Saturday, 21 February 2009

Fujifilm F200EXR High ISO Samples

image (At ISO 1600, this photo proves what Fujifilm claims in IQ with the EXR sensor. I have no complain really about the image at such a high ISO for a compact like this)

The high ISO IQ is not really comparable to a proper DSLR’s.  But the F200EXR is so portable that, coupled with the wide lens and the agreeable high ISO performance up to ISO 1600 IMO, it is a dream comes true.

If case you missed the previous post on some background of what a EXR CCD can do, check it out here.

The dynamic range seems really better than the shots done with other serious compacts available on the market.  Now, the samples:

Day Shots

ISO 100 200 400 800 1600 3200 6400 12800

Night Shots

ISO 100 200 400 800 1600 3200 6400 12800

(Photos by Kitamura)

More Shots

(At ISO 1600, F9 1/60s)

ISO 800 1600 3200


image (At ISO 1600, F3.3  1/42s)


F200EXR  @ ISO 800 1600
F100 fd      @ ISO 800 1600

(Photo by kakaku)

Friday, 20 February 2009

Selected Excellence: Portrait Lens

Traditionals have a term for lens to take portraits with. They call it, obviously, portrait lens.

sigma dp1_005

Some may point to you that a "standard" portrait lens for a 35mm camera is a 135mm lens, while others say that it should be 105mm. There are also some specific way for using a portrait lens as how it is supposed to be used. Take for example, dial up the f stops to a smaller number when using the longer focal lengths to render the subject completely in focus, you would be told. Of course, for camera of other formats, the "standard" portrait lens have different focal length requirements.

So, what about portrait lens for a compact?

Let's look at the causal portrait shots here done with a fixed lens of Sigma DP1 by SY Hsu, who has been introduced to readers here and here before. With the fantastic portrait works under his belt (lucky him mostly for beauties) and the portrait works awards (here, here and here)he won from PX3, he offers us some brief insights of his about portrait lens for compact.

sigma dp1_004

sigma dp1_006

By SY Hsu (translated by Nevin): As we use a compact, it reveals the false proposition of a "portrait lens", doesn't it? A false proposition it exposes also of the need to evenly expose for a portrait so that the subject is bright and beautiful. Such are prejudice of no significance, I'd say. How we use what for an image hinges on our intention! With the desirable lighting condition, atmosphere, facial expression and pose, a great photo is just a click away. I can never stress too strongly in saying that the essentials in photography are skills. Goodness knows how many times I have repeated this!

sigma dp1_007

sigma dp1_017

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Very well said. I think Hsu is primarily saying that the "right" lenses, and any other gear for that matter, have not much bearing on producing good photos. Whichever lens we use, it is for achieving what we intend to say in an image. First intention, then the choice of gear. Not the other way round.

Of course, in our course of learning photography, it is okay to shadow the styles of photography masters with lens of similar focal lengths. It is all right to pick a specific lens called a "standard" and follow standard compositions. But we also have to build up our own style and pick the lens of our choice to convey our own messages. Otherwise, photography would be pretty boring!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

The Magic of Fog

How would you use your compact, be it a GX200, GRDII, LX3, G10 or whatsoever, to say your objection in an image against a bad idea?

Take for example a short-sighted redevelopment project. The following photos are examples taken from my on-going assignment on urban redevelopment.

R0013111 (Medium) (Looking Down Upon: The tall buildings stick out behind the low blocks and into the thick fog. Look at their top floors with some structural features shaping like evil triangular eyes. They were what caught my eye. I can easily imagine them as gazing at the old tenement blocks at their feet, relaying a message of the greedy property developers, “We will lick you up, shorties.” The mysterious atmosphere surrounding the evil messagers would not be possible without the fog)

R0013110 (Medium)(Ghosts Looming Over: A wider view affords another interpretation that the tall buildings are actually ghosts looming up from nowhere and going to make its way through the low blocks regardless. The tall buildings masked by the fog appear much more intimidating in comparison to the low blocks)

So, with a bit of luck, a queer weather and regular practices, I was able to notice the scene. The tall buildings are taken to represent the property developers who in the name of redevelopment invariably build commercially viable R0013118 (Medium) tall buildings, the least thing needed in this city short of breathing room. Such short-sighted redevelopment projects have turned old areas topsy-turvy. The future generations will be made to pay a tall price for losing the history of places to such projects.

The fog did some magic to the impression of the neighbourhood which feels differently from a usual day. Contratry to what many may think, the special foggy weather are when one should a grab a camera and shoot some photos. Hong Kong is as foggy as can be for the last few days. The fog mystifies the usual scenes and cuts down virtually any harder shadow in an image. So on a foggy day, I grabbed my GX200 and went shooting in this old district, To Kwan Wan (literally Earth Melon Bay).

It is one of Hong Kong’s old areas showing the true colours of its history. Bordering on the old international airport, it was once a heavily vegetated, sparsely populated area. If we go further back in time to the 1950s, it was still sort of a countryside where my teacher said was secluded enough for his school field trip once. The previous remoteness of To Kwan Wan gives some explanation why the old airport and the gigantic fuel tanks were built there, later appearing to be a threat ridiculously close to the residents.

R0013114 (Medium)(The gigantic fuel tanks have been relocated last years. But you can still see the gas works on the left side of this photo.)

Partly because it sat on the lifeline connecting the old airport and the business districts, To Kwan Wan was too important to be disturbed by R0013115 (Medium)the massive public works for building the MTR, which is the Mass Transit Railway or Hong Kong’s Underground. So, To Kwan Wan and the adjacent districts are skipped by the MTR route all together. However, the airport was relocated long ago. So, the government has announced a plan to extend the MTR route to this side of the city. Property developers are already flocking to this old district to build tall buildings. If this continues, the genius loci of the different old districts in Hong Kong will assume a single common characteristic: commercially viable.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Stories of Wooden Carts

R0011735 (Small) (On Collison Course: This photo was taken at the Fruits Wholesale Market, a must-go for any photographer visiting Hong Kong. But beware that taking pictures of the workers there can get you cursed and bullied with four-letter words. Co-incidentally, the most common Cantonese foul expressions are also in four syllables. So, you should be able to know it when people with fierce eyes speak them to you. Interestingly, the most well-known Japanese foul expression is also in four syllables. This may bring us to some Chomskian discussion on the connection of anger, mothers and languages)

In Hong Kong, wooden carts come in many different sizes and shapes. Unlike other big cities, the metal version which you see in the offices are the minority here. Instead, these omnipotent wooden ones are ubiquituous. You see them in snack kiosks, eateries, factories, marketplaces, schools and rubbish collection stations, you name it.

R0013130 (Small) (Limousine and Chauffeur: This garbage collection man shouts to passers-by to give way as he wheels his wooden limo through the busy street. There is an even longer version of which I am yet to have the luck to take a photo. Talking about limousine, this was what whisked me around to see dignitaries in town when I worked for a Consul-General to Hong Kong. I felt like a trillionaire each time I got out of the limo and saw heads turn)

If you have never tried wheeling a loaded wooden cart, I can tell you from my first-hand experience that it is not as easy as you may have thought. I worked as a cleaning worker for one school summer holiday as I said in a previous post. Well, I had actually been in quite a number of interesting positions. More on that when the time comes.

Back to wooden carts. They are not made in large factories whatsoever but by carpenters not of note. The skills in which are on the brink of being lost. The known surviving local carpenters making these carts are the Lees. Old Lee, who is an octogenarian now, and his wife of over 70 year old have been in the trade for more than 50 years. At the heyday, they received hundreds of orders each year, which are reduced to just one in several months now.

R0011432 (Medium) (Points and Lines: Points, lines and planes are the fundamental elements for certain forms of fine arts, including photography. If I can do one thing to make this photo better, I would like another worker moving a cart on the near end so that there would be two contrasting points connected by the lines to form an interesting segment on the image)

Knowing that this heritage of wooden cart manufacturing is vanishing, some architects and designers commissioned the Lees to make home furniture to order in a hope of getting more people to continue the trade. In a city on the fast track of development, the loss of old things often leaves a whistful sense in the locals growing up not being able to re-visit places and things in their memories.

When we grow really old, can we be able to teach our grandchildren to use films and slides to take photos. I really, really doubt. And that will be a pity waiting to happen.

R0011736 (Small) (In the end, the man steeled the wooden cart through the bustling road. This happens every day in the Fruits Wholesale Market. Although accidents happened, the brave workers are as brave as can be. So, next time if you take photos there, be careful not to be too intrusive to make them angry. Otherwise, they may do whatever they are going to about you and there is virtually nothing that can deter them)

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Almost Got Killed

R0012789 (Medium) (2) (Modern Wash: The image reminds me of a Chinese wash painting with exception of the theme on buildings rather than mountains. The wash of grey silhouette is what caught my eye at the scene. The airspace above the buildings was once the landing route to the old international airport in Hong Kong)

Until the old international airport was decommissioned, I often went up a hill which commanded a view to the landing route. I went there for plane spotting. The hill was actually a landmark for pilots to take the last turn to align planes with the airstrip. Landmarks are important for pilots, as told to me by a late WWII co-pilot who was my friend, as tangible way points to complement the electronics aboard. On the hill I could have been killed.

I am still not sure whether the pilot drink-flew or the electronics malfunctioned on that unforgettable ocassion. I was on the hill, standing on a narrow strip by the steep slope, and watched planes landing as usual. After a while, a Boeing 737 plane came along. It kept on flying towards where I was standing. From experience, I was certain that the pilot missed the way point where he should veer the plane. The plane went straight towards the hill for ten seconds which was a long time for a flying plane. I thought to myself that I could die there in a second. Luckily, the pilot took a deep turn even though it was at so late a moment that it was just some 50 metres away from the hill, exceptionally shorter than the 300 metres distance. I covered my ears with both hands as the plane winged its way to the airport.

The place I took this photo is on the hill in the background of this photo. The plane winged past a normal distance as close as this. Now you know why I was scared my pants off that time.

R0012788 (Medium)More photos of the amazing old days landing at Kai Tak can be viewed here.

(The airstrip of the old airport is on the lower
left-handed side of this photo)

Monday, 16 February 2009

Now You See It, Now You Don't

reflection4in1 (You See It or Not: This glass pane is one of my favorite places to take street shots. The reflections change with the light. The reflections appear when abundant light is shed on the glass, and fade a bit if the light turns dim on it. They toggles between the two, on and off with passers-by turning round from and into behind the glass. This puzzles the mind whether the image through the glass is real or illusionary)

This is Monday. The cleaning lady is getting ready at her workplace by the bustling Nathan Road. Now, she is wheeling a big yellow thing along. The big yellow thing has a jargon for it, Si Lo Bo, or literally Little Robot. Si Lo Bo is, in fact, a name adopted for any big, automatic unknown-for-the-its-name machine since it was used for a character in a Japanese children's programme aired in Hong Kong in the 70s. So, there are Si Lo Bo this and Si Lo Bo that. This Si Lo Bo is actually a high pressure water sprayer.

It took her some five minutes to set up the hose with the help of her co-worker. Usually, there are three people working together. One wheels the Si Lo Bo, another holds the sprayer head and the third one missing hereshould carry a canvas shield to stop the water from spraying elsewhere. I retreated my camera before they turned on the machine and the water sprayed elsewhere.

I am very familiar with an older model of this Si Lo Bo. I worked with it for a summer job back in my school days.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

What's in Super CCD EXR + Comparative Shots for Fuijifilm F200EXR

(Note: There is an educational video introducing this CCD at the end of the post )

image (ISO1600 / High-sensitivity low-noise priority (EXR mode))

The hot stuff of the day is Fujifilm's F200EXR. Offering a useful focal length from 28mm to 140mm, Fujifilm gives the camera manual controls (no shutter priority mode) with a 1/1.6” Super CCD EXR heart claimed to deliver superb IQ, especially in terms of high ISO performance and a wider dynamic range. The aperture at the widest opening should be made, however, wider than f/3.3-5.1. Comparative Shots

image If you haven't checked out the samples (thumbnails shown at left) by DC Watch, check them out here.

To get an idea if the EXR CCD does as good as Fujifilm claims, see its sample galleries forF31fd, F40fd and F60fd.

And if you haven't read about what's special about the Super CCD EXR, and what it can do to improve image quality, the following is what Fujifilm said says about the technology. (譯文)



Some Background

There is strong demand in the digital camera market to increase the number of pixels on a sensor, which, all too often, is used as a convenient yardstick for image quality. While introducing excellent 12-megapixel cameras such as the FinePix F50fd and the FinePix F100fd, Fujifilm has had great success in increasing pixel density while at the same time controlling noise and optimizing sensitivity. Fujifilm’s campaign to improve overall image quality, while at the same time increasing sensor resolution, has been coordinated under the program of Real Photo Technology.

Real Photo Technology is underpinned by the belief that experienced photographers, many brought up using famous reversal films like FUJICHROME Velvia or PROVIA, understand that true image quality is about a combination of many factors like tone, hue, color fidelity, dynamic range, sharpness, and resolution. It is well known that increasing the pixel count on a sensor actually makes it more difficult to achieve high sensitivity and wide dynamic range. As the photodiode gets smaller, the problems of increased noise, blooming and clipping increase.

It is widely believed that ‘high resolution’ and ‘high sensitivity’ are irreconcilable opposites, and impossible to optimize on the same sensor, particularly for compact cameras, where sensors are necessarily smaller.

High quality pictures are dependent on the subject. Excellent low light pictures need high sensitivity; high contrast pictures need wide dynamic range, while fine details, ike the leaves of a tree or strands of a model’s hair, depend on high resolution.

Fujifilm engineers set about the task of building a Flexible sensor to match the emands of the photographer. The end-goal is to produce a sensor that works as close to hat of the human eye as possible. Whatever nuance of color or sensitivity of tone that akes the scene so special to the photographer should be the continual challenge of the ensor engineer. The EXR sensor is essentially a switchable sensor; changing its complex electronic behavior to suit the subject, changing its characteristics as the photographer demands, and producing the very best picture without making compromises.

The Technology of Super CCD EXR

"Super CCD EXR" is the latest new generation of Super CCD produced by Fujifilm. Over the years, Fujifilm has excelled in high resolution sensors through ‘HR’ technology (F50fd, F100fd) and high sensitivity/ wide dynamic range through ‘SR’ sensors (S3 Pro, S5 Pro). The direction in the future will be to combine HR and SR technology together to produce one universal sensor suitable for all high quality photography.

Super CCD EXR offers three main changes from previous Fujifilm sensors: 1. A new arrangement of the mosaic color filter 2. A new method of pixel binning 3. A complete revision of the electronic charge control

image 1. EXR: ‘Pixel Fusion Technology’ for High Sensitivity and Low Noise Boosting sensitivity by increasing gain causes the generation of random increased noise, and conventional efforts to control this noise have resulted in blurred images and loss of resolution. On the other hand, a low-noise signal can be obtained by pixel binning. However, the conventional approach to binning (along the horizontal and vertical axis) generates false colors because of the separation of pixels of the same color. Because it is necessary to suppress this phenomenon, the result is a significant drop in sharpness.

EXR changes the color filter arrangement. Two side-by-side, same-colored pixels are taken together as a single pixel. With this design, the area of imaging elements is doubled, the sensitivity is twice the normal level, and ‘dark noise’ is extremely small. Therefore it is possible to create a high sensitivity image with little noise, instead of increasing the gain from a single pixel and increasing the noise.

image Another problem with traditional pixel binning is the distance between same-colored pixels. Since the pixels are combined vertically or horizontally, the distance between combined same-color pixels is large, resulting in the generation of false colors. Boasting a new technology called Close Incline Pixel Coupling, the new Super CCD EXR can prevent the generation of false colors by mixing two adjoining pixels as one, and managing to achieve both low noise and excellent sharpness.

2. EXR: ‘Dual Capture Technology’ for Wide Dynamic Range Super CCD EXR uses flexible and high-precision exposure control to simultaneously capture two images of the same scene: one taken at high sensitivity and the other at low sensitivity. It then merges the two images to generate a photo that has excellent depth and range.

Previously, Fujifilm used two different methods to improve dynamic range.

The first was Super CCD SR. Through the adoption of a “double pixel structure” based on silver halide film, which comprises an “S pixel” with a large area and high sensitivity and an “R pixel” with a small area, a dynamic range four times that of conventional sensors was achieved.

The second was based on Super CCD HR, where the gradation of shadows was gradually adjusted while raising the sensitivity of signal processing, and where

highlights were softened to delineate an optimal curve. Similar to Super CCD SR, the new EXR sensor uses Dual Exposure Control to impart two differing sensitivities by controlling the light exposure time (the time in which charge accumulates). Unlike SR, the imaging elements are the same (large) size, which means the potential for widened dynamic range is even greater, and facilitates a greater spectrum of graduated expression.

image 3. EXR: ‘Fine Capture Technology’ for High Resolution The distinctive structure of the new Super CCD EXR fully exploits all the pixels in the layer beneath the new color filter matrix and takes advantage of the optimized signal processing of the new RP processor to create an image with the highest possible resolution quality. Even though the sensor has been designed for ‘Dual Capture’ for Wide Dynamic Range and ‘Pixel Fusion’ for Low Noise, it actually performs as well as previous 12-megapixel Super CCD sensors due to the new filter and photodiode design.

When light is full and even, and when fine detail is required, EXR can deliver exquisite detailed expression for landscape or architectural photography, and render the finest details of clothes, hair or jewelry in portrait photography.

EXR: The Future


Fujifilm is determined to use decades of imaging know-how gained through the development of film to push the boundaries of what is possible to achieve with an imaging sensor. The market for digital cameras is only around a decade old, and Fujifilm believes that it is possible to follow the holy grail of ‘absolute image quality’ in the domain of electronic imaging, just as it did with conventional imaging.

With EXR, Fujifilm can choose one engineering direction, rather than developing separate sensors for high sensitivity and high resolution. Fujifilm looks forward with excitement to introducing this sensor into its range of high quality cameras, and expects enthusiasts to see a quantum leap in image quality from anything they have seen before.