When purchasing high-tech products -- or gadgets, as we like to call them -- we often make our decisions based on two factors: 1) the technical specification that the experts tell us is the most important; and 2) the coolness of the gadget. But those factors sometimes break down as buying criteria.
We used to choose the computer with the fastest clock speed because we knew 1.4 Megahertz would be faster than 1.0 MHz. But now different types of chips can get faster performance out of slower chip speeds, so we can't choose by clock speed alone. We have to use such additional factors as disk size, type of central processor and accessories. We barely even look at clock speed anymore. (OK, so we look at it a little; maybe partially out of habit.)
Similarly, we used to choose digital cameras because they 1) don't make us buy film, thereby saving us money; and 2) give us a higher resolution -- measured in megapixels, which represent the number of dots we're saving in each photo. But so many cameras now have plenty of resolution that you need other criteria. Wouldn't it be nice to have that one feature to make the decision easy.
I may have found it. Olympus has introduced a feature called enhanced bright capture technology that makes it easier to take photos in dark places. When I first saw it on HSN while TV channel surfing, it caught my attention. Frankly, I thought the folks on TV were stretching the truth. When they turned down the lights and showed the bright image in the camera's LCD screen, it had too much detail to be true. So I called Olympus and asked them to send me the Stylus 740 to see for myself.
It's true. You can aim the camera into a fairly dark area, and the bright capture changes the settings to make the photo look good. First, it shows you a lightened image on the LCD screen; then it compensates using the flash to make the photo look like what you saw on the LCD screen. That's worlds ahead of the usual nighttime vision on most cameras and camcorders that create a black-and-white image using available light or infrared. The photos from the Stylus 740 show the color, often vividly, sometimes with the flash turned off.
The camera also offers digital image stabilization, a feature you see in many new cameras. It makes it easier to snap a photo without being blurry because it uses electronics to compensate for the shakiness of your hands when you're clicking the shutter button.
The two features combine nicely so you can take pictures in a dimly lit room, even from a distance, and still see detail with a minimum of blur.
The Stylus 740 takes detailed 7.1 megapixel photos, has a 5x optical zoom and comes in a compact all-weather design, making it handy for your shirt pocket. It sells for $349 on the Olympus Web site.
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