Cameras

Fujifilm X-A5 review: The perfect camera to up your social media game

Yep, I did an #OOTD challenge

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When the Fujifilm X-A5 was announced, I was beyond excited.

You see, I own and shoot with a pink X-A3 for my stuff outside of work and my personal vlogging.

Still from boyfriend’s vlog. That’s me shooting with the XA-3!

And sure, the fact that it was a pretty bright pink was part of what convinced me to get the X-A3, but it’s not just the color that drew me to this shooter. I wanted a small camera that I could bring on trips without being too bulky, something my frail arms could actually hold up for times I do decide to vlog. My non-negotiable was that “flippity screen” (yes, folks, I made that term up), the camera screen that flips upwards so you can see yourself as you shoot or record.

So, when the XA-5 came out, I was curious to see what improvements this new mirrorless camera had.

Quick specs

If you’ve already noticed by now, this will not be your typical camera review. For the benefit of those looking for camera specs, I’ll list them here, but know that this would probably be the last I mention them in this whole piece. This review will revolve around my experience with the X-A5 in the context of my needs when it comes to cameras.

Here’s a photo of me with the X-A5 for those of you who, like me, get bored with specs 😅

The Fujifilm X-A5 is a mirrorless camera — this means it’s lighter and more compact than DSLRs. It’s equipped with a 24.2-megapixel APS-C image sensor and is capable of reaching ISO 12800 (which may mean good things for low-light shots). It’s also the first X series camera with phase detection which means that this device will focus twice as fast as previous cameras, like my X-A3. The body comes bundled with an XC 15-45mm f/3.5-5.6 kit lens and it has a built-in internal flash.

Now that we got that out of the way, let’s move on.

Looks matter

In true Fujifilm fashion, this camera looks like a pretty Instagrammable itself. The body has clean matte aluminum-silver details that extend to the buttons and the back. The body itself is textured and comes in black, brown, or pink. Of course, I pushed for the pink one.

The pink on this camera is a little brownish. My X-A3 was a brighter pink.

Button placements are about the same: On/Off toggle with the shutter button, mode dial, exposure compensation dial, and a function key up top, and the usual buttons like menu, video record, playback, and other shortcuts are on the back of the camera. The display is also a touchscreen for easier navigation. Basically, if you’ve used an X series Fujifilm camera before, you’ll know where everything is. 

This camera, dubbed Fujifilm’s smallest mirrorless camera, is light and it fits my hands perfectly. Although, I’d have to admit: There isn’t much of a size difference between the X-A5 and my trusty X-A3, save for the X-A3’s bigger kit lens.

The thing is, there’s no way I’m lugging around a big camera on vacation trips and the X-A5 (as well as my old X-A3) is a size that I find acceptable — it’s not as bulky and it’s small enough to fit in my bag with everything else I decide to bring around on trips.

Pointing and shooting

Fujifilm is a beloved brand in photography and it comes as no surprise that this camera can capture stunning pictures. I mean look at these sample shots…

Like, look at them! They can be stock photos!

The hot cocoa looks super delicious!

The color and the blur is on point

Although I know my camera basics, I am not the best in shooting or handling cameras, mine or otherwise. The X-A5 was amazingly easy to use, especially since I’m already familiar with the past model. Honestly, I’ve had my share of crappy photos but these samples actually impressed me. Low-light photos, however, are a different story. Like many devices on the market now, you don’t exactly get the best photos when lighting conditions aren’t ideal.

The X-A3, my previous camera, only had Wi-Fi connectivity which means that it could only transfer photos when my phone is connected to the camera’s Wi-Fi. This process was a little cumbersome as that connection gets cut when you switch back to an actual network to get on the internet. That is now a problem of the past. The XA-5 is equipped with Bluetooth connectivity so that mean transferring photos from camera to your phone is so easy — you can even do it automatically and while connected to the internet through Wi-Fi.

Also, tourist selfies can go from this:

Shoutout to the photobomb couple at the back!

To this:

I’m controlling the camera with the phone in my hand through the Fujifilm remote app

Yep, connecting the camera to the app allows you to take photos and videos remotely. This means you don’t need another person to take your photos; you can control everything with your phone.

#OOTD Challenge!

Now, I generally suck at #OOTDs and posed travel content in general but I felt it was time for a challenge. I’d seen a lot of Instagram influencers tout their Fujifilm cameras so I wondered: Could I take the same photos with this thing?

Since I was traveling with the boyfriend when I was testing out this camera, I enlisted his help and had him be my token Instagram Boyfriend — ah the things we do for work!

I stood at random picturesque spots in Hong Kong and did the best travel/wanderlust/OOTD poses I could muster (which always translated to me looking up, for some reason). Since I’m not so big on editing, I only used the VSCO app on my phone to slightly adjust these photos and add a filter. Again, transferring photos to my phone for editing (and eventual posting) was a breeze because of connectivity functions. The results are as follows:

Needless to say, I was pretty happy with the pics, despite my awkward and repetitive posing. Expect these shots to be on my Instagram feed soon.

Videos and vlogging

One of the big things I use my camera for is vlogging. The fact that this thing is light is a big plus for me because it’s the weight my frail arm can handle as I hold out the camera to shoot myself. I mean, I have no idea how people actually shoot video with those humongous vlogging rigs, but that’s not a problem with the X-A5.

Although I’ve shot vlogs with this camera, my main gripe with this thing is that there’s no movie mode on it. This makes it a little hard to preview settings on the screen for shooting video — a problem I’ve grappled with on my X-A3 as well. The camera is capable of recording in 4K, which is literally bigger videos, but the camera display lags too much on that setting so I’d suggest sticking to a lower resolution like 1080p.

What’s great though is that there’s a touch-to-focus feature on video now, something only previously found on the photo mode. The X-A5 is also equipped with an audio port so you can now improve your vlog audio with an external mic.

Is the Fujifilm X-A5 your GadgetMatch?

Obviously, there are bigger, badder, and more expensive cameras out there that do a whole lot that this dainty thing can’t. But, that’s not the point (and those cameras are probably not pink). This shooter is designed for a certain demographic: those, like me, who want a simple, easy-to-use device in a light, compact, and stylish body. It’s not the best camera out there and at its price point, that would be pretty impossible. Nonetheless, it’s a camera that I really enjoy using.

If you’re like me and you’re looking for a more compact camera for IG photos and social media posts with great phone and app integration, you should consider the X-A5. It’s a great camera for beginners and enthusiasts who are just wetting their toes in the pool of content creation.

The Fujifilm retails for US$ 599 in the US and PhP 34,990 in the Philippines.

SEE ALSO: Fujifilm X-A5 is brand’s smallest and lightest mirrorless camera

Cameras

3 reasons why you don’t need an expensive action camera

Especially if you’re not a professional

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Every guy out there wants to have an expensive action camera. It’s like a status symbol for adventurers and travelers alike.

Yes, action cameras are a great addition to your gear when traveling, but it’s not essential — not unless you’re into epic and picture-worthy adventures.

If you’re a traveler — like me — who’s fond of doing physical activities like hiking, surfing, trail running, and riding ATVs, let me tell you frankly: You don’t need an expensive action camera. Here are some reasons why.

1. You’ll need mounts and other accessories

If you think an action camera is the only thing you need for your adventures, you’re wrong, kiddo. Accessories are just as important as your camera. How are you going to capture that epic ATV ride without a mount on your helmet or chest?

Most action cameras don’t bundle mounts and other accessories in the package, so your purchase can potentially become even more expensive.

2. You’re not a content creator

Okay, let’s face the truth: You’re not a content creator in need of high-end equipment. Even worse: You’re bound to break or lose your camera while practicing more daring shoots. Yes, they’re marketed as unbreakable, but accidents happen in most outdoor situations.

I recently went on a hike during a rainy month, and while the weather was unpredictable and the slopes proved to be dangerous, I managed to take videos during the times I felt it was safe to record. Times like these are what make me appreciate having a camera that doesn’t cost a fortune, because at the end of the day, I’d drop these gadgets to make sure I survive during accidents.

If you want to capture your adventures and share them to the world, you’re better off with a more affordable action camera. Be practical!

3. You’re not always on an adventure

We buy action cameras because we want to capture moments that our smartphones or point-and-shoot cameras can’t take. However, if you seldom go outdoors and participate in daring activities, you don’t need to shell out US$ 400 worth of equipment.

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The rise of action cameras means we have a lot of options to choose from for all kinds of budgets. Being as practical and money-savvy as I am, I’ll always choose a gadget that has excellent value for money. One that I enjoy is the Apeman Action Camera A80, which is a solid budget offering.

The Apeman Action Camera A80

This action camera shoots 4K at 25fps, 2K at 30fps, or 1080p at 60fps. It also shoots 20-megapixel photos and smooth videos at a wide angle of 170 degrees.

The A80 has a built-in 2-inch HD LCD (which I didn’t bother using) and comes with built-in Wi-Fi so you can view, share, and edit your footage once you connect the camera through the CamKing app on your smartphone.

It also comes with a case to protect your camera from scratches, dents, and dust. It’s waterproof and can be submerged up to 30 meters deep, perfect for water sports like swimming and surfing.

Other features include time-lapse recording, loop recording, and support for 64GB microSD cards. Best of all, this action camera also comes in a bundled kit of mounts and accessories, with two rechargeable 1050mAh batteries that can record up to 120 minutes.

Apeman’s Action Camera A80 is pretty convincing and offers excellent value for its price of US$ 69 with mounts and accessories.

What’s the best action camera for you?

Of course, we’ll always opt for higher-end cameras because we want the best photos and videos to show off, but if you think having an expensive action camera guarantees stunning output, well, you’re wrong again, kiddo. It’s always the person behind the camera creating the magic.

Honestly, an expensive camera isn’t worth the money if it’s left to accumulate dust while there’s no action in your life. Sometimes, we want the best of the best, but all we need is what’s practical to capture all our experiences, whenever those may be.

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Cameras

Polaroid OneStep+ review: Different yet exactly the same

We tried out the new features plus sample photos!

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The Polaroid OneStep+ is finally in my hands! Not to be confused with the Polaroid OneStep 2, the OneStep+ is the latest in Polaroid’s line that pays homage to the original OneStep camera released in the 70s. As a lover of pretty things and Instagrammable cameras, the OneStep cameras were always a treat to review.

This newest Polaroid Originals camera looks (almost) the same, feels the same, but what’s so different about it? Let’s get to it!

Hands-on time

This newest release, dubbed the Polaroid OneStep+, comes in black. Now, it might sound boring but it actually looks pretty classic and fun with the pop of colors from the Polaroid rainbow branding.

It looks as Instagrammable as its predecessor, despite the dark color change. Don’t believe me? I’ll prove it:

The Polaroid OneStep+ looking great at any time of the day

This good-looking camera doesn’t come cheap. It retails for EUR 159 or almost PhP 12,000 in the Philippines.

Up top is a switch that toggles between normal portrait mode and wider-angled photos. The light indicator for your remaining shots is also up here.

On the back is the on/off switch, a micro-USB port for charging, and the flash button — press and hold as you take the photo so the camera won’t flash.

The viewfinder (which looks tinier) is in the same place, on the left-back side.

I think the biggest and most notable change, though, is the fact that you can now attach this camera to a tripod. Built in at the bottom is a tripod screw thread which means that the OneStep+ can be mounted on a tripod. I guarantee you, this is a recipe for better Polaroids.

Getting started

Taking a photo with the OneStep+ is the same process as before: Look through the viewfinder and compose the photo, press the shutter (the red button on the side), and the photo automatically prints on film.

The shape of this camera is reminiscent of old-school cameras. Shooting with it can give you those feels, it’s just a different experience compared to shooting with your smartphone or a point-and-shoot camera.

So, yes. The Polaroid OneStep+ still takes (fun) photos or even selfies…

… and prints them on square format Polaroid film. It works with both 600 film and i-Type film which retail from EUR 16 to EUR 20, depending on the type.

Let me take this opportunity to gush about how cute that purple-pink gradient border is on that frame! It’s so pretty!

But, let’s go back to that photo of me and Chay taking a selfie with the camera. Notice something?

Why is Chay holding her phone in this photo?

No, Chay isn’t overly attached to her phone… it has to do with this camera’s new feature.

You can connect the OneStep+ to your phone via Bluetooth and you’ll be able to control your camera via the Polaroid Originals app.

Pairing is pretty easy, too. After the initial pairing process, the camera will automatically pop up when you open the app which is so convenient! (We all know how having to pair every single time can be annoying. 😅)

So, what can this new app do? Time to try it out!

Test run!

Once connected, there are six shooting modes you can try on the app.

The most basic: A remote function which allows for your phone to act as a trigger for the camera. This is pretty useful for when you want to be in the photo and there’s no one else to take the picture. Take note, however, that the app only acts as a trigger so you can’t preview the photo on your phone. (See photo 2)

Starting from the upper-left photo: 1. Selfie sample, 2. Remote, 3 and 4. Self-timer,  5. Noise trigger, 6. Double exposure, 7. Another light painting attempt, 8. Failed manual mode

The self-timer is a pretty cool feature, though the previous OneStep cameras had that feature even without the app. (See photos 3 and 4)

The same can be said about the double-exposure function. The Noise trigger is a new one, and it’s the coolest thing ever. Basically, you can trigger the camera shutter by creating any sound of a certain loudness. You can set this up on your phone and even change the sound threshold! (See photo 5)

Also included is light painting and manual modes. As you can see in the samples above (see photos 6, 7, and 8), it takes a while and a lot of ruined film to actually get how to take proper photos with these modes.

Our good shots from the second film cartridge

Once you learn how to use the OneStep+, it means a lot of cute Polaroids — and we all want that.

Finishing touches

When you’re all set with your Polaroids, the app offers an added feature to ensure you can show the world your prints. The scan feature automatically detects your photo, fixes it (crops and tilts it, if needed), and you can post or share away.

It’s not perfect, though. The function can be fidgety when it’s not photo-ready bright, which is most real-life circumstances. It’s usually a trial and error process to get the best-looking scan. Also, for some reason, this works best on iPhones. The Android devices we tested with it always had a harder time scanning the photos.

Nonetheless, it’s still pretty useful and it’s a great integration to the app. I see where this feature can go and I’m hoping that later updates will be able to fix these problems.

Another addition to the app is the Discover feature where you can find tips and tricks, or even photo ideas for your next Polaroid project.

You will never run out of things to try with your camera because of this!

Verdict

If you want a Polaroid camera in 2018, this is for you. It’s the same new-old camera (get it? 😎), but now made even better.

Although I would’ve loved a remote preview on my phone, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this addition would’ve changed the whole process of taking Polaroids and destroyed the instant camera experience.

Previous cameras have attempted to merge high technology with the concept of instant cameras. But, we have yet to see an execution that utilizes tech in a way that enhances the shooting without destroying the old-school experience. This might be the right step towards that.

Some will argue that a smartphone could outdo what these instant cameras can do. If you’re one of those who believe so, you’re completely missing the point of these throwback cameras. This line is designed for those who want to enjoy Polaroids in 2018 and the Polaroid Originals OneStep+ just offered another way to do so.

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24 Hours Series

24 Hours in Koh Samui with the GoPro Hero 7

Thailand’s second-largest island is to die for!

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Having been to Thailand on multiple occasions, I always thought I knew everything that the country had to offer — but that was until I met Koh Samui.

As Thailand’s second-largest island (right after the popular Phuket), it’s home to gorgeous beaches, lovely temples, and some of the most attractive resorts and spas this side of the coast.

My stay didn’t last long enough to cover all there is to see in Koh Samui, but I did get to take part in the more adventurous aspect of island — making the choice of using a GoPro Hero 7 to document the trip all the more fitting!

A selfie right in front of the beach is in order! My group’s very first activity was snorkeling south of Koh Samui. Boats are easy enough to rent from here, the size of which depends on how large your group is.

If you’re in a rush to enter the ocean, you’re better off going for a speed boat like this. At a speed of about 50 knots (or 92kph!), you’re sure to soak up lots of sea breeze — which I wholeheartedly appreciated. 👌

Near the coast of Tean Island, we snorkeled through reefs which weren’t that deep or had dangerous corals. I’d say it’s very beginner-friendly, especially for those who can’t swim that well or fear the deep blue sea, but want to see colorful fish in their natural habitat.

Since the sun was still high and we didn’t want to turn into fried seafood ourselves, we took shelter in a nearby island called Koh Mat Sum. It’s tiny in comparison to neighboring islands, and it’s inhabited by…

… these adorable pigs! Yes, the island is filled with them, and I saw more piggies than I did other animals. Not that I mind, but I wonder what their purpose is. 🐖👀

Koh Mat Sum is also home to well-formed sand bars with some of clearest, bluest water I’ve ever seen. It’s great to see such pristine beaches even in tourist hotspots — I can’t say the same for some islands I’ve been to in other countries. Please pick up your trash, folks!

I had to prove my existence on this splendid island, so I took a photo using the Hero 7’s ten-second timer. Not-so-fun fact: This is the brand’s first action camera to have the feature! Why did this take so long, GoPro?!

All good things to come to an end, but they also lead to more fun activities, like this off-road ATV adventure I was about to go on after riding these pickup trucks. Back in Koh Samui, the dense forests are home to not only unspoiled wildlife and lots of fruit, but tracks perfect for driving through, as well.

Out ATVs were provided by the fine people of Samui Quad Motor, which provides vehicles of all colors and sizes, depending on what you need most. I obviously went for the larger model, and I’m glad I did, because the river parts needed more ground clearance to get through.

Because we had a lot of beginners in the group — myself included — we took a lot of breaks in between to let everyone catch up and brace ourselves for each leg of the trail. Having completed the most difficult part (check out that river behind me), I had to take another selfie because reasons. 🤳

The entire day was admittedly tiring and not what I’m used to — I’m just a work-at-home editor, after all — so getting back to our resort was a godsend. The Renaissance Koh Samui Resort and Spa is a spectacular place to stay in, albeit a little pricey, but you definitely get what you pay for.

I had this little balcony outside of my room with space for two. Since I was alone, I used this outdoor spot to air-dry my clothes from the day’s escapades. But I still wish I had someone to share this with. 💔

Blue Leaf is one of the restaurants found within the resort. It’s the place to be in when you want a quick order of Pad Thai, spring rolls, fresh fruit, or Pad Thai — it’s so good it has to be mentioned twice!

Walking past the restaurant, you’ll find this vast pool facing the ocean. There are rarely any people here, because the beach right in front of it is what everyone actually wants to experience. Wait for it…

Here they are! This area is certainly the most Instagrammable part of the whole resort. This alone is worth the price of admission! So what exactly were these two models seeing in the background? Check this…

One of Koh Samui’s famous sunsets! I’ve seen tons of memorable sunsets all my life, but this definitely ranks high on my personal list. The way the light bounces off the rocks and glistens on the ocean is like no other. Makes me wish there were more than one sunset per day. 🤷‍♂️

It gets better, though. Find a good spot before night falls on the island, because the sky’s twilight is equally Instagram-worthy.

And here it is! I love how the water is shallow enough to walk on for long distances; gives the picture an even more surreal look. Blue on blue is something you rarely see unless you find a spot as serene as this.

But the night had just begun, and we found our way to a nearby night market. Like Bangkok and other cities in Thailand, Koh Samui hosts several of these with food and drinks at every corner. The one we went to was along Bophut Beach, which is on the northern tip of the island.

Dinner is… about to be served! We ate at Krua Bophut, which is — you guessed it — a Thai restaurant. I certainly didn’t mind since I have my fair share of Thai cuisine even when I’m not in their country. Actually, I’m craving some right now…

Like any trip, leaving is the hardest part. Fortunately, Koh Samui makes it a little less painful. This is the island’s sole airport, and it’s designed like an outdoor mall! Not once did I feel like I was at an actual airport. But alas, it was time to go home.

Koh Samui, despite its relatively small size, needs at least a week to truly appreciate. There are temples to be visited, more beaches to swim in, and lots more food to taste. This may be only the second-biggest island of Thailand, but it’s definitely number one in quality for me.

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