Here’s a look at the pick of the season in Home Theatre Systems and Digital Cameras:
The Panasonic offering is a Blu-ray/DVD/CD player home theatre system that has full 5.1 system capabilities. It features a set top style control unit that combines the disc player with a powerful 1,000 Watts (RMS) amplifier, floor standing column speakers and a subwoofer. A useful feature is the inbuilt iPod docking station that can be pulled out as required.
The Samsung home cinema has great picture quality and high definition sound. As with the Panasonic, it has 5.1 channel capabilities, 1,000 Watts (RMS) power output and floor mounted column speakers.
Although the Marantz is neither Blu-Ray nor HD-DVD, it does offer a way to play your existing DVD collection without having to buy new copies. And it does it in 1080p upscaling. The unit is solidly built and offers fabulous audio quality with crisp, clear and natural looking video.
Marantz ES7001 Cinemarium:
A simple design that hides six-channel sound from a single box. Multiple inputs include 2 HDMI, 3 optical digital audio and 2 stereo audio; the unit has an HDMI output. Setup is a bit fiddly, as the control window on the front is tiny.
An excellent 3-channel system for someone who doesn’t have space for a full home cinema, the Denon can accept inputs from a wireless home network. Although not offering the same surround sound as a full 5.1 system, the sound quality is impressive.
Philips CTS4000 Ambisound:
The Philips CTS4000 Ambisound looks like a flattened football but has impressive audio technology with full 5.1-speaker system. It has an inbuilt iPod docking station, a USB port and a DVD player. Graphic equalisers enable the audio to be configured to your own preferences.
Another full 5.1 channel home cinema, this Sony offering has 850 watts total power output through the S-Master digital amplifier. The unit has an FM receiver and USB music record and playback facilities and can upscale DVD’s to 1080p HD quality.
If you like a really large screen, then perhaps the JVC projector model is the way to go. The device can display a picture up to 5 meters diagonal at a resolution of 11920 x 1080 pixels. The picture has good contrast with a bright crisp image, but occasionally the colour can appear oversaturated.
Logitech Harmony 1100:
Now you can take control of just about everything in your house with this universal remote control unit. The unit has a luxurious feel and look about it, but the touchscreen system may take a bit of getting used to. And it takes a long while to teach the unit all the functions…
A budget Blu-ray player, the LG has excellent video quality and performance and has HD quality audio output. Perhaps the most impressive feature is the YouTube player. You can also plug in your USB device to listen to music or display photos.
Canon PowerShot G11:
If you’re looking for high photo quality, the 10-megapixel Canon Powershot G11 could be the camera of choice. The somewhat larger than usual metal body has a sturdy feel and gives space for easily accessible controls and a useful sized optical viewfinder. A 2.8-inch LCD display screen can be articulated with a flip-and-twist design, a feature that many will find useful. The camera is a little slow between repeated shots – under some conditions up to 2.5 seconds between shots.
Probably the most comprehensive camera in the increasing Micro Four Thirds standard, the Panasonic DMC-GF1 has an interchangeable lens system and built-in flash. 12.1-megapixels gives sharp quality images and the 3-inch LCD display screen is a useful size, although there is no electronic viewfinder.
Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR:
A compact camera with 12-megapixels and a 3-inch LCD screen. The Fujifilm F200EXR uses the new CCD EXR sensor that claims to give improved performance under low light and an improved dynamic range – and seems to live up to the claims.
Fujifilm FinePix S5700:
The FinePix S5700 is a good compromise between the system camera and compact camera worlds. It offers an impressive 10x optical zoom and a 7.1-megapixel sensor, together with a 2.5-inch LCD screen. The camera accepts SD, SDHC and xC cards, but rather unusually runs on four AA-sized batteries rather than the more usual rechargeable single cell.
Nikon Coolpix S1000pj:
A unique, if rather gimmicky concept, this Nikon combines a camera with a projector that can display images up to 40 inches in size on any surface – although it’s best on a white wall in a darkened room. The camera has a 12.1-megapixel sensor, a 2.7-inch LCD screen and comes with a 5x optical zoom lens.
Fujifilm FinePix Real 3D W1:
If you can remember the 1950’s and the first attempts at 3-D movies, you’ll probably love the Real 3D W1 camera. It uses 2 lenses to take separate images of 6-megapixels and then blends them together to create a 3 dimensional image. The results can be disconcerting at first – rather like those Magic Eye puzzles – and it uses proprietary Fujifilm technology, limiting the usefulness.
Canon Powershot SX200 IS:
A simple point-and-shoot compact camera, the Powershot SX200 IS is well equipped for a camera in its class. The camera has 12.1-megapixels sensor and a large 3-inch LCD display screen; it can also shoot HD video and offers full manual control over shutter speed, aperture and focus.
For those who get their kicks out of self-portraits, the Samsung ST550 has great appeal. Apart from the usual 3.5-inch LCD on the rear of the camera, it also has a 1.5-inch LCD screen on the front, making taking self-portraits child’s play. The rear LCD also acts as a touchscreen, enabling you to scroll photos a la iPhone.
Olympus Pen E-P1:
The Olympus Pen E-P1 is another built to the Micro Four Thirds standards. It is a lightweight system camera with a 12.3-megapixel live MOS sensor and can shoot an impressive 3 images per second. It allows for HD quality filming and has an HDMI interface. The camera even includes a built in electronic spirit level.
Pentax Optio W80:
The Pentax Optio W80 is one of the most rugged and robust compact cameras. It is rated waterproof to a depth of 5 meters for 2 hours and can survive a drop of up to one meter. It will even operate at temperatures down to -10° C. The rugged design is complemented by a 12.1-megapixel sensor and a high-performance zoom lens.