January 30, 2009 10:43 by Adrian

Hey everyone!

        Whao, Chinese New Year this time around is no different from any other.. streets are quieter, skies are clearer and business slows down.. Hopefully by Monday things will crank back up to speed.. the usual forecast of jams with everyone returning back from their hometowns this coming weekend..

        We @ Ardent are also taking a break from the crazy workload a week before..  with all this free time, I guess its only right for me to write a bit on our experiences in this photography line..

And today we'll focus on memory storage SD and CF cards from a Photographer's point of view..

What I want from my memory card is quite essentially three things.. 

 
Data Integrity.. Meaning that the data doesn't get easily corrupted or lost.. now that's easy enough.. just don't get those immitation memory cards which is slower and more unstable than the original.. sure you save a few bucks but the increased risk of losing any pictures is like a death kneel to your photography career..  
 
Oops, sorry boss.. could you re-do your marriage ceremony? kinda lost all the pictures.Yell 
 
Even if you aren't doing a photography job, pictures that you took are slices of time and nothing will ever wind it back for you to take another shot at it.. (Even machine gunning the camera won't help you as the gazilion pictures of the same thing is still stored on the same card..)
 
Size .. This of course is dependant on the picture quality, picture type (jpeg/raw/nef) and type of camera (Megapixel dependant).. anything that allows me to shoot one complete event without worrying about running out of space..  but not big to the point that I've start using it to store movies and mp3s as well Tongue out
 
Want to know whether that photographer shoots Jpeg or RAW/NEF? easy! just look at their memory card size..  I think the largest SD card size at time of writing is at 32GB.. just barely sufficient for 250 RAW/NEF pictures of 12MB each to fit.. My memory card is only 4GB, sufficient to hold easily 600 JPEG Fine pictures.. The debate to shoot RAW/NEF vs JPEG won't be addressed in this entry.. later!
 
Speed ..  Transfer speed may not look like much but imagine transferring 4GB worth of pictures or if you are that super RAW/NEF shooter, 32GB (worse case scenario) the waiting time is enough to drive you up a wall.. a tree.. or whatever high that's worth driving up to.. 
 
I'll recommend those higher speed memory cards such as from SanDisk.. 

 

 
@ Ardent, we are currently using for SD cards, this lovely morsel.. the Ducati SD Plus and the Ultra 2 SD Plus.. I fell in love with this simply because I can literally walk around with my camera and just plug out the SD card and into any USB.. seriously, would you expect me to carry my card reader everywhere I go? 
 
The other good thing is that in USB mode, the transfer rates are up to USB 2.0 where as even with the high speed SD cards, it is ultimately Card Reader dependant..
 
A tip for CF card users
 
For those who's thinking of buying the Extreme IV 45mb/sec CF cards, in order to reach that speed (the main reason why you bought such a card in the first place) you'll need: -
 
  • A specialized Card Reader
  • That uses the large FireWire cable.. 

In saying so, laptops are OUT since all laptops uses those tiny firewire cables.. and how many desktops have those large firewire slots anyway? So forget about taking this damn expensive card reader to a cyber cafe and expect it to plug and play..
 
The best is to get the Extreme III 30Mb/sec (get the newer version which is 30Mb/sec where as the older one is at 20Mb/sec) along with the Extreme III USB reader.. which works with any USB 2.0 port.. 
 
End of CF Tip 
 
So there you have it.. the things to consider when purchasing memory cards for your photography career.. we @ Ardent are currently using all SanDisk memory card related products.. haven't actually seen those SD Plus on other brands tho I may be wrong.. 
 
That's the end of this entry.. catch all of you later..
 
Cheers,
Adrian Y. 
 

November 26, 2008 11:33 by Adrian

Hey!

December is soon approaching.. so far there are a few events and photoshoots to be completed which will keep us sufficiently busy during the holiday season.. Speaking of holiday seasons, I've been getting a lot of questions about this year's gift list.. As you see, the Malaysian currency has dropped from a peak around RM3.2 per USD1 to RM3.6 per USD1.. not much but sufficient to have an influx of grey / AP sets into Malaysia..

As a rough guide, the AP/Grey units are usually about 10-15% cheaper than the original Nikon units.. doesn't sound like much but when its 10% of 3k comes to RM300..  sufficient enough to have me write this article in the first place..

Let me start from the top for some of you new to the term Grey / AP units..

So what is Grey / AP units?

Basically any units that aren't imported by Nikon Malaysia (or the Nikon authorized importer of your country) .. by not going through Nikon Malaysia, some of these units could have bypassed taxes / import duties.. so if you bought it in a country in which the currency is stronger than Malaysia and brought it here.. you'll stand to gain quite a bit..  hence its lucrative for people to smuggle in units for sale.. 

So how do you know if its an Original Nikon from Nikon Malaysia?

Well, I can save you the trouble of emailing Nikon Malaysia directly and hassle that wonderful lady called Emily who has to entertain gazillion of similar emails of such nature. First of all, the Nikon Warranty will be of yellow in color with the words Nikon Malaysia Sdn Bhd clearly stamped..

Frankly, if there are people out there who can hack Microsoft Vista, I'm sure they can clone that warranty card.. simply because it doesn't have any hologram or any other easily identifiable security markings to prove to the average joe if its original or not.. Just take a look at a Microsoft Office box and you'll understand of such security markings..   

So what's a better indicator of an original Nikon product?

Its quite simple.. Firstly, buy it from one of the authorized distributor as listed on their website here. Secondly, the sale value. If Nikon Malaysia sells to the dealers RM X, other than they are trying to do a firesale (to clean up old stock) would you think they'll sell those units at a loss? especially when there are still market demand? There's a reason why these are called business and not called charity. 

Of course there should also have Grey / AP going for the original prices but that's slim since its in their intention to sell it immediately at low prices.. 

Is the Original Nikon worth the 10-15% extra that you pay for? 

Of course silly! firstly, Nikon Malaysia won't fix your unit at all even if you want to pay for it.. and they can easily check the SN of the camera with their database..  and I'm pretty sure that the shop you bought it from doesn't have even the slightest clue how to fix a camera.. let alone a dSLR. 

So if you save RM 300 or so, you'll risk throwing the entire camera away (100% loss) in an event of a failure as nobody will want to help you repair it.. I can't imagine a 3rd party repair job would be like..  So I'm sure saving RM 300 makes more sense.. 

And by the way, Nikon Malaysia provides free sensor cleaning tho they hinted they'll discontinue such services soon.. they do jot down the serial number of each unit sent in..  

Conclusion

Well read this article by Thom Hogan here. Judge for yourself if its worth saving RM 300 and risk the entire camera in the years that you'll be using it. This isn't like AP handphones, this is real serious cutting edge technology.. and besides, where would they get specialized parts from? such as mechanical or even the PLCs which are specialized units?

I hope that this helps clarify issues.

Cheers,

Adrian Y. 


September 10, 2008 09:14 by Adrian

Ah.. anyone in Malaysia right now who's trying to get hold of any Nikon dSLR or lenses are in for a bit of a pain.. and this pain is not new, its been around for a few weeks now. 

If one would have taken a tour at Nikon Malaysia's lovely warehouse.. it'll be really big, dusty and above all else.. EMPTY! maybe other than a few dustballs I guess.  

Its not that Nikon Malaysia didn't stock up, its that they never in their wildest dreams expect that Nikon dSLRs and its lenses  got legs that make even beep beep road runner envious..  That's the power of the genius that went into the D3 and its subsequent children D300, D700 and soon to hit the market with a whallop.. D90..

Just to let you all know, the big boys (D3, D300, D700) are all made in Japan while the D80 and below are made in Thailand.. This should also mean the D90 is made in Thailand.. maybe not the first few batches..

To keep the story short, the shipment of Nikon goodies are expected to arrive end of this month or latest early October.. I'm not sure if this timeline includes the time taken to clear customs..  

I'm guessing that this shipment is from Japan as why would one ship items from Thailand? and the strangest thing is that on this boat that holds our babies also includes the D90.. that's right.. the D90 is apparently on the boat and its going to hit Malaysia's shores very soon.. 

Bad news is that everyone will have to wait for another 3 weeks or so.. and dont' be surprised that soon after arrival, the warehouse is again empty.. like hungry pihranas ya! 

If you can't wait, there's always an oversupply over at the Canon booth! (that's for all the crap I've endured from Canon fanatics prior to the D3's arrival Cool.. like a friend of mine once said.. Canon fanatics are all silent now because of Nikon's low noise technology!) 


September 9, 2008 07:16 by Adrian

Maybe its a coincidence that Canon's slogan 'Delighting you always' the word D-Lighting or Dynamic Lighting is used by Nikon. Canon's version of D-Lighting is called.. Highlight Tone Priority.. which only has one setting 'Enable' unlike Nikon which has 3 different modes of different strength to cater for everyone's fancy. 

Anyway this post isn't about Nikon vs Canon but rather the usefulness of such technology. Cameras such as D80 which DLighting first made its appearance even if its in a passive way as compared to the Active DLighting with the D3,D300,D700 and the newly announced D90.

What does DLighting do? 

DLighting is best seen in high contrast scenes, meaning you have really bright areas and not so bright areas. Like the picture shown below. The sky is bright and the trees in the foreground isn't as bright hence it looks like a silhouette. But wait a minute, that's not what my naked eye see is it?

 

Well those brains at Nikon knew that there are limitations in going digital as compared to those good and expensive film days hence they came out with DLighting. DLighting brings out those dark areas and tone down any of those bright areas (highlights). What you get is more what the eye see which is shown below. The picture is applied using DLighting mode Normal.

 Now doesn't that look way better? At least its an accurate representation of what the scene actually looks like.

Its extremely useful when you have to take the sky such as sunsets and landscapes. That's the power of DLighting right there.


September 8, 2008 07:09 by Adrian

The newer generation cameras all come with x number of AF points, and Y number of these points are cross type sensors. hhhmm..Cross type? Remenicent of the Counter Strike era.. yeah just walk in front of my cross type and I'll ... ok fine.. not relevant.. good old days.. 

Anyway I found an article that discusses about this here.  

Basically in a nutshell, AF sensors work by detecting the contrast of a scene (Passive AF). The usual single type sensors are all verticle sensors which allow the camera to determine along that verticle line, which part is in focus. Everything is all well and great when you have contrasty subjects that has a certain height. But for subjects that are moving from side to side? not so good.. this is where the cross-type sensor comes in.

This type of sensor checks for both horizontal and vertical contrast, allowing the photographer to obtain lock on difficult (fast or dimly lit) subjects more frequent. If not you'll get those AF hunts that isn't as fun as it sounds.

The faster the lens aka bigger the aperture, allows the camera to use all of its focusing points. So a lens with a f/2.8 will focus better when compared to a f/3.5 - 5.6 lens. Using this lens, at the zoomed end, the max aperture is only f/5.6 which will greatly reduce the number of focusing sensors, some cameras drop the total sensor count to just the one in the middle. 

So not only a f/2.8 lens is bigger, brighter, faster but also gives the camera better AF capabilities hence the word 'fast' being associated with lenses with a lower f-stop. 


September 4, 2008 02:34 by Adrian

Photography was long ago during the film days assessable to a privilege few but now, its almost a cult following! with camps from different brand manufacturers minus the naked bond fire dancing ritual, which wouldn't be all that bad.. but sadly its not..

Now the photography world is split into different categories, Professionals, Semi-Pros, Serious-Amateurs and Amateurs and oh yeah.. posers..

Just last Sunday (31st August 2008) at Nikon's booth @ 1 Utama, an old man who to me looked like a slacker, was checking out the Nikon's flagship D3. Ahhh.. the D3.. so reminds me of those martial art shows like Bruce Lee whacking 10-20 guys at the same time.. the D3 aka Bruce Lee of cameras ass kicked every other dSLR. We'll get to why later.. back to the story of that old dude.. 

So this fella took the D3 and the Nikon staff (isn't it cool to get out of the Nikon HQ and hang out in 1U for 2 weeks?) coupled it with a fast f/2.8 DX lens for him to try it out. Snap Snap.. at ISO6400.. snap snap.. and then he complained that it is noisy and what nots.. this dude so falls into the poser category. In this category, one is entitled to put everything down as long as it makes them look superior even at the expense of making oneself a fool.

I've tested many cameras of different manufacturers, very rarely you'll find a camera that will hit ISO6400 (excluding those Hi modes, that's just cheating) and none has hit the low noise bulls eye like the D3. But this dude still complained! I tho salute that cool Nikon rep, who in the end just apologized to him and that this is all that Nikon can do. If I had known him better, I would have thought that that statement he made had a healthy dose of sarcasm laced on it.Tho that old dude being a poser, walked away feeling like a winner! after that both Nikon rep and myself just shake our heads and laughed.

So there folks, there are many people out there in all walks of life. We take the good with the bad ya! A healthy dose of humor will keep one from turning serial killer or land oneself at Arkam mental asylum or locally known as Tanjung Rambutan.


March 29, 2008 11:06 by Adrian
Whippie.. finally manage to sell of one of my kidneys to get this babeh.. Its the first Macro up to 1:1 reproduction ration with VR! further more its a full frame lens.. costing about RM2900.. hhmm.. I think I may have undervalued my kidney.. but heck who cares.. god is so kind to grace me with a spare.. :P (quote taken from 300 the movie).. 
 
This lens is perfect for Macro work as well as portraits.. I'll explain why in another post.. right now I just want to showcase this babeh to you.. my babeh..  
 
Its a heavy lens coming in to about 790g without any attachments .. has the ability to focus as close as 31.4cm.. a 9 rounded bladed diaphram for amazing rounded bokeh..  
 
Did I mention it has VR? the first of its kind.. macro and VR.. tho truth of the matter is, VR does little during Macro but for portraits? sweeeeet!
 
Another reason why this is such a perfect lens.. its 105mm.. during macro work, the last thing you want to do is to be that close to a bug..  lets take the AF Micro-Nikkor 60mm f/2.8D lens.. its minimum focusing distance is 22cm for the same 1:1 production ratio as the 105mm at 31.4.. try taking a bee at 22cm.. I'll put my money on the 105mm.. you'll be lucky that any insects other than slow moving kinds will stay still when you are thaaaat close to it.. do keep in mind that 22cm & 31.4cm is when used in full frame bodies ya!
 
The same can be said about portrait work..  its best not to be too close to the subjects during portraits as it makes them uncomfortable at that distance.. Ok fine.. 105mm on digital bodies (DX) with the 1.5x crop factor makes things just a bit further.. so unless your studio is your bedroom, you are ok.. if not.. then its time to move out of your parents house! Tongue out
 
Its not only an amazing lens.. its practical! 
 
Don't believe me? well it won 
 
 
TIPA Award For Best Professional Lens

 

 

 
 
 
 
CJ7.. this toy is about 1.5 inch tall.. small little fella..
 
 
A lovely margaritta being made.. amazing color and shallowness of Depth Of Field (DOF) with this lens.. Because of close ups.. at f/2.8 the DOF can be as small as a few milimeters.. the picture above should have the margarita flow in focus.. Need to increase the apperture on this bad boy..
 
 
A closer non cropped view of the drink.. amazing..
 
 
Things look different close up.. 
 
 
Toothpicks..  
 
 
 
 
My favourite vodka.. Grey Goose.. beats Absolut anytime..  used the bottle to further enhance the background lighting that makes it glow..
 
 
Yum... 
 
Forget about the 50mm f/1.4 or f/1.8 and what nots.. get this lens.. 
 
If I could shoot events with this single lens.. heck I would! unfortunately there are limitations due to its fixed 105mm focal length.. such as in doing close ups, it hunts a bit especially when you set to single area focus.. but this depends on where you put the focus point to be..
 
Because being up close ups.. how can you measure a black patch to be in focus? that's the problem not about this lens but macro photography in general..  
 
Will post more about macro in upcoming posts! stay tune..  

March 7, 2008 11:51 by Adrian

When I started picking up photography, the first thing they ever teach you is that light means everything.. like how light is to a painter, its the same for a photographer.. And what differenciates a good photography from a great photographer? above all is the ability to use light to his / her advantage.. So in the quest of my learning, I had to train myself to see what most people would ignore.. like the sky.. 

I've noticed that the sky is simply utterly beautiful.. it is like a canvass for the heavens to paint..  it can look dull one morning and vibrant reddish orange glow the next.. everyday is different.. but to catch those amazing artworks, one requires patience..

The pain in the ass part is that with the sky, its not the golden hour.. its more like the golden minute.. every minute changes how the sky looks.. and if you aren't ready or fast on the draw.. kapoof.. its gone! and won't ever return in the way you last saw it.. 

This is the picture I took one morning and found that the sky had this amazing depth and contrast.. You can even notice the morning sun glow (orange color) on to the lower right of the picture..  

Truth is, as nice as this picture is, it lacks something very important.. subject..  now lets take a look at the 2nd picture..  

Ok.. here we have another interesting skyline.. kinda looks like a painted background doesn't it? well its not. trust me.. Innocent 

So now we have an interesting looking skyline.. and what do you know.. there's a subject..  the KL city.. what's more prominent in showcasing KL city than its two world renowned embassadors.. the KL Tower and KL Twin Towers..  

Doesn't the skyline picture looks better with a primary subject to hold the picture down?  

The Towers took your attention first right? then only your eyes will start wondering around the image..  

The conclusion is quite simple actually.. the sky as amazing as it is.. its just a sky.. its never the primary subject (most of the time anyway).. the reason is this, the sky is just too large.. humans need smaller objects to focus.. a mountain.. a silhouette.. or in the case above a promninent landmark..

Smaller in terms of viewing size of course..  

I think it'll be a nice postcard or for some Visit Malaysia advert..  Cool

This picture is actually quite lucky because so happen that morning the air quality is clear enough to get enough sharpness.. most of the mornings I noticed had this slight hazy look especially at this distance.. You can only get this type of clarity in the morning as later in the day,  the traffic and car exhaust plumes make things all fuzzy again.. Frown