Tag Archives: feisol

Birding after a hiatus

I have not been shooting birds for ages. The hobby started with Common myna around my house to friendly birds at Fraser’s Hill…and I stopped there. Mainly because, I realized that bird photography require a lot of patience if one want to be serious on it. Birds at Jelai Resort are not enough. These birds are human-friendly. One Long-tailed sibia even perched on my tripod when I was shooting! That’s right…when I was using the camera.

For the real wild bird, I even failed to capture good kingfisher’s picture despite many attempts.

Nevertheless the recent photo outing with friends there at Fraser’s was a blast! We had a lot of fun! The spiders & birds were amazing. However food & the rooms were not good.

These are some photos I capture there.

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What are the gear I used?

I brought the two Nikon camera that I have, D3 & D300s. The best setup was D3 + Nikkor 300mm f2.8 + Nikon Teleconverter 1.7 + SB-800 without flash-extender. Best here mean, able to produce sharper pictures. Even though D300s has the 1.5 crop as the advantage but its AF is inferior compared to D3. The setting depended on the time but I tried to maintain aperture at F6.3-8. Speed circa 1/300s with auto-ISO mode on, set max to 3200 for D3.

I also used my D300s + 70-200 VRI. Quite similar setup but auto-ISO max was set at 1600.

For the tripod, both Feisol + Markins M20 & Fotopro + Photoclamp ballhead performed well! Even Fotopro can handle my D3 + 300mm. However its smaller diameter legs caused me to choose Feisol instead for assumed stability.

I also hooked my Phottix GPS on my D3 & Nikon cable release for the other.

I find the setups I have are OK for bird photographer ‘wannabe’ like me. The ideal should be sturdier tripod complete with gimbal head & flash extension holder and longer lens.

Kinabalu Challenge – Part 1: I saw, I came, I conquered…and now I am limping.

The very first word I wanna saya here is alhamdulillah! Meaning thanks to almighty Allah for being able to climb Mount Kinabalu to its highest peak, Low’s Peak (at 4095.2m above sea level). Before I carry on, is Kinabalu the highest peak in SEA? Some said, it’s the 5th. Not 1st. You can read this blog. :) Well…if you want, you can quarrel about it…but I don’t want… :)

On Monday’s 17 Jan 2011, 10:45PM, my wife sent both me & my friend, dR Ali to Kolej Matrikulasi Pahang in Gambang. I met all of the team members for the first time except En Zahari whom I have met few days before during a TT (teh-tarik) in Taman Sepakat. Apart from me, dR Ali, En Zahari…..the members were Husni, Ruslan, Izzat, Firdaus, Ustaz (not sure his real name, but we called him Ustaz Mawar eventually…wakakaka) and the cheerful Haziera. We went to LCCT in a van. We reached the airport at about 5AM and we met the rest of the group few hours later. They were Tuan Zaidi (the ex-deputy director for KMPh, who is now the director for KMJ (Tangkak)), Puan Zurina & En Rosdi.

We boarded the AirAsia flight on time & reached KK at noon. We went for lunch & solat before we bought some food for the journey. We stayed at Kinabalu Park, a beautiful hillside resort, which is where Timpohon’s gate located, about 50km from KK. We stayed in Grace’s hostel. I thought the rest of team members knew each other well even before the project, but I was so surprise to know that many of them rarely talk to each other before this. Well, they seemed like they have been good friends for ages, cracking jokes almost all the time!

On day 2, we got up very early in the morning…some even woke up & got ready by 2AM!! Ha ha ha! We went for our breakfast & then straight to the registration. We met our guides, Ramin & Azri for the first time. And immediately went to Timpohon’s gate.

We started trekking at about 9AM. Detail description of Mount Kinabalu expedition are available in many websites already. I’ll put up some photos when I finished uploading them.

Our first destination for that day was Laban Rata, 3272 m above sea leavel, or 6KM from Timpohon’s gate. Average expected time to reached Laban Rata was 7 hours. Along the way, the trek was clean & well maintained. There were altogether 7 shelters on the way to Laban Rata. There was water supply (untreated though) at all shelters.

(Source: Sutera Harbour)

When we started the journey, it was already cloudy & then drizzles at about 12PM. No really heavy downpour though….alhamdulillah.

I travelled using my Deuter Futura 32L with Puleme’s camera insert. I brought my Nikon D3, Nikkor 14-24mm f2.8 lens, Nikkor 105mm f2.8 VR and my carbon fibre Feisol 3442 Tournament’s tripod with a Photoclam’s ballhead. The whole bag weighted 13KG. I used a porter. In fact Azri, one of the guide also served as the porter. The fee was RM8 per KG up to Laban Rata. I think I made a wise decision using a porter to carry the bag!

So I travelled light with two trekking poles & a waist pouch carrying my wallet, phone & Leica D-Lux 4 point & shoot. All the pictures during the journey was shot with D-Lux 4.

The journey was pretty tough actually. Steps and rocks were mind & mental challenging! The shelters really helped a lot. No need to carry a lot of mineral water. One can refill at any shelter. Summit trail is very very clean. Even the toilets were all in good condition. Cleaner than any Indonesian trails I have been. I feel very proud of that!

The last KM was hell for me. It took me almost 90 minutes to complete 1.5KM, below the average of 30-45 minutes per KM before. I eventually reached Laban Rata at 3:01PM. About 6 hours not considering 1 hour wasted when waiting Azri to bring my bag for me to get the raincoat.

The thin air made everything worse. I feel so sleepy, headache & easily tired. The first thing I wanted to do was to get to the bed & sleep. And I did just that. We were given Panar Laban Hut, which as another 100m climb from Laban Rata Resthouse. The weather was wet & so so cold. I took off my rain jacket, bumped into the bed immediately & slept. Later Azri arrived with my bag. I cleaned myself. Skipped the shower (no heater!!) & performed Zuhr & Asr before I went for dinner at 6:30PM. I met Zahari, Ruslan, Firdaus (who arrived at 1PM), Husni, Izzat & Ustaz. En Zaidi, Puan Zurina, Haziera & Rosdi were just arrived. But not dR Ali! I was told that he took pictures along the way, and knowing Ali, I didn’t worry but when I saw the guide in the coffe house & no Ali, I became worried. The guides promised to search for Ali after their meal. They did that I believe at 8PM. At 8:30PM, I was already in my bed when Ali called me. And at about 9PM Ali reached our room. Alhamdulillah.

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We slept early that night. Second part coming soon.

Fotopro: My first impression

I am a brand conscious. I believe that good product never come cheap, even though not all expensive product are good.

I have been using few tripods before. I even bought few China-made ones that failed to meet my expectation. Then I got myself Feisol CT-3442 a carbon fibre traveller (Tournament series) tripod. Feisol is originally from Taiwan but now we can have Feisol USA, Feisol UK etc. I would say it is one of the cheap alternative to the super brand, super expensive Gitzo. Feisol served me well, over 2 years period, for many photo trips involving many streams & rivers, hills & mountains, locally or in oversea. It suffered many brutal consequences. I lost all its rubber feet. In the recent Danau Toba visit, two from three of its legs were fell from their socket…..but I managed to glue them back using a 3-tonnes epoxy adhesive. However the one thing that really irritate me now is that, somehow sand can get into the joint easily compared to during its ‘younger’ days.

Every time after an outing, especially those at the beach or rivers, I need to open every segments and clean them. If not, I will need Hercules strength to pull the legs out. With the next major outing planned in January 2011, I need to find myself a new tripod.

Thanks to Liew WK & Shunfa Teh (courtesy of Lee Photo Trading) they gave me a small carbon fibre tripod to try. Its a new player in tripod market and it is from China. It is Fotopro. I am sceptical actually…but since Liew is using few already and knowing how he shoot….I trust him. So yesterday, they handed over the MGC-584N traveller serie tripod for me to test & review.

Weight & size

Let me talk about weight first. It is not that light actually. When I hold it…..I know that it feels solid….and heavy as well. It is stated to be 1.14kg in weight, compared to my Feisol 3442 1.05kg. Having said that that’s between a carbon fibre with another carbon fiber. Do not even try to compare carbon fibre with non-carbon fibre…..the difference is like heaven and earth! And not all carbon fibre is the same. For its size, Fotopro should be lighter. I wonder which components contribute the heavier weight. The steels connection? The joint?

When compared to Feisol 3442, obviously MGC-584N is shorter & more compact. It is 43cm vs. 48cm folded length. 5cm is a huge different if we are talking about luggage especially to fit into a camera bag. However when unfolded, the effective height is almost the same. Please check the picture above.

When I mounted Photoclam PC-33NS to MGC-584N, with centre column attached, I can fold it completely….but not without centre column. If I put Photoclam to my Feisol, I can now fold it completely without centre column.

Built

The built, as I mentioned earlier is solid and definitely not like few China-made tripods I used to own previously. The joints are smooth & one can customize the friction strength. The best thing is that, it has a built-in monopod! However looking at the instruction, one has to remove the leg (which feels securely tight in its socket), then remove the screw for the ballhead to be transferred to the monopod. Its pretty fast actually but still not convenience. Well, having said that, I don’t fancy that feature.  I rarely use a monopod. But it is indeed a good to have & super cool feature! In fact I joked with Liew last time…..why not make two of its legs detachable…so that I can use it as trekking poles. Now….for me, I must bring both of my trekking poles for my mountain expedition, with or without porter.

The tripod bag

There is none! Only a creative tripod legs cover or mutifunctional bag as what they claimed in their website. After using it for a while, I realize that the material used to make the bag & the strap is of low quality. That is typical China-made standard. What a pity. A nice product spoilt by a low quality bag.

The manual

All in Chinese. Since they just started selling internationally, I hope they’ll quickly provide at least the English version. Not that it is really necessary….but I am still not able to figure out how to remove the centre column! Finally I managed to remove the centre column. What need to be done is unscrew the top portion of the centre column, & only then one can remove the whole thing. The upper portion need to be insert back.

Price

This is something I am not sure. You guys have to check yourself. But it may be less than 1K as compared to Gitzo Traveler that cost more than 2K. But Gitzo is good. Whether it is worth the price, I do not know. I need Gitzo Traveler to try *wink*

I will use this tripod for my Mount Kinabalu trip. But since I don’t have a smaller ballhead, I already ordered Photoclam PC-33NS to complement MGC-584N. I just received my Photoclam, and will now test the tripod for good….

Wish me luck.

“Now everyone can own a carbon fibre tripod”