Sound advice: Buy these cameras before they disappear

  • Article by: DON LINDICH , Special to the Star Tribune
  • Updated: July 29, 2011 - 1:37 PM

Some models are nearing the end of their production cycle.

Q You recently recommended the pocket-sized Casio Exilim EX-FH100 digital camera for $250. Where I can buy it? Is there a newer version? If not, can you recommend a similar camera?

A The EX-FH100 is being phased out in favor of the EX-ZR100. The consensus is that the EX-FH100 is superior. If you want a Casio, get an EX-FH100 before they're gone. It is readily available on Amazon for about $260.

Speaking of products that are going to be phased out soon, I also recommend a super pocket camera nearing the end of its product cycle, the Samsung TL350. It's a great buy and has unique features, as well as excellent photo and video performance.

The 10-megapixel TL350 has a sharp Schneider-Kreuznach five-times zoom lens with an optical image stabilizer. The camera is beautifully styled, made of metal and has retro analog dials on top for the status of the battery and memory card. A beautiful OLED screen displays pictures, and the camera has a high-end feel throughout.

The user interface can be challenging at first, but once you learn its quirks, it allows advanced users to unlock the camera's potential. Novices can just put it on the full auto mode and click away with great results.

The TL350 records high-def video at 1080p and 30 frames per second -- fantastic for a compact camera. If you have a Blu-ray player or TV with an SD-card slot that supports AVCHD, you can play movies from the memory card slot. I did this with my Panasonic ST30 plasma, as well as the matching Blu-ray player, and it worked great. The TL350 has a high-speed recording mode similar to the Casio, and can even snap pictures while recording video.

Using the TL350 and viewing the pictures on my computer afterward reminded me of the experience I had with the Olympus XZ-1. That is high praise.

The Olympus is undoubtedly a better picture taker, but it is larger, more expensive and does not do video as well as the TL350. The XZ-1 images look perfect straight from the camera, with no tweaking necessary. The TL350's images look good right out of the camera, but a few moments tweaking them using software really makes them pop with detail -- sharp and vivid, yet natural in color.

The TL350 sells new for $239, refurbished for $189 on eBay. New or refurbished, be sure to update the camera's firmware as soon as you receive it. Some early TL350s had freezing-up issues that were fixed with the update.

If you get a TL350, be sure to get an extra battery, a charger (otherwise you must charge it in-camera) and a good Class 6 SDHC card. Sandisk and Lexar offer the best performance and reliability.

Submit questions and read past columns at www.soundadviceblog.com.

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