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# Saturday, 22 June 2013

You know how when you go to someone’s wedding that they like to have photo montages of how the couple were from when they were babies to the present day? Do you realize that with the rise of digital photography, people will no longer have mere dozens of photos when they were babies, they would probably have dozens of photos for every WEEK.. at MINIMUM! Hence it’d be quite possible to have HOUR long photo montages during wedding.

Hence as a parent it is my responsibility to ensure that my children’s embarrassing baby photos are well kept to prepare for montage creation and blackmail purposes!

Since we're talking about digital media here, a simple shoebox or photo album ain’t going to cut it. You’ll need backups and redundant backups. In the past month I’ve seen friends post about not knowing how to deal with their children’s photos, and also the lost of a hard disk holding such photos. I guess now is a good time to talk about my children photo backup strategy. Here’s the component diagram.

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All photos and videos of the children are primarily taken on one camera, my Sony NEX-3. The first step is to use Robocopy and copy the files into the main Home PC, the cool thing about using Robocopy to do this is that.

  1. It’s pretty fast and copying stuff
  2. It ignores empty subfolders when copying, this is a god send when dealing with cameras like the NEX-3 which create an empty sub folder for each day which is supposed to be containing videos even though you didn’t take any videos that day. This saves on sorting time.

If you haven’t set your camera to make a new folder per day, you probably should, I find it helps immensely with organization of the photos afterwards.

So after the RAW copy I’ll end up with a bunch of folders for the images taken in the camera like this

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The 30520 type number in the end is actually the last digit of the year, month then day. Organization wise this would start to get confusing once you have photos for 2003 and 2013. Therefore when I copy the photos into my RAID 1 NAS (For the non technical readers, a NAS means it’s a storage devices ie. hard drive connected through the network instead of USB, the RAID 1 means that the device has 2 hard disk in them and the data is automatically copied between the hard disk so that unless both hard drives die at the same time, data can be recovered) I undergo one extra step of sorting and break out the photos into the following structure

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I create a folder for the year, and then for every month, then I toss the photos inside the month folder. If there’re any important events during that month, they’re given their own folder again for easier cherry picking when looking for photos.

Even though the data is considered to be doubly backed up between the Home PC and the NAS (TRIPLE if you consider that the NAS has 2 hard disk inside of it) I must be ever vigilant of the worst case scenario in which everything fries at the same time. Therefore, once a month the data from the NAS is copied onto an external hard drive, this is designated as the LOCAL BACKUP DRIVE in the image above.

But as most data protection specialist will tell you, that is STILL not enough! That’s why I’ve recently obtained yet another external hard drive, this one is designated as the Remote Located Backup Drive this is the hard drive which sits in my office so that in case anything happens to my house, I still have a copy in the office.

Some would call this overkill, my wife wonders why I go through all this work when ‘It’s just some photos.’ But I know that if anything were to go wrong, she would be the one that would feel the worst over it. It is still overkill in the fact that I don’t even protect my work PC data with a NAS or an offsite backup! :P


Saturday, 22 June 2013 23:30:06 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Monday, 09 July 2012

I took WZ to see the Dinosaur Live exhibit at the National Science Center. Taking my Sony A550 with me since I knew the exhibit would be in a dark area and thinking I had a better chance with better shooting control than the Sony NEX. And I learnt a few things doing so.

Autofocus doesn't work well in the dark

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To the camera, it's pretty much pitch black in the exhibit. Autofocus couldn't pick out any details at all, and the fact that I was using the F20 which doesn't strobe as a focus assist light didn't help. The solution would be to switch to manual focus, or as I figured out after a while, use a flash light to help your camera focus (I used my HTC Radar's flashlight for this)

Shutter priority is a better choice in the dark

One of the first things the Semi Pro taught me when I first got my camera was that it'd be easier for me if I just used aperture priority in my shots, since usually when you're shooting with people you'd probably care more about the depth of field. And that has worked pretty well for me. But in a dark area, it's more important to control how long the lens is opened so you can control the lighting effect.

Fire the flash in rear sync mode.

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Not really a new thing I learnt this time around, but just as a reminder from last time. If you want to take photos which shows the ambience of weird colored lighting in the environment, set you flash to fire in rear sync mode.

Remind your wife that it takes time to setup the camera to take nice photos when you don't have practice.

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The night before I say my wife down and told her "Honey, I'm going to take the DSLR tomorrow when we go see the exhibit, it's probably gonna be in a dark area and I'm gonna need some time to tweak the camera and learn what's the best way to shot a picture in there. So it doesn't help if you keep complaining about why I'm taking so long for a shot."

Yes, I'll probably get killed if my wife reads this, hence WZ's expression is highly suitable for this tip. And if you don't understand what's the big deal about something like this, you're not married then are you? :P


Monday, 09 July 2012 00:10:28 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Thursday, 20 January 2011

In the last few post about toys and stuff I used Zoom.It to allow readers to access the full resolution images to see the detail of the pictures, if you didn't realize that the pictures were any different because you didn't click on them. Well that's the beauty of a Zoom. It picture, it works on most Javascript capable browsers even though the experience is smoother with the Silverlight viewer. So for those of you who missed it previously, here's a good use for Zoom.It. To be able to present and show fine detail of your picture to the viewer. (Click in the image to zoom, drag, fullscreen for details)

This of course uses Microsoft's Multi Scale Image technique (was it called Sea Horse? I can't remember) When I first showed this to the SemiPro His main comment was "Neat trick, but not very usable in the real world." His argument was that being able to zoom in like this encourages pixel peepers and not to mention the fact that people look ugly up close.

And those are very valid points, pixel peepers are scary people. Giving them such an easy way to spot an off color pixel, or easily detect Photoshop edits is a very bad thing indeed.

The other point is of course, as I found out after using my macro lens a few years back. There are somethings you don't want to be able to see up close. For example.. cute shot of WZ and the aftermath of a cold.

Versus... Not so cute shot of my unshaven face. Zoom in at your own peril!

Granted my wife did say after taking the picture "Your face not so bad lar" then started running for cover when I took back the camera.

It doesn't matter so much to me if people say that I take lousy pictures and stuff since at no point do I need that as part of my resume therefore I don't mind putting detailed pics up for viewing. Hmmmmm… I guess if I feel like it one of these days I should revisit PC Fair or some model shoot and get a nice collection of pics with my macro lens. ;)

And here's a major advantage of Zoom.It, because the pics are untouched you get the full detail. Zoom in fully on to the left eye of WZ in his picture (the eye on the left side of the pic, not WZ's left eye) Did you just have a CSI moment?


Thursday, 20 January 2011 22:54:24 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Yup… still don’t know how to take insect macro shots.

Zoom.It pic of squished mosquito below


Tuesday, 12 October 2010 00:59:06 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Wednesday, 29 September 2010

So.. they call this Wobble 3D? Interesting…

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Well.. it gives SOME impression of shaky, wobbly depth. Smile with tongue out


Wednesday, 29 September 2010 01:17:30 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Thursday, 19 August 2010

I decided to go for a little test run to try and see how to best get 3D effect pictures with the Sony NEX, 3D effect here being that when you view the photos with a compatible viewer and glasses such as Stereo Photo Maker

http://stereo.jpn.org/eng/stphmkr/index.html

For each pic below I'll also include the link to the MPO so you can view the thing in actual 3D.

Now instead of calling it 3D, I'm gonna be using the word POP, cause that's the effect I get when I see it. The images aren't really 3D, it's just an effect, and the effect is how the images POP out of the screen towards you.

First... remember that from the shooting tips on the camera :-

  • Your subject should be at least 3M away from you, too close or too far means no 3D effect.
  • Stationary subjects work the best.
My addition to the rule is

It's hard for the camera to seamlessly join a large long object when you do panoramic sweeps, such as a long sofa or a wall, move very slowly and keep your hand level if your subject is like that.

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MPO : http://cid-9d81d8eb3fbbb0ea.photos.live.co...ts/DSC00331.MPO

The BEST way to get pictures that POP, is when you have things that overlap each other in different depth areas, when you view the picture above in 3D, notice that the slide on the left pops a little, where as if you look at the archway, and then the gate behind it, you can feel that one is in front of the other.

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MPO : http://cid-9d81d8eb3fbbb0ea.photos.live.co...ts/DSC00332.MPO

This picture demonstrates 2 things, first being that because the dustbin has nothing close to it to make it pop, there's not much 3D effect there. But there's some if you look closely.

2nd is that, remember you can take 3D shots in 3 sizes, 16:9, Standard, Wide. In terms of angle and arc, Standard is about 180 degrees, Wide is about 270 degrees, 16:9 is errr... 45 degrees? Basically while you'd use standard and wide for scenary, if you needed to take a 3D photo of a SINGLE OBJECT, switch size to 16:9 focus lock on the subject, tilt the camera to the left abit then fully depress and start sweeping right. After practicing a few times you should be able to get your subject in the middle sweet spot for 3D pop.

Image
MPO : http://cid-9d81d8eb3fbbb0ea.photos.live.co...ts/DSC00347.MPO

This is a good example of how when you take panorama pictures try to make sure your scene works well with a single exposure setting. half of the scene was in shade, half was not, since I started from the shade part, the unshaded parts are over exposed... But.. this is not a post about shooting tips, its about making POPing 3D pictures!

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MPO : http://cid-9d81d8eb3fbbb0ea.photos.live.co...ts/DSC00349.MPO

When viewing in 3D you can see the proper depth difference between the front and rear chairs, so you get POP!

Image
MPO : http://cid-9d81d8eb3fbbb0ea.photos.live.co...ts/DSC00357.MPO

Ok, last one, just a simple scene, but the stone markers and tree around the area give each other the POP feeling.
Hope my little experimental afternoon helps everyone understand how to make pictures with 3D POP effect, oh in case you're wondering I'm looking at them with RED/BLUE glasses since I dont have any 3D hardware.

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Thursday, 19 August 2010 23:55:32 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Sunday, 18 July 2010

Let's see now.. how do I put this? Oh no... not another...

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Seriously, I don't know why I get all these Sony cameras... I guess I just like their features.

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So... the next Sony camera I got is.. the Sony NEX-3.

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It falls under the Micro Four Thirds family, or as the camera industry likes to call it "The smaller than a DSLR camera yet gives you DSLR like quality cameras and features... and then some!" Oh.. if you're looking for a camera review, you better go here instead since I'm not qualified to give full technical reviews of cameras, I'm just giving opinions about it as a user.

The NEX-3's BODY is small and compact, almost as small as your typical compact cameras

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But... unlike your typical compact cameras, and more like a DSLR, the NEX-3's lens doesn't shrink into the body. It's basically a removable lens (like DSLRs) so you can attach different lens for different situations. The problem is of course, depending on what you attach the camera might change from slightly pocketable to only fits in your handbag/man purse size. So... is it easier to carry around than a DSLR? Yes... Is it as easy to carry around as a compact camera? No. Do remember.. I have pretty big pockets in my Docker's pants, so if I feel that even with the 16MM slim pancake lens the NEX-3 is not really pocketable, it won't fit in most other pockets.

The NEX-3's battery bay and card slot is housed in the grip on the side.

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It accepts Sony's own Memory Stick Duo cards, SDHC cards and also... SDXC cards. One of my minor complaints is that there's only ONE slot that fits both card dimensions, so when you insert the smaller, thinner profile Memory Stick. Sometimes it goes in the wrong way. I can only imagine what would happen if someone shoved it in the wrong way... HARD!

The rear of the NEX-3 spots a clean minimalistic look.

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But.. just because it LOOKS simple, doesn't mean it is. See the big wheel on the right? Not only is the center an ENTER button for selection, Not only is it a wheel which you SPIN to make selections, it is also a four direction D-PAD! And the simple matter of fact is that with only so little buttons, it takes some time to get used to the interface and menus. But I guess once you are familiar with the camera, the maze of menus won't matter this much. Oh yeah... it's NOT a touch screen!

One thing that I must commend Sony on is the Shooting Tips feature, basically the camera ITSELF has a mini beginners shooting guide book. Look at some of the tips offered by it.

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Pretty invaluable to someone who's learning how to use pictures outside of Full Auto mode, I wonder if other cameras come with a feature like this?

Since we're talking about the screen, it's also tiltable so you can take photos holding the camera high up, or down low.

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You can also see the USB and HDMI mini jacks her on this side.

The NEX-3 DOES NOT come with a built in flash, the little indention you see on the top is actually the accessory port which you connect the external flash to.

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It doesn't matter HOW good the camera performs in Low Light situations, or how little noise is contained in the camera's High ISO pictures. If you don't have a Flash, the camera FAILS the all important WAF (Wife Acceptance Factor) for the simple reason that without a Flash there are many situations where you can't get pictures of your 3 year old son running around. So it's a big deal when the camera doesn't have a flash built in.

This is the how the external flash for the NEX-3 looks like.

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And I'm guessing because the designers at Sony realize that if you had a flash but can't carry it with you easily it's just as useless, they give you a nice little case to hold it in.

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Not only that, said case can be easily attached to the camera strap so you'll always have the Flash on you all the time... if you decide to use the camera strap that is...

More importantly is that in a move that easily increases the WAF of the NEX-3, the Flash is INCLUDED in the package instead of as a separate accessory.

To install the flash, you just open the connector door. Plug it in, then tighten the connection screw on the flash.

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Then you close the screw's door to make it look nice and flush

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Simple right? But there's one ANNOYING thing, the accessory door does not pull back a lot, heck it's almost at it's limits in the pictures you see above, I'd imagine someone with big fingers would have a hard time installing and uninstalling the flash.

Other than that little annoyance, the Flash looks well and proper sitting on top of the camera.

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You have to turn it on yourself by lifting it up, it doesn't pop on it's own.

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How well is the flash? Well.. it's your typical head on fill flash. Nothing to write home about, if you're at the right distance it works well, if not.. full blown white out. But that's pretty much how these things are. Of course I never actually used it a lot yet.

I mentioned just now that the industry calls these type of cameras "The smaller than a DSLR camera yet gives you DSLR like quality cameras and features... and then some!" So let's talk about the "then some!" features of the NEX-3. First of all, like all compact digital cameras the NEX-3 is able to take videos. The cool thing is that you don't have to enter a movie mode to take videos, you just press the "MOVIE" button.

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And you're recording a movie. Unlike most video capable DSLRs (or is it ALL of them?), the NEX-3 is able to perform autofocus during video recording I'm guessing this is thanks to the more silent gearing in the lens. Other reviews have said that the autofocus isn't perfect, and it's hard to achieve certain optical effects with the NEX-3's video mode. But for a movie mode in a still camera's body, it works well enough.

Yet another annoyance I have with the NEX-3 is the position of the LEFT voice recording mic, it's position is easily covered depending on how you hold the camera. Personally I don't even understand WHY they have stereo mics on these things in the first place, what kind of audio distinction can be done by mics there are mic inches apart?!?!? Or maybe they use it for noise cancelation.... but that doesn't make sense too!

The other waaaaay cool feature that the NEX-3 has is that it can take panorama pictures automatically. Basically all you do is enter the panorama mode, press the capture button and the camera will start taking pictures for a few seconds, in that period you are to sweep the camera so that it can snap enough pictures to build a scene.

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There are a lot of factors that determine how well this feature works, things like how steady are you moving, how static is the scene (not really meant for a crowd scene), how similar objects look to the camera... etc. etc. But generally it's a pretty nifty feature and fun to play with.

I haven't taken too many shots with the NEX-3 yet. Here's a few.

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They built a squash court inside the Curve... impressive..

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Corridor shot.

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Anxious parents.

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Look I can finally take a proper picture of my A550, this is with Flash

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So, what's the verdict on the Sony NEX-3? Well... it's size makes it more portable than a regular DSLR without a doubt, it's still not as portable as your typical compact digital camera, but it has similar performance to a DSLR yet still retains some of the nifty features as a compact camera (movie mode FTW!) I don't see a reason recommending people AGAINST it if they ask me should they get one.

ps. Before you ask, the main difference between the NEX-5 and the NEX-3 is that the NEX-5 has a magnesium body and is capable of taking Full HD videos. Not things I'm terribly concerned about hence I went for the cheaper NEX-3.

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Sunday, 18 July 2010 17:38:37 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, 18 December 2009

It seems like not too long ago that I got my Sony A350 DSLR, ok... so it was only about a year ago that I got it. And boy did I have a lot of fun with it, the performance of an SLR was definitely needed to take shots of WZ who was now running, jumping and climbing everywhere. And Sony's FANTASTIC DSLR Live View system made the A350 a joy to use. But all good things must come to an end, and on Saturday 12th December 2009 (following the busted suspension) I said good bye to my Sony Alpha A350.

And HELLO to the Sony Alpha A550!

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What follows is just a quick rundown of the camera, if you want to read a real review with numbers and samples and such check out this one.

So what warranted the upgrade? Well basically I liked the fact that the A550 had better High ISO performance due to the fact that well.. there's a one year technology gap between the A350 and the A550 so of course it got better between then and now!

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This pic was taken in a dimly lit restaurant at ISO 6400, obviously there's still noise but it's not like I'm printing 8R sized pictures here.

If you're wondering, NO... the A550 record HD video. I've said it before that the way DSLR cameras take video now is a nifty little trick, but the fact that a cheaper point & shoot digicam can take video in a much more user friendly manner (ie.. with auto focus.. sound recording... no jello vision) means that I'll never buy a DSLR for it's video capability less my wife has the opportunity to say "Why is the video all shaky? Why can't the expensive camera auto focus while recording video?" But.. while the A550 can't record video, it has a speed priority multishot mode, once engaged you just hold down the shutter button, and the camera will start snapping pics at a maximum speed of 7 frames per second up to a max of 32 images at JPEG Fine quality. Makes for a nice flip book effect! ;) But when just one of 14 MegaPixel JPEG files has an average size of 6MB, it'd be best to buy a huge memory card first. And while we're on that topic.

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The A550 comes with TWO memory card slots, an standard SDHC (I'm guessing it's HC, since the manual says that 32GB SD cards are supported) card slot and a slot for Sony's Memory Stick PRO Duo cards. There's a little switch that allows you to toggle between which of the slots you want to use. I was going to get an SD card at Low Yat but after the little accident with my car I just decided to get a Memory Stick from the shop. Call me old fashioned, but I still think Compact Flash cards had the time to mature into a realiable and high performance media. But of course... Compact Flash pins aren't exactly the best connector interface.

Another welcomed  change from the A350 is that it now has a STANDARD Mini USB connector instead of some proprietary/uncommon one.

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And yes that's a Mini HDMI connector beside it. Which I personally feel I'm NEVER going to use. Heck... I don't even have a Mini HDMI cable!

The last thing I want to talk about is the A550's Live View.

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Like the A350 the A550's Live View that's activated by the switch is unlike what you see on Canon's and Nikon's. While the other manufacturers choose to use the actual image sensor as the live view camera, thus sacrificing shot speed. Sony's LiveView uses another lower resolution camera sensor to give a LiveView experience that's exactly what you get on a normal digital camera WITHOUT sacrificing autofocus and shot speed. If anyone tells you a DSLR's LiveView is useless, they haven't seen a Sony DSLR LiveView in action before!

While Sony's LiveView experience is great in the eyes of people coming from compact cameras, the Pros shunned it because it wasn't an actual representation of the image you would shot cause the LiveView sensor showed a cropped image instead of the full picture that would be captured. To satisfy those users the A550 is able to perform LiveView using the ACTUAL IMAGE SENSOR (just like how Canon and Nikon does it) just by pushing the MF Check LV button on the top of the camera.

While it's a great way to know absolutely what picture you're going to be taking, remember that a DSLR's image sensor was not meant to be constantly on so the longer you keep it constantly on in LiveView mode, the hotter it gets.. and personally the shorter the lifespan of the sensor will be. (That's probably why users of the other camera don't encourage or see the point of LiveView :P)

Another neat trick that the A550 can do is that it can create HDR pics in the camera itself, basically the camera will take 2 shots at varying exposure levels and piece them together to form a HDR shot without the need to use Photoshop or what now. It's a neat trick, but I can't quite tell the difference yet. other than the highlights on a HDR pic looking brighter, check out the balls on the Christmas tree.

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I really can't tell the difference... here are two shots of the same location, one with HDR, one without. Can you tell which is which?

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I can't even remember which is which myself! :P

The A550 is definitely a worthwhile upgrade from my A350 and I'm glad that I got it, I think I should be able to keep using this until Sony puts proper video recording into a camera. ;)


Friday, 18 December 2009 23:45:43 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Friday, 24 July 2009

One of the reasons which I don't bring my DSLR out a lot is the fact that if I am going to a casual get together with my friends and I'd like to take some nice photos I need to bring the flash, and if I'm going to bring my flash I'm gonna need to carry it in a bag, and the only bag I have that can safely hold both the flash and the camera is my Lowepro Fast Pack 250. And WAF of the bag is not very high cause it's big and solid... and if I just stick only the camera and flash into it, it feels like a waste.

I also have a Think Tank Digital Holster 20, which looks like this.

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It's a simple camera bag designed to hold a camera, and nothing much else. That means I can't stuff my F36 flash into it. So I don't bring the camera out in this bag much because which I can boost the ISO to grab shots without a flash, it can only do so much when you're trying to snap a photo of a 2 year old. And because it's hard to actually bounce the built in flash, I end up with direct flash shots which make the WAF points go down.

So I was pleasantly surprised when Sony released this.

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This is the Sony HVL-F20AM Flash. In the world of photography this would be called a low powered flash, can't shoot very far, has a slower (than other flash strobes) cycling time and I'd think is generally useless in long range. But... if you're using your camera indoors, in a party or an open house. This would do just fine! Oh.. and it helps that it's DAMN BLOODY SMALL!

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This is how it looks in the off position, it just sits unassumingly on top of your camera. And for those of you who are wondering... yes, I pointed the camera at a mirror to take the picture. Anyway when it comes time to take a shot, all you do is flip it up and it's ready for action.

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It's very obvious that the F20 was intended for the casual hobbyist photographer. There are no digital read outs, nor are there any complicated settings to work the flash. There's a switch that let's you flip the flash tube to point upwards so you have a bounce flash, and then there's another toggle to remove the diffuser from the front of the flash so you can try to use the flash on a longer range.

The BEST part about the F20, and the reason that I bought it once I saw it is that.

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It just drops in to a corner of the Digital Holster with plenty of space to spare. So it means I can now carry around an external flash with the small camera bag. Sweet!

How well does it perform?

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Indoors? just as good as any flash. Oh wait... wearing a hat, not a good candidate for a bounce flash shot. Let's switch to direct mode.

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Typical shadow and effect of a head on flash, think the diffuser helped lower the harshness a bit.

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Again, another shot in bounce mode. Works really well in doors, I'm very pleased. Not so worried about outdoor shots since I don't see myself doing a lot of that.

It's a nice piece of gear to own if you've always bemoaned the fact that your flash is too big and bulky to lug around and limiting your camera use. But it's definitely not as versatile as say... the HVL-F58AM, so best for your to ask yourself wheter or not the F20 suits your camera usage pattern before getting it.


Friday, 24 July 2009 00:33:55 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
# Thursday, 04 June 2009

After a full days of photo shooting, you pop the memory card out from your camera, insert it into your PC, browse to the card's folder and.. "ERROR READING FILES!!!"

Worse case scenario time, while writing to the card your camera must have choked, or worse! The camera or card is defective! But you want to try and get back at those files so you need to get one of them file recovery tools! But there's so many which promises so much, and costs just as much.

Before you give any of those apps a try, why don't you give PhotoRec a try? It's a FREE file recover that attempts to recover files from disks. Recovery here means either deleted files, or files that are in the disk but orphaned by the corrupted file table.

Sure, it basically runs via a command line interface and would prove daunting to any novice user, but there's documentation available on the site for those users and also did I mention that it's FREE?

I tried it out and well.. it pulled up a lot of files I deleted previously so... it works... and it's FREE!


Thursday, 04 June 2009 22:09:36 (Malay Peninsula Standard Time, UTC+08:00)  #    Comments [0]  | 
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