14 Dec 2011

Last week’s Hong Kong Photography 101 workshop

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hong kong photography class students shooting on queens rd

Last week’s beginners’ photography class was smaller than usual, so we reserved a bit of time at the end to go on a small photowalk to practice the techniques we just learned.

You can register for Photography 101 at this link. Upcoming photography class dates are on:

• Tue 20 Dec 2011, 7:00PM-9:30PM
• Tue 17 Jan 2012, 7:00PM-9:30PM
• Thu 16 Feb 2012, 7:00PM-9:30PM

Here are some shots we took from the overpass on Queen’s Road right between Wan Chai and Admiralty.

hong kong photography class students shooting on wanchai bridge

Me playing with the bokeh from out of focus lights

And from the same vantage point, a very cool long exposure shot by student Justin Vogel on his Pentax K-x on manual mode
Justin Vogel hong kong photography class student photo long exposure car lights queens road

4 Oct 2011

5 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Buy the Kit Lens (Buy a Prime!)

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35mm F/2 Nikkor prime lens

When I bought my first DSLR camera, it was the most I had ever spent on a camera by far and that wasn’t even including the cost of the lens. And so when it came to deciding which lens I would buy with it, I immediately defaulted to the cheapest option – the kit lens.

But having known what I know now, here is why I recommend buying a 35mm prime lens instead:

  • Prime lenses (such as Nikon’s 35mm f/1.8G DX and Canon’s EF 35mm f/2) have very wide apertures that allow you to shoot in darker situations, with a shallow depth-of-field – producing that dreamy, blurry background effect.


  • The kit lens does NOT have a very wide aperture (usually f/3.5-5.6) and produces mediocre results that generally won’t look very different from your point and shoot camera.


  • A 35mm prime lens has an “effective” focal length of a little more than 50mm (with the 1.5x or 1.6x crop factor on most digital cameras) – a very versatile field-of-view for street and portrait photography.


  • The Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX and Canon EF 35mm f/2 are about HK$1800 (US$230) and HK$2500 (US$325) respectively, which isn’t cheap but by no means expensive in the world of photography equipment – particularly for a lens that you may potentially use for a very long time. Plus, you are likely to save at least around HK$500 (US$65) if you buy the camera body only instead of the body + kit lens bundle.


  • As you get better at photography and grow out of your kit lens, it will have very low resale value because not only is it generally viewed as a crap lens, but everyone will have one already anyway because they bought it with their first DSLR camera also!


30 Sep 2011

Hong Kong Photography 101 Beginners’ Workshop

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hong kong photography 101 workshop class september

Last night we had our first beginners’ group photography class at the new studio space. It was a weekday night, and despite the Typhoon-8 signal earlier in the day, everyone made it to Wanchai without problems – in good spirits from the mandatory dayoff. We had students from Toronto, Texas and Nepal!

You can register for Photography 101 at this link.

14 Sep 2011

Camera stores in Hong Kong

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old cameras at the Ap Liu street flea market

In the years that I’ve lived in Hong Kong, I’ve bought loads and loads of equipment here including my first DSLR camera. Shopping amongst all the camera shops for equipment in Hong Kong can be a confusing experience. There are so many shops with a wide range of pricing and customer service.

Here is how I look at the different types of Hong Kong’s camera shops and electronics districts:

Computer Malls
Examples: Wan Chai Computer Centre, Mong Kok Computer Centre.
The large handful of small camera stores nestled within the computer malls tend to have some of the lowest pricing for camera bodies and lenses. Staff usually includes pubescent teenage boys with dyed hair, or apathetic, surly old men – usually both. At any given time of day they are likely to have a takeout rice box in front of them. Needless to say, shopping here is not for the faint of heart. That being said, if you already know what you want, you might be able to save at least a couple hundred HK bucks by buying here versus some of the larger camera stores in Hong Kong. I recommend the following when shopping at these stores:

  • knowing what you want, getting a few differences prices at stores within the same mall, and most importantly knowing your price (more on this in a separate blog post)
  • knowing what warranty you are getting (more on this in a separate blog post)
  • inspecting equipment: checking if gear looks new, lenses autofocus and work at different apertures, serial numbers match the box and the warranty certificate
  • paying in cash, credit cards usually require a 2-3% fee. Sometimes you can get away with paying in EPS without additional charge but don’t count on it.

If you are wishy-washy in what you want or appear like you are seeking advice, they will likely start to upsell you on third-party extras like camera bags, batteries, memory cards, or lens filters that you either don’t need or are better off buying separately anyways (I am 99% sure that that is where stores like these make all their margins).


Larger camera specialty shops
Examples: Tin Cheung, DC Fever, Cam2, to some extent the stores on Central’s Stanley Street.
These stores are the closest retail outlet to New York’s B&H and Adorama that Hong Kong has to offer. Although not quite the same “SuperStore” experience, stores like Tin Cheung and DC Fever offer respectable store showrooms (usually with 2-3 store locations in HK), decent inventory stock and reliable customer service. I prefer these stores for hassle free shopping (particularly when I am buying less expensive equipment in the HK$500-$2000 range where the price difference from the computer malls is not as drastic), and I highly recommend them for the less experienced buyer that values a less biased sales opinion. A bit of an outlier is Stanley Street in Central, with stores run more like a “mom and pop” which I know less about but categorize with stores like Tin Cheung and DC Fever. Prices here are never the cheapest overall in HK but from just walking in and out quite often they always seem to be polite in handling the dozens of tourist customers that must go in and out of their stores everyday.


Electronics retailers
Examples: Broadway, Fortress, Citicall.
These stores remind me of the big box electronics stores in the US like Best Buy and Circuit City – non-nerdy sales staff and inflated pricing. In fact they likely have some of the highest camera pricing of all the camera shops discussed in this blog post – somewhere in the area of HK$500-$1000 more than computer malls for entry-level DSLRs.

27 Aug 2011

How to buy your first DSLR camera – Canon vs Nikon…FIGHT!

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By far the most frequent question photography-related question that I am asked has to do with the Canon vs. Nikon debate. Before I give my shpeel on what is probably one of the most insensibly controversial discussions in the photography geek kingdom, here is why I ultimately recommend sticking with one of these two brands:

  • They are extremely popular. If you have a question about your equipment, you are more likely to know someone with a Canon or Nikon who can solve your problem. Even Google searches are easier to find for Canon or Nikon cameras versus say, a Pentax, Sony or Olympus.
  • Great entry-level cameras, and even better high-end pro-level cameras. So later down the road if you decide to upgrade your camera body to something more fancy, you’ll be able to use whatever lenses you’ve amassed by then (Canon lenses only work with Canon cameras, and Nikon lenses only work with Nikon cameras).
  • Very wide range of lenses. So unless you are shooting very specialized photography you will not have a problem finding any lens you might want whether you are shooting Canon or Nikon.

So here’s the thing – Canon is not better than Nikon and Nikon is not better than Canon. You will hear many reasons why one is better than the other, and some may be valid but even if they are, they generally only apply specifically to the pro-level, HK$15K+ camera models. For example, Nikon’s D700/D3/D3s models are known for their superior low-light/high-ISO capabilities and reliable auto-focus, while the Canon 5DMk2 has been recognized for its cinematic video capabilities and accurate rendition of skin tones. But who really cares since most hobbyist photographers aren’t interested in buying those cameras anyway?

In other words, at the entry-level side of the spectrum, Canon and Nikon camera quality are virtually equal, and at the higher-end, quality diverges in very specific areas.

So, if you are buying your FIRST SERIOUS camera, then I would suggest basing your choice on the following criteria:

  • Go to a store and play with comparable cameras (currently, the Canon 600D and the Nikon D5100), and see which one “feels” better. Some people say that the Canon Rebel line (550D, 600D etc.) feels a little plasticky, others feel it fits their hand well. Decide for your self.
  • If you have a photographer geek uncle or friend, get the same camera brand as them. They will likely be the first person you borrow lenses from, ask questions, or generally just talk with about photography – all of which are super important for the budding photographer.