How I Use My DSLR on an Arca-Swiss Compatible Tripod/Monopod While Still Being Able to Use a Black Rapid RS-Sport Version 2 Without Unscrewing Anything (almost)

I, for one, never got into using neck straps for cameras. Even when I got my Nikon D5000, I only used the neck strap once while I was waiting for a sling strap. Now take note, that sling strap I bought back then when I first started in my hobby of digital photography was a cheapo Black Rapid knock off, because, well, I was still a medical student, and it was my parents that helped me pay for my Nikon D5000, so I don’t have much of my oen money to spend on accessories. But simply put, as early as I got into photography, I knew I would not be using a neck strap.

Granted, I am talking about the stock neck strap that comes along with a brand new DSLR, MFT, MILC, etc. Most of the aftermarket neck straps like the Cecilia or Peak Design neck straps are indeed a far better cry that the stock ones, but I still had my reasons for not wanting to use a neck strap.

My reasoning for not using a neck strap were a bit odd, but some are justified. Let us go through them:

  1. They are not comfortable:
    • shooting all day, especially with the stock straps, can give me neck pain and it can be a bit annoying when you consciously feel it on your neck the whole day.
  2. They can be quite attention grabbing:
    • practically, you are a walking ad with that big camera manufacturer logo; I do take a lot of street photography and want to be incognito as much as possible. TAKE NOTE, THOUGH! I am still very interested in the Black Rapid Nikon AN-SBR2 sling strap, albeit, attention grabbing (lol)
    • When travelling to a different city/country, you can look more of a tourist than you already are (lol)
  3. May slip off shoulder if used as a shoulder strap:
    • If using it as a neck strap isn’t for you, you can always make it like a shoulder bag and carry it that way, but the stock strap does not grip too well and may slip off your shoulder.
  4. Too small to be used as a cross body sling:
    • Like using it as a shoulder strap, you can just try and use it as a cross body sling strap, but it is far too small to do so.
  5. Future proofing my comfort with heavy lenses:
    • Even when I first started out with my Nikon D5000, I knew I will be collecting heavy lenses and most likely upgrade my DSLR body. It may be 4-5 years off, but I always like to at least try and future proof my comfort – using a neck strap while using a telephoto lens will tip the center of gravity.
  6. Too mainstream (lol)
    • Yeah… everyone has it.

See? Told you my reasoning is shallow, but here we are.

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Cheap Black Rapid knock off… the Quick Strap

The very first sling strap I own, as mentioned above, was a cheapo sling strap simply called Quick Strap. From 2010-2015, I actually used this in every event, every trip, absolutely anything.

Around 2015, I would have already owned a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM (bought at 2011) and a Yongnuo YN465 Speedlite Flash (also bought 2011), along with my Nikon D5000, it was fairly heavy altogether. I mean, nowadays, I realized that combination wasn’t at all heavy, since my current gear are more heavy, but for what it’s worth back then from 2010-2015, even if this is a knock off sling strap, it did it job well.

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Black Rapid FastenR

One thing I like about the Quick Strap quick release plate system is that the 1/4″ screw that is used to attach the quick release plate also has 1/4″ threading on the opposite side, so you can still use you tripod without having to remove the strap’s plate, unlike that of the Black Rapids that use a D-ring fastener, named FastenR, as seen above.

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Black Rapid RS-7

By 2016, I wanted to finally get a Black Rapid strap. I got the Black Rapid RS-7, though a bit late to the party, because this was released around 2010, if I am not mistaken, and there was already a Black Rapid RS-Sport available with the Brad Strap (the strap that loops around under your armpit to keep the strap from sliding too much), but around 2016 I just starting working as a physician since I just passed my licensure exam earlier that year. So I wasn’t in the realm of affording the more expensive sling straps from Black Rapid.

I loved the RS-7, since knowing that the cheapo knock off worked so well, I had no doubt that the Black Rapid RS-7 will hold up to any sort of condition.

My only gripe was, as was already mentioned, is that the FastenR takes up the tripod mount screw from the bottom of the camera, so if you want to use a tripod, you have to unscrew the FastenR, screw in the quick release plate from your tripod, and when you are done, you do the opposite. Time consuming. But I wasn’t all too bothered.

By 2017, I started to get into photography again big time, so it was time to complete my version of Holy Trinity of Lenses: I got a Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM and a Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM, to join my “go-to” lens that I already own, the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM. I also got a Nikon SB-600 Speedlight Flash to finally replace my Yongnuo YN465 Speedlite Flash.

Now with my new gear, especially if I attach the 50-150mm lens along with the SB-600 flash, unto my Nikon D5000, it was certainly very heavy and the center of gravity certainly shifted towards the front, so I have to screw in the FastenR onto the telephoto lens’ tripod collar to alleviate it. This adds to another set of time consuming screwing/unscrewing if I switch lenses (thus changing the center of gravity again), or if I need to use the tripod on the tripod collar for the telephoto lens. Again, I wasn’t all too bothered.

As 2018 rolled in, I did upgrade my Nikon D5000 to a Nikon D7200 and also grabbed the Nikon MB-D15 battery vertical grip (one of the major reasons why I chose the D7200 over the D7500 – the latter doesn’t have contacts on the bottom of the camera to communicate with a battery vertical grip without using a cable on the side). This is definitely a big heavy upgrade once again, and the Black Rapid RS-7 had no problems with my new current gear, even at its heaviest configuration. And the comfort, as always with any sling strap I ever used, was there.

Some would argue that it bumps on your hip too much, but overall, I don’t even notice it too much.

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Focus F1
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Black Rapid RS-Sport version 2

It is at this year I also added 2 more sling straps: a Focus F1 sling strap and (finally) a Black Rapid RS-Sport version 2 (slimmer version than the original). The former is more of a backup and the latter is more of my “go-to” sling strap. As for my Black Rapid RS-7, I gave it to my dad, and he is still using it to the fullest.

The comfort is there… all throughout the years that I have been using a sling strap, no matter the brand, or lack thereof, but the screwing/unscrewing for the tripod mount, is starting to annoy me.

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Zomei Z699C

I also recently got a Zomei Z699C (review later on), that takes advantage of an Arca-Swiss standard quick release plate, so I thought, there has to be an Arca-Swiss compatible quick release plate that can also easily hook up with a sling strap.

There was a famous video on how to still use your tripod easily that uses Arca -wiss standard, while your camera either has a L-bracket or the tripod plate:

Black Rapid FastenR Tripod

And there is of course, the Black Rapid FastenR Tripod, that is essentially a D-ring that can hook up to your sling strap and the can be tucked away if you need to use the tripod/monopod. The idea here is that you replace the screw from the quick release system with one of these.

The former method, since I live in the Philippines, is not as easy to get the items shipped here for a decent shipping fee… Heck, I recently got 4 SDF Macros figurines, shipping was 60 bucks and then I had to pay another 80 bucks for import fees… I nearly died.

The latter seems to be too thin of a metal holding in the ring to really carry my gear in its heaviest configuration.

There has to be another way!

Arca-Swiss Compatible Fusion Plate – Black
Fusion Photo Gear: Arca Swiss Compatible Fusion Plate:

I chanced upon a the Fusion Plate from Fusion Photo Gear. As seen from above, it is an Arca-Swiss compatible quick release plate that happens to have a loop for your sling strap and that can be tucked away when it is time to place it on a tripod/monopod.

Sadly, as already mentioned, it is tough for me to get it shipped here in the Philippines, so I was just looking for any product similar that is available locally, or granted, if it were shipped, have it easily shipped without too much fuss.

Plus the price… I wasn’t willing at first to spend 65 bucks on this plate (maybe later on lol), so I found one that is of similar design from Andoer.

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Andoer QR-60
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Andoer QR-60

As you can see, it is similar in design, and the price is better, but you get what you pay for, as they say; so far, it is holding up VERY well even with my current gear on its heaviest configuration.

I even spent an entire day using this on the tripod collar of the Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM (plus lens hood for the heck of it) with the Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter, all attached on the Nikon D7200 that has the Nikon MB-D15 (I placed 1 EN-EL15 battery inside the D7200 body and another on the MB-D15 battery vertical grip to add more weight), and added the Nikon SB-600 (4 AA Eneloop inside), and it had no problem carrying it all in the loop. NOTE: This is my gear’s heaviest config, but I don’t find myself using this config for any future shoot… it is just to test the QR-60.

What I feared at first for both the Fusion or Andoer plate is if the aluminum loop is a single piece of metal that hinges on the bigger black aluminum plate. It turns out that the loop is of several components: 1 is the actual aluminum loop, a couple of ball bearings to lock the loop in certain angles, and a very sturdy metal rod to attach the loop on the metal plate. This is important to me, because if it was a single piece of aluminum hinging on the plate, there is a bigger chance of failure, but having a separate rod, lessens the failure. It can still fail… but not as likely.

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Joby Tether

Of course! I am still worried that a failure will indeed occur, so I added a Joby Tether, which according to research, can hold up to 15lbs of gear; now my gear in its heaviest is not 15lbs, it is more of 10lbs, but upon receiving this item in the mail, I tested it with my gear, holding the tether, and dropping my gear towards my bed (DUH!), and it does carry my gear perfectly without snapping it. This isn’t meant to carry your gear the whole day, though it can, it is more of security, so when something fails, this will give you enough time to pick up your gear as it dangles.

And so, the last problem with this tether is that I have to hook it to one of the strap eyelet or the triangle split ring on the camera body itself, then the carabiner to be hooked on to your sling strap, but as you can see from the pic above, the carabiner on the tether is not that easy to unhook. I will not place this carabiner on the Black Rapid CarabineR itself, because I also categorize that as a possible failure point, so the tether’s carabiner should be hooked on the sling on its own directly.

Peak Design Anchor Links Strap Connector V4

Thus I decided to purchase a Peak Design Anchor Links Strap Connector V4; well, I wanted to purchase it, but my mom insisted she buy it for me for my upcoming birthday. So there.

I looped one end of the Joby Tether to one of the Peak Design Anchor Links, and one of the Anchors will be looped on one of the strap eyelets/triangle split ring of the camera it self, acting as a quick release system, while the carabiner of the tether is permanently in placed in the sling.

So, let us see how I set it up!

The Andoer QR-60 attached to the tripod mounting screw; this is important, because with the Black Rapid FastenR, I had to unscrew it in order to place the Arca-Swiss compatible plate to use it on my tripod/monopod
If I want to use my Black Rapid RS-Sport V2 or any sling strap, I just pull down the loop
Hook up my sling strap!
Combined the Joby Tether with one of the Peak Design Anchors Links
Added one of the Peak Design Anchor V4 to one of the triangle split rings
Hooked up the Joby Tether’s carabiner to the sling strap; best if it is ahead of you sling strap’s own carabiner
Then link up the Peak Design Anchor Link and Anchor V4! You are done!
All I have to do is reverse the process, then I can now mount it on a tripod/monopod, granted it uses Arca-Swiss compatible mounts, without having to unscrew anything… except the actual screw to lock or unlock the plate on the tripod/monopod (told you from the title… almost…)
I also added another Andoer QR-60 on my Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM’s tripod/monopod collar
Same concept, pull down the loop from the Andoer QR-60, hook up your sling strap’s carabiner, then connect the Peak Design Anchor Link and Anchor V4 for added security if something fails, and you are good to go!
Again, just reverse the process, then you can mount it easily on a tripod/monopod! Note, I also added the Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter just for testing of carrying around the heaviest configuration of my camera. That is: Nikon D7200, with Nikon MB-D15 battery vertical grip (1 EN-EL15 inside the actual body and 1 EN-EL15 on the battery vertical grip for added weight), Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM, Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter, and I then added the Nikon SB-600 (with 4 AA Eneloops insde), just to have the heaviest configuration and walk around the house for some time. It all held up wonderfully.

And there you have it! That is how I use my DSLR that has a Black Rapid RS-Sport Version 2 (or any sling strap that applies) on an Arca-Swiss compatible tripod/monopod! It may be quite a lot of components, but it works, and it is quick to switch between the use of a sling strap and then mounting it on a tripod/monopod.

Hope this helps!

Cheers!

Nikon D7200 “Peaked”

NOTE: ALL PHOTOS USED IN THIS POST BELONG TO THEIR RESPECTIVE OWNERS.


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Another Dream Come True: My Trip to Japan! Day 2!

Continuing from my previous post of my trip to Japan!

This post is dedicated to Day 2!

Again, this is a very word and photo heavy post!


DAY 2

The night before, I packed up my gear that included Fancier DSLR Backpack (which funnily enough, I bought way back in 2011 when I only owned a Nikon D5000, kit lens, and a Sigma 30mm f/1.4 EX DC HSM lens; I knew I would, one day or another, have more, bigger lenses, and DSLR… I was right):

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  •  Nikon D7200 with a Nikon MB-D15 battery grip
  • Nikon Speedlight SB-600 with Eneloop Batteries
  • Sigma 17-50mm f/2.8 EX DC OS HSM
  • Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM
  • Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG
  • 3x EN-EL15 batteries (2x Wasabi branded and 1x Nikon OEM)
  • 2x SanDisk Extreme PRO 32GB SDHC, 1x SanDisk ULTRA 32GB SDHC (kept inside SD card case of course)
  • Transcend USB 3.0 Card Reader (since my LYNCA card reader/card case swallowed a ton of water and buggered out), along with an OTG cable (The Nikon D7200 can be wirelessly tethered to my Android phone, but if you take more than 100 shots, it takes a long time to find those couple of photos to upload without post processing, thus an OTG cable with a card reader is much faster)
  • BlackRapid RS-Sport Version 2 Sling Strap
  • Joby GorillaPod (not used lol)
  • ND Filters (also not used lol)
  • DSLR Rain Cover (because I knew it would rain)
  • ROMOSS Solo 5 10,000mAh Power Bank

Then I also packed in a separate plastic bag:

  • LOTS of face towels
  • Umbrella (because of course)
  • Couple of bottled water (some tracks don’t allow you to bring outside drinks, so double check on the track you are visiting; of course the sell drinks track side, but sometimes it can get a bit pricey, so getting a couple of bottles will hold you off until the time you really need to buy from trackside)
  • Extra shirt
  • Alcohol (of the Isopropyl variety of course)

Ate a big breakfast at the hotel to keep me satisfied during the train ride to Suzuka as it takes at least an hour to reach Shiriko Station in Suzuka, and at least 30 mins to reach the track by way of shuttle service.

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I used the Kintetsu line to get to Suzuka, and much like the Meitetsu line, I opted for the first class tickets in order to enjoy the ride, and again, I usually spend a bit more to be comfortable during travels/commute because of my right knee, and boy was my right knee tested this whole trip and I learned new things to better prepare on my next travels to ease the pain on my right knee.

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The train ride was really comfortable and fast; great to see the scenery, but since this is a main train line between lots of cities and such, you don’t really see the country side, but there are some areas of pure green fields to marvel at. And not to turn down the city side view, as we all know, that Japan, and not limited to Tokyo, have beautiful cities that are well managed and well planned. So it still quite a beautiful sight!

Welcome to Suzuka!

Arriving at Shiriko Station at Suzuka, you can clearly see the signs to help you reach the shuttle service in order to reach the track since the track is not close to the station. You are certainly not alone, so you will see fellow fans locally or fellow foreigners, so if you can’t see the signs, just follow a fellow fan, and you will be all right.

After the shuttle parked up near Suzuka Circuit, it is at this moment where you have to purchase a ticket for the shuttle you used in order to enter the track, for 900 Yen; this is also where you can get a return ticket for the shuttle service – the combined price for the return ticket is 1700 Yen – also purchasing the return ticket now not only gives you a slight discount, but let’s you avoid queuing up at the ticket booth later in the day. At this day, I just got the 1 way ticket because I knew I will be going home late and will use the taxi services instead.

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First thing I noticed is that the Suzuka Circuit has a lot of uphill and downhill walkways; don’t get me wrong, they are made in a way that the average person can traverse to (well some walkways are REALLY steep, which I will get into later on), but having come from Singapore Grand Prix in the Marina Bay Street Circuit, being a street circuit, it was definitely more flat terrain that was far more easy for me to walk around the track in. Plus having to carry like 10lbs of camera gear may not sound a lot, but having to lug it around on a not so flat terrain for the majority of the day on a bad right knee, can certainly take its toll on me. This is one of the new lessons I learned in this Grand Prix weekend – that is to invest on one of those DSLR backpack that doubles as a trolley so I can just drag my gear around the circuits in the future.

After a couple of minutes walking from the shuttle stop to the main entrance, it was a sight that made me want to tear up.

Suzuka Circuit
Note: I already got my plastic ID ticket when I started having self portraits lol

Suzuka Circuit

I mentioned already that I have always dreamed of visiting Japan because of my numerous hobbies that are link to the culture of Japan, and being a F1 fan since 1996, Suzuka Circuit is one of those tracks I always dreamed of visiting on a Grand Prix weekend, but honestly never thought it can come true, yet, there I was… in Japan… And right in front of the famous main entrance for the famous Suzuka Circuit… God is great indeed!

My Happiest Place on Earth

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Inside the circuit premises, it is like home for a Formula 1 fan as you’d expect; I see everyone wearing their colors to support their team and/or driver… I see everyone interacting with strangers to talk about the sport we love, befriending them, and helping one another getting photos of each other or even together to mark a special weekend and keep for memories.

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You see all the booths much like I did in Singapore, selling what can be considered overpriced F1 gear if you haven’t already ordered some of the gear online elsewhere prior to the event. They also sell limited edition memorabilia, like the Kimi Raikkonen Suzuka Edition that was sold out minutes as soon as the shops open I heard, and thus, one of the special edition shirts I was so hell bent on purchasing was gone before I even got to the track that Saturday morning. F1 fans, I included, will pay a premium for any F1 gear we deem worth it… and Raikkonen is one of my all time favorite drivers, who is famous everywhere, but ever more so in Japan.

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Lots of places to eat and grab drinks as well. From your typical western style food, to the more local Japanese food.

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Since the track premises also house MOTOPIA, a themepark, there are numerous rides if you are into that sort of thing. Deeper within the track premises and ever closer to the actual track, you can also ride the famous Ferris wheel that is a fixture in the skies eavh time I watch the Japanese Grand Prix on TV. I was about to avail for the ride, but I did so much elsewhere around the track, and the queue was really getting long for that particular ride, that I thought to myself that this will give me another reason to return to Suzuka in the near future just to ride this Ferris wheel.

Kimi Fans United!

Many of my friends called me out for wearing Ferrari colors last year for the Singapore Grand Prix, calling me crazy spending on the gear (not gonna lie, the Formula 1 shirts, caps, and whatnot are pretty pricey indeed), as if they themselves don’t spend a lot on basketball jerseys or the like, but unlike Singapore, the fans here in Japan are all out! The fans in Singapore (plus the fans that traveled to Singapore) also showed their love and colors for the sport, but here in Japan (and again the fans that also traveled to Japan), the fans are not shy to show their love and passion for the sport! I mean, they aren’t shy to show their love for any hobbies they have, and that is one of the major reasons why I love Japan and its people.

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With Sebastian Vettel (Uhm, Close Enough!)

With My Hero, Kimi Raikkonen (Uhm, Close Enough!)

With Fernando Alonso (Uhm, Close Enough!)

With Sebastian Vettel (Uhm, Close Enough!)

You see people wear face tattoos, wearing racing overalls and helmet, you see them making big banners for their favorite team/driver, etc. This may not be a big deal for other sports like basketball, but unlike basketball, though F1 being famous, is just not as famous to my friends. So seeing other passionate people as I am gives me a warm fuzzy feeling that I finally belong somewhere.

It is also of note, that I still haven’t gotten my plastic ID ticket yet, since the pick up point is in the GP Square right next to the track that is a bit further from the main entrance.

Kimi for President!

Thus, walking towards the pickup point, I obviously took my time to look around the track, maybe buy a couple or more gear and such; meet new people, befriend them, and trade social media info; and of course, take a ton of photos of the life inside the event and have some self portraits for memories.

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I then got my ID ticket and felt more empowered… well it doesn’t really do much, but having to wear the ID around the track feels oh so good.

Suzuka Circuit

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Did a little more exploring, then grabbed a big bit to eat, stocked up on another bottle of water and Coke, then I headed towards my designated seating. The skies were also beginning to darken and hints of rain by way of a drizzle.

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This was the toughest part; I was already quite tired from my exploration before the Qualifying Session even started, but going to my seat entails going around Turns 1 and 2 which is also quite long, but having to go down a steep hill then up again was worrying me if my right knee can take it especially when I’m carrying a lot.

Eventually, luckily, and unbelievably, I made it to my seat, and a few minutes to spare before the Qualifying Session began, so I started to setup my Nikon D7200 by messing around with the settings that will be perfect for the current cloudy conditions and that with my Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 APO EX DC OS HSM and Sigma APO 2x Teleconverter EX DG, which with the teleconverter, loses 2 stop of light, so with the cloudy conditions, it really isn’t helpful if I want to shoot at a higher shutter speed. Thankfully, I still managed to find the sweet spot in order to get the shots I wanted.

So here are a few shots of each driver during the entirety of the Qualifying Session:

Kimi Raikkonen
Kimi Raikkonen, #7, Scuderia Ferrari, SF71H
Sebastian Vettel
Sebastian Vettel, #5, Scuderia Ferrari, SF71H
Lewis Hamilton
Lewis Hamilton, #44, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, W09
Valtteri Bottas
Valtteri Bottas, #77, Mercedes-AMG Petronas Motorsport, W09
Daniel Ricciardo
Daniel Ricciardo, #3, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, RB14
Max Verstappen
Max Verstappen, #33, Aston Martin Red Bull Racing, RB14
Nico Hulkenberg
Nico Hulkenberg, #27, Renault Sport F1, R.S.18
Carlos Sainz Jr
Carlos Sainz, Jr., #55, Renault Sport F1, R.S.18
Fernando Alonso
Fernando Alonso, #14, McLaren F1 Team, MCL33
Stoffel Vandoorne
Stoffel Vandoorne, #2, McLaren F1 Team, MCL33
Charles Leclerc
Charles Leclerc, #16, Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team, C37
Marcus Ericsson
Marcus Ericsson, #9, Alfa Romeo Sauber F1 Team, C37
Pierre Gasly
Pierre Gasly, #10, Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda, STR13
Brendon Hartley
Brendon Hartley, #28, Red Bull Toro Rosso Honda, STR13
Lance Stroll
Lance Stroll, #18, Williams Martini Racing, FW41
Sergey Sirotkin
Sergey Sirotkin, #35, Williams Martini Racing, FW41
Sergio Perez
Sergio Perez, #11, Racing Point Force India F1 Team, VJM11
Esteban Ocon
Esteban Ocon, #31, Racing Point Force India F1 Team, VJM11
Kevin Magnussen
Kevin Magnussen, #20, Haas F1 Team, VF-18
Romain Grosjean
Romain Grosjean, #8, Haas F1 Team, VF-18

Near the end, of the Qualifying Session, Qualifying 3 to be exact, the skies began to open up and it poured. Having my DSLR rain cover at the ready, my gear is certainly safe. I also had a rain cover for my back pack and learning from last year in Singapore, I also bought a rain poncho at trackside knowing that the rain may be coming.

Results wise, it wasn’t a good day for Ferrari, but experience wise, it was just perfect. No rain will dampen my parade for sure.

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When all was said and done, there was a special historical lap event for the past F1 cars; they will give an exhibition of sorts, but I decided to forego that and make my way back to the GP Square, because my ticket enabled me to have a pit lane walk and be close to the actual cars, albeit behind barriers, or so I thought… wink wink.

Knowing others will also take advantage, I quickly had another bottle of Coke, another bottle of water, and headed my way to to queue up for the pit lane walk.

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The Eye in the Suzuka Sky

It took an hour I think to queue up, but it was well worth it; to be in the pit lane, seeing and talking to some of the teams’ engineers, getting close enough to the cars to photograph, being right underneath the podium…

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IT WAS A MAGICAL. I thought to myself, I have been quite lucky in this trip so far… how can it get better than this!?

AND IT DID.

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Working my way up to Ferrari’s garage, knowing that much like other garages at that moment, it will be empty as per FIA mandate, all cars after the Qualifying Session must be parked up next to the Scrutineering Garage just to make sure that was no exploits to have gained an advantage in the session. But I felt I took enough photos of the Ferrari and that of the other cars while I past by the FIA garage where they are being scrutineered, so I still headed onward through other garages and that of Ferrari’s.

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

I chanced upon meeting two of Ferrari’s engineers and thought having a photo with them, because why not!? It was at this moment I wanted to shoot myself in the foot because I forgot to show them a video of me and my racing simulator playing F1 2018! Not saying they will be so impressed by my driving, but maybe at least be impressed by my set up… who knows, maybe they would have invited me inside to show their friends my set up. Sigh. But still, having a nice little chat and a picture with them was awesome.

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Kimi Raikkonen's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Finally made it to the Ferrari garage, just taking pictures of the heading, the equipment, the engineers, all inside the 2 empty garages, again, because the cars are being scrutineered at this moment, but all of a sudden, I was hearing so much commotion, I also heard some people speaking lots of Italian, and when I turned around, lo and behold! It was Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari SF71H car being hauled back into the garage! It was so close, I can taste it! Sadly, I wasn’t too close because I was caught off guard thus, others had a better vantage point than me, but I took a great garage photo of it, in my opinion. Just being that close to the Ferrari SF71H was beyond a dream come true!

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Sebastian Vettel's Scuderia Ferrari SF71H

Knowing way better at this point, even if I was taking so many shots of Kimi’s car, that Sebastien Vettel’s Ferrari SF71H will also be hauled in soon. And it did. This time, I was at a better position, to the point that the car’s rear right tire was so close to my leg, so close to the point that if I ever tripped, I was would have scuffed up any part of the car and be sent to jail. It would have been worth it though. And I got a good enough garage photo of Seb’s car. But that is give and take: I got a great pics of Kimi’s car in the garage, yet so and so pics while it being hauled in; I got great pics of Seb’s car being hauled in, though I got so and so pics of his car in the garage. And that is like the cherry on top! I was so satisfied with my trip and my visit to the track… that I really can’t think of anything topping this. Everything else is just more cherry on top, and trust me, I ended up with lots of cherry upon the end of my trip.

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Suzuka Circuit Pitlane Walk

Another car that I was able to brush right up against was Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes AMG F1 Wo9 Power+ (Simply, the Mercedes W09) car; admittedly, I was never ever a Hamilton fan, but I respect him as a great driver, and amazed at all his accomplishments. Being a Ferrari fan since I started watching the sport, of course, my allegiance lies with the team and most of the drivers that either drove for us for a time, still drive for us, or left (Like Fernando Alonso, I never really liked him before, but became a fan when he drove for us, and since respected him until he eventually retired this year. Same goes for Kimi Raikkonen, didn’t like him at first, but when he drove for us and grabbed a title for us in 2007, I became a fan of his and he remains my number 1 current driver, even if he will return to Sauber next season).

In Control

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Suzuka Circuit Track Walk

My Dream Come True

Having my fix of the pit lane, I moved on to the start/finish straight, a sight that we all know too well when you are a racing fan… where obviously the starting grid is placed and the race starts, and ultimately ends with the chequered flag. I was really blessed to even just walk a few meters of the actual race track… I should have asked someone to photograph me pretending to kiss the tarmac, but I was so overwhelmed that I have forgotten to do so. Next time…

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After all that was said and done, I then worked my way back out the main entrance of the circuit and since it was pretty late and the shuttle service is over for that day, hence why I decided to just purchase a 1 way ticket earlier in the day and not the return ticket, so I waited in queue for a taxi; it took awhile, but it afforded me yet another few minutes to take a breather and just reflect on what I have achieved so far in this trip. It is surreal.

Got on a taxi eventually, was able to get the first class Kintetsu ticket, and soon enough, I made it back to the hotel, feeling so accomplished… so empowered… I was ecstatic.

I did a lot this day, but there are still more things to see the next day that I failed to do so this day, certainly more photos of the other points of interest around the track, and the weather forecast for the next day is clears skies with no chance of rain, so taking photos of the cars running laps will be so much better.

Capped off this amazing day with a random dinner and even more Coke…

Day 3 here we come!


Stay tuned for Day 3 post!

-o-

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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!!!

-0-

Follow me here or on the following site1s!

•Follow me on Twitter!

•Follow me on Flickr!

•I’m also at Facebook!

•Perhaps Google+!

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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!!

-0-

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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!

-o-

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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

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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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