Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Minimalist Camera Straps by The Bandit Co.

My photography friend, Jee Foong has been making minimalist-styled, hand-crafted, genuine leather camera straps. I have always struggled to find the suitable straps for my camera that balances both function and design. Considering the mirrorless cameras that I own actually look quite stylish, I want the straps on them to look equally elegant as well as being comfortable in use. There are many camera strap options but the premium ones that are both comfortable to use and look great are usually not budget-friendly at all. This leads me to another crucial point that makes these hand-crafted straps stand out from the crowd: they are unbelievably affordable.

I have known Jee from my early days of involvement in photography. Jee was there when I just got my first DSLR. He was one of the first few people that I went photo-walking with. Together with his beautiful wife, Ann, they spent time with me and taught me the basics of Photoshop. Of course I went away for a long time, but I was glad to be re-acquainted with Jee just last year and we both had two photography exhibitions together in Kuching, one in February and another in November 2017. We both shoot on the street a lot and we both are firm believers in mirrorless interchangeable camera systems being the future for digital photography. Jee is now a full time photographer in Kuching and you may check his photography out on his portfolio site or his Facebook page.

The story of The Bandit Co. originated from Jee & Ann's beloved pet cat, Zoe who loved to steal food, hence the nickname "Bandit". It was Ann who wanted a minimalist design wallet made from leather, but could not find the right one in the market and the pricing was usually stratospherically high for such products. However, having sourced high quality genuine leather, Jee realized that he could actually hand-craft the wallet himself. Being a photographer himself that relies on camera straps, it was also a challenge to find a suitable strap so he took the next step of creating his own straps.

Jee mentioned that these minimalist straps were made from full grain leather that will age beautifully over time. Care was also taken to ensure that padding was sufficiently provided to prevent scratches of the metal rings on the camera body. These straps are created specifically for smaller mirrorless camera bodies (Olympus PEN, Canon EOS-M, Fuji X100, etc) as well as vintage film cameras. The minimalist styling is easy to match any cameras either with modern or vintage looking design. Currently there are two options of straps for cameras, a short wrist strap and a long shoulder strap. Both strap options comes in either brown or black color. I personally find the brown leather more charming, and it matches my Olympus PEN E-P5 Silver perfectly. I bought one on the spot after my interview with Jee.

Jee is also looking to expand the variations of his camera straps. He is looking into making adjustable length straps that include quick release mechanism which is much sought after by event and wedding shooters. On the other hand, he also has plans to create dual harness system that can handle two cameras on the go. I am excited to see what Jee will come up with and I sure hope to cover them here in this blog whenever these updated products are released in the future. Furthermore, Jee informed me that in a longer run, he also wants to create minimalist camera bags as well as the entire camera accessories eco-system that include battery holders, memory card wallets, etc. Both Jee and me agreed that photographers these days do need to accessorize.

Now here is the stunning part, the minimalist, hand-crafted, genuine leather straps are surprisingly reasonably priced:
Short wrist straps at RM80 (approx USD20) each, and
Long shoulder straps at RM160 (approx USD40) each.

You may purchase the products online here on the official product page, or visit The Bandit Co.'s Facebook page. 

I personally purchased and am actively using the brown short wrist strap now on my ageing Olympus PEN E-P5, and I love every bit of the minimalist strap. I have always emphasized on simplicity in my photography approach and a minimalist strap is perfectly in tuned with what I practice.

If you are a photographer from Kuching, or anywhere else in Malaysia, do support our own local grown business! The straps make beautiful yet functional gifts for your photographer friends.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Unpopular Opinion: Why I Don't Shoot Film

A lot of you have stayed with me over the years, and some of you must have wondered if Robin Wong has ever tried shooting film? Why is there no blog articles about film? The short answer is, I do not shoot film. I shall explain myself in this article why I never bothered about film and why I never will.

I am not against film photography in the digital age. If you love shooting film and it gives you that much pleasure and satisfaction, by all means, continue doing what you love doing. This is not going to be an article about film vs digital photography, that is a treacherous terrain that I would be suicidal to cross. I will explain myself as simple and as straightforward as I can: I just do not see the point of shooting film now.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Happy Chinese New Year 2018

If you are celebrating, I wish you a prosperous and happy Chinese New Year! May this year bring you happiness, love, good health and abundant opportunities.

I am finally back in my hometown Kuching (Borneo), preparing for the coming celebration of the new year. Of course I have had my over-dosage of Sarawakian food goodness over the past few days before the stalls closed down for the celebrations. My cravings were adequately vanquished but I do wish I have more. I will have to wait until the 3rd or 4th day of Chinese New Year for some of the stalls to re-open.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Lunch at CalleVerde Cafe, Petaling Street

So what happens when there is a newly opened cafe incidentally being smacked right in the middle of my usual hunting ground for street photography? We do some street shooting and we eat some good food there immediately after!

CalleVerde is a Fillipino and Western fusion themed cafe that serves a variety of commonly available Fillipino food and also some western dishes. This is not exactly a food review blog entry, and I have no intention of doing food reviews here either. However, I am a photographer and my hand gets itchy whenever I see something interesting to shoot. It is no secret that I am a food lover (judging by the size of my physical appearance) and putting the two things that I am passionate about together, I do enjoy shooting food tremendously. Though I must admit that my food photography still need plenty of work, but it is work in progress nonetheless. What better reward for food photography than to be able to taste the subject that you have just photographed on the spot?

All images were taken with Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark II and M.Zuiko 12-40mm F2.8 PRO lens.


Sunday, February 11, 2018

Revisiting Kuala Lumpur - A Photography Exhibition Comparing KL from 1976 vs 2017

One of the advantages of being a photographer living in Kuala Lumpur is the bountiful of events and activities that are available to get myself immersed with and be inspired. Photography exhibitions happen frequent enough that we never really run out of opportunities to absorb new idea, get motivated and push our photography boundaries further. The most recent photography exhibition I have attended was the "REVISITING KUALA LUMPUR" by three local Malaysian photographers, Eric Peris, Lee Hong Leng and KF Choy. This exhibition specifically compares urban landscapes from the early scenes in 1976 versus what they have changed into in 2017.

KF Choy, Eric Peris, Academician Professor Emerita Datuk Dr. Mazlan Othman, Chairman of Sutra Foundation Datuk Ramli Ibrahim and Lee Hong Leng

Thursday, February 08, 2018

Olympus PEN E-PL9 Review is Up!!

Thanks to Olympus Malaysia, I have had the Limited Edition Blue Olympus PEN E-PL9 for a week to shoot. My review is now published on Ming Thein's site here (click).

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

Is The Grass Greener On The Fuji Side?

I know the camera brand that neither me nor Ming Thein touched is Fujifilm. Although Fuji has been making splashes with their X-T series and X-Pro series of mirrorless cameras, somehow none of them made it into my grasp, or available for me to review. Buying cameras just to review is out of the question, as that is not the way to sustain a long term solution for a blogger. However, I do have friends who own Fuji and have spoken highly on Fuji imaging products. I even have a friend who is willing to loan me his Fuji X-Pro 2 for review purposes. The question is, after about 2 years since the X-Pro 2's release in early 2016, will there be still enough interest from my readers to see me review it?

I have heard of the wondrous colors of Fuji JPEG files, but I must acknowledge that color preference is highly subjective, and may not be the same for everyone. From the general online photography discussion, I can summarize that the X-Trans sensor for Fuji has gained much attention, having respectable high ISO performance, better resolution resolving power, yet at the same time suffering from being able to be fully optimized when the RAW files are being processed with commercially available post-processing software. I have to be honest to say that I am not a fan of rangefinder style design for a body, and I am leaning toward a traditional DSLR look, mainly for better handling and also many other practical shooting considerations (viewfinder being on the same axis as the lens).

I do have my own curiosity, are Fuji lenses really as good as what everyone says? Has the AF improved since the days of X-Pro 1/X-T1 (which were lagging behind most cameras in terms of speed and reliability)? What is the fuss with all those film simulations? Do they make an impact on the image colors, or do I get better color processing the images myself?

My only brief flirtation with Fuji was with the first and original classic X100. It was a good camera, but it failed to deliver when I want something practical to work with. The lens was soft, the AF was terribly slow and the image quality was nothing to shout about, even during its time. I do admit the design was super sexy, the camera feels good on hand and I have had some beautiful images taken with X100 that made it into my Kuching exhibitions last year. Of course the X100 was many years apart and I am sure Fuji has come a long way since.

So Fuji people, if you have somehow stumbled upon this, do share your thoughts and your experience using the X-series. And is there anyone interested in reading my review of the X-Pro 2?

Monday, February 05, 2018

The Nokia 6 Snapshots

I have been using the Nokia 6 for more than half a year now. While I have had a few flings with "flasgship" smartphones before, having much more capable cameras, such as Oneplus One, Huawei Mate 9 Pro and P10, strangely I do not miss using the higher end smartphone cameras. Perhaps the main reason was because no matter how good the camera in a smartphone is, it is still a smartphone camera with small sized image sensor and there is just so much you can do with it.

Friday, February 02, 2018

The Image Stabilization Miracle

Who would have thought how much the image stabilization can improve in just a few years? When Olympus introduced their 5-Axis Image Stabilization in the OM-D E-M5 in 2012, it made huge waves across the photography-sphere. Fast forward a few years later, evolving to the IS in their E-M1 Mark II, now I am able to hand-hold confidently at 4 seconds shutter speed and get blur free images! Do bear in mind that this only works for wide angle shots, shooting subjects from quite a distance away from the camera.

4 seconds shutter speed, hand-held. E-M1 Mark II and 12-40mm PRO lens.