Q I am looking for a small point-and-shoot digital camera. I like the $169 street price of the 14.1-megapixel Panasonic Lumix DMC-FH20, as well as the 8-times optical zoom with 28- to 224-millimeter range. What do you think of this choice?

A I think you have latched on to a real winner. I have had great experience with Panasonic compacts and this is one of the most appealing.

You have picked up on the wide zoom range, but might not have noticed the wide-angle setting of 28mm, which is great for buildings, travel and groups of people indoors. The DMC-FH20 has optical stabilization for sharp pictures and an attractive, nicely finished body.

The only real shortcoming is middling performance in low light and somewhat slow operation, two near-universal qualities in small, inexpensive compacts. But it's hard to do better at that price.

Glasses-free 3-D HDTV

Q I've done my research and am sold on getting a 3-D HDTV. I don't mind wearing the glasses too much, but I keep hearing that the technology is "right around the corner" for 3-D HDTVs that will not require glasses at all. Realistically, when do you foresee this technology hitting the market?

A The technology is on the market already. Last month Toshiba introduced such a set in Japan, but it compares poorly with 3-D HDTVs that use glasses.

It uses a thin sheet of lenses over the screen to create the 3-D effect but only in nine specific "sweet spots" in the room. If you are not sitting precisely in one of the nine spots, you won't see 3-D.

Then there is the price. The biggest size offered is a 20-inch model, and it sells for $2,900. Not only is 20 inches too small for anything other than a kitchen TV these days, but that much money could get you a top-of-the-line 50-inch 3-D HDTV. That is a lot more value and makes a lot more sense.

I have not seen the TV, so I can't comment on how well the lens-screen technology works for creating a satisfying 3-D effect. But given the limitations in seating area and what I know about human vision and the way 3-D technology works, I strongly suspect that current 3-D TVs with glasses are better, because they already provide a superior 3-D experience than what you find in the theater. What's more, current 3-D HDTVs offer the best picture quality that manufacturers can muster to go with the 3-D capability.

In the next six months to a year, glasses-free 3-D HDTV won't be an affordable, commercially viable mass-market product, if ever, given the biological and technical implications. If the industry were that close to making 3-D HDTVs that work well without glasses, it would have likely just delayed the product launch until then.

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