tech stuff

Thoughts about second hand DSLRs

This is not a rant, neither is it a complete “1o1″ about buying second hand DSLRs. Please do your own research. This is just what this photographer think about buying second hand DSLRs.

You know, every few years, the camera makers will come up with something that looks pretty much the same but with some enhanced or upgraded features. We, the “full time” photographers will be sucked into buying these new toys. So what happens to the old toys? We keep some, we sell some.


Some things you need to know about full time photographers (the tan jiak type ok, means… if camera break, ricebowl break).
  • we shoot plenty. yah i know, one shot one kill… we kill alot, but we usually under report the casualties, just like everyone else.
  • depending what we shoot, chances are, our camera go through alot. That said, I mentioned before, if camera break, ricebowl break, so you can be very sure that we take our cameras to the limits, but never over the limit. We use them, but don’t abuse them. The fact is, we handle them day in day out and we know what kind of shit the camera can take and what they can’t. Aesthetics… nobody gives a damn. It’s not like a beautiful camera makes you beautiful.
  • we send our cameras for servicing, calibration, etc regularly so that they can perform when we need them.


Some things you need to know about cameras (specifically DSLRs),
  • their bodies are generally made with pretty tough materials that can handle a fair bit of knocks and scratches without damaging what’s in it. Isn’t that what the body is for? To protect the innards.
  • the shutter has a lifespan. Usually it differs from camera to camera. The numbers given by the manufacturer is an indicative one, which I think is quite conservative (in the hundred thousands).
  • the sensor has a lifespan too, but it’s not well documented (I think) because they generally outlive their owner’s interest.
  • scratches on the LCD is NOT going to affect how your picture is going to turn out or affect your ability to take good pictures. So does scratches on lens hood (yes, this post is for you! if you are reading it).


Some things you need to know about buying a second hand DSLR (the ones that everyone tells you),
  • Shutter count: Excessive shutter count means the camera is well used. Some people think well used means abused (duh).
  • Age: older camera means it’s been around for awhile, which means you might have problems getting part replacement (but we are talking about a long time). Some people think old (one generation difference) means dying soon (duh).
  • Physical condition: If it looks scratchless, it must be good. Never judge a book by it’s cover.
  • Comes with box and warranty card: Must have box and warranty card (even if it’s already expired). For god knows what reason… I don’t know anyone who shoots in the box. Some people are just weird like that.


Some things you need to know about buying a second hand DSLR (the ones that you probably don’t know!),
  • Shutter count: since the introduction of video function in DSLRs, buying second hand DSLRs becomes a little more challenging. Now, shutter count only tells you part of the story about the working life of the DSLR. When you use the video function, the shutter opens, exposing the sensor to light while you get your “live view” even though you might not be recording. This means the sensor is continuously exposed to light, which means the sensor is “working”. Remember, the sensor, like the shutter, has a lifespan too. Here’s a very simplistic calculation, let’s say, if you shoot a video at 30 frames per second (typical) for 10mins. That’s like 600 seconds x 30 frames = 18000 (!) equivalent shots on the camera sensor (taking it at typically 1/50s). You can have a camera with 2000 shutter counts with a sensor exposed for hundreds of hours or one with 100000 shutter count with a sensor exposed for  a few 10s of hours. An aging sensor can cause strange color tints on pictures taken.
  • Cost of replacing parts: The shutter can be easily replaced by the manufacturer (at least for Canon). A shutter replacement for a 5Dmk2 is about 200+. The entire outer body of the camera can be replaced for about 300 bucks. The LCD, less than 50 dollars. However, a sensor cost close to 1k (that was what I was told but you might want to check it out yourself).
  • Physical beauty can be misleading: Some photographers like to ‘gaffer tape’ their cameras after they buy it for various reasons. What it means is they’ll put on some protective tape over the entire body, leaving just the essential buttons, dials, LCD and other parts that cannot be covered. So even if the cameras gets knocked around, it will not leave any scratches. But that doesn’t mean that the camera hasn’t dropped, knocked around, etc.
  • Age vs usage: A 3 year old camera with 2000 shutter clicks from a full time user? I would suggest you find out why.


Some things  you might want to ask yourself before buying a second hand DSLR,
  • what are you going to use it for? Is it necessary to have a mint looking camera or a working one. If you are going to show it off to your friends at parties, then get something that’s mint in condition. Then again, a battered up one can be a conversation starter.
  • how much are you going to shoot with it? Alot of people are concerned about shutter count. Seriously, ask yourself how much do you shoot a month? 5000? 10000? Unless you use it for work, it’s uncommon for people shoot beyond a couple of hundreds a month (carrying that thing out is already quite a chore). The shutter will probably outlive your interest. Even if you are a heavy user, replacement is rather affordable if it fails.
  • how long more do you think you’ll buy another? 2 years? 3 years? Your depreciation is pretty low considering the 1st owner already absorbed most of it.
  • who is the owner? Is he truthful about the history of the camera.


Remember, If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably too good to be true. Btw, for those not techincally inclined, the shutter is NOT the shutter release button! Shutter is the curtain that opens and close to allow light to the sensor.

So here’s the ad ;D I have a 3 year old battered up 5Dmk2 for sale! Used, not abused! I have 2 that you can choose from because I’m keeping one for my work. Both are working very well since I’m still using them for work. For more details, email me at

The nice thing about balls

It can probably save your wrists. For that, I meant Trackballs.

I know some readers here are fellow photographers who, like me, tend to spend hours in front of the computers, pulling sliders. There are afew input tools that we generally use to get our job done. The most common ones being the mouse and the tablet. While the mouse has been my weapon of choice for the last decade, prolonged usage gave me an aching wrist. That usually meant that I have to stop work just to give it some time to relax. I have a Wacom tablet and it’s great, especially when used with Photoshop, the precision is unmatched. But it suffers the same problems as the mouse when it comes to extended use. Just imagine writing for 3 hours… kinda like writing an essay during an exam, maybe easier… but still a pain for folks like me.

While doing my regular geek rounds at Challenger, I saw this Logitech Trackball and was immediately drawn to it. Partly because I thought, “wow… people still sell this crap!”. I used to own a trackball some 15 years ago and I remembered I hardly used it because I had no idea how to control it. Being the typical online shopper, I googled “trackball reviews” right there and read a couple of positive reviews (with regards to using with Photoshop and Lightroom).  So I made the 79 dollar purchase and it’s turning out to be one of my best buy this year (good fight between this and the Xootr).

Like what’s mentioned in the Logitech website, it has a rather small footprint (note: it’s NOT small, but unlike the mouse, you don’t need any real estate to move, saving space) and a really comfortable grip. It took me less than 10 mins to get used to it and within a day, I was using it like it was a mouse. Cleaning only involves popping the ball and removing whatever dirt that’s stuck in there. The simplicity of this device makes me think it will probably outlive the software driver support, if the wireless transmitter doesn’t fail.

That’s all for my geek minute :)

Kheng Tiong and Melissa

I promised to put up a wedding post before the end of yesterday. Sorry I was a little late after cleaning up all that drool when checking out the Sony Vaio Z2 (2012). It’s about time I replace my 4 year old laptop. This one seems to fit well if I want to edit on the go. Yes it cost a bomb, but if it’s going to last me for 3-4 years, I figured it’ll be well worth it. Any idea which bank is easier to rob?:D

Once in a while, we get some retro vintage themed weddings which are not too over the top. For me, it’s the first time I sat in these vintage Volkswagon vans and it’s alot more stable and spacious than I expected. Thanks to the volks folks at Volkswedding for maintaining these iconic mobiles.

Here are some images for the wedding. Scroll all the way down a link to the slideshow:)


I was told these were hand made my one of the bridesmaids. Very nicely done.

Alot going through their minds, definitely.

That piece of sunshine that came it at the right place, right time.

面包车. Really looks like 面包.

Groomsmen getting “changed”.

I love that eye contact.

She said “I have ang pow too!” to the bridesmaids, who got theirs during the gatecrashing games.

The couple leaving the bride’s house. I like how she was looking back and him looking at her. Somehow meaningful to me.

See, VW.

Not usually interested to take photos of kids crying, but this one is an exception:D

I was actually looking at the almost flat tyre… then everything else fell into place.

Love the symmetry and color combination.

That’s what tilt shifts are for.

Sometimes, blur can be good:)

I love confetti! And I’m damn good at firing one too. That’s why I was assigned to be the “confetti party” during the last wedding as a guest and it hit the spotlights:D

The quiet moments.

And the tender ones:)

Not an Apple fan, but thanks for ‘helping’ when I ran out of ideas. It was a perfect fit for the rings.

Click here to see the slideshow.

Random thoughts about random stuff (5Dmk3 user experience)

Wow, it’s been a month since the last post. Time really flies, not that I’m lazy, it just moves alot faster than me. I’ll try harder to catch up with you, time.

Random snippets over the last 30 odd days

1) New camera, change of plans

Previously, I said I would love to have the Canon 1DX to replace my aging 5dmk2s. But the 1DX got hit by production delays and I happen to have the opportunity to try out my friend’s 5Dmk3 and decided maybe it’s worth giving it a go instead of the somewhat overkill 1DX (even though I still very much would like to have it). Buying it was a simple affair, nothing as exciting as getting my first DSLR. The feeling was more like paying alot of money to replace something old rather than “OMG! it’s a NEW toy!”

My thoughts about the 5Dmk3?

I’ll only touch on the topics that affects me most.

Focus speed and accuracy: This must be on top of the list of improvements to watch out for for most Canon 5Dmk2 users. Let’s be honest, the autofocus of the 5D was crap by today’s standards. When 5Dmk2 was released, most of us felt there was a some unmeasurable improvement. But it was still crap. Psychologically, a “mk2″ makes people feel better, but wasn’t good enough (in fact, not even close to good). When Nikon came up with D700, Canon users were left sucking their thumbs for almost 2 years. Some switched, some like me, decide to stay faithful (or in local terms, some say “lan lan”).

The 5Dmk3 boasts the same focusing mechanism and focus points as the 1DX. I wasn’t convinced till I tried it. It was indeed accurate. The speed was good, but I won’t say it’s ALOT faster in real world use. My friend did a controlled test and it was faster, but in real world situations, I didn’t find it massively faster. But speed is nothing without accuracy. That’s where the 5Dmk3 shines over it’s predecessor. It hits exactly where you want it and the best part is, it is consistent, unlike the 5Dmk2, which is kinda fickle.

A little annoyance is the focusing light. With most Canon DSLRs, we are familiar with that bright red square that appears when the subject is in focus. On the 5Dmk3 however, the red square can be rather faint in daylight. It’s a non issue if you are used to the beeping tone (which I choose to turn off).

ISO performance: ISO performance for the 5D lines have always been quite up there with the best. The mk3 didn’t disappoint. It’s at least 1-2 stops better than the mk2s. The advantage is you can probably use slower apertures in low light. Whether you can shoot at even lower lighting, that really depends if the camera can still focus accurately in that sort of lighting (assuming you work without any focus aid).

Ergonomics: The most obvious change is the repositioning of the on/off switch. It’s now integrated with the mode dial, which is way better than it’s original position beside the LCD. With the mk2, the on/off switch often gets switched off when it rests against my body and it can be very annoying at times. The camera is also heavier than the mk2. For me, the weight increase is quite noticeable when holding with one hand with a 50mm 1.2.

Others: I won’t go into the HDR or multi exposure stuff because I haven’t had the chance to try them. I’ll just mention some of the functions/features that I found useful. The mk3 now allows the user to use custom functions on some of it’s buttons. I switched the DOF button to AI servo toggle. It’s now easier for me to switch to AI servo on demand instead of changing them on the main menu. While the mk3 boasts a 6 fps shoot rate, I rarely use that sort of speed while shooting. Thus, I trade that with “silent mode”, which brings down the frame rate to about 3 fps. In real world situations, the silent mode really helps, especially if you are trying to shoot in stealth mode:D It helps alot during church weddings too. I’m sure the videographers/cinematographers appreciate this feature (when the photographers use them).

Overall, it is a pretty good upgrade from the 5Dmk2 imo. Canon must have been listening to their client’s feedback and have made some important changes to this iteration of the 5D. There are still a bunch of features/improvements that I did not cover here, since they don’t really matter to me. There isn’t any pictures here, but if you want to see more, go to dpreview:)


2) X-Pro 1

Another camera that caught my eye is the Fuji X-pro 1. I tried it and although there were some minor quirks, I felt really good shooting with it. I’m really looking forward to having a smaller camera as the sidekick to the already very capable 5Dmk3. Currently I’m not thinking of getting another mk3 because based on my experience on shooting with 2 5Dmk2s, I felt the weight and the size of the 2 cameras tend to restrict my movements and increase fatigue. That said, I’m keeping one of the 5Dmk2. First, my underwater housing is still a 5Dmk2 housing and I don’t intend to change it as the 5Dmk2 is more than capable shooting underwater. Second reason is because the 5Dmk2 with the EG-S focusing screen works alot better when I switch to manual focus. The 5Dmk3 just doesn’t have the option to change it’s focusing screen. Maybe not yet, I don’t know.

I just hope Lightroom 4 supports the X-pro 1 soon. I’ll get one when that happens.


3) A family affair

All about buy buy buy so far:s

“This is a very serious and important affair for the family.” – the grandfather of the groom when I asked him how he was feeling. He looked stern, yet a little emotional. His words left a deep impression in me, deep enough for me to remember and still blog about it. “For the family”. As much as it is the couple’s day, I firmly believe, it is for the family too. So please don’t say, who cares about what the old folks think, THIS IS MY WEDDING. Family discuss. ok?


Ok folks, images by end of the week:)

A simple review on the Mint floor cleaner

Black Friday in the states is just a day away and I found some interesting deals. One of which is the Mint floor cleaner that I bought earlier this year. I got the idea on getting a robotic cleaner for my home/office when I saw someone trying out a Samsung Navibot at while doing my usual electronics window shopping. Right after that I did some research on different types of robotic cleaners and found the Mint Cleaner.

For more info, you can read more on their website. I will just write on my personal experience with this little machine. This little robot is probably one of the smallest robotic cleaner on the market. This is because of it’s lack of vacuum unit. Instead, it uses a microfiber cloth (or disposable paper towels) to pick up dust and hair and does a fantastic job doing it. This makes the unit extremely quiet compared to the vacuum based cleaners. The downside is you will have to change the microfiber cloth or disposable towels (eg. magic clean or similar) once it gets dirty. The lack of vacuum unit also means it cannot clean carpets. As for wet cleaning, it does an okay job. Due to the weight (or lack of it), it can’t do any deep cleaning. It will remove light stains and get rid of the sticky feeling on the floor, but not major spills or hard to remove stains.

The robot navigates by reading signals from a small external navigation unit. This unit bounces signals off the ceiling and “tells” the robot where to go. It navigates in a rather systematic way, going up and down the room like a minesweeper. Towards the end, it will do a perimeter sweep on the entire area which it just cleaned. For those with many rooms might want to experiment on the placement of the navigation unit to get the best position. It also get around corners and furnitures pretty well (it’s also easy on the feet :P).

I use them almost daily after I bought it in Feb and had not vacuum my floor since. Now the floor feels clean every single day. Before you think about getting it, think if it’s suitable for your lifestyle. If you can afford 2 mins everyday to set this thing up to run and not have alot of carpeted areas in your house, this is probably something that will make your feet happy. And for those who work from home or have pets, that’s even better because it’s really quiet since it doesn’t vacuum. In summary, whatever your Magiclean can do, this cleaner can do it for your automatically.

Personally, I rate this as my best gadget buy this year:) Because it’s perfect for me and it’s fully utilized:D Beyond that, it’s like my electronic pet. Btw, I’m not in any way affiliated to this company, just thought I’d share some experiences since quite a number of people are asking me about them.

Check out their website at Also check out the newer model, which has longer battery life and better wet cleaning capabilities. You can also read other users reviews on

To buy from Amazon, you can use vpost, borderlinx, comgateway, etc to ship them over since Amazon only ship them in USA. No power conversions required. I think there’s a pretty good black friday deal now on their website.

Some techbits for the techeads.

Photoshop CS4 64bit is supercharged.

WordPress 2.7x rocks!:D Didn’t know upgrading is so so simple now.

WD Black Caviar Harddisks are not as noisy as reviews claim (maybe I’m deaf). And it feels zippy… all 4 terabytes of them.

My ipod dock may not be the most expensive, but it gets the job done: put me to sleep.

Alright, I’m really tired today. I’m going to sleep now. Blog you tomorrow!:)

Upgrades – the 5Dmk4

Finally got hold of the successor to my 2 5Ds. The new camera looks solid and seems a little heavier. I like the touch and feel of the whole camera. The custom functions are especially helpful for shooting in various conditions. First impressions are very positive.

Letting go old cameras is like parting with a loved one. The first sale was pretty quick, but the second sale, I spent some time in the car holding on to the body. So much memories. At one point in time, I even wished the sale won’t go through. At least I know I sold both of them to good owners. I hope they will continue to serve their new masters well.

skyfire updates


Perhaps one of the best news I’ve received today, besides Dennis and Anne who brought me lunch and wine (Thanks so much guys!). Skyfire is has finally released it’s public beta! Skyfire is a new web browser for mobile phones. There has been alot of talk about it being the rising star among the more established browsers.


I just tried it and this think ROCKS!! I can FINALLY see my flash slideshow playing on the mobile phone! And also, youtube videos plays right in the browser, yes, in the browser! Another thing, it loads amazingly fast too. I hope this beta version will last for awhile.


Ok, back to editing now…