Is Sigma Getting Greedy?

I was anticipating the arrival of the Sigma SD1 and hoping that its price will be reasonable enough. With the advantage that they have with the Foveon sensor and a good pricing they should capture a sizeable market share in no time. But no, if the reports here and here are true, then in my view they are not going for mass market penetration but instead they are aiming for mass profit. I am definitely put off by it and I believe many others like me will.

Until there is a similar technology coming from another manufacturer, and I hope it will be soon, and produce a reasonable camera with reasonable price, the name Sigma is now off my list.

Berjinak-jinak Dengan HDR

Pasar Siti Khadijah, Kota Bharu, Kelantan. Telatah para pembeli dan penjual menjadi lebih menarik, juga barangan yang diniagakan

HDR ialah singkatan bagi High Definition Range yang tafsirannya di dalam bahasa melayu ialah Jarak Definasi Tinggi. Ia adalah jarak yang tinggi di antara suasana yang terang dan gelap di mana segala butir-butir imej yang ada di antara kedua-dua suasana ini akan kelihatan. Butir-butir yang di luar dari jarak ini maka ia akan kelihatan silau (memutih) atau gelap (menghitam).

Bot nelayan terdampar menanti kehancuran sepenuhnya di Terengganu

Jarak definasi sinaran matahari sangatlah tinggi. Tidak semua butir-butir pada sesuatu pemandangan akan kelihatan oleh mata kerana jarak definasi penglihatan mata terlalu rendah berbanding dengan sinaran matahari. Akan begitu ianya lebih tinggi dari jarak definasi skrin monitor, mesin pencetakan atau sensor kamera digital. Sebab itu di dalam sesuatu pemandangan menerusi mata, akan dapat dilihat banyak butir-butir dengan jelas tetapi apabila gambarnya dipetik ia tidak kelihatan sama. Butir-butir yang kelihatan akan bergantung kepada ekposure yang digunakan. Kalau di ekspose pada tempat yang gelap maka butir-butir di sini akan kelihatan jelas tetapi akan memutihkan butir-butir di tempat yang terang. Begitu juga sebaliknya. Pada umumnya ekposure akan ditentukan oleh kamera pada jarak definasi di pertengahan melainkan jurukameranya mengenakan ‘manual overide’ yang mana ia menentukan eksposurenya atau sebagainya.

Dari itu maka timbullah teknik yang mana sesuatu pemandangan di ambil dengan beberapa eksposure, sekurang-kurangnya tiga eksposure atau lebih, untuk mendapatkan butir-butir di tempat-tempat yang terang, gelap dan di antaranya. Imej-imej ini kemudian disatukan untuk dijadikan imej HDR. Paparan imej HDR ini pada skrin monitor kelihatan seperti kelam kerana jarak definasi skrin monitor tidak dapat menjangkau jarak definasi tinggi yang ada pada imej itu. Imej ini kemudian menjalani satu lagi proses yang akan menurunkan jarak definasi tingginya ke jarak definasi rendah yang dikenali sebagai imej LDR atau Low Definition Range, iaitu imej yang berada di dalam jangkauan jarak definasi mata dan juga skrin monitor. Pada imej LDR yang dihasilkan ini akan kelihatan segala butir-burtir yang ada di dalamnya dengan jelas. Inilah perbezaan sebenarnya di antara imej HDR->LDR dengan imej LDR yang biasa.

Helang Siput. Gambar ini tidak tajam dan goyang tetapi selepas proses HDR menjadi lebih menarik

Terdapat banyak perisian yang boleh digunakan untuk menghasilkan imej HDR dan kemudian menjadikannya imej LDR samaada dari jenis komersial ataupun yang freeware (perisian percuma yang boleh diguna-pakai tidak perlu dibeli). Ada juga kamera DSLR yang boleh menghasilkan langsung imej HDR seperti Pentax K7 dan selain itu, perisian komersial Photoshop boleh mengasilkan imej seperti imej HDR->LDR dari satu imej LDR selain dari boleh juga menghasilkan imej HDR dari beberapa imej yang berlainan eksposure.

Saya telah menggunakan perisian freeware Luminance dan Picturenaut untuk bermain-main dan memahami HDR. Setakat ini saya belum ada imej-imej yang belainan eksposure, iaitu imej-imej yang khusus untuk menghasilkan imej HDR. Saya hanya menggunakan perisan freeware Rawtherapee untuk menjadikan lima imej-imej yang berlainan eksposure dari satu imej biasa. Imej-imej ini kemudian dimasukkan ke perisian Luminance/Picturenaut untuk dijadikan imej HDR. Perbezaan antara Luminance dan Picturenaut ialah proses-proses penghasilan imej LDR dari imej HDR yang disebut ‘Operator’. Masing-masing mempunyai operator-operator yang berlainan yang pada akhirnya menghasilkan imej-imej LDR yang berlainan juga. Ada operator yang menjadikan imej itu seperti imej LDR biasa dan ada yang membuat tambahan hingga membuat kelainan yang ketara pada imej LDR yang dihasilkan.

Dalam pencubaan saya, saya dapati imej LDR yang dihasilkan mengandungi ‘noise’ (berbintik-bintik) yang ketara tetapi boleh dikatakan satu efek yang menarik juga. Dimasa-masa yang mendatang akan saya cuba menghasilkan imej HDR/LDR daripada tiga atau lebih imej-imej yang diambil khusus sebagai masukan ke perisian HDR untuk melihat perbezaannya.

Kepada yang berminat, “Selamat mencuba.”

Kuala Besut, Terengganu. Baru saya perasan ada Helang Siput sedang terbang

Petani, Kelantan. Ku titi bendung sawah bendang



Satu lagi perisian freeware untuk menghasilkan gambar HDR->LDR bagi meluaskan lagi pilihan ialah FDRTools Basic.

Panorama Stitcher and HDR

Mount Bromo, Java Indonesia

I had been reading and downloading panorama stitcher and HDR programs for quite a while but never really installed it and played with it. Hence the programs had evolved through many iterations. Just today I downloaded the latest version of Microsoft Research Image Composite Editor (ICE), a panorama stitcher program and the dated Autostitch demo program plus two HDR programs, Luminance and Picturenaut. They were all freeware.

Both the stitcher programs did really surprised me. They were fast and easy to use. I just opened the required files and they did the rest automatically. No other input from me and the results were pretty stunning and very well blended. Autostitch demo version was pretty dated and very basic but still good. It came with some sample pictures to try on. The only downside was that some blurring on a portion of the stitched picture. It was part of the foliage on the left side. I then used the same set of pictures and let Microsoft ICE to do their things. It turned out better. The blurred foliage part that was apparent in the result by Autostitch was gone, it was perfect. Its understandable since Autostitch demo version was dated and was the first automatic 2D image stitcher as claimed by the authors. It has now became the engine behind the stitchers Autopano Pro, Serif Panorama Plus and Calico.

I made three stitches with Microsoft ICE. I then took one of it and made two over and two under exposed pictures at one EV each using RawTherapee, another fabulous freeware raw converter. The five pictures were then turn into HDR picture using Picturenaut and Luminance. Both were fast and the results were quite similar but I used Picturenaut to tonemap it into LDR and later with the help of Faststone Image Viewer enhanced the colours. Faststone Image Viewer was also initially used to convert the original raw files into jpeg.

Looking down Tosari Village near Mount Bromo. Blending of foliage on the right is not good because pic is not good. Need for manual exposure

Road along Kawah Ijen, East Java

and this one an HDR done with Picturenaut;

Mount Bromo

Note: I am just trying out hdr using 8-bit jpeg files. For serious job on hdr 16-bit files should be used. Jpeg or tiff raw filetype depends on the hdr program. Photoshop CS5 can even produce an hdr look-alike image from a single image file besides also capable of producing an hdr image from multiple image files of different exposures.

Update: Another marvelous freeware HDR program noteworthy to mention is the FDRTools Basic which will get the job done nicely and as the name implies, basically. Worth a try.

Photo Outing at Singapore Botanic Garden

I had been there previously with my Canon 60D together with the EF 75-300mm 4-5.6 III and EF 50mm 1.8 AF lenses. The 50mm 1.8 was good, the problem with the 75-300mm was the CA, its terrible. Now that I had the Sigma 150-500mm, I made a return trip to rectify the mistakes I did previously and also to try the 50mm 1.8 with the Kenko 1.4X Teleplus Pro 300 DGX teleconverter.

My mind was set on the two pairs of White Swans and the orchids. Surprisingly, I did managed to shoot at other birds in close range on the ground with the 50mm plus the 1.4X teleconverter attached. It seemed that they were not afraid of people, probably they were used to being fed by some people who frequent the garden. As for the birds that fly high and perched only on branches, it’s the usual story.

Johor Bahru, Johor, Malaysia

Sultan Abu Bakar Mosque

I was on my way to Singapore and decided to drop by Lido beach at Johor Bahru. My intention was to see if I could get good shots at the Herons and Egrets there since the lighting was good. It was high tide and so no Egrets wading to see. As for the Herons, I had never seen it wading. All the while they stood still on the floats put up by the road works contractor. I wondered how they feed themselves. A few moments of observing them I got to see it. The fish came in schools and all the herons needed to do was stand still on the float and when the fish swam under, they just picked it. There was also a lone duck cormorant. For whatever reason it was left stranded, it had made the Lido beach its hunting ground and made it clear to stay well away from the beach.

Later in late afternoon I decided to walk to Johor Bahru city centre, snapping away at some of its buildings. The sky soon turned overcast but I did stayed till twilight to get that blueness in the sky. When the sky was really dark, I set off for Bangunan Sultan Iskandar where the Immigration and Customs checkpoint to and from Singapore was situated.

Here are the pics:

Upgraded Roads

Lone Cormorant

A school of fish

Easy picking

Easy shot

Johor Bahru High Court

Johor Bahru City Council

Bus and taxi stop opposite the Post Office

Milestone…eh, KMstone…eh, Klikstone…hmmmm

Old shophouses

It was once a canal, covered and turned into a garden walkway

Budget hotels at Jalan Wong Ah Fook

City Square Tower

Promotional show at City Square atrium. Many from Singapore come here too

Jalan Wong Ah Fook, the heart of JB. Part of City Square building is seen on the left

Bangunan JB Sentral opposite City Square which housed the new JB Railway Station and linkway to Immigration checkpoint to and from Singapore

Train ticket counter at Bangunan JB Sentral


(Update to Update 20/07/2015:  The Hentian Bus Sentral Kotaraya has ceased to exist.  The place is now under development.)

Additional information and pictures for travellers. The Hentian Bus Sentral Kotaraya despite its name it is a bus and taxi terminal and situated at Jalan Trus which runs parallel to Jalan Wong Ah Fook. The taxis and buses here are for cross border services to Singapore. Bus service number 950 ends at Woodlands MRT Station, Singapore, while bus service number 160 and taxi end at Kranji MRT Station and Queen Street Bus Teminal respectively (update 22/12/2014: Bus services has been discontinued). A walking distance to the budget and premium hotels, and to the immigration checkpoint at Bangunan Sultan Iskandar which is just next (behind) to the JB Sentral building. There is also shuttle bus service to Senai Airport and as for buses to other states in Peninsular Malaysia, you have to go to Larkin Bus Terminal. If you are coming from Singapore by bus and intend to go to City Square, just walk after you cleared the immigration and customs clearance. Follow the crowd, there’s a Malaysia Tourism Office (open during office hours), turn left, walk along the corridor and walkway that lead to JB Sentral building. At the other side of the JB Sentral building (front), there is an overhead bridge connecting JB Sentral and City Square (see picture below).

Hentian Bus Sentral Kotaraya

Daytime view of JB Sentral building which also housed the Johor Bahru Railway Station. City Square (not seen) is on the left of the pic

The old Johor Bahru Railway Station just next (south end) of the new JB Sentral building