Tag Archives: Gadgets

Fuji FinePix A700

The A700 is by no means a new camera, having been launched in October 2006. It is currently available at a very good price point, however – around £80/119Eur/$157.

The A700 is aimed at the home/first time user, and for this user the camera is good. However if you are looking for a camera to compliment your DSLR then this is probably not the camera you are looking for. I’ll explain why, but first some specifications:

Specs

Sensor : 1/1.6-inch Super CCD HR at 7.3MP
Resolution Support : 3,072 x 2,304 (7.3M) /3,264 x 2,176 (3:2) / 2,304 x 1,728 (4M)/ 1,600 X 1,200 (2M)/ 640 X 480 (0.3)
Video Resolution : 320 x 240 pixels ( 10 frames/sec.), 160 x 120 pixels ( 10 frames/sec.)
Lens : Fujinon 3.0x Optical zoom lens, F2.8 – F5.2 – 8- 24mm (Equivalent to 36-108mm on a 35mm camera)
ISO Speeds : 100/200/400 via an Auto mode
Flash : Internal flash. Wide angle (Approx.1.6 -12.5ft.), Telephoto (Approx. 2.0-6.6ft), Macro (Approx.1.0 – 2.6ft).
Flash modes : Auto, Red-eye Reduction, Forced Flash, Suppressed Flash, Slow Synchro, Red-eye Reduction + Slow Synchro.
Display : 2.4" 112000 pixel Amorphous silicon TFT (around 91% scene coverage)
Storage : Internal 12Mb plus xD Card (16Mb one supplied)
Power : 2xAA

Usability

 

The reason I mentioned that this camera is more suited to the home or first time users, is that this camera takes the concept of KISS ("Keep It Simple, Stupid") to a whole new level.

The Camera has no ‘manual’ modes to speak of, and in its default power up state uses a quite competent auto mode. This can be overridden, however it looks like the Fuji engineers believed that end users wouldn’t be messing about in the menus, and as such have spent very little time on their design and layout.

The point and shoot concepts of the camera work well; the zoom is easy to use, as is the display on the rear.

The camera is a little large in comparison to some of the other devices on the market (for example the Optio A20 which I reviewed earlier in the year).

Photos

The pictures the camera produces are a little hit and miss. In good lighting, or under ideal conditions for the flash, the camera produces photos that are at least on a par with more expensive equipment. Its abilities under extreme lighting conditions are not so good.

As you can see from the two pictures here (the right being the cleaned version), the photos do show improvement with just a little touching up. This however does not help in dark conditions. The camera just does not seem to pick up enough information for you to touch things up later.

The camera ‘s macro mode is also a little hit and miss. If you get the distance from the object just right, it produces some good quality shots (under good lighting). There is very little noise to be seen in the photos, even when zooming in on the image after it’s been taken. This shows that the CCD of the device is quite good. It seems that the downside to the device is probably due to the lens and software.

The lens issue also shows itself on shots where the lens is at its widest zoom, with a noticeable ‘fish eye’ effect seeming to happen, however the usual bugbear with cheap lenses is the corners, and this shows very little chromatic aberration.

 

Summary

The camera is certainly not the best of the current breed, but it’s not the worst either. It’s certainly very week on the features list, but some novice users will see this as a positive rather than a negative.

Framing of full frame shots could be an issue as the LCD display clips the edges, however this is not uncommon, and it seems to be the fashion to not put a proper view finder on compact cameras nowadays.

The flash is powerful enough for snap shot use, but can be a bit of a demon when it comes to red eye.

Photos, for the most part, are acceptable and after a little "photoshopping" look fine for most uses.

This camera would have been better if a little more thought was put into the design of its various sections. The case should be a little slimmer, the software a little more grown up, and the lens perhaps a little more in tune with the CCD.

That said, if these things were done I doubt the price would be as low as it is for this camera. Direct competitors are few and far between at this price point, the closest being the Pentax Optio E-20 or the Sony DSC-S600, however both of these are 6MP cameras and not 7MP, so not directly comparable.

Conclusion

If you are new to digital cameras, or need a compact and already own xD Cards then you could do worse than the Fuji A700.

However, I suspect you’ll outgrow it quite quickly, so it may be worth saving up and getting one of the newer 9 or 10 Mega Pixel compacts that are now available.

It would be an ideal kids first camera as it is built well, relatively light and requires no setup whatsoever.

If you cannot stretch the extra 60 pounds or so for the next level up, then this is certainly better than the ‘no-name’ cameras out there; although the lens is not perfect, and the software and features lack, it is still a decent ‘bang for the buck’ camera from a reputable manufacturer.

Author’s note – The thumbnail images link to the bigger original which are around the 5mb mark. Some of the photos have been touched up in PhotoShop.

iPhone

I noticed that Gary  had given me a bit of a bash over my iPhone reaction.

I just wanted to make my impressions clear.

I've been an 'advanced phone' user for a good many years now, I have in the past used Nokia, Ericsson, Sony, and of late Microsoft (HTC) phones, and over the years seen them advance to the state of my current phone which my parents call my mini PC (HTC Universal).

The iPhone looks AMAZING! however it has some serious shortcomings, most of which should be expected, seeming this is Apple's first foray into the phone market (we will forget the RokR).

The iPhone falls short on some serious areas. What connected phone would be without 3G? I don't want to browse over GPRS, and it's damn sure that there will not be a WiFi zone like there is in San Francisco around where I live any time soon.

The lack of developer support is a joke, what's going on there? It runs OSX? yeah right just like my phone runs Windows Vista, the kernel may be loosely related but that's about it. All of the clever video voice-mail and the likes are network dependent, and not many of them will upgrade there infrastructure just for one phone. Do you think Nokia and SE have not looked at doing similar stuff for years?

There were also some strange decisions going on, first they say we are partnering with Google, then say that Yahoo! are going to be the iPhone mail partner. Who the the heck was smoking crack in the boardroom when that decision was made? Steve give up the hard drugs and go back to pot, cause that decision is just plain dumb! Google mail vs Yahoo! mail? I'd rather use Mutt or Pine than Yahoo! (in fact I would rather be sent to prision for a crime I did not commit, and accidentaly bend over to pick up the soap in an all black shower than use Yahoo!). However my dislike of Yahoo! asside, Gmail is possibly the best 'free' mail system out there at the moment, why use a decrepid aging pile of dog muck that get's blocked by almost every decent spam filter engine instead?

Like I said, I have nothing against Apple, I own my fair share of iPods and Macintosh's after all, and what I do confess is that Apple make very good designs.

I would like to see Apple do well with this device, but I'm afraid it's probably better off if they take the phone stuff out and put a hard disk in instead, that way we would get a decent Video iPod, and let's be fair that's what we all really wanted instead of the iPhone anyway.

p.s. While I'm bashing companies, Microsoft PLEASE call me back about my Xbox 360, I've had 3 now, none of them work and I want to play Rainbow Six : Vegas!

Terratec Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity

The Terratec Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity is one of the first Diversity devices to reach the market.

Diversity allows you to take the best parts of the signal from two aerial sources and combine them to create the best signal possible.

The box includes everything you will need to use the Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity straight away.

There is the device itself, a USB extension cable, remote, remote sensor, two magnetic aerials, two suction bases, converters for the mini aerial sockets, and the software.

Installation is as simple as inserting the device into a USB 2 socket, popping the driver CD into the drive and installing the software. After plugging the aerials in and scanning for channels using the Terratec Home Cinema software you are free to watch.

The version of Terratec Home Cinema that comes with the Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity includes the Diversity mode.

To test the diversity mode I decided to see if the included aerials were capable of holding a BBC1 signal whilst on the move in a car. I stuck the aerials to the two separate side windows of the car, turned on the Diversity mode, and tuned into BBC1.

I was not expecting the channel to remain watchable, but to my surprise the channel was rock solid whilst I was driving at 40Mph. Even going around corners and driving into built up areas did not disrupt the signal! Quite impressive.

After testing using my laptop – as if I was a mobile user – I decided to see if the little USB device was good enough to use in another of its likely locations, in the home.

The reason I class this as a likely location for use is because media center PCs are getting slimmer and slimmer, and most PCI/PCI-E dual DVB-T tuners are full height cards and won't fit in some of the smaller cases. This means that if you want a dual DVB-T tuner, the easiest way is to use an external one like the Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity.

To test the device in these conditions, I connected it to the Vista Media Center PC that I have been building to replace my Sky+ installation.

I was looking for a USB or half height dual DVB-T tuner, and when I had the chance to test the Cinergy device I jumped on it. The device fills all my needs: it should be reliable and well performing based on my previous tests of the XS's big brother the Cinergy 2400i DT, it is also well built and includes all the necessary drivers for Vista Media Center.

After plugging the device into my digital aerial and scanning for channels in Media Center I had a full channel lineup, a good sign as Media Center can be picky with channel reception.

I scheduled some recordings, making sure that some of them overlapped so I could test the Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity's abilities when recording two channels at once, as this usually shows up any issues that may exist with bandwidth on the device and between the device and the PC.

No issues located however; the Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity records two channels without any issues, and there is no sign of skipping and stuttering in the recordings, even on the channels that are difficult for some tuners to receive (Sky3/UKTV History).

Conclusion

The Cinergy DT USB XS Diversity is a great USB receiver. It is well built with a nice design, it has some really good features with the dual aerial inputs and the Diversity functionality. The only issue that I can see is that at the moment the Diversity functionality is only available when using the Terratec software, however some third party applications will enable its use shortly.

I can recommend this card to any laptop user that travels and would like to take a TV with them. I will also heartily recommend the device to anyone who does not have space in their Media Center PC for a full height card. The USB device could also be used to add two more tuners to an existing dual tuner Media Center setup, therefore allowing you to record three channels whilst watching a fourth (registry hacking is required to enable this).

The device retails for around 75GBP (111Euro/144USD) and for that price it is more expensive than some of its competition, but the build quality and Diversity functionality more than make up for the small price difference. Support seems to be as good with this device as with the Cinergy 2400i DT in that there is already 32 and 64bit BDA drivers for Vista available.

It is also worth noting that Terratec also sell an Apple version of the device, so even OSX users need not feel left out.

iPod 5G?

Over at http://live.ilounge.com/ they have some nice photos of what they believe could be the "One More Thing"

 

Both Mac Rumors and iLounge are being hammered at the moment. The Apple event doesn’t start for a while yet, but the site’s are all getting crammed with traffic.

If the device comes out and (will probably support video in one form or another) has video support for videoPodCast’s of sorts then that will be ace, and my 40Gb Gen 3 will be going to eBay’s direction. Toshiba have announced that their 80Gb drive is going to be used, so that probably means 30/80Gb choice.

We will see after the press event. For now though try

http://www.ilounge.com or http://www.macrumors.com or http://www.applexnet.com for the latest developments

 


(Click images for full sized version)