Olympus camera is tough cookie (with a colourful shell)

Anyone who’s seen the adverts for those tough kids’ cameras, where the little boy tosses the camera across the garden, runs it under the tap and still manages to take a very passable snap of his pet dog and thought; “hmm, wish they did one of those for grown-ups”, need wish no more.

Olympus has put together a nifty package in the shape of the Mju TOUGH-3000, which boasts the ability to be dropped from 1.5m, to be waterproof to 3m and freezeproof to -10C.

Now I know we’ve had some pretty extreme weather this winter, but by my reckoning that should have your average outing covered, as well as holidays whether you’re a keen skier or a beach bunny.

It also has the added advantage of being a camera the whole family can use – if you’ve a younger child who loves to take photos, you’ll have no fear of them taking a few snaps with this camera.

And at £199.99, it’s not a bad price for a 12mp camera with a 3.6x optical zoom. The last incarnation, the Mju TOUGH 6010, hit the shelves at a tad under 300 quid – getting on for the price of a cheap DSLR – so affordability has improved over the past year. When you consider that those kids’ cameras only offer 1.3mp pictures and retail at around 55 quid, it definitely sounds like a good deal. And as it doubles as an underwater camera – allowing for shots in the swimming pool or out snorkelling – you’re getting an all-round camera for virtually any location.

As well as being sturdy enough to be flung in a bag for a day out, or passed around at a party, the latest addition to the Olympus stable has the added benefit of HD video recording, which you can replay on the telly after that party thanks to the HDMI connection, or quickly search through your images by event, people or location, using Olympus’ new software. And if, like me, you’re forever running out of space on your memory card or forgetting to charge the battery, a useful 1GB of internal memory and USB charging will be a huge benefit..

Another useful feature for outdoors lovers (and anyone who wants to be prepared to catch all those snowballing and sledging pictures if the great whiteout of 2009 is repeated) is the Tap Control function, which lets the user operate the camera by tapping the body – fabulous if you’re wearing gloves or shooting underwater. When turned on, this facility lets you change flash and macro modes, confirm settings and toggle between record and playback modes. You can also flip through existing images.

Remember the Mju-TOUGH is still a point-and-click camera, but with settings for underwater, Dual Image Stabilisation and Af Tracking to avoid images blurring, advanced face detection for parties and – my particular favourite – Beauty mode, which makes skin appear brighter, smoother and more youthful, for most people’s family and holiday shots it should be more than adequate.

It might be a tough cookie, but it still manages to look good, and buyers can choose from striking colours including Oxide Red, Turquoise Blue, Hot Pink and Emerald Green when it launches in March.

Pick-your-own (BlackBerry) PowerPoint

If your PowerPoints are often stifled by the inevitably-stressful hit-and-miss set-up, BlackBerry Presenter promises to soothe your woes by beaming slides straight from your smartphone. This unique presentation partner is pitched at those who find travelling with a laptop too cumbersome or the urge to present too strong to hang around for a computer to boot-up.

Perhaps you’re one of those people compelled to draw on a whiteboard to illustrate your point in every meeting or bring a boardroom’s-worth of handouts to every social occasion?? Well, you may have found your perfect accomplice in this nifty RIM module.

This portable PowerPointer could certainly reassure those who make presentations so infrequently they get bamboozled by the technology required to make it all happen. Or suit travelling academics doing the rounds of trade shows imparting wisdom peppered by pie chart transitions.

The actual Presenter looks pretty smart and, although badged as a PowerPoint accessory, also beams PDFs and other image files from your BlackBerry via Bluetooth – potentially making it more of a draw than first thought. It basically bridges the gap between your presentation file and a monitor/projector. Simply hook up via your “video output device” and a VGA cable or S-Video cable, power on, point and go.

With BlackBerrys now as common in the local sweetshop as in Alan Sugar’s boardroom, we’re glad its traditional business audience hasn’t been ignored. Weighing just 140 grams and measuring a diminutive 3.4 x 2.4 x 0.9 inches, you can tuck the Presenter into your briefcase on call for when you get the impulse to present.

Simply plug it into your smartphone to view slides on the BlackBerry screen. Then use your phone as a remote controller to flick between pages and refer to your notes as you go. If delivering a bland presentation is your idea of a boardroom faux-pas, you’ll be relived to learn that BlackBerry Presenter also supports 24 animations and 55 transition styles so you can apply your trademark effects even when you’re away from your desk.

It’s ironic that the people who crumple into a nervous wreck when they leave their laptop redundant are precisely those to whom the Presenter is likely to appeal. Undoubtedly an asset to slideshows everywhere, whether its target audience will be clamouring to snap it up or sat at the back trying to sleep with their eyes open is

Samsung announces NX10 camera

Barely had New Year hangovers cleared than Samsung announced what it describes as “the next generation of cameras”. The NX10 will, they say, deliver all the quality of DSLR packed within a small but perfectly formed frame.

This is Samsung’s response to the Micro Four Thirds System developed by Panasonic and Olympus. Since its release in 2008 it has set the standard for micro interchangeable lens cameras. The NX10 promises to change all that.

Like MFT, NX10 removes the mirror box to create a smaller, sleeker frame that still allows users to switch lenses.

However, NX10 has one thing its counterpart lacks: a large 14.6 MP APS-C size CMOS sensor. That’s bigger than you’ll find with MFT and has the potential to deliver DSLR standard pictures. In other words: convenience and quality in one stunning package.

Round the back you’ll find another winning feature: a three inch AMOLED screen. This has, says Samsung, a 10,000 times faster response rate than conventional LCDs and uses less power. Better still you can view shots in bright sunlight and from any angle. The days of shielding your eyes from the sun are behind you.

It even knows when you’re looking through the viewfinder. The screen powers down to save energy, and a few polar bears into the bargain.

Elsewhere it has an impressive arsenal of goodies: a rapid auto focus, HD video and a Smart Range feature that let’s you express light and dark areas within the same frame.

All of which makes for a formidable piece of equipment. Samsung hopes to draw in people who are tired of lugging around bulky DSLRs as well as those who want more performance from their MFT cameras. If they success then this will be a true game changer – something that can transform Samsung into the major player in the camera market.

Sony announce PM5, PM5K and CM5 Bloggies

We all know that the new blogging is now vlogging and for those of you that perhaps are out of the ‘vlogosphere’, the process involves blogging your life via the means of video. Keeping up with the action, Sony has launched three new high definition pocket camcorders, each one aptly named the Sony Bloggie.

Colourful and lightweight, the new Bloggie models are fun and simple to use. At the switch of one button you can shoot crisp, clear 5 megapixel still photos, whilst the switch of another will allow you to capture your special and spontaneous moments in clear Full HD MP4 video. The PM5, PM5K and CM5 Bloggies can record both super-smooth 1280×720/60p video and high resolution Full HD 1920×1080/30p clips. SteadyShot image stabilisation also eliminates the annoying camera shake when you’re shooting whist on the move, and Face Detection fine tuning allows for clear and precise images.

Perhaps a competitor for the Flip Video camcorder, the new Bloggie is predicted to be the camera of choice on which to record your next potential YouTube phenomenon and is designed to be taken out and about with minimal effort so you can record all those day to day moments on a quick, easy and high quality recording device.

For more creative filming, the PM5 and PM5K also feature a rotating lens that swivels 270 degrees which allows you to film from any angle – the bright, high resolution 6.0cm LCD screen also shows camera settings in the bottom half of the display while you’re shooting. The PM5K even includes a special 360 Video lens adaptor that lets you experience incredible panoramic videos – something that really places this gadget a step beyond the Flip.

The Sony Bloggie also features an in-built USB adapter to connect directly to a PC or Mac and is available in a choice of four vibrant colours.

The embedded PMB Portable software launches automatically when the Bloggie is connected to your PC or Mac, allowing you view, select and upload clips to video or social network sites including YouTube and Twitter. The added advantage is that you don’t need to install any editing or file transfer software on the computer, making bloggie ideal for use on-the-go. The camera’s battery is also automatically charged while it’s connected to your computer via USB.

Fun, simple to use and minimal uploading effort! The Bloggie definitely sounds like another winning product by Sony!

The Sony Bloggie pocket camcorders are available from February from Sony and prices range from – £169.99 – £209.98.

Pandigital & Zink launch 6×4 zero-ink photo printer

We’ve had the Polaroid PoGo Mobile Printer with its no-ink technology and tiny print-outs for a while. But now Pandigital has teamed up with Zero Ink company, ZINK Imaging, to offer a world first as part of a range of printing products: a 6×4” portable photo printer; the first device to offer instant prints of anything bigger than the size of your pocket.

ZINK Imagery technology allows you to print in full colour without even thinking about an ink cartridge or ribbons. How does it work, you ask? Well, it requires special paper, special ZINK-patented paper even, which uses a polymer coating and a combination of embedded yellow, magenta and cyan dye crystals that colourise when heated.

With touch-based interface, it promises a LCD screen for previewing and selecting images; plus, you can print without a computer by slotting your camera’s memory card straight into the printer’s memory card slot. It also has a USB port. Producing borderless, full-colour prints of your best snaps, this printer lets you share printed photos in real-time. Pretty impressive, really.

While the technology is clearly very clever, the usefulness of being able to print on-the-spot, on-demand 6×4” prints is yet to be proven. Will the ability to print on-the-go mean lugging around another piece of kit when we could just wait until we get home to print? While frustrations at the limited pocket-size print outs of previous portable devices may dissolve with the ability to print 6×4”, the expensive paper may also be a sticking point. If the printer provides quality prints, that is quite an exciting first regardless of practicalities.

Retailing at $149.99 (£92 approx) and $39.99 (£24 approx) for paper in the US, distribution is planned for the first quarter of this year.

Next generation of Flip MinoHD to have WiFi

Everyone likes a good gadget; make it pocket-sized, give it a retro design and a few simple but exemplary assets and you’re on to a real winner.  This is just what Pure Digital (recently acquired by Cisco) have discovered as they launch model after model of their successful Flip camcorders, adding a single significant feature to make each model bigger and better than the one before.

flip-minohdFirst they brought us the FlipMino, a sleek and handy retro-styled camcorder no larger than a mobile phone with simple and easy to use functions that reintroduced us to the world of video-recording on the move.  Next they brought us the FlipMinoHD and Flip MinoUltraHD. The same sleek design as its predecessor but with the ability to produce videos in vibrant HD 230p and 720p respectively and in 16:9 widescreen – the smallest ever camcorder with this quality.

Hot on the heels of its HD models, Flip has once again pushed the boundaries having just announced that their next model will come equipped with Wi-Fi.  This means you can shoot a video and instantaneously upload your clips from any Wi-Fi hotspot.  Of course, you’d have to find a hotspot first, but once you do, a new addition to the software allows one-click links to Facebook.  Each model is compatible with both PCs and Macs and comes with a handy USB arm that helps make video-sharing to sites like Flickr and YouTube absolute childsplay. Its sophisticated software also cleverly compresses video size bringing an end to lengthy transfer times.  Like the earlier models, it will come with a large LCD screen, 1280 x 720 video resolution and touch-sensitive buttons but with double the memory space.

Due to launch in January 2010, the FlipMinoHD with Wi-Fi is a smart and worthy contender to become the leading camcorder on the market next year.

Ch-ch-changes… Ricoh’s GXR interchangeable camera

The Japanese Ricoh GXR digital camera, though yet to be released, has created ripples of anticipation in the industry. If it is all it claims to be, it could be the beginning of a new phase in digital camera technology and transform the way the average amateur photographer takes photos. The most distinguishing feature of the camera is its interchangeability; the lens, sensor and engine is one detachable unit that slots in to the separate camera body.

ricoh-gxr-interchangeable-lens

It boldest claim to fame is as the world’s smallest and lightest camera that allows the lens to be changed, trumping the Olympus Micro Four Thirds. It also promises the freedom of flexibility, allowing use of the most suitable lens/sensor combination unit for each photograph, an exaggeration at best, given there are really only two lens/sensor options: the A12 50 mm F2.5 Macro camera unit with a 12.3MP CMOS sensor, ISO sensitivity of up to 3200 and use of 720p video of up to 24 frames per second; and the Ricoh Lens S10 24-72 mm F2.5-4.4 VC camera unit, which has a 10MP CCD sensor with the same ISO sensitivity. A tele-conversion lens and a wide conversion lens can be added as optional extras.

The other significant limit to the camera’s promised interchangeability is its incompatibility with other brands of lens. Ricoh has made a decided move to pitch itself against the Two Thirds, which has been readily adopted by Olympus and Panasonic, and march out on its own.

And it has done this fairly well; its rigid magnesium 113.9 × 70.2 × 28.9 mm body is distinguishable, moving away from the sleek look of most new cameras and towards a more retro design. The camera has an integrated flash, but also supports a removable one and an external view finder can be added to the clear and bright LCD 920,000 VGA display screen at back of camera. The camera units do slot in easily as promised, protecting against dust damage.

It is expected to be released in the UK in December at fairly inflated prices: the GXR body for £419, the GR Lens costs an additional £599 and the Ricoh Lens £329. It will be interesting to see how British consumers respond to the brand, which is a household name in Japan.

See ricoh.com for full pricing information and YouTube for Which? Magazine’s preview of the camera ahead of its UK release.

Casio toughens up with rugged EX-G1 camera

The likelihood you’ll spend your free time clambering over tyrannous icebergs or abseiling down Mt Everest are slim, but it’s nonetheless good to be prepared. Casio have just released details of the Casio EX-G1, designed to be the camera equivalent of a first class marine. It’s an unusual move for Casio, as they generally tend to target the casual consumer, but it looks like they’re keen to get a slice of the outdoor sports market. The EX-G1 boasts 12.1 megapixels, a 3x optical zoom, and clocks in at a slimline 19.9 mm thick, thereby retaining the slimline contours the Exilim range is so well known for.

casio-ex-g1-camera

The camera has a 2.5 inch LCD screen and is waterproof to 10 feet and freezeproof till -10 degrees. It features a variety of preset modes which include the usual snow scene, beach scene, as well as adjustable ISO settings from 63-3200. There’s a handy interval shooting mode which can be setup to take pictures at timed intervals, allowing you to strap it on whilst on the move, yet still capture your experience.

The camera uses a microSD or SDHC card (common with rugged cameras) and is available in two colours, black and red.

You can see the care taken in creating the camera, as the back of the EX-G1 has a ruggedized finish, with buttons strategically placed to make them accessible if wearing gloves or equipment. They’re raised rather than recessed to be easy to use, and there’s a scroll wheel for circling through modes placed on the right hand side.

This might be quite a smart choice for Casio as the marketplace for this type of camera tends to be quite slim with the main competitors being Canon’s Fisher Price Powershot D10 styled and the Olympus Tough range.

They’re releasing it in January which is a little unusual, as that’s when consumer will be looking to save money on sale bargains, rather than invest in a full priced model, for their upcoming snowboarding holidays.

I’m pleased the marketplace for this type of camera is expanding, and the face that Casio are getting into the game means they recognize this is a sector that should experience some growth. The EX-G1 is the slimmest ruggedized camera on the market, which suggests that Olympus and Canon will have their R&D men working night and day to better them, which means more choice for us.