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.

Food Editorial Photography

Here’s one of my favourite shot from a recent editorial job for an overseas magazine…

Location: Singapore Lau Pa Sat

Some of the challenges I faced in this job were:

1. Making hawker food look like recipe shots using minimum setup

2. Bringing out the essence of food culture in Singapore and Malaysia especially among the Chinese

3. Eating 3 bowls of assam laksa, 2 bowls of curry laksa, 2 plates of char kway teow, 1 chicken rice, 1 “sang ha mee”, and all the rest which I can’t remember… ALL in one day… I have a super tight deadline to meet… (Yes, I hate to waste food, so I made my 2 assistants eat with me after each shoot)

4. Finding public toilets to purge

5. Shooting professional-looking profile pictures of famous chefs on location at a fast pace with minimum setup

All in all, I enjoyed it so much that a part of me deep inside didn’t wish it would end… Hahaha…

I had to be a portrait-documentary-food-photographer all at one go! Hmm… so yummy! Visit me and we go makan!

Choice of High ISO Digital Street-shooting Cameras

Recently, I have been pondering, what will the choice be if I want a digital camera for street photography which has high ISO capability. Now, imagine… F8, zone focused, ISO6400 or higher, at night.

My preference has always been film cameras but undeniably, film cameras suck at high ISO. The only high speed films available today are Ilford Delta 3200, Fuji Neopan 1600 (recently discontinued),  Fuji Superia 1600/800 (color negs). Kodak TMax 3200 has been discontinued a long time ago. The only other way to shoot at high ISO for films will be pushing standard ISO400 black and white films to 3200 (or higher if you know how).

Since the development of digital photography, we experience both the benefits from the technology as well as the downgrade of image quality in general. Tons of low resolution pixelated images from phone cameras, point and shoots and low end DSLRs started flooding the internet.

Now, back to the current choice of digital cameras suited for night street photography, I have also fine-tuned my search to just one focal length, something close to human’s natural eye’s perspective. Many have argued that 42mm is the closest but I shall give myself  a bigger allowance, from about 35-45mm.

So, my criteria shall be:

1. No Shutter Lag

2. Prime Lens between 35mm to 45mm (fixed focal length: easier to pre-visualize images before shooting and to build a good discipline of “zooming” with your feet instead)

3. Compact, Small and Portable

My list is as follows:

1. Olympus E-PL2 with Panasonic 20mm F1.7

Effective focal length: 40mm

Highest useable ISO: 3200

Depth of Field Scale: None

2. Sony NEX with Voigtlander 28 Ultron (F2)

Effective focal length: 42mm

Highest useable ISO: 6400 (at 12800, some banding starts to show)

Depth of Field Scale: Yes

3. Leica M8 with Voigtlander 28 Ultron (F2)

Effective focal length: 37.24mm

Highest useable ISO: 1250

Depth of Field Scale: Yes

4. Leica M9 with Voigtlander 40mm F1.4 Nokton

Effective focal length: 40mm

Highest useable ISO: 3200

Depth of Field Scale: Yes

5. Canon 550D with Olympus OM 24mm F2.8 Lens via adapter (smallest 24mm SLR lens I can find)

Effective focal length: 38.4mm

Highest useable ISO: 6400 (at 12800, some banding starts to show)

Depth of Field Scale: Yes

6. Fuji X100

Effective focal length: 35mm

Highest useable ISO: 6400 (not sure about results at 12800 yet)

Depth of Field Scale: None

So, what do you think? (Tell me your preference either in my FB page or down in the comments column). The Fuji does look tempting… :p

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!

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!

Stranger

The meaning of the word stranger can be easily found HERE.

It basically also means alien and foreigner.

Life is ironic. We depend on one another but we refuse to know one another. We are supposed to be educated NOT to be racist, but we still are racists in our hearts at times. We are taught NOT to judge a book by it’s cover, but yet we judge all the time.

In portrait photography, I discover the joy of knowing people.

I am well trained for years in photographing wedding couples (since the 1990s), posing untrained “models” for pre-wedding portraits, catching them in their best angle and in their most natural but flattering state. I took pride in my ability to photograph ordinary people cause I think they are much harder than trained fashion models.

To me, there’s ONLY one word in portrait photography: Communication.

You can use the best equipment, a F1 portrait lens BUT have absolutely no positive communication with your subject.

It’s hard, cause it drains emotion, it drains energy, it tests your true sincerity in photographing your subject. Sometimes, when I am emotionally tired, I just can’t do it the way I want it.

In wedding jobs which I have done for years, I must say there were times I knew I just didn’t “make the mark” I wanted, BUT I did make the mark the clients wanted. Whew! (I have since quit being a “hardcore” wedding photographer since 2009 and am concentrating on developing my photography passion afresh)

In street photography, we are actually photographing strangers all the time (unless you have made some friends on the streets you regularly go to). Now, this is even harder, cause they don’t pay us to photograph them, and many of them do not even wish to be photographed.

I am still learning and I think this learning will never end.

It’s NOT just photography I am learning. It’s 90% communication, 10% photography I am learning.

Each time I go out on the the streets for a shoot, it’s a test to my sincerity, a test to whether I am genuinely interested in my subjects.

I meet them FIRST as a person, and second as a photographer interested in making some good portraits of ART. When we put ourselves in the shoes of our subjects, we will naturally NOT do to them what we do not wish others do to us.

There are generally two approaches to street portrait photography: one is to photograph unobtrusively, at times “stealing” shots without really asking for permission, AND another is verbally or non-verbally (the use of body language) asking for permission before shooting. I do both.

Shot in Penang.

It is interesting when Strangers are turned into acquaintances when you give yourself a chance to put down your camera, have a chat with your subject, get to know them, or even help them… before you pick up your camera to take a shot again.

An old man in Ipoh, with one eye blind. He used to live in a rented wooden house with a broken roof but his son has since fetched him home.

So, the next time you pick up your camera, think of yourself FIRST as a person, second as a photographer. Take some time to care for your subjects before rushing to take a shot. It’s a totally different experience!

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.

Sleeping

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 www.dpreview.com 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.

Peace!

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:

“WE WANT FAST LENSES! FAST PRIMES! FASTER AF TOO! GIVE US F1.4!!!”

Some Street Portraits

These are some street portraits I did on a recent Sunday. Comments are welcome.