Tag Archives: X-Pro1

Just another PnS? No! It’s the Fujifilm X20!

Yes. I traded in my trustworthy X-Pro1 set and got myself a Fujifilm X20. It was a hard decision that involved nights of tossing and flipping. My X-Pro1 was a stunner and has given me hours of delights with its portability and great colors. It has incredible ISO control surpassing that of a high-end APS-C or full frame camera. The colors are iconic Fuji-style, and its black and white astonishingly striking.  But still, I’ve let it go because as great a camera as the X-Pro1 may be, it lacks a range of versatile lenses and a good autofocus system.  I did not get much choice over the past year playing around with a Carl Zeiss 35mm and a Fuji 35mm. These two are fantastic glasses, especially the legendary Carl Zeiss f/1.4, but sometimes as a photographer, you will yearn for more versatility and range.  As for the autofocus, it’s a decent one but in low light, it kinda sucks…

image taken from Fujifilm Singapore website

Of course the Fuji X20 will not be my primary system. I will be looking out for a suitable one. My heart tells me to wait for a X-Pro2, hoping with a full frame sensor and blazingly fast AF , like the XE1 or 100s. My head tells me to go for the Canon 6D.  In any case, I am not in urgent need and the new X20 will fill the void in this period.

The Fuji X20 cost me $770 Singapore dollars or about $610 USD. This is slightly more expensive than the US set which goes for 599 USD at B&H. I was torn between this, the Sony RX100 and the Canon G1X. The Sony and G1X are cameras that received rave reviews, and their prices are not exactly that far from the X20 i.e. $640 USD for RX100 and $699 USD for the G1X. But the sample images from these 2 cams lack the emotive factor which the Fuji colors give. For me, Fujifilm have a strong color character – deep and arousing. Contrast that with a Leica which has a classic and refined character. But Sony and G1X just doesn’t emit those kind of sensation though they have very high quality built and glasses, and a much bigger sensor than the X20 (X20 only has a 2/3 inch sensor, compared to a 1 inch for Sony and a 1.5 inch for G1X) Find out more about the difference in sensor sizes here.

Anyway, it is naive to assume that the X20 can match up to its big brother X-Pro1 or the X100s. But it would also be silly to belittle this beast of a Point and Shoot (PnS). Technologically,  Fujifilm has somehow managed to shrink all the great stuffs from the X-Pro1 into this handsome retro-looking box  that weights only about 300+ grams. The upside is that you get the Fuji look with a cheaper and lighter package that rivals the performance of entry DSLR. The downside are the limited ISO performance, the limited DOF/bokeh and a missing BULB mode for those long exposures.

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I just got the X20 two days ago and gave it a test run out in the field yesterday – to see its speed, IQ and ISO performance. It’s neither scientific nor professional, just your average street testing with the naked eyes. And I must say that I am mightily impressed. The autofocus performs well in challenging conditions, and the IQ was very good. The ISO performance is about the same as a mid-range mirrorless or entry DLSR (usable up to ISO3200). This is where you realised that as mighty as the Fuji sensor may be, its 2/3 inch sensor still fails to match the  ISO prowess of a RX100 or Canon G1X.  Anyway, pictures speaks a thousand words, so  here are some of the image samples from yesterday.

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I ran a few tests at night to test the ISO from 800 onwards till 6400. I find the images very usable at ISO1600. However 3200 and 6400 is more suitable for black and white given the noise and artefacts. And don’t think about ISO12,800, it’s not palatable even in black and white, unlike the X-Pro1 which is usable even at ISO25,600!

Here are some images at ISO800, under low light.

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800Here are some at ISO1600

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1600

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Here are those at ISO3200

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And finally, these are the ISO6400

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6400

So the verdict?
Small? Checked
Light? Checked
Great IQ? Checked
Fuji? Checked
This cam is staying!

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Invisible Singapore |01| On a Quest for Dragons

Singapore is known for many things but definitely not for “mundane‘ playgrounds. That’s why I was pleasantly stunned when I read that one of our playgrounds was listed as Emily Temple’s 15 amazing playgrounds in the world. For info, Emily Temple is an editor at Flavorpill, a blog affiliated to The Atlantic, covering cultural events, art, books, music, and world news. If you want to find out which 15 playgrounds she was referring to, you can check out the blog. What was so intriguing in
her listing was that she shortlisted, not one of those modern playgrounds that could be found around Singapore, but a very old playground from the eighties. That was more than 30 years ago! And I guessed many shared my relief as her unexpected nomination breathe new hope for these antique playgrounds, especially when these were on the verge of being evacuated to pave way for newer, more modernized playgrounds.

I remembered these old playgrounds with the shapes of mythical and your average creatures, such as dragons, pelicans, elephants and so on. In fact, I came from that era where I enjoyed playing on these amazing structures. Unlike today’s modern playgrounds that are equipped with everything that you could ask for, the old ones were simple and that forced us to unleash our creativity. Hence these playgrounds could sometimes be the wilderness, a pirate ship, an aeroplane, a safari – it’s all in the mind. Now that these playgrounds caught my attention again after 30+ years, it’s time to seek them out, perhaps while they…or I still stand…

I had to do quite a bit of research on these playgrounds given that there were only a few left standing. Lucky for me, Emily Temple’s article raised some buzz and there were already hyped-up enthusiasts and photographers who had wrote and took some shots. I also realized that there was a wonderful article wrote by a writer, Justin Zhuang, titled Mosaic Memories. It was a gem commissioned by the Singapore Memory Project and it detailed the history of these old playgrounds in Singapore. From his documentations, these playgrounds were designed in-house by one of the staff of the Housing & Development Board (HDB). His name was Mr Khor Ean Ghee. In the late seventies and early eighties, HDB wanted to create spaces that are fun and yet instill in users a sense of the local identity and life. It was along this design philosophy that the old iconic playgrounds were birthed. There is the dragon playground, a symbolism of Asia, bum boats and rickshaws. It was unfortunate that in 1993, HDB stopped designing in-house and imported playgrounds from overseas suppliers due to higher production and maintenance costs, as well as new regulations to meet international safety standards. The tipping point came finally with an incident at one of these old playground.

For my search, I centered in on the most iconic of all the old animal-themed playgrounds – the dragon playground. There are only four dragons left – two in Toa Payoh Town, one in Ang Mo Kio Town and one in MacPherson area. The first dragon that I found was also the most authentic one left. It is located at Block 28 Toa Payoh Lorong 6. The authenticity being that the playground still uses the traditional sand instead of synthetic materials for its base. The majestic dragon head was created out of orange terrazzo and glass tiles. Referencing from the Mosaic Memories, it appears that the idea to use these materials was for easy maintenance – they don’t need annual paint jobs! How ingenious! Besides, it gave the dragon a cheery and inviting face. The body of the dragon was bathed in colorful metal railings that raises the adventure-bar for users as they try to make their way through in the fastest of time. The dragon incorporates a slide in its body too! Edging closer, you can see the age of the playground where time and harsh nature elements had made a graceful mark on it.

The second dragon was a mini-me of the first dragon – without the long slender metal railing body  Instead, the slide took on the modified shape of the dragon’s body. The Mosaic Memories recorded that these mini-me dragons were devised to fit into some of the smaller spaces in public housing estates. Incidentally, this dragon was also orange-colored and everything seems yester-year, except for the new synthetic base that the dragon rests on. This dragon is located at Toa Payoh Lorong 1, between Block 201 Block 240.

The third dragon took me round the town of Ang Mo Kio for 30 mins before I realized that it was so right in front of me. The playground is located at Block 572, Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3…which is just by the main roadside…Well, this is a full-sized dragon similar to the one at Toa Payoh Lorong 6. However, this dragon sports a more colorful head in orange, blue and red. It has a long yellow metal body and more slides for users. In fact, it is the largest of the four dragons. It was also the first dragon that I find kids playing on it, possibly because Ang Mo Kio Town is a more populous location. I recalled that the many corners of these dragon playgrounds are also great hiding spots for the occasional hide-and-seek game.

The last dragon is located beside Block 58 of Circuit Road in MacPherson. This was a mini red-colored dragon. Though Circuit Road was a small area, this was the dragon playground that was most heavily used, at least when I was there. There was a wonderful bunch of kids playing around there, all of them game for photo shoots. In fact, their smiles were among the best that I have seen! Kids in play are always the best as they are fully in delight in their own world. The dragon here is similar to the mini dragon in Toa Payoh, except for the color, and of course the location.

Hopefully, the authorities will continue to preserve these iconic structures of the past and would not let the speed of economic development erase these memories off the facade of nation. To me, these playgrounds are still as functional, if not even more fun than their modern counterparts! I believe those kids playing in these playgrounds would agree with me wholeheartedly.

Just to capture a memory of yet another disappearing landscape – Seletar West Farmway

Singapore is a very urbanised country with very little natural landscape left.  Do not get me wrong. I am proud of our nation’s development, but I am much saddened by the sacrifice by mother nature. One of my favourite places that still has a bit of nature in it is Seletar West Farmway. But when I arrive at the place, I was astonished that there isn’t much left. Trucks and lorries were everywhere, transporting dirt and sand to make way for new buildings and structures such as dormitories for foreign workers. Nonetheless, I swiped out my trusty Fuji X-Pro1 and start shooting away. I set the filter to B&W(R Channel) – one of my fav.

There’s a couple of worker quarters within the Farmway Road.  I did not went close to the quarters as I think it required a permit to do so. Besides, there were some guards & police patrol cars nearby. I chanced upon an open pathway, with a small road leading up to some place. Due to time limitation, I can only take some shoots near the entrance where it seems to be some storage are.

Saw this solitary tree that just sprouted out of no where. Loved the interplay of light & shadow, in conjunction with the X-Pro1’s built-in B&W R Channel filter.

Just discovering everyday patterns

I have been gazing lovingly at my cam for the past 1 month, not being able to use it because of my hectic schedule. Today, I had the luxury of 30 minutes to shoot as I had to go somewhere for an assignment & that assignment was postponed 🙂 Due to the limited time that I had, I gave myself the challenge of shooting at the most mundane of places – at the void deck of a flat. The void deck is just like its name – a void…except for a resting corner. To bring out the void-ness, I chose to shoot in B&W and at varying ISO400 – 800.

Just a “Starry Starry” Night

Went to the Star Concert held at Gardens By The Bay last Sunday. The event was organised by The Straits Times publishing house  & it marked the very 3rd time that I visited the Garden…Will be going there again tomorrow with colleagues…OMG…

Anyway, the concert was quite a star-studded event with an international lineup featuring artistes such as 4 Minute – a  five-member Korean girl group that was the current craze of the town, Boys Like Girls – the American rock band from Massachusetts, Tanya Chua – a popular Asian singer, Singapore idol winners –  Taufik Batisah & Hady Mirza, as well as a couple more acts. It was hard trying to cover a concert using only a 35mm, but I tried my best.

This was a endearing cute little girl who dressed up as Chun Li in the Street Fighter series. She’s so adorable that I could not resist posting 3 shots of her 🙂

Took some frames of the people waiting around…The lighting was great that day, so my lens was extra fast

When it reached the Boys Like Girls’s act, lighting was much worse. Had to rely on high ISO to get sharper shots

Even at 100% crop, the high ISO images are fantastic!

Just another look at Balestier – in B&W

Was out  with the photography gang today for some street photography. Destination was Balestier Road which I went some weeks ago to familiarise myself with the route. Set off with the focus of getting some B&W frames. Just nice that there’s a little drizzle today that gave me some reflections shots. I set my X-Pro1 to B&W Red filter throughout to achieve a more dramatic feel.

Took just a few frames today as the outing was primarily to meet up with friends. My X-Pro1 was happy to meet up with 2 of its X100 “brothers” there as well!

Was fortunate to witness a wedding ceremony held within a Burmese Buddhist Temple.  Bumped up the ISO quickly to take a few frames.

The outing may be a short one, but thanks to the cool weather & great company, it’s still a terrific experience 😉

Just in the mood for “culture” – a walk in Singapore’s Chinese Garden

The total number of times that I visited Singapore’s Chinese Garden in the last 30+ years can easily be shown with one hand…It’s not that the Chinese Garden is boring or stale, it’s just that it was too far a distance for me, and well the attractions ain’t really attractive then.  The last time that I went was to attend a workshop by Manny Libroro & I was still using my Canon with 15-85mm then. I did not took in much of the scenery as the focus was on shooting model portraits.  Yesterday, I had the urge to do some black and white – largely because I wanted to see how well the X-Pro1 holds up against the Leica Monochrome.  The results are clear. While I may not get the “Leica” look, I did managed to get some nice B&W frames that pleased me quite a bit. Most of these are shot in bright sunlight – that reminds me…time to get a ND filter.

If you happen to visit Singapore, don’t forget to drop by this beautiful place for some photos 🙂

Just more mother-&-kids-gone-wild photos at Universal Studios Singapore

Went to Universal Studio which is really a good place to take photos…if you use AF.  For manual focus, it’s slightly harder & needed more practice, at least for me, since everything just seems to move so fast.  However, BECAUSE it is manual & focusing is slower, you can get some interesting frames that are dreamy due to the OOF effect.

I like this because of the stark contrast offered by the Zeiss glass, plus the clarity is just drooling.

This is slightly overexposed, but the amount of details is there, & of course the subjects are too cute to dismiss.