Stories by Alan Stafford

Kyocera Finecam L3V

SAN FRANCISCO (10/06/2003) - WHAT'S HOT: A luxuriously large LCD display (2.5 inches diagonally across) easily qualifies as the Kyocera Corp. Finecam L3V's best feature. Toshiba Corp.'s PDR-M700 has an LCD of the same size, but the L3V's body--about the size of a computer mouse--is much smaller than that of the M700. The Finecam L3V operates quickly, especially when playing back images; shots fly back almost as fast as you can press the navigation button. Kyocera furnishes a complete, well-written manual.

Toshiba PDR-M700

SAN FRANCISCO (10/06/2003) - WHAT'S HOT: Toshiba Corp.'s PDR-M700 joins the small faction of digital cameras equipped with a 10X optical zoom lens (the Olympus Optical Co. Ltd. C-740, Olympus C-750, and Fujifilm AG FinePix S5000 are others). The long lens is especially useful in view of the camera's modest resolution of 3 megapixels: It can bring subjects in close, minimizing the need to crop shots later. The PDR-M700 is the first camera we've seen that combines a 10X zoom with a 2.5-inch LCD. This jumbo display makes framing shots easier (especially in bright light), and it displays menus in large, easy-to-read text. Toshiba kept the menus fairly simple, and because the number of buttons and dials on the camera body is small, the PDR-M700 is easier than most digital cameras to pick up and use. The multilingual (and consequently a bit thick) manual has nicely printed, clear illustrations and big, legible text.

Minolta Dimage Xt

SAN FRANCISCO (10/06/2003) - WHAT'S HOT: Putting a 3.2-megapixel CCD in a camera the size of a pocket calculator ranks as a major accomplishment. Add to that a 3X optical zoom lens, and you have a camera you can take anywhere with no unsightly pocket bulge and no reason to miss a shot. Unlike the documentation some vendors provide, Minolta Co. Ltd.'s English-only manual is slim and yet very thorough. The camera offers several audio options, including capturing movies with sound and appending images with 15-second audio notes. You can even record custom sounds to replace the camera's focus-confirmation and shutter-release noises (but beware: if the sounds are too long, they can slow down operation of the camera). You can customize two left-right buttons on the rear of the camera to handle exposure compensation values, white-balance modes, or a couple of other choices. The Xt mode dial--missing on the Dimage X and Xi, and used to switch between movie, still, playback, and setup modes--makes this model easier to use than its predecessors.

BenQ DC5330

SAN FRANCISCO (10/06/2003) - WHAT'S HOT: The BenQ Corp. DC5330's best feature is its US$299 price tag--low for a 3-megapixel camera. Other noteworthy items include a rechargeable battery, an external charger, and a cute little belt case. The DC5330 also has an infrared emitter to help it focus in dim settings. With this camera, you can capture movies, record audio notes, and generate in-camera slide shows.