Go2Mac Gear Guide: Post Holiday Stocking Stuffers

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Date: Monday, February 1st, 1999, 00:00
Category: Archive

Do you have a tax refund coming your way from Uncle Sam this year? What about a severance package from a dot-com career gone awry? Well, Go2Mac contributor Harris “Dean of Digital Photography” Fogel is going to help you spend the extra moolah that is burning a hole in your pocket!

OK, Hanukkah and Christmas are behind us, the New Year is behind us, and Spring Break is already here, but it’s never too late to stuff those stockings! This year, my recommendations range from cameras, storage, to sound systems for your computer.

1) Monsoon MM-700 speakers

These flat planar speakers, coupled with a solid subwoofer, can turn your computer into a sound system rivaling many so called ?audiophile? systems. The two small flat speakers, produce sound that emerges from the front and back of the speakers, leading to an open, wide soundfield. Coupled with a well made subwoofer that cleanly reproduces bass lines, instead of the thumpy boomy bass of lesser systems, this system really knocks your socks off. The only downside is that it?s only input is a mini-jack, and the system would benefit from a set of switchable RCA jacks to allow easy connection to a pre-amp or audio component. And at a street price of under US$140. A killer gift to usher Spring in with!

2) IBM Micro Drive

Ok, so now they have all these amazing digital cameras with 3 megapixel resolution… great.. except that with a normal (affordable) memory card you can?t really shoot at high resolution, since the files take up too much room. Sony has a cool camera with a built in CD-R burner.. but it?s limited in its quality, and costs US$1,200. Best to wait for an improved model on that one. But.. IBM to the rescue. An amazing hard drive, less than 2 inches square, the same size as a Compact Memory card, fits in a slew of new cameras, and holds an astonishing 1 gigabyte! Available in a smaller size, they run under US$500 and work wonderfully with the Canon PowerShot S20, allowing you to take over 500 photos at full resolution. Which should cover any vacation photos you have in mind.. even on an extended trip! They even work with other Compact Flash type cameras, but aren’t officially supported!

3) Connectix Virtual PC

The Macintosh is my computer of choice, but sometimes it?s nice to see how the lower half lives, and work with Windows! Virtual PC lets you run Windows 98, 2000, or NT on your Mac, and if you have a recent iMac, G3, or G4 computer… it?s surprisingly fast. If you are really adventurous, they even have a version of Virtual PC with Linux, a painless way to learn Linux, without the pain of losing an entire system to the effort. With SoftWindows no longer a real threat, VPC is the only way to surf.

4) RAM and Storage

The prices for SDRAM are rock bottom, with 256 MB DIMMS for under US$100. Now is a great time to boost that RAM. The same hold true for hard drives. Maxtor has a wonderful 40 GB, 7200 RPM drive, that is rock solid, and sells for under US$200. 60 and 80 GB drives are now shipping as well. With the interest in Digital Video, you need massive amounts of storage.. and this is a cheap and easy way to pull it off. IBM’s Deskstar are also wonderful drives. I’d stay away from the cheaper Maxtor drives though, best to stick with the Diamond Plus series.

5) Olympus C-3000 Zoom Digital Camera

After testing a slew of digital cameras, I keep returning to this 3 megapixel beauty as a standout. With a bevy of manual features, and a dead on accurate color palette.. this camera is a winner. US$200 that its almost identical big brother, the C3030, at US$700 this is truly the bargain of the higher end cameras. My only complaint is that it doesn?t ship with rechargeable batteries, nor does it take the IBM Micro Drive.

The Nikon 990 is a favorite camera for many folks, but for my money, the decision to prevent the use of the IBM Micro Drive, makes it too expensive, and too limited. Better to save the money, but the Olympus C3000 and spend the savings on a few large memory cards and batteries. The Canon Powershots are also a small and elegant solution, and they take the IBM Micro Drive. There are new digital cameras almost everyday, from the new small Point-and-Shoot Olympus models, to two new killers from Canon, the PowerShot G1 and the PowerShot Pro90IS.

The G1 addresses the shortcomings of earlier models, and the 90IS has a 10x Zoom lens, that finally gives the Canon line the optical punch it’s been missing.One of the problems with most reviews of digital cameras, is that they are from the point of view of a computer user, not a photographer. I’ve noticed that many cameras have radically different color rendering abilities, and the capturing of primary colors is often at the expense of less contrasty, and saturated colors. When judging these cameras, pay careful attention of the feel of the images, how they handle contrast and color saturation. All of the cameras mentioned are models in which I felt that the image capture felt “photographic” as opposed to lesser models which seem digital by comparison. I’ll post another review that discusses output options in the future, but for now.. happy shooting!

6) MicroTech USB Camera Mate

At just around US$60 Digital film (card) readers make transferring files to your computer a snap. My favorite is the MicroTech USB Camera Mate, which takes the Compact Flash memory cards, the Smart Media memory cards, and the IBM Micro Drive. So, no matter who stops by, you can download those photos.


What is that one accessory that every Mac or PowerBook-head should have? Click on the feedback link below and add to the list!

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