Home security cameras come in three broad categories these days: cheap and cheerful Chinese IP cameras (often wireless); cloud-connected cameras like the Nest Cam (formerly DropCam); and full-on surveillance cameras tied to a DVR. All of these options come with some limitations:
The cheaper IP cameras usually have appalling web interfaces, and are often a security nightmare thanks to their default passwords and dynamic DNS settings.
Nest Cam is a bit easier to set up and has a much nicer interface, but comes with a fairly hefty monthly charge to unlock alerts and cloud storage.
“Proper” surveillance camera systems that tie multiple cameras with local storage are bloody expensive.
A year or so ago I had a play with the Samsung NX10 and was unimpressed. Sure it had a sensor that most full-on DSLRs would be proud of, but it just didn’t wow me. DPReview called it “a good start”.
Now, Samsung have released the NX100. On paper it seems incredibly similar to the NX10. The same APS-C sensor, the same lens mount, similar size. But the difference feels like f2 compared to f22. The NX100 loses a built-in flash compared to the NX10, but overall it’s faster, easier to use, nicer to look at, and just lovely.
I really only had a few days to play with it, but it takes nice shots and the range of tweaks and functions would suit most pro-am photographers. The i-Function lens is a neat addition: press the iFn button on the lens, and the focus ring becomes a control that you can use to dial in changes to shutter, aperture, exposure, and other camera settings. Heaps easier than fiddly buttons on the back of the camera.
You can get i-Function lenses as a 20mm f2.8 prime, or a 20-50mm utility lens. The NX100 also fits all of the existing NX mount lenses if you have any.
RRP is a spendy $1,099, but if you want something more compact than a DSLR with many of the same qualities, it could be a good fit.
The Canon 550d is just above the entry-level price for a digital SLR, but it performs well above its station. Wonderfully clear photos with clean results up to ISO1600, and usable at ISO6400. This means you can take low-light shots with confidence that they will turn out looking great. Add to that the ability to take full high-definition video (or 720p video at 50 frames per second), and you have a wonderful versatile camera for travel.
This tiny device is amazingly powerful. Just turn it on anywhere you can get 3G reception, and you’ll have internet access to any device with WiFi. This means on a family holiday you can share the internet with the whole family. Mum and Dad’s laptops, and the kids gaming devices and iPods will never be without internet coverage. This would get 5 stars, but I have to knock one point off for the continuing high cost of mobile internet.
I’ve never been on a cruise, but I’m told that a pair of handheld radios are essential kit. Without cellphone coverage, rounding up the family on these massive ships can be impossible. These particular Motorola radios also come with a hands-free option, so you could use them as a long-range baby monitor. They have a stated range of “up to 10km”, but this would be cut down a lot by all the metal in a cruise ship. Also: when you get home, you can use them as pretend spy radios with your kids!
Joby have been making knobbly-but-nice mini camera tripods for a few years now. Their patent-pending leg design means you’re not restricted to standing your camera on a level surface. You can wrap one or more legs around a branch or railing, or bend the legs sideways to make a stable platform. The Gorillapod tripods are available in a bunch of different sizes to support everything from your tiny compact camera (or Flip Mino), right up to a chunky model that supports 5kg DSLRs.
Now Joby have turned their hand to the mobile market. The Gorillamobile kit comes in two flavours: one with a suction cup for generic mobile devices, and one with a custom-fitting case for iPhone 3G and 3GS. Local New Zealand importers Lacklands have kindly hooked me up with an iPhone model for review.
Having just picked up a brand new iPhone 3GS, I was looking for a protective case. The case that comes with the Gorillamobile does a fine job even if it didn’t double as a stand. It has a nice soft-touch finish, and is designed so that when not clipped to the tripod, there are no protrusions to get hooked on your pocket or bag. The case clips around the back or your iPhone, so you’ll need a screen protector if you want 100% protection.
The Joby tripod clips into the iPhone case with a simple sliding action, and is released with a button. There’s a secondary locking ring to avoid any accidental releases. It’s incredibly easy to set the iPhone up in a stable position, and you can rotate it to any angle you want. The Gorillamobile would be a great iPhone stand if that’s all it did.
But wait, there’s more! Both Gorillamobile kits come with a standard 1/4″ tripod screw clip and two additional adhesive clips. This means you can use the same tripod for 3 additional devices. Basically you’re getting the original Gorillapod with added extras. The clips are fairly unobtrusive, so you can leave them screwed into your pocket camera or stuck on your other mobile devices. The Gorillamobile tripod has no problem propping up my fairly chunky Panasonic TZ5, using the standard tripod mount. It takes seconds to unclip the tripod from the camera, and clip it back on to the iPhone.
Overall, for something I originally thought would be a bit dinky, the Gorillamobile impressed me. iPhone case, iPhone stand, Camera tripod, and mobile device stand, all in one well-built kit.
Local New Zealand pricing hasn’t been confirmed yet but I’m guessing something like $80-$100. I’ll update this post as soon as I find out. The Gorilla mobile will be stocked in all the regular appliance and electronic stores.
It’s November – I’m just as surprised as you are – and you’re starting to scramble for presents for the tech freak in your life. Relax, I’ve got your back. Below is the first in a series of Christmas gift guides I’ll be posting over the coming weeks. Don’t worry if these ideas are too expensive for you: look for follow-up gift ideas for radio control, computer and console games, mobile phones, and more. There’ll even be a specific one on cheap gadgets.
I’m kicking this off with digital still and video cameras. Everyone needs a good camera, and with the rate of progress and price drops, you can almost afford a new one every year. So what’s top of the pile this year?
Why fork out thousands of dollars on a high-definition camcorder that’s tricky to use, and so bulky that you hardly ever carry it with you?
The Flip Mino HD takes the idea of “good enough for YouTube”, and packages it in a device small enough to fit in your jeans pocket. At $349 it’s a bargain, and cheap enough that you’ll be happy taking it to the beach or park.
The Samsung ST550 is the first digital camera that includes a font-facing 1.5″ LCD as well as a giant rear touch-screen. It might seem like a gimmick, but the practicalities are obvious for kids (they can’t stop smiling at themselves) and self-portraits.
Samsung have also pulled out all the stops on usability. Most operations take place on the touch screen, including the ability to delete photos by just swiping an “x” with your finger. The camera also has an accelerometer so you can rotate and sort through photos by tilting the camera.
And of course like most compact cameras today it takes HD video as well.