Saturday, July 30, 2016

Kanata Mazda has epic fail …

I bought my Mazda 3 from Kanata Mazda in July of 2011, which means that it is 5 years old this month. They were sending me reminders for service for years, but that stopped about 2 years ago. The reason I know that is that I finally realized that I had not serviced the car in a long time and took it in. They said it had been two years, which made sense, given that they stopped reminding me.

So … the agreed to range of pad wear seems to start around 48000 km, and my car is approaching 50000, so it makes sense that the brake pads would be inspected. Especially when you consider that you can see the pads through the wheels without taking the wheels off.

They looked at all 4 tires, because they marked them all as 5/32 remaining tread. They also mentioned that I had a nail in the passenger rear tire, which accounted for the slow leak I experienced last year all summer. Yet they did not check the brakes.

I know this for two reasons:

1) They marked that it was not needed:

_1010311-4592 x 3448-160731-DMC-GX85-LUMIX G VARIO 12-32-F3.5-5.6

2) The breaks were metal on metal with 4 weeks, wrecking my rotors and forcing me to  do an emergency brake pad replacement:

_1010304-4592 x 3448-160731-DMC-GX85-LUMIX G VARIO 12-32-F3.5-5.6

So what could they possibly have been thinking? The car has almost 50k on it and they have not seen it in 2 years. So ignore the brakes?

I have no idea how an organization can display such a disregard for basic procedure that takes almost zero time and has a direct bearing on safety. Sheer incompetence perhaps?

Monday, July 18, 2016

Amazon – et tu with the reinterpretation of “on time” ? **updated**

Yesterday I railed against Home Depot’s misleading web site.

Today, I am awaiting a shipment of coffee from Amazon using Prime’s two day guaranteed shipping. This, of course, is really three business days, since they need to actually ship the order.

I placed the order on Friday, and a lay-interpretation of “two day shipping” would suggest Sunday delivery. But shippers take weekends off (even if you choose express, time only counts in terms of business days.) So the lay person would think Tuesday instead. The second business day from Friday.

But no, the Amazon interpretation is that you get 24 hours to ship, making Wednesday the “on time” two day delivery. That is actually 6 days from the date of order, but who’s counting :-)

And then there is the Thursday delivery. Amazon actually split the consignment (order) into two separate shipments. The second one being listed as due Thursday, the 4th business day, which in my estimation is 3 day shipping and thus not “on time” in Prime terms.

Yet …


Amazon does work in mysterious ways … but this is an area where the mystery is how they manage to get on time from 3 days?

Here is another example …


Again … shipping today, arriving 3 days from now. And that’s considered “on time” …

To reiterate: I pay for Prime and I generally order items that offer Prime 2-Day shipping. So why does 3 day shipping now qualify as “on time”? Anyone? Amazon?

** Update: Everything arrived on time and within the Prime commitment. As in Wednesday, in two days. So this is really about Amazon either not interfacing correctly with their couriers, or rewriting the rule book just in case.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Home Depot Web Site – Sleazy “summarization” of reviews to trick you into buying …

I have been contemplating a pressure washer for my driveway, garage, patio, furniture, cars … the usual.

I have been looking at Canadian Tire’s selection and they seem to have some decent units with good reviews. But one of the better brands is carried by Home Depot, Generac. Unfortunately, that one is online only, so I can’t get it any time soon. I read that they market a Ryobi as a rebadged generic brand of some sort, so I thought I’d check that one out. I like Ryobi tools generally … a decent value for money when on sale at least.

So I saw this unit that has 5 stars and 3 ratings … it looked *very* promising. Lots of power (2700psi) and that many positive ratings for a good price is kind of a no brainer. Here it is in the grid of possibilities:


And when you click through, the positives keep coming …


So what’s not to love?

Well, the truth, for one.

Click on the stars to see the actual reviews and you get this …



That’s right … at the top of the web page, they stubbornly report 3 reviews and 5 stars. But the detail section shows 7 reviews and only 3.3 stars. The bottom 3 reviews average 1.33 stars!

Seems kind of sleazy, don’t you think?

Note: I don’t think Home Depot are actually at fault. I think their web development team is one of the least competent I have ever seen. Their web site almost never works in Chrome. It was failing for something like 7 months and I complained several times to them. Eventually, it seemed to work (about a month ago). But today it fails to work again.

Their mechanism for showing you where things are in stock is utter nonsense. If you type in your postal code and the item is not in stock, they indicate this by doing absolutely nothing. No message, no display of nearby stores (which should show not in stock) … nothing at all. There are many stores who do this correctly, but this team stubbornly refuses to do things competently and seemingly always has.

Probably a systemic cultural thing and with their pattern of poor UI decisions and simply broken browser compatibility it should surprise no one that they cannot get the reviews section right. The problem, though, is that the reviews section is used to incentivize people to buy. And they are misleading the buyers by reporting higher quality reports than actually exist. Cherry-picking as it were.

I think they should be rethinking the liar liar part of their online product display … it really does not behoove them to trick people into buying what sounds like an “iffy” product …

Meanwhile, don’t trust their site. Always click through to products and frankly, you’d be better searching the web for more trustworthy reviews and stores with customer reviews that aren’t so poorly managed.

Sears Kenmore … they used to last forever …

I bought a brand new stove in 2011 when we remodeled the kitchen. Since I’d had Kenmore washers and stoves before, I presumed that I would get the usual 15 years of problem-free service.

So I was stunned when Nick opened the door a few minutes ago and it let go at one end!


5 years of service?

Not what they once were it seems …

P1010482-3448 x 4592-160717-DMC-G7-OLYMPUS M.45mm F1.8

** Update ** I was able to reattach the handle. We’ll see how long that lasts. The stainless steel version of these stoves has thicker panels and so the screws are not quite long enough to reliably hold on over time. But this one should be fine. Perhaps it just worked its way loose over time. But how could the design team have missed such an obviously dangerous failure point? Anyway … I have a functioning stove again for now.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Panasonic GX85 vs G7 vs G6 with OEM vs Aftermarket Batteries – Video Recording Time Test ** Updated **

I’ve done similar tests in the past and the results showed decent recording times on the GM1. I tried the OEM and two different after market batteries for that test and the results can be summarized as:

Battery Recording Time
Lumix 1:48
DSTE 1:32
Fosmon 1:53

I was pretty surprised that the small battery in the GM1 could actually approach 2 hours on a single charge and that an aftermarket battery could beat the OEM Lumix battery.

So when I received the GX85 and the G7, I thought I should pit them against each other with OEM and aftermarket batteries as well.

P1010480-4592 x 3448-160716-DMC-G7-OLYMPUS M.45mm F1.8

Bigger ones on the left are G7. Interesting that the Lumix battery advertises 1200mAh while the Wasabi states 1400mAh. The times are 48m apart, suggesting that the Wasabi is hysterically optimistic. The GX85 DSTE is more exaggerated. Such is life with aftermarket batteries.

** Update ** I’ve tested the G6 as well.

The times are interesting …


Camera Battery Recording Time
G6 Lumix 2:47:22
  Wasabi 1:56:27
G7 Lumix 2:57:26
  Wasabi 2:09:20
GX85 Lumix 2:11:31
  DSTE 1:45:16*

* its first full charge after purchase

The larger batteries in these cameras are outstripping the GM1, except for the DSTE, which was charged for the first time. My understanding is that lithium ion batteries maximize their capacity after a few cycles. So I suppose I will need to use this battery exclusively for a while so that I can update the time later on.

Meanwhile, it is impressive that even a fresh aftermarket battery can do over 2 hours on one charge.

The G7 beats the G6 with 6% longer life on the Lumix battery and 11% longer on the Wasabi. The new processor or other circuitry or perhaps the LCD in the G7 appear to be slightly more efficient. The GX85 is behind both, but the smaller battery can be considered the primary factor for that.

Note that these are AVCHD at 24fps 1080p.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

GX85 – SD card in backwards and wonderful bounce flash …

A couple of observations …

SD Card

The SD card in pretty much all the Panasonics went in facing away from you with the camera in hand. That is, the label faces forward in the same direction as the lens. I have never seen this be different and I just confirmed it with the G6 and G7 just to be sure.

But the GX85 goes in facing in the same direction as the rear of the camera, which means you see it as you hold the camera upside down to insert the card. This seems like an unnecessary and gratuitous change, and confirms the silo / stovepipe development and design teams at Panasonic. Or maybe it was a brain fart that stuck. Minor, but silly.

Bounce Flash

I always liked the GF3 and GX1 bounce flashes. These things were mounted on some sort of spider legs that allowed them to tilt quite dramatically backwards. If you went too far, the flash would not fire, but if you held it just right, the flash would fire to the ceiling and you could get a pretty nice result. I even made a video showing how it worked on the GX1:

The production values are pretty low with that video, but the content is spot on.

I have been pleasantly surprised by the tweaks on the GX85 to this feature. The folding flash mount works similarly, but seems somehow sturdier and seems to have fewer fold points, although that may be an illusion. But what is really great is that you can fold it back all the way and gently pin it to the upright location and it will fire up at a slightly forward angle.

This makes it pretty easy to shoot bounce flash and the results are excellent. A warning though … the flash is tiny, so you should raise ISO pretty quickly, especially if you are not right on top of your subject. The extra distance will really weaken the flash.

On the other hand, the GX85 sensor is superb and lifting the result a stop or two results in a perfectly usable image once processed in Lightroom or Photoshop.

Here are a couple of images to clarify the value of shooting bounce flash with the built in. They are pictures of our Degu resting on his platform and there are cage bars in the way. A worst case scenario.

Straight On

The issues are obvious … red eye is prominent (although not all that red on this animal’s retina), shadows are harsh, light is very flat looking. All in all, yuck.

Since the cage top is open with bars, the light from a bounce should be able to get through and light the animal fairly evenly.


These were shot moments apart. Need I elaborate on how much better this looks? You can shoot legit animal portraits with bounce flash from a built in, assuming that you are not bothered too much by higher ISOs. I regularly shoot 3200 on these sensors and that does not bother me at all. You can, of course, limit ISO to 800 and use a fast lens. These two images self-selected to 1600 ISO, which would make sense for bounced flash in a dark room.

So if you have the GX85, consider adding this to your arsenal of tricks when out and about without an external flash.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

GX85 – The Arrival

I had what I like to call a “great selloff” of camera gear in order to get the Panasonic GX85, a body with a wonderful set of features and with a form factor that I have enjoyed in the past with the GX1.

I sold the GF3 for 60 bucks (the one I dropped in Stockholm with aftermarket batteries and charger so it had little real value), the E-PM2 for a couple hundred, and the GM1 with the excellent 12-32 kit lens for about 490 or something like that. I also sold the Oberwerk Astronomical Binoculars for about 180, so that brought me enough to handle most of the cost of the GX85.

I order it yesterday around noon from The Camera Store in Alberta, famous for their excellent test video series. They shipped Purolator and it arrived today at noon, blowing my mind.

So I popped out for a few minutes at lunch and then again after work to try it out with the 100-300 lens on the monopod. I wanted to see whether they were a decent match, and I can say unequivocally that they are. The images are all excellent and there was no shutter shock style blurring present. This is an issue with the G7 if you are not careful, so I think the GX85 is my new long lens camera.

So … my first impressions.

  • Excellent form factor. Feels nice in the hand and reminds me a lot of the GX1.
  • Poor EVF. A real step down from the G5 through G7. I am getting used to it, but they should not have used this one when the one in the G7 seems so much better. Panasonic has a very bad habit of allowing too much independence between teams, and some of them make really dumb decisions on features.
  • Good grip. It feels great in my hands. The grip has a sharp(ish) edge to it so despite not being all that deep, I can grip it very well.
  • Dumb placement of on/off switch. Honestly could not imagine a worse choice. Another brain fart for team GX85. However, I will eventually get used to it.
  • Lovely LCD. The tilt is nice and it fits flush to the body. You would never know it tilted.
  • Love the monochrome EVF display option. Supposedly for manual focus clarity, but I like the clarity in all cases.
  • Has some heft. Feels about the size of the GX1, which is not small. Very well built IMO.
  • The flash is magnificent as it retains the classic GF / GX ability to be bounced. Why can the G series not do that? (More team brain farts one supposes.)
  • The shutter is fantastic. The new solenoid based shutter is quick and quiet while stilling sounding real. Nicely done.
  • Image quality is excellent. The lack of AA filter is not blindingly obvious, but the images are very sharp.
  • Kit lens sucks. Had I known it was so cheaply made, I would have kept the GM1 kit and then sold the GM1 with the GX85 lens. I liked the real one that came with the GM1. All that said, this lens seems very sharp.
  • No charger included – pathetic. On the other hand, I like the ability to charge in camera over night. But I would rather have had the charger.

All in all, I can say that I am very pleased. Handles well, even with big lenses. Feels nice in hand and shoots great.

I am very glad so far that I grabbed the GX85 to go with the G7 as my main travel kit. The G6 will back them up for a while in cases where I want to have a third angle in video.

One more thing … the GX85 looks really nice in black. Very modern.

Some samples of its images … just quick shots, nothing very exciting. They begin after the last Pug image with the shot of two yellow daisies:

The bee close ups near the end (as of this writing) on the small purple (or so I am told) flowers are severe crops.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Published in the Ottawa Citizen Newspaper Tomorrow

Thanks again go to Robbi Hay, editor of the Ottawa Citizen Ourtown section, for using one of my images again as the heading. This comes out tomorrow, Thursday the 7th of July. Grab the paper to see everything cool that is happening in Ottawa for the next few weeks …