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GADGETS

Walkman’s latest version and a new camera from Panasonic

by Rick Martin

It was not without a little sadness that we witnessed the end of Sony’s Walkman cassette model last year. Sure it was a long time coming, but the Walkman brand is only rivaled by the iPod in the history of portable music. Thankfully, the brand still lives on in more modern Sony products. The latest of these was revealed earlier this month, as the company announced its new Walkman B Series.

This new Walkman series (the NWZ-B160/B160F) of mp3 players is very reminiscent of Apple’s popular iPod Shuffle line. They’re tiny, they’re available in a wide range of bright colors, and they have a convenient clip on the back.

The B Series is an elongated player nearly reaching 10 cm in length, and weighing just 28 grams. Sony claims the player has an 18-hour battery life, and that a three-minute quick-charge will result in 90 minutes of playback time. A full charge requires about 70 minutes. The player also features a backlit LCD that pulses in time with the music it’s playing.

The player connects to your PC using a built-in USB connector, and from there you can just drag and drop your music files. The B Series comes in both two- and four-gigabyte capacity models, so they can store nearly 500 and 1,000 songs respectively. Sony has also implemented something called “Zappin” search technology, which should help when sorting through your music library.

This new B Series looks far better than the earlier W Series, which was probably an attempt at differentiation gone awry, with the mp3 player built into the headphones themselves. Besides the B Series’ more logical design, it has a number of other features that make it a decent Shuffle alternative.

The B Series will be released first in the United Kingdom, with the two- and four-gigabyte models selling for about £29 and £35 respectively (or $47, $57).

Continuing with its successful G Series of Micro Four Thirds (MFT) cameras, Panasonic this month announced its Lumix DMC-G3, following on the popular G2 and G1 models before it. Filling that middle ground between full-size DSLR and compact point-and shoot cameras, Panasonic’s line of relatively compact, interchangeable-lens cameras has hit a sweet spot among many photographers.

The new G3 features a 16 megapixel sensor, and according to Panasonic the Venus Engine FHD image-processor brings 66 percent more noise reduction. It can also shoot full HD video at 1920 x 1080 pixels, in AVCHD format, a standard jointly developed by Panasonic and Sony.

In addition to an eye-level viewfinder, the G3 has a convenient 3-inch LCD touchscreen on the back but, unlike the G2, this panel is articulating, with the capability to rotate and tilt. This should certainly come in handy if you need to reach over a crowd to fire off a shot. When you need to adjust focus on an object, simply give a tap to the desired object on the screen and the Auto Focus (AF) will track that subject.

The touchscreen also features a slider-enabled background defocusing and white balance, as well as touch-enabled exposure control compensation,

The external dial controls include familiar modes such as Program, Shutter or Aperture Priority and Manual, but also include custom setting for Scene Mode and Creative Control Mode. There’s a video button included as well for easy switching to video mode.

The new Lumix is made of aluminum and will be available in black, red, white, and brown (yes, brown!). The camera body with the 14-42mm zoom lens kit will retail for $699.99 this June. No word yet on a date for a Japan release.

Rick Martin is a contributor to Penn-Olson.com. Read more of his work at 1rick.com