Note: Panorama photos stitched by Microsoft ICE (Image Composite Editor) 64 bit version.
Note: Panorama photos stitched by Microsoft ICE (Image Composite Editor) 64 bit version.
This year I attended the full 3 days event of the F1 2012 Malaysian GP. For two nights I slept in the car and camped in the R&R of the North-South highway. It had all the necessities that I need, food, shower and sanitation 24/7.
Friday’s practices were opened to the public but the public pit-lane walk held after the practice sessions was only for ticket holders. It was nice to be at the grandstand watching the happenings opposite at all the garages. The sound of an F1 car engine at the grandstand was obviously much louder than that heard at the hillstands. Although there were other events on Saturday morning, I just attended the practice 3 and qualifying sessions which were held in the afternoon as I decided to have a rest in the morning.
Drivers’ autograph signing session was held on Sunday at 11.30 am. I was a little dismayed. The cars that brought the drivers stopped close to the tables, many fans that were far away including me could not get full view of many of the drivers. The cars then parked in the open area, further blocking the view. After the autograph signing session the drivers then had a short walk to the cars, so many fans on the outer perimeter missed to see them. I hope the event organiser will consider this and sort this out next time.
Sebastian Vettel, as was in last year, handed out postcards to fans at the perimeter fence but this time he did more, he signed it too…lucky fans. Then another driver surprised me. I saw this driver took photograph of himself and the fans at the tables with a cellphone. I thought it was a request from a fan but then I was wrong. As the car that he was in was pulling out, it suddenly stopped. Out came Fernando Alonso and went straight to a Ferrari fan just an arm length next to me. He then said something about taking photograph which sent me into frantic mode, adjusting my camera setting to capture the event with the camera held up high above since there was someone next to me. Unfortunately the images I managed to capture were frantic too except for one. He then rushed out to the outer perimeter and did the same to the fans there. Obviously the fans were very pleased. What Vettel and Alonso did was good for them. At least it detracted their mind, albeit a short while, from the stress or whatever problems they might be having with their cars. It also paints a good image for their teams and sponsors, a very positive image.
Fans are the most important aspect in F1. Without the fans, there will be no sponsors and without the fans and sponsors, F1 is just another club race. Some travel long distances, stand in queue or close to the perimeter fence for more than an hour just to see their idols and other drivers up close. The drivers just need to look around, smile and wave, that’s all but what Vettel and Alonso did was better. F1 needs to take note on this.
For this year’s race, I was at the C3 hillstand and it was my first wet race. I did not mind being wet but the camera and the lens must stay dry. Though it was cloudy since Friday, there was no rain at the track until just after the race had started. When the race was stopped for safety reason, a few of the fans did left the circuit. I only left the hillstand for the comfort of the car where I had a thermos full of hot coffee. I rejoined the crowd when the race had restarted.
Click here for more pictures.
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.
The name in full as Sigma put it is APO 150-500mm F5-6.3 DG OS HSM. That’s a mouthfull of acronyms. It is the most expensive lens I had bought so far, even more than the body that I had. But considered cheap if it were to be compared to the more expensive lenses in roughly the same focal range. So why the plunged?
I have a liking for sharp beautiful pictures of birds especially eagles but I never did once seriously went out primarily just to shoot birds. On my recent trip to Daik in Pulau Lingga, Riau, Indonesia, I saw a lot of eagles flying, circling around and occasionally dive down to the river in an attempt to catch whatever that it saw fit to consume. I had never shoot wild birds and was only equipped with a Canon EF 75-300mm lens plus a Kenko 1.4X Teleplus Pro 300 DG AF teleconverter for distance shooting. No Image Stabiliser but AF was working. None of the images were sharp.
It’s not easy to shoot wild and free birds unless it is given to you on a palette like the one shown here of a small bird which I found perched on a pole when I looked out over the parapet wall of the hotel in Daik. Birds were very wary of my approach and ultimately took flight before I could raised my camera. A case why many birds photographers use hides and free meals to attract their subjects. I am not going that road at the moment.
I also found that the eagles were also wary at me even though they were flying above. Many of the shots show the eagles looking towards me including shots that were taken from inside the hotel room and the camera was not out of the window. I need a little distance and image stabiliser. Auto focus not so necessary because I think manual focus might just do the trick or pre-focus at a distance plus lots of shots (continuous) and a little bit of luck. It will all be in Jpeg as RAW will be slow in writing the data into the memory because it’s file size is very big compared to Jpeg.
The lens weighs about 1.9 kg and it is quite heavy to lug it around for some times. It came with a padded rectangular soft box, a hood, tripod stand and a lens strap that had it strapping point on the tripod stand. Filter size is huge, 86mm. Attaching it to the Kenko 1.4x teleconverter had it working fine. No issue whatsoever. At least for now and hopefully none in the future.
Having had the baby in hand, I set off to test it on some birds. Birds that are easy to approach, chicken that is. Well…it was like waiting for the bus, I could not find any hen or a cock behind the house but did found a bird perched on a TV antenna at the neighbour’s house. Not a good result shooting hand-held anyway still decent.
As for the non-flying birds, I will post the pictures as soon as I had it.
Update 18 February 2011:
Here are the pictures.
All shots captured at 500mm
Pictures are sharp especially at about 5 metres. At distance more than 10 metres, you need a tripod for stability regardless of the image stabiliser if shooting for an extended period. At 1.9 kg excluding the camera soon your hand will turn soft. The tiredness coupled with unstationary subject are not a good recipe for a sharp image at 500mm focal length. It is okay to shoot hand-held for a short while. Also, this is not the lens to hold on while you are waiting for your subject.
My intention to buy the Pentax K7 did not materialised, I bought a Canon EOS 60D instead. What made me be swayed over to this camera was the high definition full 1080p video recording plus stereo recording if an external microphone is used and the 18 megapixels sensor. The video recording of the Pentax K7 is not really a true high definition, just a little bit short of full HD spec. However, I will be missing the HDR recording capability of the K7 and the Pentax K mount lenses that I had, especially the primes. I am very fond of the 135mm tele lens. It’s very sharp. Many of the 135mm lenses are of 4 elements in 4 groups. That’s practically the minimun amount of lenses found in any lens group.
The camera came with an EFS 18-55mm IS zoom kit lens. My view about this lens is that the sharpness of the image produced is just OK especially in bright lights, but left much to be desired. I need a prime lens. So when I read about the cheap 50mm 1.8 Canon AF lens (plastic body), without much hesitation I went out and get one plus a Kenko C-AF 1.4X Teleplus Pro 300 extender. I do not think that extender or teleconverter in the range of 2X or more is good in maintaining sharpness. 1.7X should be OK.
After shooting around for a while with the camera, I cannot help but felt that the small frame sensor of the Canon 60D, or any camera of this type, is not quite on par with the 35mm film camera in image sharpness. I had tried various methods, daylight, flashlight, twilight except for moonlight. I even bought an adaptor to use my Takumar 135mm tele lens. It is sharp but not as sharp as in the film print. Maybe I am missing something. Manual focusing did not help either, probably I need to change the focusing screen. The AF lenses of today are not like manual lenses of yesteryears where you have aperture and distance markings to give you a rough guide on depth-of-field. Maybe top-of-the-line lenses have it. I have yet to have a hands-on on a full frame DSLR. I won’t be buying it because the price is too prohibitive right now unless I am making moolah out of it, but I am sure would like to try it out somehow.
Reading reviews about Canon lenses or lenses for Canon EOS, I found out that many reviewers failed to mention the material of the lens for the lenses they reviewed, whether it is glass or plastic. These are for entry-level and mid-level lenses, as for the top-level or pro lenses it goes without saying that they should be all glass. They only mentioned the built quality, how good or bad it is and the tests results. I could not help but felt that the Canon EFS 18-55mm IS kit lens is not only having plastic body but the lenses too. It’s too light for the lenses to be made of glass. Then again I could be wrong. The advantage of glass lens is that it is more scratch resistant.
The camera system of today is now fully electronics. It is in fact a computer specialising in digital imaging. They are made of plastic in many ways yet in my view they are not cheap. I did not meant the consumer level point-and-shoot cameras but cameras for hobbyists, amateurs and serious amateurs (or semi pros). These are cameras for entry-level and mid-levels segments. The top-level DSLRs seem to be out of reach unless you have deep pocket or money to throw away or you are making lots of money with it or…you get it for free. The only good side of it is that once you have a DSLR camera that have a manual setting, learning photography is now very cheap. You can snap, shoot till you run out of memory. Still, you can delete and shoot again. In film photography, every exposure counts, because it does cost money to buy and have the film developed and once exposed, there is no return. No delete, nada. If it turned out good, good then. If it turned out bad, too bad but still you learnt.