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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Tips to improve your photography using what you’ve got

We constantly find excuses to justify the purchase of new, more expensive camera gear. However, it is important to remind ourselves from time to time that simply upgrading  gear does not improve our photography. The greatest weapon a photographer possesses is their vision – how they see the world around them, with their unique artistic sense and perspective.

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Review: the 2017 Olympus M. Zuiko Digital 45mm f1.2 PRO

With the Micro Four Thirds lens collection now no longer lacking good, affordable zoom and prime options, Olympus has shifted their focus to making premium large aperture prime lenses. In addition to the existing M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 PRO lens, Olympus just announced two new PRO lenses: the 17mm F1.2 and the 45mm F1.2. Special thanks to Olympus Malaysia for the M.Zuiko 45mm F1.2 PRO loan unit for this review. I’ve had one full day to shoot with the lens on the streets and behind the scenes of a Chinese Opera.

The highlights of the Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F1.2 PRO lens are:

  • Designed to be optimally balanced between delivering excellent resolution and producing beautiful “feathered” bokeh.
  • Complex lens construction consisting 14 Elements in 10 Groups with 1 ED lens, 4 HR lenses, 1 aspherical lens
  • Full weather sealing (splash and dust proof)
  • Minimum focusing distance of 0.5 meter and maximum magnification of 0.1x
  • LF-n button (customize-able function button on lens), manual focus clutch mechanism, takes 62mm filters and weighs about 410g

You can find the full technical specifications on the official product page.

In case some of you aren’t aware yet, I left my Olympus employment in April. So neither MT nor I are affiliated to Olympus in any way and this is an independent review. The Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm F1.2 PRO lens and OM-D E-M1 Mark II camera body were provided on loan by Olympus Malaysia strictly for review purposes only. This is an experience based review and is likely to be subjective. All images were shot in RAW and post-processed in Capture One Pro version 10.2. For higher resolution images with full EXIF data intact, kindly view the images in the online gallery here.

Read on for the rest of the review. [Read more…]

Review: the Canon EF-M 22/2 STM

Just when I thought my temporary flirtation with the Canon EOS-M6 was over, Canon Malaysia came back to me with the EF-M 22mm F2 STM lens which I was very interested to try out. In my recent review of the Canon EOS-M6, I concluded that it performed well, with the only serious downside being the sub-standard kit lens. Therefore, I was hoping that the 22mm F2 pancake would do justice to what the M6 is truly capable of!  [Read more…]