Sunday, December 30, 2007

Sea & Sea 1G: Adventure Camera

The Sea & Sea 1G comes with the DX-1G underwater housing. It’s a 10 MP compact camera with a 24-72mm (35mm equiv), relatively fast f2.5-4.4 lens. It’s decently built and pretty rugged, has image stabilization, great controls and a good lens with the widest coverage of any compact camera. It’s the same camera as the Ricoh GX100 with different firmware.

The handling and ergonomics are top-notch. The rubberized grip gives it a really solid feel and it has 2 control dials, which allow proper manual exposure control. There is the usual 2-stop under/over exposure value indicator, and the LCD gains up or down to show relative exposure in Manual Mode.

The meter is a little too sensitive and with high contrast scenes, I can get blown out highlights and sensor blooming is a possibility. I normally set the meter to underexpose by -2/3 EV and that seems to help.

Despite the 5.5-second time between RAW shots, I usually shoot RAW with this camera. Shooting RAW allows more leeway with manipulating exposure in post-processing. If I shoot JPEG, I set the Contrast all the way down to -2, Sharpness to -1 and Color Depth (Saturation) to 0.

Shutter lag is quick for a compact, but is still a problem for capturing that critical moment. There is no optical viewfinder and the LCD blacks out when the shutter is pressed so action shots and panning are going to be a hit or miss affair. It speeds things up if I use ‘Snap’ focus and I’ve got that saved using one of the two savable ‘My’ settings.

At the end of the day, it comes down to image quality. Here the GX100 is let down by the bad manners of its small sensor. I get good results using ISO 100, so I pretty much leave it there. At ISO 400, there’s just too much noise for the image to be useable.

What sets this camera apart from other compacts is its 24mm lens. You can go even wider with a 19mm conversion lens, but that adds to the bulk and portability of the camera. If you don’t need wide, you might also want to consider Canon’s G9, the shockproof, waterproof Olympus 790 SW, or the yet-to-be released Sigma DP1 with an APS sized sensor.

Despite its limitations, it’s a great adventure camera. I can put it in a Lowepro D-Pods 30 pouch, stuff a Ziploc bag into the pocket, and it is good to go just about anywhere.

The underwater housing is not available separately, so if you think you might need one, you'll have to buy the camera and the housing together as the Sea & Sea DX-1G Compact Digital 10.0 MP Camera and Underwater Housing Set.

Photos:
Top: Underwatermelon, Sea&Sea 1G with DX-1G underwater housing;
middle: Making Tracks,
Bottom: Kids Ride For Free, panning with the Sea&Sea 1G.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Wonders Of RSS

I like how they explain it in this video. There's the old, slow way of visiting each and every one of your favorite blog sites to see if there is something new. Or, there's the RSS way, a painless, efficient way of subscribing to your favorite blogs, and having a reader tell you if there's something new. Check out how to do it on this video!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

From 0 to 100: Good News, Bad News

I got some good news, bad news yesterday. The good news is that The North Face (Singapore) officially invited me to join their team of athletes - sponsorship details to be worked out later. That’s really great news!

I’ve been a big fan of TNF since the early ‘80s, when I was in school in San Francisco and was climbing a lot. I felt that the brand sort of lost it’s way in the ‘90s with a change of ownership and a desire to go ‘mainstream’. I’m happy to say that TNF have re-discovered their ‘core’ values and deliver function over fashion to the hardcore athlete.

The bad news is that instead of an individual 100km run, its now become a 100km race in a team of two, each running 50km. It’s a little too short and a little too fast for my present level of fitness. It’s time to knuckle down and get back to training!

Photo: Workstation. Nikon D300, 50-150mm f2.8, 1/5 f2.8, ISO 800, SB600

Friday, December 14, 2007

From Canon To Nikon

Pop Photo chose the Nikon D300 as camera of the year. That’s great! Now I can feel really good about owning one until next year, when Canon comes out with something better.

I have a couple of Canon shooting friends wanting to jump ship and buy the D300. Think twice, because next year, Canon is probably going to come out with something even better. Old cameras are bound to be replaced by something new and better.

If you are buying your first camera or thinking of switching, do it for the right reasons. Individual camera bodies come and go, but you can look at the basic style, feel and handling. You are buying into a system, so look the selection of equipment, lenses, flashes, etc. Look at the companies, their reputations and philosophies. Finally, talk to (or google) the pros who do the type of shooting you do and ask what they use and why.

I tried to switch to Canon, but I couldn’t do it, and it was an expensive lesson to learn. I’m just too used to Nikon. I think my D300 is great, but if I could shoot with Canon, I have a 5D, a 17-40mm f4 L and a 70-200mm f4 L IS and never look back.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

From 0 to 100: Let it Rain

This series of articles tracks my progress to run a 100km Ultramarathon from zero training in just 4 months. Present weekly mileage: 35km

Here in Sunny Singapore, the North East Monsoon is upon us. It’s been raining every day for the past two weeks. And I mean RAIN as in tropical deluge. Still the training must continue, rain or shine. Two of the biggest dangers with running in a tropical thunderstorm are:

1. Being Struck By Lightning
2. Being Crushed By Falling Trees

Whilst training for an adventure race a few years back, my teammates and I were beaching our kayaks when a bolt of lightning toasted a coconut tree on shore about 50m away. We were out of the boats in shallow water and felt a strong jolt electrical current. We were lucky.

Singapore has the highest rate of lightning strikes in the world. The general advice when caught in a thunderstorm is to get out of the water, or get off your bike, or ditch your golf clubs and umbrella. Find low ground, stay low, crouch down and make yourself small. You are ok in a forest, but stay away from isolated tall trees, metal fences, and high ground.

Our other big concern is being crushed by falling trees or deadfall during a thunderstorm. This year in Singapore, 2 people were killed in separate incidents by trees felled by strong winds and heavy rain at two different nature parks.

The wind and heavy rain makes it difficult to hear and being pelted in the face makes it difficult to look up and around. That’s no excuse. You need to be very aware of your surroundings and what’s going on around you. If you’re plugged in to your iPod and got your eyes fixed on the slippery trail, you are not helping yourself. Trees will fall, whether you happen to be in the way or not.

Driving back home is another adventure. Oh, by the way, a flash flood warning for low-lying areas is in effect until Christmas. Be safe.

Photo: Pentax Optio WR43, 5.7mm, 1/60 f2.8, ISO 100

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Nikon D300 Review

Judging from the number of hits on my last blog entry, people are hungry for a real D300 Review. James Markus of photomatter.com has put up a pretty decent review of the D300 here.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

My Nikon D300 Experience

This is not a review. A review implies proper testing protocol and methodology. For that, we are going to have to wait for the professional reviewers. These are merely my observations after a week of putting a couple of hundred compressed NEF test shots through my D300, processed in Lightroom.

It is such a pleasure to use the D300. It is highly customizable, even more so than the D200. Even the over-under exposure indicator can be switched around, something that Canon shooters coming over to the Nikon camp will appreciate.

The viewfinder is clean and the 51-point autofocus system works well. Very well. Confidence in your equipment is a large part of the game, and the D300 brings it.

Tested with all noise reduction off, 12-bit RAW images at ISO 800 are very clean, and at ISO 1600 still impressive and very usable. It shows significantly less noise than my D200. How much less? I can’t really tell you, but to me, it’s a significant improvement over the D200 and I’m very happy with it.

The D300 Matrix Meter works differently from my old D200. Initially, I thought that my D300 meter was more sensitive, resulting in slightly ‘hot’ highlights under high contrast lighting (Active D-Lighting Off). However, I now suspect that it is the new Scene Recognition System at work, allowing the highlights to go slightly ‘hot’ to preserve shadow detail. That’s fine, as long as it is consistent and predictable, but I need a little more time with this to be sure.

My last big niggle with the D200 was battery life. I haven’t tested this yet because I’m still on my first battery! But others are reporting significant improvements over the battery life of the D200, as much as double.

It’s going to be tough for Nikon to beat the D300. It may well be Nikon’s last DX format pro-spec camera. Only the future will tell...

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Front Page News

I opened my newspaper this morning and this was front page news. It made me glad that I have chosen to make Singapore as my home. With all that’s going on in the world today, the most exciting news in my country for the day was that the police chased a stolen truck around for an hour before catching and apprehending the culprit.

What’s on the front page of your newspaper today?

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Carpe Diem

Today was my last day at my job as an airline pilot. I needed to give my company 3 months notice when I quit my job. It seems like such a long time ago.

I’m a little bit at a loss about what to do next, and about who I am, and what my role is in life. It was all grand and exciting when it was just a dream, but now its very real, and starting to sink home.

I’m going to miss my colleagues, who have become an extended family to me. And, yes, I’m going to miss my identity as an airline pilot. When I wake up tomorrow morning, who am I going to be? Still me, I hope, and ready to start anew. Carpe Diem.

Photo: Singapore Girls. Nikon D200, 50-150mm f2.8, 1/40 f2.8, ISO800