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The Hottest Gadgets and Gizmos from Japan
Issue No. 310 Friday August 22, 2008
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This week's Gadget Watch focuses on cameras and related bits,
with a few miscellaneous goodies thrown in too.
Nikon COOLPIX S60 goes touch
Name: Nikon COOLPIX S60
Category: digital still camera
Price: About JPY40,000
Release date in Japan: September, 2008
It's all about touch these days, from the iPhone and its
imitators to new desktop computers boasting touch-panel screens.
And now you'll be swiping and poking at the back of your kondeji
(compact digital camera), if Nikon has its way.
The COOLPIX S60 is a 145-g flat rectangle of a camera with a
3.5-inch 'real wide angle' LCD touch screen on its back that
takes over for nearly all controls. (On/off and shutter release
retain physical buttons.) As you'd expect, icons appearing on
the panel let you access set-up options, photo and movie
playback, shooting options like zoom and flash, and so on.
What's more interesting is touch-based interaction not with the
camera but with the scene. Just touch your subject on the
screen, and the camera will set its exposure and focus on that
subject. It's an operation that many users will find far easier
than the traditional way of handling off-center subjects with
automatic cameras (center on sobject, half-press and hold
shutter release, re-frame shot, press shutter release). Another
feature: once the built-in face-recognition has a face targeted,
a press on the panel's 'Portrait One-touch Zoom' icon will zoom
in to an optimal full-face portrait size.
iPhone-like photo playback tricks include photo orientation that
rotates with camera orientation, 'swiping' to view successive
photos, and touch-based closeups (though from a demo video this
appears to use one-finger taps, not two-finger 'pinching').
There's a new shtick too: you can use the included stylus to
draw or write on your photos in multiple colors.
Other specs: 10 megapixels, 5x optical zoom, ISO up to 3200,
smile-detection timer, HDMI connector for playback to HiVision
More info: http://www.nikon-coolpix.com/j/s60.html (Japanese)
Recycling programs take in old gadgets, give birth to new
Big electronics retailer Bic Camera claims to be the first
retailer to join an initiative by the Communications and
Information Network Association of Japan (CIAJ) and the
Telecommunications Carrier Association (TCA) to collect and
recycle discarded mobile phones. Take your old phone to a Bic
shop near you, where it'll get put down for good by a drill (to
ensure destruction of data) and sent out for recycling of
precious metals and other salvageables.
What's salvageable besides gold and platinum and the like? A
working screen, for starters. Enter Plaza Create's
use-and-recycle 'ECO digi MODE' digital camera, available at
some Palette Plaza and 55 Station photo processing shops in
Japan. It's a 3-megapixel camera with flash and 2.4-inch LCD
panel, that takes up to 50 non-editable shots. (Snap a bad one,
and you've got 10 seconds to erase it; otherwise, it stays and
counts against your 50.) The cost is JPY1980, which includes
burning your photos to CD-ROM after you turn in the camera to a
shop. (Printing to paper is available for usual cost.)
What's eco about it all? In the same way that old film-based
returnable cameras could have their film replaced for re-use,
the ECO digi MODE simply needs its memory erased to be ready for
another go. (Side thought: Erasing memory is fortunately easy,
but the recyclers will have to be careful to prevent putting
even one unerased camera into the next user's hands.) What're
more, the LCD panel itself is a recycled part, taken from
disassembled mobile phones. Plaza Create says it wants future
models to incorporate more recycled parts, including the camera
sub-assembly and flash unit, presumably also from mobile phones
or discarded pocket cameras.
New this month in the Eco digi MODE lineup is a waterproof
model, safe up to 3-meter depths; ask for it at a Palette Plaza
or 55 Station near you. And speaking of underwater cameras:
Hanwha scuba mask puts underwater cam on your forehead
Name: Hanwha UDCM301
Category: scuba gear / underwater camera
Release date in Japan: August 8, 2008
Why do divers get this cool head-mounted camera, while we land
people have to hold our cams the regular way? Hmm, I suppose
it's because divers are already wearing head gear, and we
normally aren't. Plus, our hands are usually available for
things like photography, while they need their hands free for
stuff like swimming and fending off sharks and making that funny
So we'll let the divers have this one. What exactly is it? A
spiffy-looking, silicone and tempered-glass scuba mask with a
3-megapixel camera built into the brow, waterproof at depths up
to 5 meters. In addition to 2048x1536 JPEG snaps (minimum
shooting distance: 50cm), the camera will record 640x480
MotionJPEG video at 15fps. Those image specs won't impress
National Geographic, but sound fine for casual scuba shooting.
Nice extras include regular or rechargeable AAA batteries as the
power supply, so you don't need to worry about charging
proprietary batteries, and a mini USB 1.1 port, so you don't
need to remember to take a memory card reader on that beach
vacation. There's a built-in 16MB memory, plus a slot for
MicroSD cards up to 2GB, which should hold well over an hour of
video (though topped-off rechargeable batteries will last
through only about 30 minutes of video).
How do you use the camera? At the top of the mask is a control
for mode switching and a shutter release, so you will need to
keep a hand free to shoot. Crosshairs printed on the lenses act
as viewfinders for aiming your forehead. Behind the camera is a
small LCD panel showing battery status, shot counter, and
shooting mode, plus LED lights indicating current shooting
activity; it's all visible with a glance upward.
The UDCM301 is a limited model available only online, says
seller Hanwha Japan, so move fast if you want to try what looks
to be a really convenient gadget for underwater photography.
Spotted elsewhere in the news:
1) Optics maker TAMRON says it's developed an interchangeable
lens for digital SLR cameras that sets the record for zoom: 15x,
ranging from 18mm to 270mm. That's ultra-wide-angle to powerful
telephoto capability, in one lens. The 'AF18-270mm F/3.5-6.3
DiII VC LD Aspherical [IF] MACRO (Model B003)' (possibly a
record-holder for product name length) is 101mm long, weighs
550g, and incorporates auto-focus and 'VC (Vibration
Compensation)' image stabilization. Alas, TAMRON hasn't
announced a release date or price yet.
2) Tokyo-based PLANEX Communications offers a new model of
USB-to-Gigabit Ethernet adapter, the GU-1000Air. Plug it into a
USB 2.0 port to add an Ethernet port to those little
sub-notebooks (like the MacBook Air, PLANEX suggests) that lack
3) Hate to leave your gadgets at home when you're behind the
wheel? SIGMA A.P.O. System Sales's 'MultiCharger CUMA01' 12V
device charger is a box that turns your car's cigarette lighter
socket into *two* lighter sockets plus two USB power ports.
Perfect for keeping a handful of iPods, mobile game machines,
phones, and other little gadgets powered on the open road.
4) Don't let your car full of gadgets get stolen, like over
30,000 vehicles in Japan last year. Here's a gadget that may
help: Kato Denki is offering a new Stealth Tracking System that
places a PHS-based tracking device in your car. Utilizing the
Willcom PHS network, the tiny 31-g box lets you (or the cops)
track your car's location by PC or mobile phone should the need
arise, for a rental cost of JPY735/month. It'll report details
right down to the car's current address and the route it
traveled, even in garages and basements that give GPS pause,
says Kato Denki. For an extra JPY105/month, the service will
send an automatic alert when the car is detected outside of a
prescribed geographic region.
Written by: Timm Tuttle
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from gizmo ground zero in Tokyo.
See the gadgets introduced in Gadget Watch,
with photos and more at: www.tekronomicon.com