January, 2012

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Evening Routines @ 35mm

One of the most useful though not widely used features of the more advanced Nikon DSLRs is the AF fine tuning feature. My old D300 had it, as does the D7000. Basically, not all lenses enjoy perfect focusing around the image center. Some lenses exhibit, with some makers’ lenses seemingly more common than others, back or front focusing issues. At that juncture, you can either send the lens and body back to the service center for calibration, or see if the AF fine tuning feature in the camera body can help.

I printed out a focusing chart, DIYed a simple setup, and discovered that the 35mm had a very slight bias towards front focusing. Most of us would never notice any difference, but what the heck. I tinkered around with the fine tuning, and a few minutes later, enjoyed improved focusing results.=)

A couple of pictures of Hannah getting her teeth brushed just after her evening bath and milk. Ling is going to get her started on brushing teeth in the morning too, though that’ll mean she has to wake up even earlier now (yeah… right! LOL).


All taken at at f2.8 and 1/80s.=)

Herringbone Leather Handgrip

Here’s another one of those ‘boys with toys’ posts, so if you have no interest in photographic gadgets, skip ahead.=)

Just about ever camera comes supplied with its own fabric strap. Those straps do what they need to do but they’re not usually very well-designed nor conducive for long usage. These straps are also often emblazoned with the manufacturer, like this:


It’s a personal thing, but for me it’s bad enough when you’re traveling around with a large attention-attracting DSLR that you really don’t want to also wear a strap that tells everyone on loudhailer too. And that’s to say nothing of that these straps are really uncomfortable and quickly cause abrasion around your neck and cramps as they put the entire camera’s weight around your neck.

The first strap I got as replacement for the D300 years ago was from Optech, a USA-based company that produces a range of weight-distributing straps that help reduce neck and shoulder fatigue. Camera equipment actually felt lighter, and that was one of the best SGD28 I’ve ever spent.

The strap had one problem that’s inherent in all neck straps though: they get into the way of the lens and viewfinder! I’ve lost count of the number of times when I bring the DSLR to eye level ready to take a picture, only to face a strap smack right in front of the viewfinder. I’m certain Ling knows exactly what I mean here. More than a couple of times when I’m about to take a picture of Hannah, she’s chuckled to say, “Er dear, the strap is blocking your lens…!”

So, for the D7000, I’ve decided to try something else. Since the only time when I use the full neck strap is when I’m traveling, I’ve gone minimalist this time and picked up the Herringbone Leather Handgrip, made by a South-Korean company. The package came yesterday from a local distributor, and seems very well-made and feels quite luxurious.


The included instruction leaflet describing assembly is in Korean though, and I couldn’t make much sense of the diagrammatic illustrations. It’s not rocket science, but it still took me nearly half an hour to figure out where how to assemble the handgrip properly. The handgrip when properly put on works quite exactly like the handgrip strap you find on typical camcorders: pretty comfortable, and very secure.


So, on the overall, pretty satisfactory. The one downside is that when I’m taking portrait-orientation pictures, I’ll have to either use an overhand grip, or get my hand out of the strap and hold the battery grip instead. Oh well; it’s a necessary design limitation for this sort of handgrip, so I can’t complain.

Oh yep; pictures all taken using the E-PL2 @ 20mm – I’m still loving this compact camera.=)

Weekends and 35mm

More 35mm pictures! The first two were taken at f1.8, and other two at f3.5 – and the latter showed noticeable difference in center sharpness, a bit of camera shake in the first picture notwithstanding.


She’s taken in by a little plastic floating bear toy with a thermometer gauge, that also accompanies her when she bathes.


Taking a break from her usual hyperactive self.


I’m eyeing the Sigma 70-200mm f2.8 OS now too. I’ve blogged about this lens range here before, and think it’s finally about time I got into the 200mm range @ low light. The lens here was at a relatively low price of USD1100 7 months ago but towards the end of last year went up by a hundred or so. It’s still almost half the price of the Nikon VRII equivalent, but I’m sorely tempted to bite the bullet and get it now, rather than wait for the prices to go up again.=(


Hannah’s newest weekend morning activity.=)


"Hannah is bursting so many bubbles!"

Ling has been sleeping late for the last several evenings preparing teaching materials/marking/setting test-papers. So for this weekend at least, it’s fallen back to daddy to keep Hannah occupied when she wakes up and let mommy sleep in.

It’s a funny bonding activity between Hannah and me, and a small 30x40cm piece like this kept her happily entertained for the good part of an hour.=)

LCD Armor

Those of us reading us who have no interest in photography can safely skip this post. These aren’t the posts you’re looking for. =)

This post is one of those write-ups that only photography enthusiasts – which includes our Angmo buddy, and also a certain student of mine who stalks my blog and gives me daily morning updates of what he thinks when I see him in school (you know who you are LOL) – will read and chuckle. =)

All modern DSLRs come today with a large rear color LCD panel (usually the ‘monitor’), and possibly a smaller monocolor LCD (often the ‘control panel’) at the top near the handgrip. The rear panel usually comes with a removable clear plastic protector when you buy the new camera, but it’s a bit of a catch 22 situation even with it. Those plastic protectors are easily scratched, and if you remove it, you run the risk of scratching the even more vulnerable LCD panel it protects. If a LCD panel ever needed gorilla glass, this would be it!

Many camera owners routinely leave the manufacturer supplied plastic protector as it is, since you can easily buy a replacement off eBay. Others look for third party solutions, and they routinely involve an additional protector to replace the manufacturer-supplied one. Some of those are the thin film sort – similar to what you overlay on your mobile or tablet device. That’s the $8 solution I went with my old Nikon D300.

For this new D7000 though, I wanted more upmarket solutions. There were the well-reviewed glass protectors made by GGS, and those looked interesting and were easily available in shops here. The older versions were apparently one-time applications, and removal for any reason – e.g. you accidentally misaligned the protector – resulted in the glass protector cracking.

In any case, I decided not to risk it, and went with the alternative. A relatively less known hard poly-carbonate screen protector made by Acmaxx that cost about SGD17 with shipping from the States, link right here.


Packaging. Comes with two protectors: one for the rear panel, and another for the top panel.

The item took about a week to arrive, and was surprisingly easy to apply. Took just a minute to fit in both protectors. And here’s what it looks like now:


If you look closely, you’ll might notice that neither protectors are perfect rectangulars to match the contours of the rear panel. I noticed that I’d mounted the protector the wrong way and redid it after this picture was taken.


Both protectors have a chrome trim along its edges.

Unfortunately, both protectors aren’t flushed in with the camera body itself. Functionally there’s no difference of course, so it’s just an aesthetic thing. I’m not certain if I like the chrome trimming either (the GGS protectors are black). It helps in that you know the protector’s still there, but it also draws attention and looks sort of awkward too.

Oh well. I’m more concerned if the protector does its job well. i.e. don’t fall off, don’t crack, don’t attract too much of my nose grease when I take pictures, and don’t block off too much light transmission. If t doesn’t, expect to hear me grumbling about it here soon. =)

Drawing and 35mm

Hannah now alternates between the Water game and a free(!) drawing program I picked up a week ago. One would think she’ll still be more interested in the game, but funnily, when I asked her last night what she’ll prefer, she readily asked for the ‘color pencils’ drawing program!

The latter’s quite an appropriate application for her to doodle, as a new iPad case I bought came with a stylus. Here’s a couple of pictures taken of her on the application on the newly acquired 35mm.


I'm using the stylus to teach her how to correctly hold a pen. Not entirely successful yet though.


100% of a cropped section of my focusing point @ f5.6, 1/100s, ISO640.


Deep in thought over her masterpiece!

In case you’re wondering what’s this masterpiece she was drawing, here it is:


Not a Picasso by any stretch.=)

The Next Generation

Overheard during our Day 2 Chinese New Year dinner at Lentor. Jonathan – one of my nephews – staggered into the house real tired as he had a long day. His cousin, Isaac, quips:


“Yea…” Jonathan mutters

“I know what will wake you up… the iPad!”

The bunch of adults who were nearby overheard and couldn’t resist a chuckle. Because shortly after dinner, the entire lot could be found in the living room doing this again:


Should we be worried LOL.

That’s all five of them grandchildren of the Foo clan. Even Hannah looks happily interested in what’s going on on Danyel’s iPad (he’s on Plants vs Zombies actually).

It’s certainly a sign of the times, and I guess we’ll all be wrestling with the new generation of digital natives who will be far more comfortable with technology than we were at their age, and it’ll come with all the accompanying challenges of responsible technology use.

Fortunately, while Hannah never fails to ask me in all innocent earnestness if her good behavior for the day has earned her 10 minutes of iPad time before bedtime, I’m still glad to report that she’s not actually ‘hooked’ onto it at all. It’s easy to tell; I just tell her I’ll like to substitute her iPad time with some other play activity and she’ll happily oblige.=)

Nikon 35mm f1.8

Almost two years ago when our Ang Mo bud Matt visited us, he brought along his 35mm f1.8 prime. I blogged after borrowing his lens for a bit to take pictures of our then 9 month old Hannah, and the optical results were really impressive! This is the only lens I know of where Ling didn’t need convincing for her to endorse its purchase.=)

Hannah @ 9 months old @ 35mm.

I’ve kept that lens at the back of my mind since then, but kept putting off a purchase. At that point already in 2010, I was uncertain if I wasn’t going to make the jump to full-frame, and the lens works largely for cropped sensor bodies. Then the micro-4/3s standard came along and I stopped acquiring Nikon lenses altogether, and started selling away some of my relatively unused ones; three in fact last year (my 20 year old Nikon 70-200mm f4-5.6, the macro Sigma AF 150mm f/2.8 APO EX HSM, and ultra wide-angle Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 EX DC HSM).

Something struck me though while shooting most of the last 8 months using the amazing Lumix 20mm f1.7 on the E-PL2; and it was how much fun it is to shoot with prime lenses! You work harder with your feet, think harder and faster about composition, and become more adept at understanding the intricacies of f-stops.

After picking up the D7000 (I’m gradually adjusting myself to it and learning to live with its limitations) and concluding that I’m going to stay with cropped sensor bodies for at least a long while more, I decided to pick up the 35mm f1.8. Yeah, two years after getting introduced to it, but better late than never! So, made a trip downtown this morning, and pick it up at USD256. Relatively more pricey when compared to overseas prices – Amazon sells it for ~S$260 – but still about the lowest I can find here in Singapore.


The 35mm f1.8 with the D7000.

Here’s a quick shot of a festive plant on our coffee table at f3.5:


ISO100, f3.5, 1/60s

And below, a 100% cropped portion about right center of the original picture:

Crop of the 100% image.

Very sharp at a few stops above maximum aperture, and certainly as good as the many reviews online have noted. Many pictures of Hannah @ 35mm to come soon.=)

Chinese New Year 2012

The first day of the lunar new year didn’t go well. Hannah cried at home before we headed to our family home, cried some more there and in fact every time we tried to get her to sit together for a family picture, and cried yet some more at in-laws. It was a pretty tiring day for the both of us, having to pacify and cajole her!

I lugged along the Manfrotto tripod and a new remote trigger for the D7000. Several of the pictures were messed up though and required quite a bit of recovery work in Photoshop. I’m still figuring out how to properly work the D7000, and didn’t set metering properly, and mistakenly trusted the LCD panel playback view more than the Speedlight SB600’s i-TTL flash output, leading to several pictures somewhat underexposed.

At least the key pictures turned out still alright, albeit a couple with post-editing cleanup.


Look hard and you’ll see Hannah’s red eye-bags. This is apparently our first whole family picture for more than 2 years now!


After lunch, and after she’d cheered up a bit.

And finally, a funny picture from the previous night during the Reunion dinner.=)


The iPad generation!

Sticker Books and Work-in-Progress – Part 3

While our girl on the whole is still quite well-behaved e.g. never goes into public tantrums, she still hasn’t outgrown the habit of talking to herself, and also in third-person. We’re pretty certain it’s just a growing-up phase, but we’re also getting a little nervous that at past 2.5 years old, she’s still yet to pick up on our reminders to refer to herself as ‘me’ rather than ‘Hannah’.

Ling picked up a thick Usborne sticker book from Kinokuniya for Hannah’s Christmas present, and she’s been pretty hooked onto it. The book is actually low-priced in its original UK retail price of about 10£, but in local stores here it’s SGD25. Ugh. Opportune time to pick up a bundle of those books then. A couple of clicks later at the Book Depository and three books were ordered, arriving in two shipments earlier this week.

Hannah’s an even happier camper now. She goes about the house carrying all three and saying to herself “Hannah has so many sticker books!”



We swung by the construction site of our new place too at the Minton to check out the state of progress. Our third visit to the site, and this visit from the 11th floor of Block 158. Our block (the center one in the picture) has reached its highest floor.

It’s also impossible to tell from the small thumbnail picture below, but when blown up in its original size, we could see that window frames have been installed in the bedrooms.


Wonder if those workers get a CNY holiday too.

Ling’s thinking of visiting the showroom again. Apparently, they’ve finished the 2+1 bedroom mockup, and she wants to go in to get more ideas on how our new home in 2013-end should look like. There’s also another new condo project just down the road from The Rivervale with another one of those ridiculous but uniquely Singapore-sounding name – ‘Riversound’ – that she wants to check out too.


At the lift-lobby of Block 158.

It’s Chinese New Year tomorrow too, and opportunities for pictures, celebration and weight-gain. More posts to come. =)