Where not to buy on-line

OK, it’s not as bad as it seems, but I’m talking about poor service rather than being anything more criminal.

Don’t bother trying to buy anything on-line from Dixons/Currys/PC World their service is awful, probably due in part to their IT infrastructure.

Firstly, the whole group are pretty well guaranteed to sell at the highest price you can find. Well, you knew that already. However, if they’re the only place with the item in stock you have little choice.

Secondly, their standard delivery time is a minimum of 5 working days (yes, they don’t state a maximum time). If you pay a great deal for delivery you can get that down to 3 days, officially, but from the rest of my experience I’d probably not believe it.

Thirdly, they charge your credit card at the time you order, not when they dispatch. I ordered a Nikon D200 camera body at lunchtime on Thursday, they debitted my card immediately.

Fourthly, their internal mail system is truely awful. The two confirmation e-mails I’ve had so far each took between 16 and 20 hours to get out of their Lotus mail server and on to their external mail hub. That’s an unacceptable service level for a mail system used for customer services.

Finally, their web site is broken. Or rather the authentication is partly broken. The password I gave my account there was strong, it contained both upper and lower case alphabetic characters and numeric ones. It works with the login page but all subsiquent password prompts (which you need to use to do ANYTHING else after that won’t accept that same password. I’m guessing that the web developer’s code is lowercasing the input before doing the password check or the password is being truncated.

So, what’s the situation with my order now? Well, the money’s been taken and it’s still “Being processed” and has been since Thursday evening. You have to wonder how they get return custom.. or maybe they don’t, which is why the PC World adverts are telling people to use the website as merely a catalogue before going to the shop.

Well, I for one won’t be buying from the Dixons Group on-line again.


If…. I had a bigger garage, and lots more money that I’m ever going to have, I’d like one of these toys…

Image of a Carver One

It tilts!

Of course, to drive it I’d need to get a full g-suit and fighter pilot helmet to get into the real swing of things. 🙂

Crumpler “Brian’s Hot Tub” review.

Having finally got my new bag home and installed all my camera equipment I think I can give a meaningful initial review of the Crumpler “Brian’s Hot Tab” photographic and laptop rucksack.

The “Brian’s Hot Tub” is the largest of the Crumpler rucksack style bags for photographic equipment. It’s about the same size as a large standard rucksack you would get from the likes of Karrimor etc. and the outer shell is made of a very similar material.

Unlike any other rucksack I’ve come across, the bag opens by unzipping around the inside edge of the back, the part which rest upon the user’s back, and the flap then folds down giving complete access to the internals. Attached to this flap, by an ingenious set of flaps and velcro, is the removable laptop pouch which is easily big enough to fit my rather large laptop though there’s no storage for the power supply.

Within the main body of the bag can be found the photographic storage unit. This is a separate sub-unit again velcro’ed into the shell and can easily be removed so that the bag can be used as a standard rucksack. It’s well padded and has a mesh front which zips around the outer edge of the unit. Internal to this are a large number of shaped partitions, all velcro’ed together and a small sub-unit faced with another zipped mesh front.

Externally there are two fair sized pockets on the front of the bag and one on the right side. On the left there is one fixed loop and one adjustable loop to allow the carrying of a tripod. I’ve tried my Manfrotto 055MF3 and that fits in there easily.

The overall build quality is very good, as you would hope with a bag with a list price of around £170 (though I picked mine up for £130). The shoulder straps are wide, well placed and shaped with a buckle to attach them across the chest. There is an optional waist band, costing around £12, but I don’t have that to test.

The only niggles I have with the bag are as follows:-

(1) Because of its highly modular construction the amount of space available for photographic equipment is rather more limited than you would expect from such a large bag.

(2) It would have been better is Crumpler had used an impervious sheet rather than mesh to cover the front of the photographic unit as this would have prevented dust generated by any other items stored in the bag from contaminating the photographic equipment. It would also have made the unit useful as storage of the equipment out of the bag for when you want to use the main shell as a normal rucksack. It would have been even better if the unit had a grab-handle on its top for this use as well, as the laptop unit has.

(3) There’s not obvious place to store any power units. This would be fine in the days of film but not today’s digital camera era, especially if you’re using this bag for travelling rather than as a day bag. This is also a problem with the laptop unit.

What’s been happening this week?

Not a great deal.

I’ve bought a Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 EX DG Macro lens for my camera. It cost £300 in the end. I’ve had a quick experiment with it this afternoon even though the light’s not wonderful outside. It does amazingly sharp macro photography.. when I can persuade the D70 to actually focus on the tiny thing I want (instead of somehting behind or nothing in particular) and stay still enough to keep at the correct focusing distance (which at F2.8 is a problem because there’s almost zero depth of field) when pressing the shutter button and when the wind stopped and the bush/tree with the lichen came to rest. 🙂

What did surprise me was how big and heavy the lens was. It’s about double the size and three times the weight of the Nikon 18-55mm DX lens which came with the D70. It’s Huuuuuuuge!

That’s about it, really. I’m off out to listen to the choir a friend sings in (Commotio) tonight at 8pm in Merton College Chapel. The last concert was quite nice and melodic, I’m not sure about this one. They do contemporary music you see and some of it can be quite “interesting” and non-melodic. Anyway, Katie was pleased with the large version of their CD cover I printed out so as to advertise their first CD in Blackwell’s.

You can see my experiments here. Ignore the tennis ball shots that was another experiment I did last Sunday with contrast in sunlight.

Buying stuff

Having determined that in about 6 months time I will be getting an amount of money as an inheretance and also having been asked by Lindsey to do her wedding photos for her in a couple of months time I’ve decided to release £2000 of my current savings for the purchase of photographic equipment.

In the past week I’ve placed a pre-order for a Nikon D200 camera body. That’s going to take just over half the allocated funds on its own, about £1200. This leaves £800 for everything else I’ll need for this job.

Today I splashed out on the best tripod/head combination I could afford, i.e. a Manfrotto 055MF3 magnesium/carbon fibre 3 section tripod and a 222 joystick ball head. Seeing as the only ones of these T4 cameras in Witney had were on display they gave me a nice £20 discount on their retail price. Still, the combo still cost a hefty £250. So I now have left £550 for a big camera/computer backpack (Crumpler Brian’s Hottub, probably about £120-130) and a good, fast lens for inside work, something about F2.8 should do (there’s a Sigma EX series lens which should suit at around £250 as I can’t afford the equivalent Nikon at ~£1000).