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TRadford

TRadford
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Member since: 27.02.2010

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    • Nikon D3100 / Digital Camera / 42 Readings / 38 Ratings
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      15.08.2011 21:07
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      Excellent beginner DSLR, which provides great quaility images at a fantastic price point.

      Nikon are one of the leading companies in DSLR manufacture.
      They battle the title out with the other Giant Canon, and constantly these two companies lock horns in the battle for the budget DSLR.

      The budget DSLR is a funny beast. Its design is one of comprimise, but also of innovation.

      It must be cheap.. otherwise no-one will buy it.
      It must be easy to use, as its primary market is amateur or beginner photographer.
      It must be small and light, to appeal to those used to small pount and shoots.
      It must have lots of selling points.. To beat Canon.

      Well the D3100 does all of these things, and does them pretty darn well.

      ******************

      I bought a D3100 purely to review for my photography website and also for the HD video function, to film my photography video reviews and tutorials.
      My main camera is a Nikon D700, which is one of Nikons top proffessional range DSLR's with a price to match at over £1800 just for the body.

      I hadn't held one of the budget models before, and coming from my big, heavy, Magnesium alloy body to this tiny, lightweight, plastic body was quite a shock. This camera weighs less with the 18-55mm Kit lens attached than just one of my proffesional grade lenses alone!

      This however should not always be regarded as a bad thing. In fact for me, this is a godsend.
      So many times, Im out and about and see so much, but I dont have my DSLR with me, as I just dont want to carry 5KG of camera and lens around with me all the time. The D3100 with the kit lens weighs in under half of that. On top of this, the physical size of the combo is so much smaller, I can fit it in my Briefcase and take it to work with me, for those "just in case" moments.

      Of course, for those with large hands, the small size may be an issue. The buttons in particular may be very uncomfortable to reach, and the shallow grip of the camera wont instill confidence when carrying the camera without the included neck strap.
      Thankfully, I have rediculously small girly hands, therefore it is not an issue!

      So, we know the camera is small and light, one of the pre-requisites for a budget DSLR, so what about the price?

      I bought mine second hand, with the kit lens and some other extras for about £30 under £400. Current retail prices for the kit are hovering at around £400, so as you can see, they hold value very well!

      For this money you recieve a 14.2 MP sensor with Nikon's latest Expeed 2 image processor. You recieve a large 3 inch screen and the abilty to use Live view on this screen instead of the traditional viewfinder.
      You also get Full 1080p HD video, with the abilty for fulltime autofocus, although as I will describe later, this isnt as good as it first sounds.
      You also get the Nikon 18-55mm VR kit lens. A great little lens to get you started and covers a wide range of focal lengths perfect for learning photography. It also has Nikons VR (Vibration Reduction) system, which allows you to shoot at shutter speeds much slower than you could without it.

      As a package, it seems very good value to me. A high end compact camera isnt much less, and although they may boast longer focal lenghts, the quality and control wont hold a candle to the D3100.

      One of the big selling points for this camera is the included Guide mode. This is akin to a personal helper standing over you telling you what to do.
      If you have no experience in photography at all, turn the large mode dial on top of the camera to "Guide", and let the camera take you through step by step exactly what you need to do, to get the type of image you want. You choose from a large list of different photograph types, from blured backgrounds, to frozen motion, and the camera will not only set itself up for you, but also tells you what and why its done what it has. This is a great tool, to learn the fundamentals of photography. With this type of help, you are almost guarenteed to get the photo you want.

      Aswell as the guide mode, the camera also features an info screen, which with the press of one button, the huge LCD on the back of the camera lights up with all the information you could possibly need to know about the camera's current set up.
      It shows the shutter speed and aperture, aswell as a nifty little interactive diagram with shows the effect of the lens and you raise and lower the aperture.
      It shows you the current ISO, metering mode, drive mode, quality settings, White balance and much more.
      What is even better, is if you press the button again, the screen changes into and edit mode,where you can actually scroll through the different settings to change them. This is a much better method than using the menu, which at first can seem very illogical and take a long time finding the setting you wanted to change.
      This is a great implementation by Nikon, as a consequence of a smaller body, means less room for the buttons found on bigger DSLR's, which provide quick and direct access to the most used functions.
      This info menu screen maybe a few steps more than one button press, but its certainly a vast improvevement on previous budget DSLR's.


      One of the big debates is why you need a DSLR, when you can seemingly get small compact cameras with umpteen Megapixles for half the cost, and no lenses to have to change, surely they are just as good or better right??

      WRONG.

      A compact camera has a sensor at least half the size of even the smallest DSLR, and its the size of the sensor combined with the amount of MP that makes the difference.
      A sensor with 19 MegaPixles but the size of a postage stamp is never going to be as good quality as a traditional DSLR sensor with 10 MP. In fact those 19MP will actaully lessencthe image quality considerably.
      Its quality, not quantity that matters here, and thankfully the D3100's sensor is most definately quality.

      Images produced from the sensor are rich in colour and contrast. Skin tones are represented faithfully, and the option to change the picture style to suit the scene mean you can get rich, vivid landscapes and then switch to more muted tones for portraits. In additon to this, the D3100 contains in camera editing, where you can add special effects, adjust saturation and contrast and much more.

      Noise at higher ISO is controlled very well. At ISO 1600, images are still relatively clean and noise free. Perfectly acceptable for printing. This allows you to shoot images in very low light, without using the flash for more natural looking photographs.

      One huge new feature in the D3100 from its predecessor is full 1080P HD video recording at 24 FPS. Although clips are limited to 10 minutes in this setting, its still a great way to get high quality video footage. The camera includes a built in microphone,which predictably isnt really the best tool for the job. Sadly the D3100 does not have an external Mic input, so you are stuck with the internal mic, or use an external sound recording device.

      The latter may not be a bad idea. The new fangled AF-F, Nikon's code for full time autofocus on video sounds brilliant, but sadly its execution is lacking.
      The autofocus uses a contrast detect method, meaning the camera is constantly searching for contrast to lock onto, and this manifests itself as the lens pretty much constantly moving its focus back and forth. Not only does this ruin your video, but the internal mic also picks up the sound of the lens gears moving the hunks of glass back and forth, and also ruins your soundtrack.
      A much better method is the old "half press of the shutter" to activate focus, or go old school and use manual focus for much smoother video.

      In conclusion. Despite its small form, its cheap price and its lightweight build, the D3100 can easilly hold its own against its bigger siblings.
      Sure, it may not have the fast framerate, the build quality or the wealth of indepth options that the likes of the D5100 or the D90, but for what it is, which is a first time, beginner camera, I dont think it can be beat.

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      • Sciatica / Health Problem / 75 Readings / 72 Ratings
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        26.11.2010 19:19
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        Long time coming, and hopefully worth the pain and stress.

        Although this is in the Sciatica section, only part of my problem is Sciatica. My main issue is my herniated disc and arthritis in my lower lumbar joints. Ive written a blog about my experience so far and would like to share it. Its not written in my usual Dooyoo style, as Its a blog post, so please remember this if you rate.

        Looks like my back surgery is going ahead... In Jaunuary :eek:

        I wasnt expecting it to be that soon, in fact the surgeon said I could have it in December, but I didnt fancy Xmas in bed.

        Im having a spinal fusion and discectomy in the L4/5 to S1. They are chopping a bit of my pelvis off to stick in the hole in the spine and then hold it in place with a metal cage.

        5 Days in hospital and at least 3 months off work. Going to be very hard, as I will only be getting £60 odd a week statutory sick pay, and I have a £650 a month mortgage to pay plus all the other bills on top. No more camera gear buying for me for a while.. :'(

        Kind of glad its finally being sorted, but kinda scared at the prospect of pretty big surgery and the financial side.

        I'll be updating this with stuff throughout the process, but below is a brief history up to this point.

        I started having back problems from a young age. I believe it to be from school, carrying heavy bags around all the time. As I grew older it progressed and got worse and worse, until in August 2009, whilst out walking the dog in the Forest of Dean, my legs just gave way and a huge burst of agonising pain shot down my legs and all around my lumbar region. Ive never felt pain like it, and was seriously worried. With the aid of a walking stick found in the woods and my wife supporting me, I just about managed to get back to the car and drive home. Once home I sat on the sofa and a few minutes later attempted to get up and just couldnt move. My wife was in the garden, and I tried calling for her but she couldnt hear. I was stuck on the sofa, locked in that position and there was nothing I could do. A short while later, she same back in and I was sat there sobbing. She asked what was wrong, and of course I told her. She manged to pull me up and as she let go, I just fell to the floor. My legs and back couldnt support me, and again the pain was incredible.
        Thankfully, I already had a doctors apointment booked for the next day,as during the previous week my back had been getting worse.

        My wife took me down there and I managed to hobble into the surgery. NowIm the type of person who never visits the doctor. Ive been twice in 24 years, so I dont ask for much. However this particular Doctor, whilst simpathetic, just wasnt very helpfull. Her advice was take a week off work and take some pain killers. If I was still like it in a week, come back.

        Well I did that and after a week it was not much better. I didnt book another doctor apointment straightaway, instead I went to see a highly reccomended Osteopath. He did some work on me that week, but it didnt have much of an effect. He reccomended I get an Xray so he and the Doctors could get a better view. By this time I could just about walk again unaided, but couldnt bend over at all, and was still in vast amounts of pain so I booked another apointment to see the doctor and went back the next week. Strangly it wasnt the same Doctor, but a male Doctor with the same surname as the previous one. He also was less than helpfull. When I mentioned the Osteopath had asked for an Xray, he looked at me like I called his Mother something obscene. He didnt seem to like being told what to do by an Osteopath. He pretty much berrated me for seeing one and scribbled down the Xray dept in the Hospital's phone number and sent me on my way.

        The story continues with another year and a bit of going backwards and fowards to the hospital and doctors. Ive been prescibed pretty much every drug under the sun, and seen every specialist in the hopsital. Ive had physio, accupuncture, drugs galore...
        Only now, at the end of November 2010 am I finally gettting something done about it. Although now I have most of my movement back, I am still in pain 24/7 and have some really bad days where I can barely move.
        In September I had some Facet joint injections to try and reduce the inflamation, but it wasnt succesfull. This process involved a day in hospital and having 6, 12" needles forced into my back and through to the spinal column. Steriods were then injected into the faucet (the gap between the vertabrae) This was a horrible and excrutiating proceedure. Not one I'd have again in a hurry.
        After another consulatation 3 months later, the pain clinic wanted me to undergo a futher 12 weeks of Physio. I said I wasnt really happy about this, and felt we had exhausted this line of treatment. I requested to be refered to the Orthapeadic surgeon, and 4 months on, this is where I have just arrived home from.

        Its been an expensive, time consuming and stressful experience, spanning well over a year. The NHS dont seem very phased at my pain and have made no real effort until now. Each appointment was usualy 3-4 months apart, and that included getting the results from the MRI scan I had last January. I have not been very impressed with the service, and even less so when a friend of mine with the same problem went to thier GP in August this year and is booked in for the surgery on the 8th Dec. Its taken her less than 2 months to get where I have in 1 1/2 years. She isnt private either, she just took a different route than me, her GP refered her straight to the MUSCAT service and they fastracked her through, whilst I was sent to the Pain clinic, and they have lived up to thier name buy inflicting me with 1 1/2's years of pain!

        Thankfully now things seem to progressing, and I will keep this updated every step of the way!

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        • Nikon Nikkor / Camera Lens / 57 Readings / 50 Ratings
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          23.11.2010 18:02
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          The Nifty fifty, lives up to its name.

          The Nikon 50mm f/1.8 has many variations, spanning over 50 years since its inception. For many years this lens was on the front of many photojournalists cameras, and has produced many hundreds of world famous images. This review will focus on the 50mm f/1.8D. The"D" denotes this lens is capable of telling the camera body distance information of the subject in focus, which the camera then uses for metering and I-TTL flash calculations. This particular variation of the lens was introduced in early 2002 and continued into late 2007.

          The 50mm f/1.8 uses Nikons standard F mount, meaning it will fit any Nikon SLR camera made since 1959 sharing this mounting system. As the lens has its own aperture ring, meaning this lens can also be used with older cameras without aperture controls on the body.

          The lens is made of plastic, but is still very solid and has a metal mount, which makes the lens more sturdy and less likely to break at the mount end. The lens contains 5 groups of 6 elements of glass which are multicoated to prevent glare and reflection as much as possible. The focus ring has a rubber coating for easier grip, and turns smoothly.

          The aperture diaphragm contains 7 straight blades and can be stopped down to f/22. This means very pleasing Bokeh, or out of focus areas with this lens, which is one of the reasons why it is so popular for portrait photography. You can make the subject really stand out and have a lovely pleasing out of focus background.

          One of the best features of the lens is its size. Measuring only 38mm, its is a very compact and easy to carry lens. Mounted on a modern DSLR, its hardly even noticeable. Another reason why this lens is so widely regarded. You can pop it in your bag, and it makes very little weight difference.

          Of course the main trick of this lens is its f/1.8 aperture. Whilst not the widest possible, its a vast difference to the f/3.5 which is common on most "kit lenses" that come with cameras. Not only does the f/1.8 aperture give you much greater creative control over your depth of field, it also gives you the advantage of being able to shoot in very low light, without having to increase your camera's ISO too high. Anyone who likes shooting in dark places, really needs one of these lenses!

          This particular version of the lens does not have its own focus motor and relies on the a camera's in built motor to auto focus. sadly this means many of Nikon's entry level cameras will not be able to auto focus with this lens. It is still able to be used with manual focusing, and you don't loose the metering through the lens. For anyone with a camera without an internal focus motor like the D40, D40X, D3000 etc, you will need to buy the much more expensive AF-S version of this lens.

          Not only does the lens have the features mentioned above, its also an incredibly sharp lens. When I say that, I mean the subject is well defined and not fuzzy around the edges, many lenses in this price range suffer from unsharp images, and can ruin your photos. Of course the camera variables can influence this, but when used in the correct environment, images will be very sharp throughout the aperture range, but especially so from f/2.8 to f/8. The lens is designed as an FX lens, so corner to corner sharpness is excellent. On a DX camera, the lens shines even more, as you are only using the lens's sweet spot in the middle. Because of the lens's large aperture, the auto focusing all all compatible cameras is very swift. Not as fast or as quiet as an AF-S lens, but certainly not far away, and in my opinion, if you don't need the AF-S, save your money and get the D version. Both are as sharp as each other, and this one costs a lot less!

          The lens has a filter ring thread of 52mm, so filters are very easy to come by should you wish to use them, the front element does not rotate, so circular polarizers are fine to use. The lens's closet focus distance is about 1.5 feet, so not brilliant, but enough for most subjects. Being a prime lens with no zoom, you will need to move yourself to get the images you want and to get past the 1.5 feet.

          The reason I titled this review the way I did, is because of all the features I have discussed in this review. If you are new to photography, you may be thinking the worst, expecting a massive price tag. However you would be wrong. This lens can be had brand new for as little as £75, which makes it one of the cheapest in Nikons range, and certainly amongst one of the sharpest lenses they make. When you take all this into consideration, its hard to see how they fit so much into the lens and still price it so low. My other Nikon lenses cost several hundreds of pounds, and my main lens the 24-70mm f/2.8 cost over £1000, yet this little 50mm can still produce images just as sharp, and costs only £75!

          For that money you are getting a slim, lightweight, sharp, large aperture lens that can keep up with the big boys and produce stunning low light portraits, or capture the worlds most important events.
          With the aid of a reversing ring and some extension tubes it can also capture life size macro images at a fraction of the cost of a dedicated macro lens. This lens, despite its 50mm only focal length is one of the most versatile lenses you can buy.

          Any Nikon photographer should have this lens in their bag, and should use it at any available opportunity.

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          • HP LP2475w / LCD Monitor / 70 Readings / 70 Ratings
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            18.11.2010 16:55
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            A top quality IPS that is affordable.

            I have just taken delivery of this beast, as an early Xmas present from my lovely wife. For the past few years I have been using a 24" iMac, and also a 19 inch LCD screen on my PC.

            I still use the iMac for photography editing, but I also wanted to use my computer for the same, and the 19" screen just wasn't suitable. I spent hours trawling reviews about which monitor to buy. So many reviews focus on gaming, and thats not my primary concern. My main concern is photo editing, and how the images look on the screen. In the end, I narrowed it down to 3 or 4 monitors, mostly the Dell Ultrasharp range, but whilst reading reviews on them, I came across an article comparing the HP LP2475W and some of the Dell range. As I read further, it became clear that this monitor was a pretty good buy and compared very favorably to the much more expensive Dell monitors.

            When I started looking, I knew I wanted at least 24 inches ( doesn't every man?). I wanted this to maximise my workspace, and to sit proudly next to my 24" iMac. Another key point was the ability to swivel the monitor into portrait mode, as when editing portrait photos, this makes the full image visible and easy to work on. I also wanted a monitor with an IPS panel, as opposed to the more common TN panel for reasons described below.

            **TECH COMMENTS ALERT** Please skip this is you don't care about the differences of LCD monitors!

            IPS stands for In-plane switching. This means the liquid crystal cells align in a horizontal direction and electricity is passed through each end. This type of panel is more desirable as the viewing angle of the monitor is greatly increased and the picture is much better due to the panel's better colour reproduction, essential in photography.

            TN stands for twisted nematic. This system operates by the liquid crystals twisting in different degrees to let the light through. Electricity is passed through only when needed, and therefore a TN panel used less electricity than other types. The major downside with a TN panel is the viewing angle is greatly decreased, and colours are not always representational of the true colour. TN panels are traditionally much cheaper to produce, hence they are more common.

            **TECH OVER!!**

            The HP LP2475W has an H-IPS LCD screen, produced by LG and has a contrast ratio of 1000:1. In English this means that the screen can go very white, and very black. The screen sports a resolution of 1920x1200 and a response time of 5ms. For my uses the responce time isn't very important, but for gamers, the lower the number the better, so this one is actually pretty good. My iMac has a response time of 16ms!

            The monitor has a huge array of connections, infact more than most will ever need, HP really went all out with this. On the underside of the monitor, you can find 2x DVI-I ports , HDMI port, DisplayPort, Component Video, S-Video, and Composite Video. On top of this, the monitor also has 6 USB ports, 4 underneath and two on the left hand side. Thats a lot of connectivity, even for a very expensive monitor. It also has an audio plug, for the optional sound bar that mounts on the bottom of the screen.

            Upon opening the box to the monitor, I saw that HP spared no expense. To go along with all the connections on the monitor, HP have provided the cables for every connection. This includes two HDMI cables, a mini and normal, DVI to VGA, DVI to DVI, Displayport, S video, USB and both a UK and USA power cable. This is staggering, considering most companies usually just supply the very basics and expect you to fork out for the rest should you need them.

            The screen mounts on a huge and weighty plastic and metal base. It has a really nifty quick lock system. Simply slide the monitor on the the base and it clips in securely. To take it off, press the release button and off it comes. This is especially handy, as the monitor is pretty weighty itself, weighing in at 9.1 Kg. The base has a rather large footprint, it needs to to hold the mass of the monitor up, but it does take up a lot of room on a desk, the actual mount also sticks a long way out. I have mine right up against the all, and the monitor sticks out a good 7-8 inches from the wall. Despite this, the mount allows a vast range of movement, from height, swivel, tilt, and the aforementioned portrait mode. The base has two other very useful features, the first being two cable tidies built in behind rubber flaps, and the second is a little tray on the top of the base to keep your pens and other little desk goodies in.
            If required, the screen can also be mounted on the wall using a VESA mount.

            Once all set up, its time to turn the monitor on using the power button on the front bezel of the screen. At first, nothing happened and I started to panic. Then I realised that it had an actual ON/OFF switch on the back. How rare is that in this day and age. So when not in use, you can actually turn the power fully off, and not just onto standby mode like so many electricals these days. Once powered up, the monitor automatically scans for which ports are in use and selects the first one. In my case only the first DVI port was being used to it switched to it.

            At first the screen had a very strange hue to it, but I was expecting this. After letting the screen warm up for about an hour, I calibrated it using a Spyder3 and then I got to see the full glory of the screen. I loaded some of my favourite pictures onto the screen and was very pleased with the contrast the images had now taken. On my previous monitor, things often looked washed out and bland, even after calibration. The HP has the blackest blacks and bright punchy whites. Colours are gradual and smooth with no blockyness. In high contrast pictures, like a bright sunset, the monitor shows them how they should be without the horrible pixelation and banding you can often find on lesser models.
            If you don't have your own calibration tool, the monitor has a whole host of settings to change to get the right picture, from brightness and contrast, to colour temperature sliders and sRGB sliders. Another major plus for me, is this monitor has a matte screen. Nothing annoys me more than a glossy screen with its horrible reflections!

            The in screen menu is reasonably easy to navigate. You have 7 buttons on the front face of the monitor to access all the settings and change them. The are easy to see and press and clearly labeled. The bezel itself is a dark grey/black with a matte finish so not to many annoying reflections and finger prints.

            I should talk about price, well this isn't a cheap monitor as such, but its not expensive compared to some of its counter parts, and thankfully I got (well the wife got) a very deal on this one.
            Prices start at around £560 and down to about £420. I got mine for just under £300 delivered as it was an ex demo, but in mint condition with a full 1 year warranty.
            When you consider what you are getting, and compare it to some of the more expensive rivals, you will soon see this is excellent value for money. Not only are you getting a huge connectivity range, but a massive 24" IPS panel at the price of some manufacturers standard TN LCD panels.

            I'm very glad I found the review of this monitor that I did, other wise I could have been spending a lot more money than I needed to, on perhaps a screen not as good.

            Very highly reccomeneded!!

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            • Canon EOS 50D / Digital Camera / 72 Readings / 70 Ratings
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              10.11.2010 17:40
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              A good all rounder and a great upgrade from a lower end body.

              The 50D was released almost a exactly a year after its predecessor the 40D, however Canon were quick to claim it was not intended to be the 40D's replacement. The two cameras co-existed for several months before the 40D was finally phased out.

              The 50D continued where the 40D left off, and contains some seemingly minor but important updates. The main one has to be the new 15.1Mp CMOS sensor, quite a leap from the 40D's 10.1Mp. This new sensor is a complete new design and measures in 22.3 x 14.9 mm making it a standard Canon APS-C size with approximately 1.6 crop compared to a 35mm full frame sensor. Despite the rise in resolution, this sensor seems to control noise better than the 40D at higher ISO's. Its a tough call for Canon to make, but they seem intent on rising mega pixels with each new release, where as Nikon are concentrating on getting the best performance out of the lower megapixel sensors they currently have. This could be a clever marketing ploy, as most consumers instantly think more megapixels are better, but this simply is not the case. More mega pixels on a small sensor often mean more noise in your image, as the sheer amount of information the sensor has to gather in such as tiny space becomes overwhelming. Luckily for Canon, the increase in the 50D's resolution appears not to have had any untoward side effects. The sensor unit also contains Canons self cleaning system, helping to keep your sensor clean and dust free.

              Other differences include a new 3 inch high resolution VGA screen, a massive step up from the 40D and an all new Digic 4 processor, which adds much faster performance in the menus and image processing.
              The 50D also now conatins 3 live view modes, Quick mode which uses Phase detect, Live view mode, which uses contrast detect and Face detect mode which again uses contrast detect.

              The body of the 50D is pretty much identical to the 40D, with only a few minor cosmetic differences. The button layout is identical, however some have changed function, and have added or reduced functionality.
              Strangely the 50D actually weighs ever so slightly less than the 40D at 822g with the battery. However it still has the same robust magnesium alloy body.


              Handling the 50D, you realize what a solidly built thing it is. The camera feels good quality, although compared to an equivalent Nikon model, I feel the plastic parts of the body are a bit scratchy and cheap feeling, however the camera fits nicely in the hand with its big grip, allowing your fingers to wrap tightly around it. The shutter button is perfectly placed and the body has a smart shaped part that your finger naturally falls into. I would say this is actually more comfortable in that respect than the vastly more pricey Nikon D700. There are no front buttons on the right hand side of the 50D, instead all of the buttons to change settings are found infront of the large top LCD. These buttons are quite small and rounded, and can sometimes be quite fiddly to press, especially in cold weather when you have gloves on. These buttons along with a small rubberised wheel behind the shutter release button and a large scroll wheel on the back of the body, allow you to change most of the basic settings of the camera like shutter speed, ISO, White Balance and more. A smaller joystick type button also allows navigation of the menus, or to change the focus point. Further buttons on the back of the camera allow you to change the focus point, AF-ON, AE-Lock and zoom for when you are reviewing pictures.
              Along the bottom of the LCD are further buttons to perform operations, mainly when in the menu and reviewing your pictures. The 50D has a large mode dial on the top left hand side, plated in some sort of silver material. Canon's reason for this was for better visibility, however I think it looks a bit cheap. The dial has a positive, if not slight stiff action, but this is needed as there is no lock button, so its quite easy to knock the camera into a different mode by accident. The dial contains the usual M,Av,Tv, and P settings but also has a number of auto modes, such as sport, portrait, landscape and fully auto. This means whatever the situation, you will find a mode that suits you. I personally only tend to use fully manual (M) and aperture priority mode (Av).

              The viewfinder, as expected on a APS-C camera is quite small, but its bright and has a 95% coverage of the frame, meaning their will be 5% of the finished image you don't see in the viewfinder. When viewing through it, there is a bright display with al the essential information abut the set up of the camera, like the shutter speed, aperture and ISO. There is also an exposure meter in selected modes.
              The focus points are permanently displayed in the viewfinder, with the active ones lighting up when selected. Unlike the Nikon range, you cannot display a grid in the viewfinder without purchasing a new focus screen and fitting it inside the camera.

              The camera takes one Compact flash memory card which is inserted into the camera from the side. It is located behind a sprung door. This door has no lock, so there is a small possibility of the door being accidently opened and broken. The battery fits into the camera from the bottom, and the battery door is opened with a small recessed tab you pull back. The battery clips into place, so there is no danger of it falling out.

              The camera's image quality is very good indeed. Images are crisp and clear when using a good lens, and the colours are bright and vivid. Canon have always seemed to have a creamy appearance to their images, which is quite pleasing and very much suited to portraits. The ISO range is from 100-12800. Up to ISO 1600 noise is pretty well controlled, although after ISO 400 there is certainly noise visible. I feel comfortable shooting up to ISO 1600, as long as I can do some noise reduction in post processing. After ISO 1600, you start to loose a lot of detail and the images don't look very pleasant. I'd only use ISO 3200 and above in a real emergency.
              Because of the new Digic 4 processor, the extra resolution of the camera doesn't slow down the continuous burst very much at all. The camera can still shoot at 6.3 FPS in 16 bit RAW mode, which is not bad considering the 10 MP 40D could only achieve 6.5 FPS. In the real world, this is not noticeable, so the 50D seems very quick indeed. Obviously a fast and large CF card will aid you in shooting long continuos bursts. The autofocus uses 9 points, which in most circumstances are fine, however fast moving action may be a problem and in bad light the camera can struggle to find focus. For slower, more relaxed stuff though, the autofocus is fine. One huge plus for this camera is the addition of AF microadjust. If you have a lens that seems to be back or front focusing, you no longer have to send the camera and the lens in for calibration. You can now do it yourself. The camera also "remembers" the lens and so once you have calibrated it, each time you attach the lens, the camera automatically adjusts the AF to what you set it as. This alone was the reason a lot of people upgraded to the 50D from lower models.

              In day to day use, the 50D is a solid performer, with excellent image quality and a pretty good High ISO range. For me, the only thing that lets it down is the ergonomics and the button layout. This is purely a personal thing, as I know many people love the layout, and I'm pretty sure its because I am a long time Nikon user. Some of the buttons are fiddly, and I didn't like the big scroll wheel for selecting things on the move. I found the power button to be in completely the wrong place, meaning I had to keep the camera switched on at all times, incase I missed a shot fumbling around trying to turn the camera on.

              The 50D is now a few years old, and although it hasn't been officially discontinued yet, the 60D seems to have taken its place. The 60D however has no where near the build quality of the 50D, and some say, it shouldn't even be a XX range camera. Its getting hard to find brand new stock of the 50D, but when you can the body alone is usually priced around £550-650. This keeps it slap bang in the middle of the lesser spec 550D and the higher spec 7D. Exactly were canon wanted it. There are a lot of used 50D's coming onto the market now and can be found for as little as £450, which makes it an excellent upgrade from an older body, or for someone wanting to expand their gear with a more heavy duty and robust camera.

              There are a few foibles I personally don't like about the 50D, but overall its a fantastically specced camera for a pretty reasonable price. You really cant argue with that!

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              • Nikon D700 / Digital Camera / 47 Readings / 41 Ratings
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                08.11.2010 22:57
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                The best small form full frame camera money can buy.

                In 2008, something happened in the DSLR world that changed the game.
                In the past, the class leading High ISO cameras were the hellishly expensive Canon 1 series. Nikon were seriously lagging with the D2 series, although this camera was a hardy workhorse, it just couldn't keep up with the resolution and low noise properties of the high end Canons.

                Just before the release of the D700, Nikon introduced the new flagship D3. This was heralded as breakthrough camera with world class leading High ISO capability and top quality functionality. It was Nikons first foray into full frame sensors, something Canon had been well ahead of. Sadly, it also had the price tag to match and was out of reach of most except professional photographers.

                There were stirrings in the Nikon rumour mill. Talk of a mini D3, something experienced enthusiasts might just be able to afford. All sorts of ideas were flung around forums, and not long leaks from inside sources started to confirm the rumours.

                Then in July 2008, the rumours stopped, and the facts were unveiled.

                Nikon had produced a body that resembled the lesser spec D300 but stuffed a 36.0 x 23.9mm sized FX sensor inside it, as found in the D3. This sensor contains 12.87 million pixels and produces and image size of
                4,256 x 2,832. Not only did they manage to do this, but they also added an anti dust system to the sensor, something the D3 lacked. A compromise had to be made though. In order to fit in this new system, the viewfinder had to made slightly smaller, giving only 95% coverage as opposed to the D3's 100%. This may sound small, but remember, this is 95% of a full frame sensor approximately double the size of a DX sensor, so even at 95% you have a huge, clear and bright viewfinder to look through. If you are used to DX cameras, the first look through a D700 viewfinder is something quite extraordinary.

                Other key features announced were the inclusion of the same Multi-CAM3500FX Auto Focus sensor (51-point, 15 cross-type sensors) as the D3 and auto-focus tracking by colour (using information from 1005-pixel AE sensor). This combined makes for a truly swift and precise autofocus system. The body, as expected was announced as a magnesium alloy chassis with full weather sealing. This is found in all Nikon's pro range models and makes for an extremely tough camera. The d700 shared many of the same features as the D3, so the rumours were correct in thinking of a "mini D3". There were however some differences, which many found disappointing. The D700 only has 1 Compact flash card slot as opposed to the D3's two. The d700 has a lower frame rate of just 5FPS, or boosted to 8FPS with the optional and quite pricey MB-10 battery grip. Another point of concern to many was the inclusion of a built in pop up iTTL flash (G.No 17 / ISO 200). This was the first for a professional range camera and many thought it watered down the range. I however think it's a great inclusion. Not so much for the actual flash itself, but for the commander mode to fire other flashes remotely. To do this on the D3, you would need a very pricey commander unit that sits in the hotshoe, as well as your off camera flashes. This works by firing several very fast flashes that don't add to the overall scene but allow the off camera flashes too see it and fire themselves. A very clever and very useful system. This even works in iTTL when using Nikon's CLS system with Nikon speedlights. Yes that right, iTTL wireless flash!!

                The D700 dimensions are 147 x 123 x 77 mm and it weighs in at 995g without the battery and a hefty 1075g with the battery. This is not a light camera, and once you have added a lens, you are talking at least 1.5KG.
                The weight however can work in its favour when using long heavy lenses as it makes for a more balanced unit.
                The camera despite being slightly larger than the D300, still fits in the hand comfortably. It has a deep grip which your fingers can grasp securely. All the buttons fall instantly to hand, or thumb and this is what keeps me with Nikon Cameras. Their ergonomics just can't be beaten. I recently bought a Canon Eos 50D, and swiftly sold it again, as the handling, grip and button placement was nowhere near as good as any Nikon body I have tried.

                The D700's 3.0 " TFT LCD monitor contains approx. 920,000 pixels (VGA; 640 x 480 x 3 colours) which gives a 170° viewing angle and 100% frame coverage during live view. The screen dominates the rear of the camera and is a joy to view.
                To the left hand side of the screen are the menu, lock, zoom in, zoom out and OK buttons. This buttons are only used when navigating the menus and reviewing the images you have taken. Above to the left of the screen are the play and delete buttons, again only used for playback. On the right hand side of the camera, the main operation buttons, which are all within reach of a finger or thumb for easy operation whilst shooting. Each button is in a logical place, and it's really easy to change any setting without moving your eye from the eyepiece.
                The top right on the back is the AE-L button combined with a twist switch to change your metering mode and beside that the AF-ON button. Beside these is a big rubberised horizontal scroll wheel. This is your main command dial, which either on its own or in combination with other buttons, changes a vast range of settings on the camera.

                To the right of the LCD is the multiselect button used to change focus points, navigate menus and pan around taken photos. This also has a lock switch to prevent accidental adjustment. Below this is the focus area mode toggle switch and below that, a new inclusion the INFO button. This button has taken the place of the CF card door open lever that has been found on most Nikon DSLR's. Now instead of this lever to open the door, you simply pull it open. Some people find this a problem and think the door will be opened accidently and broken, but I never had this happen and can't see it happening any time soon.

                Looking down onto the camera, we have another large screen, this time the top control panel. This contains lots of information about the current set up of the camera including selected focus point, ISO, aperture, shutter speed, WB and a lot more. To the front of this screen are the buttons to change the selected mode. The D700 does away with the common P,A,S,M dial in favour for a button which combined with the command dial changes the selection and shows it in the aforementioned top LCD. Beside this is the exposure compensation button, and in front of this is the combined ON/OFF and shutter button. On the front of the camera just below the ON/OFF button is another big rubberised wheel, this time, the sub command dial. Again this can be used alone or in combination with other buttons to change settings. This method works very well, as you can easily change every setting using either your thumb on the back wheel or a finger on the front. This was something I missed a lot from the Canon 50D.
                On the left hand side on the top of the camera lies a dial, topped with 3 buttons. These buttons change the White balance, ISO, and file type/quality in combination with either the front or real rubber wheels. The dial below controls the drive mode of the camera, either single frame, low speed continuous, high speed continuous, Live view, Self timer and Mirror lockup. This dial is turned by pressing a small lock button to the top left of the dial. This prevents accidental changes.

                I could go into great detail about how to change each and every setting, but there is such a vast range, it would take a long time. Instead I will just get down to it. What's it like to use?
                Frankly, stunning. The images from the camera are sharp, crisp and colourful. The dynamic range is slightly higher than that of a comparable DX camera due to the much larger sensor, meaning that the highlight and shadow detail can be resolved in greater detail. This gives you a bit more headroom when photographing high contrast scenes.
                The High ISO is something this camera is famed for. It seems to eat light, when there doesn't appear to be any. Shots up to ISO 1600 are mainly noise free and perfectly usable. Infact shots up to ISO 3200 are perfectly usable. Things only start to get a bit noisy above 12800 but are still useable. Only the highest at 25600 is reserved for emergencies. That was unheard of only a few years ago and still to this day is rare.
                The sheer quality of the images at the High ISO settings is outstanding and still amazes me. I can happily set the Auto ISO function up to ISO 1600, and really not worry when it needs to utilise this, as an ISO 1600 image really isn't much different from an ISO 400 one.

                However the high ISO isn't just this camera's speciality. Autofocus is one of the best in class, and is fast and snappy even in low light. The camera has 51 AF sensors, 15 of which are the more sensitive cross types. Combined with a f/2.8 or higher lens, the camera can pretty much focus on anything, in any light. The tracking is superb, it will follow a bird around the frame with ease and in a sports situation is second to none. The 51 points fill most of the frame, so wherever your subject lies, there is usually a focus point on it. The camera can also use more than one point for super accurate focus.

                For some, this camera could be too much. The choice of options and customisations is bewildering. It takes some serious manual reading to get to grips with all the things you can do. This is not a camera for the feint of heart or the beginner to DSLR. This is a professional camera, for professional users, and the lucky experienced amature. On top of that, it takes dedication to carry this lump around all day. If you are used to a pocket sized compact, you will be in for one big shock carrying this around all day.

                One point I have yet to focus on is the price. If have made it this far into the review, I'm guessing either A) you have nothing else to do, or B) you are very interested in this camera. If it's the latter, you are probably aware this isn't a cheap camera. Current prices are hanging around £1500-£1700 for the body only and has been this price for several years. Its showing no sign of dropping for at least another year when we can expect its replacement..
                You may think that it's an obscene amount of money for a camera, but when you consider the D3 was almost double, and you are effectively getting the same camera, with a few extras and a few bits taken off, it doesn't sound so bad. When you also consider you are getting a rugged, professional, super quality camera again it's not too bad. This should be looked at as an investment. If you need the quality this camera produces, you are probably looking at taking photos to sell, so this will be a tool. A very good tool at that.

                A thing worth mentioning is the lenses a camera of this calibre needs to fulfil its potential. If you put cheap glass in front of the sensor, you won't get the results you hope for. You will need to spend some more money to get the quality of glass this camera deserves. The choice of most is the Nikkor 24-70mm f.2.8. This will set you back another £1200 or so brand new. This may sound a lot, but the quality of the lens matches the quality of the camera. Of course there are cheaper alternatives that won't impact the quality a great deal, but I feel if you are spending this sort of money on a camera, you should furnish it with lenses to match. You wouldn't stick budget tyres on a Ferrari Enzo would you?

                I may update this review with more in depth details in the coming weeks, but there is so much to write about, it will take a while. Consider this a work in progress!

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                • Giotto's Q.ball / Photo Accessory / 78 Readings / 74 Ratings
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                  12.05.2010 20:17
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                  A cheap, but highly effective cleaning method.

                  Dust is just one of a photographers worst nightmares. In the world of SLR and DSLR cameras, changing lenses is one of those necesary evils. You need to do it quick. Balance between getting the old lens off and new lens on is a skill itself without dropping anything. No matter how fast you can do it, dust will always find itself in the dark depths of your cameras innards.

                  But what harm can a little bit of dust do?, I hear you ask.. Well quite a lot actually. Not only can its gunk up the workings of the shutter and mirror in the camera, its can scratch the glass inside and potentially ruin your images. There is nothing worse, getting an amazing shot and then coming to review it on the PC and seeing large blotches of dust all over the image.

                  The effect of magnification and aperture in the camera can mean minute dust spots actually appear very large. Although computer software can help remove these, its best to avoid it in the first place.

                  The Giotos Q.ball is made from a tough but environmentaly friendly silica that is tear proof and resistant to high and low temperatures. It is shaped much like a rocket, or as I found out in a Polish airport, a hand grenade. That experience took a lot diplomatic talking and hand gestures...and a new change of underwear!!

                  The Q.ball works by sucking in air when you squeeze and release it through its dust proof airvent on the bottom and then pushing the air out at high speed through its long adjustable nozzle. The nozzle has a 60 degree arc of movement fowards and backwards, and also a sturdy tripod base, so you can sit it on a table and adjust the nozzle to point into the area you want to clear. This method means nothing ever touches the inside of the camera, so there is no risk of damaging anything, as can be the case with other sensor cleaning devices if the upmost care isnt taken.

                  One or two blasts of the Q.ball removes all but the most stuborn dust particles and in my experience is all I have needed to use to keep my lenses and the inside of my DSLR's clean and dust free.

                  Of course the Q.ball isnt just restricted to cameras. Computer keyboards are notorious for picking up dust, and if you are like me, crumbs too. Again, a few blasts with the Q.ball remove all these effortlessly. I also use mine to clean my bass guitars, drums and sometimes even my desk.

                  The Q.ball comes in black, red or blue, and also you can get slightly different shaped ones. One more elongated and one more stubby that the one pictured here which stands at 140mm and is 67mm wide at the widest point. It wieghs in at a super light 66g so is not even noticable in your kit bag.

                  Priced at between £5-£7 from all major camera retailers, this is a very cheap way to keep your equipment clean and will last for years to come. A must have for any photographer.

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                  • More +
                    11.05.2010 21:18
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                    A barginous app that I couldnt be without.

                    If you own an iPhone, there a certain number of apps that are "must haves".
                    Depending on your lifestyle of course, these can vary and for me my must haves include mapping, gps logging and a bass tuner!

                    I love walking and running, and I also love Greenlaning (the use of a vehicle on an unclassified road or byway) We all know many footpaths are signposted, but its always
                    recomended to have an OS map with you incase you loose the trail, or find yourself somewhere where you thought you wernt. Previously, this meant carrying around a selction of paper OS maps, which at about £6.99 a map was a costly affair. Not to mention a pain trying to hold the map out on a windy day plotting your location.

                    There have been many attempts at bringing OS maps to handheld devices, and most of them succesful. However many beyond the reach of a mere walker like me where its not worth the massive outlay for such devices. This is where the RoadTour Outdoors OS maps for the iPhone step in.

                    This is a verified app on the Apple App store and can be found by searching Outdoors OS maps.
                    Currently the app is actually 13 apps. Each one representing a region of the UK at 1:50k for the selected region and 1:25 for the rest of the country. Anyone who uses traditional OS maps will know that a region is quite small,hence there being hundreds of OS Maps. The brilliant thing with this app(s) is that the regions are huge. The South West region covers the whole of Cornwall, Dorset, Gloucestershire and parts of Worcestershire, Devon and Wiltshire. To buy all these in paper maps would cost several hundred pounds, and you would have a huge pile of paper to contend with. This makes this app exceedingly good value for money, even though its £14.99 per region seems expensive at first look.

                    The app itself is very slick. It opens in a view of the whole country and a blue pulsing dot shows where you are using the iPhones built in GPS. One click of the bottom left icon and the map instantly zooms into your exact location to a scale of 1:50k. This scale is commonly known as Explorer in the paper maps and it shows all footpaths, roads, watercouses, elevations and other useful information such as churches, pubs and schools.
                    To navigate around the map, you simply use your finger to move around the page. The maps are stored in your phones memory, so there is no lag and no need to be connected to the internet. This means the maps work seemlessly as you move around. To zoom in or out, simply use the pinch technique that many iPhone apps use.

                    The GPS in my experience is very accurate. I have followed footpaths throughout my area and the map has showed me on them exactly. Deviate a little and the blue dot marking your position moves with you.
                    The maps have literally hundreds of footpaths showed on them, some which you may not have known exsited. With this app, you can now explore them safely, knowing you are not tresspassing and also with the added security of finding your way back again.

                    Inside the app, you can seach place names, making finding certain places very easy. You can also search using grid references or Lat/long data. Another cool feature is you can make your own routes or download routes from the app creators. At the moment these routes are limited, but in time more will be added. To create your own routes, you simply navigate in the map, and put placemarks along the route. Once completed, the app tells you how long the route is and allows you to save it for future use. You can also import routes from everytrail.com which has many hundreds of routes.

                    The only downside to this app I can find, is it drains battery life quite quickly. In constant use, it lasts maybe 2 or 3 hours. I have found the best way is to get onto a foot path using the app and then keep checking back at regular intervalls instead of keeping the app on all the time. Also the app would benefit from a realtime compass as found in other similar (but miuch more expensive) apps.

                    As mentioned before, curently the app is 13 seperate apps relating to the regions, but I believe the developers are hoping to merge the apps so you just have 1 app with the maps contained in it and you will then be able to move regions without closing one and opening another.

                    This app is must have for the tech savvy rambler, walker or 4x4 driver, although for the latter you must always consult your local byways officer before driving any of the UCR's and byways shown in the app. The app is constantly being developed and in my view is a bargain at the price it is for the amount of mapping data you get.

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                    • More +
                      06.05.2010 15:59
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                      My favourite chocolate bar!

                      ***Background***
                      Blue Riband have a special place in my heart. My Grandparents always used to bring a packet of these with them, along with Salt n shake crisps and Corned beef rolls when they visited us at my parents house two or three times a year.

                      Strangly being young I actually got more excitied at the prospect of having a Blue Riband than I did at seeing my Grandparents..

                      ***What are they***
                      Blue Ribands are a milk chocloate covered wafer bar, about 4-5 inches in length and very light in weight. Each bar contains 99 calories, 4.9g of fat of which 3.1g is saturated fat.

                      Blue Ribands are made by Nestle and come in striking blue packaging with the Nestle logo in red and large Blue Riband Logo in white. The bars are rarely available as singles, but come in packs of 9 or 18 bars at approx £1.39 and £2.19 respectivley.

                      Recently a Dark chocloate version of the bar has also been released, but Im not a fan of dark chocolate, so will leave that review to someone else.

                      ***To eat***

                      Although these bars were originaly made in the late 1930's, not much has changed despite various relaunches, the latest being in 2004. The bar has stayed pretty much the same size and in the same format.
                      Upon opening the bar, you are greeted with a light brown milky chocolate covering the wafer. The top of the bar is slightly rippled and the bottom is hatched, presumably from the moulding process.
                      A bite into the bar reveals a crisp and sometimes quite hard crunch. The layers of wafer tend to crumble, meaning this can be a messy bar to eat if not careful. Looking at the bar, you see several layers of wafer, with chocolate inbetween the layers. This can vary wildly between bars. The bar Im eating now has little evidence of chocolate between the layers, wheras other I have eaten have had a significant layer in between the wafer. The chocolate surrounding the wafer on the outside is actually pretty thin, so in a chocolate/wafer ratio, the wafer is significantly more.

                      ***The taste***
                      The taste, as one might expect is very, well..wafery (my new word for the day!) The chocolate sits in the background, and lets the wafer taste dominate the mouth. The wafer is sweet, and crunchy, not cardboardy like some others. There is a slight aftertaste of the chocolate as it melts in the mouth. The chocloate is good quality and not bitter. Nestle know what that are doing when making chocolate, and although I prefer Cadburys generally, in this bar its more than adequate.
                      The wafer becomes chewier as you devour the bar, and I often find a slight build up of wafer left in my teeth after a bar. This may sound not very pleasant, but it continues the enjoyment of the bar for some time after you have finished it. Beware if you are going out, or visiting the dentist though!!

                      ***Conclusions***
                      Blue Riband is one of my favourite chocoalte bars. With the sentimental history, and just the pleasant taste and lightness of the bar, makes it my first choice for lunch. I can also try and kid myself, that at only 99 calories, it isnt expanding my waist atnthe same time.
                      At any time of the day, a Blue Riband is a nice little snack that isnt to filling, but is just right to fill a hole, or to take away the urge to nibble on something. My personal preference is woth a nice cup of tea at lunch time!!




                      **Ingredients**

                      Milk chocolate (45%) (Sugar, Dried Whole Milk, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Mass, Whey Powder, Vegetable Fat, Lactose, Emulsifiers (Soya Lecithin, E476), Butterfat, Flavouring), Wheat Flour, Sugar, Vegetable Fat, Fat-Reduced Cocoa Powder, Raising Agent (Sodium Bicarbonate).

                      **Dietary Information**

                      Suitable for Vegetarians
                      Free From Eggs
                      Free From Nuts
                      Free From Artificial Colours
                      Free From Artificial Sweeteners
                      Free From Artificial Preservatives

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                      • More +
                        05.05.2010 18:57
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                        A great little package with big features, well worth the money.

                        I only recieved this camera today, so this is my first thoughts review and not fully indepth . I shall add to it and amend it as time goes on. Not all functions of the camera will be discussed straight away, and some things Im not even sure what they do yet! Please bear this mind when rating and please keep checking back for updates as I get to know the camera better and discuss all its properties in more detail.


                        ***Background***
                        I am an avid photographer and have had my fair share of high end and prosumer DSLRS. I started with a Nikon D50, then progressed to a D200, top of the range D700 and then down to a D90.
                        Due to a house move and health issues, I had to sell all my DSLR equipment and found myself cameraless for the first time in many years. I started on the lookout for a compact but powerful camera that could provide me with the manual control and picture quality of a DSLR, but in a smaller package.
                        One reason I wanted to avoid a DSLR this time around was the inconvenice of carrying a bag of lenses around with me. Everytime I went out somewhere with my camera, I also had 5 or 6 lenses to cart around "just in case" that golden shot provided itself. I always knew if I didnt take my macro lens or my super telephoto, I'd miss a shot and regret not taking the lens. This meant I had a backpack full of lenses and it weighed well over 40KG. With the back problems I have, this is not good on a days hiking. This often meant I'd not take any camera at all, and miss any shot.

                        So my mind was made up,I wanted a small all in one camera. But then I had the dilema of the limited zoom range most compact and bridge cameras offer. Thankfully, with the aid of the internet, I soon discovered the so called "super zoom" cameras. These as thier name suggests have a massive zoom range, one that to acheive similar in a DSLR would require several thousand pounds worth of lenses.

                        As usual there is a myraid of choice when it comes to super zoom cameras. all the major manufactures have at least 1 model, and seem intent on releasing more and more in the race to have the biggest and best camera. Many people are suckered in to this race, when camera companys release the same camera but with a slightly higher megapixel count. In the real world, this means nothing, and can actualy decrease image quality rather than improve it. 6 MegaPixels is more than enough for anyone printing up to A3 size, with 10MP being a good comprimise.


                        ***Why the Canon***
                        So after much research, I had come to the conclusion that the Canon Powershot SX1 IS would suit me well. The things that sold it for me, were the manual control, sensor type, the zoom range and the Full 1080p HD video. I watched and read many reviews and also studied many sample images and videos before making my choice and later on, I shall go into detail about these and just why I picked this camera.
                        This particular camera cost me £270 from Ebay. It is a refurbished unit direct from Canon UK. Brand new, this camera can cost up to £500 at some retailers, with £350-400 being the average price. The refurbished unit comes with 1 year full warranty, and I think a bit of bargain!.

                        *** What is it?***
                        The Canon Powershot SX1 IS has a 1/2.3" 10 megapixel CMOS sensor which is the same type of sensor usually seen in DSLR's albeit a much smaller version. Most compacts have the smaller and more noise prone CCD sensor. It uses Canon's well respected Digic 4 processor, also found in thier DSLR range. The camera has a 2.8" TFT screen that folds out and rotates. The screen can be reversed and folded back into the body for protection.
                        The lens is a Canon own brand with its Ultrasonic motor for whisper quiet zoom and Image Stabiltiy. The optical zoom range is quoted as 20X, which means in 35mm terms, the zoom is from 28mm at the wide end, to 560mm at the long end. This is a vast zoom. It also has extra reach using a digital zoom, but this decreases quality and is not reccomended unless absolutely necesary. The lens has a respectable maximum aperture of f/2.8 at the wide end up to f/5.7 at the long end. The camera has a number of auto and scene modes, plus the manual controls I mentioned earlier.
                        The camera sits nicely in the hand and at around 600g with batteries, is nice and light too. The camera has a very useful hotshoe on the top for an external flash. The camera takes 4 AA bateries. This is useful, as they are easily bought when out and about, but do not last as long as some other types of camera battery. The media is stored on SD or SDHC cards. Class 6 cards are recomended for HD video capture.


                        ***In use***
                        So, we know why I got it, and what it does, but how does it actually perform? Coming from a DSLR background, I expect instant start up, and instant shooting. Obviously this isnt a DSLR, and so wont perform as well as one, but I shall try to be honest about it.
                        First impressions out of the box are overal good. Its actually larger than I imagined, but still not oversized. It looks smart and well made. The body is made from plastic, which does feel a little scratchy to the touch, but again Im being picky.

                        The camera is turned on using a small push button on top of the camera. Once this is pressed, it takes around a second until the camera is ready to shoot providing you have removed the lens cap and have the screen out. Compared to a DSLR, this is long time, but in the real world it doesnt seem to bad. From start up to autofocus to shot, takes a little longer depending on the variables.
                        Auto focus is generally good, although it can struggle in low light or situations where there is little contrast. As mentioned, the lens has Canon's USM, which means the lens is very quiet when focussing.

                        To focus, push the shoot button down half way, the camera will beep meaning the shot is in focus. Press the button the rest of the way, and the picture is taken. At first, I struggled to get this right. My old Nikons used to have a very sensitive button, which need a light touch to focus. On this camera you have to push the button a considerable distance before it focus's. To many people this wont be an issue, and in time wont be to me, but it was something I definately noticed straight away.

                        The zoom is operated by a rocker button around the shoot button. Left is wide, right is long. Its easy to operate and with careful operation you can also make the zoom faster or slower. This is especially useful when shooting movies.

                        There are a large range of buttons on the camera. at first it can seem a bit daunting, but they are all labelled with blue and white pictures, denoting what actions they perform. I would definately suggest reading the manual to see what the pictures mean if you havent used a camera like this before. On top the large shooting mode wheel is easy to see and read, making changes to your camera's set up easy.
                        On the back a scroll wheel and a 4 way button and set/function button provide the means to make the most used changes. The scroll wheel I feel is a little bit of a let down. I would have liked it to have clicks, but instead it just spins, which can sometimes make choosing a menu item frustrating.
                        The rest of the buttons are ok, if not a little small and to far recessed in the body. People with larger hands may find pressing them difficult.

                        The camera does have a "traditional" viewfinder, although its electricly operated and in my brief look through it is quite frankly awful. It looks like you are looking through Terminator's computer eyes from the 1980's, and I can see no purpose to it whatsoever.
                        Being bred on DSLR's, I exclusively used the viewfinder, but with this camera, I can see I shall exclusively be using the LCD. It does display most of the useful information like what setttings are in use, but its not clear enough to see what you are shooting in detail and is too small to get a good overview of the scene. It doesnt cover 100% of the frame, so shooting this way may lead to things entering your pictures, you couldnt see through the viewfinder.
                        The LCD on the other hand is bright and clear. Its in 16.9 widescreen format, so when you are in standard format in the camera, some of the screen is black with the shooting information down the sides. Switch to 16.9 format and the whole screen is used with 100% coverage of the scene and the shooting info overlaid onto the scene.
                        The LCD seems bright and punchy. I havent had a chance to try it outside in sunlight, but inside it performs well, and can provide enough detail to focus accurately.

                        Entering the menu system is easy. Simply press the menu button on the back of the camera. This then shows you four tabs with numerous options to change in each one. Each tab relates to a certain set of changes. The first tab is camera settings like AF frame location, AF mode, flash settings and so on. The second tab relates to sytem settings such as screen brightness, powersaving and time modes. The further two relate to custom settings and themes/sounds for the cameras operation. Everything is laid out logicly, and items can be selected or deselcted using the scroll wheel and SET button. As mentioned, the scroll wheel can be fiddly to use.

                        Im manual mode, setting the shutter speed and aperture was simple, and pretty well thought out. You can see the image change as you change the settings, so you can see the image get darker as you raise the shutter speed, and the same when you raise the aperture. Pretty neat really. Certainly should help people previously scared of manual modes to experiment a bit more, as you can see the result of your changes as you make them.

                        To record video, you have several options, and a little bit confusing. You have a movie mode on the mode dial, but you also have a dedicated record button on thr back of the camera, which will record regardless of the mode you are in on the mode dial. Why they even have a movie mode, I dont know. Also, to shoot true HD video, you need to be in 16:9 widscreen mode, otherwise you will just be filming in standard VGA. So this is where the confusion kicks in.
                        If you are shooting images in standard format, you need to first change to widescreen using the dedicted button on the back of the camera, and then start recording. To then go back to stills in standard format, you need to press the button again. I can see a few cock ups happening here when quickly trying to capture video.
                        At this stage Im not entirely sure why there is widescreen and standard mode, but with more use of the camera and proper read of the PDF instructions, it shall become clearer.

                        From a very short HD video I made, the difference is obvious from standard video. Its so much clearer and brighter. I have only viewed it on the camera's screen, but cant wait to hook it up to my 46" HD TV. This is one of the reasons I bought this camera, and it looks like it hasnt disapointed.

                        ***Enough with all that, what are the pictures like???***
                        Ok, Ok.. Well, in my limited use so far, they are pretty good. I have only used it inside in auto mode and full manual mode. Colours seem punchy and replicated well. Noise was kept to a minimum, despite a dark overcast day and no lights on inside. Up to ISO 200 is fine, ISO 400 is starting to look a little grainy and above that, I think is for emergencies only.
                        The camera has many image quality settings, so far I have only used superfine 10MP. This is the highest setting, so should produce the best results. I cant go into to much more detail until I get out an use the camera more in real world scenarios instead of inside the house.
                        The Image stabilisation seem to be working well. I was getting good hand held shots at shutter speeds well below (or above, depeding how you look at it) what I would have with my DSLR's.

                        Ok, so thats my first impressions. There is so much more to go into, and a lot of gaps to fill, but I need some time to get to know the camera, and how it functions. Still, in the few hours I have owned it, I have made these conclusions.


                        A compact and lightweight super zoom, more than capable for most people.

                        Well constructed and thought out layout, with easy access to main buttons for image set up

                        Slightly confusing video modes, although HD video looks stunning.

                        Picture quality very good with good noise control and little purple fringing.

                        Good bright, quality screen that is highly manourverable.

                        Shockingly bad viewfinder. Not even sure why they bothered with it.

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                        • Tamarackgroup.co.uk / Online Shop / 46 Readings / 46 Ratings
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                          26.04.2010 19:21
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                          Great service, cheap prices.

                          The Tamarack group is a name of a shop and online store specialising in Outdoor clothing and equipment. There are many shops of this nature online and on the High Street, but this one I have found to be a cut above the rest.

                          Tamarack was set up in 2003 with its bricks and motar shop in Lancashire. The aim of the store was to provide a wealth of brands from outside the UK in one place to cater for those who love outdoor pursuits.
                          The shop was a huge hit, and soon an online store was created to allow everyone in the UK access to thier huge range of products.

                          The website is easy to navigate, and a recent addition to the home page is a "reccomends" section. This is a selection of items that are recommened by a seasoned outdoorsman. Everything from socks to tents are listed with brief review of why the item has been singled out.

                          The shop part is listed by either brand, item or best sellers. This makes it very easy to find what you are looking for, or if just want to browse the entire range.

                          The range of items is massive. Many of the brands are brands that are uncommon in the UK, such as Lundhag, Norrona and Fjallraven. Everthing you could need for walking, bushcraft, camping or just good quality hardwearing clothing is here.

                          The prices of the store have always been something that draws me back to this store. Its constantly cheaper than many of its competitors and also the store often has promotions such as 10 or 15% off which makes some items a complete bargain. I have ordered several hundred of pounds worth of goods, that would of cost double from other suppliers. Another great perk is if you sign up to the store newsletter, you get a further 15% off certain items, and also news of other promotions before other people. The store often has a clearance section too, full of top quality end of line goods at a fraction of thier RRP.

                          The service of an online store is often something that can make or break the shop. Gladly the service from Tamarck is second to none. On more than one occasion I have ordered an item in the early evening, and much to my shock, its on my door step the next morning. On the rare occasion an item is out of stock, you recieve a personal email from the staff explaining the situation with several options to proceed.

                          I have been shopping with Tamarack for a couple of years, and each time its a hassle free and pleasant experience. I have never had the need to shop anywhere else, as Tamarack provides everything I could want from a shop.

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                        • just-eat.com / Online Shop / 61 Readings / 61 Ratings
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                          17.04.2010 19:37
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                          One of the best website ideas in the last 10 years!

                          Ok, so you are hungry.. You cant find a menu in your house to ring up, or like me, you just hate using phones... Maybe you dont have any cash on you and you dont like giving card details over the phone..

                          Just eat is a revolution. Food to your door, just by sitting at your computer. Incredibly lazy granted.. But we are all allowed to indulge evry once in a while.

                          I first found just eat by accident whilst looking for a local indian. I was at first very skeptical about the whole thing. How can a website order you food from your local takeaway?
                          Well, Im not sure exactly how they do it, but they do, and its been really useful to me.
                          Now, I have this stupid phobia of ringing people on a phone. I dont know why, but I do, so ordering a takeaway was always a massive thing to me. With Just-Eat, I can order my food, pay for it, and have it delivered to my door, without muttering a word.
                          Firstly, before you go any futher, log on to the site and enter your postcode. This will tell you if any restuarnts deliver to you. Some places still do not have any resturants on Just Eat, so please check beforehand.

                          To start, simply sign up to the website, which takes a few minutes. Then choose what type of meal you want. Depending on your location, the website shows you which restuarants are open and delivering to you. The range can be anything from Indian, to chinese to American Chicken. I am very lucky as my area has over 15 different restaurants to choose from covering all types of food. On this screen, you will also see user reviews for the resutaurants. This gives you a good indication of the quality of food, service and other comments people feel you should know.

                          Now to order, choose your resturant and the menu will pop up. Select what you want and click order. You now will need to input some details, like if you want to collect or have it delivered, and what time you want the food. You can pay the driver when he brings it, or pay by credit or debit card. Credit cards have a 40p fee, so bear this in mind.
                          Once you order, a screen comes up saying "connecting to restaurant" This is when the magic happens. Just eat send your order to the resturant and an actual person at the resturant has to acept your order before just eat confirms your order. Once this screen shows, you are forwarded to your reciept and thats it... Just sit and wait.

                          Obviously the website cannot take responsibilty for the arrival or quality of the food. They are simply there to help order, although if there are problems, you can contact them for advice. During peak times, there is a live chat to talk to someone in real time. If you have problems with your order, its advised to speak directly to the resturant.

                          I have been using just eat since November 2009, and have orderd a lot of meals. Only once did I have a problem, and that was resolved directly through the restuarant. If you know of a resturant and would like it to be included on the website, you can submit it to them, and they will in turn contact the resturant to try and get them on board.

                          As a side note, the site also offers Just Eat points. You get 200 points for each £1 spent. You can then spend these points in the Just Eat shop, either on merchandise or vouchers for more food. Another handy thing is it remembers all your orders and with 1 click you can reorder a particular menu. Saves lots of time if you frequently order the same things.

                          Overall, this website is a great idea, and actualy works and is really useful. It makes ordering a takeway so easy.. probably a bit too easy actually as I now seem to order them a lot more than I used to!

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                          • More +
                            17.04.2010 17:45
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                            I highly recommend them

                            Coldsores are a painful and embarassing conditon. Those blessed wth never getting them are very lucky. For the less fourtunate, there are many different creams, gels, lotions and patches out there to try and cure and hide the problem.

                            I have been getting coldsores on my lips since I was about 16. I dont get them that often, but when I do, its a painful and not nice experience. I always used to use creams to try and contain things, but often these either didnt work, or just took so long to make an impact. After the blister stage, a horrible scab would form that looked worse than the original coldsore.
                            I then spotted these compeed patches in a shop. They were not cheap at about £6.99 for 15 patches in most stores, but I thought I'd give them a go.

                            The packaging is a cardboard sleeve which contains the main pack. This is a large rectangular plastic clip box. This holds all the patches and thier own packagaing. This plastic box also contains a mirror on the inside of the top lid, which helps you apply the patches away from the home, although this mirror isnt the best quality so doesnt provide a brilliant clear view. Still, it better than no mirror.
                            Each patch is contained in its own packaging within the plastic box. You simply tear open the wrapping to get to the patch which is held on a split bit of paper, much like a plaster.
                            To apply the patch, you firstly tear one side of the paper off, apply it to the coldsore and then gently remove the other bit of paper and press the patch down. The actual patches are circular, about 3-4 mm in diameter and transparent. They are not perfectly clear, as they also contain Hydrocolloid- 075 particles, which apparently seal the wound to promote faster healing. Unlike the creams, these patches to not contain an active ingredient to fight the virus, but instead protects the area from infection and reduces the swelling and pain.

                            My first attempt to apply the patch was not very succesful, indeed neither was the second, however once I got the hang of it, it was as easy as a plaster to apply.
                            The patch instantly reduced the visabilty of the coldsore, which for me was one of the main concerns, as it was very embarrasing to have this horrible looking thing on my lip. The patch also reduced the itchyness straight away, and I even forgot I had a coldsore at all.

                            You can still eat and drink as normal when wearing the patch, and although its not completely invisible, it also isnt obvious. The main benefit I found with the patches, is they completely elliminate the scabbing usually associated with coldsores. For me, this is a major plus. The coldsore simply vanishes within a few days, meaning a lot less discomfort and no unsightly scabbing.

                            In my experience, each patch can last up to 8 hours before starting to come away. It is very sticky and not advised to peel them off before they come off, as it aggrivates the wound and just downright hurts. The only downside to these patches I can see is when they start to come away from the skin, its is quite obvious and can be a bit irritating having this thing hanging off your lip.
                            A pack of 15 patches should last you a long time, as I only tend to use 1 a day. I put one on in the morning, and remove it at night if its coming off and apply cream for overnight. I repeat this process until the coldsore has gone, which typically takes 5-6 days from tingle to gone.

                            Overall, these patches have been a godsend. They really work for me, and are much more hygenic than creams, as you dont have to touch the coldsore to apply it, and also stops contact between other things like glasses and cutlery. Yes they are very expensive, but they do the job better and quicker than any cream I have tried, so for me, they are more than worth the money.

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                            17.04.2010 15:34
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                            Everything a countryman ever needs.

                            Countrywide stores are a large chain selling agricultural and countryside related eqipment. The shops in my local area used to be called West Midland farmers, but was taken over in the mid 90's.

                            My local store is currently just outside the docks in Gloucester and is one of the larger stores in the county. I use this store every 2 or 3 weeks to purchase chicken feed and during the winter we also buy our coal from here.

                            The group of stores have ranging product lines, the one Gloucester has a much larger range than some of the smaller stores around the area. For instance in Gloucester, there is a very large equine section, convenient as Hartpury College, a large national Equine training facilitly and event location is a few miles down the road. This store also has a large clothing selection, from country gentlemans attire through to worknans overals. Also, somewhat strangely the have a large range of every household items like washing up liquid and toilet rolls. Im guessing this is so the farmer can do his weekly shop in one place, both for himself and his animals.

                            Prices are usually pretty consistant throughout the stores, so if you are somewhere else in the county, you know what sort of prices you will be paying. Chicken feed for a 20KG bag costs just over £6, which is reasonable when we compared to the local chicken supplier who wanted the same amount of money for a slightly smaller bag. Coal varies depending on the type, but standard house coal is usually on offer for 3 20KG bags for £21, which again is reasonable. The coal from countrywide is actually much better quality than that from 3 local merchants we tried.

                            There are a few items in store which I actualy find very much overpriced. The main being straw.. Countrywide sell small bags of straw for over £3 each. These bags are probably fine for people with rabbits, but not for those with other livestock. Our local farmer provides proper big bales of straw for £2.50 each. These last up to 3 weeks each, wheras the small bags from countrywide are lucky if they last 3 days. I can understand the conveinece for small pet owners who dont want bales of straw in thier garden, but when you see the price difference its hard to justify.

                            Countywide also has a large range of equipment including lawnmowers, chainsaws and hand tools. The prices are sometimes slightly higher than that of the big DIY stores, but in my expeience the countrywide ramges seem to be aimed at higher quality markets. I'd rather pay more for a chainsaw that lasts 10 years, than less for one that lasts only 2 years.

                            One particular like of our local store is the selection of wines, beers, ciders and proper country cakes. These can be pricey at over £3 for a cake, but they are lovely to eat and remind you of a proper home made cake. When I was young, a trip to West Midland Farmers, was something special, and today, although not quite as exciting as it was when I was small, its still a life line for people who need countryside related items, but dont want to travel miles to local suppliers. Yes it can be a little more expensive, but the convience outways this extra cost.

                            The staff have always been friendly and courteous, and will help you load your car or find items in store. There is specialist section for livestock medecine and also for the equipment, so you know you are getting somone who is trained and knowledgeable in that particular area.
                            They also run a card scheme, where if you spend over a certain amount in one go, you get your card stamped and after 10 stamps you get money off, which is usefull when you spend a lot in store as we do.

                            So whatever you need, from grass seed to chicken feed, to hen houses to sheep pens, this store has it all in one place and at prices that wont scare you away. Delivery is often available and discounts on bulk orders help lower the cost of a big shop.

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                            • Eurasier / Pet / Animal / 31 Readings / 27 Ratings
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                              15.04.2010 20:10
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                              I wouldnt be without an Eurasier now.

                              Not many people have heard of the Eurasier. Originally bred in Germany in the 1960's it was a cross bewteen a chowchow and Wolfspitz. Its aim was to create a dog with the best qualities of both these breeds. 12 years later, the Samoyed was introduced into the breed and this is dog we have today complete with the chow chow's blue tounge!
                              Its temperament was the main reason for this dog being bred, and as such they make excelent family pets. They are extremely loyal and are a very caring and loving breed.

                              Most Eurasiers are 'watchful and alert without being noisy' (FCI Standard), which makes them good watchdogs - but NOT good guard dogs. They will typically bark a short warning when someone approaches the house, for example, but will quickly settle down again if they are satisfied there is no real threat.

                              Eurasiers crave companionship, so should never be left alone for long periods of time. They are very much house pets and should not be restricted to one area. They love to follow the owners around the home.

                              The breed is a small to medium dog, with males having a height of 52 to 60 cm (20-23.5 inches) at the withers and weigh approximately 23 to 32 kg (50-70 lb).

                              The female has a height of 48 to 56 cm (19-22 inches) at the withers and weighs anywhere from 18 to 26 kg.

                              The coat is double layed with a very soft outer coat and a waxier undercoat. Due to this, they are very clean dogs and do not smell. They require frequent grooming and mault approximatly 2 times a year.

                              There are several variations of the colours of the breed. My particular favourite being wolf grey. Other colours commonly found are fawn, grey, solid black and black and tan. Wolf grey are one of the rarer colours, which means these dogs are usualy at a premium.

                              Overal Eurasiers are very healthy dogs, being such a young breed, interbreeding is rare, and with tight controls on which dogs are bred with which helps with this.
                              Known issues include hip dysplasia, luxating patella, and hypothyroidism, as well as eyelid and lash disorders such as distichiae, entropion and ectropion. All dogs should be hip scored and health checked before breeding to help eliminate as much risk as possible.

                              As a rule, Eurasiers do not eat a lot, and can be very fussy in what the eat. I my experience, they only eat when they are hungy, unlike a certain King Charles Spaniel I know, who would eat until he was physically unable to. They are also very messy drinkers, with approximately half the bowl of water remaining on the floor and over the walls after a drink!

                              Our Eurasier Sebbe is now just over 2 years old and has the loveliest softest temperament. He loves to play and loves people. He is a very inteligent dog, although sometimes seems to lack a little common sense.
                              He is a true friend, and whilst does crave attention at times, is equally happy lying on the sofa all night. He loves long walks and can go on much longer than we can. A 3-4 mile hill walk is just warming up for him, so fit, healthy and active owners are a must. He doesnt like being left alone, but he is fine for a few hours if you do need to go out without him. He has never damaged the house, just barks and whines when you leave and gets very excited on our return.

                              He looks quite intimidaing to some, but those that know him, know he is a big fluffy teddy who loves tickles and loves to play with whatever toys he can get his paws on, even if they arent meant for him!!

                              It took us a long time to find a breed of dog to suit us and our lifestyle, but in the Eurasier we definatley made the right choice. I couldnt ask for aa prettier and more loving dog!

                              There are only a handfull of Eurasier breeders in this country, so the waiting lists for these can be quite long. There are several litters born every few months, so early contact with breeders to be put on notification lists is advised. There are also several Eurasier clubs in the UK. These are groups dedicated to the breed and offer lots of benefits to owners, including events throughout the year.

                              As these dogs are quite rare in this country, the price is a lot higher than a standrad breed of dog. Being a pedigree breed, this also inflates prices. Expect to pay between £800-£1000 for a puppy from a reputable breeder. As with all dogs, always visit them at thier home with the mother. The puppies often dont get their true colours until later on in life, so picking a particular colour can be a bit hit and miss. The puppies are born with floppy ears, and within a few months they prick up, sometimes one later than the other whcih can look quite a amusing for a while!

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