Images I recently attended a wedding in New York and, knowing I'm a serious photographer, the father of the groom asked if I'd bring a camera to take pictures, supplementing the professional he had hired. I had just received a sample of the new Pentax K-5 and thought it would be a good opportunity to test it out.

The wedding was held in the evening at the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens and the venue was a huge glass-enclosed room with everything quite dark beyond the glass walls and ceilings, so the illumination levels were quite low. As I began shooting using the automatic program setting, I was surprised to see the camera selecting an ISO of 3200. I rarely shoot at speeds faster than 400, because my experience has been that the images are grainy and noisy. At first I thought the camera was defective, yet when I magnified the images to 20X on the rear LCD panel, details appeared crisp and skins were smooth with no signs of noise. What was going on? In fact, I was experiencing one of the biggest benefits of the K-5, the use of an entirely new sensor capable of shooting in very low light.

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Here’s my yearly assortment of tech gadgets that all make great gifts for this holiday season.  Many of these products are new this year so it’s unlikely you’ll be giving something your recipient already has. I’d also encourage you to look back over the past year’s columns for other products that reviewed well.

$10 to $50

Vinturi Wine Aerator –Vinturi of nearby Carlsbad, CA created the category of wine aeration and continues to lead with ingenious products.  They’re beautifully designed and constructed, and work by aerating Images the wine as it’s poured through the device, one glass at a time. As the wine flows through a small channel, it creates a pressure differential that sucks in and mixes air into the stream. In my tests I found that it reduced the harshness of younger and less expensive wines and opened up the bouquet, creating the same results in a few seconds that normally would take an hour or more of the wine sitting in a glass. If you’re still skeptical, the Vinturi products have been broadly accepted and recommended by wineries, wine retailers and experts.

 This year the company introduced a new smaller version for traveling. The Vinturi Travel is 5 1/2 inches tall, weighs four ounces and comes with a hard case for travel. $50. Vinturi.com.

OpenIt - If you give this as a gift, be sure to write “open me first” on the package. It’s a tool designed to open packages of all kinds. It snips open plastic clamshells with its pliers-like jaws, slices rugged cardboard with its retractable knife, and opens battery compartments with its screwdrivers. $12.  enjoyzibra.com.

 The Master Lock 1500iD speed dial is a reinvention and a vast improvement to the combination Images lock. Instead of a rotating knob with numbers, it opens on directional movements of a similar looking knob, moving it up, down, left and right in a particular sequence. That makes it faster to open; it works in the dark and you can set your own combination. About $10.

 

 

$51 to $150

Media Players  – Apple TV, Roku and WD Live are small boxes that plug into your TV and stream Netflix and other content to your set, bypassing your cable company. Each of these products is simple to set up and use. Roku ($60 to $100) and  WD TV Live Hub Media Center ( $130) offer the broadest range of content. AppleTV ($100) also works with iTunes. If you’re tired of cable fare and want to control what you watch, each of these products is sure to satisfy. (apple.com, roku.com, wdc.com)

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