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Best Of Both Worlds?

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It's a common conundrum most first time digital SLR buyers face — buying a camera that will serve them well for the foreseeable future, without breaking the bank. Fortunately, entry level SLRs have only become better over the years and the new Nikon D3200 is a perfect example of one that stops short of cannibalising its pricier siblings. Just barely short, though.
 
Put that down to a lot of interesting tech crammed into the relatively small body of the D3200, including features that have trickled down from Nikon's more expensive camera bodies. For instance, you get a variant of the Expeed 3 processing engine that is present in Nikon's top end cameras, which promises to deliver quicker image processing and low image noise. Of course, what's more likely to grab the headlines it the inclusion of a 24.2 million pixel sensor, putting the D3200 right up there in terms of sheer pixel count, bested only by the much pricier D800. The extra pixels allow for some great image cropping while still keeping the image resolution high - a good option for newbies who don't want to invest in a zoom lens.
 
Does that translate to better pictures than the rest of its peer group though? The sensor shows great potential in the images I took, but potential that's wasted if you keep the 18-55 kit lens on and don't invest in a better set of lens. There's no downside to the higher pixel count (except possibly the extra space images take on your memory cards) though. One downside of the massive resolution that you should keep in mind though is that the noise levels increased at higher ISO (light sensitivity) levels, and while I'm pretty used to seeing this on compacts, it's mildly disappointing to see this happen on SLRs as well. Overall impression with the massive 24.2 megapixel sensor - you win some, you lose some.
 
What does show is dramatic improvements in video quality, and the full HD 1080p video recording at 24, 25 or 30fps (or 720p clips at 50 or 60fps) is the best of the entry-level lot. The inclusion of a microphone socket allows an external mic to be placed a good distance away from the camera, and it's a great find in an entry-level SLR. As is the full manual control over shutter speed, aperture and ISO levels in video mode — a must for any serious video shooting. And videos can now go up to 20 minutes per clip, and the HDMI port can be used for live view during video recording, not just during playback. All in all, this is a seriously impressive video camera as well.
 
But there are two improvements that I think will specifically appeal to the entry-level user a lot. A new Guide Mode — think of it as something in between a scene mode and an interactive photography course — offers advice on what settings to use depending on the shooting condition you select. Switching to Guide mode brings up a colorful menu on the rear display that asks you if you'd like to shoot, review photos, or configure the camera. The Shoot menu is broken up into Easy and Advanced situations which feature presets for landscapes, close ups, low light portraits, fast action, and other common photographic subjects. For someone getting used to the complexity of a digital SLR, this can go a long way into configuring the camera to best capture the image at hand, without the need for encyclopedic knowledge of photographic technique. Having said that, rarely it does suggest solutions that don't quite translate into a great shot.
 
Another feature is the option to purchase an additional Wi-Fi adaptor, the WU-1A, which connects the camera to smartphones and tablets. The device is really tiny and plugs into the camera's USB port, and unlike the Wi-Fi capabilities in some compacts, isn't really designed to send photos to your PC (at least, not yet). What it does allow is a direct connection with your Android phone (an iPhone app is in the works) so you can download photos from the camera and then share them onto your favorite photo-sharing or social networking sites. What's more, it can even be used to take pictures, with the phone serving as a remote shutter release. You can even get the live view of the camera displayed on the smartphone.
 
All in all, there's a lot going for the D3200. A perfect beginner's camera? The D3200 is almost there. It all comes down to pricing, and at current prices, it's barely cheaper than its D5100 sibling. The articulated swiveling LCD and lower noise levels of the latter versus the former's ostensibly higher resolution. Take your pick.
 
Rating: 8/10
Price: Rs. 32,250 (body only) or 37,950 (with the 18-55 kit lens) or 48,950 (18-105 kit)
URL: http://bit.ly/M7iGsJ
 
 

Form-idable Rivals
There's no getting away from the fact that LG smart phones in the recent years have been relegated to life in the shadows of far bigger and more successful Korean and Taiwanese phone makers. With its quad-core-HD-display-toting Optimus 4X HD, will LG stand abreast of the current kings of the hill, the HTC One X and the Samsung Galaxy SIII?
 
It's a bit of a hit-and-miss, the 4X HD is. When you first glance upon the 4X HD, you see a flat rectangular slab, and with the choice of materials and curves the competition has put out, the 4X HD looks dated, design wise. Hold it in the hand and you'll know what I mean. Switch it on, and the screen tells a different story. The 4.7 inches scream flagship device from every angle, and the 1280x720 pixel (hence the HD moniker) 312ppi is sharp and detailed and quite competitive in this segment. With an IPS display, viewing angles are good and colours are plenty vibrant.
 
Beneath the hood is a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 chipset and 1GB of RAM, which puts the 4X HD at par with rivals in terms of pure specs. The roomy 16GB of memory can be expanded via a microSD card slot under the back cover, and the 2150 mAh battery lasts all day as well.
 
LG has rolled the LG Optimus 4X HD out of the door with Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich, and while I can't say I'm a big fan of LG's software enhancements - many are purely cosmetic — they're not in your face enough to detract from the excellent ICS experience.
 
On purely its features alone, I cannot fault the 4X HD  — it offers capable specs, which translate into a good user experience, but I cannot help but feel there's a wow factor missing in the 4X HD that I've grown accustomed to experiencing with the Samsung and HTC flagships. It just feels more of the same, and it makes me wonder - is this phone 6 months too late for LG?
 
Rating: 7/10
Price: Rs 34,990
URL: http://bit.ly/MTWoMu

 

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