Last roll — Remembering the first and last one.

A beautiful symphony of red could be seen — signally the arrival of autumn and with it, all its glory. I felt the sun’s ray cast it warm glow, it felt wonderful even as the cold wind blew against my face. Its warmth filling my heart with such joy. The sky was finally clear after 2 days of gloomy weather — Today was special.

It was November in Kyoto, Japan.

It was special for other reasons too, not only was it the first break in poor weather, today would be the end of a story of mine. One that started many years ago, with pains and anguished but ultimately rewarded with joy and satisfaction. Tried as I may, there would be nothing stopping  today — both good and bad.

Continue reading

Gear Review: Nikkor AF-S ED 70-300mm VR

The Nikon 70-300mm VR AF-S

Not too long ago I owned a Sigma HSM 70-200mm f/2.8, it was fast, silent and light considering the level of quality though now there are cheaper lenses with comparable features.

But even with all of that it was a burden to carry around, heavy on the shoulders and terrible on my back. After many years of use I just couldn’t bare the burden anymore and decided it was time for a change. I sold the lens and use the proceeds to buy its smaller brother while pocketing the difference for a rainy day.

Here is my review of this lens and what I think of it so far.

Continue reading

Aodai shoot in Saigon.

To many of you- my apologies for not blogging for so long. I had been busy with work and getting my life in order. Many things should have done long ago, have now all been settled and with that, I am returning to my blog and hopefully clear out the articles and stories that have been piling up on the side since.

Though this absence was not accidental nor was it a lapse of memory- that there was even a blog to update; Instead I wanted to try out an advice from some photographers- To allow my photographs to “marinate” for a few months before coming back for a more objective and critical review without any of the bias of emotion at the time. I think it is a good idea, provided I had kept well detailed notes of my thoughts at the time, allowing me to recall what I had been trying to do then.

Continue reading

Kodak Portra 160 review

160FamilyDecided to start things off with my review for Kodak Portra 160. Similar to Kodak Portra 400 but tuned for portraiture shooting rather than general purpose, this film captures incredible skin tone.

I’ve been using this film for many shoots since earlier this year just to see what it can really do. So far this film doesn’t disappoint but your experience might vary depending on environment conditions. Its not something you can pick up and expect great shots right off the bat especially when you’re not familiar shooting with color negatives. Color negatives offers the wides latitude for incorrect exposures, but what it really means you have more room to maneuver when you have made an exposure mistake unlike slides.

Portra 160 does indeed have an incredible latitude to work with plus according to Kodak, its best used for digital scanning. Although that seems a rather weird statement since all labs these days scan the negatives before printing since its too much hassle to print it using analog methods, but anything that means better images quality when scanned is a plus.

Continue reading

Leica M9-M: First impresssions

The new Leica M9-M

I’ll be honest, I love to look at camera gear so when the chance to see the new Leica M9-M in Malaysia presented itself, I leapt at it.

Thanks to Paul who let me tag along to the latest unveiling at the Leica shop in Avenue K. It was mostly an invite only event. A lot of rich and powerful people were there and like any events with lots of rich and powerful people there was food and wine along with a lot of showing of camera bling bling. Needless to say I wish I was a grifter so I sucker them all but I disgress, the camera is the main topic.

Actually, they were unveiling 2 cameras! The Leica M9 Hermes edition and the Leica M9-M camera both at the sametime, oddly it wasn’t going sale yet. It was just an unveiling for people to looks and hopefully, reach deep into their pockets and place pre-order.

So what’s so special about the Hermes edition? It was basically a Leica M9 that comes in a nice box, has a very nice lens, and a special vulcanite and wiz bang! Here is the making of video

So now you know why they’ve justified the price tag of  USD25,000 (no that’s not a typo).

But anyway, getting back to the Leica M9-M, what about this? what’s so special about it? Well, it’s basically, Leica M9 that only shoot’s black and white but because of this and thanks to some engineering feat, it can be pushed up to ISO 10,000 (my D700 can only go up to ISO6400 as one of the regular settings but then it’s more than 3 years old). Some interesting tidbits as we were hovering around it as it sat inside it’s glass casing for all to see, they mentioned that this camera was designed to match everything Henri Cartier-Bresson would have wanted in a Leica camera (well I don’t know about that since he died more than 6 years ago and had stopped shooting photography long before then). But what would he have though of this camera? They believe so strongly that he would have loved this camera so much they even gave it the project name Henri as I was told by one of the Leica staff.

As luck would have it, I was the first one who managed to get a feel and hands-on experience after someone had accidentally spilled some wine on the glass casing and some of it was starting to seep into it so cleaning was in order and while they were doing that, I was handed the pleasure of holding it and shooting it. I noticed  the shots seems to show jagged edges when you zoomed in close enough (actually, not that much) so I supposed the sensor doesn’t have anti-aliasing filter like the D800 and Xpro-1.

The camera has literally no distinctive marking to indicate a Leica but anyone who has read about camera should more a less be able to tell that it’s a mile away. Aside from that, body wise, the handling is the same but I think it’s my imagination but the body felt lighter  than a regular Leica M9 even when using the same lens.

So what is my opinion? Does it justify it’s price tag? Does it mean it is the pinnacle of a black and white camera? Hard to tell without extensive testing and the fact that the unit I was holding now was actually heading off to China the next day. The serial number on it was “007” (heh, you really need to be Bond to own one, matches the style). Anyway, if you love black and white and have a great liking to perfection (along with heaps of cash) then yes, otherwise look else where or even the Leica MP which I had a chance to hold and try as well while I was there. Felt much nicer than the Leica M7, more heft.