Saturday, 24 March 2012

Canon 550D: Old but still, A Worthy Purchase?

As a Canon 600D user I am pretty much are quite familiar to the 550D which is basically similar. The question by interested buyers, will the Canon 550D be a worthy purchase? Let's find out.

A picture of a 550D with an expensive lens, good glass really make this camera shine.
First announced in February 2010, this thing is old. At US$899 or RM2,499 for this camera and a kit lens, it is not really that cheap. But when compared to pro DSLRs this things are dirt cheap and are very good for people who are just about to take a leap into the world of photography. There are cheaper options from Canon but the 1100D with its lack of full HD video capabilities makes it irrelevant for todays usage. Come on even smartphones and compact cameras record 1080p!

The Canon 550D has 18MP APS-C sized sensor with reliable performance. The approx 22x15mm sensor gives pleasing shallow DOF at large apertures. What I meant by shallow DOF is it can produce nice blurry background while maintaining a sharp subject. At night we can pump up the ISO as high as 6400 for high shutter speeds. It produces digital noise free images until ISO 1600. At 3200 and 6400 it is still usable. Being in Rebel line, it has a noisy mirror flip mechanism that has shutter speeds as high as 1/4000s. The 550D has a modest focusing system with 9 AF points which is reliably fast although it will have a hard time focusing on things without high contrast. You'll understand it when you get your hands on the shutter button. 3.7fps burst rate and an average battery life at 440 shots per charge.

In terms of video it shoots very high quality 48Mbps MP4 format full HD video with options of 1080p, 720p and VGA, all with manual exposure settings available. 60fps video is available at 720p and VGA, the 1080p max frame rate is 30fps. It does not autofocus at all in video mode, so you gotta focus it manually. Good news is with the manual exposure settings you have maximum control over the size of area in focus and how to focus the image. There are no flippy screens on this but still the fixed screen works fine.

The ability to change lens means a lot to those who pursue quality. Let's say changing the kit lens for a cheap US$100 Canon 50mm f/1.8 portrait lens can produce very sharp photos. Don't forget other expensive high quality glasses you can give you camera. That's why the 550D is indeed among the most popular camera models out there. You can see people snapping away with this camera a lot.

Would I recommend it or not? If you demand most control over your camera is your shooting style, (auto functions on this doesn't always work out good anyways) and know your way around the setbacks, you can work masterpieces with this camera. Thumbs up man. Look what I got with mine from my other post, click here for more photos


So the price of this camera has gone down but people still look for this camera because it packs almost all of the important features that people want. You can produce all those blurry background photos with the right lens, take photos in low light situations and so much more.

After a year using this camera, I have grown to like it and to know more about what I need. The complaints that I have is maybe I think is the reason and what I should look for in my next upgrade.

1. Noisy shutter sound - It clicks, loudly. You can't use this as a stealth camera for street photography.

2. Battery Life - although it is longer than the average compact at 440 shots, I can empty that in a solid four to five hours of shooting. Yup I am that violent now. It would do fine for most but perhaps I should move into the 'pro' category with batteries lasting more than double of that amount of shots.

3. Weatherproofing - every time it rains it is a nightmare. maybe I can have a little peace in mind with a weatherproofed camera. I should wrap it in a plastic bag but maybe if it can handle a little bit of water and wet snow just for emergencies it would be better.

That's all. Other than that, there are still a lot of stuff to love on this camera. Said that. The 550D or the Rebel T2i is a worthy buy if you want to go into photography seriously and spend the rest for great quality lenses. The 550D is pretty much still relevant. But if you wouldn't mind with older bodies without movie recording, the 50D is also a great option. Happy shooting.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Product Shots

Sometimes when I go out I will bring my camera with me. Sometimes some things catches my fancy and I will snap it out. Most of the time its very spontaneous and I am using photos unedited, straight from my Canon 600D. 

ankara picnic ©Aperture_Kinetics 2012
This is one of the most delicious kebab in Seoul, which can be found in Itaewon.
dos tacos ©Aperture_Kinetics 2012
Just a test shot at a restaurant in campus
apple macbook ©Aperture_Kinetics 2012
Just roomate watching movie on his laptop
toshiba ©Aperture_Kinetics 2012
He just woke up from a nap and doing some work.
spao ©Aperture_Kinetics 2012
canon ©Aperture_Kinetics 2012
Me in front of a street mirror.
nivea ©Aperture_Kinetics 2012
This is at Sinchon in winter.
sony ©Aperture_Kinetics 2012
Waiting for the bus in front of the SNU gate.
new sony ©Aperture_Kinetics 2012
More Sony
nikon ©Aperture_Kinetics 2012
At gyeongju.
canon ©Aperture_Kinetics 2012
Just in class.
nivea ©Aperture_Kinetics 2012
In class too.
lotteria ©Aperture_Kinetics 2012
While eating at a fast food joint.
iphone ©Aperture_Kinetics 2012
While waiting for the subway
android ©Aperture_Kinetics 2012
At the lecture hall...

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Buy A DSLR in Korea?

Yongsan Station. The main gadget shopping area in Seoul.
let me quote a paragraph in a previous post that can be found here;

"Last friday after doing our friday prayers at Itaewon, I followed some friends to go to Yongsan, a place that can be dubbed as Korea's version of Low Yatt Plaza. They bought game controllers, XBOX games, and microphones. Then I moved on to the DSLR section to investigate the price and availability of the A65. Most stores have not yet put them up into display but some of their friends have it, and the most lucrative offer was 950,000 won for the A65 body and a 18-55mm kit lens. That's it. Nothing more. Memory cards and tripods are sold separately. That's fine. I already know if I buy in packages they will slip me a slow speed Class 4 memory card which is not suitable for full HD recording. Ah I think the battery must be included of course, it is a nasty idea to hide the battery from the kit box. But it happens to be the next offer that really tempted me. Another store offers 1,202,000 won for the A65 body with a very handsome 16-50mm f/2.8 SSM lens."

But when I came again to really buy them, they said that they didn't have any in stock and offered me something else. And when I asked them who might have one, they point me to some store and let me bounce around like a ball. The price is also somehow impossible. They also doubt of my choice. I want a Sony so beat it, its my choice. I know my choices so why put up stupid reasons down my throat? (Reasons and rebuttal in the link)

Dongdaemun Market. Literally a market running on jungle law.
The problem is. THERE IS NO SYSTEMATIC SYSTEM IN KOREA'S BUSINESS CULTURE. Let's say Dongdaemun. In those malls, the shops are not really shops. They're more like stalls, each one with different owners. So while browsing through the stores you can't really walk around looking at the clothes displayed. The shopkeepers are constantly trying to get your attention and sometimes to the extent of pulling your arms, ushering you to their store. There will be no price tags at all. You must come up with your own price and then haggle.

If you're good, you're gonna get good clothes with dirt cheap prices. But if not, you would end up paying much more than you should. It goes the same with Yongsan. There will be no price tags and no honest business practice. Just predators lurking for your money. You gotta know your price and ready to walk away if you don't get your price.

With this post I want to make a promise to myself. No camera parts or cameras are going to be bought in Korea ever again. I will try my best. The DSLR technology is developing so fast nowadays I wanna wait and see how it will turn out before buying anything. Without extra lenses I can easily 'jump boat' when I see something interesting from Nikon or Sony. (aka change brands). See ya.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Sony Alpha SLT-A57 | A Worthy Purchase?

The much awaited Canon 5D Mark III is finally out but still it is like a good boy, it does what we expect it to do. It is not a game changer like Sony SLTs and Nikon's new full frame updates. So yesterday Sony replaced the first generation SLT camera, the A55 with the A57. Here's the thing!
Sony A57
The body is somehow very, very similar to the A65 and also has similar dimensions. It also uses the same batteries that is powering the A65 and the high end A77.

The A65 and A77 had a 24MP APS-HD sensor. 24 million photo diodes are just too much for a sensor that size and this makes the A65 and A77 suffer in digital noise. JPEGs lose detail due to aggressive noise reduction processing and RAW shooting is just horrible. The NEX-5N had the ability to produce very clean photos at high ISO and great news is, it houses the same 16MP sensor. Will this be the next great low light shooter even with the half stop loss of light? We gotta wait until the real thing is shipped this April to see the real product.

It is said that the A57 can shoot still images at up to 12 frames per second (Tele-zoom Continuous Advance Priority AE, magnifying the middle part of the sensor by 1.4x). For full 16MP size burst mode the speed will be around 10fps which is still very fast than other competition. It can also capture full HD video at 60p, 60i or 24p frame rates in AVCHD progressive just like A65 and A77. I would love to see it having manual video exposure settings like the brothers. Although manual, the A65 and A77 had a maximum ISO limit which is ISO 1600. This time I'd really hope they at least lift the limit of max ISO or just let users choose any ISO setting they want in setting the exposure in video. We know we might get noisy videos but it will helps in the matter of getting that moment or missing it. 

Sony A57

The new A57 retains the Vari-Angle LCD screen and various creative effects which is also good news. With a $800 price tag with the kit lens, this will be a very attractive option for new DSLR shooters. 
If I were to buy this camera, instead of pairing it with the kit lens, I would prefer buying the body only with $700 and pairing it up with a Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8 XR Di II LD IF that costs nearly $500. Although it is not equipped with a VC or image stabilizer, the Sony has sensor-shift stabilization that makes this a very good choice for a all-round lens. The f/2.8 fast aperture along the zoom range can produce nice bokeh and high shutter speeds in low light situations...

Sony A57

I cant wait to get my hands on one this April...

Friday, 9 March 2012

Laptop Upgrade: Samsung NP300V4AH Laptop

Samsung NP300V4AH Laptop

  • Intel® Core™ i7 Processor2630QM (2.00GHz, 6MB L3 Cache) Up to 2.9 GHz with Intel Turbo Boost Technology
  • NVIDIA® GeForce® GT 520MX Graphics, Optimus™ technology
  • 1TB S-ATAⅡ Hard Drive (5,400RPM)
  • 8GB DDR3 System Memory at 1,333MHz (4GB x 2)
  • 14-inch screen and weighs 2.16kg
Sorry I don't know much about computers so no reviews from me if you are expecting one. My previous laptop was a Dell Vostro 3300 with 2.26GHz Intel Core i5 430M processor on board, was quite a good laptop. But after a year using it it had problems. The hard disk had a lot of bad sectors and I kinda 'fried' the motherboard graphic accelerator with long usage. 

Well, I had two weeks of leave before the semester starts so I spent it in my hometown Malaysia. I also thought that I can take it to a Dell service center as the Dell is still in warranty. But repairing it will take weeks. My time in Malaysia is counted in days, not weeks. I once considered of buying a desktop but my parents insists that a laptop has more mobility, especially for college use. So that's how RM2,550 or US$835 or 950,000 won flown away from the wallet...

Now that lightweight but still powerful Dell is now owned by my brother. The setbacks of the Dell that I can say is small hard disk space (although fast 7200rpm HDD), the Intel Media Accelerator HD is good but sometimes can't cope with high performance usage and the 32-bit Windows is not for high graphics performance. Still, it is very very cool to place on the  lap and very, very light laptop.

So my initial comments about my Samsung laptop is pretty much simple because I'm no computer whiz. This is a very cheap Core i7 laptop, probably cheapest among other i7 laptops. Why? The clock speed is 2.0GHz and goes up to 2.9 GHz with Intel Turbo Boost. Compared to other i7 laptops, the clock speed is around 2.4GHz and up to 3.5GHz with the Turbo Boost. But that thing costs double than the Samsung. Well, for the price some give or take is necessary right?

And some said that the clock speed is even lower than an i5 which usually has clock speeds of like 2.5GHz for example. Well, the Samsung being an i7 has double cache size than an i5. Which should make life better for the i7. It is also a 'QM' which is a quad-core mobile processor, with something called Sandy Bridge technology (which I don't yet fully understand) it works like a 8-core processor. Nice... To people buying this Samsung laptop, the clock speed is fine, this laptop is a powerhouse. Come on, want higher clock speeds don't buy a laptop, buy a desktop.

One thing that blows me away is the HDD capacity and the RAM. The HDD is 1TB or 1,000GB. Woohah! But, the HDD is not as fast my Dell at 7200RPM. This Samsung has a 5400RPM HDD which is just ok for that 1TB capacity. That is crazy big as my last laptop was a 320GB. While using the same DDR3 RAM with my previous laptop, this time it has 8GB or two 4GB chips. For the money and performance it offers currently, I love it.

By the way, RM2.5k for an i7 laptop? That's was so impossible last year when the second generation i7 was introduced. Back then it was around 3 times much expensive than this. What's up with the decrease in price? Some say the reasons are; time and Steve Jobs.

Time. The second generation i7 is getting older and some said it will be replaced with a newer technology soon. We'll see about that soon but STEVE? Before laptops were sold at high prices compared to desktops having the same specs just because of its mobility. Thanks to the iPad, people paid less attention to laptops for mobile computer solutions. Thanks Steve... So for people out there wanting a laptop, go for it. The time for the internet generation has come. 

See ya around
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