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Mr. Sa Bell "Harpo_the_bad" (Norfolk, England)
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132 of 136 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Ultimate Nikon External Flash, 24 Dec. 2009
Like many people, I bought my first speedlight (an SB-800) because back then I used slow consumer zooms and wanted less blurry shots when shooting indoors. How naive I was! Yes simply attaching an SB-800, or the SB-900 that I have now upgraded to, will instantly give you easily handholdable shutter speeds in even the dimmest light, but that's only a small part of what a speedlight can do for your photography.

After dabbling with speedlights and Nikon CLS and their wonderfully infinite and rewarding learning curve for a few years, I almost never simply attach my SB-900 and blast my subject with direct light as I imagined it would be back then.

If I want to up my shutter speed, what I'm more inclined to do is to tilt and rotate my speedlight so that the light from it `bounces' off of a ceiling or wall. With no suitable walls or ceilings, you can use a reflector if you have one and a stand or handy assistant to hold it. This technique, called `bounce flash', gives you a much softer, diffused and natural light. Sometimes it can be hard to tell that flash has been used at all and the only slight give away will be that your shots will look so much better than you could have got with domestic indoor lighting.

Bounce flash alone is something that makes a speedlight like the SB-900 worth buying as it opens up flash photography without the risk of the tell tale, pale, washed out look of compact camera flash and surpasses the weak and inflexible onboard flash of even the most expensive SLR cameras. Even if you use fast aperture lenses as I do now, there are still times when a speedlight becomes a necessity. Especially when trying to freeze motion under the weak indoor lighting found in places like the home and sports halls.

The other key area that a speedlight will help with is Fill Flash. This is the technique of balancing your ambient light exposure with the amount of light coming from flash. When done correctly, Fill Flash is almost completely unnoticeable, but what people will realise is that your pictures will `pop' that much more. I won't tell them if you don't!

Yes you can do Fill Flash with on-board flash, but with so little power; your flash range will be very short, often much shorter than you'd traditionally want for portraiture, definitely much shorter than you'd want for wildlife. A powerful Speedlight like the SB-900 allows you to use Fill Flash and maintain the correct distance for professional portraits, even in bright outdoor light.

Ever heard of the golden hour? The time just before sunset where light is soft and diffused. For an hour (or less) shadows soften and contrast lowers to a level that is more easily captured by photography, increasing colour, saturation and detail. You can easily get great results by taking outdoor portraits and wildlife photography in this narrow time window. Photographers in the know, however, know that they don't need to wait on location for the golden hour if the shot that they need won't wait. With fill flash, you can lighten and soften shadows, reducing the overall contrast of the scene allowing you to get the full range of the photo exposed properly.

This means no shadowy panda eyes, no shadows under noses, crow's feet (no not the ones on the actual bird!) and laughter lines disappear under an even illumination and the main subject pops in a way that will make everyone ask how you did it. With a speedlight, you can take the golden hour with you wherever you go.

Even better, with the increased power that you get from using a speedlight over on-board flash, you can use much faster shutter speeds with flash. With AutoFP you can even exceed the Sync Speed of your camera (usually only around 1/250s) right up to its maximum shutter speed (usually 1/4000s or 1/8000s). This has the benefit of allowing you to use wide apertures to achieve narrow depth of field and subject isolation that are not possible when using on-board fill flash in bright daylight. This is the main reason that I carry my speedlight every day. It's not a bodged method of increasing available light as most compact camera users use flash - Fill Flash from a proper speedlight done correctly is an artistic choice - and a VERY important and effective one.

If you're into macro photography then a Nikon speedlight like the SB-900 will help you there too. Either mounted on camera and using the built in bounce card to reduce power or used off camera with the separately available Nikon SC-28 or SC-29, a speedlight's Fill Flash will make your macro shots of flowers and bugs pop in the exact same way. It will also allow you to easily handhold shots at the tiny apertures required for macro to achieve adequate depth of field.

I should also mentioned that the SB-900 also adds 360degree rotation to the flash head as opposed to the oft annoying 270degree rotation of the SB-800 - no more having to remember which way to rotate the head when bouncing off walls behind you! The SB-900 also adds a little extra power over the SB-800 giving extra range, the zoom head now goes to 200mm instead of 85mm again improving range and battery life with long lenses, improved AutoFocus Assist that solves some problems that the SB-800 has with newer cameras such as the D300 and noticeably improved recycling times between shots.

Maybe most importantly, the SB-900 also now has more external controls which make this Nikon's fastest and simplest handling speedlight yet. The instant `on switch' is worth the money alone over the time consuming press... and hold... and wait... of the SB-800.

The most important thing that I have learnt from owning Nikon speedlights, both the SB-800 and now the SB-900 is that flash photography is not a fallback or a compromise for use only when ambient light, aperture and high ISO are insufficient. Flash photography is ambient lights less known brother and he's an important part of your stylistic arsenal.

You must get fully acquainted with the use of flash in its many guises if you want the best out of your photographs and the SB-900, like the SB-800 before it, is a great way for anyone to do this.
Comment Comments (9) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 20, 2012 8:00 PM BST


Nikon SC-28 TTL Remote Cord
Nikon SC-28 TTL Remote Cord
Offered by HD Sales Inc
Price: £51.32

31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Essential tool for professional use of flash!, 24 Dec. 2009
As you'd want and expect, this flash sync cord allows you a greater degree of flexibility when using your Speedlight. Instead of being stuck on top of your camera, you're free to position your flash wherever you like in relation to your subject. This not only gives you control of which direction your shadows will go. It also lets you position the Speedlight closer or further away as well as making bounce flash much quicker and easier, no holding in buttons to rotate that flash head anymore! Just point it where you need it.

Although the SC-28 does everything that I would expect of it; I have to admit that it is quite expensive. A fair bit more than I would expect to pay for a cord to be honest. But you do get quality for your money.

The only other downside is that by holding your flash in one hand, you only have one hand left for your camera, which can cause problems with operating your cameras controls. If you're handholding, it can also make holding the camera still quite difficult.

One last thing that you may be wondering is: is it worth my money to go for the SC-29 instead of the SC-28? The difference being that the SC-29 has a built in AutoFocus Illuminator. I have both sync cords and I would say no. If you shoot subjects that frequently give your cameras AF problems then you may benefit from the AF illuminator but personally my D300 has never had any such problems and I rarely use the AF assist when on camera or off so I would say: save yourself the slight difference in price.


Nikon SC-29 TTL Remote Cord
Nikon SC-29 TTL Remote Cord
Price: £66.99

35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great sync cord... but expensive, 24 Dec. 2009
As you'd want and expect, this flash sync cord allows you a greater degree of flexibility when using your Speedlight. Instead of being stuck on top of your camera, you're free to position your flash wherever you like in relation to your subject. This not only gives you control of which direction your shadows will go. It also lets you position the Speedlight closer or further away as well as making bounce flash much quicker and easier, no holding in buttons to rotate that flash head anymore! Just point it where you need it.

Although the SC-29 does everything that I would expect of it; I have to admit that it is quite expensive. A fair bit more than I would expect to pay for a cord to be honest. But you do get quality for your money including a handy locking male connector for the safety of you and your gear.

The only other downside is that by holding your flash in one hand, you only have one hand left for your camera, which can cause problems with operating your cameras controls. If you're handholding, it can also make holding the camera still quite difficult.

One last thing that you may be wondering is: is it worth my money to go for the SC-29 instead of the cheaper SC-28? The difference being that the SC-29 has a built in AutoFocus Illuminator and the SC-28 does not.

I have both sync cords and I would probably say no. If you shoot subjects that frequently give your cameras AF problems then you may benefit from the AF illuminator but personally my D300 has never had any such problems and I rarely use the AF assist when on camera or off so I would say: if cost is an issue then save yourself the slight difference in price and go for the 99% identical SC-28.


Domke F-4AF Pro System Bag - Sand
Domke F-4AF Pro System Bag - Sand
Price: £149.00

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A great traditional bag!, 24 Dec. 2009
The first thing you'll notice when you put on this bag is that you feel like you're going on Safari with David Attenborough. Domke have been a player in the camera bag market right from the start and it shows in their traditional look and feel. But the real question is about whether or not these bags have the features to match their traditional charm. Read on.

I bought this bag after owning several bags including a pair of Lowepro Stealth Reporters which I swear by. I bought this bag because although my Stealths are perfect, they do look a lot like camera bags. Thanks to the recent trend of bag makers to use various Nylons for their camera bags, this canvas Domke looks more like an el cheapo army surplus satchel than something valuable, and with regards to not getting your kit stolen that's a great thing! It's pretty easy on the eyes too.

But what we need foremost is a bag that works. A bag that is designed to be worked out of, so that it's easy to get your gear when you need it AND to put it back and I have some mixed feelings about this bag in that area.

In layout, this bag is actually near identical to my Stealths and that was my main reason for choosing it. Inside, without the inserts, the bag is large and roughly square. I much prefer a square bag to a more traditional `long' bag like the flagship Domke F-2. The shorter F4 retains the height and depth required to carry pro SLR bodies but does away with the length of the F-2 which I always found totally excessive when not carrying 300mm+ lenses. Yes a square bag stick out more and can look a little odd but it's really the most secure, compact and easiest way to carry a modest amount of kit.

If you haven't seen Domke inserts, they're square partitions of foam stitched together in various configurations i.e. single (1x1), double (1x2), triple (1x3), four in a square (2x2), etc. You can buy extras if you want them. In contrast to Lowepro's movable dividers, the Domke padded inserts are more rigid and tidier but this comes at the price of vastly reduced versatility. Personally I placed my camera+mounted lens+unmounted flash in the main space and then stored 2-3 extra lenses and my macro tubes in the remaining 1x2. This setup works well for me, and it will house most short/slim to medium lenses. Be warned that you may run into trouble with wider barrelled lenses and because the inserts are not customisable (squares are a fixed size) there's nothing you can really do about this. Although the depth of the bag means that you should be ok with your medium teles.

One solution that you could opt for (and many Domke fanatics do this) is to go totally insertless! This is also possible with Lowepro but only the Stealth Reporter range. It's what Domke fans are talking about when they say that Domke's are softer and more formless or more figure hugging than other bags. In my opinion it's slightly crazy and I've never felt comfortable doing it but many people do and love Domke for it. All I'll say is that you'd better be careful with that bag, probably avoid crowds all together and insurance would be a must because without those inserts, a Domke bag ends up with about as much protection as a plastic carrier bag. You also need to realise that as well as external damage, your gear will now be banging into itself!

The shoulder strap is very nice. Its length and width make the bag easy to carry. Just like Manfrotto tripod straps, the strap has rubber fibres sewn into it to keep it where you put it. The bag also has a very nice shorter strap that goes across the top of the bag for grabbing the bag to hold onto it in crowds or when simply moving it over short distances without the fuss of putting the shoulder strap over your head.

The materials that Domke have chosen for this bag are clearly look and feel orientated. Although Nylon versions exist for most of Domke's bags, my F4 is the traditional Canvas type. The canvas is beautiful and rugged to look at and to touch. It's a real blast from the past. I've no doubt that the canvas and the stitching are quality materials put through a quality build process but it is only canvas and you need to bear this in mind. After less than a year's use, my F4 is already wearing through in places and even has a few holes in the seams. Yes it all adds to the bags traditional lived-in charm but I don't hold any hopes that this bag will outlast me like I'm sure my Nylon Lowepro Stealths will.

In my opinion, you're not gaining much by buying the Nylon versions. You end up with a slightly expensive Lowepro-a-like minus the more modern features of an actual Lowepro.

The catches on the top lid are one very important area of any shoulder bag that I've left until last. With no zipper in the top as you'd get with Lowepro Stealths, you need to be able to open those catches on the top lid and get in to that main compartment quickly and easily, preferably with one hand... and... well... you can't I'm afraid. Undoing the `famous' Domke metal catches is a bit of an ordeal and can only be done easily with two hands or a lot of practice. Being metal, you also need to be careful when flinging the lid shut. If one of those metal catches comes down on a lens or the rear LCD of your camera then you're in serious and expensive trouble!

Funnily enough, Domke do seem to have started replacing some of the other fastenings with plastic. Such as the fastenings on the strap, which I think is a little inappropriate on a £100+ pro bag. It would've been nice if they'd had the foresight to make the lid catches plastic too in the interests of your gear's safety. But alas.

Overall, the Domke F4, like most Domke bags, is a great traditional bag that will suit many people looking to carry a small but reasonably encompassing set of equipment, especially if you have a taste for nostalgia. In my opinion, the F4 is the ideal size for daily carry. You just need to be aware that in gaining this lovely traditional looking and feeling bag, you're also losing some of the space-age creature comforts and ruggedness of more modern bags. You pay your monies - you makes your choice.


Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PC)
Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PC)
Offered by Digitalville UK
Price: £3.70

5.0 out of 5 stars Another Great GTA Game, 30 Oct. 2009
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
The folks that make GTA have done it again! Anyone who played GTA 3 will instantly feel at home with Vice City and while I didn't enjoy it as much as GTA 3, it's a great game.

Vice City has several clear advancements over GTA3. Namely: better graphics, better AI, more weapons, cars can now be damaged by melee weapons and vehicle damage is more realistic, you can now buy properties and businesses, seems like a slightly bigger map with more things in it (the second and third islands of GTA3 were a bit... empty IMO) and drivers can now be shot and killed through their car windows instead of just damaging the car. You can now fly a real helicopter and a real plane (not dodo) as well as RC versions. Oh and there's lots of boats! Great fun!

Where Vice City lets itself down for me is the setting. I really just don't like driving and walking around Miami as much as I liked New York. I also have a bit of a hate thing going on for the 1980s and 80s culture *CRINGE*. But maybe that's just me. Overall though: great game.


Manfrotto Carrying Strap For Camera Tripod
Manfrotto Carrying Strap For Camera Tripod
Price: £27.14

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Strap - Does the Job, 18 Aug. 2009
I bought this to carry my Manfrotto 055CLB Tripod with Markins M10 ballhead and it works pretty well.

The strap and fastenings are tough enough to be up to the job. The hook is plastic but it hasn't broken on me yet and doesn't look like it will.

The strap is wide enough to be comfortable but not wide enough to be an annoyance. It's also long enough to suit my not-too-compact tripod setup but again not long enough to get in the way. Pretty well designed!

The rubber strands sewn into the strap help to keep it in place when in use. With my tripod, the strap does still slip when I'm hiking, depending a lot on what I'm wearing, but it's a lot better than nothing and stays put for a fair while.

I like the loop that goes around the legs. This arrangement is quick, easy and secure.

The only thing that I don't like about this strap is that it's not very inconspicuous. With no cover over the tripod, everyone knows what you're carrying which makes it pretty easy to assume that you have expensive cameras and lenses in your bag making you an obvious target for theft. It also has Manfrotto all over the strap in BIG letters.

Still, if you're looking for a strap for hiking in the wilderness and your bag doesn't have a tripod carrying feature, or just want a simple light strap to make carry easier then this is a good choice.


Nikon Lc-77 77Mm Snap-On Front Lens Cap
Nikon Lc-77 77Mm Snap-On Front Lens Cap
Offered by CAMERA CLUB
Price: £9.49

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Expensive but Essential, 7 Aug. 2009
If you lose one of these then as expensive as they are, you're going to need another one. It's cheaper than replacing your entire lens when it gets scratched to death from being unprotected in your bag!

These are also good for replacing the old style Sigma lens caps if you have them as the old style Sigma lens caps are near impossible to get on or off with a lens hood fitted. These are much better!
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 20, 2011 9:22 PM BST


Nikon 67Mm Snap-On Lens Cap
Nikon 67Mm Snap-On Lens Cap
Price: £9.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Expensive but Essential, 7 Aug. 2009
If you lose one of these then as expensive as they are, you're going to need another one. It's cheaper than replacing your entire lens when it gets scratched to death from being unprotected in your bag!

These are also good for replacing the old style Sigma lens caps if you have them as the old style Sigma lens caps are near impossible to get on or off with a lens hood fitted. These are much better!


Nikon 52Mm Snap-On Front Lens Cap
Nikon 52Mm Snap-On Front Lens Cap
Offered by Carmarthen Cameras
Price: £7.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Expensive but Essential, 7 Aug. 2009
If you lose one of these then as expensive as they are, you're going to need another one. It's cheaper than replacing your entire lens when it gets scratched to death from being unprotected in your bag!

These are also good for replacing the old style Sigma lens caps if you have them as the old style Sigma lens caps are near impossible to get on or off with a lens hood fitted. These are much better!


SanDisk CompactFlash 4GB Extreme III Memory
SanDisk CompactFlash 4GB Extreme III Memory

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Card for the Money, 7 Aug. 2009
When using my D300, I exclusively use these 4Gb Sandisk Extreme III Cards. I never leave the house without three of these in my camera bag. At 350+ RAW photos on each card, that's plenty of storage.

I've tried the Extreme IV but to be honest there's very little difference and they're much more expensive. I've also tried standard Sandisk CF cards, but I find that they don't empty the buffer of my camera quick enough which can lead to long periods of reduced framerate which can be fatal!

You could go for a single higher capacity card but you know what they say about eggs in baskets. I've also noticed that many of my friends who use 8Gb+ cards seem to be the ones who are always getting corrupted files or even complete cards. It seems that these smaller cards may be more reliable and they're definitely the way for me.

Oh, and always buy these from a trusted source like Amazon because there are a lot of fakes around! Sandisk won't repair or replace fake cards and they're known to be unreliable. Don't set yourself up to be a victim.


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