Why I returned my Sony HXR-NX70U - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 22 Old 11-14-2011, 09:30 PM - Thread Starter
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An open letter to Juan Martinez, Sony Senior NXCAM Product Manager:

At the bottom of this letter are links to my YouTube videos demonstrating some of the problems with the NX70 that forced me to return my NX70 for a refund.

Mr. Martinez, I am 55 years old. Aside from a Minolta SRT-101 that was a gift from my father in high school, every camera I have ever owned has been a Sony: three different tape-based Handy Cams (the first one bought in 1988) , a DSC-P72, a DSC-H1, a DSC-H50, my beloved HDR-CX550V (if only the NX70 was as good!) and most recently the HXR-NX70U. I also own and use Sony Vegas Pro 9, 10 and 11. In short, I am a 100% devotee of Sony products - or was until the bitter disappointment that is the NX70.

I had had my eye on the NX70 since it was first rumored. I am not wealthy. I've been saving and scrimping and finally accumulated enough cash to buy the NX70. It seemed to have the perfect mix of features I wanted - GPS, still capability, XLR inputs, a 3.5mm stereo MIC input, water and dust resistance, Sony's legendary Active Steady Shot (which I love on my CX550V), the new AVCHD 2.0 modes such as PS 1920x1080 60p and 24p, audio level displays, a decent set of manual controls, a great viewfinder in addition to a 3.5" high-res LCD screen (I will not go smaller than 3.5" for any reason), Nightshot, compact, light-weight and decent, although not great, low-light capability. I was willing to overlook the lack of flash. I liked the idea of being able to use the same batteries and cards as the CX550V, and 96 GB of internal memory was also great.

As I researched the cam, some troubling information surfaced, such as the problem with the zoom rocker, an annoying new touch-screen menu layout (compared to the CX550V/MC50) and consistent reviews reporting that the Active Steady Shot was not nearly as effective as the CX550V. However, those did not deter me, and I finalized my purchase, thinking that the new implementation of Steady Shot could not be that bad, and that I could use a LANC remote for the zoom until the rumored firmware fix for the zoom comes out in 2012.

When it arrived, the first thing I did was test the zoom. Yes, it was touchy, but I am dexterous and I could live with it for a few months. I did some test recordings of the inside of my house in the evening while I learned the controls and struggled with the quirky and inconsistent touch menus. I attached my Rode Stereo Videomic and wandered around, shooting the cat and my daughter and then putting the NX70 on a tripod and letting it run for an hour or two in full auto PS mode.

When I imported those first clips into my computer via PMB, I knew instantly something was wrong. "Houston, tenemos un problema." White balance was WAAAY off. A bizarre "pulsating" blur/sharp/blur artifact with a period of about twice a second was visible on any surface with texture such as the hair on my cat or woven fabric. This pulsating blurriness happens even with manual focus. With auto-focus on, I was shocked to see how bad the auto-focus was compared to the CX550 - constantly "hunting" when the camera was not moving, and unable to lock on reliably when moved from place to place. Noise at high gain was about the same as the CX550V, which one would expect considering that the NX70 uses the same tiny lens and "engine" as the CX550V's successor, the CX700V - but I was surprised to observe how much worse the noise looked because of the "pulsation" effect. Several people who have looked at my YouTube clips speculate that the root cause is perhaps a longer GoP sequence required to compress the video in PS mode. Regardless of the cause, it renders low-light scenes unusable. Again, this pulsating blur/sharp artifact is separate from the problems with auto-focus.

I thought "Ok, well, I can use it in bright light perhaps I can live with it". The next day that hope was dashed - the white balance outdoors is only good in sunlight (and then best when a one-push sample with a card is taken - the auto-white balance is not reliable). At twilight the auto-WB fails completely. Green leaves are dull and grayish and the sky is greenish. The ONLY solution is to manually balance with a white card - but that will not work when one needs to leave the camera on continuously for the hours prior to, and following, sunset. This problem ruined important footage I shot of a high-school marching band competition, which took place from 4pm to 8pm last week.

After the shoot at the football stadium, I came home and plugged the camera directly into my big-screen LCD TV to enjoy the 60p. Yes, the motion was stunning compared to 60i - but many shots were ruined by auto-focus hunting, even at infinity in bright light, pointed at a detailed, high-contrast scene! Then, as I looked closer, I noticed that the image was blurred at the edges compared to the center, much worse than with my CX550V. The blurring seems to be some kind of chromatic aberration, and is not confined to wide-angle shots.

Over the next few days I tried my best to work-around the camera's shortcomings. The audio was certainly great, and the ergonomics (not counting the HORRIBLE menu system) were acceptable. I would shoot something, feeling good, until I transferred viewed the output on the computer or television and saw, once again, ruined footage.

As I continued to test, a new and unexpected problem emerged. This one also affects my CX550V to a lesser extent, but I had hoped the $3K NX70 would not have it. I call it the "false infinity" problem. When focused sharply on distant objects, if the manual dial is turned until the indicator reads "infinity" (i.e. the little mountain icon appears", the objects will be slightly out of focus. To bring them back into focus, one has to turn the focus ring slightly, until the distance reads less than infinity, for example 100m. This bug makes it impossible to just turn the dial until the cam shows infinity and leave it there. This is a big problem when setting up shots at night.

Other bugs include the inability to make the camera display the record time for each recording while shooting - the timecode readout seems to be where that information should be. Having just two settings for the LCD brightness is a joke. It needs an iAuto button; every little thing you do turns off iAuto and it is a time-consuming pain to have to go into the damn touch screen to turn it back on. The Steady shot is far less effective than on the CX550V - no more "Poor Man's SteadyCam."

Mr. Martinez, now that I without the NX70, I am at a loss as to what to do. I'd love to stay with Sony, but none of the other Sony models will work for me. The NX5 is too heavy, I can't afford it and it lacks the 1080 60p. The NEX-VG-20 is interesting for stills and occasional video, but I HATE being forced into shallow depth of field, and the lack of power zoom and decent audio makes it not much more than a video toy. The JVCs and Pannys in the $3K range all have various weaknesses - either small 1/4" CCDs, no 1080 60p, small, low-res LCD screens, or other problems.

The Canon XF100 is the only alternative I am seriously considering. It lacks 1080 60p and I don't like being forced to use CF cards, but the ergonomics are fantastic. Zoom on top of the handle. Nightshot light not blocked by the hood. Ability to tweak the image in multiple ways. Has an intervalometer for time-lapse. No touch screen is a HUGE plus, tons of buttons and assignable buttons are perfect. Why? Human hands can memorize the positions of objects. Do you play piano or touch type? I can do both. My hands will memorize the position of every button on a camera, and be able to use them without taking my eyes from the viewfinder. But, every time I have to access than damn touch screen I screw up the shot!

Right now, the only thing keeping me from buying the XF100 is the crippling work-flow problems with the .mxf clips. The ability of the Sony PMB to concatenate multiple < 2GB raw .MTS clips into a single, large .M2TS file is absolutely essential to my workflow with Vegas. But, if my only alternative is the XF100, I might just grit my teeth and put up with it.

Mr. Martinez, you might wonder what Sony can do to win back my camera business. Here is a summary of what the NX70's successor must have - and by the way, do this without REMOVING any of the current features, such as the rain/dust resistance or the great viewfinder. Some of the problems can be fixed with a firmware update, but many will require a complete re-engineering of the camera.

* Fix the zoom! It is a touchy disaster. How this problem got by your quality control is baffling beyond belief.
* Fix ALL the problems with auto-focus, auto-white balance, stabilization and pulsating blur. Set a goal to have all that stuff work BETTER, not worse, than the CX550V.
* KILL the STUPID touch menu system! Get a Canon XF100 and study it. Duplicate the Canons' BUTTONS and all the manual functions. If you must force a touch screen on customers, at least give us back the far more functional menu layout if the CX550V.
* Bring back the incremental brightness adjustment on the LCD. "Dim" and "Bright" are not enough!
* In addition to the internal memory give it TWO SDHC card slots, capable of simultaneous recording with the internal flash for backup, and continuous swap (like the new JVCs)
* Fix the "false infinity" focus problem.
* Give it at least the same scene selection modes as the CX550V.
* Give it a flash! What good is a still function without a flash?
* Give it 4:2:2 color
* Make nightshot work without taking off the hood. Either put the NightShot light inside the hood, or mount it over the hood on a non-removable handle.
* Give it MORE GLASS! Only more glass can solve the low-light problems inherent in a 1/2.88 CMOS sensor.
* The new lens is too wide-angle; there is considerable distortion when zoomed out. bring back the same focal ratio as the CX550V
* FIX THE PROBLEMS WITH EDGE BLUR!! I'm not sure if the problem is caused by a faulty lens design or a problem with the sensor (or both), but it glaringly bad when viewed on any monitor or TV bigger than 22 inches.
* Let us attach filters without grinding down the hood! The fact that we can fix the problem with a little grinding is proof that the design is flawed - or even worse, deliberately engineered to require the more expensive "thin" filters without front-threads.

Do all that, and I will come back. But don't wait too long - the XF100 is beckoning.

Sincerely, but with great disappointment and sadness,

Stephen T. Crye

Some videos demonstrating a few of the problems with the NX70:

Sony HXR-NX70U test - out-of-focus at frame edges
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8wbOBg8oNk

Sony HXR-NX70U low-light test auto-focus and white balance problems
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTxk81aA8OY

Sony HXR-NX70U outdoor test white balance and focus problems
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xZzz-dvUMP4
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post #2 of 22 Old 11-14-2011, 11:33 PM
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Hi

Thank you for the review.

I wonder if Sony even make these cameras? Being brand loyal these days doesn't mean anything anymore.

Regards

Phil
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post #3 of 22 Old 11-15-2011, 06:33 PM
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Think I will stick with my tried and true Sony 550&560 maybe I just don't need anything better.
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post #4 of 22 Old 11-16-2011, 02:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moviemaker4741 View Post

Think I will stick with my tried and true Sony 550&560 maybe I just don't need anything better.

Thanks to everyone for your support and sympathy!

Moviemaker, your 560 is supposed to have the same engine as the CX700V, and thus the same engine as the NX70. Please have a look at this video, and tell me if you see the same right-side blurriness in your 560. You will need to watch in 1080 full-screen to see the problem, it is subtle but real. If you have a chance, perhaps shoot some video under similar conditions.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8wbOBg8oNk

thanks!

Steve
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post #5 of 22 Old 11-17-2011, 11:07 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by raargh View Post

Thanks to everyone for your support and sympathy!

Moviemaker, your 560 is supposed to have the same engine as the CX700V, and thus the same engine as the NX70. Please have a look at this video, and tell me if you see the same right-side blurriness in your 560. You will need to watch in 1080 full-screen to see the problem, it is subtle but real. If you have a chance, perhaps shoot some video under similar conditions.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8wbOBg8oNk

thanks!

Steve

Maybe you are expecting a little more then I would expect, then I see what your using to view the video.
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post #6 of 22 Old 11-17-2011, 08:33 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moviemaker4741 View Post

Maybe you are expecting a little more then I would expect, then I see what your using to view the video.

Hi;

Not sure what you mean, but yes, your 550 is a great cam, cherish it!

The flaws in the NX70 are very apparent on my Samsung LCD TV, or on my computer. They are a little hard to see on YouTube, but I notice them even after YouTube mangles the video with excessive compression.

I'm going to upload some of the raw clips to my website, but that will take a while. When they are available for download, I will update this thread.

In the meantime, here are some frame grabs that show the severe chromatic aberration of the NX70 compared to the CX550V:

CX550V night shot
Attachment 228269

CX550V night shot
Attachment 228270

NX70 night shot
Attachment 228271


Keep in mind that I bought the camera with no expectations of problems. I never dreamed it would be inferior to my CX550V when it came to optics, auto-focus, zoom and white balance - after all, it cost nearly 3 times as much!

Steve
LL
LL
LL
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post #7 of 22 Old 11-17-2011, 09:50 PM - Thread Starter
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Hi;

The first of the raw NX70 files can be downloaded by right-clicking the following link and selecting "save as" (if you are using FireFox; do the equivalent if you use a different browser) If you just left-click on it your browser will display gibberish. 138 MB.

http://www.huecotanks.com/vids/NX70-...berration.m2ts


This clip is part of the Chapin Husky Marching band performance at the 2011 TOB at NMSU in Las Cruces. Most of it is at high zoom. Even though hard to see in daylight, the right side of the frame is noticeably blurred compared to the center. You can also watch the white balance correction in the middle of the clip - I switched from auto WB to "daylight".

I'll upload a few more raw clips. I do love the 60p, but that is not worth the problems with the lens!

Steve
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post #8 of 22 Old 11-18-2011, 01:52 AM
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I returned mine a few months ago..I early wanted it to be the ONE..a small pro cam. Sadly,no.
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post #9 of 22 Old 11-18-2011, 05:41 AM
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I have both the Sony 550 and the 560. Love them both and I have posted many low light videos over the past year.
Since this forum is loaded against Sony Camcorders they hardly received but a few short nasty words in the thread.
I have learned to expect this kind of response here.
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post #10 of 22 Old 11-18-2011, 06:45 AM
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Hi

I downloaded that clip, something about it didn't look good in comparison to clips from my TM900, outlines seem to smudge and detail seems lacking.

The bit-rate seems very constrained and seldom varying from 25Mbits/sec on that clip which seems to suggest it isn't taking advantage of any buffer inherent in the AVCHD spec, i.e. the playback device will have a buffer allowing bit-rates to exceed the maximum 28Mbits/sec, for example it isn't uncommon for Panasonic 1080p clips to reach beyond 30Mbits/sec when required, I've seen 33Mbit/secs. Of course it might just be that clip is happening to cause an almost constant bit-rate.

I looked up what camera it was to see it is an expensive semi-pro camera and couldn't believe that was the output, I understand your disappointment.

Regards

Phil
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post #11 of 22 Old 11-25-2011, 11:44 AM - Thread Starter
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Thanks, Phil. I appreciate your taking the time to download the raw clip.

I was very seriously considering the TM900, in several reviews it scored very high. But, it has an internal fan, and the S/N graphs show unacceptable levels of noise.

In your experience, how loud is the fan? Do you do much recording of music in quiet environments? Does the TM900 have a 3.5mm mic input, and any ability to set levels (at least a "low" level with no dynamic compression?"

Also, it would be great if you could upload some raw clips.

Finally, what software do you use to see the actual bit rate on the AVCHD?

Thanks,

Steve
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post #12 of 22 Old 11-25-2011, 11:49 AM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Moviemaker4741 View Post

I have both the Sony 550 and the 560. Love them both and I have posted many low light videos over the past year.
Since this forum is loaded against Sony Camcorders they hardly received but a few short nasty words in the thread.
I have learned to expect this kind of response here.

Hey Movie - I'm curious about something. The 560 is supposed to have the same optics and video compression as the NX70. Could you please shoot something of distant city lights at full zoom, then use Sony PMB to do a frame-grab and post the results? I'm curious to see if it has the same chromatic aberration as the NX70.

Thanks,

Steve
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post #13 of 22 Old 11-26-2011, 08:57 PM
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This is what i could muster up tonight (dont like in a city) but i do see the comet effect on the edges of the screen. It can be clearly seen in this frame:


CX560 - LOW LUX ON

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post #14 of 22 Old 11-27-2011, 02:34 AM
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Hi

Quote:
Originally Posted by raargh View Post

Thanks, Phil. I appreciate your taking the time to download the raw clip.

I was very seriously considering the TM900, in several reviews it scored very high. But, it has an internal fan, and the S/N graphs show unacceptable levels of noise.

In your experience, how loud is the fan? Do you do much recording of music in quiet environments? Does the TM900 have a 3.5mm mic input, and any ability to set levels (at least a "low" level with no dynamic compression?"

Also, it would be great if you could upload some raw clips.

Finally, what software do you use to see the actual bit rate on the AVCHD?

Thanks,

Steve

The fan is a problem, less so in cold environments but on a recent holiday where it was hot the fan really ramps up and is easily heard even over moderate to quite loud background noise. I've fixed it by making a baffle out of computer sound proofing foam that I just stick over the vent when I want to use the on board mics, it stops the noise completely but the fan isn't blocked. Not ideal but it does the job.

I often use a Zoom H1 for sound recording so the fan is non-issue mostly, and the camcorder does have the option for external mics. You can also adjust the audio levels manually.

There are raw clips available on Vimeo if you search for TM900, this is a good clip (not raw from the camera as it has been edited, although might still be raw if edited by Panasonic's software) which should give you an idea relating to outdoor type settings and bands/music. http://vimeo.com/21015825

For bitrates I use Bitrate Viewer http://www.winhoros.de/docs/bitrate-viewer/

Regards

Phil
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post #15 of 22 Old 11-27-2011, 09:15 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mkjetta08 View Post

This is what i could muster up tonight (dont like in a city) but i do see the comet effect on the edges of the screen. It can be clearly seen in this frame:

Thanks, mkj! I really appreciate your taking the time to upload the shot. It looks identical to the NX70, which supports the hypothesis that the "guts" of the NX70 is a CX560 with a lot of extras bells and whistles.

As I have been researching the CA problem (on various other forums and also scouring the net), the problem is not confined to Sony; I've seen examples of it on JVC and Panasonic also. So far only the Canon XF series seems to have acceptable levels of CA ... at least in the $3K and under category. Higher-end cams have killer lenses and also special anti-CA circuits.

Still torn and undecided... would like see some examples from an XF100 before I shell out $4k (which I do not have) for the cam, CF cards and spare batteries ...

Steve
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post #16 of 22 Old 11-27-2011, 09:17 PM - Thread Starter
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Thanks, Phil!

I appreciate your taking the time, that bit-rate viewer will come in handy. Also thanks for the candid info about the fan, your work-around and the info re: levels.

Steve
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post #17 of 22 Old 03-04-2013, 07:32 AM
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Stephen, I've only just discovered this post as I began researching the NX70U as a purchase for my sister, a professor who wants a good but small camera for her research. I used to have a Canon XF100; it was pretty good for a single chip camera but when I compared the images from it to the ones from my friend's Canon XHA1, an older tape-based camera with 3 chips, there was such a difference that I went out and found a used XHA1. The other thing I didn't like about the XF100 was the terrible viewfinder. Basically useless, I don't know why they even bother to put one on: small, not high enough resolution for accurate focusing. The LCD monitor was all right indoors, but I needed a hoodman outside. When we're shooting HD the focus is even more critical, and these small screens could use a better implementation of focus assist (however they want to achieve it; I think the JVC idea of switching to monochrome with color fringing for in-focus is good; a 2x magnification of centre of screen might work---the XF100 magnifies the screen but you can't keep the magnification on, as I recall, while shooting). So now that my recommendation to my sister in favour of the NX70 is in tatters, I wonder what to look at....
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post #18 of 22 Old 09-01-2014, 04:40 AM
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So what did you end up buying Steve ?
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post #19 of 22 Old 09-01-2014, 05:47 AM
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raargh you have my sympathy! I fell out with Sony in the Hi-8 days when they tried to tie customers to their own expensive kit. For its time, the Hi-8 camera was good if a bit quirky.


My replacements started in 2005 with a Canon HV20 DV camera and it was only my concern as to the long term reliability of the tape mechanism plus concern about disappearing FireWire ports on newer computers that drove me to Panasonic SD based cameras. I have been lucky in finding both the Canon and Panasonic cameras fairly vice free and providing high quality video.
I think the comment by Philip_L about brand loyalty is very true. I could now claim to be "loyal" to Panasonic but if a more suitable bit of kit comes out, I would change.


For interest my current line up is an ancient but excellent Olympus E-10 and two Panasonic camcorders, the HC-V700 and HC-V750 plus my retired Canon. Judging from other responses I expect the Panasonic V750 to become a leader in its class and possible one of the last great HD camcorders. I does everything I want.
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post #20 of 22 Old 09-01-2014, 07:10 AM
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"Thanks to everyone for your support and sympathy!"

I'm not a fan of this post. No need to call out an employee of a company who didn't personally manufacturer the device and then whine in a long diatribe the technology doesn't suit you.

Just return it and move on.
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post #21 of 22 Old 09-01-2014, 09:08 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by xfws View Post
"Thanks to everyone for your support and sympathy!"

I'm not a fan of this post. No need to call out an employee of a company who didn't personally manufacturer the device and then whine in a long diatribe the technology doesn't suit you.

Just return it and move on.
One feature of Forums is that we are all entitled to our opinion and entitled to express it.
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post #22 of 22 Old 09-01-2014, 09:22 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Terfyn View Post
One feature of Forums is that we are all entitled to our opinion and entitled to express it.
The OP called out a product manager on a public forum and ranted how he should personally fix things for him. It lacked tact and was beyond 'opinion'.
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