From HD to standard definition, and back

Q. I have noticed when I watch the news in HD the announcers and most segments look crisp and clear, but some of the segments look fuzzy and grainy before going back to the announcers, who look crisp and clear again. Why does this happen?

J.R., Mt. Lebanon, Pa.

A. What you saw was a segment recorded in standard definition and inserted into the HD broadcast. HD cameras are not yet ubiquitous, and depending on the importance of the event, the station may not have an HD camera available to use to record it. Most viewer-submitted and amateur footage probably would fall under this category as well. Sometimes the stations will put bars on the side of the standard definition segments to fill up a widescreen TV’s picture. This is a sure sign it was originally recorded in standard definition.

Q. My dad would like to enhance his TV sound by connecting his satellite TV box to his stereo. Unfortunately, his analog stereo receiver, does not have HDMI. Should he buy a new one that has HDMI capability?

K.S., Atlantic City, N.J.

A. He can use his current receiver. Leave the HDMI connected to the TV for the picture (as well as TV sound if he does not want to use the stereo sometimes) and connect the RCA audio outputs from the satellite box to any nonphono input on the receiver. The receiver then will play the TV sound.

Nikon 1 camera

Nikon has entered the compact-system camera marketplace with the Nikon 1 system. Two cameras were introduced, the J1 and V1, selling for $649 and $899 respectively, with kit zoom lens. Three other lenses were announced as well.

Nikon’s new system has been extremely controversial, and understandably so. Though it has some interesting electronic features, the Nikon 1 misses on the most important points one should consider when buying a compact-system camera, and it misses them by a mile.

The Nikon 1 sensor is significantly smaller than Sony NEX or Olympus/Panasonic Micro Four-Thirds sensors. The small sensor means image quality, low light capability and depth of field control all suffer.

Though the sensor is about half the size of a Micro Four-Thirds sensor, the camera bodies are not smaller to match.

The $499 Olympus E-PM1 camera is lighter than either Nikon while packaging a much larger sensor, image stabilization and an accessory shoe for a flash or electronic viewfinder.

Why in the world would anyone go for a smaller sensor in a bigger, heavier camera body, for more money? I fear big-box-store shoppers will buy it just because it says “Nikon” on the front.

That really would be a shame for both the buyer and the companies delivering much more for your money.

I hope shoppers and store employees selling the cameras do their homework and make good decisions about what to buy and what to promote to their customers.

If the camera itself was smaller and lighter or if it was selling for $399 with lens, I could make some sense of it, and perhaps even recommend it. As it is now, you get a much smaller sensor, a bigger camera body and a significantly higher price. In my book, that’s three strikes — you’re out.

Don Lindich writes about consumer electronics. Submit questions to

2011, McClatchy-Tribune News Service Distributed by MCT Information Services

Copyright 2011 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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