Ok, so there I am in the heart of Japan, gadget central, and I just had to buy something. But what to get? I pretty much had everything that was out that I really wanted. The stores were of course full of gadgets. But the main items on display were the usual items – mobile phones (which unfortunately only work in Japan), minidisc players (of which I still have 3), PDAs (I have my CLIE but I do want the new CLIE) and digital cameras (that too I already have a really good one).
But it’s these last gadgets (digital cameras) that caught my attention in Akihabara. They actually have really neat cameras there that I have not seen anywhere else. There are some really unique offerings that are truly available only in Japan. In addition to the usual models that are available everywhere, there were a few special ones. First there was this special edition Zero Halliburton-looking digital camera that looks exactly like the briefcase. If I had the briefcase, I might have just bought one. Then, there’s the Panasonic D-Snap.
The D-Snap is an all-in-one digital camera. Shaped the size of a pack of cigarettes, it is truly a compact camera. Unfortunately, it’s a convergent product, which means instead of doing one thing and doing it well, it does many different things. It’s a digital camera, video recorder, audio player, and a voice recorder.
I knew that it probably wasn’t going to take great pictures or video, but I just thought it was so small and neat that I had to get one.
The D-Snap is by far the lightest, cutest little digital camera out there. Ok, so it doesn’t take great pictures (we’ll get into that later) but just take a look at it. It’s as small as a business card and as tiny as a pack of cigarettes. You just have to love it.
As a convergent product, where so many different functions meet, I was already prepared for a mediocre performance at best. The first most annoying thing was that I had to buy a SD Memory card (the camera comes with an 8MB card but that’s not enough). I already have so many Memory Sticks that I just hated to buy another memory card. But this is not the fault of the D-Snap – it’s just as much a Sony issue.
Anyway, as I mentioned, the D-Snap is a video, still-picture, and music player. True multimedia. Ok, let’s start with the video. The D-Snap is an Mpeg-4 video recorder that takes a maximum resolution of 320×240 pixels although you can select from a number of different resolution settings. The video though is pretty choppy and it’s a typical 15 fps kind of resolution. Don’t even bother about trying to use it at night – the small lens is unlikely to give you a picture. Some quick, fun video is ok, but it’s not better than normal digital camera that takes video. But it’s not bad. If you want a quick pick of you running on the beach, it just might work. If not, you want a digital camera with some video picture capability or just go for a DV/Micro MV video camera.
The still camera is very similar to the first digital cameras that were first out there many years ago. With a maximum resolution of 640×480, this won’t take great pictures that you’ll want to print. Some quick pics yes, but nothing fancy. There is a small flash so that helps with the lighting but night shots are nearly impossible to take. Think of the camera as similar to the still pictures that you can take on DV cameras like my Sony PC5.
For video and audio, you get to view all images on the two-inch screen that is fantastic. You can sort of download a quick file on the SD memory card and watch it on the screen. I can’t wait for the day when we carry around little pocket TV’s the size of a matchbox – I hope I’m around when this happens. Anyway, I digress.
The D-Snap is also an audio player. This is where it truly excels. You can play MP3 and AAC files. The one downside I had from buying the model in Japan is that it doesn’t come with the software or connection to a PC. It’s separate. Thankfully, I already have a multi-memory card reader at home. But I understand that the foreign version will resolve this by including the cable and drivers. In addition, the Japanese version does not come with the software to encode to AAC or MP3. As a result, I have to drag and drop MP3 files to the SD card. Again, foreign versions should not have this problem, as it will be included. In addition to music, you can also use the D-Snap as a voice recorder. While not a function you would use fairly often, it’s certainly a great option and works fairly well.
This is without a doubt the coolest little package around. You can more than easily fit this in your pocket. If you have some MONEY TO BURN then this is a really fun gadget to own. The video and still picture though still sucks and this is its biggest fault. If they can just squeeze in a 4 mega-pixel chip, I’ll be happy. The audio is fine and works really well. In addition, with the Sony PC9 out, for video/digital still picture, that’s the current champ in my books as far as quality and size go. I know convergent products are never great at doing one thing very well but are made to do a lot of different things. Well this product is a fantastic step in that direction. I hope we keep going forward.