Friday, 30 December 2011

Four Sitting Models

R0010452L (Ricoh GX200)

I am quite satisfied with this philosophic scene.  As I am typing this, my gaze has kept fixed and re-fixed on the image.  My eyes stay much longer on this shot than my general shots.  It manages to capture my mind probably for the simple repetitive patterns in the image and the unique postures of the sitters.  Taken together, the image draws the viewer's attention to the four human subjects and what is going on in their heads.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Lying to Sell a Camera

 

"Colour not bad!" the Grandpa continues, "And the bokeh is, well, nice."

The girl replies, "The camera sports a fast lens at f1.8 and an extraordinarily large sensor.  It surely takes better pictures.  No doubt."

The narrator: Great image quality, XZ-1, Olympus.

Lies:

1) The colour of an image cannot be judged on the LCD display;

2) The colour of an image can depend on what mode it is on and the character to the taste of the viewers;

3) The camera is fitted with a tiny sensor, much smaller than the APS-C one.  The truth is that its sensor is not extraordinarily diminutive like that in a point-and-shoot; 

4) Unless in macro mode, such a small sensor cannot afford the photographer images with bokeh even at f1.8, which is instead made to allow shooting at lower ISO values to maximize image quality in a dimly lit environment; and

5) No camera can take better pictures if the photographer sucks.

In a nutshell, the whole commercial is based on lies.  Probably only "XZ-1, Olympus" is the indisputable fact.  What a shame! Oh, that's Olympus.  No wonder.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

51 Years

R9353234L(Ricoh GX200)

A household name for Hakka cuisine in Hong Kong, Tsui King Lau is now on its 51st years of business springing across the burgeoning years of Hong Kong's economy and its many economic and political fructuations in the last fifty decades.  Hakka is one of the two major Han (Chinese) clans in Hong Kong, the other being Chiuchow.  The very mention of Hakka food brings to mind heavily flavoured dishes.  A must-try is "mui choi kou yuk", marinated meat with pickled vegetable (shown in the rightmost picture on the banner).  Tsui King Lau has several branches throughout the territory.  The one in today's shot is situated in a side street right opposite the entrance of Easton Hotel on Nathan Road in Jordan.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Enchanted Faces

(Sony A55)

This is the last day of the Christmas holiday in Hong Kong. There are still lots of free performances in town, hence lots of photography opportunities for faces and facial expressions of the spectators.  The author has have the honour to do such shooting occasionally on public talks by some big wigs including the former government Chief Secretary Anson Chan and also on performances at, e.g., the side stage.

With what may be limited experience in this respect, the tips to be offered are to be on the scene early, scout around for the best shooting spots and observe and select the targeted spectators before the show starts.  Then anticipate the coming intense or amusing moments (watching the show/ rehearsals  beforehand will certainly help) so that you can capture the right feel in the shots.  Of course, it takes a photographer's instinct and trained eye to do the job well.  A zoom lens at least to 300mm is a must.  If you have a camera with a less noisy shutter noise, you may wish to make it the tool for such an occasion.

Monday, 26 December 2011

Spent

R9353365L (Ricoh GX200)

Water (in Cantonese, "sui" literally meaning "water" refers to money) has been extravagantly spent in the holiday.  What are left may be only the some amount of coins, like these water droplets? Or are they your teardrops of regret? This is the Boxing Day after all.  So maybe put the sorrow behind and open the presents for a moment of joy.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

; )

DSC04630L (Sony A55)

"Smile, Merry Christmas!"

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Peace of Mind

R0010493L(Ricoh GX200 with 19mm converter)

Today is the day of peace.  Find a way to bring yourself a peace of mind.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Beauty Is In the Eye of the Beholder

R9353340L (Ricoh GX200)

Christmas is a beautiful time for, to most, spending and shopping.  But apart from shopping, there are other good deeds to do in Christmas.

You may not necessarily do something brilliantly generous.  How about helping in or joining a community service? There is a publicity event entitled "Balloons are for parties, Pets are for life" organised by Animal Earth and Animal-Friendly Alliance along Sai Yeung Choi Street (pedestrian precinct) in Mongkok, Hong Kong tonight (23rd).  The event is to educate people to think twice before getting a pet as their Christmas presents.  There will be models, Ms Macau, some celebrities and an orchestra playing, as well as caroling.  If you're in town tonight, come join us.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Merry Christmas

2011Christmas

It gave me a déjà vu kind of feeling when preparing this virtual Christmas card for it seemed that the previous one was made just a few weeks ago.

As the cliché goes, time flies.  This year, GXG hasn't done as much camera reviews.  At the beginning of the year, the GF2 was reviewed.  At the tail end of 2011, it was the much loved GXR M-mount with the Nokton 35mm f1.2 lens which got reviewed.  Again, GXG is indebted to Shun Hing and Laikok for lending us the cameras and lenses for testing.

But the blog posts of this year are as usual full of ideas and topics about photography and Hong Kong. A special mention is the Ricoh HK Meetup held in November.  The latest special news is my winning a Leica X1 – I am yet to receive and test it.

So thank you for visiting over the past 12 months. Wish you a Merry Christmas and the best of luck in 2012!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

I Won a Leica X1

with this taken with the Ricoh GX200:

Nevin_Leica_1280
for the grand prize in a photo contest organised by the Swire Hotels on the theme of Hong Kong Views From the Top. I got the call from a lady with a sweet voice this afternoon.  She is the messenger of good luck; that's sweet enough anyway.

The grand prize is a Leica X1.  What a surprise for a Christmas prize! And supposedly, given the photo from the hotel's fb page, it is an all black version!

327371_245031975552044_166337163421526_624533_578831195_o
The shot was a fifth one taken at the same spot which is a footbridge overlooking the scene below.  I passed by the spot with a camera, as I have one with me all the time, and the view below presented itself to me -- with the photographer's instinct I knew it would make some intriguing photo.  The right catch was done after the previous four shots in about 10 minutes.  As the AF lages behind the moment of capture for half a second, I had to anticipate the final image before pressing the shutter release.  It took a bit of luck and a bit of skill to end up with the shot which looks suspiciously choreographed but was not.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Monday, 19 December 2011

The Murderer Is Gone

R9353362L (Ricoh GX200)

Bloody Genocide. The murderer is gone.  A coincidence to mark the day.  Oh, haven't you watched the news today?

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Windy? But I Have Two Cameras

R9353338L (Ricoh GX200)

No time to comb my hair.  This is Sunday.  Un-occupy yourself.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Together, Let's Take a Break

R9353255L (Ricoh GX200)

This is supposedly what most people around the world will do on Saturday.

Friday, 16 December 2011

Kaifong

R9352437L
(GXR M-mount with Nokton 35mm F1.2 ASPHII)

Kaifong is a colloquial way of saying neighbours in Cantonese.  It is a noun and as a general rule, Chinese nouns are neutral in countability, i.e. neither countable nor uncountable.  The countability is denoted by means of the article-signifiers.

Kaifong literally means "street (kai)" and "lane (fong)", which gives some insight into the local view of who neighbours are: people living along the street and lane are neighbours, not just those living next door.  Some old neighbourhood associations are still known as kaifong associations.  When the British was on the helm in Hong Kong, kai fong is a commonly used "English" term to refer to the locals living in the community.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Feifaat

R9352457L
(GXR M-mount with Nokton 35mm F1.2 ASPH II)

This is another old-style hand-written signboard which is rarely seen these days in Hong Kong.  Here it was seen in a makeshift neighbourhood feifaat po (for "po" see the post Potautsai) in an alley.  Feifaat in Cantonese means hair-cutting.  So, fetfaat po is a hair-dresser shop.  There are lots of interesting stuff to see in an old fetfaat po, which was discussed here and here.  For the shot of today, one cultural thing worth mentioning is the second last item on the signboard.

It says, Hair-cutting for Old Lady.  The special mention of Old Lady is probably because in the old days (the barber of this feifaat po is an old-timer), not every hair-dresser shop was catered for service for women.  The ladies had to trip to those which did serve them to have a hair cut.  Why old ladies?  That is easy.  The feifaat po is situated in a very old neighbourhood.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Siu Mei

R9352420L
(GXR M-mount with Nokton 35mm F1.2 ASPH II)

The display of roasted poultry meat in this fashion is a draw to tourists coming from the western countries.   In their hometowns, the unwritten rule is not to remind the patrons of where the meat comes from.  That is to say, one should not display the carcasses in the same way as when the original life forms were alive.   Here in the Chinese world, such a reminder is taken to prove that the meat is fresh enough to be consumed.

In the shot, there are the roasted pork, pork in BBQ style, roasted geese, whole chicken marinated with soy sauce and whole soft boiled chicken.  Collectively, these are known as siu mei, with siu meaning grilled or roasted and mei meaning taste.
   

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Potautsai

R9352446L
(GXR M-mount with Nokton 35mm F1.2 ASPH II)

This is a rarely seen signboard.  There is almost no where to see in Hong Kong.  It was sheer luck that the author came across one.  In the old Hong Kong, such domestically-made, hand-painted signboards were ubiquitous.   Those which used them were mostly small neighbourhood stores, or "potautsai" in Cantonese.  "Potau" means store while "tsai" is a prefix used to refer to smallness.  Nowadays, with the chain stores getting a lion's share of the market, the neighbourhood stores are close to distinction.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Sawlo

R9352464L
(GXR M-mount with Nokton 35mm F1.2 ASPH II)

Sawlo is a derogatory term in Cantonese to mean stupid man. "Saw" is stupid while "lo" is man.  For that matter, you may say "sawpo" with "po" meaning woman. Although the term is derogatory, it is widely used planking with one's friends in a harmless fashion.  With reference to the shot of today, the locals usually use "sawlo" or "sawpo" to pass their judgment to such persons doing extraordinarily silly things to make a scene of themselves to achieve nothing, if there is anything to achieve at all. The man in the shot is protesting against something probably not understandable to all.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

Bubbles

DSC04084L (Sony A55)

This is Sunday.  Dream some dreams.

Have a nice day.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

A Restful Dude

R9353314L  (Ricoh GX200)

Fact is, he is the security personnel, using a pair of sunglasses to cover up his dozing off.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Cow Girls

R0010455L (Ricoh GX200with TC-1 135mm equiv. converter)

Friday.  Rest.  What else can be better?

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Circles, Rectangles and Triangles

R0010462L(Ricoh GX200with TC-1 135mm equiv. converter)

In the eye of the passers-by, I was like a fool pointing the camera aimlessly to the middle of nowhere. After a photographer, I have simply trained myself to see the world like through a viewfinder.  Maybe intuitive it has become. For the generations shooting not through a viewfinder, can they manage to acquire the same intuition? I wonder.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Elevated

R0010456L (Ricoh GX200with TC-1 135mm equiv. converter)

Ghostly? Spiritual? Sci-fi-ish? Could it be the spirit of a woman? No matter what it is like, the important thing to a street photographer is to preserve the desired atmosphere at the opportune moment. A slight hesitation could ruin the original intention as the reflected spot may shift, the man may leave or unwanted subjects may appear in the scene. This is why a photographer should practise enough to be able to response at a split of a second.   

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Any Way You Like it

R9353310L (Ricoh GX200)

Hong Kong is blessed to have a harbour for it gives not only the highly congested city a much-needed breathing space but also photographers unlimited photography opportunities.  The harbour presents itself in different moods and colours as the weather, time of a day and seaons change.  It morphs into unique forms and appearances when looking from different angles and distances.  Admire it, enjoy it amd shoot it in any time, any way you like.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Yearly Minutiae

R0010454L (Ricoh GX200 with TC-1 135mm equiv. converter)

Hong Kong is seen in its best sartorial elegance around this time every year.  If the building is not festooned with festive-colour light-bulbs of some sort and shape, it would be decorated with Christmas garlands in red, green or white of nature, plastic or metal. The whole town is at a riot of colours, mending its pace to farewell the year and celebrate the coolness which is to usher in another twelve months.  Then, when the new year has been coy enough about its coming and finally came with the encouragement of hurrahs at countdowns and booming fireworks, what lay before the eye will be a city dressed in Chinese celebratory red.  And you will know, the Chinese New Year in February is around the corner.

Around this time every year, photographers who have made acute and clever observation on the minutiae of the going of the city and its people will end up with a good enough amount of keepers. Pick up your camera and go shooting.


Sunday, 4 December 2011

Street Pipe Dancer

R9353315L (Ricoh GX200)

But no one is watching.

This is Sunday. Have a fun day!

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Friday, 2 December 2011

Life is a Combination of Chances

multi
(GXR M-mount with Voigtländer Nokton 35mm F1.2 ASPH II)

You may stand in the street and shoot pictures, and come across people who you will probably not see again in the rest of your life.  Here they are captured in the images.  You look at the images and wonder how unimportant their lives are to you, just in the same way as yours to them.  But with the same camera, you can do something that connects to them or strangers who you will come across, and leave a mark on their lives.

There are many ways to achieve this: to tell stories of the underprivileged in images; to meet photographers with your cameras; to help out as a volunteer photographer; to give your old cameras to the opportunity shops; to organise free photography classes for the poor and get sponsors to supply free cameras.  You can combine the chances to make them meaningful, rather than letting the chances pass in your life.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Free Stuff

R9353333L (Ricoh GX200)

If you are a Hong Kong or Macau citizen and have the talent and luck, you can get a GXR with A12 28mm module for free.  Or be the first or second runner-up and be disappointed with the Ricoh PX camera prize.

Laikok is holding the forth Ricoh photo contest Hong Kong on the theme of Cheerful.  The contest closes at the end of December, and is open to Hong Kong and Macau residents only.

Links to GXR M-mount Module Field Test (with Voigtländer Nokton 35mm F1.2 ASPH II)

R9352906L

1) Selling Points
2) Manual Focusing and Others
3) Unique Features and High-ISO Performance
4) Voigtländer Nokton 35mm F1.2 ASPH II Lens
5) Conclusive Remarks

(All photos in the test are copyrighted to Nevin; Kudos to Laikok for lending GX Garnerings the camera unit and the lens)

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Who Cares?

R9352371L (GXR M-mount with Voigtländer Nokton 35mm F1.2 ASPH II)

The saddening scene of the old woman caught the author’s attention to stop and take some shots.

The considerations for taking this shot: 1) no flash because it would make a scene to attract people looking into the lens; 2) a shutter speed just enough to freeze the action with a slightly blurred effect; 3) a foreground should be included to give the image a spatial feel and better isolate the homeless woman.

So 1) the flash was off; 2) in the case of fast-paced Hongkongers, the shutter speed was dragged to 1/25s; 3) moved back to allow passers-by walk into the scene between the camera and the homeless lady.

If you're interested, GXG has an old post about doing flash photography tricks.

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

GXR M-mount Field Test: Conclusive Remarks

R9352905L

For two years or so, we have seen a flux of digital cameras ostensibly modelled after the vintage design. From Oly’s MFT series to Fujifilm’s X100, a new passion for vintage-camera lookalikes has been ushered in among photography enthusiasts. This is all well and good, but precisely because we are huge fans of such digital-and-vintage hybrids, it pains us to say that these models are felt as vintage cameras in appearance more than in spirit – factors contributing to this impression include the plastic feel of some flimsy camera bodies and lenses. We have no qualms with what all these commendable cameras can proudly do. But it is arguably that the GXR M-mount module brings users the real and rare choice to experience the fun of full manual functions with top quality manual lenses, most importantly without the prohibitively expensive outlay.

R9352894L

Recently at the Ricoh Hong Kong Meetup, users shared with great gusto their experience in using on the GXR M-mount module a dozen of manual lenses from Russian to Nikkor and to Leica lenses. At the same time, they lamented that the emergence of the M-mount module has resulted in a shortage, hence inflated prices, of mounts for manual lenses. This certainly speak volumes for the success of Ricoh’s move with this module.

Body and UI

The GXR body is sturdy, with a well-thought out button layout and a well-balanced weight distribution (i.e. when the heavy Nokton lens is dismounted; but not all manual lenses are as bulky). Everything feels perfect about the camera body ergonomics-wise, except for the body’s imperfection of featuring the wheel-and-rocker control combination, rather than a twin-wheel system. This is not terrible, just less than ideal.

R9352876L

(Direct-screen menu for making adjustments direct)

The user’s interface of the GXR body is still arguably a head and shoulders above the competitors. Users seldom need to dive into the menu system, thanks to the GXR body’s highly customisable Fn keys, one-press quick menu and memory slots, as well as the Direct-screen menu. These are very beneficial to doing manual operations on the M-mount module. For example, the Fn keys help speed up the focusing process when work with the focus assist function and focus magnification. For doing manual focus swiftly, a tip is to customise Focus Assist and focus magnification into the two Fn keys on the directional dial, which has proved to work well during the review. Previous discussions on the UI of the GXR body can be found here and here.

Focusing Modes

Mode 1 simulated
mode1

Mode 2 simulated
mode2

final image
mode2_final

On the note of focusing, it should be mentioned that no matter how high a resolution the LCD display boasts, the focus magnification is done digitally. In other words, in Mode 1 (subject in focus displayed in glittering dots), the magnified image may not be satisfactory in clarity for focus confirmation under some situations – for example, when the subjects are delicately patterned or the near background is cluttered with similarly coloured objects.

sony girl mode 2 (Mode 2 simulated)

However, some users have pointed out that Mode 2 (scene displayed in embossment-style grey colour with the focus highlighted by a white border) gives a much clearer indication for focus confirmation. So, for Mode 2, the above issue of magnified images is non-existent. sony girlBut I still have two concerns concerning Mode 2: first, the actual scene can only be seen when half-pressing the shutter release; second, as shown to me, the grey colour makes it doubtful if a scene is underexposed or overexposed as intended. On the second point, I must say that the demonstration was done for extreme exposure values. In real-life photography, the same may rarely happen, if it will happen at all. After all, one can always view the histogram or half-press the shutter release to check it out. Of course, this is a matter of workflow and may not just suit everyone.

Suggested Improvements

Suggested Mode 1
mode1_improved
Suggested Mode 2
mode2_improved

If I were asked, in addition to the Focus Assist function which facilitates visual focus confirmation, something can be done to improve the focus confirmation: for Mode 1, an on-screen indication to highlight the focused area in specific colours; or an addition of a presently technically wishful thinking – as there is no communication between the lens and the camera body – a sectional indicator a la some battery level indicator whereby the clearer the focus is, the more sections will be lighted up in the indicator. As for Mode 2, the scene can be displayed in normal colour (or in black and white when doing such shots) while the focused area is displayed in grey with highlighted border.

R9352572L

That said, at the Ricoh Hong Kong Meetup, some folks using the M-mount module revealed that they had shown it to their retired grandpas who regrettably could no longer focus with their Leicas owing to deteriorated eyesight and shaky hands. What happened next was that those grandpas became GXR M-mount owners since its focus confirmation modes work well for them. Also, the M–mount module is a much affordable option to resurrect the Leica lenses according to these now happy grandpas.

Fun and IQ

R9352427L (high contrast mode)

Ricoh puts in some unique functions like the adjustable Peripheral Illumination Correction and a high-contrast black-and-white mode which I recommend users to experiment with. For the other regular scene functions, the M-mount module simply does them as good; they are useful but I am not big fans of them.

original image
R9352753L
100% crop
R9352753L_crop 
R9352435L R9352435_crop

On image quality, with the advantage of supreme manual lenses and the omission of the low-pass filter, the M-mount module gives lots of juice in the images it produces. I am gobsmacked to see the sharpness, solid colours and a distinct sense of depth in the final images. In addition to the superb optical performance of the lens, the omission of the low-pass filter in the module has much bearing on such great results.

Last Note

R9352700L

Frankly, Ricoh is not a mainstream brand. But with the GXR system, it is creating another market of its own after the mirror-less cameras ate into its previous niche market with fast-wide-angle-lens, small-sized cameras like the GX and GRD series. If the sales of the GXR system has been sluggish, the M-mount module can said to be giving it a new lease of life. R9352866L The new module helps the system reach out to the market of interchangeable lens. The M-mount module offers a tailor-made body with truly manual operations to use premium, legendary lenses. Of course, the M-mount module is not a Leica in terms of specifications, operations, prestige and value. But this plebeian version against the much more expensive Leicas does not disappoint. For old-timers and traditionalists, it is worth every penny of the admission price. For younger photographers without any experience in manual focus lens, it is advisable to first figure out what to expect when doing mostly manual R9352929Loperations with a camera. If possible, get your hands on the M-mount module to see if it suits you. The operations on the GXR are easy to get familiar with, and once you are used to it, you will be glad to have made the choice because the M-mount module with the premium lenses will return you with razor-sharp images. Whether they are good images is, without doubt, a matter of talent, practice and taste. That is another story.

 

Price: HK$6,000(GXR M-mount module);HK$7,800(with GXR body)

Image Sensor:23.6 mm × 15.7 mm CMOS (12.3MP effective)

Mount:GXR、M、M39

Display:3 inches TFT LCD at 920KP

ISO:ISO 200 to 3,200

Weight:370g(with GXR body)

(Kudos to Laikok for lending GX Garnerings the camera unit and the lens)