Avi Greengart is the Research Director for Consumer Devices at Current Analysis (Mobile Phones, Connected Devices, and Digital Home). He also regularly writes for Slashgear, sporadically blogs at Home Theater View and Tweets far too often as @greengartAvi's expertise lies in understanding consumer electronics marketing, consumer behavior, and technology adoption patterns: where new technologies meet the mass market. 

 

 

Avi Greengart is an expert on the convergence of technology and entertainment: video, audio, computing, and wireless, how these are coming together, and what's likely to survive long enough to make a difference in your life.

Column #50 (8/10/03)

Digital Cameras, Digital Video Cameras, Watching Photos on DVD Players, Travel Headphones

Compact Digital Cameras

Question:

I hope you are well. I need your advice. I am planning to buy a digital camera, but I am not so sure which one to buy. I donít want to spend a lot of money. I need something that will have nice resolution and will come out good when I want to print.

I am pasting the ones that I may consider to buy. But I am not sure about the pricing; it varies a lot from brand to brand. Are lower priced ones really bad or not for professional usage - I am not sure. What do you suggest? I also checked your website. (which I found cool with all the information that you provided) but just wanted to make sure among these option - which one fits me the best?

bulletSony Cybershot DSC-P32, 3.2 Megapixel, 3.2x Digital Zoom, Digtial Camera
bulletSony Cybershot DSC-P52, 3.2 Megapixel, 2x Optical/3.2x Digtal Zoom, Digital Camera
bulletSony Cybershot DSC-P72, 3.2 Megapixel, 3x Optical/3.2x Digital Zoom, Digital Camera
bulletSony Cybershot DSC-P8, 3.2 Megapixel, 3x Optical/3.2x Digital Zoom, Digital Camera
bulletSony Cybershot DSC-P92 5.0 Megapixel Digital Camera
bulletSony Cybershot DSC-U20, 2.0 Magapixel, Ultra-compact, Digital Camera (Silver)

AskAvi Replies:

I'm not the biggest fan of Sony's little joystick things they put on all their cameras (I own a DSC-SC85).  Otherwise, the last one you list (DSC-U20) is the most interesting -- it's tiny, you can take it everywhere -- but won't give you the image quality of the others should you want to crop or blow up to 8x10.  Still, it will take fine 4x6 shots and you can take it with you every day and always have it available for impromptu photo shoots.

Of the DSC-PXX series, I'd avoid the P32, as it lacks optical zoom.  The P8's auto focus may be sufficiently improved over the others to be worth the price premium, and the P92 has much higher resolution - you can crop out portions and still have enough resolution left over to blow the remainder up to an 8x10.  Note that (most of the time) when you go up in resolution it takes longer to take a picture than with lower resolution cameras - there's so much more image to process and save to memory.  Therefore, unless you plan to crop and create large size prints, you may actually be better off saving money with a 3 or 4 megapixel model.

Digital Camcorders

Question:

Hi, we are in the market for a digital video camera (new baby on the way) and have no idea what to get. I went on your site but didn't see anything.  We want something easy to use (at least I do) and want to be able to hook it up to the TV to watch the videos. Don't care about editing on the PC or anything at this point. We were hoping for one that took digital stills as well but the people at Best Buy were told that those digital video cameras are awful for stills because of the quality or something so I guess the video aspect is more important.

If you have any time to give me thoughts or advice that would be great.  Obviously we are also hoping to spend the least amount possible and we're not really gadget people.

AskAvi Replies:

An inexpensive digital camcorder would suit your needs well. You could spend less on an analog model, but I don't recommend it -- they aren't as sharp, they're a bit bigger, and one of the more common questions I get is how to transfer analog tapes to a more permanent storage medium like DVD (this is still an issue with digital camcorders, but you start out in a better position). Even on a digital camcorder, digital still photos will look lousy unless you spend more on a model with extra still photo resolution, and even then a separate digital camera would be a much better bet.

There are three basic quality levels for digital camcorders - entry level, around $1000, and 3 CCD models. 

bulletEntry level miniDV camcorders (such as Canon's ZR series at around $400 or $500) are small and portable and I find they provide all the features most people need. 
bulletSpend closer to $1000 and you might get a better image sensor for slightly better picture quality, or much smaller designs using microDV cassettes, or better still photo capabilities (but still not comparable to a separate digital camera). 
bulletIf you're serious about your digital video, 3 CCD cameras use three separate sensors to create a color image; they will give you much better image quality and much, much better color quality, particularly if you plan to do any computer-based editing, or watch your video on an HDTV. The price on good 3 CCD camcorders are now down to $2000, and JVC now offers a true HDTV model for only $3500.  I haven't played with the HDTV model, but the reviews I've seen suggest that most amateur videographers will be better served by less expensive 3 CCD models.

Watching Photos on DVD Player

Question:

I store all my digital photos on CD's. Can I buy a DVD player that will display my digital photos on the TV screen? Will all DVD players do this? Thanks.

AskAvi Replies:

Yes, you can, and no, they don't.  There are definitely players out there that do this, but you need to specifically look for this feature, and it depends somewhat on how you are storing your pictures on CD.  If you store your photos as JPEGs on a CD-R, most DVD players will not be able to display them, though a few can -- look for a product that specifically says it has a JPEG photo viewer (several of Toshiba's DVD players have this feature).  Something else to watch out for: the player's user interface may restrict you to a maximum of file folder levels, so you might not be able to organize your photos as thoroughly as you like.  If you are storing your photos/creating your discs in PhotoCD format, there are more DVD players that can read them - but again, look for this to be explicitly stated in the features list of the DVD player. 

Noise Canceling Headphones for Travel:

Question:

I just was doing research on line about Bose headphones and read your column #23 [here] from Nov. 2002, where you speak well of the Bose noise cancellation and you say the cost is $299.  The new Bose Quiet Comfort 2 currently cost $299, the Quiet Comfort $249, and the tri I can't remember.

I fly back and forth to England a lot and had these recommended to me.  I am experiencing too much fatigue.  Can you tell me which of the three you favor? Comfort and noise canceling are the biggest wishes for me.  Great sound for plane movies and such is secondary, so nice if it comes with the ones you like the best but not a tie breaker in my book.

AskAvi Replies:

I haven't personally auditioned all three, but I think I can make a recommendation anyway based on your needs.  Spend the money on the Quiet Comfort 2 -- all three Bose models are over the ear and very comfortable, but the Tri-Port doesn't have any noise cancellation whatsoever, and the newer model (Quiet Comfort 2) supposedly has an improved noise cancellation circuit. 

The downsides to the Bose models: size, price, and heat retention. Heat retention? When you wear on-the-ear or over-the-ear headphones for a while, your ears are enclosed and may get hot -- similar to wearing ear muffs.  This bothers me, as I get hot easily, but is a boon to other people who are always cold.  

Some alternatives: I have a pair of noise canceling Aiwa HP-CN5s that are smaller and cost around $60 (but they also make my ears hot).  Panasonic has similar models that are even less expensive at around $40.  I've also tested the entire line of Shure line of in-ear headphones (not noise canceling, but effectively seals the eardrum, so offers a similar practical effect); they're really small, even when packed in their included traveling cases, and they don't sit on your ear, so there's no EME (Ear Muff Effect).  Prices on those models range from $100 to $500, with the $150 model being the best bang/buck.  I've flown five and six hour flights with the Aiwas and Shure e5c; aside from the heat issue I suspect most people would find the Bose models the most comfortable.

-avi

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