Xperia Z1

I do believe that the best camera is the one that is always with you.

More than a decade ago, it was my Lomo LC-A because it is compact enough for me to bring it with me to most places. Today (in 2014) it is the Xperia Z1. I am so glad that we now have smartphones which are equipped with high-resolution sensors. The Xperia Z1 camera sensor packs 20.7 megapixels in 1/2.3-inch area. This sensor is among the largest in the smartphones’ market and should promise low noise (but not really…) and better bokeh. The phone also has a dedicated shutter button with half-press ability — something I like very much.

The default operation mode is Superior Auto which means the user just needs to compose and trigger.  The Manual mode on the other hand offers a little more flexibility to the user for EV compensation and setting of WB. It does not provide control/access to the shutter speeds and lens aperture (aperture seems to be fixed at f/2 in all the EXIF data I have checked for both Auto and Manual modes). Instead, there is a Scene selection. Also, full resolution 5248 x 3936 (20.7MP, 4:3) is only available in the Manual mode.

 

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Scene seletion in “Manual” mode

 

Although I prefer having some manual controls in my cameras, I seldom use the Manual mode. I stick to Auto most of the time because:

  • Noise at full resolution or 20.7MP is more pronounced
  • Smaller file obviously, with Superior Auto which locks max resolution at 8MP
  • 16:9 in Superior Auto crops out the soft corners reported
  • The phone doesn’t remember the mode which I last used! Each time I start the camera app, it goes to Superior Auto!

Besides these two modes, the camera app also accepts add-ons developed by Sony and third parties (e.g. Evernote). I rarely use any of them except for Timeshift burst. They’re downloadable from the Play store.

 

Modes and add-ons
Modes and add-ons

 

Below are sample photos, directly from the camera (unedited) but resized, shot in either Superior Auto or Manual and all handheld. You can probably tell which mode is used from the aspect ratio. Resized images often reduce the effect of noise (one conclusion – most phones are fine if you use the photos for web). The lens according to the EXIF data, has 4.9mm focal length. I read this is equivalent to 27mm (FF/35mm).

 

My son's collectibles (1/32s, ISO125)
My son’s collectibles (1/32s, ISO125)
Drink stall operator (probably also owner of) Blanco Court Prawn Mee (1/100s, ISO100)
Drink stall operator (probably also owner of) Blanco Court Prawn Mee (1/100s, ISO100)
iEat Burger by Aston's (1/64s, ISO64)
iEat Burger by Aston’s (1/64s, ISO64)
Blue hour at the Boon Lay MRT station (1/5s, ISO64)
Blue hour at the Boon Lay MRT station (1/5s, ISO64)
Café Swiss interior (1/50s, ISO500)
Café Swiss interior (1/50s, ISO500)
Rooftop of a carpark along Upper Cross St (1/2500s, ISO64)
Rooftop of a carpark along Upper Cross St (1/2500s, ISO64)
Two (1/125s, ISO160)
Two (1/125s, ISO160)
Hong Kong's cloudy skyline from the Peak (1/320s, ISO50)
Hong Kong’s cloudy skyline from the Peak (1/320s, ISO50)
Unimpressive low-light shot at a Lion King show (1/32s, ISO320)
Unimpressive low-light shot at a Lion King show (1/32s, ISO320)
Interior of the Fullerton Hotel (1/125s, ISO320)
Interior of the Fullerton Hotel (1/125s, ISO320)
Light trails at Clementi using Manual mode -- one of those scene selected with "long" exposure. My shaky hands are very visible. (1/2s, ISO50)
Light trails at Clementi using Manual mode — one of those scene selected with “long” exposure. My shaky hands are very visible. (1/2s, ISO50)
HK-style pastries at a hawker center in Whampoa (1/100s, ISO200)
HK-style pastries at a hawker center in Whampoa (1/100s, ISO200)
Hardworking hawker at Chinatown -- serves one of the best mee pok (I call it the local ramen) (1/50s, ISO200)
Hardworking hawker at Chinatown — serves one of the best mee pok (I call it the local ramen) (1/50s, ISO200)
The local ramen, dry variant. (1/50s, ISO800)
The local ramen, dry variant. (1/50s, ISO800)
Another unimpressive but decent low-light shot -- subjects, context maintained (1/20s, ISO1600)
Another unimpressive but decent low-light shot — subjects, context maintained (1/20s, ISO1600)
One of the 60 shots taken by the Timeshift Burst mode (EXIF n/a)
One of the 60 shots taken by the Timeshift Burst mode (EXIF n/a)
Panorama mode (EXIF n/a)
Panorama mode (EXIF n/a)
Blue hour at the Marina Bay -- noise very apparent (1/8s, ISO400)
Blue hour at the Marina Bay — noise very apparent (1/8s, ISO400)
Waiting at a bus stop (1/64s, ISO1600)
Waiting at a bus stop (1/64s, ISO1600)
Dawn at Boon Lay MRT (1/500s, ISO50)
Dawn at Boon Lay MRT (1/500s, ISO50)
Finally a late night shot in Auto.
Finally a late night shot in Auto.
On the way (1/50s, ISO320)
On the way (1/50s, ISO320)

 

To conclude, the camera produces sufficiently good images. With some post processing (noise reduction, sharpening, adjustments of shadows & highlights), the resized images should look great for web (or facebook, etc).

While the camera in your smartphone is not going to replace “real” cameras anytime soon — it should still be your best because you have it with you all the time — unless if you have dSLR with you all the time too.

Canon FDn 85mm f/1.8

This post is about Canon’s “New” FD or FDn 85mm f/1.8 lens which I got from Japan via eBay. There are not many articles on this lens on the Internet; some stuff I found out: it is constructed with 6 elements in 4 groups. The angles of view are 16° vertical and 24° horizontal. The more popular 85mm Canon lens would be the f/1.2 one which is probably why information is so scarce.

Canon FDn 85mm f/1.8
Canon FDn 85mm f/1.8

I find colour reproduction of this portrait/telephoto lens very acceptable, perhaps due to lack of ghosting and/or flare. Overall sharpness is also good but I often get slightly blurred images due to my own movements when using maximum aperture — couldn’t always nail sharp focus on the eyes when shooting portraiture at 0.85m distance. Will probably need to work more on this, or I could make use of a monopod.

The following photos are taken with Sony Alpha7.

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Children warming up before their swim lesson
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Portrait done with shallow depth of focus
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Too bored; took photos of essential oils with lush greenery as the back drop. Love the bokeh.
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Splash
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Let’s jump!
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Knocking off on a Friday evening at One Raffles Quay
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Making a call or surfing Facebook?
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Sculpture
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One Marina Boulevard
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Facades of the Chronos and Helios buildings at Biopolis
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Facade of the Chronos building at Biopolis. This is my current desktop wallpaper 🙂

 

Nifty Fifty

I love prime lens, and the 50mm focal length is one of my favourites. In my opinion, primes generally offer 3 main advantages — (a)  less optical distortion introduced, (b) have wider maximum aperture for those bokehliciuos portraits and finally (c) for the smaller package as compared to zoom lens.

50mm focal length (in full frame) is nifty because you can use it for many types of photography genres. If you’re new, 50mm should be your first prime because it can help you explore these various genres. You’ll be able to find what you like — portraits, street, landscape, etc before investing further in other lenses.

If you’re using a camera with APS-C sensor, you should be looking for focal length of about 35mm. Olympics and Panasonic mirrorless cameras use m4/3 format and the equivalent focal length is 24mm.

All photos  below are taken with the manual Minolta MD 50mm f/1.7 with full frame sensor.

Kid at the playground under mom's watchful eyes
Kid at the playground under mom’s watchful eyes
Children at the playground
Children at the playground
Lego car down the slide
Lego car down the slide
Man looking for a seat at McDonalds, King Albert Park
Man looking for a seat at McDonalds, King Albert Park
Gathering at McDonalds, King Albert Park
Gathering at McDonalds, King Albert Park
Status update?
Status update?
McDonalds at King Albert Park on its last night of operation.
McDonalds at King Albert Park on its last night of operation.
Group selfie
Group selfie
Barista at the CAD cafe
Barista at the CAD cafe
Relax lah.
Relax lah.
Not plain but fruity water
Not plain but fruity water
Cookies
Cookies
Barista at the CAD cafe
Barista at the CAD cafe
Blue hour at the junction of Alexander Rd & Queensway
Blue hour at the junction of Alexander Rd & Queensway

Wide-angle Saturday

More photos this weekend using the Nikkor-N 24mm f/2.8 lens.

The rain after a bout of dry season created a perfect environment for many of the trees here to  blossom. I would suggest that the National Parks Board of Singapore dedicate an area in the Gardens by the Bay planted with rows of these Tabebuia Rosea or the Trumpet Trees. This will create our very own version of Sakura Spring/Cherry Blossoms!

Saw these blossoming trees on the way to NUS Utown.

Singapore's version of Cherry Blossoms
Singapore’s version of Cherry Blossoms
Singapore's version of Cherry Blossoms
Singapore’s version of Cherry Blossoms

Then again, I do not think these trees are local. They could have been brought over from the Central/South America region about 50 years ago during the greening campaign.

Education Resource Center & Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium at NUS UTown
Education Resource Center & Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium at NUS UTown
Graduate Residence at NUS UTown
Graduate Residence at NUS UTown
Graduate Residence at NUS UTown
Graduate Residence at NUS UTown