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Markh5682

Markh5682
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Member since: 19.03.2009

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    • amazon.co.uk / Online Shop / 221 Readings / 207 Ratings
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      29.04.2009 18:24
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      A good reliable site that is easy to use

      Introduction.

      I have been using the Amazon UK site for a couple of years now, mostly to buy CD's, DVD's, games, photo equipment, books and a few household odds and ends, here is a description of the site and my experience of using it.

      A brief history of Amazon.

      Amazon was first started by Jeff Bezos in 1994 from his garage in Washington USA, originally as an online bookstore, after a slow start and then a couple of large investments by businessmen who believed in his idea, the company took off, once they went public in 1997 they started to diversify into other products, at first CD's and Films, then electronics and so on, since then they have gone on to become the successful worldwide online marketplace that we know today.

      What do they sell?

      It would probably be quicker to list what they don't sell, as they sell a huge range of products.

      The main departments are: -
      · Books
      · Music, DVD & games
      · Electronics & photography
      · Computers & office
      · Home & garden
      · Toys, children & baby
      · Clothing, shoes & watches
      · Sports & leisure
      · Health & beauty
      · DIY & tools
      There are many sub-categories within these departments.

      The website

      When you first go into the homepage you will see the large search tool at the top of the page, a shop all departments panel, which shows the main departments (as listed above), and the main body of the page will show a list of best sellers, special offers, promotional items, new products etc.
      The website is easy to navigate and well laid out, just click on any item or department and it will take you to the relevant page very quickly.
      The search tool gives you the option of searching all departments, or any one of the specific departments, when you type in your search criteria it will give you a list of relevant pages to choose from, or you can search using just your own criteria for a more comprehensive list.
      You are then presented with a list of items to choose from, click on any of these and you are then taken into the product description page, which also includes, ordering information, customer reviews, other options of similar or related items, there is also a link to the offers from the Amazon marketplace (third party sellers).
      There is a separate review category for the Amazon marketplace, so I won't go into that too much here.

      Ordering

      Once you have set up your account, you can link your credit/debit card to that account and save it, this saves you from having to type in all your card details every time you place an order.
      Once you have found what you want to buy, there are two ordering options available you can put the item into your shopping basket for buying later on, or you can place a one-click order, which uses your saved details to place an immediate order, you will then get an email confirming your order.
      You can add to, cancel or change any order up until the point of dispatch, you will be advised on a timescale for you to do this.
      Once your order has been placed then Amazon keep you up to date via Email as to the order status, and if there are any problems with your order, they will advise you on a new expected delivery date with the option of cancelling the order if you don't want to wait, you can also check the status of your orders in the 'where's my stuff' section of your members page.

      Postage

      There are several postage options available.
      If you are prepared to wait, you can select the free super saver delivery, which takes 2 - 4 days longer than the standard delivery option.
      The standard delivery option is by first class post and is charged for accordingly.
      If you want it quickly then there is the Express delivery option, which is charged at £8.80 per delivery (this can be for more than one item if they are ordered and delivered together)
      If you are a regular customer then the 'Amazon prime' may be the best option, for a one off payment of £47.97 per annum, you can have all your items posted to you by next day express delivery, (Excluding Sundays) Amazon prime is available for most items sold by Amazon, but not items sold by third party sellers through the Amazon marketplace, all items that are eligible for Amazon prime are shown by the orange & blue tick Amazon prime logo, this is an excellent (and my own preferred) option if you order a lot of things from Amazon, you get express next day delivery, and it can lead to significant savings on postage charges in the long run.

      Prices

      Amazon are usually very competitive on prices, often I have done a price comparison with other discount sites and found Amazon to be generally very good on prices.
      As Amazon are an online seller and some items go outside the UK, the prices shown are exclusive of VAT, when orders are placed for a UK address VAT is added along with any postage, and is shown on your order during the ordering process.

      Reliability

      Up to now they have been very reliable and everything I have ordered has been well packed and arrived in good condition at the time stated, occasionally there have been cases where something has been temporally out of stock, but they always keep you informed as to the order status and let you know when it is expected and when it has been dispatched, on one occasion I had an email from them stating that the CD I had ordered was out of stock and no longer available, so I went back into Amazon and ordered it from a third party seller in the Amazon marketplace, it would have been more helpful had they stated in the email that the CD was still available from third party sellers in the Amazon marketplace though, but that is only a minor gripe.

      Customer service

      Up to now I have always been happy with all my purchases from Amazon, and I have never had to return anything, but from reading the customer product reviews on the Amazon site, it seems to be very good, according to them Amazon are happy to replace or offer a refund for anything that is faulty or you are unhappy with.

      And finally

      I have been happy with the products and service that I have received from Amazon so far, my experience from using the site has been entirely positive, even when using the third party sellers in the Amazon marketplace (It does make sense to read the customer feedback of third party sellers first before ordering from them) the site is easy to navigate and the ordering process is simple, I would recommend them to anyone looking for a good deal with an efficient reliable service from a reputable company on-line.

      Highly recommended

      Thanks for reading - Mark.

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        28.04.2009 08:04
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        An excellent mouse for a laptop or notebook PC

        This is a review of the 'Labtec mini optical glow mouse'.

        Introduction..........

        Most of my online work is done on my laptop computer, but I cannot get along with the built in touch-pad and decided to use a mouse instead, after trying the normal sized mouse borrowed from my desk-top PC, I found that it was too big for the available space that I had, so I bought a mini mouse which was ideal.
        After using and breaking several unbranded mini mice bought cheaply from my local computer supplies shop I decided to see what was available on line, and after seeing the Labtec mini optical glow mouse, and read some positive reviews on it, I ordered one.

        What is it?..........

        The Labtec mini optical glow mouse is a small wired optical mouse with a USB connector, it is designed for use with laptops and notebook PC's.

        The cable..........

        The cable is approximately 70cm long with a ratcheted spool in the middle, so that the cable is stored neatly on this spool when not in use, when you pull out the cable the ratchet then holds the cable at the desired length, pull it again and the cable is rolled back into the spool again, I have found that this works very well, with the ratchet having a positive action with no slippage, the USB connector is well made and does the job it is supposed to do.

        The Mouse..........

        The mouse body itself is a sealed unit and it is quite small (Approx 87 x 48mm), it has a slightly narrower section in the middle making it easy to hold.
        It is a standard two-button design with a single scroll wheel in-between, it has a mainly black plastic body with a translucent panel on either side and a translucent scroll wheel, which light up in ever changing colours when in use via a set of coloured LED's on the inside, the colour change is a slow transition from one colour to the next, there are seven different colours, there is a switch on the underside to enable you to switch the lights off if not wanted.
        This is an optical mouse, so there is no ball to get dirty and it can be used on any solid surface.

        Build quality..........

        It feels quite solid and well made in use, there is no give in the plastic body, the scroll wheel has a positive motion, and does not wobble about, unlike the previous ones I have had, the mouse buttons do not need a lot of pressure to operate and when you press them there is a reassuring click, the cable, connector and ratchet wheel, are all well made and work as they should, the cable on here is slightly thicker than the other mice I have had before, so it should last longer.

        Ease of use..........

        It is a plug and play device and there is no software to install, once it is plugged in windows will install it automatically, usually within a few seconds.
        It is an easy mouse to use, the shape means that it is easy and comfortable to use, although it is quite small, it can still be used by anyone with big hands (like mine).
        The optical sensor works well and interfaces with windows as it should, the mouse pointer on screen is very accurate and precise and moves smoothly making it very easy to locate and click on any on-screen buttons and links, there is no freezing of the pointer on screen or the pointer suddenly jumping across the screen for no apparent reason (a very annoying problem I had with a wireless mouse in the past), there is no time lag between moving or clicking the mouse and the action on-screen.
        It can be used either left or right-handed with ease, and because it is small it does not need as much room to operate it.

        Packaging..........

        It comes in a sealed clear plastic blister pack, with a cardboard insert and instructions on the inside, these blister packs can be a nightmare to open but it is well protected, as the plastic bubble is quite rigid.

        The technical stuff..........

        · Connector: - Wired - USB
        · Movement detection: - Optical
        · Movement resolution: - 1000 dpi
        · OS required: - Microsoft windows Vista / 2000 / XP
        · Manufacturer warranty: - 2 years warranty

        Price..........

        At the time of writing this mouse is available for £7.99 from Amazon, which is a good price for what you get.

        And finally..........

        This is an excellent small mouse for use with a laptop or notebook PC, it is easy to use and accurate, it works well and does everything that it should do, the coloured lights make it look good especially at night, but if these become annoying they can be switched off, although they are not so bright as to become distracting.
        I have been using mine for about three months now and has worked perfectly so far with no problems whatsoever.

        Recommended

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        • More +
          20.04.2009 15:36
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          A worthwhile upgrade from a compact camera

          Introduction

          This is a review of the 'Canon Powershot S5 is' which was Canon's top of the range bridge camera until the recent introduction of the 'Powershot SX10 is & SX1 is' models.

          I wanted a new camera to replace my old Sony 3.3mp camera, which although well specified and took good pictures, suffered from severe shutter lag, as all early digital cameras did, making the taking of moving subjects almost impossible, plus there was no manual settings to override the camera, not being sure whether I wanted to go back to using a large SLR type camera at the time, I went for this Canon bridge camera instead, at the time it was newly released, and it seemed to offer most of the benefits of a DSLR camera but in a smaller package.

          What is a bridge camera?

          The bridge camera or 'super-zoom' as they are sometimes known as, is a camera that falls somewhere in-between a compact, and a DSLR camera, and has some features in common with both, hence the term 'bridge' they generally have better image quality and are more versatile than compact cameras, but don't quite come up to DSLR image quality and versatility.

          Overview

          The 'Canon Powershot S5 is' has a 12x zoom lens with a good macro facility and plenty of picture taking modes including manual mode, making it very versatile in use. It has an 8mp sensor, which is enough for the majority of pictures, in appearance it looks more like a small DSLR than a compact, and has many features in common with them, plus some unique features not found on other cameras, it also has a movie mode with stereo sound recording, you can even record sound only on this camera, and use it to add sound clips to your pictures for use in a slideshow, the 2.5" LCD screen is unique for a stills camera being adjustable and more like the ones found on video cameras.

          What is in the box?

          · Canon Powershot S5 is camera
          · Lens cap
          · Neck strap
          · AA alkaline batteries X4
          · Memory card (32mb)
          · Interface cable (USB from camera to PC)
          · Stereo video cable
          · Canon digital camera solutions disk
          · Basic camera user guide (quick start manual)
          · Advanced camera user guide (full manual)
          · Direct print user guide
          · Software starter guide
          · System map
          · Warranty card
          · Canon customer support guide.

          The Lens.

          This camera has a built in 12x optical zoom lens, which is not interchangeable, however there are two additional converter lenses optionally available, one telephoto and the other wide-angle to extend the range of the camera lens, I do not have either of these as they are expensive and of limited use so I cannot review these, however, my past experience with converter lenses has been that adding extra elements in the form of a converter lens lowers the quality of the image when used in conjunction with the main lens.

          The zoom range of this lens is 6-72mm (which is the 35mm equivalent of a 36-432mm lens), which means that you have a range from moderate wide-angle to quite a powerful telephoto, it has a maximum aperture of f/2.7-3.5, which is not bad for a lens of this type, it is wide enough to allow the use of a reasonably fast shutter speeds in normal daylight situations, zooming is done by a lever situated in front of the shutter release button.

          The quality of this lens is pretty good, with barrel and pincushion distortion being well controlled, sharpness is good throughout most of the zoom range, the image becoming softer at the longer settings, especially at infinity, so distant objects brought closer with the zoom at maximum will not be as sharp as they could be, chromatic aberrations are present in very high contrast subjects as you would expect for a lens of this range, but it is very slight and hardly noticeable at all even when enlarged.

          Where this lens really excels, is in its macro settings with pictures being sharp and very detailed, normal macro is available at all focal lengths and will give you a pretty good close-up, when set to super macro the lens automatically sets itself to its widest focal length, and it has an amazing zero cm closest focussing distance, which means that it can even focus on a fly walking across the lens front element, few lenses can match that, extreme close-ups are very clear, you can even see all the hairs on a small insect, or the pollen grains in a flower, I often use this camera for macro work, rather than my DSLR camera with a macro lens.

          Auto-focus

          The lens has a USM motor for focussing which means that it is quick, silent and very accurate, and it needs to be accurate when in super macro where the depth of field is very narrow, fortunately this lens handles it well, if your macro subject is very small in the frame you may need to refocus to get it right, but that is not very often, there is also face detection which recognizes faces within the frame, the camera sets itself up, focuses and exposes appropriately so that your portraits or family snaps will always be in focus, manual focus is also available.

          Image stabilizer

          The built in image stabilizer works well at all focal lengths, ensuring that all pictures are sharp and free of any camera shake, only in very dim light would you need to resort to a tripod, image stabilizing can be switched off if required, such as when you want to introduce some motion blur into your pictures.

          Digital zoom.

          There is an option of an extra 4x digital zoom, this is best turned off as the picture quality is dire when used, noise is magnified and exaggerated, the image stabilizer, whilst it is fine for the full range of the optical zoom, it will not be effective in the extra digital zoom range and pictures will be blurred unless you use a tripod, I prefer to do any extra zooming by cropping the picture on the PC, you get much better results this way.

          Shutter

          The shutter is an electronic type shutter with a good range of speeds, which are 5-1/3200 sec. continuous shooting speeds are up to 1.5 frames per second, movie frame-rates are 30fps and 60fps, self timer is timed at 2 sec. 10 sec. plus custom timer.

          Controls

          Unlike a small compact, this camera is quite complex and has quite a few buttons dials and switches, and it took me a while to get used to what everything does.

          On the lens barrel there are two switches, one to turn on/off the auto-focus, and one to switch between distant, macro and super-macro focussing modes.

          On the top plate there are the on/off switch, shutter release button, zoom lever, mode dial, mode lever and the continuous shooting/self-timer button.

          On the back of the camera there are the print/share button, dioptre adjustment wheel, movie button, omni selector (4 way rocker switch), set button, menu button, display button, ISO button, and function button.

          Some of the above controls will be described below where relevant.

          Menus.

          The extensive menus are accessed by pressing the menu button on the back, they are split into three colour coded pages, 1 shooting settings, 2 tools, 3 camera settings, they are accessed by scrolling through them with the omni selector and settings saved by pressing the set button, they are too extensive to go into here without making the review impossibly long, but the excellent 201 page printed manual takes you through them all.

          Display

          The display is on the LCD screen and in the viewfinder, and displays all the current settings of the camera, and the warning messages such as camera shake, low battery warnings etc, the displays default setting is off during normal operation except for when you are making a new setting and for a few seconds after, warning messages are always visible, by pressing the disp. button you can cycle through all the display options such as on, off, histogram etc.

          Shooting modes

          On the top plate of the camera there is the mode dial, with which you can set the shooting modes
          The shooting modes are: -

          · Auto (point and shoot)
          · Program (as above but you can set certain parameters such a ISO, continuous shooting speed etc.)
          · Portrait
          · Landscape
          · Night snapshot
          · Sports
          · Scene (see below)
          · Stitch assist (discussed elsewhere in this review)
          · Movie (there is also a movie button on the back for instant movie recording, this button overrides the mode dial for the duration of the movie recording session)
          · TV (shutter priority, you select the shutter speed and the camera selects the aperture, ideal for sports, fast moving subjects etc.)
          · AV (aperture priority, you select the aperture and the camera sets the shutter speed, ideal for portraits, macro etc.)
          · Manual (you take control of all the camera settings)
          · C (custom function, save your favourite camera settings on here for future use.)

          Scene mode includes: -

          · Night scene
          · Indoor
          · Foliage
          · Snow
          · Beach
          · Fireworks
          · Aquarium
          · Colour accent
          · Colour swap
          The scene modes are all auto settings, which sets the camera to the best settings for the subject chosen.


          Flash

          The flash is turned on by the flash switch to the left of the top plate, the flash is adequate for most uses such as family snaps and works well, it can also be used to fire slave flash units in a studio set-up, there is also a hot shoe for external flashes.

          LCD screen

          This is one of my favourite features of this camera, and is one of the things which make this camera so versatile,
          The 2.5" LCD screen opens out and can be twisted around to just about any angle, rather like the adjustable screens you find on camcorders.
          You can open it out and twist it 180 degrees and hold the camera out in front of you to take a self-portrait, and still be able to see the screen to compose the picture.
          You can use the camera at waist level like the old medium format cameras.
          It comes into its own when used for super-macro as you can take a macro picture at ground level and twist the screen up towards you so that you can see it without you having to get down onto the ground to see the screen to frame the picture.
          You can hold it up over your head and twist the screen down towards you to take pictures over the top of a crowd such as at a sporting venue or a rock concert.
          When not in use it can be folded onto the back of the camera with the glass on the inside, so it is protected from damage.
          You can also twist it round and fold it back onto the camera and use it like a conventional compact camera screen.

          Viewfinder.

          After the brilliance of the LCD screen the viewfinder is a bit of a letdown, it has an electronic viewfinder screen which has a pretty low resolution and is not the clearest screen that I have seen, under certain light conditions it is practically useless, but it is useful for taking moving subjects however, as it is much easier to follow a moving subject with a viewfinder than with an LCD screen, so although it isn't perfect, it's still a lot better than nothing, there is a dioptre adjustment wheel so it can be adjusted for spectacle wearers to use without their specs on.

          Movie function

          This camera has a movie recording function, this is not a function that I have had much cause to use as yet, so I shot a test movie for the purpose of this review, not exactly Hollywood but it sufficed to determine whether this was a worthwhile addition or not.

          The movie function is easily activated turning the mode dial to movie, or by pushing a single button on the back of the camera, no matter what mode you are in, the camera will reset to its movie mode immediately, so there no chance of missing anything whist you are setting it up, this mode is ideal for creating video clips for you tube etc. you can edit your movies in camera or on the PC with the supplied software.

          The available movie modes are: -
          · 640 x 480 @ 30 fps
          · 640 x 480 @ 30 fps LP
          · 320 x 240 @ 60fps
          · 320 x 240 @ 30fps
          · frame size measured in pixels.
          · fps = frames per second.

          Maximum movie length in any one continuous clip is 1 hour or 4gb whichever comes first, or when your card is full, if you still have enough room on your card, you can restart filming within a few seconds, but it will save it as a new movie file, all files are saved in the AVI (video) & WAV (audio) file types


          The movie that I shot was in the 640 x 480 mode, it was well exposed, picture quality was good, frame rates were constant and ran smoothly, panning was smooth with no jerkiness as you pan, you can zoom in and out whilst filming, unlike many compacts, which have a fixed focal length whilst filming, sound is in stereo and sounds quite good, with no distortion in the louder sounds, quieter sounds are well recorded and clear.

          Viewing and downloading pictures.

          You can view your pictures and videos on the LCD screen by pressing the cameras on switch to the left which takes you into preview mode, you can zoom into your pictures to check the focus, view them as a slideshow, or view them as thumbnails, and select which picture to view from the thumbnails, or you can delete any pictures you don't want, you can sort them into folders from here as well, you can edit your pictures in here, such as adding colour, fixing redeye etc.

          Pictures and video can be displayed on a TV screen via the supplied video cable.

          Downloading pictures to your PC is easy using the supplied USB lead, using either the supplied software, or as I do by using the windows down-loader, which will allow you to delete the images from the card at the same time, some photo editing software such as Corel etc. have their own down-loaders, which can down-load pictures into a folder or directly into the editing software.

          Printing.

          You can print pictures from this camera to any direct print enabled printer with the supplied cable, the button for this is on the left side of the viewfinder, I always print my pictures from the PC, I have never used this facility so I cannot say how well this works or how easy it is to use, but I don't foresee any problems with it

          Other features.

          This camera comes with all the features that you would expect from a camera at this level, such as red eye reduction, exposure bracketing/compensation, exposure and focus lock, self-timer, remote operation from a PC, both auto and adjustable white balance, etc. Light sensitivity is from 80-1600 ISO, both auto and manual selection is available.

          Build quality

          Build quality is generally good, the polycarbonate body and lens barrel feels solid enough, all the controls and moving parts work smoothly and are well made, however there are a couple of small niggles, one is a well known problem, that is the lens cap which is designed to pop off if the camera is switched on, pops off all too easily, but as it comes with a lanyard that can be fixed to the camera strap there is no chance of loosing it, the other is potentially more serious, (I'm not sure if this is a common problem or just with mine) the metal ring that fits around the lens has a habit of popping off very occasionally as well, if you were to loose this, it wouldn't affect the camera operations in use, but you wouldn't be able to attach the lens cap at all, I'm not sure how this happens, I have tried twiddling with it to make it fall off but it will not budge, but on a couple of occasions now, it has fallen off for no apparent reason, and luckily I have noticed it, and now I keep my eye on it just in case, it is easy to put back on again, so as long as you don't loose it, it's not a big problem.

          Handling.

          Handling with this camera is good, it is well balanced, it is fairly heavy for its size, (approx. 450g - 15.9 oz.) but not too heavy, all controls are well placed and easy to operate, (even with my great big hands), there is a hand grip on the right side of the camera, which makes it easier to hold,

          Now for the most important bit, the picture quality.

          Exposure is accurate with all pictures being well exposed, colours are well rendered and accurately represented with natural tones, the white balance works well in auto for outdoor shots, other settings are available for artificial light, sharpness is good in all pictures except at the maximum zoom at infinity where the focus is a little soft, stopping the lens down a couple of notches helps a lot with this and sharpens things up a lot, at the macro setting images were impressive, sharp, well focused and showed plenty of detail, overall the results were very good.

          Digital noise

          One of the most important factors in digital picture quality is noise, on this camera the noise is very good at low ISO settings but soon gets worse at higher settings, I set the camera on a tripod and took a series of identical pictures at different ISO settings, I used the same crop on all the pictures, then studied the results in detail, the results were as follows: -

          ISO 80 - at this setting results were excellent with no noise, and no apparent noise reduction. Fine detail was rendered very well.

          ISO 100 - results were almost identical to the above, just a very slight reduction in image detail, but this is only discernable at very high magnification.

          ISO 200 - noise is just starting to be visible at this setting, with a little less image detail but it is still not bad at all.

          ISO 400 - noise is more noticeable at this setting and would be seen at medium sized enlargements and there is a slight blurring to fine detail.

          ISO 800 - Noise is a lot more noticeable at this setting and would be seen in a normal print, image detail is also lower.

          ISO 1600 - Noise at this setting is unacceptable, picture quality and detail is very poor, colours are muted and muddy looking, with details in low contrast areas almost obliterated by noise, even a small print would show up the poor quality.

          These results show that if you keep within the 80-200 ISO range then picture quality is excellent, good at 400 for smaller prints, but it worsens quite a lot after that, but if you put that into context and compare the results with other small cameras then these results are very good in comparison, as many other small cameras use such aggressive noise reduction that even at the lowest ISO fine detail is lost, I have stuck within the lower ISO settings and had some amazing pictures with this camera, especially the close ups and landscapes at low to medium zoom levels, and you would never get such good results as this from an ordinary compact.

          SD card

          This camera comes supplied with a 32mb SD card, but that doesn't hold many pictures at all, so it will be necessary to buy a higher capacity one of at least 2gb or more, it is compatible with the high capacity SDHC cards, if you are going to be using the video function a lot then one of the new high speed ones would be a better bet, the SD card fits into a slot along side of the batteries accessed via the battery cover at the bottom of the camera underneath the hand grip.

          Batteries.

          Power is supplied with 4x AA batteries and it comes supplied with a set of alkaline batteries, but this camera is rather heavy on batteries, so a couple of sets of rechargeable batteries and a charger is a must, if you do not want to spend a fortune on batteries, rechargeable batteries last a lot longer between battery changes as well, I got a couple of sets of Hama batteries and a charger, and they last very well in this camera, the cover for the battery compartment is on the underside of the camera.

          Software

          The software disk supplied with this camera includes the following software: -

          Zoombrowser EX 5.8 - this is used to download pictures and movies from your camera, sort, edit and display them, operate the camera remotely.

          Photostitch 3.1 - merges several images into one panoramic photo, you need to set the camera for this and take pictures in sequence for this to work.

          Camera twain driver 6.7 - Driver software for your camera.

          Eos utility - This software is for Canon's EOS series cameras, and pictures downloaded with Zoombrowser EX

          And finally

          This is an excellent medium sized camera, with an excellent spec. It is very flexible in use, the results are not quite up to DSLR standards but are much better than ordinary compact cameras, which is exactly what you would expect from a bridge camera, and if you stick to the lower ISO settings then you cannot fault the image quality, in fact this is my camera of choice for macro pictures, everything works exactly as it should, there are a couple of niggles but nothing major, and nothing is perfect. The new SX series offers higher spec, but image quality is no better than these, in fact at ISO 80, I would say that this camera has a slight edge over the newer models.

          If you are thinking of upgrading from a compact to something more flexible, but don't want to go all the way to a DSLR, then this camera will fit the bill nicely.

          Availability and price

          Since the launch of Canon's new SX series of bridge camera's, this camera is getting harder to find, unlike most cameras that are going out of production this camera has still held its price due to its popularity, so you will not find it at bargain basement prices just yet.

          At the time of writing this camera can still be bought from the Amazon market place (third party sellers) from £306 upwards. Other sites (The cheapest I found was on Google shopping search) are offering it at £230 upwards which is a good price.

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            16.04.2009 15:32
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            useful blower that does what it says

            Introduction

            This is a short review of the "Hama 5610 bellows blower 55mm bulb" (dust ex for cameras), as it is a very simple gadget there is nothing much exciting that you can say about it, however I'll try and make this review as informative and interesting as I can.

            I was reading an excellent review about the Hama digi-clear lens cleaner, and decided to get one, so I clicked on the Amazon link at the top of the review page and ordered one, but then, 'as Amazon always do', they chucked up a few more similar items to tempt you to spend even more of your hard earned dosh, one of the items they threw up was the Hama 5610 bellows blower 55mm bulb, when I saw it, I thought to myself, Ah! I could do with a new one of those, so I ordered one of these as well, and as I use the Amazon prime free next day delivery they arrived very quickly.

            Who is Hama?

            Hama are a company based in Germany, they are well known to photographers because they specialize in making photographic accessories & electronics, inc. tripods, digital photo frames, monitor covers, camera bags, filters and lens cleaning products, amongst many other things, and there will be very few photographers that do not have at least one of their products in their camera bag, I also use the Hama rechargeable AA batteries for my bridge camera, I have tried other makes but they do not seem to last as long, so now I just stick to these.

            What is it?

            The Hama 5610 bellows blower, is a hollow black rubber bulb, which is about the same size and shape as a lemon, with an intake valve at one end, and a long red plastic nozzle at the other, when the rubber bulb is squeezed it emits a jet of air from the end of the nozzle, and on releasing the pressure it quickly inflates again via the intake valve at the back ready for use again, so it can be pumped continuously to shift stubborn specks of dust.

            What types are available?

            There are two different types available, one type incorporates a brush on the nozzle to sweep away dust as you blow, the problem with these is that the brush can become soiled or contaminated with grease etc. which could soil the return mirror or sensor of your camera, but they are fine for the non-essential parts of the camera or lens.

            The other type is the one being reviewed here, it has a plain nozzle that just emits a jet of air and makes no physical contact with the inner workings of your camera, so you are not transferring dust from one place to another, as can happen with a brush.

            There is also the option of a can of compressed air, this provides a more powerful jet of air, but it is expensive, not very environmentally friendly, and as compressed air (or any gas for that matter) expands it cools, and sometimes ice crystals form on the nozzle, which can be blown into the camera mechanism, this cooling effect can also cause condensation, and is not recommended for use on camera sensors.


            What is it for?

            Its primary use is to blow troublesome dust from the inner workings of a camera, or from a lens front or back element, when you change lenses, batteries, film or memory cards it is difficult to exclude dust altogether no matter how careful you are, if you are pet owner you will probably end up with a cat or dog hair inside as well, and with this blowers long nozzle you can reach all the inner workings of your camera that you need to.

            What is it like in use?

            It is made from fairly soft rubber so it is easy to squeeze out a jet of air, but springy enough to inflate again immediately, you get quite a powerful jet of air which is strong enough to dislodge all but the most stubborn specks of dust, and because it is a brush-less design there is no chance of cross contamination as the nozzle does not make physical contact with your camera, so it is suitable for cleaning the return mirror and the sensor of any loose dust or hair, it can also be used to clean the front and back elements of your lenses, it will remove any sharp gritty dust from your lens prior to cleaning to prevent it causing scratches.

            Please note: - if your return mirror or sensor become too soiled to be blown clean, take your camera to a service centre to be professionally cleaned, as they are delicate and easily damaged.

            What else can it be used for?

            It can be put to many uses other than photography, you could use it to dust delicate ornaments, or blow out dust from places that are inaccessible to a normal duster such as the nooks and crannies in electrical equipment, I used mine to blow the dust from the keyboard of my laptop and the metal grille on my TV speakers, it can also be used to blow dust off CD's and DVD's before you play them, model makers use them for blowing away small filings etc as they work on their models, watch makers/repairers use them to blow out dusty old clocks and watches prior to repair, and many other uses.

            Build quality

            Although it is still new, and I haven't broken it in properly yet, it feels well made and is easy to use, the rubber bulb is not so thick that it is liable to crack over time, but neither is it so thin that it would tear, and after my previous experience of owning Hama products, I am confident that it will last for a long time to come, it is bigger than my old one and has a more powerful jet of air.

            Packaging

            It comes in a blister pack that is not excessive and has a removable cardboard section in the back, which just slides out and is easy to replace again, so when not in use it can be stored safely in its original packaging, the instructions, (such as they are,) are printed on the reverse of the cardboard packaging in sixteen different languages.

            Size

            It is 150mm long including the nozzle, and the bulb is 55mm in diameter at its widest point, so it is big enough to be useful and easy to handle, but is still small enough to fit in your gadget bag.

            Price

            At the time of writing the Hama 5610 bellows blower 55mm bulb is available for £4.89 direct from Amazon, (free next working day delivery with Amazon prime) or for as little as £3.99 from the Amazon market place (third party sellers) but that comes with a hefty £4.50 postage charge, so it is still cheaper direct from Amazon.

            And finally

            This is an excellent accessory for any photographer, it is well made, it does exactly what it says on the pack, and it is ideal for blowing out any dust from your camera or lens, and is much better than just blowing on it with your mouth, as that introduces moisture into the camera workings, it costs less than a fiver and could save you from ending up with an expensive repair bill, it can also be put to many other uses as well, I am looking forward to getting many years of service from this useful gadget, and being made by Hama, it should last.

            Recommended

            Thanks for reading - Mark.

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            • Canon EOS 40D / Digital Camera / 145 Readings / 138 Ratings
              More +
              08.04.2009 05:36
              Very helpful
              (Rating)
              28 Comments

              Advantages

              • Reliability
              • Reliability

              Disadvantages

              An excellent well specified camera, now down in price.

              < Introduction >

              After several years of using bridge cameras and the like, I thought it was time to move up to a DSLR, after using canon cameras for most of the time in the past, I looked at what was on offer from them, at first I considered the EOS 400 but I decided to go for the newly released and better spec EOS 40D instead, I have used Canon 35mm Film SLR cameras in the past, so I thought I knew what I was in for, but the modern DSLR's are a different beast altogether, and I was pleasantly surprised at what this camera was capable of, it is light years away from my original Zenith camera, and even way ahead of my first Canon SLR which was an advanced and well specified camera in its time.

              The Canon EOS 40D was first announced in the autumn of 2007, this camera has improved on an already impressive line of EOS cameras, ranging from the EOS D30 introduced in 2000 to the EOS 30D in 2006, Canon have since introduced the EOS 50D late in 2008, Canon have stressed that the EOS 50D is an additional model to the EOS 40D and not a replacement for it, and both models will continue to be produced. The EOS 50D is practically the same camera as the EOS 40D, differing only in pixel resolution, (15.1mp as opposed to 10.1mp) a couple of additional live view modes, higher LCD screen resolution, and a few cosmetic changes, and all accessories are interchangeable between the two.


              Brief overview

              The EOS 40D is a 10.1mp DSLR with an APS-C sized CMOS 22.2 x 14.8mm sensor, which means that all lenses that are used with this camera will have a crop factor of x1.6, and with its advanced features, it is aimed more at the advanced amateur or the semi-pro, (prosumer) rather than the entry level photographer, but it is intuitive enough to be used by all.

              It has a magnesium alloy body, a built in flash, a hot shoe for external flashguns, interchangeable lenses, up to 6.5 fps continuous shooting, a 3" LCD screen, Both jpeg and RAW image recording with the option of jpeg + RAW simultaneous recording, it has twelve shooting modes plus an additional three user custom modes for extra flexibility, eighteen different languages are available for use in the camera menu system.


              < What's in the box? >

              Body only

              Camera body, Canon EOS 40D DSLR
              Wide strap EW-100DGR
              Battery charger CB-5L
              Battery pack BP-511A
              Interface cable IFC-200U (USB camera to PC)
              Video cable VC-100
              Printed manual and guarantee
              Software (CD-ROM)


              With lens kit

              As above, but with canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens


              CF cards

              This camera does not have any internal memory for storing pictures other than the buffer, which is only used as temporary storage as the camera writes data to the CF card.
              This camera does not come supplied with a CF card (compact flash) as standard, though some retailers may add one as part of a bundle, so you will need to buy one separately before you can use this camera, it is compatible with the latest high capacity CF cards, I have a 16gb card in mine, which is big enough for most people, but I also carry a couple of spare 4gb cards just in case there is a problem with the main card or it gets full.


              Lenses

              If you have already got some Canon EF or EF-S mount lenses, this camera can be bought as a body only option, otherwise it can be bought with a kit lens, usually it comes with the Canon EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens, This lens is quite good as far as kit lenses go, and is a good starting point for your system as it covers the most useful focal lengths from wide-angle to short telephoto, I will deal more with this lens in a separate in depth review of this lens in the near future.

              This camera is compatible with all Canon EF and EF-S mount lenses, and many independent lens manufacturers make lenses with the canon lens mounts as well, which means there are a great number of lenses from extreme wide-angle to super-telephoto, that are available for this camera, which are suitable for any type of photography.

              Many of Canon's own brand lenses have a very effective built in image stabilizer (denoted by the 'IS' in the lens specification), which is especially useful on telephoto lenses, which are more prone to camera shake, and a very efficient USM motor, which makes auto-focusing much quicker and virtually silent in use, auto-focus can be switched off via a slider switch on the lens.

              Please note, this camera has the APS-C sized sensor which has a crop factor of x1.6, which means that any lens that you use with it will have an effective focal length of x1.6 of the actual focal length, so a 100mm lens when used with this camera will have an effective focal length of 160mm (35mm equivalent) just multiply the focal length of any lens you have by a factor of x1.6 to find its 35mm equivalent on this camera.


              The menu

              This camera uses the same menu type as the Canon pro EOS 1D series cameras, which is a vast improvement on previous cameras with their single long scrolling page menu's, on this camera the menu items are grouped into pages and all pages are on screen at once making them more accessible, the pages are colour coded according to the functions that they contain, for example, red for shooting, blue for playback, yellow for tools and camera settings etc.

              These menu's are logically laid out and very easy to navigate, so you will get used to them in no time at all, they are accessed by pressing the menu button on the back of the camera, and the main menu is displayed on the LCD screen on the back of the camera, you then navigate the menus by either the main dial on top of the camera, or the quick control dial on the back, from here you can set all the camera functions, once settings have been made you can save them by pressing the set button on the back, pressing the menu button again will exit the menu, there is also another screen on the top plate of the camera which displays the current settings of the camera.

              There are too many menu items to list here, but the printed manual (about the size of a small paperback with 195 pages) is excellent and takes you through all the menu items one by one.


              Shooting modes

              There are more than enough modes on this camera to cover any photographic situations that you are likely to encounter; they range from point and shoot, to full manual exposure.

              The different shooting modes on this camera can be set with the mode dial on top of the camera, there are twelve shooting modes plus three user setting modes, the dial is split into four zones.

              First there is the 'basic zone', which contains the full auto mode, this is the cameras point and shoot mode where the camera sets everything for you and you have no control of the camera settings except for the shutter release button.

              Next there is the 'image zone', which contains the scene modes where you set the camera for the type of picture you are taking, they are, portrait, landscape, close-up, sports, night portrait and flash off modes, these are all self-explanatory automatic modes in which the camera selects the best settings for the type of photo you are taking.

              On the two zones above, the menu settings are limited as the camera controls the exposure.

              Next comes the 'creative zone', which contains all the traditional SLR modes, these include: -

              P. (Program) this is similar to full auto mode, but you can manually set certain parameters on the camera such as ISO, continuous shooting, white balance etc.

              Tv. (Shutter priority) in this mode you set the desired shutter speed and the camera sets the appropriate lens aperture, this is useful for sports and moving subjects when you need a fast shutter speed to capture the action, you can also set a slow shutter speed to introduce motion blur and other effects into your pictures.

              Av. (Aperture priority) in this mode you set the desired lens aperture and the camera sets the appropriate shutter speed, this is useful for close-up and portrait photography where you want to control the depth of field to determine what is, and what isn't in focus.

              M. (Manual) this is the manual mode, where you take full control of all the camera functions, this is useful in awkward lighting conditions when the cameras meter may be fooled into setting the wrong exposure, it also allows for a lot of creativity when you want to override the camera to create different effects into your photos.

              A-Dep. (Automatic depth of field) in this mode the camera detects your subject distance and the camera works out the exposure for you with the necessary depth of field to render all of your subject in focus, this is especially useful for portraits when you want to have a selective depth of field or close-ups where depth of field is very narrow, and can be difficult to get in focus, the camera will set the aperture to attain the best depth of field possible, although to be honest I normally use the aperture priority and do it myself.

              And finally, there is the 'camera user settings zone', (shown as C1, C2 & C3 on the mode dial) this is where you can set the camera to your preferred shooting mode, menus, custom function settings etc. and save them for future use, this is a very handy function, saving you having to set the camera up for these settings every time you power the camera up, there are three separate custom user setting modes available to use at any one time.


              < Other functions >

              Live view

              There is a live view function on this camera, this function is taken for granted by people with compact cameras, but it is not available on many DSLR's at present, this mode is especially useful when manually focusing and fine adjustments are necessary as in close-up photography, a tripod is recommended when in live view, it is not suitable for point and shoot photography and is not available in the basic zones.


              Flash

              The built in flash is adequate for most situations, but additional external flashguns are recommended for extreme wide-angle shots or for more distant subjects that need more power, the internal flash can also be used to fire slave flash units. The flash can be turned off when not required

              This camera is compatible with all Canon EX speedlights.


              LCD screen

              The screen is a large 3" LCD screen, and has a 230,000-pixel resolution, not the highest screen resolution around, but it is bright and clear, easy to use, and works well, there is as second small monochrome LCD screen on the top of the camera, which displays all the current settings of the camera.


              Sensor Cleaning.

              One problem with DSLR cameras is a build-up of dust on the Sensor as it is exposed to the elements when you change lenses and this can eventually cause a lowering of image quality, canon have got round this problem with their auto sensor cleaning unit which vibrates the sensor at high frequency to remove any dust, this operates at power up and power down of the camera.


              Shutter

              The focal-plane shutter speeds range from 30 - 1/8000 sec. plus B, flash X synchronisation is at 1/250 sec.


              Other features

              It has all the usual settings that you would expect from a camera of this level, such as auto-bracketing, exposure compensation, four metering modes including spot metering, AE lock, interchangeable focusing screens, wireless connectivity and much more.


              Battery

              It comes supplied with a Battery pack BP-511A and mains charger, battery life is very good, (up to 1100 shots according to the manual) I always carry a spare charged up battery but I have never needed to use it as yet, the charger tells you when the battery is fully charged, the light blinks whilst it is charging, and is steady once it is fully charged, charging usually takes less than two hours (approx 100mins.)


              Build quality

              This camera has a magnesium alloy body and is weather sealed but not waterproof, it would probably survive a light shower, it feels solid and well built in use, all controls operate smoothly and feel up to the job, lenses attach and detach smoothly and lock firmly into place, when gripped there is no give in the metal body, unlike some of the plastic bodied entry level cameras, and it is built to survive a few knocks. I have been using this camera since just after it was released and it has performed well without any problems whatsoever.


              Handling

              This camera handles very well, it is well balanced and has a bit of weight to it, I find that even with my big hands, it is easy to hold and all the controls are easy to use and are well positioned, with a long lens attached is still feels well balanced, that is because the weight of the body prevents it from becoming too front heavy with a big lens attached.
              The viewfinder is bright and clear and with its dioptre adjustment makes it easy for spectacle wearers to see it clearly without their specs on, some camera settings are visible in the viewfinder but they do not intrude into the picture area when in normal shooting display.
              Focusing is quick and silent, and very sharp even in low light (with Canon IS lenses)
              As mentioned earlier the menus are easy to navigate, quick to set up, and make the handling and use of this camera much easier, all the shooting modes are ready to hand on their own dial so they can be set quickly without going into the menu.


              < Picture quality >

              Noise

              The picture quality from this camera is impressive, noise is almost non-existent until you get to the highest ISO setting but even then you have to enlarge the picture quite a lot to spot it, ISO 100-1600 is available under normal shooting conditions, there is also a setting for ISO 3200 but you would not need to use that under normal conditions, and I have still to try that out, but from online test shots that I have seen noise is still well controlled, and there is an optional built noise reduction mode available for high ISO usage, with the cameras excellent low noise performance the default setting for noise reduction is off, so there is none of the picture blurring and loss of fine detail associated with noise reduction.


              Exposure

              Exposure is excellent with all shots being perfectly exposed, unlike my EOS 50D, which has a slight tendency to over expose under certain conditions, even under difficult lighting conditions it is hard to fool the meter into giving a false reading,


              Colour, sharpness and contrast.

              Colour is rendered accurately, has plenty of saturation, and is well balanced, with colours not running into each other or blurring, even in high contrast areas, the pictures are pin sharp with fine detail rendered accurately, contrast is excellent with both lowlight and highlight details well preserved.


              Resolution

              This camera has an effective 10.1mp resolution, which is by no means high these days, but very few people would ever get the benefit of a higher resolution than an 8-10mp DSLR camera, as you would have to make massive enlargements or use very small crops of the picture to notice any difference, many compacts these days have a 10mp resolution but because of the difference in picture quality, sharpness, noise performance and the blurring caused by most compacts rather aggressive noise reduction, there is no comparison between the two, you can make a much a much bigger enlargement from a picture taken with this camera, than you could from one taken on a compact camera, the higher the picture quality and the lower the noise, the less effect that resolution has on picture quality, I have made many high quality enlargements from this camera and resolution has never been an issue.


              Software

              This camera comes with bundled software, which includes: -

              An EOS digital software manuals disk, (this is in addition to the printed manual)

              An EOS digital solution disk, which contains the following software: -

              EOS utility - used to download images from your camera, set up your camera remotely from your computer, and shoot photos remotely from your computer.

              Digital photo professional - Image viewing and editing software, inc. RAW image editing and conversion.

              Zoombrowser EX - View, edit and print your pictures. Ideal for newcomers to digital photography

              Picture style editor - Picture style-editing software, create and save your own picture styles.


              Likes.

              Superb picture quality.
              Excellent low noise performance.
              Accurate Exposure.
              Excellent handling.
              Huge range of Canon lenses
              Live view function
              Excellent specs.
              Build quality
              10.1mp resolution is more than enough unless you want to make huge enlargements.
              Recent price drop

              Dislikes.

              None that I can think of.


              And finally

              This an excellent well specified camera with superb picture quality, it is easy to use, well balanced, its low noise performance is outstanding, it is well built and reliable, and with its recent price drop it is also great value.

              Recommended.


              Price.

              Since the introduction of the EOS 50D prices for this camera have gone down by an average of two to three hundred pounds, so now this camera represents excellent value for money.

              Prices on Amazon at the time of writing are £655.29 body only, and £821.72 with the EF-S 17-85mm f/4-5.6 IS USM lens


              Thanks for reading - Mark.

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              • Photography / Discussion / 133 Readings / 128 Ratings
                More +
                03.04.2009 16:30
                Very helpful
                (Rating)
                13 Comments

                Advantages

                Disadvantages

                It was a good investment that taught me a lot.

                I posted this review in Ciao café the other day and it seems to have gone down well, so I thought I would share it with you. I hope this is the right category (Thanks to Colin for getting it moved to the right category :) )

                Introduction.

                Most of you who have read my reviews will have realised that they are mostly photographic equipment reviews, here is a review of the original camera that got me interested in photography in the first place and my experiences with it, it is an old obsolete model which is not included on any review sites, hence my posting it in here.

                When I was a young lad I wanted a camera that could take close-ups (macro) for a project I was doing at the time, as well as normal family and holiday snaps, but knowing very little about cameras, I went to the branch of Wilding photographic in Wigan to find out more.

                Once in there I explained all this to the man in the shop and he showed me a Zenith B camera, which looked very impressive and businesslike compared to my grandmothers little plastic Kodak instamatic, impressed with it I asked "how much?" £30 was the reply, I was rather shocked at that, £30 was a week and a half's wages at the time.

                I decided that despite the price I would get it anyhow, so I left the shop very pleased with my new camera, some film, a couple of Hoya close-up filters of different strengths and a 2x extender for telephoto work, with all the extras that brought the price up to nearly £40, 'shock horror', two weeks wages blown on a camera, - was it a good investment? - Read on to find out.

                What was available at the time?

                During the 1960's and early 70's most 35mm SLR cameras were prohibitively expensive, the Likes of Pentax, Canon and Nikon catered mostly for the professional market, Pentax did have some lower priced cameras aimed at the serious amateur but they were still expensive to most people, most affordable amateur SLR's came from behind the iron curtain, the well known Praktica company from Dresden, East Germany had several models aimed at the amateur market and with their Carl Zeiss lenses were very capable cameras for the time.

                But the Zenith cameras from the Soviet union were the best known, they were shipped from Russia by their thousands, and because of their relatively cheap price, they brought affordable SLR photography to the masses, most photographers at the time cut their teeth on one of these.

                The Zenith B

                The Zenith B was a large Russian made SLR of very basic specification, it was manual operation only, they were mechanical cameras (no batteries to run out here) the shutter was spring driven and the self-timer was clockwork, they were built like a tank and weighed a ton, and the controls were fiddly to say the least, they did not even have a light meter,

                The lens

                The Zenith B came with two lens options, one option was with the 50mm industar f/3.5, mine came with the much better Helios 58mm f/2 lens, the minimum aperture was a very modest f/16, the lenses used the universal Pentax 42mm screw thread mount, and there was no mechanical linkage to the camera to control the aperture, so that was done manually, changing lenses was a lengthy job as they had to be unscrewed to remove them, and another one screwed back on again.

                The shutter

                The shutter speed was controlled by a very small metal dial on a very strong spring, changing the shutter speed meant pulling up this dial and turning it to the desired setting, but because of the sharp edge on the dial and the strength of the spring it left an impression in your finger and thumb so you didn't want to do that very often if you could help it, the shutter had a very limited range of 1/30th to 1/500th of a second plus B, the shutter was cocked by the lever that advanced the film to the next frame, when the spring loaded shutter was fired it made a very loud clunk that could be heard quite some distance away, which made taking wildlife or candid pictures very difficult as the racket would alert your subjects of your presence.

                I tried taking pictures of some buskers playing to a crowd in Cornwall, using the 2x extender that I had bought so as not to be too close, but after the first shot the noise of the shutter alerted everyone to the camera, the buskers started playing to the camera and half the crowd were posing for the picture, completely ruining the natural and informal nature of the pictures.

                Changing the film.

                Loading the film was a lengthy process, I always bought the 36 exposure films to cut this down to a minimum, when loading the film first you had to open the back of the camera via a small slider which you needed to get your finger nail under to move it, then you had to lift the rewind knob, then you had to insert the film cartridge and push the rewind knob down again to lock the film cartridge in place, then slip the end of the film under a spring on the take-up spool, and try and engage the holes in the film edges onto the sprocket wheel, close the back and wind on the film a couple of times whilst checking the if the rewind knob is turning, if it doesn't turn (and it often didn't) then you had to open it up and do it all again, then you had to reset the frame counter manually after every film change.

                Unloading the film wasn't much better, you had to depress a button to disengage the shutter and film sprocket, then rewind the film using a knob which because of its shape and low profile was difficult to grip, and keep turning and turning until you felt the resistance of the film slacken, then open up the back of the camera, then lift up the rewind knob to release the film cartridge again so that you can remove it. "Phew!"

                I bet you wouldn't complain about having to change an SD card again after all that.

                Build quality

                Despite its rather primitive design and fiddly controls, it was a very well built camera, everything worked as it should, and it never broke down once, nor had any problems in all the years that I used it, and it got a lot of use over that time, this camera was built like a tank with it's all metal construction, it weighed in at a huge 1kg with its standard lens attached, it was definitely built to last a long time, and it came in a strong leather case to protect it from any damage when not in use.
                I have seen these being sold on Ebay for a lot more than I paid for mine, still in good working order after nearly forty years, which is a testament to their build quality and durability.

                Taking Pictures.

                When I got this camera and read the instruction book, it told you how to change the film, wind on the film, change the aperture, change the shutter speed and press the shutter, and that was it.
                As this camera does not have a light meter or any auto functions whatsoever, everything has to be done manually including working out the exposure.

                When I first started I followed the guide inside the film, for 100ASA (ISO) film, that was a shutter speed of 1/125 then f/16 for bright and sunny, f/11 for bright and cloudy or hazy sun, and f/8 for dull and overcast, so I set it to one of these depending on what the weather was like, but I used to get some pictures that did not come out, the problem was that if it was bright and sunny I would set the appropriate setting for that weather and leave it set on that, whether I was out in the sun, or in the shade, but after a couple of wasted films, I soon learned to read the light and set the camera accordingly, for example if it was bright and sunny but I was in the shade of a building I would treat that as a dull day and set the camera for that, problem solved, after a while I learned how to expose for any lighting conditions accurately and that was without using a light meter at all.

                Once I had learned how to do that, the camera was quite easy to use even with its fiddly controls, which you get used to after a while anyway, after a while I bought a second hand Sigma 28mm wide angle lens for it, this camera was much more suited to wide-angle photography than it was telephoto.

                As for the macro shots, I managed to get some good ones with this camera despite its limitations. I am still taking them, but now with a modern camera and a proper macro lens.

                Likes.

                It was my first camera.
                Build quality and durability.
                You gain a lot of experience using a camera like this one.
                Universal 42mm screw fit lenses were cheaper.
                Manual control.
                No batteries to run out
                Ideal for wide-angle photography.

                Dislikes.

                Fiddly controls.
                Changing film took ages.
                Slow to set up and use.
                Noisy shutter
                It is heavy.
                Longer learning curve meant wasted film and missed shots at first

                And finally

                Was the two weeks wages spent on this camera a good investment? - Yes it was.

                Because of the cameras limited capabilities, I had to learn all the basics of photography before I could even start to get any decent pictures from this camera, I learned how to read the available light and get an accurate exposure whatever the conditions, I learned what shutter speeds and apertures did and what all the numbers meant, these skills have stood me in good stead ever since, even the most modern camera light meter cannot get the exposure right all of the time, so being able to put the camera into manual mode and use your own experience to get it right when the camera wouldn't is a useful skill to have, even in these days of automatic this, that and everything else.

                On top of all that, I got years of service from it, plus I got some great pictures with it as well.

                But eventually the time came to upgrade to a new camera, so I bought a brand new to the market at the time, Canon AE 1 Program with a motor-drive and a Tamron 80 - 200mm zoom lens, but that was not the end of the Zenith, I carried on using that alongside my Canon for the wide-angle shots, a role that it was suited to very well.

                In the end I gave it to one of my relatives who wanted a camera to take family snaps of his children as they were growing up.

                Thanks for reading. - Mark.

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                • More +
                  29.03.2009 17:47
                  Very helpful
                  (Rating)
                  20 Comments

                  Advantages

                  • Reliability
                  • Reliability

                  Disadvantages

                  The only wide angle lens you will ever need.

                  Introduction

                  The Canon EF-S 10-22mm f3.5-f4.5 USM lens is a high quality wide-angle zoom lens that is ideal for landscape, architectural and interior photography.

                  It is designed to be used with all Canon EOS cameras with an APS-C sized censor and an EF-S lens mount, it cannot be used with Canon full frame or film cameras, also some older EOS models will not accept this lens either.

                  To see if your camera is compatible with this lens, check your camera for the following.

                  All Canon EOS cameras have a red spot on the lens mount to denote the lens alignment for EF mount lenses, check to see if your camera has an additional white spot to denote the lens alignment for EF-S mount lenses, if it does, then this lens will fit.

                  Focal length

                  This lens has an actual focal length of 10-22mm, but because of the x1.6 crop factor of the APS-C sized censor, it will have an effective focal length of 16-35.2mm (35mm equivalent) which is a very useful wide-angle range that is ideal for landscape photography, it is also very useful for indoor photography, especially where space is tight.

                  Focusing

                  This lens has a USM motor which means that focusing is lightning fast and very quiet, I have found that the focusing is very accurate with this lens, the pictures are very sharp from the center, right out to the corners of the frame, and are well focused throughout the focal range of the lens, especially when stopped down a couple of stops from the maximum aperture, and the finest picture details are rendered accurately, even on a 15mp camera which would show up any flaws in the lens.

                  Colours

                  Colours are rendered very well, and the pictures are bright and clear with very good saturation, which is especially important in defining distant objects and sky details in landscape pictures.

                  Chromatic aberrations (colour fringing around high contrast subjects) are a common problem on wide-angle zoom lenses, and some cheaper lenses can suffer quite a lot with this, but the Canon lens has very little chromatic aberration at all, and it is not noticeable on most pictures, even where it is present it is very minor and you would have to enlarge the picture quite a lot to even see it, which is quite impressive.

                  Lens Flare

                  Lens flare happens when the sun strikes the front element of a lens and causes reflections inside the lens, The elements in this lens have a "super spectra coating" which reduces lens flare to a minimum, and it works well on this lens, a lens hood will reduce this even further, unfortunately this lens does not come with a supplied lens hood, but it is an optional extra (Canon should be ashamed of themselves, supplying a wide angle lens without a hood, especially at this price point.)

                  Distortion

                  Another common problem with wide-angle zoom lenses is barrel distortion, which causes a slight magnification in the center of the picture, causing straight lines to curve away from the center of the picture, and pincushion distortion which has the opposite effect, causing straight lines to curve in towards the center of the picture, at the 10mm end of the focal length, barrel distortion is evident as you would expect at this focal length, but it is very slight and well controlled in this lens, and by the time you reach 15mm it is hardly evident at all, pincushion distortion starts to creep in at the 22mm end of the focal length but again it is very slight, overall this lens is very good at controlling distortion, which is quite impressive for a wide-angle zoom lens of this range, I have had prime (fixed) focal length lenses in the past that couldn't match this performance.

                  Viginetting

                  Viginetting occurs when the extreme field of view of a wide-angle lens causes light falloff at the corners of the pictures, this lens is pretty good, but there is a little viginetting at the 10mm setting, stopping the lens aperture down a couple of notches cuts this down quite a bit, if this lens is used with an EOS 50D the camera compensates for this automatically, otherwise it can be easily removed during post processing, but overall this lens is better than most.

                  Build quality

                  This lens feels solidly built, it is of polycarbonate and metal (mount) construction with a rubber covering on the zoom ring, which operate very smoothly in use, and there is no slippage or unintentional movement of the zoom ring during operation, the lens mount is well machined and it fits easily onto the camera body, it turns smoothly and locks firmly into place, all of which gives you confidence in it's reliability and quality of build.

                  Handling.

                  This lens is well balanced, not too heavy, it feels solid and it is easy to use, the focusing and zoom rings are well placed and with their raised rubber coating, you get a good grip, and they are easy to find by feel, negating the need to take your eye from the viewfinder to locate the rings in order to manually focus or zoom in and out whilst composing your picture, there is a small slider switch to turn the auto-focus on or off, and with its USM motor it is very quiet in use.

                  There is no image stabilizer on this lens, but unlike telephoto lenses there is little need for it on a wide-angle lens, as camera shake is not usually a problem in daylight or flash operation, camera shake would occur in low light situations, such as in night shots when you would need to use a slow shutter speed, but you would want to use a tripod in those circumstances anyway.

                  All movements of the elements in this lens whilst focusing and zooming are internal, so the lens does not extend causing a difference in handling.

                  What is it like to use?

                  When I first got this lens I was amazed at the wide field of view especially at the 10mm end of the focal range, when you look through the viewfinder at a nearby object, it looks very small and far away, when out in the country you can get everything in view from a very wide area, creating a wide vista and a feeling of space, the field of view is so wide in fact, you have to watch that you don't get your feet in the picture as well, and because they have a very wide depth of field, everything is in focus from nearby objects through to distant scenes, if you want to take a picture of a large building, then if you fit this lens you don't have to walk a long way off to get it all in, and because it is a zoom you can still frame it perfectly.

                  Indoors this lens comes into its own as well, even in a small room you can get quite a lot in, that is why estate agents like to use them, they make a room look a lot bigger than it really is, and family shots are easier to take indoors, as you can fit them all into the frame without them having to huddle together to fit into the shot.

                  One word of warning though, if you are using flash, the cameras built in flash will not have a wide enough coverage area to light the whole scene when this lens is zoomed out to it's widest setting, one or two external flashes would be required to light the whole scene, otherwise zoom in as much as possible when using flash.

                  Because this lens has a very wide depth of field, focusing is quick and the motor does not need to work hard when focusing, this means that this lens will cause less drain on your cameras battery when auto-focusing.

                  Likes

                  Quality of pictures.
                  The most useful range of wide-angle focal lengths.
                  Build quality.
                  Ease of use.
                  Quiet USM motor
                  Speed and accuracy of auto-focus.
                  Good Handling.
                  Size

                  Dislikes

                  No lens hood supplied
                  Not compatible with all EOS cameras.
                  A good quality lens of this type is never going to be cheap

                  Price

                  This lens can be had from around £590 to £650 on Amazon at the time of writing.

                  The lens hood is available from around £25 to £30.

                  Conclusion

                  This is an excellent lens for the landscape, architectural or indoor photographer, the pictures you will get from it will be sharp and clear, it comes at a price but for the excellent quality you get, this is quite good value, it covers the most useful wide-angle range of focal lengths in one lens without compromising quality, it is well built and should give years of service.

                  On the downside, this lens is not compatible with all EOS cameras, this is something to consider if you are thinking about upgrading to a full frame camera in the future, and there is no lens hood supplied as standard.

                  Highly recommended.




                  Specifications

                  Lens Construction (groups) - 10
                  Lens Construction (elements) - 13 (3 aspheric elements - 1 Super UD element)
                  Minimum Aperture - 22-27 (1/3-stop increments 22-29)
                  Closest Focusing Distance - 0.24m (9.5") at all focal lengths
                  Maximum Magnification - 0.17x at 22mm setting
                  Optical Zoom - 2.2x
                  Filter Diameter - 77mm (thin polarizer required for 10mm use)
                  Maximum Diameter x Length - 83.5mm x 89.8mm (3.3" x 3.5")
                  No. of Diaphragm Blades - 6(circular aperture)
                  Lens Mount Type - EF-S
                  Weight - 385g (13.5oz)
                  Hood - optional, petal-shaped, snap-on type

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                  • The Plank (DVD) / DVD / 158 Readings / 152 Ratings
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                    27.03.2009 18:11
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                    Classic British comedy with Eric Sykes and Tommy Cooper at their best.

                    Introduction......

                    This is the cult classic short and near silent film with very little dialogue, written and directed by Eric Sykes, starring Eric Sykes and Tommy Cooper, and of course "The Plank"

                    The Plot......

                    Here is a short overview of the plot, I will not give too much away as it would spoil it for anyone seeing it for the first time.

                    The storyline is very simple in that Eric Sykes and Tommy Cooper are two inept workmen laying floorboards in a newbuild house, only to find that they are one board short to finish the job, as Eric Sykes has used it for firewood, so they go to the woodyard to get another one.

                    This should have been a simple task, but the new floorboard (The Plank of the title) seems to have a life of its own, couple that with the ineptitude of the two workmen, and chaos ensues as they try and get the plank back to the house tied to the top of their car, obviously the plank does not stay on top of their car for long, as it takes on a life of it's own and it causes a myriad of hilarious problems for the huge cast, whilst the two workmen try to find it again causing even more chaos as they go.

                    The workmens old car also provides some comedy as the doors will not close properly and bits start falling off it.

                    Jimmy Edwards plays an inept policeman who reluctantly tries to sort out the chaos and ends up being a victim of the plank himself, as do most of the other cast members.

                    The Cast......

                    This Film has a huge and impressive cast of well known stars including Jimmy Edwards, Roy Castle, Graham Stark, Stratford Johns, Hattie Jaques, Jim Dale, Jimmy Tarbuck, Kenny Lynch and many more.

                    This is a classic performance with Eric Sykes And Tommy Cooper at their best, and they are well supported by all the other cast members, especially Jimmy Edwards as the Policeman and Roy Castle as the man who causes a stink wherever he goes after falling off the plank into the back of a bin wagon, giving binman Kenny Lynch a fright as he emerges from the rubbish. plus many more comic situations, too many to mention here without spoiling the film for anyone who has never seen it.

                    The DVD......

                    This film comes on one disc in a standard DVD case, there is no inner booklet, and there are no special features on the disc, all the sleevenotes being on the back of the case.

                    This film has been released in shorter versions in the past, and some deleted scenes have been restored and put back into the film from archive sources, the picture and sound quality is variable, but it is pretty good throughout, and this is the complete version of the film.

                    The film is in colour, it was made in 1967, it is 51 minutes in length and has been given a cert. U so it is suitable for the whole family.

                    And Finally......

                    This cult classic is one of those laugh a minute films with never a dull moment, cramming a huge amount of comedy situations into its 51 minutes length, and is guaranteed to keep you laughing throughout the film.

                    I have watched this film several times and never tire of it.

                    At the time of writing, this DVD is availlable for as little as £3.93 on Amazon, and is worth every single penny and more.

                    Highly recommended

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                    • More +
                      23.03.2009 17:00
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                      An excellent gadget bag for the average user.

                      Canon Gadget Bag....

                      When I recieved this bag I expected the bag to be slightly bigger than it actually was, but it is very flexible to use and you can fit a surprising amount of gear into it, without it being so big that it is awkward to use.

                      I have two camera bodies, an EOS 40D & an EOS 50D, not the smallest EOS cameras by a long way, and four lenses, a 10-22mm wide angle, a 17-85mm, a 60mm macro and a 70-300mm tele-zoom, plus a few acessories, which all fit quite easily into it, with room for another lens, lenshoods or a flashgun should I need it.

                      The bag is designed so that all your equipment is easily accessible, with everything to hand, and the dividers keep everything in place, so you are not continually searching around for things lost in the corners of the bag, in fact there are no sharp corners inside this bag for anything to become lodged in.

                      If you have some very long super telephoto L series lenses, you could fit one laid down end to end, and still have room for a camera body and some other accessories/smaller lenses, but if you have more than one super telephoto, then you would be better off with a larger and deeper bag than this one, but for the average user this bag is ideal as it can house all your equipment in one place.

                      The bag is well made from strong water resistant material and is well padded giving good protection for your equipment, the zips are strong and don't stick, and the clips that hold the top flap down are made of a strong metal.

                      Inside there are padded dividers which can be moved around a little although they are not infinately adjustable, but what makes them more flexible is that each divider is made from a seperate padded piece joined together with velcro. and these individual pieces can be removed altogether giving you larger compartments, allowing you to fit a wider veriety of equipment into it, it just takes a little time to experiment with it until you have found the best configuration for all your gear.

                      There are two front and two side zipped pockets with water resistant flaps over them, there is plenty of room to store batteries, filters, remotes, cables, CF cards, etc, there is also a zipped compartment under the top flap for extra storage, there are also two adjustable straps on the base of the bag which can be used to hold a tripod which is very handy.

                      There is a strong handle on the top of the bag, and there is an adjustable wide strap which has a curved padded section on it making it very comfortable to carry, even when you have a lot of heavy gear in it, with previous bags that I have used, I have noticed that the strap cuts into your shoulder after a while, and you have to keep adjusting it to stay comfortable, with this bag however I have not experienced this at all, even with the bag fully laden.

                      Likes....

                      Big enough for a couple of camera bodies and a few lenses/accessories.
                      Plenty more storage in the front and side pockets.
                      Strong and water resistant.
                      Comfortable to carry.
                      Flexible to use.
                      Good protection for all your gear.

                      Niggles....

                      More than one Very long lens would be more difficult to accommodate.

                      Conclusion....

                      This an excellent bag for up to two camera bodies and five lenses, or similar sized accessories, or a couple more lenses if you have one camera body, it is well made, comfortable and easy to use, and with the removable dividers you can adapt it to fit a wide veriety of equipment into it.

                      Average price for this bag is from £60 to £70.

                      Recommended.

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                      • More +
                        22.03.2009 15:38
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                        Disadvantages

                        A good high capacity CF card that is still reasonably good value, but prices are going up.

                        Intoduction......

                        A Compact Flash card is a bigger and more sturdy type of solid state memory card than the now ubiquitous SD card, It is mainly used in older compact cameras and in many DSLR's and Pro spec cameras.

                        This is a fast 133x speed high capacity compact flash card type 1, (Data transfer rate: 21.5MB/sec(Max) that is suitable for modern devices that will accept high capacity cards.

                        Overview.......

                        I bought this CF card to use in my Canon EOS 50D, and it has worked perfectly so far with no problems at all, it looks and feels robust enough for a lot of usage and build quality is good, the card comes pre-formatted (plug & play) so that you can use it straight away.

                        Being that it is a 133x speed card means that it is fast enough to take a burst of shots on the jpeg + Raw simultaneous recording mode @ 6.3 frames per second with no loss of speed that I could detect, even on longer bursts there was no time lag waiting for the camera to write data to the card which is quite impressive for a 15mp camera, there are faster 300x speed cards on the market now, these are still very expensive in comparison and few devices currently on the market would be able to take advantage of the speed that they offer, this card is fast enough for most applications that you could put it to (I have not tested it with a HD video camera, so you may possibly need a faster card to use for that).

                        Read speed is also fast as it only takes a short time to download a large number of jpeg + raw files direct from the camera onto the PC via the camera`s own usb cable, with no read/write errors at all so far. (It may be faster still with a card reader) I have dowloaded 100's of high resolution pictures + their associated RAW files in just a couple of minutes.

                        With the camera set on jpeg + raw simultaneous image recording, both on the highest resolution possible, (15mp) you can still get over a thousand images on this card, thats the equivalent of well over 4,000 high quality 15mp jpegs on one card, and on a 10mp camera about 50% more than that. (although this does vary depending on the type of pictures you are taking, as some pictures contain more or less information than others, and can have a smaller or larger file size than my test shots. the above figures are a very conservative estimate based on my test shots, and you will probably get a lot more than that on it)

                        I have been using the 16gb version of this card on my other camera body (EOS 40d) and I was so impressed with the cards performance that I bought this 32gb version for the higher resolution EOS 50D. and this card does not disappoint either, it has been fast, reliable, robust and you can fit a huge amount of pictures or data onto it, even the most snap happy photographer would be hard pressed to fill this card up.

                        Important......

                        Please remember that not all camera`s, (especially older models) are compatible with high capacity CF cards, check your camera for compatibility before buying this card to avoid any disappointment.

                        Conclusion.....

                        All in all this is an excellent card that does everything the manufacturers claim, and it does it well.

                        It also comes with a lifetime warranty.

                        Price.........

                        I bought mine from Amazon a few months back for £55 which was excellent value, Unfortunately prices have steadily increased since then, so now (at the time of writing) you would be expected to pay between £70 and £80 for this card, still a good price for a 32gb card though.

                        Highly recommended.

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                        • More +
                          21.03.2009 23:43
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                          • Reliability

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                          Not perfect, but very good at the price, ideal for family and holiday photos.

                          Panasonic Lumix DMC TZ5EB-K

                          Overview

                          Normally I use large DSLR or bridge camera, but I wanted a small camera that would fit into my pocket when I don't want to carry a large camera with me, this camera is just about small enough to fit into a large pocket.

                          What attracted me to this particular model was its 10x zoom range from 28mm to 280mm (35mm equivalent) and its reasonable 9.1mp resolution.
                          I went out and took some pictures with this camera, and some more almost identical pictures with a Canon EOS DSLR, Whilst a compact camera can never match a DSLR in image quality, the pictures from the Panasonic fared resonably well in comparison.

                          I was expecting the picture quality from a 10x zoom on such a small camera to suffer, but I was pleasantly surprised, the pictures were sharp throughout the focal range, even at its longest focal length, and there was no apparent chromatic aberrations, (colour fringing around high contrast subjects) plus the image stablizer worked well in all but very dim light conditions.
                          It does have a 4x digital zoom as well, but this is better left switched off as the picture quality suffers quite a lot when it is used, I did try the digital zoom out, just as a matter of interest, but the pictures were very poor and unusable.

                          As in all compact cameras the image censor is very small, and cramming 9 or 10 megapixels onto such a small censor often causes problems with digital noise, especially at higher ISO settings, This camera also fared very well here with digital noise not apparent at all at ISO 100 and very little at ISO 200. but It gradually worsens at higher ISO settings, (I keep mine set on ISO 100 for daytime shots) but it is still well within acceptable levels for a compact camera, the cameras built in noise reduction causes some fine detail to be lost (blurring) at medium and higher ISO settings, but this is more apparent at higher magnifications of the image.
                          This blurring might be an issue if you want to make big enlargements or crop down to small areas of your pictures.

                          At very low light levels this camera performs reasonably well compared to some of the other compacts, and flash exposures are excellent, full of detail and well exposed, I took a picture of my parrot using the flash, and the feather detail was rendered quite well.

                          The autofocus is reasonably fast and accurate in most cases, only struggling in very low contrast or difficult to focus subjects, and the face detection works well.
                          Macro, whilst not true macro, will focus as close as 5cm at the 28mm setting and aprox 1 metre at the 280mm setting, giving you a reasonable close up, but focusing on small subjects such as a flower is a little hit and miss however, and you may need to try focusing more than once before taking the shot, but its large screen makes this easier to check beforehand.

                          The camera itself feels solidly built, and it has a reassuring bit of weight to it, the menu's are logically laid out and fairly easy to navigate, and you will soon get to grips with it, and it has an excellent printed manual.

                          There are more than enough modes on it to keep the budding photographer happy, with 2 auto settings and 22 auto scene modes to cover most conditions that you are likely to encounter, and an exposure compensation setting of (+/- 2 at 1/3 stop increments) for those awkward situations when one of the auto modes will not give a correct exposure, it is a pity there are no manual settings however, which would have made this camera much more flexible in use.

                          The LCD monitor is a large 3" monitor, and is very clear and bright, making it easy to compose your pictures, check the focus and to view pictures afterwards, although such a large screen could be vulnerable to damage so a good quality padded camera case is recommended.

                          A seperate optical viewfinder would have been a welcome addition, making the taking of moving subjects easier, especially at longer focal lengths, but many compact cameras do not include them anymore.

                          It does have a video and sound recording function, with a maximum resolution of 1280 x 720 pixels with mono sound, but I have not tried that out yet, (I will update this review when I have) so I cannot comment on that, except to say that the microphone is positioned on the top left plate of the camera where it is very likely to be covered by a finger, causing sound problems.

                          It comes supplied with a battery and charger, the battery has lasted reasonably well up to now, it also comes supplied with a USB lead to download pictures directly from the camera to the PC without having to remove the SD card.

                          PROS

                          Well built and easy to use.
                          Better picture quality than many compacts.
                          10x zoom covers the most usefull range from wide angle to a decent telephoto.
                          9.1mp resolution is more than enough for all but the biggest enlargements.
                          It is compatible with SDHC cards.
                          Large clear screen.
                          Video and sound recording function.
                          A printed manual, not one of those pdf files on a disc.
                          Image stablizer.
                          User settable ISO.
                          Enough exposure modes to cope with most situations.
                          Good as a second camera when it would not be practical to take a larger camera.
                          Good price for what you get.

                          CONS

                          No SD card supplied, so you will need to buy one seperately.
                          No viewfinder other than the LCD screen.
                          Some fine picture detail lost (blurring) especially at higher ISO settings.
                          Microphone could have been sited better.
                          No manual exposure setting, but the exposure compensation does help.
                          Can be a little complicated at first for novice users, but the manual is good.
                          A little too big for small pockets.

                          Verdict.

                          This is a good camera for anyone who wants to replace a cheaper outdated compact camera with something that will take decent pictures, and has a good zoom range, and for anyone who wants a small camera as a backup to a larger camera, but due to the limitations of compact cameras, it would not make a good replacement a larger camera.

                          It is availlable for as little as £194.99, and is very good value at that price.

                          All in all this is a very good little camera for the price, with very little to be said against it at this level, and it comes highly recommended.

                          This review is also on Ciao! and Amazon under the same name.

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                          • Canon EOS 50D / Digital Camera / 116 Readings / 108 Ratings
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                            20.03.2009 15:36
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                            • Reliability

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                            Superb picture quality, on a very well specified, but easy to use camera.

                            **The Canon EOS 50D**

                            I bought this camera almost as soon as it was released, so I have had plenty of time to get used to it, and test it fully before writing this review.

                            **Overview**

                            The first thing you notice is that this is not a small lightweight camera, but is a solid well built camera designed for serious use, yet despite it's size and weight it is still easy to hold and is comfortable to use, for those of you that have used the EOS 40D it has the same body shell as that, and has the advantage of using the same accessories as the EOS 40D as well.

                            The menu's are well laid out and easy to use making this camera easy to set up and use, the large LCD screen is bright and clear, and much higher resolution than previous EOS cameras,(920,000 pixels) excellent for manual focusing in live view and checking the focus of pictures you have already taken.

                            Auto focus is lightning quick and accurate under normal conditions, and even in low light conditions it is still quick. (tested with canon lenses)

                            Cramming 15 megapixels resolution onto a small sensor causes problems with digital noise on many cameras, but not here, digital noise (graininess) is not apparent at all until you get into the highest ISO settings (ISO-100 to 3200 is available) and even then it is well controlled, (there is also the option of setting a very high ISO-6400 or ISO-12800 setting but noise is apparent at such high settings and is best used in emergency only,)

                            With it's 15mp resolution, even severely cropped or greatly enlarged pictures are crystal clear, colours are rendered accurately, even in difficult lighting conditions, when set to auto white balance, snow comes out as white snow, not bluish as on some other cameras that I have used, picture quality really is superb, and has to be seen to be believed.

                            One thing I have noticed, is that this camera, when it is set to program mode, has a tendancy to slightly over expose pictures under certain lighting conditions, especially Where there is water or any other reflective surfaces present, I usually set the camera to auto-exposure bracketing by either a 1/3 or a 2/3 of a stop to compensate for this when taking these pictures, but as it is usually less than 1 stop over exposed it is fairly easy to fix this in post processing, this is where RAW files (digital negatives) come in useful as they contain more picture information than jpegs, so over and under exposed areas in high contrast pictures can be fixed a lot easier, the camera comes supplied with very good RAW editing software, but I normally use photoshop to edit my RAW files as that is the software I am more used to using for this.
                            You get the best of both worlds with this camera as you can record both jpeg + RAW files simultaneously.
                            (RAW files are the raw data that a camera records and must be converted after processing to a useable picture format, such as jpeg, bmp, gif, tiff etc. that can be displayed on a PC or Mac screen, and used for printing.)

                            **Other feartures**

                            The built in flash is adequate for most situations but if you take a lot of flash photos and need a higher output flash, then one of canon's speedlight flashes can be used instead.
                            It is compatible with all Canon's EX series speelight flashguns.

                            It has a fast 6.3 frames per second high speed continuous shooting mode,
                            and a 3 frames per second low speed continuous shooting mode.

                            It is compatible with the latest high speed, high capacity CF cards, making it possible to fit thoudands of pictures onto one card, even when shooting jpeg + RAW simultaneously at maximum resolution. I have a 32gb 133x CF card in mine and I can fit a whole days shooting onto it, and still have plenty of room to spare.

                            One interesting feature on a camera of this level, is the inclusion of "Creative auto mode" This is an auto mode with simple controls for making adjustments, Making this camera more user friendly for beginners.

                            It is compatible with all canon EF and EFS lenses, and with canon's image stabilised lenses you get pin sharp pictures even in low light or with longer telephoto lenses. * (see notes below about chosing lenses for this camera.)*

                            **PRO's**

                            Good all round performance.
                            Excellent picture quality.
                            High resolution with low noise.
                            Good low light performance.
                            Quick and accurate focusing and a very effective image stabilisation (with Canon's IS lenses)
                            Live view function.
                            6.3 frames per second continuous shooting.
                            Well built and strong with its metal body shell.
                            Takes the same accessories as the EOS 40D
                            Compatible with the latest high capacity CF cards.
                            Raw or Jpeg files are recorded, Raw+Jpeg simultaneous recording is also possible.

                            **CON's**

                            large and heavy.
                            No movie function.
                            No CF card supplied, so if you don't already have one, you will need to buy one before you can use it (with 15mp resolution the higher the capacity of the card the better).

                            **In conclusion**

                            This is an excellent camera for the serious photographer and is a worthwhile upgrade from an older camera.
                            If you already own an EOS 40D then the difference in performance would not warrant the expense of an upgrade, but if you want a second body with higher resolution then this would be an ideal companion to your existing EOS 40D, as most of the functions are the same and you can use all your current accessories with it.
                            It would also be a good back up camera for a professional photographer, who does not want to go to the expense of a second full frame pro camera.

                            It is more expensive than some other "prosumer" cameras, but with the features and performance that you get, it is worth every penny.

                            It is available from Amazon for £836.95 (Body only) at the time of writing, which is a good price for this camera.

                            Highly recommended.

                            **Specifications**

                            (from the manual)

                            15.1 Megapixel APS-C sized CMOS Sensor
                            6.3fps continuous shooting, max. burst of 90 JPEGs with UDMA card
                            DIGIC 4 processor
                            ISO 100-3200, expandable to 6400 &12800
                            9-point wide area auto focus
                            3.0" Clear View VGA LCD (920,000 pixels) with Live View mode & Face Detection Live AF
                            Magnesium alloy body, with environmental protection
                            EOS Integrated Sensor Cleaning System
                            HDMI connection for high quality viewing and playback on a High Definition TV
                            Full compatibility with Canon EF and EF-S lenses and EX-series Speedlites

                            File formats
                            * RAW (.CR2; 14-bit)
                            * JPEG (EXIF 2.21) - Fine / Normal
                            * RAW + JPEG (separate files simutaneous recording)
                            * sRAW1 (7.1 MP)
                            * sRAW2 (3.8 MP)

                            Shooting modes
                            * Auto
                            * Creative auto
                            * Program AE (P)
                            * Shutter priority AE (Tv)
                            * Aperture priority AE (Av)
                            * Manual (M)
                            * Auto depth-of-field
                            * Portrait
                            * Landscape
                            * Close-up
                            * Sports
                            * Night portrait
                            * Flash off
                            * Camera user settings 1
                            * Camera user settings 2


                            **Notes and advice on choosing lenses for this camera.**

                            There is often confusion for people when buying lenses for DSLR cameras (especially if they are new to DSLR's), as the actual focal length of a lens is not the same as the effective focal length that they will get on their camera, and most good camera shops have conversion charts to make this easier when advising their customers of the best lens to buy for their needs, but most online shops do not, hence the advice below.

                            Here's why.........

                            When you buy a lens it has an actual focal length, (that stated on the lens itself) or range of focal lengths in the case of zoom lenses, (magnification) measured in millimeters, e.g. 100mm focal length.

                            The actual focal length on any lens is rated for 35mm film cameras and professional full frame DSLR cameras with a censor size of 35mm x 24mm, this is the standard rating for all SLR lenses.

                            The censor on this camera (and on most EOS DSLR cameras) is the "APS-C" sized censor with a measurement of 22.3mm x 14.9mm, this means that the effective focal length of the lens will be different to the actual focal length of any lens you buy when used with these cameras, this effective focal length is known as the "35mm equivalent."

                            This is not a fault, but is a feature of all DSLR cameras, with the exception of professional full frame cameras.

                            To find the 35mm equivalent of any lens used, you must multiply the actual focal length of the lens, by a factor of 1.6, thus a 100mm lens will have an effective focal length of 160mm (35mm equivalent) when used with these cameras.

                            This is great news if you want to use telephoto lenses for wildlife etc. as you will get higher magnification from your lens, for less cost than on a full frame camera, so for instance a 70 - 300mm zoom lens will have a 35mm equivalent of a 112 - 480mm zoom lens when used with these cameras.

                            But on the other end of the scale, wide angle lenses will be less wide, and you will need to buy a more expensive wider angle lens to compensate for the difference in the effective focal length, thus a 10 - 22mm ultra-wide angle zoom will become a very useful 16 - 35.2mm wide angle zoom (35mm equivalent) on these cameras.

                            The standard lens on a 35mm camera is 50mm which gives approx x1 magnification, but on these cameras, it is the equivalent of an 80mm portrait lens, a focal length of 31.25mm would give you the equivalent of a 50mm lens (35mm equivalent) on these cameras.

                            The coversion factor for Canon cameras is x1.6 of the actual focal length, other camera manufacturers may vary, so it is best to check the manual of your camera first.

                            So if you are new to DSLR cameras, or are upgrading from a 35mm film camera, I hope this info will help you to make the right choice when buying extra lenses for your DSLR camera, because the difference between the actual and effective focal length of a lens can significantly change the type of photo which you can use it for.

                            This review is also on Ciao! & Amazon UK under the same name.

                            Thanks for reading - Mark

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                              19.03.2009 15:06
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                              Much better than the new St.Trinians film

                              The St. Trinians collection boxset

                              This boxset contains all four of the original St Trinians films made in the 1950's and 60's, and is a treat for anyone who likes classic British comedies, the first three are in black & white whilst the fourth is in colour.

                              Overview

                              St Trinians is an appalling shool for girls, which the ministry of education would love to close down, but no matter how much they try, they are thwarted at every turn by unscrupulous characters who have more to gain by keeping this terrible school open, and as a result, all at the ministry of education are at the point of having a nervous breakdown.

                              Half the teachers are desperate to get out of the place, but cannot afford to because they have not been paid for months, the other half only teach inbetween prison sentences and are glad of somewhere to stay whilst they are on the outside, and the headmistresses are no better either, they are out for what they can get, and discipline within the school is the last thing on their minds.

                              The girls themselves are an undisciplined rabble who are allowed to run wild and do excactly as they want, their favourite passtimes include, gambling, smoking, drinking, making illicit booze, terrorising the neighbourhood and setting fire to the school, ably assisted by Cockney spiv Flash Harry who, after appearing from the bushes, takes their racing bets to the bookies, and sells their illicit gin for them on the black market, Flash Harry is the only adult in the school who the girls will listen to, and acting as a sort of unofficial guardian to them, he does look out for them in his own sort of way, and he does try and stop the girls from taking things too far, often without much success though.

                              The local police are utterly powerless to stop the local crimewave caused by the girls, and in desperation usually persuade woman police Sargeant Gates to infiltrate the school in the guise of a teacher, much against her will, to find out what is going on.

                              Even the army are unable to control the rabble, and ask for danger money when ordered into the school because of their high casualty rate.

                              The cast includes many stars of the period, including Alastair Sim, George Cole, Joyce Grenfell, Terry Thomas, Lionel Jeffries, Dora Bryan, Frankie Howerd, Cecil Parker, Richard Wattis, Thornley Walters, Eric Barker, Terry Scott, Reg Varney, Irene Handl, Dennis, Price, Sid James and an early appearance by Rosalind Knight as one of the girls, plus many more.

                              The music by Malcolm Arnold is memorable, especially the main theme to the first three films, and Flash Harry's theme, usually played as he emerges from hiding in the bushes.

                              All four films were Produced & Directed by Sidney Gilliat & Frank Launder, they are based on the St Trinians drawings by Ronald Searle (which appear in the title sequences), all four films have been given a Cert "U" so are suitable for all the family.

                              The films

                              I will not give away too much of the plot of the films, for the benefit of anyone that has not seen them, and the ones that have seen them will know the plots well enough anyway, The real fun of watching these films is the comedy and the performances by the excellent cast.

                              First of all there was the belles of St Trinians, in which Alastair Sim plays the dual role of headmistress Millicent Fritton and her crooked bookie twin brother Clarence Fritton (now regarded as one of Alastair Sim's classic performances), George Cole makes his first appearance as "Flash Harry" in this film (a role that was to inspire his later role of Arthur Daley in minder) and Joyce Grenfell is a hoot as the put upon, and frustrated Sergeant Ruby Gates who is forced to infiltrate the school, when a racehorse (Arab boy) goes missing after a trials run near the school, with Miss Fritton desperate to find Arab boy in time for the big race, as she has bet all the school funds on it.

                              The second film is, Blue murder at St, Trinians, in which the girls fiddle a UNESCO exam to win a trip to Rome and take along a jewel thief on the run from the police (played by Lionel Jeffries) disguised as their headmistress, and watch out for Terry Thomas who is cajoled into driving the rabble to Rome in his run down old coaches by the ministry of education. mayhem ensues as the unruly schoolgirls run amok through Rome.

                              The third film in the series is The Pure hell of St Trinians. in which there is a plan to kidnap the sixth form girls and put them into a middle eastern harem (by Sid James aided by Cecil Parker). but the Arabs, whilst easily beating off the incompetent British army "bath unit", had not reckoned on the rabble from St Trinians, watch out for the hilarious scenes in the ministry of education as they try and relieve their stress by dancing to an old gramophone record.

                              The final film is The great St Trinians train robbery, in which Frankie Howerd leads a gang of crooks in a robbery and hides the loot in the school, run by the unscrupulous headmistress Miss Spottiswood (Dora Bryan), a race then ensues as the robbers try and move the loot by train, with Flash Harry and the girls trying stop them and steal the money for themselves, whilst Miss Spottiswood tries to claim the reward for herself, watch out for Frankie Howerd trying to do a morris dance in order to divert attention whilst his cohorts try and shift the loot.
                              This film may be of interest to railway enthusiasts, as it shows some scenes of the southern railway branch line workings in the sixties, before the end of steam.

                              The Boxset

                              The boxset comes on two discs with two films on each, the films come in two standard DVD cases which fit into a nicely printed cardboard outer box, the picture and sound quality of all these films is very good considering the age of the films.
                              (Newer sets may be supplied on four disks with one film on each instead of the two as stated)

                              The only downside is, that there are no subtitles or special features on the discs, but that is often the case with older films.

                              In conclusion

                              The films are a bit dated now (not a bad thing on these films) but they do remind us of more innocent times gone by, when children seen behaving in this manner was still thought of as shocking.

                              This is a great set of films for the whole family, younger children will love them, and these films will keep them quiet for hours, and for those of you that remember them of old, they are still just as funny now as they ever were, and well worth watching again.

                              I for one, will never tire of watching these excellent and funny films.

                              At the time of writing this boxset is availlable for as little as £9.67, an absolute bargain for four classic comedies.

                              Highly recommended.


                              This review is also on Ciao! & Amazon under the same name.

                              Thanks for reading

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