Saturday, 16 January 2010

Why and How to Give Rhythm to Images

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Human brains are formed to be allured by rhythm.  It can be a rhythm afforded by symmetry, balance or repetition.  The form can be music, calligraphy or photography, you name it.

In photography, generally speaking, rhythm is a sense of dynamics conjured up by the disposition of objects in its own orderly way or the different degrees of contrast in colours and tonality.
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In a stricter visual sense, rhythm is the interlacing of regular elements in an image, namely, the dots, lines and planes.

By saying dots, lines and sections, we don't take the literal meaning.  Take the photos here for example.  The dots can be the heads of the passers-by as seen from an aerial angle.  The lines can be the  taxi or van queues.  And each picture of the model on the billboard can be taken as the planes. R0015931 (Medium)

Rhythm exists in everyday scenes.  Go to the street and take notice of the vehicles whizzing past and passers-by going up or down the road in different paces.  Admire the skylines formed by the buildings of varied heights.  Go to the countryside and see the labyrinthic paths and the winding curves of fields and rivers.  All these can bestow a sense of rhythm on an image.

R0015928 (Large)You may read books about how the specific kind of elements can give theoretically what an impression to the viewers.  But the best and easier way is to first figure it out yourselves by going out with your camera, observing with your heart and taking photos. 

Practise, practise and practise.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Old Barbershop

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^Two old shaving brushes and a plastic container holding the shaving cream.

Almost a year ago GX GARNERINGS featured a series about an old housing estate to be demolished, in which a post was written on an old Shanghainese barbershop to be closed down there.  The post tells of some history about such shops and hairstyling in Hong Kong

Recently I have paid a visit to some local old shops of which one was a similar Shanghainese barbershop.

P1080395 (Medium)^The pricelist sets out the wide array of services and charges.

These shops are vanishing and doing a business which is understandably not good.   They are mostly situated on the lower floors of the what we called Chinese tenement buildings built before the WWII.  The clues of their existence are the pricelist boxes and signboards put right at the entrance of the buildings.

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^The barbershop is called New East Asia Barber's, which was a trendy word in the earlier days of the British colonial history as the word "East Asia" was more or less a conceptual product of the world being centred on the British Empire.  At that time, anything from Britain and the West was considered much superior.

As time wears on, these shops are no longer trendy.  They are old.  Their patrons are invariably grandpas and grandmas.

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^This door is of the genuine 1950's style and cannot be found in a lot of places.  The owner of the shop is going to sell it.  What a luck for me to have captured it!

Talking about grandpas and grandmas, these old barbershops were originally men's club.  Women were of a lesser regard in social status in the old days.  When the ladies were finally allowed to be served, the seating arrangement still carried the stigma of discrimination, which is:

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The men got the sofa seats while the ladies were seated on the less comfortable chairs.  Services in an old Shanghainese barbershop are haircutting, shaving and grooming.  For ladies, grooming includes using special powder to even out the wrinkles on their face.

To trim and cut beard, shaving cream is applied on a brush to the customer's hairy face:
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The brief visit to the barber's was educational.  It was made on a Saturday afternoon and the barbers were having a rest as there wasn't any customers.  I chatted with them for a short while, knowing that the shop was over half a century old.
  P1080409 (Medium) ^ Another pricelist box right at the entrance door to the shop.

We greeted one and the other a good afternoon and off I went down the shabby stairs of the sort of rundown tenement building.

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Thursday, 14 January 2010

GF1 Impression: Closing Remarks

P1090193 (Medium)^It says, "Super Digital Mall".
I leapt from the film era, leaving the Minolta Dynax 7 and the pricey photographic paraphernalia, to the digital era embracing the 1/1.7"-sensor (hereinafter 1.7) GX200, without owning any DSLR. The reason is obvious: the unbearable heaviness of the regular photographic gear.

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The GX200 is still a joy in my hand. In fact, digital cameras have lots of strengths over their film cousins...well...grandpas. But I still have one problem adjusting to this digital camera era: the short life cycle of a product generation. The 1.7 serious compacts with a wide-angle-focal-length capability seem to soon become a phenomenon of the past, be them the GRD III, GX200, LX3, P6000, G11....
The Good and Bad of GF1
P1090415 (Medium) Combining the advantages of small size and better image quality, the downsized ASP-C and MFT newbies become the vogue. The GF1 is a joy exceeding that of my GX200 in absolute magnitude.
To users of regularly sized cameras, the 1.7 serious compacts have an inherited weakness in general: the speed and precision of focusing. The GF1 has an observable advantage in this area, giving the users an edge as afforded by the DSLRs. This is the single factor which can win a serious compact user over.
The Lumix MFT lenses are of a reengineered construction as compared with the DSLR lenses. So, probably for this reason, the focusing is less speedy than the DSLR's phrase detection system. But it is slower in just a split of a second as observed from a brief comparison between the GF1 and the Canon 500D. The users will probably not notice the difference.
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Unfortunately, GF1's focusing speed becomes a bit sluggish in low light situations with the pancake and the kit zoom lenses alike. Moreover, although the manuals say that the two lenses afford a closest focusing distance of 0.2m and 0.3m respectively, the lenses hunt like fanatics when the subjects are around these distances regardless of the amount of available light.
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Apart from this flaw, there is the weird audible noise problem with the pancake lens during focusing.

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But optically, the pancake lens is far more superior than the kit zoom lens. No pixel-peeping has been performed during the review as it should not be encouraged IMO. The general impression is that for images at screen size, the corner-to-corner sharpness of the pancake lens is superb. In a marking system, it could have comfortably scored 4.5 stars out of a total of 5.

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For the kit zoom lens, the images taken with it are invariably veiled by softness unless under a bright sunny weather. It seems that the lens cannot do full justice to the camera.
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Noise is not a significant issue with the GF1. Images up to ISO 800 are very smooth. In fact, the images are too smooth for film camera users. No hesitation is needed even in using the ISO 1600 setting. The ISO 3200 images are less complimentary.
P1090400 (Medium) Ergonomics-wise, there is no complaint really. The menu system is clearly arranged and easy to understand. The quick menu is easy to use even though diagonal moment should be added to the sheer rolling motion of the selection cursor by way of the back wheel on the GF1 body. This will certainly quicken the pace for emergent tweaking of the camera settings. In fact, the GF1 surpasses, say, the Nikon D90 in ergonomics if you've tried one. But as a user of a camera by Ricoh who probably invents the greatest photographic controls so far, the GF1 still lags behind my GX200 in ergonomics.
GF1 is totally satisfying and worthy of a buy. The pricing is very affordable too. Some personal peeves are the loud clicking sound when the shutter release is pressed fully; the design problems of the EVF (idiotic lockless docking, loose diopter wheel, no auto-toggling between it and the camera screen display); the disposition of the video button which can be activated accidentally.
Who is GF1 for?
This is a stupid question to ask because, you know, few photographers think of what a camera fits them when the urge to buy one is conjured up. Normally, we compare the spec. and images and pricing of cameras to draw our conclusions. Photographic style is out of the equation there.
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If you're not a professional photographer (professional photographers cannot survive with a MFT camera anyway) and never sell photos for large prints, and in the need of buying a camera, these are the extra factors for consideration:

- the 1. 7 serious compacts are very favourable size- and price-wise. These cameras offer decent image quality and a great portability camera body, without the hassle of building up (and when shifting allegiance, selling off ) an arsenal of lenses.

P1090388 (Medium)- If a long reach is an occasional concern, there are plenty of cheap long-zoom P&Ss out there to complement your serious compact. But if you are with the MFT system, a quality lens with a long-reach capability is surely dearer than one or even two serious compacts combined.

- for street photographer, a 1.7 serious compact is a smarter choice because of its extensive DOF. The GF1 has a much larger sensor and therefore a regular, swallow DOF as the aperture value closes down (i.e. the aperture opens wider). Closing down the aperture value is a technique in street photography with 1.7 cameras to avoid high ISO and achieve faster shutter speed to freeze motion. With the GF1, closing down the aperture value requires the photographer to focus sharply, which is not always possible for street scenes which mostly present themselves without any warning.

P1080584 (Medium) - but for photographers who usually take photos of kids, the 1.7 serious compacts don't suit you even though they have the advantage of small size, which is important IMO for running around after kids. The GF1 affords a much faster focusing speed to save you the day in this case. In fact, any photographers usually taking subjects in quick motion will occasionally gripe about the slower focusing speed of the 1.7 serious compacts. P1080971 (Medium) - if you're advanced photographers using a 1.7 serious compact but need a larger-sensor camera for the bokeh and more varied photographic opportunities, the GF1 is for you. Those who are having a DSLR can actually do without the GF1 unless the advantage of size is crucial to them. The MFT system doesn't have any other edges as compared with the DSLRs. P1080805 (Medium) - for people just and to be into photography without a camera, skip the 1.7 cameras and the DSLRs and head straight to the GF1. It offers the advantage of small size (over a DSLR) and a regular tool in learning all the aspects of photograph (vs a 1.7 compact)

So the impression series for the GF1 ends here. Again, a note of thanks to the local distributor of Panasonic cameras who lent GX GARNERINGS the GF1 and the accessories.

(Postscript: a post linking all the posts for the review of GF-1 is here)

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Rounding up Updated NX10 Shots

nx10 ^Taken with the Samsung NX10 at F2.0, 1/350s, ISO 100. Check out the link below to see the original picture.
Photos taken with the NX10 has been coming out on the Internet. Apart from the images offered by dpreview, see if some most updated resized photos here look razor-sharp to you. The IQ is ace as far as I'm concerned. Taken together with the comparison photos linked in the previous post, the NX10 seemingly beats the MFT sensors in IQ.
Some ISO 3200 shots can be viewed here.
If you are curious more than that about the NX10, here is the translation of a Korean's report at the CES with pictures showing its various aspects.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

About Samsung NX10

Can it be a worthy rival to the MFT system? If you haven't checked out the comparison shots made by a Korean photographer with the NX10 and GF-1, click on the following picture to visit his page. See how you'd make your own conclusion (roll to the middle once you're there for the English translation):


I like the design with the integrated viewfinder.

Monday, 11 January 2010

Musings on the Two GF-1 Lenses

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Having reviewed and mused upon the photos taken with the GF1 in preparing this post, I have the following impressions on its two lenses, namely, the Lumix G Vario 14-45mm/ F3.5-5.6 ASPH (with MEGO O.I.S) and the Lumix G 20mm/ F1.7 ASPH.

P1090241fullcrop ^Check out this 100% crop of the above photo taken with the 20mm lens to see how sharp and crisp the image is.

For easy reference, I set them out in a table:

Lumix G Vario 14-45mm

Lumix G 20mm

Aperture starting at 5.6 at the long end is restrictive.  I was forced to push up the ISO to attend a higher shutter speed in less brightly lit situations

Aperture starting at 1.7 is superb.  Makes nice bokeh effect too.
Barrel distortion at the widest end is mild. Barrel distortion is mild.
For sharpness of images, 3.5 stars out of five.  The lens fares just okay in areas being too contrasty. For sharpness of images, 4.5 starts out of five.
The 35mm-equivalent 28-90mm befits it to most occasions even though you would wish for a lens with a longer reach. The 35mm-equivalent 40mm focal length is suited to general use, but not really for landscape.
Focusing is fast under good light situations but hunts more often than the case with a DSLR for low-light, less-contrast or close-up objects. Focusing is faster than the other lens under good light situations but also suffers the same hunting problem.
Focusing is silent. Noise is persistently audible in the course of focusing.  I have no clue as to why.
Built-in optical shake correction works nice. The same built-in mechanism is unavailable.  Surely users may, when shaking is a concern,  resort to a wider aperture for a faster shutter speed in case the object is at quite a distance.
The lens cap doesn't click and grip the lens easily.  In fact, it popped out several times without anybody touching it. The same lens cap gripping issue doesn't exist for this lens.


The following are two reference photos taken with the 20mm prime lens (upper)/ the zoom lens at 14mm (lower) and their 100% crops (left for the prime and right for the zoom):

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It should be mentioned that although the image of the zoom lens is kind of soft, it won't show on prints of normal size.  You'll get the clue by just comparing between the GF1 IQ @ the zoom lens and the GX200 IQ:

The scene:

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100% crop of the GF1 image:

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GX200's 100% crop image of the same scene:

gx200full crop

Sunday, 10 January 2010

Spiritual Break

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The photo was done by dragging the shutter speed and firing the flash at 2nd curtain, with the GF1 mounted on a mini-tripod for steadying's sake.  The first girl was asked to stand still and the second walked towards the camera from farther away in rocking movement.

Have a good break on Sunday!