"Small" is still far from the right word for the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show. But by every measure—both official and anecdotal--it was a slimmer event than in years past. In overall terms, attendance was down by at least 12,000, and probably a good deal more. Last year's official tally was approximately 141,000 visitors. Sources inside CEA say that this year's was well under the 130,000 that had been projected.
Purple is the new black, Sony is telling us, by introducing the “eggplant” color for its new Webbie HD line of pocket-sized camcorders. You can also get them in orange or silver, but I have to admit, eggplant is pretty cool-looking (and according to many of my women friends, indeed the hot new color).
Cameras are looking more and more like telescopes. This year's CES saw several megazoom models emerge, including 60X and 70X from Sony and Panasonic camcorders and a 26X still camera from Olympus. (The higher the camera's resolution, the harder it is to extend the range of a lens. The Olympus is a 12MP camera, while the standard-def camcorders are under a megapixel.)
It may at first sound like a Franken-feature. Do I really want to surf the Web on my camera? Of course not. But adding a Web browser makes Sony's new G3 far more powerful than any other Wi-Fi equipped camera.
Cutting-edge HDTVs are confusing enough, but vendors torture us further when they fixate on some ambiguous number and beat us over the head with it. In past years, they challenged us to parse sexed-up estimates of viewing angles and contrast ratios. Then they bragged about wide color gamuts that allow the TVs to distort what we’re watching by adding neon-like hues that were never in the original movies or TV shows.
Living in a New York apartment, I barely have room for two stereo speakers – let alone 5.1, 6.1 or 7.1 surround-sound rigs. So I may not be the ideal person for Dolby’s new Dolby Prologic IIz setup, which features up to 10 speakers, with two up in the air.
Just a year ago, Casio introduced its first high-speed camera, the Best of What’s New-winning EX-F1. The size of a small SLR, that camera captures up to 60 full-res photos per second. The rate is cut to 30 per second in Casio’s two newest high-speed models, but the size is also cut as low as 0.64 inches thick for the model EX-FS10 (and just an inch for the companion EX-FC100). They also capture high-speed video at up to 1000 fps at low resolution, or up to 720p high-def at a standard 30fps.
While all consumer electronics items have large ecological footprints, plasma TVs have long had the distinction of being size XXL. But Panasonic is out to change that with a new line of ultra-efficient (and ultra-thin) panels called NeoPDP.
The technology appears this summer in the Z1, a 54-inch (diagonal) screen measuring about one inch thick. It's also equipped with a wireless receiver that can pick up video beamed from across a room.
Since it debuted half a century ago, 3D cinema has mainly been a gimmick. To date, perhaps my favorite of the all these movies is a short horror film farce by the Three Stooges, because it fully embraces the silliness of 3D, using every gag imaginable, with no pretensions of it being an art form.