One of the main reasons why I started moving in 2010 to the micro four-thirds system was the general sizing of the camera bodies and lenses. Basically, the removal of the reflex mirror found in traditional (D)SLRs meant that camera bodies could be made smaller, and the smaller imaging sensor also meant that lenses didn’t need to be quite so big to cover a larger sensor. Things have changed quite a bit since then, since we now have full-frame mirrorless camera systems, and debate continues to rage among enthusiasts and loyalists of different camera systems on the merits and disadvantages of different systems. For the moment though, the truisms that still apply are, that generally micro four-third systems compared to full-frame systems…

Occupy less mass/weight

Lenses cost slightly less than the full-frame equivalents (thought not always)

Handle low light images less well

What has also changed is the emergence of larger sensor compact cameras too. The initial wave of models weren’t very good – they tended to be bulky, slow, and using batteries that didn’t give quite the same life as micro four-third systems. That has also been changing too, which brings me to this post: that I’ve been revisiting the most recent and upcoming range of large sensor compact cameras and exploring if this is the right time now to get one. I still have the almost two year old Panasonic LX7 which I bought for cheap during a crazy discounted offer on Amazon, and several of those wide-perspective shots of The Minton development in progress were taken on that little compact. But the camera has never been a low-light wonder. Heck; there’s a perceptible loss of detail even at the lower ISO settings already.

The bunch of models I’ve been keeping my eye on include:

Sony RX100 III

This compact features a 1″ sensor that reviewers have raved about, is in its third iteration already, and Sony managed to squeeze in a small viewfinder to it even. I’ve been playing with a demo set at the Sony showroom @ Nex. The compact feels solidly made, and the rear LCD screen is sharp, bright and colorful. The viewfinder though is a little clunky in actual operation (one has to first pop it up, then pull it towards oneself for it to work). The camera is available now but also dreadfully expensive at USD899. Ouch.

Canon G7 X

This yet-to-be released compact looks like Canon’s answer to Sony’s RX100 above. The upcoming compact uses a 1″ sensor, shoots as wide as the Sony but also offers a slightly further zoom at 100mm compared to Sony’s 70mm. Interesting. The CIPA rated battery life is worrying though at just 210 shots, compared to the 300+ shots that the Sony can muster. The expected retail price is substantially lower than Sony’s too at USD699.

Panasonic LX100

Of the bunch of large sensor compact cameras, this is the one I’m most interested in. Unlike the Canon and Sony models above, this fellow uses a nearly m4/3-sized sensor, a max aperture range of f1.7 to f2.8, built-in electronic viewfinder, and a reasonable battery life rated at 330 shots by CIPA at the moment. And as a bonus, it offers 4K video recording too. The general feeling among enthusiasts is that this is the one compact that could give the equivalent large aperture and pricey lenses in the m4/3s system a good run for the money, since the sensor is almost to m4/3s and max aperture is right there too at f1.7 to f2.8. Ticks all the boxes, excepting size – it’s larger than the above two models, which significantly reduces the space advantage in comparison to my E-PL6. This forthcoming compact is priced similarly to the Sony at USD899.

Panasonic GM5

This one isn’t a large sensor compact, but an interchangeable lens camera of the same breed as the line of m4/3 cameras from Olympus and Panasonic. I included this forthcoming model here only because it’s a baby-sized camera that allows you to leverage on the full range of m4/3 lenses. The second iteration of this camera also improves on a bunch of things off the first generation: including a viewfinder and a hot-shoe! Size-wise, it’s about the same as the already diminutive RX100, and is expected to be pegged at the same asking price as the LX100 – USD899.

All very tempting. Gonna be hard to decide which of these four if I eventually find myself deciding to pick up one of these at the end of this year!

 

 

I’ve been using m4/3 cameras for more than 4 years now, and was running through my records the various camera bodies of this system I’ve picked up over the period.

March 2010 – Olympus E-PL1

April 2011 – Olympus E-PL2

May 2012 – Olympus E-M5

October 2013 – Olympus E-PL6

The E-M5 has been my workhorse camera for almost 2.5 years now and while it’s starting to show its age through the usual nicks and bruises, still functions otherwise well. The E-M5 was joined by the E-PL6 a year ago, and both cameras have found permanent spots in my Messenger bag whenever we’re out of the home.

I was curious though to see how pictures on a camera with an APS-C sensor fares against these m4/3s. Nikon has been pumping out new models of its full-frame cameras, but disappointingly, seems to have become uncertain on what to do with their APS-C DSLRs. The D7000 – which I bought in January 2012 – hasn’t seen much use since I bought the E-M5. So, over the weekend, I dusted it off, brought out my two favorite primes for it – the 50mm and 35mm f1.8s – and took pictures at home of our kids.

Peter still as stony-faced as ever.

Peter still as stony-faced as ever.

Deep in contemplation o things important to 5 year olds.

Deep in contemplation of things important to 5 year olds.

She doesn't pose as willingly anymore though - so memorable shots are harder than ever to come by.

She doesn’t pose as willingly anymore though – so memorable shots are harder than ever to come by.

Probably not evident here, but I messed up the focusing point in this picture, so Peter's face is somewhat out of focus.

Probably not evident here, but I messed up the focusing point in this picture, so Peter’s face is somewhat out of focus.

Still extremely attached to Mommy.

Still extremely attached to Mommy.

With the 50mm, wide-open.

With the 50mm, wide-open.

The results were pretty mixed for sure. Running off my head:

I realized again how helpful the 5 axis built-in optical stabilization on the E-M5 is to picture taking. A small number of shots with the two Nikon primes – and these are both non-stabilized lenses – were out of focus to varying degrees because of camera shake.

The D7000’s ‘kaplak’ mirror slap each time I released the shutter was very loud compared to the E-M5’s very quiet shutter that I’d gotten so used to.

The D7000’s back panel buttons and command dials feel a lot more premium than the squishy and small buttons off the E-M5.

I like the colors coming off the E-M5 than the Nikon D7000’s – so much so that I found myself dialing up the image color saturation setting on the latter.

Bokeh off the two Nikon primes were marvelous, but the thinner depth of field caught me off guard. Made me realize again how forgiving are m4/3s when it comes to errors in focusing points.

The last observation was especially pertinent, since I sometimes wonder if I should give a (mirrorless?) full-frame system a go, and then become cognizant of that adage; that those systems can be extremely unforgiving, and your photographic techniques had better be pretty good already. There is a new but future camera purchase I’m thinking of though at year’s end – will blog about it soon enough.:)

 

 

We went by The Minton over the weekend for a meeting with a curtains/blinds maker we’re interested in engaging. This particular contractor is based in Johore Bahru, but commutes to Singapore every day for work. He was a particularly jolly fellow and we like him, though at times he was chuckling at his own jokes! There’s no lack of curtains/blinds makers in Singapore of course, but for those of us on a budget, the contractors who’re located across the causeway are possibly a more affordable alternative. For our home, we’re looking at day and night curtains for the living/dining room, blinds for the bedrooms/study, and frosted films for the master bathroom windows, and hopefully we’ll receive a quotation from him soon enough as to how much it’s gonna cost us for all these.

Rectification work has also started for the long list of defects we forwarded to the Developer too last midweek. A good number of chips and cracked lines along the wall edges at the front balcony and also bedrooms have been rectified, though others at the back balcony and kitchen have not been touched yet. Workers were also sanding down the parquet flooring on Saturday, and during a follow-up visit on Sunday afternoon, the same floor had just been varnished too. A couple of residents were reporting that the defect rectification team have (accidentally) caused a few more defects when they did their patch-up work – we’re hoping that that doesn’t happen too much for us. We wouldn’t want a continual cycle of new defects caused by rectification teams!

Sunday mid-afternoon yesterday was quite cloudy, but there was some brief direct sunlight, which allowed for for this picture - bubbles reflections against sunlight @ the cascading waterfalls. I'd forgotten to bring ND filters, so will probably redo this picture again soon.

Sunday mid-afternoon yesterday was quite cloudy, but there was some brief direct sunlight, which allowed for for this picture – bubbles reflections against sunlight @ the cascading waterfalls. I’d forgotten to bring ND filters, so will probably redo this picture again soon.

Asymmetrical lines between Block 10A and 10B. The bright sky would have killed most of the shadow details, so some post-processing was necessary in Adobe Raw.

Asymmetrical lines between Block 10A and 10B. The bright sky would have killed most of the shadow details, so some post-processing was necessary in Adobe Raw.

The flora in The Minton is thriving, and I went all nuts with the m4/3s macro setting on the 12-50mm lens.

The flora in The Minton is thriving, and I went all nuts with the m4/3s macro setting on the 12-50mm lens.

We visited a friend whose staying at Block 10B and facing Fun World. Here's her level 10 unit looking down at the Grand Clubhouse. We don't get this view from our unit.

We visited a friend whose staying at Block 10B and facing Fun World. Here’s her level 10 unit looking down at the Grand Clubhouse. We don’t get this view from our unit.

Flowerbed just in front of the Badminton Dome. Very pretty!

Flowerbed just in front of the Badminton Dome. Very pretty!

Hannah finally at the slide at the Children's Treeouse @ Tranquil World. She's been pining to try this out for months now ever since spotting them in visits last year!

Hannah finally at the slide at the Children’s Treeouse @ Tranquil World. She’s been pining to try this out for months now ever since spotting them in visits last year!

Mommy and Hannah trying to attract the attention of the Lily Pond's kois @ Tranquil World. These are the mega-sized monster kois we see elsewhere - hopefully they'll grow over time.

Mommy and Hannah trying to attract the attention of the Lily Pond’s kois @ Tranquil World. These are the mega-sized monster kois we see elsewhere – hopefully they’ll grow over time.

At the contemporary bridge. Peter is more interested in the bridge's wood decking.=)

At the contemporary bridge. Peter is more interested in the bridge’s wood decking.=)

More pictures of The Minton flora here.

It’s the end of another year, and Ling was asking just the other day when I was going to do another one of my end-of-year review of our big ticket and asset decisions in 2013. To be fair, we’ve kept the decisions that cost a lot of $$$ somewhat minimally this year, given the large expenditures we’re projecting for 2014 i.e. home renovation. Looking through the list, we had a large number of interesting (or just fun) purchasing decisions though mostly still relatively small purchases. Going with the list again in chronological purchasing order…

Panasonic-Leica 25mm f1.4 (Win). 2013 was the year where I picked up a number of micro-four-thirds lens, all of which turned out to be great purchases. The first one in the year was the 25mm f1.4, which is closest the m4/3 standard has to a ‘standard’ focal length reach. The lens focuses very quickly, and has become one of the two main-stay lenses for my two m4/3 cameras. The only issue I can think of – and this is really being creative – is that the lens makes an odd soft squeaky sound when it focuses. And er, that’s it.=)

Panasonic-Lumix 14mm f2.5 (Win). This lens normally comes bundled with an earlier generation Panasonic m4/3 cameras, and lots of people were selling the lens out of the bundle for cheap on eBay. In terms of focal length, the lens is redundant since it’s covered by several other kit zoom lens already, but as a semi wide-angle and very compact prime, it works great. Attach it to the E-PL6 and the form profile is small enough for the camera to be pocketable. I don’t use the lens as much, favoring the 25mm and 17mm, but it’s still a win because of how cheap it was.

Billingham Hadley Pro (Win). My luxury camera bag for this year, and the last messenger-styled bag I’ll need for a while. The bag normally costs a lot when purchased here and nearly as expensive even through Amazon stores. For some odd reason, the bag is much cheaper in South Korea, and after assuring myself I wouldn’t buying an imitation, I picked up one through eBay. The bag has accompanied me for all of this year’s Minton shoots from March, and it holding my two m4/3 bodies, several lenses, filters, and a camcorder.

Olympus 75-300mm II (Win). This lens is a consumer-grade long zoom lens – as compared to the f2.8 equivalents which cost twice as much – and an improved model over the earlier generation lens of the same focal length range. I picked it up locally mostly for the Minton pictures. There’s some very slight perceivable loss of resolution and image degradation at its longest focal, but with the 2X crop factor, it’s a pretty cheap way to reach up to 600mm.

Zojirushi Bread Maker BB-HAQ10 (Win). The first of three presents I got for Ling this year, and I’m one of the main beneficiaries of it! I’ve been able to enjoy home-baked bread in the form of packed lunches to work, though Ling is quite concerned with the flour-intake when she bakes an entire (small) loaf for me to finish in a day.=)

Olympus 17mm f1.8 (Win). The second of my preferred lens for m4/3s. Robustly constructed, focuses very quickly and reliably, and nicely balanced between offering both a very slightly wide-perspective, and also capable of subject isolation when used wide-opened. I picked up the silver edition of the lens, and it looks gorgeous when attached to the similarly-colored E-PL6.

Shortly after this photo was taken, Peter reached out and pulled Hannah's hair, leaving her just a little crossed with her baby brother.

Pictures like these are why good prime lenses are worth every cent.

Olympus 45mm f1.8 (Win). The fifth and last m4/3s lenses for 2013. The lens is a small telephoto prime and while it doesn’t quite have nearly the same kind of reach as the 75-300mm, it’s a fast prime. The lens has allowed for some very nice close-ups of the two kids with plenty of subject isolation. The focal length also lets me put some distance between myself and them too, and Hannah is also less self-conscious as a result for it too.

Viking E20 Sewing Machine (Win). Ling’s birthday present this year. She hasn’t blogged about it yet though, but she’s already sewed a dozen baby bibs for Peter. She mused that these bibs sell for $15 each. This could easily become an alternate source of income if she ever decides to churn these out like a sweatshop.=)

Olympus E-PL6 (Win). The best sensor that Olympus has created in a smaller body. Handling is quite different from the older E-M5, the mode dial is fiddly, and you don’t really get to use the full 3 inch screen when previewing RAW images. But the camera allows for selfies and was picked up for cheap. Both the E-PL6 and EM-5 are in my bag whenever we’re out as a family.

Samsung Galaxy Note III (Win). A new phone that came out of my renewal of a teleco plan this month. Snappier and looking more gorgeous than the earlier generation device. I was considering numerous devices to upgrade to – including the LG G2 and the even humungous Sony Xperia Z Ultra – but none of them offered the stylus.

Google Nexus 7 (2013) (Win). Not an easy decision here as there are so similarly sized tablets. Among them included the Samsung Galaxy Note 8.0 (nearly bought this because of its stylus, but did not because of the comparatively low-resolution screen), the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.0 (low-resolution screen – ugh), the LG G Pad (ideal size, high resolution, metallic back place, but no 4G/LTE arrgggh!!), and the new iPad Mini Retina (but didn’t want another iPad). The updated Google Nexus 7 won out in the end, given how reasonably future-proof it is, low-cost, great screen, and that it’s such a popular device that custom ROM developers have been churning out builds for it like no tomorrow.

Krups Dolce Gusto Circolo (Win). Ling’s Christmas present from me, though we’re again both beneficiaries. We’ve been enjoying gourmet coffees every evening now, and are gonna try the entire range of brews over time. The machine is one of mid-range models in the popular line of coffee makers, and is for the most part well-reviewed by purchasers. Interestingly, a couple complained about the apparent lack of full automation, but I actually appreciated that you can control the amount of water you’re using when brewing each cup.

Check out the stack of coffee capsules of differing blends.

Check out the stack of coffee capsules of differing blends.

That’s it. Happy 2014.=)

Continuing from the first post on accessories for the E-M5. Unlike the couple of Nikon (D)SLRs I’ve had, the E-M5 uses an electronic viewfinder, which itself is a prodigious user of battery power. The pair of Nikon DSLRs for instance could routinely take 800 and more pictures – with plenty of image chimping in between too. The E-M5 is CIPA rated to just 350 shots, and though one could get more than that depending on shooting habits, picking up a few more batteries shortly after purchase was necessary when we headed out for our trip to the Telunas Beach Resort last year in June, followed by my 8 day trip to China thereafter.

Trouble is – the OEM batteries for the E-M5 are dreadfully expensive, going at just a shade under $90 each here. Ouch. Shortly after the E-M5 was released last year, there was a lot of online discussion on where one might find cheaper third party alternate batteries for it. These off market batteries can be quite a hit and miss thing, with mildly annoying problems of them not reporting their current charge levels properly to the camera or not holding their charge well, to more serious challenges of them not working with their intended cameras at all. After doing some fact-finding, I settled on a pair of third party alternatives that cost about $40 including a charger for them last year in May. The two batteries were rated at higher amperage of 1450 mAh compared to the 1220 mAh, but no those numbers were deceiving – I roughly squeezed about 80% of the juice I got out of the OEM battery. Still, for this sort of price, I couldn’t complain – and nearly 19 months after the fact, the two batteries remain nice back-ups for the E-M5 and are still working reasonably well.

The original battery that came with the E-M5 on the left, and a knock-off on the right - which still works great, and dirt cheap to boot too.

The original battery that came with the E-M5 on the left, and a knock-off on the right – which still works great, and dirt cheap to boot too.

A more serious issue with the E-M5 that surfaced early was the eyecup though. By design and also depending on how one is handling the camera, the eyecup has a dreadfully nasty habit of slipping off. It might be the result of the eye piece getting entangled with other gadgets in one’s camera bag – which wouldn’t be quite so bad since the eyecup will just drop into the bag – or getting snagged against one’s clothes while on the move, which would likely mean the eyecup will get lost. Either way, enough users have lost their E-M5 eyecups this way that it’s surprising there isn’t a more thriving business coming out of China making knockoff replacement eyecups for cheap. Things wouldn’t be so bad if it also wasn’t for the fact that the OEM eyecups aren’t cheap: they cost US$9.99 each, and add quite a bit more to get it shipped here to Singapore. I’ve already lost one such eyecup during the China trip, and shortly thereafter, a third party replacement too. I decided not to take chances with the third eyecup – securing it this time with a bit of school glue. This is the white sort of paper glue that’s commonly found in art n craft shops, and is also water soluble.

The E-M5 has seen a lot of vigorous use and isn't in pristine condition anymore. The thin white substance layer lining the EP-10 eyecup is the school glue I used.

The E-M5 has seen a lot of vigorous use and isn’t in pristine condition anymore. The thin white substance layer lining the EP-10 eyecup is the school glue I used.

Yep, it does look like an eyesore, and the solution isn’t perfect by any means even. The rubber lining still comes off too easily, and once it’s out, it’s almost impossible to securely fit it back into its plastic holding frame. I’ve just ordered another third party replacement for just a few dollars, and even though this eyecup is really intended for Nikon DSLRs, it’ll at least be a good temporary replacements to ensure that the E-M5’s viewfinder sans eyepiece doesn’t scratch my glasses.

And lastly; something as seemingly innocuous as extra lens-caps. Might not seem necessary at all – until you start losing them! I carted around both the D7000 and E-M5 coupled with their respective long zoom lenses in May this year for an outdoor shoot of water-borne events at Bedok reservoir, and at the end of the event – lost not just the original Sigma 77mm lens cap for the 70-200mm f2.8, but also a 58mm screw-on UV filter for the Olympus 75-300mm. Yeah shocking – how does a properly screwed-on filter even come loose…?! Losing the lens cap was equally as bad, since the OEM ones can cost a lot of money. A typical 46mm OEM lens cap can cost around $10, while generic ones cost just a dollar. From that point onwards, I bought spare generic-type lens caps for every one of my frequently-used lens, and keep the OEM ones back in their boxes.

The one on the left costs $10. The generic one on the right costs just $1. And they both serve exactly the same function.

The one on the left costs $10. The generic one on the right costs just $1. And they both serve exactly the same function.

Well, that about covers it for the moment. I might do another accessories posts in later months for the couple more odds and ends – like camera bags.=)

The two kids have been at home with Ling over this December holiday stretch, and that’s given them plenty of opportunities to interact and know each other. Ling was remarking that Peter especially seems to enjoy Hannah’s company, possibly because Hannah has a way of making him laugh with her antics. Though come to think of it, Peter hasn’t quite learned how to laugh out loud. His version of laughing is, at the moment, a wide open-mouth grin and silent laughter of sorts!

Weekday morning pictures with the two. Ling still finds the E-PL6 a little too complex, but thankfully the full-on auto mode of the camera is able to handle shots like this, with face-focus tracking enabled.

Weekday morning pictures with the two. Ling still finds the E-PL6 a little too complex, but thankfully the full-on auto mode of the camera is able to handle shots like this, with face-focus tracking enabled.

We sure hope that Hannah's love and affinity for her baby brother isn't a passing phase! Both of these two pictures were taken using the 17mm, and shot wide-open at f1.8.

We sure hope that Hannah’s love and affinity for her baby brother isn’t a passing phase! Both of these two pictures were taken using the 17mm, and shot wide-open at f1.8.

Peter chews his fingers a lot more than Hannah did at this age. Taken using the 45mm, and wide-open at f1.8. I'm still getting a handle of this short telephoto lens, and frequently to stretch myself as far as I can when shooting over a dining table. The lens is wonderfully sharp in its image center.

Peter chews his fingers a lot more than Hannah did at this age. Taken using the 45mm, and wide-open at f1.8. I’m still getting a handle of this short telephoto lens, and frequently need to stretch myself as far as I can when shooting over a dining table. The lens is at least wonderfully sharp in its image center.

Post breakfast activities @ Coffee Bean. She's been drawing a lot - so much so that I'm seriously toying with the idea of buying her a Galaxy Note tablet. Taken using the 25mm and at f1.8. Hannah was seated right beside me, so this required quite a bit of arm contortion for me to put both her drawing, her crayon on her right hand, and part of her face into the frame!

Post breakfast activities @ Coffee Bean. She’s been drawing a lot – so much so that I’m seriously toying with the idea of buying her a Galaxy Note tablet. Taken using the 25mm and at f1.8. Hannah was seated right beside me, so this required quite a bit of arm contortion for me to put both her drawing, her crayon on her right hand, and part of her face into the frame!

Hannah showing off her artwork. She's improved her drawing abilities by leaps. Taken using the 17m and wide-open at f1.8.

Hannah showing off her artwork. She’s improved her drawing abilities by leaps. Taken using the 17m and wide-open at f1.8.

Peter on the weekend morning, and laughing thanks to Hannah just to my right. With the 45mm and wide-open at f1.8. again.

Peter on the weekend morning, and laughing thanks to Hannah just to my right. With the 45mm and wide-open at f1.8. again.

 

Back several years ago when I had the Nikon D300, I shot in RAW almost exclusively. A lot of picture-taking back then was at travel, landscape sights and the like – and the pictures typically had wide dynamic ranges which required post-processing work to lift out details that would had been lost if I’d shot in JPG. I’ve done a post here before on what image editing tools can do to retrieve detail. Since our two children though, I’ve found myself shooting in JPG modes more often, if for no other reason than that post-processing work with RAW images is just too time-consuming!

More recently I’ve started returning back to shooting in RAW again on the E-M5 and E-PL6, and typically to compensate for oversights when fishing out the camera quickly to capture candid shots is more important than fiddling around with the camera’s settings to ensure I’ve configured it correctly. I’m not a Photoshop expert by any stretch of imagination, but the two pictures below again show how useful is it to shoot in RAW modes.

The first pair of pictures below is of Hannah in an NTUC Fairprice trolley cart after dinner at Hougang One on Saturday evening. The rest of the images in the series were metered correctly, but the one below wasn’t for some reason. Possibly an E-M5 quirk. Hannah looked a little too tanned – she’s quite fair-skinned, and the aisle at the supermarket was quite brightly lit.

Source image.

Source image.

The image was corrected in Photoshop’s RAW editor, with basically just a +0.85 ev adjustment.

Hannah's skin looks more like it now.

Hannah’s skin looks more like it now.

Another common correction I’ve been making is white balance. Color balance is typically very difficult to correct in JPG once the image is taken, and I’ve made it a habit to always shoot in RAW when I’m working in warm lighting (especially in restaurants), or in settings with presence of intense primary colors – a couple of the Minton pictures especially come to mind on this. I do have a White Balance card lying at the bottom of my camera bag to custom set WB, and there’s also the preadjusted temperature setting for warm lighting of around 3000K on the E-M5. Still; an example follows: below is a picture taken this morning over brunch at Swensen’s @ Compass Point.

Source image.

Source image.

Ironically, the unaltered image above is a closer representation of the scene as seen in person – the lighting at Swensen’s is very warm. But it also gives both Ling and Peter overly intense skin colors. Adjusted image with corrections to exposure, tint and most importantly, temperature:

Image adjusted with corrections to exposure, tint, and temperature.

Looking much better now.

Unfortunately, every image has to be separately adjusted. Just too much work! Probably time for me to finally invest in an updated copy of Lightroom.

I’ve had the Olympus E-M5 for about nearly 19 months now, and only just realized that I haven’t done a post yet on a couple of accessories that I use with it. Over the years I’ve used DSLRs and now mirrorless cameras, I’ve found that that I routinely buy the same type of accessories for each camera body that’s come along the way.

There are a lot of add-ons one can typically pick-up for one’s camera these days, and they range from those that are purely cosmetic, to those that enhance a camera’s feature set, right to those that make possible or significantly alter the conditions one takes pictures in. Here’s the current outlay for the E-M5 then, with pictures and comments on what they do, and how much of actual utility I’ve found with them.

For many enthusiasts, and interestingly also for persons new to photography, the first must-have is a system flash-unit. Olympus manufactures several flash-units for its range of cameras, but the one I picked up was a third-party unit made by a German company, Metz. The company is well-regarded for its range of flash units across a range of camera systems, and it was available on discount at Amazon some time back (around $290 including shipping here). The particular model I bought – the 50 AF-1 – light output more than exceeds my requirements, but it had the swivel range I wanted, and also offered quick flash recharge times.

That said, I haven’t used the flash unit very much at all – much preferring to take pictures in natural light as far as possible. This is a must-have though for the sit-down family portraits that I do for my family every Chinese New Year.

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The Metz 50AF-1, alongside a Sto-Fen-styled flash diffuser that I picked up for cheap.

The E-M5 and flash unit in the picture above is sitting on a new Joby Gorillapod Hybrid GP2 that I bought to replace the old Gorillapod Focus. The latter’s rubberized joints had been slowly disintegrating and falling into pieces for a year now. The GP2 is sold for around $80 in Singapore, but I bought it for $64 off an eBay retailer. The new pod is much lighter at a mere 165g, and while its load capacity is just about a kg – compared to the Focus’ super-heavy duty loading of 2.5 kg – the E-M5 is also a lot lighter. The GP2 also comes with a small bubble-level, though the E-M5 ‘s built-in electronic level makes the GP2’s bubble-level extraneous.

The Joby Gorillapod Hybrid GP2. Incredibly light and also requiring less effort to twist and wrap its legs around fixtures than the Focus.

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The GP2’s bubble-level. Not really necessary when the E-M5’s sitting on top it.

The E-M5 isn’t Wifi-enabled, unlike several of the newer m4/3s models – so an independent remote trigger is what I use for pictures with all four of us at home in it, and of those family portraits. Selfies are hard when you have to squeeze four persons inside a picture! The setup below is a cheapo Chinese knock-off that’s available on eBay for around $25, but works as required. It comprises several parts: a unit that’s connected to the E-M5 via a supplied cable (this unit can also trigger shots), and the remote controller itself.

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The setup makes use of four AAA batteries; two each in the controller, and connected unit.

And lastly, wrist-straps. The next picture might look a little odd – it does look as though there are not one but two wrist-straps attached to my E-M5; only that one of that isn’t a wrist strap. The BosStrap piece below is actually the tail end of a a sling-strap that I use when I’m outdoors and using two cameras simultaneously, and I leave the tail there so that it’s easier to connect the main strap when I need to. I’ve got to thank our Ang Mo bud for recommending this particular string strap; it’s a lot more comfortable than the BlackRapid strap I use for my Nikon D7000!

The actual wrist-strap below is made by a local person Andy for around $25 (you get to choose the color of the strap, wrap, and O-ring), and there are also more costly options made by Gordy, which some enthusiasts feel is more premium. Gordy also offers other connector options. I’ve got and use straps made by both persons, and honestly for my rough usage, can’t see much of a difference between the two.

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Andy’s camera strap. This is a must-have for me!

These leather straps will feel quite stiff when first purchased, but will gradually soften over time after usage. You can also slide the O-ring about to wrap around your wrist quite snugly.

There’s a couple of other E-M5 accessories that I’ll write about in a next post later too – basically, eye-cups, and also batteries. One last accessory that I’ve picked up for all my Nikon DSLRs that I haven’t for the E-M5 is the vertical grip. The E-M5 does have a couple of options in this regard, including the original manufacturer’s grip (which costs a bomb), and third party ones which go for much cheaper, though at the expense of features that are only found on the OEM grip. I haven’t picked up the grip for the E-M5 this time round, on account that it would have defeated the main reason why I’ve switched from Nikon DSLRs to m4/3s a couple of years ago – a large camera is just not nearly as fun to take pictures with as a small interchangeable lens camera.=)

Every year at about this month I’d do a post on how our kids have grown and changed each month. The last such post was in November a year ago here – here’s the updated one from when Hannah has gone from 3.5 to 4.5 years old. Appearance wise, she doesn’t seem to have changed as much as she did when she was between one to three years old. That said, she seems to be ever-so looking less chubbier around her cheeks since the last few months.

3 Years 5 Months old in November 2012, and playing with Ling's NTUC member card (she's custodian of the card whenever we're at the Fairprice checkout lanes).

3 Years 5 Months old in November 2012, and playing with Ling’s NTUC member card (she’s custodian of the card whenever we’re at the Fairprice checkout lanes).

3 Years 6 Months old in December 2012, and during an outing with Daddy using public transportation. Pluto is her constant companion, as one can see from other pictures here!

3 Years 6 Months old in December 2012, and during an outing with Daddy using public transportation. Pluto is her constant companion, as one can see from other pictures here!

3 Years 7 Months old in January 2013, and when she'd just got the Swampy plush toy from Disney's "Where's My Water" game. Regrettably, Swampy has since got passed onto the less-frequently played toys bin!

3 Years 7 Months old in January 2013, and when she’d just got the Swampy plush toy from Disney’s “Where’s My Water” game. Regrettably, Swampy has since got passed onto the less-frequently played toys bin!

3 Years 8 Months old in February 2013, and after her first ever hair-cut. We decided to try the $10 10 minute haircut options, and thankfully took quite well to it. That's lots of money saved for Daddy/Mommy - at least until she grows older and wants her hair done properly.

3 Years 8 Months old in February 2013, and after her first ever hair-cut at the salon. We decided to try the $10 10 minute haircut options, and thankfully took quite well to it. That’s lots of money saved for Daddy/Mommy – at least until she grows older and wants her hair done properly.

3 Years 9 Months old in March 2013, and wearing her faux pearl necklace given to her by her maternal grandmom. That necklace has gone through a lot of abuse though, and finally broke apart irreparably earlier this month.

3 Years 9 Months old in March 2013, and wearing her faux pearl necklace given to her by her maternal grandmom. That necklace has gone through a lot of abuse though, and finally broke apart irreparably earlier this month.

3 Years 10 Months in April 2013, and munching on strawberries. Like Mommy, she loves fruits that Daddy doesn't enjoy (that includes tomatoes, grapes, kiwi and strawberries!

3 Years 10 Months in April 2013, and munching on strawberries. Like Mommy, she loves fruits that Daddy doesn’t enjoy (that includes tomatoes, grapes, kiwi and strawberries!

3 Years 11 Months in May 2013, and at one of our favorite hangouts - Old Town White Coffee @ City Square Mall. They whip up fabulous Nasi Lemak sets there.

3 Years 11 Months in May 2013, and at one of our favorite hangouts – Old Town White Coffee @ City Square Mall. They whip up fabulous Nasi Lemak sets there.

4 Years Old June 2013. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf cafeteria at Greenwich Village became our weekend brunch/breakfast places.

4 Years old in June 2013. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf cafeteria at Greenwich Village became our weekend brunch/breakfast places.

4 Years 1 Month in July 2013. The cup sleeve at Coffee Bean is a toy too.

4 Years 1 Month in July 2013. The cup sleeve at Coffee Bean is a toy too.

4 Years 2 Months in August 2013. We've still yet to find out who's been teaching her how to do this! Probably from her boy friend classmates in school.

4 Years 2 Months in August 2013. We’ve still yet to find out who’s been teaching her how to do this! Probably from her classmates in school.

4 Years 3 Months in September 2013, and munching on chocolate-flavored buns for lunch.

4 Years 3 Months in September 2013, and munching on chocolate-flavored buns for lunch.

4 Years 4 Months in October 2013, and looking very grown-up during her year-end school concert performance. Dread the day she's going to bring home a boy. The horror.

4 Years 4 Months in October 2013, and looking very grown-up during her year-end school concert performance. Dread the day she’s going to bring home a boy. The horror.

4 Years 5 Months in November 2013. Next year she's going to K1, and we'll have to start worrying about her Primary One school placement.

4 Years 5 Months in November 2013. Next year she’s going to K1, and we’ll have to start worrying about her Primary One school placement.

The pictures here were taken on the E-M5, excepting the November 2013 (taken using the E-PL6) and that of September 2013 by her school’s event photographers. I’ll also have to start doing a similar series for Peter soon enough too next year once she’s grown a bit more.=)

It’s a sure sign of old age – in the last week, my back experienced intense pain after carrying Hannah up. On the first occasion last weekend, and because I’d forgotten that I have a bad back, I lifted Hannah up high past eye-level, and the second occasion just this morning, even something as normally minor as lifting Hannah up into the NTUC Fairprice trolley cart caused an immediate ache.

An ongoing discussion about lenses with a blog visitor reminded me that the Olympus 45mm and Panasonic 14mm haven’t been receiving much love since the 25mm and 17mm have become the two mainstays on the E-M5 and E-PL6. The 45mm is still regarded as one of the m4/3 systems finest primes, and though the 14mm isn’t quite in the same league optically, it was picked up for really cheap and a wonderfully small pancake lens that I can use very discretely in public places. The 45mm will be especially tricky out of the house though given how much subject distance I’ll need just for an upper body portrait.

The 45mm with the E-M5, and 14mm with the E-PL6.

The Olympus 45mm with the E-M5, and Panasonic 14mm with the E-PL6.

The first round of pictures using the two lenses weren’t so good – I’d gotten so used to the 25mm/17mm that I misjudged depth of field for a couple of pictures I took of Peter and Mommy shot wide-opened (basically, Mommy looked great right down to her facial pores, but Peter’s skin textures were all lost). Below are a couple that turned out alright. The first one’s using the 14mm, and next three with the 45mm – all shot at maximum aperture.

A quick picture at Hougang One's Fairprice. The price of putting Hannah into the trolley seat was a backache for the afternoon.

A quick picture at Hougang One’s Fairprice. The price of putting Hannah into the trolley seat was a backache for the afternoon.

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Showing how she cooks fishes. The plastic container was her stove.

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Say cheese. The living room is a little dark – we are so not going with warm lighting in the new house.

Hannah in a dancing dress after her evening bath.

Hannah in a dancing dress after her evening bath.

Two more pictures, but going back with the 17mm.

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This was a fun picture at Coffee Bean. Hannah is getting really good interacting with Peter and trying to make him laugh.

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Photos like these are usually preceded by Ling calling out “Dear, come quick with your camera!!!”