SONY A55 TRANSLUCENT MIRROR In a regular S.L.R. camera (single-lens reflex — those big black pro cameras), light enters the lens, hits a mirror and is bounced up to your eye and, simultaneously, onto a focusing sensor. Unfortunately, when you take the photo, the mirror has to flip out of the way so that the light falls on the image sensor (the “film”). At that point, the camera can’t focus. That’s why most S.L.R.’s can’t change focus during burst-mode shots, or while filming video.
Sony’s A55 camera ($850) solves that problem by using a translucent mirror. It splits light between the focusing sensor and the image sensor. The mirror never moves, so the autofocus never goes blind. The camera can take 10 shots a second, refocusing all the way — no other camera can do that — and change focus as you pan or zoom, gorgeously and cinematically. No wonder this was Popular Photography’s camera of the year.
SAMSUNG PL90 FLIP-OUT U.S.B. When you want to transfer photos from your camera to your computer, you probably hunt for the U.S.B. cable. The masterstroke here: this camera has a flip-out U.S.B. jack, just like the Flip camcorder. So you never need to pack or find a cable or a card reader when you want to transfer pictures; the camera connects right to the computer.
CABLE COMPANY WI-FI ALLIANCES Last year, America’s cable TV companies began installing regionwide wireless Internet hot spots, free for use by their cable Internet customers. Your laptop, phone or Touch is always online when you’re in public places around town. It was supposed to be an irresistible bonus, a freebie that their phone company rivals couldn’t match.
This year, some of them had an even better idea: team up. In New York, New Jersey and Connecticut, for example, Cablevision, Time Warner and Comcast decided to merge their Wi-Fi networks. Now any customer of any one of those companies can enjoy the Wi-Fi hot spots provided by the other two as well — free. Competition makes strange bedfellows, eh?
CHECK DEPOSIT APPS If you rate Pogie nominees by the number of hours, miles and headaches saved, surely this one should walk away with the Pogie Ultimo.
Any customer of Chase Bank (and some customers of USAA, which had the idea first) can deposit a check just by taking a picture of it with an iPhone or Android phone. That’s right: sign the back, use the app to photograph the front and back, type the amount, and tap send.
You’ve just made a fully legitimate deposit; at this point, you can actually rip up the check. No deposit slip, no driving, no A.T.M. envelopes. It’s good technology that benefits the environment, the parking lots and you.
And that, friends, is a beautiful thing.
Happy high-tech new year!
David Pogue is a columnist for the New York Times and contributor to CNBC. He can be emailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org.