24 Hours Series

24 Hours in Hong Kong & Macau: Zenfone 3 vs Zenfone 3 Max 5.5

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While I love taking photos while traveling, soaking up the experience will always be my top priority.

I’m fine with quick snapshots knowing I can always go back and post-process my photos later. When you’re traveling, you don’t have the time to fiddle with manual controls, so when it comes down to it, shooting on auto is a compromise worth making.

For me a good smartphone is one that can quickly churn out photos that barely need any tweaking. This especially rings true when you’re on a holiday in one of the most fast-paced cities in the world: Hong Kong.

On a recent trip to Asia’s World City, I brought along both the ASUS Zenfone 3 and Zenfone 3 Max 5.5, to see how much the $200 premium of the former makes.

Morning walk in Tsim Sha Tsui

There are several hotel options for any budget in Tsim Sha Tsui, making it the perfect place to stay. If shopping is your thing, you will want to set aside plenty of time for perusing the numerous shops and malls the area has on offer.

Right from the start of the trip, it was clear that the Zenfone 3 produced more balanced highlights and shadows compared to the Max; see how bright the light hits the top of the bus on the right. The sky is almost washed out on the photo taken with the Max, although the clouds are barely visible in the Zenfone 3 photo, as well.

Avenue of Stars is one of Hong Kong’s must visits. It was under renovation during our visit, so we had to settle for this view a few meters away from the usual photo spot. The Max’s photo seems to have undergone VSCO editing with its natural greenish tint, but really it has #nofilter.

Zenfone 3 photos are generally brighter and much more balanced overall, but the way the Max processes the greens and blues is probably how I would want my photos to look like on Instagram. I like how rich the blues are, and the deeper contrast makes for a little dramatic effect.

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Ferry ride to Causeway Bay

By lunch time, we were hungry. For a change of scenery (or more scenery), we opted to take a quick (and cheap) ferry ride to Causeway Bay instead of the MTR. The Zenfone 3’s dynamic range is the star in this photo; you can even see the skyline!

While the Zenfone 3’s colors are more accurate, it needs to be pointed out that the letters HKT on the ferris wheel are legible in the Max photo, while it’s barely there in the photo shot with the Zenfone 3.

Macau street art

We took another ferry ride, although a much longer one to the autonomous region of Macau. While the city is famous for casinos, Portugese egg tarts, and to a certain extent, replicas of European landmarks, there’s a lot more to the discover in the place.

We took an afternoon stroll along the busy streets of San Malo, going from shop to shop to try every possible food sample. One turn and we found this esquina of Instagram-worthy street art.

The yellow-green tint produced by the Zenfone 3 Max is visible in these comparison photos from Macau.

Focusing was also difficult for the Max, even if these were taken in broad daylight.

The Zenfone 3 also captured more detail compared to the Zenfone 3 Max. You can clearly see the depth of the dents on the concrete in this mural.

What’s a trip to Macau without a visit to the Ruins of St. Paul’s? Fair warning: No matter how long you wait, your Instagram will have to settle for a shot with the thick crowd, or you can get creative and frame it another way.

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Celebrity sightings at Victoria Peak

After sunset, we decided to head back to Hong Kong and take the tram up to the famed Victoria Peak. I tried to take photos of the view from 500 meters up using the two Zenfones, but it was too cold and windy. Wax museum Madame Tussauds was just a few floors below though, so I didn’t let this chance pass to get closer to famous people and characters.

Check out how on fleek those eyebrows are on the left! The Zenfone 3 did a great job capturing the details, while the Max seemingly gave Holly Golightly unwanted jaundice.

Yayoi Kusama’s exhibit-slash-wax-figure was actually closed to the public, but I managed to sneak a photo of the renowned artist from the exit. The difference in the photos is negligible, but this is where I had the hardest time focusing on the Max. All photos except this one had Yayoi’s face blurred out. The Zenfone 3, meanwhile, gave me a lot of good options with minimum effort on my part.

Lady Gaga’s poker face aside, I like the way the colors turned out more on the Zenfone 3. While I tend to up the contrast when editing my Instagram photos, I’m not a fan of how pink my face looks on the Max selfie. I was NOT born that way.

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Last stop: Mongkok

With its neon signs that light the streets, the smell of street food cooking from three feet away, the bustling crowd of tourists and locals alike, endless shopping options, Mongkok is probably the best place to go to for that authentic Hong Kong experience when you’re pressed for time.

The Zenfone 3 captures the red tiles of Mongkok station nicely while the Max’s yellowish greenish tint is quite prominent.

What’s a Mongkok experience when you can’t capture those neon Chinese signs the way they appear in real life? The Zenfone 3’s dynamic range makes a world of difference in these photos. In the Max’s case, the crowd is already too dark, and the signs don’t look very sharp because the lights are a bit washed out.

Verdict

The Zenfone 3 has a clear advantage over the Max. It’s faster, consistent, more reliable, has better dynamic range, and takes good photos you wouldn’t mind showing off online, even if it’s on auto mode. The photos that came out of the Zenfone 3 Max had a yellowish greenish tint making colors evidently inaccurate.

Although I wasn’t able to show it here, it took more tries for the Zenfone 3 Max to focus properly even when there was ample light on my subject. Its camera also launches much slower, so I actually missed a lot of great photo opportunities for the comparison.

While for its price it takes good photos — and in certain scenarios, even better than the Zenfone 3 — the Zenfone 3 Max 5.5 is built for people with a lot of patience and not a lot of cash to burn.

In several instances, it felt like the Max took forever to launch and took too long to focus, just to get decent shots worth comparing to the Zenfone 3. Although that shouldn’t really be a problem if you’re not in a hurry, I personally wouldn’t choose to use it on my next trip even if I had two weeks to explore a city.


24 Hours is a series on GadgetMatch.com where we showcase our travels through a smartphone camera’s perspective. It’s also a documented guide on things to see and do in a city in case you happen to plan a trip there.

SEE ALSO: 24 Hours on Sumilon Island with the Honor 6X

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24 Hours Series

24 hours in Caramoan

Shot with the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE

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Tucked in the easternmost part of the Philippines, one can find the beautiful Caramoan Islands. Known as the setting for the hit American reality show Survivor, tourists visit this place to rekindle their Survivor dreams.

But Caramoan is more than just a Survivor destination. It’s home to white and pink sand beaches and tropical activities such as diving, swimming, snorkeling, and spelunking. To get to this paradise, you must take a sixteen-hour drive from Manila.

When we arrived, my friends and I opted to do island hopping for one day to see what Caramoan has to offer. I brought the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE — my favorite midrange smartphone this year — to capture my travels for the day.

Perfect summer weather

Caramoan, like other tropical destinations, is prone to rains and storms. Thankfully, we started with a fine, sunny morning. There were no hints of rain clouds and gloomy skies so we were permitted to roam and go on an island hopping tour.

A day won’t start without a selfie. Before we hop on a boat, we took a selfie under the sun to show-off the blue sky, and of course, us.

Tip #1: When in a tropical destination, make sure you’re wearing appropriate yet fashionable clothes. In this case, I wore a yellow tie-dye sleeveless shirt that I can easily take off should I decide to dip into the water.

Contrary to my previous island hopping tour experiences, the view we had here was kinda gloomy. The sea looked silky as it was enveloped by fog, just like a scene taken right out of Pirates of the Caribbean. While my friends were sleepy, I took advantage of taking photographs since the view will be the same for at least half an hour.

Tip #2: If you’re not exhausted, observe and soak up the surroundings. Everything is picture-worthy, only if you know when and how to.

Guinahoan Island

Our first stop was Guinahoan island, where the popular lighthouse is located. You need a ten to fifteen-minute walk before you can reach the summit where a magnificent view awaits.

Tip #3: Never forget your sunblock and if possible, bring a shawl or anything to cover your skin from the harsh sunlight.

I know, I know. We all want to visit the beaches, but this scenic landscape of rolling hills and greenery is too beautiful to give a pass.

Tip #4: There are no trees or any shade so it’s a must to wear your favorite sunglasses whenever you want to have a photo-op.

Of course, there’s a high chance you’ll end up taking the same photos in the same spots with everyone. It’s important to be creative, even when you travel. While I have inspiration for the photos I want to take, it’s best to explore the area and look for a different perspective to be different. As you can see, my friends and I decided to have our photos taken in different spots so our photos wouldn’t look the same.

Tip #5: If you want a fresh take on your Instagram photos, maybe try adding foreground and forget using portrait mode. Swear, it does wonders especially when you have a scenic background.

Manlawi Sandbar

We headed to Manlawi sandbar where we were greeted with floating cottages. This sandbar appears only when it’s low tide, hence, the water is chest-deep for those who are swimming.

Our group rented a cottage — which was part of the packaged tour — where we could eat our packed lunch. We decided to bring reusable plastic containers we have from our homes so we can clean and pack them after. While it’s hard to steer away from plastic use, we did our best to keep the place clean and bring our trash with us wherever we went.

After lunch, we’re ready for another island adventure. Being in a tight space, I wished my phone had a wide-angle selfie meant for group photos like this. Nonetheless, we still tried taking a photo or two with my short arms.

Tip #6: I know selfie sticks are so 2015, but it’s additional safety precaution when taking your photos. Imagine if you accidentally dropped your phone in the water!

While on our way to the next island, I stumbled upon beautiful limestone cliffs and rock formations. Caramoan is like a combination of El Nido and Boracay — filled with limestone cliffs, white and golden fine sand, and blue seas.

Tip #7: Use 2x zoom (or more) to find a suitable frame for a scene you want to capture. It helps especially when the boat is a little bit far for you to take a photo.

Matukad Island

One of my favorites, Matukad Island is a heaven for beach lovers. There’s fine, white sand everywhere, where you’d rather stomp around barefooted and roll over than go back to city pavements. Since this trip is actually a birthday celebration of a friend, we brought Survivor props and played a game.

If I could go back, I’ll be sure to add this island to the itinerary again. I spent a lot of time running around, sitting, and rolling over in the sand. Life is really better at the beach.

This place is majestic, especially during the golden hour. Wherever you look, it’s instagrammable. If taking photos isn’t your thing, you can sit around and ponder about life since it’s peaceful and relaxing.

Tip #8: Wide-angle modes are your friend when it comes to scenic landscapes. Don’t hesitate to use them!

Going back

The sun is going down and we need to get back to the port before the seas get crazy. But before we arrive at the port, the boatman and our guide dropped us off at a small cove with mesmerizing rock formations.

Friendly advice, don’t climb the rocks barefoot. It’s too painful but I endured it to get the pose that I wanted. After twenty minutes, we hopped on the boat to finally go back to the port.

My friends and I were staying in Magindara Guesthouse, a beachfront resort filled with airconditioned cottages to give you that relaxed, tropical vibe. The sand where we stayed at is fine yet brown, but the foamy, bubbly waves compensate. It makes for a perfect profile photo!

Fun nights at Magindara Guesthouse

The sun has finally set and we’re down for a night of drinking and fun moments to cherish. Luckily, the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE can take decent photos using its front and rear cameras. You’ll never miss a moment to capture anymore!

Tip #9: Decent night shots are still a hit or miss. To capture better photos at night, find and lean your angle towards a source of light.

And before everything went south, we asked to take a group photo in front of our boodle fight. The whole experience in Caramoan was fantastic, made even better by my companions and the memories we made.

Caramoan is for the adventurous soul, and it’s a place I would come back to if given the chance. Luckily, the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE was more than enough to capture all the memories of this wonderful trip. I can look back without regrets, and I look forward to the time where I’ll be traveling to this paradise once again.

All photos are taken with the Xiaomi Mi 9 SE.

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24 Hours Series

24 Hours in Santorini

Where to stay, what to eat, where to take the perfect photos

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Photos taken with the OPPO Reno FC Barcelona Edition

Whether you’ve seen it on The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, Mamma Mia, Before Midnight, or in pictures on the internet, you’ve probably already fallen in love with Santorini before you’ve even set foot on the island. The white cave houses and blue domes have summer romance spelled all over them.

The island is paradise for couples, specifically honeymooners, but there are also plenty of things to do for those who are single and just want a different kind of relaxing sunny getaway.

Stay

Let’s start with what the pictures don’t tell you: Santorini is crowded and touristy AF. The key to enjoying your Santorini trip is finding the right cave house for you. There are plenty of options around the island, both in Fira and Oia.

If you want to save some money, Fira has the same white and blue accommodations, except you have to take a bus to Oia if you want to do all the things Santorini is famous for.

Oia is where you’d want to stay if you want to maximize your time in Santorini. If you have plenty of cash to burn, the top-rated accommodations in Oia will not disappoint.

There are a lot of options in Oia for every budget if you look hard enough

Like any other tourist destination, there are hidden gems on Airbnb that are centrally located but are much cheaper. Thea apartment in Oia offers great views and the peace and quiet you need from a much needed vacation. Rates vary depending on the season with summer being the most expensive.

Eat

Mediterranean cuisine and fresh seafood are what you need to look out for when in Santorini.

Sunset Amoudi’s uni salad is to die for

Sunset Ammoudi Taverna offers various dishes with that day’s fresh catch. You can order fresh fish per kilo, and have them cook it a certain way. The different octopus and prawn dishes are delicious. The uni salad — which no one on the internet seems to be talking about — is to die for.

If you’re allergic to seafood, worry not! I cannot recommend Piatsa Souvlaki enough for their gyro, souvlaki, and kebab. It’s so good I forgot to take photos before digging in. Their offerings are reasonably priced for the serving size as well. The restaurant is hard to miss as it’s right by the Oia bus stop.

 

There are plenty of other restaurants that have stunning views like Apsithia, located at the main thoroughfare in Oia. The best seats are reserved for couples, and they refuse to join tables for parties of more than two people. Even if you’re going to Santorini with friends, come here anyway for the Greek burger, moussaka, fried cheese. Oh and their Wi-Fi was fast enough for a YouTube video upload.

Photograph

Santorini offers one of the most beautiful sunsets not just in Greece, but in the world. I thought I’d get sick of it after seeing it the first time, but I didn’t. I took way too many photos from different spots because like what my favorite scene from Breaking Bad said, “Should we just watch one sunset? Or live just one day? Because it’s new every time. Each time is a different experience.”

Most tourists would wait for the sunset at the top of the stairs going down Amoudi Bay, but it’s actually even more beautiful past all the donkey poop, at the bay itself.

Although really, watching the sunset anywhere in Oia would be an experience of a lifetime. The direction opposite of Amoudi Bay, the view going down to Thea apartment is also pretty special as you can watch the sunset go behind almost all of Oia.

Actually, taking photos of and in Oia any time of the day would not disappoint. You’ll find plenty of spots without looking really hard for that picture-perfect moment with your SO, your friends, or just yourself.

Shop

Summer accessories are must haves when you go to Santorini. If you don’t have any or want more, there are a lot of great stores in both Oia and Fira that it would feel like a shopping mall at some point. Look out for leather sandals, straw hats, handmade bags, and flowy dresses to complete your summer getaway look.

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24 Hours Series

24 Hours in Paris with the Huawei P30 Pro

Go wide or go home

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I’ve had my fair share of Euro trips in the past. Unusually, I have never set foot in Paris, France, considering it’s the most visited city in the world apparently.

Well, I finally got my chance recently. I have lots of tips to share to make your own 24 hours in Paris special. Considering how pricey this city is, it’s best to carefully plan with a budget in mind.

Tip 1: Check out Airbnb options around the outskirts of the central district. Here, you can find more affordable lodging in quiet neighborhoods such as this:

Paris is Airbnb-friendly unlike other cities in Europe. You and your host won’t get into any trouble with the law. Compared to a traditional hotel, an Airbnb has an advantageous home-style setup including a kitchen and dining area.

If you’re lucky, you could find a host who offers breakfast and travel advice around the area. Since these are private deals, you can learn more from the home’s owner after a successful booking.

Tip 2: Airbnb’s filters for specific lodging needs are more varied than ever. They assured my personal essentials like Wi-Fi, a private toilet, and an English-speaking host, in my case.

Paris’ train and bus systems are relatively straightforward. With the exception of a few confusing station names (since I can’t speak a single sentence of French), getting from point A to B is as easy as any other country with a decent system.

Tip 3: If you’re staying for a few days, purchase your all-day tickets the moment you arrive. At first, they seem pricey — around EUR 53 per person for three days, for example — but it lessens daily walks by miles.

Of course, this wouldn’t be a Paris tour without seeing the Eiffel Tower up close. There are numerous angles to view it from. In my opinion, the above photo is the best; it’s a favorite of mine. It’s beside Palais de Chaillot.

Tip 4: France’s weather (and Europe’s, in general) is bipolar in spring. Bring a jacket and/or scarf even if it’s sunny when heading out.

The next big attraction to visit in Paris is the Musee du Louvre. It’s another short ride within the city center. It’s tough to miss. There are plenty of photo opportunities beside its pyramid. The pyramid also lights up during certain nights.

A regular adult ticket costs EUR 15. The museum includes the Mona Lisa and every other available artwork in the museum. It takes about 1.5 hours if you rush through everything. If you take your time, it might take a couple more hours.

Tip 5: While it’s generally crowded in front of the museum’s entrance, a sweet spot to take photos is to the side. Not much can get in the way between you and the pyramid. Plus, the lighting is better here around noon.

After going through multiple floors of artwork, you’ll eventually reach the Mona Lisa near the end. Needless to say, loads of people will always crowd around the painting. There’s no known off-peak hour, as far as I know.

Tip 6: The number of people — like the painting — is an illusion in itself. You may walk to the side (in my case, to the left) to get closer to Leonardo da Vinci’s work and take a clear shot of it.

If you’re a fan of The Da Vinci Code, you’d know why the spot above is special. No spoilers here, but do pass by this upside-down pyramid before exiting the underground level of the museum.

Continuing the artsy tour, there are fancy bookstores scattered around Paris, such as Shakespeare and Company, which is found in close proximity to what’s left of the Notre-Dame cathedral. Unfortunately, photo taking isn’t allowed inside.

What makes this bookstore special is the cafe found right beside it — a bit pricey, yes, but it makes for great IG-worthy photos like this:

Paris never lacks in photogenic locations. It’s best to be prepared to take out whatever camera you have. The P30 Pro’s zoom was useful in this case. Walking any closer was impossible because of the windowsill.

Tip 7: Paris’ dine-in restaurants are quite pricey. However, more affordable pastry shops are available in every major tourist location. Load up on local bread and coffee/tea while here.

Before the day ends, I highly recommend visiting the Eiffel Tower after sunset for its nighttime lighting. If you can wait till 10pm, a special light show from the monument lights up the Parisian skies.

Tip 8: Paris being such a tourist hotspot, an abundance of thieves normally lurk in crowded areas such as trains and landmark entrances at night. Don’t carry all your cash at once. Keep your valuables secured to your body or bag at all times.

Another notable nighttime shooting location is the Arc de Triomphe. While you could go here when there’s sunlight, the opportunity to take long exposure and HDR photos can’t be missed. The P30 Pro’s cameras also shine in this situation.

As always, there’s lots more to see around Paris that would need another 24 hours to cover. For myself, coming back is a must. Paris is as dynamic as the people who reside in it.

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