Friday 21 November 2014

Weckler on Tech - Nikon’s latest snapper hits the mark

Published 05/07/2014 | 02:30

Apple iPod Touch 6G
Apple iPod Touch 6G

NIkon D810      Price: €3,300 (body only)  Rating: ****

There are two cameras that dominate the ‘almost pro’ market: Canon’s 5D Mark III and Nikon’s D800. Nikon has just updated its contender, unveiling the 36-megapixel D810. It’s €500 more than the existing D800, but some of the changes should prove attractive to high-usage photographers.

One feature I like is that it’s a lot quieter than the D800. This is actually a big deal for those who find themselves trying to shoot weddings and other such occasions where noisy shutter sounds disturb the moment. Other things that caught my eye were a faster autofocus and better anti-shake technology (blurry shots from tiny trembles are a pain in the neck, especially low-light situations when you need a slower shutter speed).

The video function has also been improved to 60 frames-per-second and there’s improved control over things like audio levels. That’s not a big deal for amateurs like me, but videographers who are increasingly turning to DSLRs will appreciate it.

The D810 also has a few improved specialist features, such as an increased frame capacity (to 10,000) for time-lapse shots. At €3,300 for just the body, this is pretty pricey. Still, committed photographers using Nikon lenses will probably queue up to buy it.

New iPod Touch: your phone from phone

Apple iPod Touch 6G      Price: from €210  Rating: ****

There’s a trick that pre-teen kids have been pulling on naive parents (meaning most parents) for about three years. The conversation goes something like this: “Mum, can I have a smartphone?” “Sorry, you’re too young.” “[With feigned disappointment] Okay, can I have an iPod instead?” “Well, okay that’s a sensible compromise.”

Said child then takes off with their iPod Touch, gleefully connecting to all the social networks, messaging and photo-swapping services they really wanted in the first place.

And the parents innocently clap themselves on the back, thinking they have given their child a music device and not a phone.

Apple’s latest update to its (sixth generation) iPod Touch should leave no-one in any doubt that this is basically a phone and an iPad mini rolled into one. The sharp four inch screen is backed up by a decent processor and a HD video recorder.

It lets you make calls, send texts and get onto any social media network you like. But because it comes in different colours and is still called an ‘iPod’, go right ahead and give it to your 9-year-old...

Va-va-tunes with Audi’s new TT

Audi TT Mark III     Price: tba (over €45,000)   Rating: ****

When does a car’s ‘dashboard technology’ become a distraction? That’s what I was wondering on Thursday when given a behind-the-scenes look at Audi’s updated sports car, the TT.

Its new 12-inch screen does everything from showing you your speedometer to allowing you watch movies or live TV. It also lets you choose Spotify tracks by connecting to your phone or iPad. And it delivers the experience on a sharp screen backed up by Bang & Olufsen speakers.

From a tech point of view, this is all very impressive. But could it distract the TT driver a little? To be fair, the TV (via an onboard 4G sim card that connects to Saorview and other web services) and movie content only works when the car isn’t moving. And even though the music-browsing stuff works when you’re on the move, because it is on the screen in front of you, it is probably still safer than picking up your phone and flicking through tracks that way.

Besides, the car has voice control integrated to do lots of the searching for you if you want. And for your lucky passenger (legal disclaimer: *not* the driver), the on-board 4G sim card will allow all manner of online communication and entertainment as it can be used as a portable wifi hotspot.

Hanging tough with Dell’s new laptop

Dell Latitude 12 Rugged Extreme      Price: from €3,150 Rating: ****

The zeal for ‘rugged’ phones, tablets and laptops reminds me of the fashion for Land Rovers in Foxrock: they’re capable of extreme conditions but probably never get used for any. Nevertheless, Dell’s 12-inch ‘Rugged Extreme’ (just in case you were in any doubt, they added both descriptors) is designed to take quite a bit of punishment.

Leaving aside the jingoism of its capability to “move from the boardroom to the battlefield” (really Dell?) its use of sealed doors, compression gaskets, impact-resistance polymers and other scuff-resistant features should make it more than a match for a stormy November’s day in Belmullet.

The underhood tech specs are up there, too, with quadcore processors, up to 16GB of Ram and 512GB of solid state memory. The only thing missing is the CIA-style handcuff chain and the large red buttons to trigger the launch codes.

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