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Logitech Pocket Digital 130 digicam
Ultra-compact 1.3 megapixel model
First UK Review Logitech's Pocket Digital digicam was always intended to be cheap and cheerful. Credit-card sized, it was design to slip into your pocket, to be used at any time to quickly capture moments of your life. Take out the camera, slide open the case to expose the lens, point and click. Download later at your convenience.
Cheap and simple it may have been, but the Pocket Digital was crude. The viewfinder was little more than a hole in the case, making it hard to be sure you were framing picture correctly. Instead of a flash, the camera's on-board Autobrite software was supposed to enhance the image, but still managed to leave picture looking far too dark. Daytime results were little better: the picture smeared by what looked too high a level of JPEG compression, and limited to a native resolution of 640 x 480 pixels.
To be fair, Logitech never touted the device as a camera for photographers - it was intended for the email generation, producing pics ready to be sent to friends and family around the world.
The Pocket Digital 130 is aimed at similar users, but has been designed for people who demand printable image quality. Logitech has beefed up the device's photographic abilities. It's not yet in the same league as a digital cameras from the top brands, but it is a very real alternative to disposable 35mm cameras and some low-end non-disposables.
Logitech has upgraded the PD's CCD to a true 1.3 megapixel device. The original could interpolate 640 x 480 images up to 1280 x 1024, but the results were barely better than the standard-size shots. Now, both full-size shots and the smaller, 640 x 480 images the 130 offers for users keen to maximise the camera's storage capacity are far superior to those the original version was capable of, as you can see:
|Pocket Digital 640 x 480 (Click for full size image)|
|Pocket Digital 130 640 x 480 (Click for full size image)|
|Pocket Digital 130 1280 x 1023 (Click for full size image)|
The 130's shots, at either size, are crisper and with stronger colours than the original could deliver. But for the size and the resolution of a mere 96dpi - a small increase on the original's 72dpi - the 130's daylight shots are comparable with some of the higher end digicams we've seen over the past few years. Certainly they are more than adequate for email and web usage. And by using Photoshop to knock the physical dimensions of the image down to, say, a standard 6 x 4in print size, you can boost that resolution to over 200dpi - plenty for a top quality inkjet printer, or even a professional print service.
So much for the pictures, what about taking them? The 130 provides a better viewfinder that no longer leaves you wondering whether what you see will be what you get, though Logitech still hasn't yet etched framing guides into the lens, alas.
Sliding open the case reveals the lens and viewfinder window as before. The sliding mechanism is smooth, but it doesn't lock off when open as the original Pocket Digital did, which is a disappointment. The 130's buttons are larger and better than before, but again don't offer physical feedback in the way the original's did. The buttons allow you to change the image size, delete one or more pics - though without an picture LCD, this can be a matter of guesswork - set the 10s timer and toggle the audio feedback. Above them is the status display, showing the number of 'exposures' you have left, battery charge and image size.
The 130 fells much more solid than its predecessor, which should help counter shaky hands a little. At 104g, it weighs almost twice what the original did. Like the first version, it has a brushed metal shell, but this time it's not coated, so expect to spend a lot of time wiping away fingerprints.
While the 130 retains the original's credit card-size profile, it's considerably thicker, particularly in the region of the lens. While that detracts from the first version's 'take anywhere' feel, it nevertheless helps the 130 seem more of a 'real' camera.
Alas, while the case is more capacious, Logitech hasn't seen fit to increase the memory - it's still 16MB. Still, it can hold 45 full-size shots or 159 VGA images - better than the 53 640 x 480s the original could manage. There's no SD card or SmartMedia slot for to allow you to add more.
The 130's case has a rectangular window just off-centre. Opening the sliding case aligns this with the camera's strobe flash. Strobe it may, but it generates as much 'red eye' as any other digicam - you can even see a subject's red pupils through the viewfinder when the flash goes off.
Alongside the viewfinder is a tiny LED which indicates when the flash is ready for use. The camera defaults to auto-flash mode, but a button on the back allows you to keep the flash off, or to override the sensor when you want to take people shots in daylight.
While the flash is a significant improvement over Autobrite, it reveals the 130's limit light-gathering ability. Pictures taken with the flash are noticeably darker and more grainy that daylight shots.
|Click for full size image|
Of course, that's to be expected, and, as we said, Logitech isn't pretending that the addition of a flash makes this a pro camera. While the flash allows the camera to be used indoors lighting conditions, it doesn't generate as much light as a typical 35mm camera's built-in flash does.
The 130 connects to a host PC via a mini-USB port. While the previous version required its own drivers, under Mac OS X (and Windows XP, apparently) the new model uses the standard USB mass storage profile, allowing the host to treat it as a removable Flash drive. While that makes it easy to get pictures off the camera - it's just a drag-and-drop operation - it does mean you need to eject the device to unmount the storage volume. You can just unplug it and go. Windows users will still need to install drivers first.
The camera's battery is recharged from the bus. The 130 uses a Lithium Ion unit in place of the original's lighter but more expensive Lithium Polymer cell. That change is undoubtedly one of the reasons why the 130 is heavier, but it's been a small price to pay to keep the cost down.
We've always been fond of the Pocket Digital's size, ease of use and sheer cheap-and-cheerfulness, but disappointed by its poor picture quality. The 130 nicely eliminates the latter without losing the former. Yes, it is larger, but not significantly so, and the greater heft makes it feel better in your hands while you're taking pictures.
The Pocket Digital 130 will never take a prize photo, but it will take some great shots you'll want to treasure and share. And it's compact size allows you to make sure you never miss a moment.
If the 130 has a flaw, it's the price. While £100/$150 isn't bad for a true 1.3 megapixel, it's not exactly a breakthrough price, either. Nor is it unique. There are plenty of rivals out there offering comparable features for the same price or less. Worse, many offer more options, such as a digital zoom, a bigger flash, video clips, and even a picture-preview LCD. Cheaper cameras tend to come with less RAM, but some do allow you to add more via memory cards. Quite a few of them come from more better-known photography and/or consumer electronics brands than Logitech: JVC, HP, Fujifilm and Konica. Lesser known brands, such as BenQ, Nisis and Mustek and Digital Dream, offer comparable but cheaper cameras.
Or you can pay not so very much more and get a two or three megapixel job. But arguably few if any of these - or the more direct competitors - offer quite as compact a camera as the 130, and that remains its strength. For that reason, though the market may be crowded, the 130 is worthy of attention. ®
|Pros||— Good picture quality for online use
— Ultra-compact size
— Recharged via USB
|Cons||— Limited resolution
— Weak flash
— Better cameras are chasing it on price and size
|Price||£100 including sales tax; $150|