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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Now, onto the features I wasn’t so crazy about. You can scan either directly to the memory card or to your computer, however it is not easy to switch between the two, and still find your photos on the memory card. The quick start guide is not user friendly and I sincerely doubt that my parents, let alone my grandparents, would be able to set up the “scan to computer” part of it. Actually, I even doubt that some of my co-workers could do it and they work with computers all day.

Picture quality aren’t helped much by this scanner. First, it’s really easy to get crooked images. Second, it crops all of your pictures, and will over crop any photos that have dark edges. Third, I’ve used other scanners that try to increase the quality of the images. This scanner is not one of those.

Finally, this scanner has to be fed photos one at a time, and it’s not the fastest. Maybe it would be useful if you only had a few pictures that you wanted to scan, especially if they are old photos, but if you have shoeboxes or albums filled with photos that you want to scan, this is not the scanner for you.

Cool Yule rating: 2 stars

Price: About $150

Company Web site

Reviewed by Jen Finn

Vizit 10.4-inch photo frame with mobile updatesVizit photo frame with mobile updatesThe Vizit photo frame is a digital picture frame that includes a SIM card slot in the base of the unit. The SIM allows for new photos to be received across the mobile cellular network. In order to receive the updates, you have to subscribe to a service plan – the basic plan costs $5.99 per month and lets you receive 100 photos per month. The premium plan, at $79.99 per year ($6.67 per month), gives you up to 1,450 photos per year (about 120 per month).

Authorized users (you send out invites to friends, family) can send new photos to the frame by sending an e-mail with a photo attachment to the frame’s address (when you get the frame you get a special e-mail address for the frame). About a minute or two after you send the photos, they should start appearing on the frame. The Vizit frame can store up to 150 photos on the device, after that it starts deleting the oldest photos. But don’t worry – older photos are still saved in the cloud, and you can select photos as “Favorites” that won’t be deleted. You can also stream photos from Photobucket, and Life Magazine has a “photo of the day” that you can sign up to receive.

The display doesn’t have a remote control (boo!), but the display does have a very rudimentary touch-screen interface that didn’t work half the time. Each selection required a very hard finger push, hopefully new versions will include a better sensitive touch screen, plus a remote. So there are still a few rough edges to the device.

However, I love the concept behind the Vizit – have a continually updated stream of photos that can come to the machine via phone or e-mail. Some hardware improvements and control options would make the next version even more impressive.

Cool Yule rating: 2.5 stars

Price: $280 for the frame, plus subscription service for mobile network uploads.

Company Web site

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

Dropcam Echo Wi-Fi Security camera, by 88volts Inc.Dropcam Echo Wi-Fi Security CameraOver the years I’ve seen a bunch of network video cameras (both wired and wireless) that let you view activity over the Internet, so receiving a Dropcam camera (branded by Axis) was no big deal. However, installing the camera was probably the easiest install I’ve done with one of these cameras in a long time.

Setting the camera up involved connecting to a wired network (the instructions say router, but fortunately I had a powerline adapter and Ethernet cable that also worked), and then going to the Dropcam Web site to enter an access code. After a few seconds, the camera started showing me images from the camera, and it also quickly detected my Wi-Fi network. I typed in the security code through the Web site, and the camera was now Wi-Fi enabled, in case I wanted to move the camera away from a wired location. The process was very, very simple.

The camera allows for live viewing via Web browser, or you can download a free iPhone app to let you view the video feed from the iPhone. Premium plans include the ability to store video footage on Dropcam’s secure servers (for either 7 or 30 days, depending on the plan you choose), and you can get motion or audio-detection alerts via e-mail or mobile text message.

The iPhone app was also easy to use, I just logged in with my Dropcam account and was able to view the events (motion-detection saves) and the life feed. I then realized that nothing really interesting happens outside my house, so I need to figure out some good things to watch.

Obviously, this is aimed at people who want to keep an eye on things from a different location, whether it’s monitoring a home from their office (or a vacation home), or watch pets or kids when they’re away. The security angle is nice, but probably geared more towards small businesses who want an inexpensive video monitoring system.

Cool Yule rating: 4 stars

Price: $279 for the camera and basic plan (free live viewing, iPhone app). Service plans allow for cloud storage of video files for 7 or 30 days, and e-mail and mobile alerts of video activity.

Company Web site

Reviewed by Keith Shaw

GE E1480W digital camera, by General Imaging (GE)

The E1480W Digital Camera is a cool little camera. Its basic features include 14 megapixels with 8x optical zoom and a 6x digital zoom. Speaking of the zoom, I have to say I’m very impressed by it. This camera’s zoom feels so sturdy and legitimate for just a little, point-and-shoot camera. This camera comes with what I now consider to be basic features, such as different exposure types: landscape, portrait, children in motion, sports, etc. Additionally though, it comes with image stabilization, in-camera red eye removal, and my personal favorite: face recognition (and uses that as a focal point).

My only complaint with this camera is that it’s not very user-friendly. Yes, taking and viewing photos is very easy. However, to find most other settings, you have to navigate through several menus. Additionally, the camera makes sound effects. It makes a shutter noise when you take photos, it makes noise as you move through the menus, etc. I found the noise annoying because it’s so loud. I searched through a few menus before finding how to turn off the sound. I don’t think my technologically challenged father would have figured it out. For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend this camera to just anyone. However, if you have someone in your life who is relatively serious about taking photos, beyond the standard point-and-shoot capabilities, I would suggest this camera… as long as they are also somewhat tech-savvy.

Cool Yule rating: 4 stars

Price: $137

Product Web page

Reviewed by Jennifer Finn

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