Fuji X-M1 Review

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO800, F3.6, 1/125s.

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO800, F3.6, 1/125s.

Cropped from the above image

Cropped from the above image

The most attractive points of a Fuji X series camera are:

1. The lack of anti-aliasing filter which causes the images to be sharper and more detailed

2. The beautiful smooth bokeh of the Fujinon lenses, and of course it’s sharpness

3. The natural skin tone, natural realistic colors, good-enough micro-contrast for black and white conversions

4. Fine and clean high ISO performance in low light

5. Impressively intelligent pop-up flash. I have not encountered another pop-up flash as accurate as the Fuji X-series cameras

6. Beautiful old school classic camera design, it’s a fashion statement!

 

I bought the X10 as soon as it was available in Malaysia and have since produced quite a number of shots I love with it. Now, I have in hand is a similar size camera called the X-M1, which is lens-interchangeable, but lack of an optical/electronic viewfinder. I have always loved small (capable) cameras.

Before you think I am going to go on praising the X-M1, I have to state some major difficulties I faced while using the X-M1. After re-confirming with Fuji Malaysia, it is confirmed that the X-M1 I have in my hands is a pre-production copy.

These are the pretty annoying issues I faced when using the pre-production Fuji X-M1:

1. The LCD screen was too reflective to be used under bright daylight. I had difficulty composing shots from angles other than right in front of my face. You probably gotta tilt the tiltable screen to help, but in my case, my subjects would have been gone by the time I tilt the screen. I tried brightening the LCD screen using the Q(quick) Menu, it did help a little but honestly, not much…

2. The camera was supposed to have a minimum focus distance of 0.1m, but it only managed to focus at a minimum of 0.2m roughly. This can be achieved with or without the Macro mode activated, meaning the Macro button is redundant. It could be… the firmware not being updated yet.

3. AF wasn’t fast. It hunted quite a bit and had problem achieving focus at times. The multiple point auto focus mode wasn’t as intelligent as the X-10 I have, meaning it often selected the “wrong” subjects. I believe that most cameras’ multiple point auto focusing mode today have been programmed to understand that we often frame our subjects using the 1/3rd-2/3rd rule… meaning we often frame our subjects off-centre. But as for this X-M1 pre-production unit I had, unfortunately it wasn’t the case.

4. The LCD refresh rate was also pretty slow. It took quite a while to adjust when I pointed it indoors, then outdoors. The duration of the “blackout” was enough to make me miss my shots.

5. Even though I personally do not fancy “Art Filters” anymore, I had to test it. And the results are pretty disappointing too. First, I couldn’t find any shortcut button to change the type of Art Filters when I was using it. I had to press a minimum 4 times on the buttons to change the type of Art filter while using the Art Filter mode. Second, some of the “spot-color art filters” were too fussy. For example, the “Green Only” art filter only picked up a certain type of green and not the other types of green. Same goes for the “purple”. I have not tested the art filters more extensively to conclude, but my first impression was: it’s too fussy. The “toy camera”, “miniature effect”, “pop color” were fine, but they are not new anymore in the current market to stir any new interest. These are just added bonus for those who love in-camera art filters.

6. A minor issue: the battery charger shows GREEN while charging, which really confused me at first, because my X-10 and all the other brands of camera battery chargers I use only shows GREEN or not lighted up at all when the battery is fully charged.

7. A personal issue: as I am beginning to have long-sightedness due to my age, I find difficulty in using the LCD manual focus peaking when I mount the m-mount lenses on the X-M1. I will go for the X-E1 with the built-in EVF which is more useable to me for manual focusing.

Now, let’s look at some of the Fuji X-M1 images I shot:

These 3 are some of the Art Filters I tested:

DSCF0023web

Toy Camera Art Filter, Fine JPG, 16mm lens, ISO400, F9, 1/350s.

 

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO800, F3.6, 1/125s.

Pop Art Filter, Fine JPG, 16mm lens, ISO200, F5.6, 1/240s.

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO800, F3.6, 1/125s.

Miniature Art Filter, Fine JPG, 16mm lens, ISO200, F5.6, 1/220s.

From the next image onwards, you can scrutinize the performance of the camera at ISO6400 and ISO12800.

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO800, F3.6, 1/125s.

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO6400, F2.8, 1/70s.

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO800, F3.6, 1/125s.

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO12800, F2.8, 1/140s.

I should have set to at least F5.6 for the following shot. I forgot the APS-C sensor has shallower depth of field than my X-10. Or I kinda expected the multi-point AF mode to be more intelligent. The focus was on the car doors instead.

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO800, F3.6, 1/125s.

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO12800, F2.8, 1/125s.

The following shot, I tested the AF speed on these 2 masseuses who do not wished to be photographed.

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO800, F3.6, 1/125s.

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO12800, F4.5, 1/125s.

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO800, F3.6, 1/125s.

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO12800, F8, 1/420s.

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO800, F3.6, 1/125s.

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO12800, F3.6, 1/150s.

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO800, F3.6, 1/125s.

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO12800, F3.2, 1/140s.

The following 2 images are for you to scrutinize the camera and lens’ handling when shooting into bright light source and also the clean high ISO12,800. There are no ugly flares, unwanted red dots/circles like the Olympus E-PL2’s kit lens. Flare is smooth. At ISO12800, there is acceptable loss of details to me. This is very individual. I believe I have reasonable expectation for ISO12800’s performance from a MYR2988 APS-C camera.

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO800, F3.6, 1/125s.

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO12800, F8, 1/350s.

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO800, F3.6, 1/125s.

Fine JPG, 27mm lens, ISO12800, F5.6, 1/180s.

 

This is just the beginning of my experience with the Fuji X-M1. Fuji Malaysia has promised that they will furnish me with an updated production unit for further reviews. I certainly hope the major glitches I stated in this review will not be repeated again in the production unit.

In my opinion, the Fuji X-M1 can potentially be a camera for the more enthusiastic beginners in photography, for those who are tired of lugging a APS-C DSLR around for travel, and for the low light extremists who love to continue to challenge themselves shooting in the dark.

I have always wanted a camera with fine and detailed high ISO for night street photography, something which allows me to achieve deeper depth of field (smaller apertures) combined with a fast shutter speed, to capture fleeting moments I see on the streets at night. Yes, I am an extremist. The Fuji X-M1 is potentially one camera which can do what I want.

Fuji X-M1 Preview

S.O.O.C: Shot with X-E1, ISO3200, F5.6, 1/30s, AWB, X-M1 kit lens zoomed to 50mm.

S.O.O.C : Shot with Fuji X-E1, ISO3200, F5.6, 1/30s, AWB, X-M1 kit lens zoomed to 50mm.

S.O.O.C : Shot with Fuji X-M1, ISO6400, F22, 1/600s, AWB, X-M1 kit lens at 16mm, Fine JPG (24mm equivalent)

S.O.O.C : Shot with Fuji X-M1, ISO6400, F22, 1/600s, AWB, X-M1 kit lens at 16mm, Fine JPG (24mm equivalent)

S.O.O.C : Shot with Fuji X-M1, Miniature Art Filter, ISO200, F3.5, 1/40s, AWB, X-M1 kit lens at 16mm, Fine JPG (24mm equivalent)

S.O.O.C : Shot with Fuji X-M1, Miniature Art Filter, ISO200, F3.5, 1/40s, AWB, X-M1 kit lens at 16mm, Fine JPG (24mm equivalent)

Converted to B&W in Photoshop: Shot with Fuji X-M1, ISO6400, F11, 1/400s, AWB, X-M1 kit lens at 16mm, Fine JPG (24mm equivalent)

Converted to B&W in Photoshop: Shot with Fuji X-M1, ISO6400, F11, 1/400s, AWB, X-M1 kit lens at 16mm, Fine JPG (24mm equivalent)

I have just received the opportunity to try out the newly launched Fuji X-M1 today. I understand that I have not been writing for quite a while… staying reclusive is part of me sometimes… thinking hard… living life without the internet… earning my dough… indulging in new hobbies… quietly shooting my streets but not sharing my shots as yet…

This is just a preview of more detailed personal experiences with the Fuji X-M1 later… I will keep my promise to write more this time. For those who already know where to read serious technical reviews, please go to www.dpreview.com

I am writing my personal views on it as I usually do on all cameras.

Today, I decided to push it to the limits (almost it’s final limits maybe), by using ISO6400 on a bright day. Knowing it has a APS-C sensor which boasts of clean and detailed high ISO performance (as it’s WITHOUT AA Filter) and I was practically lazy to change ISO for the darker “corridor shots” and the outdoors… I kept it at ISO6400 for my 15mins’ walk.

I wanted FAST shutter speed, DEEP depth of field for my quick snapshots as fast as my eye could see. Unlike my film cameras which I am used to pre-focusing/hyperfocusing, I wanted to test the capability of it’s AF speed and accuracy (of course with small apertures… chances of errors were being reduced).

I adapt to different types of cameras pretty fast, that’s me. I use whatever that I have to get “the shots” as much as I can because I love the challenges. So, for beginners who read my blog, do take this into consideration. Like I said, my views are purely personal.

Today’s challenge, the X-M1? Hmm… I will rate it at 3/10 (0 being the easiest; 10 being the hardest).

My first impressions would be:

1. Nice realistic colours from a digital camera. Most digital cameras have skin tones too red or pink or worse… blue.

2. Useable ISO6400 from a APS-C sensor

3. Good enough AF for street shots at smaller apertures. Still a little lag as compared to film cameras.

4. LCD screen viewing angle could be improved. It’s brightness can be tuned in menu, so no issue about that. It’s the angle of “viewability”. It has a tilt screen but I usually don’t have the time to tilt it during street photography.

5. Built-in Art Filters are not for me, but they do come in handy for some people.

I think I will not buy another APS-C DSLR from now unless I am a sports photographer. These smaller alternatives are definitely tempting.

A thousand versus a dozen

I don’t need a thousand images to make me happy. I just need a dozen. I am super frustrated looking through the thousands of digital images which I snapped without the worry of wasting film, trying to select and delete them. What the hell? I don’t need this pain! This is another one of those times when I just feel like giving up all my digital cameras and concentrate on film.

I am already using digital cameras much like I am using my film cameras without snapping mindlessly and constantly previewing. But somehow, they still end up thousands. I understand the advantages of digital cameras in capturing action and expressions, the supreme advantage of clean high ISO for lowlight shooting, but I still prefer film.

The limitations of film cameras, the lack of film choices today made the craft of photography more enjoyable. Yes, “craft” is the word. It’s not just about moving your finger behind the computer to get what you want with some sophisticated photo-imaging software. It’s about a lot more hassle (and fun!).

After so many years in photography, I still get more “wow” pictures from a roll of 12 or 15 shots from a medium format camera than a memory card of images. I end up happier shooting film than digital. I don’t need the previews, they are distracting. I don’t need batteries. Remembering to charge them up and the fear of not having enough batteries for the day is painful. I carry “enough” film for the day and if I finish them, I stop. It’s no longer about “missing the moment” but “capturing the shot”. Like I said, I don’t need the thousands of repeated, similar, mindless, mediocre images to make me happy.

But the mindset of shooting digital makes you keep wanting to shoot more, shoot another frame, just in case. And so, we end up with 3-4x more images than usual, maybe more. We lie to ourselves we are good when we post a worthy shot out of a few hundred lousy shots. The only person who knows the truth is the photographer.

The above shot was taken last week at a waterfall with my Mamiya m645 and I accidentally fell into the water with my camera. The first thing which crossed my mind when I got out of the water was “Thank God I wasn’t shooting with my digital cameras!” The Mamiya m645 is a fully mechanical camera and it operated just fine after I dried it with a towel. (It was just a quick dip but a non-weather-sealed electronic camera wouldn’t have survive it.) I continued on with another roll.

Having said all that, I know my digital cameras still come into good use for some commercial purposes. I am always treading on the thin line of pleasing myself and my clients. And I am thankful that most of my clients don’t really care what I use to shoot with. They just want “The Images”.

 

 

2 Unique Features of the Olympus E-PL2

There are 2 features in the Olympus PEN E-PL2 which are hardly mentioned. Do check out the video here: Video

Smallest 300mm and 600mm Lenses in the World

I am so sorry for this long-awaited post. The current status of Olympus micro four thirds lenses have been updated to be ALL MSC (Movie-Still-Compatible) except the pancake 17mm F2.8 and the discontinued 14-42mm mk1 kit zoom lens.

This is a visit I made to the Singapore Zoo not long ago. I must say these are currently the world’s SMALLEST 80-300mm and 150-600mm (equivalent) MSC lenses available! You can hold them in ONE hand.

On the left, E-PL1 with m-zuiko 40-150mm and to the right, m-zuiko 75-300mm.

They do not have great apertures for those longing for F2.8 or F2. The 40-150mm comes with F4-5.6 and the 75-300mm comes with F4.8-6.7. But common sense tells us that if they are made with F2-2.8 apertures, the sizes would be considerably larger. As usual, ALL images you see in this post are SOOC (straight out of camera) with no editing done other than adding watermark and black border.

shot with 40-150mm at 94mm, ISO1600, 1/60sec, F5.1.

shot with 75-300mm at 234mm, ISO3200, F6.4, 1/125sec.

By now, in the world of the mirror-less systems, it is obvious that Olympus faces tough competition from the Sony NEX and Panasonic GF series. The market share of Samsung is still quite negligible. When it comes to buying cameras, the general consumer usually follows the larger crowd BUT the discerning consumer will look more into details like Image Colors, Sharpness and Distortion, AF speed and the practical need of image stabilization (I.S.), etc.

shot with 75-300mm at 75mm, ISO3200, F5, 1/160sec.

shot with 75-300mm at 164mm, ISO2000, F5.8, 1/160sec.

In today’s digital photography world, it’s common for consumers to choose cameras based upon looks rather than actual performance. At the same time, consumers want instantaneous feedback regarding which camera they should buy, either from their friends, the internet or from the salesman they deal with. We gotta remember NO Review is completely accurate on the internet and NO camera’s LCD screen is totally trustworthy!

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO2500, 1/160sec, F6.7.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO3200, F6.7, 1/160sec.

Some tips on choosing cameras:

1. NEVER just based upon the looks

2. Bring your own memory card to the shop/showroom and test shoot with the camera

3. NEVER trust the LCD screen, always judge the images using a reasonable computer monitor (most modern monitors are okay, and the MACs have the best colors)

The MOST RELIABLE way to check for Focus-Accuracy and Sharpness is “zooming” in at your computer, NOT on the camera’s LCD screen. That’s also the way I compared GF1, NEX-3 and E-PL1’s AF accuracy in my previous posts. Just click a word in the top left hand corner “SEARCH” box and you will easily access my previous posts.

4. Test shoot both in natural daylight and indoor artificial lights (white balance), test shoot on both still and moving subjects (AF-accuracy), test shoot the minimum focusing distance and infinity focusing at widest aperture (sharpness of images and closeup magnification factor), test shoot at high ISOs (cameras today have no problem with low ISOs but it’s good to check out what’s the maximum useable high ISO).

5. NEVER rush in your decision-making.

shot with 75-300mm at 208mm, ISO2000, F6.3, 1/160sec.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO200, F6.7, 1/160sec. (this image is slightly adjusted brighter due to my own metering mistake)

shot with 75-300mm at 75mm, ISO500, F4.8, 1/160sec.

I do not write reviews based on test charts, curves, diagrams, etc. I write reviews based on my personal experience with the cameras and lenses. We have to understand that at many times, reviewers online (including me) are not given much time with the equipments to share the most balanced view about them. That’s why I make my own purchases when necessary.

As I walked into the zoo with my family, the 75-300mm lens became my main lens instead of the 40-150mm due to it’s 600mm (effective) telephoto capability. I did not have to squeeze with the many tourists to get a front view of the animals, my camera and lenses were the smallest among all tourists who were using DSLRs, and I had the BEST reach at 600mm effective!

I did not see anyone use the same equipment as me. It’s kinda sad that I saw more NEXs and Panasonics. But of course, DSLRs still dominated the entire zoo.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO320, F6.7, 1/160sec.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO320, F6.7, 1/160sec.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO320, F6.7, 1/160sec.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO320, F6.7, 1/160sec.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO250, F6.7, 1/160sec.

Having tried the Sony NEX, the Panasonic GF1 and the Samsung NX-10 and NX100 (briefly), I would say the Olympus PEN produces the best colors straight out of camera. Among the mirror-less systems, Olympus PENs are still the smallest in size, having the smallest lenses among all.

The more knowledgeable people may argue about the limitations of a small sensor but we have printed out enlargements up to 50 inches wide with no problems.

The way I believe in photography is about using the right tool for the right job, and most importantly, in overcoming each camera’s limitations and still make outstanding images out of it.

The digital Olympus PEN, being the smallest interchangeable lens system camera which produces DSLR-like quality images with NO shutter lags like the compact point and shoots, is a great camera for anyone, to photograph your daily lives, to travel the world with it or to photograph your family snapshots.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO250, F6.7, 1/160sec.

shot with 40-150mm at 150mm, ISO250, F5.6, 1/160sec.

shot with 40-150mm at 124mm, ISO250, F5.4, 1/160sec.

shot with 75-300mm at 75mm, ISO250, F4.8, 1/160sec.

The mirror-less system today is NOT for those who “need” to hang DSLRs on their necks to prove that they’re professionals or professionals-to-be, or for those who require 6-12 frames per second in shooting sports/birds/etc.

To me, images you make speak the loudest, NOT what you carry on your neck or shoulder. Like I said, the right tool for the right job.

This system is for those who don’t want to break their backs by carrying heavy equipments. It is suitable for light travel. It offers a great deal of opportunities for discovery, for example, the use of old manual focus lenses with F1 aperture on it. (Here)

It is ironic to see in general that newbies want big professional cameras, but the seasoned working photographers want smaller cameras.

In general, active street photographers love small unobtrusive cameras. A seasoned professional wedding photographer would not mind exploring into the use of smaller unobtrusive cameras to shoot weddings. I have personally shot weddings with a PEN and am now using one rangefinder camera alongside a DSLR for weddings and private functions. I also know of other working photographers who love their GF1s, PENs, etc. These professionals sure know the hidden photographic opportunities in the use of small cameras. DSLRs, Rangefinders or PEN, they serve different purposes.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO2000, F6.7, 1/160sec.

shot with 75-300mm at 150mm, ISO2000, F5.6, 1/160sec.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO3200, F6.7, 1/100sec.

Conclusion:

Advantages of these two lenses:

1. Small and portable. I love it when I am actually shooting the Baboon’s ass, standing at the back of some tourists holding big DSLRs with their huge telephoto lenses. LOL.

2. MSC (Movie-Still-Compatible). They are absolutely quiet in focusing when recording video unlike current DSLRs when AF sounds are easily recorded.

3. Sharpness. These lenses are absolutely sharp! Look at these 100% crop for example…

ISO3200, 75-300mm at 234mm.

ISO1600, 40-150mm at 94mm.

Disadvantages:

1. These lenses do not auto focus well in low light conditions due to their small maximum apertures of F4 and F4.8. Be prepared that they can’t find focus in low light.

2. When zoom is extended the maximum especially, it’s advisable to use the optional external electronic viewfinder VF-2 to help stabilize camera on your face. Looking at the Live View can make you giddy.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO800, F6.7, 1/160sec.

My overall experience has been good.

1. The option of using the external viewfinder VF-2 is necessary when it comes to using long telephotos as such. So far, only Olympus has such a bright and sharp electronic viewfinder. The Panasonic one still sucks. It’s not even half as good as the Olympus one. The NEX has no such option.

2. The Olympus in-body I.S. is still most amazing. It offers opportunities for using slow shutter speeds without lugging a tripod. The NEX has no I.S. The Pannys limit their I.S. to only a few lenses. The Olympus I.S. works on ALL lenses which can be mounted on it, and that includes all legacy lenses.

3. The depth of field of these two lenses are sufficient for my usage at the zoo. I don’t need too shallow depth of field when capturing close up shots of animals. I’d rather all the hair and whiskers around the face to be sharp! (these are definitely NOT paparazzi lenses!!! They aren’t efficient in low light )

In my opinion (IMO), the 75-300 is good for travel, for safari. The 40-150 is a much lighter option. You can opt for the 14-150mm with the 75-300 in your bag, and these two lenses will be more than sufficient for traveling the world. Total weight? Less than a DSLR with a 18-200mm lens and you get coverage from 28mm-600mm (effective range). Woohoo!

Olympus E-PL2 Review . Part 1

The E-PL2 (SOOC image from XZ-1).

The E-PL2 (SOOC image from XZ-1).

The E-PL2 (SOOC image from XZ-1).

IMPT: THIS REVIEW IS BASED ON A PRE-PRODUCTION UNIT. ALL SOOC IMAGES ARE FROM A PRE-PRODUCTION UNIT.

Just like the Olympus XZ-1 Review earlier, this review IS gonna be about the SOOC images! Some may think that SOOC images aren’t important cause they choose to shoot in RAW anyway, BUT RAW does not mean “unprocessed”. It basically means “UNCOMPRESSED”! That’s why Nikon D3x’s RAWs are different from Sony Alpha 900’s RAWs even though they have the same sensors. And having a Good Image Processor saves you more than half the trouble, whether you shoot in RAW or JPEG.

Image Sensor + Image Processor + Optics = Image Quality.

Good image quality does not just rely on one element.

Before showing you the selected images (MORE are in my flickr, kindly follow my instructions at the end of this review), I will like to share my short verdict of the E-PL2. I have used the first digital PEN E-P1, then the E-P2, E-PL1 and now this pre-production E-PL2 and what I have to say in a short conclusion is:

1. THIS IS NO E-PL1 mk2!!! Even though it has the same image sensor and processor as the E-PL1, it’s ergonomics are DIFFERENT. Finally, I have back the DIAL which I personally think is indispensable. Next, it feels much more solid than the plasticky E-PL1. It definitely has a better grip with that nice textured rubber on the side. It is so much better looking than the E-PL1! It’s Matt Black!!! (Not glossy… I hate glossy)

2. The NEW 14-42mm mk2 kit lens has a Remarkable Improvement in AF speed! It is MSC (movie-still-compatible), which means AF is silent and fast, totally no sound recorded in video when lens is zoomed in and out! This is not just as claimed by Olympus! The Difference IS EVIDENT!

3. The E-PL2 has included so many variations to it’s Art Filters, which I personally am having a headache as to what to use in what situation. BUT I fell in love with it’s Grainy Film II Mode which renders the image lower contrast as compared to the often too-overly-contrast grainy film mode which existing PEN users are experiencing. And my favourite workflow which I developed with the E-PL2 shortly in these 10 days is shooting in the Grainy Film Mode II with Art Frame ON and recording it both in JPEG and RAW at the same time. The RAW is my backup in the case when highlights are blown.

I have also been using the NEW Olympus Viewer 2 software to convert the RAW files when necessary and I must say this is the easiest software I have encountered in my years of using different digital cameras. Results from the software are also excellent. The main setbacks of the software which I have found are:

a. Art Filter Variations NOT included. Things like Grainy Film II, Pop Art II, Art Frame, etc.. ONLY the basic Art Filters are included and that includes the Dramatic Tone Art Filter. (I know many “die” for this…) Will there be any hackers who would hack the software and make these Art Filters available to all other RAW files… that I don’t know, I am not a software geek.

b. Certain corrections can’t be done, like Contrast, Picture Tone… this could be due to the pre-production E-PL2 I’m using… so it may be too early to draw a conclusion.

Grainy Film II Mode, with Art Frame, ISO200, F4, 1/50sec.

Grainy Film II Mode, with Art Frame, ISO200, F10, 1/250sec.

Another variation of the Pop Art Filter. This is shot in Pop Art Filter II with Soft Focus Effect.

4. The NEW 14-42mm mk2 lens is designed for fitting the NEW macro converter, wide converter and fisheye converter. So if you think these new converters can be fitted on your existing 14-42mm lens, you are wrong. Soon we’ll see the old 14-42mm kit lenses flooding the used market at dirt cheap prices! The macro converter allows 0.28x magnification at 24cm with the 14-42mm lens at 42mm. The wide converter turns your 14mm to 11mm wide. The fisheye converter gives 120 degree view.

I personally think that the “perfect combo” could be using the m-zuiko 14-150mm lens with a step up ring 37-58mm (available from Olympus) to fit on the NEW macro converter! You can also do the same for the m-zuiko 40-150mm lens since it also has 58mm diameter!

5. Macro Arm Light: This is innovative! It is a pair of alien-looking flexible arms with LED lights for use in macro photography. Now macro photography has gone to a new level of excitement.

However, if you are getting the macro arm light, it’s better to use it with the macro converter, unless you have a short specialized macro lens. Reason being: the arms are NOT long. (in this case, I doubt the compatibility with the 14-150mm and 40-150mm lenses. I haven’t try, so I can’t say for sure…)

Shot with macro arm light attached to the hotshoe with 14-42mm lens zoomed in at 42mm. No macro converter was used as it has not arrived from Japan at the time of shooting.

6. PENPAL: a bluetooth transfer device. I was told that this is NOT compatible with the APPLE iPhones/iPads. Sad… I am still wishing a bluetooth transfer technology to my iPhone for me to upload images on the go to facebook and flickr (which has automated resizing capability).

The following are the rest of the selected images:

iAuto Mode, ISO200, F9, 1/250sec.

Dramatic Tone Art Filter

Dramatic Tone Art Filter

iAuto Mode, ISO200, F10, 1/500sec.

Pinhole Art Filter, ISO200, F4.5, 1/50sec.

iAuto Mode, ISO200, F5.6, 1/200sec.

Shutter Priority Mode, ISO200, F3.5, 1/3sec handheld.

iAuto Mode, ISO400, F3.5, 1/60sec.

With SO MANY FEATURES packed into the E-PL2, this is obviously NOT a E-PL1 mk2!!! To view full resolution images with EXIF data, please have a flickr account, add me (click here), and send me a message. I’ll make sure you see them!

Olympus XZ-1 Review . Part 1

XZ-1. (Shot with E-PL2, SOOC)

XZ-1. (Shot with E-PL2, SOOC)

XZ-1. (Shot with E-PL2, SOOC)

IMPT: THIS REVIEW IS BASED ON A PRE-PRODUCTION UNIT. ALL IMAGES ARE FROM A PRE-PRODUCTION UNIT.

I am reviewing the XZ-1 compact point and shoot digital camera from a professional photographer point of view. All my opinions are entirely personal. I always do my best to be fair, to point out the weaknesses I find. I may not be the fussiest person on earth to nick pick on each camera’s weaknesses cause I am a strong believer in “Overcoming the Limitations of your Camera”. I am NOT writing this review in the most technical engineering way like dpreview.com

I’m writing this as a user, with a background of using various formats film cameras, various brands of DSLRs, mirrorless digital cameras and digital compacts. My first DSLR was the 6MP Canon D60. (NOT the current 60D in case you got it mixed up). My first camera was the Canon A-1.

I believe Images SOOC (straight-out-of-camera) is the BEST way to show.

Even before going into details… I CAN’T WAIT to TELL YOU that: “Finally I have found a compact digital which can give me ABSOLUTELY CLEAN ISO1600 file, and at F1.8, focusing at night IS FASTER than the Olympus PEN E-PL2 with it’s NEW 14-42mm mk2 lens! In fact, there were situations when the PEN could not achieve focus and the XZ-1 DID at the snap of fingers!!!”

shot in lowlight mode, ISO320, F1.8, 1/30sec

Aperture Priority, ISO1600, F1.8, 1/30sec.

Aperture Priority, ISO1600, F2.5 at 112mm, 1/1600sec.

100% Crop from the above image, I can't find any noise!

Amazing Image Stabilization!!! Shot is Shutter Priority Mode, 1/2sec, ISO100, F4.5.

Pinhole Art Filter

Genting Highlands, iAuto Mode, ISO100, F2.5, 1/200sec.

I assure you, ALL images are SOOC. The only thing I did was adding watermark. I have selected a few images to put here. There are MORE in my flickr site in High Resolution for pixel-peepers! However, due to restrictions from Olympus to post original resolution pre-production images online, you will need to have a Flickr Account, ADD me, SEND me a message, and I’ll make sure you can see them.

CLICK HERE!

Sneak Peek: Olympus E-PL2 and XZ-1

I am very fortunate to be selected to help Olympus Malaysia launch the Olympus PEN E-PL2 and Professional Compact Digital XZ-1. Today, at 1100hrs local Malaysia time, these 2 NEW cameras are launched worldwide. Having tested the cameras over a 10 day period, I have quite a number of shots taken around Malaysia and I must say this: Olympus is gonna have an exciting 2011! This is a sneak peek. I shall be posting more detailed reviews of the two cameras very soon.

Olympus PEN E-PL2, image shot with XZ-1, converted B&W.

Olympus XZ-1, image taken with E-PL2, converted to B&W.

SOOC image by E-PL2, Dramatic Tone Art Filter.

Taken with XZ-1, ISO1600, F2.5, at 112mm, mind you... It's a COMPACT Point and Shoot!!!

I’m Impressed By the E-1…

… … Yes! It’s Olympus E-1! Not the latest E-5… Hahaha…

I HAVE NOT USED A DIGITAL CAMERA WITH SUCH BEAUTIFUL STRAIGHT-OUT-OF-CAMERA IMAGES IN MY LIFE!

Digital sucked when I switched from film to digital more than 10 years ago and today, it still sucks when it comes to straight-out-of-camera images when I compare with my lab film scans in terms of colors and brightness…

Okay, I’m speaking in general terms here… the Nikon D60 is alright… the Canon 5Dmk2 when mounted with my old Zeiss lenses is alright… the Olympus E-30 and E-620 are quite good… the Olympus E-P1/2/L1 are slightly better than the E-30/620… the Nikon D700 is “clinically perfect” with not much character I know how to appreciate… the Leica M8/9 maintain that Leica look with stunning optics BUT auto white balance can be cranky…

If I look back at all the digital cameras I have used before, NOT ONE impressed me like this Olympus E-1 I just touched few nights ago!

This is a Year 2003 Camera! The detailed review can be found HERE.

I’m mad! No one is gonna read this post! But I am writing it. Cause I don’t write for money. I write for my own passion.

Camera images taken by Brandon Eu:

Image taken by Brandon Eu using Nikon D3, 50/1.8, Photoshop minimally-corrected.

It’s a 5MP Camera with a “whopping” 1.8inch LCD!

Image taken by Brandon Eu using Nikon D3, 50/1.8, Photoshop minimally-corrected.

Image taken by Brandon Eu using Nikon D3, 50/1.8, Photoshop minimally-corrected.

The ergonomics of the camera is perfect! I love the way the CF Card Compartment Door gently springs open with a twist… I used it without the extra battery grip and it’s perfect… It sits perfectly in my palm and works as if it’s a part of my body!

It’s shutter sound is as quiet as my Leica M6! This is shocking!

I like how luminous-landscape describes it’s ergonomics.

Do you believe that a camera has a “soul”? I do. It basically means you can feel the “spirit” of the designer, the amount of effort put in, the intricate thoughts put into each detail of the design meticulously, the direction and belief of the designer, whether the designer is an artist OR just someone out to make money from consumers… …

Let’s look at what the great Olympus Designer Yoshihisa Maitani once said:

“A photographer’s duty is to improve and increase his techniques! For knowledge of technique is the only tool for ensuring that the camera may be used to its maximum capability. So many photographers overestimate the function of the camera by itself – but I’m afraid a cook who relies on nothing but a sharp knife has no guarantee of producing excellent dishes.”

another quote would be:

“Even if your camera can capture shots of outer space or bacteria, it’s useless if you don’t have it with you …”

Yoshihisa Maitani is a legend.


A camera is not just a camera. It’s used to take photographs. And it’s the person behind it who does it. And it’s the individual soul you see reflected in each person’s works.

The photography process is emotional! It’s NOT just about holding a photograph in your hand or looking at a 72dpi image on the screen! It goes far beyond that! It starts the moment when we hold a camera!!!

Why do I love Leica? It’s NOT because it’s a luxurious brand. It’s purely because I could feel the spirit of the Leica designer Oskar Barnack!

The same goes when I hold my Olympus OM-1, the PEN FT, and now the E-1. Though the E-1 was not designed by Maitani, it definitely followed after much of his spirit.

The entire process into making a photograph should NOT be restricted just to the final image.

I’ve always believed, if you hold a camera you love in your hands, you are naturally a happier person. A happier and more confident person already has half the battle won!

(this I learned from a good friend named Joe Meng)

Now, let’s continue my madness into searching for the old and forgotten…

Let’s look at how I managed the E-1 with the zuiko digital 25mm F2.8 pancake lens, with the restriction of ISO400 (I was told that ISO800 is not really useable by David Ching who lent me the E-1), shooting in a Pasar Malam (night market)!

I shot ALL wide open at F2.8! And the E-1 has beautiful TIFF files! The shutter is so quiet that I managed to take a couple of really close distance shots of strangers and NOT get caught.

The following images are resized as jpegs for easier uploading/downloading. Do email me if you are interested to see the full res images. (If you even bother to read this far regarding a 2003 model… LOL…)

If you would like to use my images, please inform me via email, CREDIT and LINK to my site. Thank you!

(NOTE: I just realized that the 5MP TIFF files are so “BEEFY” that I need to resize them much further due to WordPress restrictions! I’ll be really curious to try how large an enlargement I can make next… stay tuned for future posts…)

waiting for food. accidentally set to F3.5, and minus 1EV, brighten up a little in Photoshop, A-mode, ISO400, 1/15sec, AWB.

Handicapped Performer. A-mode, ISO 400, F2.8, 1/13sec, AWB, EV-1.

Clothes Seller. When the camera was handled to me in the dark, it was at EV-1 by accident, so I brightened up this shot a little in Photoshop. A-mode, ISO400, F2.8, 1/30sec, AWB.

Kids, A-mode, ISO400, F2.8, 1/30sec, AWB, 0EV, absolutely no touch-up done except resizing.

Baby. A-mode, ISO400, F2.8, 1/25sec, AWB, 0EV, absolutely no touch up except resizing.

Fruit Seller. A-mode, ISO400, F8, 1/10sec, AWB, 0EV, absolutely no touch up except resizing.

Dog. A-mode, ISO400, F2.8, 1/200sec, AWB, 0EV, absolutely no touch up except resizing.

Moving Kid. A-mode, ISO400, F2.8, 1/13sec, AWB, 0EV, absolutely no touch up except resizing.

Moving Car. A-mode, ISO400, F2.8, 1/2sec, AWB, 0EV, absolutely no touch up except resizing.

Lady considering what to buy. A-mode, ISO400, F2.8, 1/25sec, AWB, 0EV, absolutely no touch up except resizing.

Piggy Back. A-mode, ISO400, F2.8, 1/60sec, AWB, 0EV, absolutely no touch up except resizing.

Man. A-mode, ISO400, F2.8, 1/30sec, AWB, 0EV, absolutely no touch up except resizing.

Mail in Danger. A-mode, ISO400, F2.8, 1/10sec, AWB, 0EV, absolutely no touch up except resizing.

Counting Cash. A-mode, ISO400, F2.8, 1/25sec, AWB, 0EV, absolutely no touch up except resizing.

Now, a search on eBay shows a MINT condition E-1 body is around USD450.00.

Like Maitani said, “… … a cook who relies on nothing but a sharp knife has no guarantee of producing excellent dishes.”

Will you consider restricting yourself to ISO400 or maximum 800, 5MP TIFF files and a 1.8inch LCD?

For all I know, I love this camera, and I shoot it like a film camera, with absolute confidence of getting what I want out of the camera! And I think the E-1 with the 25mm pancake is a perfect combination!

Enough Is Enough!

NOTE: (This post is not intended for professionals who require different tool for different job. It is meant for end-users).

For all of you who have been following my blog, I have taken 2 days rest from my Daily Photo Series. Since the Olympus E-5 has been circulated around for reviews in Malaysia, I have also not spoken much about Olympus yet. (I requested to be the last to touch the E-5)

There are much rumors out there that the four-thirds system is dead/dying, that E-5 might be the last Olympus SLR, etc. and etc.  The Nikon and Canon fans never fail to bash Olympus through the years for it’s small four-thirds sensor.

Now, the mirrorless Micro Four-thirds PEN system is also under fierce competition from Panasonic, Sony, Samsung and soon Nikon and Canon…

In the world of photographic gears, we love to compete. Who has the biggest sensor, who has the highest megapixels, who has the fastest frame rates, who has the quickest AF, who has the fastest lens, etc. and etc…

We seem to have let technology taken over us. We grew highly dependent on what technology can do for us.

Soon, we will have electronic shutters on high resolution digital cameras doing more than 100 frames per sec. The photography concept may evolve into the “Motion-Jpeg Concept”, where photographers literally sit down in front of their 60inch HD TV, pausing images for screen captures.

Photoshop already has auto-color, auto-tone, auto-contrast and soon we might have auto-crop since more 21MP 5Dmk2-alike DSLRs are likely to surface, when photographers can crop to a small part of the image and with 21MP, it’s still useable. And the auto-crop function might have the computer diagnose and crop the images for us…

With the amount of photographic software available today, it’s not difficult to see that a batch-processing program of “art filters” would probably surface too. Photographers don’t even have to spend much time thinking and doing what they want to their digital images as such software can diagnose and batch-process for you. Maybe you just need to do selective re-processing.

If you like bokeh, here is an excellent plug-in for you: BOKEH 2. (Now you save yourself some money buying L lenses…)

Now, can we just come back to photography, photography as a craft, photography as a D.I.Y. craft instead of letting technology take over our work?

The Olympus followers are a strange crowd. They do not follow the “Big Numbers Game”. Some of them might whine about the restrictions they face with Olympus gear at times but they come back to making images. I know of at least 2 fervent users who stick to their Olympus E-1.

The specs of Olympus’s AF and frame rate per sec may lose out to the big boys BUT the Olympus users carefully compose each shot, knowing that they can’t be overly dependent on the automation.

Having not more than 13MP on a small four-thirds sensor also means that Olympus users MUST compose each shot carefully, to avoid post-production cropping. I bet you see lotsa lame shooters firing away with their 21MP 5Dmk2. I know of those who proudly proclaim that they own a camera with “2-sensors”, a crop one and a full one literally, and they crop 90-95% of their shots at post-processing. This practice only produce sloppiness.

With the restriction of Olympus high ISO noise through the years (which has since been solved in the digital PEN series and the E-5), Olympus users are known to use tripods for their shoots, and that again trains our discipline in the whole composition process.

With it’s amazing in-body I.S., which also requires users to hand-hold the camera stably, Olympus users are trained to stop breathing for seconds. LOL…

See? Restrictions can be beneficial!

The following are some shots I have done at a birthday party with the Olympus PEN E-P1, mostly shot at ISO1600. I am still amazed at it’s sharpness and color rendition, it’s consistency in auto white balance, it’s IQ at handling mixed lighting and hotshoe flash. I can tell you, even the Leica M8/9 doesn’t quite have such IQ in AWB.

E-P1, 14-42mm kit lens, ISO1600.

E-P1, 14-42mm kit lens, ISO1600

E-P1, 14-42mm kit lens, ISO1600

E-P1, 14-42mm kit lens, ISO1600

A crop of the above. Look at the sharpness and detail at ISO1600, simply amazing!

Client's Sony Alpha "waxed". Shot with E-P1, 14-42mm kit lens, ISO 1600.

Shot with E-P1 with Olympus hotshoe FL36R Flash attached.

Enough Is Enough! Let’s get down to making images!

As I have quoted in my facebook sometime ago…

“Photography: there’s more than one way/tool/camera/lens to get what you want. Just choose one and start creating.”

Have you started yet? When was the last time you shared a really proud piece of work you did?