Sunday, September 27, 2015

Olympus Stylus XZ-2, Three Years Later

About three years ago, I have reviewed the Olympus Stylus XZ-2, the then flagship compact camera from Olympus. Many of you may not know this, the Olympus XZ-2 reviews were the most popular blog entries with the highest number of page views. This was further reflected by the number of emails and messages I have received asking generally about XZ-2, even to this very day! I genuinely thought that it was a highly capable compact camera, packed with all the high end features from OM-D and PEN cameras such as Touch AF, Tilt LCD screen, super control panel and having an accessory port to use an external Electronic Viewfinder. The strength of the XZ-2 lies in that Zuiko lens, 28-112mm F1.8-2.5 which is extra bright, and delivers beautiful, sharp images. 

Why a compact camera? After all I am quite comfortable using the Micro Four Thirds system (and that Fuji X100 for a bit now), but compact cameras will always have that place in my heart. I started photography with point and shoot digital compact cameras (no I did not start with film, unfortunately). I used compact cameras for a span of four years, killing three in the process of learning photography. I had Kodak CX300, Kodak CX7430, and Kodak C875. Did I wish I have more controls? Did I wish the image quality was better? Did I wish I could do more with my Kodak compact cameras? Yes, yes, yes and yes to these questions. However, did I wish I had a DSLR during those compact camera years? Did I wish I have picked up a DSLR sooner? Nope. I never regretted using the compact cameras for four years, and I would have continued using so, as I was at my early learning stage, and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience using the compact cameras with their restrictions and limitations. 

Digital cameras have come a long, long way now. The Olympus Stylus XZ-2 would have been the ultimate camera and I would have wished I had nothing more, if it existed during my early learning years with compact cameras. 

Why am I using the XZ-2 now? 

I guess, in a way, I am reminding myself that all the gear that are available and accessible to me now are more than sufficient for the kind of photography I am doing. 

I may not be able to speak for you, as your requirements and usage for photography may differ. For my own shutter therapy, I do not need a million megapixels, in fact the humble 12MP on the XZ-2 is plentiful. I do not use ridiculously high ISO numbers, I mostly stay below ISO400, and the XZ-2 allows me usable shooting up to ISO1600, hence lots of room to work with. Autofocus was not lightning fast like the newer OM-D cameras, but fast enough for shooting on the street, and generally the camera just works. The lens is amazing, with Image Stabilization built in. The camera shoots RAW, and I can run through my usual workflow with Olympus Viewer 3 in my post processing. 

Even after three years since its launch, I can pick up the XZ-2 and still be happy with it. 


Steel Bridge

Monday, September 21, 2015

5 Reasons Why Your Kit Lens is Awesome


Interchangeable camera has been popular and successful, allowing camera users the ability to change lenses and use specific purpose lenses to accomplish a wider range of photography needs. The availability of many lenses has overshadowed the original humble kit lens that comes with the camera. I myself have been shooting often with prime lenses such as M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 and 25mm F1.8 lenses. Somehow, there has been a general belief that kit lenses are inferior: lacking in many aspects of lens technicalities, do not deliver sharp and desirable results and should be replaced or upgraded to superior lenses such as fast F2.8 zoom lenses or prime lenses.

While it is generally true that prime lenses and higher grade, more expensive constant aperture zoom lenses will provide superior image quality, I think it is too quick to push the original lowly kit lens aside and not fully utilize it. While the kit lens being a bad lens may have been true in the earlier days of modern digital photography (older entry level DSLR), over the years, the kit lenses have improved optically as well as technologically. I acknowledge that the original kit lenses were not designed to outperform higher grade lenses, but as an all round performer and do it all lens, the kit lenses can provide admirable results. 


Of all the available lenses in the arsenal, I decided to go out with the lowliest, underrated kit lens, M.Zuiko 14-42mm F3.5-5.6. Can this lens perform on the street?

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Merchant's Lane, Petaling Street, KL

I rarely blog about restaurants or cafes, but my recent discovery of The Merchant's Lane (thanks to shutter therapy buddy Amir) at my usual street hunting ground, Petaling Street just begged me to photograph the location. Yes, the location itself is quite an interesting subject to shoot. It was an old heritage building, with well preserved old architecture and interiors, sporting a rustic look bringing back nostalgic memories of the 60s, or was it the 70s? The shop lot was renovated and refurbished with the cool retro interior well maintained. Instead of modern furnishing, there were wooden tables and rattan chairs, something of a rarity in today's food eatery settings in KL. 

The best thing I like about the place is the spaciousness, without too many tables and chairs cramping the whole place like so many other restaurants and cafes that tried too miserably to fill in as many people as they can, creating an uncomfortably choking environment. That sense of large space is augmented by incredibly high ceiling, with partially exposed roof (through glass of course) letting light in from one side of the roof/ceiling. The natural light coming in during the day added a beautiful glow to the look of the whole setting!

Time to work out the magic of Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens!

Did someone not complained I did not have enough interior shots taken with the M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO lens during my review?


Saturday, September 12, 2015

The Awesomeness of Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 Lens

I was thinking about using a lens that I have rarely used for my shutter therapy session this weekend, and looking at the selection of available M.Zuiko lenses, I realized I have not paid much attention to the beautiful 75mm F1.8 lens recently. The most popular lens for my street shooting has always been the 45mm F1.8 lens, and more recently I have been shooting very frequently with a 35mm equivalent lens on the Fuji X100. I knew it was going to be a challenge using a longer focal length of that 75mm F1.8 lens, and then I thought why not?

For this particular shutter therapy session I was joined by visitors from Germany, Jochen and Cinzia, as well as another German who has been residing in KL for a while now, Stephan. Visitors keep coming from Germany, if this goes on I can compile a blog entry just featuring ALL my German visitors whom I have met in KL. 

I forced myself to just use the M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 lens for the whole outing. It is a challenge since we were shooting Chow Kit, a market setting which did not allow much working space between the camera and subjects. 


All images were taken with Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 on the OM-D E-M10 Mark II. ECG-3 external camera grip was attached to the E-M10 Mark II for added comfort and better handling.

That is one sexy looking lens, Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 mounted on the new OM-D E-M10 Mark II

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

A Few Random Updates

It is in the middle of the week and I do have a few things to share here. These are the items that do not fit into any of my topical weekly shutter therapy themed blog posts. Nonetheless I have always been a blogger who blogs about random life events and happenings around me, and a part of me still has a strong urge to continue to do so. 

1) Once Upon A Miao

Monday, September 07, 2015

A Weekend of Olympus Fun

Last weekend, shutter therapy took quite an unexpected turn. Initially, we created a street photography session for a friend (landscape photographer) who wanted to join in the fun, exploring street photography, since this is not something that he does often. An outing was then organized, with a small group of common friends, all non Olympus users. One of them asked if I could bring along the latest OM-D E-M5 Mark II for a test run, so I said yes after checking the availability of the camera for the weekend. When the others found out, they also asked for Olympus gear to use on the street that particular session! I ended up bringing along E-M10 Mark II (2 units), E-M5 Mark II (2 units), M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO, 12-40mm F2.8 PRO, 12mm F2, 17mm F1.8, 25mm F1.8, 45mm F1.8 and 75mm F1.8 (2 units) for everyone to try out in that particular outing. It has been a while since I brought out my large bag which I have last used for my DSLR system! 

It was a short outing to Chow Kit, KL, my favourite shooting ground. It was interesting observing non-Olympus users giving the system a go, discovering the wonders of using M.Zuiko lenses, and experiencing the super fast Olympus AF capabilities, coupled with Touch Shutter (shooting immediately after touching the LCD screen). Also, how small and light the system is, easier to use for street photography! I believe everyone enjoyed themselves, and having fun was the main agenda of the day!

All the following images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II and M.Zuiko 7-14mm F2.8 PRO and 45mm F1.8 lenses

Bed of Natural Goodness
A good example of how useful the tilt screen is, on the E-M10 Mark II, for compositions such as top down shot of a table. 

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Shutter Therapy

Shutter therapy is a phrase I have created several years ago, which I have used frequently throughout my blog entries here. I do not remember myself defining it, and for some unexplainable reasons the phrase has been widely used by many friends here locally in Malaysia, as well as some photographers I have known overseas. What exactly is Shutter Therapy, and the original meaning when I started using the phrase? Where did it come from? Why do I go for Shutter Therapy on every weekends? I shall do my best to answer all these questions in this blog entry. 

THE ORIGIN

I started to go deeper in photography in 2008, when I first purchased my first DSLR, Olympus E-410. One year later, my father passed away and it was one of the darkest moments of my life. I was in my hometown Kuching, feeling rather depressed, thus I needed to do something to get off those miserable emotions, I needed to go out of the house, be with good company of friends, and obviously, do something I liked doing very much. I figured photography was a good thing to do, since it occupies my mind when I am out there shooting, as I have to consider all the technical controls, composition, lighting on the subject, etc. I called up a dear friend, Allen Ang who has been there for me throughout my difficult times and we went out shooting, randomly, with no particular purpose. I felt free, and my mind was not clouded with all the negative feelings and as I concentrated on making photographs there was this sense of satisfaction that I get when I shot a photograph that I like. That positive encouragement was extremely powerful, and self-uplifting. After the shoot, when I was home looking through the photographs, it clicked in my mind that the short, random, positive-healing photography session was best described as "therapeutic". I just had a Shutter Therapy. 

That was the beginning, and that therapeutic quality has been stuck with me, and I started craving for more and more, weekend, after weekend. Photography has somehow evolved into an obsession. 

The photographs used in this entry are compiled from my favourites, taken with various cameras: Olympus E-5, E-PL5, E-PL7, E-M10, E-M5, Sony A57, Panasonic GM-1 and Fujiflm X100. 


Kuala Lumpur is an awesome place to shoot.