GOLD PLANAR GL-400C Review - The Cheapest Planar Magnetic Headphones

I was looking for a replacement for my now worn out and well used pair of headphones (Sony MDR-1A) but at the same time I did not want to spend a fortune, considering the chaotic Pandemic world is crashing kind of situation at the moment. Then I stumbled upon Gold Planar GL-400C - a budget planar magnetic headphones on Lazada (Malaysian online shopping site) and I thought to myself, at the price of merely RM350 and I have the chance to own a true planar magnetic, why not? It was a risk worth taking, and I gambled. After using the Gold Planar GL-400C for about a week plus now, I must say it was one of the best decisions I have made recently on online purchases. 

If you prefer to watch a video format of this review, here it is on my second YouTube channel. Please subscribe to that channel too, if you have not. 


DISCLAIMER
This is not a sponsored review, I have no association with Gold Planar. They did not send me a review sample and I bought the GL-400C with my own cash. This is an independent review and I am sharing my experience as an audiophile newbie. 

WHAT IS PLANAR MAGNETIC?
In case some of you are not familiar with what planar magnetic headphones are, here is a quick introduction. Traditional headphones, which are the most commonly available headphones are also called dynamic headphones that use electromagnets to drive the speakers. There is another method to produce sound without using electromagnets, and this technique is electrostatic. Planar magnetic is a hybrid between dynamic and electrostatic speakers. I won't dive deep into the technical details, you can easily look up the information online if you want to know more about the differences between different headphones. The key advantages of planar magnetic are significantly lower distortion, better soundstage, higher level of audio accuracy (better sound detail, separation and clarity) and tighter bass. I admit my explanation is perhaps too simplistic, but I want to get back to my review of the Gold Planar GL-400C before I divert too far. 

PRODUCT OVERVIEW
I have low expectations when I decided to buy the GL-400C. Most planar magnetic headphones, even the entry level models will cost about RM1000 or more. The GL-400C does come in two variants - closed back and open back options. I chose the closed back variant for better sound isolation, as my room is not completely silent with an operating ceiling fan and PC noise, while being next to a busy highway. Also, I intend to bring the headphones out to work with in a cafe from time to time. The GL-400C has on-ear design, which helped shaved a bit of cost, and I acknowledge most audiophiles would prefer a full sized over-ear design headphones. I understand it is quite uncommon for planar magnetic to be designed in a closed back enclosure, and I have no way to compare it to the open back variant. 
Here are some quick specifications highlights:
- Impedance 22 Ohms
- Frequency 10Hz to 50kHz
- Nano diaphragm planar driver
- Sensitivity 94dB
- Total Harmonic Distortion 0.25%@1KHZ/100dB SPL

The world's cheapest Planar Magnetic headphones - Gold Planar GL-400C

Metal build, good padding, weighs only 190g. On-ear design and closed back, planar magnetic. 

LOOK & FEEL
I fell in love with the minimalist, clean and simplistic look. The headphones are in all black with metallic silver accents. There is no visible logo or branding anywhere on the headphones, which was a bold move and I applaud Gold Planar for that. The GL-400C do not scream attention, the design is stealthy and low key and no one would know this is a planar magnetic headphones just from the looks. 

BUILD QUALITY
The GL-400C is obviously budget-priced but the build quality does not show any cheapness at all. Gold Planar claimed they used light aluminium to construct the enclosures of the headphones, and I can feel almost the entire headphones are made of metal, or some kind of metal material. Every part of the headphones felt solid. I have stretched, pulled and yanked the headphones in all directions (refer to video) and I found the construction to be very well made, with no give, no creaky sounds as I tortured the headphones. The headphones feel durable and can take some beating. 

COMFORT
The headband does have sufficient padding, which sits comfortably on my head, with no issue, and at times I almost forgot it was sitting there. The fact that the GL-400C is so light at 190 grams only, also made it very comfortable to put on. The ear cups have thick paddings, material is probably some kind of synthetic leather, as they sit on my ears they felt very cushy and soft. The clamping force was good, not too forceful, and as you wear the GL-400C, the headphones do not move away from the head easily. However I must tell you I have larger head than most people, so wearing this on smaller heads, you may have a different experience. The earcups do not get warm that quickly, in fact I have been listening non-stop with GL-400C for about close to 2 hours, with no issue. Typically when I use over ear full sized headphones, my ears get too warm since they are fully sealed off, in Malaysian hot and humid weather, sweat can be a real problem. I did not sweat at all using the Gl-400C, whatever they are doing, it is working, and when it comes to wearing comfort, these pair get high marks from me. 

Love the all black, simplistic design, with no visible logo, and some silver metallic accents. 

It was comfortable to wear the GL-400C, though they have on-ear design. 

SOUND TEST METHODOLOGY
My sound testing setup is very simplistic. I intend to use the Gold Planar GL-400C with my smartphone as well as my laptop computer only. I do find that the GL-400C benefits greatly with additional power from an external amplifier, so if you are looking into getting one for yourself, I highly recommend getting a portable headphones amplifier if you don't already have one. 
Music Player - Realme 2 Pro
App - Poweramp
Headphones Amplifier - Fiio A3
Sound Source - FLAC/MP3 320 files
Just in case anyone is curious about burning in, I did let the GL-400C burn in for about 2 days with more than 20 hours almost continuous playback at 50% volume, before I make any testing and sound assessment. 

PLANAR MAGNETIC SOUND
Initial impression when I started listening to the GL-400C was very good. I can immediately hear the distinctive qualities of planar magnetic drivers - much wider soundstage, better instrument and detail separation and overall higher sense of clarity. I tested had the GL-400C directly plugged into the Realme 2 Pro smartphone without any additional amplification first, the sound was OK but I knew it needed that boost to reach higher potential. Powering them through the Fiio A3 external amplifier, the Gold Planar GL-400C came to life. The bass is much tighter, the sound is more refined and detailed and the clarity just went up a few notches. 

The sound from the GL-400C is not neutral or flat. This is not designed for studio monitoring work and for those who value high sound accuracy with no color or bias, the GL-400C may be a let down. The sound is so obviously colored, and tuned. There is a strong hint of warmth in the sound signature and the higher end of the frequency are raised slightly higher than what reference, neutral level sounding headphones would normally produce. 

BASS
I did not expect this, but the bass is quite impressive coming from G:-400C. The bass notes extends really low, and you can hear the details, not just the hard punches and kicks. Not only the bass added weight to the music, it added depth and I really appreciate the accurate, layered bass rendering from the GL-400C. Perhaps the closed back design helped with the bass strength - the earpads vibrated onto my ear - oh such satisfaction when you can hear and feel the bass at the same time. Do not get me wrong, this is not the headphones for bassheads - the bass is not overbearing, it is present and demands attention without fighting with or overpowering other spectrum of the sound. If you want your bass to overwhelm everything else, look elsewhere. 

MIDS AND VOCALS
The mids are clear and nicely layered, aided with wide soundstage that rendered very good stereo imaging. The vocals are a little forward sounding without being too in your face and annoying, definitely a good plus for those listening to jazz, female or male vocal dominant music. 

TREBLE
The high frequency is where the GL-400C shines - and I am discussing this for a budget, entry level pair of headphones. Within this price range, I don't think there is anything comparable to the level of clarity and detail in the high frequency reproduction. The treble sparkles and sizzles without being harsh, too bright or sharp. There is a slight sense of brightness but the layers of details and instrumental separation (especially guitars and cymbals) came alive. I admit this is not the best sounding high frequency from any headphones out there, there are smoother, better detailed high frequency headphones out there, but those would cost at least three times the price of GL-400C. 

I can see how versatile the Gold Planar GL-400C can be - they can do well in most music genres without being fussy, throw anything with vocals, instrument heavy, bass, the GL-400C can chew and spit out beautiful, lively and vibrant sound with so much clarity and detail. 

Audio test setup - simplistic yet effective. Fiio A3 portable headphones amplifier was used to add a ittle power boost. 

 Verdict - highly recommended as an entry into audiophile world, or a guiltless introduction to planar magnetic headphones without harming your wallet. 

The way these headphones are made - from the design standpoint to the sound delivery, it is clear they aim for newcomers to the audio world. And in this universe, high fidelity sound is the top priority - other gimmicks like bluetooth connection, microphones, active noise cancelling, NFC, touch operations, etc are non-essentials. I am putting this out here, just in case any of my viewers are from the gadget/general crowd instead. 

Do I have any complains? I thought hard and long - not really. Is this the perfect pair of headphones? Far from it, if I want to nitpick, and start comparing to true higher end audiophile cans, I definitely have a lot to comment but that is stretching things a little unnecessarily too far. The fact is simple - for RM350, the Gold Planar GL-400C offers sound quality that comes close to above RM1000 dynamic headphones counterparts, and does a few things (bass, soundstage) a little better. 

If you are looking for an entry level into the audiophile world, or thinking of trying a planar magnetic but not willing to burn a hole in your pocket. the Gold Planar GL-400C is for you. I highly recommend it, it is a guiltless pleasure, having audio performance that exceeded my expectations. However, if you are an experienced audiophile, you are familiar with what planar magnetic offers, the GL-400C may seem lacklustre, there are obviously much better options out there but you do need to fork out a lot more. 

Anyone with a heart for planar magnetic headphones? Give me a shout in the comments below. 


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Kamlan 50mm F1.1 Mark II Review - A Bokeh Beast? Not Really

I decided to purchase a budget manual lens to add into my camera bag after the price dropped at the online store that I was following, and I thought it would be a fun lens to add some flavour to my shutter therapy sessions. I have been eyeing Kamlan 50mm F1.1 Mark II lens for a while now, considering the bright aperture F1.1 and a versatile medium telephoto reach of 100mm equivalent (in 35mm format). With an accessible street price of RM650 (USD150), I thought to myself this could be a guiltless pleasure. I have had the lens for several weeks now and here is my review of the Kamlan 50mm F1.1 Mark II. 

Of course, I have a video version, for those of you who prefer to watch the video playing instead of reading heavy text. 


Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post, and I have no affiliation to Kamlan. Kamlan did not contact me, or send me a review sample. I purchased the 50mm F1.1 Mark II with my own cash, hence this is a purely independent review. This is a non-technical review, I shall only be sharing my experience shooting with the lens in real life situations. I am a professional photographer based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, and currently I am an Olympus Visionary. 

There are two versions of the Kamlan 50mm F1.1, the original and the Mark II version. I got the newer Mark II version, which Kamlan claimed to have improved in terms of sharpness and contrast. I have not encountered the first, original version before and I cannot comment on the differences between the two variants. 

The Kamlan 50mm F1.1 Mark II is a budget manual lens, having medium telephoto reach and super bright aperture F1.1, both allowing plenty of versatility in photography execution. Here is a list of quick specification highights:
- Metal build
- 8 elements in 7 groups optical design
- 11 circular aperture blade
- Declicked Aperture Ring
- Native Micro Four Thirds Mount (also available for other system mounts)




Olympus E-1 - First Olympus DSLR, 5MP, Launched 17 Years Ago

With all the fuss and buzz on new camera releases that features ultra high resolution, shooting 8K videos and ridiculous MP count on stills, I thought it would be exciting (yes I have an interesting definition of excitement) to revisit and old, dinosaur fossil camera - the Olympus E-1. In the world where smartphones can shoot more than 100MP, and soon having 10 or more camera modules and lenses at the back of the phone, the E-1 was quite underwhelming when we just look purely at specifications alone. I mean, come on... a 17 years old camera, with undernourished 5MP on an outdated CCD image sensor. I decided to bring the Olympus E-1 out for a full blown shutter therapy session, and I am sharing my experience, together with plenty of fresh images from Malaysian streets in this blog entry! Also, a new accompanying video, as usual. 


Olympus E-1 was launched in 2003, being the first ever digital interchangeable lens camera from Olympus. It features a new image sensor format, the Four Thirds system, and was the forefather of the current Micro Four Thirds system - E-1 was where it all began. Olympus promised smaller, lighter system with new lenses designed from ground up being fully optimised for digital photography. 

E-1 features superbly rugged build with magnesium alloy body housing, picking it up in hand you will feel how solid and densely built the camera is, it was like a tank. You can break someone's skull with the camera and you won't find a dent on it. The camera is also weather-sealed, with multiple locks and seals on the camera openings for memory card slot and battery compartment. Using the camera feels very reassuring, it inspires confidence, something that a lot of smaller and lighter modern DSLR or mirrorless cameras lack of these days. 

The E-1 has a Kodak 5MP CCD image sensor, somewhat a legendary image sensor that has good reputation in rendering very organic, pleasing looking colors. Kodak color science was indeed something truly special, coming from their vast experience of making and manufacturing films, and also their expertise in printing business. I did find the colors very pleasing coming out from the E-1, it was slightly on the warmer side, so a bit of tweaking in white balance was needed, not a big issue at all. The skin tones come out very natural and beautiful, and the overall colors were vibrant, punchy yet maintaining a true to life feel. The blues look absolutely stunning, and the greens and reds were rich and gorgeous. Perhaps that was the special characteristics of a CCD image sensor, something that may not be able to be easily replicated in the more modern CMOS sensors. 








I had two lenses accompanying the E-1, the ZD 50mm F2 Macro and ZD 14-42mm F3.5-5.6 which was originally a kit lens from my Olympus E-520, yes I still keep it around. Both lenses were more than sufficient for my street photography adventures, the 14-42mm taking care of most of my wide angle needs, and the 50mm F2 macro does wonders in getting close up tight portraits, giving that compressed background with shallow depth of field rendering. Both lenses are still very sharp, and this was surprising, even with just 5MP, the images came out looking crisp and detailed. Perhaps, lens is a lot more important than what people give credit for - too many emphasis was given on how good the image sensor should be - we forgot that the lens is contributing more in rendering a realistic, pleasing looking image. 

What the E-1 excels, and the true Olympus DNA I can still see in today's modern cameras such as OM-D E-M1 series (E-M1X, E-M1 Mark II, III), is the camera ergonomics and handling, That beefy grip on E-1 fits my hands perfectly. There was sufficient area for my fingers to wrap around, and holding the camera feels so comfortable, it was as if the camera was molded for my hands. This is a camera making art which was somehow lost to non traditional camera makers - new brands trying to make modern cameras but the handling of the camera often feels like an after-thought. The E-1 is the best example of how to make a camera that handles extremely well. I am glad the same fit and comfort carries on in E-M1 series cameras today.

Shooting with the E-1 was quite an experience. Not having all the modern features stripped the camera down to very basics. No EVF - What you see is what you get, no 5-Axis IS, no blazing fast AF, no hundreds of AF points to choose from, no flipping LCD screen, no live view - it felt like I was somewhat a little crippled in the beginning. However, I started photography with E-520, so I was well versed with Olympus earlier DSLR cameras - the E-1 was not that far behind my E-520. Shooting through an optical viewfinder was not the best experience, I am too used to the convenience and versatility of bigger, brighter EVF. The optical viewfinder seems dark and less intuitive to use. The 3 AF points was almost laughable now in 2020, I only used the center AF point, but it does get it's job done. The focusing was not fast, but good enough for most of my shots taken under bright Malaysian sun, so getting the shot, nailing the right moment was not an issue. Perhaps the biggest concern during the whole shooting experience was the tiny, low resolution LCD screen - it was impossible to tell if my images were in perfectly sharp focus or not. With such low resolution, I cannot check for critical focus accuracy, and I just have to trust the camera to get the shot for me. Thankfully, most of the time, the camera did not fail me. 








People would have been so quick to comment that the 5MP old image sensor is useless today. I choose to disagree. I was actually very impressed with what the 5MP CCD Kodak sensor can do. Megapixels is not the entire story. 

Let's talk resolution. If you are viewing the images or videos in full HD screen or Quad HD screen, then you should be ok, 5MP still has a lot of pixels to go around, and images look perfectly fine. However, if you have 4K screen or higher then the 5MP may not be enough to fill your screen adequately, and you need at least 8MP full sized image to have a sharp display on 4K full screen. 

When I look at the images that I shot with the E-1, if I do not pixel peep, they don't look low resolution at all. The clarity, tonality, color depth, overall sharpness came out very good. Even scrutinising the images at 100% magnification, at pixel level, the images still look pleasingly sharp with plenty of fine details, excellent contrast and beautifully natural rendering. I don't see how the 5MP images were not sufficient for small prints (up to A3, or even larger if you know what you are doing, printing is another different art and expertise), and definitely more than good enough for web display. Posting on social media, such as Instagram, Flickr or Facebook, the 5MP images from E-1 trumps any new 100MP images from modern smartphones, any day. I am not kidding. 

I also did not see much issue with dynamic range. At low ISO (100-200) there is plenty of headroom to play with, when I was stretching the shadows and highlights, recovering plenty of details with minimal penalty to the image. The only main concern was high ISO shooting, even at ISO400, the images show visible noise, which gets worse if the image was wrongly exposed. I can say the same with smartphones today, or even worse, I have not seen clean ISO400 images from smartphones, in fact I'd argue that the dinosaur E-1 does better ISO800 than any ISO400 on smartphones in 2020. 

I was very happy with the images shot with the E-1. I won't hesitate to use this camera for my own shutter therapy sessions. And if resolution or high ISO are not the main concerns, I don't see how E-1 won't get a professional photography job done! 








I am not saying we should not progress or camera manufacturer's should not push further in terms of innovation and technology. Far from it. I think we, the photographers should appreciate what we have and start to focus more on photography. Ming Thein has been discussing on sufficiency many times over the years, and I have also mentioned similar points here before. Our cameras today are good enough, we should definitely focus more on our craft, and improve our own skills. Having more megapixels, wider dynamic range, and cleaner high ISO won't take your photography to the next level. Your photography journey starts when you stop obsessing about gear, and start appreciating what you have. I think the E-1 is truly a capable camera, I don't see how anyone won't be able to make great images with it. 

I have had so much fun being able to go out and shoot. Shutter therapy fixed a lot of problems in my life. I will continue to go out at least once (more of course, but minimally, once) a week and go full on crazy street shooting mode. I sure hope you have enjoyed my Kuala Lumpur images, I know there is nothing shout-worthy about them, they won't win photo-contests or any awards, but those are not what I aim to do here. If I shoot to win for competitions or stress myself out to get exhibited, I would have lost the fun of just shooting for fun. Photography should be enjoyable, personal and rewarding by itself without the need to be validated by any third party. 



An old portrait of me holding the E-1 with pancake 25mm F2.8, shot by Matti Sulanto. I don't have the pancake lens anymore, gave it to a friend to encourage her to shoot more with her Olympus DSLR, since she complained she did not have the right lens to do so. I hope she found good use with the lens. 

Do you own an Olympus E-1, or have you used it before? Please share your thoughts!


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Realme Watch Review - An Affordable & Functional Basic Smartwatch

I finally decided to replace my old smartwatch which was already dying (one of Huawei's older smart bands) and I thought why not look at something affordable and checks all the necessary features that I need - I found Realme Watch. I needed a smartwatch for 2 primary reasons: relaying smart notifications from my smartphone when I am out commuting, shooting on the street, or out and about when the streets are too noisy and as I move I can't feel the phone's vibration in the pocket, and the second reason being the heartrate monitor for my workout sessions in gyms. My needs for a smartwatch is very basic and I don't need all the high end, super fancy features, I just need these two important functions and I guess any budget smartwatches out there today can technically fulfil my criteria. 

I made a video review of Realme Watch, for those who prefer to watch a video instead of reading my lengthy rants. 

This is my second YouTube channel which I have just started - just for reviewing gadgets. Please do subscribe to the channel if you have not done so!

Full disclaimer - this is not a sponsored post, I have no association with Realme, they did not contact me or send me any review samples. I purchased the Realme Watch with my own cash and I have been using it for about 2 weeks plus now. This is an independent review, and I am merely sharing my experience using this watch. I am not a tech or gadget reviewer so I will not do a deep dive into what this product can do, and certainly I am not able to make any comparisons with other devices out there, since I do not own or have not used many smart watches before. 

At a glance the Realme Watch is a budget-friendly and feature loaded basic smartwatch. Here are the feature highlights:
  • 1.4" 320x320 LCD color touch display
  • IP68 rated waterproof
  • Lightweight at 31grams
  • Bluetooth 5.0 connection
  • Fitness tracking features - heartrate, sleep, blood-oxygen level monitoring, with some fancy sports features that I don't care much about
  • Notifications from paired smartphone
  • Remote control via Bluetooth - camera and music player controls

LOOK & FEEL
I personally quite like the minimalist and clean design of Realme Watch. I know, I know, it is a clone from the forbidden fruit product which I swear I will never bite, unless hell freezes over and they drop their price down to a level that I don't have to sell kidneys to afford. There is a reason why this design "template" works, simple and elegant at the same time. I opted for the all black version, as most of my gadgets are in all black. I don't particularly like the somewhat thick bezels, I think they could be slimmer for a 2020 smart device. Furthermore, the noticeable chin at the bottom bezel is quite distracting, pushing the screen off center upward, and those with severe cases of OCD will bleed their eyes out seeing this. I am quite ok with the overall design, this is me nitpicking, but it is a budget device after all, and wearing it on my wrist, it does look good. 






BUILD QUALITY & WATERPROOF
The main body of Realme Watch is made of purely plastic. I can't say that they feel premium, since it is so light at about 31g only, but it is dense and solid enough, there are no creaky parts, and wearing it on the wrist, using it for weeks now, I never had doubts on the device breaking apart. Plastic is a very durable material after all. The straps are comfortable to wear, Realme claimed they were made of silicone and were gentle to the skin. 

The Realme Watch does come with an official waterproof rating of IP68, which means you can fully submerge the watch underwater down to 1.5 meters depth for 30 minutes long without worrying about water ingress damage. I obviously did not do anything crazy to push the waterpeoofing to the limits. The only times I needed water resistance was when I was sweating profusely when walking out under the hot Malaysian sun, or pounding the weights away inside the budget gym that does not have air conditioning which I do go to. Being completely drenched in sweat, the watch survives and I am sure it can take a lot more beating than this. In my video, you will see me pour water continuously onto the watch for a a minute, and of course the watch can take that. 

SCREEN QUALITY
The 1.4" LCD screen has good enough resolution for sharp display, obviously it is not the best in class - far from it, but I actually quite enjoyed looking at it and it does it's job displaying simple, straightforward information very well. The screen is in full color, and is touch operable, though it is only single-touch. You can change the clock face designs by tap-and-holding down the clock face, then swipe around for the other alternatives, and I do like some of the included designs, which I do use interchangeably from day to day. 

I do notice some stutter when I use the touch operations. The stutter is not severe, but annoying enough to complain about. I'd expect any smart device in 2020 to be free of such stutter, especially a smartwatch that performs only very basic functions. Swiping the screen for notifications, scrolling to read the notifications, swiping left or right of the clock face to see different information display - weather, heart-rate information, sleep monitoring, all registers some case of lagginess. I am not entirely sure what caused this, but I doubt it was software related, they could probably use a slightly more powerful hardware processing power for a smoother overall user experience. 

DISPLAY BRIGHTNESS
The LCD screen is bright. There are 9 levels of brightness to choose from, ranging from 10% all the way to full brightness at 100%. At maximum brightness, the screen is visible outdoors under direct sun, though the colors do look very washed out and flat. Nonetheless, the information can still be clearly seen, so it was not a big issue for me. However, I was not happy that there was no auto-brightness adjustment. I know this is a budget device, but I'd imagine it does not cost very much to include an ambient light sensor to auto-dim or brighten the screen accordingly. The adaptive brightness adjustment would have made a whole world of difference, negating the need to constantly need to manually tinker the brightness level of the screen when I move in or out of a building. 






EASE OF USE
The Realme Watch is relatively easy to operate. You only need to pair it once with your smartphone, but you do need to use their dedicated app Realme Link. Once you have established connection, you don't have to worry about re-connecting the phone to the watch, the connection will be done automatically as long as the Bluetooth on the smartphone is enabled. The Bluetooth connection has been reliable and steady throughout my duration of use - having Bluetooth 5.0 on both my smartphone (Realme 2 Pro) and the Realme Watch ensured smooth operations. 

On the watch, all operations can be done via touch screen, with the aid of a physical button at the right side of the watch. The button serves as a power on/off switch, and back button. Touch operations that you can perform allow you to navigate between multiple display pages showing varying information:
Swipe left/right - steps/calories, sleep, heart rate, blood-oxygen, and shortcut control panels
Swipe down from top - list of notifications relayed from paired smartphone, you can choose which apps to push notifications over to the watch, and I find this to be extremely important for me
Swipe up from bottom - settings and controls for the watch, including music control and camera. 
You don't need to read the manual to figure out how to use the watch, a few swipes there and here you can find your way very quickly. The operation is logical and very easy to understand. Kudos Realme. 

The Realme Link app is also quite well designed - at the main page, one singular page you see all the important information being displayed - battery level, steps/calories, sleep, heartrate, and you have even more controls to dive deeper into from the app, having more choices of clock face designs to enable or disable. More importantly, the app allows OTA firmware upgrade for the Realme Watch, using the watch over 2 weeks I have received 2 different updates to fix bugs and improve performance. Hopefully in the future we get new features being added or perhaps, new watch face designs. 

BATTERY LIFE
Realme claimed the battery life for use with continuous heart-rate monitoring on is about 7-9 days. I was not able to achieve that at all. I found myself reaching for the charger at the end of 4th day of active use - usually the battery charge drops below 20% and I don't think it will survive the 5th day. I really wish the battery life is better - at least 7 days, so I can charge the watch just once a week. 

Realme Link app with all essential information being displayed in a single page. 

Sleep monitoring information 


Continuous heart-rate monitoring, though I can't testify on how accurate this is

A feature that I do use quite often - remote control for music app

CONCLUSIONS
All in all, based on my limited 2 weeks of use so far, I do quite enjoy using Realme Watch. There really is nothing spectacular to shout about, it is a very basic smartwatch with good features that do work quite well. It does it's job and for that I don't have that many complains, especially with a budget price tag. I fully acknowledge that if I wanted more, I do have to go higher in the price category, which I am not willing to spend at the moment. 

What I like:
  • Minimalist design
  • Good display
  • Reliable Bluetooth 5.0 connection
  • Simplicity and ease of use
  • Well made Realme Link app, with frequent firmware upgrades

What I dislike:
  • Thick bezels - they could be slimmer for a 2020 product
  • Stutters and lagginess in touch operation - I expect buttery smoothness
  • No auto-brightness for display
  • Battery life could be better

If I do not need the notifications I could have just got myself a fitness band, but then again, most fitness bands look somewhat ugly in my opinion. I just prefer the shape and design or a proper looking watch. 


Do you have the Realme Watch? I'd love to hear your experience and opinion. Share your thoughts!


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Shutter Therapy Finally! Street Portraits with Olympus 25mm F1.2 PRO at Petaling Street


Last weekend, finally, after more than 3 months break, I finally had a proper shutter therapy session, which was much needed! I brought along the Olympus OM-D E-M1 Mark III and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 PRO to Petaling Street area (in Kuala Lumpur) to do some portraits of strangers shooting. It was a quiet weekend, the streets being emptier than usual due to the pandemic and the city still being under semi-lockdown but we are allowed to roam around and do "public filmimg", so street photography is definitely very safe to do now for us here in Malaysia. Oh I never thought I have missed street shooting so badly!

I made a video of course, showing how I packed for this street portrait session (which included vlogging as well), behind the scenes of each shot shared in this blog/video, and of course sprinkling some tips and tricks on shooting people on the street throughout the video. 


I had a friend, Irene Chen who tagged along this shutter therapy session. Irene is an international multiple award winning photographer, specializing in newborn, maternity and family portraits (check out her incredible portfolio here). I have somehow managed to get her to start her own YouTube channel, she was sharing about her plant and gardening passion in her videos!

I did not manage to shoot that many images this session, but that was not the whole point of this shutter therapy outing. It was to go out and have fun, I certainly have filled that quota sufficiently. I get to spend time with Irene, catching up and we had amazing food over lunch. 

To be entirely honest, I was not too happy with the images from this session, I knew I could have done better. It was somewhat expected since I divided half my effort into vlogging, and taking care of the video part of things. The vlogging part took a lot of my brainpower and that was quite a huge distraction, taking away my concentration on getting the best possible shots from my street portraits. Ideally I'd have a crew following me around and shoot me so I don't have to think about video but that is impossible to do for now, I can't take advantage of my friends like that, and certainly I don't have enough spare cash to properly compensate them for their time and effort as well. 

Do cut me some slack, I have been out of action for quite a few months, I am slowly starting to pick up the pace again, and trust me, more and more shutter therapy content is coming very soon to this blog, as well as my YouTube channel. I can't wait to shoot more and share fresh images, my hands are getting unbearably itchy!

All images were shot with E-M1 Mark III (loaned from Olympus) and M.Zuiko 25mm F1.2 PRO. Aperture Priority, for portraits wide open F1.2, for everything else stopped down as necessary. Images were all shot in RAW and post-processed with minor tweaks in Capture One Pro 20












This is Irene Chen, the friend that tagged along! She was doing her own vlog on plants too.

Irene had the signature Pork Belly Bao (lunch at Da Bao)

I went for the Pork Rice Bowl (at Da Bao)




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