Thursday, 11 September 2014

Audi Experience– Audi A5 Sportback, Audi Q3, Audi Q5 & Audi Q7

With it’s motto advancement through technology (Vorsprung durch Technik), Audi has never fail to amuse anyone that drove one.

It’s simple, functional, yet elegant lines from the exterior to the interior of the cars. Many thousands man hours are spent into making sure every single parts of the cars are properly designed, in place, and logical in use. From Audi’s simplicity approach in the dashboard design, to the satisfying clicks of every single buttons in the cars; all those meticulously executed buildmanship evoked a sense or regal and matured vehicle for a grown up.

The love for an Audi might not be a love on first sight for many due to the simplicity in the exterior. But it will grow on you and the love will build over time especially when you drive one.

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I am very privileged to be given a chance to fall in love with an Audi, courtesy of Audi Malaysia. I walked around the showroom and chat up, errr, snapped some gorgeous shots of the cars. And to add an icing to the cake, an extensive test drive was warranted and sealed my attention to the Audi – Especially the Quattro technology which is extremely unique in the car industry. With Quattro, optimal power is distributed to each wheel (4 of them), resulting in confidence and inspiring handling even in less than perfect driving conditions.

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For those technically inclined readers, see video below for the explanation on why this technology is extremely powerful in aiding the handling of the car (one of the best I have experienced).

For those that prefer the awesome advertisement, see below.

For the purpose of demonstration of this technology prowess, Audi Malaysia has arranged the Q3, Q5 and Q7 at my disposal to go through a series of designed obstacles.

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To add to the excitement and challenge, the heaven opened up, thunder storm ensured and I rub my hands in glee. This is the best time to put the quattro claims to the test!

The rain stopped when I reached the test area. I put the Q family of cars to swerve and brake around the traffic cones at 80 km/h with slippery road surface. Not a sweat from the cars. Well composed and I am fully in control, I am impressed by the lack of rolling of the cabins while swerving the cars. 

A series of other tests includes 25 degrees tilt, 30 degree gradient hill climb and seesaw further inked my impression on these remarkable human engineering pieces.

True and behold, Audi has lived up its motto for pushing advancement through technology. I have never enjoyed any drives so immensely engaged and at the same time pampered by the luxury touch of the car cabin. Well done Audi!

Scroll down for more photos of the test drive. Oh and one more thing, if you are interested to experience the amazing Audi, quickly contact the friendly personnal at the Audi Malaysia. Click here to arrange a test drive with Audi. Enjoy!

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Thursday, 28 August 2014

Borobudur Monument, Yogjakarta. Sunrise over Borobudur

It was 5 o’clock in the morning, and there I was at Borobudur. The darkness was pitched dark; only the occasional camera flashes and torch lights provided illumination for the visitors who scaled the monument. The buzzing of mosquitoes and display of lights seemed a prelude to the great pilgrimage site I was about to set eyes upon.

“Sir, please be quick! The sun will rise soon!” urged a park officer. I picked up my pace, and walked quickly through what seemed to be a garden. The dark sky turned lighter as minutes passed, and the silhouette of Borobudur emerged amid the swaying palm trees. I gasped in wonderment, and my heart skipped a beat. The monument’s sheer massiveness was truly a sight to behold.

Before I knew it, I’d arrived at the base of Borobudur. The weather cunningly decided to inject a bit of drama to my visit, and it began to rain. Racing against time and seemingly losing my battle with the weather, I ascended the wet and slippery volcanic rock steps to the top of Borobudur. The Indiana Jones anthem played in my head, adding a sense of anticipation and adventure. It was quite a climb to the top of this colossal multi-tiered monument.

By the time I reached to top, the sun had started to shine through the blanket of clouds, and an optimistic light fell on Borobudur, the serene statues of the Buddha, and my fellow climbers’ faces. The thick fog that surrounded the gardens slowly dissipated, revealing hues of green and gold where the sun rays touched. The transformation from total darkness into such a bright and beautiful scene happened in just a matter of five minutes, illuminating the mysterious and stunning Borobudur.

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There are a total of 72 Buddha statues seated within perforated stupas on the top platform of the Borobudur monument, set against the glorious backdrop of the Mount Merapi Volcano. Such serenity evoked a sense of peacefulness in my soul. I had a moment of complete Zen, and was lost for words. The moment was indescribable, and needless to say, everyone who witnessed the magnificent view was struggling for words too.

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With my DSLR camera in hand, I started clicking away, trying to capture the moment. Each shot remained as enigmatic and beautiful as the real thing. The backdrop of mighty active volcanoes only enhanced the sense of awe.

I quickly surveyed Borobudur only to discover that there were more wall reliefs recounting the story of the Buddha’s life and enlightenment waiting to be appreciated. The details of the workmanship on these reliefs – carved by men 1,200 years ago without any advanced machinery, just strength and determination – are simply astonishing. I made full use of the little remaining time I had to flex my camera and foot muscles, and capture the mesmerising images.

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Upon reaching the base of the monument, I saw my taxi driver waving frantically at me with a concerned look. “I was worry that you might be lost in that big monument.” I just laughed and didn’t elaborate to him on how I had been lost in time instead.

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Until today, I am still thrilled to find Borobudur a place that invigorates and inspires peace in me. I will return, Borobudur. Thank you for that therapeutic moment.

Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Huawei Honor 3C Camera Phone Test– From Food Photography to Travel Shots

I am pretty sure that many of you are itching to know how is this camera phone performed in multiple situations and lightings.

Read about what I think about the phone in first part of the review HERE.

Even though Huawei has been heavily promoting the selfie function of this 5MP front camera, I am of no interest in doing those vain selfie test shots for you. So those selfie lovers, sorry to disappoint you… BUT what interested me is the 8MP Sony BSI rear camera, F2.1 aperture, 28mm wide angle and 4cm capable macro lens.

For the span of 1 month, 3 countries, 19 hours flights and countless test shots from the Huawei Honor 3C camera in different condition; I gained an in depth understanding and admiration of how this affordable phone’s camera can do wonders in capturing the moment.

So how is this super affordable smart phone fares in the photography department?

Well I have to say it performed no less than impressive! I started off the grand slam of the camera test in a local restaurant. To emulate what many of the instagram or twitter food lovers do in the restaurant, I walked around the restaurant and took a few shots. The late morning in the restaurant with its cosy, shady interior pinned up against the very bright and harsh lighting from the outside is usually proved to be tricky for smart phone camera.

I quickly turned on the HDR mode and did a few test shots. honor test shot 1 watermark

The result – it’s really above my expectation. The dynamic range of the photo has been broaden by HDR and hence, manage to produce a good dedicated camera-like photo output. What astonished me is the noise level of the photo has been kept minimal too. I suspect that is the digital noise reduction in play but that doesn’t affect too much of the photo details.

For the Compulsive Food Photographic Disorder people, good news! You will be extremely happy to know that this Honor 3C scores well in taking close up food photographs.

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Just look at the photos above, the close ups are absolutely beautiful and noises are kept to a minimum. An adequate lighting helped though in those shots as I sat near the window in the late morning. However, I wish that I can have the option to control the aperture as I would love to produce from bokeh effect to the background.

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With the “smart” function turned on on the camera app, Honor 3C fares rather well in snapping eye pleasing photos whenever I go. The sunset photo taken in Kota Kinabalu is a prominent example of how well it handles scenery shots. The build in panoramic mode in the app works extremely well in auto stitching the shots. The result below does speaks for itself.

However, I noticed that you can’t turn on the HDR mode at the same time with the panoramic mode. Bummer. Another point that you need to be aware of is that the file size for the panoramic shot is extremely small in size, 326KB and dimension =1872 x 720 pixels. I suspect that it has been compressed. The size is absolutely fine for web viewing, but tough luck if you wish to print out your proud landscape shot to hang it in your living room.

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OK what about outdoor shots? I found that a camera phone is extremely useful when you saw that burst of the moment and it’s too late to flip out the DSLR from the bag. I demonstrated the moment while traveling in a coach through Taipei streets.

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I am yet again surprised by how snappy it is when the lighting condition is right – bright day light. Colour representative is accurate while it is a tad lacking in producing punching colour. That can be fixed through a bit of post processing in your favourite photo editing software OR change the mode in the camera app to “Normal” instead of “Smart”and fine tuning the contract and saturation.

Another tricky photography area is to take photos while you are in the flight. Harsh light, cloudy conditions tend to trick the camera sensors (even to some of the DSLRs) to underexpose the shots and wrongly set the white balance.

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I took multiple shots of the Hong Kong bird eye’s view through the flight and true enough, the Honor 3C was struggling to decide which settings are best for such tricky situations. However, it can be easily fixed with a change of the white balance and exposure compensation in the camera app in “Normal” mode.

SUMMARY:

Overall, I can’t emphasize this enough - for a sub RM500 camera phone, I wouldn’t expect it to work this well and it definitely exceeds my expectation! If you are planning to get one, do head to www.vmall.my and grab one during the sales period. The phone is one of the most value for money electronic gadgets I have purchased.

PROS: 

  • Fuzz free Smart camera app.
  • HDR function helps in colour dynamics
  • Low noise in brightly lit photos, even with HDR photos.
  • Panoramic mode is fun and easy to use. ( with my reservation on image size and output resolution)
  • Photographs result are so good that some might thought those are from a professional camera.

CONS:

  • Focusing of subject before shoot a little bit indecisive.
  • Let’s forget about low light or night landscape shoot. I have an image of Singapore night landscape shoot. It is hideous with noises pixels more than the average teenager’s pimples.
  • Can do with more Bokeh in close up images.