Occasionally, new tech products grab my attention because I think they'd be useful or fun. With the ones I imagine might interest you, I...
Occasionally, new tech products grab my attention because I think they’d be useful or fun. With the ones I imagine might interest you, I try out and report back on how well they work. Here are a few picks for the summer:
Karaoke microphone: I can’t sing. But when I’m home alone, my creaky voice echoes through the house along with Kelly Clarkson, Green Day and the Beatles.
So when I hear about a simple karaoke system that’s essentially a microphone that plugs into a TV and displays lyrics for 300 songs with musical background, I figure that’s the set for me.
But when the Leadsinger LS-3700 arrives, my 20-something kids figure it’s the set for them. By the time I’m back with the youngest, they’ve got the mic plugged in and are singing loud and — well, actually — they sound pretty good.
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It takes a little hunting to find lyrics for songs they know, and then it’s easy to adjust the volume, key, tempo, echo and such. Those siblings are still competitive and already they’re singing for a test score and comparing.
Karaoke is intended for social gatherings, and my older daughter is going to a party, so I let her bring it along. The next day, she says her friends sang with that mic for three hours.
The LS-3700 costs $150 (www.leadsinger.com)and additional song cartridges run from $50 to $90.
If you like to sing, or host others who do, this little device could be a summer treat.
Camera bags: Whether you take your camera to the local playground or to Zomba, Malawi, you need a way to carry it so it won’t break or get dirty and wet. The best way is to put it in a decent-quality camera bag.
I’ve bought several and most do the job, but the ones I like best are M-Rock (www.m-rock.com)camera bags because they’re sturdy, well-designed and attractive.
The Yellowstone bag ($44), for example, holds a midsize camera with up to a 4-inch lens. The inside is padded and the outside has a rain flap, pockets and elastic cording on the bottom for carrying a light jacket or monopod. There’s a handgrip on top and clip-on padded straps for wearing the bag over the shoulder or as a mini backpack. Tucked away in one of the zipped pockets is a separate rain bag for extra protection.
The Grand Canyon ($60) is larger and holds a camera with up to a 6-inch lens, plus room for another lens or two. It’s also padded with a rain flap, pockets, cord, handgrip, rain bag and switchable shoulder straps.
An M-Rock camera bag is a good gift for any photographer, and the bags come in a wide range of sizes. Plus, for more storage, you can attach smaller bags on each side.
Kids’ headphones and binoculars: Often the gear adults use, kids want to use, too, but it might be too big. Headphones and binoculars are two good examples and I’ve come across kid-size versions of both.
A while ago, I wrote about a kid’s headset and noted that its sound quality wasn’t particularly great. Since then, I’ve found a better headset, the Kidz Gear Headphones for Kids ($20, www.gearforkids.com) which has stereo earphones with cushioned child-size ear cups and an adjustable overhead band.
Kidz Gear pitches its products as providing “grown-up performance, built for kids,” so to check, I put the headphones on. Though they’re small for me, I can test the sound quality, which is pretty good.
The true advantage is that these earphones won’t keep falling off while the kids watch videos, play electronic games or listen to music.
Kidz Gear Binoculars ($30) are designed on the same principle: to provide good-quality gear for kids that fits and costs less than adult gear.
These binoculars are made of light metal with a rubber coating for easy handling, and each eye lens is separately adjustable. They’re not a toy, but they are made for kids’ eyes that are smaller and closer together than adults’.
My youngest takes them outside to explore the world magnified seven times and she thinks they’re great. Her parents try them and think they’re surprisingly good quality.
Backpack for a laptop: I don’t carry a laptop around except when traveling, but my husband totes his to the university every day, along with another bag full of books and student papers. So I pay attention when hearing about the Kensington Contour Backpack ($70, www.kensington.com), which is designed to treat backs well. In fact, it’s contoured to fit the back and shift the load onto the hips with help from curved and padded shoulder straps.
This backpack costs more than some others, but because the American Chiropractic Association endorses it, I figure it must be better for backs, so I have my husband try it.
Turns out he likes the backpack, though he’s not convinced it’s necessarily better for backs than other good-quality backpacks. It’s comfortable and looks classy, so my son also likes it and since he’s starting graduate school soon, he wants one, along with a laptop. Hmmm.
Scrapbooking: For some reason, making and maintaining scrapbooks has become the third-most-popular craft in the United States, and the market for scrapbooking materials has grown to $2.5 billion in the past five years.
I’ve received numerous pitches for products that could be used for scrapbooking, including digital cameras and camera phones, photo software and printers. Indeed, snap shooters who are rapidly filling shoeboxes with digital photos are seeking new ways to use them in creative ways.
Making scrapbooks is fun, creative and easy for anyone who wants to get started. All you really need is some pictures, felt-tip pens, scissors, glue and a scrapbook to stick everything in. From there, you can get as fancy and fanciful as you like. Some even have developed this hobby from a craft to an art.
Several months ago, a friend who’s a serious scrapbooker urged me to start one that follows my daughter’s growth in karate with photos, memorabilia and comments people have made about her. I did, and now my child cherishes it so much I couldn’t possibly stop.
I’m not suggesting specific products related to scrapbooking but will suggest that if you have a camera and a little imagination, you might treat yourself to some summer fun with this. However, if you get started, you may not be able to put it away when the kids go back to school.
Note: Some of you planning summer trips have asked whether taking cameras and media cards through electronic airport-security checks will wipe out your vacation pictures.
I asked representatives from Nikon and SanDisk and both reported there is nothing to worry about.