Interesting items from the Consumer Electronics Show 2003
By Chris Maher
The most interesting new camera had to be the Pentax Optio S, an ultra compact digital camera. Just how small is it? Small enough to fit into an empty Altoids mint tin, at 3.3 x 2.0 x 0.8 in! This 3.2 megapixel, 3x zoom camera will be shipping at the end of March. I was impressed with features, such as a real time histogram and multiple shooting modes, as well as the projected price of $399.

In a slightly larger size, Casio is currently shipping an interesting Digital Elph like camera, the QV-R4. This four megapixel, 3x optical zoom camera measures 3.5” x 2.3” x 1.2” and has 33 scene modes, complete with chalk outline compositional aids, that they call Best Shot Mode (everyone is calling this feature by different confusing names, perhaps there is a story there…) It uses SD memory cards and ships with 11MB of internal memory. It lists for $499.

Delkin was showing its eFilm Picture Pad. This is a small ‘digital wallet’ type device, helpful for transferring massive numbers of digital files from your memory cards so you do not have to travel with a laptop. It ships with a 20 to 60 gig hard drive and sports a 1.8” color active matrix LCD so you review your images. In addition to viewing the standard .jpg and tiff files the software supports RAW files from Canon, Fuji, Minolta and Nikon cameras. Another handy feature was the ability to review your images as miniature thumbnails in a 3x3 matrix on the LCD. The 20 Gig unit is selling for about $530 on the web.

The most interesting prototype I saw was the Calypso, a portable CDROM burner the size of a CD music player that records from a USB input. This might give digital wallets with hard drives a real run for their money. I saw one limitation of the initial design, that is that photographers would be unwilling to clear the images from a data card if they did not receive a clear and convincing acknowledgment that the files were successfully burned to the CDR. The designers at Infinite Data Storage agreed that this could be done with a LCD readout that would say how many files and the total MB successfully burned was. The product is projected to be available in July.

I saw an impressive display of tripods and light stands from a company named MAC. It appears that they are a major manufacturer of photo tripods, from low end to top professional quality, as well as studio stands, light modifiers, cases and accessories. After seeing the quality and range of their line, I was amazed that I had never heard of them before. Kevin Freedman, director of sales, said he would be surprised if I had, as they have been primarily a manufacturer of equipment that other companies have labeled and marketed under their own brands. They have decided to begin marketing their output under the MAC brand, at a lower price than comparable quality from existing photo equipment makers.

Powerex, the makers of the MaHa Nickel Metal Hydride batteries and the POWERBank NiMH Battery Pack is offering a line of high capacity NiMh batteries, including AA cells with a rating of 2000ma and D cells with a rating of 7500ma, all compatible with a 100-minute fast charger. Also of note, is their extended line of specially configured replacement batteries, which fit digital cameras from manufactures like Nikon, Canon, Fuji, Toshiba Minolta and Kodak.

In the cheap but useful category was the Handstands Jelly Sticky Pad. This is a 4x6 sheet of tacky plastic that will cling to your dashboard and keep your sunglasses, filters, or cell phone from sliding around. It is not really a sticky surface, just very grabby. You can find a local source on their web site, www.handstands.com.

On the software front, I saw several programs to make filing, burning and labeling your CDs easier. Fellows, the office supply people, has new software to help you organize and burn files to CD’s, the Promedia Organizer. It will sort and track media files, burn CDs and do a fast, simple and graphically elegant labeling of CDs. Roxio, the current leader in CD burning software, announced it’s new v6.0 EZ CD and DVD Creator, which sounds like it can do much the same, without the database. Ease of use is key here, as everyone has tried CD labeling programs, and found them too time consuming. I’ll be testing each of these products, and let you know the pros and cons of each.

For those who just want to label CD’s more clearly than with a Sharpie, but do not want to put any time or effort into it, Dymo has a great little dedicated label-making printer. The LabelWriter 330 Turbo feeds label stickers from a roll, and quickly print file names of other data on a CD label. You can quickly make standard labels by just changing the feed roll.

My favorite find of the show was “Tell a Phone” by Parliant, a $99 hardware and software bundle that works with your PC to track all the incoming and outgoing phone calls, matches the callers up with a database, and allows you to call anyone by picking up any phone in your house or office and speaking a name. It also annunciates the name of all callers, if you have caller ID. Great for people who speak with clients, and want to keep track of the time and things they discussed.

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