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R. Emmott (London)

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HP Officejet Pro 8620 e-All-in-One Printer
HP Officejet Pro 8620 e-All-in-One Printer
Price: £174.50

5.0 out of 5 stars An excellent wireless printer. Seems well worth the cost. Handles multiple computers with ease and also prints from smartphones., 13 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This was a replacement for an Officejet 4500 that had done good service but had started to jam and not scan well. I wanted a wireless printer (my first) but was a little nervous about set-up, complexity and reliability of printing. Also I was unsure how the printer would cope with multiple devices and scanning of multiple documents. Previous reviews reassured me on most of these points. I also wondered whether it was worth the investment, after all there are many good printers available for less.

First impressions are that this is an excellent device. The installation is quick, easy and almost fully automatic. The touch screen is clear and easy to use. Printing works well (although there is a delay mid-page when printing the first page, not a major issue and possibly due to my wireless signal?). Once under way, printing is smooth and fast. Quality is good in absolute terms and relative to the 4500. Blacks are denser, colours more rich (on the same paper stock). I have not checked ppm but it seems in line with the spec. It is good to have a decent sized paper bin. Scanning has been smooth and fast although on one occasion I had to re-feed sheets to get better alignment, possibly I had not set the paper guides properly. I have not used the fax but the facility is there if needed.

I have connected 2 laptops and the printer knows which is which automatically. I can also print from my phone using HP's e-print app. I have not owned the printer long enough to comment on cartridge usage. A replacement set of 4 cartridges is expensive but others have mentioned the low ink consumption of this printer. I don't know if it is significant but this printer does not go through all the cleaning noise exercises that the 4500 used to. I hope this is a good sign.

Overall, very pleased with this printer so far in all respects.

Genesis Revisited: Live At The Royal Albert Hall
Genesis Revisited: Live At The Royal Albert Hall
Price: £15.55

3.0 out of 5 stars Great music and playing spoiled by over-bassy mix. A pity, this could have been so much better., 7 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Great music and playing but the mix is far too bassy. I have played with the equalisation and even with all bass frequencies turned right down, the mix has too much bass. By contrast, Live at Hammersmith is well balanced and if you are in any doubt as to which to buy, my recommendation would be that one first. Live at the RAH is for collectors only I think. A great pity, it could have been so much better.

LCS - ORION PRIME - 10M - Ultra High Resolution - Professional Optical cable TOSlink - shielded / braided - Optimized for all devices such as sky HD, blu-ray player, apple computer, PC and game console... - Gold plated connectors
LCS - ORION PRIME - 10M - Ultra High Resolution - Professional Optical cable TOSlink - shielded / braided - Optimized for all devices such as sky HD, blu-ray player, apple computer, PC and game console... - Gold plated connectors
Offered by Link Cable Store UK
Price: £58.99

5.0 out of 5 stars My first optical cable. Very impressed., 7 Aug 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I am new to the world of optical cables and bought this on the strength of the Amazon reviews. I was a bit nervous about what the quality would be like over the 10m length. I need not have been. The cable looks like a professional audio product, the nylon braid looking just like stainless steel. The plugs fit well. The sound quality is impressive, whether classical, speech or rock.

Sony DSCWX200 Digital Compact Camera with Wi-Fi - Black (18MP, 10x Zoom)
Sony DSCWX200 Digital Compact Camera with Wi-Fi - Black (18MP, 10x Zoom)
Offered by BestChoice
Price: £139.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Hard to fault for its size and cost. Well made, good lens, intuitive controls, wi-fi. A camera to carry wherever you are., 28 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was attracted to the Sony DSC-WX 200 by its small size and capabilities.

I was not disappointed as the camera is small yet well made for a camera of this type. The front panel and lens housing are made of metal, the rest appears to be plastic. The camera feels solid but is not heavy.

By old-fashioned 35mm standards it has a 25mm-250mm lens, in other words a 10 times zoom range but also a meaningful wide angle as well as telephoto end to the zoom range. It’s not strongly advertised, but in fact there is a digital zoom that extends this by a factor of 2, so that you can in effect achieve a focal length, in 35mm terms, of 500 mm. At its full extension, with maximum optical zoom, it’s not going to break world records for clarity, but here you have a tiny little device that you can hand hold, with good optical stabilisation, that will let you take pictures wherever you are.

The lens is very capable for such a small camera. It focuses down to 5 cm, and, without the benefit of detailed technical tests, it seems to hold its own throughout the zoom range. The built-in image stabilisation means that handheld shots are possible with the zoom well extended, even in low light conditions. The response is a little bit slow, but bearing in mind the size and weight and performance of this little device, it’s not bad. Also the 18 MP capability results in sharp and detailed images that could have been taken on a larger camera, especially at the wide and normal focal lengths. Image contrast suffers a little at the longer focal lengths but this can easily be corrected later.

Experimenting one dark and rainy evening, all too common in the UK, it was possible to take perfectly acceptable pictures at the top setting of 12,500 ASA. They were grainy, of course, that that is to be expected at this sensitivity level, but it was quite remarkable that the camera of this size and weight is able to take photographs under these conditions at all. The camera combines several images to come up with the result, and the result is not highly detailed, and will not compare with a DSLR, but for a camera of this size and weight, the results are quite competent. They have a bit of a watercolour feel to them which is not unattractive. This camera will give you far better photographs than most smart phones and is arguably easier and quicker to use than most, as well as being far cheaper.

The menu structure is relatively simple and intuitive. This is a camera that you can leave automatic if you wish, but if you seek to explore then there are a reasonable range of options available to you, although not full manual control. I particularly like the fact that it is relatively easy to switch between matrix and spot metering, and to dial in exposure compensation, as well as to change the ISO setting. These features are more commonly available in more advanced cameras and it is commendable that they are available here.

The built-in flash is tiny, like the camera, but works extremely well especially at close range. The coverage also appears very even.

Wi-Fi is also quick and simple to use, whether using a smartphone to control the camera, or simply transferring photographs from camera to other devices. The Wi-Fi connection is a little quirky, and sometimes needed to be restarted more than once, but apart from that, it worked well.

The panorama feature on the camera also seems to work well, as does the HD video. Overall, this little device is highly recommended.

Sony DSCHX60 Compact Digital Camera with Wi-Fi and NFC - Black ( 20.4MP, 30x Optical Zoom)
Sony DSCHX60 Compact Digital Camera with Wi-Fi and NFC - Black ( 20.4MP, 30x Optical Zoom)
Price: £289.00

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent camera with sharp and versatile lens let down by inability to use screen in direct sunlight, 28 May 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I was attracted to the Sony DSC HX60 by its capabilities and reviews. I had bought the Sony DSC-WX 200 previously, and have been impressed by the camera’s build quality and capabilities, especially for its small size. The HX60 appeared to offer a lot more, for not a great deal more size and weight.

First impressions were favourable although the camera was quite a lot larger and heavier than I’d expected. This is maybe not surprising for a camera with a 30 x optical zoom, 25 mm - 750 mm in 35mm terms, extending out to 1500 mm with the digital zoom at full extension.

There is no doubt that the lens is quite extraordinary. It seems remarkably consistent throughout the zoom range, softening only a little at the extremities of the zoom and requiring a little more contrast in post processing. It’s not up to DSLR standards, but then this is hardly to be expected for a camera that costs less than the average DSLR lens.

It is relatively quick to use, the focusing is rapid and accurate, and the photos do not take too long to process. Again, it’s not a DSLR, but it’s not painful to use. The image stabilisation is good, even at the 30 x zoom setting. One evening, I managed to take very acceptable photographs of the moon, using a tripod and the 30 x zoom and 60 times optical zoom settings. Not surprisingly, the 30 x zoom shots were slightly better in quality terms. (And these photographs compared favourably with those taken on a DSLR with a 70-300mm zoom).

The camera is very versatile and has many settings. It is unfortunate that the settings are somewhat different to other Sony cameras. I found it particularly time consuming to work out how to operate the HX60 using my smart phone, an operation that had taken seconds on my WX 200.

As I have mentioned, the camera is quite heavy for its size, and seems to be made mainly of plastic, which is a little disappointing, especially since WX 200 is smaller, lighter and at least partly made of metal. It is almost as if these two cameras have been made by two completely different teams within Sony. They could almost be made by different manufacturers.

Despite these niggles, I like both cameras. It’s a pity that the HX60 does not have the build quality of its smaller brother, but it is ultimately a more capable camera.

One major disadvantage of the HX60 is that there is no optical viewfinder. This is not unusual for this type of camera, but the screen on the HX60 is unusable in bright sunlight, as you simply cannot see what the camera is looking at. For wide-angle shots, this is not too much of an issue, you can simply point the camera in the right direction, but if you want to use the capabilities of the zoom lens, and especially to track a moving object, this is not the camera for that purpose. If this was not an issue, the camera would be worthy of 5 stars. Since the rest is so good, I will give it 4. But surely, Sony, there is a way to make screens work in sunlight?
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 15, 2014 8:55 PM BST

Fujifilm X100S Digital Camera - Silver (16.3 MP, APS-C 16M X-Trans CMOS II with EXR Processor II) 2.8 inch LCD
Fujifilm X100S Digital Camera - Silver (16.3 MP, APS-C 16M X-Trans CMOS II with EXR Processor II) 2.8 inch LCD
Offered by Gadget Heaven
Price: £867.00

9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great and rewarding camera to own and use, 3 Mar 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Like many long-time 35mm users I switched to digital some years ago. I missed the simple functionality of 35mm SLRs. You knew what ISO you were using and if you wanted more there were push processing options available at the expense of grain like golf balls. Going back a long way, Kodak 2475 recording film set the standard in available light photography (in black and white of course). The best colour equivalent was High Speed Etkachrome with its base 160 ASA that could be pushed to 320 ASA but not much more. Later the much-loved Fuji Velvia reversal film came along rated at 50 and 100 ASA with deep, saturated colours but oh so slow.

Most film SLRs let you know what aperture and shutter speed you were using. In those early days, focusing was manual but we also had better eyesight as we were younger and relatively dark focusing screens equipped with microprisms and occasionally split image screens were not a problem. Indeed there was no other way. Fixed focus lenses delivered sharp results, and often had fast apertures. Sometimes as fast as f1.2 for the standard 50mm lens, f1.4 and f 1.8 being relatively common. Early coatings did leave a bit to be desired.

Progressively most of these things disappeared as the world went digital. True, the ISO capabilities increased and soon we had cameras that would handle 6400 ASA and more. But often at the expense of image quality especially in cameras with small sensors. It was still necessary to use low ASA numbers to get the best quality from these cameras. Often they had immensely complex menu structures and incomprehensible instruction manuals. It was easier to leave the camera asset to automatic and let it work out which combination of ISO, aperture and shutter speed to use. Autofocus zoom lenses became the norm. Some of these had exceptional zoom ranges but they were inevitably a compromise and were generally much slower and less sharp than fixed focal length lenses. Pop-up flashes became standard.

So the bottom line is as a former 35mm user, I have grown to love the X100s. It looks and behaves like an old 35mm rangefinder camera. Some say it is a bit like a Leica. This is not entirely correct as it is both smaller and much lighter than for example an old M3 but there are some similarities. Many people, on seeing the camera, ask me if it is film camera. It is small, light and discreet to use.

I have it now in many circumstances with people and street scenes in low light levels and in bright sunshine as well as for more technical work. It does take a while to get used to the fact that it has a fixed focal length lens. In many cases this is an advantage. It forces you to compose photographs more carefully and the composition aids in the various viewfinders are also extremely useful.

A lot has been said about the viewfinders of the camera. Overall there is no doubt they are very good indeed. One disadvantage of the fact that the camera has so many manual controls is that it is easy to forget to reset some of these controls. The viewfinder will tell you how the camera is set but there is so much information is easy to overlook something. For example if you accidentally leave the camera on manual focus will be an indication to this effect but it’s very easy to miss.

Why would you use manual focus? There are cases where the autofocus is not perfect. It is quick and most of the time it works very well. However in low light levels it is not always spot-on and in those cases it can be useful to use the various manual focusing options. The camera will tell you when it is having difficulties. Sometimes it is also not very good at focusing on infinity. In these cases the manual options are best. There are three of these, which are all brought up using the various viewfinders. There is a normal version, a split image version and finally a phase contrast version which is the one I prefer. Once you are used to it, manual focusing is fast and very precise.

The F2.0 lens is outstanding and seems well balanced to the sensor. You can read about the lens performance in detail in other reviews. Wide open it is slightly soft but not so much that you would notice. There is a small amount of flare when shooting directly into the light. But most of the time the lens produces great, clear and highly saturated images.

Most of the time I use the camera on automatic and dial in exposure compensation as needed. Sometimes I switch from matrix to spot metering which is quick and easy to do. You can set the automatic parameters in terms of ISO levels and shutter speed range, which is very helpful. The camera is virtually free from noise up to ISO 6400. I have never used a camera with such good low light capabilities. Because the leaf shutter is so quiet and has hardly any moving parts relative to conventional camera it is also possible to hand hold the X-100 S down to sometimes one quarter of a second. This really extends the lowlight capabilities of the camera. It really is possible to take handheld pictures of stars.At the other extreme the leaf shutters allows flash synch up to its top speed of 1/4000 sec. Not something I use every day but useful to know it is there.

There are built-in filters including a very useful neutral density filter. This is a little bit fiddly to set manually but can be set using the function key. There are also a number of other filters which I have yet to explore fully.

On the view menu you can set the camera to take single shots, multishots, and to do bracketing of exposure, bracketing of dynamic range, and three different colour settings, as well as taking panoramas and to take a video as well. You can also use the internal filters and manipulate the image in terms of hardness, softness etc in many ways that I have yet to explore, all without adding any accessories to the camera. Such capabilities with 35mm either demanded a host of add-ons or complicated processing or (in the case of the film speeds and other digital options available) were simply impossible.

There are many other options available some of which I have yet to explore. I have also had not yet taken any RAW files, the JPEGs are so good.

As provided, the camera does not connect wirelessly to anything and this does make it a bit slow to process images. However the quality of the images are worth the extra time.

There is very little I don’t like about the camera. It is possible to add a lens hood and filter, but in order to do this you have to unscrew the front retaining ring on the lens reverse in the filter and then add the attachments on the back of that. If you do this then the camera will not fit in the standard leather case which, although an extra, suits the camera well.

There is also an issue that if you have a filter on the camera and you set the macro function the front lens element of the camera will touch the filter and if you’re not careful you can break the whole lens. This does seem to me to be rather fundamental design problem. Otherwise I like the camera very much indeed and there is so much right about it that it deserves its five-star rating.

Long Walk To Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
Long Walk To Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela
by Nelson Mandela
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.79

5.0 out of 5 stars A great book. Worth reading and re-reading., 3 Mar 2014
I’ve just finished reading Long walk to Freedom for the second time, the first time being in 1997 or 1998. It became clear in the last few years that Mandela has emerged perhaps the greatest political figure of the last century. After his death along with many others I visited his statue in Parliament Square London to pay my respects. The messages and tributes around his statue were very moving and that made me think that re-reading the book would be worthwhile and a tribute in its own way. If you read the book once some time ago and are not blessed with a photographic memory, then I can recommend it a second time. If you have not read it yet, it is strongly recommended. I will try to explain why.

I had been very struck by the book the first time round. Normally it is not the sort of book I would read. It was to prove rather compelling. The book is immediately very readable. The chapters are very short. The writing is precise, clear and very descriptive. I did wonder, having heard and seen Mandela on television, about the difference in style between his speech the book. But I put that down to the fact that he knew English extremely well and was very articulate.

I remember from my first reading of the long and involved process of development of the ANC, (much longer than that of the National Party who are in power for most of the book), the Treason Trial and Rivonia Trial, and those many years spent on Robben Island. I remember being immensely moved when the Mandela learns of the death of great friend and colleague Oliver Tambo who has been running the ANC in exile whilst Mandela was in prison.

I was in London during most of Mandela’s incarceration, and perhaps like many others did not fully understand the background at the time. The book makes that very clear.

The second time round, I was struck by the complete commitment of Mandela as he builds the ANC in an extremely difficult political environment. He spends much of his time under bans that restrict his movements considerably. After the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960 the ANC decided to use violence for the first time having followed non-violent policies up to that time. Mandela finally has to go underground which makes the continuation of his work extremely difficult. He leaves the country and embarks of a tour of other African countries some of whom have no racial segregation. This makes him all the more convinced that South Africa must change. Despite his freedom overseas, he yearns to return home, but is arrested immediately on his arrival for leaving the country illegally. He is sentenced to 5 years in prison and is serving that sentence when Rivonia, the headquarters of the ANC’s military wing, are discovered in a police raid in 1963. The Rivonia Trial takes up much of 1963 and 1964 leading to life imprisonment for Mandela and others in 1964. He is sent to Robben Island, off the shore of South Africa near Cape Town and over 1,000 km from where his family are based in Johannesburg.

What struck on this reading was the immense pressure there must have on his family as well as himself. Visits to Robben Island were complex and expensive to organise for his family and involved days of travel, yet were limited to 2 a year for much of his time in prison. Each visit was limited to a rigorously monitored 30 minutes duration with no physical contact allowed, nor any discussion of a political nature. Letters both in and out was censored and were also extremely restricted in their numbers. Yet Mandela’s commitment continued and the work of the ANC managed to continue in his absence. At one point he is reunited with Winnie and is able to hold her for the first time in over 20 years without a glass screen between them. Mandela is clearly extremely regretful that he was not able to live his life as the father he wanted to be, moulded by his early upbringing and natural instinct. He felt that this had been a huge sacrifice to pay for what he did achieve overall for the country and its people. One is left curious as to how Winnie and the family viewed events themselves.

I was also struck by the immense complexity of the time after his release. F W de Klerk had negotiated with Mandela for 5 years prior to his release and had made a number of offers that Mandela did not accept. Finally, with South Africa on the verge of civil war, Mandela was released in 1990 to worldwide acclaim. He seems to have genuinely not realised the impact his release would have. The subsequent years were not easy as the process leading to full and free elections was fraught with difficulties and Mandela had a key role in the negotiations and the reconciliation that what was necessary during this time. He was determined to return to as normal a life as possible but that was clearly never going to be easy ore even possible.

The difference in style that I noticed between Mandela’s speeches and his writing can be explained by the fact that former managing editor of time Richard Stengel ghost wrote the book with Mandela’s support. Some recent articles in the press suggest that this fact has only recently come to light. But in the acknowledgements section of my copy which is dated 1997 Mandela says “I am deeply grateful to Richard Stengel who collaborated with me in the creation of this book providing invaluable assistance in editing revising the first parts in the writing of the latter parts”. Many other people are also acknowledged and credited.
There have also been some questions raised as to the exact audit trail of the original manuscript when it was smuggled out of Robben Island. The book itself suggests that the manuscript was never found, which is odd. Clearly the book was based on something more than just memories as it is full of detail, with names, places and dates being recounted with apparent precision. Further questions have been raised about Mandela’s apparent membership of the South African Communist Party and the fact that this is inconsistent with some of the claims in the book.

Do these matter? Overall I think not. Other sources that I have consulted suggest that the book was improved immeasurably by the involvement of Stengel and others. Not having seen the original manuscript I cannot comment but what I can say is that the book as it stands, especially for its length at some 750 pages, is remarkably clear and easy to read . It provides great insights into Mandela’s life and the evolution of South Africa from his birth in 1918 to its publication in 1994.

Anker® Uspeed USB 3.0 7-Port Hub with 36W Power Adapter and 3ft USB 3.0 Cable [VIA VL812 Chipset]
Anker® Uspeed USB 3.0 7-Port Hub with 36W Power Adapter and 3ft USB 3.0 Cable [VIA VL812 Chipset]
Offered by AnkerDirect
Price: £49.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Good and fast USB 3.0 hub. Could use longer lead but performs well., 18 Jun 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Surprisingly there seem to be few USB 3.0 hubs out there and this one is highly reviewed and not too expensive. I noted that other reviewers mainly liked it (except Mac users but I am not one), the only other point of criticism seeming to be lack of feet causing it to slide around.

So far so good. It has only been in use about a week but has performed perfectly. I have run up to 6 devices simultaneously and did not notice any loss in speed. I am not a techhie with the ability to measure these things but to a mere mortal it seems just fine. It sits at the back of my desk and has freed much needed deskspace. It has not moved around yet, although I can see that feet would help on some surfaces. The blue LEDS are very hip and make it clear which ports are in operation. Perhaps surprisingly for such a device, it has quite a short lead to connect the hub and computer - 1m I think. The option of a longer one would be useful.

Sharkoon Drakonia Mouse
Sharkoon Drakonia Mouse
Price: £25.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great piece of kit, well made and a joy to use. My wife and son both want one., 29 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A confession - I am not a gamer. I stumbled on this mouse by chance whilst browsing Amazon reviews and noticed how well it performed. I had just bought a new wireless mouse (a small HP one) and whilst this was not bad, it lacked the precision of a wired mouse. So I was looking for a good wired mouse for a reasonable budget that could handle office tasks and some graphics applications.

First impressions - this is great piece of kit. It looks so cool that my wife and my son both want one. Not many items can do this. My son especially likes the ability to change the LED colours. As another reviewer noted, the changes don't always work well with Windows 8. I found it best to persevere, plug the mouse in again if it does not work, it worked in the end.

The CD that comes with the mouse contains the configuration software and instruction manual. The software was quick and easy to install and whilst I have not explored all the functionality of this mouse, it looks like it will do everything I need and more. It is well made and a joy to use, for a very reasonable price. I might even have to buy some games.

Lenovo Ideapad Z500 15.6-inch Laptop (Dark Chocolate) - (Intel Core i5 3210M 2.5GHz Processor, 6GB RAM, 1TB HDD, DVDRW, LAN, WLAN, BT, Webcam, Nvidia Graphics, Windows 8)
Lenovo Ideapad Z500 15.6-inch Laptop (Dark Chocolate) - (Intel Core i5 3210M 2.5GHz Processor, 6GB RAM, 1TB HDD, DVDRW, LAN, WLAN, BT, Webcam, Nvidia Graphics, Windows 8)

96 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent laptop for the price, 8 April 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Lenovo was not my initial choice of manufacturer but that was based on lack of knowledge rather than anything else. I wanted an i5 processor, 6 GB RAM, 1TB hard disc, reasonable graphics and sound and ideally a backlit keyboard. Screen quality was not a priority as I plan to use a separate screen. All at the best possible price.

The Lenovo Z500 was what emerged from my search and it was well reviewed. The backlit keyboard was the final decisive factor.
Researching Lenovo, it is much bigger than I had realised, and (against industry trends to outsource) is making strides to keep much manufacturing in-house to get better consistency and quality. After a week, I am very happy with my choice. The machine is well made, runs quickly and quietly, and Windows 8 is much faster than Windows 7.

I noted some issues from other reviews - that the screen brightness was not easy to adjust, likewise the backlit screen was hard to operate. And I noted many comments on Windows 8 from many sources.

Screen brightness is easy to adjust - function key F11 increases it, F12 decreases it. Function and spacebar (together) toggle the backlit keyboard.

Windows 8 - update nightmare seems to be shared by many. Try removing "Nalpeiron Licensing Services" - check this on Google to find out more. I installed Start 8 to make Windows 8 look like Windows 7. It seems to work well.

The laptop itself seems excellent for the price.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 18, 2013 7:55 PM BST

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