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simoncardwell

simoncardwell
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Member since: 13.05.2009

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      01.08.2012 15:21
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      good lens

      This is a 100mm Canon prime lens intended for macro photography (generally photographing still objects with a very short depth of field).

      These large Canon prime lenses have a habit of being very heavy, however the first thing I noticed when picking this up, has how light it was, compared with many of the L Series range. It's a big lens & is probably not ideal for carrying around casually snapping some pictures, but it definitely has it's uses. The plastic build quality is the reason for this, however it isn't a major fault & doesn't really affect your use in any way.

      The zoom ring is very smooth which is essential for this kind of lens where the depth of field is very shallow. The margin for error is very small so you need to know you can rely on the lens to work for you in critical moments, in my experience this lens will do that. I don't typically use macro lenses regularly, I only hire them when needed for a job, however I have worked on a number of product photography shoots in my time, where this kind of lens was used extensively.

      The image quality is as high as you would expect, although it is obviously related to the camera body you're using the lens with (a better body will likely render a better result to a cheaper model). Images are sharp with wonderful rendering of colour, and live up to the high standards set by all Canon lenses.

      The autofocus is fact & accurate as usual with Canon lenses, although as it's not the top of the shelf lens in this category, there is probably room for improvement, but I have not experienced any issues. Although, my use has mainly been in a very controlled environment, with a slow method of working. In a more fast paced shooting environment, the focusing speed would be put to the test in a more intense way.

      The lens comes with IS (Image Stabilisation), which improves the sharpness of the camera when handheld, meaning camera shake & blurring is minimised. I haven't used a similar lens without IS so I can't really comment on the difference, but I can say I didn't encounter any issues with image quality in this area.

      While this is a very good lens, it has quite a narrow field of use & I would think carefully before investing in it. I prefer a more multi purpose lens personally, but it depends on the kind of photographs you want to take.

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      01.08.2012 14:44
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      the best of it's kind

      I'm a professional photographer & use the Canon L Series lenses regularly, & while this lens is not a regular feature in my camera bag, I've used it enough to give it a pretty good review I think.

      For starters this is an extreme wide angle lens, it is an 8-15mm zoom lens, with a maximum aperture of f4, which at that focal length acts as a fish eye lens. If you're unsure what the term 'fish eye' means it is basically a distorted curved image, the focal length is so short that it curves that would otherwise be straight lines of perspective (tall buildings for example, will appear curved in the frame). It's a type of image which has often been used on record covers in the past & produces an effect similar to a curved mirror (often seen on public transport such as the London underground or on buses).

      Essentially this is 2 lenses in 1, as it can photograph in a circular fish eye manner & also as a diagonal fish eye.
      As usual for an L Series lens it's sealed to prevent dust & moisture getting inside & comes with the usual exceptional build quality you would expect from a lens at this price point.

      One quibble would be that the zoom ring is pretty loose, meaning it can move without you knowing, which at this depth of field can be very important as a slight change can result in distorted proportions in the finished image. Part of the appeal of a lens at this range is the ability to distort the frame of view, but I would have liked a lock to prevent it from doing that if required.

      The auto focus is as fast & accurate as all the top shelf Canon lenses, I've used these zoom lenses for years & it's very rare when the focusing isn't instant & deadly accurate. There will be aberrations at the edge of the frame occasionally, but that is simply a quirk of using a fish eye lens & has little to do with the quality of the lens, it's just an anomaly you will encounter when photographing that wide.

      On the 8mm end of the frame you will get a circular image, completely curved, whereas on the 15mm end you will get a full frame image yet it will still be distorted & straight lines will appear curved.

      You can get a unique perspective photographing this way, however many photographers consider a fisheye lens something of a gimmick, it has it's uses, but I'd think vary carefully before spending the £1000+ it will probably cost you to acquire one of these. I don't own this particular lens as it's use for me is too infrequent to justify the expensive price tag, I will hire this lens as & when I need it & prefer it that way. My workhorse lenses (24-70mm, 16-35mm, 70-200mm) I always have in my bag, but a lens like this has only niche interest & is by no means an essential purchase.

      There are some quality lenses made by Canon (not L Series lenses) & Sigma available for £300-500 that would easily provide a good enough result, so I would consider one of those if you wish to buy a lens of this focal length. Having said that, for it's kind this is the best lens you will find, however I'd be sure you will get enough use out of it before making the considerable investment.

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        27.07.2012 01:56
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        solid strap

        My first ever guitar strap was actually an Ernie Ball Polypro, for years I didn't tend to use a strap but I caved in and got one eventually.

        These are durable straps that will work just fine, I tend to prefer a leather strap these days, but a strap of this kind certainly has it's place. It is made out of Polypropylene which is strong & won't break easily, and you can attach it to your guitar with the strap holders found on most guitars. Note: if you're using an acoustic guitar you may need an attachment to fit it onto the neck end of the instrument.

        This strap is available in a range of colours (red is pictured above here), from blue, yellow, grey, white etc.. but I would tend to lean towards black in most cases. I always felt it looked the best while being worn, but each to their own, there's a colour available to suit most tastes.

        Like any strap it is adjustable so you can find the right height for you to wear the guitar at (I wear mine around the middle on my body), but you can wear it really high like John Lennon or Tom Morello or really low like Slash if you wish (not recommended for beginners). You lengthen or shorten the strap via a plastic clip on the strap. This is how most guitar straps tend to function in my experience.

        In a music shop you would probably pay just under £10 for one of these straps, but I'm sure they are available online for a bit cheaper. Personally I prefer to support music shops where possible (not many left not), but I'm sure you'll find one whether in person or online.

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        27.07.2012 01:44
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        works, but not something you really need

        I must admit I'm not a very regular cleaner of guitars, I tend to dust them down occasionally with a Fender guitar cloth, but I don't tend to use polish too often. However, I do have some experience with various types of branded 'guitar polish' and will try & describe this Fender Guitar Polish to you now.

        You will often receive such guitar polish, cloth, amp lead etc.. free with your guitar upon purchase. Many music shops bundle stuff in & my American Fender Telecaster came with a bottle of this included. It's basically a very similar process to cleaning surfaces at home, you apply the polish to a cloth and then scrub until clean. Very much like using Mr Sheen or similar.

        I tend to think branded guitar polishes & cleaners are a bit of a gimmick, and I don't really consider them essential products. Using a generic cleaning product will do the same job for the most part. Friends who are in bands & work in the industry don't tend to use a specific product to clean instruments, just whatever is available at the time.

        A standard household cleaner tends to do the job for me, although admittedly I don't often give my guitars a full clean, I tend to just dust them down every now & again. This does the job but I wouldn't go out to specifically use a branded product such as this, there's precious little difference form what I can see & I got my first guitar in 1994.

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        27.07.2012 01:30
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        good plectrums

        The Jim Dunlop Lucky 7 series of guitar plectrums is essentially a set of plectrums with a very similar feel to that of a Jim Dunlop Tortex pick, but with different illustrative designs on each plectrum.

        Each plectrum depicts a 'rock n roll' themed illustration, which in truth are pretty cliched for the most part, ranging from cars, whiskey bottles through to skulls & crossbones and what not.

        They come in packs of 6 & come in three gauges - .60mm, .73mm & 1.00mm. The thickness you need will depend upon your personal preference & style of playing. I tend to use a .60mm plectrum when possible.

        As far as the actual playability & durability of these plectrums go, they are every bit as reliable as a standard Jim Dunlop or Tortex pick (it would be very unusual for one of these to snap), so in that sense this brand of plectrum is about as good as it gets.

        Plectrums like this can be cool but won't affect your playing in any way, I tend to lean toward thinking they're quite gimmicky and to an extent slightly pointless. The colour of the plectrum isn't really important & the artwork is likely to wear off the more you use them anyway.

        You'll probably find a pack of these online for around £3.50 or maybe a little more, which is roughly the same cost as the standard designs, so if pretty patterns on your plectrums floats your boat, go ahead & get these.

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      • PickBoy Plectrum Holder / Guitar / Bass Guitar / 0 Readings / 0 Ratings
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        27.07.2012 01:01

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        interesting product

        I've owned one of these in the past, & eventually lost it along with a myriad of plectrums lost over the years. It's the nature of the shape & size of picks that they will inevitably get lost fairly frequently. In my time playing guitar I've tried various methods of keeping my plectrums - in a case, in a tin, in the same place in my flat, in the guitar case itself & other places, and they always end up getting lost.

        I kind of think something like this is almost as easily lost as a plectrum itself & doesn't really serve any essential purpose. You can fit 4 plectrums in at any one time, and it can serve as a way to keep you from losing them, it just never worked very well for me.

        You'll need to be using the traditional 'pear' shaped plectrum design for this to be any use to you. Most of the commonly used plectrums (Jim Dunlop, Fender, Ernie Ball etc.. are this shape) so it shouldn't be a problem. They come in various colours (mine was black), but you can also get silver, blue, yellow & a few other colours.

        There is an adhesive back if you wish to stick it somewhere to make sure you can't lose it, you just need to be disciplined enough to ensure you return your picks here each time you finish playing (I never was). For the right kind of personality I could see this working really well, and it's cheap (will cost about £3-4 maximum), so worth a try for the right person.

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        27.07.2012 00:37
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        excellent strings

        I've always thought of Martin strings as a very good mid-level option when deciding what guitar strings to use. A shop will typically sell them for about £7.99 a pack, but you will find them online for less (under a fiver most likely). I still prefer to support independent music shops than buy online, otherwise there won't be any left soon & that would be a shame.

        When I first began playing seriously someone in a shop recommended Martin strings & I just kind of stuck with them from there, they seemed to suit my guitar & were light & firm to play. For years I used a .10 gauge string (a very light string), again recommended to me by others. For about 8 years these were my standard string (although I have tried most of the different gauges on the market).

        Each pack comes with 1 of each string - E (thickest), A, D, G, B, E (thinnest), and each string is in a paper cover and marked with a different colour so you don't get them confused when you're putting them on your guitar body. It will take a bit of practice to become adept at changing the strings (I'm still not very good at it even now), but snapping a few strings along the way is all part of the fun.

        I tried different brands including Ernie Ball, Fender etc.. but tended to go with Martin if possible, I guess it was just a habit as much as anything. However, now I tend to use D'Addario strings, they are much more expensive (typically 2 to 3 times the price), but they last a lot longer & I find they play better & give a cleaner sound. But again it's all down to personal preference here, so try a few brands & find the ones you like the best.

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        27.07.2012 00:09
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        good for the price

        This is a pretty standard solid guitar case for a Les Paul shaped electric guitar. Stagg make pretty decent cases, but there are better on the market in my experience, depending on how much you want to spend. I would always look to get a guitar case from the manufacturer of the guitar intended to go in it (I keep my Fender Telecaster in a Fender case).

        But that's just me, you can use any kind of case you wish, I just find they tend to fit better in a moulded case intended for that exact instrument, a lot of third party cases tend to be made with more general usage in mind, so I tend to stick to branded cases. Also, if possible it's worth taking your guitar into a shop to check it fits the case you want before you buy it, some are made to fit a range of guitars & may not offer maximum protection.

        A lot of shops don't stock a huge range of cases & may try and push ones they're trying to get rid of on you, so sometimes online is the only option, which is again why I tend to go with a specific branded case.

        You will find this case or similar online for around £50 to £60 maximum. The higher end cases tend to cost £80-100, but if you're serious about playing I always felt it was worth the extra investment to get the best case possible, it will protect your instrument better which is the whole point.

        However, I used one of these quite consistently a few years ago & found it to be very effective, despite some reservations at first. It was used extensively to carry my guitar between my home (Darlington) & university (Newcastle) which is about a 45 minute journey. I carried it in the car, train & even the bus on occasion. The case went when I sold the guitar (it wouldn't fit any of my current electric guitars), but it certainly did the job effectively.

        I never dropped the guitar whilst in the case so I can't comment on that but it endured pretty heavy duty use & no damage was ever sustained.

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        18.07.2012 22:49
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        the best

        I've played guitar for over 12 years & the first songs I ever learnt were on acoustic guitar ('Ticket To Ride' by the Beatles & 'Live Forever' by Oasis if you're interested). I gradually upgraded the quality of guitar I owned & by the time I got my 3rd acoustic guitar I got a Gibson.

        I'm very lucky in that the guitar I own is an original 1959 Gibson Country & Western model, it's a rare model that was only made from 1953 to 1959. I wouldn't swap it for any other acoustic guitar in the world & I'm not yet convinced there is a better guitar out there. It's been used on sessions for bands & songwriters & never fails to get compliments. When I take it into a guitar shop for any reason it often ends up with a crowd of staff admiring it.

        Some of the more famous Gibson acoustics such as the Hummingbird or the J45 are quite heavy acoustic guitars with large bodies, mine however is feather light & is the perfect instrument for strumming. I bought the guitar in Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village, New York in 2005, the staff told me if I could get any guitar to get this one, and the owner even came in to meet me when I bought it.

        As far as what it will cost to get a Gibson acoustic, the price can range from anywhere from about £700 for the cheaper models up to thousands for the top level guitars. For a vintage model you could pay anything between £2000-5000, maybe more, depending upon when it was made & the condition.

        There are other rivals at the top end of the acoustic guitar market, specifically Takamine or Martin (probably regarded as generally the best acoustic guitars), but different guitars play differently & all brands have their advantages & disadvantages. But any kind of Gibson acoustic guitar is going to be a top level instrument. I find the older ones to be better, they have a build quality that the newer models lack, originally each guitar was built individually, now I think it is much more of a production line type operation, as a lot more guitars are made now than previously, so I think quality does take a bit of a hit there I think.

        These guitars sound better with age in my opinion, & once you've got one it will last you for life.

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          18.07.2012 22:24
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          wonderful guitar

          The Fender Stratocaster is probably the most famous guitar of all time, & perhaps the most recognisable. The first model was released in 1954 & Fender has been making them ever since, and they are available in many colours today, the more popular including black, red, white, sunburst & a myriad of others.

          The guitar was originally designed for use in Country music, but was soon used by the likes of Buddy Holly for rock and roll. From there they've been used by everybody from Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Rory Gallagher & many other players.

          There are essentially 3 kinds of Fender guitar, which relates to where it was made, either the guitar was made in Japan (the cheapest kind), Mexico or in the United States (the most expensive). The US models are generally considered to be the authentic Fender guitars & will probably cost you £750+. Japanese & Mexican produced guitars will probably cost £350-600 depending on design & build.

          A Stratocaster is a pretty versatile guitar, able to play rock, metal, country, blues or jazz very proficiently & I've always considered it to be primarily a lead guitar (a Fender Telecaster would be more suited to rhythm playing).

          There are many different models available now, & can be finished or painted in various ways, and can have varying features, ranging from the finish of the fretboard (maple, rosewood, solid wood etc.) to the pick ups, frets, neck & various other things. To a casual player this kind of stuff is probably immaterial anyway, but no matter what kind of Stratocaster you get, it will likely be better than whatever you had before.

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          18.07.2012 21:55
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          highly recommended

          I've played guitar for about 12 years & D'Addario have ended up being my strings of choice, having tried pretty much every kind on the market at one time or another. Most players I know tend to use them too, they tend to cost more than other brands such as Martin or Ernie Ball, but they can last 2-3 times longer & still sound fresh & bright a couple of months down the line. The same cannot be said for other, cheaper varieties.

          You get a strong, clear sound from these strings, wether on an acoustic or electric guitar, there are all kinds of D'Addario strings available, ranging in thickness from softer strings such as .011 (the kind I tend to use), through to much stronger & firmer gauges (up to .049). If you're a heavier player & you'll be playing a lot of power chords, thicker strings will definitely suit you, if you have a softer style, the lighter gauge strings will probably work best for you. But like anything, it's important to try a few different styles & find what works for you.

          My main guitar is a 1959 Gibson Country & Western, it's a very light guitar & as such suits quite light strings. I play it with .011 guage D'Addario acoustic strings. I had often used .010 guauge strings in the past but now use a slightly thicker string.

          I tend to string it every few months as I play it a lot, but you could leave the strings for longer if you weren't playing that regularly. It should still take a few months before the strings begin to blacken, even if played regularly,

          You'll pay probably around £10-12 for a set of D'Addario strings in most music shops, whereas other brands may start at as little as £4.99. Rival brands such as Martin cost around £7.99 typically, but you get what you pay for & I find you get a longer shelf life out of these compared to other brands.

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          17.07.2012 22:43
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          solid product

          There are various well known brand of plectrum on the market (see my Jim Dunlop reviews), and Fender is among those you will commonly see. I'd expect to pay between 50p & 70p each for these in a music shop. But if you look online or buy in bulk you will definitely find them for less.

          A Fender pic comes in the classic 'pear' shaped plectrum design & tends to be more solid than other brands (such as Dunlop) & as such is more suited to electric guitar playing. I got a number of these when I got my first guitar some years ago, I used a selection of different kinds over the years, but these days I don't tend to use a Fender pic very often (usually only if I don't have any of my own on me).

          A primarily play the acoustic guitar with fairly light strings (11's), so my preference is for a a slightly softer but still firm plectrum (I tend to favour the Jim Dunlop Tortex design, .60mm thickness). I find the Fender pics to be very firm & durable, but sometimes you need a degree of give to play the way you want to, which is why I favour the Dunlop variety. For the serious Electric or Bass Guitar player, this thickness & style would probably be your preference.

          They come in a variety of 'pearl' type colours - white, purple, blue etc. The colour isn't really of great importance, the text will fade with time & the different thicknesses & styles tend to only come in 1 colour, so the important thing is to find the correct thickness & shape to suit your needs & stick with it. My advice would be to try various brands & styles, and you'll know when you've found the kind that works for you.

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          17.07.2012 22:13
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          good idea

          This is a Jim Dunlop plectrum holder, ingeniously designed to store all your plectrums in one place, meaning you'll never lose them. Easier said than done - it's a good idea but I know I've never been organised enough to pack them all up into here after playing. I had one of these a few years ago & eventually lost it, along with a whole host of plectrums that have gone missing over the years.

          You can keep your plectrums anywhere, in the strings of the guitar, in your guitar case, on top of your amp or anywhere else. I often tended to store mine in a metal tin I kept in a drawer near my guitar stands, it tended to work ok & while you'd still lose them it's effectively the same as using an official product such as this.

          It will fit pretty much any kid of plectrum so long as it is in the classic 'pear' shaped design, essentially it's designed for the Jim Dunlop standard & Tortex series pics, but it will fit most brands & thicknesses. You can store up to 6 at any time, of any thickness, and you can stick it to a surface if you require (it has a sticky bit on the back). I never did this as I preferred to be able to move it around if possible (this probably led to losing more pics, but I didn't want it in one place all the time).

          In essence, this is a good idea that may suit some people very well, but it didn't really work for me & as such I didn't replace it when I inevitably lost mine.

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            17.07.2012 22:01
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            solid capo at a cheap price

            This was the first kind of Capo I owned when I first began playing the guitar, it was the one always offered to you in music shops & was among the cheaper options, yet still well made, making it ideal for a beginner. Probably among the simpler designs, this is nonetheless an effective design, the manual fastening design means it will fit any guitar you will come across.

            A capo changes the key of the guitar, effectively doing what your first finger would do when playing a barre chord, thus giving you a different set of notes in a different key.

            If you look in a music shop or online, you'll find a range of options when choosing a Capo, the more expensive styles tend to be a 'clamp' type design which locks smoothly over the strings. I find this type to be preferable nowadays & tend to invest in a more expensive Capo now. Yet, for around the first 5 years I played guitar, I used this exact design & was always happy with the results. Yet I think the manual fastening actually produces a less firm hold over the strings, and as such I found myself re-adjusting the capo a lot more when using this style. It was much more open to being knocked out of position. I use a Shubb capo now & it doesn't budge at all unless you intentionally remove it.

            Another issue is that the material used to fasten the capo does wear out, after a couple of years of intense use mine would always come loose & need replacing. So in the end I decided to buy a more expensive product that wouldn't wear out in a few years time. I've had my current Shubb capo around 5 years I think.

            No matter what level of ability you are, you're probably going to need a Capo at some stage, and while there are myriad cheap options on the market, one of these won't cost you much & will last you a good while & play well during that time. There are better options on the market, but this is a good product nonetheless & it definitely has it's place, some people won't want to spend a lot on what is essentially a basic piece of equipment.

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            17.07.2012 19:50
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            good stand for the price

            Once you get past the beginner phase & begin to acquire more instruments, a stand such as this may become a necessity as much as anything. The individual stand alone stands can really clutter up a room if you have too many of them, so something like this is a great alternative.

            You'll see this kind of stand at the side of the stage at gigs, as it allows you to keep quite a lot of guitars in quite a small space. This stand is for 5 guitars, but I think that is intended for 5 electric guitars, I don't think you'd get 5 acoustics on here (I don't own 5 acoustics personally to test). Because of the thicker bodies on such guitars, you'd probably only get 4 on here.

            The base of the stand is fitted with rubber stoppers so you can use it in any kind of room I would think (I have hardwood floors here) & for it's size it's pretty portable, it's pretty light so you can move it around if need be. There are foam sections at the bottom & around the neck holder for each guitar, meaning your precious guitars should be pretty well protected on here.

            It's a self assembly stand so it comes in bits, but putting it together shouldn't be an issue, took me about 10-15 minutes & was quite straight forward.

            There are more expensive guitar stands available, but this definitely serves it's purpose I think, I've never had a problem & would happily recommend it.

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