Tag Archives: Reviews

iMax-ed out…

Everyone always asks me about my car. What do I drive that can carry all these kids, it must be a bus? Until two years ago it was, we had a Toyota HiAce minibus, a huge beast that could fit nowhere but could carry a dozen people. Upgrade time came along and we decided we needed a safer vehicle, given the travel we do. Now remember I am writing about my particular model of iMax which is a 2012, they may have changed a few things by now with the newer ones.

The good stuff about it…

It is safer, air bags in all the usual places, and an engine and bonnet between me and the world. Because previously the engine was under my seat. The size of the boot (or trunk) is massive. It looks nice, everyone comments on it. It seats eight, and I’ve seen some models with a ninth seat in the front. It can fit in most car parks, mini bus drivers will appreciate that. You don’t have to get out of the car for mcdonalds, yay drive through lanes I can fit in! Reversing sensors are great and probably compulsory when driving a rectangle vehicle.

Technology, it talks to my iPhone, love that. I can make/answer calls from the dash without touching the phone. I can listen to my playlists, and get siri to do my bidding. Separate climate control for the rear if you want, or you can flick it over and the kids can’t change it. The front row of seats are comfy and lots of leg room, there is two glove boxes and cup holders. Huge pockets in all doors which hold a lot of crap, I mean books/drink bottles/toys. Cup holders for the back row too. It’s price isn’t bad for the size of vehicle you get either, especially compared to similar vehicles at the time. Servicing only has to be done every 15,000kms instead of ten.

And the bad stuff…

Big big HUGE blind spots, you can lose a whole intersection behind the windscreen pillars. You will need to lean forward and look around them at roundabouts. And don’t get me started on what you can’t see behind you.

Baby seat anchorage points are limited to the middle row, a pain in the arse given the new laws mean more kiddy carseats for longer. And its very hard to do the seat belts up once you have the carseats in place, I am still swapping my kids seats around trying to work out a good configuration a year later. Oh and you enter the rear seat by moving the whole middle row, so if you have a few seats that the seat belt goes through as well as the anchor, be prepared to have to redo the belt through the back of the kiddy seat every time.

While not a big deal, colours are limited. We had a choice of silver, silvery blueish, black and white. I am still yet to own a red car. If you are thinking of getting the fitted floor mats, don’t bother because they catch up under the chair runners which are constantly in use, even though they velcro to the floor. You will get the shits with them and take them out in a week trust me, so glad the car yard threw those in because at two hundred bucks a set I’d have been annoyed. The petrol version is a bit gutless with a full load, and can’t tow anything bigger than a trailer. The rear window openers, a pop and prop open deal, which cracks them open well just a crack. Which is what I expected on a van as we’ve had them before, I didn’t expect them to rattle so much I’m scared to drive with them open, the dealer says he fixed it. Uh huh. I know I know a rattle isn’t a big deal, but it does sound like the window is going to fall off. And another reason we went for a van instead of another mini bus was noise, you simply cannot have a conversation in a diesel mini bus, this means children get louder too.

There are so many tiny things that irritate me about this car, I could write pages, little things like there is no handle for the front passenger to pull themselves up into the car as there is for the driver. The aircon seemingly has only two settings, hot and cold. But even though I’ve said all this, I still love the car, simply because it is decidedly better than any other car we’ve ever owned, but remember we owned a Kia that the engine died in before getting to 100,000kms. So you know, for comparisons sake I’ve got some low starting standards.

UPDATE: Come November 2013, I smashed it. My beautiful black mummy van with the dark windows was no more. I now have a silver one, the same colour everyone else in town bought too, last week I stood in the supermarket car park trying to open someone else’s van. Children have accidentally jumped into the backseat at school pick up, thinking it’s their mums van, I think I need some kind of big sticker down the side of it.

You will be pleased to know it took the head on hit very well, I wasn’t injured nor where the small men in the back. Written off, our insurer gave us a new one. So, we now have a new model and it has only a few differences (a few buttons inside are different), but the squeaks remain and here I was happy about finally sorting that rattle issue. And this particular van has more glitches (more than the old one, my reversing sensors don’t work in the cold weather) that again nobody can find on service days, can you believe it ;)

So in a couple of years we will part with this van, hey Toyota have you got a 4WD people mover on the cards anytime soon?

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Filed under Complaints Dept, Kid Safety, Rants & Stuff, Reviews

Review – the Olympus Stylus Tough TG-2

I got my hands on the Olympus TG-2 Stylus Tough series digital compact camera.  This is Olympus’s flagship tough waterproof camera, so this baby is definitely going to see some action in this messy family, and with any luck won’t see me having to get sand cleaned out of lens threads.

Waterproof to 15 metres, 2.1m shock proof (didn’t test that out though) and 100kg crush proof (also not testing that out, unless the Husband sits on it). Also freeze proof to -10 which doesn’t help those enduring a polar vortex right now, but still good to know I can take it skiing. But most importantly for me is its dust proof.  Keeping dust out of my larger DSLR set up really gets to be a pain in the arse when you are down on the ground trying to get ‘that shot’.

You can pretty much charge and go with the Tough, beginners can just leave it on auto and the iHS technology on the inside will figure out the settings for you.  If you put the camera on auto and just stand in one spot and move the camera around, and up and down, you will see the settings change from portrait to macro to whatever you need for the shot. It does this very quickly using tech from its big DSLR brothers, and its low light shots will surprise you with their clarity. It focuses in a heartbeat, with a 4x wide angle lens and an effective 12 megapixels.

We took it out for its first run, on a miserable day over the coast.  I can imagine that if the sun was out these shots would’ve been even better.  It also has a built in GPS, giro and compass which I’m yet to use to its full capability, but from first impressions it looks to be a useful traveling tool.   I forgot to mention it has a macro, an advanced super macro to be precise.  This has to be the best macro I’ve ever come across in a compact, especially a waterproof one.

There is software onboard for special effects, pop art (great to bring out colour in a hazy looking landscape), pin hole, fish eye (this effect looks very good, almost like you have the actual lens for it), soft focus, punk (which is a weird one that just makes everything hot pink), water colour, reflection (you can get very arty farty with this one, people will think you rock at photography after seeing this shot), miniature and dramatic.

It doesn’t have a secondary viewfinder or a shoe for a secondary flash, but it’s a waterproof camera so you can appreciate why not.  Actually I’ve rarely needed the flash because the bright lens copes with low light so well.  Battery life has proven itself to be good so far, specs say it’ll do 350 shots before a charge. The only little annoyance for me is the pictures are only saved in one format being jpeg, I’d like a RAW option.  I’m still looking into the FlashAir card option that apparently makes it so I can bluetooth pictures to my smartphone, which sounds awesome if I can get it.

 I’m excited by the possibilities this little camera brings. This weekend we will take it camping which is always very muddy times with our lot, I look forward to the results. Oh and it can charge via the usb socket in my car, very handy.  I will update this post with more photos of the effects as I take them, which will probably be this weekend when I dare take this crowd camping. I know there is no way I have explored everything this camera is capable of yet.

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Filed under Photographic, Reviews, Technology/Gadgets

Olympus Pen Mini – a review

I went travelling and decided that my big beast of a camera was too heavy to carry, and my pocket one was not going to produce the images I had in my minds eye.  So I went hunting for a baby DSLR, not knowing if there was such a thing, turned out there was.  I found the Olympus Pen Mini with a twin lens kit.

It is a camera that would suit those going from a point and shoot camera to their first DSLR, introducing you to interchangeable lens.  The mini has everything the larger PEN cameras have onboard, to look at it you wouldn’t know given it is able to sit in the palm of your hand.

With the zoom lens on.

I carted this around China, and the hubster took it to Vietnam last month. It was much lighter in our day packs that is for sure.  If you are a photographer who prefers to let the camera do the thinking for you when it comes to the settings, then this camera will make you look like an expert.  It does everything for you, in fact using manual on this camera is near on impossible.  There were a few occasions where I wanted to alter the depth of field and it just wouldn’t do it quick enough.  The manual control are there but you have to scroll through a few menu options to get them going, I’m more of a one switch person, especially if your trying to grab a moment.

It does however have very fast auto focus and HD video recording, and 12.3 megapixel live MOS sensor.  It has few buttons, excellent for the beginner, but a very shiny back display which is hard to see in direct sunlight.  I fixed this using a matt finish screen overlay cut down to size (meant for a smartphone).  It has some speccy build in effects too.

It can do this.

Out of the box you can get going very quickly and the battery life is pretty good, I can get a days touristy shooting done on one battery. I can rate the after sales service pretty high so far.  I cracked the LCD screen and needed it fixed, they did that and updated the software with just a weeks turnaround. And if you’re wondering what results you’ll get, check these out (click on the images to be taken to a larger version):

Lake George

 

 

 

Interested in my other camera type thoughts? I reviewed the latest Polaroid here.

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Filed under Photographic, Reviews, Technology/Gadgets, Travel

Polaroid Z2300 Digital Instant Camera – A review.

You all know that I am seldom without a camera about my person, I take around 1000 shots a month of which maybe a get 50 printed. If that.  I just lose track of which ones I wanted to do, forget, don’t have the paper or the toner, or space in the budget to pay someone else.  So you can imagine how the idea of a digital camera that you can edit and print from, was an attractive one.

My dad had an old polaroid camera, you would remember them as the kind that spat a square picture out the front and the picture slowly developed before your eyes.  I loved that camera, I still have some of the prints from it.  Polaroid is that camera brand that everyone has a little nostalgia for.  Enter the new Polaroid z2300 Digital Instant camera.  I was excited to get my hands on one.

 Yes it does look and feel like a little brick.  It does have a 10mp camera in it though, and takes fairly good quality pictures, but…

And you knew the but was coming didn’t you.  I’m not happy with it.

I will start with the good stuff.  It instantly prints 2×3 photos, which is fun and a novelty at events.  It takes 10MP photos.  The prints are stickers too, which makes scrapbooking easy for the so inclined.  You can make multiple prints of one picture, an option not available in traditional polaroid.  The photo you took was the one and only copy in those days. There is built in editing (minimal but some), framing graphics and colour hue options.  You can put an SD card in for loads more memory, it shoots video too.  It has old school switches for the functions like macro to landscape.  With a nice big LCD screen on the back.

Bad stuff… It is heavy and bulky.  I’ve nearly dropped it a few times. Awkward. It really needs a purpose built case, as the power button can be easily knocked on, even in a camera bag.  I end up carrying it with the battery out to stop this happening, as I was getting my camera out finding it on or flat.  The lens is weeny, like a mobile phone lens, sans the autofocus.   The door catch for the paper (film) loading is flimsy, I’ve bumped it open twice. The battery door rattles too, whats the story there?  The resulting prints are not that great, they are often very dark and kinda blue, yet the digital image is pretty good.  The built in frames are kinda dinky and look cheap, like I’ve used a dodgy free app on my mobile.  I can’t rate the software that came with the camera, because it doesn’t work in a mac and I haven’t been directed to a download.

Verdict… Made for fun.  Don’t expect anything more and you’ll be right.

The resulting print from the camera.

The digital image – see, not that bad right?!

The 2x3 print of Miss Georgie

The 2×3 print of Miss Georgie

The digital image, much brighter.

The digital image, much brighter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Photographic, Reviews, Technology/Gadgets

The Chocolate Diet – two weeks in.

If you didn’t already know about it I’m on a diet, the Chocolate Diet to be exact.  You can read about how it started here.  I’ve been on a get fit plan since the start of the year, but injury got in the way and I stalled.  Sitting up there in the top of the overweight range for my height, and somewhat startled because I really didn’t think I was that bad.  I’ve managed (albeit very slowly) to lose ten kilos over the past year according to my little Wii Fit chart, and I still cannot fathom where I was holding all that weight. I really couldn’t. I really didn’t think I was that heavy, but don’t we all?   So I started the Chocolate Diet at 75.3 kilos two weeks ago.

My Wii me is not thrilled
The Chocolate Diet has fitted in nicely with the school holidays for me as the minions are eating us out of house and home, my lunch soon gets stolen unless I can clutch it tightly in my fist.  At the start I was feeling very tired, but got into the vitamin B and sorted that out, I haven’t been hungry on this diet either.  I have tried a couple of other versions of diet shakes and have found that I am ravenous by 2pm, and neither brand tasted as good as this one.  So I’ve managed to stay the course and the weight started to drop off nicely, that little hurdle in the middle is there because I went away and ate crap over the easter weekend and forgot to pack my shakes.  I totally forgot, really ;)

The weight started to drop off

Here is how it works:   The Chocolate Diet is a thoroughly researched, scientifically proven program that combines a scrumptious eating plan with our delicious Chocolate Diet Shakes to help you get your diet on track and your life back in control. Designed for quick results and tailored to your lifestyle you can use The Chocolate Diet Program for a short time if you just need to drop a few kilos, or you can use it for an extended time if you have a more significant weight loss goal. This Program Guide will explain exactly what to eat, when to eat and how much. All you need to do is follow the guide to achieve your desired results. You won’t go hungry. In fact, you’ll eat more often!

On The Chocolate Diet Program we recommend you eat six meals, rather than the usual three:

  • One meal will be more substantial, which we call your Main Meal Option, usually your dinner meal but you can swap with your lunch meal
  • Two meals will be Snack Meals Options
  • Two of your meals will be your Chocolate Diet Shakes
  • One meal will be your Chocolate Treat, preferably after dinner

In addition to the foods listed here you should aim to drink around two litres of water (6 – 8 glasses) each day. You can also have 2 – 3 cups of coffee or tea each day however avoid milky coffees like lattes or cappuccinos as they contain extra carbs.

Look for it in Priceline

Flexibility – The Key to Success  The best thing is the daily program can be shuffled around to meet your lifestyle. For example, you may want to move your Dinner to Lunch and have a Chocolate Diet Shake at dinner. Or perhaps you may want to swap a Lighter Meal Option with a Shake of Main Meal. However your day pans out, you simply need to fit in your Main Meal, 2 Snack meals Options, 2 shakes, and your Chocolate Treat each day. In fact, you can substitute any of the Snack Meals Options or Main Meal Options with the equivalent meals listed on this website. We’ve designed The Chocolate Diet to fit into your lifestyle and family needs – not the other way round!

Now two weeks in I find myself a little further down the Wii chart, with a loss of 2.4 kilos! Yeah I’m pretty happy with that, and I’m continuing to go down. I’ve managed to add in some light exercise (can’t bounce just yet) trying to tone things up here and there.

AWESOME~!!!!

The consultant from the Chocolate Diet was very encouraging during her weekly calls to me, and I even chatted to the creator of Dr Lily on facebook about the diet (you can do that too on Monday nights).  Thanks again for asking me to be your test blogger Chocolate Diet, six more weeks to go!

UPDATE UPDATE UPDATE:  Last week I saw a fab pair of jeans on sale, there was only size 12 left.  So I bought them and I decided that they would be my weight loss goal pants.  Yesterday I decided to try them on, AND THEY FITTED!!!  Size 12! I haven’t been that size since 1999 :)

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Filed under Health, Reviews