Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Fujinon 23mm f/2 all-weather prime lens review

Ever since I started photography, the one thing that keeps me up for several nights before I travel is what kind of lens I was gonna bring. OK, it does not really cause me to lose sleep but I still get a little anxious about my lens choice every time I travel.

However, when I shifted to Fujifilm, I also discovered the Fujinon XF 23mm f/2 R WR. This is a fine piece of lens that, I discovered, is the perfect companion whenever I travel.

In my latest travels to different destinations here in the Philippines, in those occasions, I only brought the 23mm lens with me.

But first, about the lens…

The 23mm f/2 R WR is the lighter variant in Fujifilm’s lens line up. You see, there is an f/1.4 version of the 23mm. The 1.4 maximum aperture affords you more light but it also means you will have to pay more - bigger maximum aperture means bigger price… Also, the 1.4 variant is not weather-sealed, so, if you go to places where it could get dusty, then you will be better off getting the f/2 version. And one last thing, the 1.4 version is heavier than the f/2 one so if you want to go light, then you should choose the latter.

The 23mm f/2 is a small lens but is a chunky one. I mean, it is small but it feels hefty. It is dense and its build quality feels really superb. It tapers towards the front of the lens as this is also designed for Fujifilm’s range-finder type cameras like the Fujifilm X-Pro2. (If this lens didn’t taper towards the front, then you will be able to see the lens in one of the corners of the optical viewfinder.) This means that the 23mm f/2 uses a small filter; it is 43mm actually and it is the smallest filter size I have used so far. I actually had a hard time looking for such a filter in the many camera shops in Metro Manila…

Paired with the Fujifilm X-T3 camera, the lens feels actually small. The chunky size of the X-T3 dwarfs the lens somewhat. If you have a X-T20 or X-T30 or the like, then the lens would feel more at home with your camera body. But this does not mean I don’t like the lens. Quite contrary! I love it because it has a great build quality and because it takes really great photos!

And speaking of photos, I took my Fujifilm X-T3 with the 23mm f/2 lens to four different tourist destinations in the Philippines, two of which are beach destinations. Yes, we are spoiled for having so many beaches!

Paired with the X-T3, the 23mm f/2 forms a weather-sealed camera system! So, I was not even a little worried despite the very fine sand on the beaches of Boracay! Of course you cannot take the camera and lens combo swimming but at least your camera system is protected when it comes to sand and water splashes.

And the photos taken by the 23mm f/2 lens is short of breath-taking. Focusing is also quick so you won’t have to worry about missing a shot. As a matter of fact, I took a photo of a cyclist and the photo produced was tack sharp. And, yes, this lens is also great for portraits!

However, if there’s one thing that I’d like for the 23mm to have, it would be an optical image stabilisation. In all of Fujifilm’s lens line ups, only the new Fujinon XF 80mm f/2.8 WR Macro has optical image stabilisation. This means that your shutter speed should not be slower than 1/25 of a second. This also means that, when the light goes down, you will have to boost your ISO so you can keep that shutter speed in place. It is thus a good thing that, even at an ISO of 12800, the pictures taken by the X-T3 are still relatively clean! Any slower than 1/25 of a second can mean having the risk of camera shake. And since the Fujifilm X-H1 is the only camera with in-body image stabilisation, you should consider the constraints of shooting with a relatively high slowest shutter speed. If you get what I mean…

But, all-in-all, the Fujinon 23mm f/2 R WR lens is a great lens to have in your collection. It is perfect for street photography, it is perfect for travel photography, it is great for portraiture among others. I even shoot events with it. The build quality is top-notch and the weather sealing can give you some piece of mind when you go places. Also, the price is not that expensive compared to other lenses in the same category.

So for me, having this lens prevents me somewhat from the anxiety of having to choose which lens to bring. I can travel to different locations with only this lens and I will not, have not, regret(ed) it.

Highly Recommended!

Photos of the Fujinon 23mm f/2 R WR and the Fujifilm X-T3 taken with an iPhone XS Max. Some photos post-processed on the iPhone XS Max using the app Snapseed.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2019

The B’Twin InRide 500 Bike Trainer

If you can’t bike outside, if there’s strong rains, strong winds, typhoons, or, if you are in that part of the world where it can get really, really cold, then a bike trainer is a must have. There are also times when, like right after my accident, my doctor forbid me to bike outdoors… Any of those instances above can be the perfect time to do some indoor training to stay fit.

The B’Twin InRide 500 from Decathlon is a very good trainer to have. It costs 10,000 Philippine Pesos (less than 200 US Dollars) so it relatively is not that expensive. You just need a separately sold speed and cadence sensor to pair with your bike computer or, in my case, my Garmin Fenix 5. With those, you can monitor your speed and distance traversed. The speed and cadence sensors are also sold by Decathlon.

The trainer is relatively quiet, is not that heavy (so it can be placed in different locations in your house or apartment) and folds to a relatively small size. However, the unit itself is stable and you won’t feel your bike wobble when you do your seated sprints. I got a bike riser from CycleOps since I want to have a relatively high front wheel when I use the trainer. I don’t want to feel like I am descending the whole time…

Oh, you can get the separately sold mat from Decathlon also.

(Disclaimer: this post is not, in any way, sponsored by Decathlon Philippines!)

And if you are short in space, then, in this video, I demonstrate that it is easy to set up your indoor trainer - just three and a half minutes! And I assure you, it took me that amount of time to fold everything up also. So, if you are short in space, then the area occupied by the trainer can be easily taken back and used for other purposes.

So, if you are in the market for a bike trainer, then check out the B’Twin InRide 500 from Decathlon. It is Highly Recommended!

Equipment used for this post:

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The Garmin Fenix 5 (a repost)

I just finished my first duathlon. The hot sun beating down, the exhaustion, the cramping muscles, the dehydration... I wouldn’t exchange any of those if it meant not being able to participate in the duathlon. And yeah, only serious people would participate in such an event - the duathlon is not for the faint of heart. In the third part of a run-bike-run event, my legs were already cramping that I was forced to walk majority of the 3km event. But despite the pain I was determined to finish the course. It would have been more painful to not finish the 6km run - 27km bike - 3km run course. Not finishing was not an option. And, as I neared the finish line, I decided to give it one last push: I wanted to be seen jogging on video, not hobbling in pain. And the Garmin Fenix 5 was with me the whole way.

During the course, the Garmin Fenix 5 was prompting me were my heart rate was: it was telling me that I was already at the 75% of my maximum heart rate, at 95%, even when I got to 110% of my maximum heart rate. I also wore a chest strap heart rate monitor that’s connected to my bike computer and the heart rate reading of the two devices were fairly consistent.

I was so happy also that, for my first duathlon, I was able to use the Fenix 5. With its multi-sport mode transitioning from the run to the bike and back to the run were very easy. I didn’t need to stop and start the app on my watch - something that I would have been required to do if I still used my previous watch - I just needed to press the lap button and I’m off to the next part of the event. The transition part is also included in the duathlon app and the time I spent in the transition wasn’t included in the overall time of my accomplishment.

It was a really sunny morning with no cloud in sight but I wasn’t worried even if I was suddenly caught in a downpour. The Fenix 5’s water resistance would fend of any rain easily. Actually, even if I decided to take it swimming up to 100 meters deep, the Fenix 5 would be fine.

The Garmin Fenix 5 is a sizable watch. No one will be able to mistake this for a small watch. (More so the Fenix 5X!)m However, it was still a very comfortable watch to wear. I didn’t think it was too heavy nor too large. For me, the size of the Fenix 5 is just right and the weight and heft of the watch didn’t bother me at all especially during my run.

GPS tracking was spot on and the path the I ran and biked really hugged the roads. Well, considering the duathlon happened on an essentially open space helped the GPS tracking very much. However, If I ran on my neck of the woods, so to speak, the buildings mar the area and GPS mapping could be slightly off.

However, for me, the thing that makes the Garmin Fenix 5 a truly super sports watch are the data you get after an event. When you stop sports tracking, say a run, the watch will give you a lot of data about the run. For example, it will tell you whether your run was a productive one or not. This is because you may be overtraining (you are not having enough recuperation time) and you are doing more harm than good to your body. You will also be told what is your performance condition, a metric that tells you about your “ability to perform compared to your average fitness level”. This performance condition may also be a symptom of fatigue...

And speaking of fatigue, the Fenix 5 will also tell how much time to recover! In the case of my last duathlon, it told me that the next intense exercise that I should do should be 4 days after the said event. Otherwise, I only should do really light exercises, one that really doesn’t elevate my heart rate.

Well, I didn’t exercise at all and just did some “normal” pace walking!

Under the beating sun, the display of the Fenix 5 was very much visible. Ironically, when indoors and when you use the watch’s backlight, the display gets washed out... This watch is really meant to be used outdoors!

On the night before the event, I hardly was able to sleep because of all the excitement. And since the Fenix 5 also tracks sleep automatically, the device showed how much I slept. Unfortunately, I think the Fenix 5 is not as good as other devices in sleep tracking. For example, say I get up to, ahem, pee at 5am, go back to sleep and then finally rise at 6:30am, when I sync the watch with the iOS app, the app shows that I didn’t go back to sleep after 5am. So, I had to edit the app entry so as to get a more precise sleep measurement.

Also, sleeping with a biggish watch is something that takes some getting used to…

But, the good thing is, the Fenix 5 is more precise in measuring my resting heart rate, something that is comparable to the Apple Watch and to my Omron BP monitor. Another brand of fitness tracker that I am using overestimates my resting heart rate, something that I told the company about but something that they chose to ignore...

The battery life of the Fenix 5 is really good! In my 2.5 hours of duathlon, the battery was deducted only less than 10% of battery life. That’s a GPS activity mind you! So, by ratio and proportion, the GPS life of the Fenix 5 will round to 25 hours, something that is advertised in the Garmin website! The battery life in watch mode is rated at two weeks, though, because of my activities, I usually charge the Fenix 5 after every 8-9 days. Still not bad at all!

The Garmin Fenix 5 came at a very opportune time. Good thing I had it right before my Duathlon.

The Garmin Fenix 5 is highly, highly recommended!


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Tuesday, March 5, 2019

The iPhone Xs Max

The Philippines is part of the third wave of release of new iPhones. So, by the time we receive our iPhones, there are already as many reviews as iPhones out there in the wild. So, it is a bit pointless, in my opinion, to make a review of it. But, I can still gush about it! And its beauty and its magnificence and its luster and...


Before the XS Max (pronounced TEN S max), my latest iPhone had been the iPhone 7. I like big smartphones (though I would be the first in line if ever Apple releases a flip phone...) and I am actually wondering why I didn’t opt for the 7+. But anyway, I skipped the 2017 release models of the iPhones because,

  • The iPhone X wasn’t exactly a big screen phone - not considering the notch area, the iPhone 6s+ effective screen area is actually bigger than the X;
  • I felt it too soon to upgrade the iPhone 7 to last year’s 8+.

So, after two years of waiting, I decided to go for the XS Max. It’s effective screen size is bigger even if you disregard the notch. Also, considering that the actual size of the phone is no bigger than the 6s+, I feel that the Xs Max’s display is an engineering marvel! Or something…

Yes, the OLED screen is very beautiful. Yes, the camera is great (except for the beautifying effect caused by an aggressive HDR system). Yes, it is fast!

But the thing that really wowed me was the Face ID. It’s fast, it’s consistent. It’s secure. I tried unlocking it by facing the phone on towards an iPad with the selfie camera on - it didn’t work. I tried using a photo of mine - it didn’t work. I tried unlocking the phone with my eyes closed - it didn’t work. I tried unlocking the phone while I was looking away - it didn’t work.

The Face ID technology of the iPhone X and XS/Max is the only face-related phone unlock technology I will trust - for now.


The reason I say this is because people, and most reviewers, put Apple to a different standard. When the Face ID on the iPhone X came out, a lot of people tried to fool the TrueDepth technology. They made masks, hired special effects companies, etc. The only thing that can fool the Face ID was if you have an identical twin!

Also, as a personal anecdote, when I had my accident and my face got severely swollen, my iPhone Xs Max couldn’t recognize me. But, as the swelling went down, about 4 or 5 days after, the phone started recognizing me again!

But when other face unlock technologies from a different OS phones came out, I don’t know if they underwent the same scrutiny... I could be wrong and I would love to know more about such endeavors if it happened.

Anyway, Face ID, for me, made the upgrade worth it. You can unlock the phone, auto-fill passwords and user names, make purchases on iTunes (Apple Pay is not yet available here in the Philippines), etc. It is such a convenient new way of interacting with the phone. I just wish you can unlock the phone from any angle just like on the 2018 iPad Pros...

So, even if, for the price of a maxed out iPhone XS Max, you can treat 94 of your friends to an all-you-can-eat buffet here in the Philippines (link), for me, the iPhone XS Max is Highly Recommended!

Check out these YouTube videos showing what the Face ID of the iPhone X/Xs can do. The first one is narrated by Joanna Stern. Also, note that in one of the latest Android devices, in 2019, in the second video at the 5:22 mark, Android’s face ID version can still be fooled by a video…

The iPhone Xs Max, despite the price, is Highly Recommended!

Photos shot with an iPhone 7.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Feature Request from Garmin

I had a biking accident last November and I wasn't able to do any outdoor activities for two and a half months. But now that I have my doctor's clearance, I can go back to running and cycling.

Out of the gate, I wanted to do a 10k. I want to be challenged. I don’t want to restart my running at 5k…

So, part of my 10k training are speed runs. Ok, ok, my version of speed runs! Before and after my accident, my speed run can be considered somebody else’s version of really slow, relaxed run...

But I digress...

When I do speed runs, I use two things to guide me:
  • the Nike Run Club app where I make my program
  • my Garmin Fenix 5, of course

However, after the run, when I analyze my efforts, there is a not-so-slight difference between my achievements between the two apps.

As you can see from the photos below, my average pace is slower in the Garmin Connect app than in the Nike Run Club app.

You see, for this particular speed run (ok, let me call it interval run from now on...), I walked for 5 minutes or so to warm up, alternated between a 400m run and a 30s rest period where I jogged or walked. After 5 repeats, I then cooled down by walking again for another 5 minutes.

For the Nike Run Club, my average pace was 5’46”/km. However, for the Garmin Connect app (and therefore the Fenix 5), my average pace was 7’57”/km. This is because the Garmin Connect app includes the rest periods and the warm up and cool down times in getting the average pace. I wish it would exclude those the way the Nike Run Club app does...

So, for my feature request, please, please please Garmin, only use the “run” part of the interval training in getting the average pace. Or at least give us a “speed”-only pace.


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