Sunday, December 26, 2010

Miscellaneous Ricoh GXR A12 28mm

When I first saw the 28mm unit, I wondered why they changed the lens cap design. It is actually an improvement but I still could not understand why this particular design until I had the one accessory for this unit. The LH1 lens hood looks cool attached and the rationale for the lens cap design becomes evident. Pretty ingenious and the bonus it can be used on the 50mm.
However it is not cheap to look cool, I got the hood for SGD 32 and not altogether sure if it makes a real difference to photos.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas to everyone

Everyone have a Merry Christmas
Peace and Good Will to all.
Happiness and Health,
and Good Eats everyday. 

Peranakan Food

I simply love this snack/appetiser. Calling it a snack, doesn't do justice to the amount of work needed to prepare this. Perhaps that is why it is difficult to find a pretty decent version that is not going to empty your wallet as fast as you can eat it.

This latest offering I found is at the "Integrated Cafe" at the Le Peranakan Hotel, yes the one with the terribly addictive and sinful Lorong 29 Hokkien Prawn Mee. The owner looks and sounds like a Katong boy (we know who we are) and wields the wok as well as his iPad.

Kueh Pie Tee by Makan@Peranakan

They serve a portion of 4 for $3 in a plastic bowl. The bowl is definitely useful when assembling and frankly it's really not easy to carry this without toppling in a crowded food court.
I usually eat this in a single mouthful. Now before you start screaming, this is really the only way I know how to eat this delicate art work. Nibbling it I end up dripping all over my face, a really horrible sight.
I enjoyed this version, the shell is still crunchy, filling is not too salty topped off with the chili sauce that gives a hint of fire without overpowering the rest.
Definitely looking forward to savour their Nonya Mee Siam and Laksa, Nasi Ulam and Nasi Kunyit the next time.

Food Court offerings

The Kopitiam food court at Plaza Singapura has this very popular stall that sells Indonesian style barbecue chicken, come lunch time there is always a long queue. But I much prefer a newer stall, which I think gives a better Indonesian flavour.

They serve also the fried version, Ayam Penyet or literally flatten chicken. The barbecue version Ayam Bakar comes with fragrant spice coating, a piece of fried Tofu and Tempe and also a bowl of spicy sour vegetable soup, Sayur Assam.
Far more interesting than their competitor in terms of flavour.
However, one has to be patient when ordering, there can sometimes be only one person at the counter doing almost everything, and the barbecue chicken takes a little longer to prepare.
Please don't think this is anything to wow your palate though, it is still food court food!

Friday, December 24, 2010

More Ricoh GXR A12 28mm

Isn't it annoying when you have a new toy and you don't have the time to play? Thank goodness for the holiday.

I think the GXR system is beginning to take shape with the 2 APS-C camera units. While the S10 and P10 units are very well made machines, they have a certain limitation due to their sensor size. I have practically abandoned my P10 unit as I am just bad at trying to milk out decent images with it.

One difference between the 50mm and the 28mm is the missing macro function from the wide angle unit. The 28 can only focus on things not less than 20 cm from the front of the lens. A little strange as all previous Ricohs I have used, can basically kiss the subject and still focus. So how does it fare as a food porn tool? I think it is pretty decent as seen from the following images. Can't blame the tool every time, can I?

Incidentally, this is from Old Hong Kong Cafe. Pretty decent cooking, but not too economical if you go overboard with the ordering. One highlight in the Dim Sum array is the plain looking white bun, it has custard filling made with Salted Egg yolk. It has just a little oily ooze that is sweet and savoury, something I have not seen around much.
Next is with the A12 50mm, with macro. The very shallow depth of field makes it difficult to get sharp images, especially with my annoyingly unstable hands.

This is their Macau style Roast Pork, you get a very crunchy crackling with just enough saltiness and not too fatty. Presentation wise however, Tung Lok's version is miles ahead with very even colour and cut.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

More Ricoh GXR A12 28mm

Next to a interchangeable lens unit, this GXR camera unit was highly anticipated by a lot of Ricoh fans.
Yet in typical Ricoh style, the arrival in Singapore was understated, in fact totally unannounced. Perhaps that's not the case in Japan, but I had to monitor Clubsnap the local photography forum to find out the A12 28mm had finally landed.

So what is new, what is good?

It has the same Ricoh quality construction of the A12 50mm, compact and solid. One difference is the manual focusing ring, the 28mm has a looser feel, unlike the 50mm which has a definite resistance to turning. With the firmware version 1.29, manual focus seems actually redundant with the 28mm. For one, with the wider field of view you cannot really tell if it is in or out of focus (for me anyway). Another is, the autofocus is now far more precise and concise then fiddling with a "loose" ring so why bother?

Lots of detractors of the GXR system emphasized that you have to change sensors with each lens change and that it seems such a waste. Now that we have 2 working "serious" module available, it is time to re-examine this mindset. Bear in mind I am discussing only about the 2 camera units with APS-C sensors.

The GXR engineers and designers have created a well thought out system, so much so it is no different from changing a lens on a Canon or Nikon. You just have to be aware of the different angle of view and the focusing limits. There is no need to learn new button positions or functions. In fact, the first experience of using the 28mm unit was underwhelming, almost mundane like putting gloves in winter.

However looking the images taken so far, I do wonder if there were some quality control issue. The question is are the sensors in both APS-C units the same? The 28mm unit seems to show more noise even at the base iso of 200. It is not that my unit is faulty, the same issue has been noted online and I have tried a second unit with the same result. So could the problem be the optic-sensor pairing? Or simply a result of the wider field of view. Or are the detractors right after all? The noise issue is definitely noticeable, but easily remedied in Lightroom for those shooting in Raw, and it does not show up at all in JPEG pictures. 

Here is a little sample of this understated piece of precision machinery.

I love that you can see Venus (I think) at the middle top area.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ricoh GXR A12 28mm

Yes! Finally the GXR wide angle module.
Here are straight from the camera JPEGs although they were shot in raw. Just too lazy to fire up Lightroom for now.

I have uploaded the full resolution images into my web album if anyone is interested.

Friday, December 10, 2010

It's beginning to feel a lot like...

Yes, that time of the year. The most stressful time of the year for a lot of  people and yet perversely the time to sing about joy and peace. Confession time: I love Christmas songs. I can even tolerate the cheesiest versions that some shops put out. When the world seems determined to pin you down, those darn songs can lift you just a little to let you struggle on.
Here's to real peace and joy to those truly burdened throughout the world.

Coffee Club Xmas Cone. Chocolate coffee lovers dive in.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Rolling it

Take some root vegetable, shred it, stew it and roll it up in a thin wrap basically describes popiah. Nonya style popiah is different in the bankwang stew, which lightly spices the chinese flavoured foundation and prawns replaces dried sausage slices cutting back on any heaviness. The other aspect is the wrap, instead of the usual wheat based form, here it is eggy tenderness, a bit harder to handle but yummy.

Everyday Eats

Mince meat noodles is almost a dietician's nightmare mostly due to the sauce, yet without the right sauce, the whole dish falls apart. Most of the time people choose the "dry" sinful version which should be a little more salty, a little more fire with chili, perhaps a little tart with vinegar and bound together with a perfect balance of oil, preferably lard.
Of course you can have it dunk in soup, which sounds simple, but actually a lot harder to make it tasty. Most of the time I find the soup so lifeless it is like atoning for lifelong gluttony.

Here is our version of the all day breakfast dish.

Bak Chor Mee Ta

Thursday, September 23, 2010

A really pretty face


This really brings back memory, my first serious camera was a Fujica 35mm camera, passed down from my father. Same look, metal with black inlay, throw in the ingenious hybrid optical viewfinder, I am drooling like Homer Simpson at Candy Fair. My GXR is getting a little jealous.
Borrowed from Wikipedia.

New Temptations

Photokina 2010 is now on, bringing new temptations to gadget seekers.

For Ricoh Fan Boys like me, the most obvious news is the finally officially announced 28mm module
From DPReview
Ricoh has kept away from offering a macro lens this time, presumably trying to squeeze a wide angle and macro in a small size would probably make it too expensive. The regrettable bit about this new module is it would have been wonderful if it was a 24mm equivalent and aperture of f2.0, especially since there is no image stabilization for low light hand held occasions.
Also another note to Ricoh, it would be good to let us manually control the built in ND filter. Please?

The last word about this module is I want it NOW.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Shooting from scratch

Cook, photo-stylist and photographer. Wow.
No Recipes

Monday, August 30, 2010

Durian and Chempedak Dessert

Everyone knows durian but the chempedak is less known, even compared to its close cousin the jackfruit. Chempedak is more restrained in flavour and aroma, but I feel it is more complex and interesting. Hard to find dessert done with this particular fruit as it is rarer and more expensive. Two places that I know is Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf and Toby's Dessert Asylum.

Here is the Durian and Chocolate fudge concoction aptly named Spike D at Toby's. Unfortunately I do not have a shot of the Chim-A-Duck fudge, which is filled with chunky chempedak mousse. Another day to fatten the tummy.

Ricoh GXR A12

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dynamic Range

After lunch dessert

A little treat after lunch at Coffee Club.

Having stayed away for more than a month, stuff and staff have changed, new sweets are on offer but our old favourite was a disappointment. Quality was off today. Sad.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Lightroom and RAW

I talked a little about what professional photographers call workflow, the process of "developing" your photos previously. The most important factor that would allow you to rescue your lousy looking photo is using Raw format. You can recover seemingly lost details, which is clearly seen below where the washed out canopy comes to life. Sometimes it simply cannot work with JPEG.

Lightroom Magic

This is for a friend who asked about Lightroom. You can make your lousy photo look decent.

The 50mm (35mm equivalent view angle) lens of the A12 means I have to crop to get this.

I like to start usually with adjusting the white balance, the dropper tool is good if there is a point of reference, basically anything that is suppose to look white. Otherwise, it depends on your eyes.

Next is the tricky part, lighting. This case I wanted the building to shine, you can use the usual sliders or the curve tools. A good tip I learnt is to use the highlight clipping indicator, as well as the black clipping.

Click on the triangles (circled in red) on the Histogram, any part that is clip will show up red for highlights and blue for blacks. The bright spot in the example above will show up as red, indicating severe clipping, but I don't have to worry about recovering anything here. Once the specular highlights are established, we can go about changing the lighting for the other parts. You can use the Tone sliders or the Tone curves, and importantly experiment! Presently I am simply eyeballing on my uncalibrated machine, which can be fun.

The section marked Presence can help give the extra kick. Vibrance will up hue saturation, but only selectively unlike Saturation is all across the board which can give a nasty posterized look.

In the Tone curve, you can adjust the curve through the sliders or the curve directly. Another interesting way is the area tool (circled red), click it, go to the picture and click-hold at the area you want to change and simply move the mouse up or down to lighten or darken.

Of course you want to next control the noise. Lightroom is very good with that, luminance and colour noise are controlled independently, much details can be preserved well.

When you find some area seem too bright or shaded, you wan to use the Brushes tool, which allows you to "paint" in your desired lighting. To show up the pattern in the under surface of the Sky park in my example, I use the brush to increase contrast just there, there is even an Auto Masking option to help paint within the "lines".

One more thing in my example is the sky, originally it is simply dull and if I simply change the tone, the building would be affected. Now what options do I have? I can brush "paint" the sky, but it will affect everything, the white and the blue of the sky. HDR? Well too difficult for me. The answer here is the HSL option, where I set the Luminance for Blue to a negative value. Only the sky and the blue facade of the building is affected, which in this case worked well. Bear in mind in other complex colour situation you can ruin, say a blue car with a blue sky background.
I had also pumped up the Yellow saturation to give the building a golden look.

Any way, this is just my experience with Lightroom, but I still have a lot to learn. One good way of learning is actually to teach what you know, it really helps with the process.

Friday, August 27, 2010


For lovers of Indonesian food, something new at Parkway Parade Banquet. It is simply called Sundanese. On offering is a variation on Ayam penyet, instead of  fried chicken you can have barbecue chicken, or a dry curry chicken. It is assembled in a wicker basket along with Tempe GorengTauhu Goreng, stir fried cabbage and lined with lettuce. There is a wickedly spicy chilli sauce that you can dip or dunk depending on your tolerance.

If you do find chicken boring (gasp horrors!), you can also have grilled beef ribs, something more unusual. Need your veggies? They have Karedok. Yearning for fried snack? There is Perkedel Kentang and Perkedel Jagung, potato or corn fritter. 

For now a little appetizer, Perkedel Jagung

Ricoh GXR A12 1/90s f/3.2 iso800

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Marina Bay Sands

This huge entertainment complex is still in a state of completion, yet people have been streaming in and out of there. From what little I have seen, the convention center seems rather humble, but this calls for more exploration to determine if my first impression is wrong.

The casino, as viewed from the shopping area, appears to be blocked into the heart of the complex, rather unsurprising since the.. er.. heart of the integrated resort is gambling. This is the result of trying to sanitise the usually seedy world of gambling, but undeniably the crowd is there.

Here is a little of my view of our latest to-be, to-be-at-place.

The double helix bridge is interesting, but can't help wonder if gambling is in our genes? Bad pun I know, but it's just begging for it. Oh Stop!

Ricoh GXR A12
Something round and familiar.

Breakfast for everyone

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day, so they say, but sometimes it is a luxury to even sit down to eat, much less to enjoy the moment.
Toasted bread, slather on Kaya and butter, lubricated with milk tea or coffee, is simple luxury. The kind doctor on ieatishootipost can tell you where to find the best and cheapest, food hunters head on there.

Back to luxury, this was at Ya Kun. Instead of tea, I opted for their Silkyz (No, I am not having a Ris Low moment) Barley drink. It is jazzed up with tofu skin, which is the reason for the silkiness.

A little something extra, buttery Kaya Butter cookies. Melt in your mouth goodness.

Ricoh Rumour

It seems like the photo-engineers at Ricoh are busy with something, well they should be, people are waiting for new lens modules! So what is with a patent for a 33mm lens, f/1.8 that has more lens element than the current A12 module?

Speculation it is a new lens module, which would piss off a few users (me included) if they did release it. Or it could simply be a component in a copier machine. What would please a lot of users is if it was a lens for a mount module. It would be paired with a APS-C sensor I believe as the image circle is about 28 mm. Still one can't help wonder why they seem to be stuck on a 50mm equivalent macro lens. Ricoh please work on your other strength, wide angle, even better a ultra wide angle.

Friday, August 20, 2010

HCM Red Yeast Rice

Red Yeast Rice is very good for helping people with high blood cholesterol, also good eats. Foods take on a beautiful crimson tint, in this case Chicken Soup. A little spirit, brandy, red wine or here glutinous rice wine gives it a little sweet punch. A comfort food that is light on the stomach.

Ricoh GXR A12 1/90s f/2.8 iso 400

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Ricoh CX4

Clock work production. Ricoh has released their next point and shoot CX4 unfortunately overshadowed by the announcements of the usual giants releasing their multitudes.

What is new? Night scene multishot, first seen I believe in Sony's NEX, basically de-blurring and de-noise by combining multiple shots. Gotta see to believe.
Subject tracking AF is also interesting, could it bring focusing performance close to DSLR? Doubt it, but good try.

Danish Ice Cream

What is there to say? Just dig in.

Ricoh GXR A12 1/130s f/2.8 iso200

Food Court Food

Most of the time, shopping mall food court food is basically functional, you fill your tummy and get out, on occasion you get gems. Today is not quite that day.

Straits Times' Foodie expert Ong Sor Fen gushed about this particular eats in 2009, mainly about their barbecue pork or Char Siew. It is really tender, without being overly greasy, the result of using pork belly, rather than shoulder butt or tenderloin.
But sometimes a big star cannot save a movie if the rest are sub-par.

Ricoh GXR A12 1/80s f/2.5 iso1600

This is a typical Wanton Mee served in Singapore and Malaysia, noodles are prepared dry, bathed in a sauce, accompanied with vegetables and dumplings. The saving grace in today's dish is the Char Siew and noodles, Pontian noodles to be precise. If you like noodles al dente, Pontian noodles are that a bit more "toothy" or "q". I love "q".
What disappoints is the undercooked vegetables and worse the Wanton.
I general dislike the local version of wanton, the meat dumpling has stuffing measured with a micro pipette and wrapped in thick flour blanket, dunked in soup it is like eating weird tasting mushy marshmallow. They were "generous" by giving the fried version together with the soup version, but more of something blah just reinforces how disappointing it is.

Char Siew and Pontian noodles are just fine with the sauce. Dump the dumplings.

What the Duck

Every photographer would know this edutainment series. Calling it cartoon is too clinical and totally inadequate.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Breakfast and Lunch

Dome Club sandwich, good for breakfast or lunch.

Ricoh GXR A12 1/100s f/2.5 iso800

Ricoh GXR A12 1/80s f/2.8 iso1600

Lunch at The Asian Kitchen Teahouse.
Recommended is their Roast Duck, which also can be partnered with a herbal sauce, plum sauce or a fiery Sichuan 麻辣 sauce. Today was with a sweet tangy plum sauce.

Ricoh GXR A12 1/50s f/2.5 iso800


Familiar buildings but different moods when the backdrop changes. I love clouds, very whimsical and transient they can tease or threaten. While seemingly monochromatic, they can make or break landscape scenes.

Ricoh GXR A12
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