Thursday, July 19, 2012

Olympus TG-1 and Olympus Hong Kong Service Center

Although my new fancy Olympus OM-D E-M5 (see here) has some professional features: in particular, it has weatherproof seals, it is not waterproof. The fast Lumix f/1.7 20mm lens also has no weatherproof seals. Last time I went water drifting, I had to use a thick plastic transparent bag designed to keep cameras dry. At around $30, a relatively cheap solution.

However, two problems immediately present themselves: (1) you have to shoot through low quality plastic, compromising the image quality (see above), plus there is constant fogging of the plastic bag due to humidity, messing up the focus occasionally, and (2) pressing buttons and turning dials through a plastic bag is not ideal. Although the E-M5 has class-leading built-in image stabilization and the Lumix lens is fast, with all the bouncing around, and difficulty with framing through a plastic bag, I ended up with not so many keepers.

So I was on the lookout for a true waterproof high-quality compact camera with a fast lens. Such a camera wouldn't need plastic bag waterproofing and would be designed to take a few bumps.

Coincidentally, this summer Olympus just brought out the TG-1, which has a much advertised fast f/2.0 lens and is waterproof to 12m (40ft). (Shockproof to a 2m/6.6ft drop and good down to -10C/14F, though the battery life probably takes quite a hit.)

Unfortunately, it was out of stock everywhere, and it took me a month to acquire one. It's still out of stock nearly everywhere, but I managed to pick one up today. Had to pay full list price but they threw in an 8GB SD card as a tidbit. I was surprised a (red) semi-hard shell case is included. Plus two straps (one that floats, one normal).

It can also take add-on fisheye and telephone lenses. These are not available yet.

It has a rather strange USB charging system. Basically, the battery is charged inside the camera. You attach a USB cable to a small square box. The box in turn plugs into the wall using another cable. A small led lights up yellow when the camera is charging.

Now I can go water drifting again, at least I have my excuse (I need to do a reshoot). Though, this time, I have no excuse for lousy action pictures or video.

Part 2:Olympus Service Center Hong Kong

Right after picking up the camera, being in the vicinity, I paid a visit to the Olympus Hong Kong repair center in Langham Place Office Tower. I lost the tiny and fiddly add-on flash unit on the first day I shot with the OM-D E-M5.

It's not available generally, so I had to pick up the replacement as a spare part. While visiting Olympus Hong Kong, I took the opportunity to snap a first few pictures with my new TG-1 (iAuto mode, default settings):

It's on the 42nd floor. At the service center, I took a number, sat down and fiddled with the TG-1. A two frame wide panorama (half of this is the maximum wide-angle possible with the lens):

Being on the 42nd floor, it has a pretty good view (this is also about two frames wide):

I got my FL-LM2 replacement flash. As I mentioned above, it's not generally available in stores:

The lobby of the tower is very new and strange. So I took the opportunity to play with my TG-1 some more. The starkness of the lobby threw me briefly for a loop. There are no elevator call buttons anywhere:

Inside the elevator,there are no floor buttons anywhere either:

That's because, you need to go to a pedestal in the hallway first. And select your floor from a panel, e.g. 42 (Olympus Service Center).

Then the display directs you to the correct bank of elevators, and to a particular lettered elevator, e.g. C. You must go to elevator C.

When C opens you get in. There are no buttons to press. It takes you to floor 42. (If someone else jumps in, they better be going to floor 42 too.)

As I said it feels strange, taking the elevator feels a bit like making a reservation for an airline seat.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Beijing Ping Pong

My friend Peng Jiang, a regular ping pong practice partner of mine, is originally from Beijing. I took the opportunity to visit Beijing while he was there. He introduced me to a former national team player and world doubles champion, Lin Zhigang, (who is the husband of Deng Yaping).

(From left to right: me, Lin Zhigang and Peng Jiang.)

At this branch of Beijing Gas, they have two tables with the red floor setup. Bejing Gas is a table tennis sponsor and Lin Zhigang is employed by them.

Lin Zhigang is from Guangzhou and speaks cantonese. I'm getting some free coaching from him here:

(Actually, he gave the exact same technical advice as my main coach in Shenzhen, Liu Chang (also a penholder). He said: if you really want to play much better, always keep your paddle above the table, use a much smaller swing, take the ball earlier just after the top of bounce instead of waiting for it to drop low, always move feet first, waist turn for power and forearm closure for spin..)

We all had dinner together after the ping pong, and Lin Zhigang was very sociable.

Turns out he had been to the US Open in 1994. I was at the same tournament. Funny that I finally got to meet and talk with the guy 18 years later!

Next day, I was at the flagship Beijing Li Ning store on Wangfujing (王府井), a major shopping street in Beijing.

Li Ning sponsors the Chinese national team. There is a limited edition set of the Year of the Dragon national team kit, a special release to commemorate the 2012 London Olympics. Only 100 sets are available. (There are over 8000 Li Ning retail outlets in China. 30 sets were released to the flagship store.) I'm not a collector, but I felt compelled to pick up one set:

Here is a close up of the presentation box:


It'll be a simple keepsake that will remind me of my Beijing trip. (I'll never actually wear the kit. The gold color metallic detailing looks too delicate to survive a machine wash cycle.)


By request, here are some close-up pictures of the commemorative shirt and detailing. Shirt front:

Gold-colored buttons:

Metallic flake detailing:

Back of shirt:

The so-called "Scarlet Scale" vents at the back:

According to the Li Ning company:

The "Scarlet Scales" sportswear series features scale-shaped breathing vents at the back, referred to as "Scarlet Scale Vents". Opening and closing of these vents are determined by the athlete's movements. When an athlete is moving with high-intensity or performing a specific and highly technical motion, the vents will be opened to increase the airflow between the body and the clothing material. When the athlete is carrying out basic activities, the "Scarlet Scale Vents" will close to prevent heat loss and help the body maintain energy.