Classic Negative Film Simulation (Changi Jewel)

I meant to post this weeks ago, but it was only recently that I managed to find time and get around to doing it.

I went to Changi Jewel for a mini photoshoot with a couple of my friends. They have not been to Changi Jewel and they wanted to take some photos of the place. Armed with my new Fujifilm X-Pro 3, I took some photos of this beautiful place, sticking to Classic Negative Film Simulation. Just like with previous photo session with my family and relatives during the Christmas gathering, I stuck with one film simulation and just shoot.

Classic Negative is really beautiful. I can understand why this particular film simulation is great for street photography. It has a certain look to your shots that captures the essence of the scene, without saturating any colours that might potentially pop out in the picture. Although I find that this particular film simulation is weak against greenery and natural foliage (other film simulations can capture green really vividly), Classic Negative is still able to provide a unique look to my photos. Although I have been to Jewel before to take some photos, previously with my Olympus camera, but coming here again and sticking to just Classic Negative provides a totally different look to the shots I took. Here are some samples below.

Changi Jewel, captured at the moment the sky train zips past.
People standing on the glass bridge, offering a magnificent view of the entire Changi Jewel grounds.
Order and balance.
Sun rays providing natural light into the dome.
My friend seeing Jewel for the first time. He is using the Olympus OM-D EM5 Mark II camera, exactly the same camera that I had before I made the switch to Fujifilm.
The lighting was absolutely magical on that day. Coupled with Classic Negative Film Simulation, it makes the shot even more magical.

I am getting the Fujifilm X-Pro 3 after all.

Two weeks ago, I made the plunge. I paid the deposit and pre-ordered the X-Pro 3. Such a big purchase was not done lightly. As always, I imposed a two-week cooling off period, where I will not think, read or watch anything related to the X-Pro 3 and only revisit that thought after the cooling off period is over. When the cooling off period was over, I still had the strong desire to purchase the camera and had this strong feeling that this is the camera for me. In other words, this was not an impulse buy. I am in the market for a new mirrorless and the Fujifilm X-Pro 3 fits the bill.

I chose the black with none of the DURA coating. The DURA coating options costs a couple hundred dollars extra.

I believe the camera will launch on the 28th of November, sometime next week. I should be expecting a call from my local camera shop, informing me that the camera has arrived and is available for collection. I have decided to pair the body with the 23mm f2.0 prime lens, which based on what I have read, is a good prime lens for street photography, my main focus in using the X-Pro 3.

Paired with a prime lens such as the 23mm f2.0, it will be interesting to see how it will change the way I take photos. It is going to be an interesting learning journey for me to just rely on a prime lens as my daily driver.

I am very excited to use it once it arrives. I guess getting used to the menu system will take some time. As to what I am going to do with my Olympus OM-D EM5 Mark II camera, I have decided to keep the body and the pancake lens after all. I will be selling the 12-40mm f2.8 PRO lens to partially fund the new camera. The Olympus camera, paired with the pancake lens, is still a fun camera to use and I see myself using it from time to time just for the sake of fun.

Camera gear downgrade?

So recently I wrote about how smartphone cameras are getting so good that, as a casual/enthusiast photographer like me, lugging a separate camera and lens during my travels is no longer an attractive option for me. Smartphone cameras has gotten so good that I feel it is no longer worth the effort in bringing all that extra gear with you just so you can take good travel photos when the device in your pocket can do an amazing job all on its own.

The iPhone 11 Pro Max camera is just stunning. The hardware, combined with software makes a killer combination in taking excellent photos whether you are professional or a novice in photography.

And so it pains me to have to consider downgrading or leave my OMD EM5 MII camera gear and lens behind moving forward.

The thing is, I still enjoy taking photos other than using my smartphone. The act of composing my shots and pressing the shutter button on a DSLR or MFT system is still an enjoyable part of photography for me, one that cannot be replicated on a smartphone. And because of that, I still want a separate camera that I can easily and conveniently bring with me on my future travels. I still want to take photos that are still superior as compared to those of a smartphone. Though the gap is closing in terms of image quality, the step up in image quality is still substantial when pictures are taken from a dedicated camera.

But what are the alternatives? MFTs are small, but lugging extra lenses can be a hassle. And good lenses are usually heavier due to the use of good quality materials (metal housing with extra glass elements)

Compact shooters are the next alternative. They are getting really good, especially the Panasonic LX 100 MII. I have been eyeing that compact camera for a few days now and was almost ready to pull the trigger, spending almost a thousand dollars on a smaller camera system.

The next best alternative in carrying a more portable carry that performs well, but with several shortcomings that, coming from an Olympus MFT user, is just a non-starter in pulling the trigger.

But for some reason, I cannot overcome the hurdle, this nagging feeling that I might just regret getting it. I think, I am so used to an MFT system or a DSLR, especially its comfortable handling that just holding a much smaller camera is something that I may not get used to anymore.

Sure, it’s compact but the size just makes it a little more difficult to handle. The Panasonic LX 100 MII, in this case has a number of drawback that I feel might impede me from truly enjoying the use of this camera.

Firstly, lack of in-body image stabilisation of IBIS. I feel that the Olympus MFT system with its IBIS is so good that I cannot tell the number of times the IBIS has helped me in getting good stable shots in low light settings. Without IBIS in this case, I don’t really know how shots will ultimately turn out.

The touch screen is also fixed in place, which makes getting shots in odd angles or from a height so much more difficult. The Olympus OMD system has a fully articulating screen, a feature that I complete take for granted until I handled the Panasonic LX 100 MII. The lack of such a screen is a huge negative for me.

There are other shortcomings like lack of weather sealing, and lack of the ability to change lens (this is a compact camera after all) which I can live with, because first of all, I don’t see myself using the camera is extreme weather situations and secondly, the lens attached the Panasonic is pretty good. It’s a relative bright Leica lens within a range of zoom that I am comfortable with; f1.7 to f2.8, 24 to 75mm equivalent zoom lens. Based on reviews, the lens is actually quite decent, and it’s almost pancake-like when retracted, portable enough to store inside a small bag or large jacket pocket.

There is another Panasonic alternative the GX9. This is more closely related to the MFT system, with the ability to switch lenses but after comparing it closely to my current system, the overall weight and size is not that much different from my current Olympus MFT system.

It’s very similar to the LX 100 MII. It’s a little bit bigger and when paired with the 12-32mm kit lens, its actually very portable. However, when compared to my current Olympus MFT system, size and weight reduction is barely significant with more compromises along the way.

There are other options from other brands like Sony, and Canon, but each of them has its own shortcomings.

So in short I am so conflicted that I have called for a timeout in deciding which camera system to buy. I may not even buy a new one. Maybe I will just buy the Olympus zoom pancake lens for my current Olympus MFT system and call it a day. Who knows.

One week to go before my big Iceland trip!

I am really excited to be going back to Iceland for another road trip adventure. This time bringing my parents along and we will see a different side of the country to the one I experience before. We will be going during the autumn season, with significantly less snow, as compared to February, the month I went with my friends a few years back. The differences are night and day. Snowy landscape vs stark, treeless, rocky environments. This is going to be a unique experience, despite the fact that I have already been there before.

I brought my Olympus OM-D EM5 Mark II micro four thirds camera the last time I went, but this round, I am going to keep that at home. At my disposal for taking beautiful shots of Iceland, will just be my trusty (and latest) iPhone 11 Pro Max. With the new ultra wide lens, the trifecta of lenses behind the new phone will be sufficient in taking a myriad of different scenes and landscapes in and around Iceland. Bringing less gear is another main reason why I look forward to going on this trip.

If the pictures do look great when I look through them after the trip, then I will be mightily impressed by the capabilities of the new iPhone 11 Pro Max’s cameras.

iPhone 11 Pro Max first 24 hour impressions!

Right off the bat, the biggest improvement I have noticed is how amazing the cameras are in this new iPhone. With the new ultra-wide lens, I think users will find creative and beautiful ways to take advantage of this new lens and create amazing shots.

The triple camera system that Apple now adopts for it’s latest iPhone 11 Pro phone models.

Starting with the physical characteristics of the phone, briefly, the phone does feel noticeably heavier, but not necessarily thicker. You will be hard pressed to notice the difference in thickness between the XS Max and the 11 Pro Max right away. The difference in weight is subtle, but more substantial than the difference in thickness.

The size is exactly the same as the previous model. At the back though, is where the similarity ends. Matte finish back with a protruding smooth finish glass housing the three lenses set equidistance from each other. Like my previous observation, it gives the 11 Pro Max a new look, one that might need some time to get used to for some users. Love it, or hate it, they are there with new properties to allow users to take better photos.

And indeed the iPhone 11 Pro Max does take better photos. I was at Changi Jewel today and managed to take some shots of the place, and of the food for lunch, and immediately the improvements were obvious. The ultra wide lens finally gives the place justice, able to take all the beautiful vistas and amazing architecture in a single shot. Just like the one below.

The overall grandeur of the place, the iPhone 11 Pro Max perfectly captures it in all its glory.
Raising the phone just a little bit, capturing more of the donut-shaped ceiling just accentuates the architectural marvel of this place. This image has been edited slightly.

With that being said, shooting with an ultra wide lens isn’t that simple. When you are able to take more in a single image, compositing your shots becomes more important. Personally, you need to be a little bit more mindful in how to compose your shots, in order to look artistic and aesthetically pleasing. There are definitely certain conditions where using the ultra wide lens is just not very suitable. But then again, I am pretty sure that with the introduction of the ultra wide lens, people are going to come up with creative ways to take good shots using the ultra wide lens.

Food shot! Grilled duck!

I don’t usually take pictures of my food, but it’s a great example on how much improved Apple has made to implement the lens and using computational photographic algorithms to make the images sharper, clearer and more textured.

Tinkering with the filters while in editing mode.

I just love the new camera system that Apple has implemented in their latest phones. I have never been excited for a new phone because of its cameras. And this iPhone 11 Pro Max that I have in my hands, could just be beginning where I could ditch my Olympus Micro Four thirds without worrying about missing out on a great shot.

Budgeting for 7-14mm f2.8 lens

If I am serious in getting the Pro lens from Olympus, the 7-14mm f2.8, it will seriously throw a curveball at this year’s budget of expenditure and potentially threaten my savings target for 2019 that I have created as part of my New Year’s Resolution. All the holiday destinations I have planned has already strained my budget. I will have to seriously and carefully consider whether to get the lens or not. And there are rumours of a new OM-D EM5 Mark III camera coming out sometime in 2019. That is another issue I have to deal with for another time.

But for now, let’s just focus on this lens. How much of a benefit will I get in terms of getting the type of images I desire from my photography shoots? I can’t say for sure, only when I get back from my New York trip and possibly my Morocco trip. Which means to say, that I will have to ask my friend who owns this lens to borrow from him again for my Morocco trip. Which also means, I technically do not have to worry about getting this lens for the time being, at least not till after the month of May. After which, when I come back and analyse all the shots I have taken, edit them on Lightroom, will I make a choice to see if it is worth making the investment in the new lens.

So in other words, I don’t have to make the decision now. I can pretend that I own this lens, reducing the impulse in getting one for myself. I can be rational about making the decision. I have time to sit on it before needlessly plunging into the purchase in which I might regret in the future. Meanwhile, I can also re-evaluate whether or not I have the budget to get a new piece of glass for my camera. Maybe by then the new camera body would have been announced, and I could get a sweet deal of getting the body and the Pro lens of my choice.

My recent photoshoot rekindled my passion in photography.

A couple of weeks ago, a got a request from my colleague. He wanted a photoshoot with his wife and daughter at the Flower Dome, Gardens by The Bay. It was a way to celebrate the lunar new year and also just take good photos of them 3 as a family seeing their daughter growing up. I helped them with another photoshoot a couple of years ago when their daughter has just learned to walk. It was at Botanic Gardens.

Between that photoshoot session at the Botanic Gardens a couple of years ago and the recent one at the Flower Dome, I am pretty confident that I had not touched my Olympus camera and done any other photoshoot between those two period. I thought I was done with photography. The convenience and capability of cameras nowadays on people’s smartphones meant that carrying a rather bulky camera is more of a hassle. However my recent photoshoot with them at the Flower Dome and my efforts in touching up those photos using Lightroom CC on my iPad has seriously made me reconsider my stand on the it being more of a hassle.

When I looked back at the photos, I was quite surprised that I managed to retain some of the fundamentals of photography that I learned over the years. I was still able to get decent shots. Although looking back at most of the photos, there were some areas that I can improve on, some rookie mistakes when handling the camera and taking shots with it. I think it boiled down to me not being entirely familiar with the camera, especially its been more than a year or so since I actually touched it. I was fortunate enough to be able to remember the basic functionalities of the camera to operate competently on the day of the shoot, but like I said, rookie mistakes were noticeable.

As I edited my photos using Lightroom and seeing the touched up version, I can’t help but be amazed at the capabilities of my Olympus camera that simply cannot be recreated using just the smartphone camera. And that was when I realised that a semi-professional camera can really open up the possibilities of you being creative in how you shoot your subjects. Looking back, I actually felt more comfortable using the Olympus camera than I actually did using my smartphone. Sure, smartphone cameras are great. I like the portrait mode on my iPhone XS Max. It takes really good portrait shots in most conditions and its quick and easy. It’s connected to the internet and you can post your images with filters on on Instagram and Facebook and get instant gratification. But spending a little bit more time and effort of actually using my Olympus camera actually makes it so much better. It felt as if I had a much bigger canvas in aligning my shots just right to get a look and feel which sometimes cannot be created from a smartphone camera. And then you have to go through the whole process of editing them on Lightroom. But I realised also that editing them also brings me joy somewhat. I was quite surprised that I actually missed doing that; editing my photos.

Now looking back, it really does seem that my passion in photography is not completely gone yet. In fact, it has been rekindled by the recent photoshoot. Now, I am seriously reconsidering whether I should bring my camera to New York.