Does it spark joy?


There are times when I took a picture, and then edit them in Lightroom, when everything seems well executed from composition to other technical aspect. But as I stared at the final picture… I tend to feel… empty. Something is lacking, and I wonder what it is.

Some said there needs to be a story, some said there needs to be “soul” in your picture. I think ultimately, the important factor of whether a picture will be included in your collection is: “Does it spark joy?”

There are times when we have some very ordinary pictures, but because it brought us some sentimental values, it carries a meaning, it “sparks joy”, hence it became a keeper for us in the years to come. The same goes to every other aspects in life, if what you are doing at the moment does not spark joy in you, you can hardly deliver a good result. If an item does not spark joy in you, no matter how well made it is, you wouldn’t buy it and bring it home.

I believe the same can be said to photography, and this has become one of the aspect I look into when I’m shortlisting pictures from my pile of collections. Not just the technical aspect, but also the feeling it gives me. Well, everyone has their own selection criteria, so what’s yours?

Camera technology… what’s next?

In recent years, traditional camera technology has not changed much. You get better sensor performance with better noise control, you get higher speed performance that allows blackout-free shooting through EVF, you get better auto focus performance in the form of eye and animal eye AF… other than that, there seems to be not much going on.

Whereas for smartphone camera technology, computational photography has evolved and allows user to capture HDR image and video with live view, night mode that allows handheld low light photography to be possible, blurring background without the need of large aperture lens, creating lighting effect without the need of studio light and so on.

It’s an obvious threat for sure to the traditional photography industry, smartphones have been eating their piece of pie ever since they were introduced. To photography geek like us, we jolly know the difference between the two in terms of what each can achieve and their limitations. However, for the vast majority of average consumers, it simply doesn’t make sense to buy a camera anymore.

So, can traditional photography platform catch up and make a come back? Or it will slowly fall into a niche? I wonder. Maybe they can add computational photography into traditional cameras, but that would require a crazy amount of processing power that current technology simply couldn’t deliver. Maybe they can innovate by adding internet connectivity and adding apps on their camera to ease content sharing, but that would probably eats in their battery life and annoy some purist along the way.

We are already seeing camera sales dropping year over year, it would be interesting to see how one would react to stay relevant in the business. What do you think is necessary for traditional camera brands to survive the storm?

Innovation?


What is innovation? This word has been used so loosely that every single thing that appears in front of us nowadays need to tie themselves to it.

“This is an innovative solution!”
“This is an innovative design!”

For example, people hyped about curve edge on phone screen, but is that innovation? How about foldable screen? More megapixels on your camera? A camera with no LCD screen or one that folds inward? My personal point of view is that innovation can only be “innovation” when it brings value to users and solves problem.

Take the very first iPhone as an example, it was an engineering marvel back then, and I think all of us would agree that it is innovative. It solved the problem of clunky user interface, putting a computer and browsers on your palm, allowing you to be always connected to the internet and ultimately blurs the line between a smartphone and computer.

As Xiaomi unveiled the Mi Mix Alpha (the all screen phone from front all the way to the back) and calling it innovation, I can’t help but to wonder what innovation is there. Maybe from engineering point of view there’s a breakthrough in developing such screen. But from a user point of view, such design will only generates more problems than what it could potentially solves. Foldable screen on the other hand, is something I felt is legit innovation. However, the current implementation by both Huawei and Samsung are just lack lustre, as both device companies are just trying to be “the first” and didn’t spend time to refine and wait for the technology to mature.


In the case of camera, mirrorless system was innovative when it first launched. It brings in features which were not available on DSLR during that era, great live view experience, electronic viewfinder that enables “what you see is what you get” and so on. It solves the weakness of videography on DSLR, and had now blurred the line between still and video camera. However, there seems to be little innovation breakthrough (at least meaningful innovation) thereafter. There was in-body image stabilization, some improvement on sensor technology (stacked sensors, backside illuminated sensors etc.) and that’s about it. In fact, most of the innovation in photography came from the smartphone space, namely “computational photography”. I wonder if traditional camera manufacturers are able to adopt some of those technologies into their camera?

The world is flooded with yearly refreshed gadgets, where most of them didn’t have much of a leap in innovation to begin with. I do know that companies need to survive by selling us stuffs, and sometimes stuffs that we don’t need. But I can’t help but to think that such frequent and minor refresh had killed our sense towards “innovation” and diluted the excitement of some real innovations. Anyway, I do hope companies can bring in true innovations that enrich our life, solve our pain points, and allow us to truly enjoy technologies in the days to come.

Make it stick

Been reading quite a lot of books lately, I’m on book no. 35 as of writing to be exact. That brings me to the thought of… for so much books that I read, information that I absorbed, things that I learned, how much of it I am actually able to recall and make use of in the days to come?

The challenge has always been this. Just like how you see supposedly “educated” people graduated from famous university, but still performing uneducated act like littering everywhere. Ultimately, all that matters is not how much input you received, is how much output you produce out of it.

The same goes to photography. You can talk all day about “how to take a good photo”, but if you didn’t deliver a good photo in the end… what’s the point, right?

Of course my argument here is based upon a “result-based” approach, by ignoring the fact on the process. One may argue that this is part of the process, where failing to achieve what you have learned is also a learning point for you, making you aware and hence be more cautious in the future. Well, I kinda agree with that, but still, many may not even realized that in the end, and that’s a problem.

So, for so much I have read for the past years, did I made any changes and put any meaningful learning into practice? Well… yes and no. Conservatively, I would estimate only like 20% of what I learned has been put into good use. That’s quite little indeed. That’s something I’m aware of and trying to fix.

Of course not everything can be of good use immediately, some takes time to materialize, some require additional skills beforehand, some I just can’t… make it stick. It’s a long way to go and to change. Let’s see if things will turn better in the future. Till then.

iPhone 11 Pro… so?

Another year, another iPhone.

Another year, another round of memes, pundits comments, claiming “Apple is dead without Steve Jobs”, “Apple has no innovation”, “Apple is just playing catch up on Android” and so on.

Is the camera bump and arrangement ugly?
Well, yes. But once you understood the reason behind why such arrangement was necessary, I can live with that.

Is the asymmetrical design of the phone bugs me?
Hell yes. I do felt industrial design on the iPhone has gone downhill for the past few years.

The iPhone 11 Pro is the same as iPhone X and iPhone XS!
Well, aren’t the iPhone 4, 4s, 5, 5s looked the same? Aren’t the Galaxy Note all look the same with just very minor tweak?

Okay, enough of rambling. So yes, I got myself the new iPhone 11 Pro in Midnight Green and 256GB storage. Well, it’s not like I want to upgrade from my iPhone 8 Plus, it’s more of like I need to upgrade because my telco contract has expired and I need to renew it this year, so… ya, here I am, holding on to this new iPhone.

Is it any good?
Of course it’s good.

Is it well worth the upgrade?
On the camera side, yes. Swapping from Touch ID to Face ID? Yes. Moving from home button to swiping gesture? Not bad. Other than that… nothing much to be honest, and that doesn’t necessarily mean a bad thing.

My already-2-years-old iPhone 8 Plus is already a great phone in terms of sheer performance, the new one is faster and more efficient of course, but to be that significant for you to notice a difference? Well, not so. Anyway, Apple’s A-series chip has been leading the industry for quite awhile now, it’s not fair to expect them to defy the law of physics and come up with processors with quantum leap on a yearly basis.

How about Android?
Well, after going back and forth between Android and iOS for the past couple of years… I have decided to stay with iOS for the completeness of the ecosystem. I’m not a fan of Google and I am trying my best to distance myself from their services as much as possible. It’s just my personal preference, not like I’m against Android in total.

Sorry, this isn’t really a review of the iPhone 11 Pro as one might expect, you can easily search for a tons of them from the internet anyway. If you like it, just search for all the positive reviews and look at it, feel good about it and go spend your money. If you hate it, just search for all the videos that tell you “don’t buy the new iPhone” and you will be a happy person thereafter.

Why isn’t there a review? Is it because there really isn’t much to talk about? Well, maybe. Whatever the differences between my iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone 11 Pro are good to have. But honestly, I can live another year without them too. The only problem I have with my older iPhone is the battery has started to age, oh and did I mentioned the battery life on the new iPhone is pretty amazing? Plus the need to renew my Telco contract and hence… here I am with my new phone.

I’m not telling you to buy or not to buy the new iPhone. In fact I think none of the reviewers should. One should just share the usage experience and let you make the judgement call. If any of the improvements are significant enough for you, just go ahead and upgrade even on a yearly basis. If you just want to use an iPhone, honestly the iPhone 11, even the iPhone 8 series are still extremely capable and a hell of a phone in 2019.

Is this the best iPhone? Well, I can tell you straight the answer: The best iPhone is the iPhone that Apple will announce next year 🙂 There’s really no point in looking for the best. If you are happy with iOS, just look for one that fits within your budget and get it. Be it iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone 11, iPhone 8 or even iPhone SE… till then.