30-gigabyte Army Knife
It's a portable hard drive! No, it's an MP3 player! No, it's a still-image and video viewer! Stop! SmartDisk's new FlashTrax (approx. street price: $500) is all these and more. With 30GB of memory, FlashTrax reportedly has some iPods shaking in their skins....Of greatest interest to photographers is FlashTrax's CompactFlash slot, which allows direct image transfer from a digital camera's CF card to the hard drive. (Sounds like just the ticket for a long photographic vacation, and if your camera uses another type of storage card, all you need is a CompactFlash adapter.) You can view your pix (or play back AVI video) on the 3.5-inch LCD screen, or on a TV connected via the NTSC or PAL port. Scroll through the images with the remote, or run a slide show. When your eyes become tired, play MP3 music files, which you can download from your computer via the Hi-Speed USB interface, or copy from a CF card. And, when vacation's over (boo!), the FlashTrax lets you transfer data files from work to home. SmartDisk plans to
support other video file formats-look for free upgrades on its web site soon. The FlashTrax comes with a rechargeable lithium ion battery, remote control, AC adapter, USB 2.0 cable, video cable, and carrying case. To learn more, or to purchase, log onto www.smartdisk.com.
Stow and Show
Here's a fast and easy way to share your digital pictures online or view them on your computer. PhotoShow software by Simple Star (2.1, street: $30; Deluxe, street: $50) lets you create neat slide shows with a variety of transitions and audio. Simply import your picture files into different shows, select the transition(s) you'd like to use, and choose a song. (The program ships with preset music themes, but you can also use your own MP3 files.) The 2.1 version lets you add text to your pictures, crop, rotate, adjust brightness, and include animated clip art. The Deluxe version has more extensive editing features, such as redeye removal, autocorrect, touch up, and image-organizing capabilities. You can print both at home and to an online service. Clip art is included. You can also use your own GIF-format images and graphics to personalize the slide show further. PhotoShow lets you upload the slide show to your web page or to one hosted by PhotoShow. It's Mac (9.2, not OS X) and Windows compatible. Visit www.simplestar.com.
A Digital Backpack
Storage, storage, storage-we all need more, and, thanks to larger file sizes from our mucho-megapixel cameras, we all need it right now. Micro Solutions has an answer: Its new backpack DVD+RW drive (street: $350) lets you archive all those digital files piling up in your computer. The backpack features Hi-Speed USB 2.0 connectivity, and is very portable-it weighs in at about three pounds and comes with its own carrying case, so you can take it along pretty much anywhere. The unit burns at speeds up to 4X with a DVD+R, 2.4X with a DVD+RW, 16X for CD-R, and 10X for CD-RW; it plays back all these formats as well. It's only available for Windows PCs (Pentium III 500MHz processor, Hi-Speed USB 2.0, 128MB RAM, and up to 11GB hard drive space). If you don't have a USB 2.0 connection yet, buy a backpack now and use it to burn CDs for the time being. Call 800-890-7227 or visit www.micro-solutions.com.
Versatile Video Editing
iMovie is not enough. Final Cut Pro 3.0 is too much. What is a Mac owner to do when it comes to editing video clips? Maybe take a ride on Apple's new Final Cut Express (street: $299), which is to video editing what Photoshop Elements is to image manipulation: a versatile, full-featured program that's not quite pro-level-but is a lot less pricey. Final Cut Express provides: simple import of video from any FireWire-enabled miniDV camcorder; over 200 transitions, filters, and effects; and 2-D and 3-D titles. Express also uses nonlinear editing techniques such as slips, slides, and splits to make edits without changing your original footage. You even get audio filters, a three-band equalizer, and the ability to mix up to 99 tracks, plus voice-over. Once you've played, tweaked, and rendered, you can use the print-to-video function to record back to tape, or employ
Apple's iDVD to create DVDs. To see pricing and a full list of features, or to purchase, log onto www.apple.com.
Pro Color Profiling for Non-Pros
Want to coax truer color out of your digital camera? That's easy if you use a high-end color-profiling system and software like GretagMacbeth's Profile Maker 4.0 (around $1,000). Too rich for your blood? QPcolorkit (street: $200) from Argraph offers a remarkable level of control for the home enthusiast. All you do is place a QPcard 201 in your picture (the kit includes five), shoot it, and download the image into the QPcolorsoft 501 software. Compare the original file to the one your camera captured, and save a profile. Now, whenever you take a picture under the same lighting conditions, just apply that profile. Your images should show better, more accurate color. You might consider profiling daylight, flash, indoor tungsten, and indoor fluorescent lighting-for starters. For more info, or to purchase, log onto www.qpcard.com.
An Alluring Elura
You've determined that your next digital video camcorder will go anywhere, but also do everything, and well. Here's one for your short shopping list: Canon's Elura 50 (street: $900) is small enough to fit in a coat pocket (albeit with a bit of a bulge), but packed with features for both video and still shooting. The Elura 50 has 10X optical zoom, up to XGA (1024x768 pixels) still-image capture, Motion-JPEG, and direct-connect printing to Canon printers. Canon claims greater color accuracy in either capture mode using the new DIGIC DV chip, which has two different color processing techniques specifically tailored for video or still imaging. The Elura 50 accepts both Secure Digital and MultiMedia cards to store stills and Motion-JPEGs. For those shaky moments, it also has image stabilization. The fully rotating, 2-inch color LCD monitor helps with high- and low-angle shots, and self-portraits. There's also a full range of exposure controls and shooting modes. Color Night Mode allows the user to shoot in near-total darkness and still get a full color image. For a complete list of features visit www.canondv.com.