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Published: Sunday, 2/13/2011

Rebel yell: a lot to like about Canon T3i


There might be a certain deja vu to the new Canon EOS Rebel T3i. It not only shares DNA with its popular predecessors, but its new features -- a swivel-out screen and built-in photography guide -- look a lot like those found on a pair of Nikon cameras.

The Canon T3i has a rotating screen that lets you hold the camera overhead and frame a shot, or turn the lens on yourself without guessing what you are getting, just as you would find on the Nikon D5000.

And the T3i has a built-in instructional guide, like the Nikon D3100. The guide tells beginners (or rusty intermediates) how to set the camera to get specific types of shots. For instance, if you dial up macro mode, it says "for close-ups of small objects such as flowers, shoot as close as possible."

If the Canon seems to have cribbed a couple of top features from Nikon, it still has plenty to recommend it: a 3-inch high-resolution screen, a higher ISO setting than the Nikons, a built-in focus motor and 1080p video.

The T3i will be in dealers in the beginning of March, said Canon.

Turn up the volume

The iPad is no TV, but it can almost be one. Altec Lansing has produced a stand that enhances sound and charges your tablet as you watch videos or listen to music.

The Octiv Stage MP450 is a stand with a cradle for the iPad. In its 8 1/2-by 6-inch base is an amp and two speakers that make TV loud enough for a small group, and play tunes powerful enough that you can DJ a dorm room-size party.

The dock is simple. Slide the iPad into the cradle and you are set. The cradle swivels so you can watch in landscape or portrait mode, and it tilts as well. The MP450 comes with a remote control so you can run it from the couch.

There is also a 3.5-millimeter auxiliary jack so you can use the base to play an iPod or other music player.

The dock, which sells for $150, is available directly from the manufacturer's website, at Apple's online store and at retailers.

Monopoly Live

In Monopoly Live ($50), you still land on Boardwalk and collect $200 for passing GO. But the money flows electronically to your bank card, and a computer manages details like dice rolls and rent calculations.

More interestingly, the board watches your game piece, from a 10-inch tower that also announces turns and remembers how much money you have, down to the last dollar (no more slipping a $500 bill under the board).

How does it work? The tower, powered by four AA batteries, bathes the board in infrared light, and a camera can see reflectors placed on each game piece. To roll the dice, you hide your game piece from the camera by cupping your hand over it, and the computer rolls, complete with fake dice sounds. It then watches to make sure you land on the right property.

What's missing? "The disputes," said Leif Askeland of Hasbro, one of the game's designers. "The tower never makes a mistake."

For those questioning the need for such computer intervention, Askeland responds: "You can still buy the original version for around $15."

Mobile to landline

While the world has been enthralled with mobile phones, there have actually been some developments worth noting in the world of landline phones.

The most intriguing of which is Panasonic's Link-to-Cell feature, found on some of its cordless handsets. Link-to-Cell allows your cordless phone to answer calls placed to your mobile phone.

If someone dials your mobile phone when you are at home, all the handsets in the house will ring and you can answer the call from any of them. The feature uses Bluetooth to establish a wireless connection between up to two mobile phones and however many compatible cordless handsets you have.

Link-to-Cell is available on Panasonic's KX-TG6582T cordless phone, which comes with a base unit and handset as well as an additional handset and charging dock. It recently became available nationwide and sells for about $80.

Link-to-Cell is great news for people who, say, often leave their phone in a handbag downstairs while they are upstairs, out of earshot. When -- just for illustrative purposes -- a husband calls his wife's cell phone to find out if he should pick up milk at the supermarket, his call will ring throughout the house, increasing its chances of actually getting answered. Domestic bliss.

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