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Archive for April, 2010

Which Digital Camera?

April 19, 2010 8 comments

Buying electronic stuffs is not an easy task these days. We, consumers, are spoilt for choice with so many brands and offerings with overlapping features and price points. Rather I should say that consumers gets confused by the multitude of options. I guess that’s what these companies want to do – confuse the buyer so that he ends up buying something which is costlier than what he intended do buy initially. So to avoid falling in this trap and make a selection which meets your expectations and budget, I think it requires a lot of homework. The same goes for buying a digital camera.

So far, I have been a point & shoot photographer. I started with a Canon Powershot A410 about 5 years back. It is was a basic PnS with a decent quality. Later, about one-n-half years back I shifted to Nokia N79. Yes, a Nokia phone in lieu of a camera :). Nokia has lately released phones with amazing cameras. This phone had a 5MP camera with Carl Zeiss lens. As I carry it always with me, I have taken some really nice and candid shots with it. This phone had completely replaced the need of a PnS for me. In fact, I have recently done a 4 day trip of Prague and had taken a few hundred photos using N79.

Lately I had been thinking of upgrading my camera so that I can develop some better photography skills. This is when I started to explore what should I upgrade to. I first checked out the superzooms or prosumers cameras. These cameras are positioned between the basic PnS and the DSLRs, and has its own tradeoffs. It is suitable for people who want something better than a PnS but are not very keen to pursue photography as a serious hobby. These prosumers are one time investment which gives a better sensor, higher optical zoom, faster continuous shooting and more manual control options as compared to PnS. Price wise these cameras overlap the higher end of PnS and the entry level DSLRs. This overlap makes the decision difficult. This makes it important to first clearly work out the requirements and the purpose of the camera.

If compactness is the high priority then a high end PnS is recommended. However if you don’t mind the size and you want more flexibility and quality than a PnS, or want to try your hands at manual controls but you don’t want to spend further on the equipment and do not want to be overwhelmed by size and lenses of DSLR, then a prosumer would be suitable for you. But if you are an enthusiastic photographer, getting serious about it, planning to pursue it for long and wish to upgrade your equipment as you improve on your skills, then a DSLR is recommended.

As for me, I found myself to be in the third category. Although I have been a PnS photographer, I want to start pursuing photography as a serious hobby. I also plan to invest in my equipment over the time as and when needed. Based on feedbacks from users of DSLRs and/or prosumers, I realized that in case of prosumer although I would be spending equivalent to an entry-level DSLR and carrying a camera which is not compact, I would be compromising on quality, spending money on camera which cannot be extended and might soon outgrow the camera and find it limiting. This made me decide to drop the prosumers and concentrate on DSLRs. However, if these concerns do not matter to you then prosumer can still be the right camera for you. Read here for a good comparison between prosumers and DSLRs.

Once I ruled out the prosumers for myself and decided for a DSLR, I faced the dilemma between normal DSLRs and the Micro Fourth Thirds (MFTs). MFTs are a new technology promoted by Panasonic and Olympus with an intention to provide the best of both worlds – compactness of prosumers and quality of DSLRs. These cameras have a significantly smaller body because they replace Optical View Finder with either a Live View only or with an Electronic View Finder. This eliminates the mirror mechanism in the body and thus allows them to save space. Besides, they have up to 30% smaller sensors as compared to DSLRs. These cameras also need different lenses which are especially made for MFTs. The DSLR lenses can be used with an adapter but you will lose on Auto-Focus.

Deciding between DSLRs and MFTs was slightly difficult because I couldn’t find people who have used it. So the decision was entirely based on online information and speculations. To give you the conclusion of this dilemma, I decided against MFTs. Why? For a couple of reasons! Firstly, they were not from Canon or Nikon. In consumer electronics and automobiles, I have realized and believe in buying stuff which I see around. Almost everyone I knew, saw or talked to, used, preferred or recommended either Canon or Nikon. Moreover I didn’t find anyone who used MFT camera.

Secondly, MFT is a promising but new technology. It is still not as matured as DSLR and it still has a long way to go before it can fill up the gap between prosumers and DSLRs. Given that buying a DSLR is a significant and long term expenditure, I preferred not to be the scape-goat for it.

Thirdly, in this category of cameras, the lenses are more important and costlier than the camera bodies themselves. Serious DSLR photographers invest more in lenses than camera body. Besides, you buy lenses once and upgrade bodies when needed. The availability of lenses for MFTs is currently limited, which means not only the choice is limited but also the price would be higher. The normal DSLR lenses can be used, but as pointed out earlier, you will need an additional adapter and they won’t Auto-Focus. Again as I found that most of the community of DSLR users is either Canon or Nikon, if I buy a MFT then I would be limited on lenses – DSLR lenses cannot be used across the brands and I wouldn’t find them on E-bay.

Lastly, a smaller sensor makes MFTs more susceptible to higher noise in low light shooting and price wise these are costlier than the most basic entry DSLRs. I didn’t find it convincing to pay more for something which at the moment is clearly inferior and have practical limitations.

However, it would be interesting to keep a track of MFTs and see how close they get to giving DSLRs a real tough competition. Further details of MFTs can be found at Wikiwww.four-thirds.org.

I didn’t realise that so far I had been just on the tip of iceberg. The world of DSLRs is extensive and can become quite overwhelming for a newbie like me. I’m glad I had friends, friends of friends and colleagues around me who helped me and were ever ready to share their experiences with me and were patient enough to answer my stupidest queries – thanks to Rahul,  Chaithanya, JorisPritee, Rajat, DipanjanVikasAdityaBimal, Pradipta, Sai PrashanthSandeepJay, Hari, Wim, Guru, Waqas, Andy, Tom…

I’ll write about the final selection of the DSLR in a separate post. So watch out for it :)…

Vicious Cycle of Address Proofs

April 14, 2010 10 comments

‘for an address proof you need an address proof’…  I’m sure at some point of time, most of us must have faced this dilemma :). Weird but true, and I faced it when I moved to Delhi with my family a few years back. The only document that we had in our name in the new city was the rental agreement. Surprising but it has limited use. Although there is a provision to register the rental agreement, most of the landlords and tenants don’t opt for it as it involves additional expenses and overheads. And ours was an unregistered agreement.

The best option is to first open an account in a nationalized bank in your locality. They usually accept rental agreement as address proof and require an introducer. The pass book and the statements of nationalized banks can be used as address proof. But usually if you produce a bank statement as a proof, it must be latest or not more than 3/6 months old. In my experience, I found it difficult to solely bank with nationalized banks because I couldn’t have my salary account in them and their facilities like e-banking, tele-banking, customer service, etc were not as good as private or foreign banks. As a result, there were no transactions and hence the pass-book wasn’t updated and statements weren’t latest.

However using bank’s passbook and the rental agreement, you can apply for a BSNL/MTNL landline. Utility bills like nationalized landline telephone, electricity, water, etc can also be used as address proof. But in case of rented house, most of these bills are in the name of the landlord. At the best, you can get landline telephone whose bills would be in your name. We applied for MTNL landline  using bank’s passbook and rental agreement. MTNL bills were quite useful and they are accepted for all purposes. Moreover since you get a monthly bill, you can always provide the latest one.

The other advantage I found with MTNL is that if you shift your residence within the city, you can get your connection transferred to the new address with very little hassle. This just requires filling up a form and they shift the connection without asking for any proofs of your new address. This is one of the best things I found about having a MTNLconnection. I’m not sure if it is applicable for BSNL connections elsewhere. Once the connection is transferred, you start getting bills with your new address and voila you have a proof of your new address :).

In our case, we kept MTNL landline connection just for address proof purpose. Otherwise we were using Airtel’s broadband and landline for internet and calling purpose :).

I found that updating address on your bank account (the nationalized ones) is not easy as it requires transferring your account from old branch to a new branch. So you first have to go to the old branch to submit an application there and then go to the new branch once the application has been acted upon. Moreover they will ask for a proof of your new address.

Normally passport and driving license can be used as address proofs very conveniently. But when you shift to a new city, you will have to get the address on them updated. I do not have an experience of updating the driving license as I kept using my old license. However, I did explore the option of updating the passport and it was not easy.

To update the address on your passport, you have to reside on that address for at least a year. You have to submit proofs for this. Thus it is not possible to update your passport immediately after you shift to a new place. In my case, we waited for a year, accumulated the MTNL bills and then applied for an address change on the passport. BUT that’s not all! On paper one address proof is sufficient. However the police officer who came for verification to our place asked for at least 2 address proofs. He suggested that it is better to submit multiple address proofs so that the verification cell processes the application without any problems. In his opinion, sometimes they reject the application if they are not convinced by the documents provided. The only other document which we had was the rental agreement which he was reluctant to accept. He asked for “sarkari” documents like voters Id, ration card, etc. and we had none of them. It took me quite some effort to convince him that we don’t have any of those documents and at the best we can provide him with the rental agreement. At last, he accepted it and with some “chai paani” completed the verification process. Ultimately and “luckily” the address got updated on the passport. Once the passport is updated, the problem of address proof gets solved to a large extent until you decide to move to a new place :).

On the basis of my experience, I would suggest that after you move to a new city first open an account in a nationalized bank, then apply for a BSNL/MTNL landline connection and then get your passport updated. Updating passport is not crucial but if you are planning to travel abroad and your visa requires police clearance certificates, etc. then it’s a good idea to update the passport as it makes the processes at RPO simpler and faster.

The Ambassador Truck

April 7, 2010 Leave a comment

Ambassador! The grand father of Indian cars. It has been around for more than 5 decades now. An witness to the transforming India.  There was a time when an Ambassador would be owner’s pride and neighbor’s envy. A true people’s car – for everyone… from politicians to villagers. But with time it lost its glory and succumbed to competition.

This picture was taken in a tea factory near Digboi in Assam in February 2007. A 4-seater car had been transformed into a truck. The rear seats and the boot of the car had been replaced with a carriage to carry tea leaves from plantation to the factory.

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Companions

April 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Taken in New Delhi in August 2009. I was traveling in New Delhi and it suddenly rained that evening. A lot of people were caught unaware and were rushing to take shelter under bridges or bus stops. I was luckily already in an autorickshaw. I happened to pass by this couple. The man was physically challenged and his three-wheeler bike seemed to have stopped. The woman was pushing it, undeterred by the rain and the strong winds. There were no shelter close by! Not a great picture technically, but a touching one.

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The Van

April 3, 2010 Leave a comment

Taken at the Lenon Wall in Prague. The van caught my attention first and then I realized that it is an interesting setting… the orange van, the colored graffiti wall, the brownish dried leaves and trees, the greyish cobbled street and the yellow walls around. It seemed that it was waiting to be shot.

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Colors of Fall

April 2, 2010 1 comment

Taken on an afternoon in the fall of 2009 in my university campus. I had just come out of a class which ended around noon. The weather outside was quite sunny, windy and refreshing. It was already fall and the colors all around were simply beautiful. A good light and an interesting subject… is all that is needed for good shots and I got plenty of them that day.

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The Flight

April 1, 2010 Leave a comment

Taken at the Old Town Hall Tower & the Astronomical Clock in Prague. I was lucky to capture the bird in this shot. There were lot of birds sitting on the ground near the tower. Every now and then, a few of them would take off, fly for some time and come back again. This bird had just taken off to make a sortie…

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