Forget Black Friday and Cyber Monday. They're for the hyper-organized who get their holiday shopping done early. This post is for folks like me (i.e., the ones who always end up paying for expedited shipping and can often be found trolling the mall on Christmas Eve). Arm yourself with this list of digital camera complements before you hit the electronics store this weekend and you'll make your favorite digital shooter very happy indeed.
Optoma Pico Pocket Projector This is one of the coolest camera accessories I've seen in a long time. The Optoma Pico Pocket Projector is not much bigger than a compact camera (at 1.97x0.59x4.06 inches and 4 ounces) and slips easily into a shirt pocket.
Despite its diminutive size, it's a full-fleged DLP projector which uses a LED light source. It throws off only about 9 lumens (compare that to 1,000 to 2,000 lumens for most home-theater projectors) but the image looks surprisingly bright, even at the maximum 60-inch image size from 102-inches away. You'll need a white (or better yet, reflective projection screen) background and a dark room for best results, though.
Taking a page from the the Flip Mino school of usability, the Pico is incredibly easy to get up and running. There are only two controls (an off/low-power-mode/bright-mode switch and a focus wheel) and I was able to project a slideshow from my digital camera in literally seconds after opening the box of my review unit. It's just a matter of connecting the included AV cable to your camera's AV cable and flipping the switch. While you can view videos from an iPhone using the included connection kit, it isn't possible to view your iPhone photos, unfortunately. But that's small potatoes compared to the wow-factor of toting around a 60-inch screen in your pocket.
The Pico started shipping in the US on December 15 for a list price is $430, but you should be able to find it for less on the street.
Archos 5 Internet Media Tablet I've long been a fan of Archos media players which are great little portable devices for playing back your photos, videos, and music. The company calls its newest line "Internet Media Tablets," but that's just a fancy way of saying media player plus WiFi.
Still, the Archos 5 is a slick model with a 4.8-inch touchscreen. By moving all the controls to the touchscreen interface, Archos was able to include a larger screen on a slimmer device, which makes the overall 5x3x0.5-inch, 8.8-ounce package very sleek indeed. The glossy screen is a fingerprint magnet (especially since it's a touch screen) but my photos looked fantastic in slideshow mode and the gesture-based touchscreen controls were intuitive, though not as responsive as, say, an iPhone.
Unlike the iPhone, the Archos 5 does include Flash 9 support, though it didn't work smoothly on all sites I tried out. You can access Flickr and other photo sharing sites with the Opera Web browser and set up POP and IMAP e-mail accounts, but what this baby does best is viewing your photos and videos.
Lensbaby Composer If you need a gift for a digital SLR shooter, look no further. Lensbaby "selective focus" lenses for DSLRs allow you to manually select an area of sharp focus while the rest of your image remains blurry, giving your SLR something like the effect of a tilt-shift lens (minus the price and precision).
The Lensbaby Composer is my favorite model--unlike the plastic bellows-like design of the original Lensbaby, the Composer is based on a ball-and-socket design, making control of the lens easier, smoother, and more precise. The lens retains its position after you set it and rather than focusing the lens by squeezing it as the previous versions required, it actually sports a traditional barrel focusing ring. The Composer uses Lensbaby’s Optic Swap System, which allows you to switch among four different optics (double glass, single glass, plastic, and pinhole).
It ships with the double glass optic installed for $270 and additional optics can be purchased and swapped in for $35 each (or $95 for a boxed set of three).
JOBO Photo Display PDJ801 My one pet peeve with digital photo frames has been that you can't put them anywhere you'd want a picture frame, because you need to be close enough to an AC outlet. That's why I'm so psyched about the Jobo Photo Display PDJ801. It's not just wireless like most newer digital photo frames, but it's also cordless thanks to the built-in Lithium Ion battery.
Sure you'll have to plug it in to charge it, but when company comes over, you can put this frame wherever you want or even pass it around the room. The 8.4-inch screen displays 800x600 pixels and the frame includes 1GB of internal memory for up to 8,000 pictures. It also includes card slots for seven memory card formats as well as a USB 2.0 connection. You can copy, delete, and rotate images right in the frame and it also includes a calendar and alarm clock.
The PDJ801 sells for $179 (or you can opt for a corded version with 128MB of internal memory for $159).
Flip MinoHD I know the less-expensive, standard-def Flip camcorders are super-popular, pocketable, ease-of-use wonders, but I wasn't expecting to be all that wowed by the HD version, which at $229.99 sells for $80 and $50 more than the Ultra and Mino respectively. And with more compact cameras and DSLRs alike including HD video capture in their bag of tricks, do you really want to cough up the dough for the Flip MinoHD?
In a word, yes. Though much has been made by reviewers about the MinoHD's inability to output a high-definition signal to your HDTV (and, yes, that is annoying), I found the video quality of even the standard-def output to be pretty damned good considering it came from a relatively inexpensive, tiny camera that shoots video at the push of a single red button (and it looked even better in full resolution, full screen on my computer monitor).
I'd also recommend buying the MinoHD direct from Flip so you can customize it with one of 1,200 cool designs and patterns or your own design or photo. You'll have to order today, though, if you want it delivered by December 24th. Or, you could always opt for an e-mail gift certificate and let your giftees customize their own.