Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II Review

Important Notes:
1) I am an Olympus Malaysia employee. 
2) This is a user experience based approach review of a camera. I spent considerable amount of time shooting, and I am writing this blog review based on that shooting experience, with plenty of sample photographs to show and support my findings. 
3) This is not a full technical analysis review site. There are many of such sites out there, I am not equipped with sufficient expertise and equipment to perform elaborate technical tests. 
4)I may be biased (who isn't?) but that does not mean I cannot shoot photographs, share them, and write about my experience using the camera, all which are still valid. Do not just rely solely on my review alone, there will be plenty others available for you to make a more rounded conclusion. 
5) All images were shot in RAW and converted to JPEG directly via Olympus Viewer 3 software. Very minimal post-processing were applied (minor exposure compensation, white balance tweak, etc). 
6) Important image parameters: White Balance Auto (warm color off), Sharpness, Contrast, Saturation = 0, Noise Filter = OFF, Gradation = Normal

Today, Olympus is launching the new Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II, the second generation of the premium compact E-M10 series in the OM-D system line-up.

The OM-D series is aimed at professional and serious enthusiasts wanting more from their camera and expect the best of the best that the system can offer. Characteristics that define an OM-D include large Electronic Viewfinder (EVF), powerful image stabilization system, DSLR like controls and features (twin dials, plenty of shortcut customizeable function buttons, good ergonomics and handling etc), high performance in terms of AF speed/camera response, as well as the final image quality results delivered by the camera. E-M1 and E-M5 series are weather-sealed, while the E-M10 series, including the new E-M10 Mark II is not. It is crucial to note that the OM-D E-M10 Mark II is not a direct replacement of E-M10, and sits comfortably between E-M5 Mark II and E-M10.

The key highlights of the OM-D E-M10 Mark II:

1) Powerful 5-Axis Image Stabilization 
Continuing the tradition of the OM-D strength, now the E-M10 Mark II has 5-Axis Image Stabilization, much like the elder siblings E-M5 Mark II and E-M1. The Image Stabilization works in both still and movie recordings.

2) Small, light-weight, premium quality construction
E-M10/E-M10 Mark II is the smallest of the OM-D series, but still fully built in metal body and high grade material.

3) Large Electronic Viewfinder (new OLED design)
E-M5 Mark II and E-M1 share the same LCD viewfinder (0.74x magnification), but the E-M10 Mark II is slightly smaller at 0.62x, with high resolution of 2.36 Million Dots and 100% frame coverage.

4) High Performance (fast AF, OM-D image quality)
Olympus AF system has been known to be super fast and accurate and this continues in the E-M10 Mark II. The E-M10 Mark II also uses the similar image sensor and processing engine (Truepic 7) as the E-M5 Mark II, so I am expecting the camera to deliver very similar image quality.

5) Creative Shooting Features 
Art Filters, HDR Mode, Color Creator, etc

For full specifications please visit the official product page here (click). 

I like the new design of the E-M10 Mark II. It looks cleaner, simpler and more straight to the point. I'd pick silver if I were to choose one. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

35mm Adventure at Pudu Market

In the continuing effort in learning 35mm photography, I brought the beautiful Fujifilm X100 to Pudu Market, the largest wet market in Kuala Lumpur (and possibly Malaysia). I do not remember using much 35mm perspective in this market, my favourite perspective has always been 50mm, especially shooting in this market. Nevertheless knowing that I will work with very tight space, a wider coverage is always a plus point and having more fitted into a frame forces me to consider my shots more carefully before pressing the shutter button. The market setting is possibly the messiest place to achieve clean composition. 

Joining me this morning was the new friend from Germany, Stephan as well as the KL streets regular Nick. We started earlier than usual, to catch the beautiful morning light, and that really did pay off. The lighting on human portraits were fantastic, and there is almost a magical glow thanks to the beautiful morning light. 

Gigantic Fish
We were lucky to have come across these two friendly market sellers. We did not approach them, they saw us with our cameras, and immediately asked us to come to them as they picked up those huge fish!

Friday, August 21, 2015

Silent Scenery - "Play, Rewind, Repeat"

I have been a huge fan of Silent Scenery, and have been following them since the debut of their first album released in the year 2008. Their music is unique, one of its kind, and at the same time tunes that can be easily blended into our daily lives, becoming loosely described as "the soundtrack of your life". In every opportunity that I could find I would catch their performance live on stage and did my best to shoot photographs, and then video recording in later days. Silent Scenery has come a long way, having successful Asian tour (all over Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Philippines, just to name a few) and subsequently launched their second album in 2011. Unfortunately all good things come to an end as the members of the band parted ways and Silent Scenery was officially disbanded in early 2013. My heart was broken. I even could not make it to their finale show before their indefinite absence from the local music scene!

I think my biggest regret was not being able to do justice to their performance in my photographs, due to the lack of equipment (imagine shooting with an Olympus E-410 and E-520 in dimly lit cafe or bar, with just mere kit lenses back then), and my inability to shoot high quality videos (what is music if you do not have good video recording?). I have only recently started to polish my skills in shooting video of live music performance (mostly Ariff AB and a few other local artists) and I have learned and improved so much. I have even started to consider the audio quality of my recording a priority! I have always thought to myself if only Silent Scenery was still playing, I could have recorded much better videos with what I can do now (equipment wise, and skills). 

Then suddenly, a few weeks ago, the dormant Silent Scenery Facebook page pinged a notification on an upcoming event, some sort of a reunion show, playing ONE more time, one last time, together with their friends Lightcraft (from Indonesia), Telephony and Take Two (from Singapore). I cannot believe this was happening! Last night was the show and boy, it was a blast seeing Silent Scenery performing live again one more time. Though the evening was short, it was one awesome evening to remember. 

The venue was at Live Fact at Taman Danau Desa, and I went there immediately after work. I brought along the Olympus OM-D E-M5 Mark II and M.Zuiko lenses 12mm F2, 25mm F1.8 and 75mm F1.8. Knowing that I can get near, the 12mm F2 is the primary lens, and 25mm was already too tight in many scenarios. Lighting condition was horrible (purple) but that was to be expected from such gigs. Though I originally intended to shoot more stills, somehow, instinctively in the final moments I decided to tilt my balance over to video recording. 

Here are the two videos, shot in full HD 1080p at 60 frames per second! Video was all recorded hand-held with only 12mm F2 lens. 


Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Food Photography is a Real Struggle for Me

I started this blog in 2004 (during my University days) with the intention of keeping an online diary, recording in detail of my every day adventures, where I went, whom I have met, what interesting activities I participated in, any exciting events that happened and most importantly, to remember the delicious food that I have eaten. As a typical blogger who regularly posted photographs of food once upon a time, I have often found myself struggling to shoot a decent photograph of food. The struggle is very real, I can spend 5 minutes in front of a beautiful plate of noodles under majestic available light and I have trouble nailing a good shot. What happens next? All the photos were discarded and never made it here. Only very selective few survived the brutal filtering process and these shots are being compiled into this blog entry. 

I know some of you will roll your eyes and say "oh typical Asians who shoot food photos" and this scenario cannot be illustrated better in this short done by WongfuProductions. Food is a huge part of culture and you can share that through photographs. I do think food photography is art and not an easy one to master. Evidently there are just too many "average" and well..... less than average food shots being shared. I have always envied my friends like Jasonmumbles (who no longer blogs about food, boooo), whom I have learned a great deal from, and more recently Anna and Carmen both always enthusiastically shooting and blogging about food in Malaysia. 

My biggest problem with food photography is composition. This is the first time I am compiling all of "ok can make it at least for this blog entry" food photographs together and they all look almost the same in terms of angle and perspective of view. I really should explore different composition options and more creative angles. This is easier said than done! I have in fact experimented with so many alternatives and they all come out... unusable. At the same time I have always wanted to take good food photographs. 

Why shoot food photographs you ask? Because I am a food lover and I believe we live to eat. I have frequently shouted: Shoot What You Love. 

Roasted Duck Slices at Roost, Bangsar
This image was shot at 40MP High Resolution with E-M5 Mark II and printed large 60"x40" for the use in Olympus events. This is the only image in this series that is entirely straight out of camera JPEG with no additional processing.