Marius Masalar

Photographer, Technology Writer, Podcaster

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TP-Link Deco M9 Plus

Whole-home Wi-Fi, evolved

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On an average day, my apartment has 15 active devices on our network. These range from our computers and phones, to tablets, cylindrical assistants, printers, game consoles, and the growing panoply of smart home devices in our lives.

It seems like a lot of devices for two people and a pair of bunnies, but I bet that if you started counting, you’d find that an average home’s device density is a steadily-growing metric.

Having a good network infrastructure has become something of a necessity for such connected homes, which is why so many companies are investing heavily in building out mesh systems to provide and distribute a strong connection to every corner of your property.

 What’s New

TP-Link’s Deco system has been my choice since the original M5 was released last year, and much of what I wrote then applies to the revised M9 units released last month.

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Olympus 12-100mm f/4 PRO

The lens I should love but don’t

If I’m being honest, part of me hoped that something about the Olympus 12-100mm ƒ/4 PRO lens would be bad so I could point to it and say, “a-ha! This is why you and I don’t get along!

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The pitch is compelling: what if you could carry just one lens with you that covers a huge focal range, appropriate for virtually any normal shooting tasks, features Dual Image Stabilization1, and makes almost no compromises on image quality? Sure, it’s not the lightest lens you could choose, but if it means you only need one lens instead of two or three lighter ones, you’re still likely to end up with a lighter overall kit.

I’ve known for years now that I find standard zooms difficult to use. The typical 24-70mm zoom that exists in one form or another on every system is a lens that I simply do not get along with. Even in the case of all-stars like the Canon 24-70mm...

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Olympus 25mm f/1.2 PRO

The definitive prime lens for Micro Four-Thirds

In my review of its sibling, the Olympus 17mm ƒ/1.2 PRO lens, I called the 25mm PRO my workhorse lens.

It spends more time on my E-M1 Mark II than any other lens, and it tends to be the first lens I reach for. With a field of view equivalent to the “standard” 50mm in full-frame terms, this is an established favourite for general shooting.

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Still, there’s a lot of apprehension around these ƒ/1.2 PRO primes…do they make sense? Are they in keeping with the Micro Four-Thirds “ethos” (as interpreted by each user)? Is it silly to spend so much money when you could get shallow depth of field for less money with a different sensor size?

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I remember feeling the same apprehension when I bought it, not too long after its release. At the time, I was still shooting two systems: Fujifilm and Olympus. I was doubting the wisdom of shooting two...

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Things 3.7

Task automation for the rest of us with Siri

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As I’ve come to expect from the team at CulturedCode, Things 3 was ready for iOS 12 at launch—version 3.7 brings with it a host of new functionality, centred around Siri.

One of my only issues with Things (coming from Todoist) is that quick entry…isn’t quick. At least not as quick as Todoist’s. While the automation features introduced in 3.4 started to offer some solutions, it’s only now that the true potential is revealed.

But there are still some frustrating limitations.

 Hey, Siri…

Since I have my tasks organized into a few “Areas”, and I almost always know which area a task is meant to end up in when I create it, I’ve added a number of shortcuts for quicker entry that look something like this:

“Hey Siri, Add a new Writing task

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This example creates a new task in Things within my ‘Writing’ area, assigned to Today, and presents me...

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Bear 1.6: Nearly-Perfect Notes

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For the past year or so, I’ve been using Bear as my primary note-taking environment. The app recently hit version 1.6, bringing along support for Siri Shortcuts, navigation refinements, sync improvements, dark mode on macOS, and more.

The Siri Shortcuts support opens up a lot of fun doors, and I intend to dig into that more deeply soon. But I wanted to take a moment to talk about note-taking in general.

I have a frustrating relationship with note-taking apps because I don’t love any of them—Bear included. Mainly, this is because I can’t seem to find a solution that fulfills all my needs.

Specifically:

  • I want something beautiful, quick, and minimal
  • I need to be able to access it on all my devices
  • Sharing/collaboration is a must

 Bear and Apple Notes

I use Bear because it comes closest to ticking those boxes, is updated frequently by a passionate team, and isn’t free.1

The...

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Master Mobile Photography →

The photography 101 course you’ve been waiting for

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of working with my friends over at The Sweet Setup to put together a mobile photography course.

The lessons cover everything from composition to editing, with tutorials from talented contributors like Erin Brooks, Austin Mann, Josh Ginter, and yours truly. I’m really proud of how it all came together, particularly the video layouts, which I had a lot of fun assembling.

Here’s a sneak peek at what they look like:
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The course is now live, and you can save 20% off your enrolment for the next few days!

If you take the course, don’t hesitate to reach out and let me know what you thought of it.

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Farewell, Inbox

An unsurprising end to the most innovative email overhaul since Mailbox

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Google announced that it will be shutting down Inbox by March 2019.

As someone who’s been using Inbox on and off since its early beta days, this news makes me very sad. The recent refresh of Gmail that’s meant to replace it is a great email system, but it’s more of the same. Inbox represented a new way of thinking about email, one that really resonated with me and a small contingent of others.

 What Makes Inbox Unique

Inbox had a few key advantages that I’m really going to miss, especially since only some will be integrated into the existing Gmail experience:

Bundles

By packaging emails into groups, parsing a full inbox becomes much easier, and operating on email in bulk is effortless. Not only that, but per-bundle notification settings allow me to set Inbox up as a “peaceful” email client for travel, where...

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My Life With Apple

Taking stock of my current setup as we look forward to what comes next

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It’s new device season, which makes this the perfect time to look back at the past year of living in Apple’s ecosystem.

I currently own:

  • an iPhone X
  • an iPad Pro 12.9” (the original from 2015)
  • a Retina iMac
  • an Apple Watch (Series 0)
  • AirPods

It’s a pretty thorough collection, but upgrading each of these on a yearly basis would be ridiculous. More importantly, months of sustained use tend to reveal which categories deserve an upgrade and which don’t require one.

 iPhone

I decided to be an early adopter with Apple’s transformative new iPhone update last year, and I don’t regret it. The iPhone X has been my favourite iPhone in a long time, and it’s held up very well over the course of the year.

I wrote about my overall impressions five months in, and basically everything I said then still holds true.

I don’t...

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Olympus 17mm f/1.2 PRO

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One of the most comforting things about my Olympus setup is that I don’t have to worry about stopping down to take full advantage of my lenses.

The ƒ/1.2 PRO primes, for example, were designed to excel even wide open, and while you can certainly stop down to eke out a bit of extra bite, the lenses are so sharp at ƒ/1.2 that I’m not sure I would ever feel the need to do so. Instead, aperture becomes a control that’s simply dedicated to managing depth of field in a scene, as it should be.

The 25mm ƒ/1.2 PRO is my workhorse lens, but I recently spent a few weeks putting the 17mm ƒ/1.2 PRO through its paces to see if it was worth adding to my kit. It would live alongside the smaller ƒ/1.8 that spends most of its time on my PEN-F.

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Unlike most reviewers, I don’t have major complaints about the 17mm ƒ/1.8. Sure, the manual focus clutch still doesn’t properly engage the MF aids (a...

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iPad Pro Screenshot Frames Workflow

Showcase your iPad Pro screenshots in a device frame using Workflow on iOS

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In my quest to learn and do useful things with Workflow (soon to be Shortcuts), I’ve been looking to solve a concrete problem: making device frames for the iPad Pro.

There have been a few takes on solving this problem already, most notably Jordan Merrick’s excellent multi-device workflow, but I wanted something that worked with both iPad Pro sizes and didn’t rely on external files (Jordan’s grabs the blank device frames from a web URL and unpacks them on its first run—more on this at the end).

Enter Frameshot X.

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Frameshot offers a perfect solution, but Marcin Chrobak’s original only offers iPhone X support. I’ve taken the liberty of expanding on Marcin’s efforts by creating two parallel workflows: one for the iPad Pro 10.5”, and one for the iPad Pro 12.9”:

iPad Pro 10.5” Frames
iPad Pro 12.9” Frames

Like...

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