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Philip Hurst (Seville, Spain)
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Fujifilm Fujinon XF10-24mm Lens for X-T1, X-T10, X-E2, X-Pro1, X-A2
Fujifilm Fujinon XF10-24mm Lens for X-T1, X-T10, X-E2, X-Pro1, X-A2
Price: £709.00

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Another winner from Fuji, 22 April 2015
In purchased this lens from amazon.es as a "partner" for the 18-135mm Fujinon and the Fujifilm X-T1. What a great combination they make. The 10-24mm is lighter than one might expect, but like its bigger brother 18-135mm, it is beautifully made. On the camera it produces dramatic photos of very high quality definition and colour veracity, without any visible distortion or fringing. There is very little noise from the linear motor, the OIS works brilliantly, and focusing is instantaneous. It is an expensive piece of glass, but there is really nothing to touch it for flexibility on that range: it covers the focal lengths of about three different prime lenses, and I for one don't want to be bothering with putting on and taking different lenses when this one lens will perform more than well. Just as with the 18-135mm, if you are going to use this on an X-T1, I would recommend spending the extra to get the simple Fuji hand grip MHG-XT for the camera: it makes using the zoom lenses so much easier and comfortable, and importantly, there is less likelihood that you might drop the camera.


Fuji XF-18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 WR OIS Lens
Fuji XF-18-135mm f/3.5-5.6 WR OIS Lens
Price: £602.50

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding lens combining flexibility and optical excellence with value for money., 22 April 2015
I purchased this lens from amazon.es (Spain) – OK, so these X lenses are not cheap – and have been very surprised by it. Surprised not because I am disappointed, but because it is so GOOD. My expectation was that it would be an appropriate lens on my X-T1 for my travel photography, what with the WR branding for weather resistant. However, in use it has returned photos of remarkable clarity and colour rendition. I had been planning to use some Zeiss prime lenses (from my Contax) on my X-T1, but having just conducted a side-by-side test (using the Fotodiox Contax>Fuji X adapter mount), the Fujinon 18-135mm zoom is actually better than the much-praised Carl Zeiss 45mm f/2 Planar lens. No way am I going to faff about changing the Fuji lens for the Zeiss+adapter combination when the Fujinon takes better photos. Very highly recommended. (I also bought the Fujinon 10-24mm super-wide zoom.)
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 22, 2015 2:50 PM BST


Fujifilm X Series Case for Camera - Brown
Fujifilm X Series Case for Camera - Brown
Price: £32.65

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Handsome, well-made man-bag for your Fuji X camera, 18 April 2015
Bought mine from Amazon.es. Handsome, very well-made, rugged and thoughtfully designed. On the one hand, it is just the right size for an X-T1 plus 18-135mm lens, on the other it is a bit of a tight squeeze if you then stuff in a 10-24mm as well. While I wouldn't object if it were branded Fujifilm, there are no brand labels on it anywhere. And unlike some Fuji accessories, it is reasonably priced. What's not to like?


The Hunger Games (2 Disc) [DVD]
The Hunger Games (2 Disc) [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jennifer Lawrence
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £3.49

8 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Utter rubbish, 18 Sept. 2012
This film is complete rubbish. Utter tosh. There were many points in the course of the film where I said to myself that I can't watch any more of this without doing permanent damage to valuable brain cells. Even worse than the "Twilight" series, and that's saying something.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 22, 2014 6:30 AM GMT


The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany's Bid for World Power, 1898-1918
The Berlin-Baghdad Express: The Ottoman Empire and Germany's Bid for World Power, 1898-1918
by Sean McMeekin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.68

45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Some misleading reviews here: this is an excellent book, 6 Sept. 2011
I read some of the reviews of Dr McMeekin's book here on Amazon with a rising sense of frustration and disbelief. First, I cannot believe that some readers could be so obtuse that they would buy the book expecting it to be a trainspotters' guide - which some reviewers clearly did. Didn't they read the description of the book before placing an order? No, it isn't a technical guide to the Berlin to Baghdad Railway, and not for one second does it purport to be, so ignore the bleatings of purchasers who thought that this is a volume to accompany their books on the Flying Scotsman.

Similarly, there is one extended review which takes McMeekin to task because his purpose as an author, i.e. to give a fresh insight into the relationship between Imperial Germany and the Ottoman Empire before and during the Great War, leaves unexamined a shopping list of issues and personalities that the reviewer wants, or was expecting, to be examined. Unfairly, in my view. I am not a professional historian, but as an educated dilettante I found the book not only opened for me a new perspective on an aspect of the Great War that has received less attention from Anglophone writers than it warrants, but it does so in a way that makes the story at once readable and comprehensible. British writers on this theatre tend to become fixated on the agonizingly sexually-repressed T.E. Lawrence. McMeekin gave me a fascinating and informative account of how the Ottoman Empire came to side with Germany/Austria-Hungary: surprised though many people in the British Admiralty and War Office may have been at the Sublime Porte throwing in its lot with the Central Powers, McMeekin gives an intriguing account of the waverings and vacillations that occurred in advance of what ultimately was Enver Pasha's huge gamble. More how to fend off the Russians than to share the Central Powers' ambitions in Europe to the west. Having read Peter Hopkirk and David Fromkin, I was not unfamiliar with the scope of this book, which I think makes a significant contribution to the study of a critically important period of history, the ramifications of which we are living and reliving every day.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 27, 2012 8:19 PM BST


Fujifilm Finepix F70EXR Digital Camera - Gun Metal (10MP, 10x Zoom) 2.7'' LCD
Fujifilm Finepix F70EXR Digital Camera - Gun Metal (10MP, 10x Zoom) 2.7'' LCD

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Beautifully made, highly flexible, great performance, 16 Jun. 2010
For the past few years I have been using a Leica Digilux-2. The Leica produces superb images - stunning colour rendition - but it is the size of a DSLR, perhaps larger than the new MicroFourThirds system cameras from Olympus and Panasonic/Lumix (which use Leica lenses). So I was looking for a smaller compact camera to take travelling that might go some way towards giving me similar results as the Digilux 2. Having done some research, including reading the glowing review in "What Digital Camera" which gave this Fuji a 93% rating, the highest of ANY non-DSLR camera, I decided to buy the Fuji Finepix F70 EXR from Amazon.

I have spent several days "testing" it, running through the many combinations and options available. I've also spent some time reading the technical information on the Fujifilm web site on the EXR sensor technology, and the all-important processing engine that goes with it. The latter was helpful in understanding why in some modes the resulting image is 5Mp rather than 10Mp - the sensor uses the 10 million pixels in pairs to achieve High Resolution or enhanced Dynamic Range.

OK, that's the background, but what about the camera itself. First, it is beautifully made, build quality being among the highest I have seen in a compact, approaching my Leica's quality. It is a very handsome piece of kit in its high-gloss gun-metal grey metal body, one that fits the hand well and which has a surprising amount of "heft" - it doesn't feel at all "plasticy". Provided one is prepared to spend a few minutes working through the various menus and options, the camera is easy to use, like all Fujis. I suspect, however, that the EXR technology may not be fully appreciated or used by many purchasers as it does require one to dig a little deeper into the cameras capabilities. Simply turning the mode dial to "Auto" and pressing the shutter is to miss the features that make this compact camera stand out from the crowd. The EXR features, which one may think of as standing for "Extended Range" really do make a difference. I spent some time taking shots of a variety of scenes using the various settings: EXRAuto, Dynamic Range, High Resolution etc. There really is a difference. This Fuji produces beautifully saturated colours in images of the greatest detail. The 27-270mm (35mm equivalent) zoom lens is outstanding, especially for a camera of such modest size. Equally, the LCD screen is surprisingly good, even in bright conditions. My only quibble so far is that Fuji have chosen to put the detailed manual on a CD that one has to load onto one's computer. But the bottom line is that this is a remarkably powerful, handy, well-made compact camera that produces outstanding photos.

One final thought. If Fuji decides - as it almost certainly has already done or will do - to put the EXR sensor/processing technology into a DX or FX size sensor in a DSLR, that would really give the likes of Nikon, Canon and Sony a run for their money, if not scare the pants off them.


Khomeini's Ghost: Iran since 1979
Khomeini's Ghost: Iran since 1979
by Con Coughlin
Edition: Hardcover

4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A good, journalistic account of a highly controversial figure, 5 Sept. 2009
First, I am giving this book 5 stars because in part I want to refute and counterbalance the highly disparaging and at times badly written review shown here on Amazon giving this book one star. That critic surely has an axe to grind, and has ground it very loudly indeed. Coughlin is a London-based journalist, and his book is consistent with his profession. It's not an academic treatise, but there's merit in that. Nor does he get bogged down in the minutiae of theological disputes, as many authors on Iran do. He takes a difficult and controversial subject, a man who was himself an extremely difficult personality, around whom all manner of myths and mystique have grown up or been created, and deals with him fairly dispassionately, or at least as dispassionately as it it reasonable to be when confronted by the single-minded zealotry and cruelty of the subject. As a concise review of Khomeini's life and his political activity and significance I found the book helpful. The real lesson of the book is contained in its title: how the influence of Ayatollah Khomeini continues to resonate through Iran and the Middle East today, 20 years after the old man's death. One only has to read of the many and varied appeals to the "Imam's" legacy on the part of the various factions contending the presidential elections earlier this summer to see how significant, how central, Khomeini (and his ghost) remain in Iranian political life.

I found, however, that it was sometimes difficult to work out what year Coughlin was talking about: he says that a certain event took place in "April" but I then had to search for some contextual reference to determine in April of what year it happened.


Guardians of the Revolution: Iran and the World in the Age of the Ayatollahs
Guardians of the Revolution: Iran and the World in the Age of the Ayatollahs
by Ray Takeyh
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars American viewpoint, but succinct and insightful analysis, 22 Aug. 2009
Dr Takeyh has written a book with the policymakers in Washington very much in mind, focussing as he does on post-revolutionary Iran's foreign relations and its relations with the US in particular. If I were an American policymaker, or American Iran wonk, I might have different views on the book, but the book's great value to me is its succinct account of the development of Ayatollah Khomeini's thinking on the role of the clergy in an Islamic state, his role in forging the 1979 revolution, and the force of his personality that created a powerful legacy that resonates today, in the Iran of the 2009 presidential elections and their aftermath. Unlike Con Coughlin's recent "Khomeini's Ghost", which is written in a free-flowing, somewhat journalistic style (which is not to criticise it), Takeyh's approach is measured, considered, bordering on the prescriptive. Concurrently with the foreign policy considerations, he examines Iran post-1979 as falling into four distinct periods, more or less coinciding with the period up until Khomeini's death, the the three presidencies that followed: Rafsanjani, Khatami, and Ahmadinejad, each showing different approaches to the world and to the internal business of government in a revolutionary society. I found his explication of the origins of Khomeini's political "philosophy" (if one can call it that) to be more persuasive and realistic than that of Ervand Abrahamian in "Khomeinism", who seems to be at pains to depict the ayatollah not as a fanatic but as a "populist", almost as though to de-demonize him. Takeyh adverts to the populist elements in Khomeini's vision, but doesn't downplay the ruthlessness and, at times, duplicity, of the old man to achieve his single-minded aim of toppling the Persian monarchy. Certainly the creation of any sort of republican democracy was the last thing in Khomeini's mind. It seems that the revolutionaries, and Khomeini among them, had no ideas about governing the country other than getting rid of the Shah, and then ridding themselves of inconvenient rival revolutionary or liberal rivals. Of economics, diplomacy, military strategy, civil governance and all the other appurtenances of the modern state, Khomeini and his closest supporters, many of whom remain at or near the top of the Iranian government/theocracy today, seem to have been completely ignorant, even not interested. Dr Takeyh is good on the Iran-Iraq war. He also reassesses the significance of President Khatami's two terms as a "reformist" president, and shows clearly how the aspirations of Khatami and his millions of supporters were progressively thwarted and reversed by the conservative elements in the theocratic side of the complex matrix that Khomeini handed down as the constitution of Iran. What would be interesting would be to read Dr Takeyh's take on the 2009 presidential elections.

"Guardians of the Revolution" is no easy read, but repays the effort of reading carefully. What I did find irritating, however, is that Takeyh insists, almost petulantly, in transliterating fairly well-known Arabic or Persian names into unfamiliar forms, e.g., Saddam Huseyn (who he, you may ask?), Ayatollah Bihishti (Beheshti), Ayatollah Muntaziri (Montazeri). It's only a small criticism, however.


Cathedral of the Sea
Cathedral of the Sea
by Ildefonso Falcones
Edition: Hardcover

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Utter tosh dressed up as "historical" fiction, 4 Jun. 2008
This review is from: Cathedral of the Sea (Hardcover)
I bought this book on the recommendation of an eager bookshop salesman. I knew it had sold millions of copies in Spain and Italy, and the bookstore in Rome's main railway station is pushing it (in both Italian and English). It is, alas, a novel written by a Catalan lawyer in his spare time, and it reads like it. The prose is pedestrian throughout, with almost no variation in tone; there is little if any character development, and the narrative is of the "A did X, B thought Y, they stared at each other, then were friends for 50 years" school. Wholly without literary imagination. The "story" (details of which you can see in many other reviews) is interesting enough to keep one's attention, but only just. Some of it is simply naive good v. evil stuff; in what seems to be an imposition of 21st Century political correctness on mediaeval Barcelona, one of the most important characters is a Moorish slave of surpassing virtue and generosity, likewise the Jewish characters are entirely sympathetic, treated as paragons. While one can applaud the effort to present Moors and Jews positively for a change, the presentation is so simplistic and kack-handed here that one is immediately aware of what the author is doing with them. Like other reviewers, I had to make several attempts to finish the book. There is a plethora of historical "detail" but I found myself just skimming this, presented as it is in laundry-list fashion. In an effort to achieve verisimilitude, Falcones inserts into the narrative long lists of names of knights or barons of mediaeval Catalonia, never to be mentioned again. He says in his Afterword that the broad historical events (not the details of Arnau's life) are based on chronicles of the time, which presumably were his source for the roll-call of princes, barons etc. I took this book on holiday and so felt a certain compulsion to finish it, but my advice to a potential purchaser would be don't waste your time: there are thousands of other books out there that are far better written, more believable narratives.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 13, 2010 5:54 PM BST


The Ruling Caste: Imperial Lives in the Victorian Raj
The Ruling Caste: Imperial Lives in the Victorian Raj
by David Gilmour
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A window into a unique world, 4 Sept. 2007
David Gilmour is a respected historian who wrote a massive and highly-regarded biography of Lord Curzon, Viceroy of India at the turn of the 20th Century, when the Raj perhaps reached its apogee. This book seems to be the by-product of the extensive research that Gilmour did for "Curzon" (see Amazon listing), but to call it merely that is to do it a grave injustice. Most people with an interest in India know that the civil administration of the Raj was undertaken by a tiny corps, little more than 1,000 strong, of British (and Indian) civil servants: indeed, the Indian Civil Service, or ICS. It was noted for its incorruptibility, and for the enormous responsibility given to young men fresh from training college or university. So profoundly influential was the ICS on the running of this enormous and diverse country that even today, with a population of 1 billion, India still has its successor, the Indian Administrative Service (IAS), that is little more than twice the size of the ICS under the Raj.

Now, you might think, and could be forgiven for thinking, that a book about any civil service would be mind-numbingly dull. Imagine reading a book about the Home Office. But with Gilmour's book you would be wrong. This is a fascinating insight into an extraordinary world. There is a good deal of detail about how the ICS was structured, but only enough to illuminate the lives of the men who comprised it, their careers, their frustrations, their loneliness, their elating successes, their scholarship, and their enormous power on a local level that was the heart of the British administration of India. Equally interesting is Gilmour's examination of the relationship between the Raj, as personified by the ICS, and the 600+ "princes" who ruled vast swathes of the Sub-Continent up to 1947. One is left with the thought that there were, are, hundreds of millions of Indians who were far better off under the administration of the Raj than the extravagant, capricious, often vicious and cruel rule of many of the petty princes.

Gilmour's prose is far from pedestrian, and many of the stories he relates are fascinating, even bizarre. Sixty years after Indian independence, at the hands of the last Viceroy, an egomaniac to outstrip even the extraordinary Curzon, it is perhaps politically incorrect to focus on the imperial period, but the Raj remains a fact of history, and India today is and will remain for a long time to come a product of the Raj. It is not a topic that will appeal immediately to a wide audience, nor is it a racy story in the mode of "Freedom at Midnight". However, for anyone interested in India during the three centuries leading up to independence, this is a most interesting and rewarding book.


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