Olympus M.Zuiko 12-45mm F4 PRO vs 12-40mm F2.8 PRO

In my recent review video of Olympus M.Zuiko 12-45mm F4 PRO, I asked if there was an interest of me doing a side by side extensive comparison between the 12-45mm F4 versus the older yet much revered 12-40mm F2.8 PRO lenses. Looking at the comment section of that video I received overwhelmingly "yes" response to that question, so here it is, I am doing both a blog article and a video comparison for the two mentioned lenses. I did make a bold claim previously based on my early observations the 12-45mm F4 PRO seems a little sharper than the 12-40mm F2.8 PRO, but I made that claim without an extensive side by side comparison, so this article and video will be a continuation from the previous review. This comparison tests took a lot more time and effort than usual, I did have a tonne more samples but I am only showing the best few selected ones in this blog entry and of course, my video. 

On specifications, both lenses exhibit many similarities and some obvious key differences. 

SIMILARITIES between 12-45mm F4 and 12-40mm F2.8 PRO
1) Full weather-sealing, splash, dust and freezeproof down to minus 10 degrees Celcius
2) Metal body construction
3) Internal focusing mechanism, the front element does not rotate when zooming
4) No internal zooming, the lens extends out when zooming in

DIFFERENCES between 12-45mm F4 and 12-40mm F2.8 PRO
1) F4 constant aperture on 12-45mm versus F2.8 on 12-40mm, allowing 12-40mm to render shallower depth of field and is better in low light scenarios
2) 12-45mm F4 is smaller and lighter, better suited for smaller cameras
3) 12-45mm F4 does not have manual focusing clutch and L-Fn button, both features available on the 12-40mm F2.8
4) 12-45mm F4 benefits from the newer Zero Nano coating, Olympus claimed improved flare and ghosting control

Here is my testing methodology and its limitations: 
1) The test camera is my own Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III. This camera is representative of the best image quality achievable by current Olympus OM-D system, having similar image sensor with E-M1 Mark III and E-M1X. 
2) All images were shot hand-held, with approximate matching framing. Even if tripod is used I cannot 100% match the composition between each images, there will be slight variance, and in real life shooting scenario, where I do need to move to many locations, having a tripod is not practical and is cumbersome. Hence there is a slight mis-match when it comes to composition but this should not affect the overall outcome significantly. 
3) All camera settings are controlled and maintained the same for both lenses used in each scenario. I shot at aperture priority as I fixed the aperture at F4 and ISO200 (except for the bokeh test). Shutter speed is fast enough to be inconsequential for all tests. 
4) All images were shot in available light, in late afternoon, either outdoor or with sufficient window side light (except the bokeh test which was shot at night). There is a possibility of light shifting from one frame to another as I cannot control the cloud movements in the sky. I have shot many samples to have large enough data pool to minimize lighting inconsistencies. 
5) I am not comparing distortion, chromatic aberration and vignetting as these technical lens flaws are effectively corrected via in camera software.
6) All images were straight out of camera RAW, previewed via Olympus Workspace with zero adjustment performed. Noise Filter were set to "0" and sharpness setting was at default "0", both in camera settings. 
7) There is also the possibility of sample variance. My 12-45mm PRO lens is a sample review unit from Olympus, which they claimed to be similar to mass production quality. Having said that, even there is sample variance between mass production units, so your 12-45mm lens may be slightly better or worse than the one I was using for this test. 

I am human. I do not claim to be perfect. Recently someone bombarded me for some of the few mistakes I made in my recent articles and videos. I can only do my best. If my best is not enough for you, feel free to go to other review websites and channels.  I am already spending too much time doing this, and if you do not appreciate it, there is nothing I can do. 

For easy reference - image on the LEFT 12-45mm F4, image on the RIGHT 12-40mm F2.8. Click the images to enlarge. 

First test, both lenses were set to the widest focal length 12mm and the sharpness at the center of the frame and corners are inspected. Both lenses were set at F4 for consistency in comparison. 

For this wide angle shoot-out, at center sharpness, the image quality in terms of sharpness and fine detail rendering are extremely close between the two lenses, but the 12-45mm F4 does show a slight advantage in resolving a little more fine detail, contrast and better defined lines. You do need to pixel peep very closely to notice the differences, but the 12-45mm F4 is a better performer.

However, when it comes to corner sharpness, there is no denying that the older 12-40mm PRO holds the upper hand, but the corners of 12-45mm F4 is still very good. 

LEFT 12-45mm F4, RIGHT 12-40mm F2.8

Second test at maximum telephoto end of both lenses, 12-45mm at 45mm and 12-40mm at 40mm. Again, both lenses are set at F4 for comparison. 

Scrutinising the results, as expected like the previous tests, the output from both lenses come really close, in fact it was not easy to tell apart which image was taken with which lens. However, 12-40mm F2.8 does resolve a tiny bit more details, and images in complex rendering areas such as leaves and textured patterns on the building have a bit more contrast and sharpness bite. The 12-45mm F4 comes very close, bit I have to give the win to 12-40mm shooting at telephoto end of the lens. Again, the sharpness difference of the two lenses are almost negligible when it comes to practical shooting, and that slight advantage won't translate to real world difference. 

LEFT 12-45mm F4, RIGHT 12-40mm F2.8

Both 12-45mm F4 and 12-40mm F2.8 have respectable close up shooting capability, with decent magnification. I am shooting both images at 25mm focal length at F5.6 to increase depth of field. 
Both lenses performed superbly in close up shooting, being able to reveal incredible amount of details in the food texture. Upon closer inspection, the 12-45mm F4 is looking a tad sharper, but again the small difference against 12-40mm is nothing to shout about. 

At this point, I am super impressed that 12-45mm F4, the smaller sibling can hold its weight really well against the heavier 12-40mm F2.8, and in some cases has surpassed the 12-40mm in optical performance. The 12-45mm F4 truly deserves the PRO label. 

LEFT 12-45mm F4, RIGHT 12-40mm F2.8

Both 12-45mm F4 and 12-40mm F2.8 have very similar optical lens design (if you take the trouble to look up the lens design diagram), and they both have 7 aperture blades, meaning they can render starburst effect with 14 points. To achieve this effect, set the aperture to F16 or F22, and shoot against a strong source of light point, such as the sun. The starburst effect is not the best I have seen from any lenses or from Olympus, as Olympus 7-14mm PRO and 12mm F2 can generate better starburst effect, but the 12-45mm F4's starburst is in no way poor. It is still one of the better ones coming from a zoom lens. Also, the effect looks identical to what the 12-40mm F2.8 can do. 

LEFT 12-45mm F4, RIGHT 12-40mm 

Olympus 12-45mm F4 PRO adopted the newer Olympus Nano Zero coating, which Olympus claimed to improve flare and ghosting control significantly when shooting against strong source of light. The difference in flare resistance is quite obvious between the two lenses, and 12-45mm is clearly the winner here. All modern Olympus lenses, even the non PRO grade lens like the 12-200mm F3.5-6.3 has the new Zero Nano coating, achieving incredible flare control as well. 

I have mentioned that the 12-45mm F4 renders beautiful bokeh, the out of focus area being creamy, smooth and soft-looking. However, there are some floating image samples done by other more reputable review sites (who am I to challenge them?) that claimed otherwise - those sample images showed really unpretty looking "onion" shaped bokeh balls. So here I give you my own bokeh ball samples from the 12-45mm F4 PRO lens. 

12-45mm F4 PRO Bokeh test

12-45mm F4 PRO bokeh test

On the topic of onion ring effect on bokeh balls, this was quite a common issue for older Olympus PRO lenses, and yes, the 12-40mm F2.8 suffers from that as well. You can clearly get the "onion" effect shooting with 12-40mm, and this was clearly improved in the newer 12-45mm F4 PRO, and any other newer Olympus lenses, if you have tried them recently. 

12-40mm F2.8 PRO Bokeh Test

12-40mm F2.8 PRO Bokeh Test

That's all I have for this comparison tests between Olympus M.Zuiko 12-45mm F4 PRO versus 12-40mm F2.8 PRO. 

Both 12-45mm F4 and 12-40mm F2.8 performed really well, and the differences in terms of optical performance is negligible, both lenses are incredible sharp and can resolve amazing amount of fine details and excellent contrast, rendering sharp and realistic looking images. The 12-45mm F4 has slight advantage when it comes to wide angle shooting at the widest 12mm (center sharpness) and close up shooting performance. However the 12-40mm F2.8 fares a little better at wide angle corner sharpness and also at the farthest telephoto end shooting. The 12-45mm F4 PRO being the newer lens has the advantage when it comes to flare and ghosting resistance thanks to the upgraded Nano Zero coating by Olympus, and the bokeh balls do not exhibit "onion shape", which the older 12-40mm F2.8 is quite prone to if that is a big issue for you. 

If you already own the Olympus M.Zuiko12-40mm F2.8 PRO, or the 12-100mm F4 IS PRO, there really is no reason to get the newer 12-45mm F4 PRO lens, you can do everything you can do on the 12-45mm PRO with the previous mentioned two lenses. 

However, if you are thinking to upgrade from your kit lens, either 14-42mm EZ pancake lens, or the older 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 EZ, this newer 12-45mm F4 PRO is a huge step up and is a PRO grade lens. You will see significant improvement in terms of the image quality you get with your cameras using the 12-45mm PRO. 

I understand the frustration from some of you against Olympus for making a lens with overlapping focal length range, but the smaller and more compact build is not necessarily a bad thing. Having more choices is good for everyone, and Olympus knows what they are doing especially when it comes to optics. The 12-45mm F4 PRO is not for everyone, but if I want to go for travel, between the 12-45mm F4 and 12-40mm F2.8, I'd grab the 12-45mm F4 in a heartbeat just because it is so much smaller and lighter, yet I can confidently use it knowing there is no compromise in terms of image quality. 

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Olympus M.Zuiko 12-45mm F4 PRO Lens Review

Olympus launched a new PRO lens, the Olympus M.Zuiko 12-45mm F4 PRO together with their new flagship camera, OM-D E-M1 Mark III. The new 12-45mm PRO is the smallest lens in the Olympus M.Zuiko PRO lens line-up, has a constant aperture opening of F4 and is fully weather-sealed. I have had this lens for over a week, and have been shooting with the lens in various photography scenarios. I personally believe the new 12-45mm PRO being a compact PRO lens reflects the true ideologies of Micro Four Thirds system. I am sharing my experience using the lens with a new series of fresh photographs in this review article. 

For those of you who prefer to watch a video instead of reading a 1500 words article, here is a YouTube video I have made for this lens review. 

Here are some important disclaimers first. I am an Olympus Visionary, an ambassador to the Olympus brand. I do not own this lens, the 12-45mm PRO was a loaner from Olympus Malaysia and will be returned to them after review purposes. My review is subjective and there will be no technical tests, data or charts/graphs shown in this article. Instead this is a user experience based review, I am sharing my thoughts and opinion based on my shooting experience using the 12-45mm PRO lens. All images were shot with either the new E-M1 Mark III or my own E-M5 Mark III. All images were post-processed with minor corrections (straightening, minor crop, exposure and white balance adjustments) using either Olympus Workspace for E-M1 Mark III images, and Capture One Pro 20 for E-M5 Mark III. 

For full resolution images, you may go to the online album here (click), all with full EXIF data intact.

Let's get the obvious question out of the way - why did Olympus make another standard zoom lens when they already have the amazing existing standard zoom PRO lenses such as the 12-40mm F2.8 PRO and 12-100mm F4 IS PRO? The redundancy is obvious and a lot of people are questioning the overlap when it comes to focal lengths coverage, do we need another standard zoom lens? Outside of the Olympus family, we also have some good alternatives from the Panasonic camp. 

I personally think having more choices is not a bad thing. While the existing 12-40mm and 12-100mm PRO lenses are not monstrously huge in size, they are not exactly small and truly compact either. To match smaller Olympus camera bodies such as E-M10 Mark III and E-M5 Mark III, the new smaller, lighter and more compact design of 12-45mm F4 PRO is a better suited lens. If the goal is to truly keep the footprint as minimal as possible, the 12-45mm surely accomplishes this goal. Does the optical performance live up to expectation of a true PRO lens? This is what I want to find out in this review article. 

Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III Review

For those in Malaysia, you can pre-order Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III directly from Olympus Malaysia here (click). 

Edit 12/2/20 - 6.15pm: Correction on specification of EVF - EVF has 0.74x magnification, not 0.83x as previously mentioned. 

Olympus has just announced the much anticipated OM-D E-M1 Mark III, a direct successor to their E-M1 Mark II which was released in 2016. The new E-M1 Mark III has a new Truepic IX image processing engine, porting over useful shooting features from the E-M1X such as hand-held high res shot 50MP and Live ND shooting, while also featuring a few new features such as starry sky AF and reworked eye/face tracking AF. I have been shooting with a review unit loaned from Olympus Malaysia for about 2 weeks and I am sharing my full review of E-M1 Mark III with plenty of image samples in this blog entry. I have also made a video review, for those who prefer to watch than read. 

Before we go further, here are some important disclaimers.  I am an Olympus Visionary, an ambassador to the Olympus brand. The E-M1 Mark III camera was loaned from Olympus Malaysia, and will be returned after this review. This is a non-technical review, there will be no graphs, charts or numerical comparisons. This is a user-experienced based review, and I am sharing my experience using the E-M1 Mark III, subjecting it to various shooting environment. The images were all shot in RAW and post-processed in Olympus Workspace with minor adjustments. 

You may find all the FULL RESOLUTION images with full EXIF data intact shown in this blog as well as the video in my Google Photos online album here (click)

The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III shares a lot of similarities with both E-M1X and E-M1 mark II. The E-M1 Mark III has many features ported over from E-M1X but packed into the smaller body closely resembling the E-M1 Mark II. The E-M1 Mark III is essentially a mini E-M1X and more. 

The body design of E-M1 Mark III is almost identical to the E-M1 Mark II, and here are the similarities shared between the two cameras:

1) Battery holder grip, HLD-9. 
Those who already own the HLD-9 for E-M1 Mark II can share the battery holder grip with the new E-M1 Mark III. 

2) 20MP Live Mos Micro Four Thirds image sensor
The new E-M1 Mark III shares the exact same image sensor used in E-M1 Mark II, E-M1X and E-M5 Mark III. I can foresee this as the main point being attacked by ALL photography reviewers. I shall comment on this in my later part of this review. 

3) Battery BLH-1
The BLH-1 is quite a high capacity battery, and was a joy to use on E-M1 Mark II. Glad that the E-M Mark III shares the same one. 

4) Full Weather-sealing 
Splash, dust and freeze proof (down to -10 degrees Celcius)

5) Magnesium alloy body construction
The body design looks 99% identical, I am not surprised if the E-M1 Mark III used the exact same mold of E-M1 Mark II, with some minor tweaks.

6) Same Electronic Viewfinder
Exact same EVF panel from E-M1 Mark II is used - same resolution 2.36M dot, same magnification 0.74x and same refresh rate. 

7) Dual SD card slots 
Slot 1 is UHS-II compatible, slot 2 is UHS-I, and this will be another point that is attacked by reviewers. I do wish Olympus has included both UHS-II capable slots. 

8) Shooting  speeds and buffering
Silent Shutter burst sequential shooting 60FPS, mechanical shutter burst sequential shooting 15FPS. While I initially wished for faster speeds, the 60FPS is still the fastest in market today, with 15FPS being almost on par with even the fastest cameras. 

Some Unusual SD Card Tips - Leave Your Contact Information Inside!

SD cards are important, without them there is no way for the camera to work - you can press the shutter button but no image is recorded. It is important to get compatible, optimized cards for best camera speed and performance, and also take care of the card so it does not get damaged too easily. Some of the tips I am sharing in this blog entry are applicable to any memory cards used on any camera bodies. However, since I am a monogamist Olympus shooter, I will be speaking from my experience shooting with OM-D cameras using specifically SD cards only. 

Olympus OM-D cameras (as well as any new, modern, not too low tiered camera) are extremely fast - the camera can capture up to 60 frames per second in full RAW file using silent shutter, and 15 frames per second in mechanical shutter. Olympus E-M1X, E-M1 Mark II and E-M5 Mark III support UHS-II (ultra high speed II) SD cards up to 250MB/s read and write, allowing the camera buffer to clear almost instantaneously, even when shooting in high burst mode.  Refer to the video comparison between a UHS-1 slow SD card and a high speed UHS-II card. The speed difference is night and day. Be sure to check the maximum speed that your camera can support, there is no point buying UHS-II card for an older camera that does not support the speed, say an Olympus E-M5 original. Nevertheless, a faster card enables the camera to perform optimally, not just for faster burst sequential shooting but also general shot to shot response and overall smoothness of camera operation. Why get one of the fastest cameras in the market if you are doing to cripple it with a slow SD card?

SD card is not expensive. Photography can be an expensive hobby, and there are ways to save some precious cash but you definitely should not cheap out on SD cards. SD card is such a thin, small, fragile piece of plastic that can break easily by usual wear and tear. For someone as clumsy as myself (I am not the worst I believe) a little mishandling can destroy the SD card unintentionally. It is wise to have more back up than necessary. Also, it is common to hear SD cards being corrupted for no apparent reason, and if you have enough spares, you have less to worry about. 

All cameras generally have two options to delete the images - erase all or format card. Formatting a card will wipe the entire card empty, leaving it fresh and at a clean slate. On the other hand, erase all option will only delete the image and video files specifically, and leaving any other non-related files, if stored inside the card, intact. We will explore why this is important in TIP 4. For common practice, if you use the same SD card for the same device consistently, without switching the card to other devices, it is safe to perform erase all. However, if you always use one SD card in multiple devices, especially using different brand and model cameras, the different devices will write different file formats and folders into the same card, increasing risk of bugs, corrupted files and ultimately card failure. Therefore, if you switch SD cards often between devices, it is advisable to format the card each and every time you insert into a new device to prevent corruption or file clashes. 

If you choose the erase all option, this tip is applicable. I am sure you have heard of many wonderful stories about lost gear and how the camera and precious SD cards with important images found their way back to the owner, thanks to the good Samaritans. In case of gear being lost, it is a lot easier to track the owner if contact information is provided, and one way to do that is to insert a text file into the SD card with name and contact details (if you are uncomfortable with leaving your address or phone number for privacy reasons, I am sure a PO Box or email would suffice). This could save the other party some serious CSI grunt work to find you. 

SD cards are fragile little things, so protection is crucial. Do not use a hard case that is too rigid even from the inside, I have friends who use both metal and plastic hard cases that crushed the SD cards stored inside due to too much pressure applied. Also, do not opt for soft pouches or carrying cases that offer no protection at all, the SD cards can be easily bent and broken (refer to video). I would recommend a hard case from the outside with good soft padding for impact absorption from the inside to prevent crushing under pressure.

We cannot prevent ourselves from forgetting, it has happened to me, to my professional photographer friends and the best of us - we are only human. It is not about trying not to forget, that is a bad way to prepare for an emergency, instead we should find a viable, fail proof alternative solution. I propose carrying an SD card inside your wallet at all times, as your wallet is something that you carry with you everywhere. Also, there are wallet designs with slots to store SD cards, it is commonly available (at least here in departmental stores of KL, Malaysia). 

I must thank Tobias and some other blog readers who suggested this - leaving the SD card door on the camera open when the card is taken out is a good move. When we see the door is still open, we are reminded that the SD card is not inserted, hence minimizing the chance of not bringing  SD cards out. A simple, and useful hack indeed. 

Do you have other tips on SD cards to share? I am sure you do, and I would love to hear them!

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Why The Olympus OM-D E-M1 Original Was Such An Important Camera

Olympus followed up the game-changer E-M5 by releasing their first mirrorless Micro Four Thirds camera targeted toward the professional and serious enthusiast market - OM-D E-M1 in 2013.  Scrutinizing the paper specifications, nothing much have changed, the core of the two cameras were rather similar - same 16MP resolution Micro Four Thirds sized image sensor, 5-Axis image stabilization built in, weather sealing, built in electronic viewfinder and the claim of having the fastest AF at that time. However, those who have used the E-M1 extensively would testify that the E-M1 was a more refined camera and certainly better suited for professional and more heavy duty use. E-M1 was the camera that successfully convinced me to switch from DSLR to mirrorless camp, and since then I have always believed that mirrorless is the future. 

Olympus got a lot right in the E-M1, and they did not do so by beating the competition in any specific manner. The E-M1 was not the best in any aspect of a camera, it does not have the highest Megapixel count, not the best C-AF tracking for sports, not the best low light shooting camera and certainly pales in comparison to full frame cameras when it comes to dynamic range. However, why was E-M1 such a popular camera and became so successful? DPReview crowned the E-M1 their two most prestigious awards in 2013 - The Best Camera Of The Year as well as The Product Of The Year. Olympus must have done something right, though they did not particularly excel in any singular aspect of a camera capability. 

The answer - Olympus managed to strike a balance, and paid attention to every single aspect of the camera. The camera may not be the best at anything, but it does everything very well. The 16MP image sensor won't beat a full frame image sensor, but it comes very close to APS-C DSLR performance. The AF was shockingly fast and accurate, and Olympus managed to include some interesting features such as 5-Axis Image Stabilization (which was improved from the E-M5). While the E-M1 was a mirrorless camera, Olympus did not skimp the handling part, they gave the E-M1 a beefy hand-holding gripping area, and those who have held the E-M1 knew that Olympus made sure the ergonomics of the camera was well made. The electronic viewfinder was bright, large and lag-free, certainly a peek into the future of possibilities when it comes to mirrorless camera imaging. 

What made me switch over from my old DSLRs to E-M1? 

I was using the Olympus DSLR E-5 and E-520 for photography jobs (I was freelancing) as well as personal shutter therapy sessions. The E-M1 came along with EVF that matches the LCD screen in color and contrast. The color was visibly different between the LCD and EVF in the previous E-M5, and Olympus managed to fixed this quickly. The EVF was further improved - increased in magnification, refresh rate and resolution. Having the superior what you see is what you get advatage of live exposure simulation, or as Kirk Tuck put it - pre-chimping (you see the results before you press the shutter button), it was indeed revolutionary for my photography, at least for my own shooting. The AF was miles ahead in terms of speed and accuracy in comparison to many cameras available in the market that that time, and certainly was better than my DSLRs. I knew I had to make the switch. 

I have been shooting with the E-M1 and a plethora of Micro Four Thirds lenses for many years, before I finally made the switch to E-M1 Mark II. Mind you, all these happened even before I joined the Olympus Visionary program. 

I truly believe that the E-M1 was the first real professional mirrorless camera in the market. It certainly checked all the right boxes, and when Olympus designed the camera they had professional photographers in their mind, making sure they final product is a balanced camera that can perform well in any given shooting environment. It has served me well for many years, doing countless photography jobs and many many more personal shoots. I could not have been happier to make the jump to the OM-D camp when I did. 

Olympus did many things right with the E-M1. They introduced the venerable M.Zuiko 12-40mm PRO which was their first PRO lens to match the E-M1, a worthy standard zoom lens that was well constructed, sharp optically, fast in AF and weather-sealed. Olympus also listened to customer feedback and quickly fixed many issues that were found in the predecessor E-M5. I would go as far as to say that the E-M1 was what the E-M5 was supposed to be, and it was a more refined version. 

The continuous support from Olympus by releasing Firmware Upgrades was commendable for the E-M1 camera. Over the four iterations of Firmware updates, Olympus has not only fixed the bugs/errors but made significant improvements when it comes to real practical shooting. They managed to increase the burst sequential shooting with continuous AF from the limit of 6.5FPS to 9FPS, that was an almost 50% increase of performance. They also added many features into the camera, such as better movie recording modes (audio level control, more frame rate options eg 24p, 25p), live composite, focus bracketing and stacking, silent shutter, S-OVF, new Art Filters, and many more. 

Today the E-M1 stays in my camera bag as a fail-proof back up for my main workhorse, E-M1 Mark II. Truthfully, even now in 2020, I can still confidently take out the E-M1 with no hesitation and I know I will be able to deliver satisfactory shots to my clients. The E-M1 was genuinely a camera that shows Olympus DNA, and I am glad Olympus continued that in the E-M1 Mark II, and hopefully in their future iterations. 

I am sure many of you have used, and still use the E-M1. Share your experience using your E-M1!

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Why I Stayed Loyal to Olympus

In my latest video I went a little more up close and personal, sharing my journey from an Olympus enthusiast to quitting my job and joining Olympus Malaysia team, then leaving the team and becoming a full time photographer, and finally joining the Olympus Visionary Program. Also, I am sharing the reasons why I believe in the OM-D system and M.Zuiko lenses and how they fit the photography that I do. I thought sharing a bit of information about my past would help connect the newer audience better, and it took me years of using Olympus products professionally to accumulate my knowledge and experience which I am actively sharing here in this blog as well as my YouTube Channel. 

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Everything Wrong With Cameras Today

I personally think there are a lot of aspects that can be improved on the current digital cameras and they are not on par with modern technological trends. I am not saying that the cameras are not good enough - quite the opposite actually, as I have argued about camera sufficiency before. In terms of imaging performance the cameras indeed have made incredible strides but when it comes to user experience, handling, design (both physical and user interface), connectivity, peripheral device management and even storage itself, the camera can benefit from some drastic make-over. I am exploring these possibilities that could have improved photographer's experience shooting with modern cameras. 

1) Camera Design
The camera design is the same for a majority of the cameras out there, both for DSLR and mirrorless camera systems. There is that traditional hump (for OVF or EVF), the beefy hand gripping area, and overall stereotypical "professional" look. I am not questioning the functionality of the design, obviously the cameras are made in similar form factor because it works. However, aesthetics wise, all  cameras do not have to look so similar. Take a look at what Lytro is doing (though the company did not survive), and the Hasselblad X1D, they both look different, more modern and appealing. They break away from the traditional camera template that has been used for decades. I think the cameras are due for a refresh when it comes to design, and we need sleeker, cleaner, more minimalist and modern looking cameras that are in line with the current times. 

2) Too Many Buttons and Dials
I don't need 20 buttons and 4 dials on a camera body. The less the better. The multiple button implementation gets clumsy and is not the right way to move forward. We are living in the age of touch screens, we sure can benefit from a large, bright touch screen on the camera - see what BMPCC (Black Magic Pocket Cinema Camera) is doing, they have a 5 inch touch screen dominating the camera's back.  This should be the way forward, minimize buttons and dials on the camera, of course keep the shutter button but everything else can be controlled and operated via the touch screen. If a smartphone with just a touch screen can do everything (obviously a lot more than just taking images and videos), the camera having an LCD screen should be able to improve camera operations drastically, if implementation is done effectively. 

3) Connectivity
Moving into 5G era with ultra fast internet, we should have a direct connection from the camera to cloud storage, allowing instant back up if necessary. Think of the convenience, and applications. You can submit your images immediately as you shoot, live to your clients (or news agency). On the other hand, bluetooth connection has advanced so much the camera can surely take advantage of bluetooth managing multiple peripheral devices such as microphone and headphones (audio monitoring). This can create a new ecosystem that is fast, efficient, reliable and more importantly, wireless. Newer bluetooth connections are also much lower in latency and consumes very little power. Camera manufacturers should utilize the full potential of what the current technology has to offer, the possibilities of advanced connectivity is endless. The current cameras still full like an isolated device and there is just too much trouble connecting to other devices. 

4) JPEG is obsolete
JPEG is an outdated compression file format for images.  We need a new format that is more efficient - smaller size yet retaining more data. Canon proposed HEIF (high efficiency image file format) but whether this will be the future is yet to be seen. Smaller size images means faster loading time for web pages as well as any social media platforms, and more information stored in the file allows quick image processing (basic corrections) without resorting to full RAW editing.

5) Monstrous Lenses
The trend of making larger and larger lenses has to stop. All manufacturers are guilty of this.I understand the obsession of pursuing technical perfection but sacrificing balance and handling on camera is not the way to go. 

Do you agree or disagree with my argument? Are you happy with what the camera manufacturers are doing today? Do you think there are any other improvements that can be made in the modern cameras? What is the future of photography and imaging devices? Do share your thoughts!

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Portraits of Strangers

This is not a new topic, I have written extensively about my portrait of strangers photography (click here), but it is now 2020 and I still find myself actively doing street portraits, so I thought why not do an update, but this time in a video format instead? I still find joy and excitement in approaching total strangers on the street and take portrait shots of them. Of course, in the video I share my techniques, camera execution and lens choices on how I get my shots. With plenty of fresh images as well!

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Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 - Truly A Marvelous Lens!

Recently I added two items into my camera bag, one being the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark III (which I have blogged here) and a lens that I have been wanting to get for a long time now, the Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8. The reason it took me so long to finally get the Olympus 75mm prime was simply because it was not the lens that I use frequently, but when I do need the lens, and every time I use the lens I am always impressed by the images that this lens makes. It has been a while since I last purchased anything new, the last item being the Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 Pro about a year ago. So here in this blog I am sharing my experience using the lens and some photographs from my past shoots. 

Here is a short list of reasons why I decided to go for the M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8, though I know it is a lens that I won't use often. 

I am not saying that I am replacing the 40-150mm PRO, that is one great lens, perhaps one day I should revisit that lens in this blog and in my YouTube video, but you have got to admit that lens is not small, and surely adds some bulk and weight to the camera bag. If you have known me you know I am a minimalist and I would like to keep my footprint as small as possible, less is more. In most of my shoots, being the official photographer, I have access and I can get quite close to my subjects. 40-150mm is still handy for larger stage and that 150mm reach can be extremely useful at times. However, I also know that in most cases, the 75mm would have sufficed, and the amount of weight shaved off the bag is the main consideration here. 

If you want to have as much background blur as you can being a Micro Four Thirds user, the one lens on the top of the list is the Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8. Being a telephoto prime lens renders very tight perspective, isolating subjects so much more effectively. Having F1.8 wide aperture in combination with the long focal length produces extremely shallow depth of field, perhaps the best for Micro Four Thirds system. Almost every time I show my photographs without telling others what camera system I use, many believe that the images were shot on a full frame. There were times some did not even believe me when I told them I used an Olympus OM-D camera. If you are doing wedding photography, outdoor portrait, events and any kind of photography that require a lot of background blurring, M.Zuiko 75mm is a must have lens!

The image quality of the Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 is nothing short of breathtaking. The sharpness is incredible, it is one of the sharpest, if not the sharpest lens from Olympus lens line-up (I think the sharpest lens goes to the over-engineered Olympus M.Zuiko 300mm F4 PRO). The lens is not only sharp, technical flaws are very well managed, and I don't see much chromatic aberration or purple fringing. The images I shot with the 75mm lens (I did borrow from friends, sometimes from Olympus Malaysia for my shoots) never failed to impress my clients. I can go as far to say that if I seriously want to create the wow factor, M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 is a go to lens. 

Recently I have been shooting more and more stage related activities, and most of these events are in low light environment. When I was shooting with 40-150mm PRO, the widest aperture was a modest F2.8, I did from time to time wish I had something brighter to work with. Having the F1.8 on a long lens means I can lower down my ISO numbers, producing cleaner files and giving me more flexibility to work with shooting in low light. Furthermore, combined with all my other prime lenses, such as 45mm F1.8 and 25mm F1.2 PRO, I really have very little to worry about when it comes to less than favourable light and I can comfortably shoot at ISO6400 on my Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II. Coupling F1.8 and ISO6400 opens up a lot of possibilities, even in the most challenging conditions. 

I am really happy that I have this lens now, though I know this is not the lens that I would use for my shutter therapy sessions, being too long for practical shooting on the streets. I know most people do not find it easy to compose with such a long focal length, especially if you are shooting in limited/tightc paces. However if you do find a good use for this lens, the images you get from this can be extremely rewarding. Do you have similar experience? Share your thoughts!

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