Friday, January 6, 2017

Verizon Wireless' LTE Advanced technology

A few months ago, I saw a press release from Verizon Wireless saying that they supported LTE Advanced (true 4G) in two cities near me, giving much, much, much faster speeds.  You know how they were ridiculing Sprint for being good around Kansas City, and all that?  Then, they started using technology that was even better than what they had to trounce Sprint.

I've been using a Verizon Wireless hotspot for over two years, after the previous hot spot couldn't connect to Sprint for more than 6 hours--something Sprint couldn't explain--but my phone on Sprint was working perfectly.  Back around May, I got the latest, greatest hotspot from Verizon that would support LTE Advanced, XLTE, and allow international roaming.

I was in Modesto, CA today, waiting for someone, and I decided to download something to my phone because iTunes app updates are limited to 100MB over the air.  Beyer Park has a tower and Sprint's service is the best there, of all Modesto.  I hoped that it would work out that way with Verizon--only much bigger.  I regularly get 40-50 Mbps with Sprint there.  I'm sure I read that Verizon Wireless was suggesting hundreds of Megabits per second.




I was so disappointed.  I do better at home without LTE Advanced.  I tested it with three apps and my download of 1.2 GB took a very long time, unfortunately.

I'm guessing that it's similar to when Verizon Wireless was first implementing LTE.  A friend lived in a small town that they claimed had LTE.  She tried to show me something.  After a few minutes of churning and getting nowhere, it dropped to 3G and instantly the results were shown.

Does that make it a lie or an exaggeration?  In advertising, I believe it's known as fraud, but it looks like an overstatement to claim a city name without covering the whole city.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Zhong Yi Mitakon 25mm f/0.95 in my bag

I got this about 24 hours ago and it's been raining, so it was hardly a good environment to try.

I've considered a lens with a maximum aperture f/0.95 but the Leica Noctilux series were anywhere from US$6000 - $10,000.  Voigtländer produces 4 lenses with this maximum aperture and with a micro Four-Thirds mount, not electronically connected.  These are generally less than US$1000.  All of these lenses are manually operated.

While I have used lenses manually more recently, they've always been electronically connected to the body.  Being totally without a backup system will be like being in my teens again with my original Fujica SLR and two Pentax-screw-mount lenses.

This Mitakon 25mm f/0.95 looks a bit as it's trying to emulate Leica.  It's rather heavy, being metal and all.  For US$400, but with a $50 discount, I felt it was okay for a good experiment.  It seems perfectly sized for the Panasonic GM5 but it is somewhat heavier than the camera body.


It seems quite sturdy and seems better on the Panasonic GX8.  The box was somewhat unusual.

If you're interested in a test of the lens, you should look at this one.

It has a click-less aperture ring, something quiet for video but a bit annoying for still photography.  It definitely reminds me of a number of lenses from the 1970s with the Depth of Field scale and all.

I mounted the lens to the GX8 and took it out around 3:30 p.m.  I kept the aperture around f/8.0, to remind me of earlier days.  Besides, it was a bit bright for f/0.95.  I popped the EVF into the vertical position to remind me to keep an eye on the aperture ring.











Lens flare is an issue.  The coatings obviously weren't meant to deal with a lot of sunlight, but who would have thought that someone would use it that way?  I found the lens to be good but a bit odd.  You'll see from the photos that it takes care of direct sunlight in a most unusual way.

Next, I need a warmer evening, so I can take some photos outside at maximum aperture.  That may be a few days from now, as Northern California is getting rain and a cold front.

Update 2017.02.25: I took a little trip to the Golden Gate Bridge overnight and got some photos.  We've had a deluge of rain and flooding but it's been relatively dry the past couple of days, giving me a chance to use the lens outdoors.



I've noticed a small problem--it doesn't seem to focus to infinity and this isn't surprising.  After I got the lens, I was warned by someone else who had the problem.



Update 2017.03.07: I thought I would add a couple of night time photos from last night.  I needed better stabilization or a tripod to steady this, even at f/0.95.  The Panasonic GX8's IBIS isn't very good, probably similar to the Olympus E-5 from 2010.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

GH5 soon? GH4 with me for over two years

I was thinking that I'd only had the GH4 for a little more than 1 year, but it has been 2.  Strange how time seems to pass.  It's been almost 5 years since I started with micro Four-Thirds, with the GH3 and 35-100mm f/2.8 lens.

In about 36 hours, Panasonic will announce the GH5.  So far, the rumors have indicated very little.  It's getting a higher resolution sensor.  It's getting a higher resolution EVF and a higher resolution rear display.  It will be able to record at higher bit rates, including 4K at 60p, and possibly 120 fps or 180 fps for 1080p.  There is a new hotshoe-mounted interface device.

The 12-35mm f/2.8 and 35-100mm f/2.8 lenses are to be revised.  Hopefully, they'll fix the pathetic OIS unit in the 35-100mm f/2.8.  The stutter in video was just as bad after the firmware fix.

Speculation is everything now.

I have one big wish--that the AF be tremendously improved.  Whether I'm recording video clips and the AF suddenly goes away or I'm trying to take a still photograph of someone and it locks onto the fence or wall behind the person, I need improvement.  Supposedly, they've divided the AF areas to provide a more granular set but it didn't feel as the number of CDAF areas were the problem.  It was that the camera body became too busy to be bothered with AF.

It's odd that I can be sitting and I point the GH4 in a slightly different direction and I can hear it working on AF, but if I need it to take care of it while doing the half-press on the shutter release button, it's off in lala land just enough to be a problem.

I've still had problems with the EVF blacking out while I'm wearing non-polarized sunglasses but that isn't really a problem for me.  Muscle memory helps me get my shots.

Since Sony and Canon have stepped up their game, Panasonic must arrive with much better technology and I'm not enough of a brand fanatic to believe that they have.  I believe whatever Venus Engine processor they use will be better but it always comes up a bit short.  They've become better at removing chroma noise, but not enough to make anything over ISO 3200 usable for me.

To me, they should have the same sensor with 121 cross-type AF PDAF and CDAF points that the E-M1 Mk II has.  This would solve many problems, if used correctly.  Panasonic told us that they didn't need PDAF and that using pixels for PDAF degraded image quality.  I suspect that they didn't use the best technology.

Whatever comes, they will likely underestimate demand and eek out a few units, so that people will wait months for their camera body to arrive, even if they receive a boatload of pre-orders.

I hope that Panasonic overwhelms us with good news about the GH5 and the 35-100mm f/2.8 replacement.

What, no PDAF?  Are they stupid, cheap, or both?  For the price, PDAF should be included.

I'm underwhelmed.  Yes, it's better than the GH4, but it would be difficult to not improve on the GH4.  Apparently, the sensor outputs at 1.7x the speed, they say, but isn't 480 2.0x 240?  Hopefully, the replacements for the 12-35mm f/2.8 and 35-100mm f/2.8 are up to full speed instead of lagging.  They aren't--the same 240 fps that the originals did.  I'm wondering if they fixed the OIS in the 35-100mm f/2.8 or just re-did the exterior, as with the 20mm f/1.7 lens.  At least, they reduced the price from the maximum of the original.

I was unimpressed with the 35-100mm when I used it on the E-M1 instead of the GH3 because it was so much slower.  It's slow on the GX8 also, but of course, not on the GH4.  In the revised version, they say 240 fps, which seems the original figure, but it never seemed to work well, for me, on anything but the GH3 or GH4.  It was slow on the GX8 and E-M1, for me.

At least, the GH5 finally has 5 axis image stabilization, and hopefully, the new routines in the Venus Engine 10 image processor will help them keep up.  Its speed improvement was less than impressive, considering that the GH4 was overwhelmed at times and didn't keep up.  It almost feels as though the new one was good enough for the GH4.

It's both brilliant for the film maker, and brilliantly flawed for the rest of us.

Monday, January 2, 2017

2015 Hyundai Accent GS

This is not my dream car but I needed to make an adjustment because of Volkswagen's diesel emissions mess.

I looked at a lot of used, errr, pre-owned cars before the Hyundai Accent GS showed up.  It was about US$2500 more than the cheapest car that was available, except that the car was apparently sold just before I had the money.  A Nissan Versa was the most likely car, but in my county, Honda, Acura, Toyota, and Nissan cars are most often stolen.  I'm not sure a Versa would be worth it to steal, but who knows why someone would steal a Honda Civic, either.  (Honda has sent me two advertisements for their cars and I didn't really consider their cars but the Fit is somewhat interesting.)

This Hyundai Accent GS has 137 hp @ 6300 rpm and 123 lb-ft @ 4850 rpm, which is quite a bit for a 1.6 liter engine.  Coming from the Volkswagen Golf 2.0 liter TDI with 236 lb-ft of torque, the Accent isn't quite as forceful but it's not bad, especially for a smaller engine.  It seems to scream like a motorcycle engine when pushed.  I've had it up to around 85 mph so far.  The skinny tires keep me wondering how much stress they'll take.  Finding performance tires in 14 or 15 inch sizes is impossible.  I've been averaging about 31 mpg.  That's better than the 1999 Golf GLS 2.0 liter at 27 mpg and less than the 2012 Golf TDI with 37 mpg.  However, at a little over 11 gallons of capacity, the fuel tank seems restrictive.  Thankfully, more filling stations have gasoline than diesel fuel.

I'm slowly adjusting to a car that isn't a Volkswagen.  The company seems to make the least of their cars ready for a race, even the diesel.  This Accent hatchback isn't completely different, in spirit.

It has a trip computer that assesses miles per gallon, remaining range, miles traveled, etc.  The button is not lit, so finding it in the dark is a matter of muscle memory.  Something that surprises me is that it works with miles but the temperature that is displayed is using Celsius.  I tried to erase the information, but not everything collected for the trip computer was erased.

There is a pseudo-manual mode for the automatic transmission, labeled Shiftronic, where you can shift up and down through the gears, similar to the TDI, but it lacks the paddles behind the steering wheels.



The Accent is slightly shorter than the Golf but isn't nearly as heavy.  It seems to me that even my 1985 VW GTI was heavier than the 2015 Hyundai Accent GS.  This one seems to handle bumpy roads much better than that one or the 1986 GTI did.

The materials used aren't as great but the seats are good.  The dashboard looks as though it was made for an SUV or a minivan.  It's not cheap but it doesn't give an air of high quality.  Years ago, VW looked at ways to make a cheap car seem expensive, and they achieved that.  If Hyundai would use matte plastic instead of the shiny stuff, it might go a long way toward the perception of high quality.  At around 40,000 miles, the driver's seat fabric is not as tight as it should be.  However, the foam is quite good and the seats are comfortable.


I had the factory stereo replaced today and the speakers are surprisingly good.  Apparently, the car was made for a typical Double DIN head unit and the Pioneer unit I bought went into it much easier than the old one came out, according to the installer.  With a Metra branded installation kit, it looks as though it belongs.



The good sound makes me forget about the narrow wheels and tires, mostly.  It's surprising that it is using the same speakers.

Naturally, a few things stick out:

The door locks have physical buttons, something my latest Volkswagen did not have.  There are also key holes on the frontmost doors.  Volkswagen has one but it's hidden.  Giving thieves an easy way into the car is not acceptable.  I'm betting that I can lock my keys in the car, which is extremely difficult to do with any Volkswagen.

There is an automatic opening (auto down, as they say) control for the driver's side window.  Unfortunately, it doesn't work for the other windows and it doesn't work for closing the window, either.  It was very convenient in the TDI to put all of the windows up while parking.

The lighting is on a stalk, except for the dimmer.  The other evening, I left the lights activated and the next morning, it let me know but it had deactivated the lights instead of letting my mistake drain the battery.  Now, I check the stalk every time I get ready to exit the car.

A little Volvo, a lot of Dodge, not much view out

The car has huge blind spots, as it comes with a high waistline and a big slot for a rear window, as though it was designed by Dodge.  I'm getting used to it, but I need to be more careful.   I was thinking about cameras all around the car--they can feed my stereo, if I can find a switch to show each.  I managed to jump a curb while turning into a parking lot where I've been hundreds of times.  Thank goodness for steel wheels but the poor (apparently metal) wheel cover looks like Pablo Picasso had some extra time on his hands.

Update 2017.03.13: I've had the car for almost 3 full months.  I've put around 4000 miles on it already.  It's been good enough.

I'm more familiar with the car but I don't feel as though it is really mine.  Even the Pioneer stereo head unit doesn't seem happy.

I've gotten better with the lights but I've learned that the (supposedly) mandatory daytime driving lights have to be activated.  This explains a lot when I have seen so many newer vehicles without the daytime driving lights working.

I still forget the fuel filler door every 4th time but I don't forget to fill the tank with gasoline, thankfully.

The Active ECO system is still a pain but predicting where it is advantageous is difficult.  The car seems to average around 32-33 mpg, but I've seen up to 39.8 cumulative mpg, which still worked out as much less.  A couple of times I recorded less when filling the tank, but that was more a problem with the fancy recovery hoses that cover the opening, and my lack of experience.  It's rare to see more than 35 mpg, even though this car is rated at 37 mpg highway.  I'm not sure what they're expecting on the pedal, but I know when I'm overdoing it.  That's usually when the numbers go up.

You'd think that a light car with an efficient engine would do better.  It has a lovely motorcycle-like scream when the engine is pushed to higher speeds.

I kind of wonder if the company actually considers the whole car.  I laughed when I first saw the Veloster.  It looked as though one team worked on the front, another worked on the back of the car, and an unpaid intern put the two ends together.  The newest Elantra GT makes me think this also.  The Accent GS is better but for various reasons, I doubt that they actually test the cars with real people.  Maybe, it's just that Volkswagen goes out of its way to make a comfortable car at a low price but not an ultra low price.

Still, I got a car with the remainder of the factory warranty and that was a big plus.  Hopefully, the maintenance won't break the bank, although the dealership does its best.