By: Jon Zaring
December 3, 2002
The VEO SD Photo Traveler is a camera for PalmOS handhelds that interfaces through the SDIO port. It supports Palm OS versions 4.x and 5.0. Pictures are either 320x240 or 640x480 in resolution and stored in 24 bit color JPGs. The pictures can be stored in low, medium, and high quality which adjusts the amount of space each picture occupies on the handheld. The camera lens has an adjustable focus that allows macro (close-up) photography to regular landscape shots. In full macro, the focusing distance is about 1 inch! The lens also rotates 180 degrees, so you can take pictures pointing forward, or at yourself. Though this is considered a feature, it was probably due to the reversal of the SD slots between the Tungsten-T and the M5xx. Finally, the camera boasts a countdown timer and, for the photography buffs out there, a manual mode where the exposure time can be adjusted.
Installing the software was simple, just put in the accompanying CD and answer the prompts. Sync the handheld and you’re done. The associated camera program takes up approximately 150K of space on the handheld.
Hooking up the camera, however, is where my first complaint arises. The card part of the camera seems thicker than it should be, and it gives an unpleasant scraping sensation when inserting it into the SD slot. This added friction and the weight of the camera also makes it difficult to determine if the camera is seated properly. Unlike an SD card that pops up when you press on it, the camera doesn’t really move. To tell if it is inserted properly, you have to slightly tug on the camera to make sure it is latched. The VEO program will also show an alert if the camera is not seated properly.
Once the camera is installed, tap on the VEO icon and the screen on the right will appear. Using the icons on the bottom, you can take a picture, change the VEO settings, beam a picture, or discard a picture.
If you tap on the camera of the preceding screen, the camera view window appears as shown on the right. To take a picture, tap the camera icon again, or press either the datebook or the notepad button. The other two icons allow you to go back to the thumbnail screen (shown previously) or set a timer for a delayed picture. The number on the far right shows an estimate of how many more pictures you can take at the current quality settings.
Once you take a picture, by tapping on the camera shown on the preceding frame, or by pressing the datebook or notepad buttons, the following screen will appear allowing you to save or delete the picture.
|At first, I was dismayed that the view screen for the camera was about the size of a postage stamp (see Step 2, above). Pretty difficult to see what you’re pointing at let alone trying to focus the camera. Luckily, the VEO guys had already thought of this so, by tapping on the view screen, the viewing area doubles in size. The unfortunate side effect of the increase in size is that it takes longer to update. The larger view screens lags behind what is actually seen by the camera much like the original PalmPix. In the small mode, the screen update is almost real-time. The speed of updates where fairly consistent between the M505 and the Tungsten-T, so I expect the delays are due to speed of the SDIO port.
Focusing the camera is a little tricky as you have to twist the lens through two complete revolutions to go from macro focus to infinity. At each end, the lens doesn’t just stop, but kind of “snugs” up. It feels like twisting just a little too hard will strip the threads. In the middle of the two rotations, the lens is quite loose and it is very easy to accidentally knock it out of focus.
Notice that the viewing window on the above screens seem to be muddy or washed out. This is usually not the case, but it does show one of my complaints about the camera. Though not specified, the VEO seems to be set at an ASA of 100. This means that it takes adequate pictures in office lighting, does great outdoors and in the shade, but doesn’t perform very well under household lighting. The pictures I took in my home, unless right by a window, turned out as shown above. The following pictures were taken under office lighting and outside.
Overall, I can’t say this was much of a disappointment since the PalmPix was set up the same way. It amazes me that the handheld camera makers did not offer an ASA of 400 as it would be much more versatile in terms of lighting conditions. Maybe someone here at PIC can tell me why.
I have mixed feelings about the pictures being stored in JPG format. For storage on the handheld, JPGs take considerably less space than bitmaps. At the same time, JPGs use a “lossy” type compression which reduces picture fidelity. I think VEO did a fairly good job at compromise by allowing the user to select the quality of the pictures. At low quality, the camera uses the highest compression algorithm allowing the pictures to be stored in the smallest space possible. At high quality, there is not as much compression so the files are much larger, but less fidelity is sacrificed. On my test pictures, a 640 x 480 picture of low quality occupied 96K of space, while a high quality picture occupied 280K.
Click on picture to see full size image.
|Low Quality - 96K
|Medium Quality - 146K
|High Quality - 280K
Hotsyncing the the pictures is fairly easy. If the default is selected during installation, the pictures from the handheld are stored in "c:\Palm\Veo Photos". The pictures are indexed by the first 4 characters of the hotsync name followed by month, day, year, then a sequence number for the day. For instance the first picture for December 02, 2002 would be jzar_120202_001.jpg. The second picture would end with _002.jpg, etc.
Along with the hotsync conduit, Veo supplies a multimedia toolkit to edit the pictures as well as create movies ¯ no, you cannot record movies with the Veo camera, ¯ homepage design, and e-Cards. Overall, the tool has quite a bit of capability and is very professionally done ¯ to cover it all, there needs to be a separate review.
I will say, however, that the picture editing has much to be desired. The brightness and contrast controls work well, and it does allow normal features such as rotate, resize and crop. Unfortunately, the hue control is way too granular, so a single step in the control radically alters the colors. The editor, itself, only shows a reduced size of the picture and will not allow viewing at a full 640x480. No other controls are available aside from saving the image and re-editing the original.
All in all, Veo did a fairly good job with this camera. Personally, I would have increased the light sensitivity for better low light capabilities and I would have gone with a switched or fixed focus capability, as focusing is slightly difficult. Aside from those two items, I am pleased with the camera. If you are trying to decide on whether or not to buy, here are my suggestions:
- If you liked the PalmPix, you will love this camera. It is small, easy to use, and fairly capable.
- If you like gadgets, the Veo is really cool!
- If you are looking for a “good” digital camera, do not look here.
RATING: 7 / 10
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- I got one -Tuckermaclain
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