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Chris White (United Kingdom)

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Konig 33 inch Photographic Flashgun Softbox Umbrella
Konig 33 inch Photographic Flashgun Softbox Umbrella
Offered by ExpressPro
Price: £6.79

5.0 out of 5 stars Essential for stepping into off-camera flash, 3 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I recently decided that off-camera manual flash had intimidated me for too long and, already having a Nikon SB700, I invested in a 'starter kit', which included a stand, bracket, light meter, reflector and this shoot-through umbrella. It has transformed my flash photography by greatly softening the light and opening up many new possibilities for interesting photos.

It is (apparently) at the smaller end of the scale but nonetheless is quite capable of lighting portraits of singles and couples. Best advice is to use it as far from its mount as possible, thus maximising the volume of light. If you're able, adjust the zoom on your speedlight to its widest setting and flip down the diffuser, which will help spread it out even more.

Set it at a close 45-degree angle, slightly above your subject. A five-in-one reflector also helps. By experimenting and moving it around, it gives you a very good understanding of how light and shadow can 'sculpt' your exposures. It is intended to shoot-through - if you use it the other way around, the umbrella's translucence means you'll waste most of the flash away (unless of course you cover it).

It's amazing that such a small investment can enhance pictures so dramatically. If you're thinking of getting into strobes, after the flash unit itself this should be next on your wish list.


Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR Lens
Nikon AF-S DX NIKKOR 55-300mm f/4.5-5.6G VR Lens
Offered by Marble Arch
Price: £196.85

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Aim high and you won't be disappointed, 2 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I started using this lens a couple of years ago with my first DSLR, a Nikon D80. It was very much a learning curve, as that camera's limited performance in low light meant that image grain was a constant problem.

However, now that I've upgraded to a D7100, whose ISO algorithms - in common with most current DSLRs - are vastly improved, the 55-300 has really come into its own.

As with any 'budget' zoom lens, you're limited by maximum aperture (in this case f/4.5). Along with the inherent instability as a result of the extra weight (in spite of its capable Vibration Reduction function), it therefore makes sense to use as high an ISO and shutter speed as is practical. Usual advice for hand-held is to use a shutter speed that is at least equivalent to the lens's longest focal length.

With that in mind, when I use it, I usually end up with a minimum ISO of around 640 and that allows me to capture sharp detail. Even if I push it to 4000 or so, there is still no discernible loss of quality. During a recent zoo trip I kept it on the camera throughout and at one point, quickly took a shot of a butterfly (since I didn't have time to switch to a macro lens and so simply moved back a few feet). I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of clarity and resolution in the resulting photo.

In view of what you could pay for a similar 'high-end' lens, I reckon that for the zoom flexibility and image fidelity (particularly if you aim high with your shooting parameters), this lens represents great value for money.
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NETGEAR R7000-100UKS R7000 Nighthawk AC1900 Dual Band Wireless Gigabit Cable Router, 1 Ghz Dual Core, 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0, Implicit and Explicit Beamforming, Upstream and Downstream QoS
NETGEAR R7000-100UKS R7000 Nighthawk AC1900 Dual Band Wireless Gigabit Cable Router, 1 Ghz Dual Core, 1 x USB 2.0, 1 x USB 3.0, Implicit and Explicit Beamforming, Upstream and Downstream QoS
Price: £129.99

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Solid replacement for BT Infinity Homehub, 19 April 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I'd lately been experiencing wireless disconnection issues with my BT Homehub 3 (on a BT Infinity 2 package); either I couldn't get on the Internet at all, or it would kick me off after five minutes or so. No amount of tinkering with the router's settings would fix this. I changed everything, from using alternate channels to assigning manual IP addresses - only a tethered Ethernet cable worked. As it affected only some devices, I tested them out on friends' wi-fi and they worked as expected. With no BT line faults in my area, I determined the router was therefore at fault.

I'd had Netgear routers before and liked their ease of use and solid build. However, I wasn't quite prepared for the size of this beast. The R7000 has up to twelve LEDs on the front and its overall design looks like the offspring of a Klingon cruiser and Stealth bomber. My Infinity connection means I still need the BT Openreach box with its Gigabit Ethernet cable, but within the Netgear's online settings, there is the facility to disable many of the LEDs leaving just the power indicator lit. (I haven't done this as I find it an excellent means of low-key lighting in my hallway at night.)

Set-up took no more than a few minutes. Although at first I couldn't see how to attach and rotate additional aerials with the first one 'in the way', I found that they each pivot on both axes. If anyone else is changing routers with a BT connection, the username is 'bthomehub@btbroadband.com' and the password is 'bt'. I used the Netgear Genie wizard, which has everything logically laid out on the screen, but obviously the first thing I did - once up and running - was to change the default administrator's password. Both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz connections are listed in the network scan (if you make them visible) but the 5 GHz option didn't appear for a few devices, notably my two smart TVs, so I guess it depends upon the technology within each product. The router also has a QoS (Quality of Service) setting, which gives priority to downstream or upstream, depending on whether you respectively stream video content or do online gaming for the most part.

I'm very happy with the reliability and speed delivered by the R7000; it's now been 24 hours since set-up and the connection has been rock solid. There is no overnight power save option as there was with the Homehub, but I can live with that.


Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag (PS4)
Assassins Creed IV: Black Flag (PS4)
Offered by Smartspot Limited
Price: £18.23

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Here be treasure!, 20 Jun. 2014
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
The sixth game in the solid-but-slightly-stale Assassin's Creed franchise represents a definite return to form. All the familiar elements are present but the ocean-going dynamic and a lighter tone allow it to chart fresh new territory. For this one, Ubisoft has thrown so much at it that you're never at a loss for something to do. My completion is now at 100% - after over 100 hours of gameplay that took longer than three months. I call that superb value for money.

Admittedly it takes several story missions for Edward Kenway (father of AC III's Haytham) to find his sea legs but once he acquires his trusty ship, the Jackdaw, he has a vast open world to explore. In these sandbox-type games, I'm more drawn to the side missions and collectibles as they offer a lot more variation than the main narrative. If Black Flag falls down anywhere, it's with the seen-it-all-before-just-get-on-with-it type stuff: tailing, eavesdropping and instant failure upon detection. Fortunately, such moments aren't that frequent in the grand scheme of things (but there are one or two that'll drive you to distraction before you get them right). The 100% synch 'optional objective' has now become part of the furniture and although I detest having limitations on how I play the game, I will concede that they do add an extra layer of challenge. Let's face it, they're hardly 'optional' if you want to complete the experience.

The Jackdaw is almost a secondary character and you'll need to upgrade her as much as possible to take on bigger ships and forts later in the game. There are some 50 islands to explore, three major locations, underwater wrecks, four Legendary Ships (of which at least a couple are insanely difficult), hunting and harpooning, as well as numerous assassination and naval missions. In addition to the usual 'quest' components (synchronising viewpoints, collecting treasure chests, animus fragments, etc.) there are also 22 buried chests, a map being needed for each. If, after having done all this, you're hungry for more, then visit the AC Initiates website for extra challenges.

This was my first PS4 game and the graphics look absolutely gorgeous, particularly the Pixar-style shimmering oceans and lagoons. Sometimes, having synchronised a viewpoint, you just want to do a 360-degree pan to take it all in. There's a lot of attention to historical detail and the mostly British cast lend authentic accents and performance capture to the principal characters.

By taking note of what makes AC tick and keeping the annoyances to a minimum, Ubisoft has produced an exceptionally enjoyable game and given the series the shot in the arm it needed. Also, by inviting players to rate each mission upon completion, it's clear that their opinions are taken seriously and this bodes well for the forthcoming, French Revolution-set Assassin's Creed: Unity.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 30, 2014 12:27 PM BST


Frozen [Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Frozen [Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Chris Buck
Price: £18.00

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disney by numbers, 20 April 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Art and commerce can be uneasy bedfellows and never more so than at Disney, whose desire to merchandise sometimes comes at the expense of quality. Although certainly not in Frozen's target demographic, I've always had an interest in animation and have kept an eye on the studio's product over the years.

I have to admit that I find it disappointing that such a bland entry into the canon has attracted so much acclaim. Is this now the benchmark for an exceptional Disney movie? It becomes quite obvious when watching Frozen that the whole experience has been designed by a committee of corporate box-tickers, whose aim is to maximise as many of the company's revenue streams as possible. New Disney Princess? Check. Cute comedy sidekick with spin-off potential? Yep. Plenty of songs so we can get it on Broadway? You got it.

The story (inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen) and its execution are inoffensive enough and there are many worse ways to pass the time. However, musicals are such an acquired taste that if you're going to have characters breaking into song every couple of scenes or so, then those songs must be pretty darned good. Here is Frozen's biggest sin and the absence of the late Howard Ashman is felt keenly. It was Ashman who - as lyricist together with composer Alan Menken - oversaw Disney's last 'golden age': The Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. Each of those films features a standout musical number that has endured: respectively "Under the Sea", "Be Our Guest" and "Friend Like Me".

Frozen's songwriting duo, Robert Lopez and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, don't seem to grasp that for a song to be memorable, it has to have a catchy melody and a clever, multi-syllabic rhyming scheme that continues the narrative. Alas, all too frequently, the characters just 'sing the script' in an arbitrary chord sequence with no attempt being made to turn each composition into something special.

Of course, the computer animation is top-notch and the Blu-ray looks stunning. The extras are scant and don't really add much. Although I did get the 3D version, a friend demanded a 2D viewing first and by the time it had finished we both agreed that once was enough.

To those of you who enjoyed it, then I completely respect your opinion but to my mind, Disney is capable of a lot better. The studio must question whether its purpose is to make money as a result of its films or instead to provide first-class entertainment that will lead naturally to financial reward.


Philomena [Blu-ray]
Philomena [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Judi Dench
Price: £7.10

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Extremely moving and unexpectedly funny, 30 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Philomena [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
I knew nothing of Philomena's remarkable story before watching this film and it enhanced my enjoyment of it enormously. Even if you had read Martin Sixmith's book (upon which it is based but with a little artistic licence) I don't think you'd have expected such a chemistry between its two stars.

Philomena Lee's baby son (born out of wedlock in 1952) is taken from her by Irish nuns and sold to American adoptive parents. Fifty years later, having kept it a secret from her family, she decides to try and trace him. Meanwhile, Martin Sixmith is dealing with losing his job as a government advisor under unfortunate circumstances. She wants to find her son; he needs a compelling story.

The pair make an unlikely couple, and the ever-brilliant Judi Dench and her co-star, Steve Coogan (who also produced the film and co-wrote the screenplay), judge each scene to perfection. I didn't expect to find it as funny as I did, given its emotional subject matter, but Coogan largely plays it straight with much of the humour occurring naturally because of the characters' differing backgounds - she being religious and he an atheist. Coogan also uses the opportunity to take the occasional broadside against both the Catholic Church and the journalistic profession, having been on the receiving end of some of the latter's more intrusive practices in real life.

The Blu-ray picture is pleasing with a slight layer of grain being added for certain flashback sequences - apparently because these were shot on 16mm film as opposed to the digital format used for the rest. Bonus features comprise a commentary by Steve Coogan and his co-writer, Jeff Pope, and several featurettes, with the most interesting being a lengthy Q&A with Coogan that followed a US screening. (Note that in order to access the commentary, you have to go to 'set up/audio' on the menu because it doesn't appear as an option with the other material.)

I thoroughly recommend this film. The tale it tells is an absorbing one and is nowhere near finished when you think it is. Not just that, it's also the witty dialogue and accomplished, moving performances that lift it above a run-of-the-mill drama.


Gravity - Limited Edition Steelbook [Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray] [2014] [Region Free]
Gravity - Limited Edition Steelbook [Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray] [2014] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ George Clooney
Offered by Tooboon
Price: £17.50

4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Takes 3D to the next level, 5 Mar. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Gravity has joined that select band of films that truly show you what 3D can do when used properly. The stunning vista of Earth from space provides a spectacular backdrop to this tale of a shuttle mission suffering catastrophic failure and one woman's determination to survive its aftermath.

The whole movie is effectively a two-hander between Sandra Bullock and George Clooney, respectively playing mission specialist and commander. The pair provide the humanity during a taut ninety minutes that could so easily have been overwhelmed by visual effects.

Alfonso Cuarón has crafted a suspenseful, compelling story and made it even more immersive by using sound and imagery to put the viewer right in the moment. He is one of a few talented directors, such as Ang Lee and James Cameron, whose meticulous visual flair is complemented by shooting in the third dimension. It's not spoiling much to say that - as if the jaw-dropping scenery isn't enough - the opening shot is an ambitious, continuous camera move that lasts several minutes.

The Blu-ray's sound and picture are, of course, both state-of-the-art and bonus features include a comprehensive set of featurettes on the film's making.

Since Avatar in 2009, 3D has had a bumpy ride in cinemas. The premium on tickets has left many wondering if the extra expense is really worth it, with some directors either eschewing the format completely (Christopher Nolan) or reluctantly accepting it after studio pressure (Guillermo del Toro). However, like Life of Pi before it, the mesmerising look of Gravity in 3D lifts an already good film to another level entirely. It's a magnificent artistic and technical achievement.


Breaking Bad: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]
Breaking Bad: The Complete Series [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Bryan Cranston
Offered by A2ZSupplies
Price: £65.95

116 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For every action..., 1 Mar. 2014
I've just watched the 62nd and final episode of Breaking Bad and here, without any major spoilers, is why you should begin the same breathtaking journey.

The series is an action-drama that centres on Walter White. He's a 50-year-old respected chemistry teacher, just about keeping his family afloat with the aid of a second job at a car wash, who one day is given a diagnosis of terminal cancer. With a wife, son (who has cerebral palsy) and soon-to-be-born baby to care for, not to mention his considerable medical expenses, he needs money - and fast.

Walt takes the fateful step of combining his perfectionist chemical know-how with one of his more street-savvy former students, Jesse Pinkman, to 'cook' and supply the highest quality crystal meth that their area has seen. He discovers that once on this path, although there are many detours, it's very difficult to go back. Walt's relationships with his family and friends (including his DEA agent brother-in-law) are suddenly beset with problems, and he frequently relies on resourcefulness, ingenuity and serendipity to both keep his illicit activities from them and play the criminal fraternity at its own game.

So why does the series enjoy so much acclaim? It comes down to a brilliant original idea from Vince Gilligan, working closely with a talented writing team who, over the course of five seasons, hammer out every single plot point and use all the narrative devices in the book to tell an utterly compelling story of one man's embarkation on a hazardous voyage. Not just that, it has the magical combination of a first-rate ensemble cast (Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul play Walt and Jesse respectively), innovative hand-held camerawork (beautiful timelapse establishing shots; out of kilter POV moments) and excellent characterisation.

Because Sony was taking a tentative punt on the series and it coincided with a writers' strike, the episodes in the first batch are few in number (just seven). However, each of the next three seasons comprises thirteen instalments and season five is split into two runs of eight apiece. The low episode count for season one works to its advantage as it allows plenty of time to set the scene and introduce characters while still telling a blackly comedic tale, which leads directly into the series proper, if you like.

This is a programme you'll want to stick with. It continually raises the stakes as it goes on and, come the final episodes, you'll be bingeing on it. Breaking Bad is, quite simply, one of the finest examples of television art. There are many British shows that could learn from it.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 5, 2014 6:38 PM GMT


Breaking Bad - Season 1 (Blu-ray + UV Copy)
Breaking Bad - Season 1 (Blu-ray + UV Copy)
Dvd ~ Bryan Cranston
Price: £15.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars For every action..., 20 Feb. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I've just watched the 62nd and final episode of Breaking Bad and here, without any major spoilers, is why you should begin the same breathtaking journey.

The series is an action-drama that centres on Walter White. He's a 50-year-old respected chemistry teacher, just about keeping his family afloat with the aid of a second job at a car wash, who one day is given a diagnosis of terminal cancer. With a wife, son (who has cerebral palsy) and soon-to-be-born baby to care for, not to mention his considerable medical expenses, he needs money - and fast.

Walt takes the fateful step of combining his perfectionist chemical know-how with one of his more street-savvy former students, Jesse Pinkman, to 'cook' and supply the highest quality crystal meth that their area has seen. He discovers that once on this path, although there are many detours, it's very difficult to go back. Walt's relationships with his family and friends (including his DEA agent brother-in-law) are suddenly beset with problems, and he frequently relies on resourcefulness, ingenuity and serendipity to both keep his illicit activities from them and play the criminal fraternity at its own game.

So why does the series enjoy so much acclaim? It comes down to a brilliant original idea from Vince Gilligan, working closely with a talented writing team who, over the course of five seasons, hammer out every single plot point and use all the narrative devices in the book to tell an utterly compelling story of one man's embarkation on a hazardous voyage. Not just that, it has the magical combination of a first-rate ensemble cast (Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul play Walt and Jesse respectively), innovative hand-held camerawork (beautiful timelapse establishing shots; out of kilter POV moments) and excellent characterisation.

Because Sony was taking a tentative punt on the series and it coincided with a writers' strike, the episodes in the first batch are few in number (just seven). However, each of the next three seasons comprises thirteen instalments and season five is split into two runs of eight apiece. The low episode count for season one works to its advantage as it allows plenty of time to set the scene and introduce characters while still telling a blackly comedic tale, which leads directly into the series proper, if you like.

This is a programme you'll want to stick with. It continually raises the stakes as it goes on and, come the final episodes, you'll be bingeing on it. Breaking Bad is, quite simply, one of the finest examples of television art. There are many British shows that could learn from it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 21, 2014 7:07 PM GMT


The Lone Ranger (Blu-ray)
The Lone Ranger (Blu-ray)
Dvd ~ Johnny Depp
Price: £6.00

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars If it's good enough for Tarantino..., 10 Dec. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
When the US critics sniffed trouble at Disney over The Lone Ranger's budget, knives were gleefully sharpened. Did they ever consider that all that money might have been spent on something worth watching? Did they even see it?

Over here, reviews were more positive. Even notorious curmudgeon Mark Kermode grudgingly conceded that he'd found it more enjoyable than the same team's Pirates franchise. Then came word of mouth: a couple of friends saw it separately and they were both unequivocal in their recommendation.

Yes, The Lone Ranger is your standard expensive summer blockbuster - but easily the most entertaining that 2013 has to offer. The plot is cohesive, the cinematography is breathtaking and the two leads, Armie Hammer and Johnny Depp, demonstrate an assured command of action, comedy and pathos.

For the younger generation who are perhaps unfamiliar with the characters, the story concerns John Reid, an idealistic lawyer in the Old West, who questions his abhorrence of violence when murder is visited upon his family. He is aided in his quest for justice by Tonto, an eccentric Comanche Indian who has his own reasons for vengeance.

The film does have a long running time but not once did I glance at my watch. Director Gore Verbinski paces the narrative well, with periodic action beats being imaginatively executed and never outstaying their welcome. The sequences represent a triumph of old-school movie-making; the stunt performers in the end credits almost outnumber the digital artists.

It would be a bit spoiler-ish to discuss the incredible finale: absolutely the 'icing on the cake'. Suffice to say, it's the most grin-inducing moment, largely because of Geoff Zanelli's rousing new arrangement of the William Tell Overture, which segues so smoothly to Hans Zimmer's score and back again that you'd think it was Rossini's original composition all along.

Every so often those who watch movies for a living say some bizarre things. Others have speculated that the story holds up a mirror to early American history that was simply too uncomfortable for them to stomach, and they saw it as their duty to warn people away. Well, if so, they were wrong.

Quentin Tarantino named The Lone Ranger as one of his ten best of the year. For what it's worth, so do I.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 10, 2013 8:04 AM GMT


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