November 26, 2011, 8:36 AM — Like smartphones and music players, the digital video and photography category has exploded with cameras over the past few years. Rather than focusing on every model and device with an X number of megapixels, we've focused our attention on new ways and gadgets that incorporate photography or video in new or different ways. There are plenty of sites that cover each new camera (PC World comes to mind), rather, here are some cool gift ideas to enhance your existing camera or video device:
Products reviewed in this category:
Olloclip for iPhone, by Olloclip
GE Power Pro X500 Digital Camera
SportsCam DVR-460 Mini Digital Recorder, by Swann
Looxcie2 wearable video camera, by Looxcie
D-Link DCS-932L Wireless N Day/Night Home Network Camera
Home Video Monitoring System with Skype, by Lorex
DVR 410 digital camcorder, by Vivitar (available at Staples)
DXG 3D Camera and Viewer, by DXG USAVizit Frame, by Isabella Products
CineSkates, by CineticsPlay video memo pad, by Native Union
Video Spy Pen, by Brookstone
When the Cool Yule Tools Santa gave me a GE camera to test, I was worried that the flash would be a 100-watt light bulb, the zoom would sound like a jet engine, and the controls would be just like on my microwave oven. But not to worry. GE brought its strong reputation for good engineering to the world of digital cameras.
In fact, for $128, the X500 packs quite a punch. The basics are pretty impressive: 16 megapixels and a 15x wide optical zoom. But this baby is way more than a simple point and shoot. There's image stabilization, a panorama mode that lets you stitch together several shots into one wide-angle shot, smile detection, blink detection, video capabilities, and all of the setting options that you could ever imagine.
On the plus side, I found the camera to be well designed and easy to use. There's a nice grip with a groove for your finger, so you can hold and shoot with one hand pretty comfortably. The on-off button is a toggle that is well marked and easy to find. Same with the flash - just punch the black button and the flash pops up. All the other controls are intuitive. The 2.7-inch LCD is excellent, and there's also a viewfinder option.
On the negative side, I did find the X500 to be somewhat slow. If you spot something and want to take a shot immediately, this might not be the camera for you. Also, the quality of indoor shots is OK, not spectacular. But for $128, I would definitely put this on my shopping list. The X500 comes in basic black or a black and white model that looks like something Darth Vader would use.
Cool Yule rating: 4 stars
Price: $128 (Amazon)
Reviewed by Neal Weinberg