Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Mercane Wide Wheel - tiny apartment stowage


One of the other things I like about my Mercane is how well it just stows, even in small places.

This is it under the "desk" at my donger *(where I'm living during the week while doing this contract)


Happily I don't need carry it up stairs and its easy enough to just lower the boom and park it under the desk.

Should fit in your office too.

Monday, 17 June 2019

Mercane gets used at home (and other riding notes)

as it happens (for a little while) I'm working in Brisbane but back in Killarney for the weekends, and while I bought the Mercane Wide Wheel to use for getting around the local area (and to and from work) I also wanted it for getting around town.

So we had typical "Mountain Weather" this weekend with a mixture of drizzle, overcast and sunshine. Unperturbed by nature I took it out on the weekend and did some rides. All on one charge, as while steep the town just isn't that big. One could always walk from one side to the other, but then the Mercane is a time saver, where walking would take 20min the Mercane takes 5. Its also just bloody good fun on the way too ;-)

I'll be writing more about this scooter over time, so look over on the left for the "Mercane Wide Wheel" label (or indeed click on the words there as that's a link too :-). This will then open all my posts about the Mercane in "most recently written" order (essentially backwards in time order). You'll find plenty of pics of the scooter there.

Location

So this is a picture from about half way up the southern hill of the town looking north. So you can see that its basically a hilly area with the town in the valley...


... and I live just at the bottom in that nearest run of houses. The field in the middle is where the river goes through and the houses on the far side of the river are were the "shops" are.

Outings

So this weekend I did the following:
  • go into town twice
  • go up and down the hill behind me at least 7 times (over both days) to visit friends and to generally just see if it would go up (among) the steepest hills in town.
  • twice took a run out of town a bit (which is also hilly) the last time with a mate on his bicycle (more on that in a mo)
The road out of town is this one, and its a gradual slope up that a brisk walk makes talking on the phone difficult (because of the breathing).


So basically I rode up this road (note the cracks) and, over the crest, then up over the ridge over to the right and over a few more hills that are out of sight.

Out with a MTB

Interestingly on Sunday when doing this with my mate on his bicycle (who lives near the top of the hill, which is to the left in the above image) as a pace partner, I found that on the gradual inclines I only needed half throttle (yes, you can pick something other than off and on if you're careful) to keep pace, and it was only on the steeper bits of down hill that his better rolling advantage gave him a need to use his brakes (so we could keep chatting and being social, as this wasn't a race but an after noon ride).

Going up the steeper hills I was surprised that he needed to be changing down a couple of gears and even doing a bit of standing in the pedals while I still had some throttle in reserve. I'm not saying he needed to go into "hill climbing" mode, just it was worth his while standing a bit.

Yes, that's right, I could have pulled away from him had I wanted to - up hills. Now clearly he could have gone serious and left me (taking advantage of more speed on his down hills for a starter) but it showed me how good this thing is as a commuter and general "roustabout" and comparable in speed to a moderately ridden bicycle.

He even mentioned that he may get one for his kids so that they can come out when he goes cycling (and they're between 12 and 15) and keep up.

The Steeper Bits

Oddly enough my driveway is about the steepest bit I have to navigate (because my house is on a slope and having a gravel drive), although the last bit of the street joining the road up the hill is steeper. So I get up this by actually kicking to assist the motor (who'd have thought you can kick it along just like a scooter).

Its not too hard and actually only needed 4 or 5 kicks each time, and once over the "crest" of the steepest bit (but still uphill) the motor was enough.

This is interesting because when I was thinking about this (before buying) I expected that my driveway and the end of my street would be the problem areas for it. I did this in thinking about how much energy a good cyclist can put out, which is about 400W and 1000W peak. So I reckoned that (given that) the dual motor would "storm up" while the single motor would need a bit of assist.

Seems that is about right.

Additional thoughts

While one may think that the Wide Wheels are a plain gimmick they are actually very interesting. In the road above with longitudinal cracks the wheels rode right over them without blinking, sure irregularities in the surface cold be felt in the handle bars, but it was nothing more than a bit of steer. I know that my Evo+ hitting them is a big issue (like offing me).

The wide wheels come in handy too when you have to suddenly leave the concrete or asphalt for a car or an errant pedestrian. Being wide they do not just dig in and come to a rapid stop (where you can find yourself falling off again), but cope with the softness of grass and just slow down as if you were using the brakes gently.

I liked that a lot!

Now recalling that this is the single motor model I find this is actually entirely sufficient for a commuter (but probably not someone who's after it as a "wild thing" for entertainment and thrills). Given that I want it for practicality to be sitting in between "walking" and my motorcycle, for trips to the shops, for getting a couple of  km into work in the suburbs each day and for visiting mates in the local area, this pretty perfect.

  • its way faster than walking
  • saves me starting my motorbike up for just a few km (and it hardly gets warm)
  • allows me to go into the shops with it (I put the shopping basket onto the platform and push it along)
The other "considerations" I had when weighing up which to buy were the following points (in no particular order):
  • The open front wheel (because no motor) provides a convenient location to lock the scooter up "outside" in those places where you can't or simply don't want to take it inside.
  • the wheels with motors do not spin freely while the wheels without motors do, so when I don't need that extra power I am having to power that extra motor (and fight the friction of the gears inside, because while its a hub motor its also got planetary gears, see video below)
  • having that extra power would probably encourage me to push it harder and go in rougher places, which will reduce the life of the scooter. I also have an economic thread in the fabric I'm weaving here.
  • While the dual motor has more batteries (helping with that range issue), its also heavier, which makes lifting it in and out of the car / house harder.
  • I got this one for AU$1000, which was AU$600 less than the dual motor, or put another way the dual motor scooter was going to cost me 60% more, but still be the same speed on the flats (speed limitation) or suck batteries harder (if I unleash the limiter).
  • These things just aren't motorcycles, and so on open roads a motorcycle is faster, on foot paths you mix with pedestrians, so it is a compromise.
  • The smaller battery charges faster than the bit one and as I did this whole weekend on just one charge I consider that's a benefit.
That power hub video:


So right now I feel like that Single Motor Mercan Wide Wheel has been an excellent choice, its a compromise (and what isn't) and for a person who wants a low end electric vehicle to get places which would be on the verge of walking (and yes, this thing is not a toy kids scooter with a motor on the back, its a genuine vehicle) this is fantastic and better than anything else I've seen in the category of single 500W motor.

I think its win win

I'll leave you with this shot of my scoot at the summit of the local hill on Sunday Afternoon



This is the top of the hill at the back of town (and I live at the bottom of this hill) and it was nice to get up there and watch the sunset.


Thursday, 13 June 2019

Mercane Wide Wheel eScooter (the "Cadillac" of electric scooters)

I decided that while going under 2Km on relatively level grounds that my Evo kick scooter was fine, but that when going further afield all that kicking was getting old (like me). What I needed a bit more assist (read some power) because I'm not getting younger (and nor are my knees) and lets give hills a mention too.

I've of course seen many of the eScooters around (hello Lime) but having some amount of experience with scooters (starting 10 years ago) I know that bigger wheels means better wheels.

Now while the little Evo I bought (mentioned in my previous post here) is doing the job (with those crap bearings replaced) its still a little restricted and probably a little unsafe (brakes aren't that effective, and from experience worthless if any water (from rain, a puddle or snow) is on the wheel. The Mercane solves a lot of this.

Closer look

When looking at the options the Mercane came up in my searching and it looked quite the good item, well made and effective.

Its not till you actually see one in the flesh that you go WoW

Now there's plenty of images on the net to look at (and I'll add something from the Mercane site at the end) but I thought for my first post on this scooter I'd just show you some images which I hope will put in perspective how this thing is a entry into Electric Vehicle not a borderline toy.

So for those who are considering this as a commuter (and may have some experience with the sorts scooters on the market),this is it beside my Evo. Both have about the same diameter wheels, however the Evo is under 4kg (and an easy carry) while the Wide Wheel is about 17kg and a bit of a heft.


This heft (and the wheels and the suspension) translates the Mercan from "a twitchy thing" into "a confident stable ride".

Storage

Back in the office (or in your flat) the little Evo tucks nicely under a desk (or in a closet) but the Wide Wheel may attract more looks in any more crowded open plan office (and won't fit under the bed either).



But its far easier to store than an eBike ...

I've long been a fan of bigger wheels on scooters not only for bump handling but for not being "stopped suddenly" by a small bit of rock, other crap on the road or even an out of level pavement block. The wheels of the Evo are a bit bigger, but when you consider the width and cushioning of what are very similar to pneumatic tyres (but aren't thank god), the Wide Wheel (with softer pliant tyres and suspension) is just orders of magnitude smoother over stuff on the footpath or cycle way.



Its clear that while the Evo has bigger diameter, it will still get snagged in any cracks between concrete pavements on the foot path or longitudinal cracks on the road, not the Wide Wheel though.

I say almost pneumatic tyres, because they are not, they're more like this *(obtained without permission from the Mercan site):


so the foam provides some "give" and the rubber is ... well ... just like a tyre. The feel of the tyre give (when pressed with my thumb) is about equivalent to a mountain bike tyre inflated to 40psi (270kpa), which myself I find is good compromise for ride VS rolling resistance.

That diagram shows the brakes, so lets have a look at that on mine. The disc on the rear is more than up to the task and unlike the friction of pushing down the rear metal mudguard onto the plastic tyre of the Evo is predictable and dependable even with a little moisture on it.


So absolutely nothing to complain about here. Indeed if you lean back (transferring your weight on that rear kick up support there) you'll stop even faster because you can transfer your weight almost totally over that back wide wheel.

Now as the deck is alloy (and beautifully formed) that "kick up" at the back is also alloy and very study. Its actually an excellent place to put your foot on (always ride with one foot foward the other back on a scooter, not feet side by side ... you'll balance better that way). This provides an excellent feeling of balance and support when the motor starts.

But unlike the little Evo this isn't the brake (but if you're used to scooters it'll feel right at home having your foot on it.

The next thing I'd like to mention is found in the exploded diagram on the Mercan site:


The above diagram is actually exactly my bike (with one small exception), as I have the single motor 8.8Ah battery variant. Aside from the fantastic build quality and suspension system this diagram shows something that every Xiaomi 365 owner will eventually attest to: changing a tyre is a fucking nightmare. Now while I have not yet done it (come on, I've only had it 2 days) notice that the rims are split down the center into a left and right? I imagine that will make changing the tyres so much easier when they wear out (and being solid won't get punctures).

Handling

I have once or twice seen mention of the fact that as you corner harder you'll experience a strange "resistance" to the bike turning. This is indeed because of the width of the wheel and the profile of the tyre. In practice you may not notice it, but as soon as you want to do a U-Turn you will. The bike fights you as contact patch of the wheel moves further away from center (take a look at the above shot again showing the wheels).

Now the answer to this is to lean your body further into the corner (keeping the bike more upright). Actually on a scooter this is a good idea also because if it "slips" (like I've had happen on the little Evo) you're prepared with your foot out ready to kick and restore grip. I'm not sure that such is going to happen at 20km/h but none the less ...

I've read (presumably from people who can't ride a motorcycle) that turning it is done like turning a motorcycle, where you lean. While not even slightly correct (you don't turn a bike by leaning it but turning results in it leaning) its good enough for a non rider to "get the hang of it".

Decisions

now everyone needs to balance how much they are willing to spend against what they want it for. For me, this was more about an effective transport than a "fun" machine. So while I do want something that can get up hills (who doesn't) I also didn't want to spend nearly 50% more on the scooter just to get the more powerful (and then require the bigger battery too) if this would do my job (and be legally compliant).

When I went the sellers place (BZooma on the Goldie here in Australia) they had a substantial hill just across the road from them. I was able to climb that and still go faster than I'd walk it. Better yet, I stopped on the middle of the steepest part of the hill and was able to kick and go and continue climbing.

That sold me on the scooters ability and only time will tell if that was a good test. But when I get back home to where I live I'll be testing it on more substantial hills and I'll report then.

Conclusion

So right now I'm really stoked about this scooter, its doing everything I expected of it and that I only paid about AU$1000 (instead of about $1600) is fantastic.

I'll be reviewing more in time, so look for this tag label (Mercane Wide Wheel) in the left hand side.

Enjoy

(PS, I mentioned the seller I bought it from because they were so good to deal with. I believe strongly in the "Invisible Hand" of the free market and so my mention of them is totally my choice and totally un-rewarded. I have nothing to do with them except buying this one product).

Sunday, 2 June 2019

Unconscionable components decisions make good products into junk

Back in 2009 I had this particular model of folding kick scooter for getting between office and train, it was great and I used it all lot even on weekends.


Having long since gotten rid of that scooter (changed countries, different needs) I came to find myself again in need of a scooter for a similar role. I was pleased to find the same (or almost) one still available for a reasonable price at a variety store in town. Having had such a good run out of the last one I was pleased to find a new copy of my old friend.

However things were not so good this time round and the scooter had a rear wheel bearing collapse in just 3 days.

WTF!


By two weeks the front wheel bearings were in a bad state too, and in the verge of collapsing too.

I got new bearings off eBay for just 70¢ each.




Makes me wonder just how many of these scooters became landfill in a week because of simply cheaping out on such a trivial part?

(minor yet effective) fireplace improvements

It has appeared in the background of some of my blog posts but, particularly in winter, my small wood burning heater features at the center of life inside at night.

Like all things, almost nothing is designed for Australian conditions (even much of the commercial stuff here which is often just slavishly copied from Northern Hemisphere conditions). One such thing is my wood heater.

Its a fairly ordinary heater for its type (and already seen a bit of use too) and its about 60cm square with an inside compartment about 40cm deep behind the door.


So while not big, is certainly big enough for the room its in (and my adjoining bedroom).

It has an added "benefit" that it has a small electric fan that sucks air (you can see the grill at the bottom and the switch and lead on the right) from the floor and circulates it through the back of the heater and comes out the vent at the top. This can really help warm the room faster, but its best not left on long or it will strip heat out of the furnace too fast and result in incomplete burns with Australian hardwoods (design issue #1).

Actually Australian hardwoods like Eucalypts (or known locally as gum trees) are harder and heavier woods than the common northern hemisphere woods (like pine, birch or spruce) and require much hotter temperatures to get going. As a result they burn into coals more readily and long after the large flames have gone there remains intense heat coming from the mass of coals.

Unless the furnace sheds the heat too fast, like the fan tends to do. If you use the fan too long you'll rob the system of energy needed to sustain combustion, and you'll have heaps of unburnt charcoal left in the morning (and the temperatures will fall sooner).

Its also actually difficult to start hardwood burning in these furnaces and requires (more) tending (than I'd like) to get the fire going. Not least of the issue is that it does require more air flow than softwoods require to get going and stay going.

I've noted also in my fire stoking this last winter (southern hemisphere, means its winter here now folks) that the coals burn and crush under the weight and choke the air flow and thus the heat coming from above (which is the wood).

Having seen a few hearths in my time I've noted various attempts at making a fireplace cradles to hold the burning wood and coals and achieve better air flow (ash falling away).  While in some ways in a fireplace they are also designed to increase radiation, in a furnace like mine its un-needed.

I've also seen gates held up above the floor of the furnace, but they are also make it a pain in the arse to clean the furnace out. My furnace is easy to scrape out with a small shovel.

So I came up with this idea, some simple lengths of 50mm box section which contains the coals, allows air to pass beneath the log and through the coals and no matter what allows some air to get to the back of the furnace (and the hot air exits the top from the front too).



In this photo above you can see that I've cleaned the floor, left the larger unburnt coals (and actually now with this system there really are less coals in the morning and more ash - meaning better completion of transfer of energy from the wood into my house).

The one on the right looks odd at first glance because it has a 45° cut in it and I'm going to weld on a short section to prevent logs rolling off the cradle (and snuffing out). This will still leave the bottom open to carry air through.

This also makes it easier to start with a mixture of woods too. I'll start from the bottom:

  1. coals from the previous night, with wood splinters and some small off cuts sprinkled atop the coals (from checkering the slats I put on the house (earlier blog post) (waste not want not).
  2. two small chunks of fire starter (hexamine), each is about ¼ of a piece as it really starts quickly
  3. a layer of pine (scrap 4x2) cut into small sticks and to act as a pyre and get the coals going too
  4. cross angled shorter pieces of 4x2 hardwood (gum) scrap wood (I got this from a re-roofing done locally for free) which will then fall (burning) onto the coals when the pine is gone
  5. a chunk of hardwood of medium size to get the ball rolling.

This will go for about an hour with what you see and bring my room up to 24°C when outside is 8 or so.

So if you're an Australian (or Kiwi) using Gum you may feel free to try this design out and see what works for you.

Oh, and the steel was sourced free from a local guy making cattle races.

Win Win

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

I seem to have found a kindred spirit

Recently in my youtube feed this fellows talks came up.



Given my 2013 post (here) about my views and experiences with "Religion" its almost like he's telling my own story, which means there are probably quite a few of us who went through this wringer and were subjected to the abuses by these "loving" people too.


Wednesday, 8 May 2019

Dear Oppo ... you blew it

You guys have dropped the ball and the market is now kicking you in the nuts, just as you probably deserve. Huawei is overtaking you and will eventually relegate you to a minor player ... and guess what ... ?

Its all your fault and many people gave you warnings.

Now up front I want to say the following; I bought my first Oppo (the F1) in 2016 and the overwhelming experience with that phone was (and indeed remains) good.

Its a great phone and I love it.

I would say you can count at least 5 sales (that I personally know of) due to my praise and demonstration of that phone to friends.

We all liked that it was slim, light and had a great screen. Indeed over the years many have commented when I hand them the phone that "this is a great phone, not so insanely big like most now" (keep that in mind).

The F1 came behind some great phones of yours like the Find 7 and the N1; these were outstanding phones back when you were first establishing your market. Its not insignificant that you offered technically excellent phones and attracted a market of technically minded users. The phones you offered have always had great hardware and well priced for their technical position. Indeed the R11s is no exception, and if judged only on hardware (which is pointless as one can not re-flash a different OS onto it) then its technically the winner of that comparison.

But phones are more than just their hardware.

One of your other strengths is the outstanding after sales service you offer and that you offer regular OTA security patches for the OS as they seem come available (to this day my F1 continues to get them). There are some people who lament that you don't give OS upgrades (for instance stepping up from Android 5.x to 7 or something like that) but I'm not one of them.

I found that the included feature set of Color OS2.1 was great, with good

  • battery management, 
  • granular internet access at the OS level for Apps, 
  • Quiet Time (before it was even available on Android),
  • and lots of other good stuff such as a great provided Email Client (one of the best I've used), great Camera App, good file manager, inbuilt FTP access, WiFi Hotspot software, default keyboard ... the list goes on.

Sadly the documentation lacked (or perhaps people just didn't know where to look) and many people (reviewers) were unaware of how good the system was and what it provided (I'm still teaching friends with F1 phones how to use components). This was perhaps forgivable with your targeting technical users and if you'd followed up with operational consistency ... but you didn't.

Its not insignificant that you created a "Brand" based on what attracted the technically inclined who evangelized your product. You gave the technically inclined a good product that was also reasonably attractive to the general users too. Personally I don't mind that your OS (was) slightly simplified (I've used Android since Ginger Bread) and distinctive. Indeed I've only ever had one beef with the F1 and that was the (fucking stupid) decision to make the "recent apps" button on the bottom left a "menu button".  This almost instantly caused me problems because:

  1. from the home screen enabled the quick deletion of apps (what were you even thinking)
  2. many applications (even in the day) responded to the long press (to get to your most recent apps task switcher) by engagning the menu (and then leaving engaged when you swapped out of it).
It quickly became clearly a stupid idea which there was no way to customise out. So I just adjusted myself around that.

However this brings me to what your problem is: you release new models with a rapidity that prevents you actually fixing problems or even being interested in problems because like:  "buy the new one".

The existing problems with phones are never solved as your continue to roll problems forward and every iteration of your phones since the F1 has been a gradual decline of functionality of software. The result is each iteration of phone distances itself from experienced users and trys to appeal only to the "Selfie Generation" and the shallow end of the user pool.

I believe this is your core mistake, for you could easily have kept the features you had (appealing to the tecnical users) as well as with styling and advertising (and a few beauty filters) entice the other part of the market.

Software

Yes, software, no matter how good your hardware is your product depends on the software, something you seem to forget.

For instance dropping RAW from your camera software essentially took the only spoke in its wheel and broke it. I've written many posts about how useful the RAW mode is (especially in light of using Snapseed to process the images) which can be found on my blog. For instance: this one.

I have avoided many iterations of your phones the R9s debarcle for instance, these should have been a great seller when you look at the spec. Yet you still find these stuck on shelves that no one can sell ... why? Because while the R9s hardware is excellent ... the software sucks and people quickly discovered that and brought it up on forums. Word spread and the phones just weren't popular with anyone other than those who are just sold on exterior.

So despite many posts on forums you could have used to examine and re-evelop, your dopes just ignored it and released another model (leaving buyers in the lurch with a bad taste in their mouth) and still hardly addressed the software issues.

Color OS2.1 was good, but every iteration afterwards saw more and more "issues" of omission and functionality.

People don't forget this stuff. No amount of great hardware or excellent customer service can help with munged up software.

Yesterday I used the Huawei P30 and I was struck by how good it was, little things such as the gallery appy (now fucked up on the R11s I tested and I assume on quite a many phones if not all your range). Gone in newer Oppo phones seems to be the camera roll view ... not to mention swiping is now broken.

What is unforgivable is that these features were there and you have just dropped them. Its almost like each iteration of development team has never used your product and you shun continuity. Continual product evolution is what has made brands like Apple strong ... despite their insane prices. People can rely on things being the same.

Instead you seem to shun continuity and each time reach for the "new buyer" at the expense of keeping the buyer you already had. This is going to give any Oppo Buyer a good reason to go look at the opposition ... stupid marketing.

Now looking at the hardware spec an upgrade to the R11s should be a no brainer, but it is instead a vexing phone which I'll probably dump on eBay. Fantastic hardware, really, but let down by some stupid software decisions which makes leaving my F1 behind a bad idea and a  backward step in more ways than a forward one.

If you haven't already read it take a look at my recent comparison here, it covers some of the issues. However the more I'm using the R11s the worse the omissions become, just as a for-instance here's another downgrade I found: Wi-Fi Hotspot control. On the F1 it was a good basic control center showing you the basic details and also the MAC addresses of who's connected.



This is a great and simple interface and pretty much the basics that anyone who's ever run their home Wireless system (say, from their ADSL or other WLAN) likes, expects and needs. It also allows you to turn off the tap for specific users who connect (say your kids at night) so that they can't use their tablets when they should be sleeping. Simply opening the switch enables access again.

However the R11s has munged that up with a retrograde step instead of taking that forward, in that it now does not even show you who is connected, instead all you see is this:



Virtually useless.

As one who runs my whole home out of my phones internet connection (and this is something I understood was common in your markets like India, SE Asia or China) this backward step is just unforgivable. 

On my older F1 I can actually see when someone who I don't want to be using data has connected, now  I can't.

Unforgivable.

The next thing which I discovered (*but didn't cover in my previous post or video) was that for some insane reason USB OTG now turns itself off in 10 minutes. Why? My F1 has had USB OTG turned on since the day I bought it because I frequently plug in my SD card from my digital camera (or the digital camera directly to be USB Storage) so that I can process the files from my camera using my phone. I've had some excellent results this way.


Now its true that I've been heavy handed with the above processing, but note how the clouds do not have red tinge (highlight recovery from the RAW) and the texture available in the statue (HDR). I would crop the file differently for presentation (and get rid of the tourists in the way).

Essentially I loved this ability to access how good a computer the F1 actually was (Eg while in a bar having a beer in Prague). I have written extensively how this has made mobile devices a game changer for photography, and now the stupid R11s makes me dig through a bunch of settings to enable it every fucking time I need to use it.
Settings
 >> Additional Settings
   >> (then invisible off the bottom of the page) OTG Connection.

You have no idea how irritating this is. What moron thought that was a good idea? I would like to enable it and have it stay enabled.

Old saying in Australia: If it ain't broken don't fix it. The feature was already there, but if you (Oppo) had any sense of corporate continuity of product you'd know to keep it. It doesn't require change, it requires continuity.

So a list is in order of the features which were present, but due to incompetence, ignorance or indifference that are now gone OR crippled:

  • OTG connection keeps turning off (why?)
  • no easy access to data usage stats
  • Poor display of WiFi hotspot (no connected users) AND now Wi-Fi hotspot is always irritatingly active at the top of the menu, meaning I'm often finding my ear has activated it leading to:
  • Screen ON gestures has gone away, so I now can't lock the screen to prevent misoperation while in a call 
  • standard Image browser has reversed direction of scroll AND lost swiping between albums AND lost the camera roll feature
  • Quiet Time has lost the count down feature
  • Clock has lost its Analog
  • Dark themes for applications like Compass make it impossible to see outside in daylight (so setting a different theme would be handy)
  • Desktop icons are ONLY auto-arrange (so I can't pick my arrangement)
  • Screensnapshot no longer appears directly to be used in the pull down blind (so using it is more of a pain in the arse than it was
  • Music player now only shows a list, not the grid (so with more albums its harder to see them)
  • No default email app (which was a great app by the way)
That's just what comes to mind immediately. Bullshit which would not have happened if you (Oppo) had just followed any sort of corporate consistency (and an introduction of new features rather than just madness)


Sure I get that 90% of people out there don't all make use of these, but then those 90% often listen to their technically savvy friends advises on phones, ones who they know and trust (and this friend will not be saying "get the Oppo" any more ... ).

As I said, I'm certain you got 5 sales of the F1 directly from my advice. I can't say that now.

Where to now?

Personally I don't know where you Oppo will choose to go from here, I hope its not further downhill. But I'm going to skip another generation of your phones because of all this stupidity of destroying the key features you once had. Perhaps I'll try again later ... who knows. I may indeed try your sister company the OnePlus brand, but its a pity that you've ruined your name and become synonymous with just a good looking but dumb blond who has quirks you can't live with.

This is not just my view either, as you will find internet influencers (like Martin at Tech Altar who was once a consultant for you). I'm sure you've seen some of his works.

Here he writes a good review of your work and what you were doing right.



For those on a phone, use this link (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDC2Z3eYOiM)
Myself I don't care about the bezel fascination, as in reality its just Kiddies who get off on that.

However as I've said its gone down from there ... notice the Expert Mode, which even he seems to have missed the powerful feature of separating the focus point from the metering which I have discussed on my blog here. Interestingly that post has been in my top 10 weekly posts for years now (hint: that means its a popular feature). Sadly its been munged up too on the R11s

and then this one:



... or this link if you're on a phone https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJgTKx-rg18

Which explains what has happened to you Oppo ... essentially a long game of bait and switch for anyone who didn't get on board with an earlier model (and then just keep it).

So its not like nobody told you.

I have yet to try Color OS 5.x and I hope that many of these fuctional retrograde steps are not present there. I've really liked your phones in the past I genuinely hope you pull your head out of the place it currently is and re-invent yourselves ... perhaps a visit to your own history would help?

I would love to be able to buy a phone as good as my F1 again from Oppo, because your support and service is excellent, you fully deserve the Canstar rating you got. But it may just be that will never happen, because increasingly your phones have such lacking software and you're so lost that maybe you'll never find your way again. After all if such "non cutting edge" can achieve so much in my F1 still why can't you make the same for the $500 price point again?

Either way the F1 has been a killer phone and thanks for that.

Best Wishes

Tuesday, 7 May 2019

Huawei P30 (a quick look at the camera results)

I was in at my local Optus shop the other day (located in Rose City in Warwick, Queensland, they are one of the few privately owned stores and actually really care), to ask a question about my phone plan and one of the staff there mentioned she'd just bought the Huawei P30 because she thought it had a great camera. So naturally I was interested to see.

Not having my camera with me I had to wait till today when I went back in, and of course I took my A7 in to make a comparison.

The Huawei has an equivalent lens to a 28mm and the best match I have for that on my A7 is the Samyang 35mm f2.8, which is a bit less wide than the P30's lens. This therefore gives the A7 image a slight advantage as its covering less area. But equally the P30 shoots more pixels so there's that.

The specs:

  • Sony A7 - 6000 x 4000 pixels - 3:2 aspect
  • Huawei - 7296 x 5472 pixels - 4:3 aspect

Overview

Lets have a look:

A7



P30


and so (unsurprisingly) the P30 is wider and taller. To just bring that into a bit more visual equality, lets just crop the P30 image top and bottom off to make it the same 3:2 aspect ratio that the A7 is (which to be fair isn't entirely required as many people actually like 4:3 better (and indeed I have a few 43rds cameras myself)) for similarity sake.

P30 @ 3:2


of course still wider ;-)

Both cameras have made slightly different exposure decisions and both (set to Auto Colourbalance) have picked pretty similar renditions of the colour (in a tough artifical light situation really). Top points to the Huawei already for just this.

Both extraordinarily good on screen, indeed far better than the screens will allow without some pinch and zoom ... which is essentially looking at details, so...

Details Observations

So, with barely a warm up lets just dive in and pixel peep the images. I thought I'd start at the corners

Top Left Corner


You'll need to click that image to load the 100% view, but you can see that the extra pixels compensates for the extra width of the P30 image, with 100% pixels being almost a perfect match.

The exposure decisions of the P30 help that ceiling down light look "white", but you can see the classic JPG artifacts of colour noise reduction in that "smeared oil painting" look in the grey of the ceiling. If you can't see it, make sure you open the image because blogger resizes things to fit on smaller screens. Here is just the P30 image at 100%



Now, when making the image smaller (as its almost always going to be when you print or show on the web (Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat ... heck even blog) you just won't notice this. However if you want to use "digital zoom" to make that into a more "normal" portrait you'll start to see this smearing become more prominent just as you are now.

either way, the edge quality is outstanding with excellent (expecially for a phone) edge correction and no significant barrel distortion or other aberrations.


Great points again for the Huawei (and remember how poorly my Oppo R11s performed in comparison to the A7 with this exact same lens).

Lets look now at the center.


Ok, here we can start to see that there is some clearer advantage to the A7 image in the text and the strange JPG artifacting in the chrome poles ... but hey, this is a Full Frame mirrorless camera certainly the equal of any DSLR out there while the P30 is a phone.

Amazing that it got this close, lets look at another portion:


So the exposure decision made by the A7 has prevented the blow outs of highlight on the Accessories wall while keeping colours of the items for sale fairly consistent. If you click and load the image you'll also see that the Opening Hours are clearer, which will become (as I mentioned) more obvious if you were to use a little "digital zoom" to make that more of a "normal" shot than a wide shot (as portrait mode does).

Discussion

For a phone camera this performance is not only excellent, but for wide angle shots that are typical of travel and general snapshots its fantastic. It gets within a hairs width of a top quality Interchangeable Lens Camera like the A7 which surely deserves recognition.

For me however it won't be replacing my proper camera, because on my A7 I can mount different lenses and take better portraits and more versatile specialist shots of things which you just can't get with software:


or even


without any weird software (pretending to do Bokeh) effects. And I seriously doubt that the P30 would do this well on long exposure low light shots like this:


or telephoto


But that notwithstanding the P30 camera makes a compelling choice if you're seeking a new phone and photography means anything to you.

Well done Huawei

PS: as a disclaimer I got paid nothing for this, do not own a Huawei phone (as should be clear from recent posts) and I have nothing to do with Optus apart from being a happy customer and liking the way I've been dealt with (so if you live in the area, and are thinking about changing to Optus, go in and ask...). Lastly, thanks to the lovely lady how took her shots with the P30 and shared them with me (via bluetooth). Personally I'm motivated by the "Invisible Hand" , as you'll see in other posts of mine.



Sunday, 5 May 2019

Oppo R11s camera (portrait mode and low light images)

I thought I'd put this here because I find myself referring to these images (which I took as part of the earlier R11s comparison, but didn't include because the post was getting long) in other discussions I've had.

Summary

The camera system on the R11s (which is functionally the same as the OnePlus 5T) employs two cameras to do the job that the F1 does. It makes use of these cameras to give a bokeh effect and to assist in reducing picture noise in low light situations.

It does an impressive job at noise control in low light, but I can't say I'm fond of the "bokeh" effect. The boke effect is patently fake but will pass muster for non photographic people who only give it a quick look on Farcebook, Instacrap or Slapshat. The tons of rave reviews are either showing their utter ignorance or were paid to dribble nonsense.

There is a resoundingly stupid (channeling my inner John Cadogan) way of changing the aspect ratio of the camera (no, really).

Its still an excellent bit of hardware let down by the fools at Oppo in the software section (however given so few have long term (no, not 6 weeks, 3 years) experience with an Oppo as their daily driver I guess no one will know what they were missing (and why so many think McDonalds makes good food)

Poor-trait mode

Its important to state up front that details change when you take a portrait mode shot, the image size changes from 4068 x 3456 pixels to

  • 5184 x 3888 (in the "normal" portrait mode)
  • 3264 x 2448 (in the closer head and shoulder portrait mode)
weird isn't it ... because the only other way you get different dimensions of your image in pixels (and yes, it matters because the victims of marketing only ever seem to waffle on about how many megapixels the camera has, seemingly vacant and devoid of comprehension of what it even means or why its not the only metric) is to change how the phone shows the picture (red arrow).



Which weirdly in Full Screen crops the image down to a wide screen 2:1 aspect while actually keeping exactly the same long dimension (4608). It does not make the image any wider, just narrower (4608 x 2304). Aside from portrait there is no other way to get those extra pixels...

So lets look at a portrait mode image shall we?



Now I've put this red halo around me to highlight my primary beef with this system: it makes mistakes in combination.

Note that the area above my (balding) head is left un-bokeh'd ? I wonder if this is a failure of the algorithm or indeed to account for "big hair" in the typical fluff-head who festers iconic tourist locations to grab a selfie or 2 (x 103).

If we were to recompose to carefully position my face at the edge of the frame I suppose we'd fix that.

Now its one thing for a photograph to be something you'd glance at on Farcebook (on a small screen) but its another to have a picture you took be something you'd want on your desk. So unless you only want a post card sized image (meaning you don't need 20 megapixels) you'l see this level of detail in the image.



which is crappy, pixel smeared (blame that heavy handed JPG processing I've complained about before) and has weird artifacts like my glasses, softening my beard and ear but not the boards behind me. So basically its a crap gimmick ...

Still for a quick glance (on your phone, not a print on your desk) for the "Slapshat generation" who only glance momentarily at your masterpiece,which you probably spent more time taking, trying different filters and generally gazing at yourself than anyone will looking at it, its probably just fine.

Myself I'll stick to  my real camera thanks. Chances are that if you're reading my blog you're a photograper anyway, but in case you aren't, here are some examples of what one can achieve taking a portrait looks like using a real (yet still quite compact) camera with a similar angle of view and a sensor size which brings many advantages to the photographer.






Yes, that's what shallow depth of field is all about ... its a matter of physics and its going to require a lot of AI smarts to replicate it. But why bother doing that when you can actually carry a real camera if you happen to be into photography?

Anyway, while you're obsessing over the question of "is 20 megapixels good enough or do I need more" you can look at the 20 the Oppo R11s produces and ask yourself "is that good enough for me".

Consider that the above camera (a nearly 10 year old Panasonic GF-1) is only 12 megapixels,  will set you back a puny $100 and be a lasting tool that will yield many excellent image especially in lower light. A real camera will show you what Depth of Field effect (note: not bokeh effect) can do. At the very least note the genuine and natural way that focus falls off with distance?

So now lets move onto the advantage (rather than the cheap gimmick) the camera has:

Low Light


This is one area that the dual camera shine at - low light (and wow, I wish it had RAW capacity, but probably that's asking a bit much when the 3 year older half the price F1 has that).

Now lacking OIS you'll need to have a tripod (and I doubt that OIS would be sufficient for these exposures anyway, but still).

Now the F1 does not have portrait mode (no loss IMO)  but it does have long exposure and ISO control in the manual settings as does the R11s, so we can directly compare them here.

I took this shot (scaled down for overview) with the F1


and  this one with the R11s


Now I gave the R11s an advantage by using its faster F-Stop (f1.7 but f2.2 for the F1) to allow it to use the same shutter speed (important for hand holding). This is an advantage because by using a slower ISO (1600 vs 3200), it can have less noise in the image. Looking at the above shows that:

  • they aren't exactly the same exposure (the F1 is brighter giving more foreground exposure) because f1.7 >> f2.2 is not a full stop, but three quaters of one. None the less this is significantly darker than just that, indeed I'd put it at at least half a stop or maybe even a stop
  • at these sizes the noise and image quality differences don't matter much
But again, if you've gone on a holiday and taken your prize shot of Rome at Night with the only camera you had (the phone), which you want to print big (like A4 or larger, and the R11s will yeild a print as large as 58.5 x 43.9 cm or 23.04 x 17.28 inches) then you'll be interested in the details.

So when peeking at the pixels, this is about the differences you'll see in a print


which is astounding and makes the R11s a superior camera.

Now its worth pointing out that this was a super extreme test, and to my eyes (and I have good night vision) the sky was barely observable as a glow and I could not see details on the ground. To even get sharpness in the shed I critically manually focused (which both will do, in the expert mode), AF shots were not as good in this low light with either camera. Still the amount of detail in the R11s is amazingly good for what it is. I wonder if it had RAW how much more I could get out if (as I know I can with the F1)

Bottom line: If I was travelling I'd be comfortable to have this camera with me for night shots. Yep its that good. Having said that the F1 has advantages in other areas and when I use RAW (which when I'm taking more than a snapshot I always do), so for a person even faintly serious about photography the F1 is still the better outfit.

Discussion

Why do Oppo continue to develop their phone hardware and yet also continue to degrade their phone software?

To me the R11s is a great camera system on a phone (for what one can reasonably expect), its sad to me that they've dropped many of the features from the camera software (like the Expert Mode seperable focus and metering, "Super Macro Mode" and RAW) but as I normally take my regular camera with me I'm not too worried.

The inbuilt HDR does a much better job than the HDR on the F1 (although not as good as the F1 does in RAW and using Snapseed see here), so I don't want to muddy this review up with that complex discussion but just to show how well the R11s does on the HDR mode.

Standard image:


and HDR engaged:



So much better preservation of highlights and shadows. to get that with the F1 I needed to use RAW and touch up in Snapseed;



which as it happens, is to me a more "natural" looking image, preserved highlights and appropriate shadow details, with (as observed in other posts) a slightly wider angle of view (which I appreciate).

But if you're a Pareto Principle sorta person (where you aim to get 80% of the benefits for 20% of the effort then the R11s camera offers much and is a (slightly unclear) development from what was offered 3 years ago in the F1.

Of course if buying new you have no choice (well and soon you probably won't be able to get a new R11s anyway as its last years phone), the R11s is a competent phone camera.

I'm as yet undecided if the R11s will become my daily driver for a number of reasons, these being:
  • the colour rendition of the R11s makes it seem punchier than it is, meaning others will see limp washed out images (which look good to you) (on a positive note, I can say that it has a much better rendition of the rgb gamut than almost any other screen does, so there's that)
  • lack of voice shutter trigger
  • I don't like the bigger phone to hold (and the reduction in bezel size makes for touch errors)
  • less control
  • no RAW
However as I normally also travel with a GF-1 and a couple of lenses some of this is moot.

In its favor the R11s's faster processor means I can process RAW images from my proper camera in much less time. For instance I did a comparison with my Sony A7 cameras raw files and found this for transferring and converting 3 ARW files:

R11s
Transfer speed = 12mbs
3 ARW file conversion = 17.46 sec
Snapseed conversion
Open time = 4sec
Processing = 9.4sec


F1
Transfer speed = 10mbs
3 ARW file conversion = 34 sec
Snapseed conversion
Open time = 4sec
Processing = 32sec

Processing time was less of a "oh my god, I'm getting another beer" event when using my Panasonic GF-1 (because its a 12Megapixel camera and the Sony is 20Megapixels ... and more pixels means a longer time)

Lastly I'll leave you with a shot taken with my GF-1 but not used in the previous comparison (here) of phone and camera cameras


its why I keep using a camera, although its nice to have "much better than nothing" in my Phone.

Monday, 22 April 2019

Happy Easter

After a long Friday, and being dead for a bit ... shit like that will turn not just your shit white, but you too...


To the believers ... may god bless you

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Oppo R11s explorations

To those unfamiliar with the R11s I recommend starting at this page: https://www.oppo.com/au/smartphone-r11s/ for a general advertising tilt. If I can say a single phrase which summarises this post its this:
no matter how good the hardware is, it's only as good (or bad) as the software.
Oppo (and their sister company OnePlus) make some great hardware ... OnePlus makes great phones, Oppo sometimes does.

Some time ago (2016) I bought an Oppo F1 and its been my daily driver since then (and actually still is). While I'd had a number of Android tablets (and used a few iPhones and iPads too) before getting it my daily driver until the F1 was my Nokia E-72, which still works and is still me "spare sim" phone that I have on every day for my "other" sim, as well as literally being the better bluetooth capable MP3 playing device that I connect to my stereo or speakers. A fairly amazing service from a 2009 phone, but I digress.

The R11s is basically a OnePlus 5T with a slightly down spec processor and a bit less RAM (both system and storage) and a different "OS Skin" over Android, which costs less. You can compare them over here on GSMArena (link). To the spec cognoscenti it would seem that the F1 would be substantially left in the dust by either of these two, and if you're a phone gamers maybe that would be true. However I'm not, I'm the kind of person who uses my phone as
  • a phone (you know, calls, SMS ... I know wild strange shit right?)
  • a camera that's not only always with me, but capable (read this post to see how good my Nokia E-72 was), and the F1 has proven very capable, even more so because it has the ability to capture RAW (tons on my blog about that, but this post is well worth reading)
  • a portable computer with my files, documents on the SD card or access to shared files by Dropbox
  • a computer with access to internet communications tools like WhatsApp, Skype and of course email
  • my home internet box (yep, I regularly WiFi hotspot my phones data to run my homes internet, me being single if I'm not home then nothing in my home needs to be accessing the internet). This has simplified things and saved me money. I'd say this is about the biggest change to how I work overall in the change from the E-72 to the F1
The focus of this post however will be on the phone as a camera and the differences in usage between the F1 and the R11s



Questions that I sought to answer are; does the R11s have a better camera (which, spoilers, is a yes and no thing, but for me no), does it have any improvements in usage experience to justify its expense (again, no) and aside from "I like the colour better" (I never did like the white face of the F1), is it a better device.

So ... lets go there.

The good

Security: what I sought was basically the inclusion of fingerprint unlock, meaning my phone can be protected from unauthorised access while being simple to get at. My F1 required a PIN or a Pattern (lacking any fingerprint sensor), so that's handy. However in practice I normally leave my phone unlocked because 1) I live alone 2) I live in a rural area where theft is about as common as snow (its a sub tropical area) 3) when I go somewhere (say international travel) I can engage the PIN or Pattern Unlock - so its really no big deal to me and I can get at the camera without unlocking the phone.

What I experienced was that while it was quick you had to hold the phone in a particular way to ensure orientation of the finger to the sensor and have multiple fingers in the system if you happen to ever use the phone with more than one hand (say your right hand). If the phone is on the desk beside you you have to pick it up or use a PIN anyway .... So in conclusion its actually more of a pain in my usage than any advantage.


Fast Charging: the VOOC charging is fantastic and if I'm home briefly (even 10 minutes) I can plug it in for a bit and get a substantial hit from the charge (a far better %age than with my F1 in the same time). So when (rarely) I'm using the phone so much during the day and not able to get any source of charge that would be handy. ... IFF I have the VOOC charger and cable with me (which I usually don't). Next, because the battery is about 50% greater capacity compared to the F1 it means it takes 50% longer to charge it with a normal charger (you know, like the USB one in my car for starters) or a portable battery bank. 

Recently, when I was on holiday in Prague the F1 lasted all day, taking some great shots during the day as well as post processing them (loving that RAW for post processing) and uploading to Farcebook (via wifi at the pub, for my friends who were interested) and Maps Navigation and GPS on all the time (to find those pubs)...

Some example shots:
pano



museum interiors (with a little Snapseed)



and something to wet my whistle at lunch


(as well as processing the many images I took in RAW on my Panasonic GF-1 camera and uploading them too  ...)

But to take advantage of VOOC you must not only use a VOOC compatible charger but the VOOC compatible cable, cos they're different 



The original F1 cable (left) is just a regular high current type Micro USB type while the VOOC one is a variant of that which uses its different physical shape (length) to ensure that you don't fry a regular phone if its charged with the VOOC system. Thoughtful.

So to me in practice the VOOC brings very little to the table because (as mentioned):
  • I need the VOOC charger to charge fast (or its slower to charge because of bigger battery)
  • in my car even the VOOC cable won't fast charge because its a whole system (charger and cable)
  • at work I can't fast charge unless I buy a second charger and cable
  • travelling I cant take significant advantage of a USB Battery to charge
So in practice the only two advantages I've found with the R11 are not actually clear advantages.

Hmmm

The next thing I was interested in was the Performance of the camera (well actually it was that first, but I digress) as I'm clearly a keenly photographically oriented person.

The Camera (first analysis)

In this post (cos I don't really want to be here all day) I'll just do a quick comparison (and will probably publish more comparisons). I thought I'd start with shooting two scenes with the following cameras:

  • R11s (duh)
  • F1
  • Sony A7
because the last two are recognised widely as being good highly capable stills interchangable lens cameras (especially the last one).

The first thing that emerges when comparing the R11s to the F1 is that the angle of view (or how wide it is) is different. The R11s is less wide.

In this presentation I'm going to use the RAW file from the F1 because I've already established that in my own usage I far prefer to take "keeper shots" (which I plan) in RAW in case I need to make "improvements" to its look and feel (it takes both at the same time with no operational penalty). As Oppo have taken RAW off the R11s I can only use its JPG output (and actually I think the F1 was the first and last phone they provided with RAW I inadvertently got a "sleeper"). So lets take a look

R11s (taken with the HDR mode)


I took that image (and all subsequent images with the R11s) using its Auto HDR mode, because frankly without that they were devoid of any details in shadows (think as black as a scared squid) and flimsy highlights.

F1 (of course in RAW and using snapseed to adjust tonals)


Now this difference in width is not big by any means, both are "wide angle" I know that the F1 is 28mm equivalent and I'm guessing that the R11s is something like 30mm equivalent. I know its not 35mm equivalent because I took this shot with my Sony A7 and a 35mm f2.8 lens

Sony A7 (taken with RAW and adjusting tonals to look similar in Snapseed)


I've marked in red below pretty much where the A7 image covers in the R11s image


So since the 35mm is considered a wide angle lens I'm not going take points away from the R11s because its still wide (which is excellent for general and travel photography).

I do mention it because it has an important influence on apparent sharpness. Essentially when you capture wider every detail gets smaller on the same sensor, so as the R11s has a less wide capture, it will capture more detail, but less details because less width if you know what I mean (examine the width differences carefully between the F1 and R11s)


the F1 is a bit wider again than the R11s is to the 35mm angle of view

As well as meaning that the R11s can put less detials into its image it also means it can make easier metering decisions because there may be less variation of lighting differences in the scene.

On the subject of "light" I happen to prefer the tonals I obtained from the A7 and the F1 in that order ... the R11s rated last.

The details

For instagram and farcebook posts these differences don't matter because just like I've done here those applications will scale that image back to smaller (oh and do click on the images and open in a new tab for easy comparisons, if you're reading this on a phone please do look on a real computer)

Ok, so knowing that scaled down (you've just looked) makes no clear difference in camera (well apart from perhaps tonal ranges) lets pixel peep these at 100% (meaning one image pixel = one screen pixel).


So this shows a few things in clarity:
  • despite covering a wider amount of scenery (with less outright pixels) the F1 captures more tonal details than the R11s does (examine the subtle texture in the grass and hillside trees)
  • the R11s suffers from exactly the same JPG plastic looking pixel smudging that erodes details as I observed back years ago with the F1 (here at the bottom of the page, and this was before I'd discovered Snapseed), if the R11s had RAW it would be a big improvement right there ... it would be a "done deal" that I'd keep this phone (note the implication of conclusion) and it would be a killer camera phone. Meanwhile the A7 is a killer camera (as you'd expect). 



For the trade off in convenience and size the phone cameras are damn good, but the F1 has the edge over the R11s simply because it has RAW (and I know what more that brings to the table for an enthusiast photographer): meaning that just like the F1 the supplied (built in) software hobbles the system, but unlike the F1 the R11s can not step up to the plate because it doesn't support RAW (meaning a failure of software).

Print Sizes

Lets do another quick look at 50% which I've found is representative what you can see with close inspection of the biggest prints from the images. Which BTW is: 

  • 92.7 x 61.8 cm for the A7, 
  • 71.1 x 52.6 cm for the F1 and 
  • 78.0 x 58.5 cm for the R11s
So not any substantial difference in the print sizes from these two phones and only a little bit bigger for the A7 (think about that for what to pack on your next holiday).


So with a print nearly a meter wide if you walked up as close as you can see comfortably with your eyes this is pretty much what you'd see. Sony is clearly the winner (no surprises that landscape photographers love this camera and won't be switching to a phone any time soon) and the differences between the R11s and F1 are minor ... if you like the extra "over sharpened" look to exaggerate the posts on that shed over the better textures of the grasses and hillside trees, then the R11s is for you, but its my style baby.

But these are super large prints, and its important to consider that printing any smaller will mean the differences are less observable. However what you do need to consider it cropping. If you didn't want wide angle then you can't crop the R11s image as much as you can the processed F1 image.

Now if I was buying a new then it would be different because I couldn't get the F1 new anymore. So if I didn't have access to that phone I wouldn't know what I am missing ... so for new buyers the R11s is a great phone camera ... but for me as an owner of the F1 its not worth the switch.

Usability

One of the main issues I have with the R11s is how every good feature of the F1 is either reduced or destroyed, everything from the size (compact enough but not puny) screen colour rendition (the AMOLED screen is way too saturated and contrasty, perhaps suiting kiddies and making flat boring pictures look better, but when using your phone as an image editing and adjustment tool for in the field on the fly editing its crap because its misleading.

Here's what I rate as worse on the R11s
  • screen colour
  • off angle strange colour shifts of OLED
  • pull down menu and notifications being munged
  • settings access (from the notification blind)
  • comprehensive feature set up
  • loaded software is a step back (especially the image browser, but clock / alarm features and compass too)
  • camera functionality (they fuckking destroyed one of the core usefulnesses which is the "Expert mode" and lack of RAW)
  • included sounds
  • the clock
  • Quiet Time (lost the count down feature rendering it far less functional)
  • the forced dark colour scheme of the compass (you just can't fucking see it in daylight)
here's what they fixed on the R11s which was painful on the F1
  • the navigation buttons on the bottom of the screen
Here's a quick video explaining some of that, the background lighting is a little dark (maybe) but I tried hard to not wash out the screen colours.




(if your on a phone, you will need to click this link https://youtu.be/nXtEVUkGnCYto see that video, but as I mentioned before, you'll see all this better on a proper computer with a decent screen)

I mentioned the Expert mode that has been degraded to just a name, but lost expert features, here's an example of that:



Clearly the development team had no concept of consistency ... Color OS 2.1 is to my mind the best so far that I've tried. The R11s uses Color OS 3.2 which is an improvement on 3.1 that's for sure. Unlike some Android users I'm quite comfortable with what Color OS does (well more so 2.1) and I don't really need an app drawer (if you don't even know what that means that's a good thing) as I like that the apps just appear on the desktop, and that if you run out of space you just get another "page" of desktop. I can organise into folders myself and then I therefore customise where things are. I like that.

As I said, I'm no modder, I don't want to "root" my device and replace the dialer or replace the text messaging app, I just want to have a phone that I can use, and add apps to it as needed (like my banking, WhatsApp or whatever).

One last point on usability: the R11s is slightly larger than the F1, as you see, this small size difference means that it goes from being a on the edge of being too big for someone like me to being a bit too big. The R11s will not fit comfortably in my front jeans pocket when sitting, I ride my motorbike or drive my car. If I put it in my back pocket it sticks up too far and to my mind that makes it a greater target for theft.

Bottom Line

I went into this with high hopes (hell I bought the bloody thing to see), but a week of usage and comparison side by side has shown me that the advances just aren't there for me. I'm not significantly interested in the (barely) larger screen, as for watching a movie either screen is too small and my 10" tablet is my go to there (with excellent sound too). Same for image processing as the tablet has 2560 x 1600 screen res and looks fantastic displaying movies at 1080p. That bigger higher res screen is also great for processing images (which I find I do more on my tablet than on my computer now). So the R11s offers less when viewed as part of my present ecosystem.

I've said for a while that technology is plateauing and this comparison shows that the difference (nearly 2 years) in phones has brough very little.  If you have higher expectations (or are moving up from a F1 which you chose because you had higher expectations of camera performance) then pick another phone OR (in my view) accept that cheaper phones are quite reasonable and if your photography needs are higher >> get a real camera ;-)

However

If you (unlike me) don't expect much from your camera and just want to see your selfies looking good on your own phone and don't care what others get to see then the R11s is a great value for money phone. I'm not even sure that you'll see any significant difference on stepping up to a Samsung Galaxy S9 or iPhone 8 (I've used both) and so if you're in the market right now the R11s is a bargain when you compare it to the new stuff beside it on the shelves (*which I'm expecting to be no better or worse), myself I'm not clear if I'll sell this or keep it. I already have a second F1 as a "backup" so I'm probably able to get by for another year or two .. so who knows what the market will be like then?

That I'm seeing flagships at nearly $2000 I'm not sure it'll be any better because that drags up the bottom end.

More to come ....