Holga 135BC review – What is this toy camera for?

While I was rooting around in my house, I found this little film camera that I have long forgotten about. I got it back when I was still in my junior years in secondary school in Hong Kong. It jogged back to the reason for me getting this camera … I was around 12 years old, only just started in my photography journey and still using my dad’s Canon PowerShot. During that time, the heavy vignette look was in vogue and Lomography was selling everywhere and created a cult. With about HKD $200 (~£20), I got myself one that comes with a flash and shot maybe 2 rolls of films on it. Due to the fact it was expensive to buy film and have them developed, especially for a school kid that only had £5 of pocket money a week, it ended up sitting in the corner on the bookshelf as a decorative display. It came with me to the UK and recently with me dipping in and out of the film world, I decided to put some film through it again. And boy, it reminded me of the purest of photography fun.

Appearance

Holga 135BC is a 35mm camera. It is all plastic, including the lens, the only thing that’s metal is probably the shutter thread, tripod thread and the hot shoe and that’s about it. And so, you guessed it, it is incredibly light. Fully mechanical and minimal settings. It uses a zone focused system where the focusing lens has 4 little diagrams to suggest roughly your focusing distance. 2 apertures, F8 or F11 shown as flash/cloudy or sunny, and 2 shutter speed, 1/100s or Bulb. And that’s it. It is designed to be a toy camera and I had fun with it.

Spec

Film35mm
Shutter speed1/100 sec or Bulb
ApertureF8 or F11
FocusZoned focus
Multiple exposuresBy not winding film forward
AccessoriesTripod mountCable release mountHot shoes

What I like about it

First of all, It was very cheap. It does reflect on the quality of the build where everything is cheap plastic but it was part of the charm. You know how you have heard any seasoned photographer said at least once “it is not about your gear, at the end of the day it’s just a black box.”? This is literally a box with a hole, nothing more. The beauty of this limitation is that it allows you to put down the thought of “what aperture/shutter speed” and focus on just creating.

Secondly, the unpredictability. Film photography in general has a little bit of this element in it. Every time you press down your shutter, unlike digital photograph where you can chimp, you only have a rough idea of what the image is going to look like until you have the roll develop maybe a day or two later. Yes, the more you practise, the more accurate that mental image will be. But this toy camera is a different story. The viewfinder is just a window above the lens, so you have to factor in the parallax issue. The plastic lens takes in light whatever the way they feel that day and you can’t even have accurate focus as it’s just 4 different icons at the top of the lens for you to guess your focus range. And depends on what film you have in it, with absolute minimal control, you will probably end up over/underexpose your film the majority of the time. That means you really can’t know for sure if your image is going to turn out right or not. But once in a while, I find it liberating. We all have this expectation where every time we go out to make photographs, we will end up with loads of good photos that we are super happy with. In reality, we don’t always get good results and we can come home with absolutely nothing. That’s very normal but the expectation, over time, can wear us down and make us forget what we set out to enjoy in the first place. I do still practise my photography with other “serious” camera. But once in a while, I will pick this wee thing up, the unpredictability allows me to just go out with absolutely no expectation at all. It sets your mind free to just take the photo without thinking much and just enjoy photography as it is. The excitement of getting your roll back from the lab is different when you have no idea what photographs you have made.

What I am not a fan of

Lomography’s toy camera earned their fame with the heavy vignette that comes with their plastic lens. “Heavy vignette” is just the polite way of saying the lens doesn’t cover the whole 35mm negatives so leaving the 4 corners un-exposed. Luckily my specific one is not too bad compared to what I have seen online. I enjoy a little bit of a vignette sometimes but that 4 black corner look is a bit too dated for me. It makes me cringe just like when I see those black and white images with only the red umbrella coloured in. If that’s your thing, go for it. The extreme of style is just not my taste.

Also, it is not THAT cheap when you consider I got my Olympus AF-1 Super, a second hand 30 years old point and shoot camera that are well-built with a sharp 35mm F2.8 lens, for only £30 from eBay.

Verdict

Holga 135BC is a toy 35mm film camera. An all-plastic, cheaply build black box that takes pictures. It is like those plastic toys that pretend to be a camera. The build quality of the camera is unpredictable, the pictures that come out are even more unpredictable. But that reminds me why I loved photography. The simplicity of the camera takes away all the stress that you put on yourself trying to make the next masterpiece for your Instagram feed. It leaves only the purest joy of photography.  It allows you to be “unintentional”. Press the shutter because you want to remember that moment. 

One of my all time favourite photos is taken with this little toy camera

WWDC 21 Summaries – Has Apple just ruined the M1 iPad Pro?

Apple just announced their latest operating systems for the coming year at their WWDC 21 on the 7th of June including IOS 15, MacOS Monterey, WatchOS 8 and probably the most anticipated iPadOS 15. This year Apple continues to put a lot of focus on their privacy features, improved FaceTime perhaps because of the pandemic where remote team working has an increasing role in our day to day lives. There are a lot of nice things in there, but they seem to be improving the edges but lacking the core things that some Pro users want.

Summaries of significant new features that share between all OS

1.    FaceTime (gets the most update)

  • SharePlay: a feature where you can share your screen and audio with people you are FaceTiming. So basically from now on, you can go on a YouTube spiral with your mates and waste your life together or if that’s your thing, you can be your friends’ private radio DJ in the comfort of your own home. Not going to lie, I think the most useful thing about this in most people’s case is probably teaching your mum how to use an iPhone or an iPad as you can see their screen to guide them step by step. 
  • Spatial Audio: This feature sounds pretty cool in that the audio during a group FaceTime will sound like they are coming from the person’s position on your screen. It apparently makes the video call feels a little bit more realistic. Cool tech and cool idea, sounds a bit gimmicky so will need to try it out to see.
  • Portrait Mode: FaceTime now supports portrait mode which helps isolate you from the background during the call. Nice?
  • Mic Mode: Probably one of the most useful features. It let you select from 3 different modes: “standard”, “voice isolation”, “wide spectrum”. Voice isolation filters out the background noise to make your voice stands out and the wide spectrum is just unfiltered to include everything.
  • FaceTime in Android: Finally you can invite everyone to FaceTime. You don’t need an Apple device anymore, even a Window/Android device, as long as you have the video call link, you can join in with the fun.

2.    Focus

A feature that design to minimise distraction from notifications and let you concentrate on the task you set out to do. I am glad that there is more effort put into this as I am certainly an easily distracted person, any old notification I would be like “ooooo, what’s that? *open emails*” and that would be 3 hours gone before I realise I got side-tracked. A nice human touch is that your focus status will be displayed in iMessage. That way people won’t send through millions of non-urgent things plus it will reduce those paranoia and rage associated with delayed replies.

3.    Maps

Apple has been trying to up their map games to compete with Google Map. This time they have added a huge amount of details in roads, buildings, and surroundings in certain selected cities. One interesting thing is they have added detailed 3D models for famous landmarks to make them look a bit like Sim. They have also added Public transport timetable which allows you to plan your journey and pin it at the top. You can tell Apple zeroed in their primary market on this. Google map has such a big grip on the market that Apple is trying to take some of the shares back. Although most people have been so used to Google map that unless there are some drastic changes, there is no real reason to switch to Apple map just because of the 3D models.

4.    Live text and visual lookup

Essentially Apple’s version of the Google lens. One thing that I love about Apple is that some of their features might not be the most cutting edge innovative, but their integration is definitely at the top of the industry. With this you can copy and paste words from a photo to actual text, you can translate straight from the camera and even dial a phone number from a picture itself. It also recognises objects in the picture and gives you information such as the breed of a dog etc.

5.    iCloud+

Replace the iCloud subscription plan that only provides storage. They provide Apple’s version of VPN – iCloud private relay. How it works is different from the traditional VPN but essentially achieve the same thing – hide your IP address so no one can track and profile you from your online activities. They also give you the option to hide your email when filling in forms online or signing up for a newsletter. It creates a random email address that forwards to your inbox. A slight tweak of the implementation of “sign in with Apple”.

iPadOS 15

When iPad Pro 2020 was released, Apple made a statement of “your next computer is not a computer” because they have made the iPad Pro so powerful that the majority of people can manage their daily tasks on an iPad rather than on a laptop. And during the spring-loaded event in April, they went even further by putting the M1 chip into the iPad Pro. A processor that they used in their Mac into a tablet. With the hardware being in place, how about the software?

The improvement iPadOS 15

  1. Improved multitask – The new iPadOS has a new multitasking menu to make it easier for split view. New shelf to let you see all the window you have opened for an app and allows you to quickly switch between them. You can even set up your split view in the app switcher by dragging one app over the other.
  2. Shortcuts – This new feature is a game-changer. By holding down the command key, you can bring up the list of all shortcuts supported by the app. That makes learning to use a new app much quicker and much more efficient.
  3. Quick note – This can utilise the iPad’s innate advantage to the fullest. We all have that moment of inspiration while browsing a website or doing something unrelated. Instead of having to quit the app to start up your note-taking app up, now you can just swipe up from the corner to quickly drop down your new idea. And if you copy and paste something from a site onto the quick note, it gives you a thumbnail of the website to remind you where the idea’s from. So now all your ideas and note are in one place easy to find and organise.
  4. Universal control – Apple’s ultimate flex on the integration of their ecosystem. Now data can flow freely between different Apple devices that are next to each other without any setup, they just know to talk to each other. Mouse and keyboard switch seamlessly between devices. You can drag and drop files from the iPad straight onto your Mac or vice and versa. From the demonstration that they provide, it works so smooth that it is insane.
  5. Safari makeover – Safari has a new tab bar. A more muted look and tabs at the top give way to more content.

Polarising opinion on iPadOS 15

So they are all amazing improvement to make the iPad a much more capable device, why is the internet still rage over the iPadOS 15. The reason boils down to expectations. From the point when Apple in April dropped their Tim Cook mission impossible style presentation that transplant an M1 chip from the MacBook to the iPad Pro, the computer world is expecting the iPad Pro to be the new MacBook. We expect the iPad Pro to do everything that the MacBook can do and at the same time be an iPad with pencil support and all. After all, Apple said “your next computer is not a computer” right?

If we take a step back and leave our expectation down for a second, maybe iPadOS makes a bit more sense.

  1. M1 chip is originally an iPad chip, not a Mac chip. Apple Silicon chip was originally made for iPhones and iPads. The A12Z on the 2020 iPad Pro then the A14 on iPad Air and the iPhone, so the M1 is technically the “A14Z” for the iPad Pro 2021. But it is so powerful Apple decided to run macOS on it to power the Mac and give it a different name. So if you look at it this way, M1 is actually from the iPad being transplanted onto the Mac. It is just how they were presented makes consumer see it the other way round.
  2. iPad is a device from Apple to try to make the computing world less intimidating. It was started as just an iPhone with a bigger screen. It slowly gets more powerful that can handle a bit more computing tasks. It is intended to fill the gap between an iPhone and a Mac. It is intended for the vast majority of the market who wanted a device with a bigger screen than a phone that can do some word processing, sending emails but less complex than a full-on MacBook. So iPad is never a product that aims to replace the Mac, even with the iPad Pro. When they say “your next computer is not a computer”, is never meant for the computer nerds that make up 10% of their market, it is aimed at the rest of the 90%.
  3. What about the 8GB and 16GB of RAM when apps are limited to 5GB usage? I think Apple treats the use of RAM in iPad and RAM in Mac differently. RAM in a Mac focuses to let the power users run massive, RAM-hungry professional software, while RAM in an iPad is there to provide a fluid user experience of opening and switching in between apps without delays. The primary purpose of having RAMs for these two devices are different and therefore the 5GB limits in an app make sense so you can still have space to have other apps opened in the background without having to reload every time.
  4. iPadOS also needs to run on their less hardware-intense iPad like the Air, mini or iPad 8. If iPadOS 15 only focuses on maximising the M1 potential for the iPad Pro. The A14 or A12 will likely not be able to handle it. Imagine you bought a brand new iPad, just to find out they terminate the software support because your hardware is no longer powerful enough?

With all that said, it makes a bit more sense why Apple is not running a version of MacOS on iPad Pro even though the hardware supports it. iPad has an average product life cycle of perhaps 4 years, which means most people who buy an iPad today won’t be upgrading for another 4 years. With that in mind, Apple has to build in some hardware headroom for the coming 4 years of software advancement to make the iPad remain relevant then. They have also been doing that. A12Z from iPad Pro 2020 is still amazingly powerful and massively overpowered back then. That’s why the M1 iPad Pro feel so overpowered now in hardware but if you see 4 years into the future, probably less so.

Can’t help but feel disappointed

That doesn’t mean it is not disappointing news though. iPad Pro has the name “Pro” in it because they were meant to aim for the professional – that 10% of their market and not that 90%. I am sure for some digital nomad, having the iPad Pro that can integrate with their professional work on their Mac is invaluable. For example, able to run Xcode while travelling and don’t have to carries their 16″ MacBook Pro. YouTuber able to edit their video on the go with FinalCut Pro and keep their travel gear as light as possible. The hardware itself is forever more “Pro” but the supports for Pro in the iPad software is still very “general market”. File management is still rubbish and still unable to run any professional software on a Pro device is one of the reasons why iPadOS 15 is so polarising. Maybe the Apple software team is not just not ready yet, because Apple will not accept anything less than perfect integration and that’s why the market loves them. But it remains a frustrating wait for their fan base.

Verdict

Apple’s WWDC 21 concluded with the 4 new operating systems and loads of new features. There are more to those that I have summarised above such as more Memoji options, roided-up spotlight, tweak to photos organisation and improved notification centre. iPadOS 15 was a bit controversial due to a lot of professional being disappointed that Apple didn’t deliver the “Pro” software that many were expecting to come to their “Pro” machine. Although the biggest disappointment was probably the rumoured M1X 14″ and 16″ MacBook Pro and Mac Mini Pro did not materialise. I would hate to be the guy who sold their MacBook based on some leaks…

Source: cultofmac.com

All images are sourced from Apple.com unless otherwise stated

Fujifilm XF 35mm F2.0 review – The Best Lens for The One Lens Set Up

When I have switched my camera system from Canon to Fujifilm a while back, I was also looking to expand and experience my lens choice. Before when I was using my EOS 500D, I had the kit 18-55mm and 55-250mm as I thought a zoom set-up will give me the most bang for the buck. But as I transit to Fujifilm, I noticed they seem to have put a lot of focus on their prime lens collections. With choices such as the F1.4 lineup or their more compact counterpart F2.0 lineup, I am intrigued as they say a prime lens is usually sharper, faster and cheaper. After some internal debate, I picked the XF35mmF2 for its compact size, weather sealing, fast focus and close to 50mm full-frame equivalent focal length.

Build Quality

Kudos to Fujifilm, when you hold this lens in your hands, quality is the first thing that springs to mind. It is full metal construction, even for the textured aperture ring and focus ring. The aperture ring is smooth with a nice click to it. Same as the focus ring, it is well dampened but not too hard to turn. It comes with a small metal lens hood. I am not sure it actually does much in terms of preventing glares and flares, but certainly does a good enough job to protect the glass. Truth be told, I am not a huge fan of this tapering, stumpy design of the lens so the hood kind of make it balance a bit better. Although the lens hood somehow makes it a bit more difficult to put the lens cap on. I am just being pernickety here…

It apparently has 8 seals in the lens body to help makes it weather-sealed and still works in -10˙C.

Spec

Dimension (Diameter x Length)60mm x 45.9mm
Weight170g
Focal Length35mm (53mm Full-Frame equivalent)
Element/Group9/6
ApertureF2.0 – F16
Filter Size43mm

Real-world test and review

If you are looking for the kind of technical review that takes picture of a brick wall, pixel peep to tell you which part of the lens is sharp, how much vignette you get at what stop, I am sorry to disappoint. They just aren’t important to me in the real world use of the lens. Modern days lens are all very sharp, arguably too sharp. Vignette is usually auto-corrected by most software you use to read the RAW file. So why bother worrying about them, plus as they say – if you are pixel peeping to decide whether it is a good photo, it’s not.

Fast focus

Autofocus ability though, is very important. It is between being the masterpiece or epic fail. And it is one of the reasons I chose the F2 version over the F1.4 version. Fujifilm quotes the AF to be 0.08s. With my X-T3, the focus is almost instant and bang on target 9/10. I have rarely missed a shot because the focus is too slow. Although auto-focus is amazingly fast and quiet, the manual focus is not quite the same story. Like most other Fuji’s lenses, they are focus by wire which is essentially an electronic sensor. So they don’t have a definite endpoint on either end. And it’s not linear focus either, it makes fast manual focus a bit challenging as you can’t really have a “muscle memory” when the focus throw is essentially infinity. On top of that, they make this weird, loud, clicky noise as you turn the focus ring during manual focus mode which contrasts how quiet it focuses during AF mode.

Compact

The size of this is also one of my major considerations. Like all my previous post, I like a good compact system so I bring the camera with me more. With it being only 107g and 60x46mm, it might not be a pancake but it is small enough that it fits in my sling bag with my X-T3. The small size does come with a little bit of compromise though. The filter size is 43mm. It can be a bit difficult to find the right size filter, such as some of the popular diffusion filters like the moment’s cinebloom don’t come in this thread size and using a filter adaptor on this lens for let’s say, street photography, I find can look a bit awkward.

Depth of field

For a fast prime lens, bokeh is one of its attraction. The 35mmF2 actually creates some really nice separations. The bokeh balls are very gentle and soft so it’s not distracting at all. Although F1.4 will give you an even better separation, I am happy to trade that 1 stop for the weather-sealing and faster autofocus. I also love the clickiness of the aperture ring and it is not easy to be bumped.

Image stabilisation

The 35F2 doesn’t have optical stabilisation. If you have an X-T4, the IBIS will be quite clutch in a low light situation to let you handheld at a slower shutter speed. As I personally don’t mind some grain or noise in my photos, it hasn’t really bothered me a huge amount as I just crank up my ISO to compensate for my shutter speed.

Verdict

Fujifilm has really nailed it with the 35mm F2.0. It is more compact, quieter, snappier and cheaper than their older, best-selling lens 35mm F1.4. Every detail is well thought out, full metal construction feels premium, the different textured rings provide decent grips even in wet condition compliments with their weather seal property. With it costing just under £380, I would seriously recommend it to every Fujifilm X shooter out there. Although with the clicked aperture ring and the non-linear focus ring, it is a lens geared towards photographers rather than videographers. If you are already a prime lens shooter, you will understand what I mean by it is actually very liberating with the limitations that come with a prime lens. 

Wildling shoes Tanuki Niji review – the summer freedom made by Japanese paper

The past few weeks we have been getting some better weather with the sun coming out a bit more. Although it’s a bit deceiving in terms of temperature, with lockdown easing as well, it is hard to not feel the summer excitement. As I was looking for something a bit airier than my leather vivobarefoot, I came across this German brand – Wildling and their Tanuki Niji.

Appearance

The first impression from them is that they look fresh. From a colour versatility point of view, I am more of a white shoe guy than a black shoe guy, so I was naturally drawn to the Niji (Rainbow) rather than the Yoru (Night/Evening). Speaking of the rainbow, I do like the subtlety of how they place their rainbow. One, it gives the shoe a bit more interest but not ruining the overall simplicity. And two, it shows support in an “I respect people’s right” rather than the in-your-face “I am woke” way. Although it’s not their intention, I do quite like the fact here, in the UK, it also means “thank you NHS”. To finish off with the little red lace rings is just the cherry on the cake. 

You can probably guess by now that they took quite a lot of inspiration from Japanese culture into the shoes’ design. Perhaps that’s also one of the reasons I was drawn to it. With their outsole designed to be a bit like a pair of Ninja shoes and their choice of materials.

Material

This is probably their main selling point of the shoes. The upper of the shoes are made out of Washi fabric which is 75% paper. Washi is also known as Japanese paper or rice paper. Traditionally used for ink painting or to make Shoji screen. Wildling mixes it with polyester to form this extremely thin but durable and malleable fabric. It apparently has antibacterial property on top of being breathable and super quick to dry. I think it’s perfect for the summer months with the look and feel of a nice canvas shoe but with a bit more to it.

How it wears

When I put it on, the first thing I noticed was how much it hugs your feet. Thanks to Washi’s thinness, the feet-hugging cut of the shoe doesn’t actually feel restrictive at all but rather like a second layer of skin. It gives you the confidence that you are protected to roam and feel nature.

It comes with this “Hemp-flax fleece” removable insole, which comes in at 4mm thickness. They said it’s moisture-absorbing and temperature regulating. I find it to be an okay insole, nothing wrong with them but at the same time nothing that special. Unlike their Washi insole, which fits my lifestyle a lot better. As we can sometimes experience all 4 seasons in one single day here in the UK, the quick-dry property allows me to prepare for the eventuality that I would be wearing these shoes out and they decided to rain on me. Also, they come in 2mm which means even closer to the ground.

Because of its breathability and how well it fits, unlike my leather viviobarefoot which I tend to sweat a bit in, I don’t need to and I don’t like to wear socks with them. Plus the outsole is not constructed in one big slab, the shape gives the shoe that bit more flexibility to achieve the maximum freedom and ground feel. Or as they say – Wildness.

Things to consider before buying

First, they are white in colour. The snowy freshness will be gone as soon as it touches the floor. Thanks to their quick-dry nature, you can actually hand wash them to keep them fresher. But at the end of the day if you drop your Indian takeaway on it, just accept the fact now you have a pair of yellow shoes rather than white.

Secondly, which is a bit annoying for us now that Brexit happened, it is a German company. So when you buy from them, you will now have to pay VAT and/or import tax on them. Also, returns are not as straightforward as sending your ASOS back. If you get your size wrong, you might end up paying twice the stupid tax…

Verdict

Wildling Tanuki Niji, in my opinion, is a great summer daily shoes. They look clean with a dash of summery vibe. Versatile enough that you might even get away with the smart-casual style. Thin and breathable to keep your feet cool and dry. Because of the crazy UK weather, I would strongly recommend you getting the Washi insole at the same time as well so you don’t have to pay the shipping twice to have them shipped from German. 

Olympus AF-1 Super: The Affordable 35mm Film Point and Shoot Hidden Gem!

Recently analogue photography has been a very popular topic in the photography world, especially among the millennials and Gen Z. I am not going to dive into the reason for this, although might be an interesting topic for the future post. As millennials who take photos in my spare time, I can’t miss out on all the fun.

Point and shoot film camera has been very popular among film photographer. Given their small and compact size, you can always have one by your side. Their main purpose is to capture those day to day memories and film is one of those medium that almost makes you feel those memories. Along with the skyrocketing demand, the price for a decent film camera has also followed suit. I was in the market for a playful point and shoot camera at the time. And speaking of point and shoot film camera, Olympus MJU II and Contax T2 and always comes up in the conversation. Contax T2 is a very attractive little thing that carries an amazing 35mm F2.8 Zeiss lens. But after Kendall Jenner was seen using them, they cost about a kidney plus your sister’s dowry. So second option, Olympus MJU II with their award winning 35mm F2.8. They were fishing close to £200 as well which was still too much for me to justify. Okay… what’s the third option? That’s when I come across the Olympus AF-1 which carry the same 35mm F2.8 lens as the MJU II. With some luck, I managed to get a mechanically mint AF-1 Super off eBay for £30.

History and Spec

Olympus AF-1 Super is the upgraded version of AF-1 (or in the US, Olympus Infinity). AF-1 was introduced in 1986 as the first weatherproof automatic 35mm compact film camera hence the Japanese nickname “Nurepika” (wet flash). Then AF-1 Super was released in 1991 with some upgraded features such as 50cm minimal focal distance instead of 75cm, faster flash recharge, ability to disable the flash and 4 frames continuous shooting of  1fps (not really sure what it’s for, to be honest).

Review

Point and shoot cameras in Hong Kong is called 傻瓜機 – meaning idiot machine. It is true to an extent that point and shoot cameras are idiot-proof. Autofocus, auto-exposure, auto-flash, auto-wind and re-wind and autoload. Everything is decided for you, all you need to do is, as it says on the tin, point and shoot. With a few quirks, the more I use the AF-1, the more I like this idiot.

Appearance

AF-1 Super has this bubbly design to it, away from the boxy, hard-line style of the AF-1. Thicker and heavier than the MJU II but it actually feels really nice to hold. I like their sliding door mechanism. First, it means that less electronic components to move the lens in and out of the body and therefore one less thing that can fail. Second, it covers the viewfinder as well so you won’t embarrass yourself trying to take a picture when the camera is off. Third, it allows quick one-hand operation and always ready to go. Incorporating the essence of a point and shoot camera perfectly.

35mm F2.8

The lens that the AF-1 Super carries is what attracts me. 35mm is a perfect focal length for day-to-day, documentary-style photography and is exactly what a point and shoot camera is for. Olympus won 5 awards in 1997 with this fast and sharp prime lens on the MJU II body. Although they are essentially the same lens, I think the AF-1 series have an additional protective coating at the front which depends on your view can be good and bad. One of the things I like about film photography is that not everything is tack sharp, so I almost welcome that extra layer. But I find in reality, the coating is only a potential threat and the image still as crisp as your fresh trimmed hairline.

The most important manual option – no flash

AF-1 Super is fully automatic from start the finish, but one thing that I picked Super over the standard is the option for disabling the flash. I don’t actually mind the hard flash look, it is fashionable at the moment for their nostalgic feel. But for example, you won’t want it to flash while you are shooting through a glass window or trying to be discreet for street photography. They also have an option for the less powerful “fill-in” flash.

Centre focusing

AF-1 Super autofocus only comes with centre focusing. It means it will only focus on things that you place in the centre of the viewfinder, AF-1 has a separate focus lock button while AF-1 Super doesn’t. It relies on half-pressing the shutter. Truth be told, the travel in this shutter button is pretty shallow, so it does take some finger control to keep it at that sweet spot… (Ummm… why does it sound a bit strange) In a couple of occasions where either I took a picture by accident or it refocuses and my subject turned out to be out of focus. It can get a bit frustrating but that’s part of the fun in film photography.

Loud film advancing

Don’t use this point and shoot to take photos of your baby or your struggle to get them to sleep will never end. AF-1 Super has probably one of the loudest film advancing mechanism out there. I am starting to think that as they were designed in Japan, it was to deter creeps sneak-shotting someone.

Verdict

Film photography is an expensive exercise with the recurring cost of buying, developing and scanning films. And with the price for film cameras skyrocketing while my boss won’t even give me a pay raise that at least keep up with inflation, entry for film photography is getting more out of reach by the second. With pure luck, I came across this hidden gem for less than £50. I did a quick look on eBay, the cheapest nowadays are asking for £70 with the majority of them going for £90-150. If you can look past some of its quirks like the loud film advancing mechanism and the CR-P2 battery is a bit awkward to find, it is one extremely adorable little camera. If you just want to dip your toes in the film photography world but don’t want to sell your house, this is a very solid option if you manage to find one around the £50 range. This camera still put a smile on me every time I get it out for a spin.

Vivobarefoot Geo Court: the most stylish barefoot shoe that fit every occasion

Ever since I got into the barefoot world, one thing that I am always on the hunt for is a stylish pair of barefoot shoes. There is no denying that apart from the most basic thing a pair of shoes is designed for – to protect your foot – it is also an essential part of your outfit. I don’t know about you, but I am the type of guy that pays extra attention to someone’s shoes. I will be walking around town quietly paying extra respect to a fellow human who is on top of their shoe game, “damn look at those retro AJ 1s”. My partner is very vocal about me being lame but I can’t help it.

In my line of work, I am on my feet, running up and down a lot. So I wanted a pair of barefoot shoes that I can wear day to day to provide maximum comfort for the whole day but at the same time, I am expected to maintain a certain level of professionalism so my sandal is out of the question. When I almost gave up my self-respect and settled for a dweeby pair, Vivobarefoot, a UK-based company, popped into my Instagram ad suggestion and rescued my fragile dignity (sometimes cookies do good deeds too, people). Their Geo court’s minimal yet striking design language clicked with my taste straight away – add to cart.

Appearance

First and foremost, I really adore the two-tone design. Snow white upper with a teal blue heel. Paired with the sharp red logo, it provides the versatility of a white trainer but can also easily stands on its own under the spotlight and be the centrepiece of your outfit. Hands down one of the most good-looking barefoot shoes out on the market.

Source: vivobarefoot.com

Material

As I picked the white version, the fact that it features a full leather upper was brilliant. Anything that drops on it can be easily wiped away without leaving a mark. It also provides a degree of water resistance, perfect for the Northern Ireland weather where it rains, according to online data, an average of 213 days per year which is just under 60% of the time.

They also feature this bio-based BLOOM EVA insole which is a more sustainable alternative to the traditional EVA foam insole. I am not some sort of activist or anything, but recently I do find myself gravitating towards products that are good and, at the same time, make a conscious effort to be kind to the environment.

It is also extremely well built. I have worn my geo court almost every day to work for the past year and averaging about 10,000 steps a day. Apart from some superficial marks and scratches, the stitches are still intact and the outsole hasn’t shown any overt sign of wear. With the current wear and tear level, I expect it to go strong for another 2-3 years if not more.

Beginner-friendly

The Geo court comes with a 3mm hexagonal textured rubber outsole. It is very thin, light and flexible. Given how close you are to the ground, it naturally gives you some amazing ground feel. But worry not if you are only new to the barefoot game, you can start with the insole first. The nature of EVA foam is that they are soft and shock absorbing. Pair with a thickness that is also about 3mm, it gives you a total of roughly 6mm of cushion to start with. It makes transitioning into barefoot shoes a walk in the park ;). Take the insole out once your foot muscles are stronger and ready to embrace the barefoot world.

Don’t just build a business, start a revolution

Verdict

I think Vivobarefoot has not just made an amazing product, they have started a revolution. They have shown the world that barefoot shoes on top of the health benefits that come with, they can be good looking, can be versatile, can be sustainable. They have created a product that not only a barefoot enthusiast would like, but they have also managed to bridge the gap between “traditional” footwear and barefoot footwear. Make it easier for people to try and fall in love with barefoot shoes. I have been stopped, complimented and asked a few times about my Geo court and if they should try it. It is not difficult to see why there are more and more of this “V” logo around. And if you ask me if you should try them too? That’s a solid yes mate, I think you will love them too. 

SmallRig L-Bracket for Fujifilm X-T3 – Very good but the hunt continues

If you are anything like me, you are probably always on the lookout for accessories to compliment your tech set-up. I look at it this way – the accessories are the “personal touch” of the big tech items you have. Even though my Fujifilm X-T3’s shallow grip doesn’t really bother me that much as I don’t have big bear hands, I come across this Small Rig L-Bracket grip which seems to get a lot of positive feedback. L-Bracket… meaning I can attach my camera to tripod in portrait orientation without relying on the ball head? Thought maybe I give it a go myself.

First Impression

Maybe I will get some hate here but I am under no illusion that the quality of Chinese product can be hit or miss. So when I received the L-Bracket, the quality surprises me, in a good way. The wooden grip is smooth, the metal part feels solid and there are no rattles in or around the screws and joints. I know it doesn’t always correlate, but the L-Bracket has some weight to it that makes you feel a bit more sturdy.

Likes

Smooth grip

I know I said the shallow grip doesn’t really bother me but from time to time, you do notice you are using a bit more finger grip strength which can be a bit tiring. So when I put on the SmallRig, it fits so well into my palm that I was actually taken aback slightly. The deep grip fills in the gap between the curled fingers to keep your hands in a nice neutral shape and distribute the weight evenly.

Landscape – Portrait mount 

L shaped and ARCA Swiss compatible allows me to switch the camera from landscape into portrait orientation quicker. One of the issues that I have with a ball head tripod is the limited position for portrait orientation. So getting an L-Bracket solved that little annoyance I had for ages.

Magnetic screwdriver

The built-in flat screwdriver attached to the bottom of the bracket using a magnet is also pretty neat. Screws can loosen over time with tiny vibrations, a built-in screwdriver is pretty handy for tightening them and works great with the adjustable side plate as well.

Multifunctional side plate

Their side plate provides 9 mounting holes allowing accessories attachment such as a cold shoe adaptor for external microphone/monitor for videography. So you can fully kit out the X-T3 to adapt your style of work.

Almost…

            Also their adjustable side plate

The adjustable side plate was one of their selling points. It was designed for cable release, tethering and accessories mounting. In reality, the camera strap attach point actually got in the way of the side plate so I had to extend the side plate out slightly to accommodate it. Just as I appreciate the small detail of the built-in screw drive, this slight misfit bugs me enough to annoy me.

            Can’t reach the shutter button

Remember how I said I have dainty hands? Yeah, with the bracket installed, it feels really nice to hold. However, once I need to reach for the shutter button to take a photo, I find my hand having to really stretch and twist to reach for it.

Verdict

SmallRig produces some good quality camera accessories and this L-Bracket is no exception. Mirrorless cameras tend to have a slimmer profile and one of the complaints about X-T3 is their shallow grip. SmallRig L-bracket gives a much deeper grip to improve the camera handling. The L-shaped design allows you to quickly switch from landscape to portrait on a tripod and also act as a camera cage for more accessory attachments. It is certainly one of the best accessories you can get for your X-T3 if you have big hands and find it awkward to hold your camera. Unfortunately for me, although I really appreciate all of their side benefits, my hand is just a bit too small to reach the most important button of the camera with the grip installed. Re-packaged, box sealed, return label printed and the hunt for accessories continues…

M1 iPad Pro: Calmed down after the hype, maybe it’s not for us

When the M1 iPad Pro was announced on the 20th of April, I was so hyped because I was trying to upgrade my 2016 MacBook Pro set-up. iPad Pro supporting the Apple Pencil with the processing power of a laptop? Yes, please. Once I have calmed down from the excitement, I gave this new iPad some thought – is it really the one?

M1

Let’s be honest, M1 in an iPad Pro is nuts. When Apple announced their latest processing chip in the Mac Mini, MacBook Air/Pro November last year, they had the consumer tech world losing our mind. With their second-to-none performance and energy efficiency, it makes very little sense to even consider buying Intel Window laptop at this price point. Now they have taken a step further and put it into their iPad Pro. Fully committing themselves to “Your next computer is not a computer”. 

In reality, A12Z bionic chips in the iPad Pro 2020 is more than fast enough for any iPad apps on the market. The chip is not the limiting factor here. Unless they start allowing us to run professional-grade apps such as Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro or Xcode on iPadOS, the even faster chip is like giving a few more millions to a billionaire.

Display

The new 12.9″ iPad Pro has the all-new mini-LED display which carries the spec of Apple’s £4600 Pro display XDR. 1600 nits peak brightness, 1000000:1 contrast ratio, 2500 local dimming zone and P3 wide colour gamut. A display that sets the new standard for portable devices for professional use. More accurate colour for photo/video editing and colour grading.

In reality, unless you are getting paid to edit/colour grade and needing the best of the best tool on the market, an average Joe like me and you probably don’t need it. Certainly not needed for those selfies on Instagram or dance battle on Tik-Tok.

Storage and RAM

This year is the first year that Apple let us expand the storage up to 2TB in an iPad. And for the 1TB and 2TB version, they also come with 16GB of RAM. If we put the over-charging aside, it is some seriously good news for those productivity powerhouses with their main device being an iPad Pro. A bigger storage option means you won’t need to carry an external hard drive/SSD with you all the time and higher RAM means more apps can run in the background.

In reality, the majority of the apps running on the iPadOS is optimised for 6GB RAM. An upgrade to the 8GB of RAM is a welcomed gesture to give the device a small boost. But how on earth is an iPad Pro going to utilise 16GB of RAM…

5G

Personally never need the cellular option in an iPad. Although, if you are one of those people in a coffee shop that always has one sip left of your pumpkin spice latte in your mug so no one can judge that you were already sitting there for 5 hours, you might appreciate this new up and coming cellular option to keep you steadily connected for those hours, continue to ignore that poor ol’ granny trying to find a seat to have her cappuccino.

Never buy a tech product based on the promise of future software updates

Should you get the M1 iPad Pro?

iPad Pro has never been more like a laptop until this year Apple decided to put their laptop-standard processing chip into it. The hardware in this year model, for a tablet, is absolutely mind-blowing. But the limiting factor has never been the hardware. Even the previous models, iPad Pro is always at the peak in terms of hardware and benchmark performance. The true limiting factor that is stopping a lot of people to fully migrate to using iPad Pro as their main computer is iPadOS. At least till this moment, iPadOS is not designed to be fully run as a laptop. Don’t get me wrong, they have come a long way. Having multi-tasking, mouse and trackpad support, better file management system etc. It can certainly go head-to-head compete with a lot of ultra-book on the market and out-perform the majority, if not all, of them. But by adding so many “Pro” features like the XDR display, 16GB RAM, thunderbolt 3 port etc, Apple is clearly making a statement here that they want this iPad Pro to be a computing beast rather than an email-writing, note-taking and YouTube-watching device.

If you just want an iPad that does what an iPad already does well, like simple computer task, drawing/note-taking with an Apple pencil, I don’t think this year model is for you. Instead, Amazon is doing a very good deal on the 2020 iPad Pro which will satisfy everything you will want an iPad to do.

But if you are hoping this to be the ultimate mobile work station for you? I would hold out for now as well, at least until the 7th June WWDC event. With what Apple has done with this year iPad Pro, I find it extremely hard to believe that there isn’t any ambitious iPadOS plan in the pipeline to utilise all these powers. They might even let the iPad runs a modified version of MacOS on the iPad Pro seeming they are essentially a laptop with a touch screen and Apple Pencil support. But as a wise man once said, “Never buy a tech product based on the promise of future software updates.” 

Apple Spring Loaded event: Killed it with the M1 iPad Pro with XDR display and more…

A few weeks ago I wrote a post about iPad Pro vs iPad Air 4 because I have wanted to shake up my computing set up for a while. The flop about the March event actually makes me even more excited for the true, one and only April event. All I can say is, Apple delivered above and beyond. There are 3 main product updates: iPad Pro 2021, iMac 24” and the AirTag.

iPad Pro 2021 – tablet market killer

This is official. Apple has shut down all other competitors in the flagship tablet market. Here are the major updates:

1.    M1 chip – 8 CPUs, 8 GPUs and 16 neural engines.

With the A12Z bionic chip that was in the iPad Pro 2020 or the A14 in the iPad Air 4, their performance was already head and shoulder above any tablets on the market. This year, while I was fully expecting it to be A14Z that would be a slight improvement on the A14 chip in the iPad Air 4, Apple decided to slap their MacBook Pro processors – M1 chip in it, truly committing to their claim of “your next computer is not a computer”. We will have to wait till sometime in May before we can find out the benchmarks, although I don’t expect the M1 in the iPad Pro will be as powerful as those in the MacBook Pro. Due to the thermal side of things, Apple will most likely have to tune down the wattage of the M1 to fit in the slim body of iPad Pro and maintain the 10 hours battery life.

Source: Apple.com

2.    XDR display (mini-LEDs) on 12.9” – peak brightness of 1,600 nits, 1,000,000:1 contrast ratio, 2500 local dimming zone.

On the 12.9″ version, Apple put in their new mini-LED display. Although it is still an LCD tech display, the numbers are absolutely mind-bogging. Up to a peak of 1600 nits of brightness, they group the mini-LEDs into 2500 local dimming zone that achieve a 1000000:1 contrast ratio. That is the £4599 Pro Display XDR in the 12.9″ form factor with a starting price of £999.

Source: Apple.com

3.    Thunderbolt – supports up to 40Gb/s data transfer.

iPad Pro 2021 is the first-ever tablet that supports Thunderbolt 3 technology. With their insanely fast data transfer speed, you can use it to drive the Pro Display XDR at their full 6K resolution. With their already amazing inbuilt display, it can be the ultimate set up for content creators.

4.    Ultra-wide front camera with “Centre Stage”

Having a 125˚ field of view and using machine learning, the new iPad Pro improves the video conferencing experience by keeping the subjects always in the middle of the stage. It also works with people walking in and out of the viewing angle as well. Auto-tracking webcam has been gaining market for the past year when more people are working from home with Zoom meetings turned into everyone’s daily lives. Apple’s integrating the software solution into the new iPad is most welcome.

Source: Apple.com

5.    Support 5G in Cellular version

Although 5G technology is still yet to fully mature, Apple for the past year has been emphasising 5G in their new devices so it is no surprise that they integrated it into the iPad Pro. I don’t need it in my own workflow and 5G support here in Northern Ireland is shoddy, to say the least. But if you live in big cities like New York or London and need a mobile network on your iPad, this option will future proof your workflow.

iMac 24” – Old Macintosh Colourway

Source: Apple.com

Apple also renewed their long over-due iMac. Although similar overall dimension, a thinner bezel means a bigger screen. The most impressive though is their 11.5mm thick screen. Let that number sink in for a minute… 11.5mm is about the same thickness as my iPhone X with a case on. Even a 3.5mm headphone jack has a 14mm plug. Apple managed to fit a whole desktop system into an 11.5mm casing thanks to the M1 system-on-chip configuration.

That’s how thin the new iMac will be

They come in 7 different colour, silver and the same 6 colours on the old Apple logo – Green, Yellow, Orange, Pink, Purple and Blue. To fit with the pastel look, they also changed the bezel from black to white and come with a set of colour matching mouse and a magic keyboard that has the new Touch ID as well. Personally, I am not really sure about the new design. I don’t understand the massive chin thing. Surely they can just make it slightly thicker and get rid of the chin. I understand it is technically impressive and the unboxing would be an amazing experience. But it is a desktop, after all, you are not carrying it around so after a while, who cares if it is 11.5mm or 20mm thin…. I hear people say it is good for office work where people have a place for their post-it notes. But is that it? I mean you have your colleague’s back for that exact purpose too. I guess that’s why I am not in the designing business…

AirTag – perfect add-on to the Apple ecosystem

There were numerous rumours that Apple has been developing their own tracker, AirTag, for some time now. And in this Spring Loaded event, the highly anticipated product is finally announced. Although there are companies already making these type of products, Tile, Chipolo and SmartThings to name a few, you can always bet on the perfect execution and integration from Apple. With the tight integration of the “Find My” network and the Precision Finding feature (available on iPhone 11 or older), it is difficult to ever lose your personal belongings again. And in case they were stolen, the Lost Mode makes tracing the whereabouts of the item possible. With millions of Apple device on the street, any Apple device that came to the close proximity of the lost AirTag, you will receive a “last seen” notification. You can also set it so anyone with an NFC enabled device will be able to get your contact info by tapping it against the AirTag.

Verdict

In the event, Apple also put out some mid-season refresh such as the purple iPhone 12 and updated the Apple TV to support 4K plus a new remote control. It is indeed a spring-loaded event. Of all the news, I am most excited about the new iPad Pro with its insane processing power and the XDR display. Finally, a tablet that truly honours the “Pro” in the name. With the direction where the iPad Pro is developing, it only makes senses that professional software like the Final Cut Pro, Logic Pro X and Xcode will be supported on the iPad Pro soon. That might be solely my wishful thinking, but if Apple decided to do so, I am sure it will be the final nail in the coffin for all other premium tablets on the market.

And by the way, because of the new announcement, the iPad Pro 2020 is now on sale for £643 on Amazon. If you don’t need all the Pro features and A12Z is good enough for you, save yourself £100 while stock last!

Xero Shoes Genesis review: Strip back to basic and embrace the root of barefoot

Xero Shoes was the first barefoot shoe company that I came across when I was researching for some compact alternatives to fit into my backpack for travelling. I was going to Cyprus for a lovely sunbathing holiday and wanted to bring a pair of sandals with me that won’t take up much space in my bag. So as every homo sapiens nowadays do, I asked google about some minimalist sandals and that’s when the spiral started.

Xero Shoes is a barefoot shoe company founded by a couple in America, Steven and Lena in 2009. After experiencing multiple injuries from running, they came across the book Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and started DIY their own Huarache shoes. Initially for themselves and some members of their running club, but soon took off into a business with a fan base across the globe.

Genesis

Genesis is their Huaraches shoes. One of the most minimalist shoes you can find on the market, literally a paper-thin sole and a long string that strap the foot in. In barefoot shoes, this is possibly the barest of them all. Xero Shoes called their Huarache “Genesis” because it is their founding product and I found it fitting for myself as it introduces me to the world of barefoot. £39.95… although might not be the cheapest for a pair of sandals, given their unique position in the market, you will find it difficult to get another quality pair in this price range.

Appearance

I really like its minimalistic rustic look. Just a paper-thin sole and the black cord version I picked makes it look like I am merely having some decorative straps on my foot and not wearing shoes at all. It comes in 4 different colour cords so it goes well with most colourful summer outfit, keeping you cool and free.

Compact and flexible

It kind of goes without saying, majority of the barefoot shoes are flexible. That’s the whole point of them, to mould to your feet rather than the other way round. And the Genesis are so flexible and minimal that they can roll up into a tiny ball that fits into the palm of your hand. It is one of the main selling points to me that I always have a pair of sandal ready for the beach without taking much too much space in my bag.

Amazing ground feel

They called their thin sole FeelTrue® rubber outsole. Comes in 5mm, might not be one of the thinnest of sole out there as you sometimes see company boasting about 3-4mm sole. But from my experience, it feels much thinner than 5mm between you and the element. Although thin, they are extremely durable and have saved my feet from so many sharps on the road. If you are an experienced barefoot junkie, you would appreciate that ground feel of these.

But also because of that, it might not necessarily be the first pair of barefoot shoes I would recommend to everyone out there looking to try barefoot. It takes some times to re-adjust from “normal shoes” to barefoot. So don’t be like me that the first time wearing one is on holiday walking long distance. There are different brands of barefoot shoe companies that are slightly more protective that can ease you into the barefoot world.

Adjustable strap

Improving upon the Huaraches, the Genesis strap has an adjustable system that makes the sandal hug your feet better. By tightening or loosening the heel straps, you can adjust the whole shoes to fit your desire comfort thanks to the looping mechanism on the side rather than having multiple straps like the traditional sandals. With the strap having some elasticity to it, after finding your perfect fit, you can slip on and off them very easily. In reality, I found adjusting to having the perfect fit is a bit more faffy than it initially seems. A small adjustment to one tag at the back actually makes quite a significant change to the whole shoe tension. Ideally, you want to have a good tension so the shoes don’t turn into a stupid flapping swim fin scoping up every little thing on the floor, but at the same time, you don’t want it to be too tight digging into your toe webs. From time to time, I still need to re-adjust it just because I don’t feel I get it quite right.

Verdict

Xero Shoes’ Genesis is deeply inspired by Ramárui’s Huaraches shoes. I love its compactness and minimalistic design that strips it all back to the most basic of shoes – the sole ( 😉 ) purpose is to protect your feet from penetrating injuries by rocks and debris. Their FeelTrue® sole, although protective, gives you a truly remarkable ground feel that all barefoot enthusiasts cherish. It is very comfortable once you are used to wearing barefoot shoes, but you might want to ease yourself into the barefoot world before doing any serious running and walking in these!