Here’s one of my favourite shot from a recent editorial job for an overseas magazine…
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!
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
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.
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 lowercontrast 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.
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…)
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:
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!
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!!!”
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.
… … 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.
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!
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… …
“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 designerOskar 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…)
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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…
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!
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.
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….
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!!!”
This is in continuation to my series on “Portraits of Strangers”…
I’ve got lotsa works to sort out. It’s about time I start compiling my works on the streets since March 2009. Being retrospective helps to study the progress I make.
It’s amazing how much a photograph can tell. It shows the state of mind of the photographer when the shot is made. If you can read further, you can literally read the photographer’s mind, his/her intention, his/her personality and how he/she looks at life.
I personally feel that women are better photographers in general. They seem more sensitive. Men are often bogged down by what equipment they use and all the technicalities of the camera. Worse, if they are shopaholics like me… they end up having too many cameras to choose from even before they go out for a shoot. (I used to stare at my dry cabinet for more than 30mins before I could decide what to bring with me… haha)
It took me more than 20 years since I bought my first camera to realize that there is no perfect camera!
That’s the fun in photography, having fun with different cameras… but also this becomes the necessary evil at the same time.
It’s necessary for new inspiration to be injected as different cameras produce different results, but also an evil when it becomes too easy to turn us into Gadget Men rather than real photographers who are focused on producing better and better images.
It becomes a personal choice for one to choose sitting around in coffee shops comparing gears OR getting out there to shoot something. I walked through both stages.
So, if you have a camera lying around not used, take it out and shoot something. You never know what you can do unless you go find out. Or sell it to one who will actually use it to produce images that speak…
I have been very busy lately. But I thank God I still manage to walk the streets about once a week. Taking time to see what others do on the streets make me less self-focused. Human nature is selfish. Life is always about “I”, “Me”, “What I Want”, “What I Need”… we hardly even mention “We” (our loved ones), and much less “He” or “She” who are strangers to us.
For the ones who are close to us, it seems natural to just take them for granted. In the airline I used to work in, the most fussy complaining passengers are the ones getting the most attention. Our loved ones are often like the quiet passengers who appreciate us silently, or even doing things for us without us knowing. (there were those kind passengers I knew who would just walk into my galley to throw a used plastic cup into the trash bin or get a drink from us without pressing the call button when we were so busy…)
Sometimes, the people in our lives are like passengers. They come and go. There are the nasty ones as well as the kind ones. Our loved ones are our faithful passengers (without much of a choice). No one knows when this flight will end. But we are all called to serve. (with cheer)
It is relaxing for me to walk the streets. I do not have to shoot to enjoy myself. Being there, sometimes chatting with strangers is already enough for me. For these are the strangers who make me realize the world is NOT just about ME.