Digital Gear: The Price Is Right

With prices of consumer electronics plummeting, it is a good time to buy devices like digital cameras. Fujifilm is offering full-featured digital cameras at an entry-level price of around US$90, while Shure has introduced professional-level headsets at $60. For those with plenty of cash to spare, a $2 million speaker system from Transmission Audio may catch your fancy.

Fujifilm's new cameras

Fujifilm last month announced new point-and-shoot cameras priced under $100, which could be great upgrades from the older 3- and 4-megapixel models. The slim 10-megapixel A170 ($89.95) and 12-megapixel A220 ($99.95) cameras include 3x optical zoom and 2.7-inch LCDs, and standard features like face detection, image stabilization and automatic scene recognition. Running on AA batteries, the cameras can shoot movies at 30 frames per second. The cameras should be available soon, the company said.

An advanced point-and-shoot, the 10-megapixel F70EXR, includes features to snap higher-quality pictures. It is one of Fujifilm's first point-and-shoot cameras with the company's Super CCD EXR sensor, which reaches longer distances and captures richer detail in high-resolution mode. It also tries to improve photographs by adjusting the camera's sensor, focus, color, exposure and flash.

The F70EXR includes a 2.7-inch LCD and 10x optical zoom, and runs on a lithium-ion battery. It also includes features like face detection, automatic red-eye removal, resizing and the ability to record voice memos. It includes 47MB of internal storage and is priced at $279.95.

The million-dollar speaker

Have a lot of cash on hand? Consider Transmission Audio's Ultimate speaker system, which has a staggering price of $2 million. And indeed, for the price, the system is loaded with features that could literally blow anyone away.

The system has two speakers in a 40-piece set, with 12 panels incorporating speaker elements including subwoofers and woofers. The panels are 2.1 meters (6.88 feet) tall, and offer a combined sound output of 62,000 watts at peak power. Sound can be heard comfortably 150 meters away from the system, said Bo Bengtsson, a Transmission Audio spokesman.

The built-to-order product is targeted at installations like cinemas or open places, Bengtsson said. It could also interest enthusiasts with "plenty of space in listening rooms and who settle for optimum performance regardless of price," he said.

And when Bengtsson refers to space in listening rooms, he means plenty of space.

"We advise against feeding the system with more power than peak 12kW as it might damage buildings as well as people's hearing," Bengtsson said. Touché.

Shure's new headsets

Shure is jumping outside the professional sound space with its new over-the-ear headsets for consumers. The new line includes the SRH240 ($59.99), the SRH440 ($99.99) and SRH840 headsets ($199.99). The features included in the headsets scale up with the price, with some pretty nifty sound-isolation features in the advanced SRH840 headsets.

I handed over a loaned SRH840 unit to Jeremy Jules of PC World, who tested the headset with multiple sound sources, including an iPod, a music system and a high-definition movie.

The overall results were excellent, with clear sound and strong beats from all sources, Jules said. It delivered good sound at all ranges with good torque on the beats. However, Jules said not to expect the sound quality to carry the sophistication of speakers found in dance clubs. It also took Jules some time to get used to the headset's wider fitting, which is a common problem when consumers are trying to adapt to new headsets.

But with so many quality headsets available at lower prices, the $199.99 price also raised some concern. However, Shure officials said the SRH840 delivers the highest quality of sound by adapting technologies generally found in its professional-quality headsets. Beyond sound quality, if pricing is a bigger concern, you could opt for cheaper models.

Spot updates its messenger

It's summertime in the U.S., and Spot's satellite messaging device may be a lifesaver in case you get lost while hiking. The device sends rescue alerts to family or emergency responders via SMS or e-mail, and includes GPS tracking so emergency authorities can pinpoint where a message originated. The original Spot messaging device was announced in 2007, and two years on, the company has updated the device, making it 30 percent smaller and lighter at 5.2 ounces (147.4 grams).

Technical updates include an improved GPS chipset and satellite communications for better tracking and communication. The device is targeted at hikers, travelers, cyclists or adventurers. It works in extreme environments, with temperatures between 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees Celsius) to -22 degrees Fahrenheit, according to the company.

Prices for Spot are yet to be determined, though basic messaging service needs to be purchased at $99 per year. Tracking via Google Maps is an optional feature available at $50 per year. A shipping date hasn't been announced, though further details will be available through the company's Web site.

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