Perpetual travel tips: electronic must haves
When travelling around the world (see our travel map for details) we rely on solid equipment to work. I will talk about the selection of our electronic must haves in this post.
We are a lightweight couple (I am not talking alcohol) so it came naturally to us to travel light.
OUR CAMERA. We love to walk around cities and do excessive sightseeing which we document with our camera (great pictures and stories I never manage to write up). Nevertheless we decided against a huge lens and photographic equipment which requires extra care and an extra bag.
When we started our new way of life, we simply took the one camera we had – our digital Lumix from Panasonic. We were not really thinking about replacing it until the camera broke down in the middle of sightseeing whilst visiting Nijo Castle in Kyoto/Japan in March 2012.
Our last picture with the Lumix. The weather conditions (pouring buckets of rain) made good old Lumix give up and call it a day, literally.
Well, thank photo-wonder Purikura, we didn’t mind to lack a camera (for about a day).
Coincidentally Sony had a great promo going on in Tokyo launching the new digital NEX series and we sort of stumbled into high-tech marketing. It was the romantic time of cherry blossom and Sony had prepared a great Hanami scene, as well as providing Yukata dress to take test pictures with the NEX.
The NEX models were promoted as the best mirrorless cameras on the market and I have to admit that I don’t regret falling for it. Easy to use, very quick to power up, producing excellent images. Our NEX-5 has a touch screen which I find a bit awkward but the LCD is large and bright and can be tilted upwards.
It wasn’t so much the daylight pictures that were convincing but the night shots were utterly stunning. Walk-ins could test the NEX for a set up candle light scene. Amazing picture quality at night. I must say that despite the attached flash light, I have not used it more than twice.
This is at the new hip club in my Polish hometown, a quick snapshot taken without any preparation, nor flash light in semi-darkness with fog machines blocking the view (and respiratory systems) while the guys are wiggling about.
The other neat feature is the continuous shooting mode – it shoots ten frames per second while emanating the sound of a shooting gun making everyone jump. The only drawback is the macro focus which is a bit of a time consuming pain and does not do a great job for close ups. But the NEX-5 is tiny and light and I can carry it loosely around my shoulder without feeling the extra weight. It fits the palm of my hand.
Anyhow, after our Lumix broke down, we decided to buy this fascinating gadget in Japan. It turns out the Japanese electronics market does not rely on tourists very much. All cameras were solely providing for Japanese instructions. There was no option to switch the camera to English language mode.
Thailand in contrast is tourist’s heaven for electronic equipment and Bangkok is where we finally bought it. The smaller and thinner and less design the more it is worth. We paid around 24000 Baht (almost 600 Euros).
OUR LAPTOPS. Weight is something that Tomek’s laptop has been stripped down on, despite providing for state of the art features. His Samsung – a series 9 notebook – weighs about 1.3 kg (less than three pounds), is just 15 millimetres (0.6 inches) thick and has a 13.3 inch screen. It folds a bit like a magazine and is very portable. Tomek got it in Cologne/Germany and paid 1200 Euros.
Documenting Tomek working on the skytrain in Bangkok.
I can’t tell you much about the technical side, instead I will marvel about the simple and sophisticated design. There is no clutter, subtle curves and slick edges makes it look like a fancy fashion accessory. Apparently the cover is made of duralumin, a material developed for advanced aircrafts and other highly specialized equipment. Samsung says, it is twice as strong as aluminium without putting on weight.
While appreciating the look, I know that Tomek looked out for more important features: the backlit keyboard so he can work regardless of the time of day, the LCD screen which should be bright and not shiny. With most screens, all you can see are reflections because they have a mirror-glass like structure – the greatest mystery of sales, despite obvious fail in functionality. The Samsung screen is matt and supports sunny working environments.
Tomek’s lunch break. Koh Samui. By the beach.
Our set up work station in Tokyo at a cheap hostel. It does pay to bring a socket adapter and multi socket extension to get all those batteries charged up at once. I used to work on the tiny black Samsung before I switched to big and pink.
A matt non-reflecting screen was also my criteria when picking the work tool but I got lucky being able to combine necessity with girlie aesthetics.
This is my Samsung (and boy was I colour-crazy a year ago) which I bought at Bangkok’s biggest and best mall for electrical equipment for about 18000 Baht (450 Euros). If you can’t find what you are looking for there, it probably does not exist.
You liked that bone shaped ring, too? This is where to go.
BTW, with 2.5 kg (5.5 pounds) my laptop is way heavier than Tomek’s. It has a huge CD-ROM, which in retrospect I find unnecessary as I have not used it at all so far. But the 15.6 inch display is awesome, the vivid colour motivates to work and the matt screen does not drain my eyes.
OUR SMARTPHONE. We also have a fairly new mobile phone which we both share.The Motorola Droid Razr is a satisfying purchase we made in Bangkok’s stunning Paragon Mall. (Receiving a tax refund is a welcome extra.)
This is it. I got to pick the colour. The Razr in white (as in white frame more like).
The scary bit was to get our precious sim card micro clipped at Bangkok’s MBK Mall (for free).
Look at the picture of the phones that have served us for a long time.We still carry our old phones around, so we can get hold of each other, in case we have to go separate ways. It was time to change, right?
Truthfully, the first thing Tomek changed on his Nokia when it died was the battery, although by that time the back cover was long lost. He had that phone for about 10 years and it still works fine. It featured one of the first build in cameras.
Tomek was looking for a light smartphone with a bigger display so he could work on it in case of emergencies, in the rare occasion of not having acces to his notebook. The Razr does great for weight – I read that it is the thinnest mobile phone in the world measuring 7.1mm/0.3 inches (a record at the time it came out).
It also does great for software running Android version 4.0.4 with 1 GB of RAM. It takes allright pictures, apps are running smoothly, the touchscreen works well, I can write messages easily and fast. Since Tomek is able to solve urgent IT matters when need be, I guess it must be a good phone overall.
We only have one game on it: Angry Birds, because Tomek’s visa card pictures a huge angry birds pig on it, we had to find out what the hype was all about. All I can say is that it is a mean game and the real fun is watching cashier’s reactions looking at the card. Our favourite apps are the Happy Cow for good eateries and Google Maps, giving superb directions and timetables for public transport.
OUR RADIATION DETECTOR. A quick side note on the Geiger counter we carry around. The Gamma Scout is indicating accurate radiation levels (read this to judge our level of freakiness) but it cannot be used to give meaningful info about food contamination. I have read about this curious gadget, an eco radar called Lapka. An organic detector that boasts gorgeous white and wooden design to measure not only radioactivity and electromagnetic fields but also how organic your food and drink is. Was supposed to come out late 2012 – not sure if it has and what reviews it will get.
If you are a user of Lapka, please let me know!
EPILOGUE. This gadget list should be renamed – from must haves to lust haves!
I am convinced that the transformation of a simple Lumix into a fashion statement would be a best seller. Haute couture electronic equipment decorated with Louis Vuitton patterns and Karl Lagerfeld designs, pink tassels, golden studs and heart shaped pendants. Bliss.
For starters, I transformed the Lumix into a limited Calvin Klein edition.
Do not laugh, there is a market for everything – without age restrictions for kawaii gadgets, especially in Japan. Like Hello Kitty polaroids.