Lowlight portraiture with manual lens…a big PLUS

I was celebrating my in-law birthday with his son and father in law. I happened to have the camera with me but the restaurant are those that are very dimly lit.
Thats when i took out the Rokkor 1.4 manual lens and took some shots.
I suddenly….discovered..one more reason why manual lens are really the preferred way to shoot in low light and the reason is..
NO FOCUS ASSIST Light needed.

Yup, as long as you set the iso and aperture big enough, the peak focusing shows the correct lines to make manual focusing works.
I recalled the grippy days when i had to depend on focus assist in some situation or where even the D4 fails to focus.

All images taken with the Rokkor 58mm at f1.4. The candle photos are unedited! You have to love these cheap lens.






Minolta Rokkor as an alternative to 75 1.8 on m43

58mm f1.4

Its official that i moved on from my fav m43. My EP5 and its beautiful assortment of lens are now in the hands on a proud experienced owner who moved from Sony .

This is a classic ironic situation because i am moving from m43 to Sony FF. However it demonstrates that users who love mirrorless won’t have problem moving to any of the systems.

When i listed the gears for sale, the 75 mm 1.8 was the most sought after item in my list. In fact, i still have ppl messaging me for it and my listing can’t be removed.

58mm f1.4

Now, i have an idea and its a strong idea. Instead of buying 75 mm 1.8, why not try the Minolta 58mm 1.4 or even 1.7 on the m43? If you are in Malaysia, KL, and you can get an adapter for the m43, i welcome you to try it with me, i am dead curious in the results.

The 58 will be translated as 116mm at f1.4. Thats crazy good if you ask me, not only you don’t have to stand far from the subject, u are effectively standing nearly 30% nearer to the subject.

I must confess that if you see the prices in ebay is now jacked up i am possibly one of the culprit, well, i personally raked up 6 Rokkors, two are the 50s 1.4 and four are the 50s 1.7.
You might ask why the 1.7, cause there isn’t much 1.4 in good condition that is worth buying in my last check and when i tested at f2.0 it becomes a sweet spot sharp, so i would assume the 1.7 is an unsung hero at this point.

Transportation is expensive though, some costing even more than the Rokkors itself, so do keep this in mind if you r trying your luck on Ebay. I might take apart one of the Rokkors and do really crazy stuffs, such as replacing some of the parts with 3D printed aluminum parts or repainting it with metallic car paint. I reckon that since i have no problem taking it apart to clean and re-assembling it, might as well do some magic.

Let the poison begin!

* visit www.cocoa-dream.com for value asian model stocks photography set and freelancer magazine.

What happens when a super wide is used by a portraitist?

I now have the 18mm Zeiss f4 and the 15mm Voigthlander f4.
Personally i am leaning towards the 15 because i find its really the widest i could accept before things gets distorted like fisheye lens.


The CV 15mm have a minimum close up of 0.5m. This is actually a good distance because near objects tends to distorts more esp at the corner.
I love using wide angle for portraits because it covers not just the subject but substantial context is available in the frame.


The distance makes this Lens a wonder for selfie images. Wide stretches the subject, so you get the effect of a much slimmer and taller person. This should go well with models. Now if you are not in Asia, recently there have been a spike of Casio cameras sales. Casio Exilim and Tryx are a favourite among freelancers and models here. Guess how much they are selling over here….its around USD 800. You know that is a way overprice sum for a 1/2.33 small sensor camera, which in all other manufacturer’s inventory are marked as obsolete. The reason its selling is here well is because the marketing genius in Casio have decided to focus the sales here using models and market it to the ladies here a camera that slims your down and beautify your skin…without the need to edit or photoshop!
Tryx is removed from the USA market as far as i know and last checked with BHphoto.


This is a view of the top floor in Pavillion shopping mall in Malaysia. Its a premium mall and offers a “tokyo street” theme at the top floor.


Shot at low light indoor. This is something which the A7R is very good at. Even though its pretty noisy at 100% view, but just scaling it down to 50% gives you around 16mp of clean files. Leica users should consider this camera as a backup or even replacement. Peak focusing and gazillion of other lens mount support opens up a huge avenue of possibilities.

Looking for chinese/asian models stocks photos, model contact in malaysia, or signup for a portrait/family outdoor shoot. Visit www.cocoa-dream.com

Overcoming Zyrtec Withdrawal Syndrome


Picture from iwantmeds.com

Although this is my photography blog but this is also where i blog about things in my life that i would like to share to the public.

One such important issue is the use of antihistamine Zyrtec which i think public should know as well as what i did to overcome it.

It started 2 years ago when i started having allergic itch all over my body after taking a dog out for a walk. As the pet is just 1 week old i was unsure if its caused by some ticks in the garden or something else. A visit to my local clinic suggested that it could be allergic reaction to my dog’s fur. I was then prescribe “Zyrtec”, little did i know this started me on a long and frustrating journey in recovery. 

After taking Zyrtec, all allergic reactions and even any common cold symptoms would disappear, in about 30 minutes. I thought i just had the best medicine ever and i do have a historical background on asthmatic attacks. During the consumption of Zyrtec, i was literally asthma free and allergic free. 

I finished up 2 stack of around 10-12 tablets as prescribed. 

However, i notice after a week of not consuming Zyrtec, suddenly i feel a sudden itch and the body would red and itchy in certain areas and then moved on to the next area. Thinking that i might have encounter allergens i just bought Zrytec off the counter and took half a tablet, 30 mins later i was once again “perfect”. 

But this pattern doesn’t goes away, so i decided to visit the hospital in Pantai Bangsar for a blood test for allergy. The result came back with recommendation to clear my bed as i reacted highly to dust mites, prawn and some instances of squids. I followed the order to the spot. 

But every 3 days or so, and i can feel the cycle seems to be getting shorter, the allergy would return and i had to get the “Zyrtec” fix. I also noted down some of the effect during the allergy attack :

1. The itch is not confined to one area. It could move. Some areas like the feet are hellish as its very sensitive and you might even have difficulty driving. This informs me that its not so much of whats outside, but whats inside the body that is causing a reaction.

2. Unless Zyrtec is taken during this state, i can also feel that there is a tendency to be more “lustful”. This could be because the whole system is on hyper sensitive mode. Initially i thought this was just probably some male hormone thing, but the “lure” ceased immediately after Zyrtec is consumed. Well, i am not 18 years old, so the “drive” must be somehow caused by Zyrtec withdrawal as i have noted this situation and i personally hate getting affected by it. 

3. Taking half a tablet or quarter seems to have the same effect of stopping the allergic attack. 

I visited Korea, Taiwan, Bangkok and i have noted down that even with perfectly clean beds and environment, the allergic will return in just 3 days or shorter after the last Zyrtec fix. This tells me something is very wrong and i google up “zyrtec” and was shocked to discover that i am not alone facing this. How in the world did Pharmacy got the approval to sell this medicine?

Let me just put it this way, Zyrtec withdrawal symptoms is VERY HARD to break. I have never done drugs and have often criticized addicts on why can’t they just give up drugs or even smoking. With Zyrtec withdrawal issues, i could related easily. It was hell, every 3 days a sudden attack of itch all over the body moving from hands, legs, foot to anywhere makes life just impossible to live normally.

But knowing that its not allergic but caused by Zyrtec itself, i told myself i must break free from this effect.

So this is what i did :

1. I took quarter tablet of Piriton every 3 days when the attack starts. Piriton is the older antihistamine available in any pharmacy and it definitely is drowsy but does not cause the kind of withdrawal symptoms (that is what i hoped)

2. I totally AVOID taking ANY ZYRTEC .

3. I tried to push the cycle as far as possible, eg 4 days, 5 days before i took the quarter Piriton. 

4. Avoid taking sugar, coffee. Don’t ask me why. I notice avoiding them led to much easier to cope with allergic attack in the cycle. 


The first week is the worst. I thought it will never recover as every 3 days i would probably need the Piriton instead.

Today its been over a month since the last Zyrtec and over 1 week since i took any Piriton. So yeah it does improves and i am glad to be Zyrtec free.



















Legacy lens

I had a chat with a friend recently and was shocked to discovered that he accidentally gave away all his legacy lens.
These lens are actually pretty useless up until Fuji, Oly, Pana and Sony (especially Sony) released mirrorless cameras that supports the use of almost all kinds of lens with adapters.
Ironically just recently i acquired 2 legacy lens, the Minolta 35-70 f3.5 and the Minolta Rokkor 58 f1.4. These lens are pretty amazing for value.
In fact i did one of my stocks photos last Sat just using the Minolta 35-70 and it was decently sharp and flexible.

Here are some images i took using the 58 f1.4 rokkor on a family trip.




Black & White, coffee with Taylor

Taylor first wrote to me a year ago, asking me to help her do an outdoor shoot. She was new to modeling for photo shoot and was cautious as who to approached. The freelancer community is rife with stories of guys taking advantages of new comers in the name of photography so understandably she contacted me after checking thru my facebook and photos.

I recalled doing 2-3 albums for her and after that she just became popular on her own. Photos spread viral and other photographers likes her outlook and paid for her shoot.

She is no longer doing freelancing now as she approaches graduation in accounting and looking towards a full time career. Like many other freelancers, she took up modeling just to earn pocket money for her studies.

A few weeks ago, we had coffee and just catch up on times. I had the Xvario with me back then so i took these pictures using the B&W high contrast. These images are not edited and i must say, despite my lack of interest for B&W, Leica jpeg engine for this filter does have some hard to mimic tones.






Why serious photographers don’t shoot for free

When i am shooting portraiture for models and friends as models, i usually do it for fun or portfolio usage.
For models, its rarely free since i am using her professional time and i have to provide transport, theme and props for the shoot.
For friends, its just a way for them to have a taste of modelling :-).

Now, there are many invites for me to shoot for events and portraiture for family, babies, children etc. I never do these for free.
And neither should any serious photographers. I am writing this article to share and educate sincere friends and others who have increasingly asked
me for a “free” shoot.

Here are 5 reasons why, you should never ask for a free shoot and if your a seasoned photographers, never provide one, unless its charity or
its part of your passion genre, in my case, models.

1. Photography requires skills.
An average tom, jane and harry can just buy dslr cameras and shoot. These are the people that are on a learning curve and provides free shooting, why?
Because they are learning and their results hardly goes without tons of mistakes. Should u pay these people, well maybe, but don’t expect anything spectacular.
I have seen even studios employing “cheap” editing such as -clarity bar on the LightRoom software, producing plastic skins that makes the model looks nice only to people who are clueless on the importance of skin tones. Expect to see lots of these being done on your portraits by new comers, i was once one.
Skills can only come by lots of practice, learning and usage of gears. That takes up tons of my time and effort and $$$ in investing.
I have paid up to RM 1000 for few hours of 1:1 sessions and other costs in 1:x workshops. Why? Because i believe if these teachers are good, they deserve pay and
its my part to appreciate their tutorial by paying.
In fact, i would now rather invest in mentorship rather than gears. One would make a differences to my photography eye, the other are just GAS (gear acquisition syndrome)
Skills are expensive to acquire. That is why i only shoot models for free if the condition is correct, because its never free, its part of my skills development and its within my interest to do it.

2. Editing takes LOTS of time
Most people have no idea that today’s digital photography, requires some editing workflow. Editing a photo takes a lot of time. Most folks that loves photography
will cross the line of being complacent with what the camera produce and study digital editing, aka Lightroom/Photoshop. Taking a picture might take up say, 20% of the time compared to editing them. Some setup of course takes much more time so as to cut down on editing, but the point is, if you want beautiful photographs, you need to be spend time editing them. Now, its sad that most of our friends thinks that you just need to click on the button and tada! an image comes out. So they think this dont used up most of your time.
In reality, good photographers have a reputation to maintain. They can’t just do casual shots on important photos like graduation, children portraiture or product shoot for “fun” unless its their own family or product. Anybody else asking for a photography service, be it friend or strangers, is a task that should be taken seriously and thus takes up serious time.

What a normal photos without editing looks like :

Here is what a photo with some editing looks like :

If you cannot spot the differences, that demonstrate the point exactly. There are subtle important edit in these two photos that enhances the pictures and takes times.

3. Gears are not cheap
An average good dSLR cost between USD 500 and good lens can go up to USD 5000. Common folks are not aware that these gears have a “limited lifetime”. Each click that a photographer takes, will eat up its “shutter count”, flash count or even ticks the rangefinder alignment. What folks would consider as a “free shoot” actually cost a photographer $$$ in lost everytime he uses his gears.
I use a table WACOM instead of a mouse. And I use original Adobe CC and Lightroom which i pay on a monthy basis (cc).
In a period of 2 years, sometimes a photographer invest as much or more than a degree course would have cost.

4. I want commitment
This is one of the reason i dont shoot anyone else or requests such as events for free. I am not interested in the other party taking my skills and time lightly. If they are not committing monetary, i find no reason to shoot and produce images. I can shoot for fun during friends gathering etc, but not when i am asked to do graduation, family portraiture, product shoot and events.
Often i get invitation for events with reasons like “you get to have official pass to the models backstage”. Seriously? I am not a peeping Tom pervert. No thanks.
“Its a grand event, your portfolio will need it, so its kinda FOC”. Thank you, i’ll pass. I don’t mind going there to shoot for fun, but don’t ask for images.
When a party is committed, i appreciate their value for art and i will do my best to perform. In fact i think i am the only joker in town that
offer “Satisfaction guaranteed results”. Clients only pay me a deposit for the shoot, after the shoot i deliver small size images of selected photos and if they are not happy with the shoot, i do a full refund (except for costs paid to Make up artist).

5. I never ask my lawyer friends or doctors for free documents and free tablets.
Like any other profession, even if they are my friends, i do expect discount, but i never ask for free service.
Just because its not my field, i do understand they spent a lot of time and money in whatever they are doing.
I am quite sympathetic with those working in I.T field too ;-), neighbours always asking for “fix this pc” and expect free service.

So if you are a photographer and you are reading this, please respect yourself and your passion. Do free only for charity or when its part of your passion genre to practice and improve. You can share this article to your friends and hope they would sincerely understand your situation.

– Marcus.

Bokeh, the high cost of portraiture



SDOF = shallow depth of field

The images above have a kind of swirling bokeh. While these are more easily found in older fast lens, summilux 35 f1.4 and voightlander 50 f1.1, i was surprised it turns up in a modern autofocus 55 1.8 FE lens. I am not going to define bokeh and its relationship with SDOF here, sufficient to say, they are related but not the same thing.

In portraiture, bokeh and SDOF are expensive. Literally. The ability to separate the noisy background or to convert a background into a creamy paste of beauty surrounding a portrait, is a much sought after attribute. When i practiced on the Xvario, i learn that without SDOF, there are some very interesting way to shoot so as to merge the background as a 2D image.

Example if non-SDOF way of shooting portrait

But more than often, SDOF and bokeh is the key to any portraiture. SDOF will first separate the subject, and BOKEH determines how background lights or even patterns will be formed. These are very artistic kind of attributes which are unfortunately overused often in portraiture. Take Keda.Z for example, his main wedding photos does not utilize SDOF nor bokeh. Why? I believe its because there is just too much SDOF/Bokeh used as a cheap way to produce nice portraiture that the pros that don’t use them immediately produces unique works of art.

Here is another one that i did, without SDOF/bokeh.


So the key really is simple. If you going to capture the scenery and put the subject as part of it, whereby the bg’s use is to accomodate the subject, then don’t use SDOF/Bokeh at all. But if you are in a close up or situation where there the scenery has no interesting/dramatic light or not interesting, SDOF/Bokeh makes all the diff.

Here is one i did, the bg are just leaves lighted by the sun, would be just end up as noisy bg, but utilizing the 85 mm 1.4 on FF, the sdof/bokeh transforms the image into a beautiful portrait.


Some lens produces technically flawed bokeh, like the earlier images, swirling background, these are easily produced by cheap Russian lens too. But these flaws because of its bokeh characteristics that are missing much from new modern lens, are now considered as advantages instead of flaws. One such lens is the Leica F1.0 lens. Good luck finding one of these “discontinued lens”.

I have now in my hands the A7R with 55 1.8 FE lens. Follow my post as i try my best to use this gear on my next project in a few days.