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Fuuvi Bee, a Low-Fi ‘8mm' Digicam

Friday, January 6, 2012

Fuuvi Bee, a Low-Fi ‘8mm' Digicam
The ultra-light, teeny-tiny Bee camera mimics 8mm home movies of old

You can probably process the footage from your video-capable camera or phone to mimic the 8mm home movies of yesteryear, but if you can pick up the 1.4-ounce Fuuvi Bee–which shoots for 100 minutes on a single charge–for just $80, it's hard to see why you'd bother. Especially as the Bee is designed to spit out herky-jerky 8mm-style movies with no post-processing whatsoever.

As you'd expect, the Bee boasts an almost wilfully poor set of specs. The video–captured to microSD card–is recorded at 640 x 480 pixels and 30fps, and the 1.3MP sensor can also capture stills. Shutter speeds run from 1x6 – 1x2500 sec and the lens has a decent maximum aperture of ƒ2.8. Here's a sample clip (you don't need to watch it all–things get a little boring).

The camera is tiny, too, thanks to the fact that it needs neither film nor much in the way of quality components to do its stuff.

Finally, the connection to your computer is a rather disappointing USB 1.1. Then again, the files will at least be pretty small, and as they are served up as AVI Motion JPEGs, you should be able to drop them straight into iOS iMovie vie the camera connection kit. The Bee is available now.

Fuuvi Bee 8mm Style Retro Digital Camera [AudioCubes via Andrew Liszewski]

Incase Sling Pack for DSLR Cameras

Incase Sling Pack for DSLR Cameras
The Sling Pack for DSLR Cameras from Incase is big enough for a DSLR and a couple of lenses, so you can take just what you need for a day trip.  The bag is 10.5″ x 16″ x 6.5″.  It's constructed of water-resistant nylon, and it has a side zipper opening for access to the organized storage space inside.  The inside is padded and has dividers to keep your equipment from banging together.  The bag has interior and exterior zippered and mesh pockets to hold small accessories.  It's a sling bag, so it has a single shoulder strap; there's also a grab handle.  It's $79.95 at Incase.

Canon PowerShot G1X leak

Canon PowerShot G1X leak
Wells Fargo Advisors has just lifted the veil of another leak, where it will comprise of a wide range of point-and-shoot cameras that are scheduled for a CES release next week. Of course, now that we know there will be a spanking new G-series PowerShot model heading our way from Canon, where it is known as the G1X, it has certainly whet our appetites enough to want to know more. I admit, when I first saw “G1X”, my thought processes immediately shifted to the Panasonic GX-1, and hopefully these manufacturers would put in more thought when it comes to model naming conventions of their upcoming devices.

Sporting a 1.5″, 14.3-megapixel sensor alongside an accompanying 28-112mm zoom lens which starts at f/2.5, the Canon G1X is capable of shoot in RAW and performing 1080p video recording as well. There is a good chance that a similar DIGIC V image processor will be found inside as the S100, which paves the way for multi-area white balance and advanced noise reduction. No idea on pricing, though, but then again all one needs is patience with CES just around the corner.

Fujifilm FinePix Z110 Digital Camera

Fujifilm FinePix Z110 Digital Camera
The FinePix Z110 is the newest addition to Fujifilm's digital camera line-up. This sleek all-metal camera sports a 14.1-megapixel CCD sensor, a 5x optical Fujinon zoom lens, a 2.7-inch LCD screen, Night Out mode, Motion Panorama mode, ISO 100-3200 and 720p HD movie capture. The FinePix Z110 will be available in six different color options including pink, purple, jade, blue, white and black. [Fujifilm]

Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920

Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920
The Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 is a high-end webcam that captures full HD 1080p video for connecting with friends using Skype or HD 720p video for Windows Live Messenger. The webcam features Carl Zeiss optics, a premium 20-step AutoFocus and a pair of microphones that capture natural stereo audio. The Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 also supports H.264 advanced compression technology, so you can upload full HD 1080p videos or 15MP photos faster to Facebook, Twitter or YouTube. If you are interested, you can purchase the Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920 for $99.99 each. [Press Release]

Samsung DV300F Dual View Camera

Samsung DV300F Dual View Camera
Samsung seems to be enjoying good business in consumer electronics nowadays. It has continually come up with interesting new devices that have gotten the attention of the device market worldwide. Some of their best products are those that belong from its digital camera line. And one of their recent introductions is the Samsung DV300F Dual View Camera.

The Samsung DV300F Dual View Camera is the new compact digital camera from Samsung sporting the latest in Dual LCD Technology. Aside from the usual LCD display in the back of the digital camera, the Samsung DV300F sports a 1.5 inch front facing LCD display that helps users capture images in the most challenging of situations. The front LCD display can also be used in Child Mode where it displays animation to keep babies focused when taking their pictures.

The Samsung DV300F features a 16MP sensor, 5x optical zoom with 25mm wide angle lens. It also comes with WiFi connectivity, the first DualView Digital Camera to offer such a feature. Unfortunately, Samsung has not yet provided the exact date of availability or the pricing of the new Samsung DV300F Dual View Camera.

Nikon D4 is new flagship model

Nikon D4 is new flagship model
Yes, the Nikon D4 DSLR has finally arrived, being the new flagship DSLR camera from the German company, where it is touted to offer the “ultimate in versatility and functionality.” First things first – should you just drop everything and run out to purchase the Nikon D4? Our friends over at DPreview say that the biggest jump in terms of changes would be the D4′s improvement in video capabilities, where it is intended to go up against the 5D Mark II from Canon (and beyond). Still shooting specifications remain rather modest though, although you do get a 16.2-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor as well as the ability to capture 10 frames each second using autofocus. Apart from that, there will definitely be its fair share of smaller improvements and tweaks that professionals might find interesting, although for the average user, you might want to target something lesser.

Ergonomic changes have also been introduced to the camera's body, in order to make portrait-orientation shooting somewhat similar to that of shooting in a landscape format. You will find that Nikon has decided to shed the dedicated AFL button, using push-button joysticks instead for vertical as well as landscape shooting orientations. Nice to see the D4 also up the ante in terms of recording images to memory cards faster, thanks to its integrated support for high-speed, UDMA 7-compatible CompactFlash memory cards as well as next-generation high-speed XQD memory cards. [Press Release]

New Fujifilm camera pictures leak, shooter scheduled for CES debut?

New Fujifilm camera pictures leak, shooter scheduled for CES debut?
Well, well, have a look at what the proverbial internet cat dragged in. The image above comes to you via Japanese forum, giving us a pretty good idea of what is allegedly Fujifilm's next interchangeable lens camera. Following in the footsteps of the retro-looking X10 and the X100, not much is known about the shooter's specs, but we'd venture that it probably isn't full-frame. Guess it won't take too long to find out, as the grapevine also muses its proper reveal will happen at CES.

Nikon Hits Another Home Run With the Video-Shooting D4

Nikon Hits Another Home Run With the Video-Shooting D4
The D4 is heavy on the video, but it hasn't forgotten the stills shooter

Nikon's new flagship DSLR, the D4, has just gotten a pre-CES launch. The aging D3 has been losing its lunch to Canon for a while thanks to the rival company's focus on video, so it's hard to remember just how impressive the old D3 was when launched. The D4 is of course very video-centric, too, and the camera looks pretty amazing.

First, the video. The D4 shoots 1080p at 30, 24 and 60fps. There's a stereo mic jack, 20-level audio meter and a 30-level output for monitoring via headphone jack. Not only can the camera capture and show you footage as you shoot, but it can also output uncompressed 720p via HDMI at the same time.

There is also full manual exposure control while shooting, and AF–should you want it. There's also a neat trick that exploits the fact that a stills sensor has way more resolution than 1080p: the camera can optically zoom up to 2.7x during recording.

Stills-wise, less has changed. The sensor jumps from 12.1MP to 16.3MP, and will now shoot at up to ISO 204,800 (pretty incredible). The additional sensor used metering has gone from measly 1005 pixels to 91,000, and now allows face detection while using the optical finder. The D4 will shoot at 10 fps in stills mode.

Amongst myriad other tweaks, there are a few differences to the physical design, too. Gone is the AF lock button, replaced by a couple of joystick nubbins which allow selections in both portrait and landscape orientations. The rear LCD is slightly bigger at 3.2 inches (up from three), and controls can be illuminated for low-light work.

Finally, the camera now has memory card slots for compact flash and XQD, Sony's new high-speed format.

In short, if you were impressed by the D3, you will be equally impressed by the D4. Non-video shooters may not need to worry about upgrading anytime soon, but then again, there's plenty in here for stills photographers, too.

D4 product page [Nikon]

Nikon D800 DSLR leaked?

Nikon D800 DSLR leaked?
The Nikon D4 might have created a whole lot of fanfare, having been officially announced just one day ago, but it seems that there is already another shooter from the same company to look forward to – the Nikon D800, which will be the obvious replacement and update to the Nikon D700 DSLR. Having said that, the D800 is certainly more than welcome to make its mark considering how the D700 was first introduced to the world a good three years ago, and plenty has changed since then. Where the hardware specifications of the Nikon D800 are concerned, so far leaks have pointed towards a 36-megapixel sensor (!), which means your shots would come out at a whopping 7,360x4,912 pixels, in addition to an ISO range of 50 to 25,600, allowing it to shoot great looking photos under well-lit or rather dark conditions.

Not only that, USB 3.0 connectivity is also expected to play a role here, alongside an LCD display which is touted to go beyond the industry standard of 3″. Do you think that is worth a shot, since LCD displays do sip up some juice when in use, and you might prefer to use the power for shooting just a few more images rather than previewing them on the display. Apart from that, the Nikon D800 is also said to show content with 1080p video at 30, 25 and 24 fps or 720p at 60, 30, 25 and 24 fps. Will CES 2012 see the release of the Nikon D800? Only time will tell.

GoPro HD Hero 2 review

Sunday, January 1, 2012

GoPro HD Hero 2 review
GoPro has been in the HD action sports and helmet cam game for some time now, with its Hero line proving a popular sight atop many a daredevil's lid. Now, you can add HD Hero 2 ($300) to the ever growing list of options now, as this is the latest (and they say greatest) incarnation to date. Last time we tested the Hero Original - as it's now called - against the Contour HD, but now we're pitting new against old, like for like, side by side. Not only will we discover how the new boy stands up against the camera it effectively usurps, we'll also see how it fares out in the field. Above all, we'll see whether a smattering of new recording options, and a supposedly "two times sharper" image make it worth the extra dollars.

Hardware Once you unbox the Hero 2, you'll be greeted by many of the same accoutrements as before. The packaging is the same Perspex-crowned cardboard box, the camera pride of place, while all the accessories are tucked away down below. The kit you get depends on which edition you buy, with three available at launch: Outdoor, Motorsports and Surf. We've been testing the Outdoor set, which is little more than a new name for what was previously known as the Helmet Hero.

In the box are four adhesive mount clips, an elasticated head mount, a padded helmet mount, three pivot arms, a waterproof case, a non-waterproof case door (for better audio), a battery and of course the camera. All very familiar if you own any GoPro gear, so much so that the new camera itself is almost identical too. There are subtle differences in the size of the recording LEDs, HDMI port, 3.5 Mic input and of course the product name emblazoned on the front, but aside from that they're identical, meaning that their cases are interchangeable also.

What is new with the HD Hero 2 is what's going on beneath that unassuming little case. According to GoPro, the Hero 2 is two times as powerful in every way. That means "two times sharper image" (however that's measured); 11MP Photos, up from the original's five; ten photos per second, up from three; time lapse down to 0.5 second increments, previously 1 second; max fps 120, up from 60; and 170 degrees FOV all the way up to 1080p, previously 170 stopped at 960p, dropping to 127 degrees at full resolution. Fortunately you won't be expected to pay double price for all this extra spec, but more on that later.

Mounting Accessory-wise, the pivot arms are there to let you position the HD Hero 2 in a number of different positions, but they are somewhat fiddly, and limited in the number of angles. You have enough to get the camera extended, away from helmet obstructions, and change the mounting angle should you need to. As before, the adhesive clips cling to anything with vigor; because of this you have to be committed to whatever you are sticking it to. If you want to film your friend snowboarding, pray that she doesn't mind you slapping one of these on her board, as it'll be there almost permanently.

Sometimes clipping the camera in and out of these mounts can be difficult, especially if space is limited, or your fingers are gloved / wet / cold, which might be quite often considering this is an action sports device. Likewise, the pivot arms are screwed in place, and the little plastic screw heads can be extremely difficult to loosen manually with weather beaten fingers, mercifully the caps have an exposed Philips-head screw, so you can get a screwdriver in to do the job when your fleshy digits fail.

The tie-up helmet mount pad is great for those lids with air vents, and means you don't have to use up one of your four adhesive clips, but it does leave itself more open to loosening or coming undone, so a little bit of a trade off. The head-mount makes you feel wonderfully self-conscious when you adorn it, like some sort of techno-miner, but it's fairly comfortable and practical, which is by far the most important thing here.

In use

Once you've worked out how you're mounting it, the rest of the set-up is a cinch. Like its elder sibling, the front button controls power and cycles through menu options, while the top button selects, and of course, sets the camera rolling. Once again you have to contend with a tiny LCD screen for navigating through menus, but the interface is a little more friendly than before, with slightly clearer icons and text replacing the calculator-esque codes of before.

Kicking off basic filming is easy: simply select movie mode and press go. Once you're rolling the camera beeps and red LEDs on the front and top flash to let you know it's still going. The previous model suffered from not beeping loud enough to be heard over engine noise, and it's still the case with the Hero 2, meaning you aren't always sure it's shooting unless you can physically see it. Annoyingly, there is still no way of viewing what you've just shot until you either get home and upload it, or buy a the BacPac accessory at an extra cost. As a middle ground, if you have an iPad with a camera kit, the GoPro files play back just fine right off the bat. Other tablets should also handle them without a problem.

The resolutions available are the same as on the HD Hero Original, just with more frame rate options and FOV angles, conspiring expand the number of stylistic possibilities. For example, WVGA mode can now be shot at 60 and 120fps; 720p has three FOV options: 90, 127 and 170 unlike before where you just had the wide 170 setting; 960p gets a 48fps setting and up at the top 1080p again the two additional FOVs are now available.

The 1,100 mAh battery should see you through a good 2.5 hours of use according to its claims and in our tests it barely registered a loss of over half on the indicator while out and about, shooting regularly. Outputting the video you shot is now possible over HDMI which usurps the component cable offered with the last generation, but you'll need the lead already, as it's not supplied in the box like previously.

Video quality

The first thing you'll notice if you have the luxury of having both cameras is that the HD Hero 2 is noticeably clearer. Many people tend to think in pure numbers: megapixels, resolution and so on, but then forget that a lot of it really depends on the piece of glass the image is coming through. We noticed that images were generally sharper, but this was most visible with more complex textures such as asphalt, grass and so on.

The additional resolution settings and FOV options are more of a luxury than a necessity, but combined with the higher level of sharpness do give the device a more complete and professional feel. Audio still suffers dramatically when inside the waterproof case, and fares mildly better with the more sound-friendly door.

The color balance between the two models is also notably distinct, with the HD Hero 2 reproducing much more authentic tones compared to the Original's slightly brasher levels. Performance under lower-light levels also seemed to have enjoyed a marked improvement.

There are still times when you can sense that this is ultimately a click-and-go camera. For example, some jaggies are still noticeable at times, and white balance can be a little off on occasion, but all things considered, it generally puts in a solid performance.

The videos below were taken in two very different light situations, but give you a good understanding of how well the camera might perform under different weather conditions. The first was shot on a cloudy winter day about an hour or two prior to sundown and it holds up pretty well.

Next is some on-board (heh!) footage, we took on a brighter day. Pay close attention to the pavement, and you can see that at times definition of the asphalt isn't always crisp, but given the amount of movement this is forgivable. It's worth noting that the rocking back and forth is not due to the camera mount, but the rocking of the board it's attached to. Sudden movements such as this can make the resulting material a little unpleasant to watch, so it's worth bearing in mind when you consider your mount points.

Wrap-up Pound for pound, the HD Hero 2 is a marked improvement, and continues very much in the advancing footsteps of its predecessors. The price is not much more than the Original when that was new at $299.99. That said, some of our gripes remain, and they might be significant enough to change your buying decision depending on your requirements.

The main one, we found, is that the camera itself is quite heavy, especially when cased and mounted. Heavy enough that when you've got one slapped on your helmet, you definitely know about it, and sudden head movements can cause you to feel a tip in the balance – somewhat off putting when mid-action.

Likewise, the mounts themselves might lend themselves to larger, smoother surfaces, but if you want to attach it to something less regular, you might struggle. Sure you can buy different mounting kits and tools, but it soon adds up. Not to mention how fiddly it can be to get set up just right too. If you need to change the camera position on the go, you might find yourself missing some of the action. This can all be negated to some degree with the right preparation, but worth considering if prep-time isn't a luxury that you might have. For the most part, GoPro has improved on what was already a popular product, so we expect newcomers to be pleased, but upgraders might want to consider if there is enough net benefit.

M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 EZ Lens for PEN Lovers

M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 EZ Lens for PEN Lovers
Olympus launched the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 EZ (35mm equivalent 24-100mm) as its first fully-compatible interchangeable Micro Four Thirds lens to incorporate an electronic motorized zoom. The new lens has a zoom ratio of approximately 4.2x with macro capabilities (focusing is possible between 8 and 20 inches). Manual zooming is also available for those looking to take full control. Expected to be available Mid-January 2012, the M.ZUIKO DIGITAL ED 12-50mm F3.5-6.3 EZ has also been enhanced with a linear motor that drives smooth and quiet autofocusing.

Drift HD POV Action Camera Review

Drift HD POV Action Camera Review
So……..what does a 46 year young man do when he's given  a Drift Innovations HD Action Extreme Sports camera to review?  You know the ones, you've seen the videos of the guys in the California X Games  doing motorcycle or skateboard jumps and flips, or the guys skydiving or…….

Well the mind might be willing but these days the body ain't….

How am I going to test this one ??????

The Drift HD is a splash-proof, dust-proof, weatherproof, and dunk-proof camera primarily aimed at the “Extreme Sports” market.  Clipped to a vehicle, a helmet, or a board, the concept is to record quirky angle type videos that give a sense of action that normal recording equipment can't give.  It's small size and weight means that it can be used in situations again where traditional recording equipment isn't appropriate to use.

The unit itself comes standard with a good collection of accessories. Clockwise from top left: Goggle/Strap mount, the HD camera itself, alternative back with rubber doors for USB and microphone, RF remote, curve mount, flat mount, middle: universal clip (+ USB cable not shown) .  The review unit also came with an 8GB microSD card, which isn't standard, and the unit will take up to a 32GB card . Class 4 or higher is recommended for video, and there's no internal memory.

The camera's small and aerodynamic (important when you're going fast and aerodynamics are important), weighs in at 119.91g (4.23 oz) and measures 104.14 X 50.00 X 33.00 mm (4.10 X 1.97 X1.30 in).  One of the things that differentiates this camera from other action POV cameras is the integrated 1.5″ Colour LCD screen which can be used to change settings, frame videos and pictures, and playback your captures.  With the other offerings, the colour LCD is generally an optional extra, so there's no way to see your video instantly onsite without  additional AV equipment like a notebook/tablet being available. The green/red/blue LED next to the play/select button indicates various states (e.g recording, charging).

On the bottom side, there's not a lot except for the ratcheted standard tripod thumb screw receptacle (1x4″, 1x4-20) . So the camera can be placed onto a standard tripod for photos or filming, if required.

Supplied with the unit is a universal clip that screws into the tripod hole and has a ratchet mechanism so that the camera can be manipulated and held into any position. This then allows the camera to be fitted into a number of different mounting options.

The mounting assembly works the same with all the supplied holders and for various optional ones you can purchase, like a suction cup mount or a gun mount. The flat and curved mounts (supplied) use 3M double-sided tape to be permanently fixed. The goggle/strap mount shown above is the one I used the most with the supplied velcro strap during the review period.  Using the strap you can attach the camera to bike helmets, poles and all manner of things.

Above you can see the three modes supported with the camera

Video supported options:
  • 1080P, 720p, SD options
  • 30, 25 frames per second ( + 50 and 60 in 720, +90 in SD )
  • Exposure compensation ( +/- 2.0 )
  • Indoor/Outdoor mode
Camera supported options:
  • Exposure compensation  ( +/- 2.0 )
  • Indoor/Outdoor mode
  • Action/Still mode
  • Inside ( optional ) waterproof case mode
Continuous supported mode:
  • Exposure compensation
  • 2x3x5x10x30 sec exposure delay
  • Indoor/Outdoor mode
  • Action/Still mode
  • Inside waterproof case mode
Here's the back of the unit, with the “open” port backing on it. The backing screws on using the small thumbscrew in the middle. This back obviously reduces  the water resistance integrity, but makes it easier than having to unscrew the back every time you want access to the USB port. The camera itself is only rated as “water-resistant”, not waterproof,  but it's splash-proof, dust-proof, weatherproof, and dunk-proof.  The standard back has no port opening plugs and would be more water-resistant than the one above. A 3-metre waterproof pouch and a fully-waterproof-to-30-metres hard case are available as optional accessories.

Once you've removed the back cover you have full access to the ports (note the rubber boot around the edges that increase the water resistance when the backing is screwed in) :
  • External Microphone
  •  Micro HDMI
  •  Mini USB
  •  Micro SD slot
  •  Battery
One thing to note is that there's no key guide mechanism on the battery pack system. Not reading the quick start manual, I initially put in the battery upside down. The quickstart manual (come on, hands up! Who here actually reads the quickstart manual? ) does indicate which way the brand sticker should go. The unit is powered by a 3.7V, 1100 mAh rechargeable lithium-ion battery. Charging is easy as it's done via the mini-USB port.  Battery life is quoted at around 4 hours.  Drift also offers an external battery pack to extend your battery life (though the right generic external pack would most likely do the job as well since it just connects via mini-USB ).

Once your camera is  connected and turned on , your desktop/notebook will appear as a new drive which makes it easy to get your videos off the camera and start editing.

One of the other unique features on the Drift in it's market is the rotatable lens.  This means that the camera can be mounted at all sorts of  positions, and you can then rotate the lens to get a straight and level image.  With a 170° view you get a pretty wide field of view (so you don't miss that off to the side action).  You do get some distortion, but with a lens that wide you'd expect that.   The lens will actually rotate a full 300°. Combining the rotating lens and the ratcheted clip mount, the camera can be made to perform at all sorts of weird angles.

The unit also has a 4X digital zoom, something that normally I turn off as soon as I receive a camera

The lens  itself doesn't have any real protection, and I've taken to carrying it around in a Timbuk2 On the Go Shed Pouch.  The front lens is available as a spare part and can be replaced by removing the 4 hex screws (seen in the picture above) should you have the misfortune of breaking or damaging your lens during your extreme action.

For sound, the Drift has an internal microphone mounted on the side of the unit.  To keep it's water resistance, the microphone has a thin layer of rubber over the top of it.  This does limit the quality and pickup range of the microphone, and if audio's important to you, then for better audio quality it would be worth investing in an external microphone.

For starting or stopping recording (in any mode), the remote control is supplied as standard.  At  52X40X13 mm (2.05X1.58x.51 in), it's nice and big, which is handy for quickly being able to find and hit the buttons , especially if you had gloves on.  The unit comes with mounts for connecting to a strap to put on your wrist or other appropriate, easy-to-find place.  Being RF based, you don't need line of sight to the camera, and the range is rated at 5 metres.  You can also pair a single remote to pair with a number of cameras for simultaneous and synchronised on/off .  The camera will beep when you start or stop recording, and the only issue that I found was that there appeared to be some delay between hitting the button and the start/stop operation happening. Nothing too major, but something to keep in the back of your mind.

Once I got the item all fired up the next thing I decided I should do is to check if there was any updated firmware available for the unit.  It turned out that this camera was 2 …yes 2 firmware updates behind, however looking at the dates on the firmware page, this unit had those updates only over the last 3 months.  Nice to see a company that's producing consistent firmware that improves the performance of their products. To upgrade you just copy the firmware to the micro-SD, get into the menu system and hit the firmware option which will upgrade it for you.

I then had a quick look at the support section of their website.  There's a heap of online video tutorials, again very useful to go through to learn the basics of using the camera.  That being said, the operation of the unit is pretty straight forward and intuitive. The site also has sample videos from all those extreme sports to give you an idea what you can do with it.

The unit is capable of taking 9 MP still shots.  This is the view from my top balcony with the camera set to outdoor mode. There is distortion of straight lines  but you'd expect that from such a  wide lens.  Colours are fairly accurate, if not a bit dull.  If you look at the picture full-size however (click on the above image), you'll see that the photo quality isn't overly good.  There's a lot of pixelation and blurring.  This camera certainly isn't going to give you the sort of quality picture that you can blow up past about a standard 6X4″ print.

One thing to note is that because the camera has a side mounted LCD, it's a bit weird taking photos as you have to stand at 90 degrees to your subject. Using it like a range finder (looking down on the LCD) helps in camera mode a bit, but only if you're taking pictures in portrait.

Continuous mode had interesting possibilities, but there was no construction work or festivals being set up around my area, so here's…..extreme table tennis

The camera was set to indoor with 10 sec bursts (and I just realized was set at still mode rather than action) . The camera is actually set up on the umpire's chair which is probably less than about 1 metre (3 feet) away from the table. You can see the crazy wide-angle on the camera that takes in the whole table (and more).  Again the pictures don't look too bad in this size, but the originals are fairly pixelated.

But the prime market for this sort of camera isn't photos, it's extreme video shots.  So I thought I'd do the obligatory car driving video. Strapped it to the door handle of my car and off I went for a bit of a spin. Note I can't get the following embedded clips to default to HD, so if you want to view the full HD experience please view on youtube in 1080p.

The picture is really clear in fact if you look really closely you can even see the cobwebs on my side mirror Colours are good, though there is a bit of white blow out as I go into the tunnel and it goes from a bright to dark to bright environment. Road and wind noise is pretty bad as the microphone was pointing down towards the road surface.  The remote control was really useful to turn it on and off and minimise final editing.

Trouble is, I'm no Stig and that all looked pretty boring on review. So what's my next extreme sport for the weekend…….gardening  Yep, sorry folks, you ain't going to get too many videos of me screaming my way out of a helicopter while skydiving, or doing flips on my motocross bike………….

Because the camera's so small, light and ruggedised, the options for where you can mount it really is open to your imagination.  You can place it where you'd never consider using your “standard” digital camera.  Using the supplied goggle mount and Velcro strap, I present to you extreme spade-cam. Using the rotatable lens and the ratchet, I was able to straighten and square up the view.

The movie above is raw, straight out of the camera. Videos are recorded in .MOV format at up to 30fps in 1080p (up to 90fps in SD) . 60 fps can be used to do slow motion footage in 720p and SD as well.  For file size the 34 seconds of car video above is about 65MB in size, while my 37 secs of extreme spading is around 52MB. Video quality is good and the wide-angle really does add a different perspective to things.

As mentioned above, the internal microphone isn't that good. The microphone was on the left of the camera/spade and at one time the wife was yelling something to me from the right, but in the video you can't hear it. In addition, if you listen carefully, you can only  just hear my reply to her.

Seeing the POV camera , the 13 year old decided to take it out to “the jumps” and do a bit of recording.  The camera was attached to the top of his helmet using the ratchet and rotatable lens to frame the video.  The above was just trimmed in Arcsoft Showbiz and resaved in .MOV format. Sound is much better on this video clip compared to the previous ones, perhaps just because of the distance between the sound and the microphone. The remote was wrapped around his wrist , so it was easy for him to stop and start the camera without having to take his hands off the bar for too long.

One criticism is that it would appear that bright areas like the sky tend to look overexposed and “blown out” in the video at times. Like the car video above however, it's where you go from bright to dark so to be expected. It may be possible to compensate for the “blow out” a bit with the exposure compensation setting.

I'm not entirely sure  what effect changing the settings do on the camera, and a quick search didn't find any answers. Does the still/action, indoor/outdoor settings change the “shutter” speed or change the “ISO” speed or change the Kelvin setting? I suppose it doesn't really matter for the market it's aimed at, but I for one would be interested to know.

All in all, I'm not sure that I was the correct person to fully review this item. Maybe the job should have gone to a (much) younger Gadgeteer in their prime for extreme sports.  That being said, I have done a tandem skydive jump in the last 3 years and only really just got rid of my motorbike (though not a motocross and I know the wheels have ever left the ground ). Pity I didn't have this camera a few years ago.

I really love the camera because of the unique views of the world that you can get.  I want to connect it to the end of the paddle of my wave ski, connect it to the forks of my mate's motorbike (and I'll take the bike for a spin ), to the headstock of a guitar, to the end of my fork while eating dinner.  I will get round to this when time permits.

It's certainly not an everyday camera.  The still quality just isn't good enough and the quirky wide-angle isn't something that you'd want to record family snaps or videos in. And as mentioned above, the viewfinder on the side makes it hard to frame photos or video.  I suspect that this will be doing the rounds of some of my friends and my kid's friends for them to use when they're out an about doing “silly” things.

If however you're into extreme sports and want those POV shots you often see on the TV or internet, or if you're  a bit of a budding movie maker and like to find those weird and different angles, the Drift HD is a great performer. Its small size and light weight, coupled with the rotating lens, ruggedised construction and various mounting options, lets you get those shots you couldn't get with your normal video camera.

If my extreme gardening videos got you going, hop on over to the Drift Innovation website for some much more sedate flying, BMX, motor sports, mountain biking, skateboarding, snow and other assorted videos.

Capture 360-degree Panoramic Video with Your iPhone

Capture 360-degree Panoramic Video with Your iPhone
The Kogeto Dot lens works with your iPhone 4 or 4S's camera and their own free Looker app to capture 360-degree panoramic video.  The Dot uses Kogeto's iCONIC lens and their “unique catadioptric optical system is fully AR-coated for excellent color fidelity in all environments.”  The Dot attaches to your camera with either a black, red, pink, or green mount.  The Dot is compatible with iPhone 4 and 4S.  It's $79.00.

Nikon D5100 firmware gets a Star Wars themed hack

Nikon D5100 firmware gets a Star Wars themed hack
If you are a huge Star Wars fan and you just can't get enough, and it so happens that you own a Nikon D5100 DSLR, it appears that thanks to the D5100's firmware being decrypted last month, you can now install a Star Wars-theme firmware update on your camera which is kind of a cool, albeit useless update, but should please the many Star Wars fans out there.

As you can see from the blurry photo above, the firmware update basically changes the names of your menu headers into something more Star Wars-like. For example the Playback menu has been changed to the "Holocron", the Shooting menu has been renamed to the "Weapon System", and so on, and so forth. If you're a fan of Star Wars and you're looking to get this hacked firmware on your camera, the instructions and list of changes can be found on Flickr or reddit.

CameraTrace Helps You Track Stolen Cameras

CameraTrace Helps You Track Stolen Cameras
While you are able to track the location of your smartphone or laptop when they get lost or stolen, your other precious device should be as well. GadgetTrak offers a new service called CameraTrace, which helps users recover their stolen cameras, after years of beta testing.

For a one-time fee of $10, CameraTrace lets you register your camera's serial number. In case the camera gets lost or stolen, you will be notified though e-mail if anyone else tries to upload photos from it. Users can also search CameraTrace's database of serial numbers for free, using over 5 billion photos.

Why the serial number? All digital cameras imprint their unique serial number on the photos they shoot. CameraTrace can detect these numbers whenever photos are uploaded online. You can find your camera's serial number by looking on its base plate, inside the battery pack, or in the box.

CameraTrace also has a premium service that includes a physical lost and found tag that can be applied to the camera. The tag contains instructions on how to notify the owner through CameraTrace.

Sony NEX-7 up for pre-order again, expected to start shipping in April 2012

Sony NEX-7 up for pre-order again, expected to start shipping in April 2012
Sony's NEX-7 mirrorless camera system was expected to see a launch by the end of the year, but unfortunately due to the flood in Thailand which affected Sony's factories, the launch of the device was delayed. Sony then managed to get it sorted out but due to the delay in manufacturing, not all orders managed to get fulfilled and only those who had placed their pre-orders much earlier would be receiving their cameras.

Well the good news is that it looks like Sony may have gotten everything back on track and the Sony NEX-7 is up for pre-order (again) should you still be interested in getting your hands on the device. Unfortunately it appears that even if you pre-order it now, its estimated shipping date is set for the 3rd of April 2012, which does seem pretty far off. However if you don't mind the wait, you will be able to pre-order the Sony NEX-7 from Sony's website with the body-only option setting you back $1,199.99, while the model with the 18-55mm lens will go for $1,349.99.

Fuuvi Bee 8mm Style Retro Digital Camera lets you shoot retro photographs

Fuuvi Bee 8mm Style Retro Digital Camera lets you shoot retro photographs
If you're keen on shooting retro style photographs and videos but you don't own a smartphone, you aren't left with too many choices. You can shoot regular pictures on a digital camera, transfer them to your computer to edit them, or get a film camera, shoot photographs, and try applying some tricks when you're in the film development stage. Or you could pick up the Fuuvi Bee 8mm Style Retro Digital Camera.

Featuring toy-like proportions, this camera can dangle from your wrist and is touted to be capable of shooting retro-style photos. And by retro we mean Instagram/Hipstamatic-style photographs. Still images can be captured at 1280 x 960 resolution while video can also be shot at 640 x 480 at 30 FPS.

The camera packs a built-in battery (chargeable by USB) and is said to last 100 minutes of recording. The camera works with both Mac and Windows computers and has a MicroSD/SDHC card slot that can support cards of up to 16GB. Unfortunately it only has a USB 1.1 port, so expect data transfers to take up a lot of your time. If you're interested in purchasing one, head over to AudioCubes to buy the Fuuvi Bee for $79.99.

CameraTrace Traces Stolen Cameras

CameraTrace Traces Stolen Cameras
CameraTrace might help you trace your camera

CameraTrace is a service that will help you track down your stolen or lost camera. It does this by scanning popular photo-sharing sites like Flickr and extracting camera serial numbers from the EXIF metadata contained in the photos.

Then, when your camera goes missing, you use CameraTrace to track down any photos taken with it. If these images also have GPS coordinates embedded in them, you're golden. If not, you'll need to do a little detective work to track things down.

Despite just launching publicly, CameraTrace has already had some success through its test and data-gathering stages. One photographer apparently recovered $9,000 worth of gear.

The service costs $10 per camera to register, and the price includes a bar-coded security tag to stick on the camera itself. There is an option to try a “free trace,” but I had no luck with any of my cameras (one isn't supported, apparently, but the other one certainly is).

After it didn't find anything, the tool offered me the option of signing up to better, future results. This feels sneaky to me: if the service has a database of all Flickr photo serial numbers, why wouldn't mine show up?

And ironically, the easiest way for me to extract the serial number from my photos to test CameraTrace was to drag-and-drop a picture into the site of a rival service, Stolen Camera Finder, which does the same kind of thing only in a much friendlier way.

Still, if it helps to get your camera back, $10 is a small price to pay.

CameraTrace product page [CameraTrace]

Sony Cybershot W610, W630 on Sony China's website

Sony Cybershot W610, W630 on Sony China's website
If you're in the market for a new compact camera, as luck would have it, Sony China has published two new compact cameras on its website. These cameras are the W610 and the W630, both of which are expected to be the successors to the W510 and W570 respectively.

According to the specifications, the W630 will sport a 16.1MP image sensor. It will also feature a lens at 25mm (at its widest) with 5x zoom, a 2.7" display, sweep panorama functionality and will also come with the ability to record 720p HD videos. The W610 on the other hand features smaller a 14.1MP image sensor with 4x zoom, a lens that is 26mm at its widest, a 2.7" display and will also feature a sweep panorama function.

Based on the pricing, the Sony Cybershot W630 is expected to retail for 1,299 Yuan (~$206), while the Sony Cybershot W610 is going for 1,049 Yuan (~$167).







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