I remembered when we first started planning for family vacations at the turn of the century. Internet use wasn’t nearly as pervasive as it is today, and the web pages that did talk about various places of attractions tend not to be community-based. In fact, we routinely bought DK Travel Guides to plan itineraries. Things have of course changed a lot. Sites like Tripadvisor produce a useful – if not always authoritative – indicator on how good an attraction or property of temporary stay is, and the latest fad today is online trip planners.

The planning for our Melbourne started several months ago, and possibly because we’re not doing anything particular adventurous or dangerous (not with two young kids), our itinerary has been pretty ordinary and kids-friendly. So, some random notes off the top of my head:

The Sygic trip planner – used to be known as Tripomatic before Sygic took a 51% equity stake in the company – is a pretty useful tool that works across platforms, and provides useful day by day maps to guide one in getting from one point to the next. It doesn’t do as well though with less urban areas, and a couple of places we were interested in outside the main city confounded the planner.

The projected daily temperature the 9 days we’re there is 5 to 13° C. Brrrrr!

We exchanged our cash for use several weeks ago when the exchange rate was 1AUD to 1.044SGD, thinking that the AUD could not fall any further against the SGD. And today, it’s 1AUD to 0.999SGD. Arrrggh.

We booked the Pegasus Apart’Hotel. No kidding on the odd name – it seems like a play between the words ‘apartment’ and ‘hotel’! We’ll be staying in a 60sqm two-bedroom suite. We did consider explore several Airbnb options for stays, but concluded that the savings between a similarly sized Airbnb unit were minimal compared to what we paid for the Pegasus Apart’Hotel. The property is by no means a five-star stay – and no, that wasn’t our expectation for what we paid – but I did appreciate that the hotel’s management seems to take feedback seriously, judging from the somewhat personalized replies to most comments left by Tripadvisor reviewers. The hotel though has an odd security deposit for incidentals which some reviewers have bitterly complained about. We’ll have to be mindful of that and play by ear.

Right along A'Beckett Street.

Right along A’Beckett Street.

The property sits along a quiet side road, has an Independent Grocers of Australia supermarket just across the road, is within easy walking distance of Queen Victoria Market, and not too far from public transportation too. It also offers complimentary WIFI, but we’ll be picking up some travel data SIM cards for our mobile gadgets too.

We’re still deciding on our transportation options to/fro the airport and accommodation. There’s the Skybus with its complimentary hotel transfer service, and for slightly more, more direct options too.

Our list of places within Melbourne city include the usual tourist-y sites and the places that will interest our two kids: including Melbourne Aquarium, Melbourne Zoo, Melbourne Museum, and Eureka Skydeck. And for daddy/mommy: Royal Exhibition Building, Parliament House, Royal Botanic Gardens, St. Patrick’s and St. Paul’s Cathedrals, Fizroy and Treasury Gardens, and Queen Victoria Street Market.

The list of places outside the city would include: the PUffing Billy Train-ride, Dandenong Ranges, Healesville Sanctuary, Sovereign Hill, Ballarat Wildlife Park, and the Great Ocean Road. The Healesville Sanctuary and Ballarat Wildlife Park will be especially interesting for the kids. We dropped Phillip island off the list as we figured that the kids wouldn’t fare well waiting for the penguins to show up on the beach in cold winter, and that we didn’t want to be associated with the spectacle of seeing tourists – apparently often from a certain country north in Asia – spoiling it for everyone else with over-enthusiastic flash photography.

We did consider self-driving, but concluded that we’d rather pay someone else to do it – especially after we had to cross fruit-picking off the list, winter being off-season for such. We are however finding day tour operators who keep the number of guests they bring on each tour to a small number though (a dozen or less).

We’ve started booking and confirming our Day Tour packages, starting with going with a company called A Tour With A Difference (what a name LOL) for the Great Ocean Road trip.

We’re still looking for a suitable multipass ticket across the attractions we’re checking out, and haven’t found something suitable yet.

Well that’s the summary of it. More notes to come soon enough! :)

 

There has to be a first to everything. We’ve been writing for this spot of virtual space for 17 years now, and this would be the first time something about shoes is posted, and not for women either too! I reckon most men don’t think too hard – compared to women perhaps – about what footwear they’re wearing. Typically we’re more concerned about functionality over form.

My work place is somewhat flexible in dress-code expectations. So, unless I’m having meetings, I routinely wear either collared polo-or short-sleeve shirts with casual slacks – and dark brown walking shoes to match. For several years I wore Weinbrenner shoes for work. These are widely available at the ubiquitous Bata footwear shops everywhere on the island. However, the Weinbrenner shoes never lasted long in my use – and with the outsoles giving way every single time. Of the probably eight pairs of Weinbrenners’ I’ve had, all their outsoles wore out after 6 months. In some cases, the outsole layer simply tore or split , while for others, holes grew and penetrated the insole layer. All this is odd, since I walk on mostly smooth or carpeted surfaces at work. I’ve wondered if it has to do with the specific range of Weinbrenner shoes that are carried at Bata stores – they tend to be the fairly low-priced ones at $49.90 to $79.90.

In any case, footwear from CAT is carried at selected stores here. They’re typically priced quite a bit higher – usually about $120 to $180 a pair for their casual walking shoes range,. The range brought here for sale tends to be somewhat limited, compared to the obviously much larger range in their international web sites. My first pair that cost $150 was bought 15 months ago, and while the shoe’s leather uppers show visible wear from daily use, the outsoles have borne well with no tears, splits etc. even though the pattern of use is identical to the Weinbrenner shoes I’ve owned. Encouraged with that experience, I’ve just picked up a second pair from the same store – the Royal Sporting House outlet @ Bedok Mall. The normal price of this pair is $169, but the store was offering a 20% discount, and another 10% off that again for OCBC VISA card holders.

And what I really like about these two pairs: thick laces that do not fray easily, cushioned insole, fairly light (especially this new pair), and most importantly – very tough non-skid outsoles.

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Outsole for the new pair.

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The old pair’s outsole. Still largely intact.

 

I’ve had loads of luck with Amazon purchases. Even without the Amazon Prime membership, their free-shipping options to Singapore has made it possible for a lot of items to be bought online and delivered here and costing less than what one would pay for. Just so long as you’re willing to forgo warranty claims though, as these exported items typically carry warranties local to the US. Still, as long as you’re not ordering electronic goods, the chances of failure are minimal. And savings on the other hand are significant.

And that was pretty much the summary of my experience with Amazon again for the just arrived Huawei Watch yesterday morning. It took just a week from the point of order to it being delivered to our home, and about SGD100 was shaved off the local purchase price to boot – the Watch costs about SGD440 normally in Singapore. The model I bought was the cheapest of the Huawei’s options at USD249/SGD341, is silver in color and comes with a black leather band. The pricey versions are black or rose gold, and with metallic bands.

My random initial comments of the Huawei Watch, and a comparison to the currently dead LG G Watch R of mine.

Huawei wasn’t kidding when they aimed to create a premium Android smartwatch. The Watch exudes quality – from its packaging, scratch-resistant sapphire crystal glass, and its polished metallic finishing.

Spec wise, Huawei Watch’s display is slightly larger and also higher resolution than the LG one: 1.4 vs 1.3 inch and 400×400 vs 320×320 pixel resolution. I can indeed tell the difference in resolution, but not the screen size. The latter looks practically identical between the two watches.

The Watch is noticeably smaller in overall size at 42mm than LG’s at 46.4mm, on account of its thin bezel compared to the thick one on the LG. The LG is also slightly thinner depth-wise at 11.1mm compared to 11.5mm on the Huawei – but you won’t be able to tell the difference for this dimension.

The crown placement is also different between the two. It’s 2 o’clock for the Huawei and the more standard placement of 3 o’clock for the LG. I would have liked the button to be placed where standard watches normally place them.

The Android experience between the two watches is about identical, which I assume is because of Google’s requirement for smartwatch manufacturers not to go about creating unique skins – totally unlike the Wild Wild West look and feel of Android smartphones. As tech pundits have pointed out, once you’ve had and used one, there’s really no learning curve involved in using another. The baked-in watch faces though are a different story. These are by no means trivial, since this is one of the few ways – outside the external design and implementation of the unit itself – where Android smartwatches can be differentiated. There were several more watch faces off Huawei’s that I immediately liked than LG’s somewhat more bland offerings.

The battery life is a different matter though. The Huawei comes with a 300mAh battery compared to LG’s significantly larger 410mAh. I haven’t drained the Huawei’s battery yet, but looking at how the percentage points are dropping each hour, the Huawei doesn’t seem like it’ll run as long as the LG watch before needing a recharge.

Neither watches have an ambient light sensor. Not a critical omission but still a very useful feature to have had in both. Not having one means you have to manually adjust the display brightness when need be moving between dramatically differently lit environments (e.g. outdoor to indoor).

Huawei’s charging dock is petite and very light. The strong magnet built into the unit means that the watch and dock can be lifted off a surface still connected to each other. What’s not so great though is that the USB cable seems permanently attached to the dock – the LG dock connects via a standard micro-USB slot (much more useful) – and more seriously, the charger pins and watch do not naturally align. I have to jiggle the Watch a little each time to get a proper charging connection. The LG dock is noticeably easier to use in this regard – I guess also because their dock has raised ledges around its circumference to help guide the watch’s placement onto the dock.

Exquisite packaging!

Exquisite packaging!

The watch seated snugly in its padded case.

The watch seated snugly in its padded case.

Minimal accessories needed: the US-type adapter (since it was shipped from Amazon), and the charging dock.

Minimal accessories needed: the US-type adapter (since it was shipped from Amazon), and the charging dock.

Quite a few presupplied watch faces, and there are more ones that I immediately like than on the old LG G Watch R.

Quite a few baked-in watch faces, and there are more ones that I immediately like than on the old LG G Watch R.

Back of the watch with the leather strap.

Back of the watch with the leather strap.

The outgoing and incoming. The LG G Watch R won't switch on anymore.

The outgoing and incoming. The LG G Watch R won’t power on anymore.

All said, I’m still quite satisfied with the Huawei watch. These Android watches though aren’t cheap, and I reckon one has to think very carefully about the utility it brings to interested owners at their price-points. I use the Android watches largely because of phone/message/calendar notifications, not apps (e.g. fitness tracking, weather). If you’re happy with your phone already offering those, then it’d probably be wiser to wait this out and let smartwatch prices come down by quite a bit more; e.g. when the other Chinese manufacturers finally get into the game with their equivalent products.

While waiting for the Huawei Smartwatch to arrive from Amazon here, another item that I ordered got delivered in the interim. A new backpack for work and the upcoming Melbourne trip – the Thule Enroute Blur 2 Daypack and from an eBay reseller.

That’s admittedly quite a mouthful. Over the years, I’ve had a number of backpacks that I carry to and fro work, on account that the backpacks routinely hold one (or two) notebooks, my larger than normal-sized coffee tumbler, and a bunch of other accessories. Each backpack routinely gets used for about 3 years before they have to be discarded for one reason or another; sometimes because the zippers break or the bag gets too badly stained from spills from the tumblers. Several years ago, Ling bought from Amazon for my birthday a Thule EnRoute Blur daypack and that lasted for a good while, until the woven side-pouches developed small holes from wear and tear. Over time, the holes have grown fairly large. So I figured it was about time to get a replacement.

Thule is a well-regarded Swedish manufacturer of consumer good, though unlike brands like Samsonite, Lowepro or Targus, one tends to find just a small range of their bags carried in local stores. Like many of the other items from bag manufacturers here, they tend to be sold at recommended retail prices at most stores (camera shops being the possible exception as they seem more willing to offer in-store discounts). The EnRoute line has seen a couple of new updated models, and the most recent iteration being the Enroute Blur 2 daypack. This particular backpack is sold at a couple of stores – including Isetan and The Wallet Shop – in just a few colors, and for what seems to be the RRP of $179. Amazon US does not ship the item direct to Singapore. But I found an eBay reseller who was offering the item for substantially less at $133 and including shipping. The reseller is also, apparently, a husband/wife team who run a brick and mortar shop in Kansas specialising mostly in outdoor and biking gear, including many of Thule’s other non-bag products. The bag did take slightly more than a fortnight to arrive, but arrive safely through registered post it did, and in the same condition as one would get buying from a local store.

First impressions – I’m very satisfied. The bag is ever so slightly larger than the EnRoute it’s replacing, slightly more voluminous at 24l than the previous 23l, offers additional compartments, and is of exactly the color – Drab/Green – I wanted. And best of all, at $46 cheaper than if I bought it in Singapore. Not chump change!

Pictures and comments.

Thule bags. They ooze quality.

Thule bags. They ooze quality.

The Thule EnRoute Blur 2 Daypack/Drab colored.

The Thule EnRoute Blur 2 Daypack/Drab colored.

A 'Safe Zone' compartment that is reinforced. Can contain fragile goods like handphones, glasses, and even my Breadtalk Bun for breakfast!

A ‘Safe Zone’ compartment that is reinforced. Can contain fragile goods like handphones, glasses, and even my Breadtalk Bun for breakfast.

The main compartment with a sensible arrangement of smaller pouches for accessories. I like bags that aren't black in internal color. Easier to find small items!

The main compartment with a sensible arrangement of smaller pouches for accessories. I like bags that aren’t black in internal color. Easier to find small items.

The laptop compartment, with a dedicated tablet sleeve too.

The padded laptop compartment, with a dedicated tablet sleeve too. The compartment can fit a 15″ Macbook Pro/15.6″ laptop – but not my Aftershock S17.

Lots of nice little touches, including excess strap organizers.

Lots of nice little touches, including excess strap organizers.

Strap organizers for the shoulder straps even. Not a standard inclusion in many other backpacks.

Strap organizers for the shoulder straps even. Not a standard inclusion in many other backpacks.

Thick padding to distribute weight across your shoulder blades and back.

Thick padding to distribute weight across your shoulder blades and back.

Long product guarantee, but I reckon I'd not be using the bag for this long.

Long product guarantee, but I reckon I’d not be using the bag for this long.

The old EnRoute/Black and the new EnRoute 2/Drab, with the latter being noticeably slightly larger.

The old EnRoute/Black and the new EnRoute 2/Drab, with the latter being noticeably slightly larger.

I’ve a pretty good track record of using Android devices. None of the probably about a dozen Android tablets and smartphones I’ve used in the about last 7 years have failed in a fashion that I haven’t been able to recover from – until the recent weekend that is. The LG G Watch R that Ling bought for my birthday 17 months ago got into a infinite boot loop, and I’ve been stumped on how to restore it back to working state. The failure is apparently common among LG G Watch Rs if Internet tech threads are any indication. And short of returning such units to manufacturer for repair, recovery measures in tech forums have included unlocking the bootloader to flash custom roms to using ice packs to bring down the watch’s internal temperature. None of these solutions have succeeded in coaxing my watch back to life , and it got to the point of utter exasperation that I’m ready to toss the phone down the rubbish chute!

So; looking around for a replacement smart watch and what my options were.

Apple Watch: knocked out of the list real quick. No non-round watches for me. No iPhone to pair it with anyway too.

Asus ZenWatch 2: very affordably priced, but also non-round in form factor.

LG Watch Urbane: The premium version of the LG G Watch R, but after seeing how the Watch R has failed, I’m not inclined to give LG watches another go.

Motorola Moto 360 (2nd Gen): for tech sites, one of the two most highly-regarded Android watches at this moment (the other is the Huawei Watch below). The Gen 2 comes in two sizes and is widely available in Singapore. Unfortunately, the watch while round in form factor also does not make full use of the display area, resulting in what Internet pundits jokingly refer to as a flat-tyre screen. The Gen 2 has two sizes, and my preference was the larger one of 46mm diameter screen. The relatively low resolution used in the screen though was a disappointment; display pixelation was obvious.

Huawei Watch: well-regarded and with stunning looks and premium build. The unit goes for about $450 in Singapore – ouch. But the watch as sold through Amazon exports sales was enjoying a hefty discount of more than a hundred moola savings, with free shipping to boot too.

Samsung Gear S2 Classic: was a real contender. Desirable form factor, chic look, and I didn’t mind that it wasn’t running off Android. Unfortunately, the watch’s retail price is pretty high, and no discounts were offerd on Amazon.

So it was the Huawei watch, and on the way to Singapore. A review to follow soon with comparisons to the LG G Watch R!

LG G Watch R, 2014-2016. R.I.P.

LG G Watch R, 2014-2016. R.I.P.

The Meike MK320F for the Fujifilm cameras arrived yesterday. The Chinese company has an online store, and the MK320 Speedlite is also available through places like Lazada. You’d likely going to get it cheaper off eBay though. There are numerous resellers of this particular flashgun and for different mounts, though the usual caveats and cautions apply when buying anything off eBay. Hmm. I reckon I should do a post soon on the hits/misses I’ve had buying items off eBay over these several years now!

The ordering and delivery from my eBay reseller went without a hitch though, and it took just over a week for it to arrive via registered post, and substantially cheaper than what I’d paid through Lazada resellers or in-store in Singapore. Some early impressions:

The unit comes packed in a tightly-fitted box, with the flash gun protected snugly with molded dense foam. Not quite the norm, and it affords a high degree of protection for the flashgun while in shipping.

Flash gun seems well-constructed with no loose parts. The buttons provide reassuring clicks when pressed. Oddly though, it’s possible to mount the flash gun the wrong way onto the camera’s hotshoe without one realizing it quickly, so some caution is necessary.

The battery compartment snaps open with a light press of the latch. Pretty convenient compared to the usual battery sliding hatch common in other flash guns. My Metz flash gun’s battery slider broke after two years of fairly light use. The MK320 seems better engineered to withstand similar abuse.

Flash recycling time feels somewhat quicker than the Nissin i40 though I suspect it also has to do with the unit permitting shots to be fired even when the flash has not been fully recharged.

The unit permits swiveling 60 degrees left and 90 degrees right. Not as generous as the Nissin i40 which permits 180 degree swiveling – very useful for bounced flash shots where you have to point the camera/flash gun downwards.

No zoom head, so the light angle is fixed. I’m fine with it though since it’s married to the X70 and the latter’s fixed lens anyway.

Like the i40, the MK320’s Sto-fen-styled omnibounce diffuser comes supplied with the flash gun, and while it snaps onto the flash head, isn’t especially tightly fitted. It won’t take much for the diffuser to be knocked off.

The flash output seems a little off when set to TTL, and specifically less than expected. Might be something to do with that the flash control is different from Olympus, which I’m very used to. The i40 also throws out more light at its maximum setting than the MK320 – it’s GN 40 vs GN 32.

Micro-USB charging port is a terrific inclusion, though that it’s intended for a 1A charging. I tried several chargers which exceed that suggested charging current and the batteries felt super-heated after a while.

The instructional manual is in English and riddled with language errors. Not bad enough for you to not understand how to use the unit, but language QC is clearly not on par.

All in, it’s a pretty decent flash gun but I don’t think it surpasses the Nissin i40 in its versatility. That said, the LCD screen and USB charging are very nice touches. One has to keep in mind that the MK320 costs about a third of the i40’s price, and for what I paid, I reckon I can’t complain too much!

Unboxing the unit, and it's as chokeful of goodies as the Nissn i40.

Unboxing the unit, and it’s as full of goodies as the Nissin i40.

Very nifty LCD panel at the rear of the MK320. Pretty unusual inclusion for a flashgun at this price point.

Very nifty LCD panel at the rear of the MK320. Pretty unusual inclusion for a flashgun at this price point.

A micro-USB port for charging... on a flashgun. Amazing!

A micro-USB port for charging… on a flashgun.

The LCD display shows the current charging status, alongside also the green indicator.

The LCD display shows the current charging status, alongside also the green light indicator.

The MK320 sitting atop the X70. Pretty top-heavy and somewhat unbalanced.

The MK320 sitting atop the X70. Pretty top-heavy and somewhat unbalanced.

Light yet powerful flashgun units for my two primary cameras now.

Light yet powerful flashgun units for my two primary cameras now.

The most recent family vacation to Club Med Bintan in December last year turned out to be such a let-down that we’ve sworn off beach resorts for our family holidays for the immediate future. I reckon that the disappointment was made the worse as many Internet bloggers had written glowing paradise-like praise for the place. And that let me to really wonder whether we’d finally gone to the same place or not over the five days! A Minton neighbor was recently quite interested in our blog, and commented that she especially appreciated and would rather follow independent bloggers than those affiliated with influencer agencies or receiving sponsorships and what not, and even withstanding caveats/open declarations/editorial policies. We’d write without having to feel as though we’re obligated to only say favorable things.

That aside and in any case, we have a window this year in June where we could make plans for a longer than the usual five-six day trip we’ve been making do in the last few years. And at that time of the year, the northern hemisphere would be typically warmer than the south, so we decided early on to arrange for an at least eight day trip, and somewhere south. Like the last three trips – to Legoland Malaysia, Koh Phangan, and Bintan – Peter would be with us.  And apart from prevailing climate, we were also mindful of other considerations, including:

Airfare costs

Availability of direct flights

Not too far (we were worried if Peter could handle anything more than 12 hrs in a plane!)

Child and pram-friendly

Self-drive as an option

Cool weather

With these criteria in mind, we really weren’t considering many options – yep, it was going to be Australia. Again.

Truth to tell, I’ve spent so much time in Australia, comparatively, that I’m not sure if I wanted to go there again for a vacation. I reckon if we were planning for a September or December holiday, we’d travel to Taiwan, Japan or Korea instead. And if funds had permitted, to visit our Ang mo bud in Missouri.

Of the several cities in the country, Ling wasn’t so keen on Perth as she’d already been there and didn’t think there was much, city-wise. I concurred – I would know as I lived there for three years! The next two cities which were going to see fairly cool weather was Sydney and Melbourne, and both cities were connected to Singapore by several airlines whose fares were competitively-priced, and they also offered direct flights. The two cities architecture and vibe-wise are different, and they also offer a very slightly different basket of sights off-city. I’ve previously spent a bit of time in both, and my preference was Sydney while Ling’s was Melbourne – and we eventually decided in favor of the latter, and a ten day trip.

At this point, we’ve confirmed our flights – we booked Emirates on a pretty decent deal that was about comparable price-wise to budget offerings after taking on board the additional food and baggage charges, and also our accommodation arrangements. More comments on that to come, alongside of our itinerary in-planning!

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Melbourne, June 2016.

And some pictures of our kids with the new X70! The camera was configured for shutter speeds of 1/80s and ISO3200 max, and also a mix of program-auto and aperture-priority.

f2.8, 1/80s, ISO2000, flashed-fired.

f2.8, 1/80s, ISO2000, flashed-fired head-on. The picture is still correctly color balanced though I reckon that the soon to arrive Meike MK320 will allow for a less-noisy ISO setting.

f2.8, 1/30s, ISO3200, no-flash.

f2.8, 1/30s, ISO3200, no-flash. Early weekday morning at about 0620 hrs. Peter does not like sleeping on his bed! Handheld shots like this are easy on the E-M1/E-M5, and tough on the X70 because of its lack of optical stabilization.

f2.8, 1/80s, ISO400, no-flash

f2.8, 1/80s, ISO400, no-flash. Peter just after he was disciplined for his usual misbehavior.

f4.0, 1/25s, ISO400, flash-fired.

f4.0, 1/25s, ISO400, flash-fired. It’s amazing how quickly primary school kids are introduced to computer use in school. Hannah has weekly scheduled lab time where the kids do independent learning through an education portal.

f2.8, 1/80s, ISO1000, no-flash.

f2.8, 1/80s, ISO1000, no-flash. We’ve been frequenting Toast Box @ Parkway Parade of late, on account that our two kids love the varieties of thick toasts there.

Early impressions of the Fujifilm X70 after about a week of use!

The default color profile coming out of the X70 is subtly different from Olympus m4/3s. Not a scientific test now as I’m not a visual person, but the natural lighting colors do look very slightly more natural, though this is finally really personal preferences. The typical pictures at ISO3200 look less noisy than m4/3s equivalents.

The all-round metallic body feels well-built, cool to touch, and dense. In a nice-touch, the eyelet hooks are also removed as factory-shipped too. That’s always the first things I remove when I get a new m4/3s body.

The Exposure Compensation dial sits at the far right corner. It’s slightly recessed though and quite stiff. Quite helpful in avoiding situations where one accidentally brushes against it and dial in unwanted exposure compensations, as it’s happened a few times with the mode dials on Olympus E-PL bodies now.

The metallic lens cap is internally padded, and fits snugly onto the lens. The lens itself doesn’t have a filter thread, so the dedicated 49mm adapter ring is needed to fit a filter and/or 49mm lens cap.

The menu item layout is more visually appealing than Olympus, though I don’t think the organization is really any less confusing for first users of the Fujifilm system.

Silent shutter option. Nice!

In-camera charging via the micro USB port. Super convenient than having to bring a dedicated charger unit. This feature should be a standard inclusion in all cameras.

And lastly, the X70 offers many of the usual amenities we’ve come to expect from modern cameras – including setting a minimum shutter speed, and lower/upper limits of the ISO setting.

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The rear LCD is bright and high-resolution. It’s surrounded by a thick bezel though, so not particularly optimal use of actual possible space.

On the other hand:

AF speed is so-so. It’s not nearly as brisk as Olympus’ m4/3s cameras from the last several years now, and the difference is even more evident in low-light situations.

Non-stabilized lens and no provision for in-body stabilization either. I’ve been spoiled by the Olympus m4/3 camera bodies, and especially the 5-axis in-body stabilization system on my E-M5 and E-M1. Sharp handheld shots of 1/5s are totally possibly on those bodies and just too hard on the X70.

No hot-shoe cover. Had to buy cheapo third party replacements for it.

RAW support isn’t available in Program-Auto mode, while Auto-flash mode is available only in Program-Auto. I figure that’s why it’s called ‘auto’ mode, but it would had been better if these options were available for advanced users as an optional items to enable than to disallow them altogether.

Oddly, image playback takes a bit of time to start-up, though once it’s in playback mode, images do scroll briskly.

The Selector quadrant of buttons don’t offer good key travel and are quite stiff. The E-M5’s selector also had low key travel but buttons weren’t nearly as stiff or mushy.

The Auto mode selector level is close to the master on/off switch. The first couple of days I kept accidentally toggling the auto mode from Aperture priority to full-on auto, instead of powering on/off the camera. That took some getting use to.

The package came with accessories, several of which were high quality original equipment from manufacturer – the lens hood, adapter ring, leather case and strap, and an extra battery. The leather case got put aside as while it provides a better grip hold for the X70, also adds more bulk, and I don’t find its design appealing either. The other four accessories are useful though.

A couple of other accessories are also on order, including a 49mm Hoya Pro 1 Digital filter, which is a few dollars more expensive than the normal Hoya filters but which glass elements are easier to clean. Alongside that, a tempered glass ear LCD protector, and finally also – the Meike MK320 TTL flash gun for the X70, which cost less than half the price for the already bargain bin-priced Nissin i40 I’ve got for m4/3s. A mini-review for the Meike perhaps once I receive the unit in a few weeks.

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The X70’s top panel.

Some pictures of the kids next!

I reckon I’m one of those very lucky hubbies – since I have a wife who chuckles whenever I bring home a new toy! This time round, it’s the Fujifilm X70.

The impetus for this new acquisition started 2 months ago when the Olympus E-PL6 started developing sticky shutter problems. Not sure why since it’s been handled carefully for the almost 3 years I’ve owned it. While the stuck shutter can be rectified by removing the battery and memory card at each occurrence, it’s also caused me to miss key moments where the kids were doing something I wanted to capture.

I’ve previously owned relatively-large sensor compact cameras before. The Panasonic LX7 – which can still take decent pictures in good light; the Panasonic LX100 – which offered a very useful focal length and was fast at the widest angle, but got sold away as I couldn’t live with the odd color casts and also was just too soft around the corners.

For our upcoming Melbourne June 2016 trip, I’ve been eyeing a replacement compact that would accompany the E-M1 and the two f2.8s (12-40mm/40-150mm) coming along for the trip. The compact would need to meet these requirements:

Relatively large sensor of at least 1″.

Bright f2.8 or faster lens.

Flip screen for the family wefie.

Compact, preferably. Pocketable, even better.

Non-interchangeable lens systems. One camera system is enough!

A whole list of models got included – the Sony RX100 series, the Canons G7X and G9X, and a couple of bridge cameras even – the Panasonic FZ1000, Sony RX10 and Canon G3X. The three bridge cameras all start at f2.8 and support up to the minimal focal length I reckon I would shoot at in Melbourne, with the RX10 going way beyond that even. But they are also huge, heavier than the E-M1/12-40mm, and bulkier. The Canon G3X is slightly smaller in body compared to the other two bridge cameras, but misses out on a built-in viewfinder – a key omission that would have made telephoto shots difficult to manage.

The Sony RX100s are compact and fairly pricey, though the oldest of the series still widely sold – the Mark II – is relatively cheap now with in-store discounts. The Canons G7X and G9X are at an affordable price-point and meet most of the basic requirements, but I’ve still have niggling concerns about 1″ sensors using on the Sony RX100s and Canons, and the Canons also reportedly have poor battery life.

A student of mine previously loaned me his Fujifilm X100 some four years ago, and I really liked its amazing colors and center sharpness, though not its general usability and pedestrian AF speeds. The most current version of that series – the Fujifilm X100T – wasn’t in consideration as it was fairly large for a compact, and well-past the price I was prepared to pay for it though a grey import would have saved me a few hundred dollars. And finally, there’s the Sony RX1R II – the full-frame fixed lens compact. A cell group friend owns that, but I would have had to sell my left arm to afford the $4.9K it costs!

So, I was pretty much set on the Canon G7X and was about to pick it up until I stumbled upon the Fujifilm X70 quite by accident while trawling the discussion forums. The key characteristic of the X70 is that it’s, essentially, a shrunk down version of the X100s and going for a lot cheaper than that even. The US street price for the X70 is US$699. The local distributed version here goes for US$800 – which after including GST, shipping charges here, and the bunch of freebies (thrown in for the local bundle, seems priced fairly after all.

The Fujifilm X70!

The Fujifilm X70!

My first impressions of the X70 next!