Friday, December 17, 2010

Mastering the Shakes

DP2 main issue is that there is no image stabilization. DP2 main strength is the Foveon seated in its heart.
The fun thing about DP2 is that you no longer have the urge to snap thousands of photos, a luxury that the GXR offers me, but that each shot in DP2 have to be done precisely and with some thoughts...and post processing.

I took this shot while leaning my hands on my knee in a seated position, a satisfactory result but a tripod would have given a much clearer shot.

Grandma's hand
Taking the photo of a different view and parts instead of the face and normal portrait results in totally different feel to the photo.

Read more about these techniques here : how-to-avoid-camera-shake

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Sigma DP2 (Part II) - My gears ...

I got myself the DP2 after reading about the Foveon sensor image quality. I must admit i have a soft spot for underdogs company that tried to produce outstanding and innovative products. When i found a really good offer by a camera reseller in Pudu Plaza (KL, Malaysia), i reasoned that since the 28 mm A12 GXR won't be available here for sometime, i might as well use my budget and try out this camera.

Here is how it looks like when unboxed. It comes with the standard stuff on usb cables, batteries and the Sigma PhotoPro software.

I got mine with an extra batteries and a hood adapter for the price around USD 650. I didn't even use the cd provided since i know there must be many revisions since the packaged was shipped to this reseller. In fact when i checked the camera's firmware it is 1.00. Obviously Sigma camera presence in Malaysia is very very weak and i only found out about this DP2 a year later after it was launched...from the internet.

Brand new

Now to cut short the unboxing story, i upgraded the firmware to 1.05 which is the latest at this point and the camera initial impression was "The autofocus, and lcd screen is so outdated in performance".
After weeks of playing with it and religiously reading other owners blogs and reviews and tips i concluded the following rules on using DP2 :

1. It can actually perform VERY well in lowlight, you just needed a TRIPOD. So get yourself a gorilla pod or those minipod (yeap DP2 is so light that these small tripods can work). Alternative somekind of beanbag can work too. I also tried using techniques on holding cameras without shaking and worked pretty ok.
You can read more about those techniques here : 6 Techniques on holding camera

Updated 4th January 2011
Get a mecablitz 20 c-2 external flash. This flash is small and its support tilting and enables you to
angle the flash to the ceiling. With this flash you just select either 2.8 or the 5.6 markings on the flash and use the 2 same aperture on your system. You can get very good images, there is just no two way about
it, either use a tripod or use an external flash. You set to manual and set the shutter speed to say 1/60 at least and be amazed of how nice your shots looks like in low light.

2. You will need 2 batteries. It can only shoot up to 100 images before it runs dry and that pretty fast. Sometimes i shot just up to 40 images and it runs out if i spend too much time viewing it via the LCD.

3. For anything less that 1 meter in broad daylight, use ISO 50 . You will see how beautiful and clear portraits are in DP2, thanks to the Foveon sensor.

4. Street photography is very good if its outdoor and fill with sunlight. Set manual focus to slightly over 5 meter and set F to 5.6.

5. As mentioned by many users, shoot only in RAW and use the SPP software to process it. I use a class 10 card and have no problem shooting all the way doing street photography style.

6. Do not set ISO over 400. Its really not usable for color photos. For B&W photography however, you can set ISO up to 3200.

7. Its pretty easy to do HDR photography. Click on the OK button and the up arrow until it reaches 2.7 or 3.0 (the display on the upper left) and then just click once. It will take 3 photos on +- the exposure you set just now and you just need an HDR software to do it. I personally find HDR overrated especially those that leans towards the "fake" look. Whats the point of creating a photo that loses all its realism? A good HDR would be to make the photo clear and have good details in the EV combined, it should look real

Here is a PSEUDO HDR, done via just a single picture.


Here is how a real HDR looks like


As you can see, there really isn't much saturation nor those CGI looking stuffs on it, just
better contrast combined due to the 3 diff exposures.

Now carrying the DP2 around is easy, I got myself a waist/slingbag to hold the hold, a tripod and an extra battery. All these fit into a relatively small pouch/sling bag that makes it my travel companion.

DP2, Tripod, Hood, +1 extra battery fits here

Although the GXR pouch is even smaller, the DP2 pouch is larger because i put in a mini tripod.

A mini tripod like this one is a MUST for DP2

In subsequent posting i will be sharing mostly on further discoveries, photos on the DP2 and GXRs.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

My gears: the Ricoh GXR and the Sigma DP2

There are two parts to this introduction of my selected gears and the reasons behind each of them.
Its my hope that those who read it will acquire some honest sharing of information on these cameras and their usability in day to day life. I am not a professional photographer, just someone who wants the most quality of out life in photography and true to life shots.

Part I : Ricoh GXR, The interchangeable modules system

I purchased the Ricoh GXR around September 2010 and after the November 2010 firmware update the camera is excellent. You can read some popular reviews by famous online reviewers, here is one of them that i find accurate and reflects the same thoughts i have on it.

Ricoh GXR 50mm A12, P10

Why a GXR ?

First off, if you are looking for a compact that delivers DSLR results, at this point of writing i would say there is no better choice than the GXR or the X1. The APS-C sensor size in the GXR 50mm and 28mm trumps the 4/3 and other compacts any day.

With the GXR, you are not limited to whatever lens, it uses the concept of modules and each modules comes with its own sensor. Needless to say i have weighted the pros and cons to this and at the end of the day its the "practicality" and objective that won.

The objective to always keep in mind is : convenience, compact, dslr quality.  I want to shoot if possible "AUTO" all the time and i want DSLR quality.

So now, the GXR you just need 2 modules, the 50 mm and the 28 mm, unfortunately at this point of writing i only have the 50 mm A12 (APS-C) and the P10 (cmos small sensor) since Malaysia don't have stocks on the 28 mm yet.

I know the agony of carrying a DSLR while traveling with family and of which i will frequently need to carry my daughter during those heavy walking. During November i visited Taiwan for the flora expo and i got the GXR specifically for this reason and future trips.

Did it work out? You bet. It was perfect. I was carrying 2 module lens with the GXR is a small pouch, i would say its around 40% smaller than my standard DSLR which i already chosen the smallest possible to hold the prime and the kit lens. Swapping the modules was super fast and i could do it easily unlike changing lens on my nikon.

Here are some example shots, totally straight from the camera.

Night market Fuzhong@Taipei
Elite shopping mall @ taipei

A note on the shot above, the 50mm A12 does not comes with stabilizer and i have a big problem on using any cameras with no image stabilizers, that is because i have a natural "tremor" on my hands since birth, but surprisingly the results was very good.

There is one thing on the Ricoh that exceeds all other cameras i've tried and that includes the fuji compacts and canikons dslrs. The UI or user interface on the Ricoh is exceptional. I would go so far as to say that the UI is near perfect in practical use, the buttons and menus are all exactly where and how a person would use it in most situations.

You will need 2 batteries. The GXR don't last anywhere near a Nikon DLSRs in terms of batteries endurance and number of shots. I have my 2nd battery that has labels that its meant for the Fuji cameras and with 1800ma (the original is 1700 ma). That backup battery cost me around USD 30.


Most objections about the GXR centralize on the issue that changing the module is changing the sensor also and its like changing a camera and its expensive. Although the modules are expensive but most reviewers overlooked a significant point : The body is cheap to change!

What happen if you buy something like the 4/3 system, u get stuck with the body but u get to buy relatively cheaper lenses, but 2 years later some new supa-dupa-omaled screen comes out and then what, you buy the new body but turns out the body new sensor works better with some "Z" series of lenses (GF1 users wishing their body is more compact like the GF2?, ouch...thats another USD 700).

With the GXR, the body is much cheaper to change, its like USD 300 only and Ricoh gets to release a new body with cooler and better technology and yet all your modules will work as is!
A Kinect enabled camera? No problem get the new GXR body with Kinect and your modules works as is. A body with lcd projector, the list goes on. The situation and potential as you can see, is unlimited.
The quality of the 50mm and 28mm is so high that unless our eyes or world suddenly becomes more defined, 5 years down the road, those 2 modules will still produce what it produces today, great results.

As for the price of the modules being the downside, yes and no. What would you u pay for an upper dslr quality fix prime lines that performs better than entry level Dslrs, minus the size and maintenance required?

I don't work for Ricoh nor am i in anyway associated with Ricoh. (the kinect example is exaggerated but its exciting to think of it...)

In the next posting, i would write about the Sigma DP2, how to use it effectively and whats is the amazing thing about that camera.

I got the DP2 after i got the GXR. Someone ask, if the GXR is so complete, why did i get the DP2?
Kindly read the upcoming post.