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Gizmo geeks, it's time to get packing

HOLIDAY GIVING

The new devices are beguiling. But before loading up, consider their mobility.

December 05, 2004|Judi Dash | Special to The Times

Gone are the days when a simple film camera was the only electronic device most travelers took along on vacation. These days a plethora of high-tech gizmos promises instant entertainment and sophisticated ways to capture and replay memories.

The stuff is seductive, but beware because technology has its drawbacks: the specter of hauling around chargers, adapters or sufficient batteries and worries about theft or damage. Then there's the philosophical dilemma of whether you can really get away from it all if you're carrying so much of it with you.

If you're still game, here are recommendations for some of the best in portable electronics:

Digital cameras

Do you want a camera you can carry in your pocket or a bigger, full-featured one with interchangeable lenses and more bells and whistles? Go for the widest range of zoom capabilities, at least 3-megapixel resolution (more for enlargements of more than 4 by 6 inches), a slot for high-capacity digital film cards, a built-in flash for red eye and shadow reduction and, if possible, a hot shoe for a powerful external flash.

* Basic: Canon PowerShot A75. $299. This 3.2-megapixel compact camera has a large, sharp 1.8-inch LCD monitor, a flash and a zoom lens that goes from 35mm to 105mm. Twelve shooting modes offer preset parameters for common shooting situations -- such as portraits, landscapes, night scenes and sports -- and manual options. Burst mode clicks off 11 frames in six seconds. A print/share button makes printing directly to a photo printer easy, or print from a CompactFlash card. Runs on AA batteries.

Size: 4 by 2.5 inches by 1.2 inches deep; 7 ounces. Information: (800) OK-CANON (652-2666), usa.canon.com.

* Midrange: Olympus C-5060. $600. This 5.1-megapixel camera offers one of the widest-ranging lenses available in a compact -- 27mm to 110 mm -- as well as a built-in flash and capability for add-on lenses and an external dedicated flash. It's also one of the fastest compacts. A multi-position, 1.8-inch LCD screen swivels in several directions to capture shots at different angles. Special software allows users to stitch together up to 10 frames for panoramic shots. You can even get an optional underwater housing that's watertight down to 130 feet. Dual media slots accommodate CompactFlash cards or Olympus xD-Picture cards.

Size: 4.6 by 3.4 inches by 2.6 inches deep; 15 ounces. Infor- mation: (888) 553-4448, www.olympusamerica.com.

* Splurge: Nikon D70. $1,350. Includes Nikkor 18-70mm f/3.5-4.5 lens; $1,000 without lens. Nikon's newest entry-level digital SLR has 6.1 megapixels and 1.8-inch LCD screen and has most of the pro capabilities of Nikon's more expensive pro models. It's compatible with AF Nikkor lenses, from a 10.5mm fisheye to a 600mm zoom. Pluses are the built-in pop-up flash (not available on the pro Nikon models) and a hot shoe for an additional flash. The D70 is fast -- it can capture three frames per second. Choose manual, automatic settings or a combination. Comes with a rechargeable battery and charger. Media: CompactFlash card.

Size (without lens): 5.5 by 4.4 inches by 3 inches deep; 32 ounces. Information: (800) 645-6687, www.nikonusa.com.

Digital camcorders

How big is too big? Look for image stabilization, a long battery life and convenient controls. The camcorders below use mini-DV tapes, the most popular medium on the market.

* Basic: Sony Handycam DCR-HC20. $400. The Karl Zeiss lens has 10X optical zoom. Image stabilization and infrared lighting functions provide excellent picture quality. The 2.5-inch swivel-touch LCD screen is a cool feature that's easy to master.

Size: 2 by 4.5 inches by 3.5 inches deep; 13 ounces. Information: (877) 865-SONY (865-7669), www.sonystyle.com.

* Midrange: Canon Optura 40. $999. Besides mini-DV video media, the Optura 40 also captures 2.2-megapixel stills to an SD memory card and can record video for Web use. There's a 12X zoom lens, built-in flash for low-light situations and special shooting programs for sand and snow, sports and night scenes. The 2.5-inch LCD screen allows you to monitor audio levels on the screen while shooting.

Size: 3 by 5.3 inches by 3.2 inches deep; 20.6 ounces. Information: (800) OK-CANON (652-2666), usa.canon.com.

* Splurge: Panasonic AG-DVC30. $2,595. The DVC30 packs features usually found only in larger, higher-priced professional models. Images are captured on three quarter-inch charge coupled devices, or CCDs. The Leica lens has a 16X zoom range and solid optical stabilization. The big 3.5-inch LCD display is sharp and bright, and the stereo microphone system captures sound crisply. There's an impressive selection of image controls -- programmed and manual. There are three modes of Infrared Super Night shooting and extensive digital zoom options.

Size: 10 by 4.3 inches by 4.6 inches deep; 2.3 pounds. Information: (800) PANA (211-7262), www.panasonic.com.

Portable DVD players

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