Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Fun with High ISO

I do find it strange that when one camera outperforms another in one or two specific area suddenly the camera with lower specification is considered inferior. This case is particularly true for high ISO comparisons between cameras, and one of the most popularly discussed weakness of Micro Four Thirds system in general. 

It is no secret that Micro Four Thirds has not matched or even surpassed what the current offerings of Full Frame cameras can do in terms of high ISO shooting. On the other hand, it has been proven again and again not just by me but also by many well-respected photographers and camera reviewers that the Micro Four Thirds system has come a long way, surpassing most APS-C cameras and matching even the best APS-C DSLR/Mirrorless cameras. The mentality that "more is better" has a strong grip on consumers, and sadly these days, "good enough is no longer good enough". Sufficiency has become outdated: camera and lens purchase decisions are now not based on what works and what is needed, but more biased toward what is bigger, better and faster. The Micro Four Thirds system suddenly seems so inadequate. 

I am happy to hear the news that a newly developed sensor is being fitted into the just launched Panasonic Lumix GX8, and I am extremely excited because every single time there is a significant new sensor being introduced, you will notice a huge jump in image quality (high ISO especially). Think about the OM-D E-M5, using the first 16MP image sensor for Micro Four Thirds, versus the older 12MP sensor on PEN E-P3. It was a huge step upward and finally with that new E-M5 sensor, the gap between Micro Four Thirds and APS-C cameras are coming close to diminishing. Early reports and hands-on previews on the current Panasonic GX8 looks promising, and I wish it will bring about the same jump as seen previously in E-M5. 

Unfortunately I do not have a GX8, and not even sure when this camera will arrive here in KL. 

In this blog entry I shall be showing a few photographs taken with high ISO on the E-M5 Mark II

I have written lengthily about how to handle high ISO images with Olympus Micro Four Thirds system, if you have not read my guide please do so here (click). 

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II and M.Zuiko lenses

ISO3200, 25mm F1.8 lens
I can confidently shoot ISO3200 with the E-M5 Mark II. For the sake of having a cleaner image, I have applied Noise Filter "LOW" for this image instead of "OFF". For those of you being overly sensitive to seeing even that tiny bit of grain in the image, you can opt for Noise Filter "Standard or High", with compromise of useful fine details in the image. I find Noise Filter "LOW" to provide the best balance between suppressing noise and maintaining good overall sharpness when shooting high ISO. 

Sunday, July 26, 2015

A Day at Fraser's Hill with M.Zuiko 75-300mm F4.8-6.7 II on Olympus OM-D E-M10

About a week ago I have posted on my Facebook Page asking if there was interest of people here seeing me shooting with Olympus long lenses such as M.Zuiko 75-300mm or 40-150mm, on either E-M10 or E-M1. The most popular vote went to the rarely mentioned M.Zuiko 75-300mm F4.8-6.7 II on Olympus OM-D E-M10 body. I brought this combo and went with a group of photography crazy people of PSPJ (Photographic Society of Petaling Jaya) to Fraser's Hill which is about 2 hours drive away from KL to Pahang. It was a full day outing with a few photography activities lined up including birding, insect macro and portrait shooting. 

Initially I was super tempted to bring along the M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro for insect macro shooting, since I have not done any for a long time, as well as that super awesome M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 for model portrait shooting. Disciplining myself and staying true to my own promise of just sticking to one lens, I managed to do everything for the whole trip with just the M.Zuiko 75-300mm F4.8-6.7 II lens. 


Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Shooting The Ordinary Things

I think too many of us are striving too hard to achieve that National Geographic kind of photograph. Strangely, I have seen too many friends around me struggling to find that award winning photograph to prove themselves superior than others. Is photography a competition? Is there an ultimate goal in photography? Is photography like sports that only the champion has the last say? 

I say, screw all that. All I want to do is just grab my camera, head out the door, bathe myself into the dangerously cancer-inducing hot Malaysian sun and have some shutter clicking action going on! I am happy that way. I just shoot because I want to, and because I can. I do not aim for impossible goals in photography. Heck I know very well none of my photographs are competition worthy, and I could care less, really. These are my photographs, and I am proud of them. They may not be breathtaking or super sensational to look at, but hey, I can guarantee you at least they are fun to look at. And most of the things I point my camera at are merely ordinary, everyday things. Nothing spectacular, nothing fantastic, just plain, simple and common subjects we encounter often. 

May it be a scene from the streets I walk along often, or that plate of bowl of delicious noodles soup, or that new watch I have saved for months to purchase, or simply a painting I found on a wall. You know, something ordinary. 

Photography does not have to be hard and tiring. Why not shoot something ordinary?

This was taken from a train station. I have just left the train and was going to catch the Antman in this newly opened shopping mall. It was a good movie, I enjoyed it. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Complete Camera Geekery Moment: Fujifilm X100

Important Note: Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri to all my beautiful readers who celebrate! Maaf Zahir dan Batin. Have a blessed, epic and memorable celebration guys. 

I have a confession to make. I have always been in love with one particular camera, the Fujifilm X100. 

Four long painful years after the initial release of the camera, now finally the used market price of the camera has dropped drastically, I can afford getting one. Obviously that is the case, or else I would have bought the X100T, or at least the X100S instead. I have owned the Fujifilm X100 for a few days now, and you know what? I am in love with it, despite its age. 

No, I will not do a review for Fuji X100, I see no point or value in doing that, since it is quite an old camera now, and there are many excellent and well-written reviews, articles, and endless discussions on the camera everywhere on the internet. Whatever I have to add here, honestly will be just redundant, and have been discussed before somewhere else. What I will do in this blog entry instead, is to discuss the relevance of this Fujifilm X100, why I made the purchase, and how it can help improve my own photography. I have a purpose for this camera, I did not just buy it because it looks so sexy. 

Or did I?


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Project B at Sentul: A Cafe Run by Kids

Let's take a break from all the gear talk and divert our attention to something rather interesting that I have found recently, Project B, a newly opened cafe founded with charitable purposes.  I was hungry (literally), I was curious about the initiative and I wanted to find out more about this rather unique, and I believe one of its kind operation here in Malaysia. So one fine afternoon I stopped by Project B at Sentul, KL to see for myself what this was all about, and of course, to fill my stomach. 

About PROJECT B

The cafe was fully run by teenagers who are still schooling. The project was founded by the BIG Group and Berjaya Care Foundations, built specifically for the kids who are currently under the programs of Dignity for Children's Foundation. Basically the Dignity for Children's Foundation's vision statement is "to empower underprivileged children to break the cycle of poverty through quality education, positively transforming their lives and the lives of the community around them". 
I was told by the supervising staff, Mr Vishnu that the children works a few days of the week, and the remaining days they will be on full time school-style education system. This allows the children to gain working experience, enhance their life skills and also a great opportunity to assimilate them into the society. 

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Robin Wong's OM-D Camera Cheat Sheet

I have often been asked what settings have I applied on my camera when I do my usual shooting. My answers have been consistent, there is no fixed setting that I follow, I will change my settings as the need arises. However, most people were not happy with that answer hence I am compiling a long list of camera settings, specifically for Olympus OM-D cameras (true for E-M5, E-M10, E-M1 and the new E-M5 Mark II). I shall also describe my practical reasoning behind my choice of settings as well as how I use them where applicable. 

The new-comers to Olympus system may find the settings and menu system a huge challenge to go through. Therefore this blog entry serves as a quick guide on how to set your camera, and make the best out of it. Kindly take note that my recommendations and suggestions are based purely on my own experience shooting with Olympus cameras since 2008 (E-410 was my first Olympus camera), and there is no right and wrong in this matter. 



Sunday, July 12, 2015

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

Friday, July 10, 2015

A Music Video Production with Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II

Recently Olympus Malaysia has sponsored a local Malaysian music video production for a newly released hit EDM track "Somewhere New" by Malaysia's top DJs Goldfish and Blink, featuring Elizabeth Tan. The cinematography was by Reservoir Production. 

The entire video was recorded with E-M5 Mark II and a plethora of M.Zuiko lenses, all hand-held.

SOMEWHERE NEW
Goldfish & Blink Featuring Elizabeth Tan




BEHIND THE SCENES
And the behind the scenes video, where you see the E-M5 Mark II in action. You also can catch a glimpse of me somewhere in this video. 


The production of this music video took two full days and I was with the production team for almost the entire shoot. Almost everything was recorded hand-held with the OM-D E-M5 Mark II hand-held, with no aid of any stabilization rigs or support (except some minor parts using tripod). The E-M5 Mark II has the 5-Axis Image Stabilization which is extremely powerful and versatile for video recording, producing smooth, shake-free output with mere hand-held recording. Considering that the camera and lenses are small and light, it was easy to use the OM-D system even in tight spaces. 

There were plenty of chasing scenes, both running as well as cars on the road, and E-M5 Mark II recorded everything with minimal jitters. Though the car ride was bumpy (Malaysian roads, if you have been here you would understand) the 5-Axis IS did a good job in minimizing shake. 

The M.Zuiko lenses used were 12mm F2, 17mm F1.8, 25mm F1.8, 45mm F1.8, 75mm F1.8, 12-40mm F2.8 and 40-150mm F2.8. Unfortunately the 7-14mm F2.8 wide angle lens has not been released during the time of shoot. 

I strongly think that, having a small and light system, being weather-sealed (against dust in the open car drifting part), having that incredible 5-Axis Image Stabilization system, the E-M5 Mark II is a great choice for film making. I am no expert when it comes to film making but seeing is believing, and I have seen first hand almost the entire shoot taking place.

What do you think of the music video? Are you a film maker? Do let me know your thoughts!

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Shooting with Olympus M.Zuiko 14-150mm F4-5.6 II Lens

Special shout-out to Jia Yeen for being such a sport, you were awesome! Thanks for spending time with us noob portrait photographers. 

I have done something rather unusual this weekend. Instead of shooting with my favourite prime lenses, or even the newer PRO lenses, I decided against all my usual preferences and picked up the one lens which I rarely used, the M.Zuiko 14-150mm F4-5.6 II from the office, mounted it on the beautiful OM-D E-M5 Mark II and I went out for a full on shutter therapy weekend. With just ONE lens. 

About General-Purpose Zoom Lenses
I will be very honest here, I normally would not recommend a 10x or more zoom lenses, especially the lenses spanning from wide angle to telephoto zoom range. I believe that in order to fit in such a huge zoom range into a lens, there must be some compromises. Since most cameras are equipped with at least the basic kit lens, it makes much more sense to get a dedicated telephoto zoom lens (such as 40-150mm F4-5.6) to complement the original kit lens, and save a few hundred dollars of hard earned cash. I always had this perception in my head that the basic kit lens and the telephoto zoom lens will both perform considerably better than the all zoom wide to telephoto lens. This statement is valid based on many feedback and experience from many friends who come from all sorts of camera brands. So is this the same case with Olympus? This is what I will find out and discuss in this blog entry. 
Olympus M.Zuiko 14-150mm F4-5.6 II lens looks great on OM-D styled camera

Friday, July 03, 2015

The Problem with White Balance

One of the things I rarely discussed here is white balance. I personally think that these days, all cameras are equipped with reliable auto white balance engine that negates the need for manual intervention. Most of the time the camera can decide the required white balance settings accurately, or close to what we consider accurate. 

So what is white balance?  Well, according to the experts (and scientists) white balance has something to do with neutralization of colors to a certain percentage of grey, or whatever that means. Why is that so important? Colour is the first thing that our brain processes when we are viewing a photograph, and if we somehow get the colour balance unacceptable to the brain, we might think that there is something wrong with the photograph. (side note: this is also the same reason why by removing colour in the process of shooting black and white photographs, the brain processes the subjects more directly, without the distraction of colours). 

Oh dear, that was a terrible explanation of white balance and if I were to teach photography I think I might just get fired. 

White balance has been a topic that was playing at the back of my mind for some time now. I do not believe white balance can be achieved by simply using some mysterious grey cards. Strangely, I do not even think there is such thing as a perfect white balance. Now bear with me as I explain with some examples. 

1) What our eyes see may not be what we want to have in white balance. Sometimes. 


My final photograph, with corrected white balance in Olympus Viewer 3. This was not what I saw but what I thought looked better in my final output. Compare this with the original image shown below, which was representative of the real colour captured as seen with naked eyes. 

This was the original, untouched image, SOOC. The purple colour skin was as seen with my eyes, and the camera did nothing wrong registering this. I decided this did not look good and I modified to white balance, so that the skin colour looks more believable, and can be accepted by wider viewing audience.