GW-314 -- The Hottest Gizmos and Gadgets from Japan

Japan Inc Magazine Presents:

The Hottest Gadgets and Gizmos from Japan
Issue No. 314 Friday September 19, 2008
Subscribers: 9467

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Panasonic LUMIX G1 re-imagines the digital SLR

Name: Panasonic LUMIX G1 (DMC-G1)
Category: digital SLR camera
Price: About JPY80,000 (body only)
Release date in Japan: October 31, 2008

Recent digital SLR (DSLR) cameras have offered both the
traditional, mirror-based viewfinder and the option of 'live
view' shot composition via the back-panel display. The
photographic partnership of Panasonic and Olympus is stepping up
as the first manufacturer to do away with the old-style
viewfinder, going all-electronic for both the large LCD display
and the viewfinder in the new LUMIX G1.

Why is that a good thing? It's all about size: that internal
mirror structure adds a lot of bulk to an SLR. By losing the
main mirror that bounces light up to the viewfinder structure,
the G1 is able to reduce the distance between lens mount and
image sensor from 40mm to 20mm, as well as lose the smaller
mirrors and prisms in the viewfinder structure. In the end, the
LUMIX G1 shaves lots of bulk from the SLR format - at 385 grams,
it's about half the weight of the earlier LUMIX DMC-L10.

The new electronic full-time Live View Finder shows a full-time,
60 frames-per-second preview with a 1.44-megapixel equivalent
resolution. You can zoom in on detail, a useful feature when
using manual focus. A built-in eye sensor takes note when you're
peeking into the viewfinder and turns off the back-panel LCD
display to conserve power.

In another departure from earlier DSLRs, the LUMIX G1 makes use
of a new standard for its sensor and lenses, the Micro Four
Thirds System. In a nutshell: Olympus and Kodak created the Four
Thirds System specifically for DSLRs, featuring a 4:3 aspect
ratio (the same as TVs/monitors and most compact digital cams,
and different from the 3:2 ratio used for film cameras and older
DSLRs). One advantage of the standard: lenses designed for the
Four Thirds System are fairly compact. With the LUMIX G1,
Panasonic and Olympus introduce the Micro Four Thirds variant,
designed for mirror-less focal distances, electronic
viewfinders, and even more compact lenses with a smaller mount.
(Compatibility with Four Thirds lenses requires an adapter.)

Other features include 12.1-megapixel image sensor, a wide
variety of Auto Focus modes, IA (Intelligent Auto) mode (a
combination of Intelligent Scene Selection, AF Tracking, Face
Detection, Intelligent ISO Control, and Intelligent Exposure),
MEGA O.I.S. (Optical Image Stabilizer), digital red-eye
correction, 3-inch free-angle LCD display, HDMI output, and
Olympus's highly-regarded Supersonic Wave Filter dust reduction

In the end, the LUMIX G1 is for photogs who want the power and
versatility of a DSLR, without the bulk, weight, and complexity.
In fact, Panasonic de-emphasizes the SLR lineage in its
marketing, going for 'the world's smallest and lightest digital
interchangeable lens camera' instead in its marketing. In a
final un-SLR-like touch, the camera body comes in red and blue,
in addition to the traditional black.

More info (Japanese):

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Productivity-boosting big screens get cheaper

Category: computer display
Price: JPY36,800
Release date in Japan: Late September, 2008

Still computing on one small screen? Once in a while the tech
blogs will go a-twitter over the latest study linking screen
real estate to productivity. Findings vary with the tasks and
the physical setups measured, but the reported numbers are
always impressive. A University of Utah study earlier this year,
for example, claimed that compared to office productivity tasks
performed on an 18-inch monitor, a 24-inch screen sped up those
tasks by 52%, while two 20-inch monitors granted a 44%
improvement. More screen space can save workers as much as two
and a half hours a day, concluded the study.

(Big caveats: those findings assume eight hours of tasks that
are dependent on screen real estate - and the study was funded
by display manufacturer NEC.)

Even if your productivity gains don't stand to be as impressive,
few people who move to big and/or multiple monitors care to
switch back to small. Fortunately for upgraders, screens keep
getting cheaper. Case in point: the low-cost 22-inch GH-JEF223SH
display from GREEN HOUSE. It's a WSXGA (1680x1050), 24-bit (16.7
million colors) screen with a luminance of 300cd/m2, contrast
ratio of 1000:1 (10,000:1 in enhanced mode), HDMI and regular
mini D-sub 15-pin connectors, and built-in 2W+2W speakers.

If you're willing to spend a little more, BUFFALO will release
the FTD-HD2232HSR/BK around the same time. It's also 22 inches,
but sports WUXGA (1920x1200) resolution, and has a DVI-D24-pin
connector for HDCP-protected content. Luminance, contrast, and
speakers are similar to the GREEN HOUSE display, but there's no
HDMI. JPY42,800.

More info (Japanese):

BUFFALO FTD-HD2232HSR/BK (Japanese):


RidgeRunner Niseko International Cricket Competition
20-21 September 2008

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fun at Niseko’s annual charity cricket tournament.
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Thanks to our sponsors RidgeRunner, TK6, Paddy Foley's,
Commonwealth Bank, Green Leaf Hotel, National Australia Bank,
Hokkaido Tracks, Australian Meat and Livestock, ANZCCJ,
Village Cellars, Metropolis, Japan Inc, Peter Lehman Wines,
Black Diamond Lodge and Niseko Physio.


Kenwood releases Media Keg MG-E504 audio player

Name: Kenwood Media Keg MG-E504
Category: portable audio player
Price: About JPY15,000
Release date in Japan: September, 2008

Among the catalog of non-iPod audio players (a.k.a. Audio
Players You've Never Heard Of) lies the Media Keg series from
Tokyo-based audio specialists Kenwood Corporation. The Media Keg
stable houses a handful of flash memory-based and hard
drive-based models; its newest entry, the MG-E504, competes with
the iPod nano in form and price. Let's jump right to a direct

Although a tad pricier at JPY17,800, the iPod offers 8GB of
flash memory (vs the MG-E504's 4GB), a 2-inch screen (vs
1.5-inch), video playback (vs none), better interface and
controls (including click wheel and accelerometer), and a body
that's a skosh smaller and lighter than the MG-E504's. (Most
users would count iTunes media management software as a plus as
well, though it has its detractors.)

The MG-E504, on the other hand, allows additional memory via a
micro SD slot, so you can match or surpass the iPod's storage; a
16GB card would take up to an impressive 20GB. The gadget also
claims 54-hour audio playback time (vs the Pod's 24 hours). A
quick-charge ability promises to supply 3.5 hours of playback on
a 10-minute recharge.

MG-E504-supported audio formats are MP3, WMA, AAC, and WAV, vs
MP3, AAC, Audible, Apple Lossless, AIFF, and WAV for the iPod.
Comparisons of overall sound quality, including quality of the
supplied headphones, is a debate we'll have to leave to the
audiophiles. Neither device includes radio.

So there's the breakdown: if you value the expandable memory,
the longer battery life, and WMA file playback, and can overlook
the smaller screen, clunky mobile phone-like interface, and lack
of video, the Media Keg MG-E504 is an iPod nano alternative
that'll save you a couple thousand yen to boot. (Also available
from October: the MG-E502 with 2GB internal memory, for
JPY13,000. Either model comes in white, black, or pink.)

More info (Japanese):


Short items

Spotted elsewhere in the news:

1) Kitty is moving up in the world of floor-cleaning devices!
Previously, she appeared in a special edition of the RoboMop, a
low-cost, low-tech cleaning 'robot' (essentially a
randomly-rolling ball topped by a floor-dusting 'hat'). Now
she's hitting the big time, gracing none other than the famed
Roomba robotic vacuum cleaner. Based on the standard Roomba 530,
the 'Hello Kitty model' is offered by American manufacturer
iRobot and Japanese distributor Sales On Demand Corp. The first
Roomba to sport a character theme, the model shows Kitty holding
an apple against a red background. 500 units go on sale
September 30. JPY84,500.
More info (Japanese):
Hello Kitty RoboMop (English):

2) FM. AM. One-seg TV. It's all yours while you soak in the tub,
with Sony's XDV-W600 water-resistant radio/TV (the bath-time
BRAVIA). It has a 4' screen (16.7 million colors), runs on
internal rechargeable power or 4 AA batteries, offers 1.8x
better One-seg reception sensitivity compared to the earlier
XDV-100, and will even record up to 10 hours of TV on its
internal 2GB memory. From October 30 for about JPY40,000.
More info (Japanese):

3) Small but bigger: Toshiba announced the world's first 240GB
internal hard drive in 1.8-inch format, the MK2431GAH. That's a
quarter terabyte, in the ultra-compact size used by subnotebooks
and audio players. Production begins from late September.
Meanwhile, price watchers in Japan report that the regular
retail price of a 3.5-inch (desktop) 1TB internal hard drive,
such as the SAMSUNG HD103UI, is now dipping below the JPY10,000
1TB drive prices (Japanese):
Written by: Timm Tuttle
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