Monday, 6 February 2017

Walking around Pudu market with Robin (Part 1)

I come to visit my mum and sis in Kuala Lumpur, yearly, it's a pilgrimage to my loved ones and my roots in Malaysia. One highlight over recent years is that +Robin Wong is kind enough to host me around his favourite Photo Therapy spots, often bringing some gear for me to experience.  This time, it was the 25mm f/1.2 M.Zuiko.

A few words about the lens I used most

25mm is a "normal"  field of view in Micro Four Thirds sensor format. There are other lenses in this genre - I have had and continue to have good times with my 20mm f/1.7 Panasonic Lumix pancake (the mark 1 version) that +Luke Ding sold me, second hand when I first started Micro Four Thirds. The two lenses are worlds apart in practical physicality - the 20mm is a pancake design, therefore quite short and light, less expensive, slowish in autofocus because it moves all lens elements to focus. The 25mm f/1.2 is the latest design, heavily corrected for optical performance, sharp, very fast AF, an obviously shallow depth of field at f/1.2, with the focus  clutch system for quick switch to manual focus. It is expensive, chunky and obvious, with length and  weight such that it would tip the OM-D E-M1 body forwards in balance (front heavy).

In this session, I also used my 7.5mm Samyang fisheye for some shots - it is much less bulky and expensive than the 7-14 M.Zuiko zoom but is manual focus and manual aperture.

About the images

I didn't want to carry out a lens review. I just wanted to enjoy my experience with the lens and with Robin. So these images aren't meant to be objectively delineated or critiqued but a momento of my experience and my time.

Robin, in his Shutter Therapy blog is world famous for several things, getting the max out of Olympus images, his excellent series of street portraits. You just have to be with Robin, shooting with him - he has this confidence in his purpose and his skill, his ready rapport with his subjects - one of several, very memorable masters of the craft. So when I was shooting with my Olympus E-M1 Mark 1 and this fab lens, I was feeling the heat - I had not been interacting with people and working the street for months, I had set the lens to a very shallow depth of field, requiring attention to technique, my eyesight for inspection of shots is not at a high, yada, yada, yada.

This shot above, I was very happy with. (Robin had coaxed me to try this position by the way, I had tried a less magnetic position). The subject had paused his coconut dehusking or cracking for me, and his expression, the thoughts in his eyes and his lips just convey his personality to and for me. 

The shot is SOOC JPEG from the camera, with light tonal adjustments and cropping in Snapseed for Android.

Here's the second portrait that I find magical for me. This guy had been working pretty hard, handling the chickens in this stall at the wet market. It was hot in the sun, the working environment is make shift. The workers wear gum boots because as you wash and cut  up produce, it spills on the ground and you wash the floor with running water.

Again, there is a message in his eyes and his expression is his signature. He's grasping a cheap phone, that plastic bag (yes, I know about the anti-plastic bag movement but this also shows why they have become ubiquitous) may be holding his cooked lunch. That white plastic resin chair isn't a #lonelychair by the looks of it, and the blue plastic drum is quite common to hold produce or water for rinse.

A portrait lens would have allowed me to frame his face but would have cropped out details of his environment. Moving closer to him would have exaggerated his limbs and features - I quite like this composition, distance and focal length.

People go rabid about bokeh and love to show bokeh balls. Yes, then talk turns to the size of your sensor and so on. In retail photography (weddings etc) there is a yen for backgrounds and simulated romance / staged nostalgic moments etc.... After a while, it's just a "feature" that you ask for  / buy with the photographer. I'm a bit over that for the scenes I shoot. I just want natural looking focus fall off, that's not over contrived nor ambiguous (like in a kit lens with limited f/nos).

This lens, with the two portraits done this distance, does not make background abstraction by blur, obvious. There is definite differentiation in focus though, between the different areas - a fair number of my shots were out of focus on the desired subject - I don't practise #extremeChimping, I was using Single Point Auto Focus on S-AF. The Focus and Recompose technique might be hampered by the shallow depth of field.

There's also the notorious Olympus implementation of the body framing/live viewing the shot at f/4 instead of the largest aperture of the lens - I routinely have difficulty with that on my 20mm f/1.7 Panasonic where liveview looks sharp but the actual shot has a different depth of field. I was too busy enjoying my walk this time, to notice. 

This photo above has been processed from raw with On1 Raw Photo 2017 - I noticed that her face was subtly in better light than the rest of the scene but I didn't want local adjustments. This cinematic look freshens and lifts the scene.

Robin reminded me that if the f/1.2 was difficult to achieve in broad daylight with 1/8000th sec mechanical shutter, electronic shutter has a higher ceiling.

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