Before you buy a camera, check here
If you're planning to spend more than $200 on a digital camera within the next six months, and if you care about F-stops, lenses, and other advanced functions, be sure to visit Digital Photography Review. Think of this website as a hyper-detailed Consumer Reports for high-tech cameras. It specializes in thorough product testing and detailed reviews. This website also offers video clips of hard-to-explain camera features and functions.
This morning, for example, Digital Photography Review was the first website to offer a full review of the the Panasonic DMC-L10, which is in the running for being the most interesting new camera of the year.
With a $1,299 list price (ouch!), this camera isn't for most travelers. (For price comparison, Nikon offers a D40/D40X at about $550/$700 and Canon offers a Rebel XTi at $700.) But the features that this Panasonic camera is debuting may set the some standards for digital "single-lens reflex" model cameras, and many of its features will likely trickle down to cheap cameras within a few years.
Among its many tricks, this camera can detect up to 15 human faces and automatically set the best focus and light exposure to capture the subjects clearly. The camera also has a viewfinder that flips out as much as 180 degrees, a feature common on many videocameras but relatively rare on digital "still" cameras. The screen also automatically adjusts its brightness depending on the surrounding conditions--becoming brighter on a cloudy day, for instance. The camera even uses supersonic vibrations to shake off dust clinging to the sensor and marring images when you change lenses. [via Digital Photography Review]
Flickr can help you buy a camera
The photo-sharing website Flickr has introduced Camera Finder, a feature that can help you buy a new camera by showing pix taken with various models. Images are organized by category--macro, night, etc.--and there are technical specs, price comparisons, and user reviews. (Some listings are incomplete: There were no prices for the Nikon D80, for instance, when we last checked.) If you're into the wisdom of crowds, the site also ranks models by popularity--Beth Collins Earlier: Before you buy a fancy camera, click here.
Affordable new HP laptop arrives at Best Buy
We've told you about the under-$600 laptops that are now on the market. They can be great PCs to take on the road. In the past couple of weeks, HP introduced a new laptop that is pricier (at about $1,100, including a two-year warranty) but has a lot more pre-installed features (such as all of the key Microsoft software, which is often not included on other budget-minded PCs). It's only for sale at Best Buy and it's part of that chain's Blue Label series of PCs. Best Buy surveys its customers about what they're looking for in tech gear, and then the company asks manufacturers to build products addressing customer needs. One of the first Blue Label Series products is a laptop. Best Buy spokespeople say that their surveys found that the "ideal laptop" had "longer battery life, a thin and lightweight design, a backlit keyboard, and more optimal screen size." HP and Toshiba took up the challenge. It's built a laptop that offers 4 hours of battery life on a single charge (according to the company), weighs less than 5 pounds, that's less than 1.5 inches thick, and has an illuminated keyboard. It's got the unromantic name of the HP Pavilion dv3510nr notebook. I'm not a tech guru, but it caught my eye when I was at one of the season's many tech product fairs. It has a 13.3-inch diagonal widescreen display that showed movie in high-def quality when I saw a test model. The laptop is sold with and come with a two-year warranty for free. In case you're looking for a new laptop, you'll find it for $1,099 at bestbuy.com. EARLIER ON THE BLOG Gear: Laptop bags that will pass the TSA test
Now you can see hotel starting rates on Kayak
Kayak has introduced a monthly calendar that lists the starting rates for hotels by the day of the month. Working along the same lines as its Buzz flight calendar, the hotel chart lets you see the best available price based on data pulled from sites like Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity, Priceline, Hotels.com, and the hotels' own websites. Although the flight calendar lists the starting rate on any airline, the hotel calendar only displays the prices for one property at a time. The idea is that people tend to care a fair amount about which hotel they stay in, but when they're looking for a flight, the cheapest one is usually the one they're going to go with.Kayak has also tweaked other parts of its website. A Toolbox section on the upper left now lets you share results with others. A small heart icon next to each result lets you tag them as favorites, making them extra prominent for recipients. The e-mailed link stays live for just 30 minutes, though Kayak's spokeswoman tells me that time limit may be extended. The collaboration tool is helpful when you're trying to coordinate flight schedules with friends, for instance. In my meeting with Kayak last week, I also learned that the site plans to roll out an instant-messaging function, so you will soon be able to share your search results over IM as well.
Sunscreen alert: One product you shouldn't buy
Summer's in full swing—and to survive those backyard barbecues and camping trips, you're probably slathering up with sunscreen and bug spray. But here's a quick tip: Don't use a product that combines the two. Sure, it seems like a great time-saving idea, a product that has both sunscreen and DEET (or another bug repellant, like IR3535) in it. But the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends avoiding just this type of commodity. Because DEET and sunscreen products have different instructions for proper (and safe) use, you risk overapplying DEET when using a combination product. For instance, you should reapply sunscreen every two hours, regardless of what you're up to (that's just good practice for avoiding sunburn). But DEET has a longer wear time, sometimes up to eight hours. So in protecting yourself from sunburn, you might be overexposing yourself to DEET. The solution? Joseph Conlon, of the American Mosquito Control Association (an organization of mosquito-control professionals), says to apply your chosen sunscreen first, and then the DEET or bug-repellant product. That way, you can continue to put on sunscreen over the bug spray when you need to. We're not promising you'll make it through the rest of summer sunburn- and bug bite- free—but that's all part of the fun, right?