Minimalist & Budget Macro Photography Setup - Anyone Can Shoot Macro!

I have blogged about my macro shooting technique several times now and I still use similar method to grab my insect macro shots most of the time. I do however experiment with different ways to achieve the same results, either by using macro converters or alternative lighting techniques such as LED light. The fun of macro photography is the many different options available to play with and there is no right and wrong - you just choose what works best for you. Obviously the most expensive option is macro lens, and most practical if you do a lot of macro shooting, but for those who do not do macro all the time, investing in a macro lens may not seem like a wise thing to do. Therefore, here is my suggestion for a minimalist and budget setup. 

As usual, I made a video to accompany this article, and in some situations, real life video demonstration is more effective than me typing endlessly here. 

There are two items required in this setup - a macro converter, the Raynox DCR-250 and a cheap, small, but powerful enough LED light. I was shooting with my own Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 lens. 

My humble setup - Raynox DCR-250 Macro Converter and Al-Cheapo LED Light, used on my own Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II + M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 lens

Mini Photo Projects - This Can Improve Your Photography!

I have not talked about doing photography projects much, but have been meaning to. Most people I have met in real life, or participants who attended my photography workshops will remember me bashing in the concept of doing projects to take photography to the next level. All higher level photography - large exhibitions, photography books or any other established and published photography work all come in one form of project or the other. Therefore it is beneficial to understand the concept of photo projects and how to apply it to our own photography. 

I made a video for those of you who prefer to hear me speak and let the video run in the background while doing other things. Here it is:

Photography projects can be a long term endeavour but let's not complicate things - I encourage you to start with mini projects. Any photography outing, even a short one hour photowalk in the streets downtown can be a good playing ground of a mini photo project. The main reason I highly suggest any photographer who take their work seriously to do mini-projects is to start thinking in series. I see too many photographers take wonderful images which stand out beautifully individually, but fail to form a larger meaningful body of work. Photography as a form of visual story-telling needs to be presented in a series of work, not just any one hit wonder that too many social media photographers aim for today. You have to start to think beyond what one photograph can do, and how a series can come together to tell a more complete and compelling story. 

Before I dive deeper into the concept of mini projects, let me demonstrate one which I did very recently. I went on a shutter therapy session with a group of friends to Kampung Baru, Kuala Lumpur. In mind, I wanted to take this 2-3 hours photowalk as a mini project, with a series of 10 images in mind. I shall share how I plan the shoot, before and during execution of the images, as well as how I curated, arranged and sequenced the images to fit into the final mini project form. 

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

The opening image is a teaser image - it shows a prominent landmark in Kuala Lumpur, the Petronas Twin Towers and also hinted that the location of shoot is very close to the city center. The opening image can be playful, it does not have to be linked into the main story immediately, and serves as an appetizer to start the meal. If you examine this image closely, you will also see the bit of Malaysian flag that clearly indicated this place inside Malaysia, and parts of a wooden house, typical scene of a village here locally in the background of the image. Within this single teaser, you know you are in Malaysia, not far from the city, in a village environment. 
The transition from the first teaser image to this second establishing shot is quite obvious - the Twin Towers in the background. Now you clearly see the wooden village style residential buildings, a common sight here in Kampung Baru. The defining look of this location is the contrast between old styled, wooden built homes with hulking concrete and steel skyscrapers in the background.  

Another establishing shot, showing more of the Kampung Baru environment. This time, besides the road, the greens in the background and some parts of the buildings, you also see some residents. I chose this shot because of the playful nature of the shot - the motorcycle rider has a friendly smile, a common kind nature of villagers here, and she had her kid in the cart she was carrying with the motorbike. 

We cannot talk about a location without it's residents. People make the place. The link between the previous shot and this one, is the resident of Kampung Baru. In this image, the man was making a very popular breakfast for Malaysians - Roti Canai. This type of flat bread was made fresh, hand-tossed, pulled and fried on the pan. While executing this shot, I patiently waited for the man to pull the bread and had the bread stretched out - building up energy for the coming shots. 

Still in the same theme of village residents - now we are amping up the energy a few notches up. I found this man riding his bicycle, another frequent type of transportation among the people here, and I chose to shoot him in motion. To express the movement I adopted the panning technique, slowing down the shutter speed to create the background motion blur. This movement energy peaks at the mid of the series of images I am showing, much like watching a movie, the climax or most dramatic part happens in the middle or toward the end of the movie. 

Riding on the same energy from the previous shot, and still on the same theme of residents, I had a shot of a jumping cat. Cats are residents to Malay villages, mainly because dogs are prohibited and considered unclean by Muslim religion practised here locally. Therefore, cats become the default go to pets for the villagers, and you will see a lot of pet cats roaming around. I found this cat on the tree and managed to capture the cat in mid jump - the high energy transition from the previous panning shot. And the green background showed some environment of this village that I wanted to portray as well. 

My set of images will never be complete without a close up portrait of a cat. And I found the perfect way to showcase a cat headshot and still stay on course with this mini project's story-telling. As I mentioned earlier, cats are residents here as well, and the collar tag showed that this cat was a pet belonging to a family nearby. I shot this image wide open at F1.2 to soften the background, and tone down the mood of the image, diffusing the energy, as we are coming to the end of the series very soon. 

Staying on the green theme, this image was important and I had a lot to say here - road safety in Malaysia needs a lot of work. You have a road sign covered by overgrowth of grass and bush, something which was not supposed to be allowed to happen. 

The final shot before my closing image - another image with important safety message I want to say out loud. Residents riding a motorcycle without wearing helmets, something that should be taken more seriously. Especially they had 5 people (though mostly kids) on one singular bike!

My closing image was quite a simple one, but it forms a circle to complete this mini project. This is the same shot as the opening image, but instead of having the twin towers in the reflection of the mirror, this time it was me, the photographer. 

From the captions I hope you can see how I curated and sequenced my images to form a series of images that make sense. 

A mini project allows you to focus your effort into a tangible final output. A mini project has an end-product which you can finally close, and move on, or continue to expand on another project should you choose to do an extension. There is a beginning, and an end to this journey, and you get a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment at the end of this mini-project. 

I highly suggest limiting the numbers to begin with, there is no point going out on a photography shooting and then show a series of 500 images, that is pointless. It is not the quantity, but the quality that matters when it comes to photography, and having a mini project in mind, it guides you to find images that fit the topic or theme you have decided. Instead of running around shooting at random things, you have a mission and purpose - you are gathering pieces to be fit together to form a proper body of work. Sometimes, less is more, and finding the right image to fit the theme is the main challenge. I'd say for a short walk of 1-2 hours session, anything from 5-10 images for the mini project would be ideal. Anything more will be redundant and unnecessary. Of course if you are doing a one year project or documentary then you may curate your images to 50 or even 100 images in your set. 

What separates a great photographer from others? Curation. A great photographer only shows his best of the best, and knows how to hide his sub-par work. Approaching mini project, a critical component to work at is curation - how you select, cull, arrange and finally sequence your images into the final set of images for the mini project. I have shared my thoughts in the captions and I hope they do make sense and help you to understand curation a little better! How to learn curation? Go to exhibitions, read photography books! 

The great thing is - anyone can do a mini project, you can start yours now, and it does not cost you anything. It will change the way you think about your photography, it will push you to fight harder for your images while shooting and it will improve your approach to photography, and how you see photographs at the end of the day. Photography is not just about great visuals and shooting beautiful things, you can take your photography further by having something to say, expressing your ideas, emotions and message through your mini project. Your photography is your story!

So what are you waiting for? Start mini photography project now!

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Malaysia on Partial Lockdown Again

Today is the first day in effect of Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO), a fancy term the government concocted as a less brutal way of describing a semi-lockdown they are imposing on parts of Malaysia. Sabah, Putrajaya, Selangor and Kuala Lumpur are all affected by this partial lockdown, and I happen to be residing inside Kuala Lumpur at the moment. I guess it is inevitable looking at the rising cases of Covid-19 and I am not here to question the decisions made by the officials. I do however want to discuss the impact of this movement restrictions on myself - how is this affecting my professional photography career at the moment, what is the consequence on my own personal well-being, and how is this changing my content creation schedule and posting?

The first lockdown, almost a complete lockdown happened earlier this year in March and lasted more than 3 months long. That did not do my photography business any good, since I was deriving my jobs mostly from on location shoots - event coverage, weddings, lifestyle products, casual portraits, a huge majority of my income are photography jobs that require me to be at a function or event. When all events, gathering, public recreational activities were banned during the first lockdown, that effectively obliterated any possible income I can possibly make as a photographer. It was not an easy time for me. Thankfully, I did have sufficient financial safety buffer to fall back onto, and the YouTube channel which I started a year ago started to gain traction and contributed a little to slow down the drain of cash flowing out. And of course, I have many of you awesome, beautiful blog readers, YouTube viewers and long-time supporters to thank for - the donations and coffee money seriously made a big difference and pulled me through those dark times. 

In June, the government lifted the lockdown and imposed a less strict movement control, allowing businesses to operate and life somewhat started to resume and we did almost achieve a little normalcy. Since events were allowed (with limited people and strict social distancing in place), weddings and other outdoor, public activities were no longer banned, my photography jobs started to slowly come back and I have actively been shooting from July till recently. I did not get as many jobs as I like, but it could have been a lot worse, and I was doing better than many of my peers. Some had clean, empty calendars throughout till the end of the year. I was thankful mine was starting to fill up. 

Then this second partial lockdown hit. Due to recent rise of Covid-19 cases in Malaysia, the government decided to implement CMCO on a few areas in the country, including the city I live in currently - Kuala Lumpur. This cancels out all public activities, events, gatherings - anything that needs more than 10 people, any recreational activity - all prohibited. That also means, whatever few photography jobs that I have secured for the coming month are all vanquished, just like that. What I was supposed to earn and save for the coming year end - Christmas - let's just say they are all gone. The government did say the semi-lockdown will be effective from 14 October to 27 October, but looking at the history on how they tell the dates, the 2 weeks period was never 2 weeks, it started from 2 weeks back in March and dragged on till 3 months long lockdown. At this rate, I'd say this second partial lockdown will last at least a month or two, if not longer. 

Financially I am less worried now, I did take in some jobs between July and early October and have saved up another buffer for this coming dry season, and I have the growing YouTube channel to supplement a little additional income. I am however more concerned for my own mental health. One very important thing that kept me sane all this time, you all should know this by now - Shutter Therapy. I need to go out and hit the streets, doing random photography with my camera at least once or twice a week (more if I have the time of course). With this new lockdown in place, the government did not specifically mention public filming, photography and videography are not allowed but they prohibit any recreational, non-essential activities. Being a responsible citizen, I think the best thing is not to wander the streets with a camera aimlessly. The last thing I want is a confrontation with the police which will end up with me in jail and a hefty thousands of dollars fine. 

I have also made a few content shooting in the public, including some videos which are waiting to be published. So for the coming week or two, there will still be regular posting of videos to YouTube, and do expect some fresh photography - one on street photography and another one on insect macro photography. Thankfully I managed to get these content before the public parks were closed and the semi-lockdown began to happen. I guess, from now onward, I have to make videos at home, either from my balcony (God I hate filming from that balcony) or from inside my room - which I have been doing more and more recently for videos that I need to push out very quickly, for example the update on JIP/Olympus announcement. I do see myself continue to make videos, content and publish them on regular timetable, that won't change unless I have something else more important to do. The content creating has also helped me a lot, giving me a purpose, connecting me with an actual audience, allowing me to do something that actually helps people!

I do have a lot of ideas for new videos and blog posts, as well as shooting projects. I have so much I want to do, and things were starting to recover and get better. Everything was returning to normal, then this partial lockdown came out of nowhere, completely turning everything upside down. 

I guess for now, all I can do is lay low, stay safe, avoid any outdoor photography and do whatever I can creating content indoor, inside the confines of my tiny bedroom and ride this storm out and hopefully, the storm will be over sooner than later. 

Wherever you are in the world, I hope you are doing better than me!

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Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra Camera Review

Samsung packed in plenty of camera firepower in their latest flagship smartphone Galaxy Note20 Ultra, and I had the privilege to loan one and review the camera's performance. The Note20 Ultra comes with 3 camera modules: ultra wide angle, main wide and telephoto camera. Being a photographer myself I am genuinely curious to find out about the camera performance and I have been using the Note20 Ultra for more than 2 weeks, and I even brought it with me home to Kuching, Borneo for a one week vacation.

Important Disclaimer: The Samsung Galaxy Note20 Ultra was on loan solely for review purposes from Samsung Malaysia and has been returned to them at the time this article is published. I am not affiliated with Samsung in any way, this is not a sponsored post, and Samsung did not ask me to do this review. I am testing the camera capabilities of the Note20 Ultra because I wanted to see how far a flagship smartphone camera has come. I am only discussing the camera performance of the Note20 Ultra. I will not be reviewing the video recording capability, as I am not a videographer and there are other more qualified reviewers to talk about the video aspect. I will also skip the selfie camera because, guys, we don't need the selfie camera. I believe smartphones should just get rid of the selfie camera, the world will be a better place without it. 

I am reviewing the Note20 Ultra from a photographer's perspective - many tech/gadget reviewers just gave a quick glance when it comes to camera performance in their smartphone reviews. Also, I have not see a professional photographer's review of the Note20 Ultra. 

The Samsung Note20 Ultra has 3 camera modules:
- 108MP 1/1.33 inch image sensor
- 26mm F1.8 OIS
- 12MP
- 13mm F2.2 with 120 degrees Field of view equivalent
- 120mm F3 Periscope Lens, OIS

Shooting With Olympus PEN E-PL1 in 2020

Those who have followed me since the earlier days will remember that I have an Olympus PEN E-PL1 and I still keep it till today. I have not used E-PL1 often, not when I got it 10 years ago, and I have probably not used the camera for more than 5 years. I thought it would be fun to take a look at the original PEN Lite camera, the first one considering now in 2020, there is already a 10th iteration - E-PL10 released. Therefore, I brought the Olympus PEN E-PL1 for a few shutter therapy sessions and see how I feel about the camera after the Micro Four Thirds system has evolved so much over the years. 

The Olympus PEN E-PL1 was released in 2010, as the first budget friendly Micro Four Thirds mirrorless camera from Olympus, following the E-P1 and E-P2 which were positioned as the top, premium products. I did not need this camera, and I was already actively shooting with Olympus DSLRs at the time, I had both the E-520 and E-5, both I used for some paid shoots as well as my own shutter therapy. However, I was curious with what Olympus was doing, and I thought the mirrorless system had a lot of potential and I knew mirrorless would be the future. I bought the E-PL1 because I wanted to see how well a mirrorless camera can perform, while at the same time, DSLR was dominating that era. 

E-PL1 was quite a basic camera, with no built in electronic viewfinder, but has an attachment for external module (to be purchased separately). The E-PL1 used a 12MP image sensor, which was the best Olympus had at the time, the same image sensor shared with top of the line DSLRs E-5 and E-30. The E-PL1 was a stripped down version of E-P1 and E-P2, with less features, plastic build instead of metal and the camera had no control command dials, just buttons. The screen has quite a low resolution, and this was perhaps my biggest complain. The handling of the camera was not great, but good enough for a small and light camera, and the E-PL1 was indeed very compact during its time - a good alternative for me to have if I did not want to carry out bulkier DSLRs with me for my street photography. 

I recently brought the E-PL1 out for some street shooting. I was immediately reminded of why I did not use the camera as often as I should. The main reason - AF. The contrast detect AF was just not ready for a serious camera. The fact that Olympus aimed their PEN line cameras especially the earlier versions toward casual, lifestyle users instead of professional or serious photographers was obvious. The AF alone made the camera quite a challenge to use particularly in street photography environment. The AF hunts for about half a second or more before locking focus, which was sufficient to cause misses of critical moments that you need the camera to respond instantaneously. A lot of people still think that mirrorless cameras lag behind DSLRs when it comes to AF and I can clearly see where this misconception came from. The earlier days of mirrorless cameras did not exactly inspire confidence for the mirrorless camp, at the very same time DSLR's phase detect AF was miles ahead in terms of speed and accuracy. It took Olympus a few more years to speed the AF up and finally surpass what DSLRs can do in their E-M5 and E-M1 cameras. 

Obviously, I have missed a lot of shots using the E-PL1 on the streets, and that was okay really. I can see how enthusiasts and serious camera users would be totally disappointed with E-PL1, or any other Olympus mirrorless cameras in the earlier days. 

My other complain was the almost useless LCD screen. I think Olympus used a higher resolution LCD screen for the higher PEN models eg E-P1 and E-P2, and the E-PL1 had the inferior screen. The experience shooting with the LCD screen was not pleasant. It was not easy to check for critically accurate focus, and having unreliable AF to begin with, this made things even more challenging. Visibility was quite poor under bright sun too. I guess that just points to the necessity of an EVF, and subsequently most mirrorless cameras in the future have built in EVF. 

The 12MP image sensor is dated, and it shows in the images that I have shot. The 12MP image sensor was so far behind anything that Olympus currently has in their latest camera models. The dynamic range was extremely limited - I can easily get overblown skies even if I only overexpose by about 2 stops, and that is not enough in many situations. The RAW files did not have much headroom to work with, I could not recover much details both from the shadows or highlight regions. I am perfectly fine with the 12MP resolution, I thought that was plenty even for today, and yes the E-PL1 did produce really sharp and pleasing looking images with abundant details, contrast and very true to life looking colors. The kit lens 14-42mm (first generation) was good, delivering satisfactory results, and perhaps the less demanding 12MP sensor did not show much of the lens flaws. Of course things fell apart quickly in low light situation, even at ISO800, the images are quite bad already with severe loss of details and noise creeping in. 

It was indeed interesting to see how far Olympus has improved - take a look at the OM-D E-M5, that camera surpassed everything the earlier Micro Four Thirds cameras like E-P1/E-P2 by a huge margin. The newer 16MP image sensor not only packs in more resolution but it delivers much better dynamic range, high ISO performance and the RAW files were respectably good in recovering details. Furthermore, the AF has improved drastically, some photographers even compared the speed against Canon 1DX and claimed the E-M5 to be on par (single-AF only). Then Olympus included a built in EVF, 5-Axis IS, weather-sealing, magnesium alloy body, twin dials controls just like a DSLR, a tilt screen and touch screen operation (Olympus was the first to implement this) and it seemed like Olympus saw the future and brought the future to us. 

Do not get me wrong, I did get some good shots from the E-PL1 even shooting in 2020, and the camera is not half bad. It can still perform and deliver good results, but it is also difficult to recommend anyone to get this camera now. If you still have the E-PL1, and you are not doing anything serious with your photography, it can still be a capable tool and get you fantastic results, no question about that. However, if you are looking for a budget Olympus camera and you don't need the greatest and latest, the older cameras can be a good alternative. I would not suggest looking this far back into the era of E-P1/E-P2/E-PL1, if you can, start with the OM-D first generation cameras. Either E-M5, E-M1 and E-M10 from first generation, any of these would be superior and you get a lot more out of the camera, even if you have to pay a little bit more. The difference between the older 12MP image sensor (E-P1/E-P2/E-PL1) vs 16MP image sensor from E-M1/E-M5 is just too great. You also have to consider handling, EVF, as well as AF reliability! I really see no reason going that far back. 

Do you have an E-PL1 yourself, or have you owned one before? Do share your experience and thoughts!

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Shooting Video With Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV

This blog entry is a continuation from my Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark IV review article. If you have not read that, please do so here (click) before continuing with this post. I am only discussing specifically the video performance of E-M10 Mark IV here. 

The E-M10 Mark IV is an interesting camera, being released in 2020, taking the latest entry level OM-D model with very respectable photography-centric features (updated 20MP image sensor, improved 5-Axis IS, revised hand-gripping for better handling, tilt-down screen for selfie). However when it comes to video recording front, the camera seems a little conflicted. On one hand, Olympus has rock-steady video stabilization for hand-held footage, improved C-AF algorithm and respectable 4K video quality. On the other hand, Olympus missed two very critical features for video: microphone input and a swivel/fully articulated LCD screen. I am sharing my experience using the E-M10 Mark IV shooting video in this blog entry. 

Here is my video version of this article - which carries some examples of what I am discussing here. 

Video was also almost entirely recorded with E-M10 Mark IV, with exception of B-Rolls shot with E-M5 Mark III, which I have indicated clearly. 

Basic video specifications on E-M10 Mark IV
4K up to 30p, Full HD 1080 up to 60p,
HD 720 up to 120fps slow motion capture
5-Axis IS for video stabilization shooting hand-held
Improved C-AF algorithm
Full manual control over ISO, aperture and shutter speed in dedicated video mode

I am going to be entirely honest, I am not a cinematography, I am noob when it comes to film making, so I won't consider this as a review for E-M10 Mark IV's video performance. I am simply not qualified to do so. I am sure some other videographers who are more experienced will be able to give you a better assessment. What I can do is to share my experience shooting with the E-M10 Mark IV in two very specific uses: live stage music performance as well as my usual vlogging activities. 

I have brought the E-M10 Mark IV to shoot Bihzhu, a friend and singer-songwriter who performed live recently, and I recorded a 5 minutes long of her performance which was shot in one take, uncut. You may find the previous blog entry about Bihzhu here (click). Please do watch that video, because what I am discussing here is also heavily based on that 4K video sample. 

The image stabilization is the main differentiating factor for E-M10 Mark IV vs other entry level interchangeable cameras in the same category. The 5-Axis IS stabilizes the footage so well, that it was smooth, jitters free and almost gimbal-like, if there is not too much movement involved. Bear in mind in the Bihzhu-Nowness 4K video sample, I was shooting with the M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8, which has an equivalent focal length of 150mm. At such long lens, yet shooting the entire 5 minutes video hand-held was a breeze and the whole footage was shake free and almost perfectly smooth. If you don't intend to carry gimbals, steadycams or tripods and do a lot of video shooting hand-held, you may want to look at what Olympus' 5-Axis IS can do, no competition comes close at this moment, especially not at this price point. 

To drive this point home, imagine you are using any other cameras, with or without IS, then mount the 70-200mm lens onto the camera. Zoom to 150mm, and shoot a video hand-held for 5 minutes. And tell me you can accomplish similar level of stabilization with what I have shown you in the E-M10 Mark IV footage. I don't think any other entry level DSLR/mirrorless cameras can do this!

C-AF has always been one of the weaknesses for Olympus cameras, both for stills and videos with exception to high end flagships such as E-M1 series, and more recently, the E-M5 Mark III. The main reason being not having phase detection AF built onto the image sensor. E-M1 series (including the latest E-M5 Mark III) has built in phase detection sensors to help better subject tracking and continuous focusing operations, and they have proven to work very well. Olympus claimed that they have used the same C-AF algorithm from flagship E-M1 Mark III and worked it into the contrast detection AF of E-M10 Mark IV, improving it from previous incarnations of E-M10 cameras. 

From my experience shooting the live music performance, it the C-AF worked very well, keeping the most fore-front subject to be in focus. Bear in mind that the lighting was also quite good, the stage was well lit, and I did not have too many messy subjects to deal with. The face detect did fail a little there and here but it was probably me not using the camera enough to operate it more efficiently. If you have seen this vlog of me explaining the E-M10 Mark IV, you will also see how the C-AF sticks to my face the entire time, with no issue at all. 

I do admit that, having tested the E-M10 Mark IV extensively, I still find the C-AF in E-M1 series and E-M5 Mark III to work more effectively and efficiently. The C-AF locks quicker, more confidently and sticks on the face better. It is no surprise, since E-M10 Mark IV does not have phase detection AF, but I do admit it is a big improvement over previous E-M10 series cameras that really did much poorer job in C-AF and face detection in video shooting. 

Unlike E-M1 Mark III or E-M5 Mark III, the E-M10 Mark IV does not have cinema 4K with 237Mbps bitrate. The 4K video is the standard UHD resolution with unknown bitrate, but I find the 4K video to be quite good, sharp with plenty of details and does handle colors, dynamic range and contrast very well. Olympus plays their strength in excellent JPEG engine for video shooting and the straight out of camera footage looks very pleasing and perfectly usable without much grading. In fact, I did only minimal grading to the footage (shifted the color a little toward colder tone, the original capture was a little too warm for my own taste). For those who use Full HD, downscaling the 4K resolution to 1080p gives excellent results. 

Unfortunately this is where the good news ends. 

That is quite an unforgiveable sin. I don't know how to defend Olympus even if I wanted to, and I believe they should have included some way to connect to a microphone, even if it means allowing the use of the micro USB port via some adapter. There is no way to have audio in. If you are considering to get E-M10 Mark IV, your only solution is to record audio separately via a voice recorder and sync the audio later in post-production. There is built in microphone of course but I won't recommend using that for any serious video work. 

It would have been great if a swivel screen is included, but Olympus decided to do a tiltable screen, which tilts downward for selfie. It would have been more helpful if the screen tilts upward instead, so that when used with tripod, the screen is not blocked. On one hand, it is clear that the tilt screen is not suitable for video work, but it is also very obvious Olympus designed the E-M10 Mark IV more specifically for photography/stills shooters. 

To be fair, Olympus did not mention or promise anything about E-M10 Mark IV being a video shooting camera, or a vlogging camera, which some companies did with their recent products and not fulfilling their own claims satisfactorily. Those deserve much harsher criticism. The solution here is quite clear - if you want to vlog or do anything video with Olympus Micro Four Thirds - go for E-M5 Mark III, or higher. E-M5 Mark III has everything checked from swivel articulating screen to microphone input and even Cinema 4K mode, and 120fps Full HD slow motion, I have been using the E-M5 Mark III for my vlogs on my YouTube channel for more than half a year now and it worked extremely well. I'd expect many photographers would welcome E-M10 Mark IV being a more stills oriented camera - the tilt sreen arguably works better for quicker response time, especially for street photography, and is more stealthy too. 

Having said that, I do hope that moving forward, in future Olympus product strategies, after the transfer to JIP is complete, they would consider more serious video features offerings in their lower level cameras, such as the E-M10 series and E-PL series. It is not difficult to predict that the sales would have gone up further for E-M10 Mark IV, if these two video features (microphone input and swivel screen) were included. 

Any other important video features that you think a camera must have in 2020? Share your thoughts! 

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Olympus M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8 On The Street

Now that we are free to move around again after the lockdown is relaxed about a month ago in Malaysia, I have been shooting almost non-stop. It started with the shooting frenzy for reviews of the two recently released Olympus products: E-M10 Mark IV and M.Zuiko 100-400mm F5-6.3 IS lens, which required me to go to various locations for sample images and to put the products through their paces. Then I have also been getting a few photography jobs, not many, but good enough to recover some financial losses during the 3 months full lockdown period since March. In between with some spare time that I have, I have been occupying myself with shutter therapy sessions! I have been shooting on the streets of Kuala Lumpur. 

One fine day I brought out the E-M1 Mark III and M.Zuiko 75mm F1.8, and attacked Petaling Street with my friend, Tang Chun Cheuh. It was a good day with plenty of good light, and I managed to get some keepers. I have also shared these images in one of my recent videos (follow up to the Malaysian government banning video posting on social media), I thought it would be great to have these photographs displayed here in my blog as well. I do have some photos that I really like from this session. 

I disagree with the argument of long lenses not being suitable for street photography. The reasoning of being disconnected with the human subject, or being too far away and not having the "close up" impact, I find them very flawed. Why must we be close and "intimate" with the subject? What is wrong with distance? What if I intentionally wanted the space between me and my subject? Being close is not necessarily the best solution for all shots. I am not saying there is anything wrong working with the popular traditional focal lengths for street shooting, typically 35mm, but I find myself gravitating toward using much longer focal lengths. I simply love what the Olympus 75mm 1.8 can do, it is non-conventional covering equivalent 150mm, which is at the longer end. I find the images cleaner, more structured, less cluttered and more focused on the main subject or story that I am telling. 

There is no right and wrong when it comes to shooting, that much I have learned from my limited experience as a photographer. You just need to work the given tool that is given to you, and find a way to get the best results you can. 

I am just thankful that things are slowly returning to normal here in Malaysia, the pandemic situation is pretty much under control, and I am free to move about and do my shutter therapy sessions. I hope that wherever you are, you are able to go out and shoot too!

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