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Velbon Ultra Maxi Mini Tripod
I have started to do some shots that require a steady hold, and being mostly table top based, the use of a standard sized tripod was a pain the derriere. I bought one of those gorilla tripods, the SLR one. Two word review for you.....DON'T BOTHER. What a waste. With my D7000 and just a 50mm prime it would constantly move and droop unless it was dead level - not what I required at all, good for nothing.
After a bit of research I went for this, and I am so glad I did. It was over double what I paid for the Gorilla, but I would happily pay more as it's a great bit of kit.
Construction: chunky, sturdy - feels quality. Although the twist-to-lock/unlock legs do concern me a little with regards to longevity, the main element that really stands out is the head (the Velbon QHD-51Q); a very nice and well manufactured part. The ball&socket design requires just one lock to put it into any position and it is all metal, so a reduced fear of damaging from over twisting that comes with cheaper models. The release is quick, and contains a very nice clicky clip that holds the bracket open until you next drop the camera in - I like that a lot. The shoe itself is very small, so much so I keep it on my camera all the time now so it's always there. Don't even notice it.
Legs: these extend very well from about 10cm to just over 18cm. A quick release button on the top of each allows the legs to splay out further, great for stability. Pushing the legs back into the upright position releases this button and secures them back. There is also an intermediate position too. A simple twist lock allows the central shaft to be raised (needed when splayed. The minimum height with the legs splayed and shaft lowered it about 20cm, the highest about 35cm (reasonably stable too like this if the legs are orientated according to the tilt of the camera). The feet are made of thick rubber and grip well.
Carrying: it is heavy for its size, but this is part and parcel of the good construction. It fits into a small bag of its own and with a cylindrical footprint of about 25cm x 8cm x 8cm.
Getting it set up takes seconds - perfect. An ideal piece of kit when stability is needed for those creative or table-top shots..
Harrisons are a great supplier too, local to me and professionals in the camera business.
Griffin Survivor Extreme Duty Case Cover for Apple iPad 2 / New iPad 3 - Black
2 New from
Been using this for about three weeks now, a breakdown on my thoughts in this time...
Build quality: it comes as a two piece item. An internal plastic cage with a clear screen protector holds the iPad, and a thick rubber shell fits very snuggly around this. It has been designed to fit together very well. I do take the claims on water, sand and wind with a pinch of salt, but I would say that I am a lot less worried about damaging it now.
Access to buttons: there are flaps to the various sockets and these are easy enough to open. I am not 100% sure on the one for the mic at the top, as it seems a little flimsy compared to the others. However, the buttons for volume, sleep and menu have been engineered very well indeed. In fact, altering the volume is much easier than without the case on. The front camera is permanently available, and the rear one has a flap you need to hold back if you want to take a shot (but as the weakest feature of the iPad, it's only good for videos). One big drawback for me is that although you can get the standard dock connector on fine, you cannot get the camera connector kit on without dismantling the whole thing. A right royal pain as I use this quite regularly.
Look and feel: ok, so you can get rid of the "look at my ipad2, isn't it slim and light" attitude with this. However, you can replace it with a "look this bad beast" smugness. It looks secure, it looks safe, and, in my opinion, it looks kind of cool in a rugged way. The rubber feels great and grippy, it's textured well with a soft, tactile surface.
Screen protector: I like the idea of a screen protector, but it was a bit `squeaky' when using the device, and it seemed to offer some resistance. I had read on one review that it could scratch easily. Looking at the material I could well believe that. My laughable solution? I cut down a regular screen protector and put this on top! So now I have a screen protector, the case's screen protector and another screen protector. Is my mild autism showing now?
Stand: it also comes with a clip on stand that attaches to the sides when in portrait mode (and so top/bottom) in landscape. A useful extra. It's not the most well-engineered piece of plastic I have ever seen, but it does what is needed and grips very well. It gives a good angle for typing as well as a more vertical one for resting/viewing on a desk or similar flat surface.
Price: it is in the range of what seem higher-quality cases. I treat this as part damage insurance, so don't mind the extra premium if it saves the device from destruction.
Summary: as a protective case, this does exactly what is needed. It has combined sturdiness with a terrific design. I feel that I can put this down anywhere, in any bag and even out and about in dodgy weather. I am less worried now.
For a mobile device, protection is what I wanted. 9/10 (1 off for the camera connector issue)
Doctor Who: 11th Doctor's New Sonic Screwdriver (Dr Who)
3 New from
The only drawback of having two young timelords is having to buy two sonic screwdrivers! However, both of them love this toy and they have engaged in a lot of imaginary play using them. Doctor Who has grabbed them like nothing else, and this has brought the series into their play considerably; I doubt a rubbish version would have done so well. I admit that one did play up (dodgy wiring), but it was replaced with a perfectly-working one. The sounds and lights are great, the pop-up feature a nice touch. Well worth the 15 squid, especially when compared to toys that don't have as much longevity.
Ripcurl Men's Beaverton Hoodie (Black)
Well 90 quid as an RRP is not accurate, unless I am seriously out of touch. For 30 quid though - can't complain. It's not as thick as I thought it would be, but acts well as a thermal layer under another coat in the freezing cold. Have worn it a lot and the embossed pattern does wear after a time, but I love it as it's comfortable and fits nicely. Not baggy and not too tight.
Tomy: Hide N Squeak Eggs
11 New from
We had these bought for our eldest when she was born - she played with them for hours in all sorts of games. The sorting elements are not just shape-based as the expressions extend their understanding when older. Simple toy - as all the great ones are. Get this and some durable stacking cups and you are 80% there. Youngest is now doing exactly the same .... best £5 you can spend on a young child.
1 New from
The characters are great in this book, a nice range of differing backgrounds and motivations that is welcome. It didn't grab me right awy though - I did struggle to get through the opening chapters and left it for a while before perservering, but I am so glad I did. The ecology created by the writer is an interesting one and although maybe described too much overall, it was a nicely created setting for the story. It has potential to lead onto further novels (as indeed it does) and based on this book I am certianly going to spend money to see how things develop...
The Line of Polity
11 New from
As a standalone novel it may confuse the casual reader. However for someone who is following the series of Cormac novels it is a good progression of the overall narrative that makes you want to read on. The new developments are intriguing and could lead to some great stories (I'm not there yet so I hope it does!). Apart from the prior plot-exposition (for the casual, first-time reader I guess, but why would you?) and questionable re-use of supporting characters who don't develop much, it's a good story in a widening Sci-Fi universe that entertains. I love the mix of human/AI/tech and so Asher fits what I am looking for, hence the good rating, but bias aside it is a good follow-on from Gridlinked (which you must read first really). Getting into Brass Man now....