Herschel Little America Bag – My Point of View

My Herschel Little America and matching Anchor sleeve for my iPad Pro

My work bag, which was a Samsonite laptop backpack, was deteriorating. In search of a replacement bag, I figured that it should serve not just as my work bag, but also my go-to daily bag. I have evaluated a few options from Timbuk2, The North Face, The Invisible Backpack and so on, but was ended up purchasing the Herschel Little America Backpack in the end as I managed to get a rather good deal.

I’ve been using the bag on daily basis for work and study, and here are my thoughts about this bag:

  1. It’s a good looking bag, but in terms of practicality, there’re still room for improvement.
  2. The front pocket is a little too small and couldn’t fit much stuff in it. If they can increase the size a little will be good.
  3. The bag as whole needs more pockets for organization purpose.
  4. Appreciate if they can have a quick access pocket near the back for wallets or passport. Also, add some slots for pen or other stuffs in the front pocket.
  5. To access your stuff, you will required to open the top flap all the time to go to your main compartment or laptop compartment. Suggest to have a zipper access from the side of bag to direct access the laptop compartment. Also, another small zipper on the side which allows quick access into the main compartment to reach for small items without the need to open the top flap all the time.
  6. The two stripes look good and offer functionality for adjustment on bag size. However, the stripes of the main compartment will get in your way when you try to open the front pocket. Some redesign is required here.
  7. Redesign the top flap of main cover to have better looking shape even when the bag is empty. Now the bag looks sloppy when it’s not being filled up with stuffs.
  8. Straps for the shoulder has dangling end which may get in the way at times. It would be great if they can find a way to hide the excess straps and tuck it away.

All in all, I still enjoy carrying this backpack, just need to get used to it and adjust some of my habit accordingly. If there’s a chance I’ll try to travel with this bag and see how well it fares. For those who are looking for this bag, if you can live with the downsides mentioned above, I would highly recommend you to get one. 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!

A Photographer’s Life by Jack Dykinga

Source: Amazon.com
Just finished reading this book. I would consider this as a biography of Jack Dykinga, with very nice sharing and insight to his life as a photographer. Of course this does not represent the life of all or most photographer, but what was shared is true enough and applicable to even now.

Who is Jack Dykinga? Well, honestly I don’t know. I was attracted by the book at first, hence read it and now I get to know him a little better. He may not be as big famed or renowned by most as he belongs to the bunch of pre-social media era photographers. Most of his works are shared through prints, exhibitions and books publishing.

Source: B&H Photo
The book covers story about how Jack got himself his first camera and then into photography, all the learning he went through and ended up working in a local news agency. During his career of photojournalism, he compete against the finest photographers from other agencies and earned himself the Pulitzer award.

This book covers all the ups and downs of Jack, and it also talks about how his mind and value to photography changed, resulted his shift from photojournalism to photographing landscape with large format camera, hoping to raise awareness to preserve the nature from being exploited. The book also touched on the struggle he faced when transiting from film to digital, and how he ended up hosting guided photography workshop and tour to the national parks across America.

There’s one sharing in the book that particularly caught my attention:

John White, another Pulitzer Prize winning photographer at the Sun-Times once told me he photographed every sunrise. In disbelief, I inquired why? He simply said he didn’t want to miss the really great one

And indeed it echoes a lot with my heart and belief. Persistence is important. A lot of masterpieces were not made just by one attempt or one shot. Sometimes you just have to keep shooting to get “the one” image, sometimes you just have to keep disappointed until “the one” image came by. Sometimes you are lucky, sometimes not so. Sometimes you might even need to keep shooting to spark the creativity in you, or to pull you away from your downfall and creativity block.

Source: The Photo Society
All in all, it’s a very nice read and I will certainly recommend those who are interested with photography to read this book. Till then.

Let’s Talk A Little About Makoto Shinkai

Disclaimer: This is a non-photography related post.

Recently, the release of a new anime movie titled “Kimi no Na Wa” (Your Name) has stormed the world with great reviews and everyone was talking about it. I watched the movie myself and I couldn’t agree more. This is a movie from Makoto Shinkai, a film director and former graphic designer, an extremely talented creative artist.

I’ve enjoyed his movie since the early days. I can still recall the first movie I watched from him was “Hoshi no Koe” (Voices of a Distant Star), a story about love and distance between the young couple who were separated light years apart. Although the graphic of this anime is not that pretty, the meaning and the story behind was indeed meaningful and touching. If you are in a long distance relationship while watching this, you will sure feel the pain and roll your tears. This movie has marked his name in my heart ever since.

Later on, Makoto Shinkai released another movie titled “Kumo no Mukou, Yakusoku no Basho” (The Place Promised in Our Early Days). This is another love story with some sci-fi essence in it. The story revolves around the mystery between the tower built on their homeland and the lady who was loved by these two young gentlemen, about their dreams and their love story. It’s a rather slow paced movie which you need to slowly indulge in it to dig in the feeling and atmosphere. Graphics are certainly much better than the previous movie, and you can slowly see the style and signature of Makoto Shinkai all over the movie.

The next movie released from his production is a short movie titled “Byousoku 5 Senchimetoru” (5 centimetre per second). This is probably the movie that signifies the breakthrough of his graphical production as every scene of the movie is just so well illustrated and perfectly executed. This movie consist of three short stories that talk about the love story between a childhood couple, how they endured the pain of long distance relation, and how their relation changed as they were further apart and as they grew older. It’s a very sad and painful story, but yet they are so true and they feel so close and so real. This is the “magic” that Makoto Shinkai managed to evoke in his movie. A sense of connection to the viewer where we can really understand and relate the story to our memories in our life. I have watched this movie for countless time, and I can’t help but to cry every time I watched it.

Hoshi wo Ou Kodomo” (Children Who Chases Lost Voices from Deep Below) is probably a movie with least of Makoto Shinkai’s signature. To me it’s more like a Studio Ghibli kinda movie production. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s not a good movie. It is a very nice movie of its own. It’s a story about an adventure that this young lady embarked on in search of solving the mystery of the sounds and voices she heard. There are some very nice meaning behind the story which will make you feel heart warming and touching at the same time.

The next production from Makoto Shinkai was “Kotonoha no Niwa” (The Gardens of Words). This time around, he is backed to his signature love story with beautiful graphics and soundtracks that simply touches the deepest memory and feeling in your heart. This is a story about a young man, an aspiring shoemaker, who happened to meet this lady in the garden during the rainy season. Soon, they are meeting each other more often but when the rainy season is over, their relation was put to the real test. A very nice movie indeed.

Last but not least, “Kimi no Na Wa” (Your Name) was released this year and this movie has marked a new milestone for Makoto Shinkai in many respects. To me, this is probably the essence of all the greatness of Makoto Shinkai and Japanese Anime concentrated into one perfectly executed movie. This is a story about two teenagers who had their body “swapped” from time to time. They didn’t know why this happened, but when they do, they realized that their fate and their love were in real test and danger. Again, superb graphics and soundtrack as you would expect from any of Makoto Shinkai’s film. However, this time around more story elements had been added into the movie which provides a greater perspective and broader meaning and message to the viewers. Hence, the great success it achieved.

So what is the “signature” of Makoto Shinkai you may asked? Well, to me here are some of the reasons why I loved the movie he produced thus far. But this is just me, others may felt differently and it’s totally okay.

  • Scene are often taken from real life location which makes you feel “closer” when you have been to those places before, or during your next visit to those places
  • Timeline of the story is usually “current date” with a twist of fantasy in it, it makes you feel real and surreal at the same time
  • Love story portrayed by him was usually very lovely, but at the same time it came with a splash of sadness, which is probably what we all had been through in our real life
  • Story telling through scenes and background musics which pulls you into his world
  • There’re always some room left for your own imagination
  • Stories and scenes extracted from daily life which echoes and resonates with our memories, giving you more engagement with his movie

Other than animation movie, Makoto Shinkai also get himself involved in various projects such as music video production, script writing, short video creation for other media such as game or TV commercial and so on. Do check out his other works. I’m looking forward to the next production from Makoto Shinkai and hopefully it will not disappoint me. Till then.