Apple Watch… 5 years on

5 years ago, Apple launched its first smartwatch to the world, dubbed the Apple Watch. In my opinion, the original Apple Watch (now called as Series 1) was pretty flop as a device itself, I remembered looking at it and I was like “there’s no way I’m gonna buy this”. As many have rightly pointed out, the Series 1 was hoarded down by a lot of shortcomings on performance and selling features that appeal to people. It nailed the design, but not the experience… just yet. Although I have dismissed the Series 1, a part of me realized that there’s true potential in it to become great, and oh boy did it became great.

Fast forward to present, the Apple Watch Series 5 has waterproofing, sound level detection, built-in ECG, built-in GPS and compass, cellular network onboard, edge-to-edge screen, always-on display… it is indeed the perfect companion and the most personal computer device Apple has ever built. In just 5 years, Apple has moved the needle of smartwatches so much that made other competitors scrambling to play catch-up. Stories about how Apple Watch has changed lives (and even saved lives) have been circulating across the internet. In fact, Apple has even surpassed most of the traditional watches to become one of the highest selling watches in the world.

Personally, I have been using the Apple Watch Series 3 for more than 2 years now. I’ll admit I was a skeptic initially. Who charges their watch on daily basis! It’s an expensive gadget to upgrade on yearly basis! But once you get over it (you are charging your phone on daily basis anyway?), you will start to enjoy it, like really. After 2 years of usage, I have been enjoying wearing it day in and day out. It tracks my workout, alerted me on abnormal heart rate once which prompted me to went for a health check (everything turns out to be fine and will continue to monitor my status), get me moving throughout the day and get me notified on all the important alerts that I wish to see. And after 2 years it is still working flawlessly, and hopefully maybe it will last me through the third year as well before I even consider to upgrade.

Can I go back to live a life without one? I wonder.

Of course it is not all rosy. Sleep tracking is not available, tracking could be more accurate, the aluminium used could be of better grade to withstand more abuse, more monitoring features are always welcome and so on. So it will be interesting to see what’s next from Apple for the coming generation of Apple Watches. Should everyone buy one? Absolutely not, even if you are iPhone user. It really depends on what you need, some active users might better off getting themselves a dedicated and rugged watches from Garmin or Polar, which are built for outdoor adventure and runners. Those who just want something super simple and cheap that work across multiple platforms will find themselves happy with a Fitbit.

For me and a couple of others, Apple Watch has been the best product from Apple for the past decade. I’m looking forward to see what else Apple has planned for this personal computer that sit on my wrist all day, and let’s see what will the future look like in the next 5 years. Till then.

Shimoda Action X30 Camera Bag: Initial Impression

Credits: Photo from Shimoda website

I’ve backed the kickstarter project from Shimoda for this Action X series backpack. When the project was successfully funded, founder of Shimoda, Ian Miller gave an update that due to overwhelming response, there could be delays in shipping the bags. Since then, there were quite a bit of hoo haa surrounding the delay and a whole lot of mess generated by some backers. I didn’t receive my pack in December 2019 as promised in the project timeline, but I was lucky enough to get one from the second batch which are delivered in January. Well, it is a kickstarter campaign anyway, therefore I have no issue or whatsoever.

There are already plenty of reviews and features rundown on this bag, so I’m not going to repeat those again. I’ll just be sharing what I like and dislike about this bag, and leave it to you to be the judge whether this is the right bag for you.

What I like:

  • Nice balance of size and volume for X30 (30-37 litres)
  • Nice durable materials are used, has a good balance of rigidity and softness
  • Camera access is on the right side (pun intended), I’m probably the few minorities who wants to access camera from the side panel on the right
  • Easily removable core unit and divider allowing bag to double as camera or travel bag
  • Just the right amount of pockets and compartments
  • Beefy and comfortable top and side handle
  • Tripod can be strapped on the side or rear
  • Core unit comes with cover, allowing me to use it separately as camera storage box
  • Not overly engineered with unnecessary features
  • Comfortable shoulder strap (need some times to break-in though)

What I don’t like:

  • Bag is a little heavy when empty
  • Don’t really like the look of the shoulder strap harness (but they are comfortable to wear)
  • There are a lot of zippers, and I wish some of the zipper pulls can be lock down in place for a tidier look on the bag
  • Not a big fan of the look of how the top loader is secured (but it is very functional, nevertheless)

I was contemplating between X30 and X50 during the campaign, worrying that X30 will be too small for my torso length. But X50 is much larger and would be risky to use as carry-on luggage during flight. Furthermore, I do not have that much of gears to pack anyway, so I decided to go with X30 in the end. With maximum torso fit, I’m glad that it fits okay.

This bag is designed for your adventure, for you to go out and explore, and to that extent it does seem to deliver. Of course this is just my initial impression of the bag after using it for my short trips, I still need to use it more often in order to give a full review. If you are interested, you can visit their website to find out more. Till then.

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.

Best Read of 2019

I have read quite a lot of books this year, be it fiction, non-fiction, biography, self-help and so on. And here are my top 3 picks for the year, and I highly recommend everyone to read them too. Hope you will enjoy them as much as I do.

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck by Mark Manson

Don’t be fooled by the title of this book. It certainly isn’t some fucking nonsense book that talks about nothing. The author discussed about why people felt entitled, how we can make a better decision to make our lives better, what we should be giving a fuck and not giving a fuck on, how we should embrace problems and difficulties for growth and so on.

To put it simply, this fucking book gives you some mind fuck and hopefully you will be able to unfuck yourself after reading it. To get a taste of what is being covered in this book, take a look at Mark’s website here.

Factfulness by Hans Rosling

This is another epic book that will surely gives you enough mind fuck. Facts are everywhere, readily available, literally been taught and stuffed into our head, but yet people can still get things so wrong, be so out of touch with reality, and keep believing in the falsehood that they believe in. I myself am guilty of this, and this book gave some guidance on how to be a little more mindful and factual in life, which hopefully lead to better decision making, less complaining and more optimistic.

Here’s a video of Hans in action:

When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi

This is a memoir of Paul, a neurosurgeon who was diagnosed with cancer. It’s about the story of him fighting his life between work, family, life and illness. It’s not just an ordinary fiction or Korean drama where the main character get sick and died just for the sake of making you cry. This book is much more than that. It makes you think about life, about choices, about death, and the meaning behind those. All in all, a very nice read that will make you think and re-think about everything.

Ecosystem… Good or Bad?

 

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I am rooted into Apple’s ecosystem, though I wouldn’t say I’m deeply rooted in it. I don’t have Apple TV, I don’t use Siri, but I do have the “basics” of iMac, Apple Watch and iPhone (I still have an iPad but I don’t use it that often anymore).

I enjoyed using them, they may not be the best device individually (and there will never be “the best”), but the fact that all devices I use on daily basis can interact and linked with each other closely, work seamlessly across each other really makes a whole lot of difference. Apple has refined and pushed the envelope on ecosystem more than anyone else, and that is something which I valued, and I understand not everyone will value the same.

Being able to send a message from my iMac without the need to grab my phone, opening a tab on my iPad and have the same tab shown on my iPhone if I want to, copy from one device and paste your from your clipboard to another device are just a few of the features proved useful when you are being tied down to an ecosystem. Not to mention the seamless connectivity of AirPods to any Apple devices has shown what kind of efficiency a locked down ecosystem can actually deliver.

Well, depends on how you look at it, it could be a curse or a blessing. There was once I felt concern for tying myself down and be in the mercy of one company. I made a switch back to Android, I was waiting patiently for the Surface Phone to arrive (which promised Apple-like integration with Windows), but in the end, none of them turned out to be a viable option or materialized. Ever since Surface Phone was dead, Microsoft promised better integration with Android will arrive, but we have yet to see it until today.

In the end, I’m back to the Apple’s ecosystem and been happy to stay there ever since. One may argue you don’t need to have your phone to be in-sync with your other devices, well, it may not mean anything to you, but it meant a lot for those who are really using it. I value the convenience, and I’m willing to even pay a premium for it.

Of course it’s not all good and rosy for the Apple ecosystem at the moment. There are many other things they can do to improve further. Apple Watch still requires an iPhone to work, app experience across platform (iOS, iPadOS and macOS) could still be better and so on. But I believe some of this will sure get iron out in the future.

So is ecosystem a good thing or a bad thing? You be your own judge.