Friday, 15 October 2010

EXactly 1st shot

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The EX1 has just arrived on my desk today.  I will be trying out the camera for some time.  And it will take a while to finish the hands-on and field report before the post appears here.  Meanwhile, check out the shot at ISO 3200 and the two 100% crops.

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Taken into account the small sensor, I have no complaint here really...well, for now.

Old Hong Kong Aglow

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Reproducing the common sight of neon light signboards in Hong Kong

Around this time every year, Hong Kong celebrates the Mid-Autumn Festival.  Of all the celebrations, a highlight is the lantern funfairs where people gather to solve riddles, play lanterns and admire the paper sculptures.  This year, the theme of the paper sculptures in a local funfair is old Hong Kong, featuring some of the old professions.

Letter-writing agents were ubiquitous in the old days:
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The then popular Shanghainese barbar:
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taipaidong which is very Hong Kong:
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A peddler selling vegetables:
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Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Bu Chuai Go

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Today, Nevin plays the maitre d'hotel to show you a famous local snack not to be missed, the "Bu Chuai Go" or Chinese pudding.

Bu Chaui Go is a time-honoured Cantonese snack originated over a hundred year ago. The snack is mentioned in a book written in the Ching Dynasty around the 1850s. While "Go" means pudding, "Bu Chuai" gives a hint about the cooking method.

In Tai Shan Province Records, which is the old book that mentions the snack, it is penned that peddlers prepared the pudding by steaming some cane-sugared rice dough in small bowls with water from the stream. So, "Bu Chuai" actually refers to the small bowls. The tradition of how to cook and even sell this popular snack has been passed through generations.

The corollary of having a long history is that the snack has variants. While the small-bowl shape of the pudding is definitely retained, the ingredients have been broadened from cane-sugar to white sugar, green beans, red beans, chocolate bits, dices of pineapples, coconut, orange, mango, water chestnut, sago, taro and other fruits. There are also the creative green tea or pumpkin-flavoured Bu Chuai Gos.

In Hong Kong's busy districts, you can run into some licensed food peddlers selling this bouncy, refreshing and filling snack. There is a good chance of finding the snack in the local food outlets in Mongkok and Shamshuipo too. How do you eat them? The Bu Chaui Gos are stuck with a thin bamboo stick and eaten cold. Bon appétit!

Links to GXR P10 Field Report

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1) GXR P10 Field Report: Introduction
2) GXR P10 Field Report: In Action
3) GXR P10 Field Report: Image Quality
4) GXR P10 Field Report: Final Verdict
(Kudos to Laikok for lending us the GXR P10 and CX3)

Off Topic: Chilean Miners Rescued

The news is spreading far and wide.  What a touching moment!

The Power of GR Lens

In the final verdict of the GXR P10 field report, we talked a bit about the well thought-out design and operation of the GXR body (which had been previously detailed here).  And we urged Ricoh to expedite the expansion of modules fitted with an APS-C sensor.  There is one point which should be stressed too: the GR lens for such modules will be a big draw to potential customers.

Why?  I just dug out the shots taken with the A12 50mm module featuring the GR Lens.  The images show that the GR lens was able to render the scenes with right colours, comfortable tones, good details and sharpness.  The transition between the highlight areas and the shadowy ones is very smooth.  As an aside, and a bit different from the big-site review, the field test found that the flash and metering of the GXR A12 50mm were able to do a pretty good job.  Sometimes it did fail but that was not at an disproportionate high frequency than any other digital cameras in its class.

An example is the following shot in which the subject was at an arm's length away from the camera.  The fill-in flash was fired.

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At this close distance and with the reflective white walls, the subject is a bit overly illuminated.  But is it bad?  Try out your camera on hand and you can probably get a result not as good.  And, look, this is what I want to show you:


The focus, once it is grabbed (mark that the A12 is not fast in focusing in low night situations), is pretty accurate.  And the image is very sharp.  Now, having used the Sony a55 for a few days, I can say that the the focusing of a55 is fast but not impressively accurate at 100% magnification.  The proportion of getting a sharp image like this is yet to be tested.

So, we are looking forward to the coming of the A12 28mm module, hoping that it will have a more decent focusing speed.  It is believed that the new module will be available in November.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

A Sin to Confess

It must be an ancient curse which makes photographers prattle forever on the good and bad of every new camera emerging on the block, even though they are not going to buy it.  Interestingly at the same time, there are lots of photographers keeping on buying new lenses and cameras despite their camera cabinets are already short of space and their purse short of fund.  It must either be the same curse at effect; or could it be out of grudges against money?

This question should ring an "earlier" bell to me. 

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Without selling the much loved Dynax 7 to cover the cost, here it is in my camera cabinet: Sony's adventurous a55:

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Adventurous because it is full of exciting practical gimmicks in a reduced and lighter "big-boy" body.  Of course, through a55, my Minolta gear can finally be given a new lease of life, so to speak:

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Fact is, embarrassingly, there is still one little brother to join'em – Minolta Dynax 5, the then world's lightest SLR (now I heard my inner self saying, "Shame on you, Nevin!"):

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If there is a good reason for buying a new camera so soon (hmmm, okay, I got myself a P-n-S just two months ago – Samsung WB600),  it could be that the photographer has outgrown the cameras on his hand or has new photographic needs.  And the only reason I pick the a55 instead of the much smaller NEX5 is in the handling.  I'm not talking about the user's interface.  It is that working with a bigger lens mounted on the tiny NEX5 is a cumbersome task.

I'm still getting used to the fast focusing of the a55.  Sometimes it is simply too fast to handle.  It really gives a new definition to focus-hunting: it hunts and grabs the focus from one subject to another in a sensitive way before the photographer has figured out the composition of the image.  This is great performance, just that I have yet to put the focusing modes to the right use.  Since the camera is fitted with an APS-C sensor, don't expect the a55 to deliver extremely crispy image at 100% magnification.  For the general eye, the images are pretty awesome.

Some first shots were taken at a recent funfair, Red Bull Flugtag Hong Kong 2010.  It was great fun – both the photographing and the event.  The launching platform was elevated and the best shooting locations were full; so my chance to shoot the launches was nil.

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Monday, 11 October 2010

GXR P10 Field Report: Final Verdict

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What is the Question?

Whether it is a marketing strategy or a fait accompli, the GXR is sitting nicely in its niche market.  This is not intended to be a compliment.  The GXR plus modules is a brilliant idea if Ricoh adopted the pricing strategy of Samsung, which is good value for money – simply put, at a more affordable price.

This is especially true to people buying the GXR concept who focus mainly on the ability to use modules fitted with a APS-C sensor.  It is auguable whether they are the majority; but probably they are.   Therefore, to buy or not to buy the P10 is not the question.  The right, and also the first, question should be, "Do you have faith in the direction of the system?"  Bear in mind that since the advent of GXR, the market has been quickly filled with decent choices which are sold at a mouthwatering price with a readily available lens system for expansion.

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Unless the camera is aimed at the consumer level, which GXR is not, the potential photographer-buyers always cherry-pick their acquisitions on account of sensible factors.  System expansion, pricing and image quality are the three dominating ones.

For that matter, the second question to be asked may be, "Do you rather spend the money that way?"

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In a nutshell. the answer is not in the system or the performance of the modules, but the positioning of the concept under the current keen market competition, not least because the GXR boosts a different rationale as compared with the norm.

As evidenced by the widely circulated roadmap, Ricoh certainly has thought up a good plan to expand the system to some interesting realms.  Let's hope that there will be more modules with bigger sensor and even, as some photographers have proposed, MFT sensor to give the system an additional dimension of interest and customer base.  At a more reasonable price, prefereably.

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So, as good as the P10 module can get, it features just a tiny sensor. The chance of seeing a person buying the GXR body just for the P10 is few and far between. The existing and potential owners of the P10 are looking more forward to more modules with larger sensors, which brings us back to the previous two questions.

Sexist Parts of the GXR Body

With 20 years of experience in photography under my belt, I can easily recommend the GXR system for photographers who know what they are doing with the photographic settings, or users who love street photography and wish to do candid RIMG0744 (Medium) shots of people in the street without being chased away.   I have to confess that I really like the way the GXR system works:

-  The swift operation of sliding in and out the modules without worrying about dust getting in the sensor when changing the lenses (modules), which is not what you can imagine without trying it.

-  The handling of the controls and settings on the GXR body is top-notch in its class.  I have no hesitation in saying that it surpasses lots of entry and enthusiast-level DSLRs in ergonomics.

-  The flexibility for customising a wide array of settings helps users exercise their  photographic creativity and grow with the system.

-  Yes, its modest but serious outlook as what you can expect from a camera for photographers, not videogaming dudes.

RIMG0882 (Medium)The Good and Bad of P10

On the basis of the above, if you love the GXR body, you may consider the P10 on account of its performance scores:

- good in focal coverage

- good in IQ up to ISO 400

- just okay in IQ at ISO 800

- excellent in AWB and exposure metering for P/A/S modes

- excellent in flexibility by the strength of the GXR (for GXR owners, the P10 is much preferred to the CX3 or CX4 for this reason)

- okay in giving out RAWs, of which the advantages are not obvious over the JPEGs

- unsatisfactory in pricing, taking into account of the on-cost of the GXR body

- we don't care about the video capability of cameras really.  No score for this item.

If you have missed the previous posts of this field report, go here, here and here.

(Kudos to Laikok for lending us the GXR P10 and CX3)

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Giving and Receiving

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Sometimes, you may think that it is you who is giving out.  But who knows?  At the time of giving, you may also receive.  Fact is, giving is often easier than receiving because of the curse of ego.

Learn to receive.

This is Sunday.  Go philosophical before returning to the practicable world tomorrow.