Monthly Archives: December 2007

Rockin’ On Next Year

What: Juke Joint Jupiter (a rockin’ blues gig)
Who: Crush, Boogie Brothers Band and Zubira Blues Band
Where: Laundry Bar (between The Curve and Cineleisure, Mutiara Damansara, Petaling Jaya, Selangor)
When: 10pm Thursday 3rd January 2008
How much: FREE!

Oh, and Happy New Year people!

White Canons

25th October 2007 – the Canon Expo at KLCC Convention Center!

A Canon Event Organizer shot by a Sony Alpha 700 by a Pentax K100D photographer.

Funky photogenic scenery.

I came for this! A chance to test the big whites.

Canon EF 600mm F4L IS USM on the (pulled off shelves due to AF problems) Canon EOS 1Ds Mark III. Fortunately they put this combo on a ballhead; unfortunately, I didn’t get to experience a crop factored 600mm. This was until recently the longest, fastest available lens.

This combo is supposedly the fastest and best in AF, for sports – however, I can’t say it was always good, and sometimes, surprisingly, this high-end lens would take slower than I’d want to get into focus.

AF according to Canon is done by checking focus once and telling the lens where exactly to focus. Once the lens has reached that supposed focus point, it checks again and does a micro-adjustment. It does not tell the lens to keep turning until it sees focus… (which is why camera makers have issues making Contrast-Detect Live View) so I wonder if it was USM on the lens being a bit slow to travel. Ideally, I should not see the view animating from out-of-focus into focus; it should jump in. It also took an uncomfortably long split second to kick in and realize that hey, I’m asking the camera to AF!

Of course, it didn’t hunt, which I’d attribute to the camera. Tracking works as expected, though I guess I have to get in tune with the camera because at times, it wouldn’t keep to the subject I was tracking and focus on something else.

As always, it’s fun to try to figure out how to use a pro camera. Took me awhile to delete pictures!

I also got to try the Canon EOS 40D. AF in Live View was iffy and I had to hold down the AF-On button until I heard the focus beep, and the 6.5 frames per second is a con job because you need a shutter speed of 1/500s or faster to achieve 6.5 FPS!

It can be differentiated from the similiar Canon EF 400mm F2.8L IS USM, which does not appear to have a little teleconverter on its back. That said, I can see the economy of getting a 400mm F2.8 and a 1.4x teleconverter to get 2 ranges.

Canon EF 100-400mm F4.5-5.6L IS USM. Push-pull and a birder’s paradise. There’s a Tighten-Loosen ring to adjust how smooth the push-pull zooming is. Very cool.

They also had the Canon EF 28-300mm F3.5-5.6L IS USM, which honestly didn’t interest me. It’s a heavy, heavily priced full-frame lens which is hardly bright, and photographers who can afford this would opt for two F2.8 or F4 lenses instead. It’s also a push-pull zoomer. The Tamron/Sony 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DT is far more interesting given its price/performance ratio and groundbreaking performance for a superzoom.

I’m not sure whose front element this is.

KJ looking through a Canon EOS 5D and 400mm F2.8.

They also had the Canon EF 500mm F4L IS USM and Canon EF 300mm F2.8L IS USM but they weren’t as noteworthy as the lenses mentioned above, heh.

AV Talent!

It’s pimping time. First off, check out Ahmad Fariz’s site!


This guy was my ex-colleague! And he was just a webdesigner there. Check out his Frequency Cannon videos.

And then, there’s this most kickass video from the band Lied, singing Binky.

Adlin why’d you leave the band? Who else would make an angry angsty rock face and sing it the way you do? Now the video is null because you’re not the singer! Done by Adam Kitingan of Flirting With Sleep, who I’d met briefly with his cool uh… post rock band?

It’s quite cool to find out that people you know secretly have a secret supertalent at making videos.

He also made a 35mm relay adapter for his digital video camera (to give it shallow DOF like 35mm film movie cameras), though I don’t know how that looks like compared to Khai‘s.


Shots from a Sony Alpha TT session, 8th November 2007:

(TT = Teh Tarik, the Malaysian national beverage of conversations. Screw you Starbucks!)

Contrary to popular belief, I am not chief poisoner. kenki has managed to poison me!

The original Minolta 80-200mm F2.8G APO HS. You can feel the weight of the glass shifting as it focuses! Rare indeed for its 72mm filter thread.

I prefer this over the Sony 70-200mm F2.8G SSM. Its weight seems better distributed to the back of the lens. Although the Sony is 1340 grams and the Minolta 1280 grams, for 60 grams difference, it feels like a world of difference. Plus, HS (High Speed focus gearing) means arguably faster focusing on the Sony Alpha 700 than what a Super Sonic wave Motor can give.

I did feel that the HS was fast, perhaps faster than the SSM. Lenses with lightweight focusing elements, fast gear ratios and limited focusing range (like my beloved Vivitar Series 1 28-105mm F2.8-3.8) focus instantly without a doubt.

The Minolta 200mm F2.8G HS holds the record for zippy screw-driven focusing, though. Having experienced ted‘s 790 gram wonder for sports, I cannot imagine how much faster it can get if Sony puts an even more powerful focus motor in future bodies.

200mm F2.8 1/60s ISO1600 on my Sony A700.

Poor, poor lufiahs. I pity him, too.

The Peter Lim, or mac on PhotoMalaysia. 80mm F2.8 1.80s ISO1600. Check out teh_oo_ais in the background, who is in a very weird position!

Still, that wasn’t what got me.

It was this.

The Minolta 85mm F1.4.

One of the finest samples of Minolta bokeh at work. Second only to the Minolta/Sony 135mm F2.8/T4.5 Smooth Transition Focus lens. Crispy where in focus, a nice liquid blend where out of focus. 85mm F1.4.

Note that the Carl Zeiss 85mm F1.4 is not the same optically; while it is blisteringly sharp and free of chromatic and spherical aberration, its background does not blend as nicely due to its MTF-chart-topping high contrast design.

Alphaein. 85mm F1.4.

I love the naturally saturated color wide open! 85mm F1.4.

teh_oo_ice. 85mm F1.4. He is more in focus than if he was shot with a 50mm F1.4 because he has to be further away to fill the frame the same way.

Alphaein on macdude‘s Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 EX DG. At 70mm F2.8 it passed the misai test (when focused accurately of course.)

Thanks teh_oo_ais for taking this! 150mm F4 (which came from my Minolta 50mm F1.4 original + Tamron 1.4x 4-element teleconverter + Kenko 2x 4-element teleconverter.)

It seems like Ted will always always have a spy shot of him taken whenever he eats at A&W Taman Jaya.

KJ, Yo.

This is KJ.

Wah terror!” some bystanders say. KJ shot this, I think.

He might’ve shot this, too.

Yo-yos sit on his finger like a perched bird.

Flash, and some Photoshop, gives a black background.

Yeah he’s been doing this a while, as a professional yo-yo player even.

You might even spot him in a clown costume sometimes.

All of these shots are crops of the Peleng 8mm F3.5 circular fisheye through the Tamron 1.4x teleconverter (which gives a nice frame-filling shot and catches about everything I’d like to see without feeling like the yo-yo would smash into my camera anytime soon.) This is an uncropped, unprocessed shot to show what it originally looked like. There is a slight out-of-focus in all the images because it all looks in focus on the manual-focus Peleng.

A star for your efforts.

The Standard Ode

And now, for a dedication to my current always-on lens, the Sigma 17-35mm F2.8-4 EX full-frame A-mount lens.

With Creative Styles set to Contrast -3, Saturation +3 and Sharpness +3, I can get a very flat but colored image… which is an effect I like. Ohai Waifon! 😉

It focuses close to 50 centimeters only, with good sharpness at F2.8 and amazing clarity and detail at 17mm F4. Out-of-focus is not too contrasty though minor artifacts show in the far background.

Vote for me CLPVOTE Christy!

…because I sit and put my arms in a hexagonal nut position.

The infamous Sigma yellow is obvious but I like what it does for some pictures.

While I’d love a 16mm on APS-C, the 17mm is sufficient. I always felt 18mm to be not-wide… just accomodating for those people who’d step back to shoot crowds.

At 35mm F4, it has brilliant separation, with the background thrown into a subtly 2D look while I, the subject, looks 3D. A F2.8 or F2.0 lens will make the background too blurred out and make it unable to figure out what is in the out-of-focus area… while also making part of the subject soft and out of focus.

I also like the mottled, textured look of the greens.

The only problem with the lens is the Sigma yellow (though I don’t mind) and the brightline bokeh (out-of-focus points of lights appear to be discs of light with bright outlines… which can be easily Photoshopped. However, it has already made its effect on the railings which have faint borders.)

Some lenses make the backgrounds too contrasty and thus distracting. This Sigma, like (old) Minolta and Leica lenses, don’t, and concentrate on making pretty pictures. Understandably, Minolta worked a lot with Leica in the 80’s when the Minolta autofocus lenses came out, which is why the Minolta 70-210mm F4 beercan and Minolta 28-135mm F4-4.5 are highly regarded for beautiful bokeh and sharpness.

Unfortunately, Sony Carl Zeiss lenses are geared in the opposite direction – insane sharpness at the expense of less-than-Minolta bokeh. In out-of-focus areas, some midtones get darkened while some highlights get a boost in brightness. While it is still smooth-looking it does not look as calm.

Further reading:
Sigma 17-35mm F2.8-4 EX on the Minolta Dynax 7

Get Your Poise On

One night, Justin and I kidnapped KJ and brought him to a undisclosed location where he would be brainwashed.

I met my match, a Minolta lens geek who did some frankenstein lens hacking.

Guess what lens this was shot with!

Yes, it’s the old Minolta MD W.Rokkor 35mm F1.8. He duct-taped a MD-to-A-mount adapter to its base. It is beautiful wide open.

Then came this wonderful softie…

…the famous bargain, the Jupiter-9 85mm F2.0 lens in M42 mount. It has 15 aperture blades! However, it did nothing for bright-line bokeh… unlike the Minolta 85mm F1.4G which has one of the best bokeh renditions of the A-mount auto-focusing lenses. (The 135mm F2.8/T4.5 STF does not count despite being the best bokeh lens ever because it’s manual focus only.)

Now when I say bokeh, it’s a subjective term, but I mean a bit more than just “ooo wow big circles in the background!” The big circles have to be non-distracting.

Also, note that the Jupiter-9 did not have great separation when wide open. Good separation means that the background looks 2D and creamy, and not too contrasty… while the subject is 3D and has a pop that stands out from the background.

Speaking of which, the picture of the Jupiter-9 above was taken with my Sigma 17-35mm F2.8-4.0 EX at 35mm F4.0. Here, you see that the image is 2 distinct layers – the lens being held by my hand, and the blurred out background. The Sigma shows good separation here… and often looks better with better light.

Then there was this oddity…

…a frankenstein made of two lenses. The geek (who shall remain unnamed) combined a broken Minolta 35-105mm F3.5-4.5 with something else. I can’t say it was of functional use, though.

Then, we stalked a shop across the road!

This was a T-mount Maksutov MC MTO-11CA 1000mm F10 lens (note the DIY handle). The little dude next to it is my Peleng 8mm F3.5 circular fisheye (originally T-mount but with a T-mount to M42 adapter and M42 to A-mount adapter).

Catadioptric mirror lens!

Some kind of monster. The brand name is not even written on the lens!

Beware KJ for he is armed and ready to shoot.

Top: Tamron 200-400mm F5.6 on Tamron 1.4x teleconverter on Kenko 2x teleconverter on Sony Alpha 100 for 1100mm F16. Autofocus light enabled, focal length reported so it can use Super SteadyShot, can zoom, doesn’t have donut out-of-focus spots, lighter and heavier towards the mount which is good.
Bottom: Maksutov 1000mm F10 on Sony Alpha 700 for 1000mm F10. Focal length not reported so it can’t be stabilized, but it’s way brighter at F10. The lens is so big it is a challenge to fit your fingers in between to hold the camera grip!


Exactly 1 week later, Justin and I found that we had succeeded in our brainwash mission.

He Terror Textual

I got this message from a gay guy on Friendster:

I am just amazed by the size of your head. It is very impressive. Keep it up.

I don’t know why, but I giggled because it was so clever. I felt flattered!

Girls get hundreds of substandard, uncreative pickup lines from guys, of which maybe 5… might be good. I get one creative pickup line (uh, from a guy). Yes, that means I get only good pickup lines!

I didn’t reply him though, but if I did… I’d say:

You suck man.

The pink dollar is one to be respected.

I fix stuff. A gay guy probably has a tech savvy bonk mate. However, a lesbian’s mate is just as hopeless in fixing and parallel parking. Of which I have seen them try to exchange driver and front passenger seats without getting out of the car.

Cue Albert, who fixes and gets a free show.

The pink dollar is strong. They’re richer, be it the girl who goes for the money, or the guys who save on romantic dinners because they get straight to the point. Okay, not exactly straight, but you get my point.

Their love is so pure, so clear, so without pretense! They can be emotionally vulnerable while avoiding the friends trap that belies heterosexual courting!

I don’t shave often. Sorry girls, I look just a bit too good clean-shaved. If I shaved, it would be accompanied with a horse-legged limp.

What about Freddie Mercury, you may ask?

His thick moustache showed everyone WHO’S in charge. He called the shots. He woud kneel before noone!

Okay this is quite old, but so was this blog post which was saved on a text file for a very long time.

A CLEO Most Eligible Bachelor does the Rubik’s Cube! That’s right, he can solve one of those. He can also do rope jumps and splits. I can imagine a very McGuyver-ish moment where however unlikely, he will escape certain death with those three skills.

Oh, and Raj of Cornetto Love Perhaps Season 2 was also CLEO Bachelor #15.

Just earlier, I was in what felt like a Napoleon Dynamite moment, or at least how a camera would perceive it to be. A banal, inane scene. I stood queueing at a cash deposit machine where the people at the front were feeding it one note at a time. They told the rest of the queue that the machine was sensitive and so, I went for dinner. I came back to see somebody else also feeding it one note.

When it was my turn, I was fortunate that nobody was waiting. I tried all notes. All rejected. Two notes. Rejected. One note. Success!

When I was done, this guy came and I warned him about the machine.

Being a guy, he tried his luck anyway. Nope? Restack notes. Rejection! “It takes only one note at a time.” I told him. Reshuffle, realign notes. Nope? Flip them about. He kept trying his luck.

Ah, men.

Finally, how do you get a picture from me? If I’ve ever taken your picture, and you’ve ever tried to get it from me, you’d know I take forever because I don’t get on MSN anymore. However, Aaron Teoh did it well, in a very examplary manner. Thus, I’ll quote his email:

Hey dude, could you send me the picture you took of me? It looks good and i haven’t taken a decent picture in ages. Thanks man.

That’s right, that’s how you can ask Albert for your picture.

You could also be nice and wish me a HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I turned 24 today.

So Albert, How Do You Bag Lenses?

I’ve met a lot of new digital SLR owners who have very few lenses but carry very big bags. I have a small bag but carry a lot more lenses. So, I’ve written this guide with pictures on how you can use smaller bags to fit more stuff efficiently.

This also helps for those self-professed gearheads (I am one of them.)

For this exercise, I’ll use a few of my lenses which we’ll call:

  • SUPER TELE (anything that goes beyond 300mm or is F2.8)
  • TELE (smaller lenses that end at 150 to 300mm e.g. 70-300mm, 70-210mm F4, 50-150mm F2.8)
  • WIDE (thicker diameter lenses usually giving wide angle. Can replace STANDARD in scenarios due to shape)
  • STANDARD (the most common compact kit lens)
  • FISHEYE (shaped like a prime but fatter)
  • PRIME (compact, light, and amazingly bright)
  • TELECONVERTERS (compact, light and easy way to get further without bringing real TELE lenses)

SUPERZOOMS, like those newfangled 18-250mm lenses, don’t count here because they are slow focusing, have dark apertures and have some optical compromise… which is why a lot of serious camera enthusiasts do not buy them.

First concept you must learn – the FLASH would usually be L-shaped so it can sit in a smaller bag with an SLR with STANDARD lens.

There! This tiny OEM bag which you can pick up at any camera store is subtle and does not scream “STEAL ME I HAVE EXPENSIVE EQUIPMENT INSIDE!

A little pocket fits a camera battery, flash batteries and a flash shoe.

What’s it for? You can shoot events with just this setup.

Range: Standard range, 18-70mm APS-C perhaps.

This same bag can fit a STANDARD, a PRIME and a TELE. This is the most common lineup I see people having… and buying huge Crumpler 7 Million bags for. Damn you all!

* the green box shows where it should be upside down, that is, the PRIME inside, and back of SLR facing top of bag.

A flash can be added but it must use a flash pouch, clipped to the belt. Howdy pardner!

What’s it for? Concerts! A pox on you if you flash the performers.

Range: 18-300mm APS-C perhaps with a bright lens in between.

The next bag is a Mini camera bag. It can house a FISHEYE and PRIME (with teleconverter) in the front compartment. Here it goes from 8mm fisheye to 100mm F2.8 (50mm F1.4 + 2x teleconverter). You can also put the 2x teleconverter on the FISHEYE for a sorta-wide.

This is my most common setup.

Range: 8mm fisheye to 100mm F2.8 (50mm + 2x teleconverter).

Of course, you could replace the FLASH with a TELE.

Range: 8mm fisheye to 300mm.

I have a medium-sized bag which is about the size of those Crumplers, I think. Side pockets are small and can only fit a FISHEYE and PRIME with teleconverters. The front pocket is slim and just fits the FLASH while the main compartment has a velcro divider, making space for a SUPER TELE and camera with STANDARD lens.

Believe me, I don’t bring the SUPER TELE around as often as I’d like to. Also, the TELE is missing from this lineup.

* TT is a short form for Teh Tarik session, a Malaysian activity where camera enthusiasts meet at a eatery for drinks to discuss gear (and sometimes, show off pictures. Sometimes.)

What’s it for? To show off the great deals I got. My lenses in total cost less than my digital SLR.

Range: 8mm fisheye to 1100mm (SUPER TELE 400mm + 1.4x teleconverter + 2x teleconverter)

Now this is geared to stalkers uh, candid action photographers. The camera already lies in the main compartment, no dividers, with the SUPER TELE on! A TELE can also fit in.

What’s it for? Sports!

Range: 18mm to 1100mm (SUPER TELE 400mm + 1.4x teleconverter + 2x teleconverter)

Then, I pack in more from the previous design here. It will be a hassle to set up initially, but you’d hang the camera around your neck after that.

Range: 8mm fisheye to 1100mm (SUPER TELE 400mm + 1.4x teleconverter + 2x teleconverter)

Some days, when I want to shoot film, I use this setup. The dSLR gets the TELE (since it can get higher ISOs) while the film SLR gets the WIDE.

Range: 8mm fisheye to 840mm (TELE 300mm + 1.4x teleconverter + 2x teleconverter)

So where’s the tripod? Well, get stabilized lenses or a digital SLR with in-body stabilization.

What about backpacks? I like having my bag around my shoulder for quick access to the camera. Anything else would be a specific review – these bags are common form factors.

I actually have a bigger bag than all this, but I really don’t know what else I need to fit in it. Yes, that means I have four camera bags! Hey, this is the only case where men can collect bags…

Technical details: Okay, so I cheated and used a Sigma 70-210mm F4-5.6 as a stand-in for a STANDARD lens, since I didn’t have one… and used the WIDE to shoot the photos. Also, your SUPER TELE might end at 500mm instead of 400mm so do the math.