Photographing South-East Asia, 2011

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As some of you may know, I’ve been fortunate enough to go on a few longish trips to SE Asia in the past few years. I love this part of the world and it is a great place for photography. My biggest and most travel-oriented trip was Summer 2011, when I practically brought the kitchen sink along. Tired of being stuck with the perspective of one lens (generally my Tamron 17-50mm f/2.8), I brought a variety of cameras and primes. I actually got good use out of a lot of them, but the heat and weight made it at times very tiring. So for the next trip I had a rethink.

So to save my back and increase my sanity, less came with me in the second trip. I was partly helped by having a new and smaller DSLR (the D5100) that had a better sensor than my D300 and also decent features. So here is what I took and, more importantly why I took it. The fact you want to use something you own is a poor excuse for bringing it ‘on the road’ and bringing something ‘just in case’ may make sense for a band-aid, but not in the world of camera gear. I’ll also add, with the benefit of hindsight whether I found it all that useful.

(I actually wrote this two years ago and have been slow to get it polished for publishing, but never mind, here it is!) For the gear in Summer 2012, please see here. I’ll make a post about 2013’s trip, too, but want to get this out the proverbial door first.

The Summer 2011 Trip

Cameras

D300

To have a weather-sealed body, as sometimes out in the rainy season. on beaches or boats. Also, to have autofocus with my new ‘street-shooter’, Nikon’s venerable 24mm f/2.8 AFD. Right, that’s AFD, no autofocus motor and pretty much useless in any kind of hurry on a smaller body, which I generally prefer to have in my backpack. I also hadn’t always been happy with my D3100 in Europe, not being sure exactly why, but perhaps it’s relatively flimsy feeling, tendency to overexpose and the smaller viewfinder ended up with me wondering if it alone would do this trip justice, though I definitely prefer it’s weight.

* In hindsight… now I have it, I prefer to use the D5100, as it reduces a lot of weight and I can make do with its small viewfinder.

Nikon D3100

Originally intended as my backup, it got used most days and especially when doing a lot. It is light, reasonably fast and good at focusing. It is for me a world away from a compact and can mount some serious glass, like the Tamron 17-50mm I brought along for it. Probably I should have gotten the better D5100 for this trip, but it had just come out and was really expensive, plus I’d only just gotten the D3100 in February.

* This camera is inadequate as a main tool for me, mostly because of the poor dynamic range, but also the lack of bracketing for HDR and poor video abilities. Yet it does score highly for lowish weight and low light abilities. Newer models are a lot more satisfactory.

Panasonic Lumix LX5

Sometimes you are just heading out for dinner, going for a stroll. you don’t necessarily want a backpack even and this will fit in the pouch around my neck. Also, it’s no slouch, with its 1.1/7″ sensor, it has pretty good dynamic range and low-light ability, for a compact at least.

* A handy little camera, rendered somewhat obsolete by my m43 bodies, which have much better sensors and are still pretty small.

Panasonic Lumix TZ7

This was my pocket superzoom. At 25-300mm, it could compliment whatever else I brought along, especially the LX5 or a D300 restricted to a prime lens, as well as taking decent 720p video. The image quality is way below what I would really want, especially as you zoom in, but it can be nice as a memory-catcher. Having such a range is a lot of fun to have, especially compared to the fast-and-wides I started off with. It really does need good light, even with its VR, due to the dark lens and poor high ISO (more than 200 is pushing it, but I did use it up to 400, just to get the shot).

* Another handy camera, yet the low IQ means I got few keepers, especially above ISO 100. I find the P510 does much better here and without adding too much weight.

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The 4S Arrives

Some thoughts on the iPhone 4S. Is it an attractive phone? Yes, for sure, it has dual core, possibly 1GB Ram, the retina and dual cameras of the iPhone 4, not to mention a heavily revised camera module with stabilized 1080p video and of course ‘Siri’, the potentially useful digital assistant. Probably, with a smooth-running iOS5, it’ll be one of the best phones in the world.

Will I get one? Well, much as I love Apple products, this one’s not really for me. Why so? Because, as the name implies, its not really a ‘5’ and I already have a regular 4, which I am in fact still paying off the absurdly long 26 month contract for (with around 11 months to go). Break it early and there’s quite a penalty, involving paying back the rest of the phone at the ‘real’, inflated price rather than the subsidized one that made it so affordable, whilst at the same time of course, paying for my new one, not to mention the data fees that continue regardless. I’m pretty sure Apple knows this and spaces out the upgrades, so doing so every 2 generations will be enough for most people, in fact it is a testament to the 4’s success that it’s taken this long (15 months) to need revising.I might get my girlfriend one to replace her aging 3G, though:)

Ultimately, there aren’t really all that many changes from the 4, it’s basically just been turbo-charged to the iPad 2’s specs. In fact compared with the 4S, the APU is the same, or perhaps faster in my iPad, which since I’ve gotten, is where I use most of the powerful apps anyway. The iPhone screen is too darned small for a lot of them, so Im definitely glad to have it and enjoy the ‘true’ app ecosystem that Steve envisioned. Games or complex photo editing just doesn’t go well on the iPhone, whereas on a Pad I have something that in many ways beats a workstation for usability. It’s reached a point, for me at least, where my smart phone just has to be good enough and it’s camera likewise. The iPhone 4 still manages that, thank goodness!

What would I need from a 5? First of all a bigger screen, perhaps through slight extensions and removal of the bezel, at least around 4 inches. Just for watching HD videos this would make a huge difference, not to mention all the apps. Next would be another jump in APU, perhaps to quad-core, if it exists then, though I suppose that could take till the 5S or whatever. I’d want more Ram as I’ll be doing a lot more with it at this point, some of it plugged into a larger monitor and keyboard no doubt, making for a truly portable machine.

Other than that, some wonderful, exotic surprises that would make it irresistible. In fact it’s this sense of newness that makes it attractive at all. One thing I can be sure of- it’ll be better than anything I can imagine sitting here now.

YouTube – ‪iPhone as DSLR‬‏

However ridiculously ungainly this may look now, here we have the future of digital photography. You know, think about it. A super-slim smart phone, like a credit card that you slot into the back, becoming (maybe through blu-tooth) the camera’s touch-screen LCD. Editing, uploading, managing the photos from it without needing a computer, at least for most usage. You have a highly portable and connected imaging device, realising the potential of digital far more than ever before.

Why is the iPhone 4 the most used and uploaded photo-taking device in the world now? Because it’s so convenient to take the photo and even edit it beyond all recognition. Secondly, it’s always connected, with various apps making it even easier to post and annotate the image to whatever site you desire. Built for communication and sharing, whereas, despite all their advances in technical image quality, even compact cameras are reliant on a computer to do most of their editing and to upload. I know, there are some exotic solutions like the Eye-Fi card, but they are far cruder than the iPhone and rely on more expensive purchases, which equals a lack of a purchase for most. So merging the two devices in some way could well be the next step forward, not just for compacts, but for higher end digital cameras.

Journalists can get their shots up faster as much as bloggers and they can be high quality ones shot with extreme lenses, rather than just the iPhone camera. I really see potential for this kind of convergence. Forget about the iPhone, say hello to the Eye-Phone!

Straight, No Chaser.

A Traditional Photography Blog - dehk © 2016

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