Deal Reviews

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10 Nov

Nikon D3200 Dynamic Range

All recent Nikon DSLRs have shown excellent dynamic range results and the D3200 is no exception. DXOMark rates it at top #19 as of March 2013 with 13.2 EVs of dynamic range, which is pretty impressive. This puts it right in between excellent NEX-7 and NEX-5R Sony sensors. Considering that this sensor is fully developed by Nikon engineers, this shows that Nikon is capable of making excellent sensors on its own. Although I did not perform any scientific tests to measure the dynamic range, I used some high contrast sample images from the D3200 and tried to recover shadow details from RAW files. The results were quite impressive for an APS-C sensor, very similar to what I was getting with the NEX-series cameras. Don’t forget that dynamic range decreases as you increase ISO, so if you want to be able to recover the maximum amount of details, you should be shooting at ISO 100 on the D3200. This is especially important for HDR photography – always shoot at base ISO of 100 and use a tripod.

If you are wondering about how to shoot HDR images with this camera (since it has no built-in bracketing capability) here is a quick tip for you – just change your camera mode to Manual Mode, set your aperture to one number like f/8.0, set ISO to 100 (and turn off Auto ISO), then look at the built-in meter inside the camera and adjust your shutter speed. Take a sample picture and make sure that it is not severely overexposed or underexposed. All you have to do from this point on, is take a picture with the shutter speed twice less the current value and twice more the current value (for 3 brackets) or you can take more pictures at slower/faster shutter speeds for more information. For example, if your aperture is f/8.0, ISO 100 and shutter speed is 1/500th of a second, take one picture at 1/250th shutter speed, then another at 1/500th and finally one at 1/1000th – you will have three bracketed images with lots of details (three full stops) for an HDR photo. If you need more information for a very high contrast scene, take more pictures at slower shutter speeds and then at higher shutter speeds. When decreasing the shutter speed, divide the last number by two and when increasing the shutter speed, multiply the last shutter speed value by two. This method is obviously slower than using a built-in HDR feature, but it works quite well for most situations.

As for Active D-Lighting, if you shoot RAW (and you absolutely should) and do not use Nikon’s Capture NX2 product, you should just turn it off. For JPEG images, leaving Active D-Lighting On works great and the camera does a pretty good job with balancing highlights and shadows.
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01 Apr

How To Find the best Coupon Codes Online

One of the benefits of my career in consulting was that my office was at Yonge and Queen, so anytime I wanted to eat out or shop for almost anything, I could head over to the Eaton Centre on my lunch hour without even putting on a coat.

However, since I began working from home over six years ago, personal shopping tends to be a hit-and-miss affair between meetings when I am downtown, and lunch is whatever leftovers I have in the fridge.

But in my view, regular retail therapy is still a prerequisite to good mental health, so it is not surprising that I am a prime customer for discount coupons sold by online coupon sites. Initially I got on the list for the daily iSaving email. Then as Facebook friends started posting daily deals, I realized there are multiple companies with similar business models. I now get a single email each day from Cake Deals (also available for other Canadian cities) which lists offers from over 35 sites.

The bargains are truly amazing. I have paid half or even less of the face value of coupons for restaurants, spa treatments, carpet cleaning and fitness sessions. In all cases I had no problem redeeming the coupons and I was treated as a valued customer. But a bargain is only a bargain if you actually need what you buy, and if you don’t blow the family budget in the process.

So before you make your next purchase, here are seven tips for satisfying your coupon cravings without breaking the bank:

Location, location, location: The first thing to check if a deal looks interesting is where the business is located. We live north of the 401 so I’m not interested in restaurants that are far from home or where we generally go out on weekends.

Be selective: Make sure to buy only what you will use. I bought coupons for restaurants Earth, Forte, Satay on the Road and Paese because we’ve been there before, and want to go back. I also took the opportunity to try Lai Toh Heen for the first time because it received good reviews.

Don’t be upsold: Getting $40 worth of food for $20 at an upscale bistro may sound like a great deal until you get there and the meal plus wine and tip (on the whole amount) exceeds $100/person. If you couldn’t afford to eat there without the coupon, the discount may not be enough to make a difference.

Read the terms: In some cases you can buy one coupon for yourself and additional coupons as gifts, but the name of the intended recipient has to be on the coupon. Even if you can buy more than one coupon, you can generally only use one for two people and two if there are four people or more. Also, coupon use may be restricted at specific times (i.e., Valentine’s Day). Each company and, in some cases, each deal is different.

Use it or lose it: Print out the coupons and file them by expiry date. Typically they are good for up to a year, but in some cases they are not. Once you have purchased several coupons it’s easy to bury them in the pile of papers on your desk, or lose track of when they were actually purchased. Another option is to save each coupon in a directory on your computer and delete it once it has been used.

Pass it on: Some sites pay cash or credits for referrals. For example, Groupon gives you a code you can send to friends via email, Twitter or Facebook. You can earn a credit of $10 in Groupon Bucks for every friend you refer when they make their first purchase.

Have coupon, will travel: Discount coupon sites are not limited to Toronto or Canada. Before you travel either for business or for pleasure, don’t forget to check out great deals at your destination.