Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Toyota Harrier.. long term drive

After owning this baby for one year.. some thoughts..

Build quality - Top notch.. although the paintwork is rather thin.. super quiet inside as well. The pano roof is very cool.. Harry loves it! Opticron gauges are cool.

Engine - very very smooth, although it struggles when pulling a car that weighs nearly 1.5 ton. Needs an extra gear - surprisingly it only has 4 forward gears. Hardly use the tiptronic, except for dropping a gear from third to second sometimes for extra pulling power for overtaking ... although cannot compare to a 6 cyl. Comparing this 2.4l engine with a Corolla's engine or another makes 1.6l engine is like night and day!

Drivability/handling - Despite reviews that it handles like a car (who are these idiots who say this!?), the handling cannot be compared to a non-SUV because of the high ride height and CG. You cannot corner aggressively with this car! Everytime you corner, u can feel the tall tire walls flexing... ok, slight exaggeration here.. however, ride comfort is excellent and the tall riding position cannot be beaten.. the view up here is great!

Practicality - this car is super practical - it can carry a ton of stuff, large items as well if you fold the rear seats. Easy to park and drive. Fuel consumption is pretty good for such a heavy car... we manage to get 9km per litre on average..

UPDATE in 2006 - Batteries died within 1.5 yrs... consequence of all those little lights inthe cabin.. after changing to Michelin tires.. the ride and handling of the Harrier has improved dramatically.. cornering, ride comfort and general confidence has improved... beware the stock Goodyears from the factory!

My baby on zero wheels during her tire change at SE...

Thursday, October 06, 2005

VW GTI MARK V ...tested in 2005

The more i look at this baby, the better it gets... for what its worth, i think it looks best in white which was what my old mk2 was in... it is waaay better than the mk4, which we had also..

My thoughts about the best parts about this car after a test drive - 200bhp engine is a dream with enough power and handling to drive like a rally driver AND with the refinement to drive like the 1.6l golf. interior is really nice but feels a bit cramped in all black. the highlight of the interior has to be the steering wheel with the neat cutoff at 6 oclock. time to start saving my pennies...

Best color for the car: White

Friday, September 02, 2005

Nikon Setup

i have added to my original set of equipment. now have 11 lenses and i think thats prob the end of the lens collection for the time being. am going to be a father soon!! so need to save funds for buying more practical stuff like child seats ;) also pampers! did you know that a baby goes through an average of 8 pampers a day? going by that calculation, that is nearly 250 pieces of pampers a month! well anyway, back to nikon...

my present collection is like this:
bodies - nikon d70, f80, fe
lenses - wide > 12-24dx, 24mm, 35mm
- mid > 18-70, 24-85, 24-120, 50mm
- tele > 70-210, 80-400mm, 100mm
- macro > 105mm
pns - olympus mju-1 35mm, mju-2 35-80mm

i know i know, that is a lot of equipment... but NAS is striking and i want a f100 and a fm3a. figure i can get rid of the f80 after getting the f100. the fm3a is more becos i love manual nikon bodies... i dropped my fe (:....) and nothing more than a few nicks and scratces! these cameras are strong... i also would love to get a mint f3hp but the prices people are quoting are crazy... i tried out some guy's f3hp with md4 and it was like ... WHOA. the sound of the motor drive is fantastic.. but should i get it because of that? this combi weighs a ton also.... maybe get a md-12 and see how it goes first...

Edit.. the F80 is gone.. replaced with F100. will miss one of the softest SLR shutter releases...

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Naim Nait 5

Hi, I am back after a long break... nearly 1 year actually!

I have changed my hifi setup to a Naim Nait 5 and B&W 705 (was considering Epos M12..) setup... sound is great and much more refined compared to my old rotel setup. highly recommend this combi for everyone.. i just changed to naim naca speaker cables as well which made a large difference as well. now the problem is finding more nice music to listen to. my fav music now is james blunt's "you're beautiful" and also simple plan's "perfect"... great music to calm down after a long day staring at the pc.. if anybody has any suggestions for music let me know..

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Lowepro Stealth Reporter 200AW Review

Few photo companies make better products that are used real photographers than Lowepro. They also listen to their customers - when I complained that their old website had too few pics, they added tons of pics in their new website with different views of the product. Other cos, like Crumpler, are fad products that look good but fade away fast as they are just not usable in the field. I really dont like Crumpler's websites as well. Look at my previous post to see why I sold my Crumpler.

What is a Stealth Reporter (im gonna call it SR from now on) you may ask? Its a stealthy bag that is typically used by reporters since it is so light and fits in so much gear. ok, it is fairly obvious that this is a camera bag, but it doesnt scream - steal me like a Crumpler (to crumpler addicts - cmon guys, stop kidding yourself - it is fairly obvious a crumpler is a camera bag carried by a loaded person). The AW designation means this bag is All Weather and comes with a light grey (hmm 18% grey??) rain proof cover that can at least make sure your gear stays dry until u sprint to the nearest cover.

My SR is the 200 version - its the middle brother in the series - there is a 100, 300, and 400 as well. Its a nice size for a shoulder bag - you can fit in a decent amount of gear - i can fit a single SLR (e.g. D70 with 12-24mm), a spare lens (85mm or 50mm), flash (SB800 or 22s), blower and mini tripod. any more and my shoulder would hurt anyway. The SR is a fairly secure bag. The top flap is fastened to the bag using a single plastic qliklock so it is fast and quiet to take your gear in and out. the middle of the top flap has a zipper so you can reach in and grab your gear wo opening the flap. I dont use this feature as the opening is rather small on the 200 model. The SR comes with a nice shoulder strap and and is lightly padded - there are the usual foam dividers in the bag to partition your gear. The foam isnt as thick as Crumpler but it is adequate and the advantage is you can squeeze more stuff inside compared to crumplers.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Nikon FE SLR

The old fogeys amongst us will sometimes venture into manual SLRs and being gadget freaks, will ask, what is the best manual SLR to start with? For starters, most people will say the Nikon FM2 - "it operates without batteries" they say. Some would recommend the Nikon EM - this is pretty cheap and dandy. The richer folk would say - get the FM3A - but at USD800 for a used copy, this isn't a cheap option. Not me, I would tell you to get a FE.

The Nikon FE is the forgotten cousin of the Nikon FM/FM2.

It was launched in 1978 and it is much cheaper than any version of the FM2 or FE2 that you can find in the used camera market today.

Most people snap up FM2s because of the Titanium shutter (FM2n) and the ability to work without a battery. However, they forget one thing, metering is lost without a battery. Which is where the Nikon FE comes in. This is a camera that is the equivalent of the FM2 when a battery is inserted. With the battery removed, the FE is only capable of shooting in M90 mode - which means it can be triggered with a shutter speed of 1/90s. Not perfect, but good in a pinch. The Nikon FE uses 2xLR44 batt.

I bought my 2 FEs (one black, one chrome) at a bargain basement price of 120+ US dollars each a couple of years ago.

They work perfectly even though both are around 25 yrs old and I suspect they will keep on running longer than me.

The best thing about the FE is that it is an SLR that is pocketable and the feel of using one is magical. It reminds one in this digital age what it means to BE a photographer. To slow down, compose, to meter carefully, hold your breath and squeeze the shutter release oh so gently to get the shot. Now how many DSLR owners do that nowadays? Most shoot in blazing 5FPS in full auto mode.. And the sound of that shutter... utterly mechanical in nature with a nice solid "click". Not a uninspiring "thack" that I heard while using my colleague's Canon 30D.

The bad thing about the FE is that is uses film.

Oh, not the loading part. Loading a roll of film is an incredibly satisfying experience. It feels the same as loading a gun (or a PEZ dispenser) in some ways. Popping a can of film, you get a whiff of the film chemicals which is familiar and organic in a way. You have then to pop the film back of the FE, insert the film canister and insert the film leader into a slot of the camera's takeup spool making sure the sprockets align. You then close the film back, set the film ISO using the ISO dial and you are ready to go. Fire off a few frames (make sure you choose a fast shutter speed like 1/125s) until the avail frames display shows "0".

Rather, its the fact that developing film requires you to go to the store for processing and most people would get a 4R printout (matt or glossy, ma'am?). The resulting printout reflects how that store calibrates their equipment and unfortunately, some are WAY off in their calibration. This means color casts, reds that are too red and greens that are artificial. The papers that these shops use make a difference as well. I would recommend all film users to get their store to just process the film and scan the negatives/positives through a proper film scanner. Once the photos are scanned, treat them in the same way as your digital images. Of course, all this takes time but then, whats time when you want to appreciate photos and color and light?