The state of 2020

“We should just write-off first half of 2020 and let the year begin in July.”

That was what my friend told me. Trip canceled, job lost, pay cut, income dropped, flight grounded, people died, tears dried. Up until the end of March, 2020 has been nothing short of chaotic and a mess. Most of our lives have been disrupted, many were forced to stay home, many were feeling helpless, many were feeling anxious of the uncertain future.

For me, I was fortunate that nothing much was planned for the first half of the year in the very first place. Disruption has been minimal, other than not being able to travel back to my hometown in Kuala Lumpur, some minor movement restriction, life has been pretty much “as usual” here in Singapore. I’m not sure if the measures implemented by the government were effective in curbing the spread of COVID-19, but at this point of time, there’s really nothing much I can do other than leave it to the expert to advise, and of course to wash my hand frequently.

For those who are restricted in movement, do take this opportunity to read some books (if you need recommendation, browse around my blog for some), learn some skills, don’t just Netflix and chill your time away. As the future is uncertain, it’s better to take every crisis ahead and turn it into an opportunity for the days to come. Also, stay safe, stay healthy and stay calm. We’ll get over this for sure.

The Outbreak

The new coronavirus (now named as COVID-19) outbreak occurred around end of last year, and it has been going on until now. It was believed to have started from a market in Wuhan, China which sold exotic wildlife that ended up on a diner table. The Chinese government has declared emergency and lockdown a few cities, WHO was notified, travel bans were in placed by some countries, and everyone has been working relentlessly to contain the virus from spreading and to search for cure.

And with the social media craze, we started to see all sorts of fake news emerged, irresponsible comments, wrong information shared and so on, making the matter worse. The most significant one would be how everyone is putting the blame on Chinese, and everyone started to stay away from them. There were those who blamed the Chinese government for hiding the truth. Here in Singapore, there were those who blame the Singapore government for acting slowly. Soon, people started to panic, hoarding face masks and sanitizers, which eventually ended up as people rushing to supermarket and started hoarding food supplies.

Before I begin ranting, let me put the record straight: I admit that I am one of those who are not fond of the Chinese government policies and the behaviour of their people while travelling abroad. I think most of us who dislike the Chinese shares similar reason. But to be honest, not all Chinese behave the same. I have Chinese national friends whom themselves hated these ill behaved Chinese nationals. Despite that, I feel sorry and pity them for being the one to blame in this case. With that said, let’s begin.

It could have started in anywhere

Unfortunately, an outbreak occurred. It started off in Wuhan, China. But this could have happened anywhere around the world, and I truly believe so. As long as we are not careful, as long as we do not ensure cleanliness in our environment, in the farm, or in the market where fresh produces are being traded, we run into the risk of contamination. So to put the blame solely on “because the people from Wuhan eat bats” leads you to nowhere.

I’m not too concern of the virus

The media (or social media) has played a role in spreading a lot of information, perhaps a little too much information, and causes panic all around the world. Yes, we should be aware and alert about the situation, but some irresponsible media will just focus on putting the blame on China, creating fear among public, making things become far worse than what it seems to be. Yes, the virus is contagious, it causes death, but you just need to take a look at the big picture to understand that all flu has potential to lead to death. And like all flu, everyone can take part in stopping the spread if and only if everyone puts their hands and heart into it.

I’m more concern about human stupidity

If there’s anything that will kill us for the next few months, it is undoubtedly our own stupidity. Unnecessarily hoarding stockpile of face masks has caused problem for those who really needs it a.k.a. those who are sick. When they can’t contain themselves, they will spread the virus to people around them. And sorry to brush your bubbles, wearing a face mask does not fully protects you from getting the virus. When people send masks to the outbreak epicentre, they get condemned immediately by the selfish individuals. In times like this, resources should be routed to those who are really in need in order to more effectively stop the pandemic, but I guess people will only care for themselves after all.

Don’t even get me started on those who wear mask inside-out, or those who did wear it on the correct side but yet not fitting them properly to cover their face. What’s even worse? People are reselling their stockpile of mask at overpriced rate to those who are desperately in need!

If we die, it will probably be due to our own doing

People in Singapore seems not content to hoard just the masks and sanitizers, they went out and continue their rampage to hoard on alcohol swap, followed by rice, canned food, instant noodles and rolls of toilet papers! What’s more, we have people scolding the Chinese in one hand, while on the other hand, the same person is not wearing a mask when he/she is feeling unwell! So what makes you different from the Chinese that you are scolding all day long? And it doesn’t end there, even the local medical personnel who worked day and night during this period were discriminated by the very own people they trying to save!

We can do better than this

So far, I only know of people in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan who are very vigilant when it comes to personal hygiene. During my trip to these countries, it is very common for me to see people wearing mask when they are feeling unwell. Sadly, this is not the case here in Singapore, even at critical time like this. Some complaint that government should hand out free mask, and when government did, they don’t even bother to collect and complaint “only giving out 4 pieces per house hold, that’s too little”.

Before we start to point our fingers on others, we should probably sit down and ask ourselves: Have we even done our part to stop the virus from spreading? I myself have not done enough on my part, I do not wear mask all the time when I was sick, and I should wash my hand a little more, and that’s what I set off to incorporate into my habit moving forward. Only when we take the first step of prevention, the spread of virus and diseases could be reduced.

Of course it wasn’t all bad in time like this. We have seen huge support from people who donated their wealth to the healthcare industry to combat the virus, and even small gesture like handing out free masks to those in need was heart warming. I really hope that everyone can just wake up and stop being so selfish. Everyone should start playing their part, otherwise the same saga will happen over and over again. It’s now or never.

So what should we do?

Wear a mask and seek for medical attention when you are feeling unwell. If you have been in contact with suspected cases or confirmed cases, report to the authority to arrange for quarantine or leave of absence. Ensure proper hygiene in your daily life. Eat well, sleep well to ensure your immunity stays strong. Avoid travelling to crowded places unless it is necessary.

Last but not least, make this as part of your habit and practice it daily even after this outbreak.

Fujifilm X100V… Finally?

Fujifilm has launched the all new X100V, successor to X100F. Is this the ultimate X100 series camera? As of now, of course it is. A friend of mine asked me whether this will tempt me to get one. Well, let’s take a closer look on my complaints about X100F and see what’s fixed:

The gimmicky ISO dial

Yes, the new ISO dial on X100V makes more sense in terms of usability. This is certainly a plus point and Fujifilm has done a good job in redesigning this part.

The quirky EVF

EVF has been upgraded to have higher resolution and magnification, which is a plus.

The wrongly placed Q button

Yup, that’s fixed as well. Q button has been moved further away from where you would naturally grab the camera, so no more accidental press on it with X100V.

Software problem that are still unknown

AF point does not follow when you rotate your camera between portrait and landscape mode, only horizon level without tilt angle level, need to turn on camera to view pictures taken, all these are unknown. Have they been fixed via firmware update for X100F? Or are they fixed/improved with X100V? Can’t comment further unless I get a hands on with the camera.

Exposure compensation dials

I prefer them to stay flushed with the top plate, this is not major and has not changed. But Fujifilm has improved the design around the ISO dial and made it more compact and flushed with the top plate, which is pretty nice. I complaint that the dials were a little too stiff, not sure whether things are better with the new camera (but it is minor issue).

The lens and their “world fastest auto focus”

Everyone complaints about the lens on previous X100 series camera, and finally they have updated the design and lens formula. This is welcomed for sure.

Okay, they didn’t claimed world fastest, but Fujifilm did always boast about their AF performance and yet has always failed to deliver their promise. Is the AF performance going to be better? I doubt. It seems to me that the lens still require the AF motor to move the whole lens group while focusing, if X100V is still designed this way without better or stronger AF motor, the AF speed will not caught up, and not to mentioned it’s AF performance in video shooting. This is of course going to be clear when more reviews surface online, or when I get a hands on with the camera itself. For now, I’ll remain skeptical on this. I wished Fujifilm would have redevelop the lens inside out, but I think their priority is to remain backward compatibility with the conversion lenses, hence limiting themselves. It’s not a right or wrong thing, just a matter of choice and decision made.

So?

The addition of weather sealing and flip screen are also welcomed, though they are not among the top of my wishlist. So… all in all, will this be the camera that makes me go back to Fujifilm?

At this point of time… no. For now, I think the form factor of X-E3 + XF23mm F/2 R WR makes more sense, mainly due to the fact that I don’t use the OVF on X100 series at all. I still don’t find it useable, and that’s coming from someone who shoots Leica rangefinder for quite some time. Of course the X-E3 is not weather sealed, and there is a reason for that (price and differentiation come to mind). I’m not sure whether the lens performance  will be better, but I’m pretty sure the AF performance will be better on the XF23mm F/2 R WR. X100 series is a little more compact (but X-E3 is pretty small and light too), other than that… I can’t think of much advantages of using a X100 series camera over the X-E series camera.

Of course that’s not the point. After all, people purchased the X100 series camera not because it is the “best” camera with “best” specification, but because it is arguably the “best” looking camera, or best-Leica-look-alike camera out there (I can’t deny that this was one of the reason why I bought the X100 series in the past :P) where money can buy.

So am I saying X100V is not worth the upgrade? To be honest, I believe the updates here are substantial enough for even X100F users to justify for an upgrade. But for those who are new to this camera series, I would suggest you to think twice on your priority before pulling your trigger. For me, I have sort through my priorities and decided that this form factor is not for me at this point of time, no matter how pretty and good the camera is, that’s all. Of course priorities will change, who knows in the future I would ended up coming back for more X100 series camera? For those who bought it, I believe you will enjoy it very much as I enjoyed using my X100F in the past. Till then.

It all depends…

 

Yes, it all depends.

Something that seems right to you could seem wrong to others. Something that is acceptable to you could be unacceptable to others. In the end, it all depends. It depends on each individual’s value, needs, upbringing, requirement and etc.

For example, X-Pro 3 released with a inward-flipping screen. There are those who love the idea, and there were those who felt it is plain stupid. Take another example, Face ID login on an iPhone, some find it as a game changer, while some prefer to stick with their fingerprint recognition. Some say Leica is overpriced, some say Leica has soul. At the end of the day, it really depends whether something resonates with you.

The photo you took could mean a lot to you and perceived as a great shot, but to others it could be just a meaningless snapshot. Sometimes, it is very hard to draw a line that’s clear enough for everyone to agree with, especially when it comes to photography, something that’s art-related, something that everyone would have their own opinion on.

So?

You can choose to be bothered and argue with people who disagree with you. You can choose to stand firm and continue to believe in what your faith leads you to. It all depends… again, on your choice on how to react and respond. For me personally, I don’t bother too much on what others were saying or doing, I’m more focused on what I want to say and what I want to do. Of course I’m not saying I will totally shut off suggestion and advice from others, but I will try my best to be aware of my end goal while dealing with differences.

Well, you may agree or disagree with me, it really depends. Till then.

Are we getting “Smarter”?

Nowadays, everything seems to be getting “smarter”… Smart home, Smart phone, Smart TV… getting stuff connected to internet and create an app to control them seems to be on the rage and the new standard of defining “smart”… add in a few AI, Big Data, IoT and you have a full package to market it.

But with all these “smart” devices flooding into our lives, are we really getting smarter? Is our lives really improved? It reminds me of a few instances when I visited a couple of my friends’ home. Walking into the room, my friend will proudly show me his trick by using voice command to turn on the light or air-conditioner.

“Ok Google, turn on the lights.”
From the moment we step into the room, to my friend finished his command, to Google finally understood it and get the lights on… it took like 5-10 seconds? If I were to walk in the room and press the physical switch, it would take me probably… 1-2 seconds?

“But… it’s cool!”
“This is the future! Voice command and hands free!”
“I don’t want to be left behind! I must be at the forefront of technology!”

Sadly, a lot of people just don’t seems to understand what they are getting themselves into. To me, I don’t see a point of wasting 10 seconds to replace a task that can be done in 1 second. It just doesn’t add up, why automate something that’s already been so efficient to begin with?

Now, that’s not to say I’m against the idea of… say a smart home. In fact I find that there are quite a lot of advantages (and disadvantages) of having everything connected to the internet. You can turn on or off appliances at home remotely, monitor power consumption, understand and study your usage behaviour or pattern, group several devices together and control them at once under scene mode… just to name a few of the good and meaningful things that you can and should be doing with your smart home.

Collecting data, providing insights and control in improving life, automation… these are genuine reasons for us to celebrate “smart” devices, but to turn on a switch in front of you with voice instead of your hand? Oh please… Okay, I might be pissing people with this post. I’m not trying to make fun of anybody. If you want to be cool, want to be ahead of times, then invest a little more time into doing some of the things that really harvest the best of technology.

We all can get a little “smarter” with all the smart devices around us, but we still need to take the effort to do so. Having the devices alone will not be enough, we still need to think, understand and extract the best of them, just like how we have been living our lives in the pre-smart era.