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Sunday, August 30, 2009


Dad's advice for buying a camera 3


You've pretty much got my general needs sussed. What would you buy? I'll have to choose something soon cause I'm getting sick of trying to figure it out.
Love Mel

PS Bub is going great. 30 weeks now.

Hi Mel

I can't say specifically what I would choose because I haven't really been studying the reviews. I would do that pretty thoroughly before I made my decision. I didn't do that when I bought my little camera and not long after I bought it I realised that I should have spent a little more money and got one with a few more features. I saw one I would have preferred (think it was a Pentax) but I'd already parted with my money.

My criteria would depend on my situation. I would only buy an SLR if I was planning to do some professional photography, ie trying to sell my photos in some way. For publishing on the net as I do, it's overkill and way too much to carry when travelling, by time you buy all the extras. And without the extras maybe you're only getting a basic camera, but hopefully a good one.

I'm a bit addicted to zoom so I would look for a camera that gave me a good zoom, with a good quality lens and had as big and high quality a sensor as possible. Whether I got something like my fz20 or something smaller would depend on whether I was planning to do a lot of travelling. And I would consider what would I lose by buying the smaller camera—is it almost as good or is there a big difference. If it's close, maybe I'd go for the smaller one. If the bigger one was way ahead, maybe I'd go for that.

It's also important to consider what features appeal to you. eg. I like a camera with a fold out LCD, the more possible angles the better.

I'd also consider what it is made from although I'm not sure how important that is. My fz20 is all plastic. They specify that it should be used within a specific range of temperatures and Thailand goes over that range. So, some of the bits of attached plastic are falling off these days. The camera still works but it is not as grippable. I'm not sure if an all metal camera is better but I suspect it might be. Then again if the all metal camera still has plastic grip bits on it, it might do the same. In the climate you are in this might not be an issue anyway.

When you get a short list, let me know and I'll make a few comments.



PS. Does that mean you still have 10 weeks to go?

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Friday, August 28, 2009


Dad's advice for buying a camera 2

Hi Dad,
Am thinking that you brought up a few valid points and I figure that I don't really need an SLR. So down to that do you have any advice? What size zoom would you think is useful to have? Basically want good snapshots at the end of the day but a camera that can play around with to get better shots. Sometimes we want to take pictures to use for a poster or flyers for things, otherwise something I can use to take nice photo's.
Love Mel

Hi Mel

First I'll give you two links to my blogs where I wrote about my cameras. This will give you an idea about why I have what I have:

Why two cameras?

Camera comparison

What size zoom depends on what you want to photograph. 3 x zoom is very common and for everyday photography it's usually fine. Sometimes I like to photograph wildlife. If you get too close then it moves away so my 12 x zoom on the fz20 is good. When there was a monkey on the roof of the house next door at Kompong Chhnang I could get a pic of just the monkey. (BTW, I have not cropped this pic.) With 3 x I would get the whole roof and would hardly see the monkey. If you want to take a pic of Iz or Hamad on the other side of the soccer field, you'll need a good zoom to take that pic. However you'll also need a camera good for action pics if you want to get them while they're moving. It can be a challenge to do that especially with full zoom. 5 x to 10 x is somewhere in between. That might suit you depends on how important those soccer shots are to you. You can also get more powerful zooms these days. Panasonic have one that does 18 x. I asked a guy who had one about it and he was pretty happy. Other manufacturers are bringing out cameras to compete with this. Not sure how good they are. The Panasonic Lumix lens has a good reputation. Read the reviews before you make a decision.

Here's an example of the sort of long-distance action you can get with an fz20. I took this at Scarborough back when I was last in Oz. BTW, someone once said to me that to get a lens on an SLR that does what I can do with my fz20, it would have to be about 45cm long. Another BTW, if you click on these pics you'll see a larger version.

OK. Some general info. If you go to my flickr page and take a look at my pics, see if you can see the difference between the pics done on the fx3 and fz20 and which do you prefer. I put that info into the tags at the side of each pic. You have to click on the pic to see it. You might think the fx3 is just as good but consider that in relation to what I have written in the blog—fx3 has its limitations. They may or may not be important to you. But if you want to take better shots you will probably want a camera with more features. BTW, fx3 and fz20 will have been superseded several times. The current models will have different names. Last time I checked the latest version of the fz20 was fz50. Not sure if it still is. It has a few more features and other improvements over mine. I like the way the LCD screen tilts so you don't always have to hold the camera up to your face. You can hold it at waist level or hold it over your head—and still see the LCD.

If somehow I lost both of my cameras I wonder what I would buy now. Rather than buy two cameras I could get a compromise, a camera that is fairly compact but has a lot of features. Canon have one called the G10. The Canon G series have a good reputation but these days other manufacturers are bringing out good cameras like it. Read some reviews and see if it does what you want. Some of the reviews will also mention other cameras to compare it with. Check out their reviews too.

There are two websites that have good reviews that I recommend:


Steves Digicams

Read a few reviews and see if you can get more idea of what you want from that. Also on these sites are user forums. I followed the Panasonic forums for about 18 months on Steves before I bought the fz20. People tell you what they like and don't like about their cameras. It is a good way to discover which camera to not buy. You can also join and ask questions yourself. If you have narrowed it down and you are not sure, you can ask people who use the camera, eg. 'Is this a good action camera? Is it good for night shots?'. They'll tell you.

One other thing to remember is that you can have the best camera in the world but if you don't have an artistic eye you'll still take lousy shots. You need to learn a bit about framing your shots. It could be worth visiting the library and borrowing a few photography 'how to' books.

OK, that's it for now. Feel free to send more questions.

BTW, I'll expect to see lots of pics of the new baby on facebook.



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Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Dad's advice for buying a camera 1

My daughter, Melanie, is buying a camera back in Oz. We've been having an email dialog over the past few weeks. I decided to post it here, a bit at a time, as it may be useful for other camera buyers.

Hey Dad,
I'm looking for a new camera, for about $500. Am thinking maybe a Sony A230. Other thought was a canon EOS XS. Got any opinions?
Love Mel

Hi Mel

Just having a quick look at the cameras on your short list. Have you decided on an SLR for any reason? An SLR is for serious photography. Is that the direction you want to go? It doesn't make you a better photographer. It gives a good photographer more options provided they are prepared to spend more money. Had a quick look at the review of the Sony A230. If you buy the cheapest version, the lens you get is 18-55 mm. That gives you good wide-angle but do you ever need it? (I rarely do.) It doesn't give you much zoom. If you want to get zoom, then you also need to buy the 55-200 mm lens or you can get a kit with the two. (Maybe $200 more.) And that still doesn't give you as much zoom as I have with my Panasonic fz20. If you want still more flexibility and better photos you buy more lenses such as a portrait lens or macro lens. (another few hundred $ more) This is the way of SLRs. You keep adding to them. You end up with lots to carry around and you can spend quite a lot. It's a good way to go if you are serious. But not the best way if you just want quick snaps.

Not sure if you actually get a built-in flash in the A230 from the review. (Surely you must) They are recommending an external flash which is better than built-in anyway but more expense and more to carry. The A230 is a cheaper version of the A330 and A380. They have more features such as a fold-out LCD screen which I'd be prepared to pay more for.

That's some quick thoughts on that one. Haven't seen the camera of course, just going on the (brief) review. Haven't checked on the Canon. Maybe tomorrow.

BTW, I finally have internet at home. You can catch me on skype from time to time if you want.

And how's the baby in the belly?



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Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Real or not?

I have a note in my diary that Tuesday August 18 is Science Day in Thailand. No, it's not another public holiday but apparently King Mongkut predicted a solar eclipse on this day in 1868 and now we acknowledge the father of science in Thailand. Keen to promote science, the Thai government has now declared the whole week as Science Week.

I knew something was happening because on the weekend a whole heap of stalls sprang up on the road outside the science buildings but no one told me why. I had decided to go and do some stuff on the old campus this morning. It wasn't a commitment, just a plan.

There were many sorngtheaus and big buses parked along the road that I was walking towards the local sorngtheau stop—and more still arriving with kids of varying ages getting off and heading towards the science area of campus along with their teachers.

I took a few photos and asked a friendly kid where he'd come from. He gave the name of his school but that gave me no more clues. As I got to the bridge that crossed the canal and led towards the science faculties, I decided to change my plan.

Most people were heading into the biological sciences building and so did I. I discovered that there was a science fair with displays from the various science-related faculties and also many of the high school students from schools around the region, that would be MSU's feeder schools, had set up poster sessions based on experiments they'd done. There was a lot of stuff there that would make an environmentalist proud on topics such as natural pest control, paper recycling, composting, earthworms, biodiesel and alternative electricity generation.

One section was attracting quite an audience. I managed to get close enough to see that one of the nursing students was testing male students to see if they knew how to put on a condom. She had a wooden erect penis on a table. This guy had to open the condom packet, remove the condom and place it properly on the wooden penis. But that wasn't all. She gave him some tissues and he had to remove it in a manner that would not allow any fluid to escape. He must have got it right because all his friends cheered.

Just past this was a room that most people coming from were holding their hands, a tissue or a cloth over their mouths and noses. I wondered what could be in there. I saw groups of people gathered around tables.
It took a while before I could see what was on the table—some sort of dead animal I guessed. There was lots of meat and organs exposed. As I looked more closely at the shape of the legs and then the rest of the body I realised that this animal was in fact human. 'It can't be real,' was my first thought. When I got close enough I asked the student who was taking care of it, running her bare hands through the various organs, picking them up for everyone to see, 'Jing reuh?' (Is it real?)

'Jing jing,' she replied. (It sure is.)

'Ma jark ti nai?' (Where did it come from?)

'Khon Kaen University.'

I asked if she was from the faculty of medicine. Nursing, I discovered. I was told that on the other side of the room were students from the faculty of medicine. There were several tables on each side of the room and on each was a similar body, cut up sufficiently that the gender was not obvious. The skulls on most had been sawn open. They weren't newly dead. They looked like they'd been preserved in some chemicals. Perhaps that is what was giving off the smell that many found offensive.

There were kids in the room, perhaps no more than ten, and no one was bothered to protect them from this sight. I was having a mixed reaction. On the one hand I was fascinated and got a few photos. On the other, I've been known to have bad reactions to this sort of thing in the past. I checked myself and decided that I wasn't about to pass out but that perhaps I'd feel more confident if I got out of there.

It was an interesting exhibition. Now I'm wondering if I should go back tomorrow.

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Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Dentists and pain

When I was a kid if I needed dental treatment my mother took me to the dental hospital at South Brisbane. Some of my friends went to private dentists. But my family could not afford that. At the hospital you did not get to choose your dentist. Some were good with kids. Some should have been banned from working with kids. I remember when water drills came in. They were so much easier to handle than the old mechanical ones we used to be subjected to. I also remember one cranky old dentist threatening that he would use the mechanical drill if I couldn't keep my mouth open wider. As a kid all of my fillings were done without an injection.

At the age of 18 I went to live in Sydney. When I needed dental treatment I discovered Dr C. He was wonderful. I know it is not common to hear people say they think their dentist is wonderful but compared to what I grew up with I found him to be a kind and gentle man. He would take time to explain what was needed and give me choices about how that was done. He seemed to be impressed that I didn't need an injection for a normal filling. I remember one time he got his nurse (he always had cute nurses) to take a look at how much drilling he'd done without an injection. I had tried injections and I decided I preferred the short-term pain of the drill that stopped as soon as he stopped drilling to the longer-term discomfort and numbness created by the injection.

When I moved away from Sydney I tried other dentists. None of them came up to Dr C. One refused to accept my decision to not have an injection and immediately injected me without waiting for me to disagree. I never returned to him. Nor did I return to others I tried for one reason or another. When I was living in Brisbane I had to go to an annual conference in the Sydney area. I would usually arrange to go a week early so I could visit Dr C for a check up and any work needed. Eventually he said I didn't need to keep coming as at the stage I had reached my teeth should stay good for some time.

When I decided to retire and move to Asia over six years ago, I had one or two little problems with my teeth. I decided to visit Dr C and get them fixed before I did. I didn't know if he'd still be practising but he was. By this time he was about 70 years old. I expressed surprise that he was still practising. He said he had fewer patients these days and it suited him. He'd slowed down rather than retiring. 'And what would I do if I retired?' he asked. I could think of a thousand things but obviously he is happy with dentistry.

He refilled one tooth for me and recommended I get a crown on another. I had a choice of a post and crown or just a crown. He said the post should be better but there were no guarantees. As it turned out I did not have time for the post before my flight to Asia so I settled for the crown.

It didn't last. It fell victim to some sticky rice in Thailand. I didn't do anything about it at the time. I was still able to chew and I found I had less trouble with food becoming trapped. Some time later, when I was living in Cambodia a filling came out. This one was causing some problems so I decided to have it fixed. You can read the story here.

I got the same dentist to replace the missing crown too. I was wary at the time about getting such work done in Cambodia but that was September '06 and I'm happy to say that it is still there and in that time it has been responsible for assisting in the chewing of many kilos of sticky rice.

Having had such success in Cambodia I was not concerned about finding a good dentist in Mahasarakham. The dentist I was referred to was recommended by several people. His practice is clean and appears to be professional. I assume you've already read my previous two posts. Now I'll carry on from where I left off.

Since the first root-canal treatment the tooth stopped hurting and has given me very little trouble. Last Sunday I made my final visit to the lady dentist in Khon Kaen. (Lots of Khon Kaen pics now on my flickr page.) She gave me the final treatment which lasted about an hour and was done without an injection. But I still had to return to my dentist in Mahasarakham to get the crown added. I got someone to ring and make an appointment for me. It can be a little frustrating communicating via someone else who may not understand fully what you want. I usually make an appointment for 6 pm and don't often wait too long. She made the appointment for 5 pm. I made it there by 5.20 knowing that there was no way I'd go in straight off at 5. I waited until 6.40 before I finally got into the dentist chair. I thought they'd forgotten me. Before I left to head into town I noticed that if I bit down on the problem tooth there was a slight twinge there. I tested this a few times on my way to the dentist and sometimes it twinged and sometimes it didn't. I mentioned this to him when I got into the chair. He just said 'Hmmm.' After he removed the temporary crown he stuck his drill into my mouth. I guess he was polishing the tooth but whatever he was doing it was quite painful. 'Relax. Relax.' he said. 'I can't,' I answered. 'It's hurting.' He said it shouldn't be hurting as there was no nerve left in the tooth. I understood that but I know pain when I feel it. And it was painful. So, he put another temporary crown on it and told me to come back in two weeks. I'm not impressed. I wanted to be over it. I've had enough of this. I want to be able to eat whatever I feel like instead of having to eat omelettes and curries all the time. I want to eat sticky rice again. But it seems I have to wait another two weeks—at least. It has been sore to bite on since then but today, not quite so bad. Let's hope it gets better this time.

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Root canal update

I went back to Khon Kaen on the weekend for my second root canal treatment. Since the first treatment my mouth has felt much better with no pain. I stayed overnight as before and took quite a few photos (coming to my flickr page--but give me time to process them) at the market in the morning before I went for my dental appointment. Once again I have been pain free but despite eating only foods that are relatively easy to chew this temporary crown is starting to break away. I only hope it lasts until I get back for what I hope is my last treatment next Sunday.

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