Saturday, 25 September 2010

Friday, 24 September 2010

Chinese Herbal Medicine Shop

P1080508 (Medium)Visitors to Hong Kong should not miss the local Chinese herbal medicine shops. That's the must-go of my friends visiting here if I am to walk them around town. Usually, the shop owners are friendly to especially foreign visitors, explaining to them the weird stuff in the shop in great detail.

The person in the first photo is the owner of the old-fashioned Chinese medicine shop, Wing Hong. He inherited the business from his old dad. So what can we find in his shop?

The picture below shows horns hanging from the pole immediate below the roof. They are cut from the deer which are made into some Chinese tonics or medical wine conducive to blood circulation.

P1080509 (Medium)In such an old-styled shop, there are lots to hold your interest. There are probably lots of antiques too. The wooden bench shown below can go to a museum. When the roadside cooked food stores were still ubiquituous throughout the old Hong King, the likes of it were common sights with coolies squatting on and having their quick meals.

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Now there are not a lot of places where you can find such a piece of furniture. What is it for in Wing Hong? Every single Chinese Herbal Medicine shop in the territory runs in a way that a Chinese herbal medicine practisioner is paid a meagre wage for attaching to the shop, giving consultation service at a very cheap price. In return, a part of the profits from the herbal medicine sold to patients goes to the practisioner. The benefits are both way. Certainly by now you may have guessed that the wooden bench is for patients waiting in the queue for consultation. You are right.

And look at the following picture and there you see some aged big glass jars in which sweets and candies are stored. For what? They are to be given out to patients to go with the Chinese medicine. Those medical tonics can be extremely bitter in taste.

The plates, by the way, floating above the jars are traditional scales for giving accurate measurement of the quatity of herbs to be used in the tonics.

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And the picture below shows where the herbs are. There isn't any indication whatsoever on the drawer to tell what is in which. The shop people are trained to memorise the exact location of each herb.

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And guess how the people get the herbs in the top rows of drawers? By a simple, intuitive and sensible way: P1080504 (Medium)

Step on the drawers and climb the way up! Another interesting thing about these drawers is that they are built with the tenon construction which requires no nailing. If you know enough, the Chinese people in history were experts in wooden construction. The ancient pavilions and houses as you may have seen in the Forbidden City were built with the tenon construction too, meaning that no nailing was needed.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Interview: Sony's EVILs, SLTs and DSLRs

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The a55 is of interest because we think that it is a well-balanced bridge between a full-sized DSLR (function- and focusing-speed-wise) and an EVIL (dimension-wise). Holding the camera mounted with the 18-55mm kit lens can readily win over the heart of serious compact users in terms of portability.

The following is the translation of an excerpt from a recent interview done in China with representatives from the management of SONY China by Fengniao. For the sake of relevance to GX GARNERINGS, the excerpt is taken from the Q & As which shed light on Sony's differentiation of its EVILs, SLTs and DSLRs, giving some glimpses into Sony's way forward thereof to readers who are probably contemplating their next purchase in the wake of so many launches of new cameras.

(Q represents questions put forward by the media; A are answers given by the several Japanese managers of Sony China)

Q: Will the semi-translucent mirror (STM) technology become the standards for all future Sony camera models?

A: For future product lines, we will take account of all possibilities. Nothing is final at this stage. But it is certain that this technology will be a very important realm for us and can be applied to more products as well.

Q: The α33/α55 and α560/α580 feature the high-definition video capture function, whereas the video capture duration in DSLRs on the market has been subject to 4GB in capacity at maximum. Has Sony made it possible with the new α33/α55 to shoot longer clips?

A: Sony adopts the video capture function in cameras of this class for the first time, but with better video performance than our competitors' offers. At present, our focus is on how to improve the video quality. As for the capacity limitation, it is a direction in research and development . But given the fact that SLR users do not have particularly high demand for doing videos with a camera, the matter is not high on our agenda. Depending on the consumer demand, Sony may also make more improvements in this respect.

Q: Does Sony have any EVILs, SLRs, or DSLRs fitted with a full-frame sensor in the pipeline for future introduction?

A: I am sorry that no details about our future products can be offered at this point, but the direction has been taken in our R & D. What you have mentioned is exactly the request we have been hearing from not only China but also around the world. So, we have been doing R & D in this area.

Q: Will the STM construction be gradually extended to all other models?

A: As I just said, the development is not conclusive at this stage. But the STM technology is certainly one of our most important technologies; so we will do more follow-up researches and development.

Q: It is expected that the EVILS, SLTs and DSLRs are targeted at consumers ranging from young people to professional consumers, respectively. Probably the sales are biggest in the EVIL segment, followed by the SLTs' and the DSLRs'. But there are some overlapping between the SLT and DSLR markets. How will Sony address this issue?

A: There are many different markets worldwide, with a wide variety of users. Their needs are very diverse. In some places, there are more long-time photographers who prefer OVF. For such markets, we offer the choice of α580/α560, which boost much better value as compared to α500 /α550 models in terms of the video capture function and picture quality.

The China market has its own characteristics, so is any other country's. In Japan, the demand for SLTs is bigger. China's huge market is relatively diversified. So, for the SLR market, we offer α580/α560.; for young people and the fashionable-minded who have never owned a DSLR, we offer the SLTs.

Q: Is Sony's marketing strategy confusing to the consumers because the α55 and α580 is not easily distinguishable in the targeted market?

A: We have heard similar opinion expressed about the similarity of the two in appearance. Our differentiation of the two is that the SLT is for those users who prefer high image quality, doing sport shots and videos while the DSLRs cater especially for those who are also interested in OVF.

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Kitsch!


But they will sell.  Pretty sure.  Kitsch! (Gosh!  Look at the orange one!!?)

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Expected Delivery Date (X100) and Other News

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If you're looking forward to shelling out money for the X100 in Hong Kong, it is expected to be available around January 2011 according to our information.

Some new serious cameras have been announced.

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Ricoh: GR lens A12 28mm f/2.5. Fitted with a 12 million-pixel APS-C CMOS sensor

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Olympus: Seriously mock-up of its serious compact armed with the ZUIKO lens to be released in the first quarter of 2011.

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Leica: The expensive version of LX5, the D-LUX5; the enticing X1 black.

In a parallel development, Sony has updated the firmware for the Nex cameras and announced the inclusion of a higher-grade SLT in its product line-up at Photokina.

An Eyeful of Dazzling Choices

Welcome to the confusing serious compact camera market as what the Middle Ages of battling kings and knights was in history (0r the Warring States Period in the Chinese history for that matter)!

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The photography community has recently made much ado about the dazzling launches and releases of new brooms by camera makers sizzling at each other. On one hand, how can we users not be excited at this "correct" course of giving more substances to a wider array of cameras at cheaper prices? On the other hand, however, we could be overwhelmed by the enormity of the question facing us: what the camera makers are driving at in the future to the detriment of our purse?

The camera makers are probably at their combative best in slaughtering for the market share since the last similar blooming period at the advent of 35mm camera. New cameras are always being in hot pursuit. Naturally, under this climate, we are more easily drummed by the dazzling ads into buying more of them. Afterall, nowadays most photographers should more correctly be called camera connoisseurs than photography savvies.

At one point, we hailed the coming of the serious compact with a fast F1.8 lens. Then, before it could really be differentiated from the likes of it with forever evolving yet seemingly randomly given code names, we are tempted with the similarly sized option with light-weight body and lenses plus a sensor outshining the fingernail-sized cousins. We could at one point have thought that we had to buy both.

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And then, we are told that new wine in an old "bottle" is beautiful. If a EVF is good and an OVF is great, why not blend them together to make it even greater? But wait a minute, are we too excited to even think about what the point is behind the whole X shebang?

Not long ago, we in the serious camera camp almost loosened our tightly clasped purse in the face of the sexy EVIL from Sony. Luckily, or unluckily depending on from where you look at it, it lacks the user-friendliness in ergonomics. And the newly released 18-200mm E-mount lens reveals that the camera is not really built for the hands of normal adults. The combination just hasn't taken into account the effect of gravity. It tends to droop all the time and the users have to convince the lens to turn the ring at their command.

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So here we are with the a55, which is not a compact but small enough to rightly balance the disadvantages of being larger and the advantages of having an individual chip to do the focusing, which is already fast by the strength of the new technology. The EVILs are not slow in focusing for most of the time. But it is the "for some of the time" that makes their jack-of-all-trade sensors potentially unreliable when they are expected to focus fast and sharp. Not a deal breaker but, with the modestly prized a55, enough to deepen the dilemma facing the purchasers.

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We are almost dazzled; almost because any sane buyers can learn from their past buying experience. When Minolta launched its then state-of-the-art Dynax or Maxxum or Alpha 7, which inherited the advanced technology but without the pirce tag from the 9, photographers gave it a big hand and handed over Minolta the money.

Are we saying that the 7 was actually not worth the admission price? No. Far from it. In fact, its eye-start auto-focusing speed, as I tested it last night, is just a millionth split of a second slower than a55's. Well, at least for well-lit scenes. The quantum leap in technology hyped for the a55 could therefore be reduced to somewhere much less exciting indeed. This is not to say the the a55 is no good. It can be the Bucephalus to the right photographers. You just have to know how to steer it away from the shadow and use the best of its merits.

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In this light, the point is: do you know how to best use the new technology of the camera you covert? In other words, are you sure that the camera suits your needs? What is as important is that the camera should be able to grow with your skills. If you can outgrow it in a matter of months, leave it in the window display. It is not for you.

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At this point, we have reduced the dilemma with dazzling choices to one simple rule of thumb: take the camera which suits your present photographic needs and your next several stages of skills.

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It is not foolhardy to predict that we will see lots of development in the camera market in the coming few years. Surely, much much more than the last decade, not least because Nikon and Canon (for Canon, rumours have it that it may join as early as the coming October) are joining the battle soon. Just because that is the case, doesn't mean that we must lose our mind and buy cameras like crazy. This is not a matter of money but sanity. An extra last note: there may be more new cameras out there than ever, but ask yourselves if yours is/ are good enough before shelling out money for more. If you really need to burn money, burn them for the expensive quality lenses.

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Monday, 20 September 2010

Win a GXR Body and A12

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If you live outside Hong Kong or Macau, the chance of winning a GXR Body plus the A12 module will, sorry guys, skip you.  Laikok Photographic Products, the local sole dealer for Ricoh cameras, is running the 3rd Ricoh Photo Contest.  The theme of the contest is Animal.

The winner will take home the GXR body and the A12 50mm module.  The 2nd and 3rd prizes are a CX3 and CX1 respectively.

The contest is open to Hong Kong and Macau citizens only and will close on 30 Spetember.  To take part, please send your photo (at least 4MP in resoultion but not exceeding 4MB in size) with your name, phone number, email address and photographic info (including title, camera used, the exposure combo with ISO used) to info@laikok.com.hk  Only one photo is allowed for each participant.

The entries will also be put up for public voting at www.facebook.com/laikokhk by way of clicking the "Like" therein.  The dealine for casting your vote is 12:00 noon 15 October 2010.

For details, a googlish version for the press release is here.

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Sunday, 19 September 2010

Cage Man

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Release yourself from the cage of mundane workdays, and enjoy your Sunday.

Have a good day!