For the record: Some of the most impressive camcorders being made at the moment are compact or pocket recorders. Tokyo-based Amadana, known for stylish contributions to more routine products such as hair dryers, has crafted a unique-looking camcorder with its new SAL. The SAL looks like an old digital audio player, with a small screen on the top half of its rectangular slab and the control buttons clustered on the bottom half. The lens is on the reverse side of the SAL, with the user pointing it at the subject while framing the view on the small screen.

Regular camcorders are designed to take hours of video footage for viewing on a TV later and/or storage in some way. They rely mainly on portable storage, particularly memory cards. The SAL, in contrast, is only able to record up to 2 hours of footage in its 2-gigabyte memory. When full, the device can be connected to a computer and the video downloaded, at which point the SAL’s memory is cleared.

In return for the curtailed video time, the SAL offers much greater portability than normal camcorders, weighing a mere 85 grams and measuring 95×54×12 mm. The small size, however, curtails the camcorder’s performance, and it boasts only a 2-inch 320×240 screen. The device uses a 3-megabyte CMOS sensor and records video in the MPEG4 format at a modest resolution of 640×480 and a frame rate of 30fps. Audio recording is also a bit limited with only a mono microphone.

Apart from connecting to a computer, the SAL’s USB port can also be used to connect to a second SAL for copying footage between them.

The SAL comes in color choices of black, silver, brown, green and pink. Specifications-wise, the SAL is not too advanced by camcorder standards, but as it will cost just ¥19,950 when it comes out May 22, the Amadana gadget is a good lightweight option.

While the SAL lacks some of the technological punch because of its small size, you catch moments you would otherwise miss. A point not lost on Amadana, with the SAL name standing for “Smile and Laugh, Share a Life, Share a Love, Sexy and Lovely.” www.amadana.com/sal/top.html

Doubling up: The most recent DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) cameras offer video-taking abilities to go with their regular photo duties. Canon’s latest offering, the EOS Kiss X3, can take video in full high definition at a resolution of 1080P. It isn’t the first DSLR to offer the video-taking ability (Nikon’s D90 broke that barrier), but Canon’s newcomer is the cheapest on offer, and its video ability is slightly superior to that of the Nikon. The X3 can take video at 1080P at 24 fps, or a more respectable 30fps at 720p, while the Nikon is limited to 720p at 24 fps.

Like the D90 the X3 limits video taking to a fairly brief time span, 30 minutes, or 4 gigabytes. The pseudo camcorder trick is far from the only selling point for the X3. It also boasts a higher-resolution 15.1-megapixel sensor and Canon’s new, and more powerful, DIGIC 4 processor. The X3, a consumer model positioned just above the entry-level DSLRs and more as a competitor for the D90 also has the increasingly popular Live View feature, which allows the photographer to use the X3’s 3-inch LCD screen for taking the photo rather than the viewfinder. It also has a dust-reduction system and a sizable ISO range of 100-3,200. While Canon touts the ability to expand this to 12,800, even despite its cameras’ well-known ability to stop low-light noise ruining a photo that high an ISO figure is really pushing the point.

The X3 hits the market late this month with a price tag of ¥89,800 for the body only, ¥99,800 when packaged with the EF-S18-55 mm F3.5-5.6 IS kit lens and ¥129,800 when packaged with that lens and the EF-S55-250 mm F4-5.6 IS lens. This compares to the older D90 and its body-only price tag of ¥97,400.

Following on from the D90, the X3 is in danger of making video taking a mandatory feature for DSLRs. As a still camera, the X3 will have wide appeal and the camcorder ability is a bonus. Its ability to undercut the price of the D90 also ups the heat on Nikon and Canon’s other rivals. cweb.canon.jp/newsrelease/2009-03/pr-eoskissx3.html

Hands off: Bluetooth headsets, which let their users talk on the phone without having to hold it to their ear, continue to grow in popularity. Logitec Japan is focused on the need to keep such devices, which typically are hooked behind the user’s ear and then communicate with the phone via Bluetooth, as light as possible with its new LBT-HS300C2 series. The device measures 7.6×18×51.9 mm and weighs 9 grams. It is shaped rather like a packet of chewing gum with a big hook attached for slipping around the ear. The position of the headset can be adjusted through 120 degrees and it comes with two pairs of ear pieces, in small and medium sizes, to adjust the fitting of the headset in the user’s ear.

The devices runs for 110 hours of standby time and 4 hours of continuous talking time on each charge, with an AC adapter for recharging. The LBT-HS300C2 has the HSP profile, allowing it to work with a phone in a car, and the HFP profile, which enables general hands-free usage with a phone.

The headset will be available in six color choices — black, white, silver, red, gold and purple when it comes out in early April. The units will cost ¥3,980 each. www.logitec.co.jp/products/bluetooth/lbths300c2.html


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