Sunday, November 14, 2010

Samsung EX1 advanced compact camera (first impressions)

See also: Samsung EX1 Night Shots

Been planning to buy this camera since I first heard about it. Equipped with a Schneider-KREUZNACH 24mm – 72mm (35mm equivalent) f/1.8 – f/2.4 lens, the EX1 has the fastest, brightest lens on a compact camera in the market right now. I read several reviews and viewed some full-sized sample photos and was quite impressed with what I saw. Then just this week my bro showed up with a brand spanking new EX1! So now I have the actual camera to play with. :)

I won’t be doing a review as there are already excellent full-length reviews on the internet. I’ll be taking this camera with me on short outings for the next few days and see what it can do for me and my style of shooting.

Here’s the EX1, also known as the TL500 in some countries. Owners of the Panasonic LX3 will immediately notice the similarities. The design does borrow heavily from the Lumix, in fact, if you view the name “EX1” printed on the top of the Samsung from the front, it reads as “LX3” LOL.

Is that an EX1 or an LX3? ;)

It’s quite a big compact camera, a little too large to fit into a trouser pocket without being too conspicuous. People might think you’re too happy to see them! :) I walked around town today with the camera slipped into my jeans pocket and attracted stares from passers-by and people sitting in a kopitiam (cafe). At about 350 grams with memory card and battery, it also feels quite heavy.

From the moment I picked it up I knew it’s a well built camera. Reassuringly heavy, it’s mostly metal with a comfortable grip on the front.

First impressions
So far, I find plenty to like about the camera but there are also some minor complaints. I like the superbly bright Schneider-KREUZNACH lens which allows me to take photos of my orchids in the dark, shady orchid house without upping the ISO. However, the maximum shutter speed of 1/1500s also means I can’t use the largest aperture when taking macro photos in bright sunny conditions without burnt-out highlights.

Granted, the small sensor (1/1.7” type) means the bokeh effect at f/1.8 can no way be compared to that produced by a capable dslr with a macro lens, it’s still nice to be able to shoot at f/1.8 to get the shallowest depth of field. But that’s only a minor quibble as I often shoot in very dark conditions such as in the jungle while trekking and seldom take macro shots in bright daylight.

The 3” AMOLED articulating LCD displays photos beautifully. The downside is, what you see is not what you get. Colors are wonderfully vibrant on the little screen but once downloaded and viewed on a computer screen, often are much duller or subdued. For example, shots taken using the Smart-Image (fully automatic) mode appear vivid and beautiful on the AMOLED screen but they are quite flat in reality.

Which brings me to another minor complaint, vivid color or any of the other color settings are not available in Smart-Image mode. In fact, SI mode is truly an all-automatic mode with the only available option being image size. Not a big deal for me since I always shoot in either P or A modes only.

Will have to use the camera more to have any idea how the battery life is like but Samsung quotes 270 shots in the electronic manual which is average for a compact shooter. Without the need to use flash in most conditions I find myself in (given the bright lens), I think I should be able to coax at least 400 shots out of a fully charged battery.

The EX1 has four dials! Two to change shooting modes and two more to change values. The finger wheel on the front panel provides a quick and easy way to change exposure compensation values by simply clicking it then rolling it. The dial on the back panel is like the one on the Canon S90 but much nicer as it clicks into place reassuringly when changing values. The S90’s back dial is just too loose.

The lens cap may be bothersome to some but I am already using a lens cap attached with a piece of string on my slr (to avoid losing it!) so it’s not a big deal to me. There are auto-open-shut lens caps made for this model available for sale on ebay for those interested. Be careful not to accidentally touch the big lens on the front however. I have lost count how many times I’ve had to wipe the lens with lens cleaning solution and lens paper to get rid of greasy finger prints. I am now much more careful but today, I handed the camera to someone and it came back with smudges on the lens.

More photos
These aren’t full sized shots, but they give you an idea of what the camera is capable of. The only editing done is a bit of cropping and of course, watermarking. All were shot in P mode, sunny white balance, -0.3 EV, super-fine file quality then exported in picasa (normal quality, web size).




I’m very impressed with the lens sharpness! My line is too slow to upload full sized photos but do head to any of the reputable review sites like dpreview or user forums and download some unedited samples and see for yourself what this camera can do.



The EX1 has managed to reproduce the colors of this hybrid cattleya quite well.

Smart Range
The EX1 has an option called Smart Range buried in the menus. When turned on, the camera takes a couple of pictures at different exposure values and then combines them to make one picture with increased dynamic range. In high contrast scenes, it works quite well. Look at these two photos. The first was shot with SR turned off.

SR off.

SR on.

Will post more entries about this camera from time to time. Taking it on a hiking trip in a few days’ time.

See also: Samsung EX1 Night Shots (Kuching Waterfront at night)

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Pangium edule




Pangium edule, locally known as buah kepayang. The fruits are poisonous as they contain hydrocyanic acids. But look at the fruits in this photo...




I wonder what could have eaten them? squirrels? bats?




Kepayang is a tall tree that can reach about 30 or more meters high. The fruiting tree in the above photos is about 35-40 meters by my estimate. Even though the fruits and seeds are poisonous, when prepared properly, the seeds are actually quite tasty. See my old blog entry here:

Friday, November 5, 2010

Habenaria alagense

I have one plant of this unique species which produces a single two to three foot long inflorescence full of flowers. I noticed that the flowers give off a light fragrance at night but have no smell in the day. I wonder if its natural pollinator is a type of moth active only at night?
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fries that won’t rot

I am sure by now most of you have heard and seen pictures of a McDonald’s Happy Meal that won’t rot. Well, I thought it was probably because of low humidity. Anyway, not prepared to waste money on an entire Happy Meal, I bought some fries from McD and left them out on a shelf. Humidity is quite high, high enough for mold to grow on the shelf if I don’t wipe and clean it now and then. 5 days in and the fries had shrunken a bit and smelled of stale vegetable oil. But still no mold. I then bought some fries from KFC to compare, left that out in the open also. Here’s how they look like now:


McDonalds and KFC fries

See for yourself! Compare that to the 5 day old KFC fries which I also left on a shelf, the KFC fries have gone moldy. Yuck. McD fries on the left, 14 days old, no mold. KFC fries on the right, 5 days old, positively yucky.


Obviously not a scientific experiment. I just left them out to see what would happen. Make your own conclusions or try it yourself!

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