Old Mobile Phone Photos

When I migrated data from my old Nokia E61i, I discovered that I was able to shoot and save a lot of  mobile phone photos (with crappy image quality). Here are some of the good ones. Check out the captions for additional info.

Genius store name.

Dusk in Makati

The official snack of the Honda fanboys.

Heavenly cheesesteak at Malcolm's Deli, The Fort.

How I wish I had a WRX plate like this one.

Found this at the grocery. Baking ingredient or diabetic supplement?

Mena, Chin Chun Su and San-ing at Mercury Alabang. (What, no Ly-Na and Cebo de Macho!?)

Words of wisdom found inside the Metrobank head office.

A rare image of my old 400D and Sigma f=2.8. This one was captured in Caylabne bay just a couple of months before it was finally decommissioned.

A beautifully restored Galant sighted in Filinvest Mall. I remember when I was a toddler and my dad used to drive one of these. It was in that car that I learned how to shift gears, at age 3.

Big reward for a pair of specs. Could they have been Silhouettes?

Boy London watches still for sale at Mactan airport. Where are the baseball caps with metal plates?

Cute sighting: toddler indulging on a Dairy Queen waffle cone that even I probablt couldn't finish.

Witty or stupid? You be the judge.

Nice Land Rover bumper sticker.

Having a cold one in an after office sortie at The Distillery, The Fort.

Sirens of power tripping Congressmen wont work here.

Check out the inverted cross on this guy's tombstone. Scary.

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Omnia HD Still Camera Review

One of the reasons why I chose the Omnia is so that I can carry a decent camera wherever, whenever. I love capturing interesting images and sightings and it’s not everyday that I have my DSLR with me. The Samsung Omnia HD had good reviews about its still camera performance and usability and this blog is another testament to that.

The Omnia HD’s camera has an 8-megapixel sensor. While you may think it’s overkill, high megapixels is actually useful for producing beautiful resized photos. The f=2.6 lens is unbranded so Schneider, Samsung’s lens supplier of choice, is not in the picture (pun intended). A LED flash supports the camera in low light.

Advanced features such as ISO and white balance adjustment is available. There’s also face and smile recognition and even blink recognition. As if those aren’t enough to excite the nerds, Samsung has also added image stabilization and GPS tagging functions.

Here are some sample shots. Note that they were not post processed in any way except for resizing.

Image quality is comparable to an entry level point and shoot. Not bad.

A small amount of bokeh can actually be seen in the background of this photo.

Visibly good dynamic range, shadows aren't blacked out and a lot of details can still be seen on the dark portions of the shot.

Colors are natural and unsaturated. Pixel-peeping may reveal some lack of detail, but still superior than most mobile phone cameras.

Shameless self-portrait. Low light performance is nothing to write home about, but still quite remarkable coming from "just" a mobile phone camera.

Below is a sample of a photo taken with the Omnia HD and then tweaked in Aperture 2.

The result is very pleasing and deceiving as something that came from a dedicated digicam.

Review Summary

The Good:

– Output is at par with a point and shoot camera; natural colors and saturation; sharp, undistorted optics (but could probably be better with a Schneider

– Good auto focus performance: as fast as budget digicams; face detection is very usable and accurate

– 8MP sensor means beautiful scaled down photos, 720p HD video capability is definitely a huge bonus

The Bad:

– So-so low light performance (but still ahead of the mobile phone pack)

– I couldn’t sense the image stabilizer to be helping out

The Ugly:

– No auto portrait/landscape orientation despite the phone’s accelerometer, a major oversight in my opinion

Overall:

– An entry level point and shoot tucked inside a phone; mobile phone cameras have indeed come a long way; highly recommended

Egg.Works The Savoy Loudspeaker

I recently had a chance to audition a pair of EgglestonWorks The Savoy loudspeakers. If you haven’t heard of  Egg.Works I don’t blame you, as it is one of those niche exotic audiophile companies that manufactures megabuck speakers. This Memphis Tennessee-based speaker company obsessively hand-builds loudspeakers that have, in recent years, been receiving critical acclaim from the audiophile community.

The Savoy is the best sounding* loudspeaker I have ever auditioned in my entire life, end of story. If you’re used to listening to music from iPod docking stations or even from so-called “hi-fi” Bose or B&W speakers, then The Savoy will blow you away. It is simply unbelievable how the speakers can reach a level of effortless realism. Imaging was elevated, spot on and focused, while the timbre was thick, warm, fluid and very detailed. The bass response is flat to below human hearing, yet unimposing.

How they were able to make it sound so breathtaking is beyond me. The EgglestonWorks website attempts to explain the breakthrough technologies and state-of-the-art components used in their speakers. But you don’t even have to read that to know that The Savoy is the avant garde in music reproduction. Just looking at the speakers is a testament in itself. Each towering enclosure contains nine, read ’em, nine drivers encased in a piano lacquer finished and granite reinforced chassis.

A pair of towering Egg.Works speakers, taller than some people I know, and more expensive than a Mini Cooper.

For those who actually counted the drivers in the picture, do be informed that three of the nine drivers are inside the baffle. And speaking of the drivers, they are said to be custom manufactured by Morel and Dynaudio for Egg.Works.

A common man’s reason may not understand why one should have these expensive mammoths in one’s living room. But through these loudspeakers listening to your favorite music means listening to them in a way that you’ve never heard them before, with  soulful articulation and nuances that are literally previously unheard of. For serious music lovers, that may be enough justification.

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*Note: To those of you in the know, let me qualify “best sounding” by saying this: I have auditioned top shelf speakers such as the first Focal Grande Utopias, the B&W 802’s, the Sonus Faber Cremonas and even the Meridian DSP8000’s. I’ve also listened to Gryphon and Burmester speakers whose models I can’t recall. All of these mentioned do not even come close to The Savoys.

Samsung I8910 Omnia HD Unboxing

After weeks of hesitation, research and tough decision making I finally convinced myself to upgrade my 22-month old E61i. There was nothing seriously wrong with that Nokia, except that the vibration occasionally “hanged” (when I receive an SMS, the vibration goes continuous unless I reboot). It also looks bit worn and banged up already. The E61i served its purpose of texting, calling and the occasional web browsing, but somehow I was already craving for a more feature rich and converged mobile device.

Enter the Samsung I8910 Omnia HD, my current “gadget sidearm.”  Many of you may ask “why the Omnia HD?” Well to begin with, the phone to replace my E61i had to have the following: 1) a QWERTY keyboard 2)Wi-Fi and Internet Browser 3) a camera with at least 5 megapixels and decent video recording  4) Bluetooth 2.0 and 5) Symbian OS. These features were necessary, as my main uses for a converged mobile device is for business SMS, mobile blogging, camera/camcorder substitute and a hi-fi Bluetooth audio for music. Blackberry chat isn’t a must have for me now.

I was initially eying on the E72 as it had everything that require, but hesitated because its screen size was actually smaller than that of the E61i and because it was fast becoming commonplace. The N97 and N97 mini were part of my short list too, but the former had bad reviews and the latter simply didn’t excite me. The BB Bold 9000 attracted me at first, but the specs seemed anemic for what I will be paying. And let’s not even talk about the iPhone; I’m a hater and it requires a separate full length blog for me to explain.

The I8910’s proposition attracted me ever since it was launched mid-’09. It was, and still is at the time of writing, the only phone with HD video recording and playback (720p). That’s a real bonus for me as I also needed an HD camcorder. Now I don’t need to get a separate Flip or entry-level Xacti. Furthermore, its specs was no slouch: capacitive 3.7-inch AMOLED screen, 600Mhz processor, 256MB RAM, 8GB storage and dedicated graphics chip. Indeed the Omnia HD is one feature-packed hot rod, and that sealed the deal for me. (Sure, the Omnia II may be newer, but it didn’t have HD video and ran on WinMo 6.5…eww!)

It’s barely been a week since I had it, but I plan to blog a series of reviews as I spend more time with the phone. Hopefully I get to write about its performance and real world usability. But if you’re already hungry for information you may want to check out the OmniaHD’s glowing review at GSM Arena.

In the meantime, here are some unboxing photos:

Mobile phone boxes have really gotten smaller

It's plain and cramped inside. No "satin and lace." Definitely not befitting for the "phat-and-all-dat" phone you're getting.

Just the essentials included.

Glorious AMOLED display

Lean and long candy bar form factor

The old and the new: E61i and I8910 side by side.

Peet’s Coffee

During the last couple of months of college, I worked for Starbucks as a barista. That was about 10 years ago, and back then there were only a handful of branches open: 6750, Glorietta 4 and Rockwell to name a few, and that was the time when wearing the green apron and being behind an espresso bar had a bit of prestige to it.

The great thing about working for Starbucks is that one really gets trained to become a coffee artisan. With enough training, a barista’s tongue becomes sharp enough to distinguish one coffee variety from another, such as telling the difference between a Kenya and a Columbia, even while blindfolded! I will forever be thankful to Starbucks for my passion and skill for all things coffee.

Fast forward ten years later, basic brewed coffee is still a part of my life, specifically my morning routine. My Krups drip type coffee maker (highly recommended) has seen heavy usage, and I regularly keep stock of fresh ground coffee. Sad to say though, my loyalty to Starbucks didn’t last. I became tired of the Starbucks roast taste and found myself getting my supply of beans from Seattle’s Best Coffee and CBTL.

A couple of years ago I discovered Peet’s Coffee and fell in love with their coffee beans. I’m not saying their coffee is superior. It’s probably just different, especially to me whose tongue has been calloused by a gazillion cups of Starbucks drip. I can’t forget my first experience of Peet’s: its aroma woke me up one snowy holiday morning in Boston, along with the smell of eggs and sausages frying in the kitchen of my sister’s apartment. My favorite variant is Major Dickason’s Blend. It has a powerful chocolate aroma and taste. The chocolatey experience starts as soon as you open the bag of grounds. The cocoa aroma fills the air and is amplified even more when it starts brewing. Upon drinking, you can almost be convinced that an invisible elf had probably sprinkled some cocoa powder into your mug.

Peet's Coffee - my breakfast companion

Peet’s Coffee Major Dickason’s Blend is a great way to start the day, and an excellent choice to serve to friends and visitors as a dessert companion specially if you want to impress with a great tasting brew.

Circular Polarizer: Acquired Taste

I was on my way to an 8am meeting when I saw the Union Church of Manila building on Rada Street, Makati beautifully illuminated by the yellowish-warm early morning sun. I see this building a lot, but usually at midday or afternoons and it wasn’t as majestic. Sometimes, the time of day makes a big difference in lighting your subject.

I immediately saw this as a photo op. Good thing I had my camera with me, so I parked the car and took a few shots.

Wide

Tele

I used a Hoya Circular Polarizer for these shots, as I want to experiment with them more. I automatically screw on that filter whenever I shoot outdoors and with abundant sunlight. As you can see (or not see), highlights–the bright, washed out portions of a shot–are non-existent even when shooting a white building in bright sunlight. That’s the filter in action. I can imagine the filter being especially useful when shooting in snow or at the beach.

Most of us who are used to seeing highlights in photos may find the pics above to be a little “flat” or underexposed, even. I’m still getting used to it myself. For me it’s the photographic equivalent of seeing the world through Ray-Bans.

TGL Evolves

The Geek Lounge is a work in progress…a kaizen effort, if you will. I hope to continually refine my blog to make it as feature rich and as interesting to the online world. Today, I’ve made a few tweaks to the blog site:

1. An email account – Please feel free to drop a note at thegeeklounge@ymail.com. And since this is a Yahoo! account, you can contact me through Yahoo! Messenger as well.

2. A Twitter account – Follow The_Geek_Lounge on Twitter for blog updates and more. In fact, I may even post geek-ish brain flatulence there that you wouldn’t find on the blog site!

3. Tags for every blog post – This is embarrassing, but I will confess that I have not been putting tags on my posts before today!

4. More content with fewer words – I’ve realized that most of my blogs are well over 400 words long and that my readers may not have the attention span for it. A conscious effort is being done to write more concise, yet dense with content and media (pictures, video and audio). Expect blogs of 200 words or less in the near future.

I’m still thinking of ways to evolve TGL. A Facebook account? Perhaps, but still thinking of how to execute that properly. Mobile blogging is also in the plan (I would need QWERTY phone with a decent camera for that). I’m also still learning to maximize all the features of WordPress. Got any suggestions? Please feel free to email, tweet or drop a comment.