Category: Gear

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What If I Had?

On Nov. 6, 2010, in Ocean Beach, Calif., I came across some vintage Leica film cameras, cases, and lenses for sale at an antique mall. Back then, I had little understanding about the bigger brand or the real value of older gear, even though shooting the X1, which interested me more for being an excellent all-in-one, fixed-Prime lens shooter.

Nothing in the display case sold for more than $100, if I rightly recall. I considered buying something but passed, which is unfortunate. Collectors pursue classic Leica, and the Leitz Photographica Auction is one of the places they go to spend sometimes tens of thousands to millions of Euros. Now I doubt anything so valuable was available on that November day nearly 12 years ago. But there might have been something that I could use for film photography, even if that required some manufacturer restoration. But I saw nothing more than old cameras that happened to be the same brand as my own.

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Two Years with Leica Q2

On the last day of 2019, UPS delivered Leica Q2, which would replace the original model that I acquired in May 2017. I was wholly satisfied with the Q, but the allure of higher resolution (47.3 megapixels vs 24MP) and weather sealing led to a sudden sale; Craigslisting two cameras, including the Q, covered the purchase price.

If being psychic, and foreseeing what 2020 would bring, I likely would have stuck with the Q for awhile longer. A series of oppressive and overly-restrictive governor-ordered lockdowns imposed in attempts to curb the COVID-19 pandemic caused by SARS-CoV-2 (severe acute respiratory syndrome Coronavirus 2) made for a difficult street shooting year. With most of California shut down for so much of 2020—and citizens ordered to simply stay home—the Q2 was largely relegated to shooting alleys, empty storefronts, and cats.

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16.2-inch MacBook Pro is a Tank

From writing-technology past—yesterday’s post about the discarded L.C. Smith typewriter—we go to the present-future: The 16.2-inch MacBook Pro that replaces my 23-month-old 16-inch MBP. Apple announced the new laptop, and its 14.2-inch sibling, on Oct. 18, 2021 and started taking orders for October 26 availability. I considered a customized configuration for the smaller model but couldn’t decide based on the information available—particularly considering my current computer’s beefy specs: 2.3GHz Core i9 processor; 32GB RAM; 8GB AMD Radeon Pro 5500M graphics; 1TB SSD. As my indecisiveness increased, so did the ship times for any new MacBook Pro. As they slipped into late November and early December, I abandoned the idea.

But I clung to interest in the new models because of the M1 chip, for which my experience already was quite positive from using 11-inch iPad Pro and buying my wife the newer 13.3-inch MBP. Apple offered generous trade-in for my late-2019 MacBook Pro, while supply chain constraints, rising prices, and burgeoning inflation made case for upgrading earlier than previously planned and future-proofing my investment. So I decided, after long consideration: On the 26th, if local Apple Store stocked the larger laptop, I would make the purchase. If not, I would keep the 16-incher for another year.

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Rustic but Rusted

My handwriting is notoriously bad. Teachers told me during elementary school years and no amount of sincere effort improved my penmanship. I was relieved at the age of 14 to inherit a manual typewriter; I don’t recall why the family owned one or how it came to be in my possession but the thing became my go-to for homework and personal writings. If I rightly recall, Royal was the brand.

I will always be fond of typewriters, even if my typing long ago transitioned to computer keyboard. The appeal grows with age and nostalgia for archaic technology. So I was both delighted and disappointed to see that someone left an old L.C. Smith model in a nearby alley—and I don’t recall which one. As you can see, this old machine is rusted and presumably beyond meaningful repair—although the thang would fit properly on appropriate movie set showing decay and dystopia.

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Apple iPod Turns 20

On this date in 2001, Apple unveiled iPod, its fourth major endeavor for that year—at great risk, by entering a new product category for which the company had no prior experience and during a time of financial hardship. Recession gripped the United States; Apple had suffered share price and quarterly revenue setbacks as a result.

Six weeks earlier, terrorists flew highjacked American airliners into the World Trade Center (collapsing the Twin Towers) and the Pentagon. There was grim mood around the country, which created poor receptive marketing atmosphere for launching anything. Then there was the distraction dogging the tech industry: Windows XP’s impending global debut two days later.

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Beats Me Why the Price Increased

Around the same day that I ordered iPhone 13 Proone for my wife and another for me—my sister called and the audio quality was crystal clear. For months she struggled to find a satisfactory Bluetooth headset, with little luck. She tried a different approach: Look on Apple Store, from which she bought Beats Flex for $49.99. Sis spends lots of time on the phone, computer, and video chats; she does software support for a non-profit. Outgoing audio quality matters. People need to hear her clearly.

I had already planned to buy something. While I carry my smartphones bareback, calling no longer would be device to ear starting with the 13 Pro. I can’t imagine that holding a 5G radio to my head is healthy behavior. My sister and I typically walk and talk during her hour lunch break; that’s too long 5G proximity to my brain. If the Beats Flex worked so well for her, surely they could for me. So on Sept. 22, 2021, I ordered a set from Apple Store and picked them up the next day from the Fashion Valley location.

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His and Hers

Not so long ago, I swapped smartphones every few months. Various models and underlying platforms from different manufacturers demanded testing and review. But the pace of innovation has slowed, the overall market reached the “good enough” threshold, and I don’t write about tech on a daily basis. Hence, my wife and I have each carried iPhone XS since June 2019. That is until today, when we migrated to the 13 Pro.

The Featured Image is, appropriately, the last photo I will ever shoot with the XS. The 1TB Silver on the left is mine; the 512GB Sierra Blue on the right is Annie’s. Vitals: f/1.8, ISO 25, 1/122 sec, 26mm; 1:02 p.m. PDT.

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I Don’t Miss Apple Watch

This evening, I turned on Apple Watch Series 5 for the purpose of making the Featured Image—captured using Leica Q2 Monochrom. Vitals, aperture manually set: f/4, ISO 800, 1/125 sec, 28mm; 6:22 p.m. PDT. I hadn’t touched the gadget since putting it in a drawer after taking it off for the last time, on May 31, 2021. The next day, I returned to wearing a mechanical watch—mainly the Luminox Automatic Sport Timer 0921.

I thought that perhaps I might miss the thing, but three months later not the least. Putting aside Apple Watch is a liberating experience. The device constantly distracts, which disrupts short-term memory. Still relevant enough, 11 years later, my missive “Internet Attention Deficit Disorder” is worth a look, on the topic of distraction. Even better, consider book The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to Our Brains by Nicholas Carr. Just my luck: I bought a digital edition in June 2010; the book was revised last year; and a free update isn’t available.

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It’s Analog Time

Four days ago, the Automatic Sport Timer 0921 arrived from Luminox. This isn’t my first watch from the company. I previously owned the A.1847 Field Chronograph (2011), the A.1848 Field Chronograph (2012), and the 3187 Navy Seal (2013-15). I loved them all, but let each go during periods of financial uncertainty and to test various smartwatches. The new timepiece replaces the Apple Watch Series 5 retired on May 31, 2021.

The 0921 is my second automatic mechanical watch, joining the TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre 7 Twin-Time acquired three years ago next month. Both represent simplification, as I seek to minimize distractions and maximize attention—change precipitated in part by an aging brain. My short-term memory isn’t as reliable as younger me, although I am still plenty mentally sharp just not as quick.

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The Last Days of Apple Watch

Today I put aside the Apple Watch Series 5 (cellular) purchased in September 2019. I long considered taking such action but hesitated, knowing that if (or when) wearing stopped there would be an unrecoverable break in the activity tracked and logged in the Fitness app. Criminally egotistical as it may be, I relished the consistent achievement of my exercise, calorie, and movement goals. That’s the problem: the smartwatch provided little other meaningful benefits, and I long ago adopted a daily routine that needed no tracking to maintain.

I realized that the wrist computer had come to give me a little dopamine kick—or something like it—that obsessed Facebook, Instagram, and TikTok users get from checking their posts for comments, likes, and other reactions. A glance would reveal my pulse, which typically is in the low fifties when I’m not active; that made me feel good. Then there was Pavlovian-like preoccupation with starting (and ending) activities like walking in the Fitness app. What’s the outside air temperature? Twist the wrist. Who sent that text message? Twist again. “What are my active calories?” Twist and tap.

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Say Hello to My iPad Pro M1

The month ends with a new tablet—11-inch iPad Pro M1, 16GB RAM, 1TB storage, WiFi + cellular—purchased yesterday online, picked up today at Apple Store. I chose the silver variant simply because it was in stock. My wife inherits the previous generation model—same screen size, storage, and wireless—that I acquired nearly 14 months ago. That one replaces her 9.7-inch iPad Pro (256GB WiFi) released in 2016 and bought in November of that year.

Given my concerns about the economy, inflation, and supply chain problems, the Wilcox household is upgrading computing hardware a little sooner than would be typical; Apple’s new M1 chip makes the timing marginally good for future-proofing.

For Annie’s birthday, last week I replaced her 2018 model MacBook Air with the 2021-release 13.3-inch MacBook Pro M1 (16GB RAM, 1TB SSD). The laptop is more powerful than she needs, but we could share in a pinch and I expect the loaded config to retain higher resale value should we want, or need, to sell before the next expected upgrade—when the AppleCare+ warranty expires in three years.