Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Travel with X100S in Bangkok 2014

Due to work related reason, I have a chance to travel to Bangkok for a 3 days visit. This is my fourth times in Bangkok already. However, many thinks now is a bad time to travel, since Thailand have declared martial law and coup. However I did not feel it that way. As we landed at the airport, we are welcomed by the friendly immigration officer and nonetheless my colleagues at Bangkok.
Previously I'm carrying my D90 with Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 zoom lens. Both of this weight about 1.5kg. As much as I'm enjoy being there, but not carrying my DSLR. Yes, it takes good photos, but the weight you need to carry along is really killing the fun of travel.
I hang the camera to my hip and keep the hood on. 
This time, I'm with my new toy - the X100S. I have taken out the half case and the neck strap. Instead, I'm using a quick strap (similar to black rapid strap) for less look like a tourist. It is also easier to navigate around through the crowded street. Below is some of the shot I took during this trip. I will elaborate more as I go through the photos. The photos is not in chronological order.

Every morning, you will see monks carrying their alms bowl walk around the market to collect food donation. On the right is a motorcycle taxi driver, while waiting for customer, staring at the monk with emotion. The photo is not really sharp because I was walking while taking the shot without stopping down but it end up better than I expected.
As I just walk out from the hotel in the morning looking for breakfast on the street. A trolley lady slowly walk across the street. "I gotta take this" flash through my mind but it is too far away from me. With X100S you can't zoom! Anyway I just frame the shot and crop later as this was my only chance. The flare from the sun above have make the scene more dramatic and I have convert it into a classic black and white. It's just an ok shot that would have been better if I have a zoom. - something to think about if you are planning to get one!

The night I arrive at the airport, I was pickup by my colleagues in Bangkok on the way for late dinner. The camera was hang on me all the time although I'm in the car. As the traffic come to a stop I look beside, a taxi driver seems to pick up his walkie talkie to report on the traffic condition. I quickly take up my camera and got this. It is very dark on the street and the only light source is the street lamp. I keep as still as possible and I can imagine the frustration of the driver by judging on his expression.

The city wakes up earlier than Malaysia. Their sunrise happen around 6am Bangkok time. By the time I fresh up and get down from hotel, the street already pack with traffic for students to get to school, peoples get to work and the honks frequently reminds you that you are walking in a city that have more than 20 million peoples. 

When I pass by this stall in the market, I quickly grab my camera from my hip and point to the stall owner. The focus doesn't keep up. Instead it focus on the customer's dress and I grab the shot anyway. I post it anyway to remind me not to shoot wide open all the time.

As I waiting on the side to let oncoming pedestrian to pass by, I saw this monk was waiting infront of the "rambutan" stall for offering. The owner is busy entertaining the customer while the monk patiently wait while holding the alms bowl.

Another shot in a moving car I manage to capture an old van stick on a broken Thailand flag to show their patriotism. Shooting in a moving car with my X100S is a challenge. The camera struggle to focus and yet the window period for the moment is so short. There is so little margin for error.

Bangkok bus is full with passengers going back from work. Their face look dull and tired. I patiently wait until a "Tok Tok" passby the bus that is waiting for the lights to turn green.

That's Baiyoke - Thailand tallest building. I have been their once. It cost around RM30-45 (cant recall). There is a rotating platform on top of the building and few restaurants too. 

I am always amaze by how this little camera can manage to capture such mix lighting place with an accurate white balance. I always leave my settings on auto white balance. It never disappoint me. The way it handle flare (although I have attach another Hoya UV filter on it) is also great. I get the hawker wiping off her sweat while trying to pour the flour into the mould. It is hard work to make a living.

While I'm waiting my friend to bargain for a RM4 slipper, I am standing beside the corridor and saw this uncle sitting there patiently waiting for customer. I dint take the shot immediately. I wait until they planning to leave and walk pass the stall to create some movement in the shot. I was not expecting this. The smile is so natural and he is staring directly at my camera while the ladies feel awkward for not buying anything from him.

For the 3 days stay in the hotel. I met him everyday. I called him the petai guy. He is always on the move with the petai and lime that he sells. He is a serious guy. You can judge by his look to the camera. "Petai" in Thai is called "Se-tor". It taste bitter but good for your health.

Street side fresh coffee is common in Bangkok. You can get a fresh brewed ice coffee for as low as RM3. While waiting for the coffee, I saw an old lady sitting at the side of corridor, selling some biscuit and cakes. Poor lady. I was expecting someone to buy from her but its not happening. I myself did not do it. This is one of the thing I regret for not doing when I was there. The pedestrian pass by as she was thin air.

Pretty thai-girl is everywhere. I spotted her while waiting for the coffee as well. What a coffee. She was busy texting with her phone while walking. I pre-focus on the barrier and wait for her to pass.

This is the view from my room looking down the street. 7-11 is everywhere is Bangkok. As the sun setting, the street lights and sign began to light up.

Another shot using the panorama feature in this camera. Nothing fancy but this held more details than my previous attempt at cameron highland. It stitch up the buildings pretty well. You have to pan with constant speed and the shutter is constantly snapping after you press the shutter button.

This is the only place I visit in Bangkok as a tourist. It's called Asiatique - an old warehouse that has been renovate. It has this eye-catching ferris wheel as a landmark. I take this shot handheld wide open. It still preserve many details although the frame is filled with highlights. The auto-iso judge the exposure very accurately most of the time.

Taking photos of peoples at night street is always a challenge, but not this one. At ISO 3200 (my max auto iso), the highlight and shadow of the scene is well preserved. What you see is what you get!

We came to this shop, selling pork porridge, for 35 baht. The shop name is written in Chinese. I not sure if they can speak but definitely they are Chinese - Thai Chinese. An old man with crutch seems to be a regular customer for this shop. I took the shot of him together with the menu to give a sense of location.

After finish the porridge, I stand outside the shop watching her preparing the porridge. I quickly grab a shot when she look away.

If you interested to see more images I took in Bangkok with X100S(total 50 photos), you can click on my google+ album here. While I'm writing this post back at home, I never stop wondering when I will go back there again, for sure.

You might also want to view my initial review of X100S when I first got it here or during my trip to Penang. Don't miss the additional function guide on X100S here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

The making of Fruit Ninja Style - Strawberry

After dinner today, I went to night market nearby. I saw the strawberry at one of the stall and I decided to be a fruit ninja tonight! hai...yak~ First, chopped the strawberry into few pieces. Don't mess up the order of the slice. Then, carefully slide them into the stick with slightly different orientation (to create the illusion that the strawberry being chopped apart at mid air). Hang the stick in any possible way. I prefer hang it horizontally because the strawberry slice wouldn't stick together easily. I choose a white wall as background because its easier to clone out the stick later in the Lightroom. The knife at the back of strawberry slice to give more dramatic effect. The stage is set.
The flash light from the top mimic the directional light
source. A white wall as background and of course the
knife of a ninja! 
Now I would like to talk about gear. Any camera would do. I prefer an external flash to give a slight edgy look on the image by giving some directional light. My flash is triggered by YongNuo 603. You can get as cheap as RM150 a pair. However, this trigger only support manual flash power. No TTL here. I stopped down to f/8 to give more depth of field at such a close distance. I'm on auto ISO by accident! We are ready to shoot.

The exposure for me is kinda try and error. Use manual exposure to get complete control over the exposure. I did not do it on this time, but the idea is kinda straight forward. If it is too bright, stop down the aperture or the flash power. Vice versa. After a few test shot, here is what I can come out with.
Image background looks clean, and the strawberry is properly expose. (maybe slightly over-expose :-p )

I import the photo into Lightroom and start removing the stick (use clone tool), adding some contrast, adjusting the colour hue particularly on red and orange channel, and add some vignetting at corner to give more punchy look. The whole process take less than 10 minutes to complete.
Fruit Ninja with Strawberry COMPLETE!

Hopefully this gives you an idea how you can unleash your creativity in photography even if you are stuck at home. A photograph a day, keep your worries away!

Monday, June 9, 2014

My review on Fujifilm X100S

After craving for it since launching, I bloody got it - the Fujiflim X100S.

My pre-own review still valid and you may refer here.
First thing I got this little machine, I immediately went for a Firmware update. It comes preload with Firmware 1.10, but I update it into 1.20. You can follow the instruction from the Fujifilm Global website here.

I only write this review after I have use it for about a month. The shutter count on it is already near 5,000. I did not pamper my toys obviously. There are few addition / accessories that I think is good to have.
  • Extra batteries
  • This is number 1 priority for mirrorless camera that eats up battery juice like nobody business. On paper they say the battery can last for 2-300 shots. From my 1 month experience on it, it last only about 100 shots. Probably it caused by high performance mode. When the low battery indicator shows up, you might have left around 10 shots. So, be prepared, its that quick!
  • Lens hood
  • Lens hood is important because without this, you can't attach 49mm uv filter on the lens, which is vulnerable in my opinion. You have spend quite a fortune on it, so might as well get this as a little insurance. Get a good filter on it. I don't have to speak much here. 
  • Leather Case
  • I got the leather case and strap comes FREE with it. It looks al-right, it holds al-right, so I will just leave it on it. Please tie your strap securely as I almost got it fall off because of a loose strap. (You have been warned).
  • Thumbs Up
  • Fancy thing. Not really important. Ergonomically feel awkward and some thumbs up can be really expensive. I got mine from China for about 10 USD.
  • Soft Release button
    Fancy thing x 2. Just that it got holes in the middle of shutter button. Decided to get a button from China as well to cover it. It come loose easily. Don't expect much from it anyway.
  • Fujifilm WCL-X100 Wide Angle Converter
    I get this used and I find it make the X100s even more versatile. It converts the 35mm to 28mm field of view. In practice, its really make a different. Check out my trip to Taiwan using this setup.
I would like to start the review on the plus point first. Most obvious is the image quality. With the absence of optical low pass filter, and great sensor, it really produce good looking image out of the box. Excellent high ISO performance. I have no problem with images up to 3200 (which is common now days). It is dead silent after you turn off the flash, focus beep, and fake shutter sound. It has f/2 lens which is very sharp overall.

However, but, never the are the not so great thing about it. I will start with the AF first. Sometimes it can be fast, and sometimes it can hunting for the whole range and throw you a random focus point especially back lighting, low contrast and low light area. The macro button is there so that when you turn it on, it will still hunt though the whole range even you told the camera you wanted a macro shot.  I hope Fuji can fix this in the coming firmware.The hunting also caused me to missed some shot where it just cant seems to focus. They have improve the manual focus quite alot, introducing highlight peaking and split image for MF assist but I hardly use it. It is an autofocus digital camera. I will discuss on the way I operate the camera in the next section. So the AF have killed some fun to me on this camera. The battery life on this machine is not fantastic. I have explained this on the extra batteries section.
At ISO 1250, it is pretty much noise free.

Macro at wide open produce noticeably softer image.

Far end bokeh is pleasant and not distracting.

Again, macro works wide open. I will never do it again!

Bring it to the street, the real street.

It handle flare quite well, even with my additional Hoya UV filter.

That's me, and this is what you expect from environment portrait wide open.

It's quite wide, the water actually ends up about 2 feet from me. Almost get a free shower.

Good dynamic range out of camera. 

Excellent street / travel companion.

Another environmental portrait of myself. damn, I look good don't I?

Oh, it does panorama as your I-phone did. Nothing special, if you pixel peeps, you might see there is actually not much details on it.

This is the best macro works I take with it so far.
How I Use it.

  1. Auto ISO. I have turned on the auto ISO 99% of the time because it just works. I set the max iso to 3200 (that's just my preference, there are other photog that goes as high as 6400), min shutter speed to 1/60s.
  2. I DID NOT turned on the silent mode. HOWEVER, I just turned off the shutter sound, AF assist light, and focus confirmation beep and off the flash. Isnt it the same? I dont know. I will turned on the flash when needed and the rest just stay the same all the time.
  3. I use AF-S, middle point only with focus and recompose method.
  4. I ALWAYS shoot RAW, + FINE jpeg of course. However, you cant do film simulation bracketing if you shoot RAW + jpeg. I don't play much with the film simulation. So, it's okay for me.
  5. I set it to be on high performance mode. It drains battery, but it improve wake up time and read write speed.
  6. First, I though I will enjoy using the optical view finder, but later when I discover you can preview the exposure, focus and depth of field more accurately in EVF, I use EVF almost entirely.
  7. I use eye-sensor mode to switch between EVF or the LCD screen. It is also easier to tweak the setting using the LCD rather than looking into the tiny EVF.
At ISO 3200!

Pop Color Filter (Red) direct jpeg from camera. It's fun isn't it?
Miniature effect!
NEW!!! - Astronomical Use.
With a combination of WCL-X100 wide angle converter, paired up with the f/2 wide aperture, this is a great combo for milky way shot.
ISO 1600 | f/2 | 15 sec @ 28mm (35mm equiv.)

Again, this is not a perfect camera, but it is fun to use. If you can only have one camera, then this might not for you. People buy it for the looks and user experience and of course the image quality. There is no such thing as a perfect camera. It is up the the hand of person who holding it who knows how to drive it, so that they can make full use of it to make the most out of it. It kills my dslr, it just did.

You might also want to see how it performs during my trip to Bangkok, Penang or Taiwan. Don't miss the additional function guide for X100s here.