Instant Photography

Instax vs Polaroid: Important things to know before you buy

Speaking of instant photography, most people think of “Polaroid”. And from this evolves much confusion over the use of the term. I have heard people refer to Instax camera as “Fujifilm’s polaroid camera.” or “take a polaroid with your Fujifilm camera”. In today’s blog, let’s tackle this Frankenstein gibberish and what you need to know before you decide which system to go into.

Why can’t we see the picture now?

Start with some history…In my opinion, without a doubt, Instant photography is one of the most mind-blowing innovations. Dr Edwin H Land, the founder of Polaroid, revolutionised the industry by integrating the whole darkroom developing and fixing process into the film itself, allowing the photos to be developed just minutes after the deciding moment of pressing the shutter button. Saving the guesswork and the disappointment of only finding out days later that you have missed the shot. 

This Polaroid legacy stemmed from an innocent question Dr Land’s daughter asked while they were on vacation in Santa Fe in 1943. Till today, the signature white square frame and the hypnotic way of the photos developing within minutes in front of your very own eyes, comes vividly into everyone’s head when anyone speaks of Polaroid.

Polaroid Originals vs original Polaroid?

With Dr Land achieved, seemingly at the time, an impossible task, most people today are still referring to any instant photo as “Polaroid”. Ironically, although Polaroid still exists and offers instant film today, they are far from the one Dr Land created. After being bankrupted and reformed twice, they are now owned by a Dutch company, the Impossible Project, which exists under the name of Polaroid Originals. During their struggles, a Japanese co-operative giant, Fujifilm, has risen to take over the instant photography world. So nowadays Polaroid to instant photography is merely like Hoover to vacuum cleaner, they were once so influential the brands essentially become synonyms with the product, though only the names stand the test of time. Polaroid still has instant cameras but, certainly, in today’s market, Instax is the new King.

Polaroid to instant photography is merely like Hoover to vacuum cleaner

Things you need to know

Phew, with some history lesson out of the way and getting the terminology right, we can finally be civilised and talk about other interesting things. 

1.   The Recipe

In analogue photography, the film plays a key part in how the photos look and feel. Since Polaroid went out of business in the 2000s, chemical companies whose sole business was to supply chemicals for Polaroid also closed for good. Polaroid Originals, therefore, has to re-develop their instant film formula. They have come a long way, but their formula still far from perfect. Apart from the long development time, reports of colour shifts, colour streaks and faded colours are not uncommon.

Fujifilm has been in the photography game for donkey’s year and with all the resources at hand, they seem to have nailed their instant film formula which produces a very consistent result. Although I once had a film that came out wrong, it rarely happens that made me wonder if that was caused by my malfunctioned brain rather than a dodgy film. Instax films also manage an amazing colour separation. They produce vivid images with a punchy contrast and incredible saturation. It is perfect for someone looking to have a system that does exactly what it says on the tin without any surprises. Although from a photography hobbyist perspective, you can say that’s a bit boring. Sometimes that little accident, be it a light leak or colour smudge, give the photo that unique charm that cannot be replicated.

bad film
A film that came out wrong. Although not sure if that’s my fault or a dodgy film

2.   One speed to rule them all…

Film speed is just about how sensitive to light the film is and most people know it as ISO. The higher the number, the more sensitive it is to light. You may want to know a little because it also picks up “noise” although nowadays everyone loves a bit of grain.

All Instax films come in only one speed, ISO 800. It is a good choice for indoor photography where the room is usually artificially lit. With the combination of an automatic flash that most Instax cameras come with, I took pride in somehow manage to mess one up. 

However, when you shoot outdoor on a sunny day, with ISO 800, the problem is reversed – there is too much light. With a fast film, it forces the aperture to close down small where diffraction becomes significant and soften the image (Yeah Mr White, yeah science…). If the fastest shutter speed and smallest aperture cannot compensate for the excess light, the film can get overexposed and “washed out”. Worst-case scenario, the film gets “blown out”.

Meanwhile, Polaroid offers 2 different speeds, ISO 160 or 640, ready for your tanning session on the beach or a drunken night out.

3.   Size doesn’t matter, it’s how you use it

Well… it’s a kind sentiment but in the photography world, size does matter. As we are discussing Instax and Polaroid, we will keep on topic. Instax has 3 sizes: Mini, Square and Wide. While Polaroid technically has two sizes their standard size and large format, as their large-format film needs an 8×10 film camera with a specific holder and processor, we will disregard it here.

A larger film means you can pack more into one frame. More people, more stories and possibly more freckles on show. In Fujifilm line-up, Instax Wide is the largest, providing a 1:1.618 golden ratio but still fall short of Polaroid signature gigantic 3.1×3.1inch square frame.

Instax and Polaroid film size

Apart from the picture size itself, I always think there is just something about a square format that pulls people in. From the good ol’ large format 4×5 and medium format 6×6 or 6×7 to the nowadays Instagram aspect ratio, they are more squares than rectangular. Maybe it’s the symmetry of a square that feels more natural to the eyes. With that, Instax came up with their square version back in 2017, basically a smaller version of a Polaroid film. It is understandable that Polaroid wasn’t well pleased about it and got some lawyers involved.

Verdict

To me, the ultimate winner for having more options in the market is always going to be the consumers. Both manufacturers produce great products and it is difficult to say if anyone has an edge over the other. Instax film has good colour and consistent results but Polaroid has their enormous picture size and their “artistic flair” that won them a very loyal fan base. My personal approach is to start with Fujifilm Instax to dip my toes in the instant world in a more controlled and consistent way. Now I am satisfied with Instax, I would love to get my hands on the legendary Polaroid SX70 and see what their diehard fans see. The whole concept is like a gateway drug, once you are hooked by Instax, then experiment with Polaroid and you might understand the “inconsistency” might just be the way layperson interpret “character”.

Thanks for reading! Go check out my review on Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 if you haven’t already. Share your thoughts with me below, are you a fan of Instax or Polaroid?

Fujifilm Instax Wide 300 review: The Bigger The Better

*Click* The blinding flash fills the party room, you hear the motor working hard to squeeze that thin piece of white plastic sheet out of the camera. A few minutes later, as if like magic, that moment of joy emerges from this blank canvas, forever captured. Instant photography has been around for decades, but the anticipation of seeing the image developed and witnessing that mesmerising magic still get me excited every time I press down on the shutter button. Maybe that’s why when I first come across Fujifilm’s wide format Instax film, I naturally put on my research hat and decided to get my hands on it. 

Design

Instax wide 300 is meaty. And it has to be. The Instax Wide film is double the size that of their popular Instax mini, which is roughly the size of a credit card. The film itself comes in at 8.6 x 10.8 cm, so to be able to physically house the film cartridge in, there is a limitation of how small it can be. Compared to some other boxy body design, the film cartridge goes in vertically rather than horizontally allows it to have a slightly shallower profile, although the protruding lens design nullifies that advantage in the real world scenario.  

It is very easy to insert the film cartridge, open the back and line up the yellow tag, and that’s you. It has a well sized and deep handgrip, complimented with a thumb rest on the back. You feel secure holding the camera and it is very comfortable, although it is a bit cumbersome aesthetically in my opinion, especially with the viewfinder awkwardly poking out of the other side.

Viewfinder

Personally, the viewfinder on the Instax wide 300 is one of the very few points I hope Fujifilm will improve on for the next version of the Instax wide camera. Considered the fact that Fujifilm has to make the body a certain size to fit the film cartridge and extendible lens, “being compact” is not exactly at the top of the design priority list. I assume the placement of the viewfinder was a decision based on trying to balance the camera visually because of the bulky handgrip, mimic the look and feel of a rangefinder camera and avoid having to cramp your face on to the back of your hand. These may be justifiable, but what I don’t understand is, if it is already poking out to the side, why don’t they just make it bigger to make composition easier. With a 0.37x magnification, that’s like trying to read the bottom line of the Snellen eye test chart every time you want to take a picture!

Fujifilm Instax Wide 300

Performance

Instax Wide 300 is essentially a point and shoot camera. It is mostly fully automatic, all you need to do is: pose your subject, press that big round button and there you go. The only control it gives you is the focus distance, exposure compensation and fill-in flash. Select the focus distance at the front ring for either 0.9m-3m(close up or indoors) or 3m-∞ (landscape). Exposure compensation let you have a bit of control over how bright you want your pictures to be (+/- 2/3EV). And the fill-in flash allows you to turn on the flash to light up your subject in a scene with a high dynamic range. Although it allows you to turn on the flash if and when you want extra lighting, it doesn’t let you override and turn off the flash if the camera decides the scene is too dark.

Instax Wide films

Price

The official retail price of the Instax Wide 300 is £110. But you can definitely get a better price if you shop around. I got mine off Amazon for less than £100. It is a pretty good price considered the quality of the camera. Other competitors’ price range from £150 to £750, although you can expect the higher price range cameras tend to offer more functionality.

Instax wide colour film is going for £15-£20 for a pack of 20 (2x 10pack) and the monochrome film comes in a bit more expensive at ~£11 for a pack of 10. So you are looking at roughly £1 per frame, very similar to their Instax Mini . It is also cheaper than some other options such as Polaroid films which cost ~£15 for a pack of 8. Yes, analogue photography ain’t cheap so make sure you think twice before clicking that button.

Fit more in
fit more in 2

Who’s it for?

Recommend: It is great for the vast majority of the public who just want to capture the moment without having to think about the exposure triangle and get a well-exposed photo every time. It is also great for people who had experience with Instax Mini or Square before but left wanting for more. If you are considering your first instant camera and camera size is not a determine factor, go wide! Because in the photography world, size does matter and the bigger is almost always better.

Think twice: But the simplicity of the controls also means they limit your creative options. Without being able to control the aperture, you can’t decide the depth of field (i.e. how blurry the background) and without being able to alter the shutter speed, you don’t have the option to play with long exposure. They don’t even offer multiple exposure mode. For the more seasoned photographers who like to experiment with their photos, Instax Wide 300 might not be what you are looking for.

Why I bought it?

I bought this Instax Wide 300 for my partner. In the last few years, the digital photography world turned its focus on packing more megapixels on the sensor and producing ever sharper lenses. In the pursue of this “perfection”, digital cameras are perhaps losing its “soul”, that unique “flavour” different camera gives. With that, analogue photography is quietly regaining a lot of people’s attention. Like the analogue photography community, Eva gets a lot of joy out of the analogue experience where you are so much more involved in the process. But she is not like myself who loves photography as a hobby, who is willing to spend hours learning the exposure triangle and experimenting with different settings. Instax Wide 300 gives her the perfect one-stop-shop: point and shoot. No post editing non-sense, just light, chemical reactions and raw emotions.

Verdict

Fujifilm dominates the instant photography market for a good reason. Their films produce a consistent result, amazing colour saturation and punchy contrast. Their cameras are easy to use and reasonably priced. With the much bigger frame, Instax Wide packs a lot more stories and emotions into one frame compared to their more popular Instax Mini. It is easy to recommend to the vast majority of people who just begin in their instant analogue photography journey and wanted a camera to do exactly what it says on the tin without any surprises.

However, if you are looking for something that is more versatile and have more creative options, there are some other cameras on the market, such as the Lomo’Instant wide or the Mint InstantKon RF70, that also uses Instax Wide film and gives you more control over your final image.

Instax Wide with film

Kobo Libra H2O review: The Best Mid-Tier E-reader On The Market?

Since my lockdown resolution to read more started, the thing about carrying a book with me everything that was annoying me was that traditional books are chunky and they are not designed to be particularly friendly with water. So I was digging around with some kind of solution that can make reading a habit easier to stay. That’s when I started looking into the world of e-readers. If you have missed my last blog about Kindle vs Kobo and how I chose to go with Kobo, it might be worth checking it out especially if you are still undecided which company to go with. But if you are here to find out whether you have really made the right conclusion, here is my 1-month review of my Kobo Libra H2O.

Design

The flagship e-readers on the market, namely Kindle Oasis and the Kobo Forma, claim the ergonomic design, physical page-turning buttons, bigger and higher resolution screen, option for landscape and portrait mode and the adjustable colour temperature and brightness front light will provide the most comfortable reading experience to date. So the fact that Kobo Libra H2O adapt a lot of their design and put it into a package half the price caught my attention instantly. 

The handgrip

It houses the two page-turning buttons and is the distinctive feature that separates itself from the lower-priced models. It is slightly raised at an angle, designed to be more ergonomic and slot into your palm while holding. One thing I would say though, despite the fact that I have rather dainty hands, I do sometimes wish the side grip is slightly deeper to give it a bit more secure hold. But balancing the fact that it needs to be thin (that’s the whole point of having an e-reader in the first place), perhaps a slightly gripper finish might well do the trick in the future model. I know some might argue about putting on a case will help with the handling, but I just don’t like the extra bulk it gives.

Kobo Libra H2O e-reader

Page button

Call me what you like but I love a good ol’ physical button. Touch screen technology has indeed come a long way and it has opened up a whole new dimension on how we interact with our devices with the intuitive gesture controls. But able to keep my finger on a button and get to the next page with minimal movement, in my opinion, is much neater in this scenario. Although one thing I would say is, I do wish the buttons have a tiny bit more travel but not complaining at this price point. And don’t worry if you are a diehard touch screen fanatic, they do support touch screen. 

Power button

It is well placed at the back, on the opposite side of the handgrip which means you are very unlikely to bump it accidentally while reading one-handed unless you are some sort of monster to purposefully hold the device on the thin edge. It does, however, mean you need your second hand to turn it off once your finish.

Screen

The evil blue light

The harmful nature of blue light has been well covered over the years. From affecting sleep quality to damaging retina cells, many tech companies have since adapted their screen to reduce the impact of it, such as the Night Shift function with the iPhones and Samsung with their built-in “Blue Light Filter”. Same as Kobo, the front light’s adjustable colour temperature and brightness in the Libra H2O make reading in low light very comfortable in my experience. 

Auto-rotation and landscape mode

The landscape and portrait options certainly add to the fluidity of the user experience. To be honest, I don’t ever use it in the landscape orientation because it just feels weird to me to hold a “book” that way. So I just locked it in the portrait orientation, but with the auto-rotation, I can easily switch between hands by flipping the reader upside down and the text will always be the right way up. It is a feature you don’t think much of it but you will miss it when it is gone (cue the Passenger…).

High resolution

The screen is 1680×1264 which come in as 300ppi (pixel per inch). It is the same as the flagships. Not only does it show crispy texts, but it is also extremely capable of displaying images with great details, well suited for my inner manga nerd.

Lock-screen 

One detail I appreciate is the lock screen. By utilising the bistable property (image stays even with the power being cut off) of the E ink technology, Kobo uses it to display the cover of the book you are reading when you turn it off instead of a blank screen. It gives the impression of an always-on display.

The rest of the features

Battery life

Battery life is one of the strongest selling points of an e-reader. So it may not be surprising to find out that I have only charged it once out of the box and I am yet to charge it again despite having used it every day. Still, with the increasing number of items I need to plug in the wall every night, it is refreshing to find that the Kobo is not one of them.

Waterproofing

This is the must-have feature on my list. Now, although I trust it will survive if I drop it in the bath, the deep-seated fear of “electronic not meant to be mixing with water” is holding me back from dunking it in. I guess knowing it can is enough for me, it certainly survived me splashing water on it going in and out of the bath. That’s the extend I am willing to find out at this presenting time…until the accident strikes. 

Dropbox and Pocket app integration

It is more convenient than I initially thought. I downloaded all my Open University courses through Dropbox without having to find a micro USB cable and a dongle to plug into my laptop. And Pocket encourages me to go through those long web-article archives that I have saved a while back as well. (psst, you can Pocket my blog posts to read them later too!)

Verdict

If you are looking for an e-reader that can do more than just text but at the same time not ready to splash out £200+ on the “luxury experience”, Kobo Libra H2O, in my opinion, is hands down one of the best if not the best mid-tier e-reader on the market. Yes, it only has a 7” screen rather than 8”, 8GB storage instead of 32GB, no flush display and no audiobook support. But for me, a 7” is as good as 8”, I listen to my audiobooks on my phone like I would be listening to my music which means I don’t need huge storage either. But instead of a £130 extra to upgrade to the flagship models, a mere £40 (or less if you are quick, as Kobo is doing a discount means it only costs £119.99 as I am typing) gets you almost all the handy features upgrade you would want from a flagship with only some insignificant compromises. That’s why I bought it!

Which e-reader do you have and what is your thought about Kobo Libra H2O? Or maybe you have an even better alternatives? Leave a comment down below to let me know! 🙂

Kindle vs Kobo: do you need one and which one to go for

During 2020, the world took an unprecedented turn. One year later, despite the effort the world has put in, we are still under strict guidance to stay at home. To get the most out of this time where entertainment and relaxation are limited indoors, I decided to focus some of my energy into self-growth. As Margaret Fuller once said “Today a reader, tomorrow a leader.”, reading more books is my baby step towards bettering myself.

If you are reading this, you have now probably done some digging into the world of e-readers and are still a bit undecided whether to pull the trigger. Hopefully by reading through my thought process and experience in getting one, you can have a clearer idea of whether you should be getting one, and if so, which one.

What is an e-reader and do you need one?

Just a background for those who are unfamiliar to e-readers. It is an electronic device that one can use to read electronic versions of books, magazines, newspapers etc. Amazon’s Kindle and Rakuten’s Kobo are arguably amongst the most popular choices available. But why do you need a dedicated device when nowadays almost everyone has a smart phone or tablet on them to download a reading app and more importantly why choose them over a physical book?

Pros:

  1. Natural reading experience: Most e-readers use E Ink’s technology to mimic the appearance of traditional ink on paper, giving a more natural or even a nostalgic reading experience compared to the modern era of bright LCD/LED phone and computer screens.
  2. Less glare: Most e-readers are optimised to offer a matt screen that reduce glare compared to glossy screen finish in most modern-day phones and tablets. Although you may argue putting on a matt finished screen protector can achieve a very similar result, you are however sacrificing the visual quality for other tasks your phones/tablets are capable of doing such as watching a movie. And although expert opinions and research does not suggest any obvious benefits on eye straining, in my personal experience, it certainly feels easier to read in certain lighting condition.
  3. Battery life: E Ink technology is sometimes referred to as bistable meaning it retains an image even when the power source is removed. That significantly reduces the power consumption of the device and you can therefore enjoy a battery life measuring in weeks rather than hours. And you don’t have to worry about not being able to pick up that important phone call after long hours of being absorbed by that murder scene in Gotham City or fighting the fire breathing dragon of tomorrow land.
  4. No distraction: One big issue reading on your phone or tablets is the distraction. The constant notifications from your mum asking when you are coming home for dinner or your favourite YouTuber has just uploaded a new video, stop you from fully immersing into the world of the story. E-readers cut out all those background distractions and noise so you can just immerse into the magical world.
  5. E-books tend to be cheaper: Without the cost of having to physically print out the books, delivering to or stocking on the book stores’ shelves,  authors and publishers can afford to offer a lower price to retain the same profit margins and therefore e-book version tends to be lower in price.
  6. Portability: Maybe less of an issue at present which hopefully will change in a very near future, it can make a massive difference while travelling. From being able to read one handed on the train without worrying about flipping pages on your day to day commute, to no longer having to sacrifice that extra pair of shoes or jacket in your weekend trip backpack. The small form factor means you can carry that 500+ pages book without having that internal turmoil of choosing between your what-if-I-need-to-go-to-a-fancy-restaurant shoes and finding out if Harry defeated Voldemort.
  7. Read anywhere: Some e-readers provide water-resistance capability that allow you to read by the pool side or in the comfort of your bath tub without the worry of dropping and ruining it.

Cons:

  1. One more thing to carry: Nowadays, everyone has a handheld device of some sort be that a phone or a tablet. They are more than capable of downloading a free app that displays some texts and images. This might be a deal breaker for a lot of people especially if you are one who is trying to cut down the number of items carried with you to only your phone.
  2. Upfront cost: Yes, e-books tend to be cheaper but don’t forget you have to purchase the device in the first place and that should come into calculating the cost. If on average you are saving £4 a book, depending on which e-reader you get, you are going to at least buy 20 books over the course of the e-reader life cycle to just break even. Let’s assume the reader lasts you 5 years, that’s at least 4 books a year. Not a difficult target, but worth assessing how reading fits into your life before investing into one.
  3. It cannot replace the feel of a book: Yes the screen technology is impressive in mimicking the ink and paper look. But the physical feeling of holding a chunky book, able to feel the coarse texture of the paper and that “book smell” is irreplaceable.

In my specific case, I was looking for something that could help me make this new resolution of mine sustainable – which means the easier reading is, the more likely I would keep doing it. I summed up 3 main points that would make me more likely to read:

  1. Read everywhere, even when I am in my bath
  2. I don’t find it a chore to bring it around with me
  3. Give me a break from my phone and computer screen

Given those 3 main needs, e-readers are almost a no brainer for me, the upfront cost of it can give me some motivation to read more so as to not feel like a tube wasting money.

Kindle vs Kobo

By now, if you have come to the same conclusion as me – I need one in my life. You might want to know who to give your money to. Most people are likely to have heard of Amazon’s Kindle even if you are not in the market of getting an e-reader. And if you are, you will perhaps have also heard of Rakuten’s Kobo. These two companies are the Samson and Goliath of the e-book realm. What they offer on their e-readers’ line up are very similar but each have their own edge over the other, making it unclear who wins and really it just depends on what you need. Let’s start with the gut as I think it is the most important decision to make – which eco-system to buy into?

 KindleKobo
CompanyAmazonRakuten
Ebook titlesOver 6 millionsOver 5 millions
Audio booksYesYes
File support.Azw or .mobiNot support .epubMost file type including .epub
External app supportGoodreadsOverDrive, Pocket, Dropbox
Subscription servicePrime members have access to selected titles for free on top of their existing Prime service Monthly £7.99Annual £79VIP programme to collect 2x points for discount on future purchase and 1 free book per year Annual £6

Book store

Amazon remains the largest e-book store on the internet, having over 6 millions title to choose from, which means if you can think of it, they are likely to have it. Being the largest also means there is a good chance that any new titles being released will be on the kindle bookstore as well. Some might even be exclusively on it. That being said, Kobo is by no means far behind with roughly 5 million titles plus it has a big advantage over Kindle in that it supports .epub format. This means you can buy and import e-books from other e-book shops online. Both book stores offer audiobooks as well for those of you who also enjoy a good story.

External app support

Amazon purchased Goodreads, an online social community of book lovers, back in 2013. The integration between Kindle’s personalised recommendation and Goodreads’ list of recommended books provide a powerful way to discover new titles. On the other hand, instead of gearing towards discoverability which is great for business, Kobo’s external app support seems to focus on providing a supportive environment to encourage reading. OverDrive is a service that allows people to borrow e-books and audiobooks from local libraries for free. This opens up even more channels for readers to source their next adventure at no extra cost to them. Just head down or go on your local library website to register your library card and you are set to go. You might find your “local-local” ones do not support OverDrive and you might need to use someone’s address to gain access to one that does (Not that I would suggest this…). Pocket and Dropbox integration is also surprisingly handy, just Pocket any article you find on the web or drag and drop any e-book you have on your Dropbox account, and they will sync to your Kobo automatically for you to read next time you link your Kobo to Wi-Fi. 

Subscription Service

Amazon Prime Reading gives Prime members a sizable selection of titles to read for free without any limit. So if you already have a Prime membership to enjoy Amazon’s other services such as shipping with no extra cost, music and video streaming, you can now take advantage of their massive e-book collection as well to maximise your benefits with your Prime account. If you don’t have an Amazon Prime account already and don’t see the need for the other benefits such as delivery and streaming service associated with it, to a normal reader, a monthly cost of £7.99 (annual £79) is not exactly a bargain just to read only a part of their e-book collection. On the other hand, Kobo’s VIP programme only charge £6 for the whole year, which turns out to be 50p a month. It gives you one free book every year, 10% off on a large e-book collection and allows you to earn their Super Points twice as quickly as their free basic account. Super Point is essentially like your flight miles, you can use it to buy more books once you get to a certain amount of points. And even if you decide not to opt for their VIP programme, you are still earning points every time you purchase any book on their store, and redeem a book free once and a while.

My choice

Although I am a Prime member of Amazon and in the last few years have turned to rely heavily on their incredibly fast delivery and movie streaming service, the difference between both Kindle and Kobo’s service in terms of the amount of native e-book titles are so minimal that I will be happy with either. However, how Kobo had the edge over Kindle in my case was the fact that they support .epub natively and I appreciate the OverDrive, Pocket and Dropbox integration that make importing books and articles just that much easier. But that decision wasn’t set in stone yet…

Which model to get though?

At this point of the blog, if you are still here, you might be leaning towards one or the other but yet still not 100% sure. Because let’s be honest, at the end of the day, which e-reader model to get is the million dollar question. I have summarised the boring spec into two tables of what Kindle and Kobo offer in their ranges that you can still purchase directly from their website.

 Kobo NiaKobo ClaraKobo Libra H2OKobo Forma
Price£89.99£109.99£149.99From £239.99
Screen6” 212ppi1024 x 758 res6” 300ppi1072 x 1448 res7” 300ppi1680 x 1264 res8” Mobius 300ppi1440 x 1920 res
Size (H x W x D) and weight160 x 112 x 9.2mm172g160 x 110 x 8.4mm166g159 x 144 x 7.8mm192g178 x 160 x 8.5mm197g
Storage8GB8GB8GB8GB / 32GB
Waterproof (IPX8)NoNoYesYes
Flush-FrontNoNoNoYes
Other featuresAdjustable brightness. One-colour lightAdjustable brightness and colour temperatureAdjustable brightness and colour temperature,page turn buttons, auto-rotationAdjustable brightness and colour temperature, page turn buttons, auto-rotation
KindleKindle PaperwhiteKindle Oasis
PriceFrom £69.99From £119.99From £229.99
Screen6″ 167ppi6″ 300ppi6″ 300ppi
Size (H x W x D) and weight160 x 130 x 8.7mm
174g
167 x 116 x 8.2mm
182g Wi-Fi
191g Wi-Fi + mobile connectivity
159 x 141 x 8.4mm
188g
Storage8 GB8 GB / 32 GB8 GB / 32GB
Waterproof (IPX8)NoYesYes
Flush-FrontNoYesYes
ConnectivityWi-FiWi-Fi +/- free mobile connectivityWi-Fi +/- free mobile connectivity
Other featuresPhysical page turn button, adjustable warm light, auto-rotation, Aluminium body

Why I bought it.

Both Kindle and Kobo offer very similar line up and I have constructed the table above in a way to also give a visual comparison between the line ups. Kindle offers 3 devices, the most basic of Kindle, the middle ground Kindle Paperwhite and the flagship Kindle Oasis. Kobo offers similar line up with Kobo Nia competing with Kindle at the basic level, Kobo Clara fighting with Kindle Paperwhite for the middle ground market and Kobo Forma to lock horns at the flagship market with the Kindle Oasis. You may ask how about the Kobo Libra H2O then? That, in my opinion, is where Kobo excel. Kobo launched the Kobo Libra H2O back in September 2019 and positioned it perfectly to bridge the gap between Clara/Paperwhite and Forma/Oasis, having the flagship features that you would appreciate but cut down on the luxury features to keep it at a reasonable price point. 

Water-resistance/-proofing is my top priority feature. I would like to read anywhere I feel like picking up a book, so I don’t have to worry about dropping it when I am using it in my bath tub. The waterproof rating of IPX8 (meaning able to immerse in up to 2 meters of water for up to 60 minutes) is an important feature. That helps me narrow down to only a handful of options. I am from a generation who still appreciate the tactile feeling of actually pressing a button rather than just pure touch screen. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with touch screen especially nowadays the technology is so good that there is no issue with swiping to turn a page like you would in a normal book. But I grew up in the era where touch screen wasn’t as sensitive as today’s, and that has left me with an ingrained bias that once in a while, I just enjoy the physical feedback I get from pressing a button. Plus that extra grip gives a substantial area for my hand to hold on to the tablet more comfortably. So that left me with 3 options, Oasis/Libra H2O/Forma. I have concluded that I don’t need the highest quality of screen. At the end of the day, I am getting an e-reader to display text rather than watching movies. With Kobo Libra H2O, it gives me the “luxury reading experience” without the premium price tag.

This is a very smart pricing tactic from Kobo, a product that bridges the massive £130 price gap between their middle product and flagship product. Utilising the psychology of paying an extra £40 instead of £130, you can get the majority of the Forma’s feature with only a small compromise on the screen quality. This makes Libra H2O look even more attractive. Although done so at the expense of the sales of Forma and Clara to boost the sale of Libra H2O, they , in the process, can even take away some potential customer swaying between Paperwhite and Oasis as well. I am definitely one of them. When I was debating between Kindle vs Kobo for my needs, Kobo was only leading very slightly and it was the Libra H2O that sealed the deal.

Verdict

In the ever expanding world of e-books, Kindle and Kobo stand out as the leaders. They both provide a very similar line up to each other but, in my opinion, Kobo won by investing into the void between the mid-tier and flagship product. If you are just looking into getting an e-reader in the most simple form to read text, both of their basic products do that brilliantly and price may be the most important factor. Just remember that Kindle’s price mentioned above included “special offers” (just another word for ads) at their home screen that you have to pay an extra £10 to get rid of. And if you are looking for something a bit more sophisticated, like a better screen because you want to read some comics, Kobo Libra H2O is a very solid choice if you can stretch that extra £30-40. 

Where It All Started!

This is it! We are doing this. After thinking long and hard, I have decided to start this blog. A blog where I can share with you what I am passionate about.

A little background story 

Since I was a little boy, I was always fascinated by all the little gadgets on the market, possibly influenced by my electronic engineer dad who was always reading about some new computer gadgets/tech. Then came the influence of my shopping enthusiast mum which made me one of the salesman’s favourite type of customer… “You can clip this sunglasses clip to your own spectacles and turn it into multifunctional glasses.” “okay, shut up and take my money.” And after I got to fiddle with it and finding out how it works and what it does, I realise I don’t even wear glasses. This cycle continues to repeat itself, some sort of gadget would come along and I would buy it then found out I don’t actually need it. But that didn’t stop me. There is this market in Sham Shui Po, Hong Kong where I used to love to go with my dad every weekend when I was a kid. Partly because they have one of my favourite noodle restaurants right next to it, but mainly because the market sells all kinds of weird gadgets. If you know your way, I am almost certain you will be able to find all of the parts you need to build a rocket to compete with Elon. But instead of building a rocket and becoming the richest person in the world, here I am piling up my cupboard with all kinds of cool product idea that never actually have any use in my life.

Fast forward a little, I grew up, flew half way across the globe, fell in love, moved from big city to smaller city to even smaller city, got a job. The sucker for nifty gadgets in me never left. But instead of sunglasses clip or solar powered head nodding car display, I upgraded to put my attention to expensive tech products. “Cool! Look at that vacuum robot, I want one for my 10 sq. ft. bedroom…”, “See that smart watch? It has an ECG function, I want one just in case I have an arrhythmia…” Only issue is, like most people, my paycheck is not a blank cheque. So instead of just “add to cart” every time I see a new fancy gadget, I direct my excited energy on reading and finding out what I can about the product. That way, I satisfy my impulse on wanting to know more about the gadgets and having much better judgement in justifying my purchases if and when I do pull the trigger.

This is it.

Slowly, once in a while, friends and family will pick my brain when they want to buy some kind of tech gadgets either for themselves or for someone else. After some digging, I would lay it out and show them my thought process if I were to buy it myself. That’s when this blog idea came to mind. I thought if I could write something and lay it out how I justify my purchase, maybe someone will find it useful and appreciate the plain and simple “Why I Buy It?”.

I have put off this blog idea for a very long time. Just with everything, you can always find a million reasons not to do something. “The blogging world is so saturated, your voice will never be heard.” “You are just about ticking along over here with your speaking English, let alone your writing English.” are among those million. But with some encouragement from the boredom I got from lockdown, I decided this is it.

Why I Buy It.

This is a blog where I write about my shopping obsession and how I justify and rationalise my purchasing decisions. I will share my thoughts on actually using them, the good and the bad and if I would recommend it to anyone, all from an average consumer point of view. I don’t like the idea of setting a boundary to this, I want to talk about the tablet I got the other day but I would also like to share with you why I bought my new backpack and my new hiking shoes. I hope in this journey of sharing my thoughts, you can come away having a better idea whether you should buy it too or perhaps it is just another thing that you thought you needed.