Category Archives: Mirrorless Cameras

The Power of Small Cameras

Man smoking, waiting. Olympus E-P1 at 14mm, 16:9 format, built-in art filter.
Man smoking, waiting. Olympus E-P1 at 14mm, 16:9 format, built-in art filter. I was about 2 metres from my subject.

I have recently grown much in love with small cameras like the Olympus E-P1, Leica M6, Rollei 35mini, and even the old classic legendary half-frame Olympus PEN FT, just to name some. My madness and fanaticism over small cameras is not getting any better and in fact, is getting worse… though the Leica M9 at RM25k is way out of reach. I figured that I can do the same thing by mounting my Leica lenses on my Olympus E-P1 via an adaptor and manual focus it even better than the M9 by using live view. Haha… self-consolation maybe. Or use my full-frame film Leica M6. Cheers man!

Still, I am often humbled by the fact that good images do not rely on good cameras BUT good photographers! Just browse through Flickr and you will be humbled just like me. Many of my favourite shots often come from my small compact cameras too.

Why own a perfect, what I call a “magic camera” like the Nikon D700 or D3, that when you wanna “steal a shot”, the cameras are so huge that you will be caught way before you press your shutter button! Not unless you are using a 70-200mm telephoto or even longer, and stand 50 -100 feet away. However, I also remember Robert Capa said,” If your pictures aren’t good enough, you aren’t close enough. So, I guess wide angles and standards are still my preferred choices. I like to sneak up close and personal, “steal” a shot without scaring my subjects with huge cameras, and sometimes, “ask” for a shot from my subjects. (I’ll be writing on the difference between “stealing” and “asking” for shots in another post).

So, why do I call the D700 a “magic camera”? Cause it really can continue shooting at ISO6400 or higher when all other cameras “died” in the darkest environment ever. (Of course the Canon 5Dmark2 too will continue shooting, but maybe focus blur. Kidding… cause personally I think Nikon’s AF is better).

Then the Olympus shooters will exclaim, “why shoot in such lowlight when the lighting is not even good, all flat?” And the Olympus shooters will whip out their off-camera TTL flash and boasts of the best skin tones and lighting achievable in such situations! No doubt, they will get the best-looking portraits.

I often wonder, why still shoot when all around you is so blindly dark??? Oh, then I figured that maybe you are a paparazzi or a private investigator doing your job trying to catch someone in their “act”. Lighting is no longer important, “the act” is more!

Now that I’ve been missing my big SLRs, let me try listing down it’s advantages.

ADVANTAGES OF BIG DSLRs:

1. Faster frame rates (but the loud clanky shutter sounds will give you away)

2. Size and look will boost your self-confidence or ego (if being regarded as a professional by “how you look” is more important to you than your images)

3. Faster auto-focusing (compact cameras with F8 aperture can “focus ” faster due to deeper depth-of-field)

4. More inter-changeable lens choices (an up close personal 28mm F8 shot of a stranger on the street is a 100 times more compelling than a 85mm F1.2 shot showing a reluctant face)

5. You look like a PRO, you look like a PRO, you look like a PRO. Oh, what can I say? The whole world thinks you are a PRO. You get people asking you for business cards. You don’t really have to show your images. The gear you hang on your body speaks everything. No one dares to comment openly about your images. All you will hear is,“Nice. Very professional.” (I’d rather not live in delusion)

Conclusion: Yes, I still use my big professional SLRs when the need arises (faster frame rates, lenses, etc.) But I will always want my images to speak for me, NOT my equipments.

And the power of small cameras must not be undermined! A small and insignificant camera with a quiet shutter doubles up your photographic opportunities, even triples! It also tests your communication skills with your subjects!

Care for Our Environment

Rest-in-Peace, 2nd Prize in "Be The Change Photo Competition"
Rest-in-Peace, 2nd Prize in "Be The Change Photo Competition"

It’s great fun and satisfaction when you go around looking for subject that matters to shoot, and not just shoot mindlessly without an aim. Winning something is a bonus.

Tons of outstanding photographers out there don’t participate in competitions. Many old school photographers still prefer very much to stay in their darkroom and enjoy great traditional printouts rather than posting them online. I was lucky enough to win something.

(Story behind the winning shot: I extended my stay in Bintulu, Sarawak after a wedding shoot with my friend Louis, to photograph Bintulu. This shot was taken when our car broke down by the side of the road and I went to look for a place to pee. While hunting for a discrete spot to do my business, I found this captivating scene).

I believe ARTS should be shared and not kept in the closet. And it should benefit others. And it should be easily understood. ARTS ARE NOT MEANT FOR ARTISTS ONLY. It’s meant for everyone. It’s lame to produce something and give yourself an excuse it’s ARTS when people don’t understand it. So my shots are often simple. (Though sometimes, my wife will exclaim at me, “What the hell is that?” … … Hahaha … … I sincerely believe God gave me a wife to keep me sane).

For the geeks, all shots are done with Olympus E-P1 and the kit lens. A camera small enough and yet produces professional results can double up your photographic opportunities!

Still, the message is “CARE FOR YOUR ENVIRONMENT PLEASE” and it’s not just about using cameras. The following are the other shots I did which was selected for the exhibition last week at The Gardens Shopping Mall, Mid Valley. The Competition was organised by Hot Potato Publishing and you can read about it HERE.

A respectable man with strong determination to contribute to preserving our environment is Mr Matthias Gelber. Please look at what he has to say HERE.

burning forest-1, Bintulu
burning forest-1, Bintulu
burning forest 2 - Bintulu
burning forest 2 - Bintulu
burnt forest, Bintulu
burnt forest, Bintulu
smoky bus, Subang
smoky bus, Subang
smoky jeep, Cameron Highlands
smoky jeep, Cameron Highlands
littered drain, Bintulu
littered drain, Bintulu

 

Event Shootout with Olympus PEN E-P1

It’s great joy and excitement to shoot with my friend Louis for a Big Nokia Event recently that I just can’t help, but to share some of the images from the Olympus E-P1 I was using.

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The following are telephoto shots taken with a Leica 90mm F2.8 lens fitted on the E-P1 via an adaptor, and due to the 2x crop factor, it achieves a fantastic whooping 180mm! Due to that, I didn’t have to fight with the professional journalists using Huge Canon and Nikon bodies and lenses (also don’t have to fight with Louis who was using a powerful Canon 70-200mm F2.8 Lens), and still reasonably achieved close-up shots of the speakers on stage! The manual focusing on the sharp E-P1 screen made things possible.

Big Nokia Boss
Nokia Boss
Chief Designer of Nokia
Chief Designer of Nokia
Close-up during a coffee table dialogue session
Close-up during a coffee table dialogue session
Chief Designer giving a talk
Chief Designer giving a talk

Oh man… I was being twittered! I should really start twitting soon!

A Large 60-in LCD Screen connected to a laptop on twitter
A Large 60-in LCD Screen connected to a laptop on twitter

Some new products… …

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Heaven

My Favorite Favourite Favourite Song of All Times!!! Click Here and view the images at the same time.

When you are in love, you are in heaven. You forget all unhappy things. There’s no way anyone or anything can take that feeling away. Oh… how deeply I still love my wife after more than 12 years of marriage. Thank You, Lord!

Clouds 4Clouds 5Clouds 1Clouds 2Clouds 3Clouds 6

Olympus E-P1, A Class of It’s Own.

Olympus PEN E-P1, image taken from dpreview.com
Olympus PEN E-P1, image taken from dpreview.com

I’ve been a professional photographer for more than 12 years, specializing mainly in portraits, weddings, people photography, whether choreographed or on-the-move. I have been a fervent Canon and Nikon user for years. But never have I encountered a small camera like the Olympus E-P1 that produces such quality in it’s size with such user-friendly features.

Talking about “Making Photography Easy”. For years, since the camera was invented, the world has been wanting to make photography easy. A view-camera needs about 11 adjustments in order to take a picture. Then came the Nikons and Canons that only require THREE adjustments: Aperture, Shutter Speed and Focus in order to take a picture. And if this wasn’t easy enough, cameras that came later began to even do all THREE adjustments for us – the Program Autofocus SLRs!

To read a detailed article on the above, click here.

Olympus E-P1, shot through car windscreen in a rain, B&W art filter
Olympus E-P1, shot through car windscreen in a rain, B&W art filter, 16:9 format.
Olympus E-P1 set to manual focus, b&w art filter.
Olympus E-P1 set to manual focus, b&w art filter, 16:9 format.
This shot shows that E-P1 is quick enough to capture action. My son did this action in a split-second. Tough not as fast as a DSLR, it is not that bad afterall.
This shot shows that E-P1 is quick enough to capture action. My son did this action in a split-second. Though not as fast as a DSLR, it is not that bad after all.

I often ask myself, “Why do camera-designers always want to make things easier for us?”

Especially as a earning professional photographer, doesn’t it seem obvious that as photography gets easier and easier, our commanding prices go lower and lower since more and more people think that they can “do-it-yourself” anyway?

But if I think as an artist, I just want to focus on my feelings, my imaginations, my visions and indulge in all my five senses when I go out and create images with my camera.

Isn’t it so much easier to have a camera that doesn’t interfere with my thoughts, by introducing questions like what aperture to use and what shutter speed to set or whether the image is in focus?

Okay, you may disagree with me on this cause deciding how blur the background we want it to be or whether to use a slower shutter speed to depict movement, or whether to set it off-focus in order to create some abstractness do play a part in our creativity process.

But my point is, sometimes it really helps if you just indulge in all your five senses without being distracted by technical functionalities, and shoot what you feel!

 

Olympus E-P1, B&W art filter. I pre-focused the camera to infinity before reaching out to shoot the birds returning to their home using the grainy black and white art filter mode.
Olympus E-P1, B&W art filter, 6:6 format. I pre-focused the camera to infinity before reaching out to shoot the birds returning to their home using the grainy black and white art filter mode.
Who says you can't see beautiful sunset downtown KL? Shot using "Sunset" Mode in Olympus E-P1
Who says you can't see beautiful sunset downtown KL? Shot using "Sunset" Mode in Olympus E-P1, 16:9 format.
Shot using "Pop Art" art filter, Olympus E-P1. This is a spontaneous shot, again done within seconds spotting the chef's head covered by a bunch of roast pork
Shot using "Pop Art" art filter, Olympus E-P1, 16:9 format. This is a spontaneous shot, again done within seconds spotting the chef's head covered by a bunch of roast pork
Olympus E-P1, shot using "landscape" mode. It really does make the sky much nicer.
Olympus E-P1, shot using "landscape" mode. It really does make the sky much nicer., 6:6 format

In today’s digital professional photographer’s context, things have just gone a lot worse! Our modern DSLRs contains at least 100 menu and function options! It throws you questions like “D-Lighting Off, Default, Auto, On, Normal?”, followed by trick questions like “Compression: Lossy or Lossless?”… etc. and etc.

Today, many professional digital photographers began to take pride in “setting their camera professionally” rather than concentrate on creating excellent images. Photography seems to have “developed more professionally” in recent digital days, cause to operate a DSLR is 100 times more difficult than an old film SLR!

And so we started thinking, maybe we can charge our clients more, since photography has gone so “difficult”! We started to tell our clients how high-end our equipments are, how difficult to use them, how expensive they cost, in order to justify and convince our clients to buy our services. I always thought as a proficient photographer, shouldn’t we be confident that our clients engage us because our works are good, not because of what equipment we own?

 

Olympus E-P1, B&W art filter
Olympus E-P1, B&W art filter 6:6 format
Olympus E-P1, B&W art filter
Olympus E-P1, B&W art filter, 4:3 format

The Olympus E-P1 is a camera so small that it fits into your bag easily. I have been carrying it and using it almost everyday since I bought it about 2 months ago. I use it for shooting “nonsense” in my daily life, use it for casual street shooting, and even use it for my professionally-paid wedding jobs!

I was caught previewing on the E-P1. DON'T SPEND TIME ON PREVIEWS! CONCENTRATE ON GETTING YOUR SHOTS!
I was caught previewing on the E-P1. DON'T SPEND TIME ON PREVIEWS! CONCENTRATE ON GETTING YOUR SHOTS!

FOR THE GEEKS:

The ISO is absolutely usable up to 3200. The default setting already produces fantastic images. It’s Auto ISO is also pretty reliable (I hardly have to switch it about). It’s IS (image stabilization) is most impressive! I ever use it down to 1/2 sec and still get a reasonably sharp picture.

You can choose to set “Graduation” to “Normal” instead of “Auto” to get deeper blacks but personally I prefer “Auto” as I prefer to increase contrast in Adobe Lightroom when necessary. I find that images can get too contrasty sometimes if I set it to “Normal”.

Olympus E-P1, Pin-hole effect art filter
Olympus E-P1, Pin-hole effect art filter, 4:3 format
Olympus E-P1, Pin-hole effect art filter, 6:6 format
Olympus E-P1, Pin-hole effect art filter, 6:6 format

Olympus is amazing in it’s in-camera processing! It produces such good Jpegs that you almost have no necessity to shoot in RAW for easy post-processing. It’s absolutely a camera for people who just want to concentrate on ARTS and have minimal worries on camera settings or post-processing.

Also, you can choose to shoot in 4:3 format (default), 16:9 format, 3:2 format or 6:6 format for your creativity.

I fell in love with E-P1 files once I laid my eyes on it in a camera store downtown and immediately ordered one for myself. I find that Olympus’s digital files are processed in such a way, closest to what film achieves comparing to other brands. Being a fervent film shooter, I can easily appreciate Olympus’s efforts in processing their digital files closest to what film achieves. (But if you really like film, shoot film! Digital still has it’s digital characteristics in it.)

I have used the Canon 5D, the Nikon D700 (owned 2 of each at my craziest times). I have gone through post-processing my images since “Adobe Photoshop 5” days. I would say this digital route for me since the Canon D60 (if anyone still remembers what it is) has been crazy! (I plan to write about my crazy path of switching from film to digital in a later post, so keep me bookmarked if you are interested).

What I can say is that after comparing the Canon files, the Nikon files and the Olympus files, I love the Olympus files the most! (Olympus is not paying me to say this)

I love the noise (It’s different from the Canon or Nikon’s noise), I love the skin tones, I love the contrast, I love the blacks (Nikon and Canon somehow captures blacks as grays), I love the colors and I love it’s Grainy Black and White and Pin-hole Art Filters!

Shot by my wife using "sunset mode". She's not a photographer, if you know what I mean.
Shot by my wife using "sunset mode". She's not a photographer, if you know what I mean.

Then, I love it’s handsome looks and it’s size too.

The best camera is the camera you can easily grab and use when opportunity arises. If you are looking for a camera that can boost your creativity, and it’s light and easy to carry around, with quiet and unobtrusive shutter sound, achieves jpeg files that require minimum post-processing, plus an added convenience of HD video recording (get an adaptor for leica m-mount lenses and you can easily achieve cinematic effects with F1.4 blur)… … … …

THIS CAMERA IS FOR YOU!

Why I Think Photo-Enthusiasts Are Cool!

Engaging a typical professional? Think again.

After more than 12 years of being a photographer, I have recently re-discovered the joy of being a photo-enthusiast once again. Sometime ago, I discovered that I have sub-consciously lost the true joy in photography after being stuck in the commercial photography world, where each shot better make some money.

As I think deeper and deeper into it, I realized it’s partly Chinese culture where my parents used to teach me when I was young, that I better grow up doing something that makes lot of money like a lawyer or doctor, rather than being an artist. So if we discover something that we are good at, we tend to use how much money we make out of it to measure how “successful” we are! And there we go digging for money, comparing ourselves with our competitors, and get stuck in the “Gold-digging Game” that never ends. How Sad!

Taken from "Project-Disillusion". Shot with Olympus E-P1 with kit lens during a photo-outing with friends.
Taken from "Project-Disillusion". Shot with Olympus E-P1 with kit lens during a photo-outing with friends.

As a person who really loves photography, photography is my everyday life and not just a 2-hour weekend hobby. When I was stuck in that “Gold-digging Game”, photography became unhealthy competition and comparison, and money became the ruler for measurement of so-called success. Here’s why I think photo-enthusiasts are cool… …

1. Photo-enthusiasts shoot what they like, how they like it without having to think whether it makes money or not, or whether it must be better than a competitor’s shots.

Shot with Canon A480 point-and-shoot, a reflection of a glass panel near my office
Shot with Canon A480 point-and-shoot, a reflection of a glass panel near my office

2. Photo-enthusiasts express freely all the time without the fear of rejection. But many professionals will call their daily mundane shots “nonsense”. Probably, “nonsense” to commercial photographers means it doesn’t make money OR it’s not up to commercial standards of sharpness, megapixels, photoshop retouching, bokeh… … etc. I shoot “nonsense” all the time.

 

My Boy's Toy Cars, shot with my Olympus E-P1 using 6:6 format
My Boy's Toy Cars, shot with my Olympus E-P1 using 6:6 format during a dinner
My leg, shot with Olympus E-P1 and 14-42mm kit lens on 16:9 format
My leg, shot with Olympus E-P1 and 14-42mm kit lens on 16:9 format. This shot was taken spontaneously during one of my photo-outings with my friends out on the streets.

3. Photo-enthusiasts are never tired of shooting. Sometimes, a commercial photographer will rather “take-a-break” when it comes to shooting for pleasure, shooting streets, shooting a family’s outing.

4. Photo-enthusiasts NOT equipment-enthusiasts, I must emphasize, are not insecure about what sort of equipments they own. They can shoot from their mobile phones and be happy. They do not need high-end equipments to prove to others that they are professionals, cause they don’t need to. Many of them own the simplest photographic equipments and produce works that can put many commercial photographers to shame. When I was stuck in that commercial rat race, I was stuck in upgrading my equipments every 1-2 years. And I recently discovered some of my best wedding shots are only done with my humble Canon 20D camera I used to own.

Shot spontaneously during a wedding dinner using Canon 20D I used to own
Shot spontaneously during a wedding dinner in year 2005 using Canon 20D I used to own
Shot in year 2005 with my Canon 20D I used to own during a Sikh Wedding
Shot in year 2005 with my Canon 20D I used to own during a Sikh Wedding. Effects added in photoshop then.

5. Photo-enthusiasts also do not constantly need to prove to others by shooting with new gimmicks every time, just to attract attention to themselves, or prove that they are knowledgeable in gimmicks, or to “stay ahead” in their particular photography industry.

6. Photo-enthusiasts can stay happy, really happy, just within their small group of friends and families without the need to prove to others that they have a multitude of supporters.

7. Photo-enthusiasts have the time to learn new skills, whether it’s from the internet, from books and magazines, or from another individual. It’s hard for a commercial photographer to suddenly slow down and cut down their number of jobs, just to spend time learning.

 

Taken with Canon A480 Point and Shoot Camera. The Sky's the limit in learning.
Taken with Canon A480 Point and Shoot Camera. The Sky's the limit in learning.

8. Photo-enthusiasts loves to share. They are not insecure about what they know. They have no fear of competitors. They are humble and real. They are not living in disguise. They have no need to put up a false commercial front to attract business or fool their competitors. They basically are themselves and expresses themselves freely. They shoot purely for pleasure.

As a commercial wedding photographer for many years, I was forced into thinking, my shots must make money, they must be approved by my clients, or I’ve gotta be better than my competitors. I’ve got clients who came showing samples of other photographers’ works asking if I could do the same. I’ve got clients who bargain over 50 bucks! The point is, I have lost myself. I shot for people to approve, I shot what people will approve, I shot what people wanted. There’s nothing totally wrong in that but it’ll be wrong if you just do that.

Now that I’ve found myself, I’m not gonna lose it again. I shoot from my heart. I shoot what I feel, what I love. Photography is the best hobby I’ve ever had, that’s why it’s stuck to me longer than many other hobbies, and I’ve found out that if you do something that you genuinely love, you’ll excel in it and you’ll have your supporters!

I am a photo-enthusiast once again!

Wedding in 16:9 Wide Format by Olympus E-P1

Recently, I really enjoyed photographing a wedding and just couldn’t help posting it here. This is the first time I shot with my Olympus E-P1 with kit lens and entirely on 16:9 format, similar to your wide-screen Plasma/LCD TV, and adding short and exciting HD video clips of the games and church ceremony(not posted here).

It was truly exciting to have completed a slideshow with HD video clips in it on the day itself! It was fun! I shall be writing more about the Olympus E-P1 later, so stay tuned.

To my Bintulu Friends and my assistant Louis, many many heartfelt thanks deep from my heart to you all!

Bukit Tinggi Malaysia – 12 Jul 2009

A passing moment of clouds travelling past. This happened just for a few seconds before the light is all flat.
A passing moment of clouds travelling past. This happened just for a few seconds before the light is all flat.

Shot of the day – 12 Jul 2009, with my new toy (all my buddies know what it is). Good photographs depend on great imagination NOT gear. (Though the Olympus E-P1 grainy film art filter really helps this time… haha…) The best camera is the one in your hands.  Let’s all focus on expressing our IMAGINATION!