Wednesday, September 21, 2016

My Review of the Fujifilm Finepix XP90

Living in the tropics, the Philippines in particular, can mean one of two things: either a particular weekend can be a beach weekend, or it can be a really wet weekend. Since we don’t have the four seasons here, you can go to the beach anytime, or you can be cooped up in your house, or hotel, because of really strong rains.

In either situation, the Fujifilm Finepix XP90 can be your best friend…

Let me discuss…

As I've said, if there are no typhoons, then any weekend can be a beach, or dive, weekend. And when the wife and I go to the beach, we always have this mantra: leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but memories.

And memories, in my opinion, are best taken with a reliable camera. That's why I believe that when you go to the beach, a waterproof camera is an absolute essential.

The Fujifilm Finepix XP90 is the first Fujifilm camera I have ever used. It was so new when I got it that Fujifilm Philippines actually does not have it in their website yet!

It is a dust-proof, drop-proof, freeze-proof, and waterproof camera. The camera I used came in a nice orange color. It has a slim profile and is absolutely pocketable. It comes with the battery, a hand strap, a micro-USB cable, and a wall charger. The last one is not an essential since you can actually charge the camera using a USB port on your computer. You can even use the battery brick that you bought for your smartphone! This is the first camera that I have used that actually has that feature! However, not having a separate battery charger means that you cannot charge an extra battery while you are using the camera. Also, the hand strap is on the slim side, not unlike what you use with a regular point-and-shoot. I thought that, since this is a rugged camera, a camera designed for action shots, the XP90 would have a heftier strap. But no, you are stuck with this one unless you replace the strap.

Using the camera is really simple. You just turn it on, point and shoot! There is a "P mode", something like a program mode in DSLRs though with this, the most you can do is change the exposure of your shot. I would have wanted to change the aperture opening or the shutter speed, but having the ability to over- or under-expose my shots using a point-and-shoot camera is already a big plus.

There are other photography effects like "Action Camera", "Pro Low Light", and "HDR", to name a few, but I rarely, if ever, use these. Two of the camera features I use most are time-lapse photography and panorama captures. I use the former feature a lot when I do "unboxings" and I am happy that I will be able to shoot time lapse with this camera instead of my iPhone. Panorama can be a hit-or-miss event however. The camera is so sensitive that when you tilt the phone slightly, it will stop shooting your panoramas.

This is an action camera so there is a dedicated button at the back of the camera that, when activated, will enable you to shoot in burst mode at 10 frames/second! How cool is that?!?

But of course, when on a beach, the best camera feature to have is the waterproofing. With this camera, you don't have to worry about the inside of your camera getting wet. Or getting submerged! You can do underwater photography up to 50 feet! And since this camera shoots HD video also, you can document your underwater escapades easily.

Another feature that this camera has is wifi. With it, paired with Fujifilm's smartphone app, you can control the camera with your smartphone, even use the phone as a viewfinder. You can also transfer photos from the camera to the phone and then edit there to your heart's content! (This was what I did when the wife and I went to a beach getaway.) And lastly, when paired with a smartphone, you can geotag photos using the phone's GPS antenna. This is well and good while you are walking along the shore of the beach but this system fails when you want to go deeper into the water - if your phone is not waterproof then you will have a bit of a problem. So what do you do? You leave your phone on the shore and your geotagging process will come to a halt when the connection between the phone and the camera is severed.

How I wish that Fujifilm, and all camera makers, just put the GPS antenna inside the cameras...

Battery life is on the tinny side, as in, in my experience, it does not last one whole day. And when you shoot videos, your battery will be taxed more. This makes having and an external battery charger crucial to have in the box. And add to that an extra battery...

And if you are not on a beach, you can use the camera even if it's raining really hard! Like when I reviewed the JBL Charge 3! A strong rain, or typhoon, should not prevent you from making great photos. Oh, just make sure to stay on the safe side when there is torrential rain and really strong winds...

All in all, the Fujifilm Finepix XP90 is a fine camera to bring in your next beach getaway. It is a great point-and-shoot camera and the waterproofing is highly reliable. This could be the camera to have in your next beach getaway, which, if you live in the tropics, could be this weekend!

Just make sure that you wash the camera with fresh water after you dipped it in the ocean!

Highly Recommended!

All photos and the video were taken at the lovely beach resort Tajo Seaside Haven in the island of Cebu, Philippines!

All scenic photos  were made using the Finepix XP90 and edited in an iPad using the app VSCO

Friday, September 16, 2016

An Open Letter to Fitbit - From A Surge User

The Apple Watch Series 2 has been announced. Reviews are coming out and people seem to agree that this Series 2 is what the first Watch should have been. The addition of GPS is a big heaven-sent especially for those who love to run outside. The fact that you could run outdoors (and swim in the open waters) without bringing your phone is a big plus for the Apple Watch Series 2.

But the thing is, that feature, the GPS, had been in the Fitbit Surge for more than a year now. I have been using the GPS functionality on all of my outdoor runs in my Fitbit Surge and I am happy to say that the distance I've run are fairly precise.

So, for me, the Surge is much, much better when it comes to fitness tracking and for actually measuring "the quantified self".

However, there is one thing that I wish Fitbit would do for us Surge owners: give us more watch faces. Or at least one more.

Hear me out...

See, with the big display of the Surge, Fitbit can do a lot of things with it. But what I want the most is to have the following on the default display:

  • Time
  • Date
  • Steps
  • Heart Rate

I so wish that I don't have to swipe left and right just to get these information. I wish Fitbit would have a feature with these, so-called, complications. Just consider the default watch face that I use:

The reason I use this is because I can easily see the time and the date. But how I wish I can see my other metrics as well! See, the Surge, and all the other Fitbit devices that have heart rate sensors, measure your heart rate 24/7 as long as you have it on your wrist. Compare that to the Apple Watch that only measures your heart rate when you open an app or when you are absolutely still (and when you activate the workout app).

So, in terms of your heart rate, the Surge paints a more wholistic picture!

And people would be better informed if they can see their heart rate right away. Like, I read somewhere that someone was saved because he saw that there was something wrong with his heart rate...  After he opened the app on his Apple Watch. But just imagine if he just ignored what he felt and he didn't open the app. The result would have been fatal!

But, if he used instead a Surge that measures his heart rate every time, and if this detail is kept displayed on the device, then the user would be better informed. All of us Surge users would be better informed.

Or, last use case, a personal one: when I run, I don't include my warm ups and cool downs in the running app on my Surge. This is so I can really tell what my actual pace is. So, I don't start the exercise app before I actually run, and I stop it after I've met my goal (a run of 5 mph for 40 minutes. Also, there is the 10 minutes of warm up and 10 minutes of cool down). When the exercise app is open, I choose to have my heart rate displayed so that I will be able to tell at what heart rate zone I am in (normal, fat burn, cardio, or peak). If I want to check my pace (on outdoor runs), I swipe on the bottom of the screen to check my pace.

But the thing is, after my run, I still want to see how my heart rate is doing. I want to see if my heart rate is slowing down to normal levels during cool downs. But, the moment I end my exercise, the watch defaults to the stock watch face and I am left with just the date and the time... And if I want to see my heart rate, I would have to swipe left and right to find the heart rate display...

I wish I can see it with just a glance...

So, please, Fitbit, help us Surge users out. Please update the Surge OS to accommodate this additional feature. I don't care about more notifications, I don't care about a fancy color display - I just want to track my fitness and health level. I believe you are still better than the Apple Watch when it comes to this metric so I hope this simple wish would be added to your to-do list.

If you can do it with the Fitbit Charge 2 with its small display, maybe you can do it with the Surge too with an OS update.


Photos shot with an iPhone 6s+ using the iOS app Hipstamatic

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Review of the Rags2Riches Julius Sling Bag

Helping others is always a good thing. Doing something that can somehow improve someone else's life even if just by a little can go a long way...

This was what the wife and I want to do, so, as much as possible, we support social enterprises that alleviate the plight of people that have much hardships in life.

Rags to Riches, or R2R, is one such company. This outfit, in their own words "are a fashion & design house empowering community artisans. We make things that matter and weave joy into every story.  In a world where fashion and design are often seen as excess, R2R is proof that style and sustainability can coexist." The company helps bridge the gap between people who want to make a living with local designers who are at the forefront of style and fashion. The materials the company uses come from "upcycled, overstock cloth & indigenous fabrics". By removing the middle man, these people from modest backgrounds can sell directly to customers and get the most profit for each product they have sold.

An example of product that R2R makes is the Julius Sling Bag that the wife gave me for our wedding anniversary. The bag is finely crafted and well-made. There is an interior compartment for an iPad and this compartment is big enough even if you use a case and/or a cover for your iPad. Actually, you can put a retina Macbook Pro 13-inch inside!!!

You can still put other stuff inside like a couple of books and an umbrella. Outside, at the front, there is a small pocket for your smaller things like a phone and wallet. An iPhone 6s+ fits in this small pocket without any issues. Also, at the back of the bag, there is a small zippered pocket where you can put small things like coins or your MRT card or an ID for easy access.

You can wear the bag either on your left shoulder or on your right giving you a couple more options.

This bag is a nice thing to have if you just need something to stow your iPad or tablet, and even a 13-inch laptop, plus a couple more things when you go out and about. This is a great bag for the daily commuter! And you don't just get a nice bag, you are able to help people too!

Highly Recommended.

Photos shot with a Canon G7x Mark II and edited in an iPad pro using the iOS app VSCO


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