Mobile snaps: Casio’s latest cell phone, the CA005, just released by KDD’s mobile phone service “au by KDDI,” offers two products in one. A typical glossy clamshell mobile phone, the CA005 also packs a 13-megapixel camera into its sharply rectangular form. The phone’s camera features smile detection and a fast “burst-shooting” (continuous shooting) rate, which is rare even for compact cameras. Being a cell-phone camera, there is no room for an optical zoom but the wide 28 mm lens does have a 3x digital zoom. Despite Casio’s deserved reputation for good optics, however, the camera mode’s megapixel count isn’t enough to make this a camera replacement. The lens is limited and sensors in cell phones are a shadow of those in a compact camera. This is still a distinct upgrade on camera modes in rival cell phones, and is good enough to use to take simple snapshots.

As a phone, the CA005 has all the necessities — an 8.12-cm VGA screen, GPS, Bluetooth, 500 megabytes of memory and is compatible with microSD and SDHC cards. It also has a one almost-useless feature: 1Seg TV, (watching TV on such a tiny screen is virtually pointless). Perhaps aping the tough qualities of Casio’s G-Shock brand of watches, the CA005 is water resistant with a battery life of 320 hours on standby and 290 minutes of talking. Fashionably svelte at 110x50x14.5 cm and weighing only 124 grams, it’s available in a range of seven eye-catching colors.

The CA005 is a good option for those people who care about taking decent snapshots, but who can’t carry a camera with them at all times. As with all cell phones, the cost of the CA005 is usually buried in the details of the myriad contracts on offer. For further information, check: k-tai.casio.jp/products/ca005/) www.au.kddi.com/seihin/ichiran/kishu/ca005/)

Panasonic goes blue: No good idea goes uncopied. Sharp has made built-in Blu-ray drives a smart selling point for its Aquos LCD TV sets. Now Panasonic is moving in on the niche with its Viera R2-series TVs. The new sets offer both barrels with a Blu-ray drive and a 320-gigabyte hard drive. The latter alone can allow a user to record anything from 28 to 230 hours of high-definition video, depending on the quality setting. Content can be archived later to a Blu-ray disc or, alternatively, live footage can be recorded straight to disc. A neat offering is the ability to record two TV shows simultaneously, in either standard recording or extended mode.

The two models on offer in the series are the 32-inch TH-L32R2B and 37-inch TH-L37R2B. Both use Panasonic’s top-drawer IPS-Alpha LCD panels, which are known for their wide viewing angles and excellent color reproduction. Beyond picture quality, the sets include support for voice and video calls via Skype. They also have a built-in SD card reader, particularly suited for displaying photos or video from a camcorder. The sets include HDMI, LAN and USB connections and both come in a standard black, sleek and curvy look.

Though the TH-L32R2B is not full high-definition as it has a resolution of 1,366×768, its sibling delivers the full Monty of 1920×1080. In truth, the extra pixels are no real bonus, as the benefits of full high-definition only really become apparent at screen sizes of 40 inches or more. In return for the greater screen real estate 4.5 kg is added to the L32R2B’s operational weight of 14 kg. More importantly, the image upgrade of the L37R2B pushes its cost up to ¥239,800, while the 32-inch model costs ¥189,800. Both versions hit the shelves July 9.

Neither of the Panasonic TVs are what you would call a bargain. But considering their Blu-ray abilities they don’t look too shabby next to the competition. Of course, if you already have a Blu-ray recorder, or shun the option, then it may be wiser to spend the extra yen on other features you do want in a TV. For further information, check: panasonic.jp/viera/products/r2b

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