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Koamicho Bus Stop (小網町バス停)

 koamicho bus stop hiroshima mega egg

“Mega Egg” passing the Koamicho Bus Stop
Hiroshima, Japan

Today’s photo was taken while I was waiting for the “bus” near the place where I stayed in Hiroshima. By the way, if you want a friendly host, inexpensive rate, and great WiFi access while in Hiroshima, stay at Sansui Ryokan (山水旅館). Pretty much everyone who stays here is a foreigner so if you don’t want that scene pick somewhere else. However, when I stayed here (during rainy season) there were no other guests. The bike rental was an attraction for me, and I rode the bike all over Hiroshima.

The place isn’t really a ryokan; it’s more of a minshuku. And the bus stop isn’t really for buses; it’s for the Hiroshima Electric Railway (Hiroden Streetcar) as you can see. The owner of Sansui is super nice and helpful. She was excited to have someone she could speak with in Japanese. I helped her translate some of her messages into English so that they made sense, and she was very grateful as I was to her for her hospitality.

Yamituki Curry (やみつきかりー)

やみつきかりー yamituki curry nishiwaseda tokyo japan

Yamituki Curry is the closest restaurant to our abode. It is also quite yummy. There are 12 curry dishes to choose from and go for about 800 yen each. Unless you are extremely hungry, splitting one with a friend is the way to go. They taste quite different from typical Japanese curry. Many feature cheese in the sauce–very unique and delicious. I believe this is a chain and can be found outside of Nishi-Waseda as well although I’m not sure where.

LX3 or ZS3/TZ7 – photo comparison


As promised in the prior entry, here are some photo comparisons I did on the first day after purchasing a Panasonic DMC-TZ7 to go along with my LX3.

Methodology:
I set both cameras to ia mode (which is what I use 99% of the time), 5 MP, and self timer. I placed both cameras side-by-side on my balcony ledge. Placement plus the self timer does away with any shaking that could sway the results. I have done nothing with the pictures after taking of them. They haven’t been cropped or adjusted in any way with a program like Photoshop. Nor was either camera set to something like vibrant mode. For the first set of pictures I went with maximum wide angle and received the following results.

zs3 tz7 wide angle comparison review compare photos cameras panasonic

dmc-lx3 wide angle comparison review compare photos cameras panasonic

You can click on the above images to get a better, larger view. Which one do you like better?

I like the second one better, especially the green tree in the lower right. The slightly wider angle is also nice. The differences aren’t huge however. The LX3 took the second picture.

lx3 maximum zoom comparison review compare photos cameras panasonic

zs3 tz7 comparison review compare photos cameras panasonic

Next I put the LX3 on maximum zoom and zoomed the TZ7 to approximate the LX3 zoom. Which do you like better of these two?

If you are biased toward the LX3 and immediately said the second image then no points for you. I swapped these images and put the LX3 image on top. I do think the top image is ever-so-slightly better.

zs3 tz7 12x zoom comparison review compare photos camera panasonic

Finally, I zoomed the TZ7 to maximum and took the final shot. The LX3 can’t take this shot at all.

In some other situations, where lighting is a bigger issue and zooming is not, I bet the LX3 wins in a landslide. The LX3 has never let me down on people pictures. To date I haven’t had the LX3 deliver a single red-eye photo. The TZ7 appears to be far inferior with respect to the flash, but I haven’t taken any people pictures yet with it to see if it avoids the dreaded red-eye results. The sensor in the TZ7 is smaller than the LX3’s so it really isn’t possible for it to take better or even the same level quality in poor lighting.

Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 versus TZ7 (ZS3 in the U.S.)

I’m going to interrupt the normal daily post about Japan for one about cameras. Until February of 2009 nearly all of the pics on this blog were taken with my old Canon S3. A few had been captured with a crappy, little Kodak camera that was my daughter’s that I used in a pinch or when I didn’t want to carry the large S3 around. I loved that S3 camera, but its time had come. I sold it soon thereafter and have been using only the LX3 since (although many older pictures that I have posted on the blog since February were taken with the S3).

The LX3 takes great pictures, and I love the wide angle lens (24 mm), but a few things about it bug me. The cap is a hassle to take on and off manually for every time a picture is taken. Although not nearly as big and heavy as the S3 was, it still isn’t a camera I like to have in my pocket the entire day. But most of all, the 2.5x maximum zoom came to be a problem in a number of situations. 60 mm is simply not enough to photograph sports or to get some good people shots without the subject knowing you are photographing them.

Now let me introduce you to my latest purchase, the TZ7 (sold as the DMC-ZS3 in parts of the world including the USA). The TZ7 doesn’t take as high of quality of pictures in low light or indoors, the wide angle isn’t quite as wide (25mm instead of 24mm), and you can’t control your shots (setting exposure length, etc.) quite as much. But there are many reasons to possibly opt for the TZ7/ZS3 over the LX3. It weighs 229 grams instead of the LX3’s 265 grams. 36 grams may not sound like much, but the 16% lighter factor can be felt immediately. After a day of it in your pocket you’ll notice the difference even more.

panasonic dmc-lx3
panasonic dmc-tz7 dmc-zs3

The published dimensions for these two cameras are incorrect. One of the main reasons I purchased the LX3 was because of the dimensions I read on the internet. They are false. From back to front the LX3 is supposed to be only 27.1 mm. My measurements give a reading of 46 mm, and that is before taking the lens cap off and turning the camera on. The TZ7 has a published depth of 32.8 mm. My reading gives only 28 mm. In other words, the TZ7 is barely more than half as thick (due to the LX3’s protruding lens). This makes a huge difference in your pocket if you are carrying it around all day. The heights are the same and the TZ7’s width is a little more than 5 mm smaller. So, for portability, the TZ7 is much better.

The TZ7 takes much better video in most conditions. The LX3 can take great video too, but you can’t zoom in and out when recording video on the LX3. I’ll show you some sample videos with the TZ7 soon.

The TZ7 can cost anywhere from $100 to $200 less than the LX3 (assuming you can even find the LX3 in stock).

But the biggest reason why I purchased the TZ7 was not the lens cap annoyance, the better price, the better video, or the improved portability, it was the zoom. The TZ7 has 12x zoom. Cropping can only yield so much with the LX3, and I found myself cropping nearly everything I took with the LX3. Now I can zoom to 300mm and not be stuck at 60mm and a large crop.

I don’t plan on selling my LX3. I’ll use it for sunsets (and other low-light conditions), indoor pictures, and in some other situations where it may result in a substantially better picture. But given the portability and the zoom possibilities with the TZ7 I think it will be brought along more often. Have I completely sold you on the TZ7 over the LX3? I hope not, as my initial testing and photo comparisons indicate that the quality of pictures is generally better with the LX3. I’ll show you my first set of tests in my next entry.

Another reason I purchased the TZ7 is we only had one camera in Japan. My kids are going to Cambodia and Miyajima on field trips during the same week. Sending only one of them off with a camera didn’t sound so hot to me.

Generic 4GB mp3 player (iPod shuffle clone)

Let’s put this one in the “travel accessories” category.

Today my fourth mp3 player arrived in the mail. My first was an RCA Lyra RD1090A. It worked great, still does, but it is a bit bulky and requires an armband or a pocket. The on-board memory is meager at 256MB, but you can insert SD cards which is really nice. The problem is that the RCA unit has problems reading my cards larger than 2GB.

My second mp3 player was a 1GB Apple iPod shuffle. I loved the size of my first shuffle and the ease with which I could just clip it on. I could have lived with the shuffle forever were it not for the storage capacity issue–1GB is not nearly enough if you listen to lots of music. Apple recently came out with a 2GB version, but for $69 I passed. I would pay $69 for an 8GB iPod shuffle–not for a 2GB shuffle.

I sold my 1GB shuffle and purchased my third mp3 player, a 4GB generic shuffle on ebay for $36 a few months ago. My third mp3 player was horrible, defective even, so I returned it.

Today, the following package arrived:

I purchased it from mall.hk for a mere $17.47 which included free shipping. Here are the pros and cons:

Pros:
– Price!
– 4GB of storage (vs. iPod shuffle with a max capacity of only half or a fourth as much)
– Transfer speed (between 1.6 and 2MB per second–the last generic shuffle I had transferred files at 200-400k per second)
– Headphones actually work well (unlike the ones I received with my third mp3 player which were complete garbage)
– Wall charger included (iPod shuffle doesn’t even include a wall charger)

Cons:
– Although it looks like a shuffle, it doesn’t shuffle (randomize) the songs; songs are played in the order copied–I got around this somewhat by copying the songs randomly so I won’t have to hear the same artist’s songs back to back
– Shipping takes forever from mall.hk; the mp3 player pictured above took an entire month to arrive
– Picture on mall.hk is of a real iPod shuffle; as you can see from these photos the button layout on this knock-off version is different
– Unit is slightly thicker than a real iPod shuffle (not a big deal)
– When unit is turned on, first song is always played, followed by song #2, etc. This is a big pain in the ass I’m hoping the company can send me some software to fix.

I will comment on battery life once I’ve drained it a couple of times. Right now I’m somewhat happy with this purchase. Unfortunately, I’ve already filled up all 4 GB. It won’t be too long before I’m longing for an 8GB shuffle.

48 hours later update: I found a work around for the first song always being played on startup problem. I don’t turn the unit off. Instead I just hit pause. The battery doesn’t appear to be used when the pause is on and it starts right were it left off when I hit pause again hours or days later. The battery has not been used up so far. I’ve listened to probably 3 hours of music and had it on pause for another 24 hours+ so the battery life appears to be good.

With the workaround and at least decent battery, so far, I have to up my review from “somewhat happy” to “happy.”

Guidebooks for Copenhagen, Denmark, and Paris

So far we have purchased Top 10 Copenhagen, Lonely Planet’s Copenhagen Encounter, and Rick Steves’ Paris 2008. After our disappointing guidebook results with Japan last year, I don’t want our much longer stays in Europe beginning next month to encounter the same frustrations.

Does anyone have any recommendations? Or any that you would suggest we avoid or not follow?

We will probably be in Copenhagen for about 30-35 days, other parts of Denmark and Sweden for 5+ days, and Paris for about 6 or 7 days. So we probably still need something to help us figure out what to do and see in Denmark (outside of Copenhagen) and Sweden.

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