Weekly column: Blu-ray player needed for HDTV? Pentax Q

Sound Advice
By Don Lindich

Column for first week of December, 2011

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.

Martinez, Calif.

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.

Since you have a Samsung TV, it makes sense to get a Samsung player because the TV and Blu-ray remotes will operate both 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 as their DVD playback quality is superior, even at the lower price ranges. Anyone looking for a high-end model should consider the Sony PlayStation 3 for $249 or the Oppo BDP-93 for $499.

Holiday product highlight: Premium compact cameras for serious photographers are nothing new. The Leica Minilux, Nikon 35Ti and Contax T 35 mm film cameras are examples of boutique cameras that were highly prized in their day. They combined solid metal bodies, sharp lenses and a hefty price befitting their high quality.

The 12-megapixel Pentax Q ($799) is the modern digital equivalent of these cameras. It has a rugged magnesium body so small it can hide behind a playing card but unlike film cameras, the Pentax Q has interchangeable lenses. Five lenses are available and more to come.

I was initially skeptical of the Pentax Q, and that is coming from someone who has used Pentax SLRs for over twenty years. A large sensor is the main attraction to an interchangeable lens camera and at first glance the small sensor and premium price made the Q seem hopelessly outmatched. I now see the Pentax Q is in a class of its own. It does not 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, explores the interface and settings and fires a few frames will quickly understand it is a serious and capable photographic tool. It produces clean, sharp images and excellent video, and is fun to carry around and use. The blur filter allows you to separate the subject from the background; the different lenses raise creative possibilities not possible with other tiny cameras.

Questions?  Email Don

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