I love to photograph people as they are, in total unawareness (or at least it seems to me) of a camera pointing at them. The expressions are priceless to me. Most people just look different when they look at a camera lens pointing at them. We live in a culture which taught us to “pose” for the camera. Too often times during photography sessions, I hear parents calling out to their kids to say “cheese”. We need to be taught to observe the natural, to catch the priceless moment, to “respect” the ambience.
The trick in good portrait photography is staying quiet. Many things can’t be taught and it has to be caught. The gut feeling of pressing the shutter is one of 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!
Okay, as promised in my previous post, you shall see my crappy shots in this post. Again, I seriously think my shots aren’t half as good as some of those Olympus Brand Store Guys. But, still I really enjoyed the shooting session with the whole bunch of them. Join me for photography workshop in future. It’s fun!
I have been getting quite a number of questions emailed to me regarding the use of the Olympus digital PEN E-P1/2/L1… so I’ve decided to list down here how I usually “manage” the camera.
1. I shoot in P mode when I just wanna concentrate on getting the shot, the expression, the action, irregardless of the depth-of-field. In fact, I want a deeper depth-of-field in order to quickly capture a moment, minimizing the risk of getting things out-of-focus. “F8 and be there.” Like Weegee said.
2. Using the camera in P mode when there’s sufficient light, i.e. when ISO does not automatically go up to 1600 with corresponding aperture of F3.5-5.6 for the kit lens is fine for the “F8 and be there concept”. Yes, I use Auto-ISO too. Sometimes, when I want more control, I will set the ISO manually.
But for lowlight usage, WATCH your shutter speed. Even with the Image Stabilization (IS) ON, a slow shutter speed CANNOT freeze action. Image Stabilization helps to capture non-moving subjects in sharpness when shutter speed is slow.
3. To speed up the camera, I always TURN OFF the automatic preview on my LCD and use my camera in Sequential Shooting Mode. To capture a certain action, I usually shoot 2-3 frames to get the best shapes and forms. I also hardly “chimp”, i.e. look at previews when I shoot. I don’t wanna lose a moment while “chimping”!
4. In my personal opinion and experience with different brands of digital cameras, I found out that Olympus’s RAW files are not all that “tweakable” as compared to the other brands. I figured out that since I am not getting a whole lot more from it’s RAW files, unlike the Canons or Nikons where the tolerance can go as far as 3-4 stops, I’d rather shoot Olympus JPEGs. I also figured out that the Normal JPEGs are good enough for me for general usage as I find no visible difference comparing them to the Fine JPEGs.
However, if I need to use the camera to shoot any stuff that’s exceptionally important, I will still shoot RAW, more for my mental and emotional consolation. Olympus’s JPEGs are about the BEST you can find in the world. The only other brands which I think can come close to it are Leica and maybe Pentax. Okay, I know I may sound subjective, but look at the skin tones! Any colors on any inanimate objects can lie BUT skin colors DON’T LIE! (If you still disagree with me, okay.. it’s my personal taste, alright?)
5. The E-PL1 has much lesser noise at high ISOs as compared to the E-P1 and E-P2, so I am more confident using it at ISO1600-3200.
6. According to Steve Huff’s review, he complained that the movie-record button on the E-PL1’s back can be easily and accidentally depressed BUT I have since found out that it only takes less than 5 steps to OFF the switch permanently in the menu system! No Issue At All! Just OFF it and use the same shutter button for recording video and stills. (Menu-Button-oFunction-Off)
7. I shoot in A mode when I wanna shoot at specific apertures to achieve the depth-of-field I want.
8. I prefer P mode over the E-PL1’s i-auto mode as I don’t like the i-enhance to be always ON as it does in the i-auto mode. Personal preference.
9. Generally, Olympus JPEGs can be a little under-exposed. So some brightening is usually necessary at post-processing. Or for the E-PL1 users, you can choose to use it’s Live Guide, which is “idiot-proof”. If you know digital cameras, a little under-exposed is definitely better than over-exposed as burnt highlights in digital files can never be restored.
10. When using the Pin-hole Art Filter, images may seem a little under-exposed too, so some brightening at post-processing stage will be good.
11. When using the Grainy B&W Art Filter, avoid high contrast scenes as highlights can easily be washed out!
12. If you are a fervent Art Filter Fan, I suggest you shoot RAW and choose your desired Art Filter in Olympus Software afterwards so you can enjoy shooting without having to wait for the “almost forever” in-camera Art Filter processing. Those few seconds can mean eternity when you are out there.
Okay, finally, there’s ONE THING I hate about the E-PL1!
It DOES NOT HAVE AN ORIENTATION SENSOR! Which means, I have to manually rotate all my vertical shots! Olympus, is it that expensive to have this included in the E-PL1? This should already be the norm among all digital cameras of year 2010!
Here are my shots from the street shoot, constructive comments are welcomed!
The following are two shots by the NEW 9-18mm M-Zuiko Lens. This is such a small, compact and sharp lens with good close focusing distance! It’s in stock!
Lastly, the bunch of Olympus PEN Street Shooters! Shot by a stranger. Isn’t it great to have an “idiot-proof” camera for a stranger to hold? I’m sure the in-camera IS helped. LOL…
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!
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)
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!
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.
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.
Oh man… I was being twittered! I should really start twitting soon!
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!
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 thatasphotography 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 toset 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, sometimesit really helps if you just indulge in all your five senses without being distracted by technical functionalities, and shoot what you feel!
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?
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!
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 (imagestabilization) 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 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!
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 caneasily achieve cinematic effects with F1.4 blur)… … … …
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!
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 formeasurement ofso-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.
2. Photo-enthusiasts express freelyall 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.
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 photographicequipments 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.
5. Photo-enthusiasts also do not constantly need to prove to others by shooting with newgimmicks 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.
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!