Saturday, 21 January 2012


L1000224L (Leica X1)

That's what the weekend is for.

Friday, 20 January 2012

Jump Over the Obstacles


(Leica X1)

We may spend inordinate amounts of time discussing the strengths and weaknesses of cameras. At long last, we strike the deal and our expectation rises with the seemingly everything-is-better new toy in hand. But well before it is far from its due day, some newer models give us a good excuse to moan and grumble about the shortcomings of the once new camera for its lacking of longer zoom range, non-ideal high ISO performance, hundredth of a second slower AF speed, yada yada.

Every camera has its flaws and foibles in matters of actual use. Just as the author noted from a local camera reviewer, the X Pro-1 is going to fail the photographers for its AF speed. But why don't we make use of the constraints of a camera before bitching it? Lately, the author has been using the Leica X1 everyday. It has lots of "weaknesses" for street photography compared to Ricoh GX200, especially for the shallower DOF when aperture stopped down. But then, it compels the author to think up effective ways to work around the shortcomings.

That takes some willpower. Left to our own devices, we would have started  contemplating selling the no longer new camera and then top up the cost for the newer model. In fact, it takes a photographer roughly five years to outgrow a serious camera.

After having jumped over the obstacles, a photographer will grow in skills. Try it!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Pot Calling Kettle Black

L1000107L (Leica X1)

Well, well, well, what is the good of a well without water? But then what can be good about a well too full of water?  Look at your camera cabinet, it's so embarrasingly crowdy, isn't it?

The Chinese proverb corresponding to "Pot calling kettle black" is, literally, "the person paced 50 steps sneers at the other at 100 steps" (pronounced in Cantonese: ngsap bou siu babou).  It means that a person having done a bit wrong has the chutzpah to sneer at the other having done a bit more wrong.

Now check out your camera cabinet again: one, two, three, four.... Has there been a point in using any forum that you sarcastically wrote about you being a real photographer not a camera collector? Well, your stock of five cameras cannot qualify you as a collector who has a stock of cameras double yours. But look, isn't there a slight flight of fancy deep inside yourself making your mouth watering about the X Pro-1, about adding just one more to your collections?

What on earth is the reason that you want it? For focusing speed, you have a fairly reliable DSLR. For the claimed near-full-frame image quality, you have no need to make any large prints. For using the vintage lenses, you already have a decent mirror-less camera for that purpose. So, for what cogent and practical reasons that you need a new camera, maybe the X Pro-1?

Stop and think twice before you step forward.  By the way, have you made full use of the five cameras in your keep?

Wednesday, 18 January 2012

Hmmm, What Did You Just Say?

L1000066L (Leica X1)

"Sorry, I'm...terribly sorry..."

D&G Hong Kong, the recent source of public indignation for its photo ban on locals, has finally eaten its humble pie today after protesters staging group photo sessions outside its store on Canton Road during the last two weekends.

This morning, the Italian fashion giant issued a statement to apologise to the local people:

"We understand that the events which unfolded in front of the Dolce & Gabbana boutique on Canton Road have offended the citizens of Hong Kong, and for this we are truly sorry and we apologize," it said.

"The Dolce & Gabbana policy is to welcome the Hong Kong people and that of the whole world respecting the rights of each individual and of the local laws."

In making a fuss about shooting photos outside its shop, D&G did overlook the local law.  While it first rejected its wrong doing, today's statement coming two weeks late is generally believed to be on account of not the public sentiment, but the worldwide reports of the incident and the adverse effect of the weekend photo sessions on its sales.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Leica: I Am the Original, not Dead Duck

L1000061L (Leica X1)

Before going into the actual topic of this post, which is Leica's likely answer to the clumsily named X Pro 1 – let's keep the fingers crossed that the implementation of functions will be less so, we should learn something about today's shot of seemingly animal genocide.  No, they were not killed by an insane serial animal killer.  Cured meat like these cured, well, duck heads is a Chinese delicacy which has been proved to be cancerogenic upon excessive consumption. Such food is usually consumed with congee.  If you don't know what congee is, look the word up in a dictionary. The neck meat is to be consumed not the head. Well, usually supposedly so.

Now back to the actual topic.  The X Pro 1 is making lots of photographers ticklish, and people are speculating on Leica’s answer to it.  For that matter, an interview with Leica CEO in September 2011 can shed light on this pent-up demand for an answer. The interview articles reveals a few cues:

1) Leica will probably offer a ILC-like camera to fill the line-up and pricing gap between the X1 and the M to mark its centennial celebration which is in 2013

2) That bridging camera is not expected to have a diminutive body but will have an EVF.

3) The features will be in line with Leica’s philosophy: not too flowery to upstage simplicity in design and functions

4) The sensor type is still to be decided (Considering that the reporter probably has no good knowledge in camera because she keeps relating MFT to Sony, Canon and Nikon ILCs, as well as the business cooperation between Leica and Panasonic, my guesstimate is that Schopf’s was a polite reply. But it can also hint that the MFT sensor will be a choice if the larger APS-C under consideration doesn’t prove better and more cost effective.

As a side note, obviously, it doesn't take rocket science to figure out what the CEO means about smart phones and cameras: first, they are never the same even though in some cases the latter like the X1 doesn’t have an integrated VF; second, we now know the answer for sure as per the perpetual myth of what differs an image from a photo --
"If you look at the picture quality, it’s different. You can shoot images with such devices (phones), but (they are) not photos” Very humourously well-said indeed.

The full interview article is as follows:

Singapore’s My Paper (English)          SOPHIE HONG  2011-09-16
Phone cameras not a threat, says Leica CEO

MOBILE-PHONE manufacturers are increasingly equipping their handsets with higher-megapixel cameras these days.

The trend has led some to wonder if the traditional camera would go the way of the dodo bird.

However, in the eyes of Mr Alfred Schopf, the global chief executive of Leica Camera, that is not an issue at all.

Here’s why: The sensor of a traditional camera is more powerful than that of a cellphone camera.

Currently, the cameras on mobile phones have very small sensors, due to the space limit. The smaller the sensor, the lesser the depth of field in your photographs,” he told my paper on Monday in an exclusive interview. Mr Schopf was in town to visit Leicas office here.

If you look at the picture quality, it’s different. You can shoot images with such devices, but (they are) not photos,” he said. That is why high-end brands in the market, including Leica, do not feel threatened by the emergence of cellphone cameras, he added.

For Leica, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2013, worldwide sales in the first quarter of its fiscal year have gone up by 28.7 per cent.

The German firm’s interim report also noted that camera sales in the Asian region have seen a rise of over 30 per cent.

Of late, camera manufacturers have been racing to come up with mirrorless cameras with interchangeable lenses.

Also known as Micro Four Thirds cameras, these devices are close to digital single-lens reflex, or DSLR, cameras in performance but come in much smaller sizes – one factor that has made the Micro Four Thirds system a hit in the mass-consumer market.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg reported that Sony’s market share in Japan has doubled after its foray into the Micro Four Thirds market with the Sony Nex series.

In contrast, the combined Japan market share of the world’s two biggest high-end camera makers, Canon and Nikon, which have not unveiled any Micro Four Thirds camera, has dropped by 35 per cent.

When asked if Leica would be launching its own line of Micro Four Thirds cameras, Mr Schopf said that the brand already has the Leica X1, a compact camera, and the M-System, which has interchangeable lenses but not an electronic viewfinder.

We are at the borderline of compact-system cameras already, with the Leica X1 and Leica M-System, and it’s pretty obvious that, at one point, we are going to offer something in between,” said Mr Schopf.

But we have to look very carefully into what sensor parts we are using and what features we are offering.”
On Micro Four Thirds devices, Mr Schopf said: “They have compact bodies and huge lenses in front. I feel a little bit stressed by that design, to be honest.”

It may take a bit more time to see a Leica Micro Four Thirds camera on the market, but Mr Schopf reassured fans of the brand that this is to ensure that high standards are maintained.

Monday, 16 January 2012

Revisiting an Important Place and the Important Thing

L1000073L (Leica X1)

The author took a re-visit with the Leica X1 to the scene of the winning shot which was achieved after some 10 minutes' wait. The waiting didn't pay off this time.  It is always skills and luck that matter for a photographer at the end of the day.

This begs the question of why so many photographers spend so much time arguing about and comparing the good and bad of cameras per se. There are certainly many aspects in a camera which a photographer should consider before shelling out the money for it.  But the most important thing is whether it suits one's shooting style (Shooting on the street? Having a penchant for manual everything? etc.) and preferences (taste of image character, brand philosophy etc).  It is not just the better IQ or a larger sensor (well, discounting the sensors of P&Ss) or a retro design which most users are so obsessed with that measure the star-rating of a camera. The often animatedly debated image quality should be, paradoxically, given lesser importance in real life shooting situations unless the photographer mostly makes large prints (This is not to say that IQ is not important, mark you).  Instead, if a camera urges one to use it and grow in creativity with it, it could reflect that the camera suits one's shooting style and preferences.  That'll pretty much make the right choice.   The author always makes an effort to, and hopefully successfully so, align with this belief when doing and reading a camera review.  

Back to the now closed international photography contest, the finalists' shots can be viewed here. My shot taken with the Ricoh GX200 has probably the worst image quality in comparison. 

Some asked on the Facebook page if the organiser (Swire Hotels) would have any similar contests in future.  Well, understandably, the reply is an equivocally not-yes-or-no. You may bookmark the organiser's blog and check it out every now and then just to be sure to not miss any chance.

Sunday, 15 January 2012


L1000057L (Leica X1)

This is Sunday.  Make it restful.