Monthly Archives: December 2009

Same Yang

I have always, always fancied the 85mm/90mm focal length on full-frame; whenever I met a Tamron 90mm F2.8 Macro I’d pick it up and take portraits with it because of the very comfortable range.

And so, it is of no surprise that I would end up getting myself a Christmas/birthday present – the Opteka 85mm F1.4!

This is most commonly known as the Samyang 85mm F1.4 – of course, it comes repackaged as a Rokinon, Bower, Polar, Vivitar, etc. However the basic specifications still hold – it is manual focus only, does not come with a focus confirm chip, and has an aperture ring. Interestingly, the aperture jumps from F1.4 to F2.0 then clicks in half-stops until F16, where it jumps to F22.

It also only focuses to 1 meter close, which can be quite far for some people. Fortunately I am not feeling it all that often since I am used to standing further away with the Sony Carl Zeiss 135mm F1.8 (which, despite its closer 72cm minimum focus distance, will need you to stand further away due to intense magnification of the viewfinder!)

The rear end of the lens protrudes a fair bit – I am not sure if a focus confirm chip could fit in there all that easily without it being pushed out each time you focus to infinity.

Here it is, next to all my monofocal prime lenses and teleconverters. Center is the Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 135mm F1.8 ZA. Clockwise from left: Minolta 50mm F1.4 Original, Kenko 1.5x teleconverter, Kenko 2.0x teleconverter, Vivitar 24mm F2.0 DIY Tilt-Shift, Peleng 8mm F3.5 M42 mount circular fisheye, Opteka 85mm F1.4.

Left to right: Peleng 8mm F3.5 M42 mount circular fisheye, Vivitar 24mm F2.0 DIY Tilt-Shift, Minolta 50mm F1.4 Original, Opteka 85mm F1.4, Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 135mm F1.8 ZA.

The Opteka isn’t that big, when flanked by the similiarly-sized Minolta 24-105mm F3.5-4.5(D). The Zeiss to the right is the big one.

However, when the Opteka’s hood is on, it can try to pretend to be the same size as the Zeiss…

From the top, there is a decent amount of recessing – I really don’t understand why. They could’ve made this lens a lot shorter and its filters would vignette less.

Amazingly, it is an internal focusing design – the Sony Carl Zeiss Planar T* 85mm F1.4 ZA and Minolta 85mm F1.4G are external focusing designs. Of course they have the far more convenient minimum focus distances of 85cm!

The current Nikkor F1.8/F1.4 and Canon 85mm F1.8/F1.2 lenses are all internal focusing. The downside of this is that the view widens as you focus closer.

Also, when looking at the lens from in front while focusing, I’m not sure why they didn’t allow the focus group to travel further and thus, focus closer.

Here’s the Opteka on the Minolta Dynax 7, and the Zeiss 135mm F1.8 on the Sony Alpha 900.

Somehow, the Minolta Dynax 7 look matches the Opteka more.

Though, the Sony Alpha 900 looks porportionate.

The Alpha 900, like the Alpha 200 onwards, unfortunately does not have the Shutter Release Without Lens option in the menu – so you can’t use this lens in Aperture Priority anymore! You have to go to Manual Exposure, unless your lens has a chip. It also does not do focus confirm without the chip.

And now, for some portraits!

Click for bigger image. 85mm F1.4.

The first picture I took with this portrait lens, was of course, a portrait. You can see sweat! It was a hot day.

Note that initially, Auto WB tended to give a purple cast – I set it to Daylight WB and all was okay.

In office lighting, indoors, it is no slouch – I love how it picks up reflected ambient colors! This is a quality I love in great lenses.

I took it to the streets, where ISO1600 would give me 1/40s. Which would be a decent shutter speed, given the weight of the A900 helping stabilize it.

Yes, SteadyShot does not work here, unless the lens has a chip which tells the body that the lens is at 85mm, and so it can drive the SteadyShot mechanism to compensate accordingly. However in practice, 1/40s was still alright!

Only downside being at F1.4 is the shallow depth of field, making it difficult to pick a subject when street shooting.

On the LRT. I love how contrasty this lens is wide open, compared to my Minolta 50mm F1.4 Original! In hindsight only my Minolta and Sigma 17-35mm F2.8-4 EX are weak in contrast – the other lenses I have like the Minolta 24-105mm F3.5-4.5(D) and Minolta 70-210mm F4 beercan are contrasty wide open.

We now cut to a comparison of contrast. I used the HVL-F56AM flash set at 1/16th power 85mm, and set the A900 at 1/200s ISO200, and turned off all the lights, for this:

The Zeiss was set at F2.0 because the F56AM power cannot be set in 1/3rd steps.

The Opteka was set at F1.4, and the F56AM was dialled down to 1/32th power to equalize. I also cropped a similiar region.

The Minolta was set at F1.4, with the F56AM still at 1/32th power. While it did seem to transmit a bit more, it was quite gauzy. The Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM would handle this situation like the above two lenses, with loads of contrast, but that’s a story for another day…

Click for bigger picture. I attempted to make a Minolta Dynax 7-STF mode simulation and this is what I got. The lens bodes well for fake STF attempts!

Manual focusing is not easy – you need to learn how to do it. However once mastered you can catch focus pretty quick!

100% crop.

Note that I was using the Sony FDA-FM1AM (A900 Type-M manual focusing screen) to help see depth of field accurately at F1.4. This lens is best used with a Sony Alpha 500/550 that has MF Check Live View, or an Alpha 850/900 fitted with the Type-M screen.

But hey, how about some action? I picked up the lens and returned to shoot a rock concert!

Really, it’s not that hard! F1.4.

Click for a bigger picture. I focused while they were walking! Again, nothing you can’t achieve with a bit of practice.

It also helps that I had a few M42 lenses for my A700 before, to practice…

Crazy rain. Yes, the lens got subjected to some inclement weather. 1/640s ISO6400.

The rain killed the generators, leaving the VIP tent in darkness! 1/20s ISO1600.

Woodstock baby! 1/20s ISO6400. I focused to 1 meter, then walked closer until they were in focus.

1/25s ISO1600. I pulled tones out of overexposed red faces to get this.

So the question everybody asks is this – is it worth it? Yes, definitely! It is a stark fraction of the price of an auto-focusing 85mm F1.4! It is great optically, with a decent amount of contrast. (I just have not compared it to the Sony Carl Zeiss Planar T* 85mm F1.4 ZA – something tells me that if I do, I will be haunted by it…)

Change Management

I have a system for maintaining a good amount of change in my wallet. I separate it into 3 compartments:

COMPARTMENT #1: The RM50 compartment

I will always have at least one RM50 in my wallet. If I don’t I will feel uneasy and have this look like I need to go to the ATM!

It is very important that the RM50 notes are separated from the RM1 notes, which can be easily confused for each other as they are blue-green.

COMPARTMENT #2: The RM10 or less compartment

I will always have at least one RM10 and a few RM1 notes in this compartment. If I don’t, I will strive to break a RM50 note.

This is vital for taxis and vending machines who may not have change. Don’t expect them to come up with change, seriously.

I get annoyed with 7-11s that don’t have change, but I understand that the kids behind there are just not educated with the idea of maintaining change. Not to be racist, but I do find stalls that are manned by a certain race tend to not have change more often… inability to plan and be prepared is ingrained in their culture, I guess. Who runs Carls Jr. Pavilion so badly that there are no beef or chicken patties on a Sunday at 7pm?


I keep all my ancient RM1, RM2, RM5 and RM10 notes here. They’re kinda like my collector’s items. I also add at least one modern RM10 note, one RM5 note and 5 RM1 notes in this compartment.

When you’ve got no change in COMPARTMENT #2, which can happen if you’re hit by a strain of having to take a cab, buy a currypuff, buy a KTM ticket and go to a shopping mall toilet… you may need to break into the emergency COMPARTMENT #3.

Sometimes I do run out of change in COMPARTMENT #2 and I try to break a RM50 note with a taxi driver. However he may insist that he really has no change. Sometimes, you take a cab to a place in the middle of the night that has no 7-11, or the 7-11 has no change, and you’re both screwed!

That is when I have to break, uncomfortably, into thy hallowed COMPARTMENT #3. (This is also why I make it a point to replenish COMPARTMENT #2 as soon as possible.)

I may also open COMPARTMENT #3 if forced into a situation where my friend does not have change for parking. I graciously help my friend, who is obviously then giving me a lift.

However, it is the responsibility each car owner to be well prepared with their own Change Management system, to avoid carrying a heavy wallet full of 50 sen coins!

Thus, in total, I would minimally have:
COMPARTMENT #2: RM10 + RM1 (x5) = RM15
COMPARTMENT #3: RM10 + RM5 + RM1 (x5) = RM20

Total carried: RM85

Of course, there is the ATM card as well. I try to keep my COMPARTMENT #1 having anywhere between RM50 and RM200 (any more, and I would look for a Cash Deposit Machine).

This post is dedicated to George Wong, who writes the best thought pieces ever!

Three Battles

This is what happens when you walk into Studio Zaloon, master poisoner place. Here’s the Sony 28-75mm F2.8 SAM lens (left) next to the Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 (right).

Mechanically, the Tamron is more convenient, allowing DMF to work on the KM7D/5D and A100/A700/A850/A900. It also lets you use the AF/MF switch on the body of any A-mount camera.

However, the Sony is far superior optically, wide open! Too bad the SAM motor does not allow manual focus override, nor does it understand that the body is in MF mode.

Then, there is the tiny Minolta 50mm F1.4 Original (left) taking a 49mm filter thread, next to the huge Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM (right) taking a 77mm filter thread.

Minolta 50mm at F1.4. It loses contrast wide open and isn’t always accurate.

Sigma 50mm at F1.4. Amazing contrast and bokeh wide open! It also is clear of the annoying brightline bokeh that plagues the Minolta/Sony 50mm F1.4 and Minolta 50mm F1.7.

Minolta 50mm at F1.4.

Sigma 50mm at F1.4. Note the less obstrusive bokeh and vibrant color. Contrast is also pretty high!

The Carl Zeiss 135mm F1.8 is of course the reference for contrast – Zeiss lenses are always superbly contrasty, with oodles of fine detail!

Walking out later I bumped into Foong Wai who had the coolest ever M42 camera – Pentax Spotmatic! She had the Super Takumar 50mm F2 (with which I took this picture; she’s using my Peleng 8mm F3.5 circular fisheye.)

Then over at Sony Style Berjaya Times Square, was the new Alpha Flash Light Kit – buy two Sony HVL-F58AM flash units and get this free!

It consists of one bag, one light stand, one shoot-through white umbrella, one black-outside-silver-inside umbrella, and one adapter.

I’ve never seen anything like this, where the umbrella holder is independent from the flash screw mount holder. Also note the ballhead.



Bounced off the inside of the black-outside-silver-inside umbrella.

The stand goes up to 2 meters high.

That’s about as high as it goes (note the reflection behind Malek.)

The bag also comes with two openings. Cool!

And finally, I ended up in the new Nikon Showroom in Berjaya Times Square, just opposite, where I finally tried the Nikkor AF-D 135mm F2.0 Defocus Control lens.

It was not any much heavier or lighter than my Zeiss 135mm F1.8, and just slightly slimmer using a 72mm filter thread whilst my Zeiss had a 77mm filter thread.

Unfortunately, I did not have a SD card to save any pictures from the DC – however, I’d say that it was inconvenient if you were manually focusing because each time you change the Defocus Control, it shifts the plane of focus rapidly. So you’d have to refocus be it AF or MF. This is a pain, just like the Canon MPE-65 where changing magnification shifts the focus plane so much you lose sight of where you are!

And of course, the color – it was rather muted in the out-of-focus areas. There is something about Zeiss lenses that pick up ambient light, and light that bounces off colored surfaces, that shows in pictures. The Nikkor did not have that.

Oh and Merry Christmas to everybody!

Happy Birthday babe! You know who you are.

People Time!

And now, for some people pictures!

KJ the watermelon bearer, for Shaz‘s birthday.

Emily loves watermelons.

Cake versus watermelon.

I took my A900, Minolta 24-105mm F3.5-4.5(D) and HVL-F20AM flash to Werner’s. At ISO3200 I could get the mood of the party despite this flash sounding rather diminutive at a guide number of 20 meters ISO100.

Werner’s, at the corner of Changkat Bukit Bintang.

’twas Mariana’s birthday!

The bounced HVL-F20AM provided sufficient light, if you know how to use it – high ISO, slow shutter and bright aperture lets the flash breathe.

I carried it in the LCS-WR1AM wrap – look ma no camera bags!

This dude pulled off the slow-sync spin effect well. (Most people do it horribly amateurishly!) Here’s one to him as a tribute.

Jump to smashpOp who is looking all prepped up for a stock photo. ‘cept, of course, that stock photos must carry no branding…

Yet another. Join our team!

Korean food from above!

CK, the guy who used to sit to my right. Credit to Joshua, if I remember correctly, for taking this shot.

Pinkpau and Nazrul share a loving moment in Delicious.

Isn’t she so cute and pocketable?

Martian greeting fail. The ring finger sticks to the pinky!

My colleague pulling off a Mike Patton.

Sorry girls, he’s married!

CK again.

Aznin looking lovely!

This picture of Jenifer always cracks me up, and then makes me hungry!

From A Streeting Glance

Random street shots from many dates, in no particular order.

Jammin’ down in Bukit Jalil after the Manchester United friendly match.

From Masjid Jamek STAR LRT I caught this view. They were promoting the Burger King pepper stacker. Sadly, all these gimmicks are becoming smaller, and sadly McDonalds is doing the same to its Prosperity Burger.

In case I forget what I look like, I’ll take a picture.

I waited a very long time for crows to fly past. Sadly, the big formation didn’t fly by.

You know, this one (shot another day).

Or even this, a floating plastic bag!

The car could use a spray job in front.

Down the road was Johnny Number 5, ready to catch any graffiti artists!

What a colorful concrete mess.

Set the sun.

Where’s papa?

Where’s papa and mama?

In front of the Malaysian Association For The Blind down in Brickfields.

Wei-Ling Gallery is quite an interesting structure – each level is just built off the wall.

Nothing quite like concrete though.

Lonely seats watch a main road in Wangsa Maju.

I love the night ambient colors.

Interestingly, only the third shot used my favorite Zeiss 135mm F1.8; the rest were done with the diminutive Minolta 50mm F1.4, Minolta 70-210mm F4 beercan and Sigma 17-35mm F2.8-4 EX (there is no mistaking one focal length for the other.)

Funny Time Out

6th August 2009: Down in Velvet Underground, Zouk was TimeOut KL’s Comedy Night! Yes, I braved re-entering Zouk. Here’s Matt the emcee!

Chi Ho, ex-schoolmate, and one of the funniest! His expressions, and ability to make fun of himself, and the flavor of humor (which was a fair bit wittier and clever) makes him a favorite.

Seriously man, his face itself has a kind of disarray which makes you laugh. Which works great with his self-referencing jokes.

Japaneeese in the crowd!

Nick crouches. Being a newbie however, he did as newbies did… eventually tanking.

Oliver Peters, who is funny.

Here he looks like an Indian Jesus. He then lost his hair!

Jimmy North took the stage! (And I was thinking it was a janitor’s shirt – I didn’t realize that his name was really Jim.)

He was on guitar – this was too familiar!

Then came the reason why I braved Zouk – Davina!

She started off alright…

…but as newbies do, they fail to note that stand-up comedy is, unfortunately, very formulaic.

You can’t be an activist and tell jokes at the same time; true comedians are able to bypass all inner boundaries and beliefs, and stuff you wouldn’t talk about, and make fun of everybody as well as yourself. It’s the courage of being able to do so, and the courage to defend oneself against a heckler (and make a joke out of it) that will win the crowd. Once the comedian acquires the skill of heckler defense, he/she is on the yellow brick road to success!

Of course, keep the crowd interested. You can’t take too long telling a story before the joke comes. Only people I saw able to do that were Douglas Lim and Harith Iskander but their stories came much later (and they probably had the crowd knowing they would deliver at the end, so they waited).

Finally, being able to string related jokes for extreme stomach-hurting combos is always a bonus.

Kavin ended the show. He was good. He’s related to Andrew Netto, which makes me wonder if comedy runs in the family.

Surprise son you’re married!


Urbanattic at Capsquare, before they added a distracting skyline wallpaper, 8th May 2009.

An interesting setup, is where the pool table is…

…as I can get this angle!

The result being this.

Anyway, it was Free To Fall

…an all-girl band from Klang.

I love how consistent the lights at Capsquare are.

One of them is Samuel Oh’s sister.

I just realized that this crop is rather eerie…

From the back, there is a glass pane; unfortunately you can no longer shoot from that angle.

And then, for the main highlight of the night…

…a slight variation of the lineup of The Ramanados! Here’s Darren Ashley Thomas of Bus Company (Samuel Oh’s band) playing bass.

Of course, you must have the gregarious Gregory Ramanado on vocals and energy distribution.

The band plays the funk and soul, and he takes that and turns it to human form.

A more Extreme moment sans long hair.

They played a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers songs! I was loving it. Scar Tissue in the first set, and Around The World, Californication and Dani California in the last set.

“Oh no John left the band again!”

Birthday people. Coincidentally, it’s my birthday tomorrow (as of time of writing this). Really.

Other covers they played were Stevie Wonder – Superstition, Bob Marley – Redemption Song, Eagle-Eye Cherry – Save Tonight, and Oasis – She’s Electric…

…and of course their (should-be) hit single, Gypsy Girl.

Guest drummer.

Even the pool players turn around to hear the music.

Harp on it!

Greg doing a Jay Kay during Jamiroquai – Love Fool.

This reminds me of Brandon Boyd somewhat.


More from KLue’s Urbanscapes 2009 one 26th of June! (Spot some of my pictures in the Programme section.)

Jenifur really looks like a cartoon cat.

Amanda Choe has a motto: “Pose when noone is looking.

Who’d have guessed that this guy used to be from

Farah recording at The Lawn for XFM. Ah yes, all shots from the Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 135mm F1.8 ZA at F2.0 unless otherwise specified.

Shannon wonders where to shop next.

The balloons were definitely a highlight!

Miimo who’s got a thing for big glasses.

smashpOp who’s got a thing for emo glasses.

CK who’s just got glasses.

Rames (who does a Dhalsim) with CK and smashpOp.

All this jumping was going on next to a construction site. I wonder what YTL is doing next!

Dustyhawk doesn’t need no dSLR.

Neither does she, with a Lubitel TLR.

This is the Blackbird Fly, a 35mm-film-format TLR, which unfortunately does not have a lovely ground-glass focusing microprism from the top – instead you have to use zone focusing (with a helpful icon showing how many people you can fit in the picture.)

It is also plastic, for the Lomo enthusiasts.

(Shot with the Minolta 50mm F1.4.)

In Russia everything is red.

Darth Vader is well equipped against H1N1, and he probably Force-choked Kanye for those shades.

A 50mm shot.

Not so happy news.


Well I’ll be. Chad Smith bald, John Frusciante messing up on the chorus but ultimately pulling off The Bee Gees!

Oh no John Frusciante really did quit the Red Hot Chili Peppers.

He says that the big rock band stuff doesn’t appeal to him anymore. You could already see in the Poland 2007 videos that he didn’t seem to be as smiley and happy to be rocking out until the solos. I am very sad to hear this as I still preferred the Red Hot Chili Peppers to John Frusciante’s solo music. It is said that he will be replaced by Josh Klinghoffer, who has been playing second guitar (also spotted in the Poland 2007 videos.)



When I quit the band, over a year ago, we were on an indefinite hiatus. There was no drama or anger involved, and the other guys were very understanding. They are supportive of my doing whatever makes me happy and that goes both ways.

To put it simply, my musical interests have led me in a different direction. Upon rejoining, and throughout my time in the band, I was very excited about exploring the musical possibilities inherent in a rock band, and doing so with those people in particular. A couple of years ago, I began to feel that same excitement again, but this time it was about making a different kind of music, alone, and being my own engineer.

I really love the band and what we did. I understand and value that my work with them means a lot to many people, but I have to follow my interests. For me, art has never been something done out of a sense of duty. It is something I do because it is really fun, exciting, and interesting. Over the last 12 years, I have changed, as a person and artist, to such a degree that to do further work along the lines I did with the band would be to go against my own nature. There was no choice involved in this decision. I simply have to be what I am, and have to do what I must do.

Sending love and gratitude to you all.


By the way, I’ve also fixed a bug where you might not have been able to comment. Just discovered it today – send me a text message or drop an email if you do encounter problems yo!


Urbanscapes 2009 down at KL Performing Arts Centre a certain 27th of June!

Gotta love The Times and their retro stylings which include this Thunderbird bass!

Outside there was Shahrider

…and Nizam P.! They were a crowd turner with their folksy blues and that Babi song.

VIPs inspected the place.

These buskers played true to the blues.

Way out in the parking lot, were boutique stalls!

Under the big tree, thespians acted out lines on paper submissions. Guess what this is!

Little Red Riding Hood is ready to kick some wolf.


Rachel, PhD in love.

Prakash camwhores with the neck strap on!

Alfred smoking a wrench.

Guess what the line in the paper said!

I mixed this guy up with Tony Leo Selvaraj at first!

Davina auditions for Chun-Li.

Yuna has a lovely white Ibanez Artcore!

In Pentas 1, this long-missing band from Penang made a glorious comeback.

My favorite shoe-gazing post-rock space-rock band, Damn Dirty Apes! I say this even compared to international shoegazers.

Pentas 1 was filled up with people who clapped after every symphony of built-up noise. Most were new songs, though Allied Run, Rebel Scum and In Tents from their last album Ape Kill Ape were also played. Sadly, none of the classics from Valve State Dreams.

Where’s the party at? Outside!