Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tesco Photo Centre Services by HP

When it comes to photo printers, most home users would probably think Canon or Pixma before any other brands.  The other popular brand is probably Epson.  However, there are many marques eyeing the (probably lucrative) inkjet photo printer market.  Brands such as Hewlett-Packard, Lexmark, Dell and Sony do produce photo printers but the number brand if without a doubt is Canon.


So, what can you do?  HP have been relatively unsuccessful in this market, even though they have a commanding share in the laser printer market and some business inkjet market.  HP probably decided that they need a different marketing strategy and have partnered with Tesco (in Malaysia anyway) for the Tesco Photo Centre Services.


Other than the regular 4R prints (currently at a promotional price of RM0.35 (USD0.10)), they do large format printing as well. They have packages for Photobooks, Calendars, Posters and Canvas printing.


From the display units and the sample prints of the photobooks and calendars, the quality is lacking.  Somewhat a disappointment but then the speed at which they can do it for you is quite fast.

What I am interested in is the canvas printing as they have an offer at the moment.

  • 16” x 20” Canvas (1 photo) – RM29.50
  • 18” x 24” Canvas (1 photo) – RM49.50
  • 20” x 30” Canvas (1 photo) – RM64.50

I will most probably want to try printing the 18” x 24” canvas someday.

(Photos were taken with a camera phone)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Purchased casing from Moderno

Moderno has been in the online business for sometime, slowly building his reputation over the years.  He now has a retail outlet and he still conducts business online.  Recently, I was looking for a small mini-ITX casing for my Intel 945GCLF2 motherboard as I was using it bare for a few months already.


One thing I must say about Moderno … I have never had service this fast before!  I ordered it at around 2:30 pm, paid via interbank transfer and the casing actually arrived before 2:00 pm the next day!  That’s less than 24 hours service!

Anyway, with this small casing, I was able to try out the product shooting setup again but with the Canon IXUS 75 compact camera.


The box is so small that it actually fits on the large manila card I had setup!


All nicely wrapped up.


Another layer to prevent scratches.


Nice and glossy.


Side profile, see the reflection!


Top, with the air-ventilation holes.


Rear with the opening for the I/O of the motherboard.


Inside.  Note the vignette of the compact camera at close range.


Slight bokeh on the front components.

Before I end this, I would recommend buying items from Moderno, they may not be the cheapest in town, but the service sure can be beaten (in my case anyway!).

Monday, April 27, 2009

Product shoot? Just testing my stage 1 light box!

After the setup of the no-”light box” version of a light box, we decided to give it a few test shots. As we have seen from many examples of test shots conducted for lens tests, they usually have a bottle with tiny wordings to test for sharpness.  Luckily at hand, we had one nice green bottle, courtesy of Kuan Hoong!


The picture above was taken with the flash from the front and there is still a shadow on the background.  The next picture was taken using the wireless flash capabilities and with a more pronounced shadow with light from the top.


Note that the above was only post-processed for colour temperature and cropping (first picture was not post-processed other than cropping).  The graduated tint at the rear was not from a post-processing software.  For sharpness, I took another picture of my mobile phone … yes, it is very old and needs replacement soon.


Sony Ericsson? Well, what can I say.

Light box for product photography

I was introduced to a light box for product photography during the DCIM’09 show where I took a picture of an apple.  The idea behind taking pictures in a light box is that you eliminate (or reduce) some of the shadows and basically have the whole image focused on the product itself.


The setup for the basic light box would cost quite a lot and I was wondering how cheap I can get it to?  The setup of the “portable” light box at the DCIM’09 show is as shown below.


Being the ever budget conscious photographer (well, I only have the lowest end DSLR, the Sony Alpha 200!), I decided to see what I can do.  I basically bought a large white manila card for USD0.40 and some masking tape to set up my version of a lightbox using just the fluorescent lights from the ceiling and my single wireless flash.  The setup that I have;



Nothing much to shout about but it’s cheap!  And it doesn’t have lighting!  Well, technically I can’t call this my attempt at one but it is the first step (intend to get some home-made diffused lights from the various angles later. Will take some shots for my next posting.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Sushi Tei @ Tropicana City

Yes, Tropicana City again!  Not sure why but we originally went there to visit the flea market and somehow ended up having dinner there again!


The ambiance at that place is quite pleasing, sort of relaxing in nature.  For a restaurant that have the sushi on conveyor belt, it doesn’t have the cheap feel like Sushi King or Genki Sushi.  However, a word of caution, it is a localized Japanese restaurant.


I had the cold cha-soba with chicken katsu.  The chicken katsu was pretty much a regular fried chicken but I must admit, the one they served was actually crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.  The soba, on the other hand, was veering towards tasting like cendol!  Ok, it is not that bad but it can definitely be better.  Even Northwest Airlines (now Delta Airways) serve better soba on their flights (but to be fair, that’s from Narita to Seattle).


I also had the shio-saba (mackerel grilled with salt) and it seems to be fresh.  For it’s price, this is an item that I would recommend. I also had green tea which was served in this nice cup.


From the conveyor belt, I took this dish which I think is best described as seafood tema maki with meat floss.  It actually have a very tantalizing taste from the sweetness of the meat floss, coupled with the crisp of the seaweed and the texture of the seafood and the softness of the rice.


I also tried the a little of the tempura, which I would classify as ordinary and the curry udon.  The Udon somehow did not taste genuine and tasted more like low-she-fun (rat’s tail noodles).  Not sure whether that is how it is suppose to taste.  Anyhow, both tempura and curry are quite normal.


Would I recommend it?  I guess so, nothing really wrong with that place, the service is ok (except that they have this waitress that don’t seem to understand English nor Cantonese but speaks Mandarin really well).  For the location, it is the same as last week’s posting on Room Eighteen (but on the other end of the mall).

Friday, April 24, 2009

Sony Cybershot DSC-HX1 does HDR and Panorama

One of the most significant announcement by Sony during the PMA’09 in Las Vegas earlier this year was not a new DSLR but a new prosumer (or bridge) digital camera, the Cybershot DSC-HX1 (or HX1 for short).


The most significant feature when I first came across it was it’s ability to do in-camera panoramic shots.  Of course, they also mentioned about faster shutter speeds, better noise reduction and a longer tele-range, up to 20x.  What I missed in the announcement was that it was also able to do HDR by combining 6 shots.  The YouTube video below gives a good overview of the features.

In summary, the HX1;

  • 9.1 megapixels
  • up to 1/4000th shutter speed
  • up to ISO 3200
  • 3-inch LCD
  • 9 AF points
  • HD Video
  • 10 frames per second continuous shots
  • about 500g in weight

You can now pre-order with a few online vendors including and is priced at slightly below USD500.00.

Personal option is that the focal length of 5 – 100mm won’t reach out as far as other superzoom offerings (maybe I am reading this range wrongly).

Close-Up/Macro comparison of DSLR and compact cameras

The earlier post of the dragonfly may not reflect what a shivering photographer can do with a compact in a swimming pool.  In this very short posting, I decided to take 2 close-up shots using a DSLR and a compact.


Dragonfly with Canon IXUS 75

Note that this is not a good comparison but it gives an idea of a mid-end compact (Canon IXUS 75) versus a low end DSLR (Sony Alpha 200).  Firstly, they are both of different mega pixels in size and these shots are taken handheld.  The compact is without any add-ons, just using Macro mode whilst the DSLR has a cheap +4 close-up filter attached to the lens.


Sony Alpha 200 DSLR


Canon IXUS 75

These are not 100% crops as they are of different sizes but it gives an idea of the sharpness that’s missing from the compact.  Of course, a high-end compact with larger sensors would probably do a lot better.

However, as evident in the dragonfly picture above, some level of sharpness can be achieved with a compact.  New generation compact, although with smaller sensors are actually quite good.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Macro with a compact camera

I once read about someone asking why we bother with “expensive” DSLRs and special Macro lens when compact cameras seem to be able to do the job just as well.  His main rationale was that compact cameras has a much closer focusing distance generally.  Most claim around 5 cm is sufficient for them to get a close up shot and some even claim 0 cm (not sure how this is possible).


Well, I haven’t really tried comparing them side by side (I don’t have a dedicated Macro lens for my DSLR) but maybe I will do a simple comparison using a close-up filter on my DSLR instead.  Meanwhile, I was at the pool recently and saw this red dragonfly.  Obviously I did not bring my DSLR to the pool but I had the IXUS 75 with me.


Thinking what was asked, I decided to take some close-up shots of the dragonfly.


The camera had a 3x optical zoom and can focus at quite a close distance.  After looking at the pictures, I noticed that the sharpness isn’t there and thinking back, maybe it is from shivering while waiting in the water for the dragonfly to land!  So, it may not be a true representation of what a compact camera can do for close-up shots.


The camera also didn’t have image stabilizer, so maybe that’s the cause of the blur image.  However, it gave me the impression that possibly the sensors on typical compact cameras are too small to capture the details.

I will do a comparison between the Canon IXUS 75 (compact) and the Sony Alpha 200 (DSLR) sometime in the near future.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Stitch assist on the Canon IXUS 75

Last few days, I have been trying to get to know the Canon IXUS 75 that I use regularly.  It is a nice compact camera that take reasonably good pictures in good light.  Like any compact cameras, they suffer badly in low light conditions (with maybe the exception of the Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR, the Panasonic LX-3 and the Canon G10).



Whilst trying to figure out whether it has a shutter or aperture priority control (of which there are none), I came across these two symbols that I did not know what it is about!



Took me a few minutes to figure out that this is the stitch assist (well, it’s written at the bottom left but somehow took me some time to figure this out) feature of the IXUS 75.

I tried using it but found it a little pointless as if you are intending to stitch, you probably know how much overlap you require.  Anyway, it is quite intuitive to use it and coupled with a software like the Microsoft Image Composite Editor or Clevr, you can create good panoramic pictures.

Rumoured Sony Alpha 500?

Well, there are lots of rumours in the market now and with the Canon 500D and the Nikon D5000 launched, it’s Sony time!  It is rumoured that there will be a Sony replacement for the A300/350 and maybe it will be called the A500.  Being Japanese, they probably avoided the number ‘4’!

Sorry, I don’t have any pictures of the latest rumours, but sources have it that it looks like an A350 (maybe they just photo shopped the A350!).

The rumoured specifications are:

  • 17.2 megapixels
  • up to 1/8000th shutter speed
  • high ISO, up to 12800
  • 2.7-inch swivel LCD
  • 9 AF points
  • nearly 1 to 1 coverage of the viewfinder (still slightly less)
  • 4 frames per second continuous shots
  • about 500g in weight without lens
The improved viewfinder would be a good bonus but with Sony’s reputation of poor noise reduction at high ISOs, not too sure about the 12800.  Anyway, let’s see what happens in May.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dry cabinet for your camera, why not just a dehumidifier bag?

Once we have purchased all our DSLR accessories that probably cost us more than the DSLR itself, we start to travel around with it.  We visit different places, whatever the weather is and of course, we will sooner or later be drawn towards newer and more expensive lens.

Then, being the smart photographer, we search for used lenses, well, lenses whether used or new should function very much the same.  As we hunt for used lenses, we come across “fungus free, oil free and snappy lens”.  That makes us worry about the value of our own lenses and hence the introduction to a dry cabinet!


After spending all the money on the accessories, we still have this so-called dry cabinet!  The best value for money ones are probably from manufacturers such as Aipo, that produces a 20 litre model for around USD80 or so.

But, isn’t your gear always in the bag?  Well, mine is and I am really lazy to put them into a dry cabinet (well, I don’t have one but hopefully, one day I will get one).  So, what should I do?  I would still like to keep my equipment as dry as possible.  The answer is probably throwing in some silica gel packets into your bag.


However, I have been using a dehumidifier bag for my wardrobe and it seems to work quite well for a large area.


So, I decided to put a USD0.60 dehumidifier bag in the netting area of my Bagman bag for the past 1 month.


It seem to work well so far, the silica gel inside it have started to harden a little but still absorbing.  From my estimate, probably a box of 10 bags (USD6) will last for 1 year.

Sorry for the noisy picture, as you can see, my DSLR is in the bag!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Photobook competition for mother’s day

For mother’s day, is having a competition.  Basically, in 150 words or less, describe your mum on how she is the greatest there is and stand a chance to win gift certificates for photobook’s products.  (From what I have seen once, they are of very high quality).


However, if you go to their website, the first thing you see is a promotion for their mother’s day photobook, buy one, get one free!


What surprises me is that for a competition run by a company that’s associated with photographs, the competition has nothing to do with photography, except for the prizes.  I would have probably made the competition about memorable photographs of mum that reflects why she is the best there is, on her sacrifices or on her courage.  But that’s just my personal opinion.

For those who can’t find/view it, you can go to this link.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Eighteen Room @ Tropicana City, PJ

This is a new restaurant by TT Resources Berhad (Tai Thong) that specializes in congee and noodles.  Ok, let’s go straight into it (apologies on the pictures as I have this problem with vignette on my very old 3.2MP camera).


The service was very prompt, maybe because we somehow got the manager to serve us.  We were seated quickly, the menu was handed out and they gave us a few minutes before they came back.


We ordered quite a variety which included congee, mushroom (vegeterian) cheong fun, char leong (yau-char-kuai wrapped in cheong fun, siew-yoke rice, siew-long-pau, siew-mai, wanton noodles and special siew-pau.


First off, the congee was well cooked and presented.  No negative comment on it, tasty with just the right amount of sesame seed oil.


The vegetarian cheong fun was quite a disappointment, as it was too sticky.  Probably not to my liking.


The most disappointing dish of the lot was the char-leong.  Maybe I had much better ones before and it seems that it is not commonly available here.  Anyway, they used the normal yau-char-kuai and this kinda spoils it.  The presentation was very crude as well.


Luckily the siew-yoke rice was presented well and the siew-yoke had a crisp exterior and soft interior.  The rice was nicely cooked, not too grainy and not too sticky.  Surprisingly lovely for a dish that we normally eat for lunch.

siew-mai siew-long-pau

The two tim-sum dishes we had were the siew-mai and the siew-long-pau.  Both were very good, but our order of extra ginger for the siew-long-pau never arrived.  Hence the last siew-long-pau was eaten by yours truly without the ginger and that’s not too great.


The final dish we ordered was an after thought, when we saw other tables ordering it.  It was nearly a “heavenly” bun with char-siew inside.  It looks large, but the inside is nearly 90% empty and with a single hand, you can probably squeeze it to the size of a meatball.

Overall, the food is ok, above average and the price is quite reasonable for the ambiance and the location.  We spent about RM90 for dinner, including some drinks.

The restaurant is located in Tropicana City mall, GPS coordinate N3.130307 E101.629061.

View Larger Map