A Story of Survival

Last week, my BlackBerry Bold 9700 took a dip in a swimming pool with me. I was tipsy and I was nudged to the water with my clothes, car key remote, phone and wallet (please, no further details on the how and why). Intoxicated, it took me half a minute to realize that my electronics have been submerged. Worse still, when I got the phone out of the water, I turned it on in panic to see if it still works. The LCD backlight flickered then died. I took the battery out. It’s amazing how worrying and cold water can instantly sober up a person…

The drying process

I was out of town, and it happened early morning and I was too wasted to fuss over it, so I just wiped the phone with a towel, put it in front of a fan, and went to sleep. As soon as I woke up, I searched for a hair dryer and used it on the phone for several minutes. I could see condensation on the lens of the camera. The water damage indicator strips on the battery and phone are both red. Telltale signs that some water did get inside the phone.

Back home, 18 hours after the incident, I googled for ways to save a wet phone. There were a lot of suggestions on using silica gel and rice (uncooked dumbass!) to absorb the moisture, so I did both:

Step 1: phone, battery, MicroSD, and car key remote innards zip locked with a bag of silica gel for 24 hours.

Step 2: Phone and all its components buried in a tub of rice (cover and store for another 24 hours)

After doing the steps above and keeping the phone off for more than 60 hours, I finally decided to turn on the phone. Voila! It works perfectly. This is amazing, considering there’s so many components that can be damaged: the camera, keyboard, lcd, radios (i.e. wi-fi, bluetooth, 3G), chips and motherboard, speakers and mic, USB and headphone jacks, so on.

The things I did to save a wet phone is not guaranteed, your mileage may vary. But if your phone does get wet the following will increase its chances of survival:

– take the battery off immediately and don’t turn on the phone (ie. press any button)

– hair dryer (some disagree because of the risk of frying your phone, but I say just be careful and gentle)

– silica gel and rice (yes, it seems to work, no urban legend)

– most importantly: patience! let the phone dry for at least 3 days

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Are we entering the mirrorless age?

The world of consumer cameras is at the tipping point: I predict consumers will migrate from DSLRs to compact mirrorless cameras. I’m not saying the DSLR will die. It will live on, but will niche back to where it belongs: professionals who use cameras as a tool to earn a living.  If you have been a keen watcher of the camera industry, you can see the signs…

Past. The Olympus E-P1 (announced June 2009) was the first compact digital camera with a large-sensor and interchangeable lens. It was sans the flipping mirrors and pentaprisms, therefore “mirrorless”. It provided prosumers with a camera that can rival the venerable DSLR in performance, functionality and most importantly image quality without the bulk and heft. This type of camera, dubbed interchangeable lens compact or simply ILC by dpreview.com made perfect sense as consumer cameras are meant to be truly portable. Other brands like Panasonic, Samsung and Sony quickly followed suit. Being an early adaptor, I advised my wife to sell her Olympus E-410 DSLR for a Sony NEX-3. I took a different route, and sold my DSLR for film rangefinder gear.

My cousin's GF-1, one of the first mirrorless cameras into the market. He sent me this pic as soon as he unboxed it.

Present. Fast forward to today, it’s these 4 brands who are gung ho and battling it out in the ILC space. Where is Canon and Nikon? Nonexistent in the realm of mirrorless cameras. The two giants preferred to be conservative and kept focused on the DSLR, which made sense because it is their bread and butter. It seems that Canon and Nikon have decided to wait and see if the ILC market is worth getting into. In the meantime, Panasonic, Samsung, Sony and Olympus have launched new ILCs this year (2011), which offer significant improvements versus their earlier models. There were even a couple of oddball products from Pentax (Q) and Fujifilm (X100).

Future. Sony has already teased its future NEX models, with the NEX-7 and it’s white hot specifications taking center stage. The anticipation is high on these upcoming models, and while we wait, the current Sony models are still selling like hotcakes, particularly in Japan. Financial analysts say that Canon and Nikon are starting to feel the heat, and as I type, rumors of Canon and Nikon planning to get into mirrorless are already circling. Looks like exciting times ahead, especially when you begin to imagine what Canon and Nikon’s offerings would be like. Let’s not forget that they still lead the camera industry in terms of R&D, technology and lensmaking. My personal wish: a compact mirrorless camera from Canon or Nikon with a full frame (!) sensor.

History repeating? I have not lived long enough to know for sure, but during the golden age of film photography, there was a time when the SLR sales took a hit from funky and more compact rangefinders. I would assume that back then, the SLR became a tool for the professional, journalist, etc. and the rangefinder for the casual snapper. This could also be the fate of today’s DSLR and mirrorless cameras.

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P.S. What about film? Film has always been in with us, quiet in the sidelines. In this day and age, it will always be niche with no plans for a takeover. It is nowhere near extinction either. If I will be optimistic, I see it having the same fate as vinyl records, which is on a slow growth in recent years as music lovers return to the sentimental medium.

NATO Straps: Second Life for Old Watches

I’m not quite sure when the fad started, but I’m quite certain that it’s nothing new. The so called NATO straps are a dirt-cheap way of giving new life to an old watch. I did a Google search on these nylon watch straps but didn’t find any credible info on its history. They do look and sound military inspired. You can say they’re retro too: Sean Connery has worn his Submariner with a NATO in the first few Bond movies. Speaking of Google, it’s your friend in finding an online store that sells them. The straps roughly cost an equivalent of Php700 apiece, which makes them more than worth it in giving a watch the fresh, preppy look.

Got an old watch with a tired, loose steel bracelet? It’s the perfect candidate for a NATO makeover. All you have to do is have the original bracelet or strap of the watch removed, get the width of the watch lugs–they’re usually 18, 20, 22 or 24mm–and buy the NATO strap with the correct width. The best thing with NATO straps is they’re easy to put on your watch and replace; it’s just like wearing a belt (again, Google is your friend with the how-to).

NATOs are available in different colors and are either plain or striped. What you can do is collect a few of them and change on a whim, depending on what clothes you are wearing! Of course, the colors of the straps you’ll get should compliment or match the color of your watch’s dial and body. Lucky you if you have a watch with a stainless body and white dial (like I do), that’s a safe combination that would match any color of NATO strap.

Let’s say you get 5 straps, setting you back Php3500. It’s like having 5 different watches, all for the price that’s cheaper than a Swatch!

My 18mm NATO strap in olive drab.