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thebigc1690

thebigc1690
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Member since: 22.03.2007

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      07.06.2012 11:36
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      Great for videographers and a decent alternative for photographers.

      This is the first review I have written in the longest time, many of you will remember me I am sure, and you will know that cameras and photographic accessories are my thing, I am sort of sticking to my own category here with the review of this tripod although this is a tripod with a difference and not a thing I would necessarily use too often myself.


      The tripod in question is the Delkin Fat Gecko Mini Camera Mount, this came into my possession through the camera club I go to, a very close friend of mine had just purchased it and him and I both were very keen to see what uses we could put it to.


      It is classed as a tripod but really the term camera mount suits it much better, a tripod is so known because of its three legs, this has no legs, instead it has a rubber suction cup, now my first thought was of kids toys and the likes with suction grips that tend to stick for a few minutes then fall of so I was fairly sure I wasn't going to trust this thing with my camera attached to it.


      I was soon to find out however that the suction on this is very different to those afore mentioned kids toys, You do not lick this and stick it, it has a locking type suction pad that when engaged offers very strong suction, the suction is in fact so strong that we stuck it to the side window of my friends car and my ten year old son could hang from it.


      Being a professional photographer myself and most of my work being in the studio or at weddings this item was not really a thing that would get great use from me but my friend on the other hand is a very adventurous photographer, very keen to get interesting shots of interesting things at very interesting angles, therefore the fat gecko mount was right up his street.


      The Delkin fat gecko mount is tested to carry 1.18 kg in weight, it has a universal ¼ inch tripod camera mount, the height is extendable and it comes with an extension tube, it has a 360 degree tilt and turn rotation and it really does offer you endless possibilities.


      Although I have mentioned my son hanging from it, he is very skinny and I still would not feel comfortable with one of my DSLR`s hanging from this thing but the compact and bridge cameras we used on it over our weekend of mad shooting were all looked after very well by this mount, it held firm every time and that includes being stuck to the roof of a car driven at 50 MPH with a small HD camcorder videoing our journey.


      Personally I feel the video buffs may get a better use out of this than photographers, although my friend and I took some great shots with this including some fantastic angle shots of some famous buildings by attaching this to the windows of buildings it allowed us to shoot from places previously not possible, I still feel the best use for it would be like how we used it to video from the car.


      Skiers could use this on helmets with video cameras being as small as they are today, they could then watch back their ride, it could be used on the tanks of motorbikes, on cars as we did, speed boats and pretty much anything else to take awesome videos, whereas out in the wilderness photographing landscapes and wildlife there are limited places you can stick a suction cup held device, so therefore I believe the gorilla joby pod with its wrap round legs to be a better option but at only £29.99 would I recommend photographers have one of these, hell yes I would!!

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      • Olympus VG-130 / Archive Electronic / 90 Readings / 84 Ratings
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        16.09.2011 15:14
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        Beauty is only skin deep. This looks great but inside it is just....... well, not!!

        Well, I hope I can remember how to do this, I have not written a review in ages as I have had a very busy summer.

        Ok so the first of many cameras I have lined up for review is the Olympus VG-130. At first glance this camera with its sleek mostly metal body is very eye catching and leads you to expect good things from it, my only issue with it is the silly stickers advertising that it has HD movie capability and a 5 times zoom lens, these seem so unnecessary and certainly ruin slightly the look of the unit.

        As well as this looking like it should perform well it also on reading the manual, sounds like it should perform well but in truth there are many limitations to the camera and although inexpensive it still might actually not be worth its price tag.

        When it was first released it cost as much as a whopping £157, let me tell you right here and now at that price it was way, way overpriced. It has now universally dropped below £70 and can be found for as little as £56 if you shop around, at £56 it may just be value for money but do not pay a penny more for it.


        Ok let`s start by saying a few words about what is good about the camera, well as mentioned it has a metal body which is always good in my opinion, plastic feels cheap and in most cases looks cheap, this metal bodied camera feels good and looks good and that is definitely a plus point.

        Another plus it has to be said is that the camera is easy to use, this could be largely due to the lack of functions and features but never the less if you like things simple then that's what you get here. Thirdly there is the large three inch screen which offers very good resolution previews of the photos you have taken.


        Although I find it hardly worth mentioning I will say that this little camera uses a lithium ion rechargeable battery which offers good long lasting power and recharges very quickly, I guess that is sort of a good point too.

        With the three main good points out the way let`s move on to the many less than good points that really let this camera down. The biggest annoyance for me with this camera was the fact that it is a 14 megapixel camera which will have people drooling and thinking they are getting something special but sadly it really is not all about mega pixels and with a lens and sensor as poor as this camera has then the 14 megapixels count for absolutely nothing.


        The lack of features and functions for such a modern camera is also a worry and the fact that most of the features and functions it does have work very poorly or perhaps even not at all means you are buying a very basic unit indeed. Take for instance the face detection, there is no noticeable difference to photo's taken using it and not using it. I took several single person portraits and group portraits with it off and then exactly the same shots with it on and found nothing to separate the images at all.

        Ok so if the camera has to be used as a basic unit does it take good enough auto photos to make it worth the £56 it can be found for? Well here the answers depends on light, in bright sunlight this camera produces over exposed images, in poor light it produces under exposed images and when you use the flash the results are appalling. The flash is quite weak and seems to only light one half of the image properly, it causes horrific red eye and leaves a bright hot spot on ever image it is used in.


        In all honestly I found the only time the automatic modes on this camera could produce a decent image was in outdoor daylight with no sun so if you are ok to limiting your photography to suit the weather conditions then perhaps this camera might be ok for you but if you like to take pictures when YOU want then this camera will frustrate the life out of you. It really would be so easy for me to slate this camera, it has a slow start up time it is slow to be ready between taking photos, the automatic functions seem to fight between allowing enough light in and image noise, there is no built in anti shake system so if you are zooming in poor light then good luck getting an image with no blur without using a tripod. I really could go on and on but there is something about this little camera that makes me want to say good things about it as hard as that might be to do.

        I think how I will end my opinions on this camera is to say that Olympus have let themselves down, they built a good looking robust little camera but they have ruined its looks with silly stickers. They have given the camera a lot of megapixels and a decent sized zoom, made it easy to use and given it a perfect rear screen but they have ruined all this with a poor lens and a real lack of features and functions so what could have been a very good camera I am sadly forced to say is a very bad one.


        Also on a final note I really should speak of the HD video function as they have seen fit to put a sticker half the size of the camera on the front to remind us it`s there. Anyone who has read my previous compact camera reviews will know my opinion on them having video functions at all and that is that video should be done using a video camera only..... the clue is in the name!

        The video function in this is like every other compact, decent results in bright light and pretty much unusable results in poorer light, you can add to this though on the Olympus VG-130 a very poor built in mic that makes everything sound tinny and quiet except the wind which sounds like a hurricane even if there was only a light breeze!


        THE OLYMPUS VG-130 SPECS



        CCD effective megapixels 14.0 megapixels

        CCD size 1/2.3in
        Viewfinder none

        Viewfinder magnification, coverage N/A
        LCD screen size 3.0in

        LCD screen resolution 230,400 pixels
        Articulated screen NO

        Live view YES
        Optical zoom 5.0x

        Zoom 35mm equivalent 26-130mm
        Image stabilisation none

        Maximum image resolution 4,288x3,216
        Maximum movie resolution 1280x720

        Movie frame rate at max quality 30fps
        File formats JPEG; AVI (M-JPEG)


        TO SUM UP
        Sadly I have to summarise by suggesting that this camera even at only £56 should be avoided, the bad points heavily outweigh the good and with most compact cameras offering tons of features and functions these days, this one seems to be left way behind, good looking enough but sadly unless you are very shallow it`s what's inside that should count.


        MY SCORES

        LOOKS 6/10
        BUILD QUALITY 7/10
        EASE OF USE 7/10
        IMAGE QUALITY 1/10
        FUNCTIONS AND FEATURES 2/10
        VALUE FOR MONEY 2/10
        Overall 4/10


        Thanks for reading.

        © thebigc1690

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      • Giotto's Q.ball / Photo Accessory / 116 Readings / 114 Ratings
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        22.03.2011 11:13
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        A must for all DSLR users.

        It has been some time since I have written a review and I have been meaning to get back to some writing but just never quite getting round to it. I have a list of cameras the length of my arm that I need to try and get round to reviewing but a smart little product came to my attention recently that I just have to tell you about so here goes.


        Giotto air rocket`s have been around for some time and I have reviewed at least one of them in the past. They are clever little devices, simple in nature but very, very effective in practice, they are little air blowers designed to blow out dust from the internals of DSLR cameras. Giotto have gone one step further now though and produced an even better little air blower known as the Giotto Q ball.


        Firstly let me tell you just how important it is to keep your DSLR camera dust free. In the worst case scenario you could end up with a collective of dust clogging up the workings of the mirror inside the camera but long before that happens you could find yourself taking a photo you are in love with and very proud of only to find that there is a dreaded dust spec or specs on it that ruin it completely.


        Dust get`s into DSLR cameras when lens changing and is very hard to avoid especially if you are shooting outdoors, air blowers are designed to simply blast out the dust and although the air rockets did a good job the Q ball is just so much better, mainly because the nozzle moves to get into tricky areas, a design the rockets never had.


        The Q ball from Giotto is made from a non toxic rubber which as well as being tear proof is also resistant to high and low temperatures. They work on a very simple strategy in that you they suck in air as you release a squeezed ball then blow it out at high speed as you re-squeeze and the blast of air removes dust from the area you point it at.


        No dust can be sucked into the Q ball because of a very clever dust preventative air valve built into it and there is also the very cleverly designed tripod like legs that it stands on which stop the valve on the bottom coming into contact with anything that might have an adverse effect on it.


        The nozzle can be adjusted through 60 degrees which doesn't give you a full coverage of angles but it is way better than the static nozzles of most blowers and in my so far three weeks of use on all of my own DSLR`s and a few friends I have found it reaches the parts other blowers fail to reach and gets to the areas other ones can reach mush easier.


        The Q ball makes light work of dust particles and a couple of blasts is all I usually need to get the inside of my DSLR`s dust free. I recommend when using this that you hold the camera with the shutter facing downwards and blow up into the camera this will loosen dust particles which will then fall down out of the camera and no other particles will be getting in because the natural way for dust to go is to fall downwards.


        The Q ball is a light and fairly small item so can easily be packed into a reasonable sized camera bag so it can be taken out on shoot`s with you. They come in red, blue and black so if you really feel the need you can choose a colour, for me it has to be the professional looking black one but each to their own.


        Although aimed at the DSLR camera market the Giotto Q ball does have other uses, such as blowing dust from Keyboards, laptop`s, printers and much, much more in fact this will pretty much remove a dust build up from anywhere dust can build up and costing only around a fiver you can I am sure afford to have a couple, one for around the home or studio and one to carry in your camera bag. The Giotto Q ball is a very simple yet ingenious little piece of kit that I would highly recommend to all.

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        • Sony HT AS5 / Speaker / 105 Readings / 96 Ratings
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          13.01.2011 14:39
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          A fantastic set of speakers that enhance my TV viewing ten fold.

          Televisions have changed greatly over the years, no longer do we all have great chunky TV`s sitting on big sturdy units built to hold their bulk. Most of us now have TV`s not much thicker than mirrors hanging from our walls, I personally see this as a huge improvement but there is one thing the new TV`s cannot do that the old box sets could and that is provide the room for big speakers to allow for great sound.


          These days the plasma and LCD TV`s sport modern stream lined speakers designed to do the same job as the older larger ones but they rarely do, I personally have a 60 inch LED TV which is a beautiful sight to behold and the picture quality is simply awesome however the sound from it was a bit of a letdown which is why I went on to purchase the Sony HT AS5 satellite surround sound system.


          Now my TV is Samsung and for a short time I was tempted to go for a Samsung surround sound system to match but I am a huge lover of Sony and after spending a bit of time looking at what was on offer I plumped for this Sony set and I am 100% happy with my choice.


          The Sony components are very stylish looking as well as being very powerful and producing the most awesome of sound, you get 4 upright speakers designed to go into the corners of the room, a flat lying speaker designed to go on top of or under the actual TV itself and a bass unit which you can position absolutely anywhere, I have mine hidden behind the sofa and it rumbles away just nicely there.


          These speakers have an integrated amplifier and they have a huge 1000 watt output power, the sound from them is best described s perfect, I rarely have them turned up past half way as they are very, very loud but I have had them almost full whilst listening to the music channels or if the lads have been round for the football and hearing the TV over the shouts has become difficult. Even at almost full volume there is no breakup of the sound, the bass is handled well and the sound is as crystal clear as it is at lower levels.


          These speakers are wired and this is perhaps their only set back, on reflection I would probably have gone for a wireless set although the wires for these are very thin and very simple to hide. Having said these are wired I should point out that if you have a Sony Bravia TV these can be synched wirelessly to it.


          With these speakers you are not just tied to them as TV speakers you can connect three devices to them via HDMI allowing your TV, Blu-ray player, games consoles, and much, much more to be connected and you can simply switch between devices with the touch of a button. The speakers are remote controlled too so you do not even need to leave the comfort of your seat to change what you use them for.


          I have owned a few surround sound sets in the past and my brother in law has a very expensive Panasonic set right now but I can honestly say I have never heard high def sound reproduction the likes of what these Sony speakers can produce, it has changed movie watching in our house for sure and I would be quick to recommend these to others too.


          It seems the cost of these can vary dramatically, I have seen them priced upwards of £370 but I personally paid only £199.99 for these from an online company called PRCdirect.co.uk and they were delivered within two days so if you are interested in a set of these then I would check out these guys first.


          No one wants unsightly speakers all around their living room so these compact, sleek and very good looking speakers from Sony are a great choice in my opinion and if you have a local Comet and they have these in stock they will usually be happy to let you hear them in action, that is where I first heard these speakers but they were too expensive from Comet hence why I bought them online.


          MY SCORES:

          LOOKS - 10/10
          BUILD QUALITY - 9/10
          EASE OF USE - 9/10
          SOUND QUALITY - 10/10
          FUNCTIONS AND FEATURES - 8/10
          EASE OF CONNECTION - 9/10
          VALUE FOR MONEY - 9/10
          OVERALL - 9/10


          TO SUM UP:

          These speakers look good, sound good and are simple to set up and to use, a simple one cable connection and a very easy to use remote control along with their excellent build quality and awesome sound make these the best surround sound speakers for the money in my opinion and I have raved about them to family and friends and all have agreed on hearing them that they are an excellent set of speakers that would enhance any home theatre system, don't settle for great pictures go for great sound too!


          Thanks for reading.

          © thebigc1690

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          • More +
            23.12.2010 14:17
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            A classy aftershave for the older, more sophisticated gent.

            Those of you who regularly read my reviews will know that in the main I review cameras and other photography equipment but occasionally I put myself out there to be ridiculed and laughed at by trying to review things that are way outside my comfort zone.


            Photography is a huge passion in my life but I do have other things going on and one of those is my ridiculous collection of men's fragrances. This started quite be accident, I used to go abroad and bring back a few designer aftershaves for myself and others and everyone coming into my home used to comment on the amount of aftershaves on display in my bathroom and jokingly I used to say "yes I collect them", people however took me seriously and it was like a competition between my friends and family to see who could buy me the rarest aftershave for my collection, which really I didn't have.


            I do love a nice aftershave and I have my own favourites such as Versace Dreamer, Issey Miyake and D&G By, the D&G one is no longer in production which for me is sad but luckily I do have two full 100ml bottles of it so I can enjoy it for some time to come.


            The fragrance I have decided to review here is one by Christian Dior which goes by the name of Eau Sauvage Extrême, to look at the bottle it looks like an old fashioned type cologne rather than a modern up to date aftershave but the fragrance is one that can be worn anytime and does not smell old fashioned in the slightest.


            Eau Sauvage Extrême has been around since 1982 so perhaps the bottle has never been redesigned and that might be where the old fashioned appearance comes from. I think the fact it has been around for so long and can still live in today's market speaks volumes for it.


            Although the bottle may not have been redesigned it would seem that the outer packaging has, the box mine came in is not the brown coloured box that is pictured in Dooyoo`s image but rather a white box with a black band round the middle displaying the brand name. The white box looks more modern but actually I prefer the brown box it has the same classy manly look that the bottle has and gives a better idea of how the scent will be.


            Christian Dior is a huge name in fragrances as well as make up and other things so you expect to be getting a quality product when you purchase Dior and you are getting just that here. I find when I wear this which is just occassionally it lasts on my skin way longer than most modern fragrances and it settles quite quickly too, the top notes disperse to leave a mixture of the middle notes of Genista and the base note of cedarwood which can only be a good thing as one of the top notes in this fragrance is Lavender and I hate lavender.


            The other top note of rosemary actually outshines the lavender so even when you first apply this there is thankfully little or no sign of a lavender aroma, there is though a sweetness to the original aroma that disappears as it settles on the skin to leave a more manly, deep woody fragrance with just a touch of fruitiness, I would personally describe this as more of a classic manly cologne than a sweet modern day men's perfume, so it is of course entirely down to the individuals preference.


            There does to me seem to be a cinnamon type scent going on in the background of this fragrance but there is no mention of one so perhaps it is just the other scents merging to create this or perhaps it is just my senses playing tricks on me.


            I tend to turn to this particular fragrance if I am going to daytime meetings or perhaps to see my bank manager or the likes it is not a fragrance I would choose for a lads night out or an evening meal with my other half, I feel the sickly sweet modern male perfumes are better for those occasions.


            Longevity is usually a good thing when talking about perfumes or aftershaves but you have to be careful with this one, if you are wearing an item that you might wear more than once without washing like a jacket or something and you are wearing Eau Sauvage Extrême, then it will get on the jacket and even in a few days when you are going out in an entirely different aftershave there will be a distinct aroma of this still lingering on the jacket.


            I quite like how this sits in my bathroom looking very mature and classy alongside my modern bottles, Eau Sauvage Extrême comes in a black glass squared bottle with a brass midriff and lid, everything from the brass and black colour combo to the grooves in the glass cries out retro and class and the price tag of £44.50 for a 50ml bottle also cries out class...... and Dior.


            I did not choose this one for myself and I would probably only recommend it to an older man, I get the feeling most young guys in their late teens and early 20`s would turn their nose up at this fragrance where as a bit older more sophisticated gent would find something in this that they liked, I added the sophisticated bit so I can class myself as that rather than as old!


            I had no worries from any irritations of the skin from using this product but to be fair I rarely do with any products, I am sure however that a company with the class and prowess of Dior have done everything to assure this fragrance is of the highest quality and is gentle on the skin.


            I should also say that the bottle I have is a spray one not a splash on although the design of the bottle gives the impression it would be a splash on. I have no idea if this is only available in spray or not, personally I prefer a spray but I do know guys who like to splash on their aftershave.


            I would suggest that this is a scent worth trying but as it is so expensive it would make sense to try a tester in stores before splashing out on a bottle, I would describe this as a manly fragrance that is more likely to impress other men on a business capacity than even be a bird puller so in the main I will stick to my sweeter men's fragrances to impress the ladies (don't tell her indoors) but this does definitely have a place in my collection and a time for wearing.


            Thanks for reading.

            © thebigc1690

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              22.12.2010 15:00
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              A very decent little compact for a first camera.

              I hate to bore you all with my intro of how I am a professional photographer who also tests and reviews cameras for my camera club as I am sure most of you have heard it all before but I do still get messages asking me how come I have so many cameras, so just to be clear I test them, sometimes for the companies that produce them and sometimes for my camera club itself.


              I have over the time I have been writing on Dooyoo covered a variety of cameras from the basic point and shoot compacts to the top of the range DSLR`s but at this time of year with Christmas just round the corner and I guess a lot of people asking for or wishing for a camera, I have decided to review a very decent little offering from Canon which at its original price of £100 was a bit pricey but as Argos have it for half price right now making it very good value for money, it might just be the camera you couldn't afford for someone's special gift.


              Many would say Canon don't make bad cameras but I have used and tested a few that just didn't deserve to wear the Canon name but this little Powershot A490 is a very useful little camera with all the necessary features and functions without being too fancy, but most of all it takes a very good photo and that's what cameras are all about.


              Go back a couple of years and a ten megapixel camera was seen to be just about top of the range, forward to the end of 2010 where we are now and anything less than 12 is seen as puny but lets get one thing straight right at the top of this review, if you are shooting with a compact camera unless it is top of the range stuff like a TZ10 from Panasonic or a top of the range Cyber shot from Sony then anything over about 7 megapixels is a waste anyway because the lenses and sensors are simply not good enough to give the full benefit so at ten megapixels this camera has plenty to offer.


              Build quality on Canon cameras is invariably always good and although this one is constructed entirely from plastic it is no different, it feels very sturdy in the hand and it is as durable as any other compact I would suggest. Looks wise it is not going to win any beauty contests but it isn't an ugly duckling either, it's a bit plain to look at but no one's going to laugh at it.


              It has a bit of a retro roundness to it rather than the cutting sharp square or diamond edges of the majority of today's sexy compacts but the one thing this does give you is a very comfortable camera to hold, it fits the hand like a glove and the positioning of the controls means you always feel in control of what you are doing and it is easy to use.


              Other than the shutter button the controls are confined to the rear of the camera but they are laid out very well and clearly marked with illustrations so you know within a few uses of the camera exactly where everything is and how to use it and what it does. The camera does not offer the option of setting shutter speeds, apertures, white balance or ISO manually so if you are looking for something that advanced well this isn't for you but the auto mode works very well and sets up the settings pretty close to what I as a pro would suggest they should be at for most types of photography so if you just need a camera that you can switch on, point and take photos then this will do as good a job on that front as any.


              There are of course scene modes such as night, portrait, landscape and so on and so forth and if you want to come off of the auto and use a specific scene mode then you will get pretty close to the result you would expect, the night shot however slows the shutter speed down so the camera has to be held perfectly still or you will get blurry images and as there is no built in anti shake function there is no way of avoiding this other than a very steady hand.


              Features and functions wise you do not get the massive range that you do with top of the range compacts and that is why at its original price of £100 I find it to be overpriced but at the Argos offer price of just £49.99 it becomes a different prospect, the A490 comes with face detection, red eye reduction flash settings, smart flash exposure, a low light shooting setting and it has a self timer and it can record video so it does all the basics and a bit more.


              I won't go into the video function because the video footage you shoot will be very poor unless you shoot in bright daylight but then that is the case with 90% of cameras twice the price of this one so you cannot hold that against it.


              The main thing with any camera should always be the photos it produces and with this Canon A490 it is good news. The images I took during the three days I tested it for were a wide variety of images such as portraits in my studio using full studio lighting, landscapes and waterscapes and some outdoor portraits and action shots and I was fairly impressed with all.


              Under studio lighting you might think any camera could do a good job but remember there is no manual settings on this little unit so you are relying on the camera to get it right and many compacts over expose because they see the image dark then the lights flash and confuse it but using the sunset setting which makes the camera expect a hot spot in the image meant I could take some excellent studio shots with this camera.


              Moving outdoors and leaving the camera on auto I got some very good results both in sunlight and shade, no over or under exposure and very good skin tone when I used the face detection setting.
              Landscape shots were the only ones that failed slightly but not badly, there was some softness in the corners of the images which doesn't matter with portraits as long as the subject is sharp but you want over all sharpness in landscapes so this became a slight issue there.


              The kids and pets setting speeds up the shutter speed so you can capture moving objects, be it people, animals or anything else but let's be honest this cannot freeze the action if something is doing 60mph you have to be reasonable and not expect too much from a basic point and shoot compact, with DSLR`s we are talking about shutter speeds of up to 1/8000th of a second and although the A490 claims to be able to shoot at up to 1/2000th of a second which is pretty good we have to remember that the camera sets the speed and you need absolutely perfect bright sunshine to get the camera to choose anywhere near that speed so you are talking about shooting around the 1/500th of a second mark which will allow you to capture some moving objects but not anything traveling at real speed, I took photos of my son on the trampoline in good light but there was still blur around his feet as he jumped.


              Well I went into that a bit more than I had planned but I guess you get the message now, this camera takes very good photos in the main but of course has its limitations. Amongst the other things that are good about this little camera is that it has a fast enough start up time (around1.5 seconds) to make sure you do not miss those special moments, the auto focus works quite quickly in good light but does slow down a bit as the light gets poorer, it takes a simple SD card (up to 8GB) and it has a very decent 2.5 inch screen so you can get a very good look at the images you have taken and decide which are keepers.


              Its limitations are of course the lack of being able to shoot in a manual mode, the fact it only has 3X zoom rather than the more typical 5 and it uses AA batteries rather than a rechargeable lithium although these days I feel I should say that some AA`s as an advantage (my co photography guide David here on Dooyoo for instance). He feels that at least with double AA`s if your batteries go flat you can pop to a shop to buy some more and I guess he's got a point.


              THE CANON POWERSHOT A490 SPECIFICATIONS:

              10-Megapixel, 1/2.3-inch CCD imaging sensor
              Digic III image processor
              3.3x optical zoom lens: 35mm equivalent of 37-122mm
              TTL Autofocus
              2.5-inch, 115,000 dot LCD
              Face Detection AF/AE/FE/WB
              Intelligent Contrast Correction
              Red-eye Correction
              Low-Light shooting
              Smart Flash Exposure
              15 - 1/2000 sec. Total shutter speed range
              ISO - Auto, 80, 100, 200, 400, 800, 1600
              Smart Auto with 13 predefined shooting modes
              Shooting Modes: Auto, P, Special Scene (Portrait, Night Snapshot, Kids & Pets, Indoor, Low Light, Beach, Foliage, Snow, Sunset, Fireworks, Long Shutter), Movie
              Self-Timer
              Movie Recording at 640x480 and 320x240
              SD/SDHC compatible
              Powered by 2 AA-Type batteries
              PictBridge Exif Print


              TO SUM UP:

              What you will get if you buy this from Argos is the camera, 2 batteries, a wrist strap, an installation CD rom and a USB cable to connect your camera to your PC or laptop and all for under £50. This gives you a very decent camera that is probably most suited to teenagers or people just getting into photography.


              It will offer you the ability to take some great photos and all whilst using a camera you can trust and rely on as it carries the name of one of the most well known companies in the world of photography. I would be happy to recommend this to family or friends as long as I knew they just wanted the basics and I had pointed out its limitations just as I have to you here. If you have someone looking for their first camera then you cannot go far wrong with this one at under fifty quid.


              MY SCORES:

              LOOKS 6/10
              BUILD QUALITY 8/10
              EASE OF USE 9/10
              IMAGE QUALITY 8/10
              FUNCTIONS AND FEATURES 7/10
              VALUE FOR MONEY (at sale price only) 9/10 (at original price) 5/10
              Overall 7/10


              Thanks for reading.

              © thebigc1690

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              • Sony ACC-AMFM11 / Photo Accessory / 39 Readings / 36 Ratings
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                21.12.2010 15:33
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                A very stylish and practical DSLR bag.

                I am writing this particular review as somewhat of a request, Dooyoo member weebill asked me a short while ago if there were any good cases to go with the Sony DSLR he recently bought on my advice and although I was happy to recommend a few Lowepro bags and the likes he was really looking for a Sony branded bag to show of the type of camera he was shooting with and he only needed a bag to hold the camera itself and a few bits and pieces so a large kit bag was not needed.


                I have been asked similar questions in the past by others looking to get a smart but functional bag to carry their new DSLR equipment around in so to Bill and to everyone else let me now recommend the Sony ACC-AMFM11 accessory kit, as well as an excellent and well designed bag you get a rechargeable battery pack (NP-FM500H) which is the battery used with all the Sony DSLR`s from the original A100 right through to the new A850, and a spare fully recharged battery is a great idea for anyone out on a long days shoot.


                The bag itself has room for one DSLR and one lens so if you are just getting into DSLR photography it is perfect but if you have a few lenses to transport then you of course need a suitable kit bag. There is a large pocket on one side of the bag which carries the spare battery and leaves room for a few other bits and pieces and on the other side of the bag there is a smaller pocket ideal for carrying spare memory cards and perhaps a notebook and a pen or whatever else you like to have with you.


                Things like an IPod or mobile phone or even a mobile media reader could also fit in the bag and leave them better protected than if being carried in a pocket, so this really is a great idea for beginners in the field of DSLR photography.


                The bag is one of attractive design it is made from very durable material and is fully padded inside offering your equipment great protection, the main section of the bag zips and has a plastic clip fastener, the side pockets zip fasten and the bag can be carried in hand or comes with a separate shoulder strap so it can be carried over the shoulder too. Both the Shoulder strap and the hand strap are padded making the comfortable to use.


                The shoulder strap is fully adjustable allowing the bag to hang at various heights so therefore it will suit any adult tall or short. The weight of the bag when empty is 760g so it is fairly lightweight allowing the weight of the camera and lens to be the only real weight you have to worry about lugging around.


                The case is sized 335 wide X 245 high X 190 deep mm which is not a very big case by any stretch of the imagination but the DSLR camera and lens fit snugly into it which is just what you want, if you use a budget end smaller DSLR then there is of course more room left that if you use one of the top end DSLR`s but then most top end user will be using kit bags rather than this type of carrying system anyway.


                This is a great idea as a mini accessory bag from Sony and it is very reasonably priced in many places, you can buy this bag and spare battery for under £50 many places online and when you consider that a good Sony bag will cost you around the £40 mark you are basically getting a spare battery for a tenner and these Are normally around the £25 mark.


                This bag is functional but also very stylish and you will be only too happy to be seen carrying it. The bag can be used for carrying other brands of DSLR but of course the battery is for Sony`s only so if you wanted the bag you would look to buy it on its own rather than like this.


                Thanks for reading.

                © thebigc1690

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                • Sony SAL100M28 / Camera Lens / 47 Readings / 46 Ratings
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                  20.12.2010 12:05
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                  A simply superb macro lens for Sony DSLR`s.

                  The camera equipment I review is a mixture of items I own and items I have used or tested at my camera club. The Sony SAL100M28 100mm f2.8 lens is an item I own and have had now for around about 18 months.


                  The Sony SAL100M28 is a macro lens and although macro (close up) photography is not something I actually do much of, I still decided to go all out and get a very good Sony lens rather than skimping and getting a third party lens.


                  I currently have three DSLR`s all Sony, I have the mid range A550, the much more advanced A700 and the current top of the range Sony DSLR the awesome A850Q, this lens can be used on all of these cameras of course and it creates excellent images whichever body I attach it to.


                  Now the third party lenses would also be able to be used with all of these cameras but I have used and still do use third party lenses as part of my kit and it really is simple in photography, a £150 lens will simply not compete with a £350 lens so if you want the best possible images then you need to spend the money unfortunately.


                  Many of the lenses in the Sony range have survived from the Minolta days and this is one of them, Minolta are the brand that Sony bought over and the alpha mounting system used by Sony is the same that was used by Minolta so many of the old Minolta lenses themselves will fit right on and work but this one has had a makeover by Sony and really all that is left is the name.


                  Sony have modernize the look of the lens to match the rest in their range, but that might be just about all they have done as the lens itself seems very similar indeed, I guess if it aint broke don't fix it. For me the build quality of all Sony lenses with exception to the budget kit lenses is excellent and this lens has the usual reliable Sony feel to it and the auto focus is as quiet and quick as any other in this end of the Sony range.


                  The outer barrel of the lens is completely plastic which some people will frown upon but it is not a brittle cheap plastic and the durability of Sony lenses has never been bought in to question as far as I know.


                  This being a prime lens rather than a zoom lens you of course do not need to worry about lens creep which to be honest there never is with top end Sony lenses anyway. The Sony SAL100M28 has a fast and quiet autofocus but that said if it has to hunt back and forth through the entire focus range for very close up macro then it can become a bit tedious, you have two options here, you can either choose to focus manually or you can use the handy little range limiter on the lens which will make focusing much quicker.


                  The one thing you can rest assured of with this lens is that every shot you take will have great colour reproduction and clarity as well as not having any chromatic aberration or softness , just crisp sharp images every time. Now this lens is compatible with every DSRL in Sony`s range but I fear the budget entry level DSLR`s will throttle this lens so if you are using a budget end Sony like the A290 or the likes then remember the body has limits so you possibly won't get the best out the lens, that said it is unlikely with a £300 camera you will be using a lens that cots over £500.


                  The minimum focus distance of this lens is 0.35mm, so you really can get right up close and personal with insects and the likes to get photos of them like you never imagined, the max magnification ratio is1:1 which basically means you get true life size images, (ie) the photos will be exactly as the eye would see if you were looking at the subject close up in real life.


                  If you intend to take up macro photography then one thing I should say is that to get these type of images you do not just need a great camera and a great lens like this, you most definitely need a tripod. DSLR cameras are heavy old chunks of kit and then you add this 505g lens to it and try and hold it perfectly still to get tack sharp images and it just wont work.


                  I have been using this lens for over a year now as I said and I have taken a good couple of hundred macro shots that I am pretty proud of including one that I have displayed and a few that I have sold so if you take photography seriously and you use a Sony DSLR then this is the macro lens I would recommend to you or at least one of them.


                  Costing around £550 this is an expensive piece of kit but then photography is an expensive hobby, I am lucky enough to have photography as my profession so buying pieces of kit like this is investment for me rather than just cost and I have lenses that are way, way more expensive than this one and they are mostly very good value for money, if you look after this lens or any other top end Sony lens they could easily be partner you for life.


                  THE SONY SAL100M28 SPECIFICATIONS:

                  Optical construction 8 elements in 8 groups
                  Number of aperture blades 9 (circular)
                  min. focus distance 0.35m (max. magnification ratio 1:1)
                  Dimensions 75x99mm
                  Weight 505g
                  Filter size 55mm (non-rotating)
                  Hood barrel-shaped, snap-on, supplied
                  Other features focus stop button, focus limiter


                  TO SUM UP:

                  I have to say that using this lens has been a real pleasure, most lenses have their limits but I have yet to find this one's limits if indeed it has any. Although it is a macro lens it can of course be used as a normal lens to shoot at more normal focal distances, I have created some very interesting portraits using this lens and it now accompanies me to the studio more and more whereas before it was very much an outdoor lens.


                  I would feel very confident in recommending this lens to family and friends and I am confident that anyone using it on my recommendation would get great results from it. There is no need to spend this much money unless you want it for macro photography but if macro is your thing then you should definitely consider this lens, but remember this lens is for cameras using the Alpha mounting system only so basically Sony DSLR`s or old Minolta cameras, other brands such as Canon and Nikon will do their own versions of this type of lens.


                  MY SCORES:

                  LOOKS 10/10
                  BUILD QUALITY 9/10
                  EASE OF USE 8/10
                  IMAGE QUALITY 10/10
                  VALUE FOR MONEY 10/10
                  OVERALL 10/10


                  ** PLEASE NOTE THAT THE QUICK RATING GUIDE BELOW HAS BATTERY LIFE LISTED BUT AS THE LENS DOES NOT USE BATTERIES THIS IS OF COURSE NOT RELEVANT**

                  Thanks for reading.

                  © thebigc1690

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                  • Vivitar Vivicam X60 / Digital Camera / 46 Readings / 44 Ratings
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                    19.12.2010 16:26
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                    Simply a very poor compact camera!

                    I hate to bore you all with my intro of how I am a professional photographer who also tests and reviews cameras for my camera club as I am sure most of you have heard it all before but I do still get messages asking me how come I have so many cameras, so just to be clear I test them, sometimes for the companies that produce them and sometimes for my camera club itself.


                    Most of the cameras I am given to test and give opinion on are new modes just out but a few weeks ago I was handed a Vivitar X60, a camera that has been around since way back in 2006, this camera was Vivitars first real attempt at playing with the big boys, their first 10 megapixel offering when others had been making 10 megapixel cameras for some time.


                    I have tested other Vivitars and always been pretty disappointed with them and this one did nothing to break that trend. The reason I have bothered to write about a camera that lacks a lot of what you would expect from the more modern offerings is that I have it on good authority that this camera is still out there for sale and is to be given the price drop treatment in attempt to shift them in the new year sales and if this is the case then I am here to warn you off buying one basically.


                    Vivitar cameras have for me a very frustrating trait in that they take pretty poor pictures, not great for an item that's sole purpose is to take pictures! Vivitar lenses seem to have a serious problem with softness around the edges of photos that are taken zoomed in tight and with this X60 offering a 6X optical zoom I was keen to see if they had sorted this issue but they have not at all and if anything it is worse in this camera than in Vivitars that have gone before it.


                    The X60 did at least have a built in anti shake function, something Vivitar had not seen fit to bother with previously even though their camera all had very poor lenses and produced blurry images almost every time. Sadly though the anti shake function in this camera wasn't great and although it worked at fast shutter speeds in good light when you should not really need it anyway, add a bit of zoom and dim the lights and the blurry pictures are back.


                    Vivitar got it so wrong with this camera it is a wonder they sold at all but to re-release them into today's market if indeed that is what they intend to do is simply madness. Continuing on with the many things wrong with the X60 I will move quickly on to the very cheap feel this camera has to it and indeed the very cheap look, there are far too many things written on the front of this unit for it to ever look classy it has the vivitar name on it twice, the fact that it has 10 megapixels is splattered all over it, it has the 6X zoom advertised in the top right hand corner, it even has the size of the screen written on the front, why I will never know but it does.


                    Moving on to the screen, it was actually the only good thing I could find about the camera. At 2.8 inches it was one of the biggest LCD screen of its time on a compact camera and it is a very clear and bright screen that offers great colour reproduction so you could see clearly the image you had taken, sadly this just allowed you to see how bad the photo was and then probably delete it.


                    This was Vivitars top end model back in the day and it really was sub standard, and costing a whopping £110 when it was released it wasn't even cheap, so what did this camera have going for it? Well nothing really and that I guess is why it was one of Vivitars worst sellers and a real flop and was quickly lowered in price and could at one point in 2007 less than a year after its release be purchased for just £45 in many places but by this time other top end cameras from other brand names had come down in price too so it still failed to sell.


                    I guess to keep this review fair and balanced I should say that this camera was and is easy to use and it does have a macro capability which in truth was one of the better ways to take photos on this unit, it is powered by a lithium rechargeable battery which I always prefer to cameras that use AA`s but all of this surely matters little if the camera cannot produce worthwhile images and for a ten megapixel camera this is one of the worst I have come across.


                    Vivitar announced the release of this camera saying "In addition to very high resolution stills, the Vivitar X60 digital camera captures movie clips at 640 x 480 at 30fps allowing the photographer to become a videographer at will". This is laughable because if the still image quality is bad then don't even get me started on the video quality, in anything short of perfect daylight then the videos were very blurry and almost un-viewable and even in good lighting conditions the video quality was poor and could not be played back even in full screen on a PC because it was so blocky and stuttering so imagine trying to watch it on TV?


                    The info I have on this camera being re-introduced to today's market may be misinformed but if it is correct then how this camera with its very basic features and functions and its unattractive looks is meant to compare with what is on offer today I do not know, I mean in the January sales it is likely that you will be able to pick up very good Sony and Samsung compacts with 12 or even 14 megapixels and every feature and function you could wish for, for around £70 so what price would they put on this? I suggest that about £2.99 this might just about be good value for money anything higher then please avoid it like the plague.


                    THE VIVITAR X60 SPECIFICATIONS:

                    Class: 10 Megapixel 1/1.8 inch CCD
                    Focal Length: f=7.8mm - 46.8mm(T) (37-222mm in 35mm)
                    Focus Range: Macro: 2cm (.78 in) - inf.(Wide)
                    Focus Range: Normal: 0.5m (20 in) - inf.(Standard)
                    Resolution: 3650 x 2736
                    Image format: JPEG
                    Movie clip: 640 x 480 at 30fps, MPEG 4(ASP)
                    Housing: metal
                    Lens: Auto focus zoom
                    LCD display: 2.8 inch color LTPS
                    Internal memory: N/A
                    External memory: Secure Digital to 1GB (not included)
                    Flash: Built-in 4 mode auto flash
                    Other: PictBridge, USB 1.1, A/V out (NTSC/PAL)
                    Power: Lithium rechargeable
                    Weight: 150 g
                    Dimensions: 93x57x25.5 mm (3.7 x 2.3 x 1in)


                    TO SUM UP:

                    I really dislike writing about cameras or other products that I find to be very poor as I hate to sound unbalanced but I have given an honest opinion of the product. It has a very sluggish start up time and it is slow to autofocus, it offers very poor final images especially if you use the zoom which is one of the cameras selling points.


                    The camera does not look good and has a poor build quality despite having a metal casing rather than plastic, the cameras limitations were clear to see back when it was released so comparing it to today's cameras would be like comparing Susan Boyle and Cheryl Cole on looks.


                    There are decent things about the camera such as the screen on the rear and the fact that it uses a rechargeable battery but these are simply nowhere near enough to make up for all the cons there are sadly.

                    MY SCORES:

                    LOOKS 4/10
                    BUILD QUALITY 4/10
                    EASE OF USE 8/10
                    IMAGE QUALITY 2/10
                    FUNCTIONS AND FEATURES 3/10
                    VALUE FOR MONEY (at original price) 1/10
                    OVERALL 3/10


                    Thanks for reading.
                    © thebigc1690

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                    • More +
                      18.12.2010 00:35
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                      A brilliant idea from a top brand in the photography market.

                      In professional photography there are many important things and after the camera and expensive lenses comes a tripod, tripods are not just for pros in fact anyone serious about photography should use one and this can often be the difference between an ok photo and a great one.


                      Photos you intend to display or sell have to be tack sharp and you simply cannot shoot tack sharp images without mounting the camera on a tripod to avoid even the slightest of movement.


                      Tripods come in all sorts of sizes from little compact mini tripods to great huge massive tripods that can stand over 7 feet tall, as well as these typical tripods you get things known as Gorilla pods which are very clever tripod style mounts that have flexible legs that can be wrapped round railings or drain pipes or pretty much anything else allowing you to mount your camera pretty much anywhere for tack sharp images.


                      I have four tripods and two gorilla pods but still found places I could not shoot using any of the mounts I had, one such place was from inside my car at the local safari park and so I set about finding solution for this problem and the solution came in the form of the Manfrotto 243 Car Window Pod.


                      Manfrotto make some of the world's best tripods and this little gadget is every bit as good as any of them. The Manfrotto 243 Car Window Pod is a sturdy little aluminum tripod type mount that can be clamped to a car window or anything that is up to 60mm thick.


                      The car window pod simply clamps on via a very easy to turn large plastic screw and the camera can then be screwed directly onto the mount, I would suggest though that if you are going to use one of these you get a swivel ball head for the mount which screws on where the camera normally would then you attach the camera to the ball head allowing the camera much more freedom to move as when attached directly it tends to point upwards and you struggle to get certain angles.


                      The car window pod itself costs just under £30 and that rises to about £60 if you buy it with the ball head but if you already own a ball head you can use the one you have as long as it is a 3/8'' screw attachment type.

                      I have so far used this to great effect at the safari park attached to my car window and also attached to other things other places and the shots taken with it are very sharp, of course when using it in the car you have to sit very still and if you have other people in the car they must all sit like statues otherwise the movement of the car will stop your images being tack sharp.


                      If you choose to use this as I did at the safari park you have to be careful because obviously animals may approach the car and this takes a few seconds to unscrew so you could end up with the camera damage or much, much worse.


                      This little window mounted tripod is a very, very useful item and something most serious photographers would find a great addition to their kit I am sure. It is very well built as all Manfrotto equipment is and at £30 it certainly doesn't break the bank.


                      As far as I am aware it comes in only black but then why should colour matter really, it weighs only 18kg so carrying it in your kit bag is not a worry. The mount can easily take the weight of a DSLR camera with a reasonable zoom lens mounted but of course you have to use common sense and not overload it and if using it on the window of a car make sure the camera and lens are not too heavy as to cause damage to the window.


                      All in all this is a very high quality, useful product that I have and will continue to recommend to friends, and a mount I now use regularly and trust whole heartedly to provide me with the steady surface I need for tack sharp sellable images.


                      Thanks for reading.

                      © thebigc1690

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                      • More +
                        16.12.2010 15:01
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                        An excellent HD monitor that I highly recommend.

                        People that have read my reviews in the past will know that when it comes to electrical I am a huge fan of Sony products but I have to say that when it comes to TV`s and PC monitors I cannot see past Samsung in the main.


                        I have three PC`s, I have the main one in my house which sits in my living room and it has an Acer 26 inch monitor, then I have the one I use in my studio and my gaming one in my own little study at home, both my gaming PC and the one in my studio have Samsung monitors my gaming one has a 24 inch Samsung B2430H and the one at my studio has the Samsung SyncMaster BX2231 monitor which is the one I am reviewing today.


                        The Samsung SyncMaster BX2231 is a 22 inch monitor and although Dooyoo have it listed as an LCD monitor it is in fact an LED monitor, well actually it is an LCD display with LED backlight technology. Samsung say their monitors are the only ones to date that offer true LED BLU displays making them stand head and shoulders above the rest.


                        The reason I went for this particular monitor for my studio is that I need exact colour reproduction from my monitor so that what I see on the screen is what I will see in print when I am finished editing otherwise I would have a good looking photo on screen that would perhaps have colour faults when printed.


                        LED monitors such as this one offer a super high contrast using a technology called mega dynamic contrast, this monitor has the highest level of contrast ratio currently available which gives the images on the screen a truly outstanding clarity way above any other monitor I have used.


                        Although I do not use this particular monitor on my gaming PC yet I intend to use one soon as this monitor's 2-millisecond response time makes it excellent for gaming and watching movies, I have played a few games on my PC in the studio when things have been quiet and there is no blurring or ghosting visible with this monitor at all, I have also watched the odd streaming TV program or two during quiet times and the quality of the viewing experience is excellent, I am tempted to say it is as good as watching my massive Samsung plasma at home.


                        For the green party supporters out there this monitor will offer something you will approve of and I guess we should all take into consideration, this Samsung monitor reduces power consumption by 40%, it does this by reducing the number of LED and defaulting to standby power.


                        As well as saving energy this monitor also saves space, it is an ultra slim monitor that when wall mounted barely sticks out at all and when standing on a unit it looks so sleek as the stand is also reduced in size from the earlier LCD models and is stunning glossy black it looks fantastic too.


                        The monitor is an HD one so as well as being able to connect via the traditional VGA method it can also be connected via HDMI if your PC has an HDMI port, the HD viewing on this monitor is every bit as good as it is on HD TV`s and the colour suport of 16.7 million colours allows everything on the screen to be seen in as vibrant a way as possible.


                        There are many other pieces of technology that go into making this screen as good as it is, things like "MagicBright" which automatically optimises brightness, contrast and gamma correction, based on the mode you choose, and "Magicangle" which allows the picture to remain the same quality whatever your viewing angle to the screen is, those of you with older LCD monitors will know that if you look down onto the screen or at it from the side you get a darker image and a different colour look, this is another thing that is great for in the studio as the customer will sit to the left of me to view their images and I can now rest assured they are seeing them as clearly as I am right in front t of it.


                        For me the important things in any monitor should be how it looks, the space it will take up and the picture quality on screen and the Samsung SyncMaster BX2231 gets top marks on all those fronts, it also gets top marks on installation and ease of use, it is a simple plug and play monitor so if you are using XP or anything later than XP it does everything for you. If you are living in the dark ages or just feel more comfortable with older operating systems then fear not there is a drivers disc with the monitor so you can install it no worries.


                        Ease of use sort of depends on what you want to tinker with, there are lots of menu settings on this monitor but if you want to just plug it in and use it as it comes then you can. If you do choose to tinker with things then read the manual and follow the on screen instructions and you really cannot go wrong.


                        With everything this monitor has going for it you might well be thinking it will be very expensive but it actually isn't at all. It can be bought from Amazon (which is where I got mine) for under £200, well £188.90 is exactly what I paid for mine, a quick look on Amazon tells me it has come down in price, it is now £188.64..... another great Amazon bargain!!


                        Anyway at less than £200 this monitor gets top marks for value for money too from me and I really would urge you to have a look at this monitor if you do a lot of photo editing, gaming or watching movies or TV on your PC because you really cannot go wrong.


                        THE SAMSUNG BX2231 SPCIFICATIONS:

                        Product Description: Samsung SyncMaster BX2231 - LCD display - TFT - 21.5"
                        Device Type: LCD display / TFT active matrix - LED backlight
                        Colour: Gloss black
                        Dimensions (WxDxH): 51.2 cm x 19.7 cm x 38.5 cm - with stand
                        Weight: 3.2 kg
                        Diagonal Size: 21.5" - widescreen
                        Max Resolution: 1920 x 1080
                        Video Format: 1080p (FullHD)
                        Display Positions Adjustments: Tilt
                        Colour Support: 16.7 million colours
                        Response Time: 2 ms
                        Image Brightness: 250 cd/m2
                        Image Contrast Ratio: 1000:1
                        Digital Video Standard: High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI)
                        Signal Input: 2xHDMI, VGA
                        Microsoft Certification: Certified for Windows Vista
                        Power Consumption Operational: 18 Watt


                        TO SUM UP:

                        At 22 inches in size this monitor would once have been classed as massive but these days it is about average in size but it is way above average in everything else that it offers. It is stunning to look at even when off with its mirror like glossy black look, it is super thin and takes up little space, it offers excellent HD viewing at super fast refresh times and at any angle.

                        I have had mine for a little over three months and I am very, very happy with it so much so in fact that I intend to replace my gaming PC`s monitor with one of these in the very near future and I have personally recommended this monitor to family and friends.


                        MY SCORES:

                        LOOKS 10/10
                        BUILD QUALITY 9/10
                        EASE OF USE 8/10
                        PICTURE QUALITY 10/10
                        VALUE FOR MONEY 10/10
                        OVERALL 10/10


                        Thanks for reading.

                        © thebigc1690

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                        • More +
                          15.12.2010 20:01
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                          An expensive home printer but a highly recommended one!

                          As a professional photographer I have written many reviews on Dooyoo about the various cameras I have used or tested and much of the other accessories that go with the job, well after the images are taken they of course need to be printed, I use a local lab to do the majority of my printing but for budget priced prints and one hour turn around shoots I print myself in the studio and if it is anything up to an A3 print I use the Epson stylus photo R1900.


                          This is a serious piece of kit and it is not like the typical Epson printers in size or weight, this is a large based printer sized 616 X 322 X 214 mm and weighing in at a hopping 12000g, it takes 8 ink cartridges rather than the typical six but what you get with this huge lump of a machine is prints you can cherish and like I do, sell confidently.


                          On the front of the machine there is only four buttons present, Power, Paper Alert/Delete, Ink change and Roll Feed, which makes it simple to use, on the rear there are two USB ports, one for PC and one for MAC, right next to these you will find the power cable but no firewire port as Epson have removed this option from this model even though there was one on the earlier R1800.


                          The build quality of this unit is better than the average £80 Epsons most people will go for, it is a very sturdy unit, the loading trays are three tiered and although made of a much flimsier plastic than the rest of the components I am fairly sure that the risk of them breaking is very slight and they do seem to be of better quality than the loading trays of previous Epsons.


                          On to installing this printer and although I have installed it only once and that was some time ago I do remember it to have been a very simple and straight forward process, simply use the provided disc, follow the simple on screen instructions and around about ten minutes time and your printer will be fully functional and raring to go.


                          Performance wise this printer is reasonably fast without being rapid, it cannot compete with lab printers but it outshines cheaper Epsons and other brands by a good distance. An 8X10 photo in best photo format will take around 90 seconds to print which is pretty decent, the older Epsons used to take around double that for this size of print.


                          The actual appearance and quality of the print is staggeringly good for a non lab printer, the 8 ink system allows the Epson R1900 to create a staggering 18,446,774 trillion colour combinations which is far, far superior to any of the earlier Epsons and around double what a typical Kodak printer can produce.


                          This excellent performance and print quality comes at a price though and I do not mean the £350 that the printer will cost but rather the £100 a time it will cost you to replace a set of inks, the inks used are known as UltraChrome Hi-Gloss2 and you now get as well as the cyan, magenta and yellow inks, matte black, photo black, red, orange and gloss optimizer, the orange ink replaces the blue ink previously used with UltraChrome Hi-Gloss and Epson themselves say that this allows them to get a much beter skin tone colour reproduction as well as offering a much better reproduction of the shades of green and blues when HDR photography is used.


                          Whilst we are on the subject of the inks, you need to shake the inks before you use them for the first time, Epson say this is because the pigment particles in the ink can sink to the bottom of the tank and potentially clog up the pipes.


                          As well as printing photos this machine can make light work of documents too with an A4 document printing at only 2 seconds per page if you are printing of large documents of many pages you do not have to wait a lifetime for them to be ready.


                          The photo side of the printer is of course where its best performances lie and I can honestly say that I have been very happy with the quality of prints this machine has turned out, I have been using the Epson R1900 for over a year now and have printed somewhere in the region of 5000 8X10 photos with it and it has as of yet not needed a service nor has it thrown up any problems except for once when it failed to print but that was due to a faulty ink and not the printer.


                          You can purchase third party inks that will work with this printer, I of course never do as I am selling the photos professionally and would not trust the third party inks but they are out there should you choose to use them and they do of course cost a fraction of the price of the Epson ones.


                          As a portrait photographer the new orange ink and the better skin tones are something I can certainly say that I believe in and this does make my job in the editing suite much easier, the one thing that I do not believe in however is Epsons claim that the finished photos are better than lab quality, a claim which Epson makes with lots of their printers now but for me a lab quality print will always outshine these and that is why my budget range prints are less expensive by quite a bit over my lab prints.


                          The only other slight points of note on the down side of this printer is that there is a slight banding on the prints through the mid tones, this cannot be seen unless under magnification but it is there and the other thing of note is that the ink tanks are a bit on the small side for such a large printer but overall it is a great piece of kit really.


                          I do a lot of black and white photography and believe it or not printers tend to find this harder to get right than printing in colour, the blacks can often look washed out and the ability to produce highlight and shadow in black and white photos is beyond many printers but with the use of the extra black and the gloss optimizer this Epson R1900 has great black & white reproduction.


                          As well as printing on the typical glossy photo paper I also use matte and canvas papers and this is the point that a lot of printers fail miserably but although the Epson R1900 does give its best result on premium glossy papers it can operate very well on matte and canvas papers too which is a huge thing in a professional environment.


                          When I purchased this printer it came with a set of start up inks which were only half full, this is standard procedure for Epson, the gloss optimizer however was full and there was a spare one too, the reason why soon became apparent, the optimizer covers the entire surface of every print and therefore soon runs out, I get about 30 8X10 prints per optimizer cartridge, luckily these can be purchased much cheaper than the ink cartridges at only £8 for a pack of four.


                          Epson Stylus Photo R1900 Specification

                          Max document size: A3+
                          Resolution: 5760x1440dpi
                          Ink system/type: UltraChrome Hi-Gloss2 ink
                          Quantity of inks: 8
                          Screen: No
                          Memory card reader: No
                          PictBridge:Yes
                          Roll media: Yes
                          CD/DVD printing: Yes
                          Operating system: Vista, XP, 2000, Me/Mac OS X v10.2.8, v10.3.9 or later
                          Connectivity: Dual Port USB 2.0 Hi-Speed
                          Size: 616x322x214mm
                          Weight:12000g


                          TO SUM UP:

                          I would be quick to recommend this printer to people very serious about their printing or who consider selling their prints but for occasional printers and people just printing for scrap books or family albums the running cost of this printer might just be simply too high.


                          The only other thing that I perhaps should mention and might be a drawback to some is the lack of a screen or built in card reader on this printer but that is because this printer is designed to be used with a computer and editing suite so they are really surplus to requirement.


                          This is an excellent printer all round with only a few cons which I have mentioned and I have to say that at the £410 I paid for it over a year ago it has been excellent value for money but that is easy for me to say as I sell my prints and the printer has paid for itself over and over again, I am still fairly sure though that the value for money thing counts equally if you are looking for top quality prints that you can produce at home.


                          What you get every time is crisp, clear and vibrant high contrast images that you can be very proud of so if you can afford the price tag or simply justify it by making the money back selling your prints then this is an excellent choice of home photo printer.


                          MY SCORES:

                          DESIGN 9/10
                          BUILD QUALITY 9/10
                          FEATURES 9/10
                          EASE OF USE 9/10
                          IMAGE QUALITY 9/10
                          VALUE FOR MONEY 9/10
                          OVERALL 9/10

                          Thanks for reading.

                          © thebigc1690

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                          • More +
                            15.12.2010 16:58
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                            A simple item I am never without.

                            When it comes to reviews in the photography category this will definitely be the shortest I have ever written, that is because this is the simplest item there could possibly be in that category and even I couldn't come up with a couple of thousand words about a cloth.


                            That said, this might be a simple item but it is an item I am never without when on a shoot, especially a studio shoot. Most DSLR`s in the higher end of the range now offer live view, you know where you look at the image you are about to take on the screen rather than through the viewfinder but professionals like myself will rarely use this as you get a much better idea of your final image if you use the viewfinder.


                            Using the viewfinder gets the screen very dirty as your face is constantly pressed against it and in the studio where it is often very warm this can also lead to a very sweaty screen and that is where the Hama pro-optic micro cloth becomes your very best friend.


                            If any of you have ever tried to wipe your screen with your sleeve or any old cloth or bit of material you have lying around then you will know that what you inevitably get is a smudgy looking smeared screen worse than before you wiped it, ive seen people use kitchen roll and all sorts but nothing works properly.


                            What you get when you wipe with the Hama micro cloth however is a streak free spotless screen every time with just the simplest of wipes usually one wipe across the screen will clean it completely but for stubborn mark a simple rub will suffice.


                            The micro cloth doesn't leave behind any fluff or dust either so the screen is perfectly cleaned every time, I trust these cloths so much that I even use them to wipe the glass on both ends of my lenses and I have even wiped my sensor down with them and these are areas I would normally blow out with a blower or have professionally cleaned.


                            These cloths can be used for any surface so I have a pack at home too for the TV screen, computer monitor, mirrors and much, much more but their designed job is primarily to keep your optical surfaces in photography spotless.


                            I buy these in box`s of 20 direct from Hama, I pay around £10 for a box, I sadly cannot tell you what they would cost singly or even if they are available to buy singly nor can I say for certain what they cost the general public as I have a business account with Hama. What I can say though is that these cloths can be bought in cleaning packs along with other products from Hama and however you get your hands on them you will love having them around.


                            In the box of twenty I buy I get the 20 grey cloths a small manual on how best to use them and the 20 cloths are all individually wrapped so when the box is opened I do not have to worry about the cloths getting dirty themselves or wet or anything else for that matter before I get round to using them.


                            There are of course other places you can get a microfiber cloth from but these at 15x15 cm are exactly the right size for the job and being that they are designed especially for the photography market they do the best job possible and that is why I give them the full five out of five stars as a very high quality product.

                            Thanks for reading.

                            © thebigc1690

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                            • Lowepro Altus 20 / Camera Case / 34 Readings / 34 Ratings
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                              14.12.2010 12:44
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                              An excellent camera case that you can definitely rely on.

                              Most of my reviews in the photography section are on cameras, lenses, flashes and the likes but I have reviewed Lowepro bags in the past for DSLR cameras and even though I myself am a big fan of Lowepro goods I had never before thought of them when it came to cases for my compact camera or that of my other half.


                              My fiancée had a very decent little case that she has used for three different cameras but somehow she recently lost it, probably something to do with one of our wonderful kids but anyway it left her needing a new case and as she now has a very good compact camera I decided to look for an equally good case to protect it.


                              The Lowepro Altus 20 came to my attention during a browse online and instantly I was interested, having used Lowepro to protect my professional kit in the past I knew it was a name I could trust and having now had the case for over four months I am every bit as impressed with it as I have ever been with their bigger DSLR bags.


                              The Lowepro Altus 20 is superbly manufactured and it offers a level of protection that is way superior to most of the little compact cases you will find. The quick access lid offers you the opportunity to grab your camera out in seconds when you see that chance to grab a great photo.


                              The camera case can be carried in hand, on the waist using the belt loop or even over the shoulder using the adjustable strap, whichever you feel more comfortable with. My other half carried hers over the shoulder like a hand bag and this allows her with one hand to reach in and grab the camera out very quickly for that perfect photo opportunity (like one of her friends falling over drunk for instance).


                              The lining of the bag is soft brushed and very kind to the camera, both screen and casing are cared for gently yet the outer is a tough padded one that easily absorbs bumps and scrapes keeping the camera safe inside, exactly what you need from a camera case, a tough exterior but a very soft interior to avoid scratching the camera.


                              Now the big brand name and the professional look of the case could fool you into thinking it is going to be way more expensive than other cases but in truth it is not. If you want the cheapest of the cheap then yes you can get a case for about £5.99 but would you trust it to look after your camera? With some compacts costing over £200 would we really want to skimp on caring for them?


                              A decent compact camera case will always cost upwards of £10 and with the Lowepro Altus 20 costing only £17.99 when I bought it, it was well worth the price tag and in truth much, much more. I was so happy with the purchase that I have since bought another one which now gets the job of looking after my TZ10, a very expensive compact that I wouldn't trust another name to look after.


                              Colour wise this comes in only black but it looks very nice and as I have mentioned it also looks professional, space wise it will be adequate for small to medium sized compacts which these days is almost all but if you do have one of the larger compacts you might find it a bit tight fitting in this particular case.


                              The only down side to the case is there is not any room for spare batteries or the likes which some people like to carry but again with most compacts having lithium ion rechargeable batteries these days this is less necessary and certainly not something that worries me too much.


                              Although there is no room for spare batteries there is a little compartment for spare memory cards and it also is soft lined and will keep your memory cards every bit as safe as your camera. Obviously if you need more space then there are plenty other cases and bags in the Lowepro range but if all you need is simple but very effective protection for your compact camera then the Lowepro Altus 20 is exactly what you need.


                              Thanks for reading.

                              © thebigc1690

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                              • More +
                                13.12.2010 15:10
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                                An inexpensive way to improve images and protect lenses.

                                In photography there are many, many things that can help improve the looks of your photographs and one of these is filters. Filters will most commonly be used by people that use DSLR cameras and more likely people who take their photography very seriously, as a professional photographer I fit both those brackets of course and I use many different filters to create many different styles of photograph.


                                The UV filter I am reviewing here, the Hama UV Filter UV-390 67mm is actually a very common filter and does not create too much of an effect on shots, it is actually used to cut the glare in photographs taken in bright sunlight and to reduce the haziness created by ultraviolet light but it is also used by many, myself included as just a means of protecting the lens.


                                If you catch the glass of your lens and scratch it or god forbid break it you are looking at a huge outlay for a new one where as if you have a simple UV filter, it takes the knocks and can be replaced for around £15.


                                Almost all lens makers such as Sony, Canon, Nikon and the likes will all make their own branded filters and sometimes I would suggest using them if for instance we are talking polarizers, or other filters that go a long way to actually creating an effect in the image you are taking but when it comes to the simple filters like UV ones then Hama filters are an excellent option as they are much less expensive. This particular filter cost me less than £20 whereas the more expensive ones are over twice that price.


                                I have many UV filters for my collection of lenses but this particular one is a 67mm one which means it will only fit lenses with a 67mm filter thread, this is mainly the more expensive lenses out there, I also have filters in 55mm and 62mm to cover my range of lenses, I only have a few polarizers and other filters which I change from lens to lens but I have a UV filter on all of my lenses for the protection they offer and there is no need to remove them because they do not affect the way my lenses react in studio conditions or in any other conditions.


                                My main use for UV filters other than to protect my lenses is to cut through hazy skies, using a UV filter can make blue skies look even bluer than the naked eye sees them, they also allows you to shoot images which become completely colour neutral and therefore are not only more accurate to what you see with the naked eye but they are also much easier to work with on Photo Shop.


                                These Hama filters are of a high quality and they are muti coated which many cheaper brands are not, they are in fact one of the cheapest multi coated filters I know of and certainly one I would recommend, the filters come in black or silver so they can match any lens but quite often professionals like myself will use a silver filter on a black lens and vice versa to remind us that it is there.


                                Some photographers I know will swear blind that they get a sharper colour and a more vibrant highlight when using UV filters in the studio, I do not personally agree with this statement but if you have heard mention of it then it might well be true but it is not a reason I would give to anyone for using a UV filter personally.


                                These filters are very easy to apply to the lens they simply screw on and off and can be put on or taken off in a very short space of time but like I say you can if you wish just put it on the lens and shoot away in all conditions, I have and continue to do and always will just because I know that my lens has that extra bit of protection, with some of my lenses costing upwards of a thousand pounds I would much rather be wrecking £20 filters than replacing the lenses, so I would suggest that If you are a serious photographer then once the camera and the lenses and all the other essentials are purchased, the very next thing on your list should be a Hama UV filter for every lens you own, this will not only allow you to get the best possible outdoor images when shooting in hazy or bright sunshine conditions but it will also let you relax a bit about the chance of damaging those very costly lenses!


                                **Please note the quick rating guide below does not apply to this product so I have just given full marks for everything**


                                Thanks for reading,

                                © thebigc1690

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