In Focus, Bangkok Photography Blog April 11th, 2009

Review Fuji F200EXR/Point and Shoot Street Photography in Chinatown

China Hotel Guide
Asia Star Hotel Dali
Butterfly Spring Hotel Dali
Landscape Hotel Dali
Regent Hotel Dali

Feature Photograph

Every image in this week’s column was captured by a point and shoot compact in automatic mode! The new Fuji Finepix F200EXR

I’m going to stay on the topic of street photography for a while longer because it’s something almost all visitors to the Kingdom shoot, even if they don’t realize it. This week’s feature photograph was captured in Chinatown inside Bangkok and is significant because it represents symbolism in conjunction with street photography. Let me tell you right now that I was not holding the camera when this image was captured!

After a hot (38 – 42C) 3 – 4 hours walking around Chinatown, a nice lunch, and a bit of a shopping spree with my companions we were in the car on the way home and I was driving. The traffic was stop and go, horrible, and I was rolling down the window every once in a while when at a stop and trying to capture something interesting between the cars. I’ve always maintained that “seeing” the shot is the greatest challenge in all types of photography and right off the front passenger side of the car I saw this shot and quickly handed the camera to my front seat passenger and said “please, get that shot for me!”

As the traffic started moving she snapped off a few shots and I didn’t think about it again until I was processing images later. We both were looking at the same scene, yet I think I saw something my passenger didn’t see. She saw a young man in the back of a truck.

I saw a young man in the back of the truck with the faint look of contempt on his face as he observed us in an obviously better station in life. He appeared to be “trapped” in his station and the bars designed to protect the contents of the truck from theft symbolized prison bars keeping him trapped in his station. Am I imagining this? Look at his expression as he observes us, look at the bars. Understand that the temperature was 42C at this point and he rides around all day in the back of a hot truck loading and unloading freight. There just isn’t much hope for improvement of his situation considering this is Thailand. If any government wants to succeed in Thailand they’ll need to do much better for their young workforce.

Sometimes a street image says exactly as it reads! There is no mistaking this is a traditional massage establishment.

Chinatown/Street Photography

Every image in this week’s column was captured with a point and shoot compact in automatic mode! The New Fuji Finepix F200EXR.

Chinatown! One of the busiest areas for both foot and vehicle traffic inside Bangkok! It was a very hot April Tuesday as my two friends and I headed to Chinatown with the express purpose of seeing what we could do in the way of street photography and wringing out the new Fuji F200EXR. I looked like a tourist with a small point and shoot compact complete with a wrist strap, and my friend looked like a serious stringer for a newspaper with his professional level DSLR.

As I expected when you show up with a large DSLR and attached lens people notice. They tend to either smile and pose, or turn away. Walking either ahead of behind my friend with a very small point and shoot compact I was hardly noticed unless I stuck the camera right in a person's face.

Chinese architecture and signage is everywhere.

The streets are lined with wall to wall people and it’s difficult to move, but there is no shortage of venders, beggars, and even soi dogs taking up what little space there is. This lady was begging on the street and made for an interesting capture. Notice the shape of her pupils which indicate an eye problem?

Tuktuks spew our noxious fumes and contribute to both air and noise pollution. This driver sitting in 40 C+ heat didn’t appear happy.

An elderly lady tends to a local shrine which really adds color and character to the neighborhood.

The man above makes for a nice capture, but it’s really lacking in the “story” department.

Notice how including more of the environment shows much more of the story? The man was a fruit vendor on a hot Chinatown street and he fell asleep in the sun.

The rest of the story was that he was none too pleased to open his eyes and find a farang taking a picture of him sleeping!

Getting the camera low to the ground allows a different perspective of an elderly lady walking through a small soi market.

Young girls tending to their kiosks are a common sight in Chinatown. I liked this capture because it showed her reflecting on her kiosk and situation.

Another low to the ground shot of a business woman pushing her new inventory to her store.

This shot was interesting because it shows an older man with the job of pushing a food cart through the streets, while a younger man rides a motorsai as a delivery man. In 20 years will he be pushing a food cart as well?

In a land where the culture revolves around multitudes of beat up motorsai’s this colorful beauty caught my eye.

This is so much more to Chinatown, it’s impossible to show the full flavor in just a few images. It’s definitely worth a few hours of your time walking the streets and observing the people and their activities.

Look in the next section below for more Chinatown images.

Review, the Fuji Finepix F200EXR

Every image in this week’s column was captured with a point and shoot compact in automatic mode! The New Fuji Finepix F200EXR.

The holy grail of compact cameras is a small and lightweight camera that comfortably fits and rides in a pocket or purse, and allows you to capture any scene your eyes see with relative ease. The Fuji Finepix F200EXR comes closer to meeting this standard than any point and shoot on the market.

3 – 4 years ago Fuji released the Fuji Finepix F30 and F31, 6 megapixel boxy compacts with an exceptional ability to capture high ISO images only rivaled by DSLRs. No other compact could even come close to this performance. Since, I’ve used my F30 and F31 when out at night with friends when I didn’t want to lug the big cameras and I wanted to shoot without any flash or external lighting. I’ve captured thousands of such snapshots and nothing else in the compact class has ever come close to these two cameras. Until now.

I started a high ISO comparison between the Fuji F30, F31, Canon G9, Casio FX-Z750, Olympus C-5050, and two other older point and shoot compacts. It quickly became apparent that the Fuji F30/F31 still retained the high ISO low noise crown, but just barely. None of the other cameras were in the same league. Instead of posting crops of the noise and boring you, I thought instead I’d share some real life images and talk about what makes the F200EXR special in regards to each image.

Keep in mind that none of the images in this week’s column were shot using flash. All were shot in EXR automatic mode. EXR auto mode is a brand new technology, there is nothing else like it out there. The camera automatically senses wide dynamic range scenes, low light scenes, and scenes suitable for low ISO high resolution 12 megapixel images. If the F200EXR senses a wide dynamic range the camera takes two images at once and combines them for up to a 800% improvement in dynamic range. If it senses a low light scene it “pixel bins” which essentially splits its 12mp in two, combines the pixels into bigger 6mp pixels, which provides a much higher sensitivity in low light and much less noise (grain). If it senses a well balanced scene the F200EXR captures a full 12mp image with high detail.

In Automatic EXR mode this camera "thinks" for you, and takes great photographs which is exactly what I want my point and shoot compact to do. Like everyone else, when not working I just want to take great snapshots and not worry about camera settings. So, when I buy a point and shoot compact I expect to use it 99.9% of the time in automatic mode, so I want the best automatic mode possible. The Fuji Finepix F200EXR qualifies.

This image was captured at night and the camera selected the low light mode, binned the pixels, and produced a wonderfully balanced 6mp image with very little noise at ISO 1600

How good is the low light mode? This image was captured indoors with no flash at ISO 800 with great detail, low noise, and accurate color.

In this scene of apples the camera automatically selected the high resolution mode and captured this beautifully detailed ISO 400 image showing great depth of field. The cameras lens was just an inch or so from the closest apple. If digital cameras are going to have problems with color the problems will usually appear in the reds. The reds with the Fuji Finepix F200EXR are outstanding!

The sun was exceptionally bright and this young lady was making flower strings in the deep shade under an awning. The LCD was bright enough to enable me to hold the camera down low without bending over and still see to compose the image. The camera selected the wide dynamic range mode and ISO 100. Notice the very wide dynamic range from the almost blown out sky to the deep shadows? Most much more expensive DSLRs can’t do this.

Another low light scene automatically selected. ISO 1600. This was taken in the underground parking garage where I parked the car. Notice the accurate colors and relatively noise free image? No flash on any of these images! Fantastic!

Holding the camera down low it allowed me to compose without bending over, selected the high resolution mode, and rendered perfect skin tones with very little noise at ISO 400.

I know, you’re going to say that at high ISOs the colors will be washed out and the image full of noise. The camera selected the low light mode, ISO 1600, and produced this extremely colorful image of flowers which were in the shade!

Selecting the high resolution mode the camera rendered perfect skin tones and high detail at ISO 400.

The camera can select an ISO all the way to 12,800 but I suspect the image quality would fall off greatly. In this scene the camera selected ISO 3200 and produced an image relatively noise free with a very wide dynamic range.

Overall I really like the Fuji Finepix F200EXR and it is now my default point and shoot camera. It is small and light enough to easily ride in my pocket. The battery on its first charge only provided about 300 images, but I was playing with it a lot because it was new. I estimate about 400 images in subsequent charges. The lens is very sharp and I love the wide end at 28mm (35mm equiv). The F200EXR accepts both SD and XD cards.

Startup time runs close to three seconds, longer than I’d like. However, the F200EXR achieves focus quickly and its shot to shot time is very quick. It saves images and lets you get back to shooting in very short order. The LCD is bright and accurate and the controls are very intuitive and user friendly. I haven’t even opened the manual and I doubt I ever will. Everything is at your fingertips, intuitive, and quick to deploy.

The Fuji Finepix F200EXR retails for $399 USD, but you can find them much cheaper if you shop around. I got mine at the PIX2009 camera show at the Siam Paragon for baht 10,700 ($304) including (2) 2gb Kingston SD cards, a case, cleaning cloth, tripod (cheap), LCD screen protector, extra software, and some other stuff. Were you at PIX2009?

If you’re in the market for a new compact point and shoot you can’t go wrong with this one. I predict the Fuji Finepix F200EXR will be a runaway success. The only question is will it reach the cult status of the F30 and F31 which preceded it?


Photography News of Interest

PC Magazine features an article on how to build the ultimate PC for Adobe CS4 which includes Photoshop. The article is informative and has some great “how to” pictures. You can read more about it here.

Phase One, makers of the excellent Capture One Professional RAW convertor has just released the version 4.7 update which provides support for the newest cameras including the Canon 5D Mark II. I updated mine. You can get your update here.

A few weeks ago Stick asked about the best software for making cool slideshows. I use and recommended SlideshowPro’s Lightroom plug-in. They’ve recently updated this fabulous tool. You can read about it here.

Now this is interesting. The Polaroid company facing bankruptcy tried to sell itself to the Patriarch Partners and the bankruptcy judge nixed the deal. You can read about this here.

Not long ago Canon updated it’s excellent 70-200mm F4 lens with the new 70-200mm F4 IS lens. How good is the IS? Imaging Resource has a new IS testing procedure and tested this lens. You can read the results here.

Readers Submission

Hi Steve,

I just read your column yesterday and liked it a lot.

I read that you have a Olympus C5050, my first digital camera was a Olympus C3040. It was a 3mp with a f1.8 lens and was/is still a great little camera. My dad now uses it and it still takes some great shots. I upgraded to a C8080 and was disappointed as the quality and sharpness of the photos were not on par with the early camera and only kept it for 6 months before selling it and buying the Nikon D70s.

When I look at some of the pics that the new breed of point & shoot cameras take and compare them with the Olympus C3040, I see that even though it is only a 3mp it takes better photos, I'm sure this is because of the quality of the lens and camera build.

I am going to buy Dad a small point & shot model and bring the Olympus C3040 back with me to Thailand when I go over to Australia in June as Dad says it is too big to put in his pocket.
_____________________________

On a different note I was able to take some nice shots as I left BKK airport in March as I had a window seat at the front of the plane (not first class, but start of the cattle section). Here are a few.

Can you tell me if the photo titled "just_nice_photo" is well composed?


Charles

Charles –

Thank you for the submissions! I love shots like these. They show you have a lot of fun with your camera.

I think the photo of the jet engine, wing, and ground is very typical of what a passenger sees from their seat in the plane and represented well. In the future you might want to consider waiting until the plane banks heavily and getting more of the ground than the horizon. Overall a solid photo!

I look forward to more of your submissions!

Steve

I suspect the readers submissions will be a highly anticipated section of this column and I encourage anyone with photographs and travel accounts they'd like to share to please send them to me at: [email protected]


Readers' Questions

Steve,

On my way to work today I saw an advertisement for Nikon 2009 in Bangkok! Has this happened already and if not, where is it going to be held?

Charles

Charles –

I don’t know but I will find out and I’ll try to post this information in the “Photography News of Interest” next week.

Thank you for the heads up!

Steve

Hello Steve,

I'd like your opinion on this photo it was taken when I was in Australia. Can you tell me if you think my composition is good or bad and what do you think of the color and sharpness of the photo.

Charles

Charles –

The first thing I thought when I opened this image is that the colors are very good. This is typical of Nikon DSLRs. The exposure is perfect.

But you asked about the composition and frankly I don’t care for it much. I think your subject was very good, but the execution could have been much better. I would have done perhaps two different things. I would have found an angle where the railing extended from the bottom right of the frame and then extended the end of the pier out towards the left (in effect).. or I would have moved very close to the railing and aimed along its axis. I think the technicals are great, but I would have looked for a more interesting perspective.

Even laying on the ground and shooting up.. would have added the texture and pattern of the sand and water.. and some interesting angles into the main subject.

I wish I could have been more helpful.


Steve

When I was in Australia a friend of mine gave me a flash gun for my Nikon, but it is not TTL.

Is there an adapter I can get to convert this unit so my camera uses it in auto mode?

It is an OK flash gun but I find that I have to constantly change its setting when I change scenery.

Charles

Charles –

There is no way I know of to make an aftermarket flash work with the camera's auto modes.

However, your flash probably has a “thyrister” which enables it to adjust the light output according to its own “auto” mode. Almost all old style aftermarket flashes have these. You should track down the manual and you’ll find there are probably two modes, full manual and auto. The old style “auto” meant the flash would self-adjust its output over a “range” of distance and you’d use a sliding scale (I can see it on the back of your flash in the pics you attached) and a f-stop slider. These are actually quite easy to use. Personally I prefer full manual control and this is what I use 99% of the time when photographing weddings and events.

WARNING WARNING ! ! ! Many of these flashes have a trigger voltage which greatly exceeds that of a modern DSLR. You need to get the manual and verify the trigger voltages before you use this flash.. or you might smoke your DSLR camera body. Even if it’s worked a few times, it can still do this damage. Really, get the manual and verify the trigger voltages

I hope this helps

Steve

Please submit your questions to [email protected] All questions will be answered and most will show up in the weekly column.

A Snapshot of Bangkok Images Week in Review

This week I’ve submitted a few bids for my services, purchased some new equipment, went on three photo outings, and held one workshop. Next week will be even busier.


Infocus Blog

The Real Thailand?

I’m annoyed this week. No, actually I’m angry. Why? Because in the course of my normal web browsing this last week I’ve visited over ten sites that feature images showing “the real Thailand” and after almost seven years in the Kingdom I can assure you that these pictures represented only a very small part of Thailand!

It seems that most photographers visiting Thailand, especially those who fancy themselves as photographers, photojournalists, and newsmen have only visited the same “authentic Thai villages” which are expressly designed for tourists. When the rest of the world sees these images of old ladies in traditional dress, old men smoking long pipes, and the such.. they must really think Thailand is some backwards country stuck back in the 1800’s. How would you feel if the only images of your country portrayed to the rest of the world showed your quaint towns of Quakers, native Indians, pilgrims, or ethnic towns?

I also hear “Thailand/Cambodia/Laos” is so “photogenic” and perfect for photographers. So are zoos! I say hogwash. No country is more “photogenic” than any other country. Some countries are just different than what you’re used to and so are its people.

I feel we have a responsibility to portray a country honestly. In Thailand we have taxi drivers, businessmen in suits, farmers, salesman, musicians, rich people driving Porches, and just about every kind of person we have in our own countries. So why aren’t you guys showing them?

There is much more to Thailand than the tourist areas, attractions, nightlife districts, and purpose built traditional villages. I’m angry because I’ve been guilty at times as well. I plan on correcting this. Future Outings will feature business centers, industrial parks, and other locations that show the real Thailand. Help me portray Thailand with accuracy. It’s only fair.