funkyfresh electronics

Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 Review

The Panasonic Lumix DMC-ZS7 is just about the perfect point and shoot camera. It’s small, built well, takes great pics and has much improved video capabilities over previous Lumix cameras.

We like how Panasonic went with a 25mm wide-angle to 300mm range. This allows you to get much closer to your subjects and still get everything in frame. There are plenty of presets and this camera does pretty well indoors, even in lower light. The biggest issue, as with most cameras in this price range, the performance slows when left in automatic mode in low light situations.

Outside the DMC-ZS7 is nice and fast and the video very good. The sound is also improved on the video. Here, the wide angle lens also helps because you can get close to subjects and get better audio with the built in mics. The GPS tags are helpful down the road so you remember where and when pics and video were taken.

The Panasonic DMC-ZS7 currently sells for about $250 and it’s a very solid choice for both still pics and video. Between this and smart phones it looks like Flip picked the right time to sell out to Cisco.

Panasonic makes this camera in Japan. We love the way the controls feel and the layout is very intuitive. Panasonic does a great job here. We’d like o see a little more tactile feel on the grip but other than that the DMC-ZS7 feel really good in the hand.

Visit Panasonic for more information.

Samsung BD-C5500 Blu-ray Player Review

Samsung BD-C5500 Blu-ray Player Review Samsung is one of the fastest growing consumer electronics companies on the planet. The BD-C5500 Blu-ray player illustrates why. It’s packed with features, easy to use and priced right.

For a while there if you were in the market for a Blu-ray player your best bet was to simply bite the bullet and pay for a Playstation 3. But prices have gone down while features and performance have gone up and now you can get a player like the Samsung BD-C5500 for about $150.

The cloud is changing everything. When Netflix launched several years ago the name seemed silly. Why were they calling the company Netflix when they ship DVDs back and forth in the mail? Well clearly the vision was to eventually deliver any movie at any time via the net. We’re not they’re yet. However, once you have an IP enabled box like the BD-C5500 it changes everything.

The BD-C5500 starts up fast to access Blu-ray discs and the picture and sound look great. We inserted The Matrix and quickly lost track of time. The soft touch controls on the unit and the remote control are very nice for a player in this price range.

The best way to connect the BD-C5500 to the Internet is with an Ethernet cable. Wireless requires a special Samsung part which we understand as it would be more difficult to support other wireless adapters at this price point. However, if you have an Ethernet port nearby you can jack into you’ll be very happy with the BD-C5500.

Pandora is one of the best music experiences around and now you can stream it live with BD-C5500. An authorization code comes with the Samsung BD-C5500 that you use to synchronize the device with your Pandora account. The best way to get started is to set up all your channels on the PC first and then fire up the BD-C500. Samsung did a really nice job with the GUI of Pandora on the player and integration with the remote. This feature alone makes the BD-C500 worth considering for music lovers. It competes nicely with the Music Choice channels provided by Comcast but would benefit from additional streaming elements ala Tune Wiki or simple photos and trivia. How about direct links to music videos?

The BD-C500 also includes Blockbuster, Vudu, YouTube and a variety of other apps and connectivity programs. Plus with a USB on the front of the unit and the ability to play all the most popular audio and video formats you truly have a complete entertainment system in one box.

The menu for accessing content on a USB drive is well laid out and easy to navigate. We loaded up music and videos on 16GB microSD cards and connected it with a little SanDisk microSD adapter. Works perfectly and barely protrudes from the front of the unit. We loaded some MP3 files with embedded album art but the BD-C5500 failed to recognize it instead displaying some arbitrary art based on the genre of the track. So it’s grabbing some of the meta data but not all of it which is totally lame. In fact, that’s a biggest complaint about the BD-C5500. How can you have an internet enabled device like this and not grab meta data or display the content that’s part of the file?

Other than that we love the Samsung BD-C5500. If you’re finally ready to phase out the old DVD player and want something more than a basic Blu-ray player the Samsung BD-C5500 is an excellent choice.

Visit Samsung for more information.

Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000A HD Video Camera Review

The Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000A HD video camera is an incredible camera that’s small enough to take anywhere. The VPC-HD2000A shoots full 1080p up to 60 frames per second. It also can take 8-Megapixel stills with high speed sequential shooting at 12 frames per second. Everything is stored to SDHC cards. A good quality, fast card will run about $200 so keep that in mind. Using a 32GB SanDisk card we were very happy with the speed of operation and 120 minutes of full 1080p HD recording time.

The VPC-HD2000A resembles a small radar gun with its pistol grip and folding LCD screen. We really like this form factor for family video. The camera instantly turns on when the LCD is flipped open and is ready to shoot in just a second or so. The pistol grip makes it very easy to point and shoot and get interesting angles without straining to position the camera or see the display. It could use a rubber grip or less slick plastic composite but other than that we love this design.

The controls and buttons are arranged in such a way that only one hand is required for operation. It’s also very easy to figure out the controls without referring to the manual, always a good test of design. The included dock and connectors are also well designed and easy to setup. We were very impressed with the out of box experience, OOBE, of the VPC-HDC2000A.

The camera offers quite a bit of control over the image so more advanced users can experiment. Full auto mode is perfect for anyone that wants better quality than a Flip camera without the expense of a full size camera and lens.

We were pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Xacti camera. In all kinds of light we were able to get very good quality footage. As with any camera this small image stabilization is very important as is a controlled shooting style. It’s nowhere near as bad as toy cameras like the Flip but you have to be conscious of keeping things steady. The pistol grip helps in this regard.

The Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000A uses the new iFrame format which is the same format used for editing. It’s a cross platform format for your Mac or PC and is based on H.264, AAC, MP4 and QuickTime. We used Sony Vegas for our test and simply dropped the footage on the timeline, no conversion required. The finished results were excellent. This camera will not replace our HVX200 but for fun family video that’s a step above cheaper toy cameras like the Flip it’s excellent. If you want a camera that’s easy to use, portable and takes very good footage in an easy to operate package the VPC-HD200A should be at the top of your list.

To see video shot using the Sanyo Xacti VPC-HD2000A  watch this video shot by a friend of funkyfresh for a Sanyo video contest.  Granted this was shot by a pro and edited but it still gives you sense of the quality you can get wtih the small but mighty VPC-HD2000A.   All three videos where shot using the VPC-HD2000A.

Visit Sanyo for more information.

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