Saturday, 25 July 2009

This Is What?

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"This is what" was the question put to me when my friends were shown the above photo. The shot was not taken during daytime. No, not during the solar eclispe, which had been a brief fad in the past week in this part of the world.

So, what is this? This is one of the shots for which I had waited and take on a stormy night. I just anticipated the moment of the next strike of the bolt, photographed on the continuous drive mode and ended up with this photo. I am sure that the CX1 can do a better job with its much higher continuous drive speed.

As the scene was actucally dark, the trick was to pre-expose for a lit-up area (say, a shop when you passed by one or an indoor light if you're indoor) and lock it up with the AEL lock. Don't forget to turn off the power saving feature of the camera, so that the camera won't switch itself off beyond the idle-time and the exposure combo be gone.

Some other tips are: 1) Safety comes first when you shoot in inclement weather.  Don’t take risk.  2) Don’t hide under any tree when you photograph the bolts.  Better do the shooting indoor.  3) Drag the shutter speed and use the lowest ISO setting.  4) If the lightning is haphazard, do horizontal shots.  If the bolts flash repeatedly and expectedly in certain spots, do vertical shots to render the image more dramatic.

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"What is this" was also my exclamation when I watched the news on TV about the solar eclipse and saw the lady (above) used a GX100 to photograph the sun. I was amazed by not the lady but the 15-second free air-time of the TV shot showing the back of the camera with the big RICOH letter thereon.

I doubted that the camera man was a Ricoh user himself. Otherwise, he must have been very inadvertent about it, which might have caused him some rebuke by the news editor.

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Maybe there is a lesson for the camera makers to learn from this: put your logo or brandname on the front and also at the back of the cameras.

Another thought is related to the VF-1: The lady would have appreciated the VF-1 if she had used one for shooting the solar eclipse because she could comfortably turn facedown towards the eyepiece and the lens up to the sun, sparing herself the squinting eyes and repeated guessing for the composition.

Friday, 24 July 2009

ACES

R0016666 (Large) The VF-1 has been attached to my GX200 for a fortnight by now. It becomes an integral part of the camera to my enhanced enjoyment. The individual benefits of the viewfinder are not huge but together they add an extra dimension to the joy of photographing with the GX200, making the experience more completed and closer to using a DSLR without the physical burden.

Let me give some final thoughts and a conclusion to this series of VF-1 review.

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My deepest impression is that Ricoh should have bundled up the gadget with the camera at the same price. The gains will be three-prong: the joy afforded to the photographers, Ricoh's brand-name building and the sales of the GXs. A year after the release of the GX200, the latter two factors have taken greater importance in face of tighter competition in the niche market formally conquered by Ricoh notwithstanding its still lesser known existence in the present-day camera market.

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As regards the VF-1 itself, the built is solid. The optical material looks good. The resolution is agreeable to me, which is however in the domain of forever-the-higher-the-better. But with the clever eyepiece-diopter-control and tiltable design plus its cool display showing all the shooting information as on the LCD screen, the electronic viewfinder is much better than a nice-piece-of-glass optical viewfinder. Previously I doubted using an electronic viewfinder. Not anymore now.

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But Ricoh has to relocate either the slot for VF-1 or the in-camera flash so that the future GXs can use both at the same time, which is regrettably not possible with the GX200. This is my biggest complaint about the VF-1 on the GX200.

Otherwise, there is no obvious "thorn" in the VF-1. At least, I haven't noticed any.

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The benefits of using the VF-1 can be summed up in one word: ACES.

A: Angles. Being tiltable, the VF-1 enables the photographer to use the camera in new viewing angles (face-down and camera at chest level plus lens pointing forward or sideward; at eye-level and lens pointing upward ) and for novel shooting angles (notably for shooting the sky, skylines and at near-floor level).

C: Calibration. The VF-1 gives the photographer a much better sense (which is more intuitive than looking at the histogram) in doing the composition and exposure, especially during daytime under the sky.

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E: Easiness. The subjects focus themselves easily at the lens without feeling being monitored, while the photographers easily at the shooting without being noticed by the general passers-by and the more curious eyes peeking at the what-they-see-is-what-you-are-shooting LCD screen.

S: Steadiness. The camera with the VF-1 pressed against the eye gives the photographer extra elbowroom to drag the shutter speed to as far as eight to ten stops slower than the shake-correction-off safe speed.

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Who is the VF-1 for?

I'd say from silly photographers (like me as maybe thought of by the anti-EVFers :)) to serious photographers (like most of you) who are used to using SLRs/ DSLRs with a viewfinder.

However, if you have a frowning wife to explain about it, some hungry kids to feed or more serious cameras than you can use, please take the calling of the VF-1 fictitious.

(All photos taken with the VF-1 attached to the GX200; I'd reverse the note from now on because the VF-1 will be on the GX200 unles otherwise)

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Stability and Variations

R0016692 (Large) ^The clouds are the continents, linked by the plane.

In addition to the benefits discussed yesterday, there are two other noticeable advantages.

One is enhanced steadiness in holding the camera. It goes without saying that with the VF, the GX200 has to be pressed against the photographer's eye whenever a shot is taken. Understandably, this helps steady the camera set to a slow shutter speed. In my case, there has been a proven eight-stop gain in dragging down the shutter speed.

R0016725 (Large)^This photo was done with a shutter speed ten stop lower than the safe speed without shake correction. The image is not razor sharp but acceptably clean.

To put it in another way, the proven safe shutter speed now becomes eight stops instead of four stops below the 1/focal length in use (only shown when the step-zoom is turned on). The gain will probably be greater when without drowsiness resulting lack of sleep or of restraint in alcoholic abuses, I think.

The other is what could be used to address a reader's enquiry in response to the first post this week about the VF: more varied shooting angles.

The varied angles certainly include those awkwardly low ones for shooting with the LCD screen, kudos to the tiltable VF. I have yet to find such scenes worthy of bending my knees to shoot during these two brief weeks. But I still notice the benefits.

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Shooting the daytime skylines or the sky itself is now eye-squinting-free with the VF attached to the GX200. With the VF tilted up to 90 degree up, the photographer simply looks down into the viewfinder instead of up facing the bright sunlight when doing such shots.

R0016599 (Large) ^ The orange area is not flame, but the sky being burnt by the sunset colours.

In fact, as shooting upwards becomes more comfortable, the VF lures the photographer to explore scenes above the eye level at whatever time of the day. A case in point is shooting sunset or sunrise.

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I have also tried the camera-at-chest-level, me-face-down shooting position in the street. Much to the benefit of the street shots, the passers-by are more easily oblivious to or unaware of me shooting them (not if at a close distance of course). The greater attention I have got is rather from the amazed lookers, mostly photographers themselves with DSLRs around their necks.

R0016711 (Large) ^This shot is overexposed on purpose to give a heavenly look of the subway. I was face-down looking into the GX200 at my chest-level through the VF-1. The passers-by were oblivious to my presence.

Another varied shooting angle beyond my imagination before using the VF is shooting in a vehicle with the camera lens pointing sideward through the window and the VF tiled all the way up. This is a novel and comfortable shooting angle I had never found in my years of photography.

R0016547 (Large)^This shot was done with the lens-sideward position I just mentioned.

A novel angle gives the photographer new perspectives to the scenes. If you agree that perspectives are important to photography, the VF is an apt footnote to the agreement.

(All photos taken with the VF-1 attached to the GX200)

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

VF-1 Impresses Me

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^The VF-1 feels well-built with sturdy material, weighting like two coins or three in the hand.

After taking 100-odd photos with the VF-1 (hereinafter "VF" for the ease of typing) for over a week, I am ready to offer my impressions of it. First of all, we are going to judge it by its appearance.

 

1(Medium)^ With the hot shoe cover removed, there the VF goes in.  The VF-1 comes with a small case to store the VF-1 or otherwise the hotshoe cover detached from the camera.

The VF is rather light-weight and does not add much weight to the camera, which is important to photographers who prefer to hanging the GX200 around the neck. The VF is inclinable upward for as much as 90 degree.

 

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^If you are short- or far-sighted, turn the eyepiece to correct the diopter.  The correction is very effective to me.

The designers must be lauded for incorporating the diopter correction controller in the eyepiece, a tweak of which can vary the diopter. (As an aside, Ricoh has probably got the best, meticulous camera designers. The GRDs’ and GXs’ implementation of the digital zoom controlling is ace, which prevents its accidental activation even when its position is at ON.)

 

2(Medium)^The male connector

The assembly of the VF is anything but wobbly. In case you wonder, the VF is plugged to the camera with a male data-transmission connector. So, the VF is firmly attached to the camera and will not come off by accident.

 

4(Medium)^The nude VF-1 without the :) condom

With the VF attached to the GX200, the camera case has to be extended on its top. This is the biggest peeve I have found about the VF. The camera case now becomes so fitting for the VF that it takes, pardon me, the skill of using a condom. I have to somehow press the VF with my left thumb to ensure that when closing and opening the camera case, the extended part does not apply unsuitable force to it and turn the diopter (eyepiece), which had been the unfortunate case for a few times.

Fortunately, with some practice, I am more used to doing the GX200 plus the VF in and out of the case.

Until tomorrow, here are some photos taken with my GX200 by using the VF-1:

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Monday, 20 July 2009

A Big Step for GX200

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This is a small step for the mankind, but a big step for my GX200.

After much soul- and price-searching, I have taken one step towards fully arming my GX200. I have got a VF-1, the proprietary electric viewfinder for Ricoh GX200.

In fact, the VF-1 has been experimented with for a week. Before I finish up with my initial thought about the gear, here for you to enjoy are some of the photos taken with my GX200 by using the VF-1.

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Sunday, 19 July 2009

Money

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While crossing the road, this rider intrigued me.  He had a face of a Japanese cartoon character.  He balanced the bike with both feet on the peddle even though he was actually stopping at the red light.  And look at his posture in style.  The best of all was his T-shirt which yells on it, "Money is what I lack."

Have a good weekend!

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