A Brand Story

Recently I have read a couple of books on some of the famous brands in the world, about the story behind their creation and success, about the vision, mission and values that formed a part of their identity. There were two books which I found to be particularly enjoyable and insightful to read:

“The Starbucks Story, How the brand changed the world” by John Simmons

The story of Starbucks has always been a fascinating one. A company that was founded by a few gentlemen who were obsessed over high quality coffee beans, which was then bought over by Howard Schultz, a man who was obsessed with the coffee culture and experience which he immersed in Italy. The whole brand was then transformed, from selling beans and brewing equipment to serving coffees and pastries, creating “The Third Place” that everyone will go besides office and home.

“Shoe Dog, a memoir by the creator of Nike” by Phil Knight

This is actually the first time I got to know the Nike brand in detail. I was surprised that the whole story was started off with Phil importing Onitsuka Tiger’s shoes, how it all went south in the end and ultimately led to the creation of their own shoe brand: Nike. The struggles of Phil and his fellowships was so real and raw, and it made me continued to read and read in order to find out what they did to get over all the hurdles. The story brought up the spirits behind Nike, on hindsight, you can really see where those spirits and rebellion came from.

Both books offered insight and behind-the-scene of how a brand was created, how their identity was defined. For Starbucks it’s always about customer experiences, for Nike it’s all about winning. Both books were easy to read and digest, and I learnt a couple of things about business management along the way as well. Even if you are not a business person, these books were entertaining enough for you to read and get to know the brand better, that is if you are a fan of these brands.

Never stop exploring

For my recent trips, there have been a slight change in terms of what activities I planned for those trips. Before this, it was all about walking around those touristy spot, snapping some pictures of the famous locations and that’s all. But as time goes by, I started to enjoy a little more on something else.

It probably started during my trip to Hong Kong, where I hiked through a few trails and paths (be sure to check out some of the blog posts I shared previously on this), and I found that although tiring, I very much enjoyed the experience. And then I tried to venture into some “off the beaten path” location in Japan, and later in Taipei. I am not ready to camp out in the wild yet, but I do enjoy hiking through some day trails, getting close to nature and away from the busy buzzing crowd.

With that change in taste, it had partly contributed to some changes in terms of my gears and the way I plan my trips. For camera setup, I ended up switching from only primes to mostly zoom lenses, this is to cater for the unforeseen circumstances and photographic opportunities arise during hiking. Now whenever I plan my trip, I’ll research for locations where I can hike for half or full day. And I am considering to get a better backpack that is more comfortable for hiking use.

Let’s hope I can explore more places while I am still able to do so. In fact, I’m flying over to Tokyo tonight (yes, again…) for a trip that I have been planning for so long. It will be my fifth visit to Japan and the first full solo trip all by myself. Let’s hope that everything will be fine, and I’ll share more when I’m back from the trip. Till then.

Goodbye AirPod… and Hello Sony WF-1000XM3

My AirPod was officially dead. It no longer hold its charge properly after almost 18 months of use. Despite people hating it, and I was one of them in the beginning, I started to love using it more and more, day after day. That’s until I ran into some frustrations (in particularly sound leakage) and got myself the Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones, which has been the king of noise cancelling headphones to date.

However, as pointed out in my earlier post, if there’s a choice, I would prefer something of a hybrid between AirPod and the WH-1000XM3 as I am not so much of a headphones person after-all. And after almost a year owning the WH-1000XM3 (and still using the AirPod on and off)… my dream was answered.

Thanks to AirPod, the wireless earbuds space has boomed. And then in came the WF-1000XM3. Sony seriously need to find a better way to name their products… That aside, this has become my go-to earbuds, replacing both AirPod and WH-1000XM3 (AirPod sitting in the museum now, while WH-1000XM3 was sold off).

I’ll not dwell too much on the technical aspect of the earbuds, in short, this beast provides true wireless, noise cancelling, excellent sound quality and great battery life. It is indeed a shrunk down version of the WH-1000XM3, with equally appealing aesthetic to boot.

My experience of using them so far has been positive. Both sound quality and noise cancelling are almost as good as its elder brother. In terms of noise cancelling, similar to its elder brother, there will be some white noise when it is activated, and it is still unable to handle noise cancelling well under windy condition. If you can’t get a good seal, your noise cancelling performance will degrade sharply. Anyway, for daily commute, this pair of earbuds does the job pretty well.

In terms of connection, you can’t pair this to more than one device at any one time, and transitioning from one device to the other is not as seamless as AirPod, which is to be expected. As for the connection stability, I do experience a few stutter in crowded places, which could be annoying to some. I believe like what others had pointed out, you’ll probably need Android devices in order to make full use of the new Bluetooth chip inside, I’m not too sure. By the way, I’m connecting to my iPhone 8 Plus.

The main concern I have will definitely be how well it stays in my ears. Similar to my AirPod, my right ear was the one that gave me the most problem in getting a good fit. Although these buds have not fall off from my ears for the past weeks, I do have a “less secure” feeling as compared to my AirPod in the early days of wearing it. Perhaps its due to the bulk of the size and weight of the earbuds is located further away from my ears, hence creating the sense of “it may drop off”. But as time goes by, I got used to it and it isn’t a problem anymore now. It survived the rush hour train ride and some stair climbing without any issue. Although it does look a little bulky, but once on your ear, it is actually quite flushed and didn’t protrude out too much.

Like what others had commented, it would be great if the earbuds are come with water resistant and volume control. Either way, it is not a deal breaker and I can live with it for now. Besides that, the black model comes with a case which has a soft satin finishing to it (the silver model looks the same too), and my concern is that this could be a dust/scratch magnet, or it will become pretty nasty looking as time passes. I would much prefer the function of multiple device connection to come as standard for the next generation.

All in all, I’m happy with the WF-1000XM3. It certainly lives up to the hype and will undoubtedly deserves a spot in my gear arsenal. It serves a good middle ground market between wireless earbuds and noise cancelling headphones, and I’m looking forward to see how Sony will improve on the M4 version. Till then.

Goodbye Fujifilm X100F

This is the second time I’m parting with Fujifilm, and X100 series camera as well. The first X100 series I owned was the X100S, and I got the X100F in 2017. I shoot almost exclusively with only this camera for about a year or so, and I owned both the wide angle and telephoto conversion lenses.

To be honest, the form factor and overall usability of the X100 series has always been good. If you just want to pack light and be casual, it’s a great everyday carry camera. I shot with it with me on my trip to Hanoi and Taipei, and it’s very enjoyable to lug it around for snapshot moment.

This is not to say the camera is not capable of delivering professional work. There are those who shoot professional street photography work with this camera, and I do enjoyed using it on the street as well. My only complaint will probably be the lack of weather sealing and subpar lens performance when shooting close up and in wider aperture. The lens seriously needs to be updated in the next iteration.

Of course being a compact fixed lens camera, it is what it is. If you can live with the limitations, you will be happy using it. I had been using it solely for the past one year as I was trying to figure out what’s next. After I decided to purchase the Sony A7 III, I gave it a hard thought to decide whether or not to keep the X100F. In the end, I decided to let it go.

Well, I could have keep it and use it along with my Sony A7 III, but that means I will need to deal with two camera systems and process two different types of raw files. Anyway, since I had decided to move on, I figure I’ll just reset my stuff and stay focus with one for now. Anyway, I can use the extra cash as well.

Goodbye X100F. You had served me well. I will still hold a soft spot for you in my heart, and hopefully you will evolved to a better camera in next iteration. Till then.

Another new chapter

Finally… I decided to drop my soul and made the jump. I am officially shooting with a Sony A7 III now. I bought this camera just awhile back, together with the Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16–35 mm F4 ZA OSS, Sony FE 70-200 mm F4 G OSS and Tamron 28-75mm F/2.8 Di III RXD lenses.

It’s a big shift from my previous setup indeed. I started off with prosumer compact camera, which was then followed by DSLR and mirrorless cameras. I then decided to make a switch to rangefinder and now I’m back to mirrorless system again.

I think I talked about why I made my switch away from rangefinder previously so I’ll never touch on that topic today. But after shifted away from rangefinder, I had been using the Fujifilm X100F solely for the past year or so. Can I continue to shoot with only this camera? Or if I even want to continue with photography altogether? Those were the questions I was trying to answer for myself.

I had been shooting my class events and couple of my trips with just the Fujifilm X100F. But the reality was that besides these occasions I had rarely shoot anymore, unlike previously where I would go out and shoot at least once a week. That’s probably the reason why I was holding back with any camera purchase, I want to understand whether I would still want to continue on this journey.

After much consideration, I decided that “yes, I still want to continue” and “yes, the Fujifilm X100F will not be enough to cover my needs”. Hence, I started to look around and I was considering the Nikon Z6, Sony A7 III and Canon EOS R. The Canon’s offering is a total disappointment to me, the whole camera simply is just… doesn’t make sense and does not entice people to shoot with it. Between the Nikon and Sony, in the end I decided to go with Sony as it is a more matured system overall. The Z6 really impressed me though.

As for the lenses, I made the decision to switch from prime lenses to zoom lenses. Well, I may add a prime lens to my arsenal in the future, but for now, zoom lenses are the one that will meet my needs. This will be the setup that I’ll be bringing to my coming trip in August, so let’s see how everything turns out by then. In terms of weight and bulk, it will be slightly more than what I carried for the past years, but then again it’s not much different from my days with Fujifilm X series mirrorless. Hopefully I’ll get used to it soon.

Some asked why I don’t go with A7R III instead. Well, I’m just a casual shooters, I really can’t justify the extra money I’m paying for that camera, the equation just doesn’t add up. Anyway, after shooting with it for awhile, I’m still trying to get used to editing their raw files, and the menu system was actually not that bad, Sony just need to work on the naming of the functions better and it should be fine. Otherwise, let’s see what I can capture with this camera in the days to come. Till then.