Meet the legendary Lunar Camera – Nikon CoolPix P900

The Nikon CoolPix P900 camera is an amazing superzoom camera. The 16.1-megapixel camera comes with an astonishing 83x optical zoom (that is equivalent to 2000mm in 35mm format) and 166x Dynamic Fine Zoom (that is 4000mm equivalent in 35mm format). The Chinese media even nicknamed it as the “Divine Lunar Camera”(摄月神器).

One of the most remarkable features is its lightweight body. Weighing at only 899 grams, the Nikon P900 is 40% lighter than my Canon EF100-400 telephoto zoom lens. The light weight offers ease of mobility. There are also other great features about this camera, it comes equipped with 3-inch vari-angle LCD monitor, an auto-sensor electronic viewfinder, WIFI/NFC photo transfers, GPS and a pretty decent battery life.

To test the camera, I went up to the Victoria Peak this afternoon. Overlooking the Victoria Harbour and Hong Kong skyscrapers, I took severals wide and extreme close-up shots. Despite the gloomy foggy weather, the results were pretty impressive. Details did came up in all the shots. Shooting at 83X / 2000mm wasn’t easy, I regretted not bringing a tripod along. Thus, most of the shots were compromised with higher noise settings. Colour was fairly accurate and it worked pretty well in low lightings too. However, there is just one thing that bothers me during today’s test. The zoom is digital, therefore, I cannot adjust the speed of the zoom manually. At times, the zooms were shaky and the focus weren’t smooth. Another problem is its macro-feature, it wasn’t as sharp as I expected. Check out my photos and video test below.

Overall, this is a good bargain for those who need a powerful telephoto-zoom-camera. At under HKD5,000, this is furthest and lightest you can get from a consumer’s point-and-shoot camera. No idea what to shoot with such powerful camera, go check out the “famous moon footage” that has been threading for the past 2 months on Youtube. Watch video below.

Road to Middle Earth Part II – Hobbiton, Mount Doom and A Missing Drone! (Updated)

We left the City of Sails and began our journey deeper into Middle Earth. This marked the beginning of our 10-day adventure. I prepared a simple map (see below) to help us navigate our journey. I am not a hardcore fan of the Lord of the Rings series but since we were in Middle Earth, we made special stops at two of the most significant LOTR shooting locations (Hobbiton and Mount Doom!).

In total, we travelled 1200km over 10 days, making 5 pitstops at Auckland City Center, Hamilton, Taupo Lake, Rotorua and Magere. Since Gandalf didn’t prepare any magical “Eagles of Manwë” for us, we relied on Felicia and our most trustworthy GPS device. I played “vehicle commander” to help Felicia to read maps and watch out for nasty obstacles on the road. On the contrary, I was the disruptive one. Many times, I interrupted the journey whenever there was a spectacular view or an interesting road sign. Thankfully, the roads were mostly empty and Felicia was a very calm and steady driver. In the end, we went to places that we didn’t even planned. That’s the spirit of an adventure. Keep exploring and you never know what gems you will find at the end of the road.

On 15th June, I had an eventful and unforgettable “Big 40″ celebration at Hamilton. That was the day when I lost my “precious” (drone) to Middle Earth. On our way to Mount Doom (yes, the infamous mountain where Frodo discarded the ring – aka Mount Ngauruhoe at Tongariro National Park), dark forces stole my beloved drone. I was making my first Middle Earth flight over a beautiful valley (see picture below) when my drone suddenly took off in another direction. For some strange and unknown reasons, I was unable to gain any control of my drone. It flew beyond the valleys and forests and within seconds, the drone vanished! I tried frantically to recall it back but nothing happened. I even climbed over the fences and trespassed the privately owned valleys and forests to search for it. The drone simply vanished without a trace. (At this moment, I have submitted the flight log files and awaiting DJI to investigate into this matter.)

Many good friends sent me sympathy messages about the unfortunate loss of my precious drone. Amazingly, there wasn’t a single tint of sadness in me. In fact, I was more worried about my runaway drone hurting someone. I was relatively in good spirits and enjoyed the rest of the trip happily with my family. After all, a drone is replaceable anytime but precious moments with Felicia and Elkan are rare and priceless.

Our journey was glittered with countless rainbows, starry nights and sunny blue skies. I love the colours of nature and the pace of life here. It was a good soul-searching trip for me. I realised one simple truth – Extravagance can never refill the emptiness of city dwellers. It is not what we carry that define us, it is what’s inside that matters. Simple truth but how many people really adopt such state of mind. Here, people live and enjoy life simply in their own meaningful way. There aren’t many big branded boutiques, gadgets or posh vehicles to pollute the minds of the people. Here boasts an abundance of big natural, quiet spaces and ample time for one to pause, reflect and rethink about their own lives. Environment does play such a huge influence of our body, mind and soul.

Enough of my rattling, here are the top highlights of our 2nd to 5th Pitstops! Enjoy the photos!

PITSTOP 2 – HAMILTON (HOBBITON, BRIDAL VEIL FALLS)
We stayed at Hamilton Ibis Hotel. It is located just beside the scenic Waikato River and a short 5-min stroll to the town’s main shopping center and food street. Hotel offers valet parking for NZD20/night. 


2.1) HOBBITON (2 HOURS TOUR) 
– This should be one of the most visited man-made attractions around Hamilton since the mega success and popularity of the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies. Hidden in the heart of a privately owned farm estate, the Hobbiton was completely recreated during the filming of the Hobbit Trilogies as a long term tourist attraction. We had a fascinating two-hour guided tour into The Shire. The guide gave us such an insightful story about how Peter Jackson found this place and the great details he took to create The Shire. If you have watched the LOTR movies, you will be able to identify some of the sites. Photo-taking can be a challenge as there will be many tourists around. Still, I managed to capture a couple of isolated shots of this magical village. (Official Website: http://www.hobbitontours.com/). For visitors, you can park your car at the ticket office and take the tour bus into the estate. No private vehicle can enter The Shire. 


2.2) BRIDAL VEIL FALLS, WAIKATO (30MIN HIKE)
 – Located a short hour drive away from Hamilton city is this spectacular 55m-tall waterfall. Unlike other waterfalls that require a long hiking distance, the Bridal Veil Falls is only a 10-min walk away from the carpark. There are 3 spots you can see the waterfall (up-close, far-side and bottom opposite). Address: Bridal Veil Falls, Kawhia Road, Makomako 3895, New Zealand


PITSTOP 3 – TAUPO (LAKE TAUPO, RUAKURI CAVE, WAITOMO GLOWWORMS CAVES, TONGARIRO APLINE CROSSING, HUKA FALLS) 

We stayed at a double-storey 2-bedroom motel, Le Chalet Suisse, owned by a Malaysian couple, Karen and Kenny who just moved here less than 2 years ago. It is located opposite Lake Taupo and right beside the key shopping streets and food outlets. The motel was newly refurbished. It is very spacious, clean and comfortable. It comes with a kitchen with full set of cooking utensils. There are 2 supermarkets 5-min drive away. We bought fresh food and cooked our meals inside the motel. For booking, email Karen or Kenny at: stay@lechaletsuisse.co.nz or visit their website at http://www.lechaletsuisse.co.nz


3.1) RUAKURI CAVE (90MIN TOUR)
– First discovered 500 years ago, the Ruakuri Cave is a very well preserved cave that spiral down 60m deep underground with narrowing tunnels, underground rivers and glowworms! At 90 minutes, it is New Zealand’s longest guided underground cave tour and certainly much bigger than those of Western Australia. The operator limits no more than 18 people per tour so there are lots of space for you to enjoy the cave quietly at your own pace! The cave is located 75-min drive from Taupo Lake. Address: 585 Waitomo Caves Rd. Website: http://www.waitomo.com/ruakuri-cave/Pages/default.aspx


3.2) WAITOMO GLOWWORMS CAVES (45MIN TOUR)
– Located just 2km beside the Ruakuri Cave, this is possible the world’s best place to see the glowworms! It boasts an underground river system where we saw millions of glittering glowworms in pure darkness. It is a must visit if you are around town. To protect the glowworms and also the tour experience, no photography is allowed at all. Address: 39 Waitomo Caves Rd. Website: http://www.waitomo.com/Waitomo-Glowworm-Caves/Pages/default.aspx

3.3) TONGARIRO ALPINE CROSSING, “MOUNT DOOM” (7-HOUR HIKE) – This is New Zealand’s oldest national site with dual World Heritage Site titles. Located 60min-drive away from Taupo City Center, we arrived at an infamous volcano of this century – Mount Doom. The Tongariro National Park houses 2 active volcanoes where Mount Doom of LOTR was shot. The sign at the entrance said the full 19km-hike takes over 6-7 hours. Based on my experience, it can easily take an novice hiker over 10 hours to compete the trail. The hike takes place over many active volcanic areas. There are many warning signs about falling rocks and slippery unstable tracks. From the base (1,120m) to mid levels (at 1,350m) to the crater (at 1,886m), temperature changes drastically so it is important to come well-prepared and fully equipped. It is strongly advised to come in 2 cars where you start from one carpark at Mangatepopo Carpark and ends at the other at Ketetahi Carpark (so there is no need for you to track back to the starting point). We could not finish the hike as the tracks were very slippery due to the icy condition.


3.4) HUKA FALLS (20MIN HIKE) 
– Located only 10-min drive away from Taupo town center, this is New Zealand’s most convenient and visited natural attraction. It takes less than 5 minutes to walk from the carpark to the falls. Every second, up to 220,000 litres of water gushes through the 20m-gorge and as it crosses a narrow 15m volcanic channel, it forms a spectacular visual feast of powerful falls and rapids.


PITSTOP 4 – ROTORUA (CRATERS OF THE MOON, ORAKEI KORAKO GEOTHERMAL ATTRACTION, WAI-O-TAPU THERMAL WONDERLAND, TEPUIA POHUTU GEYSER, A-MAZE-ME)

After hiking and traveling for so many days, I decided to pick a motel with private spa pool. After all, we are in Sulphur City where it is surrounded by numerous active geothermal spots. I managed to find a highly-rated motel by the name of Sport of the Kings. Its owners were extremely friendly and helpful. The rooms are clean and spacious. Most importantly, we have our own private hot spa pool to relax our tired bodies after a long day of walking.


4.1) CRATERS OF THE MOON (45MIN HIKE) – 
Located 10km away from Taupo Lake and 50-min drive away from Rotorua, this is one of the smallest (and more affordable) geothermal attractions around this region. It houses lots of small steaming active craters, blowholes (fumaroles) and a small boiling mud-pool. If you have visited other major geothermal parks like the Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland, you can simply skip this. Website: http://www.cratersofthemoon.co.nz/


4.2) ORAKEI KORAKO GEOTHERMAL ATTRACTION (60MIN HIKE) – 
The Lonely Planet cited this as “arguably the best thermal area left in New Zealand”, the Orakei Korako Geothermal Attraction houses one of the two geothermal caves in the world and the largest geyser-fields in New Zealand. Do take precaution whenever you are visiting one of these thermal areas as the zones can be highly unpredictable and dangerous. Always stay on the boardwalks and away from the boiling steam. The Orakei Korako Geothermal Attraction is located just 40-min drive away from Rotorua. It is certainly worth a visit if you are driving through the area. Website: http://www.orakeikorako.co.nz/


4.3) WAI-O-TAPU THERMAL WONDERLAND (75MIN HIKE)
– Having visited 4 geothermal attractions, in my opinion, the Wai-O-Tapu is the most colourful and spectacular geothermal site. Located 20-min drive away from Rotorua, it houses big deep craters, mudpools and luminous thermal lakes. The entrance tickets cost a little more than the rest but it is a must-visit destination for those who come to New Zealand!  Website: http://www.waiotapu.co.nz/


4.4) TEPUIA POHUTU GEYSER (75MIN HIKE)
 
– The Lonely Planet rated this as one of the world’s top 5 geysers and it is the world’s most reliable and predictable geyser. Shooting up to 30m high, the Pohutu Geyser is nature’s most spectacular fountain! Best of all, it is located within 5min-drive from Rotorua city center! A 100% must visit destination! Be prepared for lots of steam! When we were here, the geyser was shooting non-stop for over 30 minutes! It was amazing! There is a guided tour every hour or you can simply take a self-guided walk. Website: http://www.tepuia.com/new-zealand/


4.5) A-MAZE-ME (15MIN – 60MIN) 
– There are a lot of activities for kids and family along Paradise Valley Road, Rotorua (which is only 15min drive away from the town center). This is Elkan’s first giant maze experience! Three of us ran into the maze and guess who won! Elkan arrived at the center of the maze first! He took only 15 minutes to crack the maze. Poor Felicia and me took much much longer! Website: http://www.amazeme.co.nz/


PITSTOP 5 – BACK TO AUCKLAND AIRPORT (KIWI 360)
Our 10-day Middle Earth adventure ended here. We parked ourselves at Holiday Inn Auckland Airport Hotel a day before our flight so we avoided taking a 3-hour long morning drive from Rotorua back to Auckland. We needed a good rest before the long 11-hour flight back to Hong Kong. Our hotel was only 5-min drive away from the airport.


5.1) KIWI 360 (45MIN VISIT)
– On our way from Rotorua to Auckland, we made a short detour at a Kiwi Fruit Plantation (located 51km from Rotorua). It was an enjoyable visit where we learnt so many new things about this amazing fruit! For the first time in our life, we learnt that Kiwi Fruit isn’t a native fruit of New Zealand. It is in fact a native fruit from China! Yes, China! It was only introduced to New Zealand in the early 1900s and it was originally named “Chinese Gooseberry”. However, that didn’t sound very convincing and the New Zealanders had a difficult time to export “grow-in-New-Zealand-Chinese-Gooseberry” overseas. A remarkable marketing rebranding by a California-based importer changed its fate. As the brown furry fruit resembled the native bird Kiwi, the California important renamed the fruit from “Chinese Gooseberry” to “Kiwi Fruit”. Soon, its fame grew and by 1980s, New Zealand was known as the Kiwi Fruit Capital. We learnt so much more about the fruit at the farm. The tour guide was extremely insightful and friendly. We got to see 16 other fruit trees including the Mānuka flowers and the Macadamia Nut trees (that looks like a lime trees). Elkan even got a rare opportunity to pluck a couple of kiwi fruits to bring home! Do also grab other exclusive Kiwi products at the gift shop! The Kiwi Whisky is just so smooth and sweet! Website: http://www.kiwi360.com/

It has been a wonderful, fulfilling holiday with Felicia and Elkan. For some strange reasons, it felt like a month vacation when we only spent 10 nights in New Zealand. My only regret is I should have planned a 18-day vacation instead of 10. An additional 8 days would be enough for us to fly south to visit more scenic sites. The Kiwis have been extraordinary kind to us. New Zealand left us with so many priceless moments and memories. What I left behind was my missing drone. Hopefully, it finds itself a good master so it can soar once again, over this incredible beautiful land.

We will certainly be back for the southern Middle Earth tour – with more drivers and buddies! And yes, I will bring in my new drone to defeat the dark lords! Haere rā, Middle Earth! Hope you enjoy this blog.


And it so good to be back home with a birthday surprise for me – Thanks Tracy for the cake and gift!

Road to Middle Earth Part I – City of Sails

This June holiday, we travelled forward in time to visit a new world down south. This is the world’s last landmass ever discovered and populated.The earliest immigrants named it Aotearoa. And some refer it as the Middle Earth. After an amazing long 11-hour redeye flight (smoothest flight ever with no turbulance at all) from Hong Kong, Felicia, Elkan and I touched down at the world’s largest Polynesian city. The city too, comes in many different names – Tamaki Makaurau, City of Sails or simply Auckland.

This is our 2nd vacation without the great company of Auntie Baybay and Uncle Harshad. And it was our 2nd overseas vacation trip during the June holiday. Usually, we would explore new places during the Nov-Dec Christmas season. Last Dec was an unfortunate exception as the entire family was infected by Chicken pox. Considering this as a “holiday compensation”, I gave them a surprise trip down at Middle Earth.

Like all times, I wanted to keep this as a surprise until they arrived in Hong Kong. However, there were a couple of things that I would need Felicia to prepare – their winter clothing and driving classes. Yes, driving classes. You see, I cannot drive (Thanks God how many lives I spared by not having a driving licence) so we may have a problem in New Zealand. Therefore, I told Felicia about this surprise trip and got her to take up driving-refresher’s course. It was almost 16 years ago when Felicia and I last travelled on wheels alone (and that was in Western Australia in 1999). Felicia was nervous at first when I broke the news to her. She took 3 driving classes and regained her confidence. Anyway, I have plotted a very driver-friendly route. We kept it to maximum 2-hour of driving per day. This is a 10-day tour with 5 stop overs.  Due to this careful planning, I have decided to shelf the Southern Island trip to our next vacation. And hopefully, I can rally more driver-buddies to come with us.

Elkan was extremely excited the moment we touched down at Auckland Airport. He always wanted to see his mum driving. This must be an unforgettable moment for him. I saw the sparks in his eyes the moment Felicia started the engine. Felicia did a test-drive around the carpark and off we went! GPS was working superbly and in no time, we arrived at our hotel.

This is the first time we travel together on wheels. There is no need to catch a taxi or a train. We can go and stop wherever and whenever we want. It is such a fantastic feeling, just like the old times we had when we were in Australia.

Auckland is a very small city with little attractions. The highlight of Auckland is seeing Felicia on wheels. We explored Auckland’s key shopping district Queen’s Street on our first day. We are impressed by the city’s cleanliness and its warm people. We love the suburbs and the beautiful big houses. There were a lot of Asians residents (Chinese, Hong Kongers, Japanese, Koreans and Indians) on the streets. Most shops close at 5pm and the city wind down. It reminded me of a mini Sydney.

The next morning, we took a 30min-ferry out to Waiheke Island for a half-day tour. A big island with many expensive beach-facing villas, vineyards, farms, novelty shops, beach cafes, seafood restaurants and powdery white bays. It is a lovely island with very friendly islanders. Unluckily for us, the weather was very unpredictable today. One minute, it was clear blue sky and the next, grey clouds with drizzle. This crazy cycle of sunshine and rain repeated itself numerously throughout the day. It was frustrating for me as I was handling the photographic gears. I wanted to fly the drone but the weather was just too windy and unpredictable.

We ended our short 2-day city stay on the summit of Auckland’s tallest dormant volcano, Mount Eden. Standing at 196m tall, on the rim of its green leafy volcanic crater, the sunset view of the city was spectacularly stunning.


Next stop, Hamilton. Yes, we are going to visit the most-popular-touristic village of Middle Earth – The Hobbiton Village.

GG’s Funtastic 2nd Birthday Ocean Party!

Luxury jacuzzi boat, speedboats, drones, water-slide, wakeboards and seabobs (manned water-jets) – these were some of the funtastic toys (and tons of booze) at GG’s 2nd Birthday Party @ Repulse Bay! What a great way to end a long stressful, hectic week with all the young, talented, fun and crazy team mates plus 2 newly joined colleagues! Enjoy the photos and video!

DJI Inspire 1 vs Phantom 3 Professional

The Inspire 1 has served me very well. It is extremely sturdy, powerful and reliable. It is the Lamborghini of prosumer-drones. After 2 months flying on the Inspire 1, I decided to get a Phantom 3 Professional (P3P) last week. I had a short encounter with the new P3P when I was in Singapore 2 weeks ago. My new drone buddy, Alvin took his P3P for a night flight around Marina Bay Sands. I was intrigued by its amazing video quality and lightweight.

Back in Hong Kong, I took my new P3P out for a test flight at the Hong Kong Peak Garden. Small, light and nimble, I was very surprised that it was able to tackle the strong high wind without much drifting problem. I did noticed some minor vibrations during landing and mid air turning but those were minor. I handed the control to Tracy who was new to drone flying. Within minutes, she was able to fly the drone for a good 15 minutes without any problem. Check out what Tracy captured in the video below.

I know many drone-shoppers are comparing the Inspire 1 and the new Phantom 3 Professional model. Even though the Inspire 1 and Phantom 3 Professional offer the same 4K camera, they are built differently. They both have their own pros and cons. That is why it is not realistic to compare Inspire 1 with the new DJI Phantom 3 series.

After handling and flying both drones, here are my verdicts:

1) MOBILITY, SIZE AND WEIGHT
I carried the Inspire 1 to Taiwan and Singapore. Twice, I was billed extra at the check-in counter for being overweight. Due to its size, it is impossible to hand-carry the Inspire 1 box on board. The original box is not strong enough to check in. I had one of those military-grade shock-proof trunks which was very costly (USD300), heavy and bulky. The trunk itself without the drone and batteries was already over 13kg! After putting in the drone, 4 batteries and 1 controller, it weighs over 20kg. This is simply not flight-friendly. I returned the box back to the shop.

I found a much cheaper and more efficient way to fly. I put the Inspire 1 box inside another larger luggage-trolley. After searching for many brands, I found the “Caterpillar” trunk (USD120) most useful and practical. (See photo below). Altogether, all the trolley, box, drone, 4 batteries, 2 chargers and 1 controller only weigh 12kg. (Tips: Number the batteries so you can use them evenly)

While I solved the airline-check-in problem, the Inspire 1 box is still a big one to carry around on foot. I bought 2 backpack options on the Chinese shopping site, Taobao. The first option was a strap (USD30) over the Inspire 1 original box. While the drone was well protected in its original box, this is a bad option as it is too heavy to carry the box around. Also, it takes a long time to unstrap the box.

I prefer the second option which is a canvas backpack (USD18). I am able to strap the drone on the bag and carry it around. There are compartment inside this bag for batteries, props and controller. The only con about this bag is it is not weather-proof. So, you should only take this out on a sunny clear day.

Phantom 3 Professional on the other hand, is so much smaller, lighter and travel-friendly. I will able to hand-carry the drone and batteries on board the plane. My drone buddy Alvin recommended me a very sturdy bag (USD68) on Taobao. I am able to store all the batteries, charger, props, ipad and drone into one bag. It is weather-proof and most important, travel-friendly.

WINNER: PHANTOM 3 PROFESSIONAL – So, if you are looking at mobility, Phantom 3 offers a big convenience for travellers. Nevertheless, do note that Phantom 3’s compact frame does compromise flight performance.

2) BUILD, POWER AND FLIGHT PERFORMANCE
Visually, both drones are built and weigh differently. The Inspire 1 (2935g) is much heavier than Phantom 3 (1280g). The Inspire 1 is partially made of carbon-fiber while the Phantom 3 is mainly made of plastic. Both are equipped with different-sized props. The props on the Inspire 1 are much longer than the Phantom’s. (Even the remote controller mimics the drone’s material, Phantom 3’s plastic and Inspire’s metallic.) Due to its unique body structure and wider wingspan, the Inspire 1 is a better drone to fly. It is certainly much stable and more powerful than the Phantom. The Inspire 1 flies much faster (22m/s) than the Phantom 3 (16m/s).

While in the air, it is much easier to identify the Inspire 1’s bearing at line-of-sight. The Phantom is almost symmetrical and it is difficult to tell its bearing by looking at it. Even though the Phantom promises longer flight time (23 mins) than the Inspire 1 (18 mins), I don’t find that overly true. Due to the Phantom’s lighter weight and smaller frame, it uses more juice to counter the strong current and this reduces its flight time eventually.

WINNER: INSPIRE 1 If you are looking for speed and powerful flight, the Inspire 1 edges Phantom 3 without any doubt. Inspire 1 is a much stable drone to pilot especially in windy condition. For some strange reasons, it is a much quieter drone too. (See the 2 videos below shot by Inspire 1)

3) AERIAL IMAGE CAPTURING AND QUALITY
Both the Inspire 1 and Phantom 3 carry similar 4K cameras but Inspire 1 offers an unblocked 180-degree view. Due to Inspire 1’s iconic transforming landing gears, the pilot is able to rotate the camera around. The Phantom 3 has the same limitation as its predecessors. While flying (tilting) forward, there are times when the Phantom’s front props appear in the footage.

Nothing much to compare about both drone’s image quality as both offer 12 megapixel, FOV 94° 20 mm (35 mm format equivalent) f/2.8, focus at ∞. While it is good to shoot video at 4K, I would recommend pilots to shoot in mode of minimum 48f/s and above to avoid strobing or “judder-effect”. Aerial footages shot at 25f/s must pan or rotate slowly.

WINNER: INSPIRE 1 I would find the Inspire 1 camera a better option as it allows HD filters to be attached onto its camera. Also, the Inspire 1’s camera is removable so drone owner will be able to upgrade or replace the gimbal with other photographic options in the future. This option does come with its con, it takes 50% time longer to setup the Inspire 1. Drone owner has to set the drone on flight mode in order to attach the camera. For the Phantom 3, it is simply attach the props and it is ready to fly.


CONCLUSION

I like the Inspire 1’s imagery and flight performance. It is certainly a much powerful, stable, robust and reliable drone to fly. The camera allows ND filter and this helps in super bright sunny condition. The transforming landing gears allow me to take unblocked images and footages. It is much easier to spot its bearing in the air. Battery life is fantastic. I don’t use more than 3 batteries in one single location. Each battery allows me a good 18-20 minutes of flight. With its sturdy main frame and power propeller engines, USD2,899 is a fair deal.

The only con is its mobility. It is extremely difficult to travel with Inspire 1 on foot. I had a nasty tough time carrying it up the mountains when I was in Taiwan. Most of the box-options aren’t travel-friendly. I believe this problem can be overcome when someone comes up with a good backpack solution. Hopefully DJI can solve this.

On the other hand, I can understand why some Inspire 1 owners were crying foul in early April when DJI launched the new Phantom 3 Series. For almost a third of Inspire 1 price, the Phantom 3 Professional offers similar deal of superior flight and camera quality. It flies 500m high, 2km far and captures 4K video, I must admit it is a very good aerial camera at USD1,259. Best of all, it is so travel-friendly and I will be using this more for my local hiking trip and weekend travels.

Nevertheless, it has its own limitation. Forget about Phantom 3 lacking of HDMI output, “Follow-Me” or the second controller functions, I never think those 3 features are important for most prosumer-drone-pilots. The biggest limitation in Phantom 3 lies in its lesser aero-dynamical air frame and smaller plasticky wingspan. Drone owners have to take more precaution to avoid the front propellers appearing in their video and make more adjustment during flight to counter the strong drafts. 

It is a marketing and pricing strategy. DJI surely knows how to market its drones effectively by introducing a new segment for the semi-pro users. The Inspire sits in a well-placed price segment with a set of extra tangible features. It is unfair to compare the Inspire 1 with the Phantom 3 or even other similar drones in the market. In my opinion, the only thing comparable is the camera.

Both are excellent drones. If given a choice to choose one over another (with no monetary-constraint), I will still stick with the Inspire 1 for important trips/work and the Phantom 3 for my blog and weekend leisure. If this is your first drone, Phantom 3 Professional is the answer. 

Droning over Iconic Singapore

Just 2 weeks before Singapore’s unmanned aerial vehicle law becomes effective on 1st June, I brought my drone to Singapore to fly. Blessed with great sunny and clear weather, I was able to capture some of the most stunning aerial footages of Marina Bay Sands, Gardens by the Bay and  Punggol Marina Club. Thanks to DJI Inspire 1‘s superior built and engine, the drone empowered me with absolute control, precision and freedom to explore Singapore from totally different angles and never-seen before perspectives. (Check out the photos and videos below!)

This is my 20th DJI Inspire flight since my first flight at Taiwan Alishan. I always take extra precaution whenever I fly the drone around the city. Everything is checked to ensure the flight is smooth and will not endanger anyone or property. Many of my friends in Singapore have warned me about the recent drone accidents in Singapore. Such negative incidents bother me as I know how these will impact many drone pilots like myself. Being a drone owner, it is our responsibility to ensure the safety of every flight. This is not a toy but a great aerial imaging machine.

“Great power comes with great responsibility.” More than just a cliche line from our friendly neighbourhood super hero, it serves as a constant reminder to all drone pilots to be diligent, ethical and to take the highest level of precaution when flying these drones. With more and more regulations tightening up against drone flying, it is important that drone pilots observe good drone flying etiquette. It only take a few black sheep in this community to destroy the freedom that we (drone pilots) enjoy. And as much as possible, we should also refrain ourselves from taking unnecessary risk that may cause any undesirable or life-threatening incident. Always stop and check the flying condition. It is a basic respect and a code of conduct that we drone pilots should observe, protect and serve. Freedom does come with a price. So to all new drone pilots, do cherish and don’t squander this new gift carelessly away.

Flying around Marina Bay Sands was a breeze. This was the same location where DJI launched their new Phantom 3 drone a month back. I took the drone out to Gardens by the Bay and around the Esplanade. Wind and weather condition was perfect. I flew for 20 minutes before directing the drone back to the hotel’s balcony.

I realised I wasn’t the only one flying the drone that day. My wife and boss spotted a similar drone hovering above them at the Infinity Pool one evening and both of them messaged me. They thought I was flying the drone. I told them that I will never pull off a stunt like that as it was stupidly risky to fly at such close proximity near to the public.

Later the evening after dinner, another client of mine joined me to fly his newly bought Phantom 3 by the Singapore River. This was our first night flying. We attracted a couple of people who were hobbyists and drone-enthusiasts like ourselves. Flying the drone at night was certainly more challenging as it was more difficult to maintain the line of sight. The 4K camera was fairly impressive (there were some noise in both the photos and videos). I managed to capture a few never-seen-before aerial images of Singapore skyline.

I also took the drone to Punggol Marina Club to fly. The aerial view isn’t that great as there are a lot of construction sites around the vicinity. Still, it was a great eye-opening experience for my little nephew and Elkan! We even took a few “aerofies” (aero-selfies) with our drone! I am so in love with my new aerial camera! Looking forward to bring it to our next family adventure next month!

Flyover – The World’s Tallest Bronze Goddess of Mercy (Tsz Shan Monastery, Hong Kong)

Newly opened 5 days ago on 15th April 2015, this is the world’s tallest bronze Goddess of Mercy (觀音). Located at Tsz Shan Monastery (慈山寺) at Universal Gate Road (普門路), Tai Po District, Hong Kong, this is a mega-project funded by Hong Kong’s very own tycoon, Li Ka-Shing.

Standing at 76m, the statue stands on a lush tranquil hillside at the foot of 純陽峰, overlooking Plover Cove Reservoir (船灣). The $193 million monastery took 5 years to complete. To maintain the peacefulness and tranquility of the attraction, daily visitorship is kept at 400. Admission is free but visitors must make reservation online (http://booking.tszshan.org/) one week to a month in advance to visit this monastery. Visitors must also be 18 and above and they are not allowed to bring joss sticks, meat and alcohol into the compound.

As we didn’t know that we have to make reservation beforehand, my dad, Uncle Bok and I travelled a long way to Tai Po this evening. Fortunately, I had my DJI Inspire 1 drone with me and we managed to take a quick 5-minute overhead cruise 100m around the attraction. Despite the low lighting condition (as the sun was setting), I managed to capture a beautiful aerial footage of the monastery and the reservoir. Thanks to the possibility of the drone, I was able to capture the view where the Goddess of Mercy was facing. It was simply mesmerising. Enjoy the video.

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