Photo Of The Day: Philippines Jeepney

Photo of the day

This Photo of the Day, titled “Philippines / Palawan / Roxas,” comes from Gadling Flickr pool member AdamJamesWilson.

Adam captions the image

“Took this photo during a stop on the otherwise miserable eight hour bus journey from Puerto to El Nido. Not 100% sure that I was in Roxas but looking at a map now it seems likely.

The jeepney is a real Philippine icon. The originals were converted military jeeps abandoned by the US army after WWII. By today’s standards this one is pretty tame but to me the older beat up ones are the most visually interesting, they have this slightly dystopian appearance that wouldn’t look out of place in a post apocalyptic road movie.”

Somewhat unique, and surely something we don’t see every day, Adam captured this image using a Canon AV-1 with Kodak 200 film.

That brought back a lot of great memories, shooting roll after roll of film while traveling. We would hope for the best until professional developing would reveal the true results of our efforts.

In a hurry, one-hour photo developing was available for a premium price. On a budget, we sent off rolls of film in an envelope that came in the Sunday newspaper, choosing a “flat” or “glossy” finish. If luck produced a good shot, we might send the negative (included with the prints) back for additional copies.

That’s not ancient history either. In 1999, digital cameras replaced film cameras in big city newspapers then soon became the camera of choice for millions. The origin of the digital camera dates back to 1975, not long after I bought a Polariod “Swinger” camera for $19.95.

Upload your best shots to the Gadling Group Pool on Flickr. Several times a week we choose our favorite images from the pool as a Photo of the Day. Now, you can also submit photos through Instagram; just mention @GadlingTravel and use the hashtag #gadling when posting your images.

[Photo Credits Flickr user AdamJamesWilsonKodak]

Samsung HZ35W digital camera with GPS – first look

This really is a great summer for people in the market for a new digital camera. The new Samsung HZ35W is no exception. In this quick look, I’ll introduce you to this newest product from the Samsung lineup, with some extra focus on its travel friendly features.

Inside the HZ35W is a 14.2 megapixel sensor, a 24mm wide angle 15x optical zoom and HD movie mode. What sets the HZ35W apart from the competition is its GPS receiver. Even though the camera is not the first to come with a GPS receiver for geo-tagging, it is the first (that I know of) with a built in street-level map database, powered by Navteq (the same company that provides maps for many popular GPS navigation units).

Because of the 15x optical zoom, the camera is by no means compact – it stops short of being bulky, but this isn’t a camera for your back pocket. Controls are simple and well laid out – you get a selector knob on top, along with a switch for the GPS receiver, power button, zoom lever and shutter control. On the rear is a D-Pad and buttons for quick movie mode, menu, play and erase.

On the side of the camera is a metal door to protect the USB and HDMI connectors. And these connectors bring me to the biggest disappointment of the Samsung HZ35W – the camera once again uses a proprietary connector for all its functions. The power/usb cable is short and bulky, and no HDMI or AV cable is included.

Worst of all – even though the HD video port is labeled “HDMI”, you still need to invest extra in a special HDMI Mini-Type D cable. To make matters even worse – nobody seems to sell these cables (yet). Honestly, I absolutely hate the proprietary connectors and I wish they’d just settle for Mini or MicroUSB and the same MiniHDMI connectors used by almost every other brand.

Thankfully, the connector issue is pretty much the only downside I’ve been able to find so far. The camera speed is excellent, and despite the long lens, it starts up very fast. The display is stunning, thanks to Samsungs own AMOLED display technology.

As I mentioned earlier – the Samsung HZ35W is the first I know of with a full map database loaded on the device. It makes tagging and referencing photos quite a lot of fun. Loading maps on the camera takes about 20 minutes, and the ability to carefully read instructions (an ability I lack).

And finally in this quick look, I’ll leave you with two photos that show the zoom lens at work:

I’ll post a full review next week, after I’ve been able to take the camera for a real test over the next couple of days.

Panasonic Lumix GF1 Micro Four Thirds camera review

In this review, we’ll introduce the fourth Micro Four Thirds camera to earn some coverage here on Gadling. As a quick reminder – Micro Four Thirds digital cameras offer the same image sensor quality found on large(r) digital SLR cameras, but in a much smaller body. This size and weight reduction obviously makes these cameras perfect for travel, especially if you want to lighten your load, without sacrificing image quality or features.

The basics inside the Panasonic Lumix GF1 are what you’d expect from a camera in this (price) range. 12.1 megapixels, 1280 x 720 HD video, live view and a built in flash.
In the version being reviewed here today, we used the GF1 with the Panasonic H-H020 20mm F1.7 pancake lens. The design of the GF1 is very much in line with all other Panasonic cameras – and I’ve been a longtime fan of their Lumix lineup, so I was instantly attracted to the GF1. Controls are fairly basic – the usual mode selector dial is on top, along with a very handy shoot mode switch (for single, continuous and timed photos). Many other cameras hide those options under the menu, so quick access like this is quite welcome.

On the rear is the D-Pad menu/option selector, buttons for the display, delete, play, Autofocus lock, quick menu and a fast auto/manual focus selector.

Startup time of the camera is very quick – in part because of a “real” power slider switch. From power on till first photo can be just under 2 seconds making the camera perfect for those spur of the moment things you’d like to photograph.

Because this is a Micro Four Thirds camera, the GF1 can be used with some other Micro Four Thirds lenses, though Panasonic did inform me that not all lenses will work – in some cases, the lens may not auto focus. In my test, I used the 14-42 lens from an Olympus E-P1 which worked perfectly – in fact, it performed better on the GF1 than on the E-P1, mainly because the E-P1 has a notoriously slow focus, something the GF1 does not suffer from.

The GF1 features a built in pop-up flash. The flash is manually operated (so no auto pop-up). Think of this flash as handy to have around, just don’t expect it to light up a large room as it is pretty weak. Still, it beats having to carry around a separate flash. Of course, there is a flash shoe on top of the camera.

The flash shoe can also be used for an optional ($155) viewfinder, which uses a small connector port just under the shoe.

Image quality from the GF1 is very, very good – the camera is fast, and the 20mm lens was much more fun to work with than I had expected. There are a few things lacking though – there is no in-camera image stabilization, and movies are recorded in mono.

On the side of the camera is a miniHDMI port (for HD video and images), a dual USB/AV port and a remote control jack. The camera can not be charged over USB, so you’ll need to carry the included charger along with you. Battery life is quite excellent – rated for up to 380 photos per charge.

All in all, I found the GF1 to be a worthy competitor to the Olympus E-P1 and E-P2. The pop-up flash is a handy feature to have, and the auto focus performance is certainly better. But the lack of image stabilization and stereo audio puts it a few steps behind.

PROS: Fast focus, easy to use menu structure, good battery life, excellent photo quality
CONS: No image stabilization, mono video audio

As reviewed, the Panasonic Lumix GF1 retails for $899 – with the 20mm lens. This is exactly the same price as the Olympus E-P2 with a similar pancake lens (the E-P2 lacks a pop-up flash).

Five new digital cameras from Samsung

As we pointed out in our TL225 DualView review last week, Samsung makes some pretty innovative digital cameras. Last night,, the company unveiled five new shooters for their Q1 2010 lineup. The new products include the HZ30W and HZ35W superzoom compacts, the effect-rich TL110 and TL105 cameras and a new budget camera – the SL630.

For travelers, the new HZ35W will be a real treat, offering HD video recording, integrated GPS with location data and get this – a 15x optical zoom, all in a package just 28mm deep.

TL105

The TL105 is a 12.2 megapixel camera with a 4x optical zoom. It features face recognition, blink detection and “smile shot” which ensures you only take photos of happy looking people. The TL105 shoots video in 720p HD with an optional HDMI cable. Available in February.

TL110

The new TL110 features a 5x optical zoom and a 14.2 megapixel sensor, in a compact form factor. It has the same scene and face detection features as the TL105, along with its HD video mode. Available in February.

HZ30W

The new HZ30W packs a 3″ LCD and a 15x optical zoom in its interior. It shoots in 12.2 megapixels and can record video in 720p. Available in March.

HZ35W

The new HZ35W offers the same 15x zoom lens found on the HZ30W, but adds a 3″ AMOLED screen and a GPS receiver. The receiver tags your photos with the location it was made, plus the camera can display your location on a visual map. Available in March.

SL630

The final newbie in the Q1 2010 Samsung lineup is the budget friendly SL630. Despite its low budget classification, it packs a 12.2 megapixel sensor and 5x optical zoom in its silver, black or red exterior. It does not feature HD video, but does do optical image stabilization and a variety of effects. Available in March.

Gadling gear review – Manfrotto Modo Pocket mini folding camera stand

In this Gadling gear review, I’ll introduce you to the Manfrotto Modo Pocket 797 mini camera stand. This 50 gram (about 1.7 ounces) folding stand screws to the tripod mount found on the bottom of most cameras. When folded, it is only about 6 millimeters thick. The Modo Pocket is a master of simplicity – it really only consists of three parts, two of which fold open to help angle your camera on a surface.

Once opened, a small cord prevents the 2 legs from folding open too far, and helps keep them angled. Sturdy rubber feet are injection molded to the legs, so there is no chance of them falling off.

An attached camera can be angled in a variety of ways – you can keep it straight, or angle it up/down about 45 degrees. This opens up a whole world of creative options, including shots from the ground up.
One clever addition is a threaded hole on the bottom of the Modo Pocket, which allows you to mount it, along with your camera on a second tripod, without having to remove it.

Despite its small size, I found that it had no problems whatsoever with heavier cameras like the Olympus Pen E-P1. Of course, it is very much in its element with a P&S camera. The manufacturer rated maximum camera weight is 500g/1lb.

There are other pocket camera stands/tripods on the market, but the Modo Pocket is the smallest you’ll find, plus its small size means it can stay attached to your camera at all times, ready for when you need it.

At $19.95 (MSRP) it is not a cheap little accessory, but Manfrotto are known in the camera world for their fantastic quality, and the Modo Pocket is no exception. This does not look or feel like some cheap little gizmo. The Modo Pocket is available from most camera equipment vendors.

I’ve quickly learned to love the quirky little Modo Pocket – it is great for timed family photos, or if you don’t want to put your camera down on a dirty muddy surface. It is ready for use in a matter of seconds whenever you need it.

PRO’S: Great quality, can stay on your camera, very lightweight and thin.
CON’S: Price feels a tad on the high side.