Saturday, 9 January 2010

A Restaurant of Yore

P1080387 (Medium)^Traditional Chinese pastries with a pigmented Chinese character on top, "double happiness".

The single biggest factor fascinating me about Hong Kong is the mixtures of all sorts.  You just see mixtures everywhere in Hong Kong.

P1080380 (Medium) The Chinese community in Hong Kong is like not any other you may find around the world.  The Chinese people here (excluding, for the moment, the wallet-fattened Mainland Chinese holding overseas passports and migrating to Hong Kong as investment migrants) are individually a mixture of liberal and conservative minds.  Most of them treasure the old Chinese values while having a fairly westernised minds about fairness, openness and democracy.

«An old-style notice setting the dishes and price for a set meal

The cityscape is a real mix of advancement and ancientry.  I like the way the city is haphazardly developed with a naturally occurring tidiness.  Disorder and order, old and new.  This is the major factor giving Hong Kong its vibrancy.

P1080376 (Medium)^It says Takyun Restaurant.

Here I ran into an old restaurant in the heart of the city.  Its name is Takyue , short of a meaning as a word.  As two single characters, however, Tak means "possess" and Yue means "as wished".  Auspiciousness is the idea behind naming in the Chinese culture.

P1080386 (Medium)^The manager sitting at the sales desk situated on the ground floor of the restaurant. 

Takyue Restaurant is the same age of grandpas.  It used to be a popular place for meetings between parents to make blind marriages for their adult children, which means it was a restaurant with a highly regarded status at that time.

P1080379 (Medium)^This is a typical board in old restaurants displaying the names of the function rooms under which the name of the patron with the booking is painted with white paint on the day of the feast.

P1080381 (Medium) «The characters mean "Tidying Up.  Business at 6"
It was a shame that the restaurant was at recess in the afternoon when I visited.  Although I was unable to take pictures inside, I went inside for a yumcha some years ago.  Besides other old traditional fittings, spittoons are still provided under each table for the patrons to, well, spit.  Spitting is an ungraceful Chinese national skill in the old days, which has almost extinct in Hong Kong save among the octogenarians... and the Mainland Chinese visitors.

I should write another post about the alarming acts of the Mainland Chinese visitors.

At present, Takyue Restaurant is a popular meeting place among the self-employed construction workers and coolies.  There is a reason for it.  In the morning, they have yumchas in the restaurant.  This is not because of the food or cheap prices but the opportunity to get a job.

P1080382 (Medium)^Decorations can be dated back to the 1960s.  The totem sort of decoration on the right mimics the ancient currency, jade.  Money-related auspiciousness. 

Works contractors, when they need workers, knows where to go.  It is Takyue for sure as it is the foothold of the workers.

P1080384 (Medium) ^A really old scale found in the restaurant.

An interesting old way of how business is run and jobs are found in this Asia financial hub.  This is Hong Kong.

P1080389 (Medium) ^The plaques on a shop-front column displaying the title of the holding company of the restaurant and of the restaurant itself, which was an old way to flaunt one's wealth.

Friday, 8 January 2010

Cultural Surprise

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Old areas are always my favourite. Whether I am in or out of town, my penchant for old areas urges me to venture into the labyrinthic lanes of the old districts. Chances are that surprises of no discription are awaiting for every of such a visit.

Here in a local old district I ran into some workers giving final touches to a Chinese traditional whatchamacallit for, as suggested by the Chinese characters on it, a Chinese martial arts body. R0015038 (Medium)

Whether it will be displayed in a row or stacked up for the Kung-fu masters to jump over, I have absolutely no idea. Well, I will have some idea after some research which I have been too busy lately to do.

Which I do know is, in the second photo, the pink bat-shaped back of the heavily ornamented thing denotes "fortune" because "bat" and "fortune" are homophones in Chinese. And the fish ornament, which I suppose is a gigantic harp, connotates "abundancy".

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They are great artworks, aren't they.

(The GF1 impression series will continue when I manage to arrange the rest of the posts.)

Thursday, 7 January 2010

GF-1's Design Flaws

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Having heaped praises on the GF1, I am ready to write something negative about it.  Well, it is a camera and no camera is perfect (and no designer is perfect).  The discussion here is to point out to prospective users the reality to expect and the camera makers areas for improvements.

There are two big parts in the GF1's design flaws.

Video Button

First it is the position of the dedicated red video button which is located on the right side atop the camera body.  It is so undesirably positioned and easily activated that I have accidentally shot several videos in between the shooting occasions.  It should absolutely be relocated in a GF2.

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Second, it is the design of the EVF.   Pany doesn't give the EVF a neat design.  In fact, the design makes me think that the EVF was an afterthought in the wake of the camera production.  The somewhat horrible design features:

- a button on the EVF itself for toggling between the EVF and LCD.  As you can imagine, the tiny EVF isn't flattering for a big finger to press a button on it.  It is bothersome really.

P1080711 (Medium) - no automatic toggling between the EVF and LCD like the GX200 with the EVF on.  In the case of GX200, pressing the play button turns off the EVF and activates the LCD for displaying photos.  This makes photo reviewing easy.  Half-pressing the shutter release returns the display to the EVF.  With the GF1, the user MUST press the button on the EVF each and every time the toggling is required.

- an unforgiveable flimsy, lockless docking slot on the camera body for the EVF, whereby the user can easily knock the EVF off.

(You can view how easily the EVF can go off here.  It actually shows the video button, and the diopter wheel and toggle button on the EVF)

- a loose diopter wheel on the EVF which can be accidently turned and therefore requires regular correction.

(Now, should I withdraw my earlier recommendation to go for a EVF?  To me, it is a difficult decision.  The EVF saves the sore wrists.  It has nice resolution too.)

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I also miss the flexibility in adjusting the flash output afforded by the GX200.  On the GF1, to my surprise because I suppose it to be a more regular system than the GX200, the flash output adjustment sits astride the range of +/- 2EV but without a similar adjustable manual flash output from FULL to 1/32.  The GX200 is much more flexible on this aspect.

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And as I said before, the Q(uick) menu should allow users to jump across the function icons rather than rotating from one to the other.  The rotating is cumbersome.

I first wondered if the GF1 hadn't a marco mode.  At length, I figured it out that the marco mode was transformed into the Flower Mode in the Scene Mode.  This is confusing at best.

P1090543 (Medium)^This is the closest distance the Flower Mode allows. 

The last design flaw I have detected is the AF Assist Light being too close to the position of the lens.  So if you have a big hand, chances are that it will be blocked when you wrap your hand around the lens.  It also makes it impossible for the photographers to apply their old filters of bigger diameters to the lens because the rim will block the it beam, resulting in difficulties in auto-focusing in low light situation.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Different Tastes of B&W and Others

P1080728 (Medium)^This is one of my favourite images taken with the GF-1 so far, reminding me of the Chinese ink painting.

Most digital cameras allow users to choose from different image settings.  As discussed yesterday, I found two of the My Colour settings of the GF-1 handy and useful.

Great Function 4

But I'm more concerned about the black and white image settings.  Take my GX200 for example.  The GX200's black and white images dons a unique film-like grainy character, especially at high ISO values because, interestingly, of its lacklustre performance high up there.  The GX200 lets users tune the contrast and sharpness for their own black and white setting.  But, frankly, the differences are not obvious.

For sure, we can always post-process.  But what can be better than seeing a scene in different image characters instantly?

It is where GF1's film mode comes in handy.   The film mode features several effects in colour and B&W, as well as two customisable settings.

blackandwhite film mode For the black and white settings, there are (from top left clockwise) standard (a, well, standard setting), dynamic (the contrast is increased) and smooth (smooths the picture without losing the skin texture).

Probably because of the GF1's larger sensor, the black and white images are generally smooth.  And depending on your taste, it has a strong digital feel.  I may prefer GX200's B&W images with the grainy look.

Disregarding my personal preference, GF1's different B&W settings are fun to play with and observably distinctive.

I have tried the smooth setting for landscapes.  It smoothes and renders the final images with a touch of Chinese ink paintings to my liking:

P1080901 (Medium)

And the dynamic setting gives a discernable difference to the image, which accentuates the subjects:

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The normal setting is like this:

P1090540 (Medium)

I think the three different B&W settings are characteristic in their own way, with the caveat that the images are too clear to my taste.

I don't care much about the different settings in the colour film mode.  I like the colour settings in the My Colour mode which are more drastic.  Instead of saying the names supposedly representing the different colour film settings, which are not really self-explanatory, I compiled the following mosaic image:

colour film mode

Great Function 5

As a street photographer, I drag the shutter a lot when shooting in the street.  I've been wondering if there is a serious compact which lets users see the instant effect of a slow shutter setting.

Eureka!  There is the shutter speed preview function in the GF1, by activating which the photographer can check out the LCD display for at what a pace the motions are being dragged at the specific shutter speed.

So,  by activating the function, the LCD display will show the subjects in slower motions depending on the shutter speed.  This is useful for flash photography when you're not very familiar with the effect of a slow shutter speed plus firing the flash.  The real-time display can gives the photographer some indicative hints.

Take the photo below as an example.  When I moved the camera and viewed the LCD screen at the 1/10s shutter setting, the background was shown exactly like what you see in the photo below.   I handheld the camera and fired the flash at 2nd curtain.  The background was blurred just as I wished by not purposefully steadying my hands.

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With this, I close today's post should write more in the next post about the GF1.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

My Colour Mode of GF-1

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^I like a lot the texture of the B&W images afforded by the My Colour mode.

We carry on yesterday's discussion on the likeable functions of the GF-1.

Great Function 3

Some photographers dispute the integration of post-processing functions in digital cameras.  I'm not a big fan of such functions either.  But most users I think cannot afford or don't care to spend too much time post-processing photos.

In this case, the My Colour mode of the GF-1 comes in handy.  The mode has eight different colour settings for users to choose from.

my colour mode

The settings are, from top left to right, elegant, silhouette, expressive, dynamic art, retro, pure, sepia and monochrome.  There is also a custom setting for users to save their own tuning.

Do I have a full understanding of what all these terminologies mean? Nope.  But they do give distinct looks to the images among which, to me, Dynamic Art and Monochrome are best.

 P1090068 (Medium)

The Dynamic Art setting is best for doing shots of scenes with lots of bright colours.  The colours in the image, as shown above, is on the brink of bleeding but well-controlled to give out an impressive result.  With the Retro setting, the scene is like this:

P1090065 (Medium)

But I like the Monochrome better for the final images are tinted with a special nostalgic and serene feel:

P1090452 (Medium)P1090446 (Medium)

The discussion is to be continued.

Monday, 4 January 2010

Some Great Functions of GF-1

This post continues the GF-1 impression series and talks about some of its well thought-out functions.

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The function I think most useful is the exposure sliders working in tandem with the compensation ruler.

Useful Function One

Dpreview has made a flash gif about how the pair works here.  But it doesn't mention a point which is useful in manual mode.

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It works this way: in manual mode, when either the shutter speed or the aperture value is selected, both exposure sliders have some sections shaded in brownish colour.  This is to show that if an exposure combo involves a value in the shaded area, it becomes not "right" to the extent displayed on the compensation ruler.

P1080781 (Medium) With reference to the above Dpreview's gif, the section from shutter speed (SS) 2 to 15 will have been shaded while the extent of the over-exposure is being shown on the compensation ruler.

This mechanism definitely affords the photographer quick informed guesses before the picture is actually taken, which tremendously speeds up the process of tuning and tweaking.

It should be mentioned again that although there is only one wheel for adjusting the exposure combo, its press-once-to-toggle design saves the photographer troubles in going between the shutter speed and the aperture value.

Useful Function Two

There is a AF-tracking function which traces the locked subject and adjusts the focus and exposure combo to the changes in its movement.

P1080763 (Medium)

As shown in the above illustration, the LCD screen displays a target area to show the subject locked by the user.  You simply hold the hands steady, then sort of fire and forget at the decisive moment.  Very handy indeed.

This function works best when the subject is moving mildly.  The LX3 also features this AF-tracking mode but, as far as I had tried it, it doesn't work well on that machine.  But it surely works on the GF1.

I will continue with some other useful functions in the next post.

Samsung NX10

This morning the Internet is awash with news about Samsung's NX10, a potential rival to the MFT system and Ricoh's GXR.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Hands Off


Hands-off, for sure, on Sunday.  Have a restful day, and a peaceful new year!