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TOYS

USB beans and yet another ‘toy’ camera

by Rick Martin

A common problem with many new laptops is that they don’t come with as many USB ports as we’d like. I have four ports on my computer and I still find myself fiddling with wires around the back, unplugging and replugging depending on what device I’m using. Of course, a USB hub is a good solution in such a situation, though most of them are pretty plain when it comes to design.

But Japanese peripheral maker Green House has created a hub that’s both practical and fun. It’s Beans Hub is a four-port USB hub that’s designed in the shape of snow peas (or sayaendō). For users who like to make sure their workspace has an optimal amount of “cute,” this is certainly a great addition that will go a long way toward tying your room together, or at least the gadgets in it.

You can plug in just about anything, ranging from USB memory drives, to lamps, fans, card readers, portable hard-drives, music players, a mouse or a keyboard. In theory, I suppose you could even plug in more Beans Hubs, creating a monstrous daisy-chained beanstalk!

The Beans Hub requires no AC adaptor, and works fine on both Mac OS X (10.4+) and Windows. With USB 2.0 support, transfer speeds are at 480 Mbps. It is portable in case you need to connect multiple devices while on the go, though the cable is only 8.6 cm in length, which is a bit short to tuck the hub out of the way behind your computer.

The Beans Hub comes with a one-year warranty and is just ¥1,470 on the Green House website (green-house.co.jp).

A highly anticipated camera is set to go on sale at the end of April in Japan. Made by Global DC, the Bonzart Ampel is the latest addition to the whole retro “toy camera” trend that continues to be popular with hipsters. Designed in the style of classic twin-lens reflex cameras, such as the Rolleiflex, this 5-megapixel twin-lens digital camera allows users to switch between two shooting modes — normal and “tilt-shift” mode to create images that makes the subject appear in miniature. There’s also a movie mode.

In addition to that there are five color modes available for use with both lenses: standard, high-contrast black-and-white, sepia, vivid and noise.

The Bonzart Ampel looks deliciously retro, using a pop-up finder hood to access the LCD viewfinder. While the 2-inch screen isn’t as large as on many other digital cameras, it is fully protected. And the act of looking down into your viewfinder definitely wins some points for style.

The controls for the color modes are located around the side, and the chassis is rubberized, making it easy to hold.

Global DC was showing off this camera at the CP+ Camera and Photo Imaging Show 2012 in Yokohama last month, along with its magnetic interchangeable lenses. These can be added on the front if you want to add some variety to your pictures. Interestingly, these lenses can also be used on mobile phones too (including Apple’s iPhone). The company has an assortment of these lenses available, including fish-eye macro, and wide-angle ones.

The Bonzart Ampel will go on sale next month, with a price tag of ¥14,700. Until then, you can check it out at Bonz.jp. Rick Martin is an editor at Penn-Olson.com. Read more of his work at 1rick.com.