Garmin Fenix 5x & Garmin Explore App with Android

I’ve recently found an app I didn’t know about before called Garmin Explore. It is different from Garmin Connect in that it lets you view a map (a bit like GaiaGPS), your saved waypoints and your activities.

Garmin Explore Offline Maps

You can download offline maps with it, and it seems quite smooth functioning. As with all apps like this, they drain a fair amount of battery when you’re using the GPS.

I’ve encountered a small problem which is that it won’t show any of my past activities prior to installing the app. However, it does show newly created ones.

Garmin MapShare with a Garmin Fenix 5x or Garmin Fenix 6x Pro Solar Watch

You can also use the mapshare feature (I thought this was only available to inreach customers) to show your activities on a map to friends/family and there’s an option to password it as well. This will only update when you have an internet connection and sync the watch, unlike a Garmin InReach Mini or the like but it’s still pretty awesome.

I am currently trying to figure out how to show previous activities. If I find a way, I will update this post. Certainly check it out if you have a Garmin Fenix 5x, Garmin Fenix 6x Pro Solar or whatnot :).

Sony a7r IV, Sony a7 IV, Sony a7s IV & Sony a9 II

Sony receives a fair bit of criticism for releasing too many different camera models. They use similar names and bodies, so perhaps that’s why?

Sony a7r IV, Sony a7 IV, Sony a7s IV & Sony a9 II vs Canon and Nikon equivalents

Where Canon has the Canon 5D (insert generation number here) and the 1DX (insert generation number here), Sony has the a7 and the a9, but clearly the Canon’s look quite different to each other in comparison to the Sony cameras. I quite like the style approach to Sony. If you like the Sony a7r IV body, you generally like them all. Plus the same batteries fit. Whereas with Canon, if you think the 5D Mark IV is perfectly shaped but you want a faster performing camera in that exact same body, you’re out of luck.

Who actually releases more models of cameras?

For people who are more knowledgeable than me about different camera brands… What models do Canon & Nikon generally release? Is it actually less cameras than Sony or does it just seem like less? I’ve been trying to count them but I’m not very up to date. There’s the Rebel (do they still exist?), 5D, 6D, 7D, 1D DSLRs but also the mirrorless R & M cameras. Sony has the a6, plus a cheaper version of the best a6. So I guess that competes with the Rebel & the 7D? But Canon also have the mirrorless EOS M cameras. Whereas Sony doesn’t seem to be releasing any APS-C DSLRs (correct me If I’m wrong?). The a7(x) competes with the 5D(x) and the a7r(x) competes with the 5DSR? Sony has alpha DSLRs & hybrid full-frame cameras, but the latter are semi forgotten. Whereas Canon release both DSLRs and Mirrorless full-frame cameras.

Does Sony deserve to be criticised for making too many different models of cameras, and are they actually making more camera models compared to the competition? I don’t know all of the cameras being manufactured by other brands so it’s hard for me to make meaningful comparisons here I guess.

Garmin Fenix 6x Solar Smartwatch & High Gamut 144hz IPS Monitor

I don’t know whether I’ve been sleeping this last year but a lot of new electronics have arrived on the market.

The LG 27GL850 high gamut 144hz photography & gaming monitor

The LG 27GL850; it is a 27″ inch 144hz monitor with “98% of the DCI-P3 colour gamut and a colour range 35% greater than sRGB 100%.” If the input lag is good, and the colours are advertised, that’s impressive. It’s not 100% Adobe RGB, but DCI-P3 is a little different. For some colours, it exceeds Adobe RGB and for others, it doesn’t. In terms of its specs, it’s suitable for professional work.

I wont be buying one for a while as I have an expensive trip planned.

Garmin Fenix 6x Solar Smartwatch

The Garmin Fenix 6x looks like a more impressive update to the Garmin Fenix lineup, compared to the Garmin Fenix 5x Plus vs the Garmin Fenix 5x. I feel they’re a little deceptive though. The Garmin Fenix 6x has a sapphire screen but the Garmin Fenix 6x Solar model uses “powerglass”. In reality, this is Gorilla Glass 3 i.e. it’s not as scratch resistant as sapphire. If it’s possible to buy a screen protector that would work with the solar panel, then there’s nothing to worry about but otherwise, it’s perhaps not the model to buy.

It has more storage for maps compared to the Garmin Fenix 5x and I can see myself making use of its features.

From what others have said, there are real world benefits to it but the technology is not perfected yet. I think I’d like to see a metal strap which somehow had solar technology built into it as well. Alternatively, being able to turn off the watch and charge it.

It’s a great idea and the watch has a few software enhancements that grab my attention.

What I’d like to see is this solar technology find its way in the Garmin Inreach Mini and perhaps even smartphones.

Sony a7r IV vs the Sony a7rII — comparison review

The Sony a7r IV has been announced, and it looks like a really awesome camera. Unfortunately, I cannot afford one for a long time but I will be buying one at some point and I’ll most likely keep the Sony a7rII as a backup camera. If I could get one before I fly to Canada next year, that would be awesome.

I’m doing a bit of a Sony a7r IV vs Sony a7rII spec sheet comparison review for myself because that’s what I’m interested in; I figure I’d share my findings with you :).

Sony A7r IV vs Sony a7rII Comparison Review

Sony a7r IV:

  • 61 Megapixels
  • Shoots 10 FPS
  • 15 Stops of Dynamic Range
    Improved low light performance
  • The sensor is ever so slightly smaller at 35.7×23.8mm vs 35.9 x 24.0mm in the Sony a7rII
  • Eye-autofocus, video and stills and lots of focus improvements
  • Viewfinder; UXGA (1600 x 1200px) OLED; 5 760 000 dots, approx. 0.78 x magnification
  • LCD; 7.5cm (3.0-type) type TFT; 1,440,000 dots; touch screen
  • Playmemories Camera Apps™ – No
  • Weight; Approx. 665g / 1lb 7.5oz (with battery and media)
  • Dimensions (W X H X D); approx. 128.9 x 96.4 x 77.5mm. Approx. 128.9 x 96.4 x 67.3mm (from grip to monitor)
  • Better sealing
  • Dual Card Slots
  • Bluetooth remote
  • FTP Transfer / wireless tethering
  • 5ghz WiFi

Sony a7rII:

  • 42.4 Megapixels
  • Shoots 5 FPS
  • Type Tilt type 2.95″ (3.0-type) TFT drive, approx. 1,228,800 dots
  • Viewfinder; XGA (1024 x 768px) OLED; 2 359 296 dots, approx. 0.78 x magnification
  • LCD; 3.0″ type TFT LCD; 1,228,800 dots
  • Playmemories Camera Apps™ – Yes
  • Weight; 582g (Body Only) / 625g (With battery and media)
  • Dimensions (W X H X D); approx. 126.9 x 95.7 x 60.3 mm
  • Single Card Slot

Design compliments

There’s many obvious differences compared to the Sony a7rII and those differences are less obvious if you have the Sony a7rIII. I appreciate the improved viewfinder, sealing against moisture, etc. Together, these make up a pretty massive upgrade for me. The viewfinder and sealing alone is reason for me to pick the Sony a7r IV over the Sony a7rIII.

Not too many years ago, people were saying six frames is more than enough for action photography. It’s interesting how perceptions have changed. I might make use of the high shooting rate when I photograph bears. It hasn’t been important to me in the past but I hadn’t photographed many moving subjects before either. I have a vision of what I want to photograph travelling next year and as such I think this would be useful to me.

I’ve been backing up my photographs using my phone, but I appreciate the dual card slots as well. I often use the WiFi feature for photographing inside a house. It’s got its limitations, such as not being able to bracket properly — this makes no sense at all. FTP is standard in file transfer and I will find really useful. If I bought a cheap laptop/tablet, I could bring it with me for interior photography and shoot tethered — pretty cool! I am curious to do speed tests and whatnot of the FTP and see if remote shooting with the phone has improved.

The little button on top of the exposure compensation dial scared the crap out of me but luckily it’s a toggle button. You press it and it’s locked; press it again and it’s unlocked or vice versa. If you don’t like it, just leave it unlocked.

The grip looks more comfortable but I’m not 100% sure how it will be. I have huge hands. I’ll wait and see…

The sensor looks to be better in every regard. There is one caveat with this, but I will talk about that in the complaint section of this article. From what I can make out so far, from specifications and whatnot, you’re not getting extra megapixels at the cost of low light performance or something like that. I find more megapixels helps for fancy edits, plus noise is actually reduced when you down-sample, due to the signal to noise ratio.

The menu is superior to the Sony a7rII. I’ve memorised the menu with my Sony a7rII, but for those who haven’t… Good luck. More on that in the complaint section… You can now SAVE the menu and transfer it to another camera. Good job Sony. It would be nice if you could customise the entire menu on your computer and reconfigure everything.

I’m going to congratulate Sony for not including a pop-up flash or something stupid like that. There are people who craze for this feature. If you see a little bulb, there also has to be a capacitor to power it, so I’m glad there’s no flash.

I’m also going to congratulate them for having two SD cards and not one SD and one compact flash or something crazy.

I might genuinely make use of the video features this time around. I’m pretty clueless with video, but being able to record great videos in automatic mode makes me happy, haha.

Complaints with the Sony a7r IV

I’m starting to wonder about my own personality, because after watching all of the Sony a7r IV related videos on YouTube, I thought of a few gripes with the camera.

The price, here in the UK, is a bit of a kick in the face. I bought my Sony a7rII for £2,600. This is £3,500. I bought the camera expecting replacement, newer generations, to be about the same. Sony has always dropped the prices on their products quite drastically after a short time; I guess they don’t like to reward early buyers at all (lol), so even if I had the funds to buy it right now… I think I’d want to wait a bit. I find this entire pricing strategy an insult to loyal users who buy new products.

It’s a £3,500 camera and if you’re not satisfied with it but you’re tied into Sony, you’re semi-stuffed (that goes for all brands), so good job Sony;  rather than potentially having my money now, you’ll have to wait for it.

No lossless compressed raw

The bump in megapixels is nice; I’m always in favour of technical advancements. However, I would like to see an mRAW function and it is not in the menus. Additionally, a LOSSLESS compressed raw option. I know Sony has LOSSY compressed; but true lossless should not impact the data. If you don’t understand the code and whatnot, consider it like a rar file.

I imagine you’ll get about 8 shots per gigabyte. 80, 10 gb; 800, 100 gb; 8000, 1 tb. 8,000 * 6 tb = 48,000 shots on a 6tb drive.

48,000 / 100 = 480 days at 100 shots per day. 6tb * 3 (triple redundancy) = about £600.

£456.249999996 per year in storage costs at 100 shots per day with triple redundancy, unless I have calculated it completely incorrectly.

The buttons, user interface and menus

I noticed in the videos people are asking about the dial on top on the camera. This I found, really, really weird. Do reviewers not use their cameras much then? It’s just the same dial as before but put on top of the frame. Originally I thought it looked hideous, and I do still think it looks a little worse but it’s not that bad when you look at it from other angles. I will reserve judgement until I see it in person. Maybe it allowed for superior sealing, easier replacement if it breaks or more space in the body. Who knows? At the moment, it’s more caution rather than a negative for me.

The top left side of the camera is unused but the top right is basically cramped. The PASM dial cannot be user defined to something else nor can the exposure compensation dial. The dials you can configure, you don’t really want to because you’ll want them for your shutter and aperture settings. Personally I would have liked to see the PASM and exposure compensation dial user customisable, and an OLED on the top left of the frame. You might even be able to remove one of the dials but have the same functionality, with an OLED. Failing that, do what the Sony a9 does and have a dial on the top left.

The menu-interface… I know some devout Sony fans will argue (I’ve seen it on dpreview, lol) I’ve never used a Sony camera (I’ve had the Sony a7rII two days before it officially hit the shops, I believe), I’m just not used to it or whatnot… but damn it’s bad. To switch picture profiles, enable APS-C mode for video, etc. etc. requires unnecessary button pushes. They still haven’t separated a lot of the stills functions from video! And if you’re like me and you want to dabble in video but you don’t want to keep changing settings around, it’s a nuisance.

The labelling on my Sony a7rII reminds me of going into a shop, and the aisle that says “milk” has eggs. You’ll get used to it. You’ll remember it even, but it truly doesn’t make any sense.

I would have liked to have seen a much improved user-interface and a touch screen to flick through the menu better. I believe they can still implement it. I’d probably code it for free if they let me.

Screen

The screen on the back looks cheap. I would prefer it to be an OLED with gorilla glass and a proper hinge mechanism, even an old point and shoot Canon G5 has a better hinge mechanism. I’m curious how sealed against moisture it is too.

Memory Cards

What would be cool is if you could have alternate writing e.g. shot 1 goes to card one, shot 2 goes to card two, shot 3 goes to card one, shot 4 goes to card two, and so on. This would improve writing speed if desired.

Accessories

There should be a small, cheap, bluetooth GPS chip that tethers with the camera. I am not saying have that as part of the camera, but it should be a separate accessory. I’m comfortable using my watch but Sony should try tackle the GPS situation somewhat at least. If they do make such a thing, they will probably charge more than a Garmin Fenix 5x Plus smartwatch (lol) but hopefully they will be realistic; £100 is acceptable for convenience.

PC Sync Port

The PC Sync Port is absolutely unnecessary in my opinion. It looks hideous and I’d have preferred to have seen something more exciting.

Conclusion

It seems like a lot of people are left feeling the Sony a7r IV is not as exciting as previous releases. I’m glad I wasn’t the only one to feel that way. However, maybe we were all expecting too much. After about a day of this sinking in, I’ve began to think that it’s probably a lot better than what we give it credit for. Nothing was too broken with the Sony a7rIII compared to the original Sony a7r either. The more I’ve been thinking about the features though, the more I release they’ve added things I’d genuinely make use of e.g. better viewfinder, FTP, etc.

I can put up with the menu problems, and the cramped top might not be a problem in real world use (it might not look as ugly either). Storage is getting cheaper too. I will feel a bit more assured climbing mountains with a more sealed camera, and I find the improvements important to me. I truly think that it looks like an amazing camera but I think Sony got a little lazy too! That said, most of my complaints stem from a user interface / button layout perspective; its performance looks amazing.

The Sony a7r IV looks like a great camera though and it looks like it’s almost perfect for me :).

Raspberry Pi 4 & flirc case

Hey,

I guess I’ve been living under a rock or something because I’ve only just noticed the Raspberry Pi 4 is available to order.

I own a Raspberry Pi 3b and it’s been quite useful to have. The Raspberry Pi 4  has faster networking facilities, a faster processor, USB 3 and it’s available in a 4G ram version! It looks pretty cool, plus you can get flirc cases for it now :).

I don’t know if anyone knows whether there will be a Raspberry pi 4 zero version of it? But that would be cool. You could make pretty fast file hubs / portable backup solutions with it.

Wireless keyboard for travel – Samsung Galaxy Note 10, android & apple

I find smartphones in general quite difficult to type with, and I’ve been thinking it’d be cool to write more while travelling. Especially as I’m considering photographing some stuff in Scotland as soon as I can afford it.

I bought the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 smartphone upon release and I’ve been really happy with it. I wanted a water resistant smartphone with USB 3 speeds for backing up photographs with my Sony a7rII mirrorless camera, and it’s served me well. I can never get along well with a touchscreen for typing a lot though.

Things like the Dell 9380 13inch XPS laptops are obviously incredibly nice but they’re also incredibly expensive and quite heavy to hike with for long periods. I can probably get by with a little keyboard for my phone, I think. The screen is fairly small but obviously most of that is taken up with the on screen keyboard anyway. Using a wireless keyboard, you effectively get twice the screen space and I think it moves into the realm of doable. For something like the smallest Apple iPhone, it might be too small but for larger phones like a Samsung Galaxy Note 9, Google Pixel 3 XL, etc. I think it should be okay.

I’ve seen a few models… The Microsoft Universal Foldable Bluetooth Keyboard catches my attention the most. Interestingly, it’s sold slightly cheaper here in the UK than in the states–that’s pretty rare for anything electronic. None of them seem to be waterproof but some have splash resistant keys. At £44.99 here in the UK, it’s cheap enough that you can break it without it ruining your life; nonetheless, it’s expensive enough I don’t really want to break it either. I have a folding case already, which I can use to prop up the phone screen.

There’s quite a few keyboards available and the microsoft is the more expensive model, but I typically really like microsoft hardware. I thought I’d mention these keyboards because it’s hard to keep track of technology and perhaps it’s something you might want to consider. If I get one, I will let you all know what I think of it. I have a few questions: are there delays when typing, does the gap in the middle of the keyboard matter much, and are the keys nice to type on? etc. so on. I currently use a topre, for my PC and I’m a bit spoiled.

I’m not sure how much these keyboards weigh in actuality either. For any travel bloggers hiking the Pacific Crest Trail in 2019, you might just have time to grab one! Haha. I think it’s definitely something a backpacker should take a look at.

To my knowledge, the microsoft universal foldable bluetooth keyboard works with all phone operating systems that have bluetooth.