Treat yourself this month to a high-tech gift
Are you in the market for a snazzy digital camera? Single lens reflex models (SLRs), which a few years ago would have cost in the thousand-dollar range, now are selling for $500 to $600. SLRs have larger sensors, faster performance and more flexibility to take great photos under almost any circumstances.
So here are some models that have been consistently rated highly by reviewers and users:
» The Canon EOS Digital Rebel XT, which sells for as low as $600 online is a compact and lightweight camera designed specifically for amateur photographers. The image quality of this 8 megapixel unit gives you great resolution; it has super fast warm-up time and it offers the flexibility and image quality you'd expect from a much more expensive model.
» I also think highly of the 6-megapixel Nikon D50. Its performance and features are comparable to higher priced SLRs. The image quality (which you would expect from Nikon) is great and it's got a point and shoot mode for beginners that make it appealing to first time SLR buyers. Price starts at around $625.
» Camcorders sold briskly over the holidays and I'll bet you can get an even better deal in February. If you want to go first class and get something that will play on your new flat-screen TV, consider the $1,200 Sony Handycam HDR-HC3. You're getting high-end HD/SD video quality, a good variety of manual and automatic features and even 4 mega-pixel still-photo capabilities.
» If you're on a budget, you won't go wrong with the Canon Elura 100 which has a big zoom (20X) and compact size. Selling for around $400 or less online, it's great for capturing family moments. Features include a large, high-resolution CCD sensor and decent video resolution. You're also getting Canon's nine-point AiAF autofocus system.
» MP3 players also represent great values. I'm impressed with Toshiba's Gigabeat S, a portable video player available in 30GB or 60GB styles. It supports a number of music, video, and photo file formats and includes an FM tuner and support for digital cameras. The sound performance, considering the $250 or less, price is excellent.
» Lower on the budget scale at $150 is the good old iPod Nano, a 4GB model which gets high marks for design including a bright, photo- friendly screen. Apple is the company that really kick started the MP3 revolution and it's easy to see why their products still lead the pack. They are easy to operate and work effortlessly with Applies's iTunes, which offers a mammoth music selection.
» Of course if you're going to listen to you MP3 players you'll want some good ear buds. The very best I've heard are Shure's E4c which will run you around $200.
» Lesser priced (around $100) but still highly rated are Etymotic's ER-6, Ultimate Ears' Super.fi 3 Studio and Creative Zen Aurvanas.
is general manager of digital phone at Oceanic Time Warner Cable. He can be reached at email@example.com