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Best of 2008 electronics recommendations

NOTE: This list is now partially outdated as many new models in Camcorders and digital cameras have been released.
 
Here’s again my completely biased best of 2008 electronics recommendation list.
Note price is from B&H or Costco.com for comparison. You can use pricegrabber.com to shop around and check windows live and ebates for cashback. Also check xpbargains.com or techbargains.com for any coupons.
 
Before you make any decision make sure you read the reviews since your pet peeves might be quite different from mine.
 

Category

Price

Choices
(click for review)

Pro / cons

HD Camcorder

Flash based

$849

 

 

$549

Canon HF11

Without internal memory:
Canon HF100

Note: no viewfinders on these models

Best consumer HD video quality and relatively decent in low-light. Beware that auto white balance may need some correction in PP at times.

HF100 differences compared to HF11:
– identical perf except for one extra higher bitrate for HF11. Difference is difficult to see to most but it will give bit more headroom if you plan to do post-processing
– AUTO W/B of HF11 (and HG20/21) is slightly differently tweaked to more reddish outdoors compared to bluish/magenta HF100. Most will find the HF11 AUTO W/B more pleasing in bright outdoors conditions
– HF11 has additional 32GB internal memory (3-4 hours recording time at highest quality)

If you do not shy away from tweaking the camcorder W/B now and then or do PP, then the HF100 is the better bargain since 16GB SDHC flash cards are only around $30.

HD Camcorder

HDD based

$559

 

 

 

 

$899

 

$849

Canon HG20

 

 

With Viewfinder:

 

Canon HG21  

 

Sony SR11

Note: if you do not need to record more than 4 hours continuously or so you might be better off with a flash based SDHC camcorder given that flash memory is pretty cheap (except for Sony’s memory stick). Also HDD cannot be used at very high altitudes and you might have a chance of recording some faint HDD noises.

The HG20/HG21 has little bit better picture quality than the SR11 but Sony’s AUTO W/B might be less objective to most in bright outdoor conditions: greenish instead of Canon’s reddish tint. If you’re ok with tweaking W/B for best results or you are ok with some PP I’d opt for the HG20/HG21. Also these have better low-light perf by allowing progressive framerates which gives you a noticeable 1-1.5 stop advantage. But since there are more differences best to check out both reviews and check some video’s on vimeo.com

Advanced compact

(non-SLR) camera

 

 $442

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

$390

 

 

 

$380

Outdoors:

Canon G10 (with reservations, see notes, if size doesn’t matter go for the EOS1000D with much better high ISO and about same price)

 

 

 

 

 

Low-light:

Panasonic LX-3

 

 

New Fuji model looking promising in low-light:

Fujifilm FinePix F200EXR

The G10 is not perfect by any means in low-light performance. Unfortunately many high pixel compacts tend to have slow lenses and noisy high ISO. But otherwise outdoors the G10 has excellent performance except for some CA at full wide-angle.

The G10 is the successor of the G9 and main difference is wider angle lens (and less zoom). It does have more pixels but extra resolution isn’t really noticeable. The lens is slightly slower than the G9 and does exhibit some CA at full wide-angle. Check review out first.

The Panasonic doesn’t beat the Canon in sunny outdoors conditions and although the lens offers more wide-angle (24mm), it has hardly any zoom (60mm only). However for low-light performance it does beat the Canon and it does offer a brighter lens which can give you 1 stop advantage in addition.

UPDATE: the Fujifilm F200EXR looks promising in low-light and is pretty compact. However noise reduction / blotching can be seen at times even at low ISO. The LX-3 remains best at low-light

Entry level compact camera

 

 

$114

$188

$120

 

 

$120

$130

 

 

 $190

 

 

 

 

 

$179

Many choices, i.e.:
 
Canon A590
Canon A2000
Panasonic LZ8

DPreview choices:
Panasonic LZ8
Sony W120

Ultra-compact:
Canon SD790 IS

Better in low-light / high ISO:

Fuji F50fd / F60fd (newer model)

TBD: Nikon compacts

Update: DPReview compact group testThey choose Sony W120 for best P&S and Panasonic overall. But the A590 did best outdoors imo and PQ is more even at WA across the picture than both (e.g. check upper right corner softness Sony/Panasonic). In low-light ISO1600 they were all very close and bad…

Many choices in this segment. Check reviews and which features you need: zoom, max exposure (all Canon’s A series offer more manual control than S series and i.e. allow up to 15sec exposure which is typically sufficient for good tripod night shots).

The A590 is one of the best bargains out there. Good quality and around $110. But bit bulkier than i,e, Sony or Canon’s S models.

Note about none of the compacts have great low-light performance with high ISO. Unfortunately that’s the price for high pixel count nowadays. The F50fd has little bit better higher ISO performance than most. However in daylight it’s not great. You see a lot of corner blurring. So I’d only recommend it for low-light.

Some of these cams require AA batteries. I strongly recommend using rechargeable low-drain batteries. For example the Sanyo Eneloop. Otherwise you keep charging when you don’t use the cam for a while.

Entry level SLR

 

Price with kit lens

$800
$405

$485
$650
$543

Panasonic Lumix G1
Olympus E-420

Canon EOS-1000D
Canon EOS-450D
Nikon D60

If smallest size matters, checkout first 2 options. If best quality is more important go for the latter 2.

The latter 3 are bit bigger but do offer better dynamic range and better high ISO performance. The D60 offers higher ISO 3200 compared to the Canon’s ISO 1600. But D60 offers no live view. The 1000D is close to 450D (but smaller LCD, less MP, slower burst…). Compared to G10 high ISO perf is significantly better

1080p 50”

Plasma TV

 

 

Pricing local retailer

(online would be cheaper)

$4900

$2000

$1900

Best:
Pioneer Elite Kuro pro

More affordable but still great quality:

Panasonic Viera
TH-50PZ800U

Panasonic Viera
TH-50PZ85U

The Pioneer is at the top in terms of picture quality but is also extremely expensive.

Most will not be able to tell Panasonic Viera PQ apart from the Kuro and it’s much more affordable.

The TH-50PZ85U is the most affordable option with great quality. The 800U adds THX certification.

Also checkout Costco’s Panasonic special ($1400) which is similar to the 85U.

1080p 46”

LCD TV

 

Pricing local retailer

(online would be cheaper)

$5000

$1600

Best:
Sony KDL-46XBR8

Better deal:
Samsung LN46A550

Extremely expensive. If you are willing to spend that much to get the best picture quality you’re probably better off with a Plasma.

More affordable is the Samsung and it has good quality.

Full HD 1080p

projector

 

LCD models only with zoom lens

 

$1500

 

 

 

$2200

$2800 

$2500

 

 

 

 

 

$1900

Most affordable:

Sanyo PLV-Z700

 

Step-up:

 

Sanyo PLV-Z3000

Epson HC 6500 UB

Panasonic PT- AE3000

 

 

 

 

 

Epson HC 6100

The PLV-Z700 price is great and offers good quality. Black levels suffer little bit compared to better more expensive models like the Z3000 and the Panasonic PT-AE3000.

One step up becomes a bit tougher to choose. The Epson is clearly brightest and has good black levels and sharpness (but fan is not as quiet as Sanyo). It’s also most expensive. Panasonic has excellent overall picture quality but personally I never liked Panasonic smooth screen which results in slightly less sharp picture. I prefer a more pixely unprocessed sharp picture but your preference may be different. The Sanyo produces sharpest picture and is bright but has not highest black/contrast levels compared to other 2. To choose please read all the reviews to understand each pro/cons

The Epson 6100 is a new model. Click on the left to see review. 

Tablet PC

12" screen

$800
– $900

Check xpbargains for coupons

Dell XT (outlet)

Many choices but Dell XT model is one of the best and quite expensive but can be bought cheap from Dell outlet (comes with warranty). I’d opt for regular LCD (not DLV LCD gives marginally brighter and more battery) and duo-core with ATI Xpress 1250. XT2 is expected to be released soon with faster CPU.

Entry-level

Photo printer

$80

 

 

 

 

$399 

Canon Pixma iP3600

 

 

Higher quality and bigger size prints:

Epson R1900

Better more expensive printers exist for photo printing but most won’t see a huge difference.

Note this printer will not produce waterproof prints. If you need that plus willing to spend bit more for slightly higher quality and larger prints checkout the Epson R1900

 

 

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