Monthly Archives: June 2007

My First Autofocus Film SLR!

Guess what I just got, sitting in between the Minolta X300 manual-focus film SLR (left) and Sony Alpha A100 digital SLR (right).

Squint no more, geeks! It’s the legendary Minolta Dynax 7.

Compared to the Sony A100, you can immediately see that it’s a button and knobfest. I know people who love it that way. I know I do.

The main dial controls exposure mode (where the center button must be pressed to unlock the dial); a dial below it controls drive mode, with options like multiple exposure and mirror lock up after 2 second self-timer; a knob controls metering, including an AEL (Auto Exposure Lock) button; a knob controls focus point selection, while the 9-point directional pad chooses the focus point, aligned perfectly on the rule of thirds.

In front of the shutter release button is one dial; behind the shutter release is a tiny LCD to show film frame count, and aperture. The dial behind can be used to dial in a custom exposure quickly.

Finally, one of the best buttons is the AF/MF toggle; when in AF mode, pressing it will switch to MF, while in MF you can press it to switch to AF. Beats changing the AF mode on the switch near the lens. 😀

Yes, this stroke of genius just arrived on the Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III!

Also, when AF mode is set to Automatic AF, and the lens is focused, the focusing motor screw will disengage from the lens to use Direct Manual Focus mode. You can then fine-tune focus without spoiling the focusing motor! Pentax has a similiar implementation called Quick-Shift Focus System to give their lenses something like full-time manual override focus.

On the left hand, there’s the exposure compensation dial, which goes from -2 to +2 in 1/3 stops, and -3 to +3 in 1/2 stops. This also needs the middle button to be pressed to turn. There is also a flash exposure compensation dial right below it.

For some reason, Minolta said that their On/Off switches should be on the left, and that decree carried on to the Konica Minolta digital SLRs and the Sony A100.

Frankly, it does not bother me. Have you found the switch on the Canon EOS 30D?

There is also a dial on the right of the camera to switch from red-eye reduction flash, normal flash, rear-sync flash and wireless flash (with adjustable 2:1 ratio).

Left: The data back. I LOVE THIS! It stores exposure data for the last 7 rolls shot with the camera. Scouring through, I could tell that the previous owner used the Minolta 28-80mm F3.5-5.6 lens and something at 150mm F5.6. He/she also used it with bright studio lighting, based on the smaller apertures (F11) and yet fast shutter speeds (1/500s). The last recorded date was somewhere in April 2003; after that, the camera time was reset to January 1st, 2000.

I can only wonder why he/she didn’t get the Minolta 24-105mm F3.5-4.5 lens instead. Budget, I guess. I got this and the 28-80mm at a second-hand pawn shop for RM399.

Right: The bitmapped screen is genius. Not only does it show your status and aperture/shutter settings in one go (like Konica Minolta SLRs, Sony A100, Olympus dSLRs, Panasonic L1, Nikon D40/D40x, Canon 400D), it can also be used to view the custom function text. Yup, no more cards and guessing what custom function number does what!

Personally, I never liked the idea of having a status LCD screen on top; when you switch to portrait orientation, you have to peek over the body to look for a tiny LCD that till today’s Nikon D80, still looks like a Game&Watch. The Dynax 7 reorients the screen when you turn it sideways!

…also, the LCD screen on the back has led many to think my Dynax 7 is a digital SLR. Heh.

Left: Miss the depth of field markers on your zoom lens? Worry no more, pressing the Depth Of Field preview button shows how much depth of field you get in front and behind the subject at your set aperture. This feature only works on Minolta/Sony D lenses, though, as it needs the distance information from the lens.

Right: The standard status LCD. Direct Manual Focus, Release Priority, single-shot drive mode, no exposure compensation, center AF point, multi-segment metering, 26th frame.

And now, for a rant.

I love Aperture Priority mode. I value having instant control over my depth of field. I honestly think that having your camera on Manual Exposure mode all the time is a very impractical thing to do, especially when racing to balance the exposure when you should be worrying about shutter speed or aperture alone.

If I need as fast a shutter speed or am shooting in dark places, I quickly flick the dial to choose the brightest aperture. If I’m capturing a sunny landscape or macro, I quickly flick the dial down to F16. If I’m shooting a sunny portrait and I wanna show your pores, I’ll flick to F8 to get more sharpness out of the lens. Backlit subject? Bump up the exposure compensation.

At no point should I have to worry about balancing shutter speed too. Frankly, people who roll two dials frantically look silly. Get with the program, yo.

And yes, it does annoy me when somebody picks up my Sony A100 and switches to Manual Exposure to take a shot that has no need for M mode. While it does show that the person has knowledge of aperture/shutter/ISO and its relationships, it is hardly practical nor smart.

I only ever use Manual Exposure mode when:
– shooting with flash to mix in just the right amount of ambient light while getting a deeper depth of field
– shooting out-of-Earth objects like the sun, moon and stars
– shooting in infrared
– shooting a gig where the lights fade in and out quickly, where clicking at the wrong moment will leave me waiting for a 4 second exposure to clear (though for this case, you should use Shutter Priority.)

End rant.

Pressing the AEL button, then pressing the Disp button, shows the camera’s metering of the 14 segments! (The 14th segment is the entire frame.) It shows which segment is over or underexposed (which is great for slide film shooters, who can quickly change compensation and have it recalculate the numbers on the fly.)

So why did I go out and get a Minolta film SLR?

I could use the Minolta 50mm F1.4 lens on a body it was meant to be used on, where 50mm is sweet. I could even walk around with the Minolta 70-210mm F4 beercan without having to step back much, being used to the Sony A100 with 50mm F1.4 giving a similiar telephoto feel.

Oh, and I could use the Peleng 8mm F3.5 circular fisheye on a full-frame body. 😀

The big ‘pro spec’ mirror on the Dynax 7 sometimes causes an error with the Peleng 8mm F3.5 fisheye attached; I’d have to unscrew the lens a bit (to get more distance), turn off and turn on the camera to resolve this. Strangely the Nikon D2X doesn’t hit it, while the Nikon D70 and FM does. (Source.)

This entry was posted in Geek, Pictures, Rants on by .

Wrapped. Sedih!

Rhapsody played their farewell gig on the 23rd of May, 2007, at Groove Junction.

Nicole, with all the vocals of a jazz diva.

Ywenna makes the second half of the original Rhapsody duo. Sometimes I prefer their songs that way, like on the soulful So Scared.

Faz on scorching electric guitar.

Jimmy on groovy drums.

Loon/Kevin on bass.

So Scared.

They did a cover of India Arie – I Am Not My Hair and Incubus – Summer Romance (which doesn’t seem quite right without a saxophone, really.)

Thanks guys for playing one last gig!

Fisheyes Are Fun

…And you must believe that.

The great ladysnaker Paolo Delfino Gomez.


Albert discovers that to a fish(eye) lens, he looks like a penguin.

The standard expression when chicks find out I have washboard abs. (Thanks Xian Jin for this shot!)

When I remove the rear element of the fisheye, I get macro. Xian Jin shot this.

2.5 second exposure. Such insane slow shutter speeds are helped by the wideness of the lens and Super Steady Shot on my Sony A100. In case you’re wondering, this is the Peleng 8mm F3.5 M42 mount fisheye, with an adapter to fit on my camera.

The Yin and I.

I love Pennypupz‘s expressions. Cute and pinchable. Note that Calvin did the same expression!

Stim-girl and I.

Kingsley and brothers (and me, of course, Ramli Burger enthusiast) having Ahkua Burger in Ampang. Happy Belated Birthday!

Just clowning, dude. Should’ve got closer. Way closer.

Klang-ite protects her dear laptop from the evil charms of the fisheye…

…but she is drawn to it.

smashpOp and Jenifur and a Sony HVL-F56AM wireless flash.

For some reason I prefer the jump upside-down. He looks like he’s doing a handstand.

Silhoutte-fisheye jump.

Penny and me again. Bounced flash never looked better.

After the Nuffnang Pirates Of The Caribbean 3 screening. Spot the Sweaty One, the Moley One and the Camwhorey One.

I should stop sticking my hand out so far by reflex when camwhoring with the fisheye.

Okay, so this is a crop. Gotta love Slinky and Fazri‘s expression.

Whoa, what is that down there?


Everytime I’m in a new situation, I imagine that I am Robocop or Terminator analysing the surroundings and variables. Similarly, without much more than a casual glance at printed paragraphs of text, green and red zigzag lines appear ala Microsoft Word.

No wonder people say I’m robotic. In other news, the new batch of Movie Transformers are looking sweeter than ever. This is another filler post blogged entirely on my Nokia N70.

Spare The Cane

I don’t like food courts in shopping malls. They’re crowded, full of screaming kids, the queues for drink counters are long, and… they don’t serve artificial sugar cane anymore.

I like artificial sugar cane.

Specifically, the one sold in food courts, not those in tin cans, though I can settle for that.

Real sugar cane stalls are harder to come by for a mallrat like me.

Yes, they do serve sugar cane with water chestnut, but it’s not the same! It’s not the stuff I grew up on!

There, a quick filler rant.

Click! Outside The Box

Have you ever woke up to a nightmare?

No, not wake up from a nightmare. Wake up to a nightmare.

I was supposed to be at KL Performing Arts Centre for the Sony Click! Ron Yue photography workshop at 10am, 19th May 2007. I set a few alarms on my Nokia N70 from 7:20am onwards.

That morning, I woke up without the help of an alarm, and looked at my phone. 7:23am, it said. Not bad, I thought to myself. I pressed the Stop button to disable the alarm that showed on screen. (It had stopped ringing.)

It didn’t stop.

I pressed every other button; it was not working.

I pressed the Power button. It would not turn off.

I opened the back, removed the battery, put it back in, turned it on and entered my PIN number.

It said 10:34am!

My phone had never froze on me before. I could drop it from waist level and it would be intact. It would only ever hang if I tried to play certain Symbian games. I would have to do something to get it to hang.

I rushed, grabbed a cab, and got there by 11:10am. I was too late to register for the Click! outdoor session (which was also a photo contest) and missed a big chunk of Ron Yue’s talk. He is one of the National Geographic freelance photographers.

Fortunately, some participants in the outdoor session went missing so I could enter. If not, I’d probably idle my time away in Ted Adnan’s flash workshop (which I had already gone for and won a prize while at it.)

We were to go around and shoot KLPAC, and submit 5 pictures of each category. All unedited, unlike this picture, of course.

I stuck my Peleng 8mm F3.5 fisheye inside an exhaust fan.

Hmmm, which wide-angle lens should I use?

Believe it or not, the fisheye did nothing to the curviness of the lake.

What The Duck?

The further away the object, the less distorted. Pointing it into a pond would give more distance and make it seem normal. Now, if only there was a netting on it, to show the combination of distorted and barely-distorted objects.

See the forest for the trees.

Oh, and of course, some mandatory geeking. I met a guy with the Minolta 85mm F1.4!

It didn’t have the same 3D pop and near-out-of-focus sharp rendition the Carl Zeiss 85mm F1.4 had. I would prefer the Carl Zeiss look, though this is good too.

I also saw the DiCain vertical grip. It looks a lot better in real life! A lot of people bemoan the fact that the Sony A100 does not have a vertical grip as an accessory. This is a third-party one. It does not come with the standard right-hand interface (knobs, buttons) but has a shutter button.

I wasn’t used to the shape though. Maybe I was holding it wrongly, but I felt it was mildly nudging into my hand. I put my Tamron 1.4x teleconverter, Minolta 70-210mm F4 beercan and Sony HVL-F56AM on for maximum load. It felt comfortable.

But really, a vertical grip is only used to:

– impress others with how big your camera looks
– add extra batteries
– support the weight of lenses more than 1 kilogram (the beercan and all Sony Carl Zeiss lenses are light in comparison)

I always carry two batteries with me so I don’t need a vertical grip.

The Sony A100 does feel heavy whenever the HVL-F56AM flash is attached, so I usually disconnect it and hold it up with my left hand like the Statue Of Liberty. This makes it very convenient to go from landscape to portrait orientation. Plus I can turn leftwards or rightwards without worrying about realigning the flash head to point up.

As for using the left hand, well… I zoom using my right-hand pinky finger. Fortunately, all Minolta and Sony lenses have the zoom ring nearer to the body. My kit lens is particularly light and easy to pinky-zoom.

In the rare occasion that I need to use my left hand, I just slide the flash back on its mount on the camera. The quick-release system Minolta invented works wonders!

It was probably the biggest gathering of Sony Alpha users! (And some Konica Minolta 5D users, too.) We quickly tried to flood Pentas 2 of KLPAC with our Sony HVL-F56AM wireless flashes! At one point I think there were six out.

I saw the same guy who bought the Tamron 17-50mm F2.8 A-mount at Pudu Plaza (that’s Alpha mount) at the workshop. He won something.

There was a dude with a huge bag with wheels, and in it, the old-school Minolta 28-135mm F3.5-4.5, with manual focus macro switch on the 28mm end of it. I saw 2 beercans. I saw the Minolta 50mm F1.7.