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No Traces
No Traces
Price: $13.35
2 used & new from $5.98

5.0 out of 5 stars Pop Hiss Drone, May 1, 2015
This review is from: No Traces (Audio CD)
I heard a couple of tracks from this album on an internet ambient music radio station, Sleepbot, and it intrigued me. I had never heard of Sleepy Town Manufacture or Unit 21 or this album beforehand. It's been years since I bought a physical album but if you but direct from the label you get some art prints and a promo disc, so why not?

It's lovely, I've had it on repeat for a couple of days. The first couple of tracks are smothered in record surface noise. This never goes away and it's subtler from that point onwards. The music is essentially a set of formless ambient drones but unlike e.g. Tangerine Dream's Zeit it's all very light and airy. Track three, "Pairwise", has something approaching a melody - the piano is one of the few recognisable analogue instruments on the record - "Solitude" has a bit of dialogue in presumably Russian, "Cloud Above the Haulmy Roof" has a curious tension. It's the track that drew me to the album.

It was released as a limited edition of less than a thousand, several years ago, and so presumably it sells one copy every eighteen months, which is a shame because I like it a lot. It's timeless, formless.


The Essential Guide to OCD (Essential Guides)
The Essential Guide to OCD (Essential Guides)
by Helen Poskitt
Edition: Paperback
Price: $14.95
40 used & new from $1.37

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars There is a mistake on page 120, January 20, 2014
Third line down from the top, fifteenth letter in from the left hand edge.

I don't have a problem with the first 119 pages but I'm afraid I can't evaluate the rest of the book because I seem to have damaged the paper whilst trying to correct the error.


P-51 Mustang vs Fw 190: Europe 1943-45 (Duel)
P-51 Mustang vs Fw 190: Europe 1943-45 (Duel)
by Martin W. Bowman
Edition: Paperback
30 used & new from $7.20

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good if you're into the P-51, September 1, 2013
I have to say I was attracted to this by the cover art, which is excellent. The artwork throughout is very good, there's a useful set of pictures, and the writing is clear. There's also a good description of the P-51's special gunsight, although it's a shame they didn't reproduce one of the training manuals mentioned in the text (there are some small photographs of a manual, but they are hard to make out). If you're a fan of the P-51 you'll probably love the book, although you might find it superfluous.

The book has a couple of flaws. It concentrates heavily on the P-51. My impression of the book is of a series of P-51 combat reports, written in the typical style, e.g. "I opened fire at 300 yards and again at 200 yards. I saw strikes along the fuselage and tail. A piece flew off. The aircraft turned on its back and dived into the ground. The pilot did not bail out", repeated several times. I assume this is because the authors had far more access to Allied paperwork and surviving P-51 pilots than German sources. The text makes clear that most FW-190 pilots did not survive to tell their tales, and I assume a lot of the Luftwaffe's records were lost or have not been translated. The FW-190 therefore comes across very poorly, it seems to have been hammered out of the sky in droves by the mighty P-51. The book points out that the Luftwaffe was, by 1943, outnumbered, and by 1944 its pilots were fresh from training school, with no previous combat experience. As a consequence it's hard to draw a mental picture of the two aircraft, because their combat was influenced by so many external factors. Perhaps the book should have been "Fw 190 vs B-17" or something similar.

The second problem is that there's almost no coverage of the faster, long-nosed FW-190D model, which seems a more apt match for the P-51. It is mentioned in passing (on pages 18 and 26, according to the index, amounting to a paragraph of text, with no photographs), but none of the combat reports involve it. The machine pops up in Pierre Clostermann's "The Big Show", so it must have played some role in the war, but of course Clostermann didn't fly P-51s. The Focke Wulf TA-models are quantified but not really described. In keeping with the book's format, there is no discussion of the other aircraft involved in the combat. The FW-190's early fights with Spitfire Vs are mentioned as part of the FW-190's development story, but its performance on other fronts is not discussed. Similarly, the P-51 is only described in terms of its fights with the FW-190, so there's nothing about how it stacked up against other planes.

Overall however, and insofar as this is weighted towards the P-51, it's an entertaining read, although I suspect it overlaps heavily with one of Osprey's dedicated P-51 books. If you already have a good book about the P-51's actions in the European theatre of operations you probably won't need this title as well.


Alesis MICRON Analog Modeling Synthesizer
Alesis MICRON Analog Modeling Synthesizer

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Clever, badly flawed, August 11, 2013
Back when it was new the Micron was often compared to the Korg MicroKorg. They were aimed at similar markets, although the MicroKorg was cheaper, physically flimsier, and was generally derided by people on the internet for being a toy. I have both of them and, to be honest, I prefer the MicroKorg. It has smaller keys and does indeed feels toy-like, but the programming is more immediate, it sounds punchier, and it's smaller and lighter, which is a good thing. The Micron is objectively more powerful, with two effects processors and a much more flexible synthesis engine, but it has never hooked me. I never use it nowadays; it doesn't even have an afterlife as a controller keyboard, because the knobs don't transmit control codes. On the positive side it looks nice and I would expect the case at least to withstand gigging far better than the MicroKorg.

In no particular order, I never warmed to the keyboard response. You can change the velocity mapping but it always felt binary to me, with a hair-trigger split. The interface is tremendously clever and does a lot in a two-line LCD, but it's not good enough; it's as well as can be expected but it's still not enough, and trying to cram a sequencer into the machine was a bad idea. Kudos to the designers, the push-turn knob *almost* works brilliantly, but ultimately the Micron's clever synthesis engine is buried under the interface. There are a few editors available for the Micron, but why not use a VST synth instead? You already have the computer. Second-hand Core Duo laptops cost less than second-hand Microns, and are easier to carry about.

There are lots of preset sounds, but they're almost uniformly rubbish, as if the designers were veterans of the 1980s and only knew of post-1982 electronic dance music from reading about it. It has 48 bass patches but not a single good punchy bass noise, plus a bunch of very dated-sounding leads, and a brass section(!). The pads sound like General MIDI-era pads. The keys section has 36 harpsichord-organ-clavi presets that sound strikingly similar. Who in 2005 wanted an analogue modelling synthesiser with a bunch of harpsichord and clavi presets? They aren't even very good clavis. When I was younger it was a running joke that synthesiser preset designers were years out of step with popular trends, filling their keyboards with oboe and french horn presets whilst acid house and rave were transforming music. But the Micron was launched in 2005, the post-postmodern era. The presets don't even have a retro-80s feel, they're just very bland, like something from a late-80s / early-90s ROMpler but with the sampled pads and choirs rendered with synthesis. With a machine like this I want a palette of "little black dress" sounds; the Micron's presets pull off the difficult feat of sounding simultaneously generic and too distinctive.

And for some reason the knobs have been assigned to FM, panning, and noise with almost every preset. The two sliders control vibrato and filter cutoff. Why not cutoff and resonance on the sliders, and ASR + modulation on the knobs? Hmm? It's a trivial matter to reassign the knobs, but what were they thinking? If I had been in charge I would have deleted the glowing light under the pitch bend wheel, I would have made the pitch bend wheel out of a cheaper plastic - it's translucent rubber - and used the money to fund two extra knobs and a larger screen. The drum patterns suffer from the limited number of drum sounds, the sequencer is a nice idea but you can't chain patterns. A simple step sequencer with pattern chaining would have been super. There's no USB interface.

After buying it I concluded quite rapidly that a decent VST synth with a small controller keyboard was a better idea. On the positive side, the three-osc, multi-LFO synth engine is very powerful and if you're prepared to sit down and knock up some usable sounds it's more more flexible than the MicroKorg. The modulation routings make it feel like a semi-modular synth and the pattern-driven arpeggiator is far, far more flexible than a simple up/down/up-and-down arp. But the power is hobbled by the interface. Alesis needed to sit down and think hard about the market for this kind of thing; it's a portable gigging keyboard for live performance, and in that context the MicroKorg - with its big buttons, just-enough synth section (and battery power) feels more thought-out. It's as if Alesis spent their budget on the Micron's case, stuffed the guts of an Ion into it, but didn't think very much about how it would be used or what the market wanted. If it had come with, say, a VST editor that interfaced with the Micron via USB and could be used to control it in real time - with perhaps a small amount of sample memory for drum loops, but generally with the programming offloaded to your spiffy new circa 2005 PowerMac G4 laptop - it would have been a monumentally brilliant product. As it is, it doesn't move me.


The 2011 World Forecasts of Mattress Supports and Articles of Bedding Such As Mattresses, Quilts, Eiderdowns, Cushions, Pouffes, and Pillows with Springs Export Supplies
The 2011 World Forecasts of Mattress Supports and Articles of Bedding Such As Mattresses, Quilts, Eiderdowns, Cushions, Pouffes, and Pillows with Springs Export Supplies
by Icon Group International
Edition: Paperback
Price: $325.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars People will always need beds, March 14, 2012
As far as it goes, "The 2011 World Forecasts of Mattress Supports and Articles of Bedding Such As Mattresses, Quilts, Eiderdowns, Cushions, Pouffes, and Pillows with Springs" is pretty good *but* of course it predates the uprisings in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and so forth. Fortunately the pouffe isn't a major part of North African culture but you have to bear this in mind. Otherwise, The 2011 World Forecasts of Mattress Supports and Articles of Bedding Such As Mattresses, Quilts, Eiderdowns, Cushions, Pouffes, and Pillows with Springs is extremely useful, and helped me get rid of the twenty million cushions I had cluttering up my shed. I look forward to the 2012 and 2013 World Forecasts of Mattress Supports and Articles of Bedding Such As Mattresses, Quilts, Eiderdowns, Cushions, Pouffes, and Pillows with Springs.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 22, 2013 3:32 AM PST


Canon EOS 5D Mark II Full Frame DSLR Camera (Body Only) (OLD MODEL)
Canon EOS 5D Mark II Full Frame DSLR Camera (Body Only) (OLD MODEL)
Offered by digideals4less
Price: $1,999.99
69 used & new from $749.90

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Catherine Deneuve of cameras, August 14, 2011
I've had one of these since January 2010. I upgraded from my original Canon 5D, and I get the impression that a lot of people have made the same transition. I was intrigued by the full-frame movie functionality and all the new features that became standard after the original 5D came out, such as Live View and a built-in sensor cleaning mode. I was also impressed with the graceful way that the original 5D has aged - it is very old in digital camera terms, but the image quality is still very good as of 2010 - and I expect that the 5D MkII will grow old just as gracefully. Moreso than the 7D, which is superior in several respects, but will depreciate like mad.

Since buying the camera I have shot several thousand images and lots of movie footage, and I have taken it on holiday, mounted it on my bicycle, and used a wide range of fast and wide and sharp manual focus lenses. I have no regrets. I don't have the time or resources to subject the 5D to a thorough technical evaluation. Plenty of websites already do that, with ISO comparisons and so forth. The reviews were uniformly positive. It doesn't cope too well with highlights. If you want to shoot wide angle you're in a world of pain. Apart from that, you get a huge and malleable file.

For a week I had access to both my original 5D and the sequel, and it was interesting to compare the two. Apart from a larger screen, some shifted buttons, and a more angular prism, the MkII's body is hard to quickly tell apart from the MkI. The MkII's shutter makes a clickier sound than the original 5D's hollow clack. The memory card door still feels a bit flimsy. I preferred the original 5D's on/off switch. It took me a short while to get used to the repositioned top panel buttons - they have all shifted one place to the left in order to make way for the backlight button. The screen is of a higher resolution than the original although it was not the revelation I was expecting. It has a clever automatic brightness control that works well. The interface feels a little slower than the original 5D, no doubt because it is shifting much more data. When I zoom right into a RAW file, the camera takes a moment to rez up the preview image. There's a noticeable but slight delay when scrolling through images, and it takes a short while to write a burst to the card. The first 5D felt instant. Canon still has not fixed the oddness whereby the front dial changes the aperture in AV mode but the shutter speed in Manual mode, which is mighty irritating if you do a lot of flash photography and switch between AV and Manual frequently. Nikon's interface is smarter in this respect, albeit that I prefer Canon's rear dial for setting exposure compensation.

The autofocus system appears to be the same as before. It has a diamond pattern of autofocus sensors that are clustered around the middle of the viewfinder. The corners are bare. I do a lot of portrait shooting, with the camera on its side, and I would have preferred a simple 3x3 grid of autofocus points, spaced evenly across the frame. The old five-in-a-row system used by the 1n film camera would have suited me. If you use "rule of thirds" composition then the 5D's autofocus system isn't much use because there aren't autofocus points in the right place. It has 5x and 10x magnified live view which is extremely useful for manual focus. As before, the stock focus screen isn't ideal; I have installed the EG-S "super precision" screen, which is slightly better although don't expect a miracle. In practice I find myself using Live View almost as much as the legacy optical viewfinder.

As a stills camera it's essentially a 5D with more pixels and better light sensitivity, no mean feat. When using the original 5D I had no fear of ISO 400 but was wary of ISO 800 and ISO 1600, although I never felt that I was just wasting memory card space when I shot at ISO 1600. With the Mk II I have no fear of ISO 800 and not much fear of ISO 1600, and for that matter I have pushed shots at ISO 3200 with impressive results. When the images are sized down from 21mp for the internet the noise becomes even less apparent. The extra resolution is handy, although it's not going to transform your image-making and it certainly hasn't transformed mine. My instinct is that the 5D MkII's RAW files are softer than the original 5D's at 100% zoom, and I'm not just copying that opinion from Digital Photography Review. When sized down slightly, or sharpened, or sized down and sharpened, they are very crisp. I like to think of it as the crispest 12mp camera ever made.

If it was just a stills camera it would be a waste. Unless you make huge prints, or you expect to do a lot of cropping - and if you are, you probably aren't reading this - twenty-one megapixels is absolutely ridiculous. Overkill for most applications and, conversely, underspecified for high-end landscape and architectural and copying work. You'll be disappointed by the relatively sluggish file handling and enormous files that are four times the size of your screen and will take ages to upload to Facebook. BUT it's also a movie camera. Not a camcorder; think of it as a proper motion picture camera that you have to put on a tripod and think about. You have to plan ahead, focus manually, think about the storyboard. Clips are limited to twelve minutes maximum, which is a problem if you expect to leave the camera running and then edit later on. The 1080p high-def files are about 300mb per minute and require a fast computer to play, and some editing software throws a fit unless you have a beefy computer. The camera does not record 720p, which is a lower but still very high resolution and is easier to work with, and it doesn't record at 50fps; the 7D and most other digital SLRs including the 550D do this. The only other video option is a 640x480 VGA mode which is just silly, and I have not used it. For soft subjects the video is superb. For detailed landscapes it suffers badly from moire.

The sensor cleaning mode. I just thought I'd mention it. Unlike the original 5D, it actually cleans the sensor. It's a godsend. When the camera was new it was limited to automatic movie shooting at exactly thirty frames a second. Subsequent firmware updates have given the user manual control over aperture and shutter speed, a built-in audio level meter, and the frame rate is now (in the UK) selectable between 23.97 and 25fps. It will be interesting to see if Canon continue to update the camera's firmware to include 720p and 50fps. It's a positive thing that they have kept working on the camera, although it has the side-effect of making the manual obsolete. I have flipped through the manual once or twice. It seems sensible enough. The only thing I needed it for was a problem whereby an old flash unit didn't fire in Live View (you have to turn off the Silent Shooting option), but that's a pretty esoteric thing that almost nobody else will need to know.

Still, the 5D has been a hit with indie filmmakers because it can produce a filmic, 70mm look on a much lower budget. If you have to shoot video interviews for the special features on a DVD, or make a short documentary about anything where you can set the camera up on a tripod and you don't have to move it too much, and you don't want to carry around a big professional camera rig, it's your camera, although again a 7D or 550D might be more sensible. A 550D would save you money for lenses. The 5D's video has two major limitations. The first is the "rolling shutter" effect, whereby if you pan the camera too quickly the picture seems to undulate. You don't have to pan the camera very fast for this to become apparent. Because of this, if you're shooting an action sequence with a hand-held street chase it's not the best option. The second limitation is that the movies are "finished" in the same way that JPEGs are finished, which is to say that there's no movie RAW mode. If the white balance is greatly wrong when you capture it you can't easily correct this after the fact. Video shooting uses the current Picture Style, and if your selected style has heavy sharpening, the video will have heavy sharpening, and you won't be able to get rid of it. And the third thing is the moire, which is distracting and might be a deal-breaker.

As for the rest of the camera, it's nice to have the new things that became standard after the original 5D came out. Live View is useful for manual focus; the sensor cleaning mode is a godsend. There are however a lot of things that Canon could have added. There's no electronic spirit level, no built-in remote flash trigger, and no in-camera HDR or panorama stitching. None of these are essential features but I would not have minded them. The 7D has a couple of these already, and the built-in remote flash trigger would have been particularly useful. Nikon's cameras have had this option for some time.

Is the 5D MkII worth the best part of two thousand pounds plus fifty pounds for a second battery and another fifty pounds for a couple of big memory cards? I have pondered this long and hard, and on a rational level I believe the answer was yes in 2008, no in 2011. The 5D's technical edge over the 550D is very slight, and for the same money you could buy a 550D and a very nice range of lenses. Furthermore the 5D's full-frame sensor complicates wide angle lens selection immensely; if you want to go wider than 24mm you will not find anything in Canon's inventory that is sharp to the corners. Nikon, Zeiss, and Leica sell some superb ultra wide lenses, some of which you can mount on the 5D, but Canon's forte is medium and long telephoto. The company has always had a blind spot at the wider end of the range. A 550D would give you access to the EF-S range, including the 17-55mm f/2.8 IS, which does not have a direct full-frame equivalent (at least not with image stabilisation). The 5D MkII's full-frame sensor does however make sense if you plan to use fast, wide angle primes such as the 24mm f/1.4 and 35mm f/1.4.

And that is that. No, while I'm at it, the batteries. The MkII uses a new type of battery that has a chip in it, which tracks the power level, shot count, and recharge performance of each individual unit. These batteries are physically similar to the older BP-511 models and they last and last. At the time I originally wrote this review the batteries were only available from Canon, and were very expensive. There were some Hong Kong / China eBay clones, but they didn't have the chip and required their own special charger, which made foreign trips a bother, because you had to carry this special charger in addition to the Canon model. However, in the last couple of months fully-compatible chipped batteries have become widely available for about a quarter the price of the official model. Whether they are clones, or simply fourth shift models made for the Far Eastern market, I know not. I have a couple of these - in Canon boxes, almost identical to the battery that came with the camera - and they work fine, they haven't blown up the camera and if they do I will tell you.

EDIT: As of May 2011 the camera is still going strong, and for a variety of reasons - VAT rise, economic slowdown, tsunami - it now costs more new than it did when I bought it a year ago, which is impressive. Despite the price, the MkII was a big hit at the time and is still selling strongly for a heavy, semi-pro camera, despite rumours of a MkIII that seems to have been pushed back and back.


Canon EOS-10D DSLR Camera (Body Only)
Canon EOS-10D DSLR Camera (Body Only)
21 used & new from $70.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A Good Second Camera, April 20, 2011
Back in 2003 the 10D was hot stuff, only one step below the 1D and 1Ds; as of 2011 most of its value has depreciated away, and consequently it's very cheap on the used market. I bought one for £75, which feels wrong, but I'm not complaining. I actually got hold of it it so that I could have it converted into an infrared camera, and it's a popular base for conversion because it's cheap and fairly robust, with a metal body and decent shutter life. Unfortunately it was released just before Canon launched the EF-S range, and so you can't easily mount EF-S lenses unless you're prepared to modify them. This limits your choice of ultra-wide lenses, although as far as I know ultrawides from Sigma and Tamron and so forth will work fine. If you have a Canon 10-22mm you might want to look at a second-hand 350D instead. (I would avoid the 300D; it's slow, not much smaller than the 10D, the firmware is less functional, it's apparently less robust, and a lot of them were thrashed by their owners).

Good stuff: In typical Canon style the interface and general operation are mostly sensible and there aren't any obvious quirks, apart from the overcomplicated custom white balance procedure. The body feels tough, and the battery grip is available fairly cheaply (it also fits the D30 and D60). ISO 100-400 are still fine by modern standards, ISO 800 is okay, ISO 1600 decent at a pinch, ISO 3200 not so much. There's nothing wrong with the colours. It takes ordinary compact flash cards - there isn't a 2gb limit - and Canon's then-standard BP-511 batteries, which are still available on eBay and so forth. Autofocus is much better than the earlier D30/D60 and is again fine by modern consumer standards, although it's not a 1D. 6mp is plenty for most purposes. It uses standard E-TTL (the top professional flash at the time was the 550EX). The grip rubber remains intact, unlike e.g. the grip rubber on the Nikon D1x.

Good or bad stuff: The feature set is extremely spartan, reminiscent of the original 5D (although instead of using picture styles it has simple colour / contrast profiles). It doesn't have face-detect autofocus, an electronic spirit level, live view, a movie mode, in-camera panoramas, in-camera HDR, GPS, built-in wireless flash control, none of that. It just takes pictures.

Bad stuff: It's slow. You get used to it, but compared to a modern camera it's like using an old PowerMac G3. If you're shooting a fast-moving sports event you'll learn to curse the BUSY display on the monitor, during which you can't review your images. Flicking through the images on the card is a frustrating process, and it even takes a second or so to generate the histogram. It gets worse if you plan on transferring the images from the camera to your computer with a USB cable - I did this on holiday once, trying to save space in my bag by not packing a card reader - because it takes a minute or more to transfer a single image. You can scroll around images on the tiny LCD screen, but this uses the wheel and a "left-right, up-down" toggle that's not much fun. The 20D introduced a little joystick.

In fact the 20D is the better camera. A year or so ago the 20D still fetched a decent price on eBay, although recently it seems to have crashed down to £30 or so more than the 10D. Perhaps people are offloading their old camera gear in light of the economic downturn; digital SLRs were one of the big luxury boom items during the boom times, people took out loans to buy them so they could take holiday snapshots. Still, I digress. If you can afford the extra, by all means get a 20D instead.

In general the 10D is still a solid, decent camera that's as good as it was back in 2003; my 5D MkII produces much larger files, but the colours, contrast aren't obviously different at lower ISOs. It suffers from the same problem as Nikon's D50, D70 etc, in that subsequent cameras added features without reducing the image quality, and so the 10D ends up the least-best choice rather than the most-worst, if you see what I mean.


In Search of The Far Side
In Search of The Far Side
by Gary Larson
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.99
248 used & new from $0.01

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I came here from TVTropes as well., November 3, 2010
It's Gary Larson so it's wonderful, although slightly redundant given the existence of "The Complete Far Side 1980-1994", which is admittedly a lot more expensive. Also, doesn't the lady's head look odd? On the cover.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 30, 2014 4:26 AM PST


Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 Wide Angle Lens for Canon SLR Cameras (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
Canon EF 24mm f/2.8 Wide Angle Lens for Canon SLR Cameras (Discontinued by Manufacturer)
25 used & new from $190.99

38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Mr Watson, come here, I need to see you, June 16, 2010
I was on the lookout for a good-quality autofocus wide angle lens for my Canon 5D MkII, and this seemed to be the best option. Canon's telephoto lenses are generally superb and they make some good zooms, but the company has traditionally had trouble with the wider focal lengths. I can't justify the expense of a 24-70mm f/2.8 or the 24mm f/1.4, and the 17-40mm and 16-35mm seem either underwhelming or too specialised for what they are. The 28-135mm didn't appeal to me, ditto the 20-35mm f/3.4-4.5, the 24-85mm didn't impress me when I owned a copy. The non-L wide primes include the 20mm f/2.8, which no-one seems to like; the 35mm f/2, which lots of people like but doesn't seem great in the full-frame corners; the 28mm f/2.8, which I have tried and hated, and the 28mm f/1.8, which doesn't appeal to me at all. The 24mm f/2.8 seemed to be the dark horse, based on the tests I have seen, and so I found one cheap and snapped it up.

It is surprisingly good. Not excellent, but sufficient. I already have a very good 24mm, an old Olympus 24mm f/2.8 that I use with an adapter, and although Canon's lens isn't quite as sharp it's more practical to use, on account of it having autofocus and an automatic aperture. I don't have to keep checking live view when I focus closer than infinity. I like the 24mm focal length, and with a 5D MkII I can always crop down to something approximating 35mm without too much loss of resolution.

Physically it's a solid unit that doesn't rotate or extend. It doesn't feel weak and I have subsequently thrust it into bags and taken it out and about without breaking it. The autofocus is buzzy but the focus travel is very short, so it's not a problem. The manual focus ring is dire and I have only used it when shooting video. Canon gives you front and rear caps but no hood, the meanies.

Optically it's close to very good. At f/8, f/11 it's sharp across the frame almost but not quite into the extreme corners, far better than the 28mm f/2.8 that I briefly owned. There is CA, but DPP will correct this. There is some barrel distortion, but it's not very noticeable and not offensive, and this is one thing the lens has over the 24-105mm f/4 (the other being that it's much smaller and lighter - in the end I went on holiday with this lens and a 50mm, and the combination was smaller and faster than the 24-105mm). Vignetting exists and is inescapable on a 5D MkII, this is the major optical weakness. At f/2.8 it remains sharp in the centre. The background blur is busy and it's not really a bokeh-licious lens. You, sir, are no 24mm f/1.4.

Drawbacks? The very extreme outer corners are always mushy but, having said that, outside the world of Carl Zeiss every wide angle lens seems to have this problem. On an APS-C camera it would be sharp but redundant, because your kit lens is probably just as sharp and also wider and it has image stabilisation. The other problem is the price, which is too high. If Canon reworked the lens, added USM, sharpened it up a bit more, they could justify this price, but I suspect they will simply discontinue it in favour of the 24mm f/1.4. Which is a shame, because it is otherwise a bit of a hidden gem.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 6, 2014 11:49 AM PST


ASUS Eee PC 1005HA-VU1X-BK 10.1-Inch Black Netbook - 8.5 Hour Battery Life
ASUS Eee PC 1005HA-VU1X-BK 10.1-Inch Black Netbook - 8.5 Hour Battery Life

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "I could have sworn I had a daughter", January 30, 2010
I bought an Asus Eee 701 about a year after it came out, and grew to love it like a faithful pet. It was far more flexible than a smartphone and much smaller than a laptop, and it was also a babe-magnet. But I eventually got fed up with the small screen and the limited battery life. I had to carry a high-capacity spare and constantly keep an eye on the remaining power. Asus came out with a confusing array of replacement models, and the 1005HA appears to be the best modern combination of value and performance (there's a 1008HA, which is thinner but has a non-removable battery, and there's also a pair of larger 1201 models which seem to overlap uncomfortably with conventional laptops).

I've had mine for about a week now. Compared to the 701 it has a conventional magnetic hard drive, split into two 80gb partitions; a larger, higher-resolution screen; and much longer battery life. It takes the same memory modules, and indeed I swapped the 2gb chip in my 701 for the 1gb chip in my 1005HA with no problems. Physically, the hinge feels slightly less robust, and the body is proportionately heavier than the 701 (the battery, in contrast, is surprisingly lightweight). It's still hand-holdable but not as comfortable.

Good stuff: the screen is 1024x600, not quite a conventional resolution but enough for most purposes. The battery life is very impressive, far inside my comfort threshold. If you commute on the train for an hour and a half each way, and use it to surf the internet whilst doing so, and you use it at lunchtime and a bit in the afternoon, it should last a couple of days before you have to charge it. The 701 would have conked out during lunch. In practice you would have kept turning it off and on in short bursts and worrying about the battery. You can just leave the 1005HA on, and worry about other things. Although the batteries are large, they aren't very heavy, and so a couple of them should last a long aeroplane journey. The 701's only advantage in this respect is that it can comfortably be used if you're standing up, whereas the 1005HA is a bit too large for that.

As with the 701 it has an SD card reader, which is useful if you have a digital SLR that takes SD cards. It's less relevant than the 701's SD card slot, given that the machine has a 160gb hard drive; with the 701, the SD card stood in for the hard drive. You don't need it any more.

The keyboard is a revelation. The 701's keyboard was an uncomfortable hunt-and-peck thing with a misplaced right shift key. The 1005HA's keyboard has a full-sized right shift key and it's in the right place. I can touch type easily on it. The cursor keys are initially odd but the arrangement works. The power adapter is slightly smaller. Everything else that was good about the 701 is good about this.

Bad stuff: I'm not enthused with the touchpad. It's flush with the case, differentiated by some studs. It doesn't feel as precise as the 701's keypad, even after a week of acclimatisation. The screen surround attracts hairs and dust like a vacuum cleaner. I miss the absolute solid state silence of the 701. It's slightly less of a babe magnet, because it's larger. You don't get the carry case that came with the 701 (boo!) or indeed any carry case. In all other respects it is win city.

The only substantive criticism I can level is philosophical. The 701 had a definite niche. It was much much smaller than a laptop and far more flexible than a smartphone. It felt fresh and new. The 1005HA, on the other hand, is not much more portable than a small laptop, and in fact it's thicker and heavier than some laptops. I'm slightly more wary of carrying it around, slightly less willing to put it in the luggage, slightly less willing to use it in public. I could carry the 701 around easily with one hand, snap it open, surf the internet etc, snap it closed, stuff it into a backpack etc, whereas the 1005HA is more cumbrous. For a machine that only makes sense as a mobile device this is a bit worrying. Still, the extra battery life alone is a killer upgrade and if you sell your 701 to fund the upgrade the price is even more impressive.

E.g. there are other netbooks from other manufacturers.


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