Also: About Blu-ray players and building a decent sound system.
Q My digital SLR (an Olympus E-520) focuses much slower in live-view mode than it does when I use the viewfinder. I really prefer using the live view. Is there anything I can do to speed it up?
A Your camera uses different auto-focus systems depending on whether you are in through-the-lens viewfinder (TTL) mode or live-view mode. TTL mode uses a focusing system called phase detection, which focuses much faster than the contrast-detection focusing of the live-view mode. Contrast detection is inherently slower. There isn't much you can do about it other than choose your focus points with care so that the camera has a good place to focus on.Get a Blu-ray player now
Q I have an older Mitsubishi 65-inch projection TV with no HDMI. I am not ready to replace the TV, and I need a new DVD player. Is my best bet to buy a Blu-ray player with component outputs and use it to replace my DVD player?
A Yes, that is absolutely your best bet, especially since an entry-level Blu-ray player can be had for less than $100. That's not much more than a decent DVD player, and it gets you better picture and sound quality. A 65-inch TV will really show the difference between a DVD and true high-definition from Blu-ray.
When you do decide it is time for a new television, you can use your new player's HDMI outputs with it. Act soon, though, because component outputs are starting to disappear as the industry goes HDMI-only.Build a good system
Every week I get several dozen e-mails from readers who are building systems for music or home theater, asking about different components they are considering or a direct recommendation on what to buy. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to build systems for music and home theater to show you how easy it can be to get great results and to build something truly unique.
To start off, how about a nice-sounding stereo music system, complete with USB turntable, for less than $400?
Start with the warm, crisp-sounding NS-B2111 bookshelf speakers from Best Buy, $88. Power them with a new Sherwood RX-4105 stereo receiver, which was recently improved with a cleaner amplifier section. It can be had for only $80 at Amazon.com or JR.com. DVD and CD playback will be handled well by Panasonic's DVD-S38 DVD player for $30. The crowning touch is the Audio-Technica AT-LP120-USB turntable for $200.
Your total? Only $398 for a system that plays DVDs, CDs, vinyl records, and can import the vinyl records into your computer.
If you can spend a tad more, speaker stands will make your system sound and look better. Get Sanus Systems BF-31B stands for the speakers for $31, and you are all set at an affordable price.
Submit questions and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.