Canon's new color digital camera, the PowerShot 600, will grab the attention of business professionals and satisfy veteran shutterbugs. With attractive features and appealing options, the PowerShot 600 makes transferring images from camera to computer as simple and quick as you've always wanted it to be.
The unit's four principal controls are right on top, clustered around an LCD panel. A switch in front of the display lets you select the camera's 24-bit image compression level-Fine, Normal or Economy-and a sliding switch under the viewfinder lets you choose to shoot color or monochrome images.
While we found the autofocus feature a bit slow, it hit the mark every time. The camera supports shutter speeds between 1/30 and 1/500 of a second and lets you record audio files for annotating images.
Measuring approximately 6.2 by 3.6 by 2.3 inches, the camera without battery pack weighs about 14 ounces. In addition to a lock-on for an optional wide-angle lens and a self-contained flash, there's an internal bay for an optional Type III hard drive or flash memory card for storing up to 3,000 images in the camera.
We were impressed with the PowerShot's optics (which set it apart from other units on the market), as well as its capacity to work for almost three hours using the battery pack, a hard disk storage card and the flash (used for half the 90 images we shot).
The basic unit sells for $949. There are lots of options, though: The wide-angle converter adds $99, a Type III PCMCIA hard drive $380, rechargeable nickel cadmium batteries $35, and the case $20. The price for our test model, also equipped with a 4MB flash memory card ($229), rose to $1,700. The good news is that the PowerShot 600 may be the shape of things to come for turning live images into data files.
Canon PowerShot 600
Price: $949; $1,700 as tested
Pros: Fast; works with PCMCIA
Platforms: Windows 3.x, 95
Canon Computer Systems
WinMag Box Score 3.5
You can tell your boss it's for interactive video training, but you just might sneak a peek at a ball game or a soap opera while toiling away at your PC. The PCA20TV from Philips can turn your PC into a cable-ready TV. You'll need two free slots to install the PCA20TV: one for the card and another for a bracket that holds the remote control's IR sensor jack.
The driver software works with Windows 3.x, Win95 and DOS. The card defaults to seldom-used interrupt and memory-address settings, so it's not likely to conflict with other hardware. The card features a D-subminiature connector, an F-type cable TV input jack, an S-Video input, a composite video input and an audio output jack. An adapter cable connects the PCA20TV to any graphics card and monitor.
The picture quality is nearly as good as a conventional TV's. You can fine-tune and center the picture, add borders and select interlaced or noninterlaced output. The PCA20TV lets you freeze the display and capture images from broadcasts, videotapes or camcorders. You can choose full-screen or window display mode, and switch between them instantaneously, so you can work on a spreadsheet while watching CNN.
Platforms: Windows 3.x, 95
WinMag Box Score 4.0
Diamond Multimedia offers an 8X multimedia upgrade, the Diamond Ultra Kit 8000, which sells for $349. The kit installed easily, although the IDE CD-ROM drive had to be controlled from the motherboard's IDE controller because it would not work off the included sound card's controller.
The Plug-and-Play sound card is a 16-bit wavetable model with 3-D sound built in. Direct Sound Blaster support is provided in the hardware, so the card works with any game. And its Plug-and-Play installation was a breeze. Windows 95 recognized the card and automatically installed all the necessary drivers. A collection of six audio utilities, including Media Rack, is bundled with the upgrade kit, but you must install this software separately. Various multimedia titles are also bundled, including Myst, Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia for 1996, Rebel Assault, Magic Carpet and SimCity 2000.
The unit's 8X drive transfers data at approximately 1.2MB per second, compared to 600KBps for a typical 4X drive. The faster drive doesn't seek and access data any faster than a 4X, however. So in overall use, the 8X drive is probably twice as fast as a 4X only when you transfer large files.
Diamond Ultra Kit 8000
Pros: Data-transfer rate
Cons: Better 8X drives are available
Platforms: Windows 3.x, 95, NT
Diamond Multimedia Systems
WinMag Box Score 4.5