The Gang: Ooi, Gabriel, Kend and Lai

Some points to highlight:

1) Blue Shirts
I am not sure what happened, and I did not realize this until I have unloaded my images on my desktop computer, that MOST of the people in my photographs wore blue shirt. It was not in my consideration at all when I was shooting, and I was not selectively choosing blue shirts in my composition. Strangely 90% of the shirts/pants were blue, or had traces of blue. 

2) Penang People are FRIENDLY!
People here are amazing. We went around shooting strangers without having any issues at all. And such beautiful smiles do they have!

3) Color vs Black and White
I initially wanted to shoot everything in black and white, but that decision changed when I saw so many colourful compositions that I could have missed out. And then there was the blue shirt!

4) Penang Bridge
This was my first time shooting the Penang bridge, and I know the shots came out "touristy" but to me, that bridge was an epic engineering feat. The first Penang bridge spanned 13.5KM, across the Straights of Malacca from the Penang Island to mainland Peninsular Malaysia. (There is a new Penang Bridge spanned a greater 24KM, but we shall save that second bridge for some other day). 

5) That M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO is AMAZING
The reason I left behind all my prime lenses was because I wanted to fit everything within one bag. My work required me to carry all the PRO lenses and E-M5 Mark II, hence it made sense I just used whatever I have brought over in the weekend. The M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO has become a staple street shooting lens for some of my friends in KL, and they have told me how versatile this lens is, producing very high quality images that they did not regret sacrificing the amazing prime lenses for. After shooting an entire day solely on the 12-40mm F2.8 PRO lens, I must agree with my friends: the lens is so flexible to use, yet delivers incredibly sharp images. For my shooting needs, I rarely need anything that wide, and at 40mm telephoto end it was just nice for my tight portrait shots, if I needed to get some. 

Special thanks to Gabriel, Ooi, Kend and Lai for joining me in my shutter therapy session! I hope you all had plenty of fun and got some good shots. I miss Penang already!

Olympus M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO is available at B&H (click here.) 
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  1. Excllent series Robin - that 12-40 is calling my name...

  2. Great stuff, glad to see you doing something outside of KL. I had a few years in Penang when I was a kid, didn't see the scenes that I remember in your shots but in any case outstanding shots. I like the colours indeed and the tones. When I have my short trips back to see my Mum, I don't get enough experience dealing with Malaysian contrasts and light - might be good for you to give tips to visitors as well as locals in managing the extreme contrasts that tropical light has. :)

    1. Avoid shooting after 11am. Shoot from 8am to 10am, you get side lighting, which is not too bad. And I rarely shoot anything under direct sun, most of my portraits are under shade.

    2. Ah, so you follow the fundamental rules of light. Ok. Thanks for that perspective. I was thinking both of portraits and urban scenes as well.

    3. Same rule applies to urban scenes as well, I always observe how the light hits the subjects. They normally look better (with angular and longer shadows, and shadows are important to create depth and 3D look) in the morning, than noon.

  3. Seems both Penang and the 12-40 should be on my wishlist.

  4. Another enjoyable and spectacular series. Thanks so much for sharing.

  5. Love Penang. It's like heaven - even no mosquitoes. Cannot wait to be back there.

  6. Penang is amazing indeed for street photography. I'm much too shy for it, but even I managed to get some nice picture taken there. Not such wonderful close up portraits as Robin is doing, of course. I'd be mortified to ask.

    And it is true, the 12-40mm worked very well in Penang. Especially during the evening rains. :) Wish the 75mm was sealed as well!


    1. Hi Jochen,
      Thanks for the kind words. Do not be shy, step forward and ask! the worst that could happen is that you do not get the permission to shoot, and that is ok, because you have asked politely, you will most likely have a polite answer.

  7. Another set of great photos! Thanks for sharing.
    Did you attach an additional grip to your camera for better handling? Is the E-M5II+12-40/2.8 balanced enough to use without ECG-2 or HLD-8G?

    1. Thanks Bjorn! Appreciate the kind words. Oh yes I did have the HLD-8G grip on the E-M5 Mark II

  8. Yes, the 12-40mm pretty much lives on my OM-D.

    The shot you called "doors" also has blue in the robes of the figures.

    1. Scary is it not, come to see everything in blue

  9. Hi Robin! Wonderful set, as I have come to expect from your work. Thanks for sharing it. Did you miss the extra stop or so of DOF control you would have had with one of your primes? Did the flexibility of the zoom make up for that? in your opinion. Peter F.

    1. I think for street photography it is not so crucial to have too much shallow depth of field. But of course I would not trade the 45mm F1.8 for anything else (except the Nocticron 42.5mm F1.2 when I can afford it).

  10. I've been using 12-40mm, at first with a lot of doubt to buy, but then realised it's my best decision. I just sold my old em5 and finally managed to ordered em1 after several jobs (no em5 II, i had enough of '5'). The retailer you recommend (the one in mid valley) told me that there was free gift of extra battery and 17mm 2.8. Sadly I already have 25mm and 17mm 1.8, and I thought of just selling the 2.8 and made extra buck, but who knows Olympus Malaysia SENT ME 45mm 1.8?! I was overjoy! Honestly since owning 12-40, the two 17 and 25 are pretty much staying at home. This lens is stellar!

    1. Hi Leanuts, I am glad the Mid Valley shop worked out for you and yes, the 45mm F1.8 is part of the free gift redemption in the 14th Anniversary promotion. You were lucky to purchase at this time!

  11. Robin, most camera gear reviewers are not photographers. Their words are fine but their photos are generally crap. In your case the photos are superb! I always enjoy studying them. You are indeed a street photographer of this Penang set. So good.


    1. Hi Antoine,
      Thanks for the compliments, appreciate it. I always think of myself as a learning photographer hence when I shoot I emphasize on images first, then the gear.

  12. I have the same lens too that I'm using on my E-PL7. Does the lens make a faint sound when you start up or turn off the camera?

    Despite owning the lens for 6 months now, I've never quite noticed until now the lens making a faint sound as the shutter opens/closes when I turn on/off the camera, until today.

    1. no i do not notice the sound. Are you sure it was the lens, not the camera?