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.

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Huawei Honor 3C Phone Review Malaysia

Huawei Honor 3C Phone – Are you building up an appetite for a Chinese meal, I mean a Chinese made phone?
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While I was on the road traveling for vacation or on business purpose, I rely heavily on my phone to not only get my location bearings, getting those emails for my flights and hotel bookings, BUT also getting myself entertained along the journey.
As an avid traveller and also photographer,  what I wanted in a phone is reliability, a fairly usable phone without the need to fiddle the user manual can be used on the go and doesn’t need to live nearby the power outlet so very often. Pricing that doesn’t break a hole in the pocket is always largely welcomed.
I came to find out that in fact Huawei Honor 3C fit my bills nicely with all the bells and whistles.
I was sceptical at fist on whether the real phone is as good as what it has advertised? So I took a plunge to try out this phone to check and see whether it passes the real travel world test.
I have summarized the pros and the cons of this phone after the jump from the following photo for your easy references.  Let’s continue to find out how it fares.
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PROS:
  • Extremely value for money – For RM499. It is extremely affordable.
  • Good build quality and light weight at 140g. 
  • Bright screen, can be used under the extreme sun light. Excellent while on the move. Great colour reproduction. Pleasing to the eye.
  • Nifty build in apps – i.e. Network Manager app that control which apps that can access the network data. Phone manager app can optimise phone system to save more battery power while still in remote travel location. .
  • Dual sims. One that support HSDPA+, another that support EDGE. Fantastic during travel, can slot in the local country sim card while leaving your home country sim card in the phone. By using this method, you can receive text messages from your family members and friends on your home country sim for free. You can pick which sim to be used for mobile broadband data connection.
  • GPS works well.
  • No lagging and sluggishness of phone detected even with a few large app open in the background. 2GB ROM must be working very well.
  • Camera works well. Can be used as a second backup camera. Real life test photos will be uploaded here soon.
  • Better than average batter life. Last 1.5 days with broadband and wifi Internet connected. Moderate usage of Facebook, WhatsApp, calls, text messages and Web browsing.
  • Loud speaker is good enough and can be used as speakerphone without issue.
  • DTS effect for audio. Sounds impressive if used together with better pair of earphones . Bundled earphone leaves much to be desired. The phone will get you entertained while waiting for a flight, trains or transiting bus.
  • As it is higher risk of losing the phone and it's content during traveling time, Huawei cloud plus comes in handy to tackle this issue. It synchronises contact (Google can auto sync this, android readily available function), backup photos, call log and other data, locate phone function. Useful especially during travel. Data backup is auto executed when phone is connected to a power supply and wifi network.  Cloud photos auto sync photo over wifi.
Cons:
  • Slight sloppiness in design – You will need to remove the battery as the location of the sim cards and SD card slots are slightly obstructed by the battery.The logo placement of Huawei in the power brick is upside down.
  • Voice from speaker slightly lagging in volume.
  • Stock email app doesn't support Hotmail.
  • The placement of return button and menu button has been swapped places. No back light for the buttons.
  • When battery is removed to swap sim cards, the date and time will switched back to Jan 1 2007 12am. However, the date and time will be automatically adjusted after the phone has detected local service provider signal and setting.
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There you go, so far I am satisfied with my purchase and it serves me well. Time will tell whether it is indeed a reliable phone. Next up! The photo output from the phone, and more travel journey real life test.
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