where images speak

Superboy fears me…

I love this shot I took during an event a couple of days ago. It’s one of those moments which passes in seconds. I am contemplating whether I should shave my beard unless it grows white and I grow as fat (and adorable) as Santa. The recent tan I got from my beach holidays might have contributed to my “scary” look. Well, on the bright side, I think most kids and babies love me cause I have that love for them oozing out of me (I think… haha).

But kids are cute and adorable (on pictures) whether they are crying or laughing. The shot is not “perfect” with the maid standing behind but she does seem to be an authoritative figure standing and watching silently behind. In portrait photography, an expressive moment caught outlaws all compositional rules we were taught sometimes.

Enjoy life! Go catch that moment!

Announcement

As of 1 June 2011, I have resigned from Olympus Malaysia as their ambassador/trainer/spokesperson. I have served them since Year 2009. For all the Olympus fans out there, you can still keep in touch with me via Facebook, my Blogs, emails, etc. I’ll still answer your questions like usual. Though I think I have always been quite balanced in presenting my views about Olympus cameras, you can be more certain now that I am not biased towards Olympus since I no longer have any obligation to Olympus Malaysia. I am never a fanboy of any brands. I am a true blooded “fanboy” of Photography. My preference still goes to Film Photography.

I shall still teach like usual, except that you’ll have to contact me direct. DCPW (David Chua Photography Workshops) still continues. My style has always been Private, Low Profile and Personal. If you are interested in my works or workshops, do contact me personally. I am easily reachable online.

To ALL my students who have been continually supportive, Thank You Very Much! Keep in touch!

A Personal Portrait

Aging Gloriously

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.

My Crappy Photo Diary

Photography is not just an art to me. It’s also a daily record of things I see or sometimes, a representation of what I feel on a certain day. Instead of stressing up myself to put up only the best shots worth for gallery, I have started another blog just to put up daily shots from my daily digital cameras (well, maybe sometimes, film shots if I manage to get them processed and scanned on the same day). This blog should also satisfy those who are curious about different cameras.

Check it out HERE.

Bliss

The unspeakable joy of a mother and her baby! No amount of words can express!

I have not been writing much as I have been quite reclusive. So sorry, everyone. I hope you’ll still stay with me through my journey in life, watching me grow as a person, as a photographer, as a teacher, and maybe as a friend as well. I thank all of you who has been motivating or correcting me through your comments both in facebook and in my blogs. I’ll do my best to share what I know as much as I can.

Happy Belated Mothers’ Day to ALL you mothers out there!!! You have the special calling which we men will never have. And you experience the unspeakable joy from pregnancy to breastfeeding and watching your baby grow which we fathers will always feel that missing link between us and our baby. I did try making my baby suck my nipple but that didn’t work! Hahaha……..

 

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

Smallest 300mm and 600mm Lenses in the World

I am so sorry for this long-awaited post. The current status of Olympus micro four thirds lenses have been updated to be ALL MSC (Movie-Still-Compatible) except the pancake 17mm F2.8 and the discontinued 14-42mm mk1 kit zoom lens.

This is a visit I made to the Singapore Zoo not long ago. I must say these are currently the world’s SMALLEST 80-300mm and 150-600mm (equivalent) MSC lenses available! You can hold them in ONE hand.

On the left, E-PL1 with m-zuiko 40-150mm and to the right, m-zuiko 75-300mm.

They do not have great apertures for those longing for F2.8 or F2. The 40-150mm comes with F4-5.6 and the 75-300mm comes with F4.8-6.7. But common sense tells us that if they are made with F2-2.8 apertures, the sizes would be considerably larger. As usual, ALL images you see in this post are SOOC (straight out of camera) with no editing done other than adding watermark and black border.

shot with 40-150mm at 94mm, ISO1600, 1/60sec, F5.1.

shot with 75-300mm at 234mm, ISO3200, F6.4, 1/125sec.

By now, in the world of the mirror-less systems, it is obvious that Olympus faces tough competition from the Sony NEX and Panasonic GF series. The market share of Samsung is still quite negligible. When it comes to buying cameras, the general consumer usually follows the larger crowd BUT the discerning consumer will look more into details like Image Colors, Sharpness and Distortion, AF speed and the practical need of image stabilization (I.S.), etc.

shot with 75-300mm at 75mm, ISO3200, F5, 1/160sec.

shot with 75-300mm at 164mm, ISO2000, F5.8, 1/160sec.

In today’s digital photography world, it’s common for consumers to choose cameras based upon looks rather than actual performance. At the same time, consumers want instantaneous feedback regarding which camera they should buy, either from their friends, the internet or from the salesman they deal with. We gotta remember NO Review is completely accurate on the internet and NO camera’s LCD screen is totally trustworthy!

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO2500, 1/160sec, F6.7.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO3200, F6.7, 1/160sec.

Some tips on choosing cameras:

1. NEVER just based upon the looks

2. Bring your own memory card to the shop/showroom and test shoot with the camera

3. NEVER trust the LCD screen, always judge the images using a reasonable computer monitor (most modern monitors are okay, and the MACs have the best colors)

The MOST RELIABLE way to check for Focus-Accuracy and Sharpness is “zooming” in at your computer, NOT on the camera’s LCD screen. That’s also the way I compared GF1, NEX-3 and E-PL1’s AF accuracy in my previous posts. Just click a word in the top left hand corner “SEARCH” box and you will easily access my previous posts.

4. Test shoot both in natural daylight and indoor artificial lights (white balance), test shoot on both still and moving subjects (AF-accuracy), test shoot the minimum focusing distance and infinity focusing at widest aperture (sharpness of images and closeup magnification factor), test shoot at high ISOs (cameras today have no problem with low ISOs but it’s good to check out what’s the maximum useable high ISO).

5. NEVER rush in your decision-making.

shot with 75-300mm at 208mm, ISO2000, F6.3, 1/160sec.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO200, F6.7, 1/160sec. (this image is slightly adjusted brighter due to my own metering mistake)

shot with 75-300mm at 75mm, ISO500, F4.8, 1/160sec.

I do not write reviews based on test charts, curves, diagrams, etc. I write reviews based on my personal experience with the cameras and lenses. We have to understand that at many times, reviewers online (including me) are not given much time with the equipments to share the most balanced view about them. That’s why I make my own purchases when necessary.

As I walked into the zoo with my family, the 75-300mm lens became my main lens instead of the 40-150mm due to it’s 600mm (effective) telephoto capability. I did not have to squeeze with the many tourists to get a front view of the animals, my camera and lenses were the smallest among all tourists who were using DSLRs, and I had the BEST reach at 600mm effective!

I did not see anyone use the same equipment as me. It’s kinda sad that I saw more NEXs and Panasonics. But of course, DSLRs still dominated the entire zoo.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO320, F6.7, 1/160sec.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO320, F6.7, 1/160sec.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO320, F6.7, 1/160sec.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO320, F6.7, 1/160sec.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO250, F6.7, 1/160sec.

Having tried the Sony NEX, the Panasonic GF1 and the Samsung NX-10 and NX100 (briefly), I would say the Olympus PEN produces the best colors straight out of camera. Among the mirror-less systems, Olympus PENs are still the smallest in size, having the smallest lenses among all.

The more knowledgeable people may argue about the limitations of a small sensor but we have printed out enlargements up to 50 inches wide with no problems.

The way I believe in photography is about using the right tool for the right job, and most importantly, in overcoming each camera’s limitations and still make outstanding images out of it.

The digital Olympus PEN, being the smallest interchangeable lens system camera which produces DSLR-like quality images with NO shutter lags like the compact point and shoots, is a great camera for anyone, to photograph your daily lives, to travel the world with it or to photograph your family snapshots.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO250, F6.7, 1/160sec.

shot with 40-150mm at 150mm, ISO250, F5.6, 1/160sec.

shot with 40-150mm at 124mm, ISO250, F5.4, 1/160sec.

shot with 75-300mm at 75mm, ISO250, F4.8, 1/160sec.

The mirror-less system today is NOT for those who “need” to hang DSLRs on their necks to prove that they’re professionals or professionals-to-be, or for those who require 6-12 frames per second in shooting sports/birds/etc.

To me, images you make speak the loudest, NOT what you carry on your neck or shoulder. Like I said, the right tool for the right job.

This system is for those who don’t want to break their backs by carrying heavy equipments. It is suitable for light travel. It offers a great deal of opportunities for discovery, for example, the use of old manual focus lenses with F1 aperture on it. (Here)

It is ironic to see in general that newbies want big professional cameras, but the seasoned working photographers want smaller cameras.

In general, active street photographers love small unobtrusive cameras. A seasoned professional wedding photographer would not mind exploring into the use of smaller unobtrusive cameras to shoot weddings. I have personally shot weddings with a PEN and am now using one rangefinder camera alongside a DSLR for weddings and private functions. I also know of other working photographers who love their GF1s, PENs, etc. These professionals sure know the hidden photographic opportunities in the use of small cameras. DSLRs, Rangefinders or PEN, they serve different purposes.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO2000, F6.7, 1/160sec.

shot with 75-300mm at 150mm, ISO2000, F5.6, 1/160sec.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO3200, F6.7, 1/100sec.

Conclusion:

Advantages of these two lenses:

1. Small and portable. I love it when I am actually shooting the Baboon’s ass, standing at the back of some tourists holding big DSLRs with their huge telephoto lenses. LOL.

2. MSC (Movie-Still-Compatible). They are absolutely quiet in focusing when recording video unlike current DSLRs when AF sounds are easily recorded.

3. Sharpness. These lenses are absolutely sharp! Look at these 100% crop for example…

ISO3200, 75-300mm at 234mm.

ISO1600, 40-150mm at 94mm.

Disadvantages:

1. These lenses do not auto focus well in low light conditions due to their small maximum apertures of F4 and F4.8. Be prepared that they can’t find focus in low light.

2. When zoom is extended the maximum especially, it’s advisable to use the optional external electronic viewfinder VF-2 to help stabilize camera on your face. Looking at the Live View can make you giddy.

shot with 75-300mm at 300mm, ISO800, F6.7, 1/160sec.

My overall experience has been good.

1. The option of using the external viewfinder VF-2 is necessary when it comes to using long telephotos as such. So far, only Olympus has such a bright and sharp electronic viewfinder. The Panasonic one still sucks. It’s not even half as good as the Olympus one. The NEX has no such option.

2. The Olympus in-body I.S. is still most amazing. It offers opportunities for using slow shutter speeds without lugging a tripod. The NEX has no I.S. The Pannys limit their I.S. to only a few lenses. The Olympus I.S. works on ALL lenses which can be mounted on it, and that includes all legacy lenses.

3. The depth of field of these two lenses are sufficient for my usage at the zoo. I don’t need too shallow depth of field when capturing close up shots of animals. I’d rather all the hair and whiskers around the face to be sharp! (these are definitely NOT paparazzi lenses!!! They aren’t efficient in low light )

In my opinion (IMO), the 75-300 is good for travel, for safari. The 40-150 is a much lighter option. You can opt for the 14-150mm with the 75-300 in your bag, and these two lenses will be more than sufficient for traveling the world. Total weight? Less than a DSLR with a 18-200mm lens and you get coverage from 28mm-600mm (effective range). Woohoo!

A FB Letter from Poland…

“Welcome
With my friends from work, we started a small website (penowiec.blogspot.com independent service), which aims to popularize the PEN cameras in Poland. Poland is a country divided photographically Nikon and Canon, we know that the Olympus Pen cameras, it’s cool and want to share it others.
In Europe it is difficult to find photographers who have working cameras PEN.
Would you like to share, with a few words about the work of PEN cameras. This text with your pictures would be very helped our cause “hearing PEN popularization in Poland.
Of course, we will post a link to your website.
We are waiting for a response
Thank you and greetings.

PENowiec team”

My REPLY:

“In digital photography technology, due to the 2 major big brands, we have often forgotten the legendary history of Olympus in making cameras and lenses. Just to remind some of you who might have forgotten, Olympus pioneered SSWC dust reduction, Live View in DSLRs, and it’s legendary in-body I.S. These are apart from the legendary OM-1, XA, PEN F which they have created in the old days. Zuiko is commonly known as Japanese Leica due to it’s optics quality.

As for the digital PEN, it reminds us of the history of the old film PEN cameras, when more than 17 million were sold in the world during 1960s-70s. This NEW digital PEN we are seeing here is potentially rocking the world today. Since the E-P1, we have seen marked improvements to it’s high ISO performance. We already have very smooth and yet detailed ISO1600 files since the E-PL1. AF is also remarkably improved in the NEW MSC lenses.

In the development of digital photography, the PEN focuses on actual image-production straight out of camera, which contains rich characteristics of the Zuiko lenses and the Olympus image processor. Unlike common digital files which often require photo-editing software to further enhance them, Olympus gives SOOC stunning images! The Olympus cameras retain it’s original “digital characteristics” unlike other RAW files which are usually edited with SIMILAR software, resulting in SIMILAR characteristics.

The PEN is a piece of revolutionary equipment producing DSLR quality images with a small body and small lenses. It also has become a source of unlimited fun with almost limitless type of legacy lenses mounting on it via adapters, making unique old school film-look images.

If you can achieve high quality images with a small and easy-to-use interchangeable lens camera, the focus will naturally shift towards creative image-making instead of “using” the camera itself!

There is NO better way to improve your creativity than using a Simpler Camera like the PEN!

Thank you.

P.S. Feel free to use my images with CREDIT given back to my website. You can download the higher res files from my Flickr. We are also educating the Malaysians about the PEN via blogs, flickr groups and many other activities. Maybe one day, we can organise a exchange program when you guys come over for a trip and we go over to Poland for a visit too! Cheers!

Warmest Regards,
david chua.”

It’s GREAT to meet other PEN Lovers from another continent!!!

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!