Tag Archives: thoughts on photography

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.

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

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Wedding Photography Tip: MOVE BACK!

We often forget to distance ourselves when we are caught up in the midst of activities during a wedding. It’s excellent to shoot close ups with a wide angle lens, getting intimate, candid expressions (if you are a good “people-person”), achieving all those “being-involved-in-the-action” shots… BUT there are times we need to Step Back a little…

The same goes in life, when being up close and personal to someone you love ALL the time gives the person NO private space and you will most likely end up being “bashed”! LOL…

So, MOVE BACK or STEP BACK a little… and you will begin to see a different world altogether…

Photo of the Day . 221010

Kids. Wedding Photojournalism.

Wedding Photojournalism is to capture un-posed moments in an unobtrusive style. By now, “everyone” seem to be doing it… as digital seems so easy… without the stress of wasting films. It has also become a lot more sloppy in the industry.

This started in the early 1990s, when black and white films were being used due to the need for high speed ASA1600-3200. As there were (and still is if not worse…) limited choice of high speed film available in the market, wedding photojournalists had to shoot black and white, as choices were limited to either the Fuji Neopan 1600 or the Ilford Delta 3200. Of course, some chose to push process ASA400 B&W films…

The color film choice would be the Fuji Superia 1600 but it seemed that grains in color film were NOT as widely accepted as grains in black and white films so wedding photojournalism ended up mostly black and white.

Just yesterday, I received news from a friend’s email that Fuji is discontinuing it’s Neopan1600 film. I find this totally idiotic when in recent years, there has been a significant resurgence of film users! And Kodak has just developed 2 NEW films for us over the last 2 years! (though they also discontinued the Kodachrome)

It’s sad news to me and to many B&W film users…

Photo of the Day . 031010

Leica M6, 15 Heliar, NPH400.

I am not a big fan of digital HDR (high dynamic range) shots. Few HDR shots I’ve seen impressed me. That does not mean I will not attempt a HDR shot in future, but I prefer to keep things as it is.

As for the above shot, I saw a silhouette, it’s a silhouette, it’s never HDR to my eyes. I find most digital HDR artificial-looking. It’s my personal preference, period.

HDR has become so easily achievable digitally today (even the latest Olympus E-5 has an Art Filter for it). But if we start depending more and more on what “surprises” latest software is gonna give us, we naturally become less and less of a photographer.

We will grow so dependent on what software can give us that we will attempt to shoot anything, in any angle, under any lighting condition, with any composition cause the software will make it look “good” ultimately. You will be amazed at how an ordinary-looking snapshot in the mid day sun with totally flat details will stand out after a HDR processing for example.

After we have batch-processed the hundreds to thousands of shots with software, we just have to select the few “best” to feature as our portfolio. Not much thought needed during shooting, isn’t it?

At post-processing stage, if a certain effect doesn’t look good, we can try another effect. With such high megapixels from affordable full frame cameras today, we can also crop till it works during post-processing. We no longer need to nail the composition right at the point of shooting.

“… for nothing is impossible with 21MP 5Dmk2…” the book of Canon 1:37

The invention of AF (autofocus) has already made many photographers slaves to it. Many photographers swear by fast and accurate AF and can’t live without it. We easily will dump a 45 point AF system for a 51 point AF system without much consideration. Our priority in choosing cameras become centered on AF system more than actual image quality.

Now is year 2010. Will our works be taken over by software and modern digital cameras by year 2020? Will the “photographer’s eye” still be as highly regarded in another 10 years’ time? Will “the decisive moment” still be sought after when digital cameras do more than 100 frames per sec?

I don’t know.

But I choose to follow my heart to do what I love and continue to hone my photographic skills and vision. It’s the “decisive moment” that gives me the kick in photography, not rescuing photos at post-processing.

Stranger

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

It basically also means alien and foreigner.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shot in Penang.

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

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

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

Photography: Art Or Gadget Lifestyle?

Taken with Holga 35mm Pinhole Camera using Tri-X 400 film, self-developed in Rodinal using stand development.

In recent years, photography has changed so much in the world from what it used to be. The advancement in photographic technology, the “super-duper-magical” digital cameras which can shoot at ISO1million (very soon I guess)… , the BOOMING camera-trading industry, the almost complete death of film once (Thank God, it’s very much back alive!), the death of very good professional labs…(they are still not revived yet)… , and the influx of thousands of “professional photographers” who become “professionals” literally overnight by getting themselves a 2000 bucks DSLR.

Recently, we have the PC Fair in Malaysia, and it’s not the first PC Fair to have camera booths selling cameras in it. I thought PC means personal computer? I know me and my wife are backdated… as my wife still asked me, “why are they selling cameras at a PC Fair?”

So many-a-times, I asked myself,” why the hell have I gone digital?”

Because of work, I’ve “gotta” upgrade my digital cameras every few years. (nowadays, the advancement is so fast that it’ll probably be shortened to every one year). Do I really have to upgrade? Even for photo-enthusiasts, they are upgrading, many even quicker than the pros usually. I only know of one wedding photographer around me so far, who upgrades as fast as a rich photo-enthusiast/gearhead, that most of us can’t even keep up to half his speed. LOL… :p

Shot at a wedding, Nikon FM3A, 85mm F1.8, Tri-X 400, self-developed in Rodinal.

What has photography become?

It used to be about mastering the ART of capturing fleeting moments that passes us by too quickly that a paintbrush is hard to describe. Is it still? Oh yes… maybe… and it’s has gone so much easier today with digital cameras isn’t it? Face-detection, smile-detection, what else?

But, why is it that it doesn’t seem any more enjoyable than the old days, when we don’t get to see the results immediately, when we often screw up in our exposures, etc. and etc.. For the new generation, you possibly do not know what I am talking about, then maybe, you should really try getting an old film camera, pop a roll of film in it, and try it out for yourself?

We have heard that Olympus has in her plans, the potential of making cameras that can shoot up to 100 frames per second, like what Casio once did… except that this time, if it’s successful, the images are gonna be stunning. It’s the “motion-jpeg concept” they talked about… when I can imagine future wedding photographers inviting their clients into their posh and cosy lounge, looking at huge screens with a remote control in their hands, viewing “motion-jpegs” or shall we call it video? … and pressing the pause button whenever they see a “moment” to do a screen capture for output as an enlargement print. Oh, not-to-forget some soft background music and two glasses of champagne too… Now, isn’t that lovely?

Will Henri Cartier-Bresson jump out of his grave since he strongly believed in “decisive moment” by the photographer but now, it’s about “decisive pauses” by the audience?

Shot with a camera called the Zeiss Ikon Contaflex Super, made in 1959.
Also shot with the 1959-made Contaflex, using cheap China Lucky Color Film

I am just being emotional again.

Photography is about being emotional. The whole photography process is emotional. By introducing “better” cameras that supposedly make life easier for the photographer to concentrate on ARTS can also at the same time, take away certain pleasures the photographer is enjoying.  I am imagining and asking myself, “if the whole world shoots using the “motion-jpeg/video concept”, will I still be a photographer? ”

I know it’s definitely exciting for technology to advance like this… exciting for the engineers, NOT the artists, not really for me. It’s a cool gadget to have, but not for serious photography I would wanna do.

Photography is such a hybrid. It involves heavily with gears and instruments, and yet you can develop it as ART. So, it’s not surprising that many photographers are more “involved” with changing equipments than actual shooting. You change your camera, you get a different result. Take the camera away from the photographer, and he/she can’t produce pictures anymore. Whereas, a painter can still try painting with his/her fingers. So, it’s definitely highly equipment-dependent.

But how should we develop our artistic vision in the midst of all this technology advancement? Cameras are no different from mobile phones nowadays. The newer and better cameras are always luring us to believe that owning them can make us better photographers, which is TOTALLY UNRELATED to your personal photographic vision!

Taken with Rollei 35, Ilford XP2, part of my personal project "Cari Makan"(earn-a-living).
Also taken with Rollei 35, but on Kodak BW400CN.

Simplify!

I have ever mentioned that the Olympus E-P1 helped me in expanding my photographic vision, unleashed the experimental part of me, and that it is a camera that gives you great JPEGs without much retouching. I used it in automatic mode so I could concentrate on my photographic vision. That’s one way. Get a camera which can produce wonderful images without having to do much post-processing and in-camera settings. Set it to auto and concentrate on your composition.

Shoot film.

Shooting film slows you down. From shooting thousands with my DSLRs, I slowed down to shooting 36 per roll, a few rolls per week. Recently, I shoot just 12 shots a day on my favourite medium format camera for about 3-4 days per week. I am telling you this “slowing” is gonna continue for me. I am currently addicted to seeing as high as 10-11 keeper shots out of 12 per roll. And this feeling definitely beats having 30 keeper shots out of a hundred odd digital snaps.

Photography: ART or Gadget Lifestyle for me?

It’s still partly ART and partly a gadget lifestyle for me since I am often tempted by good old film cameras and sometimes the small digitals. :p But, I’d rather keep to my First Love which is Shooting! I WILL NOT spend more time on the computer than going out there for actual shooting as long as my eyes can still SEE.

Do feel free to share the images you shoot with me by inviting me to your flickr or whatever photo-sharing website you have… I’d love to see them!

I’ve been doing private coaching for quite a while now and I am gonna have a group photography workshop soon, so please email me if you are interested. Thanks!

Related Posts:

1. Why Photo-enthusiasts are cool!

2. Good to stay “innocent”.


The Power of Small Cameras

Man smoking, waiting. Olympus E-P1 at 14mm, 16:9 format, built-in art filter.
Man smoking, waiting. Olympus E-P1 at 14mm, 16:9 format, built-in art filter. I was about 2 metres from my subject.

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!

Still, I am often humbled by the fact that good images do not rely on good cameras BUT good photographers! Just browse through Flickr and you will be humbled just like me. Many of my favourite shots often come from my small compact cameras too.

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)

3. Faster auto-focusing (compact cameras with F8 aperture can “focus ” faster due to deeper depth-of-field)

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 Good To Be A Child Again!

My Baby
My Baby

I have always been viewed as a “Big Kid” among my friends and families. I have my swinging moods, my endless questions, my annoying curiosity, and I talk more than I listen, and worse, I’m always doing the opposite.

In photography, I have gone through being a truly commercialized wedding photographer, shot dozens and dozens of couples in a year till you literally forget their names, faced fierce back-biting from fellow competitors in the industry and being called names. In those days, I have also earned enough to own many expensive equipments, ran 1 gallery and 1 studio at a time, and spent massively in advertising.

But now, I am telling you, “It’s always good to be like a child once again!”

I ask myself so frequently, “Why am I doing what I am doing?”, “Why did I ever pick up photography?” and “Why did I become a wedding photographer?” As for the last question, my answer is “I like to see people happy!”

Being a child again means, we’ve gotta get back to basics. We have to return to our roots. We have to love what we do and do what we love! We must be pure in our intentions. We have to be honest to ourselves and to the ones we love. We ought to be simple. We also have to be darn curious about everything. We ought to be sensitive to everything around us, our own feelings, others’ feelings. Bottom line – We have to be sincere.

Commercialization in weddings takes away it’s original true meaning. As wedding photographers, we should feel honored that we are chosen to document someone’s once-in-a-lifetime event. We should remain faithful to it’s original intention and meaning – documenting it in it’s happiest form! NOT use it to selfishly win recognition through awards to gain personal fame and glory.

Every wedding is already different by itself. We don’t have to try to make it more different. In trying too hard to make things different, we end up showing off more of the photographer’s gimmicks than the couple’s true joy. Now, before some industry award winners start shooting me, I am not saying awards are bad. Winning awards from established wedding photography organizations can motivate us to learn and improve our skills and give us more confidence to come out with more masterpieces. But I am talking about our intentions.

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Don’t sacrifice your wedding couples. If all you are looking out for through your viewfinder on a wedding day is award-winning shots, you sure miss many simple but important and necessary document shots. Believe me, an artistically blurred movement shot of the back of a bride for example, won’t be more important than a F8 sharp smiling posed shot of the bride and her dad. Before you know it, dad won’t be around anymore. People die. We all die.

If I only live to win recognition, I’d rather die.

Olympus E-P1, A Class of It’s Own.

Olympus PEN E-P1, image taken from dpreview.com
Olympus PEN E-P1, image taken from dpreview.com

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!

To read a detailed article on the above, click here.

Olympus E-P1, shot through car windscreen in a rain, B&W art filter
Olympus E-P1, shot through car windscreen in a rain, B&W art filter, 16:9 format.
Olympus E-P1 set to manual focus, b&w art filter.
Olympus E-P1 set to manual focus, b&w art filter, 16:9 format.
This shot shows that E-P1 is quick enough to capture action. My son did this action in a split-second. Tough not as fast as a DSLR, it is not that bad afterall.
This shot shows that E-P1 is quick enough to capture action. My son did this action in a split-second. Though not as fast as a DSLR, it is not that bad after all.

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 that as photography 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 to set 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, sometimes it really helps if you just indulge in all your five senses without being distracted by technical functionalities, and shoot what you feel!

 

Olympus E-P1, B&W art filter. I pre-focused the camera to infinity before reaching out to shoot the birds returning to their home using the grainy black and white art filter mode.
Olympus E-P1, B&W art filter, 6:6 format. I pre-focused the camera to infinity before reaching out to shoot the birds returning to their home using the grainy black and white art filter mode.
Who says you can't see beautiful sunset downtown KL? Shot using "Sunset" Mode in Olympus E-P1
Who says you can't see beautiful sunset downtown KL? Shot using "Sunset" Mode in Olympus E-P1, 16:9 format.
Shot using "Pop Art" art filter, Olympus E-P1. This is a spontaneous shot, again done within seconds spotting the chef's head covered by a bunch of roast pork
Shot using "Pop Art" art filter, Olympus E-P1, 16:9 format. This is a spontaneous shot, again done within seconds spotting the chef's head covered by a bunch of roast pork
Olympus E-P1, shot using "landscape" mode. It really does make the sky much nicer.
Olympus E-P1, shot using "landscape" mode. It really does make the sky much nicer., 6:6 format

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?

 

Olympus E-P1, B&W art filter
Olympus E-P1, B&W art filter 6:6 format
Olympus E-P1, B&W art filter
Olympus E-P1, B&W art filter, 4:3 format

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!

I was caught previewing on the E-P1. DON'T SPEND TIME ON PREVIEWS! CONCENTRATE ON GETTING YOUR SHOTS!
I was caught previewing on the E-P1. DON'T SPEND TIME ON PREVIEWS! CONCENTRATE ON GETTING YOUR SHOTS!

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 (image stabilization) 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 E-P1, Pin-hole effect art filter
Olympus E-P1, Pin-hole effect art filter, 4:3 format
Olympus E-P1, Pin-hole effect art filter, 6:6 format
Olympus E-P1, Pin-hole effect art filter, 6:6 format

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!

Shot by my wife using "sunset mode". She's not a photographer, if you know what I mean.
Shot by my wife using "sunset mode". She's not a photographer, if you know what I mean.

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 can easily achieve cinematic effects with F1.4 blur)… … … …

THIS CAMERA IS FOR YOU!