Q: I have a 40-inch Samsung LCD HDTV. What is your advice on buying a Blu-Ray player for it? I have a Roku box, so I don't need streaming and Internet capability.
A: Even though you have a Roku, it still makes sense to get a player with built-in Wi-Fi.
Blu-ray discs often contain online content accessed via the BD-Live function, which requires an Internet connection.
Blu-ray players also require occasional firmware updates to keep them running their best. If your player is connected to the Internet, it will download and install these updates automatically. If it isn't, you must find the file online, download it and do the process manually with a burned disc or flash drive. Automatic is much easier and less frustrating.
You have a Samsung TV, so it makes sense to get a Samsung player, because the TV and Blu-ray remotes will operate the TV and player. An entry-level model will work fine for basic movie watching. The improvement in picture quality and sound over DVD or streaming will be dramatic.
If you have a lot of DVDs or rent them frequently, consider a Panasonic player because its DVD playback quality is superior, even at lower prices. Anyone looking for a high-end model should consider the Sony PlayStation 3 for $249 or the Oppo BDP-93 for $499.
Pick: Pentax Q camera
Premium compact cameras for serious photographers are nothing new. The Leica Minilux, Nikon 35Ti and Contax T 35mm were boutique film cameras that were highly prized in their day for their solid metal bodies, sharp lenses and a hefty price befitting their high quality.
The 12-megapixel Pentax Q ($799) is the modern digital equivalent. It has a rugged magnesium body so small that it can hide behind a playing card. Unlike film cameras, though, the Pentax Q has interchangeable lenses. Five lenses are available, with more sure to come.
A large sensor is the main attraction of an interchangeable-lens camera, and at first glance the small sensor and premium price make the Pentax Q seem hopelessly outmatched. But the Q is in a class of its own. It doesn't replace a large-sensor camera and, given the price, it isn't for everyone. But enthusiasts and pros looking for a tiny camera with maximum creative potential will find it to be a marvelous addition to their toolkit.
The Pentax Q feels solid in the hand and any knowledgeable photographer who picks it up will quickly find that it is a serious and capable photographic tool. It produces clean, sharp images and excellent video, and is pure fun to carry around and use. The blur filter allows you to separate the subject from the background and the different lenses open up creative possibilities that simply aren't possible with other tiny cameras.
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