Why you should go and check out Cosmonauts at the Science Museum, London

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While the U.S.A supposedly won the space race – with the admittedly impressive feat of putting a man on the moon – It was the Soviet Union that led the way with practically every other space ‘first’.

The Soviets were behind the first satellite in orbit (Sputnik 1), first man in space (Yuri Gagarin), first woman (Valentina Tereshkova), first dog (Laika) and first spacewalk (Alexey Leonov).

What’s more, it was also responsible for the first photos of the dark side of the moon (Luna 3), first probe to orbit the moon (Luna 10), first multi-person crew (Voskhod 1) and first space tourist (Dennis Tito on Soyuz TM-32). Even following the Apollo moon landings, it was the Soviet Union that was the first to build a space station (Mir).

However, until now Soviet and Russian space tech has been wildly underrepresented, especially at London’s Science Museum, with its permanent space gallery including only a passing mention.

The South Kensington institution is putting that right with its museum-based form of Perestroika in which curators have gathered together the largest collection of Russian space exploration artefacts ever seen. Brought in from numerous locations, most of the pieces on show have never been on public display before.

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The impressive selection of artefacts ranges from early satellites and spacecraft to personal cosmonaut memorabilia and Soviet space propaganda.

Techie highlights include Tereshkova’s Vostok 6 capsule, visibly charred from its re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere, along with first multi-person space craft Voskhod 1 and the spacesuit used by Helen Sharman who became the first Briton in space when she flew to space station Mir in 1991 on a collaborative mission between Russia and a collective of British companies.

A scale model of the stunning Sputnik 1 hangs from the ceiling as you enter the exhibition. The Soviet Union’s visionary rocket engineer Sergei Korolev, then only known as the mysterious ‘Chief Designer’ cannily declared that the history-making satellite needed to look good as one day it would be displayed in museums around the world.

Seeing numerous parties of school kids arriving at the Science Museum reminded us how just important this exhibition is. When the T3 crew were at school in the dying days of the Cold War, we were taught about Gagarin and Tereshkova and not much else.

It wasn’t until 1989, with Mikhail Gorbachev’s Glasnost reforms in full swing, that the Soviet Union even admitted that it had worked on a manned lunar programme, which it ditched in 1970 after Neil Armstrong beat them to the moon.

The Cosmonauts exhibition includes the LK-3 Lunar Lander – a five-tonne spacecraft built to go head-to-head with Apollo – a sight never seen outside of Russia before…

You can read the rest of the article at T3.com (originally published 13 October 2015).

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We went to Secret Cinema’s Empire Strikes Back performance and it was immense

Credit: Will Cooper

Credit: Will Cooper

The most mind-blowing spectacle since the Death Star exploded (though admittedly almost as expensive)

T3 was invited to join the rest of the rebel scum at this year’s Secret Cinema: The Empire Strikes Back extravaganza. This is a spoiler-free look at the clandestine film club’s latest outing, so if you haven’t been yet, don’t worry, this won’t ruin any surprises.

Secret Cinema first kicked off back in 2007 with a screening of Gus Van Sant’s Paranoid Park. In its early years, the gimmick was that nobody knew what the film was going to be until they arrived at the screening location (though they could often be guessed from a series of pre-show clues).

More recent shows have changed format to include a pre-announced film, plus a much more ‘immersive theatre’ approach, replete with sets, actors dressed as Marty McFly or whoever, and so on.

Ticket prices have accordingly gone up to a whopping £75 (£50 for accompanied under 18s).

Obviously unperturbed by the price, in 2014, over 80,000 people attended Secret Cinema’s Back to the Future event in Olympic Park. This ran into initial controversy when the venue wasn’t ready for the opening night, leaving hundreds of ticket holders disappointed. Secret Cinema has clearly learnt from its mistakes, because there are no such problems this year.

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This time round Secret Cinema has opted for The Empire Strikes Back, which ties in nicely with the latest instalment of the Star Wars saga (The Force Awakens) which is heading to cinemas later in the year. Read on for our search droid’s findings.

As everyone knows, the first rule of Secret Cinema is that you don’t talk about Secret Cinema.

To prevent spoilers from leaking and to stop dickheads ruining the experience for everyone else, mobile phones are placed in sealed silver pouches for the duration of the show. An idea that we would dearly love to see adopted in every cinema across the land.

You’re not allowed to bring food or drink in with you but there are plenty of “retail experiences” dotted throughout, selling booze, food and merch. Unsurprisingly, rations are not cheap, and you can’t pay cash for them. Take a cash card with you.

It’s worth noting that as it’s a major production with built-up sets and lights, the venue gets pretty warm so wearing military rebel chic is preferable to a full wookie costume. Open toed shoes are a no-no due to the “alien terrain” you’ll encounter…

You can read the rest of the article at T3.com (originally published 12 June 2015).

Impossible Project Instant Lab Universal review

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The first thing you need to know about the Impossible Project Instant Lab Universal is that it produces Polaroid-style photos from your smartphone snaps. The second thing you need to know is that it’s a camera, not a printer.

Unlike the rather disappointing Polaroid-branded Zink printers, the Instant Lab produces actual Polaroid-esque photographs. That’s because Impossible Project cleverly bought Polaroid’s remaining factory a few years ago in order to manufacture its own film, which is designed to work with vintage Polaroid cameras and, of course, the Instant Lab Universal.

The original Instant Lab was launched in 2013, but only worked with the iPhone 4, 5, 5S and iPod touch. The new Universal model, however, is designed to work with more devices thanks to new “touch location technology”. This means it supports phones from Samsung, HTC and Google (Nexus), as well as the iPad. Screens need to be high-res (approximately 300ppi) and run on Android 4.0.3 (Ice Cream Sandwich) or above.

We’ve unleashed our inner hipster and have been testing the Lab using an iPhone 6iPad Air 2 and the HTC One M8. It’s a lot of fun, like a big kid’s toy.

Design and build

The Lab Universal sports a simple yet functional design, with a sturdy metal base along with a plastic bellows-style extendable turret with a phone cradle on top. The only controls you’ll find are the latch for opening the film bay door at the bottom – where the film cartridges can be easily slipped in – along with an eject button to pop out the exposed photo.

To the top are three sensors on the cradle – representing the touch location technology part of things – used to detect when a phone is placed there. For larger devices, such as an iPad, these act as essential points to communicate with the app and let it know which portion of the screen is in play, then re-adjust the photo’s placement on screen so the Lab can make a duplicate exposure of it.

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A removable adaptor can be used with iPhones 4/4S/5/5S/5C, but for Android devices not everything is compatible just yet. The brand new HTC One M9 is one such unsupported example (we did try it out, but it was a no go). Check with Impossible Project for compatibility prior to purchase if you’re concerned.

You can read the rest of the article at Pocket-lint.com (originally published 25 March 2015).

Lomo Instant review

LomoInstant-BannerLomography’s Lomo’Instant is the most advanced instant camera yet, and the result of a crowdfunded Kickstarter campaign.

With the rise of the selfie and concerns over cloud storage of digital snaps, Polaroid-esque instant cameras have made something of a comeback. This model from analogue camera expert Lomography is the latest version to hit the shops, but what sets it apart from the others?

The Lomo’Instant offers far more control than you get with any other instant camera, including a selection of removable lenses, different shooting modes, aperture control and the ability to take multiple exposures.

The first models went out to Kickstarter backers in October, and the Lomo’Instant is now available to everyone.

Lomo’Instant – Design and Handling

The Lomo’Instant sports a pleasingly retro design, although the box-like design means that it’s rather bulky. With the exception of the incredibly cool Fujifilm Instax Mini 90, instant cameras in recent years have tended to feature slightly ugly, uninspiring designs, but the Lomo’Instant is cool and blocky.

The camera sports a similar faux-leather covering to the Lomography Lomokino and Belair models, and is available in black or white. There’s also a model that’s covered real brown leather with a slightly higher price tag of £109. We like the white version best, as its shows off the minimalist design more, but the finish is rather prone to picking up marks and scuffs, and there’s no protective case available to keep it in.

The only accessory that is available – aside from the optional lenses which we’ll look at in more detail later – is a shoulder strap (£8.90), which is good news as it makes the hefty camera slightly less cumbersome.

As with most Lomography cameras, physical controls are kept to a minimum, but these all feel well placed and intuitive.

Lomo’Instant – Controls and Features

The key control that you’ll need to get to grips with is the mode switch, which enables you to choose between having the flash on, off or on auto, where a sensor will automatically set the flash to the most suitable level based on the ambient light…

You can read the rest of the article at TrustedReviews (originally published 23 November 2014).

Nikon D3200 review

Nikon D3200 reviewThe Nikon D3200 is an entry-level DSLR with a friendly guide mode – ideal for fledgling shutterbugs that don’t know their aperture from their ISO.

Following on from its predecessor, the Nikon D3100, though not replacing it, the brand new Nikon D3200 has upped the ante for entry-level DSLRs, thanks to its show-stopping 24-megapixel sensor.

Going up against the likes of the Sony Alpha A65 and the Canon EOS 600D, the Nikon D3200 has got its work cut out when it comes to earning a place in ourBest Digital SLRs list.

The D3200’s lightweight chassis, which hasn’t changed much in design terms since the previous model, weighs in at just 505g (with battery and memory card) which means that it never becomes cumbersome, even after carting it around all day.

At 125 x 96 x 76.5 mm, the chassis isn’t too chunky, but still remains reassuringly sturdy and while Nikon makes no claims about waterproofing, the D3200 proved to be reasonably resilient to the elements when we tested it in the pouring rain.

The D3200 is available in conventional black or a shiny red finish, should you be so inclinded.

One of the key selling points on the new snapper is the guide mode. Enhanced since its inclusion on the D3100, this nifty feature is easily accessible via the top-mounted dial and holds your hand through the basics. Teaching you how to set up a variety of shots, it even includes examples of how the pictures should look.

For example, one of the tutorials shows you how to get the best picture of a sunset by tweaking the white balance to capture the red tones. Follow the suggestions, alter the settings and the picture will change to reflect how the finished article will look. There may be a few kinks to iron out (such as the overeager pop-up flash), but it’s a damn good starting point for newbies.

You can read the rest of the article at T3.com (originally published 17 May 2012). 

Netflix review

Netflix reviewNetflix offers unlimited online streaming of movies and TV for just £5.99 a month, but can it take on main rival Lovefilm? Find out here…

Netflix has been offering online movie streaming in the US since 1999, but it’s taken until now for the service to make its way over the pond to the UK. For £5.99 a month, you’ll get unlimited access to the Netflix library of films and TV programmes, which means that the service will be going head-to-head with the Lovefilm Instant offering, currently priced at £4.99. The gloves are off in the Netflix vs Lovefilm rumble, but how does the new kid on the block fare?

Netflix: Streaming

There’s no denying that just six quid a month will get you a sizable chunk of films and TV to choose from, although it’s worth considering how much strain it could place on your Broadband data cap. If you go above the set limit on your ISP package, you could well end up getting charged for the extra data – an important point to keep in mind if you’re planning on getting the most out of your monthly £5.99

Netflix: Devices

As well as streaming from your computer, Netflix works on pretty much all of the major platforms, including Sony PlayStation 3Nintendo WiiXbox 360,Apple iPhone and Apple iPad. There are also client for various web TVs from the likes of Samsung, along with LG Blu-ray players and LG home theatre systems, along with media streamer boxes from brands like Roku.

The fact that Netflix works on Apple TV as well as across numerous Androiddevices is also a major boon, and something that Lovefilm doesn’t currently offer (there is an Android app where you can manage your list and settings, but no streaming).

However, Lovefilm is aiming to be make its service available on as many devices as possible so it’s a reasonable assumption that we won’t have to wait too long to see streaming capability on Android devices.

The ability to stream Netflix via the iPhone app using 3G is also great news, although it probably depends on what the 3G signal is like where you live, or more likely what it’s like at your gym or on your commuting route, as we’re guessing those are the the places where most people will want to watch Netflix on their phone’s relatively tiny screen.

Buffering on both the iPad and Android tablet apps is surprisingly swift meaning that you get get stuck into watching your chosen title pretty much straight away.

Syncing between devices is a nice touch, which means that you could start watching something on your laptop, and then pick up where you left off at a later time on another device. The UI is simple to use and more or less the same across different platforms, so the whole experience is pretty much uniform, no matter what you’re gadget you’re watching on.

You can read the rest of the article on T3.com (originally published 1 February 2012).

Lomography La Sardina review

Lomography La SardinaWhen Lomography sent us a tin of sardines in the post with a message attached inviting us along to a sneak preview of its new camera, we were expecting some sort of waterproof model or perhaps even a fisheye snapper. The clue was in fact much more literal – with the Lomography La Sardina turning out to be a camera shaped like a sardine tin. While this may sound ludicrous, the odd shape is actually based on an old 1930s snapper – the Kandor Candid – made by the Irwin Corporation.

Along with the somewhat silly, yet endearing design, La Sardina also boasts a super-wide 22mm f/8 lens, while the flash has three different settings – a first for a Lomo camera. The design may be fun, but is the camera actually any good? We put it through its paces to see whether it would sink or swim.

Design

There are four different designs available – all based on sardine tins. You can choose from the green Marathon or the blue Sea Pride, both of which come with a price tag of £49 and no flashgun. To get the flash capability you’ll need to shell out £89 for the red El Capitan or the blue Fishers Fritze (we had the latter in for review). You can also pick up the Fritz the Blitz flash separately for £55. (For more images of the other designs, check out our hands-onfrom launch day.) While the build quality isn’t quite up to the standards set my the brand’s more expensive cameras, such as the LC-Wide, it’s reassuringly robust compared to the likes of the Diana Mini.

The camera chassis itself is relatively compact, although obviously the detachable flash, which fits on the side of the body, adds a fair bit of bulk. The lens board can be twisted into the body of the camera to make it more compact (simply turn it 45 degrees until it clicks), although you need to make sure that it’s fully extended for shooting. There’s a message on the extension that reads “Only shoot if you can see me!” – and as the shutter release won’t go when the lens is collapsed, this shouldn’t be a problem. Although a useful feature if space is at a premium in your bag (and to stop the camera going off by accident), we found that it was easier just to leave the lens extended all of the time, as it only takes up a few extra mm.

You can read the rest of the article here on Pocket-lint.com (originally published 05/08/11).