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Jon65 (London, UK)

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Monocular Leica Monovid 8x20, LEi40390
Monocular Leica Monovid 8x20, LEi40390

5.0 out of 5 stars Simply the best., 21 July 2016
This is an impressive piece of kit. The brightness and sharpness are what you'd expect from Leica, as are colour saturation and contrast, and the build quality is very high. It's supposed to focus down to just under 6ft, but despite my ageing eyes having less accommodation than they used to, mine focuses down to about 4ft 3in, closer than any other optic I have (including Swarovski EL SV and Zeiss Conquest bins). Especially when in its case, it's a little larger than the two other monoculars I have, but no burden when clipped to my belt. As the previous reviewer has suggested, the case is very well made, and has an ingenious design. There's no objective lens cover, but one isn't really necessary: it's fully protected when in the case, and the eyepiece cover will keep rain off when it's hanging downwards. And of course it's waterproof anyway, so no rain can get inside.

On first use, it may not seem as sharp as it should, but it's fine once precise focus has been achieved. The travel between closest focus and infinity is less than one full turn, so a seemingly small adjustment can take it out of focus, but with practice this can be overcome as you refine your technique. The other issue about any device of this kind is that it's difficult to hold steady, but again, it's not too difficult to find a method that works for you personally (you can google suggested methods).

The close-up lens attachment is much better than some reviews on other sites might lead one to believe: image quality is pretty good and the magnification is powerful. I haven't used this feature very much so far (having had mine only two days) but even looking at keys on my laptop was a revelation - with the naked eye the keys look smooth and clean, but under this I can see they're finely textured and covered with gazillions of tiny bits of debris.

I use Amazon a lot, but on this occasion found it rather cheaper elsewhere. Still, I wanted to let people know about this instrument. If you want a top quality monocular, this is the very best. (Incidentally, I'd strongly advise potential monocular buyers to go no higher than 8x. 10x really is too much to keep steady).

One last proviso: for birding at least, a monocular can never be one's main optic. You will need a decent pair of binoculars, and if really serious, a telescope too. But this monocular is great to have wherever you go, and of exceptional quality.


Leica - Leica ultravid 8x20 br
Leica - Leica ultravid 8x20 br

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent compact bins, 6 Aug. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I agree with Remus that these are likely to be the best binoculars of this specification that money can buy. Very sharp and (considering the small objective lenses) very bright. The contrast is excellent, as is colour accuracy. Comparing them with my Swarovski EL SV 10x42s, they're not as bright, but it would be astonishing if they were. I've also compared them with a Zeiss (West Germany) monocular bought around 35 years ago, and the Leicas are far brighter and generally superior. It takes a little while to get a feel for how they work - eg the need to set the interpupillary distance each time you open them up from the folded position - but such things quickly become second nature. Only slight quibble is that the case is a very tight fit, but that's hardly a deal breaker.

These Leicas wouldn't quite do as main birdwatching bins, but they feel light as a feather and can be taken anywhere, and I wouldn't be without them. Sheer luxury! Also, I ordered them on a Saturday and they arrived the following Thursday, which is excellent, given that they were sent from Germany, so full marks to the suppliers ,Koester.


Complete Prose
Complete Prose
by Woody Allen
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.98

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not what the title might suggest, 11 July 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Complete Prose (Paperback)
On the plus side, Woody Allen is the funniest writer alive.

So why one star? From the product description: "Comprises three classic works: Without Feathers, Getting Even , and Side Effects".

I already had Without Feathers and Getting Even, but got them so long ago they're yellowing and literally falling apart. I decided to buy the "Complete Prose" on the assumption that it meant what it said: at minimum, all the contents of both the earlier volumes, plus Side Effects, which I hadn't got. Turns out that only selected pieces from Without Feathers and Getting Even are included here. Some of his very best stuff, such as "God, A Play" in Without Feathers, is omitted. This is NOT his complete prose. I feel cheated, and resentful, which is the antithesis of how I want to feel when reading Woody's stuff.

Later edit: well, my review was pretty grumpy. I've calmed down a bit. It's a good collection, but not exactly what is described. If people are happy with this, then fair enough. I suspect that Woody (who doesn't own a computer for a start) is unaware of the situation. It's the publishers who are responsible. Incidentally, anyone curious about "God, A Play" might get a result from an online search :)


Swarovski EL Range 10x42 Swarovision Binoculars Fernglas 110 m
Swarovski EL Range 10x42 Swarovision Binoculars Fernglas 110 m

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the best that money can buy, 25 Jun. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Before buying, I asked for confirmation that these are latest version. Thanks again to all those who confirmed that they are, including the suppliers who were quick to reply.

These bins are truly excellent, and everything that other reviewers have said they are. Extremely bright and sharp to the edge of the image. They are sleekly comfortable to hold and easy to keep clean. The case is very well made and robust.

I bought them as an upgrade from the bins I've used for birding for the last 25 years, Swarovski Habicht 10x40s. Those are very good and are waterproof and nitrogen filled like these ELs, (and are still available) but the superior image quality (and wider field of view) of the ELs is immediately obvious. There tends to be a degree of brand loyalty with binoculars, and while Zeiss now do a flat-field 10x42 they're £200 more, and I doubt they would have better image quality. And importantly, Swarovski's customer service is legendary: a year after getting my Habicht ones, they developed just a slight bit of slackness in the focusing wheel. It was fussy of me perhaps, but I took them to a London optical dealer and asked if he wouldn't mind fixing it. Went back a couple of weeks later and it turned out he'd sent them back to Swarovski in Austria who had put the slackness right for no charge, and without demanding proof of purchase. You can't beat that.

I'm in my 60s, and without wanting to sound morbid, these will "see me out"! Very highly recommended


Soufflette Jumbo Blower en silicone
Soufflette Jumbo Blower en silicone
Offered by Crooked Imaging
Price: £9.73

5.0 out of 5 stars Useful good quality product, 31 Jan. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The rubber blower I bought from Jessops 25 years ago finally gave up the ghost, having started to split. I had become used to using it virtually every day for a variety of purposes including camera lenses, birdwatching binoculars and telescope, laptop screen etc. When you've forked out a fair amount of money for high quality optics, you don't want to risk scratching the lenses, and a couple of quick blasts will remove any small gritty particles before you use a microfibre cloth. (I'd advise breathing lightly on the lens before wiping it gently with the cloth).

This Matin silicone blower should be even more durable than my old rubber one. I wondered about another well-reviewed blower here, but it sounded bigger than I wanted. This one gives a good blast of air while being more compact. It's mentioned in "Amateur Photographer" and is clearly well-regarded. AP also says "While some conventional blowers are made from rubber, which degrades over time causing particles to be blown onto your camera equipment, newer blowers are made from silicon, which doesn't degrade and also helps reduce static charge. This means that not only is dust blown off of the sensor, but the anti-static charge created repels dust from the surface." It's difficult to judge whether static charge is really reduced, but it sounds plausible.

£11 doesn't seem unreasonable, as that includes delivery by Royal Mail. It arrived well before the estimated delivery date, seems well made and does what it says on the tin, so 5 stars.

Later edit: I'm still very happy with this. But one thing I didn't expect was that it would very quickly become coated with dust and fluff from the environment (my home is reasonably clean). This seems to be a property of silicone. It looks a little unsightly but can be removed by holding the thing under running water for a few seconds - I did this at first but now just leave it. After all, if these minor bits of debris are on the blower, at least they're not on my lenses.


LE® Adjustable Focus CREE LED Flashlight, Super Bright, Batteries Included
LE® Adjustable Focus CREE LED Flashlight, Super Bright, Batteries Included
Offered by NEON Mart
Price: £18.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Seems an excellent buy, 5 Dec. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I ordered this late yesterday afternoon (and paid fairly hefty delivery costs). I was able to track it on the DPD carriers site: estimated time of arrival was 10.18am this morning and it arrived at 10.17am. First impressions are that it's very well made and reassuringly weighty in the hand: not cheap tat. It's very bright and the variable focus is impressive. If it packs up, I'll amend this review, but touch wood it seems like a quality product that should last.


Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
Canon EF 100-400mm f4.5-5.6L IS USM Telephoto Zoom Lens for Canon SLR Cameras
Offered by Carmarthen Cameras
Price: £1,299.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent lens, but newer version released, 15 Nov. 2014
[This is an edited version of my original review].

Others have given some useful reviews. I bought it (not from Amazon, though I get most photo gear from here) three weeks ago with a an EOS700D.

Briefly, it's an excellent if heavy lens. For wildlife (especially birds) in dull light you need to ramp up ISO at 400mm to maybe as high as 3200 ISO. But that still gives sharp results which are not noticeably grainy ("noisy"). I get as good results at that ISO as I used to get 20 or 30 years ago from 400 ISO with a pre-digital camera, such is the excellence of sensors these days. I've taken shots of (deliberately) silhouetted birds which, when blown right up, give no hint of colour fringing. Some have said the stabilization gives up to three stops, but realistically it's probably only two.

As luck would have it, Canon have just produced a mark 2 version (EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS II USM) which gives 4 stops stabilization, and which has abandoned the push-pull trombone style design for a traditional rotating zoom.

I'm not all disappointed with the lens but on balance wish I'd waited two weeks for the new one. There were rumours of a new version, but there have been rumours for years, so I disregarded them. The new version will no doubt be even better.

Having said all that, the new one is likely to be significantly more expensive (one seller expects it to be £1,999.00) and a little heavier. If cost is a critical factor for you, this one just might be worth considering.


Birds of Britain and Europe (New Generation Guides)
Birds of Britain and Europe (New Generation Guides)
by Christopher Perrins
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Useful in some respects, but not the best for bird ID, 2 Nov. 2014
I tend to agree with Graham Goodwin's review, though I'd put the emphasis rather differently. Unlike most guides, it has a lot of very useful information about the biology and lives of birds. The book is certainly useful for those things and for that reason has had a place on my shelves since it was first published.

As Graham suggests, there are other books which are far better for identification (the Collins Bird Guide by Mullarney, Svensson, Zetterstrom and Grant is the one to get in my opinion). The problem with this book is the accuracy of the illustrations, and particularly the proportions of many of the birds. Eg the raptors tend to be depicted too short-tailed. Some are just about acceptable, but for instance the juvenile Sparrowhawk is shown with a tail which is slightly shorter than the wingbase, which is plain wrong: the species has a tail which is a little longer than the wingbase.There are some plumage errors: - the second summer Herring Gull is shown dark with subterminal marks on the primaries, which shouldn't be there, Nor do some of the wheatear tail patterns seem quite right, and the Pied Wagtail looks even longer-tailed than in life - the whole bird looks too long and thin, as if it's been stretched out. It may seem overfussy to point out these things, and no book is absolutely perfect, but I wouldn't want to rely on this for ID.

The artist has done some good work elsewhere, but my feeling is that the plates are really not up to par here. OK for someone with a casual interest in birds, but you'd want other books for ID.


Casio Funk LCW-M100DSE-1AER Gents Watch
Casio Funk LCW-M100DSE-1AER Gents Watch
Price: £127.22

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very pleased despite needing a jeweller to adjust the the bracelet, 26 Oct. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This is not a full review, just a few remarks. The watch itself is as good as people have said. I wanted one that would not need a new battery every 2 or 3 years, would not require fiddly adjustment for GMT and BST changeovers, and generally look after itself. I'm well satisfied on those counts. It's also stylish and well built. Though it had to go to the jewellers as explained below, the last watch I entrusted to a jeweller donkey's years ago was returned to me with an annoying scratch on the plastic (or ordinary glass) face. This one would not have got scratched as the face is sapphire glass, second only to diamond on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness.

It gets 4 stars rather than 5 [but see edit below] only because of the difficulty of removing bracelet links to make it fit the wrist. I can generally sort such things out myself, but despite reading advice kindly set out by other reviewers here, getting a watch pin removal kit, and watching a dozen YouTube vids, I had to admit defeat and get a jeweller to adjust it for £12. Quite honestly I was happy enough to pay that after spending hours trying to sort it, but potential buyers expecting to use it straight out of the box might be a bit optimistic. The manual is of no help on the bracelet, but reasonably comprehensive on the watch functions

Fine watch once you've got it on your wrist, does all you could ask of a watch, and an impressive piece of technology.

Later edit after wearing it for 2 weeks: I want to stress that this is a superb watch in every respect. I can't see how it could be improved and while I've never spent more than about £20 on a watch before, this one is worth every penny. It now gets 5 stars from me.


Birduder 344: A Life List Ordinary
Birduder 344: A Life List Ordinary
by Rob Sawyer
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An enjoyable and entertaining read, 26 Oct. 2014
I enjoyed this book a lot. (It won't show as a verified Amazon purchase as was a 65th birthday gift from my brother, who did get it from Amazon).

It's well-written and should appeal particularly to those who are not yet in the "400 Club" but who perhaps keep lists and are partial to birding anecdotes. It's not entirely about rare or scarce birds, though the emphasis is on such species. It communicates the excitement of getting a new bird for your life list, or the various other lists you decide to keep, and Rob describes well the "Can I count it?" dilemmas sometimes faced by listers. Rob also tells us a bit about his life in general, with some comical as well as a couple of sad moments

On a personal note, my own active birding career came to end about 15 years ago because of a change in circumstances, and I'm now almost flatbound from a medical condition. I notched up fewer lifers than Rob, a mere 310, but this book brought back a lot of memories, including some of the same individual rarities, and the first rare bird phone information phonelines. Like Rob, I quite often enjoyed a celebratory pint after succeeding in seeing a new species.

Being indoors nearly all the time in London, I seem well on the way to the lowest possible year list on record. But in the middle of reading Rob's book, and invigorated by his enthusiasm, I looked out of the window and there was a year tick, a fine first-winter Grey Wagtail. Thanks Rob!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 10, 2015 10:34 PM BST


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