Penang Olympus PEN Workshop Photowalk

These are the images I took during the Penang PEN workshop which I conducted. Images are shot with the Olympus PEN E-PL1 and the 14-42mm kit lens. We had a fun 45 mins’ time of shooting before heading back to the classroom for photo critique.

The images are shot at ISO3200, with noise reduction and noise filter OFF. Some are slightly adjusted for brightness, that’s about it. No manipulation of colors are done.

Tourists in Penang, intended camera shake and tilt.


I actually contemplated to post process them into black and white since I am recently on a personal project on “Portraits of Strangers” which is done on black and white film BUT after seeing the original colors from the Olympus digital PEN, I decided to keep it that way… my usual style… NO CROPPING, NO UNNECESSARY MANIPULATION.

Old Cinema Exterior, man walking pass.

Portrait of a man outside the Cinema

I am a strong believer in “getting it right” at the time of shooting, and not crop pictures afterward. Cropping during post-processing should be kept to the minimum… like hip shots, when the expression of strangers is all that counts!

Kachang Puteh (peanut snacks) Seller outside the Cinema

Cinema Ticket Booth

The world is moving really really FAST in technology, and it’s been about a year since I first knew my E-P1… and now we have the E-PL1, two models after the E-P1. Before we could really experience a camera and review it, a new one is out, forcing reviewers and geeks alike to abandon the old one. Of course, the current curiosity will be about the Sony NEX-5 as well, which boasts of a larger sensor.

A really friendly tourist

He even took off his shirt just to let me photograph his tattoo!

I am First a Photographer, second a geek… in fact, I think I have gone back in time… back to larger and larger format films… oh, there goes my geekiness…

I love shooting, love making images, love expressing myself through images, love capturing others’ lives into images… so my focus will always be on creating better and better images rather than playing with new toys.

First Day of the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival, here's a little camera shake as I was walking while shooting. I like the man's expression.

First Day of the Chinese Hungry Ghost Festival

As for the “camera experience”, we NEED time to explore each and individual camera to experience it. Today’s reviewers can be just TOO QUICK to come to conclusion on each new camera they review.

Portrait of a Trishaw Rider, he works in another job during the day.

He's born with a "lazy eye" condition but has since gotten used to it.

After using the mirrorless system and the E-PL1 for a while now, this is what I feel currently:

1. I do miss the mirror sometimes. NOTHING can replace the feeling of having an optical viewfinder OR the sensation of the mirror flipping up and back. Perhaps if Olympus can make the digital PENs like the Leica M8 and M9, a TRUE rangefinder with an optical viewfinder, and design the looks based on the old half-frame PEN FT, wouldn’t that be sooooo-attractive??? I would really love it! The M8s and M9s are mirrorless! Is there no one else in the world that can build mirrorless digital rangefinders like the Leicas? I wonder…

And for that “sensational mirror experience” reason, I think the mirror (DSLR) system should stay in the future…

Taxi Booth

2. If you are one who grow tired of kit lenses easily, and like to venture into vintage lenses, manual focus lenses, old but legendary Olympus, Nikon, Canon, Leica, etc.. lenses… there’s ONLY one way to manual focus with confidence and speed at the current moment: the EVF-2! It’s a MUST! (Read HERE!)

And if you like to use the new 14-150mm lens, the EVF-2 will help stabilize your shooting tremendously when you zoom all the way in at 150mm! I just can’t do without it!

Carpark Booth

3. One thing I just couldn’t understand till now: a cheap RM399 digital compact can have “auto-rotate” feature built-in for it’s images BUT not the E-PL1!!! I am furious at this!

4. A consolation for Olympus PEN Users: if you do a check on for image comparison between the NEX-5, Canon 550D, Samsung NX-10, Panasonic G2 with the E-PL1… the E-PL1 is a clear winner!

BTW, one of my previous post did a comparison between the E-PL1 and the GF1 and the difference is clear.

Ok, before I start a “tribal war” here, I must say, I did enjoy using the GF1 for a short time and I don’t think the NEX-5’s menu interface is as bad as what some reviewers say. Color preference is totally personal and I prefer Olympus. You may prefer Panasonic or something else.


Another Friendly Trishaw Rider

5. I find that Pop-up flash is not really that necessary since they don’t produce very nice pictures anyway… so I can do without it. I just refuse to shoot at really bad lighting situation. I simply don’t feel that I have the need to prove that my camera can shoot in super low light or no light! Image is gonna suck anyway, and I am not a paid paparazzi!

6. The E-PL1’s Image Stabilization loses out to the E-P1 and E-P2 by about 1-2 stops… so I ended up sometimes with blur images shot at 1/4sec when I could get it sharp with my previous E-P1 and E-P2. Arrgh….

A close up portrait of Steven, the trishaw rider. I just like his white moustache!

7. The high ISO of the E-PL1 is much smoother and the images are sharper than the E-P1 and E-P2 due to a thinner anti-aliasing filter installed.

8. I know that larger sensors are better in depth-of-field performance, so when I want that large sensor effect, I’ll fit on one of those F1.1 or F1.4 manual focus lenses to get the shallow d.o.f. That’s the way I overcome the small MFT sensor.

And as for enlargement capabilities, I have no issue with the PEN since I have ever printed 30 by 50 inches prints from the E-P1’s files. Of course, we can’t say the quality is better than a full frame sensor… BUT is it good enough??? You bet it is!

For a small and portable camera which produces high quality images, my other choice will only be the very expensive Leica.

It’s funny that in today’s world, people like “overkills”.

When photography should be centered on making better and better images: images that speak… we tend to focus on how expensive and how good our equipments are instead.

9. As for the “missing dials” in the E-PL1… I mean the dedicated dials for aperture and shutter speed… I still like to have them back… I really hope the next PEN will be “the one”.

10. The lovely Art Filters… oh… this is something Olympus has exclusively! And its’ a wonderful feature. However, I only like to use the Pin-hole Art filter and sometimes the Diorama Art Filter… but the Grainy Film Art filter, it can be too contrasty for my taste at times, with details in the shadows and highlights clipped! As for the other Art Filters, I hardly even use them.

11. I also discovered that the Panasonic 20mm F1.7 lens when mounted on the PEN, does not give 100% reliability in nailing the focus.

I am not quite sure if this is a communication issue between Olympus and Panasonic… NOT that it is a crucial issue, maybe 1 to 2 out of 10 shots (especially during low light) tend to miss focus… that’s all. But it can be a little disappointing at times.

Finally, to Olympus,

I believe you have heard enough NAGGING from faithful users around the world:


7 thoughts

  1. Yo David, how goes?

    I echo your sentiments regarding the large aperture lenses. IIRC, Oly’s official stance is that f/2 is the farthest they can go to eke out best results from the 4/3 sensor. Uhhhh………yeah……..didn’t Panasonic pull it off with the Leica D Summilux? And the G Lumix 20mm? I don’t know whether to attribute it to pure laziness, or they’re just resting on their laurels. As if we’re not getting the short end of the stick enough. Panasonic did it, so why can’t they?

    Oly, pls stop your meaningless defense of the f/2 limitation and the atrocious xD card (well, at least they got over it now with the Pen series, but we’re still not sure if it’ll be back for 4/3, touch wood)!!! It’s OK for ppl to stick to their guns and I respect that, but when they do REALLY stupid things to deliberately handicap their potential, that’s where the line should be drawn.

  2. Wow, a very well detailed review and elaborative user-experience you have shared with us. It is quite amazing that even you have turned ofef the noise filter, the images still look so clean at ISO3200. That is truly something impressive.
    Yes, I agree, it is not all about what the camera can do, but more on the photographer himself, and the focus should be on creating better and better images, rather than shooting less and less noise with more expensive gears.

  3. Eric Cheong

    September 5, 2010

    Good and very informative review. Love those shot you took with the EV2 and manual lenses.Being going around KL for an adaptor with my previous Nikon lenses but none seem to have them in stock. Would appreciate you share some light.


  4. Eric, YL Camera in Pudu Plaza has it. RM180.

  5. cheah

    June 2, 2011

    Do call me if you need company to shoot in the streets in Peanag or in some outings. I need to test drive my EP-1 and I have the OM 135mm lens to test out too. My HP0165573178

  6. Cool, Cheah. Will contact u if I go. Link me up in FB or Flickr if you can.

  7. Hello, may i know where can i go to attend the pen workshop? i’m ep3 owner. thanks 🙂