Playing around with Autostitch software

Here are some panorama images created using Autostitch software, an automatic image stitching software for creating panoramas. A demo version can be downloaded from the website.

Ion Orchard, Singapore – using Nokia N85

Jalan Sultan Ismail, Kuala Lumpur – using Nokia N85

Pavillion Shopping Center, Kuala Lumpur – using Nokia N85

It can even be used to create special effects: Pavillion Shopping Center – using Nokia N85

Fountain Pen photography with the Canon EOS 400D

Ever since I was bitten by the fountain pen bug a few months ago, I have been yearning to find a way to photograph the pens in a satisfactory manner. Fortunately Kelvin Tan, photographer extraordinaire , conducted a workshop in pen photography at Pengallery‘s showroom during a private review session. I was amongst the lucky few who attended the class, and I learnt so much from him that I was determined to put the new found knowledge into practice.

So when the Gimp, a marvellous piece of free software for image editing.

The tools work very well, as can be expected from most modern photographic equipment. Together with Kelvin’s tips I was able to produce some satisfactory photos of a few of the fountain pens in my collection. Once the pain in my wallet has subsided I will probably be adding a second slave flash unit for dual light source.

Below are a few selected shots taken with the above equipment. The complete set can be accessed at my Flickr site.

Aurora 88 Sterling Silver Fountain Pen

Pelikan 1931 Yellow Gold Limited Edition Fountain Pen

New Canon Digital SLR (DSLR) Expected

I have recently sold my Canon EOS 20D DLSR in anticipation of a new digital SLR to be released by Canon. Traditionally Canon has released new products in the Fall and August is usually the month for new camera product announcements by them. As the end of August approaches, rumour mills world wide have been working overtime, speculating on possible new SLRs to be introduced by Canon.

And if Canon does introduce these new cameras it won’t be a moment too soon because the competition have recently released new entry level cameras which have raised the bar for Canon.

Sony released their Alpha 100 DLSR to rave reviews and have even managed to win the EISA Consumer Camera of the Year award. Not bad for a first effort. (A comprehensive review of the Alpha 100 can be found here.)

Hot on the heels of Sony is Nikon’s recently announced D80 DSLR. (A comprehensive review of the D80 can be found here.)

Both the Alpha 100 and the D80 have been equipped with the same 10MP CCD sensor produced by Sony, and are priced competitively. Hence Canon is widely anticipated to respond with products of similar specifications or better.

One of the more popular sites tracking rumours of Canon’s coming new product is Bob Atkins who has launched a page dedicated to Canon’s new products. The consensus so far seems to be for an evolution of the EOS 350D SLR, to be called either the EOS 370D or the EOS 400D, with a pixel count matching the Alpha 100 and the D80. However Canon is expected to maintain the advantage in picture quality due to their excellent CMOS sensor technology which produces practically noise free digital images.

The Canon Powershot S3 IS (My Canon Powershot G2 replacement)

When Canon launched the Canon Powershot S2 IS in April last year I was sorely tempted to get one. I really liked the small form factor, the combination of monster 12X optical zoom with image stabilization, Digic II processor, video recording capabilities etc. However I held back because I was eagerly waiting for the Canon Powershot G7 which I was sure would be released at the end of 2005. After all the G6 was released way back in August 2004, a lifetime ago in the accelerated timeline of the modern digital cameras.

I have used the Canon Powershot G2 since 2001 (The purchase of the camera coincided with the birth of my first child Warren) and I can proudly say that I have had no regrets owning it. For me the G-series format is perfect as a bridge between the consumer level digicams and the more serious digital SLRs. The G2 performed its duty well, serving as a wonderful introduction to the world of digital photography. Since then I have had no reason to use my old analogue SLR EOS 50E. Then in late 2004 I managed to get my hands on the Canon EOS 20D digital SLR. When it comes to capturing still photos the EOS 20D’s 8MP CMOS sensor coupled to the DIGIC II processor simply blows the G2 away in terms of usability and quality. However the G2 has the distinct advantage of being able to capture video, albeit the video length is limited to 30 seconds. I could never bring myself to buy a video camera because I never caught on to the camcorder revolution. Back then I felt that 30 seconds was about the maximum amount of time that I would want to watch amateur videos of my kids learning to walk and talk.

Now that both my kids are growing up and becoming more interesting subjects for home movies I find myself wondering whether I should finally get a digital camcorder. As I surveyed the market I realized that the movie recording capability of the new generation of digicams have vastly improved from the first generation G2. In addition to longer recording time, the movies now even come in stereo. So when Canon introduced the new Powershot S3 IS as a replacement for the S2 I was delighted. At the same time I was disappointed to learn that Canon may have discontinued the high performance G-series of digicams. Apparently the success of the G6 became its own undoing because it affected the sales of the new entry level Digital SLRS which Canon wanted to promote. So I decided not to waste anymore time waiting for the G7 and quickly purchased the brand new S3 IS last week.

After a week of use I can say confidently that the S3 will serve as a worthy replacement to the old faithful G2. I have uploaded some recent photos taken using the S3 here and here. I really like some of the new features of the S3 including the 6 megapixel sensor which allows A4 sized prints without resampling (even A3 size are possible with a good printer, if you are fine with 150 DPI image resolution), the 12X optical zoom, the dedicated movie button (allows instantaneous recording of movies), video file size limit of 1GB (equivalent to 9 minutes at maximum VGA resolution), the ability to capture still images while recording video, more responsive focus time, the use of AA size batteries and the image stabilization feature. Similar to the G2, the S3 also comes with a swivel back 2 inch LCD display. This remarkable LCD design allows the photographer more freedom in composition and is indispensable in my humble opinion. Unfortunately this fact seems lost on the camera manufacturers with the exception of Canon.

However there are some features of the S3 which can still be improved upon such as the lack of support for RAW format files, the need to manually raise the flash, the plastic tripod mount, the lack of hot shoe for external flash. I suppose there will never be a camera which completely satisifies everyone. I am happy that the S3 is such a well designed product from Canon with certain acceptable compromises and I am certainly looking forward to capturing some memorable snapshots with it.