Saturday, February 28, 2009

Picture frames … again …

After my last post, someone mentioned to me that it may not be  costly to print an 8R (approximately an A4) sized photograph but it is costly to frame it up appropriately.  It may not make sense.

IMG_0954Well, thanks to IKEA again, they do have lower cost frames that may not be as good looking but would still be ok.

They did have 8R frames for around RM5/- (<USD1.50) a few weeks back (the black one in the picture) but last weekend, sIMG_0956imilar frames are now RM9.90 (<USD3.00) (the pink one in the picture).

They also have them in  A3 sizes (the pine coloured frame) and they are real handy not only for high quality pictures but also for art work.

Large Format Inkjet Printing

With the Nikon D3X, Canon 1D MkII and the Sony A900 capable of greater than 20 Megapixels and with the clarity of pictures taken, will we be seeing photo albums filled with A4 sized photos?  In fact, we most probably be able to print with great clarity in A1 (23.5” x 33”) or even A0 (33” x 47”) sizes!

How much does it cost currently?

  • A2 (16.5” x 23.5”) – RM26/- (USD7)
  • A1 (23.5” x 33”) – RM44/- (USD14)
  • A0 (33” x 47”) – RM88/- (USD28)

These are on semi-gloss photo paper.  Will definitely give the A2 printing a go sometime in the future.

Friday, February 27, 2009


There are photographers and there are photographers, one type focuses on taking pictures creatively or taking sharp pictures or taking interesting pictures whilst the other type generally talk about their gear (equipment).

pma-logo PMA is a yearly trade exhibition and show in the US for manufacturers to show case their concept or new products, much like the Tokyo Motor Show is for cars.  This year’s PMA will be held from 3 – 5 March and many new anticipated announcements are expected.  Among them are the Nikon D700x, the rumoured replacement for the Sony Alpha 700, Nikon D5000 and Canon’s flagship 1D Mk III.


End of Season Clearance Sale

Sony Centre is having an end of season clearance sale at Amcorp Mall, Concourse Level! 

Dates: 27th February – 1st March 2009
Time: 9:30 am – 9:00 pm
Venue: Amcorp Mall, Concourse Level
Tel: 03 7988 2488

Funnily, I can’t find this announcement on their website.

PIcture frames

With the digital cameras, we tend to shoot and store our pictures on our hard disk and maybe share it with others using flickr or picasaweb.  Gone are the days that we print every single shot and hang them up on our walls.

Printing can be expensive, especially we now take about 100x more shots that we would have if we were using a film based camera.  However, it would be nice if we do print some of our more treasured shots and hang them up.

DSC01363-sqIn doing so, printing is not the only cost, the picture frames would be too.  Luckily, IKEA is now all over the world!  For a small price (compared to getting custom made frames), IKEA do sell frames for 5R (with your 10 megapixel camera, you would want it to be 8R but that’s a little expensive) and larger that are reasonably priced.

DSC01365A frame capable of holding 5 5R pictures cost less than RM60 (USD18/-) which can be hung vertically or horizontally.

For more information, visit IKEA online.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

8 things you might not know about your Sony Alpha DSLR … Part VIII

In the flash settings, there are several options other than the standard “logo” and the wireless flash settings.  There’s the rear flash and the slow flash.  These are normally also found in other DLSRs, so what are they?

Rear sync flash

In pictures where the subject is still, there won’t be any  difference.  The difference here lies in the timing of tSonyA200_flash_modehe triggering of the flash.  In the default mode (flash fill mode), the flash is triggered immediately upon the opening of the shutter.  In a situation where there is a moving object, the object will appear to be moving backwards as the early part of the movement receives the flash light whilst the latter part of the movement doesn’t.

The rear flash mode triggers the flash just before the closing of the shutter.  Basically, now the latter movement gets the flash and hence the subject will be seen as moving forward.

(Sorry, was not able to take the pictures to illustrate it).

Slow sync flash

In low light situations, using the flash will typically produce a picture that looks like it had a black background as the ambient light is missing due to the faster shutter speed (in automatic mode).

The slow sync flash function is to allow as much ambient light as possible (maybe one or two step faster shutter than in automatic mode without flash) and hence be able to capture some of the background ambient light.

My explanation for the above may not be easy to comprehend, leave a comment if you have any questions.

End of this short series …

Entry level Nikon D90 … D5000?

Nikon is rumoured to be launching (next week during the PMA09) an entry level video capable D5000 which is basically a D90 without the built-in motor (aka D40/D60).  It is expected that it will be 12.3 MP, Live View, Video Capabilities, and without the traditional Nikon top level LCD.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

8 things you might not know about your Sony Alpha DSLR … Part VII

Anyone with a camera would probably know how to use the self timer feature.  This is generally used to delay the shutter (picture taking) sufficiently so that the person can position him/herself into the frame.  In other words, sufficient time to “run” back to get their own picture taken.

The self timer is also used to ensure minimal shake to maximize sharpness of the picture, it is a popular alternative if one does not have a remote shutter release.

2s self timer


Generally, self timers are 10 second delays. On the Sony A200, it allows for a 2 seconds delay (not sure about other cameras but I am sure they too have something similar).  I am not sure why there is such a feature as surely 2 seconds is not really sufficient for you to “run” back to position.  However, I believe it can be used for Macro shots, where a 10 second delay may be too long for a picture subject to stay still.  For example a moving caterpillar may no longer be in focus after 10 seconds!

To be continued … Part VIII (and final part)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

8 things you might not know about your Sony Alpha DSLR … Part VI

Traditional photographs have been using the 3:2 aspect ratio, like in your printed 3R or 4R photographs.  Unsurprisingly, your old computer monitor (CRT) also has a similar aspect ratio.

With the advent of wide screen LCD monitors for your computers and with the high definition video standards, the aspect ratio of the screens are now 16:9.  So, should we be taking pictures in this aspect ratio?

16:9 aspect ratio

a200-ratio So, if you are not aware, you can actually take pictures in this ratio as well (just like any other new camera).  To set this, press the menu button, on the second line of the first screen, you can change the aspect ratio from 3:2 to 16:9.  This is particularly useful if you playback your photos in a HD TV or on you super duper new tack sharp LCD screen.

To be continued … Part VII

Monday, February 23, 2009

Castrol EDGE Sport Speed Challenge – Sweet Young Things

Week 3

Somehow or rather, my confidence in these two younger ladies is lacking.  I think it has to do with those translucent rain coats or maybe the final clip where they were informed that they haven’t finished yet. 

Unlike the more matured Hot Chics, who seem to have an idea of what they are doing, I suspect Sweet Young Things have never owned a car before.  Maybe wrong but …

8 things you might not know about your Sony Alpha DSLR … Part V

When using the Manual mode, the dial in front of the shutter button is used to change the shutter speed.  This seems to be exactly the same as the Shutter priority mode.  It may not be intuitive to a new user on how to change the aperture in M mode.

Aperture setting

Press down the +/- button and use the same dial (the one in front of the shutter release button).  This will change the aperture settings instead of the shutter settings.

alpha200_ -

Changing the default to aperture

Some of us probably like to change aperture settings more than the shutter setting, e.g. when trying to freeze a shot, we typically set the shutter speed to high.  Since we may change aperture settings more often, we may want to set the dial to change aperture by default and to depress the +/- for changing the shutter.

This can be done through pressing the menu button, the proceed to 3rd screen (navigating to the right), you will get …

shutter-setupYou can switch the dial control to aperture here.  Voila!

To be continued … Part VI

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Car purchases are definitely not logical …

It’s amazing that over the years and especially in this foreseeable economic crisis, we still have hundreds of people that are willing to buy a car without even actually knowing exactly what it looks like or even the specifications of the car!

Proton holdings announced that they have a few hundred bookings for the yet to be officially launched MPV (that’s RM1,000 per booking).  [source: The Star Online].proton-exora-press-ad

The only official picture that I have seen is in the newspaper advertisement.

Of course there are many spy shots but I am sure not everyone is aware of their existence on the Internet.

Maybe it is due to the price where it has been announced that the M-Line Automatic will be priced at RM72,000/-.

Who knows, everyone is entitled to their own way to spend their money …. =)

Forest Reserve Institute Malaysia Photo Contest

‘The Forest Research Institute Malaysia (FRIM) invites photographers and photo enthusiasts, professionals as well as amateurs, to participate in its Photography Competition this year by submitting photographs depicting the theme, “The Enchanting World of FRIM, Through The Lense”.’

He heh … Through The Lense … TTL … does it mean that pictures should be taken with the TTL Flash?

Oh, prizes are …

Open Category:
First prize: RM 2,000
Second prize: RM 1,500
Third prize: RM1,000
10 Consolation Prizes: RM300 each

Student Category:
First prize: RM 1,000
Second prize: RM 750
Third prize: RM 500
10 Consolation Prizes: RM150 each

8 things you might not know about your Sony Alpha DSLR … Part IV

Like most DSLR cameras, the Sony A200 has automatic white balance (AWB), a few preset white balance (e.g. tungsten, cloudy and so on) and the ability to set the KELVIN temperature (I guess you can call this the manual mode).  However, the Sony A200 has this nice feature, called the Custom White Balance.

Custom White Balance

In the AWB, the camera will generally use the 18% gray rule [link] to get the overall colour temperature right.  If you take a picture of a completely white paper in the AWB mode, it will probably turn out slightly grayish (of course, the auto-focus will also not work as it has no patterns to catch on to).  So, sometimes we want to be exact in our colour representation, so how do we know what to set it to?

The custom white balance works in such a method;  firstly use the FN button …

alpha200_FN_Btn Go to the White Balance menu,alpha200_WB_MENU

You will be greeted with the following menu, scroll right to the bottom to the “custom” part. (The image below was obtained from somewhere on the net and unfortunately I did not remember where, so I can’t acknowledge their work).


Get a blank white piece of paper, put it under the main light source (or just any place where it can get the surrounding’s colour temperature) and set the custom white balance by depressing the shutter button.  This basically tells the camera that what it is seeing is white and please set the colour temperature accordingly.

In simple words, remove the guessing of Kelvin temperature and get the camera to do it for you!

To be continued … Part V

Saturday, February 21, 2009

February 2009 Photography Competition

This month’s competition is titled “SIX LEGS” where entries are to have six legs (obvious isn’t it). 

  • Submission period: Now - 28 February 2009
  • Voting period: 8th January - 15th March 2009
  • Winner announcement: 25th March 2009
For more information, click here.

8 things you might not know about your Sony Alpha DSLR … Part III

Sony makes very affordable external flash units for it’s DSLR.  At the time of writing, they have the HVL-F42AM and the HVL-F58AM.  Although they are affordable, they sport this interesting feature called the Wireless Flash.


Sony DSLRs, even the lowest end Alpha 200 can utilize the external flashes without it being attached to the camera body.  Traditionally, this would mean that you will need a connection between the camera body and the flash unit.  However, being a leader in electronics, Sony incorporated wireless communication with the external flash unit.

This is particularly useful when you may not want to have the main light source (the flash) from the lens angle.  Much like in a studio environment, the setup will typically have 4 light sources that can be triggered together or in a certain order.  A useful feature for outdoor portrait shooting.

To be continued … Part IV

Friday, February 20, 2009

8 things you might not know about your Sony Alpha DSLR … Part II

This is probably something which needs a little more explaining.  In most DSLR, the flash system is called the TTL.


For those who do not know, TTL actually stands for Through The Lens (at least you learn something from reading this).  Sony has a more advance version which they call the ADI (Advance Distance Integration).


ADI is a technology that acts like an auto intensity for your flash on the Sony DSLR.  Basically, it takes into consideration the distance to the subject (working together with the ADI capable lens) to determine the appropriate settings for the flash intensity.

Setting it

By default, the settings for the flash on the Sony DSLR is on ADI.  If you would like to change it to TTL, you press the “menu” button on the left back of the camera.alpha200_menu

On the first screen, you will have the “Flash control” option.  Enter that and you can select the TTL mode.

SonyA200_rec_menu1Why would you want to override this excellent piece of technology? Or rather the question should be why does Sony allow you to select the TTL mode?

As a beginner, the ADI will help but only when direct flash is use will it be beneficial. However, as you progress with the use of the flash, you will definitely have the diffuser to remove harshness in the picture and as your flash usage technique improve, you will probably bounce the flash.  As such, the ADI may not be your best friend, so setting to TTL may be necessary.

To be continued … Part III

Thursday, February 19, 2009

8 things you might not know about your Sony Alpha DSLR … Part 1

This is a series of minor features that can be found in the Sony Alpha 200 that probably most beginners would have missed.  I assume that most users of DSLR, even beginners, would understand the basics such as shutter speed, aperture size, depth of field, auto focus area, white balance and metering modes.

Let’s start with metering.  Near the top right hand corner of the back of the camera, reachable by your thumb, there’s this button labeled “AEL”.



Auto Exposure Lock (AEL). What is this for?

This feature is useful when you want your metering to be taken from another area of the frame.  You can take the metering reading from the area which you wish to use by having the AEL button pressed (hold) and while holding it, reframe your shot accordingly.  This will ensure that your metering (exposure) won’t change allowing for your selected exposure.

How to use the button?

You can use spot metering and when you have decided on the spot where you would like to do the metering, you can press and hold the AEL button and reframe your picture.  This is useful as most of the time you don’t take the subject in the middle of the picture.

I am not sure why, but the default set in the camera is to press and hold.  I would have thought that it makes more sense to be able to toggle it, i.e. press once to set the metering and press another time to release it.  Luckily this can be set in the Alpha 200.

Setting to AEL toggle

Go to Menu, 2nd screen, there is the AEL setup.  Enter and you can select it there.


There you go, you now can press the AEL button and without needing to keep it depress, you can continue to frame your shot.

To be continued ... Part II

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Sony basic photography with Alpha


Recently, I just attended the basic photography with Alpha workshop conducted by Sony.  Firstly, I must say thanks to Mr John Shum and Sony Malaysia who provided a very good introduction to the world of DSLR.

The workshop covered the basics such as shutter speed, aperture setting, depth of field, ISO, metering, auto-focus mode, white balance, self-timer, auto-focus area, flash and other important accessories such as different types of filters, remote shutter trigger, external flash (he really poisoned us, especially with the wireless flash), tripods, vertical grips and of course Carl Zeiss lenses.  It also covered some basics in creativity, the one third rule, the horizontal horizon and 18% gray.

Over the next few days, I will blog more about some of the features of the Sony Alphas that most beginners may not have noticed about their DSLR.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Castrol EDGE Sport Speed Challenge - The Geeks

Week 2

Continuation from last week, this time 2 "geeks". Watch the video ...

Really, it's not that interesting as last week's 2 ladies. This week's 2 geeks seem to have an idea of what they are doing, but really ... I think the 2 ladies probably did about the same.

Nanomist by CARs International

Over the weekend, I attended a workshop conducted by Sony at Mid-Valley.  As the workshop is more than 5 hours long, I sent in the car for a wash, polish and wax at CARs International.

When I collected, the car, I asked about the anti-bacterial “fogging” of the car which they demonstrated to me months ago.

It cost RM19.90 and I asked them to proceed with it while I read the “Digital Camera” February 2009 issue.

DSC01240Oooo … look at the shine.  Actually, the picture above is to show the “mist” inside the car which was during the process of them doing the nanomist which kills bacteria.  (Not the CARs International banner in the rear screen reflection).

It’s main function is as an anti-bacterial treatment. How effective is it, I guess we can’t really tell.

Friday, February 13, 2009

My Cheap CPL Filters

As mentioned in my earlier post, where I bought some stuff from Econware, here’s a simple example of what a novice like me can simply do easily.  Of course, it can be better if I had a better angle and also time to take these pictures properly.

DSC01094 DSC01093

Picture on the left is without the CPL filter whilst the one on the right is with the CPL filter (although not optimally filtered).  As can be seen, most of the green reflection from the trees are removed and the leaf and the stones can be seen clearly.

However, the picture through the CPL seems to have lost some of it's vivid colours. This can be "rectified" using a simple tool such as Picasa by google with the "Auto Contrast" function.


Voila … not professionally done but acceptable.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Macro of Fast Moving Ant

Was out in Cyberjaya Lake last weekend and whilst taking some candid shots of my kids, I noticed this long fast moving ant.  I had my “cheap” macro lens with me and decided to take a macro shot of this ant.  Man …. was it difficult as I had to do manual focusing on a moving ant!  Anyway, the result is …

Would have been great if I can get a side or frontal shot but this fella was fast!  Did not have enough DoF to have the tail in focus, that would be a nice shot.  Maybe better luck next time.

Entry Level DSLR ... Which? (Part II)

I have written about one of the negatives of the Sony Alpha cameras in terms of lenses choice. However, my relative's Nikon D40 has this other problem, there are no ...

[-] Nikon D40: Affordable Travel Lens

My relative recently asked me how much would a 18-200mm or 18-250mm lens cost as she is interested to acquire one for her yearly traveling. She has been using her 18-55mm kit lens with her Nikon D40 and is planning to go on a safari tour. I quickly just said slightly more than USD400 as that's what the street price is for a 18-250mm lens for my Sony.
Upon looking around, realized that the 18-200mm Nikkor lens that can be used on the D40 cost slightly less than USD600! I may be wrong and may not have searched nor asked around enough but checking online and with other users, it is around that price. I haven't looked around and compare it for the Canon.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Castrol EDGE Sport Speed Challenge - Hot Chics

Week 1

It’s been sometime since I wrote anything about cars and recently it was brought to my attention that Castrol is having this online competition where you can win some Sony prizes. Well, that got me excited as recently, Sony means Handycam or Alpha DSLR! However, looking at the website, realised that it’s for a

37” Bravia LCD TV!

Let me guess, it’s the KLV-37S400A 37” S-series BRAVIA, which unfortunately is not HD capable. The other prizes were all Sony’s, a Play Station 3 (yummy!) and a whole load of MP3 Walkman. There’s only one prize that’s non-Sony and that’s an Apple i-Pod.

Before I digress too much, this is about Castrol and over the next 4 weeks, they will be showing short videos (on YouTube) of 4 teams changing their car’s engine oil. The first is as below.

If only my mechanics are as lovely and lively (see the “shake, shake, shake” part) as these two and it doesn’t matter how long they take … I will definitely make sure I service my car as often as possible and at a Castrol workshop, but maybe with the GT-X or Magnatec (which is what I use now) as the RS probably has too long a service interval.

Sony in Reality Shows

Ah, now back to Sony. I must have been watching too many “The Amazing Race Asia” which is partly sponsored by Sony. In the race, there is usually a section of the race where the contestants are to use the Sony Handycam to make a short clip. Whether it’s subconscious marketing by Sony but in my recent search for a camcorder, Sony seems to be in my mind all the time. Furthermore, it’s fueled by the fact that I own a Sony DVD player, a Sony 25” CRT TV, a Sony PDA (actually sold), a Sony Digital Point and Shoot Camera, a Sony Ericsson Mobile Phone and a Sony DSLR.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Entry Level DSLR … Which?

This seem to be the most common question when someone wants to start investing in a DSLR.  The most popular, at the time of writing, would be Nikon D40, Nikon D60, Canon 1000D or Canon 350D.  Oh, and not forgetting the Sony A200, A300 and A350!  Now, I have always wondered why bother with the question as it is a moot question as all 3 brands are popular and so just go and touch one and if it feels right, get it.

[-] Sony: Large Aperture Affordable Prime Lens

However, after spending sometime with my own Sony Alpha 200 and also with my relative’s Nikon D40, there are some minor considerations.

Sony SAL-50F14For starters, I was looking for an affordable prime lens for candid shots recently, a 50mm F1.4 would be ideal.  Sony seem to offer this lens and Sony’s offering is also more affordable than both Nikon’s and Canon’s offering for the same type of lens. 

Unfortunately, it is beyond what I would pay.

Both Nikon and Canon have a 50mm F1.8 offering that is very affordable at around USD100/- street price.  Sony doesn’t have this offering BUT you can get the Minolta Maxxum AF 50mm F1.7.  Minolta no longer exist in this market since Sony bought them out but you can still find them used (sometimes new) and they are old!

I tried to search for a used unit but the going rate is about UDS130/- or more and they are very old lens (heard that they are more than 20 years old).  I even tried to bid for them on eBay and lost in all 20 bids that I made.

I guess I can either go for the 50mm F1.4 or just use my existing 18-70mm kit lens.

Coming up next … [-] Nikon D40/D60.

Lunar Real Estate

Just today, I read that there’s an organization that call themselves “The Lunar Embassy Headquarters” that sells the moon’s real estate property!


The first thing that came to mind was – why is there a headquarters for the lunar embassy (I have never heard of embassy’s headquarters) and secondly – why is the headquarters on earth? If there is such a thing as a lunar embassy headquarters, wouldn’t it be on the moon?  Coming back to life on the moon, they are selling them for USD22+ per acre.  I think I can afford quite a few acres, let me have a look …

Picture was taken on 8th February 2009.

ISO: 100

Exposure: 1/320 sec

Aperture: 5.6

Focal Length: 300mm

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Close Up (Macro) Filters

I wondered about Close Up, or sometimes known as Macro, filters and how effective they are in getting close up shots. As per my previous post yesterday, I recently bought an affordable 55mm Close Up (+4) Filter for my Sony DLSR. I have a SAL75300 lens which is great for outdoor and event photography but the minimum focusing distance is around 4.9 ft. Below are pictures of the closest I can get to my desk stapler using the following settings:

ISO: 400
Exposure: 1/80 sec
Aperture: 5.0
Focal Length: 100mm
Flash Used: No

With the Close Up lens that I bought recently, I managed to go closer to the subject but focusing is difficult. Focusing is tough and the initial picture taken was as below:

ISO: 400
Exposure: 1/15 sec
Aperture: 5.0
Focal Length: 110mm
Flash Used: No

However, with some patience, a sharper and closer image can be obtain.

ISO: 400
Exposure: 1/30 sec
Aperture: 5.0
Focal Length: 100mm
Flash Used: No

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Online Purchases From Econware on Lelong.Com.My

Being a beginner and "couch" photographer who has very limited time on his hands, I ventured into purchasing some of my camera accessories online instead of visiting the shops. Many people have always been skeptical about purchasing online and they don't get to see the good beforehand and the opportunity to speak to a sales person personally.

For my very first purchase from, I stumbled across a lelong merchant, econware, when I was searching for CPL filters.

Upon visiting their site, I also found a suitable Close-Up Filter (+4) and a remote switch for my Sony DSLR. What more, they can combine the 3 items with one deliver charge. These are 3rd party manufacturers and the brands are unknown. Just to try out their service, I proceeded to order the 3 items. Their site promises delivery 1-2 days after receipt of the order.

So ... I proceeded to order on a SUNDAY NIGHT with Monday being a public holiday! After placing my order, lelong acknowledged the order and provided me instructions on how to make payment. I decided to do a bank transfer to econware's bank account on a Sunday night.

Monday came ... and around 5 pm, I received an email from econware stating that the shipment has been made and provided me with PosLaju's reference number. I thought to myself, "wow, on a public holiday!".

Sure enough, at 3 pm on Tuesday, a small package arrived. As promised, they delivered in 1 day (as I later realised that econware works out of Selangor).

The items were packed well and arrived in good shape. I immediately tested them and they all work fine. On the Close-Up +4 filter and the CPL filter, I will do a simple write-up later.

econware was also kind enough to give me a good feedback on lelong as a buyer.

Much appreciated. They are a reliable seller too.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Satay ... nearly everyone's favourite! @ Taman Warisan, Putrajaya

One of my favourite food, The Satay, is "marinated meat on sticks". This is a traditional dish from Malaysia and Indonesia that is typically cooked over charcoal. However, I have also tried it as a national dish of the Netherlands (Holland) and I believe they "imported" it back from Indonesia when Indonesia was part of the Dutch colony.

Anyway, you can get very detailed description of the satay from many places and you can find additional pictures below.

The Satay (chicken and lamb)

Ketupat (Rice wrapped in pandan leaves)

(This was actually my dinner last night, which I bought from a famous Kajang Satay chain called Haji Samuri).