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Chris Hoare "Chris" (UK)
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 500 REVIEWER)   

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X-Rite ColorChecker Passport
X-Rite ColorChecker Passport
Price: £73.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Time Saver, 15 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Last year I caught the long exposure photo bug; I have enjoying just watching the world for a few minutes whilst my sensor catches up. What I didn't enjoy was fixing the red color cast on my photos. I read about the ColorChecker and its abilities to automatically calibrate color on images through a a ligthroom plug in. I held off buying it for a while; as for an amateur this is a considered purchase. I finally had the chance to use it over the past few weekends taking pictures of snow melt in the peak district.

On the day of your photo shoot you need to take an image of the chart in the scene with the same camera and lens (and filters) you are going to use for the shots. My example is attached. When you get back you import the photo into the included ColorChecker software and give it a name. The colorchecker software then finds the card in the image and creates a custom color preset (you give it a name) that you can apply in Lightroom from the Camera Calibration profiles menu. Once you have the preset you can quickly color correct all your photos from that scene in one pass.

For long exposure shots it was a bit of a palaver getting the color card in the scene; but once it was loaded as a correction it quickly removed the red shift from my long exposures; and so for me was perfect.

In the Colorchecker box you get color card; along with a greyscale card. The card itself isn't water protected so you need to keep it dry otherwise the color chips might run. You also get a CD to install the software from (though if like me your laptop doesn't have a drive you can download it from the x-rite website.

Having tried it with long and short exposures the speed of correcting colors in images is definitely worth the money; and if you are a professional photographer this will likely save you hours recovering colors on images. As an amateur its a considered purchase; but likely worth the investment. 4*
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K&F Concept 77mm Neutral Density Filter Set ND2 ND4 ND8 Kit for Canon 6D 5D Mark II 5D Mark III for Nikon D610 D700 D800 DSLR Cameras + Microfiber Lens Cleaning Cloth + 3 Slot Filter Pouch
K&F Concept 77mm Neutral Density Filter Set ND2 ND4 ND8 Kit for Canon 6D 5D Mark II 5D Mark III for Nikon D610 D700 D800 DSLR Cameras + Microfiber Lens Cleaning Cloth + 3 Slot Filter Pouch
Offered by dcmall
Price: £27.98

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Value, 14 Feb. 2015
My lenses are generally 77 or 82mm threads; and I obtained a 77mm set to use with my 24-70mm F2.8L. ND filters like these are like sunglasses and are great for reducing the light that makes it to your sensor letting you shoot with larger apertures in daylight or take longer and longer exposures and the ND number goes up.

In this box there is a K&F branded 3 slot filter holder wallet; loaded up with ND2, 4 and 8 filters as well as a microfibre cleaning cloth. The threads on the filters looked clean to my eye and they threaded into my lens smoothly (despite me dropping the lens into mud on the day I took them out for review - the cleaning cloth worked great on the lens barrel.) The K&F ND filters are the average thickness of a screw in filter; on my full frame camera that means I can stack 2 of them them up and only get vignetting at the 24mm.

The day I went out to give these a go the blue skies and while fluffy I watched from the office all week dissapeared to be replaced with fog and cloud but very bright. I wanted to take photos freezing movement of the skies; and ended up capturing the snow melt in the Peak district. I was able to take a couple of second images with the ND8 alone; stacked with the ND4 I could stretch to 5 or 6 seconds. This longer exposure resulted in silky smooth water flowing around rocks (and hopefully an example image is attached to the review.) When you take long exposures with the filters doubled up you do get a Red tint to your images; but this is easily corrected in Llightroom or other image editors. Using the filters on their own they had the expected impact on my exposure times (if you are new make sure Auto ISO is disabled as it can just keep increasing the iSO to compensate for the filter.)

Back in the day photo filters used to cost an arm and a leg with stories about the complexity of their manufacture. These filters are excellent value and give you some creative freedom that the sun tries to take from you. The K&F filters were more than enough quality for me; the included wallet had some padding to protect them and keep them together in my day bag. At the time of writing they are fulfilled by amazon which makes ordering and delivery quick and efficient (and free on prime.) 5*
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Canon PowerShot SX710 Point and Shoot Digital Camera - Black
Canon PowerShot SX710 Point and Shoot Digital Camera - Black
Price: £288.62

23 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Zoom to the moon; with stabilisation that works., 14 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I am blessed to travel for work and I love to take photos of all the places I get to visit. One of my annual treats is upgrading the camera in my pocket. Superzoom camera's are the camera you carry when your cameraphone won't get you close enough to the action. Last year Canon moved to a 30x zoom from a 20x zoom with the SX700 and I was massively disappointed - in low light the images were poor and I didn't feel the image stabilisation was up to the zoom range. When I read that the SX710 jumped the resolution up to 20 megapixels my hopes for 2015 weren't that great; I still took the plunge as sensors and software definitely get better every year; and its a rare treat.

The box is the usual Canon fare - the don't believe in making the box an experience the outside is all sales the inside doesn't have the adventure of opening a new phone. Inside the box you find the camera and battery, wrist strap, a manua and papers and a plug in battery charger. Given that this is a camera for taking on holiday I'm not sure why Canon still haven't to USB charging which would be far more convenient. A morning of charging and after slotting in a Sandisk SD card I powered the camera up. You are asked to tell it where you and set the time; and after that its ready to take pictures. As I was at work I played with the zoom a little before my long walk playing on the way home. I was amazed that the zoom in the office could photo a whiteboard from about 80m away and you were able to read the writing on it.

On the way home I played with the camera in dying light and compared to similar shots with the SX700 the new 710 is slightly better in low light. As my playing in the office confirmed the zoom and image stabilisation work far better together this year than last. The image stabilisation reduces the movement of your hand affecting the image. With the SX710 the image stabilisation steady hands is enough for the optical zoom; if you want to try the digital zoom a ledge or lamppost give you a sharper image than hands alone. In lower light more noise creeps into the image; and the camera starts asking you to raise the built in flash. At short distances this does a reasonable job of filling in a scene - anything above 4m and it doesn't difference. The zoom range is still 30x; which is enormous and it does result in pictures that are distorted because the lens isn't perfect; if you avoid straight grid lines its not going to ruin the image - and you aren't going to get away from it in a lens like this. Its no better or worse than the SX700.

Once you run out of optical zoom canon the camera has up to 4x digital zoom; but the image quality degrades and the chances of holding the camera still evaporate with it. Given that the sensor is now 20 megapixels you likely crop the image of an optical zoom photo to get a bit closer and still stay within the abilities of the stabilisation. One great feature on this camera that is missing from the Sony's is a button on the side that when you press it zooms back and shows you a white box that is the area the camera was zoomed into - this allows you to quickly zoom out to reframe a scene if you have lost what you were trying to photo; line the box up with your subject - release the button on the side and you zoom back in.

As the first weekend took I had decided to take some photos of the melting snow falling through waterfalls in the peak district and took the SX710 with me to document the scene and try the video. On the day it was exceptionally cloudy and despite the high contrast environment the camera did well the heather and grass came out well in stills and photos. I was also able to use the camera to take some huge range zooms of wildlife and and have recognisable results.

When it comes to the software in the camera; it feels like Canon are stuck in a timewarp; there is still no sweep panorama function in the camera which is the most obvious and useful gap. The camera has various filers and scene modes (some for taking images of things like food or fireworks) and some creative photo modes including my still favourite miniature mode. They have also added a Creative Shot option on the dial that seems to take one of each filter one; I'm not sure when i would use it but if you can't decide it might be the mode for you. The SX710 like the SX700 has a prominent connect to phone button; and it can connect using WIFI - and set itself up if you phone as NFC. Once connected up you need the Canon Mobile app; this allows you to download and share images without a computer as well use your phone as remote control for the camera. Given the SX710 lacks a gps (another big gap on a travel camera in my opinion) you can also use your phone as a gps logger using the app and update the images with coordinates later. I think that having gps in the camera saves my phones battery life; canon clearly disagree. As I write the Mobile App is quite basic for taking images - you have to use the mode dial to change modes you can't do it in software. I also wish canon would put an intervalometer in the camera or app (and their slur app.) The wifi and app work well for downloading and sharing images and if you want a more complex selfie the remote control will give you a preview image to get the framing just right.

Taking Video on the SX710 is done at up to 1080p (in MP4) and you get up to 60 frames per second which gives you a smoother video; or if your software allows gives you the chance to slow the video down for a slomo effect. The SX700 had a super slow motion option at 640p this is gone in the SX710. There are no microphone inputs on the camera (the only slots are HDMI Micro and USB.) For recording video that leaves you with the stereo microphones which are either side of the lens on the front of the camera. This position does mean you can hear the micro motors if you use the zoom whilst recording; though the autofocus is inaudible on the recording. In my tests even when recording very unbalanced colors of water rushing down a weir the camera managed exposure well with the bright whites of the rushing water and the greens and reds of the plants looking natural. The sensor also handled the movements of the plants cleanly and smoothly; the whole picture looks nice. Sound too was managed well; and far better than superzooms even 2 years old which weren't so good at managing varying levels. The water pouring down the weir was well managed by the sound auto level in the camera the sound didn't spike to white noise and as I panned the camera there was a small degree of channel separation as I moved the right channel out of view. Watching the video back on my TV the picture looks good; there are times the autofocus hunts a little.

Last year I said don't get the SX700 and save money to get the SX280. I felt this because the 30x zoom wasn't that usable over 20x. The SX710 far exceeds the image and video performance of the SX280 (and the battery life.) Thankfully in the SX710 the image stabilisation has caught up with the reach of the lens; and hands free you can make use of the 30x zoom more often. Even with the launch price I would recommend the SX710 over the SX700. If you are working on a budget and want a 30x zoom Sony's 2014 model the HX60 was very good - and has a sweep panorama. The HX60 was the camera in my bag for about a year; till I tried the SX710 the king is dead long live the king. 5*.
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Finish All in One Max Original Dishwasher Tablets (Pack of 74)
Finish All in One Max Original Dishwasher Tablets (Pack of 74)
Price: £20.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sparkly Glasses, 12 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have been using Finish All in One Pure tablets for about a year and was mostly satisfied in how they worked. There were times though with the Pure tablets glasses came out looking less than stellar needing a second wash with the pure tablets. After several run ins the All in 1 Max tablets haven't suffered from this; with cutlery and glassware coming out of the dishwasher practically sparkling under my LED lights. I ran a few more difficult tests like running dried on soup and other dirty items through the wash; and the rinse features worked pretty well. Face with dirty pans they needed a good soaking before washing; and for me are more satisfying to hand wash anyway.

The 74 pack of tablets is pretty big; and buying them in bulk; is a great way to save money on them them. Using only use on the dishwasher a week this pack will typically last me all year. Thankfully finish made the the bag is resealable; it is quite bulk though so I decanted them into a stackable jar.

Based on the improved cleaning from the 2014 tablets I was already happy with and that the new All in 1 Max tablets performance is superior its hard not to give them 5*s.


Polaroid Optics 43mm CPL Circular Polarizer Filter
Polaroid Optics 43mm CPL Circular Polarizer Filter
Offered by Smart Shop UK
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Stiff mechanism; polariser works fine on an LX100, 10 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I added the 43mm CPL to my Panasonic LX100 as I tend to take a lot of landscape photos and want to make and water pop. The Polaroid Optics CPL did the job just fine on this instant camera. The thread spun easily on. The twist action on the circular polariser was not exactly butter smooth though; it was stiff - which could be an upside in stopping the thread from moving but if you are moving around on a boat it makes it harder to adjust - and on the small 43mm its quite an issue. One nice thing about the design was the filter has a deep step from the glass to the end of the metal casing which means I could still use my lens cap with the filter attached.

4* because the adjustment should be smoother; but the actual polarising brought the clouds and blue skies out when i was using it last weekend as I would have hoped.


Will Not Attend: Lively Stories of Detachment and Isolation
Will Not Attend: Lively Stories of Detachment and Isolation
by Adam Resnick
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.85

5.0 out of 5 stars Laugh and wince in the same sentence; Will Not Attend deserves your eyeballs, 10 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Its February so this isn't saying much but this is the funniest book I have read in 2015; and would have won in 2014 if I had gotten to it. Will not attend is Adam Resnick's autobiography; and its writing and extraordinary life tales come close with Clive Jame's May Week was in June territory.. Each chapter is an another extraordinary tale from his perhaps introverted life from a very young age to recent times; each is sharply written from a man used to writing one liners for late night american television. Some of the stories I found myself so happy; and others I was wincing at what was going on and that makes it a great book for me.


SanDisk SDSDXS-128G-X46 Extreme Plus 128 GB 80 MB/s UHS-I Class 10 SDHC Memory Card
SanDisk SDSDXS-128G-X46 Extreme Plus 128 GB 80 MB/s UHS-I Class 10 SDHC Memory Card
Offered by Flashmemo-Uk
Price: £99.90

5.0 out of 5 stars Extreme Plus may be more than you need; today, 10 Feb. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I'm a huge user of Sandisk cards;with labeled and archived SD and Cf vacation cards going back a decade now. I am a sandisk fan because they always work in huge swings of weather and have generally delivered on the performance they quote. Those times I have ended up with a third party card I have sometimes found they fall short of their claims. Sandisk also make their cards weather and waterproof; never dropped one in the ocean but often move through big swings in humidity and tropical rain so even if my bag gets soaked the card should still be fine - and should I ever get problems sandisk include their card recovery software that will try and find lost images on cards.

With a eye on the enormous image sizes of the latest cameras in 2015; I decided I wanted a 128gb card. My choices then fell to which one of the extreme's to choose; plus or pro with an eye on my wallet I went for the slightly faster than my camera's card socket Extreme Plus.

Diligently testing it I put my camera on a tripod and grabbed last years extreme 64gb card; and did a buffer write and read test with my 6d and Lexar USB3. In the camera the theoretical faster write speed didn't result in any extra photos over the extreme card (both averaged out with a respectable 120 shots in a minute.) Reading back those 120 (raw) shots the extreme plus was over 3 times faster than the extreme - the 2gb of images took 35seconds on the Extreme Plus and 113 seconds on the standard Extreme. Writing files back to the card over the Lexar reader was a similar result with the extreme plus coming in twice as fast at writing.

The benefits of this card are going to boil down to what you want to use it for; if you are shooting videos all day or running a high speed camera full tilt on burst mode it is built for you. On my 6d after formatting the card says it holds 4614 20 megapixel raw and if I'm reading it right over 12 hours of full hd video. For my lower res camera its definitely a bit of overkill; I'm unlikely to need over 4 and a half thousand shots in a day; though editing the images will be starter quicker thanks to the blistering read speed when i get it onto my notebook. My rating for my camera its 4*; I could have taken the slightly cheaper extreme card and been fine; somewhere there is a 5dr with my name on it though and at that point it will be 5*


AquaAudio™ Cubo - Waterproof Bluetooth Wireless Speaker with Strong Suction Cup for Showers, Bathroom, Pool, Boat, Car, Beach, Outdoor etc. / Optimized Buttons for Easy Control / Amazingly Powerful & Crystal Clear Sound / Compatible with All Devices with Bluetooth Capability + Siri Compatible - 10 hours Playtime Rechargeable Battery / with Built-in Mic for use as a Powerful Hands-free Speakerphone [100% SATISFACTION GUARANTEE - WE GUARANTEE YOU WILL LOVE IT!] (Silver)
AquaAudio™ Cubo - Waterproof Bluetooth Wireless Speaker with Strong Suction Cup for Showers, Bathroom, Pool, Boat, Car, Beach, Outdoor etc. / Optimized Buttons for Easy Control / Amazingly Powerful & Crystal Clear Sound / Compatible with All Devices with Bluetooth Capability + Siri Compatible - 10 hours Playtime Rechargeable Battery / with Built-in Mic for use as a Powerful Hands-free Speakerphone [100% SATISFACTION GUARANTEE - WE GUARANTEE YOU WILL LOVE IT!] (Silver)
Offered by Gideon Direct
Price: £29.95

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars improve your alone time, 10 Feb. 2015
The AquaAudio Cubo is a bluetooth speaker with a sucker to attach to the tiles in your bathroom. In very well presented box is the speaker; a small manual and a micro usb cable to recharge it (it doesn't include an mains adaptor for the cable so you will need to use the one that came with your phone or computer.) As a shower radio charging it required removing a protective rubber gasket from the speak and then leaving it to charge for a couple of hours; this was a little tricky with my short nails. It was easy to connect to my iPhone; simply a question of telling the phone to pair with it from the bluetooth menu; there are no codes to enter it just connects and works.

Once setup powering it on in the shower my Phone autopairs and I can stream anything from my phone into my shower and bath - whilst keeping my iPhone safely away from the bathroom. In the morning the today program streams from the iPlayer app and my rage with John Humphries doesn't need to miss a beat. The speaker is clear; and can go loud enough to overcome the noise of the shower. Playing music though it its clear that it isn't the highest fidelity speaker; but for an echoey bathroom it is enough. For a long bath its nice to have some calming music to keep the world at bay and streaming some Philip Glass through it only helped with my relaxation. Whilst filling the bath the suction cup gave way in the steam and the speaker had a good dunking for a few minutes as I wasn't around at the time it survived to tell the tale; so I think the water protection is likely more than good enough.

Using the AquaAudio is helped by the nice big buttons; and these interact with my iPhone allowing me to pause and change tracks when I wanted to; as well as change the speakers volume. The battery has lasted over a week of daily showers and a relaxing bath; they claim up to 10 hours of use but i haven't made it that far yet. I did have a surprise whilst taking a shower before going out for a meal one night; when my phone rang and i discovered that the AquaAudio is also a handsfree kit - out of decorum i didn't answer the phone.

If you want to improve your alone time and sing along to your favourite songs; keep up with the news or just relax in the shower or bath then the AquaAudio Cubo is just the ticket.


Lavievert Double Canopy Umbrella Automatic Open & Close Umbrella Folding Auto Umbrella Durable and Strong, with Black Color Unisex Umbrella
Lavievert Double Canopy Umbrella Automatic Open & Close Umbrella Folding Auto Umbrella Durable and Strong, with Black Color Unisex Umbrella
Offered by lavievert
Price: £30.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For those times the British weather lets you down, 10 Feb. 2015
Everyday I walk to work and living in England an umbrella is a permanent resident in my laptop bag. Generally these have been small compact umbrellas that don't take up much space and offer enough protection to get into or home from work. These have generally been umbrellas bought at the last second and their lifespan is generally short. My last compact umbrella was inverted and destroyed my by moderate winds at the start of 2015; and I was lucky to be asked by Lavievart to test their umbrella.

The Lavievert Double Canopy umbrella is slightly longer than I am use to carrying around it is just over a 30cm long (a little over a foot for the imperials); it did fit into my laptop backpack though. Its no wider than the brolly in replaced so didn't take up that much more space than its predecessor; its not going to fit into a small purse though.

The umbrella uses a button release to open the canopy with a spring to reload it after use. The button is on the handle; which is straight but has enough length and width to make it easy to hold and control even in wind; there is also a wrist strap so it shouldn't blow away from you. The overall build quality of the umbrella is good; the mechanism is clean and didn't stick on release and the handle feels nice in your hand. I enjoy button deploying umbrellas they are convenient when you go into a shop; press a button and your umbrella collapses - much simpler than messing around collapsing it by hand; and with less chance of getting wet. To reuse it you do have to collapse it down to tension the spring for pressing the button when you get outside though.

The increased length of the brolly over my more normal purchases translated into a large canopy that is plenty for one and if you are friendly likely big enough for two. Despite the larger canopy the Lavievert is manageable in the wind thanks to its double canopy design which has an integrated vent alleviating the chance of an inversion that destroyed my last umbrella.

My initial reaction on opening the box was that the umbrella was quite large; but in use the extra length is definitely a bonus for the longer canopy and higher reach of the pole. The Lavievert brolly is ideal to keep in your bag on the way to work; or in a door pocket of your car for those days the British weather lets you down.


SanDisk SDSDQL-032G-G35 Ultra 32 GB microSDHC UHS-I Class 10 Memory Card up to 30 MB/s read
SanDisk SDSDQL-032G-G35 Ultra 32 GB microSDHC UHS-I Class 10 Memory Card up to 30 MB/s read
Price: £11.19

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Sandisk is my go to memory card; and this is not exception, 2 Feb. 2015
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
I have used Sandisk Memory Cards since I first jumped into digital photography and for over a decade I haven’t had one fail on me yet. I have rewarded them with their performance and reliability by sticking by them over the years. The SanDisk Ultra 32GB microSDHC is a class 10 memory card; which boils down to you being able use it in camera’s (and Action Camera’s like go pro’s) for recording 1080p HD but not 4k.

I have a Microsoft Surface Pro 3; which has an SD Slot; once inserted the Ultra was plenty fast enough to stream iTunes full HD video and in Lightroom was a great place to save photos to for editing. Whilst in my machine I ran it through a performance test and on sequential reads and writes in my laptop I was achieved a more than respectable 45.99MB/s read and 15.78 MB/s write using the Crystalmark disk test which explains my success using this as a general file store.

In my GoPro 3 Black I was happily able to record 1080p video. My GoPro 3 doesn’t really do 4k so I wasn’t able to see how it faired. I am also testing A Creative Roar speaker at the moment that takes and SD Card and allows you to record phone calls when you use it as a speaker phone; and it worked flawlessly in that role.

Overall I the SanDisk Ultra 32GB microSDHC doesn’t let their history down. The Ultra is fast enough for 1080p and general file store duties. Micro SD card’s originally found their home in phones; but slowly seem to be used in more and more cameras and other gadgets that are filling up my home.

Looking at the size; 32GB for a Micro SD when if you are limited to 1080p video is pretty much the sweet spot in the range (and if you are looking at the 64gb check your device can do sdxc otherwise it likely won’t work.) In a go pro hero 3 32gb equates to over 4 1/2 hours of video; which is far in excess of the battery life. In the new Hero 4 though the higher quality recording halves this record time. If you are making the jump to 4k; you really need a faster larger card though.


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