Monday, May 24, 2010

Metric @ KOKO London

Metric @ KOKO London 23 May 2010
This was my first gig photography with a photo pass, and the fact that it was for Metric made the whole deal sweeter. All the pictures from the pit were shot with a cheap but fast 50mm AF f/1.8D Nikkor lens as I found my 18-105mm to be inadequately slow.

I had loads of fun and to be able to shoot Emily Haines was a dream come true. Also thanks to Davoud D (flickr id: sony_boy) for the tips, and to Metric for providing such an exhilarating and entertaining performance. The acoustic version of 'Combat Baby', performed as an encore, was simply sublime. The crowd in particular was amazing and both Metric fans and none fans alike seems to be lapping it up. Surely mainstream success is just around the corner?

The special edition version of Fantasies is out today. Do make sure to grab it.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Carmen, O2 Arena review

If you ever thought about seeing Carmen at the O2 Arena, don't! If you were thinking or getting one of those cheap almost free tickets, don't! You will leave frustrated, and not because the former Millennium Dome is shit and colas will cost you between £2-4+.

We purchased front rows seat (and not those cheap tickets you get from 'insiders', much to our regret) and we still couldn't see shit. This was mainly because they hired tons of extras to shield the performers (who were mainly not in sync'ed with the excellent orchestra by the good people from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, because they can't be bothered to keep an eye on one of the billions of tellies there with the conductor in it) especially in the last act with the street carnival and all, as well having a part raised platform on the arena with the principals often preferring to sing in a huddled position hidden away from the audience.

It was never a good idea to host a opera in a 20,000+ arena and it shows. The acoustic was awful and the majority of people attending aren't used to this sort of shows - they were firing pictures with flash as if it was a basketball match! A thick skin lady behind us was even firing her SLR (with flash!) in quiet sections, with nary a scolding from the stewards. It wasn't a surprise to see people leaving even before the intermission. But what do you expect when the opera was mainly marketed to the lowest common denominator with a ridiculous marketing campaign of trying to associate the production with ITV's awful "from Popstars to Operastar"?

Finally let's not forget that Carmen at the O2 is actually performed in English. Sacrilegious.

Nikon AF 50mm f/1.8D Nikkor

Bought Nikon's cheapest lens yesterday - a 50mm f/1.8D AF Nikkor. As I shoot a D90 with a DX sensor, it is about 75mm equivalent.

Took some shots with it whilst walking around sunny London. This lens is fucking sharp. Easily the best £100 I've ever spent.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Sennheiser RIP

Prof. Dr. Fritz Sennheiser, the founder of Sennheiser, has passed away.

Put simply, without him, I would never have had the pleasure to own and listen to a IE 8, the greatest IEM Sennheiser has ever made - or indeed the countless of other Sennheiser headphones I've worn so many times in over ten years since I discovered the joy of headphones and portable music.

Thanks Sennheiser!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

St. Albans for #gumtreepeople

Just created my #gumtreepeople entry forSt. Albans (after some time wrestling with Gumtree's strict naughty words filter). Yes it is for a competition, but that doesn't mean that what I wrote isn't true!

St. Albans is a market and cathedral town that sits near the site of the former Roman Britain town called Verulamium. It was one of the bigger Roman settlements in Britain. So large in fact that it even attracted the attention of Queen Boudica who went on to sack and burn the town. It recovered and continued to grow up until the Roman occupation ended about 1500 years ago.

The modern St. Albans takes its name from Saint Alban, the first British Christian martyr. It has been suggested that the name Holywell Hill near the Cathedral site, is because the severed head of Saint Alban rolled down the hill from the execution site, and where it came to rest it uncovered a spring (thus being named Holywell).

Well enough of history, here's my entry about what I find best about the town. If you have any questions about the town, please leave a comment here or on this forum post hosted on Gumtree.

Sony Walkman NWZ-A840 UI demo

Here's a quick video I recorded earlier, demonstrating the new Walkman NWZ-A840 series's UI. The UI is heavily borrowed from the touchscreen based X-series DAP, features a couple of downgrades when compared to the basic looking but highly intuitive one found previously on the A810, S630, S730 and others.

The previous 'now playing' shortcut that can be toggled anywhere within the system by pressing the 'Options' button has been replaced by 'to playback' shortcut that isn't available everywhere, but a whole a bit more useful than the previous incarnation as it presents more shortcuts depending on where in the system you are on. Tracks can also be added to a 'wishlist', which is useful for people with a subscription based music service. For people who likes to purchase CDs (like me), the feature is kinda redundant, but it is there for those who wishes to use it.

The system as a whole felt slightly slower, but I didn't find this a major issue for day to day usage. We are also still cursed with only two custom EQ slots, and the lack of quick find (the table with alphabets is missing) is also irritating, particularly if one is planning on installing hundreds of albums. On the other hand fans of podcasts (fancy word for pre-recorded radio) will be happy that the A840 supports them out of the box.

You can't create, edit or delete playlists on the device itself (it must be done on a PC, which isn't really difficult). This is something that irritates many, but to me isn't a huge deal as I don't tend to use playlists a lot. But what I do wish is for Sony to bring back SenseMe, the auto-playlist generator that I loved on the S630/S730. It was a brilliant piece of application.

So one step forward, but two steps backwards. Not good Sony.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Canon PowerShot SX200 IS impressions

With summer fast approaching I decided I needed a new compact camera for bringing into gigs. My previous G9 was a disappointment in that regards (400 is generally unusable, and it had a huge problem with dusts - not that this would be any different I suspect). I got this SX200 IS a couple of days ago and it is a lovely camera to use. It looks huge compared to the new generation of ultra slim digital compacts, but it is slimmer than my G9 and thus more pocketable, though it is rather heavy (thanks to the use of metal materials). The best thing about this is its ease of use.

With the G9 I had loads to do before I can make it work, but with this all I do is set to auto or tinker with the manual settings a bit and it more or less works (well most of the time anyway). I've decided that since now I have a proper DSLR, all I want from a point & shoot is just that. The ISO performance is great, for a compact and certainly far ahead the G9 (goes to show that anything newer, even if it is a lower-end model, is generally better).

I won't go into all the silly technical details that most photography review sites love to go into, but just as a summary, the SX200 IS has a 12x optical zoom (28-338mm equivalent), 720p30 video recording capability, manual control, scene detection and Canon's proprietary anti-blur processing engine (Image Stabilizer) which seems to work great even in full telephoto mode. The body is mainly made of metal (likely aluminium) and a bit of plastic and chromes. It features a conservative and yet stylish design.

The controls are sparsely laid out and the only way of doing all the manual bits and selecting ISO settings is through the menu system, which isn't the most intuitive way of doing something but at least it keeps the camera clean, and I guess, as well as the cost. I dislike the dial on the directional pad. The lens do suffer at full telephoto with a aperture of f/5.3 at 336mm (12x). Not surprising but something to think about. On the other hand, as I mentioned earlier, the anti-blue technology works really well even when the zoom is maxed. There is also a macro and super macro setting for shots from 1cm away.

I haven't tested the 720p video mode yet, but I am sure some will love this. I personally doubt I would use it much as I just am not that interested in making videos. That said I am sure I'll do the odd gig video if the bouncers are kind enough. The biggest issue with this camera is the flash. It would always pop up even if you do not wish for the flash to fire. I can imagine future issues with the pop-up mechanism. There is also no viewfinder, but to be honest who would want to see through a pinhole?

The used SX200 IS cost me just under £150, which I think is a good deal for what is still a pretty good and almost unused camera (silly former owner). So a decent enough point and shoot for the price I paid. However the cost of a new SX200 IS is just slightly below that of a new SX210 IS (with faster lens as well), so maybe it would be better to consider that instead.

Image samples (resized, but untouched):

From wide angle to full telephoto

Some distortions

Full telephoto and a cropped sample

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Sony Walkman NWZ-A840 first impressions

I've only been listening to the Sony Walkman NWZ-A840 series for a couple of hours and has so far I've been impressed by it. The sound quality is pretty good, but I'll give it two weeks of intense listening and comparison with other DAPs before I comment further.

The amp here isn't as powerful (or it may be a bureaucratic decision) as the one that powered the X-series or S730/S630 that much is true. With the old X-series I rarely need to go above volume 15/30, but with the A830 I would need go increase it to 20s to get a comparable loudness. Not a problem with my IE 8, but this may be an issue with people with more demanding headphones. I haven't touched the bundled headphones yet, but they look good and should sound better than most bundled headphones. I still suggest investing in an aftermarket higher end headphone.

Build quality wise, the A840 passes with flying colours. The OLED screen is dominated by a visible glass layer that gives it an extra class though I worry about the durability (plastic is generally more crash-proof than glass). The buttons on the front are nicely build but do not provide enough feedback. It should have been raised so as to provide a better tactile experience for people who want to control it 'blindly'.

Transferring music is quick! Despite being connected via MTP, it is so much quicker to move music onto the A840 compared to the X1060. More later!

Just a note on Sony's confusing way of naming products: NW means it is for Japan and NWZ is the international version. A840 is the series as a whole and the last digit represents the storage capacity. So A845 is for 16GB, A846 for 32GB (so far only available in Asia Pacific and Japan) and A847 is for 64GB (which does not exist outside of Japan).

NokiaNav and WOMWorld/Nokia meetup

Here are some pictures from yesterday's #NokiaNav event in Richmond Park and the WOMWorld/Nokia meetup in Richmond Hill Hotel later in the evening. We did a bit of cycling in the park (first time in an electric bike) and later being driven to the hotel in a M3, all part of an Ovi Maps campaign.

It was great to finally meet the rest of the WOMWorld/Nokia team, other bloggers and Nokia/Symbian enthusiasts as well as Anna from Nokia. Had a lovely time chatting with them and am hopeful to be able to do this again.

Walkman A840 in my hands!

Our post lady has just dropped off the Walkman A840. If you have any questions about it please post them in the comments section (this one please) and I would do my best to answer them here or in the forthcoming review.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Gumtreepeople project

Seems that I've allowed myself to commit to another project, this time with Gumtree. Gumtree People is a project that aims to highlight what people think is best of their local community. Kinda like what I am actually doing outside of this blog, but for free! Haha... (but I am in this for the top prize!)

I've been living in St. Albans for a good six months now and pretty much have a good understanding of this market town. It is a brilliant place to live in and I am not saying that because we bought a place here. Rather because St. Albans is such a brilliant place is precisely why we chose to move here.

So over the next one week (actually probably just this weekend) you'll be seeing me walking up and down the streets of St. Albans, armed with a 'disposable' digital camera (ok, D90 - let's hope that Hertfordshire Constabulary isn't as crazy as their Kent counterpart), book and pencil whilst taking pictures and lord knows what else. Should be fun, I hope.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Walkman NWZ-A840 incoming

Well due to a couple of requests I've decided to order a Sony Walkman NWZ-A840-series DAP not long ago. Yes with my own money (just so you know I've never had freebies from Sony before - not that I would complain!). The A845 16GB version is due to arrive late this week/early next week because I can't be arsed to pay Amazon UK the 'upgrade' postage fee.

I am getting a bit excited about it right now. Not to say I'll be keeping it (16GB isn't enough), but I am curious to hear if it would match or even better the formidable X-Series. Both has the same(?) S-master amp powering it, so on paper it should match the X-Series although some reviews are already indicating that it doesn't... I'll give it the usual 1-2 weeks of intense listening before writing the review and would definitely post thoughts via twitter or this blog, depending on the circumstances. Should I also do an unboxing...?

Still I can't help writing that I am very disappointed in Sony Europe for sticking their middle fingers at us, first, for only making this series available 6-7 months after it was announced, and second, for not making the 64GB A847, or even the 32GB A846, available here!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Yay! Metric for Koko!

A couple of bad to downright awful news today. Looking forward to this to cheer me up!

Sony Alpha NEX-3 and NEX-5 announced

Surprised that it has taken this long, but camera manufacturers are finally beginning to realise that APS-C size sensors can fit in compact cameras thus potentially giving them the capability to output DSLR-like picture quality. Seriously, what took them so long?

Sony today announced the Alpha NEX-series of compact camera with APS-C size sensor and interchangeable lens. The NEX-3 and NEX-5 will feature a third generation Exmor APS-C size CMOS sensor with 14.2 effective megapixels. The NEX-5 supports AVCHD 1080i HD video recording whilst the NEX-3 will support 'a mere' 720p. Looking around at previews, the NEX-5 is even smaller than the Panasonic GF1, and that has a smaller Micro Four Thirds sensor. It will also sport the same sweep panorama feature that work so brilliantly in cameras like the HX5.

If the price is right I'll getting one for sure. The NEX-5 with the 16mm pancake lens will be perfect for sneaking into gigs.

Update: the price is comparable to the GF1 (which I now dub as the fat one). The Sony NEX-5 + 16mm will be my next compact, that much is certain. Now to save up!!! So excited!

Broken Social Scene - Forgiveness Rock Record review

Broken Social Scene is well known for being a collective of extremely talented musicians (in their field) that seemingly can't do no wrong. It may seem right to just label this as yet another indie pop album (in what is now a rather tired scene) but Forgiveness Rock Record retains the some of the band's signature moves whilst also furthering their desire to experiment with different sounds. After a couple of listens, there is little doubt that this is unmistakeably a Broken Social Scene album.

There's less guitar in this and much more melody. It is, in my view, one of the more accessible Broken Social Scene albums (certaintly more so than their instrumental debut) which isn't a totally bad thing. There are a couple of almost duds though - "Highway Slipper Jam", whilst not a bad song by itself is just so damn out of place and to make matters worse follows the excellent and energetic Lisa Lobsinger solo "All to All" (already a favourite of mine) and there's "Chase Scene". Still the quality outweighs the not so good and tracks like the all-female "Sentimental-X", "Forced to Love", "Sweetest Kill", "World Sick" and the mainly synthed "Romance to the Grave" will all be remembered as BSS classics.

Like anything else Broken Social Scene, Forgiveness Rock Record will divide the fanbase (it is already happening on This is actually a good thing as there's plenty of stuff out there for different people and is what Broken Social Scene is known for. After all we are talking about a band who is well known for its colloborations with plenty of people from various music projects.

So an above average album by Broken Social Scene's standard is still a pretty damn good album by anyone else's. Highly recommended. Can't wait for my first BSS gig in June!

Forgivness Rock Record is now available from Amazon UK and

Unelected PM?

I swear I would kick the next 'journalist' who complains about 'unelected prime ministers'. There is no such thing. You do not vote for prime ministers, you vote for members of parliament to represent your constituency. Whether David Cameron (whose party did not win I might add), Nick Clegg or whoever runs Labour next becomes prime minister, they are still 'unelected'.

Fucking hell, you would think political editors would know such thing, but like everything else run by the mainstream (mainly Tory) media they are just ignorant dolts.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Electoral reform rally London 8 May 2010

Pictures from the pro-democracy voting and electoral reform demonstration in Trafalgar Square and Smith Square, London yesterday. If you wish to have a picture of yourself removed please message me on twitter @jonchoo

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Democracy Fail

British politicians love making a huge fuss about the apparent irregularities whenever another country holds an election. Now consider the reports that are emerging from around the country that:
  • Voters were being turned away from polling stations despite joining queues hours before closing time.
  • Voters were being turned away from polling stations because they haven't had enough ballot papers.
  • Voters were being turned away because the polling stations had not receive updated paperworks, despite being on the register.
  • Voters were being turned away before closing time because they couldn't handle it.
  • Voters being discriminated upon.
  • Voters who registered for postal ballot never received their ballot papers.

UK election

Only a couple of hours left to vote, so make sure you do. I won't tell you who you should vote (make up your damn mind), but I am hoping to wake up tomorrow morning to find that we did not vote in a new Rupert Murdoch stooge government and his sock puppet as a PM.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bluebells at Batch Wood, St. Albans

We went for a walk around Batch Wood near St. Albans in Hertfordshire on bank holiday monday. Weather was pretty crappy at times (rain, hails, wind), but still enjoyed the sights of Bluebells. These were tough to capture, so I am hoping to get better results next weekend at the Ashridge Estate instead.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Nikon D90

Got a Nikon D90 as a gift from my visiting parents (thanks!). It comes with a Nikkor 18-105mm DX lens. Haven't played with it much (it was pissing rain today), but so far after a couple of days with it I think it is a brilliant, albeit old, camera. Can't even go back to my trusty G9 now, so that's being sold off tomorrow.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

HTC Legend review

I have never been impressed by Android, particularly the UI, so I wasn’t looking forward to receiving the HTC Legend for review. But this thing runs HTC Sense, and I have high hopes that it would be able to tuck away some of Android’s own UI deficiency.

First the hardware. The Legend features an incredibly sleek aluminium unibody design. This gives it a highly desirable and premium look, but it also makes it a very slippery phone. There are some rubber on the backside, but they are on the wrong sides. The front is dominated by a gorgeous 3.2″ HVGA (320×480) AMOLED capacitive touchscreen display. It is equally as good as my Walkman X-series DAP. While the screen works amazing indoor, it is for all intent and purpose utterly useless during sunny days.

Below the screen are a couple of hardware keys. These includes Home (self explanatory), Menu (assessing the menu), backspace (return to previous screen) and a magnifying glass for bringing up the quick search box. Below the row of keys is the optical joystick shaped like a tiny ball. While it duplicates the functions of a traditional d-pad or optical trackpad, I can’t say I enjoyed using it due to its sensitivity and its location very near the bottom.

The left side features a volume rocker. After years of getting used to the volume keys being on the right side, it did take some getting used to, but it isn’t a huge issue. The right side on the other hand is bare. The power key and 3.5mm headphone socket resides on the top. The bottom house the micro USB charging/sync slot, microphone and lanyard loop. Finally the backside features the 5 megapixel auto-focus camera and a single LED bulb for flash duties. The loudspeaker sits on the left side of the camera module.

Accessing the battery, sim card slot and microSD card slot requires you the pry out the rubber plastic hatch. Removing the hatch will expose a flap that when flipped will give you access to the 1300 mAh battery, sim card slot and microSD. microSD cards are unfortunately not hot-swappable as the battery will merely slide out if you try. Overall the build quality is excellent with nary a flex or creak when squeezing it.

Booting up the HTC Legend reveals HTC Sense running on top of Android 2.1. Sense is a very pretty and quick UI, though it gets tedious after a while. I also can’t say I like the small icons that much, which makes it harder to select especially those with big fat thumbs. Widgets are easily accessible by swiping around either through the screen or the optical joystick.

There are two hugely annoying bit about the HTC Legend’s software (and I suspect all HTC Android phones with capacitive screens). First the screen is just too sensitive. I can’t remember the number of times during the past one week that the OS would misinterpret an accidental skin contact for something else, thus ruining what I was doing. Second, the screen vibration feedback only works on the virtual keyboard and nothing else.

The Legend has surprisingly good audio quality. While it isn’t no where near my Walkman or even some mid-end Nokia phones, it is a massive improvement over my last HTC device (Artemis) – which often sounded like a cheap MP3 player you get at market stalls. The Legend on the other hand sounds excellent via my Sennheiser IE 8, with good neutral mids though it does suffer from bass drop-offs. Overall, the Legend is competent enough to be a ‘backup player’. The same can’t be said about the bundled headphones which is pretty awful sounding, so make sure you invest in a proper pair of headphone.

The 5 megapixel auto-focus camera has a maximum resolution of 2592×1936 pixels, and should perform well, in theory. The UI unfortunately left much to be desired which isn’t surprising to be honest. Still there are plenty of manual settings for people who wants to get the most out of the camera. Image quality is average with pictures suffering from poor contrast and plenty of noise. This isn’t a camera you would want to use in low light situation. Samples are provided in the gallery below.

99.99% of all cameras has shutter buttons on the top right casing. It has been the norm for decades, if not forever since compact consumer cameras were first created. There is a reason why it is there – it allows one to hold the camera securely, even one-handed if they wanted to, whilst using the index finger to take pictures. Not so with this. The camera shutter is that small poxy round thingy known as the optical joystick I mentioned earlier. It is so unnerving to use.

The camera module at the back is too closed to the edge, meaning if I am not careful my fingers will often find its way into pictures. I could use it one handed, but the combination of poorly placed camera shutter button joystick and slippery body meant that unless I used it two handed I would be staring at an incredibly expensive paperweight.

Like most modern smartphones, the HTC Legend comes with a built-in GPS receiver chipset. Cold lock without A-GPS takes a couple of minute which is pretty much standard these days. It does not ship with any navigation application bar Google Maps (it is a Google OS after all), which works well provided you have a pretty good data bundle with your service provider. Using Google Maps is easy enough so I won’t bore you with details about it.

Perhaps the most important bit of a smartphone that many forget is the call quality. Fortunately the voice quality and reception is above average (tested on T-Mobile UK network). The Legend would also vibrate when your call is answered, which is a very useful feature where one do not have to hold the phone to the ear in order to know if the call is connected. Unfortunately the Legend does not feature a front camera, so video calls are not possible.

The phone book (called People) is one of the most fleshed out address book programs I’ve had the pleasure to use on any phones. It not only holds all the basic details as expected from a phone book, but will also display text messages and e-mails, Facebook/Twitter/Flickr integration and call history – all of which are sorted in tabs associated with that particular contact.

HTC has produced a great looking smartphone with the Legend. At around £350 in the UK for a sim-free model, it is similarly priced to many decent smartphones with similar spec-ed on the market like the N97 Mini and Motorola Milestone. Both the N97 Mini and Milestone has slide out keyboards, so can be argued as better value (the Milestone also has better overall specs). though one does runs Symbian^1 which most either love or hate, and the other runs on stock Android. And for only £50 extra you can get the HTC Desire, a phone with much better spec and a better form factor.

While I’ve not change my mind about Android, the Legend should be a sound investment for people who are in the market for a phone with such an OS. It is rather lovely looking. However I do believe that HTC has taken the form over function road with this. It isn’t something I can’t imagine people would be happy to use as an everyday device after the initial oohs, and aahhs. Maybe the Desire?


+ Highly desirable design
+ Brilliant display with great colour saturation
+ Quick
+ Latest version of OS available

- Memory card slot not hot-swappable
- Display unusable in daylight
- No front camera for video calls
- Some UI quirks

This review was originally published on