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since 23/01/2004


Canon EOS 7D Digital SLR 27/03/2010

A serious bit of kit at a not so serious price.

Canon EOS 7D Digital SLR When designing this camera Canon actually asked photographers what they wanted which was very nice of them :) Hence the 7D was born with an 18MP sensor (APS-C size), 8 frames per second shooting rate, a 100% view finder, HD video recording capability and easy menu navigation. I upgraded from a Canon 400D as I already had lenses for that and didn't want to change to another manufacturer. And my word I'm glad I bought the 7D. I had a play in a few shops before taking the plunge and actually buying the camera as I am an enthusiast and not a professional who makes money from photography. The camera isn't cheap, £1299 seems to be a common price for the body only and if you want a lens with it add another £500 on top. I purhcased mine with the 17-85IS lens and spare battery which came to a reasonable £1799 through Park Cameras. Having owned two of Canons other D-SLRs in the past, namely a 300D and then a 400D, a few things took me by surpise when I first started using the 7D. The 7D is built very well and the exterior is weather proofed with a sort of rubber coating meaning you can use it in the rain or snow and not worry too much about it, just don't think that means you can submerge it!. The coating itself is quite pleasent to hold and touch. I've used mine in the UK and in Spain where the temperature was 24 degrees which I thought may mean my hands would start to get sweaty holding it but they didn't. The body of the camera is made from magnesium meaning that it can ...

Canon MP E - macro lens - 65 mm F/2.8 for Canon EF 27/03/2010

Expensive and only has one purpose but my god it is worth it!!!!!

Canon MP E - macro lens - 65 mm F/2.8 for Canon EF I'll start off by saying that this lens is not worth buying unless you are seriously in to macro photography. The lens itself has a maximum working distance of 4 inches and is no use for anything other than macro work. Lenses such as Canons other macros, 50/60/100/180mm, can be used not only for macro work but also lanscape and portrait work because they offer a focusing ring so if you want to buy a lens to start macro photography look at these first. Not only are most of those lenses cheap but they are far easier to use. Back to the MPE though....... The lens itself is built like a tank. It's heavy, weighs more than some digital SLR's, and solidly built. The lens actually weighs in at a quite impressive 710 gramms yet is only 98mm long. The weight I think is down to the zoom mechanism within it. Firstly, the reason for buying this lens: Most macro lenses offer a 1 to 1 zoom, in other words things appear life size on your photographs, the MPE65 offers a 1 to 5 zoom which is where its unique appeal lies. Being able to zoom in to a greater magnification than x1 brings a whole new meaning to macro photography as you can get right in to the nitty-gritty of whatever you are trying to capture - right down to being able to see all the individual hairs on house flies, spiders that are only a few millimetres across and so on. It may not sound worthwhile being able to zoom right in to a spider or fly but this lens really puts you in to the world that they are in. You ...

Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM Macro 08/03/2010

A perfect entry level macro lens

Canon EF-S 60mm f/2.8 USM Macro I purchased this lens as I started to become more and more interested in photographing bugs and insects close up. I decided on the this lens because it was the cheapest that Canon offered. The 100mm lens was £100 more (£460) so thought I'd rather buy the cheaper one just in case I didn't take to macro photography. When I purchased the lens I was using it with a Canon 400D but have since moved up to a 7D. The real benefit of a dedicated macro lens is that it allows you to photograph a subject at 1:1 size. In other words you can virtually fill the entire frame with something the size of a house-fly. Although to many this doesn't seem like something worthwhile photographing (as I first did) I am now hooked on the fact you can see all the details from individual hairs down to the skin textures and so on. Seeing these small animals close up is fascinating. Anyway back to the lens! Having never really used anything other than normal Canon kit lenses that come with cameras such as the 400D (18-55mm and 70-300mm) the first thing to strike me was the weight of this lens compared to what I was used to. Although not heavy in the grand scheme of things it felt 2-3 times heavier than the lenses I was used to. It also feels much better made than my previous lenses but I suppose you get what you pay for. Being a fixed length (prime) lens the actual focusing mechanism is contained within the body of the lens so the end of it doesn't turn like some lenses. Very handy if you have ...

Canon Cable Camera remote control for Digital photo camera, Photo camera 07/03/2010

TC80 - very expensive. Alternatives save you up to £90

Canon Cable Camera remote control for Digital photo camera, Photo camera I had a play with one of these in a few shops all the time trying to justify to myself the expense of £130. After a bit of deliberation I decided I couldn't justify that much on a remote release so looked on Amazon at alternatives. I purchased a compatable alternative for a third of the price which does exactly the same thing as the Canon version. My initial thoughts on the alternative were that the plastic isn't the best quality, the battery compartment cover seems a bit flimsey and the release button certainly doesn't feel as good a quality as my old Canon RS80 remote release. I also managed to pull the metal cover on the connection bit off within about 10 seconds. Might sound scary but the actual connection is fully enclosed and the metal is, I presume, merely there for asthetics. Nothing that a small blob of superglue didn't sort. I've had a play with it a few times now though and to be honest, despite my initial concerns, the quality of the plastic seems fine for its intended usage. It is fairly comfy to hold and easy to use. Does what it says on the tin really! The display is clear, buttons well spaced and it has a backlight for night time use. When setting it up for time lapse style shooting it will also autofocus the camera two seconds before the shot is taken if that's what you want. Otherwise leave the lens on manual focus and it won't. The manual isn't exactly clear as it seems to ...

Ford Mondeo Estate ST220 3.0i Duratec ST V6 07/01/2008

Better of with an ST220

Ford Mondeo Estate ST220 3.0i Duratec ST V6 Mondeo, simple, does what it should, can it be exciting though? Well, in a word, no. I use these cars at work along with Merc ML's, BMW 330d's, Vauxhall Vectra 2.8 twin turbo's and the 3.2's. It's fine as in it goes from A to B without any fuss but other than that there is nothing to set your soul on fire. The car itself doesn't look too bad I don't think but at the same time there is nothing that sets it apart from any other saloon in the market. The Vectra is a far better looking car. Once inside it, well, this is where things are different. Compared to something like a Vauxhall Vectra (and especially the BMW) there is plenty of space, not only up front but in the rear as well. This is what splits it apart from the Vauxhall. There is tons of room inside it so you may well be able to loose the kids (good or bad thing, you decide). There is also the boot space, again, compared to its nearest rival the Vectra there is much more. It also has a lower boot lip on it making it easier to load. The thing where I think the Vauxhall pips the Ford. Well, first of all, the Fords engine, it may be 3 litres and a V6 but it never feels like it. There is always just a muted hum from it when accelerating. Forgive me but people who go out and buy V6's tend to enjoy driving so want to feel alive when they plant their right foot in to the carpet! There is also no sense of urgency to the engine. Sure it revs but it just goes through the revs at the same speed - boring. I ...

Creative SBS 580 06/01/2008

A harsh little number

Creative SBS 580 Having purchased a new PC I also though "why not upgrade the speakers as well". I purchased this set of 5.1 surround speakers thinking that it would be better for playing certain games on that can support the feature. After the initial set up of them (took a while because they are wrapped with so much salotape I thought my 7 year old had wrapped them!), I plugged them in. At first the speakers sounded OK but after about an hour I realised I was getting a headache. Fair enough they were loud but I always ran my others at the same volume and never had a problem. After testing both sets out against each other (other set is a Harmon Kardon set-up) I realised that the Creatives were very harsh with the high frequencies which is what was causing the headache. Unfortunately after testing them back to back I concluded the following:- - the high frequencies are harsh - the mid range is not clear at all with voices getting muffled in the bass - the subwoofer provided does not match the system, it's either not loud enough or it interferes with the main speakers when you alter the level. This to me shows that the crossover point for the frequencies hasn't been set properly. The sub also sounds "boxey" rather than smooth and in tune with the music. Ever been in a youngsteers car with the stereo cranked right up - that's what this system sounds like. So, all in all, not very good. I bought it thinking Creative are a well known brand therefore should make decent stuff. ...

TomTom ONE XL 06/01/2008

Take me home

TomTom ONE XL Having put off buying a sat nav for a few years now I decided to finally take the plunge! I've always preferred road maps to be honest as I find it gives you a clue about where you are going before the journey as opposed to just following a computer. However, after doing to European trips last year I can promise you it is easier to do things abroad with a sat nav! I waited for the sales to come around after Christmas and had a quick look around at various types. There are so many different ones around that it is quite hard to know what to go for. Tom Tom have always seemed to have a good reputation and a few friends had them so this seemed the logical way to go (mainly because if I got stuck with it I could ring them). What initially confused me was the fact TomTom do different levels of service with the units which mean some can receive traffic updates and some can't (be aware if you get one that can do traffic updates it needs a mobile phone to connect to via bluetooth!). I plumped for this unit (One XL Europe) because the XL comes in the widescreen format which, having used a standard TomTom One on my last European trip, I found quite small (the screen is only 3.5" across. The wider screen is just easier to glance at I've found. I paid £154 for mine from Halfords and I couldn't find any shops doing them any cheaper. Upon getting home and opening the box its all well packaged and you are greeted with the unit on the top in a clear protective plastic ...

Philips Wireless USB Adapter SNU5600 21/11/2007

Worth considering

Philips Wireless USB Adapter SNU5600 Although I didn't purchase this product on its own it came with my router, the Philips SNB5600. £20 on its own seems quite steep considering you can buy the main router (which has a wireless connection and 4 extra ehternet ports) for only £45. Although they have to make their money some how :) This was just as easy as the main router to install and get set-up and running. Quite simply install the software and plug it in when the CD tells you to. Mine automatically then configured itself to communcate with the router which was ideal. The connection speeds are also very good (up to 54mb a second) although mine never reaches the maximum. However, this can be down to things such as building construction and other items in the house interfering so it can be a hit or miss thing as to whether you are going to get a good or bad signal. I think the main problem is, as with all USB wireless connectors, is that it sticks out from the USB port by quite a way and I am always worried about knocking it and breaking it (or the USB port on the laptop) when I've got it on my lap or when I'm putting it on the sofa or table. However, to date (touch wood!) it hasn't been knocked out or damaged in any way. As with the main router review I wrote, this thing is easy to install and does what it says on the packet without messing. What more do you want? ...

Philips Wireless Router SNB5600 - wireless router - 802.11b/g - desktop 21/11/2007

As easy as 1, 2, 3

Philips Wireless Router SNB5600 - wireless router - 802.11b/g - desktop Purchsed this wireless router for my new home and am more than happy with it. With most plug 'n' play items its not always like that which leaves you pulling your hair out and normally swearing at the computer. Opening the box you're greeted with a nice clean, modern, shiny black router box that can either be left on your deskptop (and it really does look quite good compared to most routers all things considered!) or mounted using the holes on the rear of it. I decided to mount mine on the rear panel of the desk so it's out of sight and keeps the worksurface looking nice and tidy. All of my friends router have to be left on the worktop because there is no way of wall mounting most of them. I've found mounting it means that there isn't a mass of cables coming on to the desktop making things look untidy. Included is the router, power pack, ethernet cable, wireless adapter (for laptop etc), instruction manuals and setup CD. Quite simply plug everything in, put the CD in and follow the setup instructions. No fuss, no messing, just nice, easy to use and follow instructions. I paid £45 from Tesco for mine and it comes with a wireless adapter to plug in to another computer as well, so not only do you get the four ethernet connections on the router but you also get the wireless one. £45 for 5 connections! The router also has a built in firewall so it can stop anyone from neighbouring properties accessing it and your computer which is a bonus as no extra firewall ...

Mercedes ML 270 CDI 22/08/2007

Do you want to drive a blamonge?

Mercedes ML 270 CDI Although I don't own one of these I do use one at work week in week out (52 plate) but only when they're aren't any other cars available to use. I've got to say it is one of the worst cars I have ever driven. Sure they don't look bad on the road and interior space isn't bad but apart from that I don't really have anything positive to say about it. Starting with the interior . . . . . The driving position is terrible in it and you can only alter the steering up and down not in and out. At six foot two I can't get the seat far enough back to able me to comfortably use the pedals either which is a shame. As for the drivers seat support, it's non-existent. Sure it's alright in a straight line but go round a corner and you'll either be pressed against a window or trying to kiss the passenger! The steering itself has a strange 'detached' feeling to it as in you never quite know what's going on beneath the wheels and it also snatches and grabs on poor road surfaces although this will be down to the tyre size (never get that on the X5's though). The stalk controls are big and chunky and feel it as well. It's not that it's unpleasant but they don't feel high-quality when using them. The cruise control stalk is also terrible and sticks out like a complete after-thought when behind the wheel. The speedo etc is well laid out but compared to other cars there are too many warning lights dotted around it. The air-con can't keep the car cool on very hot days but I do ...

Denon DVD-1930 04/01/2007

Worthy of the DVD player of the year award (2006)

Denon DVD-1930 I've just picked up one of these as I've had a 42" Samsung HD TV for a while now and thought it was time for my old DVD player to be upgarded to HDMI to take advantage of it. All I can say is WOW! The picture quality from this DVD player is absolutely fantastic and I'm now thinking I should have bought one a while ago. The images produced compared to my old NAD DVD player are crisp, vibrant and full of 'life'. Hooking it up was a quick and painless affair - unplug old DVD, insert new one and put all connectors in the back, HD cable to the TV and voila, it's up and running. The remote is a bit flimsey but in all honesty I can live with that because the image quality from the player more than makes up for it. The buttons are well spaced allowing easy pressing without hitting the one alongside. I have a Sony DVD player as well in the house and the buttons on the remote are so close together you can't use your thumb to press buttons you have to use a finger as if pointing at someone in order not to hit the one alongside. The build quality of the unit itself is good and it's thick design I find much more appealing than similarly priced units that are very thin trying to be 'trendy'. The buttons are also large which I like, again some trendy units have tiny buttons which I find irritating. The sound quality from the unit is also very good, much better than my £500 NAD unit (although that is five years old now). My old unit used to struggle sometimes with the vocals ...

Tesco Internet Phone E337 25/12/2006

Cheap but not cheerful

Tesco Internet Phone E337 I bought my internet phone after seeing a few adverts about how cheap the calls are and how good they are to use, easy to set up etc. After unpacking the phone I was a little disappointed to find that the phone itself is a very cheap quality plastic that doesn't feel at all nice to hold. The cord on the phone is about 1 metre long made up of coiled line (like most phones). However, when this is connected to the computer I found that it rather annoyingly got in the way. A quick fix to this was to go and buy an extension USB cable to sort the matter out. A CD is included in the software which just directs you to Tesco's internet site to download the software which is a bit bizarre. Why not just say in the instructions to do so? Upon installing the software I encountered numerous problems with it and in the end I had to perform a system restore on my PC which I was annoyed about. Surely a big company like Tesco can afford to get something so simple sorted out? When the software first installed it refused to find the phone. After a few reboots it found it and installed it. Once that had happened the software decided that the phone was the main sound platform for the computer and all my music being played was coming out of the earpiece on the phone! Once I had told the software to use speakers the phone mic and speaker wouldn't work so I switched it back again and low and behold nothing would play out of the speakers again. Rather annoying I'm sure you'll ...

Jessops Compactflash CF 256 256 MB 17/12/2006

Why buy one?

Jessops Compactflash CF 256 256 MB Having reviewed the SanDisk Extreme III's the other day I thought I might as well review the cards I had previous to buying them, the Jessops 256MB cards. These cards although slow never let me down in three years of shooting, no loss of data or anything, even going though airport scanners which have in the past wiped things off cards. So on the reliability front I can't fault them, although it's a memory card, it shouldn't fail. As I mentioned these cards are very slow, although I only realised how slow when I bought some newer ones. My new Extreme III's seem to run 3-4 times quicker than the Jessops ones when formatting and reading/writing information. They are also very expensive. I don't know which company actually make them for Jessops but you certainly don't get your monies worth. The only thing I can think of is convinience at Jessops when you are buying a camera because all the memory cards they sell are expensive. I think I paid £30 per card (3 years ago) so now they are going to be cheaper (if you can still get them?). The Jessops sight at the moment doesn't offer the 256MB cards anymore, the lowest is 512MB which are £34.99 each. Ouch! As I put in my Sandisk review I got those from (no I don't work for them) and they were £23 each for 1GB cards (Jessops charge £79.99!!!). So they are twice the capacity, a heck of a lot quicker and under half the price Jessops charge. So as I said 'Why buy one?', I honestly can't say apart ...

Canon EOS 400D 17/12/2006

The best entry level D-SLR?

Canon EOS 400D When Canon first introduced their EOS300D three years ago they promised that it would be a turning point in the history of photography. To be honest it did just that and this is now Canons third incarnation in in their entry level D-SLR line-up. So, can it hold the flame for Canon still? In one simple, honest answer I believe it's a big 'YES'. Having actually owned a 300D since they were first released I decided it was time to upgrade after three happy, productive years. The price of the camera is staggering for the amount of performance from it. Canon certainly haven't cut corners in terms of the quality and functions, you can be sure of that, and it can produce stunning, high class images in a variety of situations. The 400D boasts a 10.1 mega-pixel CMOS sensor, which apparently produces detailed images of up to A3 size however I have prints up to A0 (poster size) from my old 300D (6.5 mega-pixels) with no apparent loss in quality so the 400D will be able to match that easily. The lens that comes with the camera, an 18-55mm, is the same as (from what I can see) the one that came out with the 300D three years ago. Now don't think you'll be getting an old lens with it because I have found it to produce very clear images and found it lightweight for easier handling. The lens itself did win the TDP award for best lens in 2005 and was specifically designed for D-SLRs. Nine auto-focus points provide a good wide AF area which was once the proviso of only professional ...

Vauxhall Vectra 3.2i V6 24v Hatchback 16/12/2006

3.2 petrol or 3.0 diesel?

Vauxhall Vectra 3.2i V6 24v Hatchback Although I don't own one of these I use them at work daily so can give quite a good idea of what they are like to drive and run around in. First of all, and the reason why people would buy one of these, the 3.2V6 engine. To desribe it I will use what one of my colleagues said "It's a beast". Quite true to a point the engine is very good pushing out nearly 210bhp through the front wheels. It accelerates quick enough for road use but as with anything with an engine that size, use the performance and you'll pay for it at the pump. Don't expect more than 16mpg around town regardless of what the official figures say. Curising it's very good and will purr along quite happily at 70mph on the motorway doing about 30mpg so all in all it's not too bad. Interior wise it's very roomy but rear leg room is poor, expecially when compared to it's rival the Ford Mondeo which is huge in the back. The front seats are comfy but lack side support. For a top of the range car I would of expected decent seats but presumably Vauxhall weren't going for a sporty interior. They offer adequate comfort for any journey and it's possible to get a good position with the seats being fully adjustable as is the steering column. The dash is clearly laid out with buttons where you'd expect them. The one thing I don't like is the cruise control on the 03 plate ones. The buttons are very fiddly but this was sorted on later models as it was moved to a separate stalk on the column and is much better to use. ...
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