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Gadgets

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Warning: this entry is full of gadget geekery and nothing else.

A bunch of potentially cool gadgets have come out lately—newer versions of gadgets I own—and I'm trying to decide whether to buy any of 'em.

For example, Kam recently obtained the PowerShot SD300 Digital Elph camera from Canon. I own the nicely small PowerShot S230: a 3.2MPixel camera with 2x optical zoom, roughly the size of a deck of cards. The latest generation of what I've got is the PowerShot S500 Digital Elph, which is a 5Mpixel camera with 3x optical zoom, the same size as mine. But the SD300 is a 4Mpixel camera with 3x optical zoom—so it's much better than mine, and almost as good as the S500—in a significantly smaller package, with a significantly larger LCD screen. It's astonishing. Oh, and it uses SD cards (same as my Palm), so it can fit several times the capacity of my camera's compact flash card into a piece of plastic the size of a postage stamp.

My current camera still works fine. It does everything I need. But when it's in its protective case it's a bit bulkier than I'd like, and I would love to have a better zoom and a larger screen. The SD300 is extremely tempting.

But what if another SD (ultra-tiny) generation comes along soon that's 5Mpixel? Wouldn't that be even cooler?

And I don't really need a new camera. I just want it.

Meanwhile, as I noted a couple months ago, PalmOne has released a new PDA model, the Tungsten T5. It's way cooler than the m500 I've got—but it's way less cool than what I was hoping for/expecting from this generation of Palm PDAs. Various people have suggested getting a Tungsten T3 instead; it's the old model, but it's better than the T5 in some ways and not significantly worse in others. The T3 has a vibrating alarm (which I use all the time on my m500) and a voice-memo option (which would be way more convenient than using my iPod for that); the T5 is missing both those things. The T5 has more memory, but that's partly offset by the way the operating system uses memory. I don't like the collapsible design of the T3, but I'm told it works pretty well.

But then there's the Treo 650, which combines cell phone and PDA. The screen isn't as big as the T3 or T5, and it has less memory than the T5; but it has way more memory than my m500, and PalmOne is giving away a free high-capacity memory card with purchase to make up for consumer disappointment with the memory handling in the new models. I don't know how I would like having a phone and PDA in the same unit, but the few people I know who have such things like them a lot.

And then, too, it's possible there'll be a new Palm PDA that uses the new Palm OS Cobalt sometime soonish. But there might not be.

Decisions, decisions. Maybe I should just bottle up my gadget-buying enthusiasm for another few months in hopes of Apple finally releasing a PowerBook G5.

6 Comments

I've got a Canon A40 (the latest model of which seems to be an A95, and occasionally think that I might enjoy one of the S or SD models instead. My previous camera was an S size, though, and I didn't mind the extra bulk of the A40, in exchange for the feature set. The current S and SD models seem to have more shooting modes, including fully manual settings on the SD 300, although it's not clear if the S500 has that mode or not.

Oh, the other advantage of the A series is that they use AA batteries, which means a second battery pack costs $10 (for a high-cap NiMH four-pack from Target) rather than $50 (for a custom proprietary battery from Canon).

Anyway, the A size takes up the same chunk of space in my belt pack as the S used to, so I'm still happy with that choice, but it does feel big and clunky sometimes.


I handled these in the stores; the S500 feels about the same in size as my S100, which is perfectly comfortable for my hand and slides into a front jean pocket with ease. The A95 is just too bulky for my comfort; neither fits well in my hand or my pocket. The SD400 just doesn't have the megapixels I need, baby. So it's S500 for me all the way; one way or another, I plan to have one of these by the time I go to Sri Lanka in February.


Yeah, the A series is just a little too big for me—I wouldn't carry it with me wherever I go, which I do with my S230.

And I actually prefer the rechargeable battery pack to AA batteries. (I know you can use rechargeable AAs, and I have a fair number of those, but in my experience they tend to run out of charge without warning.)

M: I'm not sure whether you meant "S400" or "SD300" when you said "SD400"; which wouldn't matter (they're both 4Mpixel), except that I'm wondering whether you saw the SD series or not.

Re Mpixels and size: Yup, the S500 is the latest generation of the series that started with your S100; all of the S series are about the same size. The S400 is also the same size, but takes 4Mpixel photos—which is way more than you need for posting online; with a 4Mpixel camera, you can print 2.75" x 3.75" photos at 600dpi, which I suspect would even be enough for your photojournalism project. But if someone who knows what they're talking about has told you otherwise, then never mind; I'm just guessing. The 5Mpixel camera takes that up to 3.25" x 4.25" at 600dpi; effectively adds half an each in each dimension.

(I'm guessing about the 600dpi; if they want 1200dpi, then I suspect 5Mpixels still isn't enough.)

Anyway, the thing I didn't say very clearly in my entry is that the SD300 (the new model) is basically the same as the S400, only in a smaller package—both have 3x optical zoom and 4Mpixels. I like the idea of 5Mpixel (though I admit that realistically, even 4 is probably more than I need), but I like the idea of a smaller camera more. The SD series is not that much smaller than the S series if you look at the physical dimensions, but to me it feels a lot smaller. But ymmv, of course.


I did look at those. Interestingly, I find that I don't actually want a smaller camera than the one I have; I want one that fits comfortably in my hand. I'm having this same problem with my new phone -- it's smaller than my old one, and it's just less comfortable to use. Irritating.

As for 4 vs. 5 megapixels -- I'm not sure I actually need 5, I admit, but I figure it can't hurt. You never know when you might want to blow up a photo to 11x14...


My NiMH AA's haven't ever completely died without warning; and the main good thing about them is that they're cheap enough to carry a spare set around, so when they do die, I just swap in and keep going. You can do that with the custom battery packs too, of course, but you have to pay $50 for the second pack.

The A series is definitely big for a pocket camera. It was mostly just good luck that it fit in the space I already had set aside for a camera in my belt pack. It would also be uncomfortably bulky on a belt clip, now that I think about it.


The proprietary battery in my Canon S30 is the reason I haven't bought an S70 already. Their batteries are hideously expensive, and the 3rd party replacements do not work. I can always find spare AAs, but the Canon battery (fully charged) has already failed me at the Grand Canyon and on a day trip in Florida. I have a spare, but one spare really isn't enough for a long day.

When I started doing 4-color design work, I was surprised to learn that printers don't want more than 300 dpi for offset full-color images. I don't know if greater than 300 dpi helps on home printers or for non-offset printing, but professional print work is generally done at 300.


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