Australia in the Pandemic: Eye of the storm?

This is a snapshot of the pandemic as of March 2021, looking at what life is like in Sydney Australia, and looking out at the world.

The most recent case of a person infected in NSW , the state with Sydney as its capital, outside of quarantine was on March 17th and was a person working with arrivals in quarantine. In this case, the person infected was asymptomatic, and was the first case in 50 days. The general picture in NSW, and Australia in general, is that cases of Covid-19 are very rare right now. Is this the end of the pandemic, or the calm before the storm?

Continue reading “Australia in the Pandemic: Eye of the storm?”

Off Topic Surprise: Aslan Karatsev and how self- image can mask ability.

Tennis. Not something I normally bother to commit thoughts on, but there is a surprise in tennis sufficiently intriguing that I am creating a page to track. This a story of how someone of amazing ability, can exist in obscurity, most likely in this case due to hurdles created by their own mind.

Right now there is a story rocking the tennis world, being called ‘man of the hour‘ and even ‘Rocky Balboa of tennis‘.

Aslan Karatsev, a professional tennis player with the raw ability to be mixing it with Federer Nadal Djokovic etc, was in close to total obscurity for the first 10 years of his pro career (he has had a ranking since 2011), before a meteoric rise from nothing to being one of the most talked about players in 2021.

Continue reading “Off Topic Surprise: Aslan Karatsev and how self- image can mask ability.”

Vaccines, yes, some stories are too good to be true.

I have been following Covid-19 since January 2020 I felt the world too complacent, through to today March 17 2021, when I now fear there may be too much faith in vaccines. Israel has been at the forefront of vaccination, and should provide an early indicator of what to expect. So today I thought I would check on the latest from Israel. What I found sounded almost unbelievable good! Until I realised, yes, it should not be believed. The data is presented in a very misleading way.

Continue reading “Vaccines, yes, some stories are too good to be true.”

Paradox: What Is Ending The Population Explosion?

Select Countries Births per woman.

Surprisingly, humanity is at ‘peak child‘ and looks to be heading to population stability. We are still are left with the aftermath and an overpopulated planet, but of the population explosion, is ending. Human ‘births’ per woman has fallen from 5.0 in around 1960, to around 2.3 in 2021. There are countless studies of population trends, but in the end, most explanations for the fall in population contain contradictions. Three main types of explanations for the decline in birth rates coming just when it was needed are explored here.

Continue reading “Paradox: What Is Ending The Population Explosion?”

The Google Persuasion: Delaying the inevitable?

I recently explored thoughts on ‘should Facebook own the internet‘, and as I further explore, I thought that while much of what I posted also applies to Google, Google deserved their own post.

Both Google and Facebook earn their revenue as ‘persuaders’, so it comes as no surprise that Google and Facebook have both tried to persuade the public that the Australian government is just being mean to the poor, hardworking companies who always put their customers first by asking Google and Facebook to pay for news content. But what is fair? If Google and Facebook controlling the news we see is inevitable, does it matter?

Continue reading “The Google Persuasion: Delaying the inevitable?”

Revolution?: HDMI ARC, eARC and S/PDIF

The move from S/PDIF to HDMI ARC failed in bringing even a small revolution, but the introduction of eARC in HDMI 2.1 may now actually allow a major revolution.

Contents:

  • S/PDIF: History
  • Audio Return and Directional Audio/Video Cables
  • Pre ARC (before HDMI 1.4, 2009 )
  • HDMI 1.4 with ARC (Audio Return Channel)
  • Sonos Beam – ARC at work!
  • TV: A HiFi capable Digital Pre-Amp?
  • eARC – HDMI 2.1 (2019)
  • The Audio Revolution

S/PDIF: History

The traditional way to send digital audio within HiFi, has been the S/PDIF coaxial or optical connection.  The connection originated from the desire to send digital information from a CD player to an amplifier, in order to use the D/A conversion within the audio amplifier.  The system was designed to send stereo signals of CD resolution, but within that design has also been able to send compressed surround sound.

Audio Return and Directional Audio/Video Cables

An important concept to have clear before discussing Audio Return Channel, is that audio and video cables always (or almost always) have a direction.  One end of the connection will act as an output, and the signal is sent to the other end which will act as an input.  Even though the connectors on each end of the cable are the same type of connector, there is a different role for each end of the cable.

So an RCA connector from a CD deck to an amplifier connects the output of the CD deck, to an input on the amplifier.  With a tape recorder, there are output connections for when a tape is in playback, and input connections for when a tape is being recorded, and the same pin type is used for each end.  With RCA cables, two sets of red and white leads, one set from the outputs of the tape player to the a set of two inputs on the amplifier, and an identical cable confusingly carrying signals in the opposite direction.  To simply things, there was a ‘DIN’ plug with 5 wires. A ground level, plus and left and right signal for one direction, and another left and right signal for the opposite direction.  Of course, if you tried to use this cable to connect to tape recorders to copy a tape…. the two inputs were connected and the two outputs were connected, so it would not work.

The point is, that every wire in an audio/video cable has a direction: either input or output.  Normally, all HDMI ports on a TV are inputs, and all HDMI ports on DVD players are outputs.  In fact, even DVD recorders have normally have all HDMI ports as outputs, and a different system for video inputs.

So if all HDMI ports on a TV are inputs, how does the TV output anything?  An Audio/Video amplifier, or a centre speaker, need sound output from a TV when TV programs are being watched.   The sound and video are inputs to TV during a DVD, but the sound is an output when watching live TV, so while video is always ‘in’, audio can be in or out.

Pre ARC (before HDMI 1.4, 2009 )

Without ARC, the answer is to have a separate audio connection running back from the TV to a speaker or Audio using SPDIF.  Of course, SPDIF was designed for sound that does not have control, so even with a centre speaker, the speaker will need its own volume control.

HDMI 1.4 with ARC (Audio Return Channel)

Recall that ‘DIN’ plug for tape deck connection?  Both in and out in the one cable.  HDMI 1.4 decided to use the same concepth with ARC.  ARC adds the audio reverse direction to the HDMI cable, so now and HDMI cable can be thought of a Audio and Video going in one direction, plus audio returning in the other direction. However while the audio and video sent to the TV have no control information (volume or tone for Audio, brightness or contrast for video), the return audio that has been added to the specification  does have added control information.

This added control information is extremely important. This cable, for the first time,  provides control information with a digital audio signal.  This gives the return direction of digital audio additional uses that the ‘normal’ direction of HDMI audio does not have.

The problem with ARC, is the specification was too flexible, which has allowed different interpretations, which leads to interoperability problems. The problems have led to a common suggestion being “avoid ARC, it is too flaky”.

The Sonos Beam – ARC at work!

Sonos has become a major brand. In wireless multiroom, the Sonos is the clear industry leader.  Which means Sonos introducing a sound bar with HDMI ARC as the only input, creates pressure on the major TV brands to get their ARC actually working properly.

When working properly with ARC, the Sonos Beam gives a preview of the revolution that will be fully enabled by eARC in HDMI 2.1

The Sonos sound bar being designed ARC is more significant than it sounds.  The significance is that by using an digital source which has control information already present, the Sonos beam does not have to act as a digital preamp.  The Sonos Beam can concentrate on converting digital to analog, amplification and being a speaker.

That difference may appear subtle, but in reality it is a revolution.

A pre-amp selects which input is to used and controls volume etc.  Most soundbars try and take over the function of being a digital pre-amp, which is why they, duplicate the multiple HDMI inputs that are on the TV.  Many will even have host an app store, because most digital sources have moved to being through the web, so to select these inputs you need to have app store. Then, even though the TV has a volume control, so does the soundbar, and when moving the soundbar you need to switch app stores.

None of this is needed when relying on ARC.  If ARC actually works properly, the TV can be digital pre-amp, leaving a single app store, and a single set of inputs. Nothing else changes when you turn on the soundbar other than the sound quality.

What Changes When Relying on ARC?

Using S/PDIF, the alternative to ARC, means no control information.  With no control information, the signal must enter a ‘pre-amp’ or ‘control-amplifier’ stage, even though the TV already has, in the digital domain, perfectly adequate control amplifier capability.

2017-one-connect-box
Samsung TV connections (2018)

Note a smart TV has a volume control, an app store as well as physical HDMI and usually other inputs. A sound bar repeats (see below) repeats most of these connections.

816yam.bac_
Yamaha YSP-5600 sound bar connections

The Sound bar does add analog audio connections, plus an HDMI output for connecting the TV, but otherwise the sound bar generally repeats the connections that were on the TV. This means to use the sound bar as designed, you must move all the connections from the TV to the sound bar, then use the sound bar to select inputs.  Unless the input is from an App such as Netflix, or Spotify….. oh wait there is a Spotify app on the sound bar also, but not a Netflix app.  Confused? So the sound bar has its own remote, connections and apps, so when not relying on ARC, you get two remotes, two sets of input connections and two sets of apps.  But if you rely on ARC? One remote, no duplicated connections or Apps spread between two different app stores.

597225-sonos-beam
Connections when relying on ARC

TV: A HiFi capable Digital Pre-Amp?

Consider a digital preamp that accepts digital data in, and sends digital data with control information out.  This means a digital pre-amp that does not actually amplify, as digital signals are not amplified. The actual amplification must happen after a signal is converted to analog, in other words after a DAC.  Dealing with analog signals and retaining hi fidelity is the domain of high end HiFi, but while the signal stays digital, it is purely about computing.  TVs can have high powered CPUs, and can do digital. This means provided the Analog processing is handled externally to the TV, a TV can perform the digital part of processing the signal.  That means retrieving the digital information from the net with an app, or simply routing the input stream from a DVD or other device through to the output.  For all cases, simply adding an additional information source of playback settings such as desired volume, or other information the external HiFi ‘digital power amp’ will use in the real HiFi task, turning bits into sound. What a TV as a digital pre-amp should not do, is try to be an analog pre-amp as well and process analog inputs.

eARC – HDMI 2.1 (Nov 2017)

The original ARC introduced back in 2009 was a typical first try. Things were not perfect. Firstly, the new specification had so many optional elements that implementations vary too significantly for a real standard. Secondly, the bandwidth for the digital signal, although an improvement on S/PDIF, was not sufficient to handle multichannel or newer object based advanced sound encoding. Thirdly, the control channel information was best provide by the ethernet data, but ethernet data was optional in the standard.

The HDMI 2.1 specification mandates eARC.  Nothing required for eARC is still optional.  The bandwidth available copes with all current codecs, and there is room for the future as well.  Ethernet is no longer optional allowing more robust control information, and evolution of control specifications.

The Audio Revolution

In simple terms, once HDMI 2.1 is the normal, and thus eARC becomes common in homes, you could design a ‘Sonos Beam’ alternative that works as simply as the Beam, but with the clarity and perfection of the best HiFi systems, both for audio, and for Audio/Video.   That is, using the inputs and of the TV, the remote of the TV, and app store and source selection of the TV, but with multiple speakers and amplification optimised for HiFi and/or Home Cinema.  Sound  delivered with the sound qualify of the highest end home theatre or HiFi system.  HiFi and high end home theatre as simple as the Sonos Beam.

What about sources that do not connect to TV?  There are questions left unanswered by this post.  The answers do exist, they are just too long for this one post, and I will add these answers in other posts.

 

Camera System Sizes: Phones vs Nikon 1 vs 4/3 vs APSc vs 35mm vs Medium

Introduction

Different cameras all have different sensor sizes. This page lists and the sizes of different systems and provides some measure of comparison of size, as well as listing the current (March 2018) megapixel counts of each system. This page is not about merits of size nor megapixel, just a pool of data to reference in any discussion.

While smart phones are not a ‘system’, they are also compared, as they are certainly significant.

History

The days of film.

Cameras all produce images on a sensor. At one time the sensor was film, so the camera required the appropriate film size. The first camera makers had to make both film and the cameras. Well known brands include Fuji, Agfa and Kodak. Manufacturers producing only cameras (eg. Canon, Nikon) had to rely on independently produced film being readily available.

To make a new system size, there need to be a new film, new cameras and new lenses. Despite the need for such an ecosystem, there have been a multitude of film sizes. Even under all these constraints, a huge plethora of formats have existed.

The Size Trend – > Smaller.

At one time the main film sizes were ‘large format‘, ‘medium format’ and 35mm. This smaller 35mm is now often referred to somewhat confusingly as ‘full frame’. Large format is now only in restricted usage, with usage by the press dropping as long ago as the 1950s. At the dawn of the digital era, professional photographers used medium format, unless they were photographing for lower resolution newsprint or long range zoom sports photographs, but with the increase of resolution of 35mm photographs with digital print, medium format is also overall becoming more specialised than mainstream, and newer far smaller images such as even those taken with smart phones are in wider and wider usage.

The System Sizes

Phones: 4.07×3.05mm – 12.4mm2

The figures quoted are for ‘normal’ lens of the iPhoneX. The iPhoneX actually has 3 cameras, and these measurement are for the rear telephoto lens, firstly because it is a sound choice and secondly because I could find the specifications.

The iPhone X actually has 3 cameras. The two rear cameras are the ones designed to produce the highest quality photos. It is difficult to find actual specifications, but the 56mm equivalent lens indicates and actual focal length of 6mm. This may not be exact, but yields a ratio of 9.3333 compared to a 35mm camera. Update: I have since another report the length is actually 6.6mm yielding a ration of 8.4848, so I have based calculations on this figure, which suggest an approximately 10% larger sensor than would be the case with 6mm focal length. So it is possible the calculations here are for a sensor 10% larger than the actual, and if I discover this is the page I will adjust, but assume the larger value until that time.

The 35mm sensor has a diagonal of 43.2mm, which divided by 8.4848 suggests an sensor with an 5.09mm diagonal. The ratio of the width to height is 4:3 ..which by Pythagoras theorem gives a diagonal of 5. So width is 5.09 x 4/5 and height is 5.09 x 3/5.

The figures may not actually be precise. Is the focal length actually 6? or even 5.9mm, or 5.95, or 6.05…. or is the 6.6 also slightly out? There is also a suggestion the focal length of the telephoto lens is 52mm and the image is cropped to 56mm…. but that would mean the effective area matches the calculations anyway. I am not certain of the exact precision, but given the iPhone is representing phone cameras in general, the figures are sufficiently representative of a high quality smart phone camera.

Nikon 1: 13.2×8.8mm – 116.2mm2

  • Potential pixels at camera phone scale: 108 megapixels
  • Actual maximum: 21 Megapixels

The smallest of the genuine ‘systems’ with interchangeable lenses, the Nikon 1 system, is eleven times (9x) larger than the iPhone X sensor. This would suggest 12 x 9 = 108 megapixels would be possible at the density of the iPhone. However, the highest resolution, the J5, has 20.8 megapixels.

First introduced in 2011, there have been no new cameras for this system since 2015 leading, to fears the system is to be abandoned. Despite this, the system has genuine fans.

Micro Four Thirds(m4/3): 17.3mm x13mm – 225mm2

  • Potential pixels at camera phone scale: 216 Megapixels
  • Potential pixels at Nikon 1 scale: 40 Megapixels
  • Actual maximum: 21 Megapixels

Micro four thirds is the only system with the same mount shared between manufacturers (Panasonic and Olympus, plus some smaller participants).

Just over twice the area of the Nikon 1 system, Micro 4/3 cameras currently have a similar maximum resolution of 20 megapixels, rather than the 40 megapixels that would result from the same density as the Nikon 1 or, the over 216 megapixels that would scale up from a smartphone with sensor around 18 times smaller.

Canon M System (APS-C): 22.2mm x 14.8mm – 329mm2

(+Canon APS-C subsystem of Canon 35mm is the same size sensor)

  • Potential pixels at camera phone scale: 318 Megapixels
  • Potential pixels at Nikon 1 scale: 57 Megapixels
  • Potential pixels at M43 scale: 29 Megapixels
  • Actual maximum: 24 Megapixels

The Canon APS-C DSLR subsystem uses the same sensor size as the mirrorless Canon M-System, but the DSLR system is a subsystem of a 35mm system, both of which use a slightly smaller sensor than other APS-C systems.

Just under 1.5 times the size of the smaller m43 system, the increase in pixels is small (as is the real size change) but there is more colour depth available.

The M system appears to use the same sensors as the Canon APS-C DSLR cameras, but the M system is a mirrorless system based around what appears to be an APS-C mount, while Canon DSLR APS-C cameras use a mount designed for ‘full frame’ 35mm sensors, and crops the image coming in from the lens.

EF-M and full frame: It appears that EF-M is a APS-C size system, but this may not be true. The Sony E-Mount also launched with only APS-C sensors, but it was later revealed they were a crop of what the mount, and lenses could deliver. The same may be true with EF-M and this may actually be a full frame capable mount.

Fuji X mount APS-C System: 23.6mm x 15.6mm – 368mm2

(Nikon, Sony, and Pentax APS-C subsystems of respective 35mm are the same size sensor, with a variation of up to 0.1mm in width)

  • Potential pixels at camera phone scale: 318 Megapixels
  • Potential pixels at Nikon 1 scale: 57 Megapixels
  • Potential pixels at M43 scale: 29 Megapixels
  • Actual maximum: 24 Megapixels

The mirrorless Fuji X mount system is the an actual system designed on the same size as APS-C DSLR subsystems from Sony, Nikon and Pentax. While this mount is smaller than the main systems from Canon and Nikon, Fuji, like Pentax, also has a system with a larger mount than Canon and Nikon.

35mm (135 format) Full Frame:  36mm X 23.9 – 24.3mm – 860 – 864mm2

Nikon, Canon, Sony and Pentax all have digital mounts for this size. 35mm, the smaller size of the two most common system sizes in the film area at the time digital cameras emerged, is a system size that originated in the 1920s.

  • Potential pixels at camera phone scale: 850+ Megapixels
  • Potential pixels at Nikon 1 scale: 148 Megapixels
  • Potential pixels at M43 scale: 76 Megapixels
  • Potential pixels at APS-C scale: 62 Megapixels
  • Actual maximum: 50 Megapixels

The M system appears to use the same sensors as the Canon APS-C DSLR cameras, but the M system is a mirrorless system based around an APS-C mount, while Canon DSLR APS-C cameras use a mount designed for ‘full frame’ 35mm sensors, and crops the image coming in from the lens.

Hasselblad X1D, Cropped Medium Format: 43.8 x 32.9 mm – 1,441mm2

Just 1.6 times 35mm full frame, is small for medium format, but still offers an advantage in colour depth and the quality of some of the lenses available. Similar to the step up from m43 to APC

  • Multiply the figures for 35mm by 1.6
  • potential pixels at 35mm scale 80 Megapixels
  • actual maximum pixels 50

Medium format and similar lens/mount sizes are common to Hasselblad, Fuji, Pentax, Mimolta and Phase One. However all of these suppliers can use the other medium format size sensors listed below and either do that already or a likely to in future.

Hasselblad H1D: Cropped Medium Format 49.0mm X 36.7 – 1,798.3mm2

Two time (2x) the 35mm full frame, this sensor size does make for sense for the future of medium format.

Medium Format 645 (Phase One P65): 53.9mm x 40.4mm – 2,177.6mm2

2.5 times the size of full frame 35mm, this is the first medium format sensor size that is not necessarily a crop. The all medium formats are capable of this size, but the only current product using this size is the Phase One P65.

Large Format: 127mm X 102mm – x 12,954mm2 (and larger)

Fifteen time (15x) the size of 35mm full frame, and over a thousand times (1,000x) the size of a typical phone sensor, large format was the main format of photography for most of the history of photography. But the format of artists such as Ansell Adams, is now a very specialist format. With a trends like a revival of film perhaps large format may play an important role, but there is also large format digital, predominantly through the use of digital camera backs.

Conclusions.

No System size is inherently ‘best’.

The first photographs needed no enlargement, as the size of film was appropriate for viewing. Then smaller and smaller sizes were created on the basis that the photo could be enlarged, and as film grain size decreased, greater enlargement was feasible.

With film, the same grain size, or ‘pixel density’ is feasible regardless of film size.  This means that with film, a phone sized film would have , 175 times less pixels than a 645 medium format size film.

Despite quality advantage of larger film, smaller film means smaller lenses and more portability and many images were only needed for newsprint.

Different sizes systems were most popular for different uses.

The same compromise between sensor size and image quality exists with digital, but digital has the  new factor that ‘finer grain’, or increased pixel density, is easier to achieve with a smaller sensor. This results in phone size sensor having around 1/8th of the pixels of 645 medium format sensors, a significant improvement of the 1/175th they would have with the same pixel size.

Although all pixels are not the same, with digital it is clear that the compromise with smaller sensor size is less than in the days of film.  With less disadvantage to small sensors, there is an even wider range of possible sizes and it is even harder to choose the best compromise.

Every system is a compromise or we would all simply choose the largest sensor and move to large format.  The reality is that even medium format is too inconvenient for most photographers and the even smaller, ‘small format’ 35mm is more popular despite naturally having lower quality potential.  In fact camera phones are the most popular of all despite the lowest quality potential of all.

One system is unlikely to rule them all any time soon.

There is still a trend for several incompatible systems to have a common sensor size, just as in the days where these systems were the same size in order to use the same film. In practice, sensors are now produced by companies independent of the camera makers, and just as in the days of film, several different brand cameras may in practice use the same sensor.

Only the m43 (micro four thirds) system is promoted as an open system, although several brands may in practice use the same ‘proprietary’ mount. For example, for the Canon EF mount, there are not only third party lenses, but even third party cameras.

Highly profitable Chinese drone maker DJI is now a majority owner in Hasselblad, who have since that investment introduced new medium format systems, as has Fuji, others such as Pentax and Leica still produce new models, so clearly the scope still spans from medium format to camera phones.

Systems will come and go, but a wide range seems ensured for a long time.

Peak Design: design flaws?

Considering a new bag for you tech gear and whatever else you carry?  Peak design have some of the best bags for the technology lover… but nothing is ever perfect and flaws still remain. This page does some pondering over what is really needed in an ‘everyday’ bag, and looks how current offerings do in delivering those need.  The flaws, and some solutions, and just what really is needed to make an ideal ‘everyday’ bag.

I have look long and hard for the closest to a perfect ‘everyday’ bag.  Peak design may come closest, but are still not there. The messenger was their first ever bag and an update could move closer to perfect.  Buy now? Wait for an update? Or another choice? Here are my thoughts:

  1. What is an ‘Everyday’ bag?
    • Every day? Picturing the days?
    • Pocket / Handbag replacement
    • What Size for every day?
  2. Analysing the Peak design bags
    • Messenger vs Backpack?
    • Sling vs Messenger
    • The Tote?
    • Conclusions
  3. Messenger or backpack? The everyday flaw
    • messenger as a backpack
    • backpack as a messenger
  4. Can the everyday flaw be addressed?
    • the dream
    • what is on the market?
    • the solution
  5. The shopping list: flaws identified in reviews
    • Single Strap
    • Water bottles
    • External Pockets
    • Pens
    • Falling over
  6. Buy now or wait for an update?
  7. Conclusion

What is an Everyday bag?

Everyday? Picturing the days.

Think about the ‘Everyday Messenger’ name.  While for some people everyday may be the same, for most of us, there are a wide range of different days.  This means for most of us, a bag which can be used everyday needs to be adaptable.

In fact, following reviews reveals that some people choose one of the ‘everyday’ packs, to use only for a very specific day type.  For example, as pack for a photo shoot, when they always take 2 camera bodies and around 4 lenses.  Rarely do you find a review covers both camera gear days, and days where they go on a picnic.  The picnic may still require a camera, but hopefully not the same range of gear, but it may require drinks and food and a blanket etc.  How do they use the bag on that day?  Or, if they do not actually take photographs for a living, how does the bag go on a commute to work day, or a head to a meeting day?

I am making a separate page my list of days, and list of days others have identified.

Typical days include:

  • work commute
  • meetings, both business and social
  • restaurants, cafes, visits to the cinema
  • attending talks and group meetings
  • being a tourist including photography
  • pure photography outings

To pick an ‘everyday’ bag, it may be best to consider just what your days look like.  What days will need no bag, this bag alone, or perhaps this bag and other bags?  For me, and ‘every day’ bag, means that whenever i need one or more bags, the everyday bag will be included.

Pocket / Handbag Replacement.

It may reflect a sexist society, but males tend to use pockets to carry all their needs when they can and only carry some form of pack on days when pockets cannot cope.  For females, the custom is to have very little in the way of pockets, resulting in the need for some form of pack or ‘handbag’ almost every day.

So pockets are the alternative to a pack for most males. For most females,  a more fashion based handbag is the alternative, and in some cases the handbag has already transitioned into an everyday bag.

What needs carrying?

The minimum to go somewhere is phone, keys, wallet.  What about glasses or sunglasses?  A water bottle?  Tablet and/or tablet?  Camera and lenses? The ability to hold clothes as the temperature changes? Snacks?  Tools they are small but may be useful. Memory cards/ USB memory? Headphones? Umbrella? Bottle of wine brought to dinner?  (Yes, this will fit well with either peak design backpack or 15″messenger).

Somewhere beyond that very minimum, the bag becomes useful. There does come a point where the ‘everyday’ bag alone is insufficient.  But if that means switching to another bag and leaving the ‘everyday’ behind, then essentials must be transferred, and that is a nuisance.

Everyday means for the range of days you will need any bag.

What Size for every day?

To be an everyday bag, the bag has to be small enough that there is no temptation to bring a smaller bag instead, but able to expand to carry everything less than when taking two bags becomes the best option.  This means flexibility, but will change with the size of the bag owner and what they their days look like.

 

Analysing the Peak Design Bags

Everyday Messenger vs Everyday Backpack

ash-42_3_2-e1519644394792.jpgIf neither fully performs both roles, then how to choose between them?

Here are the specifications, comparing the larger messenger with the 20L backpack (measured on its side):

  • Volume: 8L to 18L  vs. 12L to 20L (66% to 90%)
  • Width: 43cm vs. 46cm (93%)
  • Height: 30cm vs. 30cm (100%)
  • Thickness: 18cm vs. 17cm (105%)
  • Weight: 1200gm vs. 1350gm  (89%)

In all, the messenger is 90% of size backpack with the exception of the minimum volume, where the messenger shows a better ability to shrink in volume when relatively empty. The messenger reducing to 44% while the backpack reduces to 60% of the full volume.

The smaller messenger is around 10% smaller in every dimension and has around 75% of the volume of the 15″ model.

The larger backpack adds around 10% in width and height, 18% in thickness. The smaller backpack has 66% of the volume of the larger one.

Between the 4 bags, there are effectively three sizes. Small, medium and large, with the large (backpack) considered by most as too large to be any everyday pack.  In terms of capacity, it can be important that the backpacks both have built in straps to allow for external carry.

Sling vs Messenger

The 10L sling could be an alternative to the smaller (15″) messenger (% is sling dimension as a percentage of messenger):

  • Volume: 8L to 10L  vs. 6L to 14L (133% to 70%)
  • Width: 40cm vs. 38cm (105%)
  • Height: 23cm vs 27cm (85%)
  • Thickness: 14cm vs. 12cm (117%)
  • Weight: 680gm vs. 1100gm  (62%)

The sling is lighter and only 85% of the height, but is otherwise larger. It is wider, thinker and has a larger minimum volume, despite having a significantly smaller maximum volume. The aesthetics of each will appeal to different people, but from a pure logistics perspective the messenger can be smaller when the volume is not needed, but can carry more when the need arises.

The everyday tote.

The everyday tote certainly has a look that can work for ‘everyday’, together with very versatile ways of being worn. However, as a backpack, the thin straps mean it is only suitable to lighter loads or very short trips.  This to me, makes the tote a bag best suited to very, very light loads or only if your ‘everydays’ do not involve walking any real distance. Generally, our sexist society tends to see the tote as a bag for women, an issue I would consider further if the bag seem better suited to days where i have to walk longer distances.

Conclusion?

It took a lot of considering between backpack and messenger, but for me the larger messenger was the winner.  If I felt the larger backpack made sense, that would have meant the only solution was the backpack, but the way the laptop/tablet cannot be accessed on the move and the contents of the bag must be rotated to different directions for access convinced me the messenger was best for me. I do miss the dual straps and the external carry.

Messenger or Backpack? The Everyday flaw?

Are there messenger bag days and backpack days? If you want one bag from peak design for ‘every day’, then the goal is to choose between a messenger bag and a backpack and be able to use the same choice every day without needing to switch and transfer contents. But which? Messenger or Backpack?

Peak design first invented a messenger bag as a bag for every day, then found that a lot of people did not find it suitable for many of their days. So next, they designed a backpack for every day. But the backpack does not make the messenger obsolete, as many still find it a better compromise than the backpack. Some days better suit the messenger, and some days better suit the backpack.

In fact, the messenger has some of the attributes of a backpack, and the backpack has some of the attributes of a messenger. So peak design has made an effort at cross functionality, but it is simply not fully thought through. This leaves the critical flaw: Neither bag is good enough for every day, as neither crosses over well enough.

Messenger as a backpack?

The messenger provides a second strap: either a waist strap or a stabiliser strap. This really helps have the bag securely against your body like a backpack. This leaves the main missing features as a second shoulder strap. Here is one youtube review highlighting how a full messenger bag can be just too heavy to be carried on one shoulder. But there are more videos like that and I was even told this same story by a store assistant: “people report that having just one strap becomes too heavy so they choose the backpack”.

Backpack as a Messenger?

So why not just start with a backpack for every day use?

The two limitations of a backpack compared to a messenger are:

  • ‘one strapping’: for short carries, with small loads, can fall off
  • you need to remove the pack to access contents

 

131030_cool_21jumpst-alt-crop-promovar-mediumlarge
backpacks can need a steadying hand when used with one strap

One Strapping: There was tv series they made a big thing of the coolness of ‘one-strapping’ vs ‘two-strapping’. ‘One strapping’ is also in the real world and you don’t have to observe for long find commuters on transport, or students between lectures, who have their backpacks slung over only one shoulder. The problem is that backpacks require a steading hand on that one strap or the bags slips off. Using one strap is often convenient, and Messenger can then far better, as they are designed to be stable with one strap.

 

Access: The everyday backpack does take innovative steps to provide messenger like access, as seen in this video and again here. However, the result is strange with some things accessed from one side, some from the other, and some (like tablet or pc) accessed only from the top and not available without removing the pack. The whole load gets rotated during use, instead of remaining in one position.

Can the everyday flaw be addressed?

The Dream: everyday flexibility.

The dream is a single bag with the attributes of both easy casual carry and the access properties of a messenger, and the dual strap weight and longer haul abilities of a backpack.

What is on the market?

There are several bags on the market that claim to be messenger/backpack hybrids, but generally they seem to focus on being a one strap backpack, which is attempting to satisfy a different dream: a one strap backpack.  There is at least one pack on the market that converts from one strap to two very well: the think tank change up. The ‘change-up’ works perfectly either messenger mode or two strap mode (I own of these) but is too small for everyday use, and was never designed with ‘everyday’ in mind.

A Solution

To me, the best solution is to enhance the everyday messenger, allowing strap connection adjustment and for a second strap.

bagAlternate strap connection point:  In the image shown here, one side of the strap goes up over the shoulder, and the other side goes around to the front of the body.  The bag tends to become uneven with the ‘up strap’ side rising up.  If the strap connection on the ‘around’ side could be attached further down the bag, then the bag would be more even, and more comfortable.

Second Strap: With the main strap on the lower connection point on the ‘around’ side, a second strap could now be attached to this side with this second strap running up over this side, which otherwise has no over shoulder strap.  The other end of this strap could connect on the front with the stabiliser strap.

Making the solution work.

Peak design are experts at quick connect.  Consider the capture system, and the straps and anchor points.  Thicker cord would feel better if anchors were to be used to attach straps to the bag, but in general, why not use the anchor system?

Two anchor points each sider of the messenger, and one new, detachable ‘2nd shoulder’ strap, and the messenger could find a new additional audience – largely untapped by messengers.

The shopping list: flaws identified in reviews

The point listed here are targeted as the flaws people have with the messenger. I have my observations, but these pages are unlikely to be read by peak design, so the feedback will be that which is already out there in multiple reviews. This section is to list the points I have seen raised sufficiently the peak design might listen. read others say.

Single Strap

I am not the first to observe that the lack of second strap is an issue. However, most simply feel a second strap only comes with a backpack, so the feedback is more ‘choose the backpack’ than how a second strap could be used with the messenger.

Water bottles

The side pockets on the peak design messenger bags do not work very well as water bottle holders.  A capture clip enabled water bottle pouch could address this without any change to the bag itself.

External Pockets

The pockets in clothes are very useful for items that need to be accessed quickly. Change, glasses, transport tickets etc.  But every time you change clothes, the contents of pockets needs to be moved, so equivalent pockets on a bag are very appealing.  Several reviews have mentioned the everyday messenger (and everyday backpack) lack such pockets on the exterior of the bag.

Pens

The everyday messenger can easily hold around 2 pens in the pocket beside the laptop area, but this is very limited.  In reviews, it seems reviewers fail to notice the ability to hold any pens- or regard what capacity there is as insignificant.

Falling over

It is often mentioned that the messenger falls over.  Even an empty pack does this. As the bag mostly falls ‘face forward’ the contents of the bag tend to fall out.  Even if the bag feel on its back, it would be preferable.  So how do you stop a bag falling on its face? A kickstand to enable leaning back?  A removable attachment?  In any event, it would be desirable to find something.

Buy now or wait for an update?

The original everyday messenger was released around September 2015, and I suggest it transformed the Peak Design company. By June 2016 the 13″ version joined the original 15″, and by June 2017 the everyday backpacks were released. Will there be update to the everyday messenger this June or September? It is about time, as the messenger was their first bag and hopefully they have learnt from experience. The question becomes, what would you like to see improved, is it the any of the points I have raised or other issues?

Conclusion

Overall I favour the messenger as the best base for an everyday bag for me. I have started using the current messenger, and may add notes over time on what I learn if it seems there is interest.  If you are on the edge, with another bag that is also a compromise for everyday, you could hold out in the hope of an upgrade.

 

Digital Cameras: Crop vs ‘Full Frame’

There are cases where the rapid evolution of technology means that terms can lose connection with their original meaning.  ‘Crop’ and full frame are clear examples.  Should we go back to the original meaning, or embrace using the original term in ways that evolve further and further from that original meaning?

History/Background

Film Cameras

studijskifotoaparatFilm Cameras were invented in the 1880s, but it was in around the 1920s that standard film sizes became popular, which allowed specialist camera brands to emerge.   No film camera is of any use unless film for the camera was readily available, but with film already available, a company could now manufacture only cameras and lenses.  Eventually, specialisation allowed for an ecosystem of specialist camera brands (e.g. Nikon, Canon, Ricoh, Pentax, Leica, Hasselblad etc) and separate specialist film brands (eg Kodak, Fuji), who often made both film for general use, and for their own brand cameras.

nikonfThe most common standard sizes to emerge were 35mm (suitable for consumers and newspaper photography), the larger medium format for magazine photography and studio work, and even larger large format (4inches x 6inches and larger)  sizes for specialist high quality work.  As film qualify improved, medium format and particularly 120mm and 220mm film took over from large format in almost all use cases.pentaxshift

Standard film sizes, meant lenses were all manufactured to produce an image size optimized for a specific film size, mostly 35mm lenses or medium format lenses.

Pre ‘DSLR’ Digital Cameras

sony_cyber-shot_dsc-f1_cp2b_2011
1996, 640×480 resolution Sony DSC-F1

The first digital cameras were either:

– not really alternatives for ‘real’ photography, very expensive specialist professional
– or cameras made by Kodak combining a Nikon camera with electronics made by Kodak.

Image quality of early consumer cameras was often 640×480 pixels or lower. Sensors were small and image quality no match for film cameras of the same period.

Enter the ‘Crop Factor’

The professional Kodak Digital DCS cameras first released 1991 introduced the concept of a ‘crop factor’. The sensors were not as large as the film they replaced within these cameras.  This meant the image captured did not cover the full area of the view finder, and was a ‘crop’ of the image which would have been captured with film.   The sensor for the camera ‘cropped’ the image captured by the lenses, retaining only the central section of the image.frontview

The kodak cameras were built using camera bodies from Nikon and Canon (and later medium format cameras), but adding a digital capture system using typically a 2 megapixel CCD (some later models reached 6 megapixels). Prices were as high as $25,000.  This was specialist technology!

The first Mainstream Digital DSLRs

In 1999 and 2000 Nikon and Canon respectively released far more mainstream digital SLR cameras to join those original models from Kodak.  However all of these cameras two things in common, they were all designed around 35mm camera systems and used exclusively 35mm lenses, but ‘cropped’ the 35mm image from the lens as they used sensors smaller than 35mm.

Digital Cameras in 2018 and beyond

The original digital interchangeable lens cameras were all designed around 35mm sensors, but now in 2018 we now have digital camera systems using:

  • smartphone cameras of 4.8×3.6mm (iPhone6)
  • 1/2.55 smartphone  5.6×4.2mm (iPhoneX, note8=1/2.4)
  • 1″ sensors 13.2×8.8mm
  • m4/3 sensors and lenses 17.3x13mm
  • APS/C sensors and lenses 22×14.8, 23.5×15.6 or 23.7×15.6
  • 35mm sensors and lenses 36x24mm
  • Crop Medium Format sensors of  44x33mm (Fuji)
  • Medium format lenses of 56x44mm
  • (Medium Format could be within the range 56×44-224 mm)

The leader in producing sensors for these various sensor sizes is Sony, and Sony concentrates technology for 35mm and smartphones.

The original meaning of Crop and Full Frame

Originally, and still today in most contexts in photography, to crop is to select an image from within a larger original image, and ‘full frame’ is to use the entire image.

As you can only crop if you have a larger image to start with, the only true ‘crop’ systems are those using lenses designed to accommodate a larger sensor than was used for the image.

So with a 35mm system lens on an APS-C camera, the camera will crop the image from the lens.  That is the lens is designed to produce an image of 36mm x 24mm, and the image captured is approximately 24mm x 16mm.  However, and  APS-C lens on an APS-C camera is using the entire image the lens is designed to produce, and is not cropping, and therefore is being used full frame.

APS-C cameras when used with full frame lenses (possible with Sony, Nikon and Canon, but not Fuji) and being used as cropped cameras, but all also have native APS-C lenses and these cameras are full frame for these lenses.

Similarly all current medium format cameras (Hasselblad, Pentax, Fuji) crop this image as they all use a smaller sensor than the medium format design.  It is reported here that the brand Zenit is preparing the first full frame medium format cameras.

So APS-C cameras when used with 35mm lenses and Medium Format Cameras are cropped, and others cameras are full frame.

The Evolved meaning of Crop Factor and Full Frame

The evolved meaning is to assume that every camera could be used with a 35mm lens, and the image cropped from that 35mm lens.

This meaning is useful for cameras up 35mm, but becomes quite strange above 35mm as it would suggest a cropped image medium format camera like the Fuji GFX 50s is actually beyond full frame (which of course is not really possible).

Full Frame: The evolved meaning is that ‘full-frame’ is 35mm, which means cameras from Fuji, Pentax, Hasselblad and Phase One are all ‘overfull’ or beyond full frame.

Crop Sensor: Any camera with a small sensor than 35mm is referred to as ‘crop sensor’, meaning large cropped sensors are not called ‘crop’ even though they do crop, and smaller sensor like smartphones which do not actually crop are called crop.

Crop Factor: The multiplier that should be applied to lens focal length to give as 35mm equivalent focal length.  Whether called ‘crop factor’ or more accurately ‘multiplier’, this is a very useful number.

Why the misleading terms?

The history

The first mass market interchangeable lens digital camera to capture the ‘full frame’ was a 35mm camera, the Canon 1DS.  For some years, the only digital camera to capture the same ‘full frame’ that film would capture, were 35mm cameras.

Further, while professional studio and fashion photographers mostly used the larger ‘medium format’ cameras,  consumers and newspaper and sports photographers used 35mm, the smallest format in wide usage at the time. The largest number of digital camera were a ‘crop’ of 35mm format, so the alternative for those cameras would be the full frame of 35mm format.

Digital photography disrupted the rules since as the sensor now came with the camera instead of being separately purchased and developed film, now any size sensor was possible and it was not just professionals dealing with differnt sizes, but also consumers.

New systems have since been released and generally these new systems use “full frame of an alternative size to 35mm”,  but, as the first cameras were actually a crop of 35mm, common practice became to quote the sensor size as if it was still a crop of 35mm.

Further, the need arose to compare effective lens magnification and apertures, even those these had traditionally been measured in film size specific ways.  Previously the most common system was 35mm, and the second most common was for professionals who lived cameras and had no difficulty converting.  Converting equivalence to 35mm became the standard for the all systems other than medium format, where people did not need to convert.

Rather unfortunately we kept the sensor size specific ways of specifying lens field of view (and debatably aperture) which means with so many different sensor sizes some conversion and equivalence is required.

Is it(using misleading terms) workable?

Yes, but only just, and perhaps not for long. Clearly the terms ‘crop’ and ‘full frame’ are now for most mirrorless systems misleading at best, and just crazy for sensors beyond 35mm.  However technology took a long time to deliver sensors of even 35mm, so sensors beyond 35mm are still relatively rare.  The other reason the terms work better than would be expected is that I would suggest the sensor market is currently dominated by Sony, and Sony focus their technology on three sensor sizes, 35mm, APC-C and camera-phone, and uniquely release their own mirrorless APC-C system using a full 35mm mount, and thus currently, produces the only crop 35mm mirrorless system.  (Canon produces the EOS-M system APS-C system, lenses for this mount can only be 35mm, as with the Fuji APS-C mirrorless system).

Unless the sensor market changes, beyond 35mm will remain rare and the misleading terminology will remain workable (if still misleading) in practice.  A future post will cover why the sensor market may indeed change!

Apple Evolution: Which premium market next?

covent-garden-market-apple-market-57_bigWhile Apple has enjoyed a very loyal customer base for many years, it was the move to premium products that brought mammoth economic success.

The challenge is to continue to evolve, find new product or customer bases, while staying ‘premium‘.

The cracks have now started to emerge with a previous prime customer base now starting to feel ignored as the company releases more and more products for an new alternative customer base. How many types of Apple customers can the company manage to juggle, while remaining as a premium brand that attracts the loyalty and profits is a key factor for the future further growth of the company.

Topics:

 

HP: A comparison customer evolution

I suggest HP is an example of a company which moved from specialised markets to the mainstream, but in doing so largely lost their premium product image and passion within their customer base. Apple still has to be careful to protect against the same fate.

Hi Quality Technology For Professional Organisations

900px-hp9100a-img_03931725a_frontHP has origins in technology for professional organisations, not the products for consumers the company sells today. The first products were test and measuring equipment, generally for use in electronics labs. These products were extremely high quality (premium products) and the professionals who used this equipment derived enjoyment for using quality technology, In the late 1960s and 1970s, HP was a reference standard for Oscilloscopes, other test equipment, and programmable calculator/ personal computers. If your work really depended on such equipment, then additional cost for a premium product was generally justified. NASA even had astronauts use HP technology products in space.

hp65_shuttle
HP-65 in space

Premium Technology for Professionals

“The HP 35 was probably HP’s number one product winner of its 6 business decades. It captivated our technical customers. It raised HP’s already high prestige. It brought untold computing power to the fingertips of the common engineer, and they worshiped HP for the innovation. Finally, it sparked a long succession of more and more powerful machines, the magnetic-strip programmable HP 65, 35v43qfinancial versions, and many more.”

Hp programmable calculators move HP from the professional organisation marketplace, to the individual professional consumer market place. These devices were a hybrid of a computer and a calculator and were even described as personal computers, long before the IBM PC. While the photo of the HP 65 is in space, the photo appears in advertisement to sell the brand to consumers on Earth. Before what we now call the ‘PC’, ‘geeks’ the world over could have their own programmable device, and HP was the most desirable product.

Even in the psychedelic ’60s, HP was out in front of the pack. The company helped invent the language that would become part of today’s technology lexicon. Take the term “personal computer,” for example.
According to Yale Law School librarian Fred Shapiro, the phrase was first documented in a 1968 Science magazine ad for the Hewlett-Packard 9100A personal computer. That’s eight years before the term made its first appearance in the venerable Oxford English Dictionary.

Technology for Consumers (Losing the premium)

As technology and computers moved mainstream, so did HP. But rather than remain a premium brand for professionals and enthusiasts, HP focused on features/ price ratio to maximise the market. The company grew, but the premium aspect did not remain and the company, while focusing on a much larger product range than Apple, ultimately became a much smaller company than apple.

Hp was valued at just under 30Billion in 2005, and just over 35 billion in 2017.

Apple has also reached a valuation of around 30 billion in 2005, but in 2017 Apple has passed a valuation of 900 billion and is headed for 1 trillion.

Apple Origins: Low Cost Enthusiast Technology

Initial production of the original Apple computer was financed by Steve Jobs selling his computer and Steve Wozniak selling his HP-65 calculator. This first computer project was driven by passion, but at the time the target market was enthusiasts. The project was about building something that worked for an affordable budget, and anything but a premium product. However, Apple products moved rapidly and the company grew quickly, until they were a little derailed by the IBM PC.

By 1985, when Steve Jobs left, the company started on the road to premium, together with great marketing, but at this stage of the strategy, there were failures, and the reality was that the real income for the company was still coming from new versions of the Apple 2. The Apple 3 had been basically ugly and unreliable the Apple Lisa did not do well in the market, and the Macintosh computer line had failed to compete with the IBM PC, and had its own failures including Mackintosh Office.

Steve Jobs Departs.

Mixed success and failure followed the departure of Steve Jobs in 1985, but the seeds of future success were already in place despite the company having lost management focus.

The move into the consumer market was signalled by the Apple Newton, but the execution was a failure in the marketplace.450px-apple_powerbook_g3_500_pismo-2763

Apple Macintosh products had gain a strong following with professionals.

But if you consider the PowerBook G3, the design was still ‘geek’ rather than premium.

Rebirth: The move to Premium Products

300px-powerbook_redjarFollowing the return of Steve Jobs to Apple in the 1997, Apply began a rebirth with products being repositioned as premium, together with a move into technology for consumers. The contrast of the design of the PowerBook G4.

The move to premium products repositioned Apple from a company to for those with an interest in technology, to Apple becoming simply a premium brand.

Premium Products for Professionals

Prior to the return of Steve Jobs, Apply had already become a brand with strong acceptance by professionals. Premium technology for professionals is a well established path, as if you derive your revenue from a tool, it can be very advisable to use a high quality premium tool.

Premium Technology for Consumers

The big new innovation was the iPod. Looking at MP3 players, which provide amazing value for money compared to previous Walkman or compact disc technologies, and realising that even a premium MP3 player would still be affordable to the mass market.

The iPod brought premium technology to the mass market. A truly premium product that everyone could afford, and for which almost everyone had a use.

The iPhone followed the same path. The mobile phone had become indispensable technology and Moore’s law had already ensured that the actual cost had already fallen well below the equivalent price point that was sufficiently affordable to drive mass adoption. Every one who could afford a mobile device just a few years earlier, could now afford a premium mobile device.

Where Next?

Having found the holy grail of a product that can be premium, affordable by most people and useful for most people, and having found that at least arguably twice, where does Apple go next?

Robots? Driverless car?

The problem with these is that in neither case is a premium product actually affordable. Computers and more specifically phones, had already dropped to a small fraction of their price just a few years earlier when almost everyone could already afford one.

Robots may radically drop in price, but they are not currently a point where even very wealthy people can afford a useful one. A premium, useful robot at a price within reach of all of us just does not seem feasible anytime soon.

Driverless cars doesn’t really decrease the cost of a car. For commercial vehicles, saving the cost of a driver is absolutely disruptive, but not for our own cars. Even driverless, it is hard to see how cars as a product can reach a point where a premium car is affordable by everyone.

However, access to a premium car as a taxi service could certainly become affordable to the masses. An Uber competitor? Perhaps, but does using a service have the same brand attachment as owning a product. Time may answer that.

What is left? ….more to come.

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: