USER REPORT: Vietnam with the Olympus OM-D by Anthony Pearson

Vietnam with the Olympus OM-D by Anthony Pearson

Hi Steve,

Thanks for hosting such a great site. I’ve picked up photography again after many years off and I’m rediscovering how I see the world. I recently listened to a documentary on BBC Radio 4 (over here in the UK) where someone was suggesting that by looking through a lens and searching for photographs you fail to experience fully the world around you. I would counter that in taking photographs I have walked down streets I never would have seen and I’ve talked to strangers I never would have talked to. I’ve got up at dawn to capture the light on remote coastlines and experienced the true solitude that only that time of the day can bring. Looking through a lens does make me see the world differently but as someone who tends to live in their head it puts me well and truly in it.

I’d like to share some photographs of a recent visit to Vietnam with what is now becoming my “trusty” Olympus OMD. I bought a new lens especially for the trip – the Olympus 12mm but hardly used it (weirdly) – the panasonic 25mm seemed to be attached to the camera permanently with the occasional switch to the pana 20mm for less bulk and occasionally the Olympus 45mm for portraits.

The Camera

This is the first time I have really pushed the camera. In the space of 2 weeks I shot under lots of different conditions and for the first time ventured from the comfort of Aperture and Shutter Priority modes to fully manual for many shots. Sometimes the light wasn’t the greatest but the Olympus took it all in it’s stride and I’m continually impressed by the huge Dynamic Range the camera is capable of capturing.


Before I went to Vietnam I had notions that I would convert a lot of the photos I took there to black and white. The colour just blew me away though and I didn’t want to lose any of it in the final shots. What surprised me was the rendition of colour closer to the Chinese border. In January the cold winds from China cause fine mist that hangs over the landscape. As a result my photos taken there look like they have been cross processed/bleached. Colours are muted but still pleasing and I love the eery quality that the mist gave to the landscape.


I don’t have huge experience of taking photographs of people but the more I do it the more I enjoy it. I met some amazing characters. The man I shot in the doorway of a charcoal merchants was one such character. He had the charisma of De Niro. He stared at me for some time before a barely noticeable nod acknowledged that I could take his photo.

More of these shots can be viewed at

Thanks for taking the time to look at my photographs!









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  1. Sorry Anthony, I was so busy defending my favorite OM-D ! And I forgot to say main thing – Thanks for sharing your pictures to us, I like them very much and think they are “out of technical discussion”. It’s all about signs, feelings and atmosphere, not gear
    Good luck
    Dmitry Krasitsky

  2. Ant

    Nearly forgot. I do like the your set of photographs. I’d be pleased as anything to have my photographs showcased here. My favourite from this set is the snappily dressed guy on the scooter.
    So, apologies for not saying so in my original post, I was going into a ramble.

    Trusty… 🙁

    • Thanks Des,

      Ramblings are always welcome and help add some discussion to these message threads! The guy on the scooter is probably my favourite too. If I had had more time to take the shot I probably would have straightened up the framing – I had to take it really quick and that’s how it turned out which is what I’ve grown to like.

      I tend to call things trusty when I manage to get good results using them – the OM-D hasn’t let me down yet but then again I’ve not had it that long. It’s not quite in the same league as my small frying pan – I’ve had that for years and it cooks great fried eggs and pancakes without them ever burning/sticking. That’s the only other thing I own that I use the trusty moniker with – but that really has earned it in the field!

  3. A nice set and well done, with plenty of small details to pore over once the initial look-see is complete. One example: smoking man’s U.S. Army patch on his helmet has me conjuring all sorts of possible backstories.

    Thanks for taking time to submit these.

  4. I like the images and the sharpness and colour are all great. I have no idea what aperture and focal length these were taken with, but don’t these also show the limitations of achieving selective DoF with MFT cameras (whatever the benefits of lesser weight and bulk might b)?

  5. Like the guy-on-scooter-pic a lot. Didn’t like the OM-D cause of the menu structure. Some cameras feel like walking with a laptop. IQ and lenses were awesome.

    • You are aware that you never have to go into the menu of the OM-D, at all, once you have it set up. The quick menu is as easy as it comes on any camera and things are changed with one button push. The OM-D is just about the easiest camera to set up and use as any. FAR easier than any NEX. Some people take it out of the box and assume that the way it is set up by Oly is the way it has to be used. Ive shown about 30 others how to change that and they were amazed at how much easier it was to use. I suggest to not use the super panel or normal menu with the OM-D 🙂

      • Good comment Steve. I will be selling my Nikopn D80 and lenses this week to embark on the OM-D journey as I have sen the things that it can do and love your reviews of the camera. On your last comment would it be possible to have a post on your blog about setting up the OM-D as you suggest? I have seen something similar on the DPreview website but wondered if your thoughts on the setup are the same?

      • I prefer the more intuitive knobs and dials on the Fujifilm X-E1. And yes I was aware of the quick menu on the OM-D. It was just too much a Sony.

  6. Nice shots, really captures the places you’ve been. And encouraged me to look at your website. I must add that I am often somewhat disappointed with travel shots on this blog (sorry Steve…your bits are great!), as the writers often say how pleased they are with the camera and lenses that cost an arm and leg and made by you know who, and then trot out a bunch of badly composed, blurred or just plain boring shots. I guess they are just proving the opposite of “the camera doesn’t matter” (ie the photographer does )

    But I like yours! And very good people shots for a beginner-people shooter.

  7. Didn’t upgrade my Olympus EP-1 to an OMD. After much deliberation I went for a Nikon D600. It’s certainly bigger than the Olympus but the trade – off is fantastic image quality. Several years ago I lugged my Mamiya RB67 kit plus tripod around Beijing. On some days I got soaked with rain. On other days I was soaked with sweat from my effort carrying the kit around. The parallel here was that my wondering around introduced me to people and places that I would have missed. This large and obvious set-up attracted a lot of curiosity and friendly interaction with the locals. So while I can fully understand the attraction of reducing size and weight of equipment, for me, if I’m going to travel a few thousand miles I want to come back with the image quality, technically and compositionally, I can get.
    The post was interesting for me since I very nearly bought into the OMD system. However, I have an almost pathological dislike of the use of the word “trusty”. It’s a term that only seems to be used with photography. What does it mean? I could probably term the majority of my camera equipment “trusty”. So what! It is the worst photographer cliche out there, and its not even a photograph.

    • I know what you mean about the use of the word trusty. I’m not sure I would use it in reference to a digital camera as it’s rare that one will last much longer than 5 or so years. On the other hand, I would use the word trusty for some film cameras. I took a month long trip to Cambodia with my Pentax K1000 and a 50mm f/1.2 lens and it got quite a beating. It was crushed, rained on, I took it with me when I went trekking in the jungle and more. With the exception of one accidental double exposure when the film didn’t wind properly, it worked perfectly. It has worked perfectly since 1976 and will hopefully continue to work for much longer. That’s a trusty camera.

      • Dirk

        I’ve only just taken delivery of the D600 within the past week, so you’ll have to wait a bit. However I would guess that twenty five years as a professional photographer covering a fairly wide range of roles and subjects probably entitles me to have enough experience and knowledge to allow me a more informed opinion. If you had actually read my post, I said that I very nearly bought into the OMD system. I already have four micro 4/3rds lenses and I’m onto my fourth micro 4/3rds camera. I’m just not ready to make a large investment in that system. I’m just a bit traditional and will put up with bigger size, weight and inconvenience in return for the best image quality I can afford to buy into.

        • “but the trade – off is fantastic image quality”

          Your words, and again you are saying that the camera is where the quality comes from…

          You are just what some people in the art world might call a “square” and you live in a very rigid world. I hope that you learn that art and photography are only based loosely on “technical” terms. A great photo is about capturing a great moment, or feeling, and most of the time is going to be VERY imperfect.

          Steve wrote an article about this just the other day, you should check it out : Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder. He is dead on with that too.

          • Dirk

            Do you put words into everyone’s mouths? I’m writing about technical image quality, e.g. Sensor size, megapixels, etc.

            How arrogant of you to try and sum me up. I’ve used and still use a wide variety of equipment and techniques. If film wasn’t so expensive, I would simply stay with that as much as possible.

            But I’ll try and remember to use the excuse of collateral imperfection from using or trying out a new technique or piece of older equipment to my next wedding or corporate clients. Im sure they will be very understanding.

            That reminds me. I do remember getting a decent picture of the QE2, the last time she was in Greenock. Using Nikon film equipment, long lenses, etc, because I was being paid. There were countless hundreds of well wishers there. At one point I briefly lost my vantage point in the scrum for a good view and seeing the ship about to sail past, I grabbed my Olympus XA with Kodachrome 64. Focused at infinity and prayed that my framing was good. Held the camera at full stretch above my head and snapped away. A mixture of experience, good weather and luck gave me a picture that promoted an exhibition on the QE2 not long after. The moral being that I am proud that this one last gasp picture blew away everything else I shot.

            So, don’t confuse pragmatism with a closed mind.

          • The problem is that we aren’t talking about your weddings and corporate clients now are we?

            We were talking about the idea of going to another country and snapping some great photos…

            Im just saying that if you “NEED” the D600 to get your “technically” awesome photo’s, you should probably buy a D800 because it will “technically” take better photos.

    • I would say that “trusty” has to do with getting the job done at the time you need it done…If the camera takes the photos that you want, when you want them, then it could very easily be called trusty.

      Secondly to say that because you have a D600 means that your photos will ultimately be better is the most ridiculous any real photographer could or should ever say.

      Thirdly, you don’t always want people to be curious of the equipment you have, because that would most likely turn into “posed” photography, and I hate that sort of thing.

      Maybe you should show us your AMAZING IQ D600 shots, and prove us all wrong that the camera is what makes the photographer.


        • Bob

          I don’t know if you think you are being clever or droll but the photograph you are referring to is in sharp focus. I have no control over how the image is reproduced on the web. However it is something that I’m going to look at now that you have drawn my attention to it.
          So maybe in future you could be less offensive and give people you are going to criticise the benefit of the doubt. If you can’t read the more reasonable comments on a forum without immediately getting personal and obnoxious, then just stay away.

      • Bigger sensor (all other factors being equal) provides better image quality. End of discussion. It also provides for – much – better control over DoF, in case you hadn’t noticed, Dirk.

        Having said that, these images are fine.

        • Eh, try a 1.4 Nikon 50 on an Oly, you’de be amazed about the possibilities of true manual selective focussing. And Michiel, we don’t end discussion here, we relish in them….

          IQ = lens + sensor + skill of the photographer in the digital darkroom + atmosphere + light or should I say

          IQ = lens x sensor x skill of the photographer in the digital darkroom x atmosphere x light

          In any case all things equal you might be right (but I doubt even that at base iso) but in the case of the stupidly designed D600 you might just be mistaken….the contraption spills dirt (possible or should i say probably oil) all over the sensor……just check the lens rental report. I have owned and used a Nikon F (still do), F2, F3, F4, F5 (and that was it). Have been oogling the D7000 (oil) and the D600 (oil)….and will go for the OM-D……IQ is a okay for my purposes……and hey if even Steve likes the OM-D……the man is a good guide to quality no matter what, on his account I bought the GF1 heading his sound advise and believe me, with good light (preferably overcast outdoors Becher weather)… still shines.

          Now I don’t care for AF (I shoot landscape and these rarely hike off into the distance) so well some nice old legenday Nikon glass will have to wait for a D610…..keep my fingers crossed.

          Greets, Ed.

          • Hi Ed,

            The ominous statement “end of discussion” usually leads to more discussion, as it should. The “all other things being equal” condition is quite relevant here though…

            I must say my buying decisions (as little as possible these days, I try to focus on making images), are influenced only by myself, not by the opinion of bloggers, knowledgeable or not.

            Once you’ve had full frame, there’s no going back. So that leaves (having invested heavily in F-mount primes) the D600 (toylike, small viewfinder, build quality) and D800 (that file size scares me). So I’m sticking to my trusty D700.

            I switch a lot between AF and MF lenses; both can bevfrustrating in their own ways.

            Have a look at my flickr Miked700

          • Sold my D700, tried D800 and D600 and got Olympus OM-D. My pictures are still what I like =) And OM-D have much better highlights room. I don’t look at DXO alchemy, I just shoot RAWs and process them in Lightroom. Hundreds of examples, if you ask me =)

          • If my eyesight were up to it I would be using legacy lenses on my EP-1 permanently. But too much wobble and a lot of pictures that are a whisker out of focus. When I do get it right the photographs have a fantastic look which goes beyond the obvious qualities of sharpness etc. The photographs have, I think, a distinctive character. Maybe it’s imagined, but I don’t think so.

          • DES! We agree!

            I use an olympus om, or Nikon 50mm 1.4 almost strictly at this point… I think its because the photos may not be quite as sharp actually?

            But the texture and depth that they produce is just awesome!

            I will take 5 misses to get 1 great shot with one of these lenses.

  8. Radio 4 is the finest radio station in the known world (in my humble opinion!!) but in this case I think they might be wrong. Most true photographers see rather more of the world around them than casual observers do.

    As for these photographs, I think your comments about using colour rather than B&W are spot on. The second shot alone is justification for this with the lovely contrast of the lady’s red top sandwiched between the green wall behind and the the green scales on the table in front. This wouldn’t have been half as good in B&W. Strangely, I also think the almost monochrome shot of the guy on the moped is better in colour as well. Altogether a lovely calm, almost gentle set of images that really capture something about a fascinating country.

    By the way, I love how the Dad in the first image on the motorcycle is wearing a helmet while his wife and kids are not! Perhaps they take turns to wear the family helmet…

    • Thanks for the kind comments Colin. There are certain colour combinations that are everywhere you look in Vietnam, the compliments of red and green perhaps the most dominant.

      In terms of “child safety” none of the children on mopeds ever wore helmets and they were often sandwiched at the front of the bikes. It does seem a tad irresponsible! The most irresponsible thing I saw on a moped was a passenger holding a sheet of glass 5 x 4 ft in his hands, sat directly behind his friend. This was in rush hour!

      • I’ve been to Vietnam a couple of times – once in about 1993 and again in 1999 – and loved it. Great scenery, friendly people, good food. Love the story about the sheet of glass. I have no difficulty believing that when I recall how many people / animals and how much stuff I saw being carried on mopeds in downtown Ho Chi Min during the rush-hour. The average traffic policeman in England would have a heart attack after about 2 minutes ! Fantastic photo opportunities though.

  9. Hi Anthony:

    Your pictures are amazing, thank you for posting them!

    Excuse me for asking, I am not a pro, but are those pictures out of the camera JPEGS or RAW’S?
    If they are Raw format, do you spend a lot of time post-processing the pictures, and do you mind sharing with us what is your workflow or at least a few tips? I dislike spending too much time behind the computer post-processing my images and your pictures look so great, thank you for sharing if you don’t mind.


    • Thank you Richard!

      I always shoot in RAW and take these files into Lightroom. I might have 2 or 3 shots of a subject so I’ll spend some time deciding on the best take and I flag these shots as picks. Sometimes I prefer the aspect ratio of 4:6 (classic Robert Frank ratio) rather than the standard 4:3 that the camera takes so I might change the crop a little to reflect this. Generally I’ll let the picture decide. If the White Balance is noticeably out (I just leave it on Auto on the camera and sometimes it is not always accurate, I will adjust that slightly but it is never by a lot). The only other thing I will always do is sharpen the shot as most shots need a little. Most of these shots have very little post-processing work on them apart from the sharpening. It can be really tempting to slap on loads of vignetting to “antiquate” the shot and draw focus to the individual but I think it can look really cheesy and a stronger composition would work better.

      • Hi Anthony:

        Thank you for your feedback.

        I clicked on the link and went to your website…You have a lot of talent, bravo!
        Superb work, your photos make me want to go and visit all those places (New Zealand, Vietnam) and go back to Hong Kong. Time and money permitting, I suggest you go and visit Haiti one day, it’s a really photogenic country.

        Take care and all the best!


  10. Hi Anthony:

    Your pictures are amazing, thank you for sharing them with us!

    Excuse me for asking, I am not a pro, but are those pictures out of the camera JPEGs or RAW?
    If they are Raw, do you spend a lot of time post-processing the pictures, and do you mind sharing with us what is your workflow or at least a few tips? I dislike spending too much time behind the computer post-processing my images and your pictures look so great, thanks for sharing if you don’t mind.


  11. I have always been of the opinion that photographers are more observant than non-photographers, and totally disagree with that BBC Radio 4 documentary’s suggestion. A friend of mine once said to me that he noticed that I saw more of what surrounded us than he did, and put it down to my interest in photography, and he was a very curious person.

    I think you have done a very nice job with your human portraits, considering you admit that you don’t have a lot of experience in photographing people, but I would like to have seen some landscapes ( I will take look at your website later – they are most likely there).

    Best wishes.


  12. Hi Anthony,
    indeed very beautiful photos you had captured, the Fourth from the top, for me is the strongest compo…
    i have to visit Vietnam someday….
    Thanks for sharing

  13. Anthony. I am intrigued by your images. As I viewed them on an iPad horizontal format I found them well balanced compositions but then as I scrolled down I realised most weren’t landscapes but portraits! There was more to them and the picture changed significantly as further elements came in to play and reading the picture became more complex. Do you normally see and take your pictures in portrait format? Love the fourth picture which is in effect two stand alone documentary portraits contained in one image.

    • Thanks Martin,

      It depends on what else is in the shot really. If the individual is the only focus then I’ll tend to shoot in portrait and centre them (man in doorway shot) or use Rule of third positioning. The fourth shot which you mention was taken in portrait as I wanted to capture both figures whilst removing clutter from the rest of the image.

      The woman in the green shop was originally a landscape shot as the background interested me. I eventually cropped it to a square as in my opinion it gave a more pleasing image. I’m not sure if that answered your question but that’s kindof my thought process.

      • Ant, thanks for sharing that… Viewing them was a revelation. I should have added that I like the space you gave your subjects.

  14. Really fascinating! For a start, as you say, the colour! Then I agree with you completely about the way a camera puts one in touch with one’s surroundings in a completely new way. Since I took up photography nearly three years ago, I see the world more vividly, spot things I wouldn’t otherwise have noticed, and look at paintings with quite new eyes. And I was very interested to hear which lens you ended up using most – a 50mm equivlent, the so-called “normal” lens. I have a feeling I would go for this more than 35mm and look forward to getting somewhere near that when the Sigma 30mm (45mm equiv)arrives for my NEX in the next few days. Then I can begin to do what Steve wrote about once, spend some time with one focal length and see what happens.

  15. Looks like you had a wonderful trip! A place I’d like to see some day. The OMD continues to prove itself as, I think, the leader in the 4/3ds format. Plus there are wonderful lens selections to choose from as compared to the Sony Nex series.

    Beautiful images Anthony!

    • Thanks Duane!

      It’s a beautiful country and such a great place to photograph! The lenses are what really sold me to the 4/3 format! The format seemed more mature than what the Nex offered when I was making the choice this time last year.

  16. Really nice photos !
    I know that it’s very “subjective” but don’t you think photos from OMD look like a bit “electronic” (especially in comparison with Fuji X) ?

    • I really don’t see what is looking a little bit electronic in these wonderful pictures.
      I have an OMD also with 12mm 50mm and the amazing 75mm and I bought recently the Fuji EX1 with 35mm 1.4.
      Nothing looks more or less electronic with the OMD than with the Fuji IMO.
      The EX1 is just really slower and I plan to sell it as I feel that the OMD is really better except in the handling where the Fuji is really nice.

    • The skin tones are a little off. I don’t think it is the camera. I also have an OM-D and have found it very good for skin tones.

  17. Anthony:

    One of the better recent daily inspirations. I want to keep looking at the photos! I agree with you that searching for “the light” causes me to look at the world differently than a non-artist. I truly believe I appreciate my surroundings more than the average person.

    Stay encouraged. You have a talent for people pictures.

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