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Cameras, Lenses and Accessories: Discuss Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades...Looking for some advice please ... I want to upgrade my kit, and in particular: Wide-angle lens Macro lens Tripod ...
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Old 09-01-2007, 15:16   #1 (permalink)
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Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

Looking for some advice please ... I want to upgrade my kit, and in particular:

Wide-angle lens
Macro lens
Tripod + ball head
Colour management hardware/software
Lightbox
A filter system
Maybe upgrade to D200

I want to do this all at once, because I buy (from Warehouse Express) on a buy-now-pay-later scheme, and want to keep the transaction tidy.

Anyone with experience and advice on possible products, please help me decide. A bit more info from me:

I fancy a 20mm wide-angle, but remembering that this will only equate to a 30mm on my D50, is it really worth it? I can't really afford to go wider, as the next one up is a lot more money.

I have the kit zooms 18-55mm + 55-200mm, plus a 50mm 1.8D. I want fast prime lenses - a wide one + a macro - with at least f/2.8.

I'm after a Macro lens, but can't decide which focal length (again remembering that I'm using a DSLR re: effective focal length) 60mm or 105mm. Can you get in closer with the 60mm? Any comments or points to note re: macro lens to choose?

Tripod + ball head - I have an average quality tripod, but I want a solid one with the control of a ball head. Any suggestions here that won't break the bank?

I want to do some studio work, but haven't got a studio LOL. Thought I'd start off with a lightbox. Any recommendations?

I think I'll go for the Cokin filter system (Lee is just too expensive). Filters are not my first priority, but I want to get some nd grad's. I have a polarizer, uv, diffuser, again of average quality. The P series appeals, thinking that the A series is best suited for compacts. Comments?

Just recently started thinking of upgrading to D200. Had my D50 for nearly a year, and love it, but I feel the need for a slower ISO (D50 only goes to ISO 200, which is a bit limiting, especially for colours), also the mirror lock-up feature on the D200 appeals - not familiar with this feature, but sounds like it's good for reducing camera shake for very sharp pic's. Can anyone tell me what else I get if I upgrade?

Hope to get some good ideas from members, + a little more info to help me decide.
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Old 09-01-2007, 15:43   #2 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

Camera envy ehh?

First of all take a step back and look at the big picture…you own a D50 and are looking at (maybe) the D200 in the near future while also currently seriously looking at your current lens line up. The D50 is 1.5x crop factor and so has the D200 so as far as lens choices go whatever you go with will have the same effective range on either body. That’s a good point as it means you have some real experience on which you can base your lens choices.

You say that you want fast prime lenses, yet question if the 20 mm will be wide enough. You already have an 18-55mm so you are in the best position to decide if 20 mm is wide enough for you Also as you rightly pointed out, fast prime lenses are expensive, sure they offer the ultimate in possible quality but depending on what you do with your photos (look at them on the pc, display them on the web, or maybe print them at poster sizes) will be a big factor in how much of that better quality is visible day in and day out. You then need to weigh that against their cost and work out if you can justify the expense.

Macro lenses are a different ball game again but your question indicates that you are mixing up minimum focal distance with maximum zoom. The bigger the zoom the further away you will be able to capture your shot from and (possibly still have a full frame of your subject), however it is entirely possible that a 180mm macro lens may also have a closer focusing distance than some other 60mm macro (this is hypothetical though and I am using it as an example). Basically the minimum focal distance indicates how close you can go to the subject and still achieve focus, while the zoom range gives an indication of the magnification available.

I have a P series Cokin filter system, however I use Lee filters. Filters can and do effect the quality of your photos and if you intend to use this system on prime lenses and then use poor quality filters you will totally negate the benefits of prime lenses and could also introduce the colour casts that OrangePeel recently discussed. Other than the possible colour casts, only you will be able to say if you think the cost vs some loss of quality is as trade off that you are willing to take and if so, that should also make you question your decision to go prime.

I’ll leave your other questions to someone else to pick up on for now
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Old 09-01-2007, 22:03   #3 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

I have waxed lyrical on another thread about the pistol-grip ballhead from Manfrotto and I have to say i will never use a 3-way head again. It is stunning to use and is solid enough to easily hold my Canon 20D with 100-400mm L series IS lens and it doesn't budge a millimetre. Yet to adjust you only need a half inch squeeze on the trigger, one handed, squeeze move, release. So simple and wonderful!

With regards the length of macro lens, as long as it is a true macro (1:1 reproduction) then the difference is not how close you can get but how far you can stay to get the same close-up. I have the Canon 100mm f2.8 macro (no good for you with Nikon but you'll understand my point) and could have gone for a 60mm macro instead. But because the 100mm macro is more telephoto, it allows me to get close-up images while staying further back from my subject. For example, have you seen the wasp picture in my gallery? No way could I have got that with a 60mm lens as I would have had to go in too close myself, the wasp would either have flown away or, much worse, have stung me and possibly killed me (I am allergic to wasp stings!) Now that is a bit extreme but the fact remains a longer macro lets you get up close and personal but remain back and avoid frightening away little insects and things.

I have to say I think if you are looking for better quality images, it is not your D50 you need to change but your lenses. I would recommend investing in some quality lenses and sticking with the body. Mirror lock-up is handy for the occasional shot but is not a reason to pay several hundreds of pounds in my personal opinion. The only reason to upgrade is because YOU are noticing you are missing features but that is not the case here. If you were trying to do things and were being limited because you hadn't got the features needed to get your shots, that would be the time to upgrade.

The biggest difference between P and A Cokin filters is simply the size. Most of my lenses have 77mm filters on them so the A range are too small (they are designed for up to 70mm max and best for 67mm or less.) Lee filters will fit into the Cokin holders but the glass is very much superior. If you were using these with the two kit lenses you mentioned, I would say you are fine with Cokin. But using a Cokin filter with an L series lens rather negates the whole point of having a professional series lens in the first place.

Not sure what you are going to do with a lightbox. You could get a cheap lighting head and a softbox attachment which is useful for portraiture or a simple lighting stand with a silvered brolly that gives you more control over the light. Not sure you have a lot of use for it yet but if you want to do portraits, lights are really a necessity at some stage. You don't need to go out and buy some Bowens and things, but a basic light setup is definitely worth having.

There you go, enjoy your shopping spree at Warehouse Express but think carefully about why you are purchasing each item as having them is not the panacea for getting great shots: using them is!

Cheers,
Rob
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Old 10-01-2007, 07:50   #4 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

Wide Angle - After lot's of research I ended up with Sigma 10-20mm. I know you have an aversion to Sigma, so the Tokina 12-24mm was next on my list. The Nikon lens is slightly better, but a lot more expnsive

Macro - Heard good reviews of Sigma 105mm macro ....ooops Sigma again

D200 - If I was sensible when I upgraded from D70, I should have gone the D80 route. Will produce same quality images as D200. Nikon D200 is just built for more abuse & has more manual controls to hand , which is of more use for pro's / semi pros. Problem is if you hold the D200, then you'll want it

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Old 12-01-2007, 22:19   #5 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

Thanks for replies - still digesting + mulling over ...

LOL re: Sigma, Dave

Meantime, anyone with advice to add or on items not already covered?
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Old 12-01-2007, 22:31   #6 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

Colour management I originally used Spyder 2 but could never achieve a profile I was happy with.

I now use the Eye One Display
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Old 14-01-2007, 21:25   #7 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

Hi there,

i used to own a Sigma 50mm macro and it was one of the sharpest lenses I've ever used; i replaced it with a Nikon 105 because of the short working distances when you get really close up to a small subject and it makes a great difference. I would expect the Sigma 105 to perform just as well as the 50 and wouldn't hesitate to recommend Sigma macro lenses.

Recently bought a Giottos ballhead for my Manfrotto tripod (Warehouse Express stock both) to replace the 3 way head that came with it - I could never remember which lever did what so chose a simpler option - works well and is far easier to adjust.

As for studio work, I'd recommend to buy some 2nd hand Portaflash heads on ebay - plenty of them and you could probably sell them for the same price if it doesn't work out for you, Alternatively, book a local studio and see how it goes.


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Old 14-01-2007, 22:06   #8 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

Thanks for your feedback re: colour management P-E Still deciding whether I want to calibrate just monitor, or printer as well, so all comments on this still welcome.

Thanks for your input Steve - very helpful I'm undecided between the 60mm and the 105mm macro lens (or micro, as Nikon like to call it). I am drawn to the 105mm as it is superior to the 60mm, including VR and, as you say, it has a closer minimum focus distance. It's also double the money ...

I'm fast realising that I have champagne taste and beer money

Yes, I can't be messing about with my 3-way tripod head anymore either.

As for 'studio work' I'm talking about getting a bit of simple still life practice in, to get my creative juices flowing, so I don't really want to spend much in this area. I got the idea of a lightbox from one of Lee Frosts books - you can use it for creative lighting for still lifes, so I thought I'd start with that idea. I don't get much of a chance to go out in the field, so this is why I want to go the 'home studio' route - for still lifes, not portrait, so I don't need any sophisticated lighting at this stage. As I haven't been doing much photography lately, I feel that if I have at least a simple set-up at home, then this will be accessible enough for me to get some practice in

I think what I need to do is take a trip to Jessops to have a look at what's available, then I can make choices re: the various upgrades/additions I want to make. It's just getting there ... so all advice is appreciated
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Old 15-01-2007, 10:57   #9 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

If you want to attempt to light still life on the cheap (smallish objects such as flowers etc), buy a couple of angle poise lamps and use white tea towels draped over them to diffuse the lighting. Manually set them up and your cameras white balance...play around with with the lighting positions to get your desired effects and with a little patience you can achieve rather good results.







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Old 15-01-2007, 20:37   #10 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

I've got the Sigma 10-20mm too, and it's a cracking lens. However, if you want something fast have you considered the Tokina 12-24mm lens? It's a fixed f/4, which is significantly faster than the other zoom wide-angle lenses at the 'telephoto' end, and is supposed to be superb - it would have been my choice if I hadn't wanted the extra 2mm at the wide end.

Remember that the wider the lens, the longer your exposure can be and still get a sharp picture - at 12mm you should be able, with practice, to hand-hold at 1/15th second and get a sharp photo.

I love my wide-angle lens, but couldn't imagine going to a wide prime - I find that the flexibility that the super-wide zooms give you is unrivalled by anything fixed in that range, and 20mm simply wouldn't be wide enough for me anyway.
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Old 15-01-2007, 21:40   #11 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

Steve - Thanks for that I like the 2 shots you posted, + especially the effect you got with the glass I did get 3 different task/desk lights specially, + will give these a go, as you suggest

abirkill - Thanks for your input too My dilemma in choosing a wide-angle (that I can afford) is will the one I can afford be wide enough on my 1.5 sized D50, e.g. a 20mm will produce the angle of a full-frame 30mm, so doesn't seem much point, i.e. it's not wide at all. The wider 14mm (21mm equiv. - I could live with that) price is £1k hmmm ... nah! I'm talking about Nikkor of course. The reason I'm not that keen to go for 3rd party lenses is that they may be slightly cheaper but you definitely lose some quality, so to me it's not worth the small saving. (However, I may end up changing my mind on that!) As Steve pointed out earlier, I have the kit zooms, 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 + 55-200mm f/4-5.6, so the upgrade I'm after is essentially prime 2.8 lenses for optimal sharpness etc., although a small zoom like the 10-20mm you mention might be worth considering, if it was f/2.8. These are my thoughts at the mo', but I'm not going to make a hurried choice, as I want to end up with the kit that's right for me, so am still open to suggestions. Your post is very useful abirkill, + I will refer back to it, thanks for taking the time
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Old 25-01-2007, 11:24   #12 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

The quality is relative whilst in tests the Nikor 12-24 is marginally better optically than the 10-20 Sigma the Sigma still is a quality piece of glass and the extra 2mm makes a huge difference. Maximum aperture means much less in a wide angle unless you are photographing movement. But as I said it's relative, the Sigma 10-20 is a much better lens than either of the kit zooms you are currently using and the 105 is miles ahead, optically little else touches it. It falls down on internal focusing and the amount it extends. The new Nikkor 105 VR is awesome but there is almost no advantage optically over the Sigma. As for handling and VR it's a dream, but at a price.
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Old 25-01-2007, 12:52   #13 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

For a Macro lens i cannot recommend the Tamron 90mm enough. It is a great quality piece of glass. It doesn't focus very quickly, but you generally don't need it to for macro work... it also doubles up as a tack sharp portrait lens.

So far this is the lens that says on my camera 80% of the time.

I know what you mean about wanting the D200, I'm sorely tempted too.
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Old 26-01-2007, 16:04   #14 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

not sure what you want to use a fast prime for,. if it's for PJ / events stuff on the go then the 30mm 1.4 sigma is very handy,. if it's landscapes then the speed generally doesn't matter as you'd want to stop it down (one of the dx wide angle zooms perhaps) or the nikon 17-35 2.8 if it's wide enough

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Old 16-02-2007, 18:13   #15 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

Many thanks everyone for your advice

After much deliberation, I've now ordered:

Nikkor 105mm 2.8 VR Micro (Macro) Lens
Hoya Circular Polarizer
Hoya Super UV filter
Manfrotto 458(B) Neotec tripod
Manfrotto 322RC2 Grip Action Ball Head
Pantone Huey
And last, but not least, a soft case for my D50

I chose very carefully + am very happy with my selection. The Neotec tripod has no leg clips, they just come out when you pull them + lock in place. Very quick + easy to use, + I think these features should encourage me to actually use it The ball head too was chosen for ease of use - just grip + release to fix or move position, i.e. no fiddley bits or twiddling knobs.

The lens should arrive on Monday, and the other stuff later next week

Thanks again all, for your input, all comments were very helpful indeed
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Old 16-02-2007, 18:22   #16 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

Nice selection, Charlotte, and well timed. By the time you are used to these and will have some more stuff on the 'wish list', it will be nearly Christmas!
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Old 06-03-2007, 15:59   #17 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

Go to pbase.com and do a search by camera manufacturer. You are then able to see the images that people have taken with the equipment you are thinking of buying.
Do this first before you buy. It could save you making a mistake.
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Old 08-03-2007, 23:44   #18 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

Here are the fruits of my recent kit-binge + my love-it/hate-it reactions :

Nikkor 105mm 2.8 VR Micro (Macro) Lens ..................................
Hoya Circular Polarizer .................................................. ...........
Hoya Super UV filter .................................................. ..............
Manfrotto 458(B) Neotec tripod ................................................
Manfrotto 322RC2 Grip Action Ball Head ....................................
Pantone Huey .................................................. .......................
Soft case for D50 .................................................. .................
Serif Graphic Tablet (Wacom Volito2) .........................................
ExpoAperture (DoF guide) .................................................. ....

Full reviews to follow in due course.

I'm very excited to have joined the Macro Gang! Took some today which I'll upload shortly.

The macro lens is fabulous, love-it love-it love-it!

The tripod + ball head, well what can I say except I'm in photo-heaven with these! What an absolute pleasure for ease of use, speed + convenience ... less messing about setting up = more time shooting.

Huey ... hmmm need to re-try calibration, it seems to have added too much red, since whites + greys now have a pink tinge. Will give it another go.

The D50 soft case, not too bad if you normally keep a very short lens on the camera. As I haven't taken the macro lens off since I got it I can't close the case, so camera's just nestling in the case on my dresser, on standby <g>

Received an offer in the post from Serif (got just about all their software now - excellent stuff + great deals + excellent customer service) for their A6 graphic tablet for half-price. How could I refuse ... I was still high on binge-fever LOL. Although I have a Trust graphic tablet, it's A4 + much too big, so decided to go for this offer. Glad I did! It's a great little tablet, just the job, which turned out to be a Wacom Volito 2 which is distributed by Serif.

ExpoAperture is a gadget to calculate DoF. Haven't actually used it yet, but seems just the job. Retailers are sold out at the mo' before the new version is due out this month, I suppose in metric, as the one I got is all imperial (bugger!)

Also got a bunch of software, including Panorama 3 (again by Serif) which is very very good.

Quote:
Originally Posted by marksuckling` View Post
Go to pbase.com and do a search by camera manufacturer. You are then able to see the images that people have taken with the equipment you are thinking of buying.
Do this first before you buy. It could save you making a mistake.
Thanks for the advice Mark, but already got the stuff by the date of your post. Quite right tho' + I did read a lot of reviews before making my carefully considered choices.
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Old 08-03-2007, 23:47   #19 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

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Nice selection, Charlotte, and well timed. By the time you are used to these and will have some more stuff on the 'wish list', it will be nearly Christmas!
Couldn't wait for Christmas Graham See expanded list above (or below, depending on your chosen forum view mode )
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Old 09-03-2007, 07:07   #20 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

Thanks for the thread Charlotte. I'm currently looking for a new tripod and I will give your choice some serious thought
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Old 09-03-2007, 07:14   #21 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

So you were the anonymous lottery winner in Romsey

I will be interested to hear in how useful you find the ExpoAperture
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Old 09-03-2007, 08:32   #22 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

Me, I'll look forward to the macro shots - but would like to know how you get on with the joystick head (OK, Manfrotto 322RC2 Grip Action Ball Head!) and your reasons for the horizontal versus vertical!
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Old 09-03-2007, 21:15   #23 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

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Thanks for the thread Charlotte. I'm currently looking for a new tripod and I will give your choice some serious thought
I can't recommend it highly enough Stepheno, it is such a breeze to set up + take down, with lots of useful features too.

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So you were the anonymous lottery winner in Romsey

I will be interested to hear in how useful you find the ExpoAperture
LOL P-E, I wish I'd won the lottery The tripod + ball, Huey + soft case I got from Warehouse Express "on tick". Got the lens from One-Stop so had to pay up front to cash in on the £50 saving here. Have to say it arrived pronto; only thing I'm not keen on is the invoice states "repaired lens" (for customs purposes) which would not be very helpful if I need to implement the guarantee! Anyway, £50 is £50 + that more than paid for the filters Will do a follow up re: the ExpoAperture.

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Me, I'll look forward to the macro shots - but would like to know how you get on with the joystick head (OK, Manfrotto 322RC2 Grip Action Ball Head!) and your reasons for the horizontal versus vertical!
Well Mark, it's clever you see ... it can be fitted horizontally or vertically
It's great! Must admit I wondered if it would be a bit heavy for me, as they sent me the "heavy duty" model according to their invoice - and it is quite heavy - but since I changed the orientation from horizontal to the vertical fixing, the weight of it is not an issue
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Old 10-03-2007, 08:25   #24 (permalink)
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Re: Please Help Me Decide on Various Upgrades

Wow, just caught up with this thread .....Christmas come early indeed ...you must be like a kid in a sweet shop With that amount of kit if you review it all in the Eqpmt review section your Rep points are going to hike up
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Old 11-03-2007, 10:56   #25 (permalink)
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Wow, just caught up with this thread .....Christmas come early indeed ...you must be like a kid in a sweet shop ........
Yup

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......... With that amount of kit if you review it all in the Eqpmt review section your Rep points are going to hike up
Now there's a thought (never crossed my mind)
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