camera tech

The convenience and internet facility of cell phone photography has caused a definite decline in the quality of family images I’ve shot and collected over the last few years.   This recent picture was typical of my disappointment:

Taken with a Pantech android phone, I’ve observed that iPhone photos are capable of quite a bit better quality.

I realized my ‘good’ camera has just been collecting dust for months.   I thought I might pickup an Eye-Fi SD card for my camera, which would permit me to email and post better photos via my smartphone.  Alas, my high-end Lumix TZ1 point and shoot from 2006 is too old and not compatible with the eyefi technology!

I’m reading up on camera’s with built-in wifi now available, but it appears the integrated technology is still buggy and causing consumer complaints.   Maybe this all will mature a little and I can look for santa to bring me a solution this winter.    (Recall, I had a pretty good cellphone camera for a little while in 2010, but I discarded it for my first smartphone).

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yet another new cellphone

The  bargain-priced off-contract Palm Pixi Plus I picked up last summer went terminal with major malfunctions of the touchscreen.    I got a new 2-year verizon contract android phone, the Pantech Breakout.   Its the low end of Android devices, and I liked it because its the smallest smart phone they offered.  I just don’t want to have to carry a brick in my pocket.  All phones w/tactile keyboard were thick and heavy.

Pros

  • Android apps (its OS 2.3)
  • GPS run tracking program is accurate and usable
  • excellent voice recognition and voice prompted search
  • 4G with front camera for face calls
  • google navigation good enough to drop verizon navigator
  • much better camera than the pixi
  • much faster than the pixi, capable multitasker
  • speakerphone mic works when connected to car audio

Cons/compromises

  • no free wifi hotspot
  • Android OS instead of WebOS
  • no tactile keyboard, I make errors every single time using touchscreen keyboard
  • larger than I would like.
  • no capacitive touchstone charging available
  • no flash on camera (and no flashlight)
  • shorter battery life, but I’m managing it well, see below
  • marque time display does not show when phone is locked (this is a clear UI design fail)
  • Pixi had a silence rocker switch, and a keyboard key for the @ sign.   Nice UI touches.

The best android tip I’ve come across so far is the battery saver application Juice Defender.  Try it, it really works.  Otherwise, my ‘droid experience has been pretty good.  It has a built in task manager that displays and kills applications, so I don’t have to engage with the ad supported app Task Killer.  I haven’t figured out shortcuts for highlight, copy and paste yet.   Haven’t tested or used any bluetooth functions yet.   My biggest complaint is the phone came jam packed with junky apps that I can’t remove, and I’ve run out of internal storage already and have to put additional apps on the micro-SD card storage.

Did I mention the size?  Its the smallest I could get, but I’ll bet money that the current trend towards large-screen phones is going to reverse, and we’ll see some more compact devices in the next year or so.

 

Palm Pixi Plus smartphone

Pixi on inductive touchstone chargerRecently I picked up a Verizon 3G Pixi Plus smartphone because they’ve been dumped on the market and I could buy one for only $60 w/no contract. I’m not eligible for a contract phone upgrade until April 2012. The Pixi runs the WebOS operating system and has a lot going for it, however application development is behind the curve because this smartphone platform is at least 4th behind Apple, Android and Blackberry. I’ve also ran into some severe limitations of this tiny phone, and I’m already craving an upgrade. here’s the good and the bad.

Pros

  • great small form factor, slick physical design, allows me to ditch the belt holster
  • although small, the tactile keyboard works well
  • verizon navigator is built in which I use a lot
  • drPodder app has revolutionized my podcast acquisition and consumption
  • email and calendar integration works really really well, for work and personal accounts.
  • wifi works seamlessly and flawlessly.  also has a built in 3G hotspot function which works well
  • cool inductive no-cable magnetic charging system (shown in image)
  • Pandora

Cons

  • slow.  and gets memory leaks which interfere with launching apps and requires a reboot
  • underpowered, can’t really run two apps at a time without apps screwing up (eg. podcast playback  simultaneous with navigator)
  • GPS works, but is erratic and not accurate enough for run tracking.  Consistently overstates mileage.
  • Verizon navigator is not as full featured as it was on my old media phone (wtf ?!)
  • screen is too small to really take advantage of google maps
  • no voice recorder function or app available
  • camera has no settings or controls whatsoever.  click. save. switch to video. click. record. stop. save.  thats it.
  • no streaming Rhapsody client available or intended – got to go to one of the other big three for that.
  • Does not handle rhapsody DRM, so I can’t even load my subscription music on it.
  • no voice recognition for dialing

Next phone will probably be a smallish android with a slideout keyboard.  With 4G if available.  Previous phones:

2010: Casio’s C721 Exilim Phone

2008, LG Dare

2007, LG VX8700

 


Makeshift music video

Here’s a new video with our quartet Makeshift:

Our partner and percussionist Scott Rubox Pausal did the camera work. I worked on it over 4 weekends, and in the process taught myself Adobe Premiere elements.

The song Bye Bye Blues was written in 1930 and was a hit for Les Paul and Mary Ford in 1952.

Some tech notes:

Audio recorded on a Zoom H1 2-track digital recorder

Audio equalized. reverbed and mastered in Audacity opensource freeware. Final audio cut is a combination of two takes. The audio track is available for download at http://dl.dropbox.com/u/16170547/ByeByeBlues_2011.mp3

Video shot with Panasonic DMC LX5 in SD widescreen.  Nice wide angle on this camera – 24mm equiv.

Video edited with Adobe Premiere Elements 8.0.

era of technology

Note the year of this citation:

It is an extraordinary era in which we live. It is altogether new. The world has seen nothing like it before. I will not pretend, no one can pretend, to discern the end; but every body knows that the age is remarkable for scientific research into the heavens, the earth, and what is beneath the earth; and perhaps more remarkable still for the application of this scientific research to the pursuits of life.  The ancients saw nothing like it. The moderns have seen nothing like it till the present generation. . . . We see the ocean navigated and the solid land traversed by steam power, and intelligence communicated by electricity.  Truly this is almost a miraculous era. What is before us no one can say, what is upon us no one can hardly realize. The progress of the age has almost outstripped human belief; the future is known only to Omniscience.

Daniel Webster, 1847
http://etc.technologyandculture.net/2010/08/technology-a-hazardous-concept/

Casio’s C721 Exilim Phone

My new-every-two Verizon term was up for renewal, meaning I could get a new phone with big discounts.  For the last two years, I’ve had a LG Dare touchscreen phone which features a decent web browser, and a virtual QWERTY keypad for spelling out those odd words and terminology in email and texts.  It also had a decent camera, and took nice quality 640X480 video.   I’d also gotten used to using the Verizon navigator service and Verizon email client and liked both.

So, I’d been thinking the last year about making the leap to a real smart-phone, an Android of some flavor, and making the commitment to Google address book, maps and navigation, and all that goes along with that.   But I’d also been missing the phone call experience of a flip phone – something about talking into a flat touchscreen surface held against the side of my head never did feel quite right.  After several weeks of researching and pondering, after all, phone selection is a big commitment, I decided against a touchscreen/Android  upgrade and found a flip phone with some pretty cool features.

This is what attracted me about the C721 Casio phone:

  • flip phone style
  • cool conversion to digital camera form
  • image-stabilization camera
  • 3X optical zoom camera
  • runs Verizon navigator
  • runs verizon email client for personal and work email
  • camera flash works as a flashlight
  • Rhapsody music compatible
  • and the biggie: military spec WATER and SHOCK RESISTANCE!

From my research I was aware of the following compromises:

  • no QWERTY keyboard
  • no android apps of course
  • maximum of 320X170 video capability, I’d miss the hi-res video of my LG.
  • crippled web browser
  • Verizon address book still lacks mailing address fields
  • no built in headphone/audio jack, and the provided port converter is for 2.5mm size headset plug
  • awkward connectivity to a PC, not plug and play

After using this phone for a month, I’ve got the following observations:

  • The camera takes damn good photos, but its not the quality I had hoped.  Especially in lowlight.
  • the external buttons are small and awkward
  • built in photo editing functions are awful
  • battery life is poor and getting worse, but I may have a defective battery
  • Verizon navigator works great, and is truly functional and legible.  Just wish they offered speedometer and odometer functions for my running.
  • did I mention waterproof?  I’m not reluctant to take this phone anywhere – and I’ve lost two phones previously to water damage.
  • I have yet to try putting music on this phone, or to sync with a computer.  Too much hassle.
  • Verizons proprietary T9 predictive word technology cannot be taught custom words.  Because no QWERTY keypad, I would use this.
  • A native facebook client is not available.

I could switch back and forth between my old LG Dare and the Casio if I had a need to, but the irony is that the circumstance where I am most in need of the Dare’s web browser and QWERTY keyboard is when I go camping, and that’s also when the waterproof casio is highly valued.  Now, if I could only tether with the Casio, I’d be a happy camper.