Monthly Archives: April 2008


I eagerly awaited my ride in the center of town – Chow Kit.

As I paced back and forth, trying not to look the inhabitants of the road in the eye, I counted the tiles. The tiles were rough, pitted, and had texture. They seem to keep a record of everything that came into contact.

Everything, signed in black.

I could tell that the solid black patches were chewing gum, having served its purpose, spat down to the ground.

The black splashes were drinks that had lost all of its reflectiveness and fluidity. Its color seeped into the tiles, into the pavement, into the bed, the muscle tissue of Kuala Lumpur. Bandung, tebu, soya, orange, tea, oil, phlegm, urine, blood. It did not matter what, for every single stain on the tiling was black.

I kept a steady pace and a wary look. A slight hunch at the neck, to look primordial, to look out, to look alert. I could not help but feel like a pirate, walking the dingy slums of a port. Others sat, their weary buttocks embracing the blackened tiles.

For amusement, the sitters would squash cockroaches that came their way. It did not bother their shoes; the cockroaches don’t squirt juice. And yet, you could see a lack of enthusiasm, like it was formerly a great time-killer to look out for cockroaches to chase and step on.

Some took to more arcane challenges. A Ramli burger wrapper was found in a tree, much much taller than the average inhabitant of Chow Kit. How it got there, was just as much a mystery to me as the black patches were. I could not tell its age, but it was still pink and bright as the day it was packaged.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the kind soul who bought the burger and the wrapper with it, decided to spare it a certain discolored death on the tiles of Chow Kit. That indeed, was the work of a noble heart.

I, Me?

How do you tell if an artiste you hear on the radio is a singer-songwriter?


They don’t change their name. And for some reason, their name is usually quirky or unconventional.

Jason Mraz, Chental Kreviazuk, Norah Jones, Delta Goodrem, Imogen Heap, KT Tunstall, Colbie Caillat, Alanis Morissette, Ari Hest, Raul Midon.

Some break the mould with the most unimaginative names like Jack Johnson. But don’t you be dissin’ him, he’s got some magic percussion on his fingers yo!

Does it look like any of them changed their names to get on stage? Maybe, if you were Engelbert Humperdinck (that’s not his real name by the way.)

So, when Azrie of Universal Music emailed me and gave me a sampler of Welsh singer-songwriter Aimee Anne Duffy‘s music, I knew I was in for some home-brewed self-written music to sit on an armchair and drink tea to.

Mercy starts off with a raspy black voice. Yes, I like it when my women sound black, yo. This marks her sound, in the key of soul. Rockferry is thematic and dramatic, and yet it pulls a slow pace. This makes an excellent backdrop for a movie, when the female protagonist is running through the streets, discovering her freedom from her chains.

Warwick Avenue has this all-too-familiar vibe. It makes it certain, if she drives the musical direction of the band, who her influences are. It’s all modern heartbroken-girl soul, but one might sense a bit of rock from the roll of the Rolling Stones to a minor tinge of Smashing Pumpkins. Maybe, just maybe. And yet, it all mashes into a pop package.

Serious has that British drawl with a certain seductiveness. Distant Dreamer is encouraging.

Pop soul production is slick, but I could fault the band for sounding too perfect and mechanical. I felt that the band went from one part to another too seamlessly, that you wouldn’t be able to pick out a transition, when sometimes transitions can be the most memorable parts of songs that everybody sings aloud in cars. Like, where are the little drum rolls and guitar licks that are completely legitimate on a real soul record? They are there but are too subtle. Fortunately, Warwick Avenue had a symphonic part which was great.

Okay, so it’s not a full soul record, I only sampled 5 songs, and none of them have that live, jammy feeling that a live band would have when you see band members smiling at each other when they complete a part and add a little riff. Even in Mercy, when she says “break it down!” I don’t feel like they really “broke it down“. It’s like, she has soul, but the band doesn’t.

Does all my nitpicking matter? Not so – if you love one song, you’d love the album.

Speed Triumphs

This blog entry makes history as an update within 12 hours of the event itself. On the 5th of April 2008, I went to One Utama for the Triumph fashion show and geekout with Sony Alpha owners.

All shots with the Minolta 70-210mm F4 beercan except this shot. Seen is a Canon 300mm F2.8. I have no idea what he was intending to shoot…

…at 210mm it was already very tightly framed!

Look at the crowd in the background. Yeah, that’s what the beercan does – it has the famed classic Minolta bokeh.

I somehow like the mood of this shot.

I caught someone else’s flash.

She looks… restricted.

At some point, one designer decided to cosplay his models.

Angel with a cold stare.

This bra apparently transforms into a shopping bag. I’d like to see a live demonstration of this!

And now, to geekout:

tshop‘s amazing Canon BP-200 mod as a Sony A100 battery grip! Way neater than the other versions I’ve seen because his wire is flat.

That is the coolest looking flash bracket I’ve seen, only because it’s circular. I forgot what the other one was but it was spring-loaded.

Major respect to this Pentax user with the Pentax 50-135mm F2.8 lens – this is the lens I’ve been telling people to get instead of a heavier 70-200mm F2.8 which was meant for full-frame and would be too long for events and not wide enough at times.

Canon 70-200mm F4L non-IS next to the Minolta 70-210mm F4 beercan. I honestly don’t understand why it’s so much bigger for the same range… and the Canon doesn’t have IS inside, even.

1100mm F16 1/25s ISO1600

From Burger King One Utama, we could snipe into rooms at One World Hotel using my Tamron 200-400mm F5.6 + 1.4x + 2x teleconverters. Problem is, nobody puts a light to their faces, as it’s hard to see past a window when it lowers contrast.

Alpha males.


I was in a magazine store when I saw the CLEO Most Eligible Bachelor 2008 edition.

As always, I made it a point to flip through and count how many dudes I knew (and multiply by 2% to get the percentage.) I knew less this round, maybe 12-16%. Just like the years before, the guys in here were relatively popular in their circles, some minor celebrities, some not-famous-at-all colleagues. Such that, I figured that I would eventually become a Most Eligible Bachelor myself, with the scene being as small as it is.

However, when I flipped through the pages, I became increasingly disturbed. Every guy in there looked more and more… beyond metrosexual. It was as if they had a facial and had their eyebrows plucked and drawn in a most androgynous manner.

A lot of them looked like Edwin Sumun!

(Not that I have anything against him, he’s hilarious and a riot on stage, but you do not flip through a magazine and expect to see Edwins of different colors and shapes.)

One particular dude who looked extra clean was Adam Lobo of Dragon Red! He looked like he shaved his beard and added foundation to his forehead. I called him up.

Me: DEIII Mr. Adam a most eligible bachelor! What happened man you sold out ah?
Adam: Haha nolah one day I got called up. Dunno why also, I told them that I look like I can eat children. But they still asked me to come anyway so I went.
Me: Did they make you shave and pluck your eyebrows or something? Do you really look like that now?
Adam: Aisey nolah they Photoshopped lah. It’s all Photoshop I didn’t look like that.

So there you have it from the cornroll-haired rocker. It’s Photoshop.

That explains why some of the bachelors have UNNATURALLY HUGE eyes, too.

So hey you Bachelor Photoshopper out there, stop mucking around with them eyes! Girls like men with squinty eyes too! (I have big eyes, but I feel sympathetic to my squinty-eyed friends.)

Now, given that bachelors get an enthusiastic facial that makes them far beyond fashionably metrosexual (if you know what I mean), I don’t think I secretly wish to happen to be a Most Eligible Bachelor anymore. 🙁

So what if I attempted to Photoshop myself to look like one of them?

Yeah, all Photoshopped in except my good looks. And the peacock is back! (Thanks Nic for taking this picture with his Sony Carl Zeiss 135mm F1.8.)

Sony Alpha 350 Launched!

The Sony Alpha 350 with Quick AF Live View!

After going around and testing Live View on digital SLR cameras from different brands, I could say that the 14.2 megapixel A350 (and its little brother the 10.2 megapixel A300) gives the best ‘version’ of Live View possible – you turn on Live View, you half-press to autofocus (which you can see in Live View) and you full-press to shoot.

(Picture stolen from
A Pentamirror Tilt Mechanism makes this all possible, by tilting a mirror so the image from the lens goes into a separate Live View sensor instead of the viewfinder.

Stay Focused

With any other brand, you either press the AF On button to focus using the AF sensors (requiring the Live View to go off) or you press the AF On button to focus using the sensor (requiring a very long time to focus, unlike a SLR is supposed to be.)

Also, the A350 is the only implementation that allows continuous auto-focus in Live View! However, it comes at a penalty of 2 FPS in Live View instead of 2.5 FPS on the A350 and 3 FPS on the A300.

Screen It!

In terms of screen, the articulating swivel screen on the A350 really helps – it’s a 2.7″ 320×240 LCD screen. It is a tie between that and the Olympus E-3, which has a 2.5″ 320×240 LCD screen which can swivel out to the front to shoot self-portraits. Then again, there’s also the Nikon D300/D3 with a 3″ 640×480 LCD screen but this cannot swivel.

Keep It Warm And Chill

This is a minor and yet major feature which many brands neglected – Live View to show changing of Kelvin White Balance. That is, you can tweak Kelvin White Balance while looking at the Live View screen at the same time.

With the Pentax K20D and Canon 40D, you cannot see it at the same time; it’s in a menu.

On the Olympus E-3, you can, but it’s tricky to get there, and the menu blocks your view.

With the Sony A350 however, the Kelvin setting is displayed on the left while you dial through the temperature, to help you get the color you want.

I have not tried this on a Nikon D300 but I’d expect Nikon to have thought of this. I cannot find any literature on the Internet that says if it can or can’t. Isn’t this a cool feature?

(You also get to see the exposure, so you can compensate exposure accordingly if the camera decided to expose darker or brighter.)

Refresh Rate

I’ll be honest – in dim light, the A350’s Live View appears to have a lower refresh rate than in bright conditions. Side-by-side with the Olympus E-3, the E-3 was slightly faster… and the 40D was smoother, but not exactly super responsive either. However, it’s understandable that the A350 has a tiny sensor hidden up in the viewfinder…

This, and the 320×240 LCD, are the only downsides I can really find to the A350. I’d be okay with a 320×240 screen if I hadn’t been so used to the 3″ 640×480 LCD of my Sony A700.

Smart Teleconverter

The Smart Teleconverter, a new feature, and a new button on the A350, gives you either 1.4x or 2x cropping off the center of the image. This drops your resolution from 14.2 megapixels to 7 megapixels or 3.5 megapixels… but it keeps the brightness.

Therefore, I can foresee myself using this at a concert, shooting the action overhead a tall stage, with a 50mm F1.4 and 2x Smart Teleconverter to give me a 3x crop factor or 150mm F1.4 equivalent. Yes, there’d be no light loss, and the shutter speed would stay the same, unlike a physical, optical teleconverter!

The Price Is Nice

Seriously. RM2999 Recommended Retail Price with the Sony 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 DT kit lens.

The 10.2 megapixel Sony A200 with 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 DT kit lens goes for RM1999, if you’re not convinced.

(And yes, this is not a sponsored post – I registered as media and am responsible to give media coverage. I would put this in Xfresh, God bless you if you remember me from there, is a bit out-of-scope already. 🙁 In fact, technical articles on my blog get more views than back over there.)

Enough With The Features Already!

So I went for the Sony Alpha 350 launch at Sime Darby Convention Center, April 2nd 2008.

It was a scorching day, and Dynamic Range Optimizer Level 5 on the A700 helped quite a bit with this. The slight halo around the building was my fault, I tried to dodge it in Photoshop carelessly.

1/5th of a second at 17mm. Hail Super SteadyShot!

Naoi Sudo, Managing Director of Sony Malaysia, shot with the Sony Carl Zeiss 135mm F1.8 with my Kenko 2x teleconverter, for a 280mm F3.5 ISO1600 1/160s exposure.

George Wong, yo! Shot with the Minolta 50mm F1.4 with my 2x teleconverter, for 105mm F3.5 ISO1600 1/125s exposure.

Spot the Alpha!

Displays in the dark – yes you might’ve read it right on the right – free “Basic Photography with Alpha” Sony workshops. You get to win stuff, too!

Displays in the light, with some familiar faces.

This is how they displayed the A350 – with a Sony Handicam pointed at it! You can see the output on the screen on the wall on the left.


And finally, what we’d been waiting to see – something new and unreleased in Malaysia! The Sony Carl Zeiss 24-70mm F2.8 SSM. (Note that the hood is borrowed from the Carl Zeiss 135mm F1.8, which vignettes from 35mm and wider.) The Sony 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM’s hood does not vignette no matter what, but this might be different on full-frame.

I won’t post any samples from the lens though, as it’s a pre-production unit and won’t reflect on the final lens you can buy. However, I can say that this is the fastest-feeling, snappiest SSM lens I’ve tried so far – the Sony 70-200mm F2.8 G SSM, like other motorized teles from Canon and Nikon, don’t feel that responsive as a screw-driven lens. It’s also helped by the wide range of the lens. At 24mm F2.8, it was scorchingly sharp! Depending on subject distance too, 70mm was crisp.

Sigma 17-35mm F2.8-4 EX ultra wide-angle lens (left) and Sony Carl Zeiss 24-70mm F2.8 SSM (right).

It was not as big and fat as some made it out to be – just chunky like a wide-angle lens, but with a solid shell. Kinda like the Carl Zeiss 135mm F1.8, but lighter… somewhat like the Minolta 28-70mm F2.8 G lens. It added a AF/MF switch, a first for any Sony lens.

(Picture for another future blog entry.)

The Minolta 28-70mm F2.8 G in comparison, was slow-focusing (faster on the A700 but not superb) and had a minimum focusing distance of 85 cm. It had internal zoom and internal focus. More on that in a later blog entry!

The Carl Zeiss 24-70mm F2.8 SSM was very fast, with a minimum focusing distance of 34 cm for a maximum 1:4 magnification. Without a doubt, way preferred to ye olde Minolta. The only drawback would be the extending zoom… but it does look kinda cute, y’know.

Oh, and of course, there were Sony 300mm F2.8 G SSM lenses perched outside. I compared it to the Minolta 200mm F2.8 G HS APO (which I christened The White Torchlight, a lightweight 790 gram wonder… but that’s another blog entry.) The 300mm F2.8 meanwhile is 2310 grams.

Guess that trashcan!