Biwako, Japan

Biwako, Japan

I lied on the grass, using my body to stabilize my camera and square ND filters (not screwed on), no tripod… as I was touring in Japan with me 20-inch singlespeed folding bike with fully loaded panniers. Not to forget it was about 15-18 degrees Celsius near sunset. The last time I took landscape photography seriously was probably 20 years ago.

One of my last student I taught in my private classes is into shooting landscapes. She sort of made me think about getting back to shooting nature again. It’s always a refreshing experience to breathe in the fresh air in nature, indulging in the masterpieces God has created. No two leaves are the same. So are humans.


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:


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

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.

Life’s Cycle

Life’s a cycle. I am back to shooting weddings. PAUSE… WAIT… shooting weddings in my style… RAW, TIMELESS, MINIMUM PHOTOSHOP, CANDID, STREET-STYLE, FAST, PERSONAL. I love my rangefinders!

Your Uniqueness

This is a shot I took in a wedding sometime ago. As most of you know, I slowed down in wedding photography over the last 3 years, concentrating on other types of photography which my soul needs. I didn’t want my passion in photography to reduce to just a money-making job in my life, though we all need money to live.

Striking a balance between what I really want to do in photography and what is required to make a living using photography is a forever impossible task in my life. But one thing stays true to me, I strive to be honest to myself, to my vision, and live on to develop my personal vision in photography, as an unique expression of my soul, which each individual is and should be different in his/her own way. My previous blog post HERE has what I think each photographer should live by.

The images from today’s digital cameras have greatly reduced the variety of the different characters found in different types of films, produced by different types of cameras, from toy cameras to large format, from pinhole to old brass lenses to large format lenses… “All” we see today, or most images we see online, are either from a Nikon DSLR or a Canon DSLR. And how many of us can differentiate the image from a Sony DSLR from a Nikon? In addition, most of us use the same post-processing software from Adobe.

We are losing a great deal of characters or “flavors”, I called it… from the old days. This is one of my saddest experience in recent years.

Apart from seeing an overload of similar digital characteristic images online in terms of colors, sharpness, digital touch-ups… which make me sick… we also see the other extreme: the surge of lomographers who’s hunting down expired film wherever they go, hipshooting, not looking, not thinking, not studying what’s C41 or E6 processing means, or what’s underexposure. Most of them end up with images underexposed because they know not the aperture and shutter speed value of a Holga, the recommended film speed to use, or what cross-processing means. The pain doesn’t come if the images are of interesting content and reasonably exposed, but the pain comes when they insist it’s ART for the badly exposed thoughtless mistake images. Of course, there are incidents that ART does happen through a mistake, I am definitely NOT referring to that.

As photographers, we all tend to replicate images we admire at some point of our lives, let’s face it. But let us not forget to develop our own signatures, something we can be proud of till we die.

Of course it’s not just the type of instruments we use to make an image different from the others, but it’s the way we see things. We should all have our own uniqueness. After all, God didn’t make us the same. Life is not just about seeing someone else’s image which you admire, and going about finding out and using the same tool and method to replicate it. At some point, it’s time to stop seeing what others have produced, and start making images of your own.

There’s really no right and wrong in arts. It’s only “Like” and “Dislike”. And it all depends on who you want to please.

I Love Kids

I love kids!!!

These are some shots quickly selected from a recent birthday party… more pictures to come…

If you wonder what I have been doing…

1. hibernating

2. just sold one of my favourite lens: the Panasonic Lumix 20mm F1.7 lens

3. from fiddling with my Fuji X10 to fiddling the Ricoh GXR and GRD3… and now happy with my GRD3 for daily random recordings (with the 21mm attachment of course…)

4. haven’t been touching micro four thirds for a while, happier with smaller sensors like the X10/GRD and the larger digital sensors, and above all… larger films.

5. sorting out my past works

6. teaching private lessons

7. doing selective portraits

8. a little tired of street photography

9. thinking

10. loving people

Live a day at a time, live it to your best, love the people around you. Thank you friends!

A thousand versus a dozen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



Portrait: Michelle’s Dad

Sometimes, you don’t need a reason why you love a photograph. It’s just like sometimes, you don’t know how to explain why you love someone, why you like something or why you enjoy certain moments in life. God gave us two sides of the brain, the right side for emotions and creativity, the left side for rationalization in which everything must come with a reason.¬† Just imagine if you live life entirely on rationalization, how would life be for you? (vice-versa of course)

But in photography or paintings, I find that there’s really no absolute way to explain why you love a photograph or a painting. I have taught many students photography by now, but I still find that there’s something in photography which can never be taught. It is what’s deep inside you. Your character, personality and the way you express it.

A sharp eye can often tell a photograph that’s made from the heart apart from a photograph that’s made from the mind.

I love the photograph above. Maybe it’s because I grew up with a dad who’s often not around. I remember my grandma being the closet to me when I was young, and then my two sisters who are much much older than me.

My memory of my dad consists of certain times when he would bring us swimming at the old East Coast Park Lagoon in Singapore, early hours at the Singapore Botanic Gardens where I picked up tadpoles home to see them turn into frogs (probably my mum’s idea), and the rest of it are probably scoldings when I turned Christian during my teenage days.

I guess my dad is not too bad after all cause I still have some memories of him spending time with the family. :)

Today, I am a dad myself, pretty much a “hands-on dad” (recently got lazy though). I was the first one to hold his little palm when he was born, and I pretty much stick around him most of the time. He’s six now. Time flies.

I love the intimacy in the image above. The silence, the quietness, the look in their eyes. It’s as if their thoughts are crossing each other, communicating in silence. Jun Ching and Michelle, thanks for making this picture happen!


Baby Emma

I like things raw and real, when they are in their most truthful state. It’s probably unusual to many when the unreal, the “photoshopped”, the “beautiful” are what the world is after generally. I see beauty in true honesty, transparency and originality.

Natural Poser

This is a recent shot from a dinner I was photographing. Most kids are natural posers. It’s interesting to see how a person’s self-confidence gets diminished as he/she grows up to be an adult. The most difficult people to photograph are people with no self-confidence. Beauty starts from the inside, not outside.