Sony DEV-50V Digital Recording Binoculars: Bring Nature Close

Sony-DEV-binoculars

For many people, their phone is now a camera and their music player is now a phone. Doubling up on functions, however, works best when the two purposes are connected. Enter Sony’s new DEV-50V digital recording binoculars. Improving on the previous model, the DEV-50V is almost one third lighter, and with splash and dust resistance it allows for easy viewing and recording of various far-away scenes. The SEV-50V is ideal for nature-lovers, with rare or unusual wildlife now easier both to see from a distance and easier to record, whether via HD video or digital photographs in a very nice 20.4 megapixels. Of course, it is also of benefit for sports-watchers and holiday-makers.

Sony-DEV3-Binoculars

The DEV-50V offers a host of technological tricks to make taking video as easy as possible. The main draw for many may be the weight reduction to just over 0.75kg, but inside the housing (99% recycled material), is some very fancy software and hardware. The XGA OLED Tru-Finder allow for clearer images via improved contrast and resolution. Active Mode image stabilisation with Optical Steady Shot minimizes blurs even at full 25X zoom, so that tiny robin or bluetit is easily seen and admired. Inbuilt GPS lets you keep an accurate record of your favourite locations. Autofocus smooths out the viewing experience, which is something anyone used to the tricky focusing of normal binoculars will welcome. For early morning or late evening pursuits, the Hyper Gain function offers increased brightness in dim lighting conditions. Late night football game with the action way down at the other end of the pitch? No problem.

The Dev-50V offers HD and 3D recording, which is appealing to gadget-fans, although 3D viewing devices still don’t have widespread penetration. However, for those that have already invested in a 3D TV, the June launch of the DEV-50V is sure to be even more anticipated.

Hands On: Harvard’s View21 Smart TV Freeview+ HD PVR

view21-smart-tv-box

For the past few weeks we’ve been playing around with the View21, a set-top box developed by Harvard International who are probably better known for their Goodmans and iLuv brands. Although the View21’s design isn’t overly attractive (it reminded us of an oven dish!), it certainly packs a punch when it comes to features: pause, rewind and record live TV via twin HD tuners, store over 300 hours of recordings, enjoy free to air HD channels and, more uniquely in this crowded marketplace, the ability to interact and stream from the device using a nifty iOS app.

Check out this video where we unbox and setup the View21:

The View21 Play app enables you to stream and view content from your box as well as to control it. So this allows you to stream live TV directly to your iOS device over your home network. You can also watch recordings from your library without interfering with anyone else using the device. This is something that we’ve been keen to see Sky support and it’s nice to see a newer player beat them to it.

We had a quick play with the app in this video:

In terms of controlling your box, this is slightly less ground breaking, but nevertheless you can use your iOS device as a fully featured remote. Users can also download the View21 Photo app which enables them to push photos from your iOS device to be viewed on your TV screen.

The View21 box itself comes with a small selection of apps, in fact the company states that it’s the first digital box to integrate YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. While we can see the appeal of being able to watch ‘Harlem Shake’ on your TV, we remain less convinced by the current push by manufacturers to use social media through the telly.

View21 pride themselves on making user-friendly digital boxes and this certainly comes across in the device’s no-fuss design. The front panel contains no visual display and opts instead to use small lights to show its status: on/off, fast forwarding/rewinding and whether its currently recording. There are also some physical buttons to allow you turn it on, change the volume/channel, start recording and an “Ok” button to confirm menu options.

We found setup to be painless and straight forward – plug in the power, HDMI and aerial cables and connect it to your router. It was a nice to see the company include all the necessary cables as other companies, to save costs, often omit the HDMI cable.

We found the View21 more than capable of handling the standard Freeview+ functions, such as rewinding and pausing live TV and setting recordings. The EPG (programme guide) was adequate and it’s clear that they’ve aimed to make it user-friendly. We found that it could lag slightly when initially scrolling through the schedule, but once fully loaded it was fine.

The View 21 app performed well, there was some stuttering for the first few seconds as the device buffered the content, but after that, the stream was smooth and good quality. The ability to go to another room and continue watching TV on your iOS device is excellent, as is watching the end of a recorded programme from the comfort of your bed – rather than nodding off on the sofa!

Our main gripe, and this applies to other ‘connected’ boxes, is that the View21 doesn’t come with built in WiFi. While you can buy a wireless adapter, or use a powerline ethernet adapter, it would be nice to see these devices working straight out of the box via Wifi, a la Apple TV.

All in all, if you’re not overly fussed about YouView and if you’re looking for a device that can easily stream live and recorded content to your iOS device, then you can’t go too wrong with the View21. At the time of writing the 500GB version is available on Amazon for £199.99 or £169.99 for the 320GB.

Vidioh: The magic of video hits direct marketing

It’s really hard to grab people’s attention these days. You’re probably a little distracted reading this. I know I am. If I asked what the advert on the side of this page was, would you know without looking? I wouldn’t, even though it pays for my sandwiches. Marketing bods are always on the lookout for fresh and interesting ways to grab people’s attention – but as we’ve seen people are harder and harder to reach. Well Vidioh have brought an eye-catching new tool to the UK direct mail market.

Vidioh

How? Well they’ve combined the power of high resolution video with the targeted personalisation of direct mail. The Vidioh screens are the latest ultra-thin LCD screen technology, which can be built into just about any traditional marketing media, including brochures, direct mail pieces, point of sale and invitations.

Prototypes of the Vidioh have been floating around since November 2011 but they’ve now launched a variety of cards each with an embedded video screen. I remember when a video screen was a modern marvel (I grew up without a TV). Now they are literally sending them out in the mail. This is the first time that a fully customisable video capability has been embedded in a card to be used as a marketing tool for businesses. And one day regular Joes.

Nothing looks worse than poorly shot video footage, something Tim & Eric have made a career of. To prevent video cards from going viral for the wrong reasons, Vidioh also has its own in-house video production studios to create content on behalf of companies and the capability to design and brand the video brochures. Or if they are confident, companies can provide existing artwork and video content to be incorporated into their bespoke direct mail.

“Vidioh exploits the power of the moving image with the precision of direct mail,” said Russell Lawley Gibbs, director at Vidioh, “so you can deliver highly impactful marketing campaigns that get your message in front of key customers in a way that is powerful and easy to assimilate. The LCD screens are primed to auto start when opened in order to instantly deliver your message”.

Vidioh cards have a capacity of between 512MB and 4GB, storing 45 mins – 8 hours of video, so you could really go to town with what you send people. Or send them a full length version of The Town. The screen is a 480p x 272p, 4.3″ touch screen, with twin stereo speakers and you can get 2 hours run time off each card. They can even be recharged.

Prices start at £35 for a single card, but volume discounts are available on request. That should hopefully come down to the point where they can be useful for the regular consumer. Imagine being able to send out mass wedding invitations. Or Valentines Cards if you are some sort of polyamourous Lothario.

Vidioh is available direct from Enigma Marketing Services.

Is five better than four? Ricoh CX5 review

It was about eight months ago when I reviewed the CX5’s predecessor, the CX4 – and as I pulled the latest release out of the box, I did a double-take as I thought I’d seen this camera already.

Ricoh-CX5

Body wise, there is little to distinguish the two of them. The CX5 is a bit dearer than the CX4 (at a smidge under £300), but boasts the same solid, all-metal body of the earlier model. This makes you feel like you’ve really got a substantial piece of kit in your hands, rather than a flimsy ‘toy’.

Beautiful detail on macro mode

Inside that rather small body lurks a pretty big lens – it can run from 28mm (wide-angle to you and me) up to an impressive 300mm. I have a Sigma lens for my DSLR that can do the same thing, and believe me, that won’t fit in my jacket pocket! (In fact it’s got me stopped at the X-ray machine at the airport on at least two occasions – I’ve still not worked out what it looks like when it goes through the scanner!). But to use that top range of zoom you will need a tripod or you’ll suffer with some major shake!

The big selling point of the CX5, though is its speed – it can shoot 15 full-res frames in 2.8 seconds – now that’s fast, although I started tapping my foot as I waited for the camera to store them – but hey, I’m impatient! And this is a £300 camera, not a far more pricey DSLR.

The CX5 has the same 10 megapixel back-illuminated sensor – and you’ll get noise-free shots from ISO 100-200, while those from 400-800 are fine. Higher than that and you might be disappointed with the results.

The CX5 also has the same High definition 720p video mode, which means the AVI format results in large file sizes, there’s no stereo sound and you can’t zoom or focus once you’re recording.

That long zoom can lead to some serious camera shake!

Despite the fact that it can cover such a huge range, allowing you to shoot everything from macro shots to landscapes and wildlife, there is not much in the way of manual control for the more experienced photographer, so don’t expect this to necessarily be a good catch-all to replace a DSLR is you want a more portable option for a day out.

However, for keen photographers who like to just set a choice of mode, and point and shoot, you’ll be assured of pretty decent results.

The Acer Aspire 5755 notebook – Anything new to aspire to?

Acer have come up with yet another new notebook, which, like its every successor to date, claims to adapt to users’ evolving needs. The Acer Aspire 5755 is, according to the company, the model of perfection being “perfect for unforgettable entertainment, perfect for everyday computing, perfect for smooth multitasking.”

Acer-5755

Although I have to admit, I am a fan of Acer Aspire notebooks, with my Acer Aspire One being my faithful companion since 2008, so perhaps I should be a little less sceptical about the ‘perfection’ claims of Acer Aspire’s latest family member.

With Turbo Boost Technology 2.0, the Aspire 5755 apparently provides advanced graphic capabilities for ‘smoother’ content creation. Being part of the second generation Intel Core processor family, Aspire’s latest model provides ‘dynamic’ processing power for the run-of-the-mill but high in demand applications, such as social networking, videos, movies, gaming, music and photos.

Possessing high-definition CineCrystal LED backlit displays the Aspire 5755 promises to present striking 720p visuals in 16:9 aspect ratio. Whilst, by featuring an HDMI port, users can take the HD experience of their new notebook and put it on a larger screen, to enjoy the crystal clear visuals on a larger screen. Not only this, but users can take advantage of the notebook’s optional Intel Wireless Display (WiDi) and view their favourite movies, photos, online TV and video on their own TV with superior sound and image clarity.

And sound quality and superiority has seemingly not been sufficed by an emphasis on creating stunning visuals and image quality, as in featuring Dolby Advanced Audio v2 and professionally tuned surround sound via PC speakers, headphones or home theatre system, users can watch movies, play games and listen to music with a superior sound quality.

Memory is one of the primary concerns of laptop and notebook consumers and therefore needs to be touched upon in a review. The Aspire 5755 seems to tick all the boxes in the memory stakes, offering up to 8GB of DDR3 memory, a large capacity of hard disks with up to 1TB of capacity and a multi-in-1 card reader that supports the latest high-capacity storage media for easy transfer, sharing and storage of files.

The LG verdict? Promising, although retailing at £899, perhaps I will have to scuffle along with my Acer Aspire One a little longer whilst I save up.

Get closer to the action with Sony’s DCR-SX21E and DCR-SR21E Handycams

Sony’s two new standard definition Handycams are the perfect tool for anyone who can’t get close enough to the action they want to film – both boast a huge 67x extended zoom.

Sony-Handycam

While the Handycam DCR-SX21E records onto Sony’s own Memory Stick or SD card (which you’ll have to buy separately), the DCR-SR21E can store up to 61 hours of Standard Definition video on its 80GB built-in hard disk drive. Useful when you’re out and about on holiday, as you don’t need to cart around spare discs or tapes.

Both video cams have a 57x optical zoom, which is pretty decent, but add on that 67x extended zoom and you’re heading into new, close-up, territory. Of course, our first thought when seeing zoom at this sort of multiplication is that your movies are going to look as though you’ve been shooting them while standing on a tea tray balancing on a tennis ball – but Sony suggests its SteadyShot image stabilisation will help to keep everything nice and steady. We shall have to wait and see as the Handycams will not be available until early September.

The video cams also feature a number of useful features to help make shooting video easier – Face Detection, plus 18 different scene settings to automatically get the correct settings for the recording conditions.

Each has a flip-out 6.7cm (2.7in) Clear Photo LCD, next to which sits a joystick that can be used to change menus and settings. The cameras have an onboard LED video light, and an Auto mode will automatically turn on the light when it gets dark.

Your movies can be transferred straight to a portable external hard disk – Sony suggests its new 500GB HD-PG5UB hard disk drive, the DCR-SX21E/SR21E, which is lightweight and can fit in a pocket.

There is no news on pricing yet – keep an eye open at www.sony-europe.com

Panasonic HX-WA10 HD action camera review

Having grown up with hydrophobic electronics, there’s always a perverse pleasure that comes with dunking £200-worth of unreleased equipment in a vat of water. Thanks to the waterproof and shockproof Panasonic HX-WA10 camcorder, that joy is now linked to the excitement of full HD recording in a cool, fun form.

Panasonic-HX-WA10

Panasonic invited us to try the new HX-WA10 (alongside its little brother, the HM-TA20) at the Go Ape adventure activity centre where we agreed to give it hell. Rain? It was fine (it can be submerged down to 3 metres). Mud? No problem. Dropping it? No impact (although we’re told the safe limit for drops is 1.5 metres – keep that in mind!).

Of course, a rock can also do all of these things. The real question with the camcorder is: how does it record?

Video
The shadowy realms of the Go Ape jungle were an ideal setting to test the camera’s ability. And even in the difficult recording environment – one that swaps quickly from bright sunshine to dark, under-the-canopy close-ups – the HX-WA10 performed admirably. The good low-light performance comes thanks to a backside-illuminated sensor – a technology you’ll recognise from the iPhone 4.

Auto-exposure adjustment was rapid, while video noise was minimal in the dark areas. Even flying down a zip-wire, the focus kept up with our frantic camera-wielding. With a 16 megapixel sensor (that can record at 1080p), we noticed no artefacting or motion blur in typical fast-moving situations – even at 60fps. The full range of recording options are 1080/60i, 1080/30p, 720/60p, 720/30p, 540/30p and 480/30p.

Zoom

Much has been made of Panasonic’s Advanced Zoom, which claims to record at 12x with no drop in image quality. We were dubious before we saw it – and are still unconvinced. We’ll admit that it’s undoubtedly much better than traditional digital zoom (which we wish would die), but it’s not quite at optical zoom standards (5x on the WA10). It’s actually usable, though – something digital zooms have never achieved.

Controls

We come to this camera from the old Sanyo Xacti VPC-CG10 pistol-grip, with its 720p recording. The Panasonic bests the two-year old Sanyo in every department – except controls. The Xacti has a thumbstick exactly where your thumb rests on the back of the camera, for super-quick menu navigation and menu options.

The Panasonic has this horrible little d-pad on the side of the camera that makes it difficult to fiddle-and-video at the same time. It’s a real shocker – but not a deal-breaker. As this is our biggest complaint about the camcorder, you can probably understand the quality of the rest of the device.

Conclusion

As we said in the video (look at one minute in – that’s us!), it’s great for families. It’s tough – it can cope with the beach, the sea – even the drops and scrapes of letting the kids play with it. And it manages all this while providing excellent video quality. Recommended!

Lumix G3: Panasonic does away with the weighty issue of DSLR cameras

While lots of us who are keen photographers love our DSLR cameras, we often end up resorting to taking out a compact model instead because we can’t face lugging our camera around. Sure. It’s fine when you’re out on a photo-taking trip, but if you’re just heading out for a day with the kids or with friends, carting round a weighty piece of kit can be a bit of a pain.

So, the news that Panasonic has come up with the world’s lightest changeable lens system ever, must be good news, surely?

Lumix-G3

The Micro Four Thirds Lumix G3 offers a massive 16-megapixel sensor and a Venus Engine V1 FHD which, says Panasonic, will offer the same image quality as your hefty DSLR, while it weighs in at just 340g (that’s 25% smaller and 10% lighter than the LUMIX G2).

Like DSLRs, the G3 has an electronic view finder, or you can use the free-angle LCD screen so you can capture shots even if you’re holding the camera over your head at a concert, for instance.
Panasonic also claims to have come up with the fastest pinpoint auto focus speed of 0.1 second, so you shouldn’t miss a shot.

You can set autofocus with one touch, while Face Recognition will remember settings for your friends and the Inteligent Scene Selector automatically switches to the correct mode.

Plus the G3 has full HD move capacity, recording in Full HD AVCHD 1920 x 1080, 50i. Panasonic has packed all these goodies into a compact, lightweight aluminium chassis.

We’ve not seen the Lumix G3 hands-on, but those who have have been full of praise for it, with its only downsides being that it could offer better battery life and have more straightforward menus

The Lumix G3 with 14-42mm kit lens should retail at around £629.99, although we have found it on the net for nearly 100 quid less than this.

For more details head to www.panasonic.co.uk/lumixG3