Curry Traders Madras


It took a couple of hours to prepare and cook the Curry Traders Lamb Madras spice mix because I like to saute the onions until they are translucent and sweet. The recipe says to saute them for 10 minutes, I took about 25mins. I also used Ghee instead of oil. Other than that I stuck exactly to the recipe, to give the Madras Spice mix a fair test.

There were 3 separate spice packs. One was pre-ground and had a strong dark smell of black cardamom; the other contained various seeds, coriander, cumin, mustard, fennel, cloves etc that required grinding. When ground the mix had a fresh, slightly clove smell, that was interesting and not the usual spice mix aroma. The third sachet was 2 cinnamon/cassia sticks and some dried red chillies.

Madras Curry

I used 1.25kg of lamb and after 10 minutes of simmering, I put the pot in the oven on low simmer for 90 minutes. Curry Traders call this their ‘Award Winning’ curry, and it all looked and smelt very promising.

I was pleased with the taste test and surprised that it was more chilli hot than I expected. Most spice mixes err on the side of light chilli heat and I add more chilli, in this case it had a pleasant bite, about the same as you’d experience in an Indian Restaurant. I made the pot airtight and put it in the fridge for 3 days, to mature.

I could still smell the interesting aroma for the next 2 days when I opened the cupboard doors above the cook top. It was tantalizing.

After 3 days in the fridge, I re-heated the curry and served a portion. It was a good curry and definitely one I will have again. This spice mix has a different flavor and aroma compared to some other mixes I’ve tried. It has a distinct signature, which I liked and I’d recognize it anywhere because of that signature. I suspect that black cardamoms are part of that.

It wouldn’t take much to raise this curry into restaurant standard. There was plenty of sauce and enough meat to make 5 portions out of the 1.25kgs of meat. The meat was tender and the sauce excellent with just a tad too much cloves for me. Next time I’ll check how many cloves are in the sachet and remove perhaps a third of them before grinding. It’s a personal thing, I’ve had a couple of meals with too many cloves and now I prefer them to be extremely subtle.

I was pleased with the way I cooked this curry, it was aromatic and well matured. Perhaps the addition of some BIR style gravy would lift it to restaurant standard?


read comments

My Advent Calendar of Funny Christmas Videos


In 2008 I came up with an idea; to drink a different beer each day of Advent (December 1st to 24th). It was fun and documented on my blog ‘The Shed’. My favourite year was 2010, and the entry for Day 11, Corona Extra

This year as part of building the level of the ‘ Spirit of Christmas’ up to 100% by Christmas Eve, I’m posting a funny video each day of Advent. Some are Naughty, some are Nice.

Day 1: Hugh Jackman

Day 2: Secret life of pets –

Day 3: The famous Mr Bean and the Turkey

Day 4: Seinfeld & the Nipple

Day 5: The dog in his Kennel

Day 6: Billy Connolly, just audio

Day 7: Mommy wrestling santa –

Day 8: Christmas Gnome

Day 9: Animals around the table

Day10: Mr Bean nativity scene

Day 11: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2015. Song “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” by Celine Dion -Good cartoon

Day 12: Rick Mayall

Day 13: Singing animals Deck the Halls

Day 14: Achmed the dead TERRORIST

Day 15: Snowman and Moose

Day 16: Richard Pryor –

Day 17: Cat sings ‘Dashing through Snow’

Day 18: Bean Salvation Army

Day 19: The Grim Reaper

Day 20: Morecambe and Wise

Day 21: Animals sing jingle bells

Day 22: Unwanted presents


Day 24: Robin Williams reads The Night Before Christmas



read comments

Durong Dingo Sanctuary


Simon Stretton’s Durong Dingo Sanctuary – Simon explains why keeping the Dingo DNA is so important for Australia.

Remember the Tasmanian Tiger (Thylacine)which became totally extinct?- don’t let that happen to Australia’s own Dingo.


read comments

How to Improve Packet Curry Sauce


Curry Sauces make a great base for a curry when time is short. I prefer the Passage to India Sachet Sauces which are quite good on their own, but with a little help they can be really great. Korma Sachet Sauce


How to Improve Packet Curry Sauce


It was a weekday evening and I wanted some sauce for a two portion stir fry.


I put 300gms diced chicken breast in a wok with some oil and stir fried until just cooked, then added half a packet of Passage to India Chicken Korma curry sauce and simmered for a few minutes. I added two pinches of curry powder, made from the standard ground spices of Cumin, Coriander etc and half a T spoon of Kashmiri chilli powder.


The light, coffee coloured sauce looked a little bland, so I fried up a Tablespoon of Tomato paste with a little oil, constantly stirring. After about 90 seconds added the same amount of water to make a 50/50 mix.


Korma is a yoghurt based curry, but I couldn’t find any yoghurt so I added a Tablespoon of Coconut Powder, stirred it in and allowed to cook for 2 minutes before pouring into the pot and stirring into the curry. Ayam Coconut Milk Powder


I put the pot in the oven to simmer for 30 mins while I prepared the stir fry ingredients.


After stir frying chopped Capsicum, Snow Peas, Slivers of Carrot and tiny pieces of Broccoli with some oil and 2 large chopped cloves of garlic, I removed them from the Wok and with a little more oil, fried a packet of Noodles that had been soaking in water.

Chang's Noodles

After a minute or two I added half the stir fried vegetables and when all was combined, tipped that into a bowl and ladled half the Chicken Korma on top. I repeated that with another bowl for the 2nd portion, adding another half teaspoon of Kashmiri chilli, because I like a little more chilli heat with mine.


It was a really excellent meal. Adding the extra ingredients transformed the Sachet Curry Sauce, and I will be making this many more times. It was yummy, the sauce dripped down through the vegetables and noodles, transforming this quick snack into a gourmet meal and the only complaint heard was ‘not enough sauce’- I count that as a win !


Tomato Paste and Water: Mixed 50/50 is the base for most BIR (British Indian Restaurant) curries.


Oil: Transfers the tastes of the ingredients; I use it in Casseroles for the same reason.


Curry Powder/Garam Masala: A pinch or two adds to the aroma and taste. A pinch or two can be added just before the end of cooking if the meal is lacking in aroma but don’t overdo it!


Coconut Powder: I use Ayams Coconut Milk Powder because it tastes like real coconut, 100% better than tinned coconut milk or cream .


Noodles: I use Changs Gluten Free Wok-Ready Noodles. They’re like Udon Noodles, not thin like the dried Ramen Noodles. It’s best to soak them in water to help untangle, they are a bit stiff and soften when fried.


Sachet Sauces: There’s a wide choice available and I’ve tried many. Often the taste of preservatives is too strong, or some other unknown taste is overpowering. I like the Passage to India Korma, Rogan Josh and Butter Chicken sauces best.


Please share this, click the stars at the top to rate it and also comment if you find this helpful!

read comments

How to sharpen a knife the easy and best way


Here is an EASY WAY to sharpen a knife and keep it sharp.

This works for any knife- kitchen knife, fillet knife, outdoor knife, camping knife, even for serrated knife sharpening, and it’s VERY easy!

All knives are dangerous, but a sharp knife is a pleasure to use while a blunt knife is frustrating and the excess force necessary can be more dangerous if the knife slips.

This is easily my choice of knife sharpener

Lanskey Sharpening Rods

Lanskey Sharpening Rods

The important points of knife sharpening are

1. The correct edge angle –

  • 17º  for fine slicing like filleting
  • 20º  for general slicing and cutting in the kitchen
  • 25º for Utility, Camping etc

2. Keep exactly to that angle when sharpening

  • This is not easy, most people twist the knife as they pass it over a grind stone or sharpening rod which changes the angle being ground.

3. Sharpen the entire length of the blade

  • It’s easy to apply more pressure at the midpoint of the blade as it passes over a sharpener and this will wear away more metal so there won’t be a straight line or gentle curve along the edge

4. Remove the minimum amount of metal to get a sharp edge.

  • The less excess metal you remove, the longer the life of the blade.

5. Run each side of the blade alternately across the sharpening device.

  • If you work on one side for several strokes you are bending the fine edge over and when you begin on the other side you bend the burr back the other way possibly causing more metal to be removed as the burr breaks through metal fatigue.

Knife Sharpening Devices

Whetstone: For years I’ve sharpened knives on a wetstone.


I understand the technique well but sometimes I would spend ages trying to get a brilliant edge – because of failing on points 1 & 2.

Afterwards the the knife would need cleaning because of the oil all over it.

Sharpening all the kitchen knives was a chore and so it wasn’t done very often.

There are also diamond faced whetstones, some people use them dry, some add oil or water.


Grinding Wheel: I bought a mini grinding wheel and used that for about 5 years

grinding wheel knife sharpener

Sometimes I’d get a good edge, sometimes not because of failing on points 1 and 2 above. It removed a lot of metal.

Ceramic Rod:  A ceramic rod is a good knife sharpener, very quick but it’s not easy to keep to the same angle through the stroke, and extremely difficult to know what angle you are creating on the edge.

Ceramic Rod

NOT to be confused with a Butchers Steel which DOES NOT SHARPEN.

Many people, including me, have seen famous TV chefs and local butchers using a steel, and are surprised to discover that the steel doesn’t sharpen!

What it does do is to restore the edge by removing the burr which is caused as the fine edge bends over from use.

A Butchers steel removes the burrs but it does very little else.

Knife Edge Burr

Fixed Stone: This is a very good system that guarantees the correct angle, where the knife blade is held in a clamp and the stone is held automatically at the correct angle.

This is the Lanskey version –

 Lanskey Universal System.

I’ve seen a few makes of these online and even home made ones. It’s certainly a very good system which fulfills all the important points necessary to get a sharp edge on a knife.

This is my second choice because there’s more setting up to do than my first choice, I expect that I’d use it less often.


I’ve had the Lanskey  Professional Crock Stick Sharpener for 2 months and I’m extremely happy with it.

I’ve looked at many ways to sharpen knives and I choose this system because it is so ridiculously easy.

Instead of sharpening kitchen knives once every 6 months, I’m keeping their edge up weekly, I’ll even touch up a knife before using it for an important job.

All it takes is TWELVE STROKES!!!!

Hardly any metal is removed

It takes seconds

Slicing tomatoes, fruit, vegies – anything, is a joy.

By holding the knife vertically, sliding down and drawing back across the rods alternately 12 times as if slicing bread, fulfills all the important factors of knife sharpening.

My knives have never been so sharp

Lanskey now have a new version made of plastic instead of wood

Masters Edge

It also takes the triangular rods that sharpen serrated knives.

Most of the knife sharpeners that I haven’t mentioned, especially tungsten carbide types, generally remove too much metal from the blade (#4) and often suffer from the #3 problem.

I don’t have any connection with Lanskeys. I whinge if a product is bad and I praise it when I find something good !

Please comment below if you found this article helpful.


read comments

What Files to Backup / How to Backup the Users folder


It’s not easy to locate important files to backup in Windows 7.

Files that need to be backed up are stored in individual ‘user’ folders and also in the Program Data folder.

Copy and Paste doesn’t work for the ‘Users’ folder, some files are copied over but not the important ones.

For me, the backup files for Windows 7 are – My Documents, My Pictures, My Videos, Downloads, Outlook PST files, Roboform .RPF files, Favourites, Bookmarks, Desktop and all the data files for programs. All these files are in C drive.

Important settings and data is stored in each Users folder, most of it inside the AppData folder which is hidden and inside that are 3 folders, Local, LocalLow and Roaming. The path to many important folders is deep and confusing because there are several folders left over from previous versions of windows cluttering up the view.

For instance:

The path to the Outlook .pst files is C:\Users\user\AppData\Local\Microsoft \Outlook – where ‘user’ is your profile name.  Navigating the way through that maze is complicated, unless you know the path.

How to view hidden folders


Because Copy & Paste doesn’t work for many of the files I want to backup, I looked for Back up software and discovered the amazingly simple ‘FreeFileSync

This is a link to a simple how to use page which also has a download button

I set up in the left hand window to copy the Users folder, Program Data Folder, My Documents, My Pictures, My Videos and the Downloads folder and in the right hand window I created a folder on a separate hard drive titled ‘Backups’ .

Choosing the type of syncronisation is very important. FreeFileSync can save left to right, right to left, mirror etc.

Free File Sync Settings

It’s very important not to overwrite the files you re trying to save, so inspect the set up before clicking the final ‘Synchronise’.

I choose UPDATE which means the left hand folder will send files to the right hand folder and I also choose to ignore all errors. DOUBLE CHECK THE SETTINGS, do not overwrite the files in C Drive or they will be lost forever. Then Click Synchronise.

Free File Sync Synchronise


The important files were transferred, very quickly.

Free File Sync can also be set up to do automated backups, so I have set up a job where FreeFile Sync updates all the folders in the Backups folder to a schedule. This has to be done using the Windows 7 Task Scheduler, for which there are full instructions under Help.

FreeFileSync is excellent at copying files that Copy and Paste won’t copy. It has a ton of features and runs really fast. I use it for all my copying because of the speed.

I follow the rule of three on backups.

I have backup in the Cloud with Nitro Backup

I have nightly incremental backups to an external hard drive using Acronis True Image 2014 which switches the PC off when its done

I backup to a seperate internal hard drive using FreeFileSync.

Backing up your computer data is essential. You may not realise that until you lose it all. And you Will.

You may think you have everything backed up, but have you? A backup is not a true backup until you have verified all the important files are there. Many people don’t know what and where the important files to backup are.

Useful FreeFileSync Tutorials:

I hope this will help someone looking to copy files that won’t Copy and Paste or want to know which files to backup for windows 7 . If it helps please write a comment to let me know.









read comments

How to maintain your car and keep the costs down


Advice to first time car owners

Owning a car is expensive- here’s how to keep the costs down

1 Check the Air, Oil, Fluid and Water times 3, at least once a month.

For an old car this may need to be done before every drive,

for a 3+ year old car, once a week.

For a brand new car, it’s still a good habit to check these things.

Always do it before a long drive.


AIR: In the frame of the drivers door there are recommended air pressures for the tyres.

Always run the tyres at or slightly above the recommended levels. Eg recommended 34psi, keep them at 34- 37psi.


Oil:  Keep the engine oil at the recommended maximum.

The engine has a dipstick. With engine off, remove dipstick and wipe it clean. Insert fully and take it out. The oil level can be seen between two notches. Keep the oil level at the full notch. Buy 4 litres of oil from Repco/Supercheap/Autozone etc so you can top it up cheaply. Be careful NOT to overfill. The difference between low and full may only be half a litre.

Auto transmissions need checking too, read the manual for how to.


Brake Fluid: The brakes work by hydraulic pressure. There are one or two master cylinders at the rear of the engine bay, on the drivers side. There will be marks to show the level. Keep them topped up but not overfull. Be aware that brake fluid destroys paintwork, if you spill any, wipe and wash with detergent instantly. Buy a small container of brake fluid when you need it, it doesn’t keep because brake fluid is hygroscopic (water absorbing).


Water Times 3

Water 1: Check the level of coolant in the radiator. NEVER try to remove the radiator cap when hot because steam is under pressure and you will be scalded. Most cars have a small overflow tank and you can see the level, or there is a dipstick built into the lid, which is safe to remove at any time. If so, you never need to remove the radiator cap. You can buy concentrated or premixed coolant when you buy the oil.


Water 2: Keep the windscreen washer fluid tank full with tap water. A few drops of morning fresh detergent helps cut through the grime.


Water 3: When you buy a new battery get a sealed one and you won’t have to check the level of the battery acid every week. If not sealed then you have to remove the cap or caps from each cell. The liquid should be 20-30mms above the plates. You can top up with cool boiled water although distilled water is best. Don’t over fill. Batteries tend to die in the winter and last 3 years.


2. Look & Listen to your car – you can save a lot of money by getting things fixed early.

Tyres: Look at the tread and see if there is any unusual wear. Wear on inside AND outside means tire pressure too low. Wear on the center, tyre pressure too high

Wear on one edge means wheels are out of alignement. Get that axle aligned, tyre shops/workshops do that. They will advise you to get all four wheels aligned, but if you have taken notice of the wear you will save yourself some money by only getting the front or the rear wheels aligned. If you have caught it quick enough you won’t have to replace the tyre and can use it for longer. Saves money.


Brakes: Disc pads wear out and when they do, you hear metal on metal when you brake. They are built so that a little bit of metal shows first and makes the slight noise. Get the pads replaced at a workshop pronto and you won’t need to have the rotors skimmed or replaced.


Get to know what your car sounds like. If you hear a new noise, track it down. It could be nothing, it could be life threatening or worse, expensive. Sometimes it’s not a noise but a smell, which could mean an electrical problem (with potential fire or maybe oil leaking.

Early prevention saves money and lives!


Don’t drive with the handbrake on, it wears the rear brakes

Don’t drive with your foot resting on the clutch, it wears out the clutch and they have to remove the engine to replace the clutch, you can guess that one is expensive.

Don’t sit at the Traffic lights with the clutch depressed, you are wearing out the thrust bearing.

Disc brakes should last 3-6 years depending on how you brake

Tyres should last 3-6 years depending on how hard you brake, accelerate and go around corners – providing you keep an eye out for uneven wear. Front wheel drive cars wear out the front tyres much quicker than the rears.


Signs of a car in good condition:

The air stays in the tyres for 6-18 months

Uses no engine or automatic oil

Never uses brake fluid.

Never needs the radiator topping up.

Battery level shouldn’t change too much but will lower more in hot conditions

If any of the above changes then you know there is something that needs attention.

Remember – check the  Air, Oil, Fluid and Water times 3, at least once a month


Keep your car undercover – Cars that are stored in weatherproof garages stay in much better condition and generally have better resale value.

As cars age they begin to rust. Leaving a car exposed to the weather 24 hours a day will encourage the rust, which often makes its first appearance as tiny bubbles under the paint. Electronic components can also be damaged by the constant temperature extremes and damp conditions.


read comments

facebook how to search my comments


Sometimes I want to find an old comment I made on Facebook

It’s quite simple really.

Login to your Facebook profile page.

Click on ‘Activity Log’ which is on the bottom right of your header image, beside ‘Update info’ and the Settings Icon

Activity Log

Click on ‘Comments’ in the leftsidebar


Use the year and date on the right hand side to go back further than your comments date.

Timeline Dates

Launch the windows ‘Find’ function (Ctrl+F)

At the bottom left of the browser, there will be a search Box with Up/down arrows

Search Box


Type in some words you know you used.

Use the scroll arrows beside the search box to locate your comments.

If you find this info useful, please post a comment to let me know


read comments

Why Solar Panels connected to the grid is wrong


Having solar panels on every house roof, pouring  electricity into the grid is wrong.

In theory it sounds good.

However for it to create a saving for the grid, the power station has to be able to shut a whole generator down, probably at least 20Mw.

That takes a while to do and the power station has to know that the power coming in is not going to fade away because it becomes cloudy in some areas of the state, or other disasters.

Instead the power station will over produce power so that it won’t get caught short.

The biggest problems with electricity are that it can’t be stored easily and that peak demand is not at peak solar producing time.

For the electricity company there is the problem that during peak evening usage the panels are no use.

So they are paying out to people with solar panels connected to the grid for electricity they supplied during the daylight hours that wasn’t used, and passing the charges on to non panel clients.

I don’t think they thought it through properly.

For clients that signed up for 44 – 60 cents per kilowatt, it’s a brilliant saving.  At the expense of those non solar panel clients.

The rate at which electricity is bought for the grid is called the ‘Feed In Tariff’. It began with spectacular rates of between 44 and 60 cents per kilowatt. These deals are now closed and depending on which state, the Feed In Tariff’s are between 6 and 14 cents per kilowatt. A large difference which means regaining the installation costs will take much longer.

Full details of feed in Tariffs for each state here

The one good thing about having solar panels is that during daylight hours they produce some of the panel client’s electricity needs. This is done via the Net meter which measures the generated power and consumption.

Depending on which state you are in, the Net meter works under one of two tariff structures. ‘Net feed-in’ tariff or a ‘Gross feed-in’ tariff. Most states offer a ‘Net feed-in’ tariff.

1 A Net feed-in tariff, pays for any solar energy that goes back into the grid after the house has used whatever it needs from the panels.

2. Clients  under a Gross feed-in tariff, get paid for every unit of electricity generated by their solar panels, regardless of whether it goes into the grid or is used by the household. This is a better deal for those being paid for more than they are charged per kilowatt.


The longevity of the system will always be a concern, despite the ‘Lifetime Guarantees’.

1. The panels can lose their capacity to produce electricity.

2. The inverters are electronic and in time may fail.

3. The company making the guarantee may close down.

4. The Feed In Tariff may be reduced, despite government guarantees.


A better way to use Solar Panels

The solar panels should be near a power station, out west where sunlight is more predictable. They should be administered by a single entity. That would be more efficient and the power station would be able to rely on the supply, knowing in advance what cloud cover was expected.

A unified system would be better suited to change, for instance if other ways are discovered to produce and store electricity. It would be far more cost effective to convert one large area of solar panels than on each single house that currently has panels. There is much research into fuel cells and other ways to create and store electricity, the ‘next big thing’ may be just around the corner.

That is what China is doing – “Suntech Power predicts that the cost of building large scale solar PV plants could match the cost of coal-fired generation in China by 2016, a development that will “completely transform” the energy market in the world’s second biggest economy.”

Chinese Solar

Creative Commons photo by International Rivers from Flickr

In California, where state law requires utilities to use renewable sources for a third of the electricity they sell by 2020, there is a new $2.2 billion solar farm, which spans over five square miles of federal land southwest of Las Vegas, includes three towers as tall as 40-story buildings. Nearly 350,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door, reflect sunlight onto boilers atop the towers, creating steam that drives power generators.

Currently we have this system where Government has paid large installation rebates, and pays people to produce power, but because the supply can’t be guaranteed, and because it isn’t generated at peak times, it doesn’t save generating costs.

The result is that electricity costs have to be increased.

So the person without solar panels, including the pensioner down the street who cannot afford solar, has to pay for it.

Surely the idea was to reduce power costs?

It’s just plain stupidity.




read comments

Bridge Cameras, a better alternative to an entry level DSLR


I’m often asked for advice by camera buying friends. They’ve just seen an inexpensive DSLR, under $1000, and they’re hooked, because ‘DSLR’ is like some magic word promising high quality photographs.

My advice is that a good bridge camera, also called ‘Super Zooms’, like the Panasonic FZ200, with up to 30x zoom, is a far better buy than a cheap entry level DSLR camera.

This is aimed at camera novices, people who’ve never owned anything but a point and shoot camera. Unless they can spend a few thousand dollars and are prepared to lug around 2 or more lenses and camera, an entry level DSLR is not the best buy.

In Short

An entry level DSLR lacks features available in bridge cameras
The kit lenses they come with are poor quality
An 80mm lens is less than 2.5x telephoto/zoom, very limiting.
Video may have mono sound and less features, compared to a bridge camera.
Nett Result: You will need to buy a more expensive DSLR and expensive lens to get better results.


Ask yourself what you want the camera for?

Phone cameras take very good photo’s, why do you need a separate camera?

We all dream that we’ll take that one amazing photo, which will be printed on large canvas and hung in a gallery, or used on a magazine cover or..??

Let’s get realistic. For a movie sized poster, there is a lot more than just the camera involved.

Light, camera on a tripod fired by remote, the lens, the colours in the scene and whether the scene is still or moving, are all important factors. Most important of all is you must have your camera with you !

Will we ever be fortunate to get everything right when that chance in a million comes along, to take that perfect photo?

Will we even have the camera with us if, like good DSLR’s, it’s heavy and requires 2 or more lens to be carried with it?

The majority of photos that people take get sent compressed to 25% of their size or less, in emails or on Facebook.

What is the point in having a heavy DSLR and lugging around various lenses, when all we are going to do is take snapshots and post them on the net, or make slideshows and put them in slideshow frames or to watch on TV?  A phone camera is good enough for that.

If you want to take better photos and are prepared to learn, then that is the justification for buying a good camera.

The question is, “what type of camera will suit my needs?”

An Alternative to DSLR Cameras

The name DSLR is associated with ‘professional standard’ cameras. In the past this was correct, but is it correct for cheap DSLRs ?

Now there is a bridge between Compact Cameras and DSLR cameras. The Bridge Cameras are lighter, they take very good images and have more features than a cheap DSLR. They have all or most of the features a good DSLR has. Some features like super fast auto focus and F2.8 at 600mm are better than many DSLR’s.

As one expert with over 40 years experience told me, “P from NZ asked my opinion on the FZ200 Bridge Camera for travel. He’s just back from the Himalayas with some breathtaking shots, so much so I’ve got his permission to use 3 of them in my next book.

I challenge anyone with a ‘money no problem’ DSLR to get as good a set of pictures as he has there, with the Fz200 Bridge Camera.”

FZ200 CockatooAbove is the ‘best in class’ Pansonic Lumix FZ200 bridge camera. Replaced in 2015 by the new model FZ300. It has more features than you’ll ever use and takes high quality Photo’s and Video. The screen in the image is rotatable through 360 degrees. Until the FZ I have always preferred using the viewfinder, but this screen is so much better and can be turned to any angle, even in front of the camera.

For me Zoom is the most important camera feature.

I want to get up close and personal with the subject, frame the image using a telephoto lens so the subject almost fills the frame. Without enough telephoto power you can’t get close enough and the result is a tiny subject filling perhaps 1/6th of the frame.

The Panasonic FZ200 & FZ300 have 24 time zoom, but effectively go to 30 times zoom with an ‘Extra Optical Zoom’ setting with no deterioration in image quality. That amount of Telephoto is amazing. Even with image stabilisation it’s difficult to hold the camera steady at this huge magnification. A steady hand, rest the camera on something and a fast shutter help to snap what may be an award winning image. I always use a tripod or monopod when I can.

I consider 10x telephoto is a minimum, less than that is rather poor. Most of the time a telephoto power to zoom between 15x and 20x is enough to frame the shot or get a fantastic close up. Having 30x available means the FZ is not limiting the shot.

Imagine seeing a rare bird in a tree, close by. It will make a fantastic photo but not if it’s a speck of brown and you can’t zoom in to see the detail. This situation often happens and a photographer needs that zoom to get a good photo.

That’s why I think plenty of telephoto, to zoom in on the subject, is essential.

Check out these photo’s from Africa, some great telephoto shots from the FZ200. I think the 30x zoom was life saving for some of his shots, I wouldn’t want to get too close to the Lions or the Buffalo!

DSLR camera lenses are marked in millimeters, and there’s some confusion about how much telephoto power they have. In fact with the usual lens they come with, DSLR cameras hardly have any telephoto capacity at all.

It’s not easy to find the telephoto power for millimeter lenses. Here’s some information assuming the camera is a DSLR 35mm format with a cropped sensor of 1.6

A 50mm lens is considered 1 to 1, ie what our eyes see.

Any measurement below 50mm begins to be wide angle.

With DSLR camera’s the short lens 35-80mm, that comes with the camera is probably less than 2.5x zoom at 80mm – very poor.

The 55-250mm long lens will telephoto to about 8x zoom at 250mm.

50-300mm lens are about 10x zoom at 300mm – the minimum I consider acceptable.

Note that it also needs to be a quality lens, to allow enough light through.  Expensive and large. The ‘kit’ lenses that entry level cameras come with are low quality

The bridge cameras lenses are not detachable. They go from Macro close up for insects to 30 times zoom in half a second and they’re ready to take the photo.

The Panasonic FZ200, is at the very top of its range. It’s not a DSLR, it’s a ‘Bridge camera’. It costs around Aus $700 (2013), has a quality Leica lens permanently attached.

I began my interests in bridge cameras with the FZ100, then the FZ150, FZ200 and now the FZ300.

I spent many months researching. I was looking for a camera that took good photo’s and importantly, high quality video. I was surprised to find that Panasonic were making the best bridge camera, not Canon, Nikon etc. The FZ was far better than I had hoped. It takes high definition 1920×1080 Progressive video at 25fps, which gives the film a cinematic quality, and has a microphone socket which is very important for good audio in a video.

The images are high quality. The Panasonic FZ200 can also take a super fast 12 images per second and has an incredibly fast auto focus. It can take HDR and Panorama photo’s and has pages of other features.

As well as the usual jpeg format, it can shoot in RAW which means the image bypasses the camera processor and you can do all your own processing on the computer. The camera processor does a very good job, it can take some time to process a RAW image to the same quality, but the option is there.

One amazing feature of the FZ200 & 300, which no other bridge camera has managed to do at time of writing, is that it has a wide f2.8 lens throughout its telephoto range. No DSLR lens can shoot with as wide an aperture, letting in more light, at F2.8 at 600mm.

Every review over the last 4 years has put the FZ at the top of the Bridge cameras; it’s the model other cameras can’t equal.

After 4+ years I am still sure I bought the best camera.

Everyone wants a DSLR. It’s the name. I’m not faulting DSLR cameras, I’m pointing out that cheap entry level ones don’t have all the features, that they lack any kind of useful telephoto power, may be inconvenient to carry and not the best buy for many camera newbies.

On camera forums I’ve read favourable comments by experienced DSLR owners comparing the FZ with their expensive DSLRs. Of course a good DSLR camera can produce a better resolution image, but they need the right lens, and at 3 or perhaps 6 times the expense of a bridge camera.

Some stunning images have been produced by the FZ200. Click this image to see many FZ200 Amateur Photos at Flickr

FZ200 Image by Rob

Several times I’ve read of a DSLR owner buying the Panasonic FZ200 to take on holiday because they don’t want to carry all the DSLR gear around with them or haven’t the room in their luggage. I rarely read anything but praise for the FZ200, it’s an amazing camera.

I believe the popularity of inexpensive DSLRS will decline as more people become aware of the better alternative of Bridge Cameras. DSLR Cameras are of course first choice for professionals. The larger physical size sensor, with the right lens, can take the best images, but owners must be prepared to spend a few thousand dollars for the camera body and perhaps twice that for good quality lens. Did I mention lugging camera and lenses around?

DSLR’s have a larger physical size sensor than bridge cameras and this gives them the possibility of higher quality photos. The thing to consider is that without much telephoto, the object is smaller in the photo and has to be enlarged, reducing the quality.

For example, a while ago a friend with a $3000 DSLR with a 80mm lens took a photo of the full moon the same night that I did. We both used tripods and remotes. On comparing the photo’s we couldn’t decide which was the better quality. At full 30x telephoto the moon more than filled the frame. I pulled the zoom back until the moon was framed at around 26x. My friends moon was perhaps a 1/6th of the frame and he enlarged it to the same size as my untouched image, which reduced the quality and brought out some noise. He would have needed an expensive 600mm lens to have the moon fill the frame the same as my bridge camera and THEN it would have been a high quality photo, such as you see in magazines.

A 450mm lens is nearly half a metre long, not easy to carry around and high quality lenses like this can cost $9,999.00 to $14,999.00

Big Lens


While the telephoto zoom powers are a huge plus for bridge cameras, they do have a smaller physical size sensor. There are good and bad points in this. The smaller physical size sensor means that it keeps more of the field in sharp focus which is a good thing. It also means that getting ‘depth of field’ photo’s has to be worked at more than with a larger sensor. The FZ takes good depth of field pics, there are many examples on the net. The smaller size sensor is what allows the amazing telephoto range.

There are two things to know about sensors.

1. They have different physical sizes, depending on the type of camera.

2. How many megapixels they use to take an image.

For many years there has been a fascination with megapixels, with each new camera having more of them. This trend is vanishing as people realise that more mega pixels isn’t always better.


Telephoto, a Still Camera and Good Light in the right place.

If telephoto is the most important feature, then holding the camera still is the second.

This applies to all cameras, from Phones to DSLR’s.

The FZ has 2 types of image stability that work very well. Whatever the type of camera nothing beats the clarity of an image from a fixed camera

Good light in the right place is #3 on the list and that isn’t totally camera dependent, but the FZ200 & 300 have an amazing f2.8 right through its range – even at 30X telephoto. This lets in more light. Good light is a strong factor in producing a good image. Traditional long zoom lenses drop to f6.3 and it takes a lot of light to recover that loss. Nature photographers who buy a DSLR and an expensive zoom lens then try to shoot in less than bright light will quickly realise they have made a very expensive, bad purchase. They also don’t appreciate the amount of thermal and water haze that a long lens will pick up. It destroys image quality far faster than jpeg compression!

There is another genre called Micro 4/3rds.

They have detachable lens and unlike DSLR’s are mirror less. This means they take better video and are lighter than a DSLR.

The Panasonic GH3 is a Micro4/3rds camera that many pro’s are using to film documentaries etc – it’s that good. I’ve often considered buying one, but having detachable lens holds me back. I don’t know if I want to spend so much on some lenses and then have to carry them around.
The FZ does such a good job for me.

I believe that the inexpensive DSLR market is only maintained by the power that the name ‘DSLR’ has. A good bridge camera is a better purchase and I expect the ratio of buyers between DLSR and Bridge cameras will change as people realise how much more useful a bridge camera is for most photography .

Another market that I expect to shrink is compact cameras. Smartphones are now taking such good images and it saves having to carry camera and phone around.

Once you go down the DSLR route, buying an enticingly ‘cheap’ DSLR, you may become stuck, needing to buy better lens to get closer to the subject, then needing features not available on the cheap DSLR, so you buy a better camera. Also each brand has its own lenses and moving cross brand may make your existing lenses obsolete, then you have to buy lenses from the new brand. That’s a frustrating and expensive journey.

My advice to newbies looking to buy something better than a compact point and shoot camera is to get a Panasonic FZ200 and save yourself money. You’ll have more features, great telephoto range and avoid all the hassles I’ve mentioned. The FZ200 will do the job!

Our world is always in change, and just as when digital cameras first arrived, I think there are changes ahead while we work out what we really need from a camera.

I find the DP Review website gives the best, in depth reviews – use the search to find the model camera you’re interested in and then compare it to the FZ200 review which is in this link –

I’ll let camera expert Graham H have the last say – “If you want to take photographs worthy of a place in National Geographic or on Times Square advertising board, then I don’t recommend the FZ200 but I guess that 99% of users who buy this camera for holidays and travel are going to be blown away with it.

Here is a link to one of many information videos that Graham has produced on the FZ200. The first 45 seconds are photo’s he’s taken with the camera and I think they show better than anything else, how good the camera is.

This is the first of many tutorials covering every feature of the FZ. In this video he covers the totally automatic mode, which like the rest of the camera is very good.



read comments
 Page 1 of 13  1  2  3  4  5 » ...  Last »