Andrew Revitt

Review: Oakley Halifax Backpack

28 April 2015

| oakley.com

The choice of backpacks these days is bewildering. Backpacks for all occassions and activities. Personally I'm not a fan of owning multiple products in the same category and I already own a backpack but as it's been used for outdoor activites, it's not something I want to use for work or travel.

So I needed a smart, laptop compatible backpack with enough storage for a weekend away. This doesn't narrow the field down much unfortunatley so I scoured brands I am familiar with and a few others. As I was also looking to upgrade my main luggage I wanted something matching. Eastpak have a wide range of matching luggage as do Dakine but neither really had a look I was after. Douchebags is new to the market and has a great new look and some nice features but their large luggage was too big.

oakley Halifax Backpack

So I fell back to an old favourite of Oakley. The Halifax Backpack is classy looking and while there isn't an exact match in large luggage, a roller in the right size was available.

The Halifax is 25L and fits carry on at 48cm x 30cm x 20cm (19" x 12" x 8") and features a heathered herringbone 600D nailhead polyester covering (looks a little like black denim), with a top and base made of a 420D ripstop nylon and tarpaulin panels. The main compartment is 200D polyester-lined with a draw string and buckle closure.

A zip compartment on the side loads a laptop/tablet behind the main bag and there are two zip pockets on the top flap, one soft lined, the other ideal for passports etc. Another zip pocket on the front can also take documents.

Inside the main compartment is just one thin and wide mesh zip pocket on the back. I'm not a fan of pockets in the main compartment for this size of backpack. Some backpacks are seemingly just lots of small or medium pockets or compartments.

In use I found it ideal for weekend or long weekends. The main compartment takes enough clothes for 4 or 5 days, depending on your attire of course. I packed trousers in the laptop sleeve, keeping them flatter. I stowed keys in the top flap pockets and passports and documents in the others. Money inside the main compartments mesh pocket.

I wasn't keen on the off center buckle closure. The main compartment has a drawstring so security is average and the stiff top flap has to be fitted carefully for the buckle fastening to do it's job. Unless the bag is pretty much full, the top flap can tuck around the edges and not sit over the top of the bag correctly. The off center strap doesn't assist in this.

When just doing day trips without a full load the bag doesn't hold its' shape very well and looks less smart. Unless you carried a large load I wouldn't recommend it as a daily carry.

The good points are it looks very smart and functions ideally for travel with a decent load. The top and base panels are hard wearing and you can wash them down should the bag sit in something. It was comfy to wear on a long day from car to bus to plane to train and fitted in the overhead much better than those hard wheeled bags so popular on planes these days.

It's an attractive modern looking backpack that doesn't look out of place in either economy or business class. Plenty of space for a weekend travel, without being compromised by too many compartments or features. Laptop carry works as expected, 15" Macbook Pro fits but with a large load in the main compartment it's a struggle to get in out. 13" Macbook Pro is fine and the extra pocket takes an iPad. The back padding and straps were comfy for all day use in my testing. No compression straps or sternum strap though as this isn't design for active use and I wouldn't recommend it for that.

Ideal for short trips where a wheeled bag doesn't work so well or like me you just prefer a backpack.

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Monaco: More than a tax haven

21 April 2015

Monaco
Monaco on Exposure by Julia Revitt

We recently had the pleasure of spending sometime in Monaco, closing our principality bucket list. Rather than attempting to tell the Monaco story here, my partner has a rather fine photo story on Exposure, a site designed to create beautiful photo narratives and worth a look for any photographer.

Monaco has many facets and is not just a tax haven for the rich... I was thinking we’d see a La Ferrari or a Bugatti and perhaps David Coulthard or Roger Moore but I wasn’t expecting wonderful parks, friendly people and affordable lunch spots...

See the full photo story on Exposure.

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Disruption and the digital camera

17 April 2015

Many, many words and graphs have been generated on the decline of analog and then digital camera sales. As the film camera eventually lost it's market share to the digital camera, so the digital camera is losing share to the phone. Or is it?

Digital cameras became wildy popular once they became available to everyone, and it's fair to say that compact digital cameras have been losing sales, no doubt due to cameras in phones. But DLSR and mirrorless sales have been steady. As the price of these 'professional' cameras has come down, a lot of people, who perhaps don't actually need one, have bought one.

Everyone these days is a photographer (designer, artist etc) as the price of tools and entry to these industries has became available through digital means. Eventually everyone will become a manufacturer (3d printers) and technology will disrupt most industries. But owning the tools and creating the goods are still far removed.

Taking a photo with your phone and posting it to your favourite network is a given. So why do so many people also buy a DSLR or similar? Mostly they are hoping for a) better quality b) a professional look. Not many go for the very high end unless they are actually doing something more than posting to instagram. As with most industries there will always be a higher level.

For example the other day I needed a product shot. I could have used a phone camera, the final result was used for the web so resolution was not an issue. But the look I was after was not wide angle like most phones provide but shallow depth of field in mixed light with varied contrasts and the result required bokeh. Only quality glass and a 50mm at f2 would do the job. So the phone can provide the engine but it is never likely to provide the lens and of course interchangeable lenses.

This doesn't mean the Pro DSLR and the like are immune. Both Nikon and Canon are slow to add features like Wifi and GPS. Getting a shot from your DSLR to instagram is still a mess. Partly due to instragram's limitation on posting but sharing a photo on any network is now something every Pro's want to do without re shooting on their phone.

Sony has taken big strides with it's A7 range, bringing mirrorless to the point where some are considering or have swapped their DSLRs. Even Leica has a app to get your photo to your phone. The main let down to me has been the electronic viewfinders on these models, and Sony's over featured selection of buttons. Nikon and Canon must up their game and stop the once a year minor update for something longer term. Both ranges suffer from over filling trying to cover each others models. Neither has made much of an inroad to mirrorless, not wishing to cannibalise their 'prosumer' DSLR ranges no doubt.

Personally I hate shooting on a phone, everything about it, but I can see why it's so popular. DSLRs are generally too big and heavy to carry around on a whim, which is why mirrorless is so promising. I've seen plenty of people shooting on tablets though, which looks and seems crazy to me, so perhaps a little inconvience is worthwhile.

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Review: Bellroy Elements Sleeve Wallet

14 April 2015

| Bellroy

Bellroy exists to slim your wallet. A simple message for what should be a simple product. I, like many others, carried a regualar wallet around for as long as I can remember. It had spaces for many things, many things I never had. It also had space for paper money and coins. Once you put coins in it, it became too heavy. It has two clear plastic sections for something I never owned. I carried paper cash, driving licence, bank cards, credit cards, loyalty cards and the odd business card in it.

Bellroy Elements Sleeve wallet

Over time I stopped carrying cash, unless someone gave me it (please) and I stopped going to ATMs. All my purchases became card based either online or bricks and mortar. Business cards also seemed to disappear. So my wallet was 50% unused. Carrying it also required a large pocket and it was obvious to any thief in my back pocket.

Then I discovered Bellroy. Bellroy have a selection of slim wallets, ideal for a card based lifestyle. I was keen to go as minimal as possible and as I spent a lot of time outdoors the Elements Sleeve seemed to be the solution.

It's made from water-resistant leather, not that it's water resistant as such. It's just designed not to soak up water should your pocket leak or it gets splashed. It's made from a nice full-grain, vegetable tanned leather, that's made under environmental stewardship standards. It feels nice in your hand. Not like a leather bag or jacket, more functional, grippy, tactile.

Operation is simple. A flap covers your main card. A pull-tab reveals the rest of your cards. Simply pull the tab and all your other cards are revealed. Press the cards back in to close the tab. It's a method I have only seen before used on phone cases and works very well. It also has a single key stash, which I haven't found a use for so far. You can carry up to 6 cards and it measures just 10cm x 7.4cm and is covered by a 3 year warranty.

Bellroy Elements Sleeve wallet

I haven't had a single issue with it. It slips into every pocket I have, front jeans being the most secure, and I don't even notice it. The only comment I could make is the flap for the main card could be a little easier to close. But thats being very picky. The Bellroy Essentials Sleeve is one of my essential items. Highly recommended.

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Monaco Palms

10 April 2015

Palm trees
Palm trees in Monte Carlo, Monaco on flickr

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SPECTRE

07 April 2015

SPECTRE (Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion) is the 24th James Bond movie due to open late 2015.

SPECTRE poster

I grew up on Bond movies, Roger Moore era unfortunately although I wouldn't have said that at the time. After seeing a couple of Moore films at the cinema the Sean Connery ones started appearing on television and it was obvious even to me then that Connery was the one. I enjoyed Moore's quips as much as anyone, the fish being dropped from the Lotus Esprit on exiting the sea sticks in my mind.

Connery had the one liners of course but his delivery was better. Dry like the Vesper, not done for laughs. I didn't go much on the Dalton or Brosnan movies, by then the gadgets had become ridiculous, invisible Aston Martin? So when the reboot came, with to me an unknown Daniel Craig, I was in.

Casino Royale ranks up there with the earlier Connery movies in my mind, Craig plays the character with more brute than Connery but that might be what Ian Fleming might have wanted. Fleming was originally no fan of Connery until he saw him in action. I've read Fleming's books and Casino Royale, although not like book, had the right elements updated.

So to SPECTRE. Quite a task following Skyfall but Craig seems to be working into the role so I am hopeful. The poster fills me with hope, echoes of Moore in Live and Let Die and Connery with the NATO watch band. The watch and band tell quite a story themselves.

Omega is a partner to the franchise (shudder) and Daniel Craig an Omega Ambassador. There will be Omega Seamaster/Aqua Terra special editions available similar to those used in the film. Interesting is the strap. Omega have a NATO strap (NATO being a part number used to order the strap by the British Military, nothing to do with NATO itself) out and this setup seems more appropriate to a ex Royal Naval Commander on a MI6 mission than a stainless dress band. This is no doubt an echo to the Rolex Submariner on a fabric strap that Connery wore in the original movies. Craig himself has been known to wear a selection of Rolex watches with a NATO strap when not filming. Connery didn't wear the NATO strap in the movies but a regimental variation, presumably Craig noted this so as not to seem overly copying Connery.

It's these little details that can often be overlooked that add to the experience of the film that I look forward to almost as much as the film.

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M Magazine Issue 1

30 March 2015

M Magazine

Published by Leica Fotografie International M Magazine is dedicated to photographs from the legendary Leica M camera. Issue No.1 features photographers; Bruce Gilden, Trent Parke, Alex Webb, Jan Grarup, Anton Kusters, Ciril Jazbec amongst others.

M Magazine

Running to 194 perfect bound pages and printed on a fine quality thick paper, the photographs are as well presented as you would expect from LFI. Retaining the classic Leica M look throughout without gloss or embellishment, this is more book than magazine. Certainly better quality than LFI's own magazine. With no advertisments and minimal amount of type set in a simple serif typeface, it's a fine way to illustrate the Leica M's merits.

The content has something for everyone and maintains the photo journalistic bent Leica M is known for. Probably not the most iconic collection of photographs and no information on the upcoming printing schedule would be the only downsides. A obvious purchase for the M aficionado.

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The Rise and Fall of TAG Heuer

25 March 2015

Founded by watchmaker Edouard Heuer in 1860 and orginally known as Heuer, the company was purchased by the TAG Group in 1985, becoming TAG Heuer. In 1999, the TAG Group sold TAG Heuer to the luxury goods conglomerate LVMH (Louis Vuitton, Moet Hennessy).

Heuer was a reputed watchmaker and the Heuer watches were and are, respected and sort after. Even after TAG bought the brand, TAG Heuer was making fine watches and timing equipment, albeit with little innovation or imagination. Since LVMH took over things have been in a steady decline.

It what appears to be either the final nail in the coffin or the saving of the brand, depending on your viewpoint, Jean-Claude Biver annouced at Baselworld a partnership with Google and Intel to develop a smartwatch. Well known Swiss cheesemaker and former CEO of Hublot, Jean-Claude Biver has a long history with in the watch sector and has a fine collection of watches himself. Patek Phillipe's mind, not any LVMH brands. He is widely known for Hublots resurgance and is a board member of LVMH.

Hublot is a polarising brand not loved by watch collectors but has developed the current business model for high end watch sales - limited models and celebrity endorsement and of course the push into China.

As JC moved onto the board of LVMH and installed Ricardo Guadalupe in his place, Stephane Linder took over as TAG Heuer's CEO. Linder appeared to favour the older Heuer way of doing things and had slated some new models with echos of the old brand. The CH80 shown at last years Baselworld had favourable press but with only one year into the job JC gave him the axe and is running the company himself.

TAG HEUER
TAG Heuer Carrera Calibre Heuer 01

At Baselworld 2015 the new models made it obvious where JC is taking TAG Heuer. The latest Carrera, the Calibre Heuer 01 is obviously influenced by Hublot's Big Bang. JC is also looking to move the pricing down. This is a good move, TAG Heuer's pricing has been wrong for a while. The original F1 was less than £200 and has climbed over £2000, for basically the same quartz watch, in a larger size. Making a Monaco Grand Complication and celebrity models smacks of the same Hublot mentality.

So what of the smartwatch? This is even more troublesome. JC has some strange reasoning on this. He believes that Switzerland doesn't have the technical ability to produce it, when they already have under the Frederique Constant founded MMT platform, which he congratulated himself. He also cites (Google's) Android platform's 70% market share as a plus point, when everybody else seems to realize market share is the wrong indicator to measure. People with free or cheap contract phones aren't buying TAG Heuer's, even if their smartwatch is going to be less than £1000. If the aim is to produce a standalone watch, as it must surely be, the platform it's built on isn't relevant anyway.

The fact Google hasn't produce a single hardware product of any note or quality doesn't seem to bother him. In fact Google is well know for it's cut and run mentality with hardware or software, Google Glass, Google Reader anyone?

It seems a sad fate for a once great watchmaker. The time has past when they could go back to being the Heuer brand and producing racing chronographs and on the dash timers. Thankfully those timepieces are still going and no doubt will be long after the smartwatch.

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Review: Zero History by William Gibson

24 March 2015

| Amazon

I hadn't picked up a William Gibson book since Neuromancer, a book that launched cyber punk amongst other things. Zero History came as a surprise, straight out of the science fiction section of the book shop but no imagined futures here. ZH is more Hypebeast than Matrix.

Based around Hubertus Bigend, an ad agency bigwig, ZH takes us into the world of brand fetishm and non marketing. Hubertus employs ex-rock star Hollis Henry to locate the mythic founder of Gabriel Hounds, a secretive brand only known by the few. His hope is to win major army contracts for clothing based on clothing patterns employed by Hounds.

This is a bang up to date look at a modern cultural thriller, Gibson's use of the latest technology and ideas demonstrates a fine understanding of the Hypebeast culture, no doubt informed by his own use of such brands as Acronym.

It's a clean, twisting plot and one that offers the observation that the future is now, and we no longer need to invent new universes.

Zero History concludes the informal trilogy begun by Pattern Recognition, 2003 and continued by Spook Country, 2007.

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