12 Things About the Apple AirPod

1.Does it drop out of your ears?

Yes and no. My left ear fits very well, but not my right ear. Though, after some adjustments it seems to be able to hold it in for daily use. I survived daily commute of bus and train, squeezing in the crowd, rushing through the shutting gate, climbing up and down the staircase and so on.

2.How does it sounds?

Good. Much better than my expectation. Clarity is there, bass is not too heavy, very balance sound overall, which is what I like from a piece of earphone. However, that sound quality can be appreciated if and only if… you are able to hear what its playing… which brings me to the next point of…

3.How’s the noise isolation?

Poor. Up the volume, that’s all you can do.

4.Does it make you look like an idiot while wearing it?

Yes.

5.How’s the battery life?

So far I would rate it as superb, especially coupled with the dental floss charging case. Easily last me over a week of use per charge. I use it mainly during daily commute listening to songs and sometimes at home when watching videos.

6.But it got no physical buttons?

Yes, after new software update, you can choose what action to be performed when tapping on the left and right AirPod. I set mine to play/pause on the left, next song on the right. Good enough for my use except volume adjustment need to be done via iPhone. How about Siri you ask? You mean you use Siri? Really?

7.Does the call quality sounds good?

It’s okay. Not to say good or bad, but fairly acceptable and that’s about it.

8.Does it drop its wireless and bluetooth connection?

So far I have no issue yet. I saw some early adopters have issue with bluetooth disconnected occasionally, but so far mine was working okay. Seems better than my previous Plantronics BackBeat Go 3, which can get interference from other wireless devices at times and disconnect.

9.You are on your way to become Apple Fanboy?

No. I don’t like everything that Apple produced. The new MacBook Pro sucks. Apple Watch still sucks in everything other than fitness tracking. I enjoy a complete ecosystem for all my gadgets. I was hoping Microsoft Surface Pro and the rumoured Surface Phone will be the saving grace for me to leave Apple, but too bad everything was flushed down into the drain. Goodbye Microsoft. Hello Apple.

10.Should I buy it?

Probably no, unless you are heavily invested in Apple’s ecosystem and would like to have the seamless experience across all devices.

11.Then why you bought it?

  • I’m running an iMac at home, iPad Pro on the go, iPhone for everything else. The seamless transition using the same pair of earphone will be a plus point for me.
  • My current wireless earphone, the Plantronics BackBeat Go 3, has a wire connecting both earpieces, and the rattling sound it produced when the wire brushes over my clothes is annoying.
  • Looking at other market offerings and all the reviews, the AirPod is likely to give me less trouble overall, and perhaps the best balance between sound quality, usability, appearance, functionality and so on.
  • It surely isn’t the perfect earphone, but I made my decision after considering and weighing all the options and requirements, pros and cons. Hopefully this will be a right decision for me moving forward.

12.What can be improved?

  • Perhaps Apple should release an in-ear version with better noise isolation and fit. Maybe under the Beats branding as its geared towards a more sporty style.
  • Allow swiping motion for volume adjustment on AirPod.
  • Auto volume adjustment based on ambient noise level. If AirPod will adjust the volume automatically when I’m in crowded and noisy area, it will certainly be brilliant and I no longer need to fiddle with the volume myself.
  • Limited edition or special edition AirPod can milk more cash for Apple in the future.

My impression on the Fujifilm X100F

DSCF0032-5I have been using this camera for awhile, and here are some of the thoughts and findings I would like to share:

The Bad

  1. The ISO dial is gimmicky. It’s good to have, but it’s hard to turn to get the actual setting that you want. It’s even more odd if you want to change ISO while holding the camera to your eye. You need to preset it before lifting your camera, or assign the ISO function to be controlled by the front command dial.
  2. Exposure compensation dial is a bit hard to turn at times, perhaps too much torque was given when securing the dial, or perhaps things will loosen up as time goes by. Sometimes I do wish the dial was flushed with the top plate instead of protruding out.
  3. I am still unable to make use of the optical viewfinder, which makes me use the EVF all the time. This could be my problem, but I do feel that Fujifilm can improve on this area.
  4. Auto focus speed is of course better than what I can remembered on the X100S, but it’s really not that fast when compared to the competitions. The size of AF point does affect the speed significantly, larger AF point gives faster focusing, but you are risking it over focus accuracy. Overall accuracy is acceptable, however it will still fail at times so better be careful.
  5. Still the same old lens, which means you are going to expect soft image when shooting wide open especially when shooting close up, and I suspect the lens is dragging the focusing speed as well as it seems like the whole lens group will need to shift together to achieve focus.
  6. Need to turn on camera to view pictures, could have allow long press on the playback button to activate image review without the need to turn on the camera. Even a disposable compact camera has this feature, I really don’t understand why this can’t be implemented?
  7. EVF magnification is rather small, there’s room for them to improve here. EVF can be set to rotate and display information according to the orientation of the camera (portrait or landscape), but sadly this does not apply to the rear LCD. I wonder why, am I missing something?
  8. AF point does not follow when you rotate your camera from portrait to landscape mode and vice versa, which can be annoying at times.
  9. Only horizon level available, it would be good if Fujifilm can add in lens angle level too to aid panoramic work.
  10. I constantly lay my thumb on the Q button, which is very annoying. I’ll see if I can get my muscle memory programmed to avoid it. A cleaner design like the new X-E3 will solve this problem altogether.

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The Good

  1. Front command dial is extremely useful as it can be used to replace the flawed ISO dial. It can also be used to set exposure compensation. The tactile feeling to the front command dial is solid.
  2. Almost all of the buttons on the camera can be customized, which is a good thing for users to make things work for them. And the front lever now incorporates another function button on it, which is a clever design move.
  3. The improvement in battery life is welcomed, but not that I had issue with the previous version. USB charging is also possible.
  4. AF joystick is a good addition, but the design of the joystick is a bit hard to fiddle at times, and I would prefer the position of it to be slightly higher and slightly to the right, but this is just my preference.
  5. Revamped menu layout is reasonably easy to access, but some features can be messy and hard to find as more and more stuffs are being added into the menu. Make full use of the Q menu, My menu and buttons customization to avoid being lost in the menu.
  6. “EVF only” view mode which is activated only when eye sensor detects your eye. I think this is something new and is a nice addition for EVF only shooter.
  7. Rear buttons now are protruding out with solid tactile feel when pressed, which is good. The bad is when you wrap your palm over you may accidentally pressed them at times, but this is only minor issue.
  8. 24 megapixel is good enough, giving you a little room to crop when required. RAW file is finally usable as compared to the old files from X-Trans II sensor. High ISO noise control is pretty good.
  9. Digital teleconverter is a nice addition, but only usable when shooting JPEG. Fujifilm should implement something like what the Leica Q did, which crops in the picture in order to achieve the zooming effect while leaving the original uncropped RAW files available for you.
  10. Acros film simulation gives very nice monochrome rendering.

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X100F, F for “Final”?

I think a lot of people are wondering what will the next X100 be named, as the current F stands for Fourth, the following fifth, sixth, seventh which denote by F and S were already in used. So it will end up as X100E (Eighth)?

The question is probably whether will there still be any further improvements that are able to squeeze into the X100 body. There are a few areas which I think can still be improved in the coming iteration:

  1. Fujifilm needs to find a way to make the OVF work better (or maybe I need to find a way to adapt to it and make it work?).
  2. Some would ask for a weather sealed body, but I’m neutral on this.
  3. A new and improved lens, please.
  4. Auto focus still need improvement, this might be due to lens design and sensor design, so Fujifilm really need to find a way to engineer something here.
  5. Flip out LCD would be handy, but I can live without one.
  6. Some may ask for touch screen implementation, but I don’t think it is necessary unless this camera can performs better in terms of video recording.
  7. Improve on the ISO dial and exposure compensation dial, please.
  8. Software improvement on some of the quirks mentioned above, there are still room for improvement on Image Quality and video output.
  9. Built in filter thread to the lens itself while leaving the hood as optional items.
  10. Allow user a way to export all the settings made onto SD card, so we can easily backup our favourite settings and do not need to spend time diving into the menu all over again should we ended up resetting the camera.

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All in all, I’m very pleased with the X100F. It certainly isn’t a perfect camera. However, it’s perfect for me to toss it into my bag and carry it on daily basis. I was amazed that my muscle memory can still be recalled quite easily despite haven’t really shoot with a Fujifilm camera for the past two years. That means Fujifilm has really developed a very well designed platform as a base for all their camera design. If they can start to work harder to improve further on some of the quirks mentioned above, I believe the next X100 camera will be even more awesome. Yes, I do think there will be another successor to the X100F. As for now, I’ll shoot more with my X100F and hopefully being able to create some pictures that I can be proud of. Till then.

From 7 to 8

First and foremost, I was using an iPhone 7 and yes, I watched the Apple keynote announcement and was not particularly excited about the new iPhones. The iPhone 8 and 8 Plus, same design, improved specifications and that’s about it. The iPhone X on the other hand was the limelight for the show.

In many ways, the iPhone X is the iPhone that I had always dreamt about. I had always wanted Apple to reduce the bezels and size of the iPhone, a phone that houses a screen of around 5” size is ideal for me (4.7” can be a little small at times). I’m probably the few people who applaud Apple for getting rid of the home button. I have sweaty palm and greasy fingers, so Touch ID doesn’t work well for me at times. All in all, it ticks all the boxes for me. But sadly, I am not getting one this time.

As great as Face ID looks, I am skeptical and reserved about its effectiveness. The phone design does look a little ugly, but I can probably get used to it. The OLED panel used is sub-standard compared to others. Ditching the home button means Apple needs to engineer a new way to interact with the phone. From the demo showed, those swiping and pausing actions doesn’t seem fluent to me at all. I’m one of those who want maximum speed and fluency in navigating through my phone and apps, so I’ll probably wait out for the next generation until all the tiny bits of issues are ironed out.

Anyway, Apple has its fair share of history in releasing subpar first generation product. The first generation MacBook Pro with Retina display had so many issues especially on its screen (and I’m one of the victims). First generation Apple Watch was equally flop with painfully slow performance. And Apple has also screwed the first generation iPad Pro 9.7” user big time by introducing a much improved version while discontinuing it altogether.

So, just as I had decided to wait for next year, my Telco strikes me with a hit by increasing my monthly charges because my current contract with them has already expired. Damn. Anyway, so happened that my mom is looking to replace her iPhone as well, so I decided to pass her my old iPhone and re-contract with the iPhone 8 Plus instead. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much from this phone, it must be since its almost identical with the 7 Plus right? But I was wrong…

This piece of heavy and bulky glass-metal… object is much more than what I thought. Performance wise, you won’t feel a big difference between the 7 and 8 despite what the benchmarks figure suggested. Perhaps some apps will launch a fraction seconds faster and that’s about it. What makes the experience in using the 8 different lies on other stuffs.

For instant, the camera is a step up from 7, and its noticeable, really. Especially low light and high dynamic range scene, the 8 really shines with Apple’s “deeper pixels”. Focusing is also much snappier, and now there’s a little haptic feedback when you press the shutter button, which is pretty neat. The portrait mode is better according to others, but I have not used it as I didn’t owned the 7 Plus so no comment. The portrait lighting effect though… seriously what the hell is Apple doing to even include it in… perhaps they just run out of “selling point” to sell their iPhones… Video capabilities on the other hand received some big upgrades by giving 4K at 60fps and 1080p at 240fps slow-mo. I didn’t spent too much time on videos all along, so I can’t comment much here but it’s all good on paper. Slow sync flash is also an awesome addition if you do use the flash a lot on the iPhone.

Next, wireless charging. I can’t believe I’m actually kinda “clicked” with it. I have always commented that it is useless because technically you still need to place your phone there to charge. But after playing with it myself, I can see the potential for it. Well, if you use a charging pad separately, it is indeed not really “wireless”, but what I can see is in future, more and more furnitures and appliances will incorporate wireless charging into them, and it will eventually be very convenient indeed. For example, your office desk has a corner where you can charge your phone by just laying it there, the side table lamp in your room which also charge your phone and so on. The charging speed is still the bottleneck for this technology, and hopefully this will be addressed in the future. Another “plus” point is that you will now be able to use the lightning earphone while charging your phone wirelessly.

Another seemingly big upgrade to the new iPhones are the AR capability. Although the old iPhones that run iOS 11 should also support AR, but it is said that the new hardware will give a better experience. I can see some use of AR such as the Ikea app that scale the furniture and fit virtually into your space and some measurement app that measures and map room size in real life. However, beyond education and such uses, I really don’t see AR as a big hit yet. I don’t see why it’s fun to game in AR (other than Pokemon), and why one want to add some fake object into your picture or video. Sony has been pushing such AR in their phone all along and it’s just crap.

All in all, as many reviewers have said, if you are coming from iPhone 7, the upgrade is not huge, but I would still say it’s noticeable. For those who came from 6 or 6s, it’s worth to grab the 8, unless you want to save some money by getting the 7. Let’s see how the iPhone X performs when it’s released, and we’ll see what Apple has to offer for next year’s iPhone lineup. Till then.

Some Thoughts on the Microsoft Surface

When iPad was released, the mobile computing world took a hit as more and more people are getting a tablet as their daily driving machine instead of a full fledge laptop. Microsoft decided to release a hybrid device that was both laptop and tablet at the same time, and it’s the Surface and Surface Pro line.

The initial release was very much affected by the half-baked software of Windows 8, but soon with the release of Windows 10, Microsoft started to gain back the trust from users and subsequently boosting their sales by introducing other devices in the Surface line, such as the Surface Studio, Surface Book and Surface Laptop.

I purchased the Surface 3 for my wife last year when she was looking for a laptop for occasional use. As her iPad was aging as well, I thought the tablet style of the Surface 3 will be a good all purpose device for her to cover both entertainment and serious work. She never use it often, and so do I. However, as my master study started this year, I decided to give it a try and use the Surface 3 as my go-to device for studying.

After using it for awhile, I must say I really like the idea of Surface’s tablet/laptop hybrid form factor. For my study, couple it with the Surface Pen, I can scribble on pdf notes and slides, something conventional PC/laptop does not provide. Even though some laptop do provide touch screen, they are still not as intuitive and effective in taking notes with your fingers versus a pen input device. But sadly, that’s about it that I can compliment this device for. Don’t get me wrong, I do like the form factor, they keyboard cover, even the kickstand design of a Surface.

Seriously, what’s left behind is the software. Microsoft has done a good job getting the hardware right, there isn’t much to complaint about. I would prefer to see USB-C charging available in future models, this will open up possibility for you to charge the device on the go with your powerbank. I would like to see implementation of kickstand to use the device in portrait orientation too. Inclusion of discrete graphic GPU would be good to have, but I’m willing to sacrifice a bit of graphic performance in order to strike the balance on portability and form.

On the software side, Windows 10 is still far from being touch friendly. There’s a tablet mode on the Surface which turns it into iPad like interface, where you basically run the apps from Microsoft’s app store. My personal opinion is that the whole app store should be ditched all together. Instead, force the developer to design more touch friendly interface into their software. The same goes to Windows itself, it’s just a total mess when you want to touch something now. In this regards, I feel that the macOS is designed to be more “touch friendly” than Windows, it just doesn’t make sense.

Adobe softwares are yet to make full use of the potential of Surface form factor and ecosystem, so are other major software titles. Microsoft Office on the other hand, has made a pretty slick touch-base user interface. Perhaps they get all the experience while developing the Office Suite for mobile devices and baked them for touch enabled laptop/PC. With the support of major softwares over touch-friendly interface and improvements on Windows core interface itself, I believe the Surface product line will have a very bright future.

For now, I’ll still use the Surface 3 as my daily study device. Will it eventually grow so much in me that I will ditch my iPad mini and Macbook Pro for a single unified Surface Pro? We’ll see how things unfold in the future. Till then.

Panasonic DMC-LX10: My Impression

LX10 in action. Shot with my Leica M-P.
As my wife has been constantly complaining that the Fujifilm X30 is too bulky and heavy for her to carry around for trip, I ended up selling off the X30 and grabbed a Panasonic LX10 for her instead. I’m not the one who will be using this camera most of the time, but I had spent some time understanding the camera and setting it up for her use, and here are some of my thoughts about the LX10.

Fringing can be a problem under high contrast area. Easy to fix if you shoot raw, but in camera jpeg doesn’t get rid of them that well.
First off, I feel “overwhelmed” by the abundance of features and modes in the small little camera. I have been using camera with bare minimal functions for quite awhile, hence I do get a little lost when I dive through the functions and menus. Anyway, after fiddling it for awhile, I start to grasp what this camera can do. The nifty features are those surrounding the “4K Photos”, such as pre-burst, photo burst and post focus. A little gimmicky, but it will get the job done when you need it.

Focusing speed was reasonably quick and reliable
The camera body was a little too small to my liking. Yes, it’s a compact camera and it should be small. It’s just my problem and the fact that I’m too used to holding larger camera bodies. My thumb keep pushing on the “4K Photo” button accidentally throughout my time using it, perhaps things will get better after getting familiar with its size. The body is a little slippery, but with a wrist strap attached, it has never bother me much that it might drop accidentally.

Dynamic range is not bad for 1 inch sensor, but don’t expect too much from it either
The touch screen is pretty responsive and very useful in various situations, from selecting focus point to quickly selecting some parameters, shortcuts or functions on screen. This is perhaps the best feature it has which separates it from the closes rival of Sony RX100 series. The screen is usable under the sun, though you would expect it to be harder to see when the sun is bright. Nevertheless, I don’t have much problem using it. It also flips up for selfie, and the camera will engage in selfie mode with some dedicated settings such at timer shutter release automatically.

There are a few scene mode and picture profile mode in the camera, and I particularly like the one which gives me high contrast monochrome output.
Control wise, you are getting aperture ring, a control ring at the front around the lens and a control dial on the far right of the top plate. It surely satisfies control freak like me who prefer to have dials and ring for direct setting change. You can customize what each dial / ring do, but at times the choices are limited as I did bumped into issue where I simply can’t set it to work the way I want. Nevertheless, there’s workaround and it’s still a joy to use the camera.

Shot with macro mode
As for the image quality, I would say it’s really not bad. The 1 inch sensor performs very well and delivers punchy but not over saturated colours. Couple with the Leica branded lens covering 24-72mm at f1.4 to f2.8, this camera can shoot almost everything that you throw at it. You can get very close too as it can focus down to 3cm in macro mode. Pretty amazing I would say.

At 24-72mm, this is a very useful range for all purpose shooting
Other features such as video recording (up to 4K at 30p), wifi capability, built in flash and etc. were not tested extensively, so I will not be commenting on it. All in all, this is a pretty decent camera, especially for those casual user who used to take pictures with their smartphones. The learning curve is not as steep compared to, say the Sony RX100 series, as user can just tap away to setup the camera and shoot.

Rather pleasant out of focus area
I would certainly recommend people to consider this camera. In the same price range, you can probably take a look at the Canon G7X Mk II and also Sony RX100 Mk III if the LX10 doesn’t click with you. They are all capable cameras with pros and cons of their own, either way you won’t go wrong with any of these cameras. That’s all for now, I’ll share more thoughts in future post, if any. Till then, happy shooting!