Wednesday, November 24, 2004

My wishlist...

My wishlist for my cameras as my hobby heats up.....

  1. Sto-fen #OM-EX Omni-Bounce for Canon 420EX - The Omni-Bounce creates a diffused bare bulb effect, giving even coverage across the entire frame, with lenses from 15mm to 200mm in the 35mm format (and equal in other formats as well). The Omni-Bounce is easy to use and goes onto and off the flash in seconds with custom fitting (except for UNI model) and no velcro. Designed for years of service without the bulk of some other diffusers, it is small enough to fit easily into a gadget bag or pocket. A forum thread of mine about flash, bounce and diffusers. A comparison with and without a diffuser.
  2. More filters, lens and adapters

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Out of the closet

It's about time I started to bring out my first SLR camera - Minolta Dynax 505si (bought it for SGD800 5 years ago in Singapore). After fiddling with my Canon G2 camera for so long, I am really curious of what this old film camera can do and how pictures will look like. I'm not an expert but at least now I am more familiar with terms like shutter, aperture, spot meter, slow sync, etc. My photos from this camera used to be lack of color and brightness. I'm guessing it's due to white balance and lack of flash power. In fact, I can safely say that most film camera produce photos of wrong white balance ie. too yellow, green or blue. Could it be due to bad photo development or bad film or bad camera or just bad user? I just don't know.

MINOLTA 505si CAMERA SPECIFICATIONS European Name : Minolta Dynax 505si super American name : Minolta Maxxum HTsi Plus Image Size : 35mm Focus Type : autofocus w/ manual option Metering : spot matrix Extra Meter Comments : 14 segment matrix and spot (2.7%) metering Field of View : 0.9 Shutter Speeds : 1/4000 to 30s, B Lens Description : Total of 38 Maxxum AF lenses, ranging from 16mm f/2.8 fisheye to 600mm f/4 telephoto. Three macro lenses. Bracketing : yes Film Advance : auto (2.0 fps) Depth-of-Field Preview : No Built-In Flash : yes Multiple Exposure : yes Mirror Lockup : no Interchangeable Back : no Batteries : Two 3V CR2 lithium batteries Weight : 360 g. (13.6 oz.)

But first, I think I need to buy a more powerful flash for it. My current one is the Minolta 2000xi, which lacks the distance and power. (The Program Flash 2000xi is a compact unit featuring simple operation. It features a 35mm angle of coverage and has a maximum guide number of 20 in metres at ISO 100. A wideangle adapter also provides flash coverage from 35mm down to 28mm.)

Specifications Exposure Control: Direct through-the-lens (TTL) autoflash metering in all flash exposure modes. Guide Number (in metres): 20; 16 with wideangle adapter. Power Source: Four AA-size 1.5 V alkaline-manganese batteries. Recycling Time: 0.5-4 s. Dimensions: 67 x 61.5 x 92.5 mm Weight (w/o batteries): 140 g

After using my Canon420EX flash on my G2, I'm very confident a better flash makes a lot of difference in terms of exposure and lighting. So, here I go again.... shopping!

Possible choices are in Minolta website and my favorites are as follows (probably cost another bomb). Compatibility is the priority here :-

  1. Program Flash 5600HS(D) This newly-developed high powered flash enhances your indoor and night photographs. It offers a maximum guide number of 56 in metres (at 85mm and ISO 100). And it aligns to all speeds of the high-speed shutter. This, coupled with its compact design, increases its effectiveness and versatility as a System Accessory.
  2. Program Flash 3600HS(D) New and improved features take the Program Flash 3600HS(D) to another level in lighting photography simplicity. This unit provides the maximum guide number of 36 in metres (at 85mm and ISO 100). It offers high-speed synchronization in all shutter speeds. And it is equipped with a built-in auxiliary light. It boasts improved flash-metering performance that reduces or eliminates the effects of background conditions, all from an ultra-compact body. I think this is the most likely candidate, considering the price.
  3. Sto-fen #OM-PZ8 Omni-Bounce for Minolta 3600HS and Pentax AF-360FGZ - The Omni-Bounce creates a diffused bare bulb effect, giving even coverage across the entire frame, with lenses from 15mm to 200mm in the 35mm format (and equal in other formats as well). The Omni-Bounce is easy to use and goes onto and off the flash in seconds with custom fitting (except for UNI model) and no velcro. Designed for years of service without the bulk of some other diffusers, it is small enough to fit easily into a gadget bag or pocket.

Following is a detailed review of the camera (I wouldn't have done any better) from a minolta user:- Two years ago I wanted to buy a camera to accompany me on my travels. At the risk of sounding 'snobbish' I wanted something I could use to take photographs rather than just holiday snaps. What I wanted was an SLR. But what to choose? With prices ranging from £100 - £1000 (and more!) I had to think long and hard. I didn't want to spend more than £300 as an absolute maximum but I wanted something that would introduce me to photography gently. Something that would allow me to take holiday snaps as well as exercise a bit more creativity. The Minolta 505si fitted the bill admirably, and still does although there are now perhaps better cameras available. The first thing you notice about the camera is that, for an SLR, it is small. And light! Even with a standard lens attached, it's probably one of the lightest SLRs you are going to find. This means that carrying it around with you is no problem, be it slung around your neck or clutched in your hand ready to shoot. Speaking of lenses, you generally have to choose at purchase time whether you want a 35 - 80mm or 28 - 80mm lens. I opted for the 28-80mm lens and would advise anyone considering this camera to do the same. Both are zoom lenses but, as you would expect from the numbering of the two, the 28-80mm lens covers a wider range. What this means in practice is that when the lens is 'zoomed out' to it's minimum setting, a photograph from the 28-80mm lens will, for example, show more of the horizon than the 35-80mm lens. You pay slightly more for the 28-80mm lens option, but it does give you a bit more flexibility when taking pictures. The lens mounting will take any standard Minolta Autofocus lenses so you can add/change lenses in the future. The camera has a built in flash which, while not particularly powerful, is useful provided you are not too far away from the subject. It also has a number of program modes which aid the beginner in taking phot ographs. In normal operation, the flash will pop up and fire when the camera thinks a scene is too dark. This can be over-ridden however and the flash can be set to either off, on, auto or "red-eye reduction". In red-eye reduction mode, the flash actually fires twice... once before the photo is taken and once whuile the photo is being taken. I have found that this has a tendency to produce photos in which most people have their eyes closed. While this undoubtedly reduces red-eye, it doesn't lead to an attractive picture. In terms of opreation, the camera offers a complete set of features from fully automatic point-and-shoot type modes right down to fully manual where every setting must be selected by hand. In between these two extremes there are Seven program modes including Macro, Portrait, Landscape, Action and Night-Time. Each of these modes changes the behaviour of the camera slightly to favour the subject of the photo. In Landscape mode for example, the emphasis is placed on ensuring that as much of the scene is in focus as possible whilst in Action mode the emphasis is on as fast a shutter speed as possible to try and freeze the action. Using these modes helped to introduce me to the theory behind photography as I would set a mode and see what shutter speed and aperture the camera selected for a particualr scene in a particular mode. As I became more familiar with the effects the aperture and shutter speed had on the output, I started to use the other program modes on the camera; Aperture Priority and Shutter Priority. These two modes allow you to manually change either the aperture or shutter speed with the camera automatically adjusting the other value (for example in the case of aperture priority mode, you set the aperture and the camera changes the shutter speed) to ensure that the photograph is not over or under exposed. All of these settings are controlled via a simple selection of clearly labelled buttons and d ials on the top of the camera body. There is an LCD display that tells you all the stuff you need to know (how many pictures you have taken on the current roll, Flash on/off/auto, Aperture & Shutter speed for the current scene (with the shutter release button half pressed) and a low battery warning are the main ones. Things are made even easier by the autofocus mechanism in the lens. By simply pressing the shutter-release button half way, the camera is activated. It determines how light the scene is and (depending on your program mode) sets the aperture/shutter speed accordingly. It also starts focussing the lens, which using the 28-80mm lens that I got with the camera, can take anywhere between 0.5 and 2 seconds. The autofocus also has a number of modes, Single Shot, Automatic or Continuous. Single shot focusses the lens on what it thinks is the target and eaves it at that; Continuous focus is intended for tracking moving objects and will see the camera continually 'tweaking' the focus as you move the camera; Automatic tries to determine which of the two other modes is most applicable to your current situation. Autofocus can, like pretty much everything else on the camera, be turned off but unless you really need to I would advise against it. There is nothing in the way of focussing aids through the view finder so using manual focus is a bit of a hit-and-miss affair, especially considering how freely the focusing ring moves! There is also a built-in 10 second self-timer that can be activated and you can also set the camera to motordrive mode (at 2 frames per second) or set it to take multiple exposures on a single frame of film. Of these the timer is by far the most often used. Finally, there are 9 customisable features covering things like whether the film is rewound automatically, whether you can take a picture before the autofocus has finished etc. To be honest, I didn't really find myself using any of them that mu ch at all. All in all, it's a fine introduction to SLRs. You can pick it up straight away and start taking photos, leaving it set to fully automatic but as you get more confident/adventurous you can start to exercise more control over your picture taking. It has interchangeable lenses so you can add to your collection to give you more flexibility and it has an accessory attachment for a more powerful flash. It's small (for an SLR) light and relatively sturdy and makes good use of the batteries as well. In the last 2 years I've taken hundred of photos with it (probably only a handful and halfway decent but that's not the cameras fault!!!) and not had any problems. Any gripes? The camera I bought didn't come with a remote release facility, although Minolta later saw fit to add one. The lack of focussing aids can be a bit of a let down at times. Advantages Small Light Easy to use Disadvantages Lack of Remote Release Manual Focussing not easy

Friday, November 12, 2004

New addition to my Canon family

Canon PowerShot SD300 (Digital IXUS 40) - RM1,840,
complete with additional battery, 512MB Sandisk SD card and carry pouch.
November 10, 2004 - A spur of the moment purchase, I couldn't take the suspense and lingering thoughts anymore, I had to grab one of those ultra compact cameras in the market. I was very close to getting the smaller Canon Ixus I which was cheaper a few hundred, but after much thought of lasting thru future tech advances and more functionality (eg.optical zoom), I finally decided. If the Canon IXUS 30 was in stock, I would also have taken it, but again, this was a spur of the moment.... hehehe.
A seasoned user of the canon g2, I immediately got accustomed to its menu and functionalities. Probably due to past users' feedback and tech advances, some new cool features have been added (which my G2 didn't have). It has voice memo, wallpaper and sounds user customization, quicker multiple-shots and quicker focusing. My favorite is the voice memo, I can now attach voice memos to each shot ie. leaving voice diaries of each shot instead of guessing the names/locations later during download. Otherwise, I can use it as a general voice recorder, which I have been dying to get for a long time (via a new mobilephone or a dedicated voice recorder, which cost lots more) to capture the coos and first words of my baby girl. With this voice memo, the files are in separate WAV formats apart from the JPG photos after download. That's 2 birds with 1 stone.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Becoming a dinosaur...

Over the years with my Canon G2, there have been new launching of new powershot models.... G3..... G5..... and this year, G6 !!!!
Technology sure moves fast. Manufacturers are greedy as ever, always upgrading little by little, expecting consumers to grab whatever that comes next. Would this be my next jump? Actually, I'm in the market looking for a super compact digicam.... but am at loss of choosing after being pampered with the G2. My key features are small, light and good picture quality for low light situations. Nice to have features are big zoom ability, anti-shake and upgradeability (eg. lens, flash, etc.). So far, have narrowed down to .... Canon Powershot S70 (7mp 3.6x) Canon PowerShot S1 IS (3mp 10x) Panasonic DMC-FX1 (3mp 3x) Panasonic DMC-FZ10 (4mp 12x) Sony DSC-V1 (5mp 4x) Sony DSC-T1 Casio Exilim EX-Z4 Updates: 7th November 2004 Ok... fast forward a few months of browsing and demo-ing super compact cameras, have finally filtered down to a few choices ..... Sony DSC-U50 - the smallest of all. Sony DSC-L1 - the 2nd smallest but bulky. 3x optical zoom. RM1,300. Canon PowerShot SD10 (Digital IXUS i) - the 2nd smallest of all. RM1,100. Canon PowerShot SD300 (Digital IXUS 40) - RM1,400 Casio Exilim EX-Z4 - the slimmest. RM1,400. Panasonic DMC-FX7 - has optical stabilizer. RM1,500. Overall conclusion, think I will get the Canon IXUS i. Reasons are picture quality which seems to be the most natural and photo worthy. However, the focus is a little lagging and there is no optical zoom. Flash is negligible. Still, I think this will prove to be a worthy super-compact digicam, without the neat features as optical stabilizer (from Panasonic), big LCD (from Casio or Panasonic) or optical zoom (Sony, Panasonic and Casio). The Canon IXUS 40 is a worthy option, with equally great pictures and big LCD as well optical zoom. However, I have to keep my priority and that is a super compact digicam (size matters). As for Sony, picture quality is non-natural... metallic looking and lacks in brightness/contrast. Side by side comparison on the same subject with the canon, shows clearly the superiority of the canon from just the LCD display. Needless to say, the downloaded pictures will show even more flaws. Same problems for the panasonic and casio, the colours are overexagerrated and non-natural. Take note, all these observations are from the same place and time, with the same photo subjects as demos.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Digicams to be obsolete soon?

In my quest for a super compact digicam, I seem to have come across the idea of a mobilephone with built-in camera, which seems to be the latest fad in the market these days. However, while researching and reading feedback from forums and what not, the picture quality leaves much to desire compared with the many megapixel quality pictures that I've been used to. So far, the norm is 0.3 megapixel built-in cameras within those phones. But this year seems to be the introduction of the first generation of >1 megapixel built-in camera phones. Amongst them is the Nokia 7610, Sony Ericsson S700, Siemens S65. Way into the future is the Korean release of Samsung SPH-2300 (3.2 MP and 3x optical zoom!!) camera and phone... will it come to Malaysia or GSM arena?... time will tell. Looking thru the reviews, I kinda got my eyes set on the Sharp GX series ie. GX22 and GX32 (not yet available) shown respectively below..... Or maybe a Samsung E715..... sigh... just too many possibilities .... Will I get these gadgets instead of a compact camera? Fate will decide. Update: 7th November 2004 Ok.... fast forward a few months. Have demoed the few camera phones with >1MP built-in cameras ie. Nokia 6670 and 7610, Siemens S65 and Sony Ericson S700. Found all to be dissapointing. Despite the feedback from forums and sample photos from, I'm kinda skeptical towards the cameras' capabilities. This is due to the samples I took over the counter, which were hopeless and totally different from what I've seen from feedback so far. Could it be samples in the past were in perfect photo environments ie. good lighting? Could it be I'm bad at using the camera phone? Nevertheless, if it doesn't pass my over-the-counter photo expectations, these phones remain a no-no purchase of mine so far. The strange thing that fuels my skeptism the most are the way sellers shy away from demos involving downloading photos from phone to pc/notebook. Their excuse? No pc/notebook or no time. Yeah, right .... in this day and age, everyone has a pc/notebook. And to think some actually tells you that once you have purchased the phone, they will upload free softwares, mp3 and what nots to your phone..... DUH!! .... you need a pc/notebook to do that, right? And wouldn't these uploads be even more time consuming than downloading a photo from phone? Ironic is when they try to prove the camera capabilities by displaying photos taken supposedly from the phones. Right..... to me, seeing with my own eyes and clicks is believing. Doesn't matter...... I'll just hang on to my RM1900 budget for the next wave. After all, technology catches up eventually ..... some day I'll have one in my pockets and be happy.

Saturday, August 07, 2004

My external flash - Canon 420EX

My precious Canon 420ex flash (RM780) has been in the Canon service center for the last 2 weeks, due to possible wear and tear problems. My camera detects the presence of the flash but somehow the auto-exposure couldn't adjust properly ie. it was as though there was no flash... strange. And it powered off by itself after a while of not using. Well, it's now back in my hands.... yes! Seems like they have to replaced the EPU.... hmmm... sounds like a chip or processor (CPU) maybe. Anyhow, it seems to work now.... thank goodness for the warranty, otherwise I would have to pay RM550!!! That's about the price of a new one... imagine the importance of this particular part needing replacement. Can't imagine what it's like without an external flash and rely on the built-in flash only.... urrghh. I know it seems strange why I feel that way when everyone else is just satisfied with the built-in's. After thousands of shots with my external flash, I really can tell the difference ie. less shadows, less harsh lighting, more natural shots, better illumination at fore/background, etc.. And with the swivelling and twisting head, the possibilities of flash photography are endless. Before I go on, the following are the specs and features of the flash :-

Flash Modes


Bounce / Swivel


Max. Power

G.N. 138

AF-assist Beam

All Elan 7 points

Wireless Triggering


W x H x D

2.8 x 4.8 x 3.9 in.

Weight (w/o battery)

10.6 oz.

  • Maximum Guide Number 138 (ISO 100, feet) at 105mm setting; G.N. 101 at 35mm setting
  • Approximately 1 / 2-stop less powerful than 550EX
  • Full E-TTL flash operation with "Type-A" bodies* (EOS-1v, EOS-3, Elan 7/7E, Rebel 2000, etc.)
  • E-TTL features include high-speed FP sync mode, and FE Lock (spot / partial flash metering)
  • Fully compatible as an affordable Wireless "slave" flash, with EOS-1v, EOS-3, Elan 7 / 7E, & D30
  • Taller than previous 380EX flash, but head is 30% smaller, and both width & depth are smaller
  • Powered by four AA-size batteries (alkaline, lithium, Ni-Cd, or Ni-MH)
  • Totally TTL-compatible with all "Type B" EOS cameras, and the manual-focus T90 SLR body.
  • * "Type-A" bodies: EOS-1v, EOS-3, Elan 7 / 7E, Rebel 2000, Elan II/IIE, and Rebel G; EOS IX and IX Lite; and digital EOS D2000 and D30 bodies. All other EOS bodies are "Type B" cameras (as of August,2000)

Now, why did I get a RM780 flash for my Canon G2 camera? Why not use any cheap external flash that I already have? To answer that, 2 words ie. voltage and auto-exposure compatibility. Check out Botzilla for a comprehensive list of flash voltages and auto exposure info.

Saturday, July 17, 2004

My Canon G2

Year 2002 - My very first digital camera, the Canon G2 (specs), after much soul seeking from various internet sources, mainly dpreview forum. Bought it at HKD2500, from Fortress (electronic chain store) in Hong Kong. Yes, HK..... the very place to start digital photography, this place has everything ie. the beautiful Tsim Tsa Tsui bay, the Peak, the colorful streets, the parks, the people, etc.. Mongkok, the city area for all things electronic and electrical was the place to stock up on accessories (which I did within weeks) as my hobby heated up. I became what people termed as 'a japanese tourist' .... shooting at everything I see and touch. But then again, I was not alone.... the locals were equally dp (digital photo) crazed. Cameras were everywhere (more advanced and hi-tech than mine) ie. from special events, carnivals, holidays and celebrity appearances. Within weeks, I experienced fireworks display at Macau and TST bay, halloween carnivals at Lan Kwai Fong, lantern exhibitions, sightseeing, concerts and everything a photographer would wish for. My hard disk was easily filled up and challenged for space with the megabytes of photos pouring in. It was huge. In no time, I have stocked up the following stuff :-
  1. X-drive - portable harddisk with USB connection and multiple card readers
  2. Compact flash cards - 128MB and 64MB
  3. Raynox Telephoto converter - for more zoom capability
  4. Tiffen 0.75x Wideangle converter - to capture more subjects in the frame, without standing further back
  5. Tiffen Macro converter - for closeup shots
  6. Camera pouch - to fill up with stuff and easy travelling
  7. Filters - UV, circular polarizer, haze, etc. for slight tweaks in normal photography
  8. Canon 420ex - External flash for advanced flash photography
  9. Software - the hobby was not just about firing away at subjects, but also about tweaking and digital publishing. It was so challenging and time consuming but worth the brain cells in the end with the endless possibilities from Adobe Photoshop and various tweaking softwares. I was already stitching panaromic photos in no time as a novelty.
Check out my snapshot page (require password though) or pbase gallery for a dose of my hobby results. Ok ok .... I'm not one of those artistic photographers who hope to sell shots and stuff (though I try).... what I take is enough for personal albums and nice for family pin-ups.... so dun be too judgemental. So, you'll see many pictures with people in it instead of just landscapes, structures and stuff alone. Nothing like some of those galleries in pbase. Occasionally, I browse and view these galleries of professionals to get some ideas and tips, as well as motivation to capture fantastic shots from ordinary situations.... as you know, hobbies do lose its steam after a while, it just needs some boosting once a while.... and with photography, practice makes perfect. I can tend to get rusty when leaving my G2 in a corner and picking it up for shots later.... I will be slow adjusting it for pictures and my subjects getting desperate and restless from posing... hehehe.