You Don't Need Expensive Gear - Olympus E-PM1 + 40-150mm R

I brought the recently purchased Olympus PEN E-PM1 to the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park for 2 main reasons - to support the local business, KL bird Park has been closed for most of the year due to lockdowns, and also to prove a point that you don't have to break the bank to enjoy photography and get great results. I shot with the 10 years old PEN Mini and budget telephoto zoom lens from Olympus, the combo being compact, costs RM250 (USD60) got me some images that I am personally happy with. 

I made a video showing the birds in situ, and me sharing my thoughts, you can watch it here (click). 

Such a tiny yet powerful combination
Olympus E-PM1 + 40-150mm R

Kuala Lumpur Bird Park is my go to place when it comes to camera/lens tests and reviews. I have tested many Olympus gear here before - E-M1X, E-M1 Mark III, 40-150mm PRO, 300mm PRO, 100-400mm, almost all telephoto lenses, or any new camera, I will be here to grab my sample shots. KL Bird Park is located right in the middle of the city, very easily accessible, perfect for an urban guy like myself. I do not like the wild, I hate trekking the jungle and get eaten alive by various creatures or even vampiric mosquitoes. No no no, please let me enjoy my city life, thank you. Knowing that the park has suffered quite a devastating blow, the only way I can truly help them is to buy entrance tickets and come back again soon. 

I wanted to prove an important point that you don't need expensive gear. A lot of complains I received from my friends, or other photographers that I observe stemmed from two consistent reasons. The first problem - they did not give themselves enough time and opportunity to get to know their gear before giving up and upgrading to something better. They got a new camera, shot a few images, compared them with what their friends have, and complained that the images do not have enough sharpness, dynamic range or high ISO performance. They barely knew their camera or lens and what they are fully capable of, they did not spend enough time knowing the strengths and weaknesses and maximize the gear's potential. Instead they just quickly blame the gear for not being good enough. The truth is, any camera from the past 10 years or so are already more than good enough to deliver great results, even professionally. If 10 years ago, the camera was a great camera, even today, it is still a great camera, even if better cameras have come out. You do not need the latest and greatest and spend tones of money to be a better photographer. 

Second problem that I observe - not growing as a photographer. When I hear complains about not being happy with what their cameras can do, every time I saw their images, I can immediately tell they did could have improved their shooting techniques, paid more attention to exposure settings, lowered the ISO numbers, or not use F8 when you can get away with F4 or brighter aperture for a shot! A lot of times ISO numbers were raised unnecessarily, shooting at 1/4000 sec, when you can get away with a perfectly sharp image at 1/500 sec, allowing you to save 3 stops of ISO. Seriously, the best way to get good results, is to shoot more, and really push yourself to be better. No amount of gear superiority can compensate for lack of skills, and this may sound harsh but it is just the truth. Shooting discipline is extremely important, regardless of which gear you use, and you are the vision, you decide the outcome of your images, not your cameras or lenses. I am, not saying gear is inconsequential, gear is important and I admit they have limitations too. It is your job to fully understand their limits, work around them and push their capabilities as optimally as you possibly can!

The cameras and lenses cannot read your mind!








I shot the entire session with Olympus E-PM1 and 40-150mm R. 

The E-PM1 is a 10 years old, budget, entry level mirrorless Micro Four Thirds camera from Olympus. It is compact, light and very basic when it comes to controls. It is the perfect camera to pair with the super compact 40-150mm R, another budget and super light lens from Olympus. 

Looking at the images, I managed to get away with consistently sharp results, though I do need to raise my ISO numbers higher, since the lens is not F2.8 and I don't have 5-Axis IS. Nevertheless, the results are still more than good enough even today in 2021, and I do have to acknowledge the fact that most of the images were shot in very good light. What, you complain your subjects are hiding in bad light? Don't you know by now to get good results, lighting is almost EVERYTHING in photography? Either you ask the bird to come out and pose under the sun, or you forget about that shot! Seriously, lighting should be the top of your consideration no matter what kind of photography that you do. Garbage light equals to garbage photos, it is not rocket science. 

Of course if you have an Olympus OM-D with more powerful images stabilization and newer Micro Four Thirds sensor, and a better lens with further reach like 75-300mm or 100-400mm, you can do more. That is not the point here. I am showing you what a RM250/USD60 setup can do. And honestly, this beats the crap out of any USD2000 iPhone/smartphone camera can do today. 










I hope this post gets you thinking about your gear and start to believe that what you have is already good enough! Your gear can get you great results. All you have to do is have more faith in your own camera and lenses, whatever that you have, go out and make more photographs. Shoot and shoot and shoot, you will definitely get better.

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  1. Thank you for the article, Robin ! Very nice photos as usual.
    It's a pitty that Olympus did not released a newer version of PEN Mini.
    Would make sense for some people and would keep m4/3 as the most portable system.

    1. Thanks for the kind words, Toni. Unfortunately, I guess the Pen Mini did not sell as well as expected, or did not get them the return they needed to continue the line of products. Hence, for pure business decisions, it has to go.

  2. Your photography prove your wordings.

  3. Bravo for your article and I totally agree with your argue! ***
    *** but I must add that the Olympus M.Zuiko ED 40-150mm F4-5.6 R is a hell of an outstanding optic at a ridiculous low price. You just have to pay attention in protecting it from adverse conditions and useless abuse.

    1. Thanks Daniel, and yes, the 40-150mm R is an underrated lens, it performs so well for such a budget price tag.

  4. The less expensive 40-150mm lens is great fun! I use it to take bird pictures, too, although it would be rather surprising to see some of the birds pictured here in the trees outside where I live. But these are certainly great pictures, showing off the subjects, lens and photographer in varying but generous measures!

    1. Indeed, the 40-150mm R lens is amazing. The birds shot in this entry were taken at Kuala Lumpur Bird Park, so they do have import birds from other parts of the world, not just in Malaysia.

  5. My 40-150mm F5.6 was bought as a 2 lens kit plus E-PL2 over 10 years ago. I continue to use the 40-150mm with an EM-5 and now an EM-5 III because it is sharper than it has a right to be for a cheap kit zoom, and it only weighs about 6 oz. For more than casual use, an EVF is very helpful as is smaller AF points, both of which in the EM-5 improved my hit rate. I may consider the 40-150mm f4 Pro when available, but will keep the f5.6 version.

    1. I am looking forward to the 40-150mm F4 PRO lens too

  6. Robin - you make a lost of good points about supporting the KL Bird Park.

    For photpgraphers it has several plus points:

    Firstly -it is a great place for taking portraits - with a range of varied "wild backdrops" and lots of shade to avoid squinting subjects! Secondly - with even a basic zoom you can sharpen up your wildlife photography skills on more animals than you could hope to meet in the countryside on a day out (look under the leaves for moths and butterflies - and a great collection of lizards too! Lastly - your family won't get bored if you stop to take pictures as there is such a lot to see,

  7. And to make the EPM1 less "slippy" - add a small "thumbgrip" to the hot shoe. It transforms the grip and handling!

  8. Wow. Great photos as always Robin. I have the E-M10 ii and the 40-150 R is one one my most used lenses - it is a great combo. Just a question about your images. You say you took all the pics using your E-PM1 which is a 12 Mpixel camera (4032 x 3024 pixels). However, when I examine your JPEGs some of them have a higher resolution that is closer to 16 Mpixels for some of the images. Do you upsize the images using your RAW convertor? If so, why?