Saturday, 22 August 2009

No Prime, No Gain

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How on earth can anyone pick a camera with a prime lens (if you're just into photography, this refers to a lens with as fixed focal length) instead of a model with an all-purpose zoom lens?

Some photograpers on the Internet have asked.

Bearing in mind that some old hands with the Nat Geo used a prime lens throught their career, that I myself used the fixed 50mm and 28mm lenses for over a decade with my film Minolta, I have a definite answer springing to mind immediately: No prime, no gain.

Two decades ago when photography just came into my dictionary, and surely the time before, prime lenses were the order of the day.  I had been repeatly taught that prime lens, besides being better in optical quality, was best for training a photographer's eyes.

The advantages of a zoom lens are two-fold.  First, it gives the photographer an elbowroom in choosing different perspectives for the shot.  Second, the photographer is with a wider choice in compostion.

But first things first: you've got to in the knowledge of which is the best choice.   The training comes, among other things, best from a prime lens which make you think and give you headache in choosing the best by scouting a location, moving closer or farther away from the subject, climbing up a rock or going down the stairs, so on and so forth.

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Now in the digital era when the serious compacts are getting closer to the needs of the photographers, I would certainly recommend those fancing a serious model with a prime lens to go ahead.  You won't regret it, especially if the camera suits your style.

Simon Griffee, our fellow photographer located in Italy, has this to say about his choice of a GRD over a zoom-lens model : (a gist; focus on reason no. 4; full text here)

1) Superior handling and controls.

2) Light, small camera.

3) Optical viewfinder on the flash hot-shoe. I don’t like framing by looking at a screen.

4) Single lens focal length. I like working with one focal length for an extended period to ‘learn it.’ I find it helps me concentrate on the scene in front of me. I think I would prefer if it were 35mm rather than 28mm, but it’ll do (and there’s an add-on lens to change it to 40mm I think). Been shooting with a 50mm equivalent lens on the Leica almost exclusively for 2 years…personally it’s time to learn a wider view…

5) Proven support by Ricoh—they seem to listen to what photographers want in a small ‘serious’ compact… Other cool features like fast f/1.9 lens (in the new GRD III).

Lastly, the GRD just looks damn cool :-)

(Thank you Simon for allowing us to quote him; copyright of the relevant text belong to him.)


Postscript: If this is an ad, I will let you know.  No, this is just some biased opinions of us.

Friday, 21 August 2009

Japanese (Camera) Invasion

Chicago, Illinois. In the waiting room of the Union Station.^Wartime Chicago, Illinois. In the waiting room of the Union Station.

Consider this: Japan has never happened to be here on earth.

Scenario 1: There would not have any war zone in the east during the WWII. The bombing of the Pearl Harbour would not have taken place. The horrible killing of civilians in Nanjing would not have happened. Many women than you and I will ever know would not have become "Comfort Women". The atomic bombs would have been spared. Millions of lives would have been saved

Scenario 2: The saddening non-existence of Ricoh, Oly, Pany, Canon, Nikon, Sony and younameit.

Chicago, Illinois. Model airplanes...Union Station.^Wartime Chicago, Illinois. Model airplanes, Union Station.

While any form of wartime atocacies should be rebuked, no least those of the Japanese Imperial Army during the WWII, Japan has contributed tremedously to the history of photography. It would be unimaginable if we don't have those first-class camera makers and, bear with me, are left with the European makers.

The European competitors are all very supreme old hands in their own ways. But the facts speak for itself. In this digital camera era, at least in the popular market, Japan is the sole winner. The innovative stuff all comes from there.

Photographical relevancy aside, the new features we have been hearing on the new cameras over the week are somewhat gobsmacking: 3-D shooting, projecting images, hand-held night shot, half/full-press snap mode, sweep panoramic shooting and so on and so forth.

Should the European makers be at the helm, it may have been a different story. At least, we photographers may have to wait longer for what we need, in particular on a smaller size.

I am just wondering.

(Photos are collected from the Congress library, USA. Not copyrighted.)

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Mellowing of New Cameras

R0016982 (Medium)^My guitar has mellowed but the strings need replacement. How about my cameras?

Now that we are seeing a dozen of new cameras crunching through the Internet onto the display shelves and windows, you guys and gals are probably going to shell out money for a new cameras or two. This is question for you, "Do new camera need time to mellow in your hands?"

One common thing about new cars and new muscial instruments is that they both need a transition period to mellow to give better performance.

So, how about cameras?

R0016988 (Medium)^The abstract curve of guitar. Mozart commended the guitar as a combination of an orchestra. The body, which boasts the curving lines, contributes much to the commendation.

Like a computer, a digital camera is already tuned in when it leaves the factory whereas the parts of a car needs a certain period of running to narrow down the tolerance.

R0016986 (Medium)^I am playing the theme song of the Japanese animation movie 崖の上のポニョ (Ponyo on the Cliff), written by Joe Hisaishi. Hisaishi is a specially talented songwriter and you would not wish to miss his works.

It is likewise in the case of new musical instruments. However, it is not hte tolerance but the "fermenting" of the wood parts in the process of vibration and atmospheric interaction. After a certain period, the instruments will sound much better.

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In the case of digital cameras, it is the owner where the mellowing is at play. Some teething problems will face the uncertain owner: What is the (mechanical) noise when the lens zoom? Why are the colours of the image not as brilliant? Why does the camera tend to overexpose a scene?

The solution lies in one thing: the users manual. The mellowing requires the owner to read the users manual in parallel to practising.

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The moral of the question is: please, read the user manual whenever you've got a new camera. It is a sin and you are not worthy of the technology if you don't. This is important especially when today's cameras are loaded with features.

Before closing this post, ladies and gentlemen, Hisaishi's Ponyo:

Wednesday, 19 August 2009

Hungry? Fancy? S90


A camera interesting in its own special way, certainly tickling the fancy of many.  Click the photo to GIZMODO's S90 gallery (about the camera itself; no test shots yet), in case you haven't seen'em.

It is not that the makers have not been able to come up with something like this, but that these serious compacts make money now.  We're absolutely glad to see keen competition in this not-so-niche market now.

Canon Announces G11


Canon has just announced additions to its Powershot cameras, among which the G11 is the spotlight.

Gist of Canon Press Release: Whether a professional photographer looking for a smaller camera to tote along on assignment or a snap-happy sports fan heading to the big game, the new PowerShot digital cameras give users options for upgrading their shooting experience. All of the new cameras feature Optical Image Stabilization and use the DIGIC 4 Image Processor, the proprietary technology that accounts for the cameras' higher performance levels, improved signal processing speeds and enhanced image quality. Smart AUTO technology can now track moving faces and 22 different shooting situations (up from 18 previously) by identifying the surroundings to help ensure proper lighting and focus, providing the confidence to deliver high-quality photos in virtually any situation, from group snapshots, to landscapes, to portraits and more.

Select new PowerShot models will have the ability to shoot 720p High-Definition (HD) video, utilize the PureColor System LCD and for the first time from Canon, a PowerShot Digital ELPH camera will have a touch screen user interface for easy navigation through images and menus.

The desire to capture a clear shot of a sunrise or sunset over a mountain range can be fulfilled by using powerful features such as the brand new 10.0-Megapixel High Sensitivity System found on two of the new higher-end PowerShot cameras, the PowerShot G11 and PowerShot S90. Proven to enhance image quality in low-light situations and reduce noise at high ISO speeds, the new High Sensitivity System which is combined with the DIGIC 4 image processor, results in a faster shutter speed to help reduce subject blur and camera shake in recorded images. When it's not possible to use the flash at an event such as a wedding or a dance recital, this High Sensitivity System will help ensure images look great while making the user the envy of all in attendance.

"With the introduction of these new PowerShot cameras, consumers will have a wide array of choices when looking to upgrade and enhance their photography experience," said Yuichi Ishizuka, senior vice president and general manager, Consumer Imaging Group, Canon U.S.A. "Professional and entry-level users alike will now have the opportunity to choose the camera which best suits both their photographic and personal style at the same time."

Canon PowerShot G11 Digital Camera

The PowerShot G-series has long been the flagship of the PowerShot line. The new Canon PowerShot G11 Digital Camera further adds to the legacy of this award-winning series with its advanced features, variety of shooting modes and compatible EOS accessories which help to enhance one's photographic creativity. Designed for those looking for a pocket-sized camera with SLR functionality, this new powerful camera is ideal for the consumer who is looking to capture beautiful landscapes and professional portraits by offering:

  • A 10.0-Megapixel High Sensitivity System to capture images with a powerful 5x Optical Zoom lens with Optical Image Stabilization. Additionally, a 28mm (equivalent to 28-140 mm) wide-angle lens helps to get large groups into one shot at events such as a family reunion.
  • A 2.8-inch vari-angle PureColor System LCD, new to the G-series, allowing for easier on-camera previewing and reviewing of images from nearly every angle, while still incorporating the optical viewfinder found on previous models.
  • Easy access to heavily used functions with two mode dials for adjusting ISO and exposure compensation, and a full range of shooting and recording modes, including RAW + JPEG for ultimate creative control when editing images.
  • A host of optional accessories, including Speedlite flashes, an underwater housing and a tele-converter lens to provide further photographic flexibility.

    Scheduled to be available in October, the PowerShot G11 Digital Camera retails for an estimated price of $499.99.
  • Full press release is here.

    EISA Awards: Sony, Oly, Samsung

    Days ago, EISA released the results of its Best Product Awards 2008-09. With relevancy to our site, attention is specially drawn to three serious compacts. (Although the WX1 is not serious compact for a lack of manual mode, its 24mm focal length, G lens and great high ISO IQ are noteworthy -- actually rather mouth-watering.)


    European Compact Camera 2009-2010: Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX1

    EISA verdict: The Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX1 is a very compact camera that is equipped with a high quality f/2.4-5.9 'G-lens' with a useful zoom range of 24-120mm. It features an Exmor R CMOS sensor that yields excellent image quality while maintaining low noise levels. At the highest resolution of 10 million pixels, the camera can make a series of 10 images per second. Thanks to the extraordinary Sweep Panorama function, you only have to move the camera across a scene to make excellent panoramics that will be stitched together in-camera. Sony's new Twilight mode combines multiple exposures to produce hand-held low light images with very little noise.

    Now the following winner comes as a no surprise.

    European Camera 2009-2010: Olympus PEN E-P1

    EISA verdict: The Olympus PEN E-P1 is an elegant camera with an appealing retro design. The camera utilises the new mirror- and prism-less Micro Four Thirds system, which allows the E-P1 to be very compact and lightweight. Besides the compact Micro Four Thirds lenses, users can fit existing Four Thirds, OM and Leica M mount lenses to the body via an adaptor. As the sensor is larger than that found in compact cameras better image quality and lower noise levels can be achieved. The camera doesn’t have a viewfinder but the LCD provides a clear view even in bright conditions.

    The next winner has been generally overlooked and, therefore, my gasp.


    European Advanced Compact Camera 2009-2010: Samsung WB1000

    EISA verdict: The Samsung WB 1000 is an advanced compact camera that features an elegant titanium body and a pair of analogue dials on the top plate that display battery-life and memory capacity information. The Schneider-Kreuznach 5x optical zoom, that has a 24mm widest focal length, has very well controlled distortion, while the 12.2-million-pixel CCD and SLR-like exposure modes help users to shoot creative pictures. Still and MPEG4 HD moving images can be reviewed on the camera's 3'in high-quality AMOLED 460,000-dot screen. These features, together with the built-in optical and software-based stabilisation, ensure that high quality images are easy to achieve.

    The other "grown-up" winners can be seen here.

    Tuesday, 18 August 2009

    Pany GH1 Video Review


    If you haven't seen it, the link is here.  The system is the Micro 4/3 but the sheer size of the camera probably suggests otherwise.

    Extra Notes on Electronic Viewfinders

    R0016683 (Large) ^Taken by GX200 with the viewfinder attached to it, which allows me concentrate more on the composition and exposure adjustment for better colour representation on the image

    Further to the review of VF-1, the following are some extra notes:

    1) When you buy an electronic viewfinder, mark that the LCD viewer may be plagued by dead dots like in any other LCD display. A quick check-up can be done by turning the lens to a bright scene (e.g. a bright lamp or a piece of shiny white paper), overexpose it and look into the viewfinder.

    2) An electonic viewfinder is best if the brightness of the screen can be adjusted. This is not case in VF-1.

    3) For the VF-1, turning the eyepiece is to correct the diopter.

    4) For the VF-1, holding down the button under the eyepiece will temporarily toggle the display to the camera's LCD screen, which is handy. Otherwise, press the VF/LCD button on the camera for a lasting switch until the next press.

    5) Like any digital or electronic device, a electronic viewfinder is also prone to dust getting inside.

    6) Optical viewfinders are fine but eletronic ones are good in that more shooting infomation can be displayed on them.

    Monday, 17 August 2009

    Bear Bear Bear in Your Mind, Clean Clean Clean the Lens

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    The heading steals from the quotable quote from the first lady of the first Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Government at the time where SARS was rampent throughout the territory, "Bear, bear, bear in your mind; wash, wash, wash your hands." She was in over-extensively full protective gear as she was saying this while joining the cleaning team on a public hygiene activity, which become a laughing stock of the public.

    But the stress should be heeded for both public hygiene and the longevity of the camera lenses.

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    Dusts can be defiant of every blow your make with a blower. Fingerprints, grease, unknown stains and whatnots can be extremely stubborn on the lens surface. After a longer period, the image quality can be underminded.

    There is an old post from the archive tipping on cleaning a lens here.

    Sunday, 16 August 2009

    The Best Commercial


    Chris, our reader, sent us what supposedly the best ad for Singapore which he photographed to show the comfortability afforded by the A380 even only at the sight of its name.

    If you will be around and have been craving for flying in a A380 at a cheap price, this is it.

    This is Sunday.  Enjoy your day!