Canon offers $250 rebate on XH A1

I've been ready to make the switch to an HD camcorder for a little while now. But it's been hard to choose. The consumer camcorders are amazing for the price, but too dumbed down for the serious hobbyist. And the professional ones are ferociously expensive unless you're, well, a professional.

Based on the not-quite-astronomical price and several rave reviews, I have settled on getting the Canon XH A1. Today I started scouring the Web for the best price from a reputable dealer. (What is it about camera equipment that attracts so many vendors with shady selling practices?) I soon tumbled on to the fact that Canon is offering a $250 rebate for cameras purchased between March and June of 2007. Hooray!

No one legit seems to be offering a better price than Beach Camera, and I've had good experiences with them in the past, so that's where I'll go to buy it.


GPS Text-to-Speech Feature a Must-Have

I have an absolutely atrocious sense of direction, but I have been fortunate enough to be born in an era when the miracle cure is available: GPS.

I am on my second GPS receiver now and have used several in friends' cars and rentals. My latest is a Garmin C340. It's a wonderful little unit that I like the best of any I've used. But it has one feature that really wins the prize for me: text-to-speech.

This feature means that actual names are used in the driving directions instead of generic descriptions. For example, instead of, "In 200 feet, turn right," you are told, "In 200 feet, turn right onto Alameda Parkway." Makes a huge difference.

Now you might expect it would be difficult for a little guy like the C340 to do this perfectly, and you'd be right. It's actually amazingly good, but there are the odd amusing glitches. Examples:
  • "Marine Dr" -> "Marine Doctor"
  • "Granville St S" -> "Granville Saint South"
  • And my favorite... Just for laughs I changed the voice to Australian. I was surprised when it then interpreted "WA 451", which should have been "Washington 451", as "Western Australia 451". Switch back to the American voice and it comes out correctly. Ha ha.
The C340 is very easy to use and small enough to throw into your carry-on luggage when you're traveling and can't count on the rental car having GPS. The display is not bright enough on sunny days and the voice could be a little louder, but other than that everything works great. Highly recommended for the directionally-challenged.

Canadians: The usual retail outlets don't carry this model, preferring the C330 for some reason. But the C330 doesn't have text-to-speech. Don't buy it! Order the C340 over the Web or buy it retail in the US.

Note: I have no affiliation with Garmin and I'm not smart enough to figure out how to get affiliate $ from anyone.