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KELLNER: Tiny camera soars in ancient, high-tech world

- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 21, 2011

JERUSALEM — If history can repeat itself in this ancient and storied city, maybe tech experiences can be repeated, too. Seven years ago, your columnist was here and was grateful to carry a relatively small digital camera that took pictures whose quality was quite good.

I spent the past week in Israel again, and was even more wowed this time by a much newer digital device, the Canon PowerShot ELPH 300 HS Digital camera, list price $250, which the Japanese firm announced on Feb. 7. After another firm's promised loan of a new device fell through, I grabbed this one quickly from Amazon.com — at just under $200, no less — for the trip.

Here is how Canon describes the device: It has "a 12.1-Megapixel High-Sensitivity CMOS sensor, 5X Optical Zoom, an ultra-wide angle 24mm equivalent lens along with a 2.7-inch LCD screen and is available in red, black and silver." Let me translate that into English: This camera does many of the things you would expect from a much larger digital SLR, at a fraction of the weight and price.

Now, lest the good people at The Washington Times' photo desk refuse to speak to me ever again, it must be explicitly stated that the ELPH 300 is not a substitute for a full digital SLR camera. But for many casual photographers, as well as for those seeking something light to tote around, the pocketable ELPH is an amazing device, capable of producing pictures that could rival those from larger cameras.

I know, because I had a Canon EOS Rebel T2i along as well. During several days of touring, I shot photos at the same location with both cameras. The results were almost indistinguishable, except when I put the 55-250 mm zoom lens on the T2i. With that kind of lens, one obviously can do a bit more.

But I could do a lot with the ELPH 300, and enough for shots posted on a blog, while larger files may appear in print somewhere. In Masada, the ancient fortress in the middle of the desert, I didn't want to lug around a big camera bag. The ELPH 300 was just fine there; the photos worked beautifully.

A nice bonus is that the ELPH 300 shoots high-definition, 1080p video. I took a couple of clips, and I'm happy with them.

Steven Spielberg might not use this to make a movie, but you could intersperse shots from that surprise birthday party with a short clip of the cake being served.

Do I recommend this camera? Yes, I do, and while I could have spent a bit more and gotten some extra bells and whistles (another model announced at the time has a built-in GPS system to note where a photo was taken), I'm very, very pleased with this little gem. You might be, too.

High-tech hotel

In Jerusalem, the 2-year-old Mamilla Hotel is a "boutique" hotel with a high-tech twist. Housed inside the shell of an older building, the Mamilla offers amenities such as Wi-Fi and even two American-friendly electrical outlets.

The Wi-Fi extends to the hotel's public areas, the lobby, cafe and restaurants. The flat-screen TV in each room can double as an Internet terminal. In the glass-walled bathroom, a switch turns the glass opaque to ensure privacy.

My favorite tech add-on is the set of speakers in the bathroom that offers the TV's audio as you shower. It's a great way to keep up with things back home while getting ready for another day of exploring.

Israel's high-tech dedication is no surprise; the country has been a tech hub for years. But today's Israelis are serious about it. At least one tour bus I saw had Wi-Fi access (great for Facebooking on the way to Tiberias), and the cell reception on top of Masada is just fine.

E-mail mkellner@washingtontimes.com.

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