@Delta 2019 Medallion Qualification Change

It seems there will be a change with the way the MQD (Medallion Qualifying Dollar) waiver will be factored in for the 2019 Medallion year. Instead of needing the $25,000 spend on your Delta-branded American Express card, you will now need $250,000. As most of my MQD are accrued by flight purchases thanks to work I am not too worried, but this is a pretty big jump in qualification criteria from past years.

The MQD Email

I’m kind of curious to see if/how other airlines update their policies in kind.

New Camera!

It’s not news that I have a bit of a problem when it comes to technology… I really like my toys! I even like reading about toys I have no intention of buying (curse you, responsibilities!), just to geek out over the underlying hardware.

After playing with my girlfriend’s Canon DSLR, I was quite impressed with what you can do with a real camera instead of just a phone (as convenient as it is). This, in turn, launched me into an investigation of Mirrorless and MFT (Micro Four Thirds) cameras that I could use while traveling. While comparing the different form factors, I was able to learn quite a bit about camera sensors and crop factors, angle of view, and exposure bracketing.

The Winner: Fuji X-E2


The FujiFilm X-E2!

After a great deal of deliberation and reading reviews on usability (digging through menus versus dials, extensive documentation, etc.), lens support (3rd party, and so on), and the underlying hardware, I settled on the Fuji X-E2. Using Amazon Smile, I found a used body and 18-55mm lens for only $580. As I was flying through JFK, I had a hard time saying no to seeing the SkyDeck. 😀

Sky Deck at JFK Terminal 4 Sky Club

All the images below are straight JPEG captures from my camera. While the RAW images were nice, I was so impressed with the JPEG that I didn’t feel it necessary to do any real post-processing. If you are curious, here is an HDR image of the Sky Deck created using exposure bracketing (+/-1EV).

HDR created through Corel AfterShot Pro

Here is what a similar post processed (exposure bracketed +/-1EV) HDR image of the Delta B764 looks like, if you are curious.

HDR created through Corel AfterShot Pro

Overall I am thoroughly pleased with what this camera can do, and I already have a few lens purchases planned for next year.

The Runner-Up: Sony α6000

Sony α6000

While digging through all the reviews and various photoblogs, I came across a lot of high praise for Sony’s alpha line of mirrorless cameras. The α5100 and α6000 had quite a few fans scattered throughout the internet, and the continuous shooting (11fps on the α6000!) and impressive Hybrid (Phase Detection + Contrast) Auto-Focus certainly do impress. The α5100 wasn’t really an option for me since being force to use only an LCD is fairly limiting when you are outside in the sun (as with day-time shots at airports). The Electronic View Finder (EVF) on the α6000 is a much bigger selling point to me than the continuous shooting speed improvement, if I had to pick between the two.

What I found interesting was that the Hybrid Auto Focus has iffy success with the E-mount lenses (even though they are officially supported with one another). The other big problems with the α6000 come down to the lack of in-depth documentation on the various settings (which Fuji has a-plenty, thankfully), and the more “point and shoot” nature of the dials. All of that said, the same things that fall into the “cons” column for me might be seen as “pros” for other users. I can see this as an excellent transition camera, but it lacked the control that Fuji exposes in a more user-friendly manner. I’ve included a few lens recommendations if you’re interested. Give it a gander!

Lens Recommendations


Honorable Mention: Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mk2

Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II

Winning the Wirecutter “best mid-range mirrorless” title, Olympus’s E-M10 Mk2 is an impressive piece of technology. The main reasons for this are the fact that it is an MFT (or m43, or μ43, etc.) camera, so it has access to over 70 (relatively speaking) inexpensive lenses and has 5-axis In Body Image Stabilization. There are quite a few features that would be nice for folks interested in video capture and time-lapse (4k time-lapse capture, 60p video capture, and quite a few other perks were introduced). In the end, though, the sensor size is simply too small for what I would like to do, so I opted for the larger APS-C model by Fuji. As with the Sony, above, I’ve listed a few lens recommendations below. One thing to note is that since this camera has stabilization within the body itself, be sure to turn it (or the lens stabilization) off if you use a lens that also has image stabilization. This is most common with Panasonic lenses as they have image stabilization which the bodies lack. If using an Olympus lens with an Olympus body, the camera does all the work for you.

Lens Recommendations

So – there you have it. I look forward to playing with my new toy over the coming weeks, especially over Thanksgiving and Christmas!

What do you travel with?

Lovely Surprise from @BarclaycardUS

Oooh… surprises!

Last week I received a surprising email from Barclaycard – they were sending me a luggage tag! I had no idea what to expect, and I hadn’t heard of others receiving similar tags, so when it arrived just a couple of days later I was even more surprised.

Who doesn’t like getting things?
The tag!

The tag itself is very solidly built and comes with a nice metal cable to affix it to your luggage. It also has places for your name and contact information, as well as a QR barcode to register the tag.

Tag instructions

The package also came with a nice card from the CEO of Barclaycard.

The card
Card Interior

While certainly not an expensive gift, like the Amazon Echos that American Express sent to some cardholders, it’s a lovely gesture nonetheless and certainly appreciated! Little things like this go a long way in making people happy.

Thanks, Barclaycard!

Delta Schedule Change Fallout

Schedule changes are really no surprise in the travel game, but they are decidedly not fun. A few days ago I received an automated call from Delta to let me know that there was a schedule change that would make one of my connections in an upcoming trip illegal. Taking a deep breath, I logged in and started poking around to see what had happened.

Alas, it was what I had feared – the flight from JFK to Mexico City had been shifted. While it involved a huge upgrade on the equipment involved (a 787-800 with 2x2x2 seating to a 787-900 with 1x2x1 seating), it led to only an hour and a half to make my way through Immigration and Customs, and then manage to board my next flight. With the flight having a history of 30+ minute delays, this was clearly not going to work.

Thankfully, a Delta agent was happy to get things sorted out and rebook me with legal connections. Unfortunately, I won’t be flying on a Dreamliner this year after all. 🙁