fujifilm GA645 review thru portraiture {review}

fujifilm ga645 review

I was visiting a film lab in Publika KL last week and the owner offered to loan me a Fuji GA645 for my portrait works. I took the camera and did some googling. After reading a few reviews i was totally disappointed. Most reviews talk so much about the authors’ feeling on the camera but failed to show any interesting portraits or even images.

Here are some example of sites : filmshootercollective.com, dantestella.com , while they do contain some useful info about the camera and some nice photos of the camera itself, i came out feeling empty and hungry.  Maybe its because i am into portraiture and the lack of such examples just doesn’t show the camera any justice.

Without any materials to draw inspiration from, i took the camera, a roll of kodak Porta400 220 and went shooting with Irene near bangsar at Plant Cartridge.

There is this idea that have been in the air for sometime about what kind of imagery can we create that would hit the mass appeal for “the perfect girlfriend impression”, to the asians. Reading up on some articles and some sharing of ideas with makeup artists like Megan, the suggestion is that guys prefer girls that are just simple, wears basic clothing that are comfortable, long hair (what?), slim and with a pleasant personality. Sexy elements such as showing strong curves and cleavages didn’t make it to the list. #pfibyM

Enjoy the images and do leave me a comment or two. All the images are shot wide open at 60mm f4, Aperture priority mode.

fuij ga645 portratis
beauty and flowers


ga645 beautiful portraits
fujiga645 medium format film
its summer
fuji GA645 full body portraiture
floral balcony
fujifilm ga645 outdoor solo portraiture review
fujifilm 645 medium format GA645 portraiture
fujifilm camera review medium format 645
fujifilm medium format camera gear view ga645 portraits
yellow bokeh

The most beautiful Leica M6, 2000 Dragon {exhibit}

m6 limited edition most prized m6 best version leica leica best model m6
The year was 2000. The millennium, a year that promised great changes and greeted by chaotic predictions of a technology Y2k bug.

That year Leica at the suggestion of Schmidt HK decided to celebrate this amazing lunar year 2000 with a special edition of M6, the Dragon. The Chinese have long followed a 12 month calendar based on creatures. On that year 2000, it’s the year of the Dragon.

The Dragon have unique position in the hearts of Chinese and also in both biblical representation as well as western folklore. Bruce lee, for example is known as the little dragon and his epic movie that brought the pride of Chinese to the big screen was the movie “Enter the Dragon”.

Limited edition m6 ultimate
Leica’s Limited Edition

The limited edition would be released in a small run of 500 units of Leica M6. Each camera would bear a calligraphy character of the Chinese word for Dragon and Year 2000. I am not sure if Leica is aware of how rare is the combination of a millennium year that falls exactly on the Dragon.

The sales was just average with folks complaining about the origin of the idea being founded by Schmidt instead of Leica (though Leica has always been known to accept great ideas be it marketing or innovation and more importantly, it’s all produced by Leica).

One of the reason for the lacklustre sale was because the Limited Edition was seen to be made and targeted at China . It seems that the association of a luxury item and brand like Leica and China just isn’t glamorous. That was China in year 2000, which is also ironically known as “the sleeping dragon”.

China today is an awaken Dragon and it’s very hard to find these gems around . This Leica M6 became a milestone in the millennium year that saw the Dragon awakening and the China we know today .

When I first got this unit I was sceptical it would exceed my leica M7 in craftsmanship or the inspirational feel of holding one. I could not be more wrong . Leica chose to put the 0.85 finder in this Dragon, black paint and the M3 rewind knob.

M3 styled knob

The knob itself is a surprise to me when the body is placed into a beautiful leather holster, the fact that the knob isn’t protruding diagonally makes it so much easier to dress it up. I found that I could use a Leica M 240 holster or a M9 and it would just flush in beautifully.

Most beautiful leica
Black paint

The black paint is just so beautiful and the single stroke lever is so raw and like a piece of cut out metal.

This edition totally changed my mind on the craftsmanship of Leica films’ bodies limited editons. While the titanium version was cringe worthy and I sold that off quickly, this M6 dragon is an entirely new level of beauty as a tool.

If you could get find a used or new unit of this gem, use it . Forget about making it as a collector item unless you have two. It’s total injustice not to use this beautiful M6, or my opinion the most beautiful M6 so far.

Most expensive m6 leica

Read Part II here, weeks after owning and using the Dragon M6.

Portraiture with Olympus 35 UC {portraiture|film|gear review}

olympus 35 UC with 42mm 1.7
olympus 35 UC with 42mm 1.7

Recently i have come to acquire an “unloved” camera. According to the seller Eugene, he came across this camera from a bundled sales of various film cameras and he was surprised to find this gem. Unfortunately in Malaysia, seems like there isn’t much love for film cameras of any other brand except Leica, Nikon and Canon. Listed on his page is this peculiar Olympus 35 UC with a fixed 42mm 1.7 lens.

I bought it and i been using it for 3 weeks now. Now, just to bring some context to my short review here, I do own 2 (two) Leica M7s among other film cameras that are M mount, Lomo LCA120s/LCA+ and Nikon F100. I have used all the mentioned cameras for both model shoot and particularly the M7 on my recent trip. After i have used this Oly and seen the results though, i am totally stunned.

The lens is SHARP and the rangefinder focusing is very easy to see. The fun of using this camera, its operation and simplicity of setting it to 1/500 almost everytime on an ISO 400 film at 1.7 for outdoor is just dummy proofed.

Lets see some results.

stephy. Pro400H. Olympus 35UC 42mm 1.7
stephy. Pro400H. Olympus 35UC 42mm 1.7

All the images here are shot at f1.7 handheld. On an ISO 400 film, i didn’t bothered to load the batteries into the camera because the metering is a series of EV values and i have never used or set EV in any single shoot that i have done in the last 4 years. I prefer to keep things simple by ISO, Shutter and Aperture, EV to me is nothing more than a distraction. Granted the camera shows the EV values and you just need to turn either the aperture or shutter speed to get the “same” shown EV in the viewfinder and your set. Since i am always on f1.7, the metering was merely a cosmetic feature.


stephy. Xtra400. Olympus 35UC 42mm 1.7

These shots on Stephy (stephy yiwen) are one on Petaling Street, the Chinatown of Kuala Lumpur. The backdrop you see here is the oldest tailor shop in malaysia and has been in operation for over 100 years. Love the fact that i am using a very old Olympus camera to match the whole theme.

charlotte. Pro400H. Olympus 35UC 42mm 1.7

The Oly uses a leaf shutter and the size is kinda perfect for my hands. The camera is not “solid” like the Leica in terms of build quality and the feel you get when you hold it but it has its own charms. Among some of the things i really love about the Olympus 35UC is that its a very serious tool with a simple and humble front. There is nothing inferior when it comes to its output.

charlotte. Pro400H. Olympus 35UC 42mm 1.7
charlotte. Pro400H. Olympus 35UC 42mm 1.7

42mm is an odd and vintage focal length. There is something about this focal length that i really love. It just looks a tad more natural than 35mm that i use on my M7. For some days i couldn’t figure it out, i alluded the reason to placebo effect of having a “new toy” but after 5-6 rolls of images done across three weeks, i found myself preferring this focal length more than anything else.

It was only later some friends pointed out to me that 43mm is most likely the actual focal length of our eyes in the central zone that i became convince that the “its just more natural” have some credible reasons behind it.

charlotte. Pro400H. Olympus 35UC 42mm 1.7

In summary, i totally dig this camera. So much so i got another copy of the more common Olympus 35SP (they are the same camera with differing cosmetic changes) as a backup for parts. The lens reminds me of a Leica 35mm 1.4 summilux that i have tried sometime ago but at less than USD 250 per camera + lens, its impossible not to love this camera.

This opens up my mind entirely when it comes to Olympus film cameras. If they could do “this” quality setup since 1969, i am intrigued to find out what else we the “new generation” have missed out on this perceived underdog brand.

Film + Digital and why LCA120 should be avoided {glance review| sharing}



LCA120 shot from 1 meter

I going to be real blunt here even if that includes shooting myself on my feet. Having been thru several sessions and shooting both films and digital, it gives me the pleasure of filtering out the gems from the garbage.

First off let’s talk about LOMO LCA120. This is a medium format film camera that i bought after using the LCA+ for few weeks. My opinion was that if i had so much fun with LCA+, LCA120 would be worth the purchase. My opinion now is that it is a camera that should be avoided. Like many others i read phoblographer’s raving review on LCA120 but here are some reasons why i am find it off my recommendation list.

  • 4.5 is a slow for the LCA120, the problem is the shutter button, unlike the LCA+, the button on LCA120 is challenging to press. Makes me wonders what got into Phoblographer for even recommending this camera. While the LCA+ have an aperture of f2.8, its usability was decent. On a light plastic camera like the LCA120, its horrible. Don’t expect to use it anywhere except bright outdoor or tripod.


LCA120 auto exposure
LCA120 auto exposure (note the distortion pillar)
  • At f4.5 the autoexposure is crap when used on a medium format LCA120. Vignetting on a medium format is just silly when you have to pay over USD 400. When phoblograher says this is best for street shoot, i think what he means is this is only usable for bright, outdoor street. period.
  • Distortion everywhere. See the picture above, notice how distorted the pillar is. Unless you are shooting infinite all the time, expect all kinds of distortion on this Minigon 38 f4.5 lens.


LCA with f2.8
LCA+ with f2.8

So get yourself the LCA+ from the same LOMO company and ditch any idea to buy the LCA120. I have a LCA120 totally like new now with all the original box and packaging if you want to give it a go, make me an offer. But my conclusion is that LCA120 is best used as a prop not as a photographic tool, its defnitely nowhere as fun or as useful as the LCA+ .


digital on FZ1000 at f2.8 25mm
digital on FZ1000 at f2.8 25mm

When you own and major in shooting film, sometimes the digital itch rears its head and i digged out whatever digital camera that is left with me to bring to a shoot along with my film gears. The picture above is taken with FZ1000, took me like 2 seconds to take it and 10 minutes to post process it with a barrage of mix presets from VSCO.  You know that saying “Once you go film you can’t go back” …it’s true (though i made up this quote).  I find digital output a bit too clean and not a single picture i took ever since was released without post processing them with grain. If you like film grains, use the Color EfexPro, its not just adding grain blindly, its adding them like how a film would have them.


F100 50mm 1.4 Sigma, Fuji400HPro

Film gears comes in two flavours. The Autofocus and the manual ones. The F100 that i use for this picture is autofocus and it works with any lens created for Nikon F mount as well as older autofocus lenses such as the “d” lenses. While i do enjoy shooting film manually, sometimes its a joy using autofocus when you want to lean your thoughts more towards results and yet enjoy the beautiful tones from professional grade films like Porta or Fuji Pro.


nikon D610, sigma 50 1.4
nikon D610, Nikon 50 1.4 D.

I have sold off my Nikon D610 too to a good friend, at a huge discount. During my ownership of the camera, i often spend way too much time processing the output into film hence i rather use F100 for my projects. Example above is a result of processing with VSCO AGFA preset .


noctilux f1, kodak superia 200 film
noctilux f1, kodak superia 200 film


Noctilux f1, Kodak Porta 160
Noctilux f1, Kodak Porta 160


XA2, FujiChrome, 16 f1.4
XA2, FujiChrome, 16 f1.4

These last 2 pictures are taken on the Fuji XA2 and 16 f1.4 fujinon lenses using in camera film simulation of FujiChrome. The still look digital to me, but the film simulation provides a closer gap between film and digital.

XA2 Fujichrome 16 f1.4
XA2 Fujichrome 16 f1.4


I will be going on a trip to Croatia soon and after much pondering, i will bring the fuji with f1.4 over. It is a family trip and travelling light is the priority. I do find myself mulling over this decision and thinking of ways to fit in one of my film gears with me, perhaps the Leica M7 with 35mm zeiss.

LCA120 glance review : Candid example of high quality scan

slightly soft, sharpened using ps
slightly soft, sharpened using ps

There is an analogue event last Sunday and i managed to drop by and met an interesting guy that develops 120 photos for just USD 3, complete with scan and develop. I’ll say its the craziest deal ever, so i quickly took some shots with the LCA120 and sent over to him.

guys with their film cameras

When i got the results back, gosh, its so nice. Check out the image below, click on the + to expand to full size.

Girl with camera

Nexus 6p, Marcus says {review by images}


You know what? I just had it with these reviews on phone cameras that contains plain-examples of images and fill-in-the-template review. Don’t we all have enough already? If i want to see the quality of images, for goodness sake, take some photos that MAKES SENSE and stop talking about low light application on a puny sensor.

With that out of the way, here, i decided to present my own review on Nexus 6p, the current latest and greatest another android gadget from Google. I am not even going to talk about the front “selfie” camera cause i am only going to use the back camera which EVERYONE knows is al ways the better camera.

All these images presented here are taken hand held at various lighting condition and yes, some fashion portraits using available light, sceneries without hdr and macros (i don’t use the HDR mode, because it just distract you away from the main camera performance and into gimmicky processing).

So feel free to click on the images here and view them 100% cause i am not presenting any 100% crop here on some silly zoom in details, just see what you want and make your decision. Images here are unedited.

Jump to the end for my summary.

IMG_20151216_073952 IMG_20151216_095707 IMG_20151217_175812

IMG_20151217_182906 IMG_20151218_082209











amature shadow
backlighting, no corrections




look at those rubbish…and notice the flare


The 12+ mp camera is a killer…for mobile phone camera. The software driving it however, the google camera, sucks. It tries too hard to match Iphone’s ease of use but it fails. Examples are:

  • the lack of slider to do exposure compensation and you end up focusing all over the place just to get the right exposure.
  • shooting speed is slower than Iphone 5s (my device is the 128gb Nexus 6p)
  • burst mode is very interesting but has a mind of its own in deciding between collages or animation
  • focusing on close objects often fails when more contrasty background exist, they should have used laser or infra-red focusing or whatever. This is not evident when viewing on the phone, but you can see the blur shot focusing behind when you open in your notebook.
  • can’t follow target / focus lock like the Sony Z5
  • interesting flare when shooting againt the light
  • weak dynamic range, highlight blows out easily (same for all mobile phones except nokia 808, Panasonic CM1, basically much larger sensors phone cameras)

What happened to low light performance? So far nothing beats the Asus Zenphone 2 ‘low light mode’ but if you had to ask, its the same shit and what is expected from a puny sensor. If this is important, go get a proper large sensor camera, else, deal with it.

What happened to listing out the specs? There are like 4127318744 other sites that can give you the specs, now go away 😉

Do take note that i bought the device myself and hence i am under no obligation to say anything nice nor do i have any interest at all to demean my own purchases.

Why Casio TR is the craziest camera on earth {review}

In case you haven’t heard of this camera, allow me to load you with some. This is the 5th generation Casio TR 50, a compact camera whose all predecessors have been selling very well ever since Casio decided to drop this camera from the US/Europe market and focus on Asia. Its primarily a COMPACT camera using 1/1.7 (previously 1/2.33) whose market segment have been killed by mobile phones…except the Casio TR found a niche market and capitalized on it. This is arguably the most successful compact camera ever sold in both value and numbers in the last 3 years. Its the 5th generation now and they just launched the recent TR 60 at over USD 1100. Why is it so popular over here? Because its the ultimate selfie camera…for the ladies. Period. Apparently Casio R&D decides that for selfie portraits a 21mm lens is the ultimate focal length. This is where neither Iphone nor Samsung gets it. At arms length you can take photos that : 1. Includes half your body 2. Optically SLIMS you down As a serious enthusiast i have never bothered myself with this camera, i have always considered it a scam, a junk camera only for the bimbos. But when they released the TR 60 and since i have now heavily invested my time in an amazing fashion app “Shoppr”, i decided to buy it just so i can criticize it all i want. If you think Casio is just silly, take a look at Sony’s selfie camera also priced below USD 1000. Apparently this is Casio’s TR official competitor and this just proves market fitness for such a product that Sony decides it wants a pie of it too. Priced slightly below Casio TR, the KW-11 comes with real rose gold and the latest sony Exmor RS sensor. Whats my take on it? Technically after using it for a week. My impression timeline of it is :

  • Initial 3 days, scratching my head. buyers remorse. feeling stupid.
  • 4th and 5th day, felt like selling it off
  • 6th and now. I begin to understand and i am keeping it

I going to tell you my reasons why i am keeping this camera by showing you a short illustration. But before that let me just list down some of the real technical plus points.

  • 21mm f2.8 – its a very good aperture for this focal length. The need to focus quickly and get things into this slim size means you can’t have a too big aperture. There is no cheap 21 mm lens.
  • Aspherical lens – this means it has good lens design.
  • Electronic shutter that goes all the way to 1/16000.
  • It starts up very very fast.
  • It comes with a built in tripod (no joke)

The Illustration Now Elaine came by to Kuala Lumpur to attend a launch. She is a popular internet idol here in malaysia with over 400k fans on her facebook alone. Obviously she has done a lot of photoshoot  with me and other photographers. To illustrate my point here, i will show you 2 photographs taken by really good gears and dslrs and the response of the fans/public on the likes count and sharing of the images.

4.3k likes, 2 shares.

Above is a beautiful photograph taken by Kin Wei, who is a passionate hobbyist in taking portraits. Notice the nice colors, bokeh and editing on her skin tone. nice! 4.3k likes, 2 shares.

5k likes, 2 shares

This is a photo taken by Tze Leong, an experienced photographer that have keen passion in model portraiture like me. The image above has beautiful framing, colors and bokeh. 5k likes, 2 shares.

7.8k likes, 89 comments, 28 shares!

This is just a selfie shot taken by Elaine using my Casio TR 50 by herself and i selected this photo when she asked me which one i think is good. Notice how the likes, comments and shares exceeds any of the other photos taken in better gears and sensors. Although a photo should never be judged by likes alone, i can’t deny the fact that voluntary likes and participation of the public on the image serves as a kind of measurement for the impact the image have on the audience. In this case, it demonstrates the TR capability to do what it does best, selfies. Here are some i took using the TR without using any Photoshop on its output. IMG_1432 IMG_1437 IMG_1452 IMG_1434 Conclusion The Casio TR is an overpriced camera at an initial glance. However, i find that its a very capable camera that opens up a lot of mobility and creative angles for seasoned photographers. 21mm is a beautiful focal length that can be used in almost any kind of shoot, esp on such a small sensor and it can focus so close. I find that using a camera with a built in tripod, jpeg only mode and cool apps such as VSCO for post processing a really refreshing approach and challenge to my photography. I stare for sometime at my noctilux in my drybox as i look at some pictures taken of my family. There are very few photos that i took with my family whereby i am inside the photos, given that i am always holding the camera. The thought that TR indeed made it convenient for me to take such photos, is priceless.

skin tones

I always found the skin tones on my Nikon D4 a bit strange and my buddies 5D MK3 too red. Post editing them usually requires tweaking on saturation on the orange tone.

On the lower ISO, it seems to be acceptable on the D4, boost up the ISO to 800 and suddenly the skin turns barbie like.

In my early days, i just slide the LR’s clarity bar to the left and make the model looking like complete plastic. Later on, i progressed by using the Nik color Efex pro’s Dynamic skin softener, and managed to make the model looking …plastics again.

While i had some satisfaction publishing such photos and seeing how the models love their plastic, out of this world’s skin, i am oblivious to the pros in the community laughing their ass off while during tea time.

When i was told that the XVario produces one of the best skin tones ever, my curiosity piqued. While i do know that Leica have a bunch of smart engineers, German’s heritage and talents, i was skeptical the company could produce anything that would be exceptional compared to the existing veteran players.

i was a previous owner of M9, and i am largely disappointed it was more of a “logo” prestige than an exceptional technical experience and i have not changed my decision to stay away from the M system until its more reliable and at least worth half its price.

The XVario, however, is a different beast, auto sensor and everything non-M, i am surprised it was once Mini M 😉
Now, the XVario, did produce skin tones that continues to puzzle me. Like a curious child, i often gets surprised by the results. All the images below are unedited, JPGs OOC.

You tell me…





Enter the XVario

I really need a break from my routine types of shoot. Typically consisting of models and a big aperture camera and lens.

The idea of doing street photography and casual shots of people that are “non posed” have been tugging at my heart for a long time. Yeah, they would not garner as much likes and attention to my page in fb as much as pretty images of models would, but having seen really amazing street photos, i can’t deny that non-posed shots are nothing short of awesome.

Enter the Xvario

I have read many many reviews before i embark on this journey. What i did is basically sell of my perfectly working Nikon D4 and all the lens except my favourite one, the 24 mm 1.4 nikon. Why would anyone sell off such a perfectly working camera and get a Leica. Just a few articles back, i was criticizing the non-bokehlicious-shallow-dof camera a loser and now i am owning one.

Hmm, let me put it this way. The only way i can learn to appreciate deep DOF and embark on a new journey of photography, is to limit myself to a gear that does precisely this.

My sigma with the 18-35 art lens in currently in Japan undergoing perfect focus tuning and i have no idea when it is coming back. That leaves me with the superb Oly EP5 which my wife will be using in her trips and tours.

Now that you have read my complete my self-justification list ;-), that started my move towards the Xvario.

Why? Isn’t this the shit-sandwich camera that everyone been pissing at? Isn’t this the slow lens and overpriced camera?

Yes, this is the Xvario. From various reviews, Steve Huff, all the way to general mags, this camera won’t pass my 2nd glance on normal day. But what got my attention is this guy’s review :


Looking at his flickr set, he has Canon 5D MK III with 50 1.2 and all kinds of lens and works for ELLE publication in the middle east. His images are good, damm good. I asked myself why would such a person even buy a Xvario. That started me on reading up more reviews and dropping by the Avenue-K Leica store to check out the camera myself. I must say the price in Avenue-K is not in synch with the world, its expensive by nearly USD 500 compared to BHphoto, but i bought from them anyway, i guess its nice to see a local boutique shop here constantly supporting this brand.

I also bumped into this other guy’s review that seems to have access to all kinds of latest gadgetry :


..and yet he calls the Xvario, “I’m not even going to bother to write yet again about how good the IQ is, apart from mentioning it now. So I’ll go back to m4/3 and Fuji X for the next group of posts, since that is what people want it seems. And I’ll be continuing to use my ‘secret’ camera, but not writing about it much.”

As the moderator for Leica forum in Dpreview, i had a few chat with Rodriguezahr about the issues on the Xvario and was satisfied with it.

Here are the major shortcoming and how u overcome it :

1. The oversensitive 4way controller. 

Buy the case, its beautiful and adds grip and additional thickness to the side, enough to shield the right thumb from hitting the pads unnecessarily.

2. The slow focusing

Set to 1 point focusing. To move this point, long press on the “Delete/focus” button and use the 4way controller.

As for the aperture being small and hence a “slow lens”. Well, consider it this way,  how much would u pay for a Leica Elmar like prime for : 28mm, 35 mm, 50mm, 70mm? Did you know that the 50mm of Xvario performs near on par as the 50mm APO that cost USD 7350.00? Go figure.

I have not start shooting yet as today is my first day with the camera, just snapshots here and there with the family. Will be posting more as i put the camera thru its pace and undertake various photo projects and limit myself to only use this.

xvario, edited with silver efex pro ][