Back to Manual Everything Camera

I have ‘transferrrrred’ my D2X to somebody who needs it more for making a living.

I am now left with my FM2N and 28 2.8 AIS. I think those two are all I need at the moment. Although I am drooooolllliiiingg to have this ….

In the past two weeks I also bought heaps of Xtol developer, stop bath, fixer and wetting agent, used stainless steel developing tank (small cap is missing. d*mn !), changing bag, a few reloadable 135 cartridges, 20 rolls of Tri-X, 100 ft of PanF, a bulk loader and a film retriever.

… by now you can see a newbie in this darkroom world…

I hope I will enjoy the slow and painful process of this new world…

Afternoon Series (1) – Just Sky


The New E-3 from Olympus


Olympus just released their new E-3. Hurray. With their 4/3 system. The body mounted antishake undoubtedly is the only selling point they have. They claim the fastest autofocus in the world. Now that might be true, but in many of our heads, Nikon and Canon definetely own that teritorry. Live View? Probably a selling point, for bug shooters with macro lens.

Despite the ‘antishake’ and the ‘fastest AF in the world’ feature they are proud of, the price they set in USD 1500-ish only acknowledge that they realize the 4/3 sensor size just cannot match the APS-C format, let alone full frame. Olie realizes that 4/3 is a turn off. If I can go with a bigger sensor with the same price, can I get one good reason why I should go with smaller one?

In a glance :

Cool stuff: body image stabilizer (antishake), not too pricey (?). Turn Offs: 4/3 sensor size.

PS: Luminance Sensor is a nice small touch, though.

Photography 101: Flash Tips


The easiest way to have sufficient light for your picture is using flash. Flash is there to give more light so that your film or sensor can record what is in front of your lens. Usually the flash you have is the one built in your camera or the one that you attach on your camera’s hotshoe. However using flash is also considered as the easiest way to ruin your picture. Deer on the headlight, slightly over exposed subject with dark background, is the most common result of using the flash indoor when ambient lighting is too dark.

This article is to explain a little bit principle about using flash to beginner photographer (that includes me !). Those principles are, especially in a quite dim ambient lighting :

1) Aperture dictates how much the light from flash will get into your film or sensor.
The larger the diaphragm opening (the smaller the aperture number) the more the light getting through to your film or sensor. And vise versa.

2) Speed dictates how much the light from ambient will get into your film or sensor.
The slower the speed the more the light from ambient that gets through the film or sensor and vise versa.


Let’s say you are in a relatively dark ambient lighting: outside in a city street during the night (where light is present from the street and other lamps but quite dim) and you want to take a picture of your friend standing somewhere there. Using your flash set in manual just for an experiment. In this scenario your friend will be lit entirely by flash (presumably he is in flash reach) therefore the exposure of your friend face and body will depend on the light coming from the flash. Meanwhile his (or her) background exposure will depend on the ambient lighting. you can see the result on your LCD for each result by varying different aperture and speed.

With the exception of studio photography that we all know that flash is used almost all the time (only sometimes they use window light), good photo should always look natural, therefore the presence of artificial light should be hard to detect at least by untrained eye. And this means that wherever there is already a main light (e.g. sun, lamps, etc.) we should only use flash as a supplement of whatever main light in that very location and timing. One example is filling the shadow in a bright sunny day, however not to “over fill” it so that the picture looks boringly flat. Lighten the shadow moderately to create an effect of still having the shadow but the detail in the shadow is preserved. Now that sounds difficult, but with digital nowadays you can always experiment and having the result instantly.

The more difficult than shadow fill during sunny day is to deal with room lighting that is not bright enough to guarantee enough speed to secure the subject from movement blur. The idea is to balance a room lighting with our flash, again, not to overtake the room lighting that creates a flat and overexposed subject that does not blend in with the actual atmosphere. It is difficult because mainly room lighting has different color than our flash. Most of the time you have either incandescent lamp or fluorescent lamp which both case does not match with your flash light color. In photographic terms it is called color temperature. One way of matching the color temperature of your flash with the lamp is to have a color correction filter attached to your flash. That way your flash light will not be like one that comes from nowhere.

I myself find it very difficult to match ambient lighting with the flash. Especially when you do not have the correct filter with you. The situation usually leads to not to use the flash at all and pump up the ISO setting to gain more speed. One other compromise option is to use ‘slow’ mode in your flash where you can use your a bit of flash to adequately lighten up the subject just to secure the reasonable exposure — and hopefully freeze the movement — and drag the speed to still allow the ambient lighting to be recorded properly. You need to experiment the speed to create the preferred effect in your film or sensor. You might want to use tripod as well however handheld will usually deliver background lighting effect that you might also like.

However, I always love what the natures provides. Probably that would answer why my flash is sitting for the last four months. 


Photography 101 : The Practical Basic of Aperture And Speed


This article is targeted to photographers who wants to learn what aperture and speed can give related to its setting. The two main basic setup of taking photograph is setting your aperture and speed. In the old days, these are the only two variables that you need to set in the camera with regards to exposure. The other variable setting is ISO which is basically already determined by the specification mentioned in the film box. You just need to set that ISO number in your camera and leave it until you finish the film. You only change that ISO seting when you change to different ISO film.

In digital camera ISO can be set on the fly. You can change from ISO 100 to 3200 in a flick of a button. However ISO setting does not give any photographic effect like you have with setting the aperture and speed. ISO only determines the sensitivity of the sensor, which usually gives you ‘side-effect’ like noise in your final image. In my opinion, ISO is only ‘side tool’ to achieve desirable speed and aperture setting combination. For instance, you raise the ISO setting higher to achieve higher speed or smaller aperture. Aperture and speed are the main setting you need to achieve the effect you want to record in the sensor.

1. Aperture
Aperture determines how much light can go into your film or sensor given a certain shutter speed duration, controlled by how large the lens diaphragm opens. The effect of the selection of aperture mainly is depth of field (distance in front and behind the focused subject that is considered sharp). However the depth of field (DOF) effect also depends on the focal length and focus distance. There is one more factor which is the film format you use. The larger the format (recording area) will give you shallower DOF given the same aperture number.

Shallow DOF
Means that you have plenty of relatively blurred image immediately infront and behind of your focused subject. It is achieved by selecting lower aperture number (large diaphragm opening, e.g. f1.4 – 5.6) as well as shorten the distance between the camera and the focused subject. Usually a decent camera is equipped with a DOF preview lever that you can have an idea the DOF would be like. These days, just take a shot and review the result on the LCD to see whether you get what you want. This shallow DOF is usually preferred for portrait photography, whereby you can make the subject of your picture really stands out. Smooth rendering caused by this blurred surroundings also make nice background especially if you can choose background that has color and light intensity matched with your subject.

Deep DOF
Means that almost or entire picture element within your frame is sharp. This can be achieved by selecting higher aperture number (smaller diaphragm opening e.g. f8 – 22). Usually used in landscape as well as travel photography when you need all of the subject you take to appear sharp in your picture. Macro photography also uses small aperture opening to achieve reasonably deep DOF. Since in macro photography the subject is so close to the lens causes thinner DOF. Small diaphragm opening (higher aperture number) can increase DOF. However it is not advisable to use very small diaphragm opening. Beyond a point diffraction can cause the image to be less sharp.

2. Speed
Speed determines the duration of the film or sensor being exposed to light coming through the lens diaphragm. The effect depends on your subject movement. If your subject is static, no difference will appear on the final image. However when your subject is moving a lot, for instance like a dancer, kids running around, helicopter’s rotor, water flow in the river, etc., your speed will matter. Choosing the right speed is crucial to communicate the message you want to deliver to your viewer.

High speed (1/300 – 1/500) usually is used and considered fast enough to freeze any movement of your subject. Sport and dance photography usually requires such speed which can deliver frozen movement. However, you may want to experiment with lower speed and see the effect on the image.

Normal speed (1/30 – 1/250) is used for everyday’s photography. The selection of the particular speed setting solely depends on the available light you have at that particular moment. In bright sunny day you will need higher speed and vise versa. Travel photography, taking your children’s birthday party outdoor are good examples of using normal speed.

Very low speed (1/8 – 4 sec) is usually used for blurring the effect of flowing matter. Water flowing in the river, waterfall, waves on the shore are favourite subjects of many photographers using this technique. Water flow taken using this technique can appear like a very smooth silk. You will have to have a steady tripod to use this technique since guaranteed that you will not be able to handhold still for that long period of time. In most cases the lighting condition does not allow you to go as low as you want to achieve this effect, eventhough you have chosen very small aperture. In this case a neutral density filter is required. This filter reduce the amount of light coming into your lens without shifting any color.

Extremely low speed (up to hours) is used for photographing star trail in the night. This very long exposure also means that you need tripod to support your equipment. You also need a very good and fully charged battery if your camera depends on them to open the shutter that long.

Flash Sync Speed is the highest speed you can use when you use regular flash. This can be varied from one to other camera. This sync speed depends on where the shutter is located in the system. If it is in the camera body (curtain type) it can be as high as 1/500, but the normal sync speed is usually 1/250 or 1/125. Older camera body usually has 1/60 sync speed. If the shutter is in the lens (leaf shutter) the sync speed can go as high as the highest speed the lens can be set.

Choose your aperture-speed setting carefully, and you will have the effect you want. Understanding the effect of the combination is very important to enable you making photographs you want them to be.

Other Articles:

Buying Pocket Digital Camera for Non Photographer

Flash Tips

Small Digital Camera With Good Short Shutter Lag

Besides the FM3D, I am waiting for small pcoket digital camera with good short shutter lag for street photography. Do you have any recommendation?

The Sigma DP1 is very very appealing. However the slow lens with max aperture of f4 is quite dissapointing. And there is no real review out there about this camera.

The other one is Ricoh GRD with its fix 28mm equiv. with f2.4. But the picture it produces is not very impressive, is it?

Well, probably I need to wait longer for the FM3D. And I also can use my own 28mm f2.8AIS on it. But when?

Photography 101 – Buying Pocket Digital Camera for Non Photographers


Buying a camera these days (almost) always means a digital camera since film camera is (almost) dead. This article is not for professional photographers nor hobbiest, who I believe know how to select from thousands of choices out there. This is more for moms and dads with their newly born baby and all other out there who wants to purchase one but not sure how to pick.

Choosing digital camera can be very easy and yet can be very confusing. If you want it to be easy, just go to the store and pick you like most offered by the store and be happy with that.

However most of people now are investigating more comparing products offered in the market before buying. People now goes the hard way. If this is your way, then some rule of thumbs below might be useful :

1. Megapixel.

Choose for 6 – 8 megapixel. No more. There is no point having huge megapixels for pocket camera. One of the downside of having high megapixel number is it takes more spaces in your card. It also produces more noise when you have more pixels.

2. Sensor size.

Choose the biggest sensor size you can buy. This is more important than migapixel sizes. Sensor size usually written as 1/3, 2/3, 1/1.8, etc. This link provides good explanation on the real meaning of those numbers.

Say there are two different products, one offers 6 megapixel (MP) and the other one offers 10 MP. If both products have the same sensor size, then the one with 6 MP has individual pixel size that is bigger than the one with 10 MP. Given the relatively the same technology level, bigger individual pixel size always means better image pixel quality, usually translated to less noise in high ISO.

The other way around, if two products offer both 8 MP, with one of them offers bigger sensor size, go for the bigger one, for the same above mentioned reason.

3. Optical Zoom

Usually advertised as 3.5X, 6X or 10X optical zoom, this number represent the magnification ratio of the longest to the shortest zoom setting of the lens. Choose the smallest ratio you can. Zoom with focal length of 35 – 90mm (2.6X) is adequate for casual shooting. You may want to have wider than that, such as 28 or even 24 mm (rare), since it will be handy for travel photography (building, landscape, etc.). Wide angle also produces less camera shake, meanwhile long focal length produces more camera shake if you cannot handle it steady enough since most pocket cameras are used without tripod. Camera shake leads to blurry pictures.

4. Digital Zoom

Forget digital zoom. You do not need digital zoom.

5. Shutter lag

Shutter lag is the time spent by the camera between when you press the shutter release button and when the camera actually takes the picture. This is not important for most of us, if you only photograph landscape, buildings, and other static objects. However if you shoots your children running around with camera with a quite long shutter lag, you might be frustrated. So choose the one that has the shortest available in the market.

6. Menu, ergonomic, looks, weight, etc.

They need to be physically experiencedat least five to ten minutes in the store with a demo camera and you are the only one to decide if the menu navigation is easy enough for you, the ergonomic suits your hand, the weight and size are not objectionable for you, etc.

7. Brand ?

Which brand you choose is not important. As long as they are known brand that has good reputation in this field, you cannot go wrong. These days brand is the least important matter of choosing digital camera.

Good luck !