Getting My Feet Wet In Youtube - What Would You Like To See?

So thanks to my friend Matti Sulanto from Finland, he motivated me to do more videos and get them up on Youtube. I am not exactly a camera-friendly person, I honestly prefer writing to making videos, but I have to admit this is 2019 and Youtube is just as relevant and powerful as a platform for photography sharing, if not more so than a blog, or writing online articles. I should evolve with time, or else I will just be left behind.

I did a few videos recently, mainly coinciding with the release of Olympus Firmware 3.0 for E-M1 Mark II and also the new feature in Olympus Workspace - USB Raw Data Edit. Go watch the videos here and here if you have not. Having the "afterglow" from making those two videos, I started to venture out more and more and decided to do a few more videos, touching on topics that are familiar to me - insect macro photography and night shooting with smartphones. I thought the insect macro photography was better explained and demonstrated in a video, rather than having my readers visualize me holding my flash with one hand and the camera on the other. Do let me know what you guys think of my videos, I am still making refinement and finding my own ground.



Here is one that I have just uploaded to Youtube - using budget smartphone to do challenging low light night photography. My main messages have always remained the same, do not obsess over gear, don't feel bad or inadequate if you are not using the best and most expensive smartphone, but rely on your understanding in photography and also putting in some effort to get the shot. Yes, we are all getting lazier and lazier because of technological advancement but a little work goes a long way! Just using a tripod and setting the exposure manually, lowering the ISO, these steps make such a huge difference! No reason to complain about what you don't have or lack of.

So based on the few videos so far, especially the Macro Photography and latest Night Photography with Smartphones, let me know what you think, do you enjoy the videos, or do you feel there are other things that I can improve on? Would you want me to keep the videos shorter, or you don't mind me going longer? Do you want more technical jargon in the video, or keeping it more simple and clean? Do you feel the number of photos quality shown are sufficient?

More importantly, please feed me topics, things that you would like to learn about me, or photography that I can make videos about! What do you want to know? Let me know!

Here are some shots taken with my current daily driver, Realme 2 Pro, a budget smartphone that I bought at RM799, all shown in my recent video. Tripod was used, manual mode and ISO fixed at 100 or lower. Also, self timer (very important) was activated to mitigate hand/camera shake.







I don't know if I am going to do video constantly or if my Youtube Channel is ever going to go anywhere, but I thought I should give it a try.


So please do subscribe to my Youtube channel here (click)!

Olympus USB RAW Data Edit - New Feature Explained

Olympus added a new feature - USB RAW Data Edit in the latest update to Olympus Workspace (Version 1.1), their proprietary post-processing software. USB RAW Data Edit is activated by connecting the camera to the PC/Laptop via USB cable, and the Truepic VIII Engine in the camera will be utilized to boost the Raw files processing while running Olympus Workspace on the PC/Laptop. This feature is currently only available for Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and E-M1X, and only applicable for RAW images shot with the connected same camera.

I have done a quick video to briefly explain what USB RAW Data Edit is, demonstrate how it works and also show my real life usage of the feature to deliver a set of photographs in my recent shoot.



Here is the step by step guide to enable USB RAW Data Edit

WHAT YOU NEED
1) Olympus Workspace - latest version 1.1 (as of writing) installed on your PC/Laptop
2) E-M1 Mark II (firmware version 3.0 and newer) or E-M1X (firmware version 1.1 and newer)
3) USB cable to connect the camera to your PC/Laptop - use the one supplied in the box

HOW TO ENABLE USB RAW DATA EDIT
1) Start the Olympus Workspace on your laptop/PC
2) Connect the USB cable from camera to the laptop/PC. 
3) Turn on the camera
4) Select the option "PC-RAW"
5) Once connection is established, there is a pop-up notification on Olympus Workspace. Follow the instructions
6) Select the folder where your images are at. You may also choose to edit the RAW files inside the SD card in the camera, and export it out to the laptop/PC. 
7) Select the images you want to edit, do your post-processing, and export to the desired location

Bear in mind that when USB RAW Data Edit is used, some features in Olympus Workspace are unavailable. Features such as Color Edit, Dehaze and Clarity are not applicable anymore. All the crucial and basic adjustments (Exposure Compensation, White Balance, Crop, Highlight/Shadow, Sharpness, Contrast, Gradation, Keystone Compensation, Picture Mode, Art Filters, etc) remained unchanged. 

I have done some tests with the USB RAW Data Edit, and I am very impressed. 

Olympus Workspace, while being a huge step up from the predecessor Olympus Viewer 3, is still sluggish when it comes to exporting images. On my home workstation desktop PC which is running on quite a decent specification (AMD FX-8350 8-core processor, 16GB RAM, SSD and Radeon RX580) , it takes about 3-5 seconds or longer to export a single RAW file to JPEG. On my portable laptop (Lenovo Miix 510, running on Intel Core i3, 4GB RAM and SSD), it is even worse, it takes about more than 10 seconds to export just one RAW file. The improvements on previewing speed, overall smoother operations were fantastic but the exporting process was still a pain. I am shooting events and wedding photography commercially, and I need to deal with hundreds, sometimes thousands of photographs, so you can imagine the nightmare when it comes to exporting the final images. 

This is the main reason I am currently using Capture One Pro for most of my post-processing work, it takes about 2 seconds or less to export a single RAW file. 

With the new USB RAW Data Edit enabled for Olympus Workspace, the boost of speed was incredible. I could export a single RAW file in merely one second or less. You heard that right, instead of my workstation PC speed of 3-5 seconds, or my portable laptop's speed of more than 10 seconds, using the USB RAW Data Edit on my laptop which I have tested, it took me less than 1 second to export a single RAW file. Even with multiple RAW files selected, the speed remained the same, 1 RAW file per second. 

This is a massive jump in terms of productivity!


Honestly this was not really a surprise, considering how fast the Truepic VIII Engine in the camera is. 

The Truepic VIII allows the camera to shoot up to 60 frames per second! Surely processing a single RAW file per second is probably not even maximizing the full potential of the processor. 

What does all this mean and how can this benefit me as a commercial photographer?

Most commercial photographers will carry a laptop or portable device for quick edits on location. I prefer to work with a more portable solution, meaning I want my laptop to be as slim, small and light as possible so i can carry it around without worrying about it weighing me down or slowing me. That also means I have to compromise some performance. I acknowledge that there are powerful and high performing small form factor laptops out there, more suitable for handling heavy image processing tasks, but these laptops are also incredibly overpriced. I have a decently powerful PC workstation at home to handle a bulk of my heavy load when it comes to post-processing. The laptop is for quick edits and previews for clients, when necessary. 

Even with my underpowered Intel Core i3 (6th Gen) processor and minimal 4GB of RAM, a coming to 3 years old laptop now, with the USB RAW Data Edit, I bypass the laptop's weaker processing capability and utilize the camera's superior Truepic VIII Engine, maximizing processing speed to even faster than any other commercially available post-processing software! The blazing speed cuts down my operation time significantly, say a task that requires me maybe about 20-30 minutes, I could probably get done within 5 minutes!

I fully understand that Olympus Workspace is not the most powerful software for post-processing, not allowing use of layers or radial filters for higher level processing. Nonetheless, if speed is your priority, nothing is faster than this feature at the moment, yet at the same time you can still perform extensive fine-tuning to your photograph, fixing the white balance as well as recovering a tonne of shadow and highlight details. This is still highly advantageous in comparison with shooting JPEG - once your image is overexposed or shot in bad white balance, that's it, the image is ruined beyond salvation. 

my current humble laptop - Lenovo Miix 510 which is sort of like a Microsoft Surface Clone

One more advantage I can think of while using USB RAW Data Edit, is not having to fully import the files onto your Laptop/PC before you can start editing. Most post-processing softwares require "importing" process to access the raw files, and generate previews for thumbnails and quick viewing. However, that step of transferring RAW files to the laptop can also be time consuming, depending on how many images you are dealing with, and regenerating previews can also be a redundant step. Olympus already has their own preview image included in the RAW file, using Olympus Workspace it recognizes the embedded preview JPEG, saving time for regenerating previews. Not only that, you handle the RAW files inside your SD card while the camera is connected to your Laptop/PC without needed to physically transfer them out!

You plug in the USB cable, you start Olympus Workspace and you can immediately start working on the images. If you want the fastest workflow for fast edits, I just cannot think of anything this fast. And the best part - you don't need a powerful laptop/PC to enjoy this feature! The same performance can be enjoyed with lower spec/budget laptops, just like the one I am using. 

If you have Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II or E-M1X, the option to use USB RAW Data Edit is available to you. Why don't you give it a try? Even if you are not a professional photographer, I believe in spending less time working on your images on your laptop/PC, and spend more time going out to shoot more! The fun is being outdoor with the camera in your hand, having shutter therapy!


Firmware 3.0 for Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II

Olympus has a few announcements today - a minor update for E-M1X firmware to version 1.1, quite a significant rework of E-M1 Mark II's firmware to version 3.0 and a few new features in Olympus Workspace. I was informed by Olympus Malaysia that all these items are available for download immediately after the worldwide announcement. In this particular blog entry, I am exploring the new Firmware 3.0 for Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II, which happens to be my workhorse that I use for commercial shoots as well as personal projects.

For those of you who prefer watching a video over reading a lengthy article, here is one of me quickly going through the main improvements in the new Firmware 3.0 for E-M1 Mark II.


Here is the list of improvements in the new Firmware 3.0

1) E-M1X AF ALGORITHM PORTED OVER TO E-M1 MARK II
Improvements of AF in E-M1 Mark II
- new algorithm for both S-AF and C-AF
- improved C-AF for movie recording
- low light AF down to -6EV with F1.2 PRO lens
- new 25 AF point grouping with C-AF Center priority
- C-AF + MF added
Olympus has refreshed their AF system in the latest E-M1X and I have claimed numerous improvements on AF performance in my review article here (click). Both S-AF and C-AF performance, in terms of focusing speed and accuracy have been enhanced. I particularly noticed better AF when dealing with messy background or backlit situations. AF improvement is made for both stills and video recording. C-AF in E-M1X's video, according to DPReview's own review, is the best for any Micro Four Thirds camera. This same AF for video is now applicable for E-M1 Mark II too. Additionally, in extreme low light environment, the E-M1 Mark II now is able to perform AF effectively down to -6EV light levels, with the use of F1.2 PRO lenses. I also notice improvements of focusing in low light using F1.8 prime lenses.

Since we are on the topic of AF, one minor change that I did not like happening, was the relocation of S-AF + MF option to the menu. Previously, S-AF + MF can be activated via the super control panel. Unfortunately, now you need to dive deep into the labyrinth menu to get it turned on. Also, there is no customizable shortcut for this important feature. This was not an issue for E-M1X, because I can rearrange the entire menu in "My Menu" setup. Now when I do heavy macro shooting, switching the S-AF + MF on and off will be problematic.

2) HIGH ISO IMPROVEMENT 1/3 EV STEPS IN JPEG SHOOTING
Olympus claims about 1/3 EV Steps improvement when shooting high ISO with the new Firmware 3.0. This is only applicable for JPEG files, so if you are a JPEG shooter or do rely on straight out of camera JPEGs for quick delivery, the minor bump in high ISO shooting is surely a benefit. I can't say that 1/3EV improvement makes a significant difference, but I also must acknowledge that E-M1 Mark II was released in 2016, and in 2019, any new refresh or enhancement is definitely a welcome.

3) ISO L64 AND L100 FOR DETAIL PROCESSING PRIORITY
Instead of just the mysterious ISO LOW, now the new Firmware 3.0 has low ISO expansion to two settings - ISO L64 abd L100. Olympus also mentioned that when these settings are engaged, the camera will prioritize processing more optimized detail capture for the image. I personally will still stay with ISO200 most of the time, as ISO200 is the true native base ISO for E-M1 Mark II, hence granting me the best dynamic range. To me, better dynamic range is more crucial than additional details or sharpness. I have shot extensively over the years with ISO200 and was already very happy with what the E-M1 Mark II can deliver.



4) NEW USB RAW DATA EDIT USING OLYMPUS WORKSPACE
Olympus introduced USB RAW Data Edit in both E-M1X and E-M1 Mark II in latest firmware updates, allowing faster RAW processing using Olympus Workspace. . The raw processing utilizes the Truepic 8 engine inside the camera for faster operation, having the camera connected via USB cable to the PC while running Olympus Workspace.. I personally have not tested this, as the new Olympus Workspace was not available yet at the time of this writing.

5) OM-LOG400 PROFILE ADDED FOR VIDEO RECORDING
For those doing heavy video shooting, the new OM-LOG400 profile as found in E-M1X is now available for E-M1 Mark II. This profile is surely more advantageous when it comes to maximizing dynamic range captured in the video file, as well as offering better flexibility for post-production video work. I am no video expert, I rarely do any video-centric work, so I shall not add any further comments.

6) NO CAMERA FREEZE DURING "BUSY WRITING TO SD CARD"
Previously, the camera locks up or freezes after long burst sequential shooting, allowing the camera to clear the buffer. While the camera is writing to the card, shooting can still be resumed as long as the buffer is not full, but the previous firmware disallow any changes to camera settings or adjustments. The new Firmware 3.0 allows changes of any settings in the camera while the it is busy writing to the card, as well as previewing previously recorded images.

7) OTHER FEATURES AND IMPROVEMENTS IN FIRMWARE 3.0
- Anti-flicker shooting added
- Frame rate priority for Live View Boost On2
- From 3 to 15 shots can be selected in Focus Stacking and guide lines have been added to the shooting area
- Quick image selection added
- Instant Film added to Art Filter

Here are some samples taken with the new Art Filter, INSTANT FILM





I applaud Olympus for providing such a significant update for E-M1 Mark II. After all, this camera has been around since 2016, with the updated and reworked camera features, the new Firmware 3.0 brings E-M1 Mark II closer to E-M1X especially when it comes to AF improvement, which to me is a critical upgrade. This will directly affect the camera performance across all shooting scenarios.

What are our thoughts on the new Firmware 3.0 for E-M1 Mark II? What other features would you like to have added into the coming Firmware 4.0, if Olympus plans to make it happen down the road? I want to hear from you!

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II is available from B&H

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REPOST - My Street Photography Flow Chart

Originally published on 25 October 2015.

So, I thought it would be cool to produce a workflow chart to show my street shooting processes. The chart is quite self-explanatory.

MY STREET SHOOTING WORKFLOW 

If you want to read in full detail about 'How I Approach my Street Portraits" please read the lengthy blog entry I have written here (click) 

Everyone Needs A Little Bit Of Hipster Food Sometimes

I am not exactly a big fan of overpriced cafe food, since Malaysia has abundance of amazing and delicious local and much lower priced food available everywhere. We have so many choices sometimes we just don't know what to choose, and the most commonly asked question, possibly in Malaysia is "what are we doing to eat?" when we are out and about with friends or family. However, I must admit that the trendy, overpriced, hipster restaurants do get more and more popularity, and I am one of the customers drawn to them. Not so much of me liking the food or supporting the trend, but hey, sometimes you just want something a little bit more fancy and have an excuse to splurge.



The images were shot with Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 PRO lens.

I particularly love food that is colorful and has a lot of texture. I guess, the plus side of eating this bowl of hipster something something, it is healthy-ish.


Sometimes Stop Moving Can Be A Good Thing

When I am shooting on the street, I am constantly on the move. This is probably due to the idea that not staying in one spot for too long will make you less of a target to bag-snatching thieves or daylight robbery, which can happen in Kuala Lumpur streets from time to time. When I am out and about shooting on my own, which I do quite frequently when I need to get some serious shots done, I consciously move all the time. However, I have also learned that slowing down the pace and taking some time to really look at how certain scenes change can benefit the outcome of photographs shown in a series.




Images were shot on Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko 45mm F1.8 lens

On one fine evening, I was walking along Bukit Bintang streets with a group of friends. Since we have the number, we were less afraid about being mugged or jumped at unexpectedly. Safety in numbers and all. We decided to make a pit stop at one corner after a long walk to take a short breather and everyone started chatting away. In the midst of the dramatic conversation about bokeh, Fujifilm, Ricoh GR3 and street photography, I noticed the light in the sky changing and I thought to myself, wow, what a splendid sunset it was. I took several photographs within a span of 15 minutes. I would have waited till it was completely dark, but everyone got too hungry and we decided to call it a day and went to a nearby restaurant for dinner.