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A Fruitful Year

(Camera: Samsung NX100)How fruitful you can say for yourself in 2010 at the close of the year?  A cartful of fruits maybe?  For readers whose 2010 has not been really productive, congratulations to you for the less burdened year.The best wishes to you for even more better shots in 2011!

Illusion

(Camera: Sony A55)Keep looking at the red balloon... Now, is the background real or a reflection of some sort?

When I Grow Big

(Camera: Ricoh GX200)

"I'll have a square head and a broad shoulder. Taller.  Bigger."

These questions pop up in most people's childhood at some point: What will I be like as a grown-up, what will I do for a career and who will I marry?  And these were the questions immediately sprung up when the author noticed this scene.  With years of training to see through a viewfinder, the author instantly saw with his bare eyes an intriguing abstract image from it. The scene could be mundane to most passers-by, or photographers being less observant. Fact is, the framed image was surrounded by many distracting elements while people were hurrying past behind the author to work.  The scene did not appear to be as philosophical or "serene" on the spot.

The simple composition against the empty wall gives much room for the viewers' imagination to take flight.  The contrast of the shapes, of the colours (big black shadow and other elements in pastel colour), of the ligh…

Need for Speed

(Camera: GXR A12 50mm in 1:1 format, standard colour)

Thanks to Laikok, the sole dealer of Ricoh cameras in Hong Kong, GX Garnerings have the chance to update the verdict on the focusing speed of the A12 50mm module upon installing in it the firmware version 1.29 released on 1 November 2010.

Previously, the major issue of the 50mm module (actually it is 50mm equiv.)  was the sluggish focusing speed.  With the previous firmware, the AF of the module could take as long as 4 seconds to confirm, but sometimes even to no avail after the time spent on focusing under, say, indoor lighting.  The average time for locking the focus was about 2 seconds.
When the Marco function was turned on, the searching for the right focus took so long that the MF was preferable in the first place.  Undoubtedly, this could be frustrating in some situations.

(Camera: Samsung WB600)

Now, the Ricoh engineers are known as issue fixers not for no reason.  With the latest firmware v1.29, the issue is completely gone.  Th…

Heavily Coloured

(Camera: Samsung NX100)The small mirror-less cameras have the advantage in size compared with the regular big boys.  But there are some reasons that they still cannot edge out the smaller-sensor serious compacts (sc) or the DSLRs as they lack:1) the deeper depth of field (vs. sc; important for street photographers)2) a pocketable size (vs. sc)3) the convenience of no lenses changing (vs. sc)4) an excellent focusing performance (vs. DSLR)5) a good gripping (vs. DSLR)6) the good weight balance between the lens and the camera body (vs. DSLR)These are the general observations after the hands-on with the several mirror-less cameras.

Disappearing

(Camera: Ricoh GXR A12 28mm; without pp)Absolutely not referring to the holiday mood.

Christmas Candies

Enjoy!  More pics here.Merry Christmas!

Christmas and Stocktaking

Dear Readers,

As Christmas is approaching and the year is closing, we take this opportunity to thank you for your regular visits during the year.  May you have a Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with actions and colours!
Now, in case you're interested, here are the "stocktaking" info about GX Garnerings:
- it started a month after the purchase of Ricoh GX200 by the author in the summer of 2008; - as of last night, GX Garnerings has recorded 205940 hits and roughly 5 000 pageviews over the past 30 days; - this is the 885th daily post; - the most interesting countries of visitors is "undefined" which was shown a spot in the ocean when, to tickle the curiosity, tracked down.

(a map showing the visitors' countries early this year)
- cameras field-tested and/or reviewed since the birth of GX Garnerings included Ricoh GXR full series, Panasonic GF1, Samsung NX series, EX1, Canon S95, Ricoh GX200, and GRD2 and 3;

- cameras scheduled for field tests at press time in…

Crossing

(Camera: Ricoh GX200 with DW6)

In addition to the tips given yesterday, this is another one: use a wide-angle lens or wide-converter.  The wide angel will give you the ability to walk really close to the subject and still cover enough background in the final image.  The DW6 converts the focal length of the GX200's lens to 19mm at the widest end. 
Also, the deep depth of field of the 1/1.7" sensor in the GX200 is just what you need for street photos like this.  People seldom mention this point now since the advert of the reduced-size mirrorless cameras.  Maybe it is overlooked because of the irresistible big-sensor-in-a-small-body fad.  For that matter, it makes sense for the GXR to include the S10 module (I don’t really like the P10 module as it sports too tiny a sensor).
As a side note, the old bus stopping at the traffic light is nicknamed "hot dog" because of its colour combination and the high temperature inside it during summer.  It has been being phased out.


The Constraint of a Prime Lens

(Camera: Ricoh GX200)

A user of riochforum asked a question in a post, "I'm just curious as to how some of you take your shots without getting a subject paranoid or if they're like whoa who's this person with that camera?"  The title of his post is "How to overcome 28mm limitations?"
Although not all the cameras I have tried and owned are fitted with a prime lens, I have taken tons of street photos and here are some tips under my belt:
1) Most people are curious, especially young people.   Just point the camera at them in the street.  You may ask for permission.  I ask for permissions for roughly one third of my shots.
2) Point the camera to a spot where the subject will pass.  Surely, you'll have to anticipate his or her route and pace.
3) Use a viewfinder, the best being the upward tilting ones.  People are less allergic to the camera when the photographer shoots with his head bowing down to see through the viewfinder.
4) Half-press the shutter for seve…

Dusk in Orange

(Camera: Samsung WB600)

A fine view to the west side of Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour at dusk.

The image was taken through a dirty window which could not be opened, making the image seemingly fraught of noise.  But it is actually not.

Dreamy Reality -- A Novel Subject?

(Camera: Ricoh GXR A12 28mm)

The chance to come across a person here without a camera in hand on the street is few and far between, especially because Hong Kong's December is the best time for street photography in a year.   The whole city is heavily decorated and coloured at night.
With the widespread ownership of cameras, everyone seems to be photographing whatever can be photographed in whichever imaginable ways. Our senses may be so numbed that a great photo becomes no wonder anymore.  The growing culture of buying expensive cameras to shot the most routine of subjects robs cameras of their full potentials.  This is very regrettable in the eye of photography lovers.  On the other hand, serious photographers are trying hard to refrain from producing images of commonplace subjects and themes.  The idea of photographing novel subjects has burgeoned.  But is this the right course to pursue without any regret later?
Striving to be different is admirable and should be encouraged.  But …

Spice Up

(Camera: Ricoh GXR A12 28mm)
This is Sunday.  Have fun!

Hong Kong Icon

(Camera: Ricoh GXR A12 50mm)Ubiquitous in the local market vendor's kiosks are these red light shades.

Night Market through the Mind's Eye

(Camera: Ricoh GXR A12 28mm)

As a small child, I was always fascinated by the open-air wet market with the colourful food items, especially at night when the lights gave a special funfair kind of atmosphere to it.  Those times when my Mum took me to the wet market were some of the best moments in my life.  This picture captured what were my feelings through the joyful eyes of the little me then.
This is my unique perspective on the wet market at night.  How would you reproduce your feelings for the place special to you?
Depending on the available light -- in this case not much of it -- the photographer is advised to tweak the shutter speed to between 1/3s and 1/10s which have been proven to give the blurred effect just right.  Experiment with walking and hand swinging motions at different directions and paces for the desired result.

Walk the Scene

(Camera: Ricoh GXR A12 50mm)

Almost all photographers have done this once at some point of time in their photographic endeavour: superimpose one subject over the other. Superimposition is an effective technique to present a theme, and to reveal the gist of the message; in this case, the illumination of the signboard is too bright for the residential building next to it.  
I walked the scene, looking up and stopping at where the superimposition was just right to take the shot.   Did I end up with a commonplace perspective? Maybe.  But naughty is what I prefer to call it.  And this perspective of mine works well for I have shown this image to several people, and they all spent longer time viewing this image than the rest.


Fujifilm Discontinues 2 Film Lines

Fujifilm is reported to have discontinued the Neo Pan 1600 Super Presto and Astia 100F (15 December 2010).

Seeing and Reproducing Loneliness

(Camera: Ricoh GXR A12 28mm)

This is how I came up with this shot:

It was a rather cold late afternoon when I walked past this beggar, and so did the other passers-by.  There he was under the dimly lit footbridge, crouching and waiting fruitlessly for some coins.  As the wind blew, the coldness tightened the grip on him, as well as on the passers-by who were so made to hurry home.
It immediately came to me that there was the photography opportunity, and the shot had to reproduce the atmosphere of loneliness.  But how?
The passing crowds and the lonely beggar made a stark contrast.  I hoped to take a picture of such a scene for the busyness could actually make manifest the loneliness.  Contrast can highlight a theme.  But the space was too tight for even the 28mm lens to include the subjects needed for the shot.  I paused a bit and noticed the yellowish street light and the shadowy patterns on the wall.
At once, I biased the white balance to bluish-pink to balance out the yellow cast.  Mor…

Your Unique Perspective

(Camera: Ricoh GXR A12 50mm)

In the film era, photographers were taught to practise seeing a scene through the viewfinder to become more skillful in doing the composition.  If a camera is not at hand, use the thumbs and index fingers to do a makeshift "viewfinder", they were told.  In the digital age, the LCD monitor takes the place of the viewfinder.  But a viewfinder is preferred for the privilege of being not visually disturbed by the out-of-frame elements.
But whatever the viewing device is, the message is the same:  to practise seeing a scene as a photographer. How?  In a nutshell, search for the unique perspective of your own.  Why?  To reproduce something which may be commonplace but seems fresh to the viewers in the final image, which is the gist of photography.
And this is certainly also a factor in the art of seeing. 

An Art of Seeing

(Camera: Samsung WB600)

Some believes that photography is an art of seeing.  The photographer sees a scene with his artistic mind through a camera and captures it by the strength of his photographic skills.  The final image is then presented in front of the viewers for admiring from an aesthetic perspective.  A scene has thus been reproduced and reinterpreted in the form of art -- primarily an art of seeing.
Undoubtedly, the success of such an art of seeing hinges on two factors, namely, the understanding of art and the understanding of visual elements.  For the first factor, an aspirant photographer can learn from any genres of art including or excluding photography.  Books, exhibitions and taking part in such genres can heighten one's sense in aesthetics.  Occasionally, I will draw, for example.  It enables me to see things differently.  I shall show some works here when an opportunity comes.
For the second factor, learn from the masters' paintings, photographs and even movie …

Yosemite was His Mistress

(Ansel Adams in Yosemite National Park)

"If San Francisco was his wife, the Yosemite was his mistress."

This is what the narrator in PBS's documentary "Ansel Adams", which I watched last night, says about how Ansel divided his years between his home in San Francisco and  his pursuit in the Yosemite National Park, producing many truly intriguing images which speaks the beauty and power of nature.  The documentary portraits Ansel from his childhood years to his old age, investigating the master's stories behind those great shots to be remembered many years after his decease.
This is definitely the kind of documentary worthy of the admission fee.  Buy one.  Or rent one.  Enjoy yourselves!

GXR A12 28mm @ ISO1600

Kudos to the local dealer Laikok, we are playing with the Ricoh GXR A12 28mm.  If you are curious about how it performs at higher ISO, these are the first two shots at ISO1600 without noise reduction.  The 100% crops are included.  The colours in the final images produced by the Ricoh cameras are always unassuming and pleasant to the eye, truly our cup of tea.  The image (colour) setting of these two images is Standard.
Shot 2:


Dizziness

(Camera: Ricoh GX200)This is the traditional busy periods of the year no matter in the office or at home.  The images today hopefully convey how the photographer may see things after a busy day.  Take care, buddy.

GRD3: Silver Magnesium-Alloy Body Version

Acceptance of orders for an initial offer of 30 such silver GRD3s has begun since 8 December.  Ricoh is asking for 247,800 Japanese Yens each.More here.  (Japanese Watch Impress site)

Simply Green

(Camera: Samsung EX1)

The EX1 is a near-perfect camera and really competitive in its class.  My only gripe with the EX1 is its not-so-macro mode.  Ergonomics-wise and handling, it is good but not as great as the GRD3, which I think is the king of these two categories.

Camera of the Year

The editors of Popular Photographer have elected Sony A55 the Camera of the Year 2010.  It says, "The decision of our editors was unanimous: It could only be Sony’s unique take on the single-lens reflex."Of all the smaller sized cameras, only Panasonic's G2 is picked as one of the runners-up.Read the full report here.

Bargain to Win

(Camera: Ricoh GX200)

What's the point of riding a bike with such small wheels?  It doesn't seem to save much effort than simply walking.  But for however little energy the bike may save the rider, it does its job to save you energy.
Some people don't seem to comprehend this point when they say they hate doing bargaining.  You cannot save enough money for just your effort, they may scorn.  Well, what a groundless assumption! Bargaining doesn't take effort; it takes strategies!  And for however little money it may save you, it saves your money.
There is a proven way to bargain for a cheaper camera in the shops. It works like this:
Timing.  Most salesmen hope to end a month with good sales records for a higher commission.  Therefore, they are more eager to strike deals towards the end of a month.  And the best time in a day to do the bargaining is when the shop is about to close.  The salesmen are then more likely to yield to your bargain.  That is probably because they are…

Comparative Shots: GF2 vs NEX5 (w/ A55 + D7000)

The Joy of Using a New Camera

(Camera: Sony a55)

For photographers, it is always a joy to try out and, much more so, own a new camera, especially when the camera is full of surprises.  The Sony a55 is definitely in the category of camera with surprises.
Although size-wise the a55 can in no way be called a compact, it actually feels lighter than the Samsung NX100 in the hand, thanks to its better weight distribution.  Fitted with a 50mm lens for the shot of today, the a55 is really a gem in hand -- with loads of useful features and a cheap price tag.  You would have marvelled at its value-for-money.
Today's shot was done with the HDR Auto on.  In the unlikely event that you are not aware, Sony has engineered this function to combine three simultaneous shots into a final image with a dynamic range similar to that of the human eyes.  It can either be left on auto-pilot for the camera to decide when and how to use it or be tuned to the desired effect levels to the user's taste.  For all the shots taken with the …

Exit to Brightness

(Camera: Samsung NX100)This is Sunday, a day to renew your strength.  The exit to brightness is right ahead.

Freeze Tag

Early on this year, Canon's commercial Freeze Tag has won several awards.  It is the 2010 EMMY Winner, 2010 CLIO Winner, 2010 Gold Addy Winner and 2010 YDA Winner.Also check out the video below for the BTS nitty-gritty. CANON: Freeze Tag - Behind The Scenes from Saman Keshavarz on Vimeo.

Up for Grab This Week

(Click the image to visit the Candid Photo Gallery by Ricoh China's "promotion ambassadors")
Three new serious compact cameras have been put up for purchase this week in Hong Kong.  Surprisingly, despite the appreciation of the Japanese Yen to a new high level, the Ricoh GR Lens A12 28mm f/2.8 is far less expensive than the A12 50mm.  Is the pricing strategy adjusted?  Likely.
The suggested retail price of the GR Lens A12 28mm is HK$5,500, and that of the GXR body with the A12 28mm (free hood)is $7,300.  As a reference, the NEX5 with two lenses or the NX100 with one kit lens now asks for about HK$5,500 to HK$5,700.  [Use the exchange rate widget in the sidebar.]
Panasonic has also released the pricing for its two new cameras.   The slightly compact GH2 body is selling for HK$ 8,380; the body plus 14-42mm lens for $ 9,380; the body plus 14-140mm lens for $ 12,990.  Since these are suggested retail prices, the street prices can be about two hundred HK dollars cheaper.
Anothe…

The Good, the Bad and the Possibilities of Contrast Detection

(Camera: Ricoh CX1)

It is generally thought that indecisive focusing is quintessential of contrast detection adpoted in smaller-sensor compacts.  This detection operation has an inherit constraint: it is limited by the level of contrast available for detection.  In a nutshell, in low-light situations, the photographers have to convince and wait for the focus to really lock on the subjects.  This observation still holds true.  But the perception of contrast detection as such is changing.
Until recently, contrast detection has lagged behind in focusing when compared with phase detection.  As the Panasonic's top-class model GF2 attests, the MFT sensor using contrast detection is really fast in good lighting situations.  Probably in those situations, it is marginally slower than phase detection.  If you've not checked it out, go here.
So, while contrast detection still sucks in low-light settings, it has caught up quite close focusing-speed-wise.
The common saying goes, "There i…

Walking on the Stave

(Camera: Samsung WB600)The light and shadows of people big and small entering a stadium are fascinating.  The shots were done with the WB600 of which the 24mm to 360mm focal range were really handy for the shooting occasion with wide and far-away scenes. Trimming and some post-processing were applied.

Now You See Me, Now You Do not

Today, let's enjoy a set (and many more here) of amazing yet mind-boggling photographic works of Bolin LIU from China.  He took and, by painting on himself  to blend into the background, modelled for the picture.  Simply clever!