The Well-Outfitted Techno Geek

Mar 12, 2002
Outside Magazine

JVC's GR-DVP3 (left), and Panasonic's Toughbook 34

Garmin's eTrek Vista, Magellan MAP 330, and Qualcomm GSP1600 (left to right)

Olympus's D-370 digital camera, and the Palm105 with the Palm Portable Keyboard

Postcards? Sweet, but how 20th-century, especially when you can zap home daily dispatches via e-mail—or better yet, via e-journals, digital pix, and videos you upload to your Web site. Today's selection of on-the-go wizmongery, with neato features like instant global communication capabilities and onscreen editing, allows you to tote a traveling studio and virtual darkroom. All products are PC and Mac compatible, unless otherwise noted.

Stills and Thrills
Capture digital still images by the dozens on tiny reusable memory cards, but be sure to bring several for your camera as Norma's General Store outside Manila probably doesn't sell them. Upon your return, just download the winning pix to your PC or Mac; then pump out glossies from Epson's Stylus Photo 780 ($99). Similarly, the matchbox-miniature MiniDV tape has revolutionized moviemaking, bringing us diminutive digital camcorders that capture up to 90 minutes of Hollywood-quality video and CD-quality sound—or more than 500 snapshot-quality stills—per tape. The 1.3-megapixel resolution of Olympus's D-370 ($249) is perfect for 4x6 prints. But while many digital still cameras poop out after a hundred or so shots, the D-370 will squeeze off up to 5,000 (with minimum use of the flash and LCD monitor) before its four AAs give up the ghost. The easily pocketable Nikon Coolpix 775 ($450) is the best compromise we've seen between size, performance, and price. Its Nikkor 3x zoom lens and 2.1-megapixel resolution deliver 4x6 prints indistinguishable from film. A one-touch button magically uploads pictures (via your USB laptop or an Internet-cafe computer) to your free Web site. Pro shooters demand 3.3-megapixel performance for no-compromise 8x10 (or larger) prints. But such high-res images can be memory hogs—in some cases requiring an entire $35, 16MB memory card for just one shot. Enter the Sony MVC-CD300 ($1,000). Its built-in CD recorder burns images (over 1,000 of 'em with a low-res setting) on tiny $5 discs that hold 156MB. True, it's a bit bulky—about the size of a brick—but that's a small price for its performance and capacity. With image stabilization, a swing-out LCD monitor, a FireWire port (for editing on your computer), and a sharp 10x optical zoom lens, Canon's ZR20 ($700) digital camcorder delivers the performance needed for your yeti documentary. JVC's GR-DVP3 ($1,700) is gear lust defined. Not only is it the tiniest camcorder on the market—stashing spylike into a pocket at a feathery three-quarters of a pound—it also captures Web site-ready MPEG4 video clips and stores stills on either tape or removable memory cards.

Just Try to Get Lost
Now thanks to Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) technology, most receivers are accurate in North America to within a couple of yards (compared to the 30-foot GPS standard of yore); most also have 12-channel reception for finding satellites quickly. The Magellan MAP 330 ($269) is WAAS-equipped, thrashing-tough, and buoyant. Built-in maps display major U.S. roads, parks, and other points of interest. The GeoDiscovery Geode ($289), also WAAS-equipped, turns any Handspring PDA (see below) into a full-fledged GPS. Bonus: has downloadable maps (free), city guides ($10), and national-park guides ($5); plus it hosts a bustling online community for swapping data files on other cool destinations. You won't find Florence's Ristorante Acqua Al Due on a map. But with Garmin's WAAS-capable eTrex Vista ($349) and MapSource MetroGuide Italy CD-ROM ($100; other guides also available), you can download the restaurant's coordinates from your Windows PC to your Vista, then march precisely to your plate of assaggio di primi. The Vista also has an electronic compass and altimeter: That's amore. Took a wrong turn in the Amazon? Just phone for help with the Qualcomm GSP1600 ($899) combo satellite/cell phone with Globalstar service (plans start at 79 cents per minute). If you'd prefer to e-mail your SOS, the phone doubles as a slow (96 baud) but useful wireless modem for most computers and PDAs.

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