Monday, December 08, 2008

Holiday Gift Suggestions - Batteries Not Included

With the holiday gift giving season upon us I thought I would use the next few columns to suggest some neat electronic items for that special digitally mesmerized person on your list. With the economy in a slump, you should find very attractive prices for electronics at stores large and small. Do be careful though. For example, Circuit City is on very thin ice and has already closed many stores. I would be very cautious buying any large item that may need to be returned or repaired from that retailer.

This week let’s start with ideas for the camera buff. Cameras, both still and video, are getting smaller and smaller. One of the negative byproducts of the compact size and weight is that the cameras are hard to keep steady. How about giving a mini-tripod? There are several models that can fit in a pocket or purse that will connect to most any camera giving a secure base. Some have telescoping legs. Others have flexible legs like large pipe cleaners that can shape around uneven surfaces. You can find these at many camera stores. I saw two models at Best Buy for about 10 bucks.

Once that perfect picture is taken you want to show it off. You might consider an electronic picture frame. They come is sizes from 3”x 5” to as large as 11”x 17”. Some will play back short videos. Be sure that they have several ways to load pictures. Most have slots for SD cards and Memory Sticks. You want the frame to accept whatever card the camera uses to store the pictures. On sale you will find small frames for as little as $40. Large ones can go for several hundred dollars. You should find them in many discount stores.

Much smaller, but way cool, is the Photo Key Chain. It has a small postage stamp size LCD screen attached to key chain. It can hold a few electronic pictures and display them clearly, albeit in miniature. A real stocking stuffer for about $20 at many discount stores.

If you really want big pictures, many new large screen digital TVs now have a slot to insert camera media so you can display your favorite photos on the TV. So this year instead of watching the Super-Bowl half time show you can regale your guests with pictures of the family’s vacation trip to the Warther Carvings Museum and Button Collection in Dover, Ohio.

Staying with the photographic theme I continue to be a big fan of the “Flip Camera.” This small video camera about the size of a pack of cigarettes continues to be one of the best sellers in the video camera category. The camera weighs only a few ounces and will easily fit in your pocket or purse. From this small package comes many features. It has a small LCD screen that serves as the viewfinder and playback window. It has a fixed lens with digital zoom and runs for about four hours on two AA batteries. The internal flash memory holds an hour of video.

What impresses me most are the controls, or lack thereof. The camera has an on/off button and only a few other controls. There is a large red button. Push it once and you are recording. Push it again and it stops and saves the video. The only other controls are a volume control, an erase control and a playback control. All the video settings are automatic. The color and picture sharpness are as good as or better than cameras selling at five times the price. Audio settings are automatic. It is a great way to capture the holiday celebrations. The ”Flip” sells for $150 wherever video cameras are sold.

More ideas next week.

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