Full review: The 2018 Nikon Z7 and Z 24-70/4

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Executive summary: the last bastions of mirrors have both joined the brave new world. Nikon’s effort feels like a D850 and an E-M1.2 met in a bar and had an illegitimate child. Yes, it’s expensive; yes, for the most part, it performs pretty much how you’d expect. It doesn’t feel like a first effort except for a couple of relatively minor things (as it shouldn’t given how long Nikon took to release it) – if anything, they should be commended for releasing it when ready rather than as soon as possible. And yes, I bought one.

I’ve now had a couple of days to do shoot my production/ retail Z7, 24-70/4 and FTZ adaptor, and my thoughts follow. More images to come as I have time to shoot with the camera; I rushed this out in the middle of a family vacation – the first one since before I started photography professionally.

Updated 23/10/18 after extended battery testing.

Updated 28/10/18 after long distance testing of the 24-70.

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OT review: the 2018/9 BMW M2, midterm

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I make no secret of the fact that I’m a bit of a petrolhead; at least to the extent possible in Malaysia given the heftiness of our taxes and limited market affordability leading to a fairly uninspiring range of choices for the motoring enthusiast. That’s partially offset by affordable petrol and lax speeding enforcement, but given the state of traffic in Kuala Lumpur – the opportunities to enjoy it are few and far between. Nevertheless, I’ve often made my transportation choices emotionally driven rather than rational; the last time I did the latter, it was competent but not very fun. My options boiled down to either something completely impractical but fun (like a Lotus Elise) but cheap enough to afford a second family car where I would spend most of my time (and thus itself have to be tolerably interesting) – or something that could do double duty and have four seats (but not necessarily four doors). Some of you may recall I had a Z4 some time back. It turns out the limits of the car weren’t that high, no matter what one did to the underlying oily bits – there remained this delayed feeing to the steering that felt too indirect and vague for my liking. And whilst the 2.0T motor put out a healthy ~300bhp at the crank after tuning and on the right fuel, there was always a feeling of fragility given how often it would knock if not on RON 98 or RON 100. Fast forwarding a bit though several sensible diversions, I arrived at the M2 after a) waiting a very long time for a manual transmission and giving up, and b) somewhat regretting the F56 Mini Cooper S I purchased previously.

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Digital classic: Robin reviews the original Canon 5D in 2018

The idea of shooting with a Canon 5D (from 2005) has been on my mind – and I wanted to answer the question “what if I started out with a Canon 5D instead of an Olympus Four Thirds system?”. Larger image sensors provide greater latitude in high ISO shooting and dynamic range, but a camera and its user experience cannot be judged on the spec sheet alone. Having a chance to extensively test a full frame camera, even an obsolete model gave me the opportunity to better understand the advantages and shortcomings of different systems. Special thanks to Nurul Munira Rohaizan for loaning me her Canon 5D.

Before we dive in, let me be clear that this article is not meant to be a full frame vs cropped sensor argument. Some comparisons will be made between using the Canon 5D versus Four Thirds/Micro Four Thirds system but in the context of practical shooting differences. Lets keep the discussion pleasant and not stray too far into an endless debate. I am sure many readers have wondered what my thoughts on full frame cameras are? Therefore, I am answering those questions here from my own personal standpoint. At the end of the day, I believe that we choose the tool that works best for our own shooting needs.

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Second take – the Sigma 16mm f1.4 in the field

As mentioned in my initial review of the Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary lens, I had the lens for a few more days – enough for a quick round of weekend shutter therapy. Considering I shot mostly at night/low-light for the review, I took this opportunity to test the lens under more favorable light conditions. I also shot images with human subjects as I normally do for my street shooting.

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Review: the Sigma 16mm f1.4 DC DN C

After my review of the Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm F1.2 PRO, a few people suggested a lower priced yet seemingly competent alternative – the Sigma 16mm F1.4 DC DN Contemporary lens. A dear friend, Amir, who recently obtained a Sigma 16mm was kind enough to loan it to me for review purposes. So is this really a budget-friendly option to the 17mm F1.2 PRO from Olympus, and does the Sigma lens perform well enough under the standard Robin Wong lens torture tests?

Some quick disclaimers; neither Ming Thein nor I are associated with Sigma Malaysia. This is an independent review and my approach is always based on user experience and may be subjective. The Sigma 16mm F1.4 was used on the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II for all the sample images shown in this article. All images were shot in RAW and post-processed using Capture One Pro, with minor adjustments. You may view the images from this article in higher resolution on an online Google Photo album here.

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A blast from the past II: revisiting the Olympus OM-D E-M5

Of all the cameras that I’ve reviewed in the past, the Olympus OM-D E-M5 will always have a special place in my heart. It seems appropriate to follow the previous revisitation of the very first E-1 by revisiting the E-M5. The E-M5 was a game-changer for the mirrorless interchangeable camera world, pushing the boundaries for capabilities and setting high standards for other mirrorless manufacturers to follow. It’s been 6 years since the release of the E-M5 and I want to explore the significance of the E-M5’s role in changing the perception towards mirrorless cameras as a serious tool. I spent a day with the E-M5 for my shutter therapy and all the images shown are fresh out of the trusty, old E-M5.

MT also reviewed the original E-M5 some time back, here, and wrote about how it was a game changer for him professionally at the time, here.

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A blast from the past: Robin Wong on the Olympus E-1

Between the chase for stratospheric megapixel numbers, lust over new gear releases and pushing the limits of imaging envelopes, I sometimes take a step or two back and relive the experience of shooting with cameras from yesteryear. In this case, the first ever Olympus Four Thirds DSLR, the E-1 which was introduced in 2003. While accessorizing my outfit with a vintage-looking camera matches the overall retro-fashion look that seems hip these days, my purpose of shooting with the dinosaur E-1 was more simplistic. I wanted to slow down, and just enjoy shooting without having the camera get in the way. After all, have I not repeatedly talked about going back to the basics and getting the fundamentals right? Even MT has a great, must-read article about shot discipline, which emphasizes critical timing and technique relevant to all gear choices.

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Review: the Panasonic Leica 12mm f1.4 ASPH for Micro Four Thirds

Here’s another one to add to the glut of high grade, fast aperture, Micro Four Thirds, prime lens reviews: the Panasonic Leica Summilux 12mm F1.4 ASPH lens. At first, I decided not to review this lens mostly because I prefer to work with longer focal lengths. Also, the Panasonic 12mm F1.4 lens has been around since 2016 and there are already several reviews available. The lens has been sitting in my camera bag for a while now, as I went along shooting on the streets. I’ve used it for certain shots – out of curiosity or when I needed a wide angle lens. Eventually, I’d used it enough that it made sense to review it – if for nothing else, but the sake of completeness.

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Review: The Canon G1X Mark III, an impulse buy

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I picked one of these up on a recent trip to Japan (for some reason, none were available locally). Though Japan is one of the few places where the larger stores have virtually all models of camera on demo/display, with batteries and storage and lenses and in essence ready to play with to your heart’s content – that tells you very little about how something will perform in the field, in practice. Motivations? I was seduced on impulse by the spec sheet.

Disclosure note: I currently work for Hasselblad as Chief of Strategy, which means I cannot objectively comment on or review anything that might be competition. But since we don’t make a consumer level APS-C compact, there’s little conflict of interest here: I too am simply looking for the perfect pocket tool as much as the next photographer. As small as the X1D is – for medium format – it’s not exactly pocketable.

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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…]