My Top Ten List of the Most Beautiful Watches

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Category: Watches | Tags:

List of “Made in Germany” Watch Brands

Here’s a list of some 107+ German brands. Feel free to send me a note if I missed any. I’m only interested in brands that are “Made In Germany”, not German-based companies that make their watches in Switzerland or Asia.

A. Lange & Söhne
A. Mantei
Abeler & Söhne
Alexander Shorokhoff
Almanus 
Archimede (Ickler)
Arctos Elite
Aristo
Askania Uhren 
Autran & Viala (Ickler)
B. Junge & Söhne
Blancier (Lottermann & Söhne)
Boehm Uhren
Borgward
Botta Design
Brior Uhren
Bruno Söhnle
C.H. Wolf Glashütte
Christian Klings
Churpfälzische UhrenManufactur
Costro
Damasko
Defakto (Ickler)
Deutsche Uhrenfabrik(DUFA)
Dievas 
D. Dornblüth & Söhn
D. Malchert Quedlinburg
Dugena
Elysee
Erbprinz (Aristo)
Erwin Sattler
Fischer & Cie
Flüthe
Gardé Ruhla Uhren
Genesis
Genius 1953 
George J. Von Burg
Germano & Walter
Glashütte Original
Greve Uhrendesign
Guinand Watches
H.F. Bauer (Astrath)
Hacher Watches
Hanhart
Henschel Hamburg
Hummel Uhren
J.B. Gioacchino
Jochen Benzinger
Junghans
Junkers (PointTec)
Kaventsmann Watches
Kemmner Watches
Kienzle Uhren
Kronsegler
Kudoke
Laco 
Lang & Heyne
Lehmann Uhren
Leinfelder Uhren
Leumas Köln
Limes (Ickler)
Lowin Cologne
Marcello C
Maximilian (PointTec)
Mechanische Zeitinstrumente
Mercure
Messerschmitt (Aristo)
Moritz Grossmann Glashütte
Möckel Uhren
Muhle-Glashütte
Nauticfish
Neuhaus
Nienaber Bünde
Niessing
Nivrel
Nomos Glashütte
Ornatus Watches
Philippe Rosen
Rainer Brand
Richthofen Uhren
Rolf-Lang Dresden
Schäuble & Söhne
Schauer
Schaumburg Watch
Sinn-Spezialuhren 
Stefan Kudoke Watches
Sternberg  Uhren
Stowa
Temption Watches
Thomas Ninchritz
Torsten Nagengast Timeline
Tourby
Tutima Glashütte
UHR-KRAFT
Uhrenwerft Hamburg
Union Gashütte
UTS München
Vintage VDB
Volker Vyskocil
Vollmer (Aristo)
Walther
Wempe
Wilhelm Rieber
Windecker & Sons
York Watches
Zeppelin (PointTec)
Zib Uhrenatelier 

Category: Watches | Tags: ,

Panasonic Lumix LX100

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“The best camera is the one that you have with you!”

The above quote is some of the best photography advice I have ever received.

I’ve been doing photography for fourty years and I have owned several 35mm cameras and a few digital SLRs culminating with my formidable Nikon D700 “full-frame” Pro DSLR. A whole 6 years later, that camera still provides superb image quality and very little noise at high ISO. It’s only 12MP and it was basically the last DSLR released by Nikon without video capability, but it is still a superb camera today.

Nikon D700 w. 24-70mm f/2.8It has one big flaw: it is a very large and very heavy camera. When combined with the holy-trinity of professional Nikkor lenses (the 14-24mm f/2.8, 24-70mm f/2.8 and 70-200mm f/2.8, all superb but large, heavy and expensive) this basic “kit” occupies a large camera bag and weights about 20 lbs when including flash, batteries and a macro lens. When I was younger, I had no problem going hiking or street-walking with such a kit, but today I couldn’t be bothered. I also never took this kit for traveling, too cumbersome and valuable for that. At most I would take just the camera along with the all-purpose 24-70mm lens, but even that is quite large as you can see to the right and weights about 5 lbs, which is a lot of weight to lug around on your shoulder all day.

As a result, I just wasn’t carrying this camera around very much at all and I missed a lot of good photo opportunities. So in 2008 I bought a Panasonic Lumix LX3 which was the first advanced compact camera I found with excellent manual controls and image quality. All of a sudden, this was my “best” camera, because it was usually the one I had with me. My Nikon got relegated to studio work, macro work, and the occasional field trip that I organized specifically with serious photography in mind. Unfortunately, that LX3 got stolen in 2010 so I bought the new and improved Lumix LX5 to replace it and I still own that camera to this day. The LX5 is an ideal travel camera and a camera that I can just keep in my briefcase at all times or carry in a coat pocket. Unfortunately, about 9 months ago I lost my LX5 charger and haven’t got around to replacing it yet. So for those past 9 months my Galaxy S4 has become my “best” camera as it is the one I always have with me. However, the very small sensor sizes and lack of creative controls on a cell phone are very limiting for any serious photographer.

So in this period of time I started looking for something better. While I love my LX5, I increasingly found its significant noise at mid to high ISO, slow autofocus and lack of depth-of-field control limiting. Panasonic’s now 2 year old LX7 was only marginally improved over the LX5 and Sony had since come out with the RX-100, a similarly compact camera but with a larger sensor size (1″ vs the LX5’s 1/1.63″ or.61″) and greatly improved image quality, video and auto-focus performance. I was almost ready to purchase a Sony RX100 III when Panasonic announced the Lumix LX100.

panasonic_lumix_dmc_lx100_20

The LX100 is a true advanced compact camera in the tradition of the LX line, but it raises the bar significantly. While Sony, Nikon and Canon all recently released advanced compact cameras with 1″ sensors, the LX100 is the first to come out with a 4/3″ (1.33″) sensor in such a compact size. As you can see in the chart below, the 4/3″ sensor has twice the surface area of 1″ sensors and 5 times the area of the LX7’s sensor. Cell phones generally have tiny 1/3.2″ sensors. Amazingly, Panasonic increased the sensor size but maintained the pixel count to a smart 16MP (12.8 usable because of the multiple aspect-ratios), so those pixels are quite large. Why all this attention to sensor and pixel size? Because contrary to popular belief, the biggest factor affecting image quality is not pixel count but pixel size. In fact, the race to very high pixel counts in cell phones (the current norm appears to be about 13MP) is ridiculous as it increases the processing and storage capacity needed and most people only use those pictures for Internet posting, where 1MP is usually sufficient. Cell phones certainly don’t need more than 5MP and their quality would be much higher if they stuck to that, but the public blindly demands higher pixel counts.

Camera Sensor Size Chart

The Lumix LX100’s larger sensor size means lower noise at high ISO. Looking at early sample pictures, at 3200 ISO the fotos are very usable and beat the Sony RX100’s easily. They even seem to approach that of my D700. ISO 6400 appears to be still quite usable and even ISO12800 would be usable in a pinch if you don’t plan to make large prints. With good high ISO capability combined with the lens’ fast f1.7 aperture and image stabilization this camera should be quite good in low light situations. Everything else being equal, larger pixels also mean better dynamic range and better color depth.

Another significant benefit of a larger sensor is the increased creative control over depth-of-field, so you can keep backgrounds out of focus for example. To sweeten the deal some more, the LX100’s lens sports a 9-blade iris which should provide for beautiful bokeh. Putting this large a sensor with a fast lens in such a compact camera is quite an engineering feat and a significant improvement for any serious photographer. This compact camera should be able to compete directly on image quality and creative control with larger Micro 4/3 cameras, prosumer DSLRs and bridge cameras.

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There are many other features of this camera that I like as they make it an advanced camera for “serious” photography:

  • The presence of a high-quality 60fps electronic viewfinder. Framing at arms length with an LCD screen is always less than ideal and hard to do in full sun.
  • The aperture and zoom rings on the lens barrel, like a proper camera!
  • The shutter speed and exposure controls on the top, like a proper camera!
  • Ability to save RAW files, essential for post-processing.
  • 1/4000 shutter speed, 1/16,000 with the electronic shutter.
  • High quality Leica lens with a very wide 24mm setting and fast f/1.7-f/2.8 maximum aperture. For street and travel photography, the 24mm wide-angle is far more important to me than a longer telephoto.
  • 4K video with the ability to pull 8MP photos from the video at 25fps.
  • 11fps with focus and exposure fixed on first shot, or 6.5fps with focus and exposure tracking. 40fps with the electronic shutter.
  • Advanced and fast autofocus that works even in very low light (-3EV).
  • Separate compact flash provided, much better than a puny built-in flash.
  • Built-in time-lapse and stop-motion recording modes and ability to control the camera via a smartphone.

 

Things I would like to see different:

  • I wish they would have removed the multiple aspect ratios. While they are useful, I would prefer having just a standard 3:2 aspect ratio and get the full 16MP. I can crop in post-processing.
  • I wish the LCD was articulated. I find that feature very useful and it should be touch enabled as well to permit the selection of the focus point. This is very handy when working on a tripod.
  • it would have been nice to have a 100mm focal length, but I wouldn’t want to sacrifice lens size or speed, so the 75mm is just as well for me, I can zoom with my feet. 85-90mm would have been useful for portraits though… But then I still have my D700.

Overall my quibbles are pretty small. This looks like it will be the best advanced compact camera yet and according to the first reviews coming out the camera is a joy to use and the image quality is superb for this class of camera. A near perfect combination of size, creative control, features and image quality, allowing me to both have an excellent camera and always have it with me. A great rangefinder-style travel and street photography camera.

Some will say: why not buy one of Panasonic’s compact models with the same sensor but interchangeable lens like the GX7 or GM5? They are after-all just as compact if you put a 20mm f/1.7 pancake lens on it. First, I really don’t feel like buying and messing with a bunch of lenses, I already have my Nikon for that. Second, just the price of the 24-70mm f/2.8 lens for Micro 4/3 is more than the LX100 costs and makes the camera far larger too, defeating the purpose.

I will definitely be purchasing a Lumix LX100 when they become available in my area.

Category: Photography

What people would not do to look better…

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I’m amazed by the things people are willing to do to their body in an attempt to look better. This is particularly true here in Colombia where there are a LOT of gorgeous women and where the macho culture valorizes women’s beauty but not much else. The pressure on women to look better is tremendous.

A couple of days ago a friend asked Monica to accompany her to a beauty salon. Once there, the friend was offered and decided to get a “mesotherapy” product injected in her belly to “burn fat”. She knew nothing about the product except what the lady selling it told her. Monica was a bit alarmed by this and started asking questions but all she got was that it was a “natural” product and that they even had a doctor as a client so there was clearly nothing to worry about… Thankfully Monica had the presence of mind to grab the small 5ml glass vial and bring it home to me (the lady searched for it and was alarmed that she couldn’t find it…)

The first real source of concern came when I looked at the vial. I could only read the brand and product name on the vial (Dermclar, Reducing Extracts) but I could see there was more writing on the other side of the vial, covered by a bar-code sticker. When we removed the sticker, I could read in bold letters: “For External Use Only”. Monica immediately called her friend to make sure she wasn’t experiencing any serious health problems but we didn’t tell her anything yet so as not to alarm her.

I then researched the product and found that it was a rather benign extract from a couple of exotic sounding plants (typical) and that it was meant to be applied on the skin and then worked-in with a specialized electronic machine also sold by Dermclar. The product supposedly works by making the fat cells easier to process by the body’s natural metabolism (I have my doubts).

I was also able to find the product online for about $4 in quantities of 10 and $3.20 in quantities of 100. The friend was charged 150,000 pesos or $75 for the procedure, so about 20 times what the product cost. Given that the lady applying it probably earns no more than 40,000 pesos a day, one could expect that with the price of the syringe and a healthy profit margin this shouldn’t have cost more than 50,000 pesos.

Thankfully the friend had no apparent ill-effects but the next morning she was convinced that her abdomen was visibly smaller (sigh). Even according to the manufacturer’s claims (which are most likely untrue and have not been clinically verified), this was not a possible outcome.

There are so many things wrong with what this lady friend did:

1. You should never let anyone inject something into you if you don’t know what it is and have not researched it beforehand (there are obviously exceptions to this with medical situations and qualified medical staff, but not for esthetic purposes).

2. You should never let unqualified people inject anything in you. If they are not a nurse, EMT or doctor , they do not have the required training to select the right product, minimize risk, manipulate syringes safely and perform injections correctly. They are also not qualified to save your life in case you go into shock or have a severe allergic reaction, which are both quite possible following an injection. This is why they want you to stick around for 15 minutes when they give you a vaccine.

3. The fact that something is “natural” does not in any way shape or form make it safe. There are thousands of natural substances that are deadly or highly toxic to human beings and others that can cause all kinds of health problems or allergic reactions for some people.

This is a good example of how much of the “alternative medicine” and cosmetic industries work, praying on people’s desperation and ignorance and with wild claims and plentiful promises of “natural” and easy solutions to their problems. Remember, when a treatment has been proven to actually work, it becomes just “medicine”. Also, the day someone finds an easy and effective weight-loss solution, it will be all over the news.

Here in Colombia there doesn’t seem to be any kind of law against false advertising. There are currently two kinds of pills plus a cream that purport to miraculously “burn fat” and are being heavily advertised on TV.

I wanted to denounce this beauty salon to the police for it’s dangerous activities, but Monica doesn’t want to, I think she doesn’t want to do the lady any harm.

Category: Life, Science

Cleopatra

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We’ve lost our beloved Cleo 3 weeks ago. We think she was probably a victim of a boa that has been roaming in the area for some time. We will miss her dearly, she was a very sweet cat.

Cleopatra

Cleopatra

Category: Cats

New eBook on Wide-Angle Photography

I just downloaded this beautiful new eBook in PDF format. It is a very focused book with a narrow subject: Wide-Angle Macro Photography. Most macro-photography is done with lenses from normal to short tele, which allows you to isolate the subject from its background. But by using a wide-angle lens you can show the subject in-context, within its environment, and this can make for some very dramatic photos.

At only $5 this book is a bargain and you can find it here: Wide-Angle Macro Photography

Category: Photography | Tags:

PopSci Innovation of the year: Google Now

Popular Science just named Google Now their Innovation of the Year. Like most people, I had never heard of Google Now, until last week that is, when I upgraded my Samsung Galaxy S3 smartphone to Android 4.1.2 (Jelly Bean).

All of a sudden, my phone started popping up cards telling me very useful information that I never asked for! Before driving to work, it would tell me how long it would take and what the weather would be like. Similarly, before going back home or going to an appointment  it would tell me how long it will take me to get there, taking weather and traffic into consideration.

Other things I have not yet experienced: if you made a flight reservation, it will tell you if your flight is on time, how long it will take you to get to the airport, and what the weather will be like at your destination, and how long it will take you to get to your hotel from the airport! Of course it will also remind you of birthdays, holidays, special events like concerts you have tickets to and it can even suggest nearby restaurants when you’re on the road and lunchtime approaches.

There are many other features I have yet to experience, but the neat (if not a bit scary) part is that all this happens automatically without any input from you. It is all based on your Android phone’s GPS location, Google Search and the contents of your gmail account and Google calendar. It is all very innovative and very useful and could easily become Android’s killer feature. You no longer need to tell your phone what you want, your phone tells you what you need. Eat your heart out Siri.

Category: Technology | Tags: ,

Another nice article on Panama

They describe 5 of the most popular places for retirement in Panama, each offering a very different lifestyle. 5 Retirement Places in Panama

Category: Living, Panama

I am Canadian?

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Yesterday was Canada Day (July 1st, the anniversary of the country’s official creation) and many friends took the time to wish me a happy Canada Day as many also celebrated. But somehow that day didn’t feel as special to me as it used to do. I felt no desire to rejoice or celebrate my canadian roots or my birth land.

Truth is, I just don’t really feel that Canadian anymore. Sure, my passport says Canada and the Canadian and Québecois cultures will always be a big part of who I am. But I have been out of Canada for 4 years and feel increasingly distant from the country and its politics. Canada is no longer the country I used to love.

My Canada was #1 on the UN’s list of best places to live. This was based on the fact the country was safe, peaceful, tolerant, egalitarian, had excellent health care and education accessible to all, cared about the environment and fostered arts and culture. My Canada invented the concept of socialized universal healthcare. My Canada invented the concept of peace keeping forces, and implemented the first one in Cyprus. My Canada was respected worldwide for its peacefulness, its respect of the environment and its respect of human rights both at home and abroad (unlike a certain infamous neighbour). My Canada had not only freedom of and from religion, but it had complete separation of church and state and you never heard a politician mention the word god in a political context.

But I have watched my Canada slowly slip away for the past 30 years (or would “slip south” be more accurate?), and that trend has greatly accelerated under the Harper administration who seems to stand against all my personal values. No my Canada doesn’t exist anymore and the only link that I still feel is to my Canadian friends and family. I no longer feel any attachment to the land itself.

To quote Thomas Payne: “I’m a citizen of the world, and to do good is my religion”.

Category: Canada, Politics | Tags: ,

My very own StairsMaster 3D

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About 6 weeks ago I started walking the river trail every morning. Since the trail is about 70% stairs, it is quite the aerobic workout. While I liked the real stairs-masters, I hate working out inside on a machine, it is just boring and causes me to concentrate on the pain. This though, is like a StairsMaster 3D with smell, sound and vision generator. It is invigorating and fun, save for the occasional snake encounter.

The first morning I walked, I did 1km in 25 minutes. Now I can do 1km in 12 minutes, and this morning I did 3.5kms in 45 minutes. In 6 weeks, I have lost 10 lbs and 4″ of waist-line. It is invigorating and I feel great! I hope to lose another 20 lbs over the next two months.

Category: Uncategorized