I didn’t have to take off for my first meeting till eleven, so I cruised into Shinjuku around 9:30 to see what I could do about the slow-camera problem. Which turned out to be about perfect, since it’s Yodabashi’s opening time; so I got a leisurely look at the stuff with help from the staff. I gather the normal Yodabashi experience is wall-to-wall crush.
GR-D2 · The place was just plastered with ads for the much-ballyhooed Ricoh GR-D2 but it’s not launching till next week. I have to say, the advertising was polished and compelling. It’s kind of irritating Ricoh doesn’t make a bit more of an effort to export.
I was hanging with Akihito Fujii, who has the original GR-Digital, and he’d just bought the GW-1 “Wide Conversion Lens” which takes it from 28 to 21mm and gives the already-stylish camera some serious steampunk mojo, to my eye.
Sigma · Anyhow, based on the wisdom of my contributors, I thought I’d have a look at that Sigma 30mm F1.4. The guidebooks say that Yodabashi doesn’t really cater to foreigners, but I have no gripes. I’d written “Sigma 30mm F1.4” on a piece of paper and showed it to the nearest guy. He rummaged around and came up empty, but showed me a couple of comparables. When I didn’t bite, he beckoned “follow me” and walked straight out the front door, down the street, around the corner, and upstairs to Yodabashi’s main camera department, where they had oodles of stuff. He and another dude searched on the computer and ransacked the back room and came up with what I assume is the previous rev of the Sigma, it has the same designation except without the “HSM” hyper-sonic auto-focus. The price was reasonable and I got the sales tax knocked off, so I bought it. And I have to say that I found Yodabashi perfectly gaijin-friendly.
Here’s the Sigma; compare the picture with the pancake in the same pose.
In general, Yodabashi’s prices were very close to what I see on the street here in Vancouver. Which means that the US is going to be a better bargain than either.
I shot some pictures and yep, this puppy can pull in those photons; here are Tim O’Reilly and Joi Ito opening up Web2.0 Expo Tokyo.
There’s no free lunch; you get all that light-gathering ability and you pay a couple of obvious prices. First, there’s unsubtle barrel distortion, as in this building somewhere near Shinagawa.
But that’s OK, you normally wouldn’t be using this for architectural shots anyhow. Hmm, Lightroom ought to have a tool to fix this.
And then when you shoot at f1.4, you have enough depth of field for maybe one grain of rice. Takashi took me out to a restaurant that specialized in tofu. In my mind I can hear my readers’ eyes rolling, and I’m not normally huge on tofu myself, but this place was great. There were about eight courses, all different, all tasty, and a judicious mix of a bit of sashimi and salad and so on. I forget the Japanese name, but Takashi tells me it means “Plum Flower”. The presentation was beautiful and I thought I’d try to capture it.
Here is the menu and one of the many courses. The way the lens deals with the low light is outstanding, but bokeh ain’t the word for the focus issues.
So, all in all, a successful first step. Of course, what I really want is the Angenieux crêpe that Alex Waterhouse-Hayward pointed out, but this will do for now.
Big Cameras · The Nikon D3 isn’t out yet, but Canon’s maniacal assault on the limits of the possible, the 1D, was on display. Yeah, what these big boys do is great, and I’d guess a necessity for a pro, but they’re just way, way, way too big for me.
So I’ll probably swap the aging Pentax for one of the current “K” models, or whatever supersedes them, sometime this winter, and I think that for inside shooting, the Sigma plus the anti-shake will get me where I want to be.
But for most times, and for travel, it’ll go on being some wide-angle but mostly the one-hand-grip pancake.