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Chris Hoare "Chris" (UK)

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Canon PowerShot SX700 HS Compact Zoom - Black (16.1MP, 30x Optical Zoom)
Canon PowerShot SX700 HS Compact Zoom - Black (16.1MP, 30x Optical Zoom)
Price: £198.95

124 of 131 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A new dawn, 5 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I guess Canon evolved the SX200 series cameras as far as they could take them; the SX280 was a great travel / pocket camera; albeit one you needed a spare battery for. The SX700 loses features from the SX280 - most painfully for me a reduced ISO range and for travelling around and knowing where you took your photo its disappointing to lose the GPS feature. In exchange for those features you gain 4megapixels with the SX700 having 16 megapixels and an extra 10x of zoom taking it to 30x and to try and manage that extra zoom the image stabilisation has been improved. After the new zoom the next big improvement is the new screen on the back has twice the resolution so it looks more clear; and the menus look better. The battery live is also still improved; though the SX700 still doesn't charge via USB needing a cumbersome charger to go on holiday with you.

The zoom / Lens
In my first city centre based experiments with the camera I found the camera nice in the hand. The button layout is new but the movie button is better on the top than the back. There is a snap out of zoom button to help you frame your photos; press it the SX700 zooms back and shows a box where your zoom was; release it and it snaps back; excellent for tracking moving objects. That 30x zoom does come at a price though; I have steady hands but zoomed out to 30x its very difficult to hold the camera steady; and for truly sharp images you need a tripod; back at 20x its much easier to control the camera. The pictures modes are still there from the SX280; including my favourite miniature mode (which is also available in the video.)

Still Photos
The drop in ISO / raise in mega pixels has resulted in mostly noisier photos which is a step backwards. I also feel at the extreme ends of the zoom the image quality isn't as good as it should be; photos look out of focus. I have uploaded examples of the zoom range in the city centre a couple of photos from a walk in the Peak district. The Robin Image has really good image separation (and the background blur is excellent) but the Robin itself isn't really in focus - you can't see the feathers. As a snapshot it might be more than enough; but you can get a better photo.
The drop in ISO ability is most noticeable when you are out with friends; I took my SX700 to a retirement party in a restaurant; less than perfect lighting. Pretty much all photos the camera asking me to raise the flash (its manual now which is a big improvement) at times the SX280 wouldn't have done so. With the flash on the pictures were very good; but do you want to fire a flash in a restaurant?

The video image quality is better; as is the sound quality. I took and the video stabilisation is markedly better - even at the extreme 30x end of the zoom. The sound quality is excellent; shooting video of songbirds in the forrest the audio was very good; in the city the auto levelling the microphones are internal to the camera but are now on the camera race. As they are internal though so the zoom is evident if you use it. The video looks better than its processor - and it doesn't destroy the battery in the way it did with the SX280. There is a super 240fps mode at very low resolution if you want to analyse sports or other fast moving events the SX700 can still make super slow motion videos.

Its Peers
I get to play with a lot of cameras the SX700 (as with the SX280) I bought with my own money. If you are looking to spend your own money; my honest advice is at the time of writing the SX280 is considerably better value. If you want the latest toy; the Canon has good image and video quality compared to its peers. The interface is also much more responsive and easier to use than its sony and olympus peers. . Compared to the competition I have a Sony super zoom and had an Olympus in my camera cupboard both are in the 20-30x zoom space and competitors. Both have higher megapixel counts in their sensor but take more noisy photos (and in the case of the olympus it feels sluggish.) In my use the SX700 is excellent compared to its peers. Using MP4 video on the canon the video is easier to work with than the AVCHD of the Sony; and the image and sound quality on the SX700 is noticeably better than both the Olympus and sony. The sound levelling in the SX700 seems much improved.

Sharing photos / there is an app for that
The Canon iPhone / android app lets you take pictures or share them on the internet is easy to get from the app stores; and its easy to use with the SX700. The Canon app lets you take and share photos; and in use its more flexible than Sony's was (though sony cameras all have differing interfaces so that may change) - both the Canon and Sony apps worked first time - I have never been able to get the Olympus one to connect.
My advice on the Canon SX280 when it came out; was it was better than its predecessor but the significantly lower price tipped the purchase in favour of its predeccessor. I think at the time of writing the SX280 is far better value; as the price of the SX700 comes down that will change. Im just not sure the SX700 is all that much better than its predecessor. The extra zoom range is nice; but when using those high zooms you don't get a sharp image unless you have some kind of support. I also miss the in camera GPS function; I can use my phone with the app to tag images - but that comes at the expense of both camera and phone batteries which isn't a good solution.
Compared to its competition its 4 stars at the current price point; its pictures are generally better but it doesn't feel like a polished product. Bring on the SX720 in 2015. At its current price its predecessor is 5*.
Comment Comments (11) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 15, 2014 1:56 PM BST

Giottos Vitruvian VGRN8255 Carbon Fibre Tripod with MH5400-652 Ball Head - 6kg Weight Capacity
Giottos Vitruvian VGRN8255 Carbon Fibre Tripod with MH5400-652 Ball Head - 6kg Weight Capacity

4.0 out of 5 stars Almost perfect, 30 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought the Giottos Virtuvian in an out race with the manfrotto 055 series tripod. I knew I wanted the lightness that came with Carbon fibre but I also wanted a compact tripod I could get into a check in suitcase. The Vitruvians collapsed height of 40cm; and that Giottos unlike Manfrotto still give you a bag inched it my way. The included Ball Head was a nice bonus (in my mind) but something I would swap out for a manlier head early on.

Out of the box the difference in weight to my previous travel aluminium tripod (a Giottos MT GTMT9340B - a considerable cheaper tripod now) was noticeable. Eager to get it setup I quickly untwisted the grips and extended the legs in my living room; one of them sagged down -and that is a common theme each time i use it. I never tighted each twist lock as much as I should have done. One tightened the second noticeable difference to my previous travel tripod is just how rigid it is.

The legs of my older giottos sagged as they took up the weight of my Canon 6d seemingly irregardless of the lens I attached. The VGRM8255 legs held up to my 6D even with a Sigma 150-500mm attached; surprisingly to me - so did the included ball head which proved to be as much of a star as the carbon fibre legs. It has a nice friction control for all angles; and a separate control for panning. Its not going to be something you shoot video with but for stills its a very nice mount to start with. When you extend the centre column up for the full height things begin to look a bit perilous as the Vitruvian tripods are very vertical - lacking the leg angle adjustments offered in my old tripod. The centre column does have a bag hook which lets you add mass to stop any camera shake - I found the legs so stable I'm not sure you will need it that often though.

In the bag is a short centre column you can swap out the longer one for which will allow you to get the tripod very close to the ground; there were no instructions on how to swap the head at all in my box / bag though. It doesn't look difficult but seems a strange omission. If you want to you can remove the centre column and convert it into a monopod; which feels like a gimic but if you are in places that don't allow tripods might give you an edge without having to pack a separate monopod for your trip.

Taking the tripod out and about is a delight as the low weight reduces fatigue as you go; if like me its going into your suitcase it won't eat into that checked in or overhead locker allowance. My older GTMT9340B has lasted me well; but its outclassed by the carbon fibre and compact shape of the Vitruvian tripods
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GoPro Tripod Mount
GoPro Tripod Mount
Offered by Expansys UK
Price: £8.49

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Quick release + Tripod Mount 5*, 30 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: GoPro Tripod Mount (Electronics)
This pack contains two well made but barring the tripod connector very plastic tripod adaptors; and so although the price is quite reasonable; its a lot for a few grams.That said the GoPro tripod mount kit gives you both connectors you might be looking for; a smaller mount you can connect to go pro type connectors; and a larger quick release mounting plate. Depending on what you are connecting to each has its benefits; I first used the quick release plate on a Veho Timelapse accessory; whilst the quick release plate is too large mount on my security camera suction camera mount; the accessory connector mount fit perfectly.

I like the flexibility of getting both mounts; though it should be slightly cheaper; I love the quick release plate for it's ease of use. 5*

Official Xbox One Stereo Headset Adapter (Xbox One)
Official Xbox One Stereo Headset Adapter (Xbox One)
Price: £19.85

6 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars I feel mugged, 15 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The official xbox one stereo headset adaptor brings back the audio jack type connector Microsoft removed from the xbox ones controller. Using it is a question of upgrading your controller (a first for me) by connecting it to your console with the provided usb cable. When you connect the console prompts to update the controller. Besides the USB cable in the box is jack reducing cable for people on 2.5mm cables. Once that is done connect a headset to the jack input and you are away. On the adaptor are controls for adjusting the game and chat volumes independently as well as a mute button.

In use it worked fine that the Adaptor costs almost 1/2 the price of an entire controller is a joke; the adaptor should have been in the box.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 15, 2014 11:23 AM GMT

Philips CorePro LED 4 Watt GU10 Energy Saving Bulb, 4 Pack
Philips CorePro LED 4 Watt GU10 Energy Saving Bulb, 4 Pack

5.0 out of 5 stars Cool Blue, 13 Mar. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
The core things to know about the core pro GU10 LED lights are; they are very easy to install. GU10 uses a push and twist connector to install and remove the bulbs. Removing my bulbs was a question of removing the old lamp security holder and then push and twist to swap them out and then replace the security holder. The whole process took less than 30 seconds even on my first go. Unlike the halogen lights the LED bulbs don't require safety measures to handle them; the LED bulbs at most get a little warm whereas the halogen bulbs get super hot. Not getting hot allows the LED lights to save a LOT of power in use; though not getting hot they are a little cooler than the bulbs they replaced.

The philips bulb is a direct replacement for my original bulbs; the only difference is these slightly cheaper philips LED lights aren't dimmable - I have put them on my stair well so that isn't the end of the world for me. They are slightly more blue than the lights they replaced but it doesn't cause things to fluoresce as I have seen some cheaper bulbs do.

You pay a slight premium to get Philips written on electronics; but usually its money well spent; and the case of the Corepro that is definitely the case.

Sony RX10 Cybershot 20.2 MP Digital Still Camera with 3-Inch LCD Screen
Sony RX10 Cybershot 20.2 MP Digital Still Camera with 3-Inch LCD Screen
Price: £659.00

11 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent still and Camcorder, 10 Mar. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Sony are on a role with their 20 Megapixel 1” sensor and Bionz processor compact cameras. They are slowly delivering a series of Camera’s appealing to all kind of photographers but consistent in their exceptional image quality. From the high end point and shoot RX100/ii and the quirky Camera for Phone’s QX10. The 1” sensor from these previous incarnations is shown again and again to be outstanding in good to moderate light but isn’t great as the ISO settings ramp up; but consistently better than smaller censored compact cameras.
The Sony RX10 takes that sensor and puts it in a easy to hold solid Magnesium; semi weatherproof DSLR alike zoom body. Size wise its pretty close match to the Canon’s tiny 100d SLR. Only the RX10 has a large attached lens sticking out of the front.

The Lens
The lens stretches from 24 to 200mm; and has three excellent features -
1) The aperture (can be) fixed; which means you can zoom in and out and not have to change your camera’s settings if you are in manual mode. The low aperture number also means you can get some control of the depth of field of the shot; you can focus on a subject and have a degree of background blurring enhancing the focus on your subject. The low aperture number also lets you shoot in lower light conditions.
2) There is a built in neutral density filter (a bit like a pair of sunglasses for your lens. This lets you reduce the amount of light hitting the sensor allowing you to use the F2.8 even in bright light.
3) The lens has outstanding image stabilisation that make using the 200mm end of the zoom sharper; and allows you to shoot video that doesn’t make you seasick.
4) Direct access to aperture control in some modes via an aperture ring on the lens.
The lens is branded Zeiss which under other circumstances could be a dilution of the brand; in this case it takes very nice; sharp images under a wide range of circumstances.

The Body
In the RX10 sensor combined with the lens makes a great combination for most all shooting scenarios - the weakest are Lowlight and Macro photography. Sony have then put it together with a camera body that lets you grow with it. If you are coming from a compact camera there is a zoom switch; if you are used to working with an SLR you can twist the lens barrel to zoom in and out. (Coming from an SLR I found the zoom a little slow - especially when twisting the barrel.) You can shoot in two full auto modes letting the camera make the decisions. As you grow you can try partial control Aperture and speed priority modes; or switch to full manual when you are happier with how it all works.
That support for growing is covered in the menu’s too; over time you can customise the buttons on the camera to suit what you need for shooting stills or video. This customisation is fantastic as Sony’s camera menus can be baffling; though the addition of a quick FN menu on the RX10 makes common tasks much easier to use.
The camera doesn’t have the look through the lens feature of an SLR but replaces it with an excellent electronic viewfinder; when i was in Buxton i walked up a hill and using the EVF could clearly see the faces of people I was taking pictures of. It also had a built in level making it much easier to level the horizon. The viewfinder activates as you bring it to your eye; though its very sensitive so when you use the bright back panel it often switches to EVF when you hold the camera body too near yours.
One feature I adore is that the RX10 recharges using USB without the need of a separate battery charger giving me one less thing to put in the bag.

Getting used to using the camera I have taken it out on two excursions into the Peak District as well as shooting around my home City of Leicester; shooting the Town of Buxton and the hills and valleys of Millers Dale. In the country the 24mm wide angle takes very nice landscapes; and when you want super wide angles you can use the built in sweep panorama mode to take a super wide image.
In daylight the images are very sharp; though as the day comes to an end the small sensors ISO abilities are pushed to the limit and you get a lot of noisy grain (when shooting raw- the Bionz processor smears the JPG images to remove the noise as best it can) (compared to my SLR) in your images.
Despite the 2.8 aperture subject isolation; where the image is focussed on the subject and the rest of the image is blurred out only becomes possible at high zoom magnifications; which isn’t terrible for shooting portraits but does cause a perspective distortion.
Street Photography didn’t reveal any great weakness in the autofocus; which did a good job focussing on faces and at wide angles was nice and quick; as was taking a photo.
I haven’t had time to get to a sports events so went out and took pictures of moving cars; the RX10 can manager 22 frames at 10 FPS in JPG mode and 6FPS when shooting raw images (when testing with a Sandisk Extreme SD Card.) The autofocus carries on running with this which means the last image is as well focussed as the first. The zoom is likely not long enough for anything but indoor type sports though (sit nearer the action to get a better image.)
Shooting video outside in windy conditions resulted in some wind noise but it was controlled thanks to the built in level meters helping me set the recording volume. The zoom is fairly quiet - but you still need an external microphone to remove it completely. The image quality at 1080p is excellent at 24 and 60p; the latter allowing you a degree of slow motion shooting. (In lower light drop down 24p and you will get a much better image.) If you don’t need a 500x super zoom on your Camcorder; or are a Journalist the RX10 is far superior to the last Canon and Panasonic Camcorders I have tried. There are microphone and headphone adaptors on the camera; as well as level controls that let you adjust the sound as you shoot - this will appeal to people shooting. One thing you can remove the sound of is the aperture control; on the base of the camera you can switch it from clicking or smooth mode.
Im torn on my summary of this camera is for people thinking about buying an SLR but not wanting to spend their life’s savings all at once on lenses for all their photographic situations. If that is you I can’ recommend it enough - you get 85% of the benefits of an SLR in a small body with an excellent lens. Its very good at stills and substitutes as an excellent camcorder. The Zeiss lens covers most of the bases for a non professional photographer or for video / journalists needing good still and video abilities.
My experience of using an digital camera’s though is that sensor’s get better every year ; so if you plan to replace your camera every 3 years your next camera is far superior when it arrives. When you buy an RX10 your money is split between the sensor and the lens both of which are excellent hence the higher price; your investment besides selling it on using amazon marketplace is all but lost.
If you go down the SLR or mirror less compact camera route the len’s you buy today can often be used on the camera you buy tomorrow meaning your investment isn’t lost as it will be with the RX10 (especially if you buy 35mm Full Frame lenses.)
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American Spirit: A Novel
American Spirit: A Novel
by Dan Kennedy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Going down a spiral, 9 Mar. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I first found Dan Kennedy in McSweeneys journal where he has written some of the better articles. In his Book American Spirit Kennedy's character Matthew goes down a spiral from Connecticut cruise control life as a mid six figure media cog. He loses his job; and his life spirals down. At this point the book is rather slow and Matthew's life falls apart; finding humour in mug making and carrying eat pray love everywhere. Stick with the book through these grinding pages; we are being force-fed the early grind of Matthew's unemployed status which makes the second half of the book all the more fun. From those slow early days the story takes Matthew on a Journey over the states; culminating in an epiphany in a national park that gives Matthew the spark to find his way again.

The early grid helps you understand Matthew but really does make it hard to turn pages; the little glimmers of Humor kept me going to something that is really quite a gem.

Alpen Fruit & Nuts Trail Bar 48g x 3 (Pack of 11, 33 bars in total)
Alpen Fruit & Nuts Trail Bar 48g x 3 (Pack of 11, 33 bars in total)
Price: £21.57

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Sugary Syrupy Flavour, 7 Mar. 2014
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I should start out saying my go to snack bar are the eat natural bar's which are made from Puffed Rice and solid pieces of nuts and fruit.

Trying out the Alpen bars I was disappointed almost from the first bite the flavour is overwhelmingly sugary syrup and there is little texture to the bar. Being solid cereals (oats /wheat-bound by the syrup) the bars feel more dense than Eat Natural Bars. There are visible sultana's but any nuts in the bars have been crushed to small fragments to make the bar more homogenous. An eat natural bar you have identifiable nuts and fruit throughout the bar; the Alpen bar's not so much. Health wise; if you want lowest sugar Alpen Light bars have you covered. In a comparison to my preferred snack bar; there is slightly less sugar and fat in the Alpen bars than Eat Natural; but the Eat natural bars have 3x the fibre - something a lot of people don't get enough of in their diet.

I found the Alpen Fruit and Nuts bars disappointing; the flavour isn't of the fruit and nuts you would want and the homogenised experience detracts from the textural eating pleasure you can get elsewhere. After trying these Alpen bars I haven't changed my go to choice.

ABC Products® All in One USB Multi Digital Camera / Mobile Phone Picture Memory Card Reader Writer USB 2.0 Windows 98SE, ME, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8 and Apple Mac OS V9.2 & above, PLUG and PLAY Digital Photo Frame Transfer, Reads all Cards Except Smart Media, USB Cable Included
ABC Products® All in One USB Multi Digital Camera / Mobile Phone Picture Memory Card Reader Writer USB 2.0 Windows 98SE, ME, 2000, XP, Vista, 7, 8 and Apple Mac OS V9.2 & above, PLUG and PLAY Digital Photo Frame Transfer, Reads all Cards Except Smart Media, USB Cable Included
Offered by abcproducts
Price: £5.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Takes most all cards, 12 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The ABC Products USB card reader takes most all cards; for the larger cards like SD and compact flash I found it easy to use. Inserting a MicroSD was a particularly challenge for me. Its USB 2 so its quite quick; USB3 would be nicer but more expensive and that is where you are with this - if you have a lot of different cards it lets you read them without messing around inserting things into your tablet or camera. You sacrifice speed for convenience.4*

Lenovo Miix2 8-inch Tablet (Silver) - (Intel Atom 1.33GHz, 2GB RAM, 32GB eMMC, WLAN, BT, 2x Camera, Windows 8.1)
Lenovo Miix2 8-inch Tablet (Silver) - (Intel Atom 1.33GHz, 2GB RAM, 32GB eMMC, WLAN, BT, 2x Camera, Windows 8.1)
Offered by Jeganology

23 of 36 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Nice Sized and apportioned Tablet; Windows 8 just doesn't help it., 12 Feb. 2014
The Lenovo Miix2 is a (barely) pocketable Windows 8 tablet; running full Windows 8 rather than the cut down RT version. I have been using Windows 8 on my desktop (as a developer) before it was released and thought that I would enjoy using it as my tablet computer. After looking at a number of different tablets; including a colleagues Surface Pro 2 i found the Miix2, liked the size, weight and battery life and took the plunge. In getting it to this size Lenovo has included a Headphone, USB and MicroSD ports and bluetooth and wifi. It doesn't have a video out option.

After charging it up with the included charger and cable; I found that of the 32gb of original storage out of the box roughly 10gb was left was available for applications and documents. In this day and age of saving files on cloud storage like Microsofts Skydrive it shouldn't matter; but the more i travel this year the more I find how 4g just doesn't have the coverage, 3g is still too slow to use and none of my clients have public wifi points meaning i need files locally. That was quickly addressed by plugging a MicroSD Card into the device; something an iPad can't do; though a 32gb iPad comes with a lot closer to 32gb of storage - microsoft needs to start getting devices installing windows onto a separate storage space from the user.

In your hand the device feels robust. The screen is bright; and has a quite high resolution. The included apps load quickly; so long as you remember to close them down when they aren't running. The more apps you open the quicker the battery haemorrhages its life - just using office apps I haven't been able to get more than 5 hours without reaching for a power cable.

In use those 5 hours are VERY painful for all but one app - Onenote. I absolutely adore Onenote (available for free from the Microsoft App Store) and the Miix2 (with the optional pen) is close to the perfect one note device.) The issues for this and other windows tablets are the keyboard takes up too much room in landscape mode; and when you need numbers unlike iOS and android they are grouped in a little keypad - so 4 is off to the side rather than above the letter R. Desktop apps are very difficult to use without a mouse; there is no proximity detection of your finger so when you click there is a measure of rushing roulette to your success.

If you stick to the modern desktop apps and browser it does work very well; sadly most all of Office isn't in Modern Desktop and unless you have the pen you have to click icons far smaller than my fingers and press and hold for left click. If you do have the pen; one discovery was that at the hand writing recognition is absolutely fantastic.

The leaves me with a mixed bag; the device is brilliant, and if you want a tablet for Skype and Modern UI apps like one note its easy to use and more functional than an iPad thanks to proper multitasking. Its a disaster for inputting information even with a pen. That input problem compounds when you use the desktop as its entirely hit and miss what you click. Apple and googles productivity apps may leave a lot to be desired; but they may have left things out in the reach for actual usability. 2* because of the windows; the actual device is 5*.
Comment Comments (5) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 30, 2014 1:47 PM BST

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