Photo and Video Gift Ideas [2010 Cool Yule Tools]

Digital cameras, camcorders, photo printers and other gift ideas for the shutterbug on your list

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CW450t digital camera, by HPHP cW450t digital cameraIt’s a testament to the ease of use of this HP digital camera to tell you that my 4.5-year-old daughter and 3-year-old son could quickly and easily take photos with this camera, and with about a 40% success rate actually take a decent photo. As long as their fingers weren’t in front of the lens, and they were pointing it somewhat close to the subject, they could expect a good photo for their efforts.

So chances are that anyone receiving this camera for a gift will likely have a much higher success rate than my two children. The 12.5-megapixel camera offers features such as 4x optical and 5x digital zoom, a choice of 25 scene modes, blink protection (the camera can save/delete photos if a blink is detected), and support for 32GB of storage capacity on SD/SDHC memory cards. The camera is powered by two AA batteries, which has its pros/cons. Some like the convenience of replaceable batteries that you can change immediately (or with a quick trip to a store), others like having a battery that can be recharged via USB or power adapter.

The 2.7-inch LCD touch screen lets you quickly touch your way through menu options and settings, and the buttons are all in the right location if you’ve used digital cameras before. The size is very portable and light – you can easily throw this in a purse, backpack or even your pockets if you want to, and it comes with different color options for the stylish users on your list. The camera comes with ArcSoft MediaImpression software for editing after you upload to a PC.

Overall there are enough features for a new digital camera user to enjoy and experiment with, and it has all of the things you’d expect from a modern digital camera. I know this sounds clichéd, but it really is so easy that a child can operate it.

Cool Yule rating: 4 stars 

Price: About $100

Company Web site

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

PlayTouch Video Camera, by KodakKodak PlayTouch video cameraKodak’s PlayTouch Video Camera is an exciting little device. It can record 1080p HD video and it’s the size of smart phone. The images are seriously sharp, even at 720p HD. Your photos can be taken with four different effects: black and white, sepia tone, high saturation, and 1970’s film look (which has more of a gritty feel). Still photos can be captured at 5 Megapixels. The only downside to the quality is that the PlayTouch has no flash, but at least it makes use of all available light. I’ve never had a camera take such good shots with such little light.

The camera is very easy to use, it’s basically just a point and shoot. The touch screen makes it simple to navigate through the settings and options. Even children and people who are terrible with technology could figure it out.

Because it’s a Kodak, it comes with Easy Share technology. Basically, there is a button in the review screen. If you push the Share button while reviewing a video or picture, you can then decide how you want to share the video.  Once you plug the camera into your computer it will automatically “share” to the location you chose (an e-mail address, YouTube, Facebook, Flickr, and a few lesser known locations).  You will however, have to download the application to your computer. It’s super simple though.

Two other features make this camera super user friendly. The first is that the USB connection is part of the camera. You never have to worry about finding cords in order to view your videos. This seems like such a far cry of the video cameras of my youth,  which required tiny video tapes. Because of this, I don’t think my family ever saw the videos we made. With the built-in USB connection and the EasyShare capability, you could take a high quality, holiday video and send it off to the grandparents in less time than it would take to write a sweet message in a holiday card.

The second ease of use feature I really appreciated is the record button itself. Unlike some other new cameras, you don’t have to hold down the button to record. Like a normal camera, just tap the record button and off it goes until you click it again to stop. The PlayTouch can be mounted on a tripod too.  This camera is so simple and easy to use, while making high quality videos, I think almost anyone could have fun using it.

Cool Yule rating: 4.5 stars 

Price: About $200

Company Web site

Reviewed by Jen Finn

Gorillapod Magnetic tripod, by JobyJoby Gorillapod MagneticThis little tripod totally rocks! Joby’s Gorillapod Magnetic is intended for use with digital cameras to make it easier to take pictures. This tripod’s legs are made up of ball and socket joints so you can adjust it into hundreds of different positions, plus the feet are magnetic so you can take pictures in all sorts of odd positions and angles.

Here is a list of the things that I flawlessly used the tripod on: a metal railing, a wooden railing (the little legs clamped right around it), a car’s trunk, an uneven rock, a lamp post, and the hinges of an open door. I’m confident that it will be sturdy in more locations as well. Even if the object itself isn’t metal, the feet connect to themselves around the object or will just surround it enough to make it sturdy.

The Gorillapod also has an awesome quick release clip. You can remove a clip that’s attached to the screw that attaches the camera to the tripod. It’s easy to pop it out, screw it into thecamera, and then slip the clip back onto the head of the Gorillapod. The clip is so small you can just leave it attached to the camera, and then slip onto the Gorillapod whenever you want without the hassle of screwing the clip onto the camera every time.

Some people might not like this because it’s only as tall as your hand, but it can attach to almost anything to give you the height you desire. I liked the size, because it can fit in my purse, or even wrap itself around the strap of my small camera bag.

This would be a great gift for someone with any standard point-and-shoot style camera, especially if that person likes to take their camera out for a little adventure. Joby does make Gorillapods for heavier cameras, but the magnetic one will only support 325 grams.

Cool Yule rating: 4.5 stars

Price: $24.95

Company Web site

Reviewed by Jen Finn

PictureMate Show personal photo lab printer, by EpsonEpson PictureMate Show photo printerThe PictureMate brand of “personal photo lab” printers have consistently produced outstanding 4-by-6 inch prints over the years, and this year’s model is no different. What is different is the inclusion of a very large 7-inch display that not only makes it easier to select photos for printing, but it also then doubles as a digital photo frame for viewing photos when it’s not being used as a printer.

The other thing that has been added is a 270MB hard drive, for storing photos from your memory cards. These photos can also then become part of the slide show for the digital photo frame, but this also acts as a handy backup method for getting images from the digital camera to a more secure storage device. A USB port on the PictureMate Show lets you attach an external USB hard drive for more storage options.

A handle on the device lets you pick it up and move it around very easily, it prints from a variety of mobile storage media cards, and the photo prints it produces are of photo store quality. If you’re giving a digital camera to someone on your list this year, make sure that they also have the ability to print out their photos quickly and easily. Then you can keep the Show on your desk and view the photos after they’ve been printed.

Cool Yule rating: 5 stars

Price: $225

Company Web site

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

iMo FotoFrame Printer, by MIMO MonitorsMIMO Monitors iMo Foto PrinterLike the Epson PictureMate Show, this combo device merges a digital photo frame with a compact photo printer. The 8-inch LCD screen (800 by 600 resolution) shows pictures from a memory card (supports CompactFlash, SD, Memory Stick, MMS and xD) or USB stick. The unit has a 1GB internal hard drive that lets you store images, music and even video.

The printer uses a cartridge that includes the ink and paper, so you don’t have to buy separate photo paper. When a photo is printed, the colors are placed onto the paper one at a time (yellow, cyan, magenta, etc.), so printing is a bit slower than with the Epson photo printers we tried.  This also limits the number of photos you get per cartridge – after you use up the paper, you have to replace the cartridge.

Overall the system worked well, but I had one complaint. When you launch a slideshow, a really loud and annoying song starts playing, and you quickly have to figure out how to mute the sound or stop the song (there is an included remote, which makes this a bit easier).

This seems more like a digital photo frame first, with the option of being able to print photos as a secondary feature. If that’s what you’re looking for, then this device works just fine. If you are looking for more of a photo printer as your main tool, than check out the PictureMate Show.

Cool Yule rating: 3 stars

Price: $79.99

Company Web site

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

Pulse Digital Frame, by KodakKodak Pulse FrameI’ve tried a couple different digital frames before, and the Kodak Pulse is my favorite yet. The main reason is how simple it is to transfer photos to the device. You don’t even have to take it out of the box! That alone makes it a great gift for someone. You can give it to them with great photos pre-loaded (see below) and the recipient wouldn’t know until they set it up and photos started downloading to the frame. Additionally, the frame doesn’t come loaded with goofy, stock photos that you will later have to delete anyway.

Here’s how to do it – you go to KodakPulse.com and create an account, and then enter a code that’s on the digital frame box. Once you’ve set this up, you can then upload photos to the online account from your computer. When the owner of the digital frame connects the frame to their Wi-Fi network, photos from that account download to the photo frame. You can also view photos stored on an SD memory card.

There are two other ways that photos can be shared and downloaded to the frame. The system creates an e-mail address for the device, so every time that address receives a photo attachment, it can be downloaded to the frame (one hopes this e-mail address has a good spam filter). The other way is that the frame can be synchronized with a Facebook account and/or a Kodak Gallery Account. Every time you are tagged in a photo, it shows up on the frame. I chose to skip this step, because while I love seeing people’s photos of me on Facebook, I don’t necessarily want all of them popping up the frame.  Unfortunately, it doesn’t give you the option to pick and choose from Facebook. The final step allows you to invite other people to add photos. After you enter their e-mail addresses, an e-mail address is sent to your friends and family, explaining that they can send photos to that e-mail address. After that, photos can be managed and deleted online, not on the frame.

Kodak’s slogan for this frame is “Be surprised by new pictures, more often” and I think this frame totally lives up to that. How great is that for a gift? You can completely set it up for someone, even the Web site asks if it will be your account or if you’re only loading it for a loved one. Then, you can continue to add photos, even after you’ve given it to them. I know a lot of grandparents who would love to be surprised by new pictures of their grandchildren just arriving on their frame. This would work for all sorts of family or friends who are far away from loved ones and want to be surprised by photos of the people they miss. I even live near all of my family and friends and think it’s a super fun idea. This 10-inch frame can hold up to 4,000 photos, allowing for lots of fun surprises.

When actually using the frame’s touch screen, you can decide the speed at which the pictures change, you can pause it on just one picture, or use a setting that puts up five pictures at a time in varying sizes. The frame doesn’t allow you to create folders, but it will allow you to view only new pictures or pictures added in different ways (e-mail per person, online account, Facebook).

The frame is Energy Star rated because it will go into energy saver mode on a schedule that you set up on the Web site. For example, the frame I set up will come out of energy saver mode at 4 pm and play through the photos until midnight. I can change the settings online if I ever want the photos to play during different times.

I really think this is a great gift for almost anyone and it’s one of the best frames out there. I’ve reviewed a lot of Kodak products this year and I have to say that one thing Kodak has nailed across the board is ease of use. This frame is so simple, I can’t think of anyone in my life who couldn’t use it and that includes children and tech-phobic adults. Easy to use, easy to set up, and the photos look great on the screen, the Kodak Pulse makes for a great gift.

Cool Yule rating: 5 stars

Price: About $200

Company Web site

Reviewed by Jen Finn

Personal Photo Scanner/Converter, by PandigitalPandigital photo scannerThe Pandigital Personal Photo Scanner/Converter is average at best. It’s ideal if you already have one of Pandigital’s photo frames. It makes it pretty simple to scan photos in and load them directly to your frame without even having to use a computer. It’s also nice because it’s so small: just a thin, little stick of a scanner, only a few inches wide but 12 inches long. I like that it will scan anything from business cards to photos the size of a piece of paper (8.5 by 11 inches). My favorite part is that it also comes with something you can slip old or curled photos into before sending them through the scanner. I scanned some 50-year-old, black and white pictures and they survived just fine and the images look great.

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