Formula 1 Mexican Grand Prix 2017

Max Verstappen Wins Mexican GP 2017

Lewis Hamilton claimed his fourth world drivers title at the Mexican Grand Prix taking the chequered flag in ninth place, after suffering a first lap puncture courtesy of title rival Sebastian Vettel. No doubt the Hamilton conspiracy theorists would have been whipped into the frenzy after, the man himself, suggested over the radio that Vettel made contact deliberately, a la Michael Schumacher in ’94 and ’97.

The start of the race is where the title race was decided, the 1/2 mile drag down to turn 1 saw, Vettel, Hamilton and young whippersnapper Max Verstappen three abreast going into turn 1 with Verstappen coming out on top as the trio rounded turn 2. Vettel drifted wide allowing Hamilton into second place, however, Vettel kept his foot in, making contact with Verstappen’s right rear tire entering turn 2 before making contact with Hamilton’s right rear tire, breaking his front wing and puncturing Hamilton’s tire.

This left Hamilton to limp back to the pits, trying not to damage his car further, while Vettel stopped for a new front wing, the net result was Hamilton dropping to the back with Vettel two places ahead in 18th. Vettel immediately started to make his way through the pack and by lap 26, Vettel was in the points, it took Hamilton until lap 57 to break into the top 10, at which point Vettel was about to claim fourth place.

Esteban Ocon, who had received death threats from, what I presume to be Mexicans pissed off that he was taking the battle to their hometown hero, Sergio Perez, was unlucky with a virtual safety car period on lap 32 after he had already pitted, gifting Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen a free pit stop, allowing him to leapfrog the Frenchman into the final podium spot, before the VSC, Ocon was looking good for the podium.

My personal favorite [current] driver, Daniel Ricciardo, who had already been demoted from 7th to 16th on the grid for changing his power unit after qualifying, suffered a turbo failure after charging from 16th to 7th by lap four. I’m gutted by this as it would have been great to see Ricciardo charge through the field, with the pace he had, he could have made it a 1 – 2 for Red Bull, but it wasn’t to be for the Aussie.

Mercedes’ Valtteri Bottas had a better race, benefiting from the second corner madness, moving into second place as his team mate, Hamilton fell to the back. But, despite having the best power unit on the grid, he had no answer for Verstappen, the young Dutchman consistently pulled away from the Finn.

With Renault power units failing left, right and center, Red Bull had to be nervous about Verstappen’s power unit as team mate Ricciardo had earlier suffered a turbo failure. But the engine, the most recent spec, stayed strong to the end, with Verstappen setting fastest laps much to the chagrin of his race engineer who had instructed him to slow down and match the pace of second placed driver, Bottas.

Special mentions for Williams’ Lance Stroll and HAAS’ Kevin Magnussen finishing the race in sixth and eighth places, thanks to the VSC earlier in the race, the free pit stops launched both drivers up the grid, but as ‘they’ (who are they, exactly?) say, it’s better to be lucky than good, which in this case is true.

McLaren scored another point in Mexico in the hands of Fernando Alonso. But, McLaren have to be concerned with the reliability of the Renault power unit, four out of six power units didn’t make it to the end. McLaren ditched the slow and unreliable Honda power unit in favor of the Renault power unit in 2018, was that a smart decision? The Renault is a faster power unit, but if it goes bang, it means nothing.

So, all the top prizes have been claimed, Mercedes are constructors champions, Lewis Hamilton is world drivers champion, all that is left to fight for is, the best of the rest crown in the final two races. To say that the season fizzled out to a damp squib after the mid season break is an understatement, I was hoping for a true battle to the end, but Vettel and his Ferrari team repeatedly shot themselves in the foot.

Mexican Grand Prix 2017 Results

1. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) 1:36:26.552
2. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +19.678s
3. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +54.007s
4. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +70.078s
5. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +1 LAP
6. Lance Stroll (Williams) +1 LAP
7. Sergio Perez (Force India) +1 LAP
8. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +1 LAP
9. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) +1 LAP
10. Fernando Alonso (McLaren) +1 LAP

Formula 1 United States Grand Prix 2017

Max Verstappen Relieved Of Podium Finish At USA Grand Prix 2017

Lewis Hamilton took another step towards claiming his fourth world drivers championship by winning the US Grand Prix at the Circuit Of The Americas. Sebastian Vettel delayed the inevitable by finishing in second place, thanks to team mate Kimi Raikkonen moving aside for the German in the closing laps.

Despite Hamilton coming within a handful of points of claiming the 2017 drivers title, the big story of the race is Max Verstappen’s 5 second penalty which demoted him to fourth place, the Dutchman was booted out of the top 3 cool down room prior to the podium ceremony with Kimi Raikkonen taking his place.

But more on that later, the start of the race gave us some hope that we might have a race on our hands as Vettel got the better start leading Hamilton into turn 1, despite Hamilton’s best efforts to squeeze the German in the run towards turn 1. But, that hope was snuffed out on lap 6 going into turn 12, Hamilton easily sliding down the inside of Vettel’s Ferrari and that was the end of that as Hamilton pulled away.

Red Bull’s Verstappen was carving his way through the field after serving his grid penalties, up into the points after just three laps and after the first round of pit stops on lap 26, found himself in fifth place after leading the race for a few laps prior to being passed by Hamilton, which triggered the Dutchman’s stop.

Hamilton’s Mercedes teammate Valtteri Bottas started third, was running in second, but ultimately fell backwards to fifth place by the chequered flag being overtaken by Vettel, Raikkonen and Verstappen. As Verstappen made his attempted pass, Bottas went off the track, not for the first time, keeping his foot in to maintain his position, but Verstappen cut back inside to make the pass through turns 13 and 14.

Big props to Carlos Sainz Jnr for his performance, in what, for him is a brand new Renault car and team. Seventh place, splitting the Force India’s has to be considered a win for Renault and Sainz Jnr. Sadly, for Renault, Nico Hulkenberg could not match the newbies sucess, retiring his car on lap 5, but I am looking forward to the battles between Sainz Jnr and Hulkenberg for the remainder of 2017 and 2018.

Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo who started in fourth place, out qualifying teammate Verstappen, despite the Dutchman having an upgraded Renault power unit installed in the back of his car, retired from the race on lap 14 with an engine failure. McLaren’s Fernando Alonso was left to rue the unreliable Honda power unit behind him as it let him down once again while running in a solid points paying position.

The top 10 was rounded out by the usual suspects, Force India’s Esteban Ocon, Sergio Perez, Williams’ Felipe Massa and, somewhat of a surprise, claiming a solitary point is Toro Rosso’s Danill Kyvat.

Going back to the controversy of Verstappen’s demotion from the podium, seconds before going to the podium. I believe we all agree that Verstappen cut the corner, the video evidence does not lie, however, personally, I am pissed off with the inconsistency of the application of the rule. Drivers have been cutting corners all weekend, and although no pass was made, there is a time advantage, no matter how small.

Valtteri Bottas, not once, but twice defended a position by going off track at turn 12, six or seven feet off track in fact, maintaining his speed on the tarmac run off and re-entering the track ahead of the attacking driver. First time was on lap 2 defending against Daniel Ricciardo and again on lap 53 in his attempt to hold off Verstappen, but the Dutchmen was wise to it and cut back inside to complete the overtake.

How can Bottas be allowed to keep that position without penalty, particularly against Ricciardo on lap 2, when he exceeded the track limits and gained an advantage? Of course, in the past, Bottas would have been on the grass or in the gravel, which was a penalty within itself, but sadly those days are long gone, now nearly every track has large tarmac run off areas that can be used to gain an advantage lap after lap.

As a sport, F1 needs to have equal application of the rules or abandon the rule completely. The whole penalty system needs an overhaul, the engine penalty system has robbed us time and time again of a great race because one or more of the top drivers have started from the back due to grid penalties because of engine and/or gearbox replacements. Stop the stupid penalties and let the drivers race.

United States Grand Prix 2017 Results

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:33:50.991
2. Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari) +10.143s
3. Kimi Räikkönen (Ferrari) +15.779s
4. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +16.768s
5. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +34.967s
6. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +90.980s
7. Carlos Sainz (Renault) +92.944s
8. Sergio Perez (Force India) +1 LAP
9. Felipe Massa (Williams) +1 LAP
10. Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) +1 LAP

Cooler Master H500P, A View From, Well, ME.

Coolermaster Mastercase H500P

When I saw the Cooler Master H500P displayed at Computex 2017, it got me all excited for a new HAF (High Air Flow) case from Cooler master, already owning a HAF 912 w/ 2 x 200mm fans (front/top), which houses my current media server. I wrote a review of the HAF 912 back in 2014, if you’re interested.

But after reading and watching many reviews of the new HAF case, I found myself disappointed. Cooler Master will tell you that the H500P is not officially a HAF case. But, it has the cues to a HAF case, including the ‘H’ in front of the 500P and the 200mm fans that Cooler Master used in their HAF series of cases.

The biggest issue I have is the lack of airflow, it has a transparent solid plastic front panel which chokes off much of the air, the only air comes from the sides of the front panel, which is restricted by the frame of the 200mm fans. I was considering the H500P as a replacement for the similarly restrictive NZXT H440 used in my current build, but, I’m not spending another $150 to have the same airflow issues.

Airflow is the biggest issue, however, there are also build quality issues, when I spend $150 on a case, I expect it to be solid and for it not to be squeaky. I expect the panels to not come off in my hands when I lift the case in the normal manner of picking it up from under the front panel and rear of the top panel. The tempered glass left side panel not sitting securely when locked and not sitting flush also irks me.

The NZXT H440 does have it’s airflow issues, removing the front and top panels really lower the CPU and GPU temperatures to prove this fact. But at least build quality is top notch, infact, this is the most solid case I have ever owned, I feel like I could drop it off a four story building and it would survive, albeit with some bumps and bruises. The H500P does not give me the impression it’d survive any drop.

I feel that Cooler Master went with the trend of putting glass or clear plastic all over the case, instead of sticking with the tried and tested mesh panels to actually allow air into the case. I feel the 200mm fans are there as eye candy, it does look amazing, rather than a practical device for pushing air. Their whole brand, COOLER MASTER is centered around cooling and airflow, a test that the H500P fails spectacularly.

There’s been a suggestion that there might be replacement panels with mesh available for purchase for extra $$. I refuse to pay $150 for the case, then another $50? for a meshed front panel. Should Cooler Master release a model of the H500P with meshed front and top panels and a better side panel securing system for the same $150 price point, I would take a second look, but as it stands, I’ll look elsewhere.

Afterthought, I believe case manufacturers need to look towards more open designs, there are too many solid paneled cases on the market. This, combined with the new breed of higher core (up to 18 cores, 36 threads) processors, generating more heat is causing a massive problem, extra heat generation and choked off airflow is a disastrous combination for hardware longevity and performance.

Removing the front/top/side panels is not an acceptable solution on a $150 case in my view.

Trump Screws Poor & Middle Class On Healthcare

Trump Signs Executive Order To End ACA Subsidies

Over the past couple of days, President Donald J Trump has signed two executive orders that will severely undermine Obama’s Keystone bill, the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare as it is more commonly known.

The first order signed on Thursday, will allow insurance companies to offer cheaper health care policies, which might sound good, but these policies will be very much barebones, i.e. little coverage and people with pre-existing conditions, like myself will more than likely be turned down for insurance coverage.

This will also undermine the healthcare marketplace as many young and healthy people will flock to the cheaper policies and away from the Affordable Care Act, which will mean insurance companies will reassess their participation in the marketplace, in many states, options are already very limited!

On Friday, Trump put the final nail in the coffin of the ACA by signing an executive order that will cancel all ACA subsidies with immediate effect, leaving millions of Americans with no way to pay their insurance premiums. The massive irony is that the people who will be affected the most are the people that live in states where Trump took victory, this includes Kansas, where I live, back in November’s general election.

The issue is that people will now not be able to afford insurance without the government subsidies, but the ACA will still be in effect, so those people will be penalized in their taxes for not having insurance. I have never agreed with Obama’s ‘individual mandate’, being forced to buy insurance or face a tax penalty, but what Trump has done is cruel, the exact opposite of what his campaign promised.

Of course, these orders came about because Trump and his Republican cronies have failed numerous times to repeal and replace Obamacare in the United States Senate, despite having the majority in both the House and Senate. The knock on effect of this Republican obsession with repealing Obamacare is that they have let funding for CHIP lapse, meaning millions of children will not have medical coverage.

From a personal perspective, this is a disaster, I received a renewal notice yesterday from BCBSKS and the premium, with the same subsidy we got in 2017 would be $439 per month, that’s up from $98 per month. Without the subsidy, the premium payment would be $1,057.39, that’s half my net income, obviously, that is not something that I can afford to pay, which leaves my wife and children uninsured.

I have medical insurance through my workplace, but to cover my wife and children on this policy would be a little over half my net income, which is how my wife and children ended up with a healthcare marketplace policy, $98 per month is better than $950 extra per month through my workplace.

The hypocrisy of Donald J Trump and the Republican party is beyond belief. Trump attacked Barrack Obama for the number of executive orders he signed throughout his tenure as president. Now, look, Trump has signed over 50 executive orders in his first nine months as president, and there is not a damn peep from the Republicans and the Democrats are too fucking weak to call out the hypocrisy.

It’s clear that we need to vote as many Republicans out of office as possible during the mid-term elections in 2018, their agenda is clear, they want to enrich their donors coffers at the expense of the people they represent. Don’t let their lip-service fool you, they agree with Trump’s actions, their words are that of a person that is seeking re-election, we cannot allow this to happen for our own self preservation.

This is not just limited to Republicans, the Democrats are just as bad, they have voted against the interests of their constituents time and time again when it comes to lowering healthcare costs, including blocking the ability to buy cheaper medication from across the border in Canada. The co-sponsoring of Bernie Sanders ‘Medicare for all’ is nothing more than lip-service, they know that the bill will not pass.

You could call me jaded and you’d be right, since moving to the US nine years ago, I have seen every day Americans be screwed over time and time again by what we laughingly call a government, big money controls congress and we have a president that is the CEO of an international business; who would have thought that he would NOT be fighting for the little person, the everyday American paying his salary.

I could go on, and on, and on about this; I don’t use the word ‘hate’ too often, but I hate Trump, Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell and the system that has allowed big money, be it pharma, healthcare, insurance or business conglomerates to buy politician’s votes in the senate and house. In Europe, we call this practice bribery, in the US, we call it lobbying, and money is speech, what a fucking shambles.

I wish I could defund government by not paying the $442 in state and federal taxes I do every month!

/rant over

Thank You, Dear Departed, Father.

Debt Free

On March 27, 2017, my father passed away at the age of 81, and as a result, this triggered the process of finalizing his estate which resulted in $107,888.12, my inheritance, being deposited into my bank account yesterday. This inheritance will allow me to pay off every cent of our debts and have roughly $45,000 left over in savings to secure my family’s financial future after the financial nightmare of the past two years.

I’m not exactly sad that my father has passed, we never had a good relationship, there has been a lot of less than honorable actions taken by my father in the past, where those actions will remain, I’m not going to speak ill of the dead, but I will say that him dying was the best thing he could have done for us.

This whole process has been very long and drawn out, given the 6 1/2 months between the start of probate and the disbursement of funds. The process was drawn out even more by the inactions of my father’s landlord, holding up the process, almost driving us to the point of bankruptcy, when the funds arrived, I was just days away from defaulting on the first of many loans and credit card payments.

My late father’s landlord, John, decided he was going to take £1,815 in cash from my father’s room and deposit it into a personal bank account, then took £550 from those funds, before handing over the remainder to the lawyers, for a new bed for my father’s room, which he claims my father agreed to, which is something I can neither confirm or deny, circumventing the administration of my father’s estate.

John then refused to acknowledge my lawyer’s requests to provide a statement of costs incurred, which ultimately slowed the process down for over a month, I instructed my lawyers to proceed without this documentation as clearly, John was not going to provide the requested breakdown of his claimed costs.

The money from my inheritance, which came in the nick of time will go towards paying $26,000 in credit cards, $21,000 personal loan and $12,000 car loan, saving me close to $1,000 per month, which was financially killing us, approximately $350 of those payments was interest on the cards/loans.

I have my mother-in-law to thank for loaning me $2,000 to keep us in the black (so to speak, as we were actually $60,000 in the red). We only survived this long because of random monies from various sources and tax refunds, my income alone would not have covered our living costs, plus all the loans and credit card payments. It’s been a rough two years for us, living on a single income for almost half of that time.

When my wife returned to employment after four months unemployed, due to bullshit reasons, Kansas is a non-union free-to-hire state, I’ll leave it at that, I don’t want to turn this into a rant. I took out a personal loan to create a structured payment plan to get debt free in five years. A couple of months later, it happened again, my wife was let go as the new manager “wanted to bring in her own people”.

That was 8 months ago, and my wife has now just gotten a part-time position as a leasing agent, which she starts next week. Income from her new job will be money we could put into savings as my income is high enough to comfortably cover our everyday costs. The reason for the part-time position is so my wife can also pursue her real estate career, hopefully, sell some houses and further improve our finances.

For the first time in two years, we will be debt free and hopefully, stress-free. The past two years have taken an incredible toll on my mental and physical health. I didn’t know how to feel seeing my bank balance indicating $107,984 yesterday afternoon, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry with happiness, that helpless feeling finally lifted, the dark clouds parted and the sun was shining in my mind.

I have to say a big thank you to Wolferstans Solicitors of Plymouth, UK for handling everything back in the United Kingdom for me. Excellent service from Gemma, Rebecca and their team, administering my late father’s estate and pushing through the funds for me to avoid financial ruin in the past 10 days.

My 41st birthday is coming up in two weeks and this is the best birthday present anyone could have ever gotten me. Although I have to admit that I have been looking at some new toys for myself, such as a Canon 5D MkIV and a Sony RX100 V, whether I actually spend any money on myself, that’s up for debate.

Formula 1 Japanese Grand Prix 2017

Japanese Grand Prix 2017 Start

I think the line “they think it’s all over, it is now” springs to mind after the latest Ferrari disaster and yet another Lewis Hamilton win, meanwhile the Red Bulls are still surging forward for a double podium.

Sebastian Vettel started alongside Lewis Hamilton on the front row of the grid, but was immediately losing time to the chasing pack, Max Verstappen who had already slipped down the inside of team mate Daniel Ricciardo through turn 1 for third place, dived down the inside of Vettel for second place at the hairpin. Vettel only went backwards from there and eventually retired his Ferrari at the end of lap 4.

It got worse for Ferrari through the Spoon curve on lap 1, Kimi Raikkonen was pushed wide onto the AstroTurf by the Renault of Nico Hulkenberg, losing half dozen places, dropping back as far as 14th. The Finnish driver did recover to fifth place, which is not terrible given his starting position of 10th after serving a five place grid drop for a gearbox change while his team mate skipped out the circuit back door.

Carlos Sainz Jr crashed out through the Esses on lap 1 in what is his final race for Toro Rosso before moving to Renault for the final four races of the season starting from the US Grand Prix. The Spaniard replaces the much maligned Jolyon Palmer, who was paid off by the French team to walk away early.

Force India’s Esteban Ocon made a fantastic start to leapfrog from fifth to third, getting the better of Ricciardo through turn 1 and later on lap 2 passing the ailing Ferrari of Vettel. But ultimately the Frenchman could not match the pace of Red Bull, Mercedes and the sole remaining Ferrari of Raikkonen, finishing the race in sixth place ahead of his more experienced team mate, Sergio Perez.

There were two virtual safety car periods, in which, Hamilton pulled out time on second placed, Verstappen. My question is; was Verstappen slower than the delta or was Hamilton exceeding the lap delta to pull out a gap? No FIA investigation was instigated, so I guess this question will go unanswered.

As the race came to it’s conclusion, HAAS’ Kevin Magnussen made a robust move on Felipe Massa for 8th place going into turn 1 making contact with Massa’s front wing end plate. Pushing the Brazilian wide also allowing HAAS team mate, Romain Grosjean to slip down the inside, demoting Massa to 10th a few laps before Williams team mate, Lance Stroll had a right front tire failure sending him into the gravel and out of the race. This brought out the second VSC, in which Hamilton pulled out 3 seconds on Verstappen.

Those three seconds were crucial for Hamilton in the final 2 laps, Verstappen was closing on the Briton fast as Hamilton struggled with a power unit vibration. Hamilton was helped by Fernando Alonso and Felipe Massa, who both balked Verstappen after letting Hamilton pass, costing the Dutchman valuable time in his pursuit of the win. Verstappen took the chequered flag just 1.2 seconds behind Hamilton.

After the Japanese GP, the title is Hamilton’s barring the Briton having 2 DNF’s in the final four races with Vettel winning those races. The last three races have been disastrous for Ferrari, multiple power unit issues for both drivers and the inexplicable crash, which I believe Vettel himself instigated in Singapore.

Hamilton can wrap up the title at COTA (US Grand Prix) in two weeks time with another win and Vettel finishes sixth or lower. Hamilton has won four of the five races held at the Circuit of the Americas, you have to believe that he is heading for a fifth victory in Austin given the current state of play in Formula 1.

Japanese Grand Prix 2017 Results

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 1:27:31.194
2. Max Verstappen (Red Bull) +1.211s
3. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +9.679s
4. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +10.580s
5. Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari) +32.622s
6. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +67.788s
7. Sergio Perez (Force India) +71.424s
8. Kevin Magnussen (HAAS) +88.953s
9. Romain Grosjean (HAAS) +89.883s
10. Felipe Massa (Williams) +1 LAP

Review: Canon PowerShot SX730 HS For Live Music Photography

Canon PowerShot SX730 HS example photograph taken in a live music situation.

I’ll start by saying that, as a professional real estate photographer, I would never have bought the Canon SX730 HS as I don’t believe any point and shoot camera has the image quality I require. But, now I have recently gotten back into live music, I needed to buy something that venues would allow, the majority of venues only allow compact point and shoot cameras, so I bought the $400 SX730 HS for this purpose.

The Canon PowerShot SX730 HS works well enough in outdoor and well-lit scenarios which require lower ISO’s and faster shutter speeds. But, since I purchased the PowerShot SX730 HS compact camera for the single purpose of live music photography, my review will be based on this use case scenario.

Last night was my first opportunity to use the Canon SX730 HS in a live music scenario at the Orpheum Theater in Wichita, KS for Halestorm, Starset and New Years Day. Let’s get straight to the point, if you are looking for a live gig shooter, look elsewhere, at $400, I expected infinitely better from Canon. I’m a long time Canon customer, I have three Canon DSLR’s, so the SX730 HS seemed like a natural choice to me.

The two things you need for live music photography is good low-light performance, which in darker environments means pushing the ISO and a fast(er) shutter speed to freeze the action. To be able to set any sort of decent shutter speed, 1/125 of a second, I need to push 3200 ISO, which has high levels of grain, which destroys the detail of any shot. Additionally, when zooming in 40x, you lose two stops of light, which means that you need to slow the shutter from 1/125 to 1/30 of the second to compensate.

The Canon SX730 HS’ focus system is slow and often fails to focus, especially when zooming in by a factor of 25x or more. I missed countless shots because the camera refused to focus, even on a subject lit by a bright spotlight. I would estimate that it failed three times before being able to get positive focus lock. Even then, the auto focus still missed the targeted focus point, despite the double beep confirmation.

Shutter reaction time is laughable, again I missed hundreds of shots because of the lag time between pressing the shutter button and the photo being taken. It seemed like there was a delay of 1/2 a second between pressing the shutter button and the shutter actuating. Resulting in blurry or even a shot of an empty piece of the stage as my subject had moved in the time it took the camera to react to my action.

Please see 1:1 example of the grain and focus issues at the top of this review…

I shoot in manual mode, however, I did try the auto mode and it bumped the ISO upto max and set a super slow shutter, which made everything nice and bright, but was ultimately useless as everything was blurry between my hand movement and the fast-paced action on stage even with the image stabilization enabled. Another bugbear is that I am unable to shoot in RAW image format, this is a feature I expect in a $400 camera, entry level DSLR’s at this same price point can shoot RAW, so why can’t the SX730 HS?

Maybe I have been spoiled by DSLR’s over the years and I am being harsh on the Canon PowerShot SX730 HS; but with the exception of the telephoto lens, my LG V20 gives me the same results in terms of quality. I would have expected a $400 camera to be better than a camera built into a multi-function device like a smartphone. Maybe, smartphone cameras have improved while digital cameras have not?

If I had just bought the SX730 HS, I would box it up and return it to the store, however, I have had the camera for six weeks, bought shortly after the last gig I attended, where I used my V20 smartphone. It is not faulty, so I am stuck with it, selling it would probably result in 50% financial loss, so I will hang onto it and use it as a pocket camera for family outing and such, where carrying a DSLR is cumbersome.

UPDATE [Oct, 9 2017, 22.18]: I went to another gig, this time at The Cotillion and the results are the same, so definitely not a live gig camera, slow and often missed focus, very poor low light performance and very noisy / grainy photos. Honestly, I am on the fence about whether to bother taking the PowerShot SX730 HS to gigs any more, it’s just more stuff to carry and the results are not worth the hassle.

Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix 2017

Vettel, Verstappen, Raikkonen Crash, Singapore GP 2017

I’ve taken an extended break away from F1, the last race I wrote about was before the mid-season break. And, the Singapore Grand Prix really wasn’t anything to write home about with the exception of the first lap carnage which, in my opinion, ended Ferrari’s challenge for the constructors and drivers titles.

Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen made an amazing start, getting half a car length ahead of Max Verstappen on the outside in the run to turn 1, while teammate, Sebastian Vettel moved aggressively to the left, causing Verstappen to ‘jink’ left making contact with Raikkonen, who in turn t-boned Vettel before colliding with Verstappen again at turn 1, also, ultimately taking out the super fast starting McLaren of Fernando Alonso.

I’m neutral, I don’t have a horse in the race, I’m not a fan of any of the three drivers, nor race winner, Lewis Hamilton. I believe Vettel made a bad judgment call, which I believe has cost him a chance of the 2017 drivers title, barring any disasters at Mercedes. In my opinion, Vettel did not need to move so aggressively towards Verstappen, title rival Hamilton was well behind with plenty of room to Vettel’s right.

It was judged to be a racing incident by the stewards, which I believe to be fair, but my personal view is that Vettel caused the chain reaction that ended four drivers’ races. Raikkonen was clearly the innocent party, he was out there next to the wall, Vettel moved left and Verstappen found himself in a fast disappearing gap. Go watch the replay from onboard Verstappen’s car, the Dutchman can’t just vanish!

I really wonder what Fernando Alonso could have done in the tricky conditions as by turn 1, he was up to third place from eighth place on the grid before getting caught up in the first corner carnage. I really wonder if the Spaniard could have claimed a podium for himself and McLaren Honda. The first lap incident really killed off the race; after the first 15 seconds, the race was effectively over.

Lewis Hamilton got incredibly lucky as Mercedes were a definite second, or maybe even third best team in qualifying trim. The Briton avoided the carnage, along with Red Bull’s Daniel Ricciardo and it paid off big time for both, if they started a little further forward, both drivers could have gotten caught up in the first lap incident. Hamilton, in race trim, was clearly faster than Ricciardo, a gift of a win for Hamilton!

Special mention to, and driver of the race, in my opinion, Toro Rosso’s Carlos Sainz who finished in a career-best fourth place. I don’t really remember anything specific he did, he just kept out of trouble, made the right choices and it paid off. Same goes for Jolyon Palmer, who recently found out his services are no longer required by Renault, being replaced by the aforementioned Sainz, finished strongly in sixth.

The only other thing of note was the three safety car periods, first due to the first corner incident on lap 1, second due to Toro Rosso’s Daniel Kyvat crashing into the barrier all by himself and the third was due to Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson spinning all by himself on the bridge. All three restarts resulted in absolutely zero overtaking. So to sum up the race, apart from the crashes, it was a real snooze fest… ZZZzzz

Singapore Grand Prix 2017 Results

1. Lewis Hamilton (Mercedes) 2:03:23.543
2. Daniel Ricciardo (Red Bull) +4.507
3. Valtteri Bottas (Mercedes) +8.800
4. Carlos Sainz (Toro Rosso) +22.822
5. Sergio Perez (Force India) +25.359
6. Jolyon Palmer (Renault) +26.371
7. Stoffel Vandoorne (McLaren) +30.388
8. Lance Stroll (Williams) +41.696
9. Romain Grosjean (HAAS) +43.282
10. Esteban Ocon (Force India) +44.795

Review: TurnsPro V1-B Motorized Rotating Camera Head

TurnsPro V1-B with Canon EOS 80D

A bit of backstory, I have been wanting to get into video production for real estate. I have been creating ‘mock’ videos from my standard 3:2 photography with the aid of pans and fades, but this is not enough for me, I want smooth 90° to 105° ‘actual’ pans of the rooms. I have looked at many different time-lapse rotating heads, but 60+ minutes to do a rotation is too long per shot, then I found the TurnsPro V1-B.

Let’s start with talking about specs and functionality, the Turnspro can be set to rotate through 15° to 360° in increments of 15° in minimum times from 2 seconds at 15° to 20 seconds at 360° upto a maximum time of 9 hours, 59 minutes and 59 seconds. Rotation can be set by degrees or complete rotations, while a third option of rotating back and forth at 15° increments is also available.

Operating the unit is very simple, everything is operated from three buttons below the recessed, backlit LCD screen, the middle button powers the unit on and off by pressing and holding for two seconds. The left button changes the values of any given function while the right button commits the setting and moves onto the next setting. The right button doubles as a start/stop button once all settings have been set.

Now, it’s time for my views of its functionality in the real world. This will be a limited use scenario for real estate video production, and you can even argue that the device was not designed for my use case. But, it is what it is; I have no need for the time-lapse functionality, I just need smooth rotation of my DSLR.

I mounted my Canon EOS 80D to the TurnsPro top plate and mounted the TurnsPro itself to my Manfrotto tripod. The 80D is a little wobbly on top of the TurnsPro, but not so much that it feels like it will fall and I noticed a definite 1° to 2° camera lean to the right. Also be very careful when moving the tripod, with the weight of a prosumer DSLR, it can rotate on top of the TurnsPro all by itself while moving the setup.

Rotation is smooth enough if a little clock work ‘tick’ like, and in my testing, once every five or so uses, it’ll get stuck for a few seconds and fails to complete the full 360° turn. I believe this to be weight related as my 80D and EF-S 10-22mm lens weighs in at 2.61lbs and the TurnsPro is rated to hold a maximum weight of 2.2lbs. I can’t criticize the device for this as I am working outside of the recommended use specs.

The TurnsPro comes with a mount for a smartphone, I tested this functionality and it works as advertised as my LG V20 is well under the TurnsPro’s weight limit. So overall, would I recommend it for real estate video use? probably not as it can’t hold anything bigger than a consumer DSLR with kit 18-55mm lens, most higher quality lens will put your DSLR over the maximum recommended weight for the TurnsPro.

That said, for it’s intended use of time-lapse and panoramic photo creation, it works brilliantly, I really cannot fault the TurnsPro for this use case. It works fine for smartphones and smaller point and shoot cameras such as my Canon SX730 HS, sadly I cannot use either of these for real estate as my V20 has major fisheye distortion at its widest setting and my SX730 isn’t anywhere near wide enough.

At 100 US$, it’s a good value compared to other similar devices and offers much more functionality than the majority of time-lapse moving heads on the market. So, for it’s intended purpose, buy it, for real estate, give it a miss as it’s weight limits deem it useless for prosumer and professional grade DSLR’s.

The Cotillion, Wichita: A Live Music Fan’s View!

Scott Stapp Live At The Cotillion, August 2017

Last Tuesday evening, I attended my first live gig for almost nine years and the venue of choice was The Cotillion in Wichita, I say; venue of choice, more like the bands I wanted to see chose the venue, but I digress. The following is my opinion on many aspects of the audio, visual and customer experience.

The Cotillion is easy to find just off the US-400 highway westbound, one block west of Maize Rd with plenty of free parking spaces including disabled parking out front of the venue. Getting into the venue was also a straight forward experience, having to submit to a quick pat down from security, then show my e-ticket on my phone to gain access to the venue. Inside the venue, it’s basically a huge dome with bars and seating around the outside and a central domed floor area with the stage at the front of the venue.

The stage itself is half dome shaped with lighting illuminating the interior the white painted arch; with six moving head lights overhead and a four element line array speaker system flown on either side of the stage. Above the speaker array are dual high-intensity white flood lights and RGB LED PAR cans to illuminate the crowd in the main floor area, plus 12 PAR cans to illuminate the stage area.

At first, I thought the sound was very bass light, I was sat with my wife, just outside the dome behind the sound mixing position, which you’d think would have good sound as that’s where the sound is being mixed from. But later in the gig, I wandered into the main floor area and the sound came alive, suddenly I could feel the bass and the thump of the kick drum that was missing from the edge of the dome.

Now, we come to some things that I thought could be better, first thing is having a cash only bar in the year 2017? At a time where more and more people carry no cash using debit/credit cards instead. There are ATM’s available inside the venue, but that is an extra cost in the shape of convenience fees on top of the inflated prices for drinks, which is par for the course in live music venues throughout the world.

Second thing that could have been better, in my opinion, is better use of the lighting rig for all the bands, the first three bands, Trapt, Sick Puppies and Drowning Pool had inconsistent use of the lighting rig and no smoke was released to highlight the lights for the support acts, which created a lesser atmosphere than that of the headline band, Scott Stapp of Creed, who had full use of the lighting rig and smoke machines, creating a more immersive experience for all, lighting is as important as sound in my view.

I enjoyed the gig overall, despite the perceived issues outlined above, it’s a great venue with a lot of potential flying the live music flag for Wichita. The Cotillion is a mid-size venue that hosts a lot of bands, unlike the bigger venues which seem to be more about sports events than live music. I definitely want to visit the Cotillion again, Stone Sour in October, as my birthday gig would be nice if I can get a babysitter.

My views are based on a single visit, other events might be different, however, I can’t comment on those!