Digital Life: Quality compacts enjoy zoom with a view
In photography, as in life, you can never have enough of a good thing. Who wouldn't welcome a little more zoom in their camera, for instance?
Canon has taken that idea to the max with its new PowerShot SX30, surely the zoomiest of them all with an impressive 35x magnification lens built in.
A pro photographer would need an 800mm lens costing as much as this camera and nearly the size of a traffic cone to get anywhere near the SX30's range.
Yet the Canon's 35x lens retracts neatly into a compact body that, while not pocketable, is highly portable. Remarkably, the SX30 is also capable of extreme close-ups too in macro mode.
So your €550 buys you admirable flexibility whether you're keen on long-range snaps of, say, little Johnny playing sports or frame-filling images of the detail on a butterfly.
With a capable video mode and some nifty trick shots up its sleeve, the SX30 is a decent all-rounder -- outdoors at least.
Unfortunately, that big lens also brings compromise. The motor is maddeningly slow to respond, taking vital seconds to move and even then it's difficult to achieve the desired zoom level precisely.
The SX30 also struggles in low light, resulting in grainy pictures when the sun goes down.
So the Canon is far from perfect but there's a lot to be said for its amazing zoom in a (reasonably) small package.
The Panasonic Lumix G2 is a horse of a different colour. This snapper belongs to that new breed called Micro Four-Thirds, which allows for interchangeable lenses but is much less bulky than professional cameras.
The successor to the highly regarded G1, the new G2 is also aimed at serious amateurs, those who know their ISO from their elbow and want something powerful yet easily carried.
The standard G2 comes with a 14-42mm lens but it can accept a growing range of other lenses, from wide angles to zooms.
Panasonic hasn't messed with a winning formula and the G2 is very similar to the G1, except for the addition of high-def video and a swivelling touchscreen LCD.
A bit redundant for the most part (the G2 still bristles with buttons), the touchscreen comes in useful for manually choosing focus in photos and video.
Where the G2 really stands out is the frankly beautiful pictures, putting the SX30 to shame, for instance.
But Panasonic's problem is the pricing -- an eye-watering €720 for what is admittedly an excellent machine but one not that much smaller than the cheaper pro-quality cameras it wants to replace.
No gold medal for the latest shoot 'em up effort
Medal of Honor
With the shelves groaning under the weight of first-person military shooters, any contender needs an angle to separate itself from the crowd of also-rans that lives in the shadow of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2.
Medal of Honor, which more or less defined the genre in 1999, bravely aims for a series reboot by tackling the thorny current conflict in Afghanistan.
But any risk-taking was squashed just before release date with a screeching U-turn that stopped you fighting on the side of the Taliban in multiplayer.
What remains now is a polished but derivative shooter set amid mountain villages and rock-strewn terrain.
Single-player mode stirs up a moreish melting pot of on-foot, vehicular and airborne sequences but is too linear and short-lived.
Multiplayer strives to match MW2 without ever coming close. All the while, gamers will be aware of the incoming missile that is the next Call of Duty, out on November 9.
Like the sport itself, F1 gaming drifted through a charisma vacuum in recent years. But F1 2010 delivers a bolt of electricity to the insipid procession that passed for racing lately.
Despite its slick presentation, it's still a serious simulation requiring a working knowledge of the cars, the physics of cornering and pit babes. OK, maybe not the latter.
But once you punch the accelerator down that first straight and the engine begins to whine like a demented banshee, then the adrenalin kicks in.
Some players may find exhausting the lap-after-lap mix of face-melting speed and exacting turns, especially as the stewards punish you for the mildest of collisions.
But there's a real sense of achievement at clawing yourself up the leaderboard inch by inch.
Castlevania: Lord of Shadows
GOTHIC horror meets God of War-style hack'n'slash in this revamp of the Castlevania series.
It looks gorgeous, sounds good (Patrick Stewart and Robert Carlyle supply voices) and, even though the level design and fixed camera can be frustrating, many hours of pleasant werewolf-slaying await within.
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice
A lazy tie-in to the Nicolas Cage kids' movie, Sorcerer's Apprentice flatters to deceive with its pretty top-down cityscapes.
But the gameplay never evolves beyond a repetitive cycle of exploring and spell-casting.
Bits and bytes
- The Irish Independent has long been available as an e-paper edition on the web but now you can view it more easily on your iPhone and iPad with our new app.
Issues cost €1.80 each or €10 for the week, Monday to Saturday. You can find the app in the iTunes store.
- The overcrowded mobile market made room for another entrant last week as Just Mobile squeezed into the pre-pay space.
Promising simpler tariffs and a one-cent donation to charity from every minute of every call, Just Mobile piggybacks on the Vodafone network and intendsto introduce data services next month.
Win 10 copies of 'Fable III'
The third instalment in the enjoyably daft role-playing series Fable hits the shops for the Xbox 360 this week. Voiced by talent including Stephen Fry, Michael Fassbender, Ben Kingsley and John Cleese, Fable III promises months of entertainment for these cold winter nights.
We have 10 copies to give away thanks to Microsoft. Just answer the simple question and you're in with a chance to win.
Question: Who is the creator of Fable? A) Peter Molyneux B) Peter Mandelson C) Peter Piper.
Email your entry together with your name and address to firstname.lastname@example.org -- multiple entries will be disqualified. Closing date is Friday, October 29.