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Garmin Alpha Review: Still the top dog?

A review of the Garmin Alpha 100 dog tracker
The underdogs and I like to go places.  Remote places...places no man has gone before.  At least no man not wearing blaze orange.  This means being prepared for the unknown.  The unexpected.  The lost.  This means gps tracking.

The Garmin Alpha is the Thundarr Barbarian of the dog tracking world.  Rugged, a little rough around the edges but the technology it wields may just bring peace in a post apocalyptic world.  This thing opens doors just not possible prior to owning it , and does so while sweating testosterone.  Yeah, I like it just fine.
As a reminder, my reviews are not technical specs or full of scientific testing.  My reviews are about how any given product may fit into or enhance the life of a mid-life fool like me.  There may be a few like-minded souls out there.  The wise ones, I call them.  Those who know to really disconnect, you need* technology.   Those of us battling mortality can often take solace in the distraction of ou…

Fuji X-H1 Review. A brawny masterpiece?

The rebirth of a legend?

Got IBIS?  Dressed down with the surprisingly fun 7artisans 55

WARNING:   Gear review.  If you are here for the cheese and not interested in the Fuji X-H1 you might want to skip this one.

DISCLAIMER, FINE PRINT, and ADVANCED APOLOGIES:  My reviews are not about stats, numbers, or technical specifications.  There are hundreds of such places for that information and most are regurgitating the same information in different words with a slightly different opinion.  No, my reviews and impressions are always from the standpoint of an avid outdoorsman surviving middle age and how the product may or may not make sense to me.  Whew!  Glad that is out of the way!

Is that image above seriously a cheap hundred dollar lens on a 2400 dollar camera?  Is this review completely discredited before it even starts?  Why yes!  Yes it is!  In fact nothing I have said so far is even remotely accurate in October, 2019.  But it was.  Oh, but it was...

I have covered my passion for Fuji in an earlier blog and feel free to visit that to understand what this photography stuff is all about for me and how it relates to this site.  I am not a professional photographer, as if that isn't obvious enough.  I am an outdoors enthusiast slowing down time with a camera.  Does that make me less qualified to wax on about the Fuji X-H1?  Who cares!  Like I said...a million camera geeks out there with blogs arguing over the merits of individual products.  This is from a different angle, at a different time.

The X-H1 is a professional camera for those of us claiming size doesn't matter.  Insert your own punchline here...keeping the cheese level low as I have my professional review pants on.  You see, everything about this camera is professional, yet it has a smaller sensor than similarly sized cameras from competitors.  Again, this isn't the place for the technical.  Bigger sensor, more light in, potentially larger image size (more pixels).  Blah blah...slightly better low light performance, slightly better background blur if that is your thing.  Some in the Fuji camp fight these needless battles by countering with our smaller camera size, smaller lens sizes and improved portability.  Yet here comes this X-H1 with its imposing dimensions roughly the same size as these "superior" full frame competitors?  You bet your arse!  Hey, maybe size does matter because I like this bigger camera!

There is nothing you can do with the larger sensor cameras that you can't do with a smaller sensor.  At least nothing that matters in the real world, particularly for non-professionals.  What does matter is that the increased size of the camera body in this X-H1 is fantastic for us rugged, outdoor types.  You know, the kind of men that look like they belong on the Brawny paper towel roll.  Those dudes, and also me.  The handling of this thing is sublime.  Big, firm grip.  Tim Taylor grunt grip.  I mean this camera isn't all that different from the X-T2 but I spent half my time with the X-T2 buying grips to try and turn it into this.  I LOVE the handling on this camera!

I like...big...dials and I can not lie...no other cameras can deny!
 Like all Fuji cameras it has big, physical dials to control all of your settings.  Perfect for our man hands.  We are men, we don't use menu's...we know what we want.  We want analog dials.  We want a tank.  This is the most robust build Fuji has ever created...complete with a reinforced lens mount and weather sealing so secure it can be used as a boat anchor*.

Yeah yeah, I hear you thinking (wait, is that physically possible?).  So it is a battle axe.  It still isn't a full frame camera.

True, but as I hike across the rugged terrain with my APC-C 100-400 telephoto lens I would challenge you to keep up lugging some 600mm full frame lens on your full frame camera and let's also compare images at the end.  You won't keep up, and the images won't matter because they will be identical.  This is the point of the whole review.  It is from my perspective and while you can technically buy a camera that has better technical specs, it isn't necessarily the right tool for the job.

Ok, ok...so let's assume you see the merits of a camera for us boomin souls and you would consider a Fuji.  I mean maybe you are logical.  You aren't biting on all of the full-frame hype.  You see the advantages this big camera with small lenses brings.  Why not consider an X-T2?   It is cheaper after all.  What about an X-T3?  It is the latest.  It is is smaller and has faster auto focus.

This is where being October 2019 makes a big difference.  Like everything it is all about time and place.  You see, when this camera launched in 2018 it was the same price as many full-frame competitors.  Fuji-lovers could argue the incredible build, handling, and Fuji magic justified the price.  Still, at 2k plus 400 dollars for a grip...well...that isn't going to fly for this brawny and frugal crowd.  And it doesn't have to.  While those competitors continue to hover around that 2k price point, the Fuji X-H1 is under a grand and includes the 400 dollar grip free.  You can even package a magic lens for around half retail price.  I would link to some examples but not really into spamming the world with affiliate links.  I am about knowledge.  I am about words.  I am used to having no money and strangely comfortable with it.

So you see we have to review this camera in current context.  It has the best ergonomics for manhandlers, it has the strongest build, and it is the best value.  Actually it is the best value in photography but I am biased.  It has one more trick up it's sleeve over its sisters.  IBIS, baby.

IBIS for the non-technical basically means the sensor is stabilized to keep the shots steady when the hands are not.  It is like floating in air.  Hey, boomers...our hands aint steady and our active lifestyle means shaky shaky.  IBIS isn't the hero we want, IBIS is the hero we need.  It is currently the only Fuji with it.

So to sum it all up, the X-T3 is newer and will give you faster auto focus.  It will also help you feel like a man as it will seem like your hands are bigger.  The X-T2 will be slightly cheaper...well, actually not really by much...and offer you nothing.  Don't get me wrong, I love my X-T2 and will only sell it when my wife sees the credit card bills.  Something about it is magical.  It is great for pretending your one of those hipster street photographers.  A little less intimidating than the grunt-worthy king of the man mountain...the Fuji X-H1.

The decision to upgrade from my T2 was not an easy one.  The advantage of IBIS when you are using unstabilized lenses (every third party lens) is not to be ignored.  It even works together with stabilized lenses so it really is a helping hand to those of us living in the telephoto, in the rugged wilderness, in the crappy weather.  If you have a tripod and literally take it with you every time ignore everything I have said and stick with your T2.  Just know it does still have an improved viewfinder and the battery grip is freaking free!  With batteries!  I will also note I am finding the bluetooth surprisingly useful.  Having my Fuji jpegs automatically move to my phone without doing a thing is pretty solid.

So in summary...if you are looking to get into the photography hobby or considering whether this is worth the upgrade to your current camera...just do it.  If you fit the criteria I keeps blabbering on about...it is a slam-dunk no-brainer.  If you pretty much like to capture cool photos for your instagram account just keep on keepin on with that awesome phone.  They certainly are fantastic.  Like phones are seriously amazing now.  But for me?  Brawny man and aspiring photographer?  I am not using my phone in blizzards.  My phone can't reach 400mm.  My phone has fake bokeh.  I can't physically interact with my phone's exposure triangle and become one with the scene I am capturing.  It is like playing in the NFL versus playing Madden 2020.  You can be a star either way, one is just a little more rewarding.

The Fuji X-H1 gets the full bacon award.  The coveted full carton, 12  out of 12 eggs.   Purely considering the needs of the brawny paper towel crowd.  It is the perfect mix of professional images, boat anchor construction and awesome handling for those of us that miss rotary dial phones.  I honestly love the thing.

*Any attempts to use the Fuji X-H1 as a boat anchor may void your warranty.  Please consult Fuji before attempting to use your Fuji-XH1 as a boat anchor.  This author has not tested the effectiveness of the Fuji X-H1 as an actual camera after boat anchor usage.


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