Archive for March 5, 2009

PMA09: JVC Everio X: This HD camcorder shoots hi-res stills—with some effort

JVC Everio GZ-X900 Everio X1 digital HD Camcorder
It’s not the first camcorder to claim to shoot HD video and capture high-resolution still images. But at PMA09, with fewer interesting camera introductions than in years past, the fact that a camcorder manufacturer chose this trade show, instead of CES, to introduce such a hybrid device is intriguing.

On Tuesday, JVC announced what they’re calling a “dual-use camera” that shoots high definition video and high resolution digital still images. Depending on whom you ask, JVC has two different names of this new camcorder: The Everio GZ-X900 or Everio X. (Click on the image at right for a closer look.) Whatever you call it, my first impression of it is that while it’s certainly small and light, it had a very boxy feel to it. It also looks like a large Flip-style camcorder.

Here’s some of what the Everio X (or GZ-X900) offers:

  • It shoots 1920 x 1080 Full HD AVCHD video and nine-megapixel (with no interpolation) digital stills.
  • It has a 10x slow-motion shooting mode that plays back 2.4 seconds of recorded video over 24 seconds, which the JVC product specialist at the booth claimed would be great for checking out your golf swing in slo-mo. You can also capture up to six nine-megapixel stills at 15 images per second. Another mode lets you shoot five-megapixel digital stills while recording in full HD video. Plus, photos can be shot at shutter speeds as fast as 1/4000 second without interrupting video recording.
  • It weighs about two-thirds of a pound and records video and stills to SDHC memory cards.

All of these are claims by JVC, which we’ll check when we get the Everio X into our labs.

However, my impression of the Everio X is that, like many hybrids of this type, it favors shooting video over capturing stills. That’s obvious, because most of the controls for still shooting appear to be menu-driven with very few accessible through buttons and controls. This makes it rather cumbersome to take still photos in anything other than auto mode.

—Terry Sullivan

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PMA09: New Eye-Fi cards let cameras upload videos to YouTube

Eye-Fi Share Video and Share Video cards Sony recently announced its Cyber-shot DSC-G3, a digital camera that can upload video clips wirelessly to YouTube.


Now, the maker of the Eye-Fi wireless memory cards have introduced two new cards that extend that capability to scores of other cameras that accept an SD or SDHC memory card.


The 4GB, Eye-Fi Share Video card, $79, will let you upload video clips directly to 20 photo sharing and social networking sites, including YouTube and Flickr.


A $99 version, called the Eye-Fi Explore Video, will do the same thing but also automatically “geotag” each image with information about where it was captured.


Both cards should be available at major retailers later this month.


For more details on the Wi-Fi cards, see the Eye-fi web site: http://www.eye.fi.


—Jeff Fox

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Charlene

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Turn your iPhone into a Kindle e-book reader

Amazon Kindle Apple iPhone app
Less than a month after the debut of its much-anticipated Amazon Kindle2 e-book reader, Amazon opened its formidable e-book library to a much larger potential audience: Apple iPhone and iPod Touch users. By downloading a free app from the Apple App Store, you can use those devices as a Kindle-like reader that can download any title from Amazon's 240,000 e-book library, typically for $3 to $12 each. (Newspapers, magazines and blogs currently can't be downloaded, though there are indications this may change at some point.)

While the 3-inch iPhone/Touch screens are only half the size of a Kindle's, they're sharp and back-lighted (a feature the Kindle lacks), handy when it's dark and a reading lamp isn't an option. The multifunctional Apple devices are also easier on the pocket in two respects. You can enjoy e-books on the go without spending $360 to buy the Kindle or toting an extra device that weighs 10.2 ounces and measures 8 x 5.3 in. x 0.36 inches.

The e-books have been optimized for the Kindle's screen, which means photos and other graphics are in black and white. But I found the text and images reasonably sharp and easy to read. (Click on the image at right for a closer look at what an Amazon e-book looks like on my Touch.)

Since the Apple devices lack buttons, you turn pages with a swipe of your finger, which you'll do more frequently than on the Kindle since their screens are so small. And you'll want to adjust your Apple's screen settings to avoid the hassle of unlocking it every time you pause on a page for more than a minute.

But tapping once on the Apple touch screens produce the essential controls at the bottom of the displays for adjusting font size, jumping to other pages, and marking pages. (See image above.) One very convenient feature for those with more than one Kindle reader is WhisperSync. It remembers where you left off reading for each book, and lets you resume where you left off even if you switch to another device.

Downloading books on an Apple takes slightly more work than on a Kindle, though. You have to first order the book on Amazon's site (with your Amazon account) using the Safari browser, then launch the Kindle app to read it after it downloads. That took about a minute over our reasonably fast broadband connection.

—Mike Gikas

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PMA ’09: Fujifilm’s FinePix F200 EXR has a sensor for all scenes

Fujifilm-F200EXR

Although it was announced last year, many at the show were taking a closer look at Fujifilm's new compact digital camera, the 12-megapixel FinePix F200 EXR, $400, which includes a 5x optical zoom lens, wide-angle capability and a 3-inch LCD. All are respectable features and specs, but it's the large Fujifilm Super CCD EXR sensor that is getting most of the buzz.

Using a feature called EXR mode, you can adapt the sensor to the subject you're shooting. There are three modes: high sensitivity and low noise; wide dynamic range; and high resolution. If you're shooting in low light, for example, you'd switch the sensor to high sensitivity and low noise to capture the image without using a flash. If you're shooting in bright sunlight, where there are subjects both in sunlight and in shadows, you can switch to the wide dynamic range setting to better handle the extremes. Lastly, you use the high-resolution mode for full 12-megapixel resolution. What this implies is that the low noise and dynamic range modes don’t capture images at full resolution. In fact, both modes cut the resolution in half, leaving you with just a 6-megapixel image.

In addition to the ability to set this sensor setting yourself, the F200 EXR has an EXR Auto mode that makes the decision for you on which mode to select. On the LCD screen, you'll see one of three symbols indicating which mode has been selected: HR (high resolution), DR (wide dynamic range) and SN (high sensitivity and low noise).

The camera is available in stores now.

—Terry Sullivan

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