A Fashion Show Photography Analysis: Entry Level Camera Then And Now, How Far Have We Progressed?

So I stumbled upon this open fashion show at Nu Sentral (a shopping next to KL Sentral) and I thought why not stay for a bit and take some shots? As I was shooting the fashion show (which turned out to be quite a good one) I started to remember how it was like 8 years ago, in 2008 when I first picked up my entry level Olympus DSLR and was enthusiastically searching for and shooting free fashion shows in malls around KL. Boy oh boy, how far have we come?

Back in 2008, I had an Olympus E-520, an advanced entry level DSLR (the lowest level was the E-420), with ISO limit at 1600 and 3 AF points only! At ISO400, ugly noise starts to creep in, and I usually do need to shoot at ISO800 if I was not using an external flash, and with ISO800 the photographs normally lose plenty of details, looking soft, and lacks dynamic range. Oh did I say the ugly, intrusive noise? And the focusing was rather slowish, and what the hell can anyone do with just 3 focusing points to choose from? In addition to that, there was shutter lag, though minimal, but bad enough to miss critical moments. Hit rate was quite bad, I get less than 50% hit rate, and it was almost impossible to get critically sharp images with the models usually moving at super fast speed on stage. A year later I got myself an FL-36R flash, to aid in such difficult shooting situation, but it did not help that much either. I often get harsh output, and the recycle time of that flash unit was a pain to work with!

Shooting fashion show can be exciting, rewarding, yet extremely frustrating at the same time. It was a situation where I did wish I had a better camera, a camera that did not miss out so many shots!

Fast forward to 2016, today, shooting fashion show was a breeze. Ok, I shall admit one unfair advantage: I was using the PRO lens, 12-40mm F2.8. And back in my DSLR E-520 days, I used the basic kit lens as well as the 40-150mm F3.5-4.5 lenses, which did pale in comparison to what the modern PRO lenses such as the 12-40mm F2.8 and 40-150mm F2.8 can do. That aside, everything else I am about to say still remains valid, and applicable in the comparison on how much the camera system has improved. I was using the OM-D E-M10 Mark II and the 12-40mm F2.8 PRO lens for all my shots. Autofocus was instantaneous! It was so fast, there was completely no lag at all, and damned accurate too. I have 81 AF points to choose from, the AF points stretching out to far end of the screen. Half-pressing and then immediately pressing the shutter button got me 100% accurately focused images, again and again without fail. I got 99% hit rate. That 1% failure was due to my own fault. Furthermore, the ISO was set from 800 to 1600. Even at ISO1600, as seen in the images in this blog entry, there was completely no trace of noise, thanks to the new and more powerful processing engine Truepic 7, as well as an improved 16MP Live MOS sensor. I can shoot at ISO3200 on the E-M10 Mark II with images that come out cleaner than ISO400 on the old DSLR E-520,.and believe me, I am not exaggerating. The camera just works, and it has gotten sooooo easy to get technically good shots (correct exposure and accurate focus). Having a "What You See Is What You Get" Electronic Viewfinder was a Godsent, I can make sure my exposure was what I wanted even before I shot my images!

Also worth mentioning, having the 5-Axis Image Stabillization means I never have to worry about camera shake, and surely you know that the E-M10 Mark II is soooooo much smaller and lighter compared to the E-520?

Some technical data:
OM-D E-M10 Mark II and 12-40mm F2.8 PRO lens
Shot in Aperture Priority, set to F2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/100sec to 1/250sec
ISO: 800-1600
Autofocus: Single-AF, AF-point selected pointing toward the head of model
Metering: Multi-Pattern
White Balance: Custom, image was shot in RAW and I customized the white balance in post-processing

I think we have photography tools today that are more than capable, and can deliver great results, with ease and much less effort in comparison to many years ago. We should really stop worrying about how good our camera system is (whichever system you are using), and focus on improving photography skills. Spend time to shoot more, not spend money to upgrade your gear! I am confident what you have now, is more than good enough to get incredible results.


  1. Thanks for taking me back.

    In 2008, I wasn't even using auto focus on the E-1 (not until the E-5 and then, not always) and I was photographing sports.

    Yes, everything has come so far. I often rely on the E-M1 Face Detection.

    1. Wow, You did not use AF on E-!, was it that bad?

    2. Honestly, most were not great, even Nikon and Canon back then. I used an E-1 doing auto sports though and often did use AF.

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. When you are Robin Wong.
    Every shooting situation can be a breeze, with all of the wisdom and experience.
    You can use a potato camera and still come up with great pictures.

    You can do a segment of
    Digitalrev TV pro photographer cheap camera.

    1. Oh dear if there was a potato I would probably fry it and eat it with Chilli Sauce. haha. Thanks for the kind words.

  4. Beautiful photographs. I am surprised that in the fashion runway setting that you did not have continuous autofocus in tracking mode selected - especially as it appears that the models were walking toward you.

    1. Nope, it was all single-AF, and I nailed the shots I wanted!

  5. Hey Robin,

    When you say that we should "should stop worrying about how good our camera system is", I couldn't agree with you more!

    There has to come a point where we stop "measure-bating" over technical specifications and focus more on being creative with the cutting edge hardware that we already possess!

    Historically, My only criticism of the MFT system is over the lack of good TTL wireless radio triggers, but that is a really minor, specific complaint when you consider all the other benefits you get out of the system.

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