Another Dream Come True: My Trip to Japan! Days 0-1!

WARNING:

VERY WORD HEAVY AND PHOTO HEAVY POST!

THIS WAS ORIGINALLY A SINGLE POST OF ALL THE DAYS OF MY TRIP, BUT I DECIDED TO DIVIDE IT TO THREE POSTS:

FIRST POST, THIS POST, WILL BE FOR THE INTRODUCTION AND DAYS 0-1 OF MY TRIP;

THE SECOND WILL BE DURING THE DAY 2 (FORMULA 1 QUALIFYING SESSION);

THE THIRD POST WILL BE FOR DAY 3 (FORMULA 1 RACEDAY), AND DAY 4, WHERE I AM GOING BACK HOME TO THE PHILIPPINES.

FINALLY, IF YOU STILL FIND EACH DAY A LONG READ, THEN TREAT EACH DAY AS A CHAPTER AND READ IN SPURTS.


Introduction

Talk about being late to a party… I traveled to Japan, specifically in Nagoya and Suzuka, for a short vacation and, of course, watch the FIA Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix – a race that I have always wanted to attend since I was a kid, in a country I have always wanted to visit since I was a kid, last October 4-8, 2018, and I only, finally, have time to write about. Here’s hoping I still remember what I have done in those days…

First off, a lot of my friends, both close and otherwise, would know me as a guy, in spite of my age, is still into anime/manga, gaming, collecting, and a passionately weird guy… With that said, it is obvious that someone like me love the country of Japan and anything Japanese. Thus, having to go to Japan is already a dream come true.

Second off, I am a Formula 1 (hereafter, F1) fan for 22 years now, and the Suzuka Circuit that hosts the Japanese Grand Prix ranks as one of the highest on my bucket list of F1 racetracks to attend. And again, having to visit the track and attend the race weekend, is another dream come true.

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That moment I got my Formula 1 tickets!
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Comparison with last year’s Formula 1 package; if you are up to date with F1, you’d know they changed their logo from this year onward.
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No hard plastic/ID card ticket on the package; one must pick it up at the venue, unlike last year in Singapore.

Adding those 2 dreams together, this is like the perfect trip for me! And it was!

Seeing that it has been way over two months since I traveled to Japan alone (yes, another solo adventure, which is better anyway lol), let us go down memory lane together… starting with…


DAY 0

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Solo trip!

The plane ride to Japan was pretty standard, plus no annoyance or drama since I am traveling ALONE, so I can just concentrate on my own things, upon arriving however, it was immediately fun and adventurous as I had to take a train from Chubu Centrair International Airport to the heart of Nagoya in order to check into my hotel.

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Meitetsu μTicket

It was already a trip to ride this just to get to my hotel since Japan is really known for the transport system, and having to ride the metro/subway for the duration of my trip in Japan first hand, I can say they are well maintained. Sure there was one time I did get into the subway at the afternoon rush hour, but it was still minor hassle.

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My hotel, VIA INN, specifically VIA INN Nagoya Ekimae Tsubakicho, since there are actually 2 VIA INNs in close proximity, happens to be relatively close to the station, thus why I chose it, and I am glad I did, as it was seriously in the heart of the city so I can pretty much go anywhere interesting nearby, and since the station was also close by, I can pretty much go anywhere a bit farther.

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Since it was already past 9PM upon check in, and was quite tired from the flight, I decided just to limit my exploration in this DAY 0 and just head out to a Curry House CoCo for dinner.

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Immediately, my love for Japan has increased, because unlike other countries where they use celebrities or athletes in their ads, in Japan they use they beloved gaming characters or anime characters to advertise absolutely anything and everything.

Of course, there are JPOP Idols like AKB48 and such that also advertise things, and I also don’t mind that! I happen to like JPOP, the only pop songs I care to listen to… So in short, I feel right at home in Japan.

I happen to know a few Japanese phrases, and these came in handy the following days; it is nice to note, that unlike in Tokyo (though I have never been there yet), other cities in Japan, most people may not know a lot of English, so knowing simple phrases can help. Not saying they CAN’T speak English, they do, but there can still be a barrier when you need directions or buying things.

When I run out of Japanese phrases and English is not the way to go in communicating, I did resort to the offline mode of Google Translate, type in what I want to say, show it anyone, and they either reply to me in English directly or type their reply.

So if anyone goes to Japan outside the majors cities like Tokyo, Nagoya, etc., you may encounter more language barriers, thus knowing a phrases and/or using the offline mode of Google Translate will help you and keep you confident going around. PLUS! This is Japan! MOST EVERYONE IS HELPFUL! One of the safest countries to travel alone, which I did…

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Anyways, I used a mixture of my known phrases along with Google Translate to order my curry rice from Curry House CoCo, and if you are familiar with the curry rice from Japan, it isn’t the usual Indian style curry you’d expect, but both are very delicious.

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Having satisfied my hunger, I had to be taken aback for a moment to realize what I just achieved; now this isn’t the first time I traveled alone, that would have been last year when I went to Singapore, also for a F1 race, but still, having to travel to Japan for the first time, alone for that matter; having to rely on my prior research from getting from Point A to Point B around Japan; being so at home immediately in Japan; knowing I will also watch my all time favorite sport, F1, in my all time favorite country to ever visit, Japan… I really can’t think of a more perfect vacation, a more perfect race weekend.


DAY 1

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Ready to explore!

I considered the day before, the arrival day, as Day 0, because pretty much nothing really happened apart from me nearly crying at the fact I am in Japan… the country I absolutely adore… So the very next day is Day 1, officially vacation mode!

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My plan for the trip! I am OC like this… In fact, most of my trips anywhere, I make plans, but not as detailed as this LOL
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Vital files that were also transferred to my tablet and phone; every time I have a trip outside the country, I do this, but the detailed general plan is a first.

As mentioned in Day 0, I did make some research prior to going to Japan; since this is in fact my first time in Japan, and me traveling alone, I needed to research on how to use the metro/subway, how to get to here or there, what to see and do, etc., and I will just give a bit of a spoiler, my research and subsequent plan that I made for the trip worked perfectly! This goes to show that being obsessive compulsive about any minute detail can aid you in traveling to other countries you never visited before. Now I may just ask the locals, but like I mentioned above, sometimes, though they may understand and speak English, there are still a number of people in Japan that may have a barrier, but with that said, they will still be more than willing to help, despite the barrier.

When I went to Singapore, I wasn’t all too worried from getting from Point A to Point B, because it is relatively easier to navigate since it is smaller than Japan, but it is not like I walked from end to end in Singapore, what I mean is that, it is easier to get to the airport, the hotel, the track, other tourist spots, etc, than in Japan, specifically when I have to go to my hotel from the airport, or from my hotel to the track in Suzuka… Also, I have friends that live in Singapore, so if the going gets rough, I will just give them a call. My trip to Japan, I really only had myself to rely on. Just the way I like it. It forces me to be… dare I say it… an adult.

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Preordered a Sigma APO 1.4x Teleconverter EX DG, since the Sigma 2x APO Teleconverter EX DG was sold out, but was surprised when I got to the shop and they had the 2x Teleconverter after all!

Also prior to the trip to Japan, I was researching for any camera shop nearby (there were lots of anime/manga, toy/hobby, tech/gaming shops nearby, so I need not research to much on them lol), since I was considering purchasing a Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG to couple it with my Sigma 50-150mm APO EX DC OS HSM and my Nikon D7200.

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Went to the wrong Bic Camera at first; there are two Bic Cameras close to my hotel.
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The correct Bic Camera!

Lo and behold! I found a shopping complex near my hotel that has a floor specifically for cameras! Bic Camera allowed me to preorder the item online and pick it up at their Nagoya shop (but there are two, and I knew about that, but I still accidentally went to their other shop which was also nearby lol) and have it tax free, and so, a few days before heading out to Japan, I preordered my Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG. Or at least that was the plan; they said that the 2x Teleconverter is sold out in the any of Nagoya Bic Camera outlets and the one near my hotel only has the 1.4x Teleconverter, thus I said, alright, let’s just get that and confirmed my preorder.

Thus the first order of business is to pick up my item and not get to excited along the way and buy every anime/gaming/tech thing I see. And to my surprise, when I showed the paper for my preorder, they came out with a 2x Teleconverter! So I was very happily surprised!

Broketober 2018

It was a bit surreal purchasing a DSLR accessory in another country for me; I mean, sure it is almost like buying any sort of souvenir, but I always had a rule never to buy any electronic/tech gear outside my home country of the Philippines because of the simple fact that if it does fail or have problems later on, I can’t use the shop’s warranty, and let’s face it, the manufacturer’s warranty here in the Philippines can cause so much more hassle than it is worth – trust me, I have dealt with numerous RMA’s and it never ended well… actually, most of the time, it doesn’t even start well.

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Having purchased it without hassle since it was reserved for me prior to my flight, and the staff are very friendly, then add in the numerous, almost overwhelming amount of camera gear from Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc., it was like I am a kid at a candy store.

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Blurry. I know.

Also of note, just a few floors below are the action figures/hobby floor, and another is the gaming floor, and yet another floor is the PC floor. I can live here!

Another simple reason why I love Japan is that they don’t shy away from their interests and hobbies, be it gaming, anime, tech, anything! No matter how old they get, no matter if real life gets in the way, they still go back to their hobbies and are not afraid or shy to show it.

I for one, being a Filipino-American, I guess I am a little more comfortable than most people here in the Philippines to show his weird side… his sometimes, well most of the time, unbearable weird side, to others. But I don’t mind and I am not embarrassed to show my passion for my manga/anime, gaming, tech, Formula, photography, music, and action figure collecting hobbies. And to show it PASSIONATELY.

That is not to say there are no passionate people here in the Philippines with their hobbies. THERE ARE! And quite a lot! Which makes collecting easier nowadays since there are many hobby shops popping up now. Also, with the advent of the internet, ordering overseas for those rarer items are so much easier, too! But in terms of my close personal friends, I don’t have that many that are as crazy or passionate as me. I do have some, but they few and far in between.

Wait, I digress… this is supposed to be about my Day 1 shenanigans at Nagoya!

Keep Walkin'...

In The Art of the City

I had to dash back to the hotel to drop of my Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM lens and newly bought Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG, then pack in my Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM and Sigma 30mm F/1.4 EX DC HSM lenses to explore more of Nagoya. And yes, I love my Sigma and Nikon combinations!

Next stop is at Nagoya Castle!

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I had to take the subway, and on the way, make one transfer until I reach the station just next to the castle. This is where my research and careful planning comes into play. And I felt triumphant, because my plan worked perfectly and not once did I feel that I got lost.

I made sure to go later than 8-9AM because of the rush hour, and being it my first time riding their subway, I need to make sure I get a seat to get used to it first.

Also, if in the rare event you do get lost or not sure where to go next, of course there are staff always ready to help you out. But it feels so much better doing things on your own, on your own (meaning, traveling alone and not relying so much on anyone but you yourself… like I did).

Another World

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With my friendly tour guides, Yasuyuki-san Mayumi-san!

I decided, upon reaching the castle, I will take up the free English Tour Guide, so at least I won’t blindly go around the castle complex without knowing anything. That way I can learn about the history and just have a fun time with the tour guides.

And talk about lucky!

I was told by Yasuyuki-san Mayumi-san, my wonderfully entertaining, knowledgeable, and friendly tour guides, that starting next year, they will start renovating the main keep and it won’t be as visible to the public. So, I visited on the right time. And as we continue with this post, you will see just how lucky I am this day visiting the castle premises.

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The golden kettle that was made from the original “shachi”

Looking at the scenery just around the castle, we also stopped by one of their tea houses and I was again lucky to see the golden kettle that is used for the tea ceremony; that golden kettle was made from the remains of the original golden “shachi” – A shachihoko or shachi is from Japanese folklore, where an animal has a head of a tiger and the body of a carp – and it usually hidden behind a glass casing, but during Fridays, the day I visited, they bring it out for the people to see, and they actually use it for customers that have tea.

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Moving on, I was learning a lot the history of the castle and that of my tour guides as persons as well. Of course, I will not give you a lesson on what I just learned from them in the history of the castle, you can always Google that, or preferably, if you ever visit Nagoya, grab a free tour guide (free English tour guides start at 1PM local time), so you can befriend and learn the history!

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Getting ever closer to the main castle keep, I was pointed towards the Hommaru Palace that was originally built in 1615 by the first Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu, for his son, was actually under restoration for, if I remember correctly, for the past 10 years, and was just recently finished and opened for public viewing starting June 8 of this year. So I got lucky yet again!

I will not be posting any pictures from inside the palace, for it will add to the total picture count in the post, not to mention, more words, and it will ruin the magic… It is best to see it in person!

Nagoya Castle Main Keep

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Arigatou! Yasuyuki-san Mayumi-san!

After the palace, and after seeing the main keep a lot closer, a few more chit chat with my tour guides, it was time to part ways. It was a free tour guide, since they were volunteers, but I wanted to at least give them something for snacks or drinks, but as expected, especially from the Japanese, they wholeheartedly declined my offer. I promised the next time I ever visit again, I will surely do my best to see them, granted they will still be volunteering. Nice people like them is hard to come by nowadays.

Parting ways didn’t mean I left the castle grounds immediately, I still enjoyed myself with snacks and drinks and to get a breather, since carrying 2 lenses, my DSLR, though not so heavy, does take a toll on me, especially with a bad right knee.

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I am welcomed a ninja clan!

I was entertained by a ninja performance, so it bought more time to rest, and of course, photo opportunity with one of the ninja!

@Nagoya

Aki

I then took a few more minutes to rest up, drink up some more, then head onto the city vis subway once more, this time to just explore anything and end up in Maidreamin Cafe! Yes, a maid cafe… because OF COURSE!!

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The Lines That We Cross

Road Rules

I was also supposed to go to Osu Shopping District to find nice souvenirs for my friends, and maybe some stuff for myself as well, but after going around the city, I knew I will just end the day in Maidreamin then head back to my hotel to recuperate and prepare for the F1 qualifying session the next day.

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I then reached Maidreamin Cafe, and well, it is what you would expect if you know anything about these cafe either from reading manga, watching anime, or generally being a weeb (which a lot of people call me, but I think I’m more of an otaku than a weeb). The maids are very friendly, though there was a bit of language barrier at first, in the end, I got what I ordered, and had a nice chat with a couple of the staff at hand.

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Believe it or not, visiting a maid cafe is one of my goals in this trip, and also have a Instax photo with one of the maid which is part of the bundle I ordered. I will say this now, out of all the photos I have taken in Japan, it was this photo of me, that wasn’t even taken with my phone or DSLR, as my stand out photo of the trip!

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Also in the bundle I ordered was the cat ears (you get to choose what animal ears you like, but since I love cats, it was a no-brainer to get the cat ears), and a maid uniform keychain. Overall, a great experience, and I am glad to tick this off my bucket list. Like I said to my friends, you know you made it in life if you tick off visiting a maid cafe off your bucket list.

After the maid cafe, thankfully there was a subway station just next to the cafe, so I made my way back to my hotel; truth be told, this station wasn’t part of the plan I made previously, but I was already familiar with using the subway and where to go, so even if this wasn’t part of the initial plan, I still made it to my hotel in the end with no hiccups… also of note, I did catch the subway during the afternoon rush hour, but usually the afternoon rush hour is not as bad at the morning rush hours.

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Reaching the hotel, rested up a bit, then had a quick dinner, and decided to sleep early to take a train to Suzuka and eventually the race track.

It is gonna be special!


Stay tuned for Day 2 post!

-o-

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Countdown ’til the Five Red Lights Go Out for the FIA Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix!

Only a few more days and I get to visit the beautiful country of Japan, a country I have always dreamed of visiting since I was a kid; I have always been fascinated by the culture, the history, I love reading manga, watching anime, playing games, collecting action figures, and being overall weird, thus wanting to visit Japan shouldn’t come at a surprise.

I may only be visiting Nagoya and Suzuka this time around, because by the above photograph, it is obvious I am going to Japan for the FIA Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix held at the legendary Suzuka Circuit; like the country of Japan, I have always dreamed of visiting the Suzuka Circuit ever since I was a kid, because of the memorable title deciders that took place there in 1998 and 2000, where we see Mika Hakkinen of McLaren Mercedes vs Michael Schumacher (arguably my favorite driver of all time, with Kimi Raikkonen a close second) of Ferrari (my favorite team of all time) duke it out in the 18 turns of the circuit. Even before that duel, we have duels of Alain Prost of McLaren Honda and later Ferrari vs Ayrton Senna of McLaren Honda during the 1988-1990 seasons being yet another title decider between the 2, obviously, I wasn’t able to watch this being born on 1989, so the former 2 seasons between Mika and Michael are the ones I remember from my childhood and instilled my dream to visit the track one day.

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Comparing last year’s Singapore Grand Prix tickets package (left) with this year’s Japanese Grand Prix tickets package

Truth be told, the Japanese Grand Prix was supposed to be the very first Formula 1 Grand Prix I will ever attend, but I chose Singapore Grand Prix at Marina Bay Street Circuit last year to become the actual first race I ever attended; this is largely due to the fact that early last year, there were plans not to renew the contract with Formula 1 to keep the event in the calendar. Upon arriving in Singapore, I was informed that they then arrived at an agreement to keep Singapore in the racing calendar.

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Last year for the Singapore Grand Prix at the Marina Bay Street Circuit

It may sound that I wasn’t happy that the Singapore Grand Prix became my first grand prix ever attended, when in fact, I was ecstatic; I may have wanted Japan to be my first race to ever attend, but Singapore had this special atmosphere, and I surely enjoyed my visit to the country and race. I wouldn’t trade that feeling and experience for anything else.

Now that I will fulfill yet another childhood dream, albeit now being the second race I ever attended, I can’t help but feel blessed, happy, and excited.

Much like last year in Singapore, I know I will have a great time exploring, although only in the Nagoya and Suzuka area this time around; I will be more prepared for the race weekend since I learned so much from Singapore; and I am ready to meet fellow Formula 1 fans from different walks of life, either supporting the same team and driver or not, it is the sport that we are passionate about in the end that will forge friendships that will last – again much like last year where I made new friends that may not share the same love as me for Ferrari but do love Formula 1 and we knew from that point we will be great friends and still are in touch today.

The experience and friendships in the end will be the ultimate win for me if in the event Ferrari will pull the same unfortunate result in the last race I attended.

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This picture still stings; during the start of the Singapore Grand Prix last year. Here’s hoping we have a better result in Japan.

Til next time! PEACE!!!

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Prelude to my Japan Trip!

Hey y’all! It sure has been awhile! Real life has kept me busy and to be honest, I was struck with the writer’s block… So it was tough to blog about anything like I used to.

I have recently ordered a mother lode of items that will be very useful for my upcoming trip to Japan, and to be precise, Nagoya and Suzuka areas are the places of interest I will be staying and visiting for the short duration I’m there.

Before I get into the items in question, for those who have been following me here and those with a keen eye would notice I mentioned that I will visit Suzuka, and why yes, I am going to Japan, for the first time by the way, to watch the FIA Formula 1Japanese Grand Prix held in the legendary Suzuka Circuit; I have always dreamed of visiting Japan in general since I love many Japanese things, from their culture, love for anime/gaming, and all the way down to their history – I simply love Japan. Add the fact that I love Formula 1 (hereafter F1) and the Suzuka Circuit hosted a lot of memorable races when I was growing up, most notably the title deciders from 1998 and 2000 seasons, Schumacher vs Hakkinen era (I was much too young to have watched Senna vs Prost the title deciders from 1988-1990 seasons). Thus, this trip will realize a couple of my all time dreams.

Now we got that out of the way, let us take a peek at the items I ordered for the trip, and well, these items will be also used in future trips, so it is a good investment in the long run.

1. Wasabi Power EN-EL15 batteries and dual charger

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The Nikon D7200 and it’s OEM EN-EL15 that came packaged with it is rated at 1900mAh, and while that is no slouch of a battery, I do notice that the D7200 does drain the battery quickly; not so quick that it will go from full charge to nothing in a whole days shooting, but I came awfully close a few times already. Knowing that I will be taking a lot more pictures than I did last year in the FIA F1 Singapore Grand Prix, I knew I should stock up on more EN-EL15 batteries.

Was looking at another Nikon OEM EN-EL15, but heard great thing about the Wasabi EN-EL15 batteries. The price of one Nikon OEM can fetch you a couple of Wasabi EN-EL15 batteries along with its dual charger. Thus I decided to try the Wasabi batteries.

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As you can see from the battery itself, they are rated at 2000mAh, not much larger than that of the Nikon OEM, but now that I have a total of 3 EN-EL15 batteries, I effectively have 5900mAh total power that will definitely keep me shooting for the whole day and then some.

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Overall build quality of the batteries are great in my opinion, I also like the slightly more matte feel and finish compared to the Nikon OEM variant. They also come with contact covers, which is always a good thing.

As to performance, I will give an update on this post once I truly put them through their paces in Japan. Same goes for the charger, though we will have a little overview on the charger now.

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The charger isn’t all that large, and when traveling, this is actually an advantage. It is quite light and honestly, really feels cheap. This charger came with a Micro-USB so as long as you have an adapter, a PC port, or a USB hub charger (like my Anker 5 port hub), that outputs 5V and 2A, then you can charge your batteries here. This isn’t limited to the Wasabi variants, but this can also be used with the Nikon OEM. But since I will once again truly test this out before I leave and majority when I am in Japan, I will still bring the Nikon MH-25 charger that was packaged with my D7200.

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Also looking at the output of the actual charger, it is really no surprise, but a bit of a disappointment, that the milliamps is 600 PER SLOT… it isn’t the 1200mAh per slot and that of the Nikon MH-25. Again, it is no surprise, but really is a bummer – just imagined if they slightly made the charger a bit bulkier and packed with more power to charge each slot at a rate of 1.2A, that would be a big seller to a lot of consumers and pros.

So with that, let us go to the next item.

2. SanDisk Extreme PRO 32GB SDHC Cards

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Okay, I meant to say “items”, as I bought a pair of the SanDisk Extreme PRO 32GB SDHC Cards. So these cards are SDHC, Class 10, UHS-1, U3, V10, with 32GB, 90MB/s write speed, 95MB/s read speed. One of these days I will make a rundown on what they all mean and their importance, but I got these to simply have a faster write speed in order to keep up with my D7200’s internal buffer when I’m going to shoot at continuous high for the Formula 1 qualifying and race. And well, anything in the future that needs a continuous shots. Will pop these open in Japan or at least a few days before the trip. I mean, you know what a SD card looks like anyways. Take note that this is not a UHS II so underneath doesn’t have the extra pins or contacts. Next item…

3. Transcend USB 3.0 Card Reader

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If you read my review on the LYNCA Waterproof Memory Card Case with Built-In USB 3.0 Card Reader (Link to the review HERE), you will remember my complaint that the connection of the USB 3.0 MicroB 10pin is the only part that is supposedly not waterproof and defeats the purpose of the case and the card reader portion being waterproof, and thus, I had a trip with my friends to Bataan near the body of water gone on and read my review and took advantage of seeping into the 10pin connection and bathed the card reader part of the combo item. All my SD cards are safe, but the reader is no longer functioning properly. So my LYNCA card reader is now an over-glorified SD Card Case. But sadly, that’s how it is.

I thus ordered a Transcend USB 3.0 Card Reader instead of buying another Lynca product; much cheaper and works like any other USB 3.0 Card Reader. So I’m happy with it. Probably more happy than when I had the Lynca as the card reader cos now I don’t need to finagle the wire; just connect this on a USB 3.0 port, that’s it.

Now let’s move on.

4. UnoMundo Universal Travel Adapter

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I doubt I really ever need this universal adapter when I go to Japan as I believe their plug and socket types are Type A or B with 100V (more info HERE), which is almost similar to the Philippines, where we have Types A, B, and C, with 100-220V.

With that said, why did I still purchase this? Well, ever since last year, upon traveling alone outside the country for the first time, I was bitten by the travel bug and for sure, knows that I will be traveling a lot in the future. Maybe not as much in the coming few years due to specialty training in Neurology (hopefully), but eventually, or sometime during training where I have vacation time, I will surely travel to different countries, and not only for Formula 1, but for the sake of adventure. So, this universal adapter will be handy for those countries.

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Like the previous 3 items, I will give an in depth review once I put this thru its paces, but for now, it sports to USB ports rated at 5V and 2.5A; it can receive all types of plugs and it can be connected all types of sockets (I mean obviously, that is its main purpose); you will see a fuse port and another port on the opposite side housing replacement fuses… haven’t opened to inspect them, cos honestly, I am having difficulty opening them. Sometime later maybe. What I don’t like is the soft touch rubber feel that in a country like the Philippines may wear down and get sticky in time. But let’s try to avoid that by storing it properly.

Moving on… (like our salty past relationships)

5. TYCKA DSLR Rain Cover

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Last year in Singapore, I was still sporting my D5000 and just used the kit lens instead of my telephoto lens since I felt from where I was sitting the kit lens will suffice (it did). IT started to rain before the start of the race, and wasn’t really to worried since me and my D5000 and kit lens have been thru worse, but now I am sporting a D7200 and bringing with me, this time around, my Sigma Trilogy of lenses (basically my favorite and expensive lenses. Expensive for me… I mean, pros can afford my lenses easily, but I am just a hobbyist photographer), and in most Japanese GP races, it does rain even if it is on October. Thus, I don’t want my DSLR and lenses to get wet if it does rain, I went ahead and got a rain cover. Again, this is an investment as I can use this locally when it rains or in future races I attend.

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It comes with a case for the rain cover and a few moisture absorbing cloths. The back monitor and top control panel can be seen thru the clear plastic quite well; the hood can accommodate my Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM telephotolens (same length as a 70-200mm), and it is best to still use a lenshood to extend the rain cover hood and just tie it tightly on the lenshood; it can also accommodate an on shoe flash, but of course, I don’t think I will use a flash during the race, however it is there for future projects; you can still use a sling strap by opening the zippers on the bottom part ever so slightly for the sling strap to pass thru, but I would rather use a neck strap in this situation and there is a way to install a neck strap on the cover itself, and in turn, the cover connects to the camera inside (by the way, regardless if you will use a sling strap or a neck strap… or nothing at all… still connect the DSLR’s strap eyelets with that of the rain covers – it keeps it straight and true for the most part.

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Let’s just hope that I won’t actually use this, but it is just nice to have.

Next!

6. BAONA Accessories Bag

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You’re basic run of the mill accessories bag to keep your wires, chargers, batteries, etc, all in check. I am notorious for having many wires and chargers for most of my gadgets, but in spite of it all, I still get to keep my things organized. With that said however, I still wanted a better way to organize my wires and such, and this is where the BAONA bag comes in. DSC_0057DSC_0059

I like the double compartment, so on 1 compartment I get to keep the wires and batteries, and on the other, I get to keep much larger chargers, larger wires, and such.

Build quality is so and so… not the best and certainly not the worst I have seen, but I feel it won’t take a beating too long before it starts to break apart.

Let’s see how this survives my trip.

Let’s go on to the last item I got for this trip… but like all other items, still useful for future trips.

7. Lichao Travel Toiletry Pouch

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Yes, I am obsessive compulsive when it comes to organization and easing my quality of life. I have a small bag for traveling with my toiletries, but it is just not the right type of bag and it is more of a hassle than easy. Thus, much like the accessories bag, I finally got a proper toiletry pouch. This is also going to be quite useful for residency training in the hospital when I need to stay behind for 24-36hours per duty, and not just for travel. Would have loved a black color, but sadly it wasn’t available, but navy blue ain’t bad, seeing as blue is still my favorite color. It just bothers me that most of my travel bags aren’t black anymore. Sigh…

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It certainly is thinner than that of the photos, but hey, it is empty (like my heart), so once I start adding in my toiletries, it will sure get some heft to it. The material and build is much more solid as compared to my accessories bag, but like my accessories bag, only time will tell on  how much it will hold up.

And that’s it! For now?

Anything to make this and future travels an easier task and increase the fun. For most of the items I have indicated above, I will make a separate post of reviews once I have put them thru their paces as mentioned above.

Less than a week til my trip, and I’m excited to travel with these items! And of course, finally get to visit Japan, the country I have always dreamed of visiting, toss in the Japanese Grand Prix in Suzuka, a circuit I always wanted to visit as well. Plus come on! This is Japan! I may not be Japanese but my hobbies, interests, and overall weirdness, is akin to a Japanese individual. I will be right at home. Also with my items above, I will be right at home indeed.

Til next time! PEACE!!

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Writer’s Block

I have been having a writer’s block over the past month and then some. So, I must as well write about me having a writer’s block.
It isn’t like I didn’t travel out of town or didn’t get any new interesting gear and the like, I just can’t find the means to link up words in such a way to synthesize a readable post in here.
With that said, I’m still battling the writer’s block to this day, but hopefully having posted something in here, of all things, about writer’s block, I can overcome it and start writing blogs like before.
Til then… time to rack my brain out and hopefully have something good to write.

PEACE!

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ANDBON AD-30S 30L Electronic Automatic Digital Control Dry Cabinet Storage Review

DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional reviewer; I review the things I buy as a consumer. I am not at all sponsored. I am an average consumer, giving my consumer thoughts.


INTRO:

I have been a photography hobbyist and enthusiast since 2010, and since then, my gear has become more and more expensive (well, expensive is subjective, and for me, my current gear is expensive enough – you can scoff if you think my gear is cheap), and as expensive gears go, you want to keep them in tip top shape and condition as to avoid having to spend money on repairs, or God forbid, replace the entire unit in question. That hard earned cash saved upon taking care of your gear can be used to further add to that said gear and improve further your craft in photography.

That being said, I never owned a dry box or dry cabinet, because I would always end up using that money somewhere else, and being a person with obsessive compulsive personality disorder, I am quite the perfectionist, so I was still able to keep my photography gear in great condition all through the years.

However, I finally decided to get one of those digitally controlled dry cabinets since I have upgraded my DSLR and added a couple new lenses recently that I felt it was high time to finally invest on a dry cabinet to ensure that my gear will be in great condition for as long as possible. And there in lies one of the key words… INVEST.

It is a great investment to spend a couple bucks on a dry box or dry cabinet, because you owe to yourself and your gear. It is not an expenditure, it is an investment… a form of security and insurance.

And so, we will be reviewing the ANDBON AD-30S 30L Electronic Automatic Digital Control Dry Cabinet Storage.


SPECS:

•Model NO: AD-30S
•External Size: W290 x D320 x H420 mm (11.5″x12.6″x16.5″)
•Internal Size: W288 x D290 x H355 mm (11.3″x11.5″x14.0″)
•Pack Size: W350 x D380 x H470 mm (13.8″x14.9″x18.5″)

•Digital LCD display
•Andbon Dry Box Series (25%~60% RH) provides the best moisture damage prevention for aging, molding, spoiling, rusting, corrosion, denaturing, etc
•Auto Memory Last RH Setting
•Slide/Pullable Trays,Anti-Rust Cabinet (special coated paint), Silent Operation
•Low Power Consumption,Worldwide Voltage: 100-240V,Lockable — Door (comes with two keys), Magnetic Sealed Door for best RH control
•Power Input: AC 100V ~ 240V / 5W

Inside the box includes the power adapter and an instruction manual that is kept underneath one of the foams in the bottom compartment of the unit. I must admit, I was scratching my head as to were the manual was, but I always inspect the entire unit of whatever I purchased just to see any hidden damages, and thankfully, upon removing the foam, I found the instructions.

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The manual is hiding underneath the foam

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It also comes with 2 keys for the locking mechanism.


REVIEW:

As always, we start with the packaging, and the unit was packaged well enough, being flanked by hard Styrofoam; I like harder Styrofoam material than the softer ones, as the former will help ensure a safer delivery.

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The glass on the door wasn’t protected by its own plastic cover (the ones you usually peel off in new phones or the like), but was happy to see that the glass wasn’t scratched up as much or at all. But it would be nice to have its own dedicated plastic cover to peel off… There was no mention as to what material this glass was made of. But it is ever so slightly smoked, but under well lit environment or when you switch on the LED inside, it can showcase your gear wonderfully. I wished the LED strip were situated on both sides for even lighting, but either way, it does the job.

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The unit itself is VERY light, as it doesn’t really need a lot of electronics; this may look like a mini fridge, but all it in needs is a electronic display, a strip of LED, the actual dehumidifier with anti bacterial wafer chip, and a simple power supply to power them all. This is essentially just a display case with the added features of dehumidify inside the little controlled environment.

Overall, the build is great and very sleek, and compared to the plastic dry boxes, this adds a bit of flare to your gear. I love the looks!

The foams are firm, but the top foam with the contours for lenses should have spaced the contours/concavities a little bit more; as you can see, there are too close to each other that my lenses are not sitting flush with the concavities. This should not be a problem for mirrorless camera lenses and such, but I wished they thought about spacing them out just a little but more to accommodate lenses like mine –  and my lenses are pretty much the Trinity of lenses that most professional photographers or hobbyists like myself would own. There is still enough space to space the contours out a bit more. But I can always ask someone locally to make me a custom foam with my specifications in the future.

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The foam contour/concavities don’t really accommadate my lenses

The actual sliding tray is made of a very tough plastic material that I suspect is ABS plastic; the mounting mechanism is also made of plastic, most likely also ABS plastic, and surprisingly, it can carry the weight of my 4 lenses even when extended fully (it locks into place when extended fully, but a little lift and pull, you can pull of the entire assembly). The mount can also be adjusted to certain heights for your needs. I am still wary when I extend the tray out with my lenses on, so for peace of mine, I still secure the tray underneath with my palm while I select what lens to use.

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There is a tape holding the tray in place for shipping purposes; there are 1 on each side, so remove them

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The tray can accommodate my 150-50mm, my 17-50mm, and my 30mm; seeing that there is still space, I placed my old kit lens in there and I can still add either a 10-20mm or a fisheye in the future.

The bottom compartment I use to house my 2 DSLR’s, the Nikon D5000 and the Nikon D7200 with the MB-D15 battery grip installed. I also included my 2 Nikon SB-600 speedlights, a Meike FC-110 LED ring flash, my DSLR’ batteries and chargers, my LYNCA memory card reader and case (review here!), and seeing I still had enough space, I just threw in the lens hoods just for fun (they won’t stay in there forever). And I know I can still add another DSLR or another flash here in the future no problem.

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Of course, the top tray and bottom compartment isn’t strictly for lenses and bodies/flashes respectively, you can interchange them or even not use the entire unit for you photography gear as it can be used for books, bags, jewelry, etc. Of course, with different items, comes different relative humidity percentages (%RH). For my needs I am told 40-50%RH will be ideal for cameras and lenses, and since this unit has a +2-3%RH, I placed set mine in 42%RH (that means if it reaches 42%RH, it will then go up to 44%RH or 45%RH and then dehumidify again to 42%RH). The %RH will obviously shoot up when you open the unit to grab a piece of item, so you shouldn’t be surprised by it.

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%RH reference guide as per the manual

It is also of note, if you are not in a humid environment, the dehumidifier will not work if your ambient humidity is lower than the humidity set on your unit.

Let’s look at the display and buttons and how to set this up for the first time:

Display

Buttons

Wrong
This part of the instructions are wrong, read on below…

As you can see from the screenshots from the manual, it said that you have to tap the up button TWICE to choose what %RH you want to set, this for me was wrong; I had to press the SET button TWICE, then use up and down buttons to choose my %RH and press SET again to confirm the change.

After setting the %RH, it is suggested in the manual and several forums to leave it empty for at least 8 hours; from my photo, I showed the time I started and the time I would start adding my gear, but I decided to make it 10 hours.

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And thus, here is a shot of my dedicated photography gear corner of my room; this corner has all the most commonly used gear and accessories, and the other less commonly used items are stored elsewhere.

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CONCLUSION:

I paid PHP4,200 (~$80) plus shipping, and somehow it didn’t feel as if I spent a cent on this, because as I said above, this is not an expenditure, it is an investment.

It looks sleek and professional, unlike the conventional dry boxes, and you need not have to “settle” in unlike in the dry boxes where it can take a day or two to dial and settle in the silica gels to the right %RH – this is done digitally and immediately with this one.

The near clear glass shows off your gear wonderfully in proper lighting or when the LED is lit inside, but again, I wish the LED strips were on either end for more even lighting.

The tray and tray mount would give me more peace of mind if they just made it metal; I wouldn’t mind paying a little more for that. Being a very tough plastic, it does hold my lenses well enough but not enough for me to feel confident when I slide the tray out; I still have one palm underneath the tray.

The foam, particularly for the lenses, I wished the contours/concavities were spaced out just a tad more for larger lenses to fit better; I don’t imagine this being a problem for lenses with 62mm threads or mirrorless camera lenses though.

But with all that said and done, would I recommend this? A BIG YES… I mean I already said it twice: this is not an expenditure, it is an investment.

This keeps most of the dust away from my gear, heck even insects; it inside a controlled environment to inhibit fungal growth, yet humid enough to to keep the lubrication of my lenses from evaporating; and it serves as a nice display case for my gear – I do just sit down and stare at it at times.

Of course, this is another one of those Chinese OEM products that have different brands slapping their name on it… So, find one similar to mine, and you will most likely get the same performance.

Well, that’s all! Time for me to stare at my gear inside the ANDBON AD-30S 30L Electronic Automatic Digital Control Dry Cabinet Storage again.


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LYNCA Waterproof Memory Card Case with Built-In USB 3.0 Card Reader Review

DISCLAIMER: I am not a professional reviewer; I review the things I buy as a consumer. I am not at all sponsored. I am an average consumer, giving my consumer thoughts.

INTRO:

Ever since I switched my PC chassis roughly 2 years ago, I no longer had the benefit of using a 3.5 inch internal card reader, because my current chassis, the Phanteks Enthoo Eveolv ATX doesn’t have mounts for 5.25 or 3.5 inch drives, thus I had to forego my Bitfenix internal card reader.

I didn’t own any USB 3.0 card reader hubs back then since I was mainly using the internal card reader, so I have to revert to connecting my DSLR’s using the supplied USB cable from Nikon. And as you’d expect, the transfer rates are slow. Not only that, I hated always connecting my Nikon D5000 or D7200 thru USB especially if I forgot to copy over a photo, because Windows will read the whole card (slowly) inside the DSLR’s as it seems it doesn’t save any information of the photos in the cache.

Knowing I needed a USB 3.0 card reader and a new SD card case (since my old one is so cheap), it was time to hit the market for those items.

Lucky for me, there is the LYNCA Waterproof Memory Card Case with Built-In USB 3.0 Card Reader. Yes that was a mouthful… and it always seems to have a different name in different shops… but at least, the LYNCA branding stays the same.

By the name, it is obviously hitting 2 birds with 1 stone for me; a case and a USB 3.0 card reader.

I didn’t get it right off the bat as I wasn’t to keen in PHP 2,000 (~$40) for such an item, and that is due to the looks, which I will get more into down below in the review. Then it went on sale with a 50% off, then I had no other reason not to get it; whether it will it has bad performance, or God forbid, die out within a few months, I wouldn’t cry a river knowing I only paid PHP 1,000 (~$20).

SPECS:

Item in Review:
Material: ABS,PC,TPV
Size: 15.5x10x3cm/6.1×3.9×1.2”
Number of Slot: 19
Weight: 205g

Suitable for:
CFx3, SDx7 and TFx9 Card (for those wondering what TF is, it is Transflash, aka, MicroSD; Transflash was simply the original name for MicroSD’s untile MicroSD nomenclature became mainstream)

Package:
1x Card Case/Reader
1x USB 3.0 Type A Female to USB 3.0 Type B Male 10 Pin (38.1cm/15″)
1x USB Type A to Micro USB adapter
1x Micro USB to USB 3.0 Type C adapter
1x Sim card tray remover

REVIEW:

First off, it was surprisingly well packaged; sure it doesn’t hang the bang or presentation of products of AAA companies, but the main point for me is that the packing is well enough to keep the item protected in shipping, so it will arrive to me in great condition. Close friends of mine know that I usually keep boxes and display them for 2 reasons: 1 is to have some bragging rights for the awesome gear I have and 2, simply great for reselling purposes. But for little gadgets like these, I care not to keep the boxes honestly, so it may lack in the presentation, but it gets the job done.

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In fact, lacking is the presentation that it doesn’t give much specs in the box, so you can always use the specs I placed above instead, if you are wondering about the item and what comes with it.

The USB 3.0 Type A Female to USB 3.0 Type B Male 10 Pin is roughly 15 inches in length, however, I find that very short even if you connect it in the front USB panel of your PC (well it depends on the height of your PC chassis and its location, either on the desk or on the floor, but for my use and my setup, it is indeed short), thus it is absolutely short if you plan to connect this to the back of your PC; be prepared either way to stand up each time you want to change the card you are trying to import pictures from. An easy fix, which I already did, was buy a 3rd part USB 3.0 Type A Female to USB 3.0 Type B Male 10 Pin cable. I understand why it is only 15 inches, because, after all, this seems to have travel in mind, so you want to pack shorter cables when traveling as to save space, and honestly, you’d want a shorter cable for your laptop when you travel. And speaking of laptop users, you won’t have the same problems with the shorter cable as mentioned above.

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The package also includes 2 adapters, a USB Type A to Micro USB adapterand a Micro USB to USB 3.0 Type C adapter, that have their own rubber sleeves making them linked to the USB cable, thus not losing them, but I find the rubber sleeve a dirt magnet. Of course, if you want, you can simply remove the rubber sleeve links, especially if you are not planning to use those interfaces for you devices.

I mentioned earlier that I was not keen on paying full price for this item due to the over all looks, and I still stand by the fact that I wished they didn’t go for that miniature suit case look. I am more of the minimalist type, and sleeker clean designs are what I wanted best. If it had that sleek design, maybe I would pay full price, with that said, it looks like a toy. That may not bother a lot of people, but for those that still love form AND function, like me, it does put a bit of a letdown especially since most photographers and hobbyists will definitely have photography gear that is respectable and the looks of this case/card reader is kinda tacky. But that’s just me.

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Build quality, well I did say toy earlier, and it does feel like a toy, but a tough toy at that since they did use ABS plastic. I still would want to constantly thrash this around, but for normal everyday use and travel, it will definitely stand the test. Though I might want to mention the tabs are also made of plastic and as far as plastics go, they may wear out in time with the constant opening and closing of the case/card reader

The rubber cover for the actual card reader, is held on by a very small piece of rubber that will definitely break off if you abuse it.

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The USB 3.0 Type B 10 pin female connection is not covered… just something to keep in mind. It is also situated on the side of where the hinges of the case are placed, so having the case wide open and transferring photos won’t be possible; that is to say, that you can open the case and still transfer photos, but not fully open. You can still access the cards inside if need be very easily.

As for the inside of the case, it is mostly made of rubber as to keep the cards in place safely and supposedly be waterproof on the edges; I am a bit skeptical and am lazy to actually test this, but I am skeptical since the rubber edges don’t seem to create a very good seal. But yeah, maybe I will update this once I tested the waterproof capabilities, but I also mentioned above, that the USB 3.0 Type B 10 pin female connection is not covered, so maybe the waterproof aspect is just to save the memory cards inside, then again, why have a rubber cover that seals the card reading connections? Why leave the USB 3.0 Type B 10 pin female connection to dry, errrr, to wet? (LOL) Anyways, that is another reason why I also don’t want to test the waterproof capabilities of the item.

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On the actual card reader, it can also house once more SD card if need be. And speaking of housing the cards, it advertises that it can store CFx3, SDx7 and TFx9 Cards, but what I found out, you can stack your SD cards on top of another, thus you can house up to 12 in the rubber casing plus one on the actual card reader, totaling up to 13 SD cards. As for the CF and TF, since I don’t own any CF cards, I can’t give a definite answer, but I can say that it does only hold as advertised, as with TF.

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You will also notice there is a sim card tray remover, just in case you ever need it. A nice touch in my opinion as there are times when I wished I had one while I’m out.

Now for the actual performance: being a USB 3.0, which can handle up to 5GB/s, we can suspect speedy read and write speeds. I will give you is my transfer times and real time average transfer rates compared to my DSLR, in this case, we will use the Nikon D7200 to transfer 15GB of RAW files from my more recent shoot using a SanDisk Ultra 32GB, 48MB/s read speed, SDHC card.

Using the Nikon D7200, I was took me over a little over 12 minutes. Not too bad at all, but my main gripe is what I mentioned earlier in which it constantly buffers the photos so having to search for that certain photo or photos you want to transfer only can be a chore. Windows, sadly didn’t give me the transfer rate.

Then using the LYNCA card reader, I transferred 15GB of only RAW files in 4 minutes; there was also little to no buffering when searching for selected photos unlike the DSLR where it seems there was no cache saved in the PC, thus it rebuffers, costing time, if you are just looking for certain photos in the card. As for transfer rate, I was averaging 42MB/s. So, it was definitely faster.

I didn’t test it with my other SD card like a SanDisk SDHC class 4, I can say it will be slightly slower, and I didn’t test it with my SanDisk Extreme PRO 32GB SDHC Class 10 U3 UHS 1 card, because I would suspect that it would transfer faster since it has a 95MB/s read speed. And that is another point to make, the transfer speed depends on the card and the files as much as it depends on the interface of transferring.

CONCLUSION:

It does the job! And it does it well. If we simply look at this as a card reader, then it is definitely a great item especially when you get it at 50% off like me. The fact that it is also a case for your memory cards comes as gravy, a cherry on top, or whatever analogy you want. I wished the design leans more to the professional and be more sleek and minimalist, but again, that is just me. I would also would have loved a longer USB cable, but I guess it is understandable as this is also geared towards travel, thus you won’t want to lug around long cables.

Another gripe would be the USB 3.0 Type B 10 pin female connection is not covered like the other connections, thus even if this is waterproof, that being exposed, will not end well.

Will I recommend this? Absolutely! But I feel the asking price originally is still a lot especially from a brand that is not really super known. I would wait for a sale. Keep in mind, this is definitely one of those OEM type products where niche companies will just slap their brand on. So you can find similar products like this with different branding. But as far as OEM goes, this review should also cover them.

So there you go! This is bang for the buck especially when on sale. Still bang for the buck, in a way, full price, but like I said, from a company like them, I rather pay less, so even if, God forbid, this bites the dust in time, it won’t hurt at all paying half price.

-0-

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Then and Now: A story of my photography hobby

I always joked that I got into photography because of a girl, after all, all the best stories always start with an inspirational girl that drives the boy to be the best he can be for her. But alas, I can’t really tell what got me into photography in the first place.

All I know is that my dad was into photography when he was younger, and he has since then given me his SLR, the Canon AE-1 along with lenses, even before I thought of playing around in photography.

Then it was 2010, in the middle of my first year of medical school studies, I wanted yet another hobby on top of my PC gaming, action figure collecting, and guitar collecting, and that was photography.

Me and Nikki
A few months after owning the Nikon D5000, I had the mandotory “take a photo with your camera in a mirror” shot

Again, I can’t tell what really drove me to buy my first DSLR, the Nikon D5000, but I did anyways, and I got gnarled into the world of photography because I get to see the world in the way no other people usually do. It can be poetic; it can show the beauty of the world, hiding away the dread; or it can show what the world really is and raise attention.

It took to me just like when I first started playing the guitar; I learned all the basics, learned different techniques, made some of my own, read more advanced techniques, and all in all, just being vigilant and shooting as much as I can to hone my skills.

After learning as much as I can with my Nikon D5000 and its kit lens, the 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, it was time to add to my growing repertoire, and that is simply adding a flash or a speedlight as most would say.

Now you might say, wait, isn’t there a pop up flash? While you are right that there is in fact a pop up flash in the Nikon D5000, and any other camera for that matter, but I needed to control my lighting more and that was what a speedlight will help me do. My first hot shoe flash was the Yong Nuo YN465, and not long after, I added a Yong Nuo RF602 flash trigger, so I can trigger the flash off shoe and do a lot of moody lighting effects in my shots. Of course, I can’t afford my own Nikon speedlights since I was just a student back then and I didn’t want to bother my parents each time I want something, thus I settled with the Yong Nuo products. They were great enough for practicing indeed.

Having learned enough of lighting control and such, I knew it was time to get a new flash. I have always loved the bokeh effect of photos so I knew I wanted a prime lens as my first lens upgrade. I was juggling with the thought of getting a Nikkor 35mm f/1.8 or a Sigma 30mm f/1.4; I knew early on of the so called “Trinity” of lenses which is usually a wide angle f/2.8 lens, a standard f/2.8 lens, and a telephoto f/2.8 lens. A common example for Nikkor lenses are the 14-24mm f/2.8, a 24-70mm, f/2.8, and the 70-200mm f/2.8 – as you can see, these 3 lenses cover a wide range of focal points, perfect for nearly every situation… thus, the Holy Trinity or the Hebrew Trinity of lenses. Unfortunately, the prices of these lenses are way of my reach even if I’m already a physician (I mean, as a general physician; who know, hopefully, once I am a specialized physician, I afford these… but as you can see later in this post, I am more than satisfied with Sigma lenses anyways), thus I then decided to go for the Sigma prime lens as I know I can complete my own version of the Holy Trinity by having a Sigma prime lens, a Sigma standard zoom lens, and Sigma telephoto lens. But once again, being a student back then, I can’t easily just buy lenses when I want them, and so,I placed it in the back burner and waited til I was finally a licensed physician so I can start earning.

Kupo!
First shot with Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM; my cat then, Kupo! Sadly she passed away a few years ago.

I loved and I still love my Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM lens as it was my primary lens from my purchase in 2011. I still use the kitlens every now and then, but of course, a prime lens and that from Sigma, will have better quality and the bokeh effect I always love is obviously easier to achieve with a f/1.4 lens vs a f/3.5-5.6 lens. I learned so much techniques and I found the genre I love the most, that is street photography for the most part. I love portraiture and off shoe flash photography, but something about street photography that I love the most, and having a fast prime lens like the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM helps me take quick, sharp images of people in the street, and if I have their permission, I can make moody bokeh photos. I still love this lens and still is my go-to-lens for most of my shooting up to this day. Of course, with the D5000, you can only do so much with this lens, and it started to back focus a lot. But I have since fixed the back focusing problem by, well, upgrading my DSLR, which we will talk about more later.

Fast forward to late 2017, I have gotten other strange photography gear, mostly bags, filters, tripods, etc, but nothing major like a new flash or lens and such. Having saved some cash in the bank since I started working after getting my license after all the struggles we all went thru in medical school, I then took a chance and started to look for one of the Sigma lenses I have always dreamt of since I was still starting out and was still a mere medical student, and that is the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM, and lo and behold, I found that lens, and without second thought, I bought it, and was extremely happy with how sharp it is; even on my D5000, there was no front or back focusing issues, and being a f/2.8 lens, the bokeh is beautiful and a fast telephoto. Apart from being my dream lens, this is also gonna be very helpful for me when I go to Formula 1 races and take better shots of cars, cos as you can see below, I had to use my kit lens when I went to Singapore for the Formula 1 race earlier in the year, and wasn’t all too happy with the results. Can’t wait to try this in Japan later this year.

The
First shot with Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM; my beautiful mother!

Before 2017 ended, I was able to purchase another Sigma lens, the Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM lens, and now I feel that I have completed MY VERSION of the Holy Trinity of Lenses:

  1. Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM
  2. Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM
  3. Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM
Doc Lee
First shot with Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM. Pictured is my best friend and co physician, Lee!

Of course, with the prime lens and the standard zoom lens having crossing over focal points, it doesn’t cover the same range as the Nikkor trinity, but this will do for now, while I wait or look for a good Sigma wide lens that is at least f/2.8 (for now, I just see a f/3.5 that I might get if I have no other choice… or a fisheye…  I’m not sure.).

Holy Trinity of Sigma Lenses!
My version of the Holy Trinity/Hebrew Trinity of Lenses

Also before the end of 2017, I was able to snag a couple of Nikon SB-600 flashes (SB-910 is STILL a bit to pricey for my tastes); I got a couple for simply I can trigger them off shoe and make awesome flash photography shots.

It is nice to know that I actually have a 3rd SB-600, but it was severely misfiring, that I had to return it and haven’t felt like getting another Nikon flash for the time being.

Umbra
Playing with one Nikon SB-600
Get Flashed!
Playing with three SB-600! I returned one of them due to misfiring issues.

Then inevitably, once again, before 2017 ended, I finally decided to upgrade to the Nikon D7200; one might say, “why not D7500?”, for one, I wanted the battery grip (that I got second hand for a steal!!) and thus far, heard nothing about any battery grip in the D7500, and apart from the better sensor and 4K video from the D7500, the D7200 isn’t all that different so to speak (well, maybe the D7500 also has better ISO, I haven’t really cared, because the price was too steep for me at this point), thus I stuck with the decision of buying the D7200. Plus with the introduction of the D7500, brand new D7200’s price dropped a bit.

Sadly, the D7200 just arrived in January of this year since the shop I ordered from had to restock and had to deal with a lot of other prior orders since it was Christmas season; don’t worry, they warned all of us that our orders may take a lot more time than usual days, but I was okay with it.

Thus my brand new primary gear is complete…

Major Upgrade
Updated Primary Gear! I only included 1 of my 2 SB-600s in the shot as to not overwhelm the shot. This was taken with my original gear: Nikon D5000, 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens, and Yong Nuo YN 465 flash with Yong Nuo YN 602 flash trigger. Quite fitting for my original gear to photograph my new gear!
01-11-2018 Me and My D7200-1
Of course, we need a new mandotary shot with a camera, but this time, my mother took the shot with my Nikon D5000; again, quite fitting that my old gear is taking photos of me and my new gear

The next gears I plan to get is a brand new tripod as my primary tripod after 7 years of service as finally bit the dust; I also plan to get a brand new bag, the Think Tank Signature 13, as it looks more of a regular bag than a camera bag, thus feeling more of security when walking about new cities with the camera tucked away inside until ready to photograph; I also am on the cusp of getting either a full sized monopod (then again I can always get those Benro tripods than also double as a monopod) or a gorilla pod that I can also tuck in my bag so if I want to make low angle or just place it on a table or hang it by a tree for long exposure shots of the scenery without having to put so much attention to myself; and lastly, a dry cabinet to keep my gear in great condition.

It goes without saying that my resurgence with my love for photography started with getting my telephoto lens, but another great point in my life in 2017 that made fall in love with photography again is when I helped my sis go to Hong Kong and I met my good friend and she toured me around one night and she was quite the model for me and took one of my all time favorite shots since I started this hobby.

When You Shine Brighter
My good friend, Amanda; this photo is one of my all time favorites that I have ever taken! And this made me fall in love with photography again

And of course, you gotta remember where we started, and that must be, subliminally, my dad’s SLR…

Where it all began…

Thus, my love and history of photography in less than 2200 words. I will not show all my shots here, just a select few. For the rest of my shots, you can just go to my Flickr photostream HERE.

And before I end it out, I will answer the possible questions: “Why 30mm? Why not 50mm? “, “Why 17-50mm? Why not 24-70mm?”, and “Why 50-150mm? Why not 70-200?”, well remember, I started out with D5000 and upgraded to a D7200, both are DX bodies and have a crop factor of 1.5x, thus a 30mm with a crop factor equals to 45mm, close enough to a 50mm; a 17-50mm with a crop factor equals to a 25.5-75mm, close to a 24-70mm; and finally, a 50-150mm with a crop factor equals to a 75-225mm, almost a 70-200mm, with a slight overshoot at the farthest focal point. I don’t ever intend on going FX or full frame, but when I do, I’m sure I can complete yet another Trinity by then.

With that! PEACE!!

-o-

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