Review: The 2018 Olympus E-PL9

Olympus has just launched a new addition to their PEN line-up, the E-PL9. I had the opportunity to shoot a review unit for about a week before the launch. Looking at the compact form factor, stylish design and inclusion of a selfie screen, the E-PL9 is clearly targeted towards the entry level market – particularly smartphone users who need better image output and performance but are not keen on carrying larger and heavier DSLR cameras. However, there is no shortage of entry level system cameras now, both from the mirrorless and DSLR camps. In this E-PL9 review, I explore the capabilities of the small PEN camera that allows it to stand out from the crowd, as well as the compromises that were made to keep the compact form factor. [Read more…]

Quick Review: the Panasonic LX10

While returning the Lumix G9 to Panasonic Malaysia, I caught, out of the corner of my eye, the LX10 lying on a table. I picked it up and immediately felt the urge to borrow it. Minutes later, having done just that I was out shooting whatever I found interesting for the rest of the day. Considering the LX10 has been around since late-2016, I wasn’t focused on reviewing it. However, it’s left enough of an impression on me that I thought I would share my thoughts and some images here.

I have always been fascinated by advanced compact cameras, with their small but feature-rich form factor. However, interchangeable lens cameras, especially Micro Four Thirds, have become smaller and smaller over time and narrowed the size advantage that compact cameras traditionally held. We have the truly compact Panasonic GM1 and GM5, coupled with the slim 12-32mm pancake lens, that provides a very compact solution. Other alternatives such as Fuji X-E3, Olympus PEN-Lite series and Canon M-series are not that much larger. Yet the Panasonic LX10 and Sony RX100 range of cameras sit very comfortably in their own category despite these threats. I had to satisfy my own curiosity and explore the benefits of a premium compact camera for myself.

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Review: the 2018 Panasonic Lumix G9

When it comes to Micro Four Thirds, Panasonic is well respected for their expertise in video while Olympus for photography. This is especially true for the flagship cameras such as Panasonic GH5 and Olympus E-M1 Mark II. Therefore, when Panasonic launched their new Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 recently, it seemed like they were targeting the photography crowd, considering the very similar photography specific features the G9 has in comparison to the E-M1 Mark II.  In this article, I explore the stills shooting capabilities of the Panasonic G9.

As always, this is an independent review and neither Ming Thein nor I are associated with Panasonic Malaysia. The Panasonic G9 and several Panasonic lenses were on loan and have been returned at the time of writing this review. This is a user experience review, and my opinion may be subjective. I was not able to test all features of the camera and shall only focus on the highlights of the G9. I am not adequately equipped to do a video review for this camera. All images shown here were shot in RAW,  except the sequential burst shots which were shot in JPEG (for my sanity). The RAW files were converted to DNG directly via Adobe DNG Converter and post-processed in Capture One Pro.

You may find all the primary images (and a few extra samples) online on Google Photos here. 

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Street photography with the Olympus ZD 17mm f1.2 PRO – an addendum to the review

Some of you who read the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 PRO lens review here, must be wondering why there were no street photography images, since the 35mm equivalent is a classic focal length for street photography and it is widely known that I do love shooting on the streets. The culprit was bad weather, thanks to a spell of rain over the last couple of week combined with overcast skies. Lighting is crucial for all photography and with cloudy weather I would have had flat, uninteresting and dull looking images. Fortunately, I did have a little time left with the Olympus 17mm F1.2 lens before returning it to Olympus, so I went out to do some street shooting when the weather cleared. This article shall be an extension to the Olympus 17mm F1.2 review, with more sample images shot with the lens.

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Review: The Olympus M.Zuiko 17/1.2 PRO

Firstly – Happy New Year! I hope 2018 proves to be fruitful and fulfilling – both photographically and otherwise. Now on to the business at hand…

The Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 PRO lens was launched in September 2017 and together with the Olympus 25mm and 45mm F1.2, completes the PRO F1.2 lens trinity. My review unit of the Olympus 17mm F1.2 was on loan from Olympus Malaysia during the final week of 2017. I acknowledge that 35mm (equivalent) is a classic, popular and highly revered focal length especially for environmental portraits, documentary and journalism work as well as traditional street photography.  Frankly, 35mm is not my favourite focal length to work with – I generally prefer either the wider or longer end for my photography needs. Therefore, this review was exceptionally challenging for me and required more effort than usual.

Some disclaimers before we move on – the Olympus 17mm F1.2 lens was on loan from Olympus Malaysia solely for review purposes only and will be returned soon after. Neither myself nor MT are associated with Olympus in any way, and this review was conducted independently. This review is based off user-experience and presented from my point of view and is therefore, subjective. All images were shot with the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and post-processed with Capture One Pro.

A gallery of all the images shown in this article with EXIF data intact can be viewed on Google Photos Album here.

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Micro Four Thirds and wedding photography

There is a perception that the use of large DSLR cameras with gargantuan lenses equals professional wedding photography; I beg to differ. I have been shooting weddings for several years using Micro Four Thirds exclusively and have found it to be sufficient in delivering results. In fact, there are distinct benefits in using the Micro Four Thirds system for wedding photography, which I will discuss in this article.

I’ve used varying combinations of OM-D cameras and lenses, with my current setup being: the Olympus OM-D E-M1 and E-M10 Mark II with M.Zuiko lenses 12-40mm F2.8, 25mm F1.8 and 45mm F1.8 lenses. I also use an external flash when necessary. Typically, wedding photographers require super fast autofocus to capture fleeting moments, comfortable handling for all day shooting and running around, and most importantly good, high quality image output. This basically means clean high ISO images, sufficient dynamic range is harsh light and the ability to render shallow depths of field for effective subject isolation. Mirrorless interchangeable lens camera systems have come a long way, and have improved to a point where they can adequately fulfill all these needs.

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Macro redux: Getting lost in the insect world

When I want an escape from the world, I simply pick up my macro gear and indulge in some insect macro photography. I find the process to be both physically and mentally challenging and lose my myself quite easily in the tiny world of bugs. The little creatures often hide in the most unexpected places that require me to flex and stretch my body in impossible ways while holding the camera and the flash steady. The mind must be entirely focused on getting the shot and doing it quickly because insects do not stay still for very long. All kinds of calculations and considerations come to play, as you juggle between lighting, getting closer for better magnification, ensuring critically sharp focus and not to forget, composition! There is just so much the mind and body needs to coordinate and execute to achieve one simple insect macro shot. In that brief moment, I find myself entering a different universe where only getting the shot matters to me.

For today’s set of images, I hiked the trails of the Bukit Gasing Forest Park to find the critters. Half of the fun was in the hunt for the bugs. All the images shown in this article were shot with Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko 60mm F2.8 Macro lens. I used the FL-50R flash off camera. If you have questions about my technique, I’ve shared those in detail in a previous article here.

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Shutter therapy in Phnom Penh

Life has been incredibly hectic lately, so when my friend Amir randomly asked if I was down for a short holiday to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, I immediately jumped at it. It was not planned as a photography trip and we were there simply to catch up with old friends and drink as much cheap beer as we could. However, it’s inevitable that I squeeze time for shutter therapy, especially in a city I haven’t been to before.

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Review: the Panasonic DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60 f2.8-4

Olympus and Panasonic have been releasing increasingly similar and overlapping lenses as the Micro Four Thirds system matures. More options and choice can definitely be seen as an advantage. Early this year, in January, Panasonic released the Panasonic Leica DG Vario-Elmarit 12-60mm F2.8-4.0 zoom lens. The other competitors for a similar zoom lens are: the Panasonic 12-35mm F2.8 and Olympus 12-40mm F2.8 at about the same price as the new 12-60mm F2.8-4. For a premium, you can have the Olympus 12-100mm F4, and at the lower end there is the Panasonic 12-60mm F3.5-5.6. There is no shortage of standard zoom lenses. Therefore in this review, I shall explore the capabilities of the Panasonic 12-60mm F2.8-4 and discuss how this lens stands out from the rest of the crowd. [Read more…]

About the ‘Robin Wong’ look…

I find it humorous how people can look at a photograph and say that is has the “Robin Wong” look. Truth be told, I haven’t successfully developed a distinctive photography style yet (unlike others like say, our host, Salgado, McCurry, Leibowitz etc). I am still in the process of experimenting, trying out different techniques and shooting methods,  and deciding what works and what doesn’t. I believe photography is a dynamic process that requires us to go beyond our comfort zone and try new and different approaches. Growth in photography takes time, and I, like everyone else am still learning.

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