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Phlash Cameraphone Flash

Mon Aug 14, 2006 - 1:45 PM EDT - By Jay Gross

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Product Info
> Name Phlash Cameraphone Flash
> Company FoxDen Holdings
> Tested with Treo 650, Treo 700p
> Fact Sheet & User Opinions
> Available
> $29.95


In the transition from film to digital imaging, the lighting for those Kodak moments hasn't changed, only the cameras. You still have to have light -- more or less of it -- depending on the camera. With Treos that's more, not less, especially the Treo 700p.

The cutoff point for snapable pictures on the 700p seems to be about Exposure Value (EV) 6 or 7. Below that, forget it. With the 650, you can salvage usable (i.e., better than nothing) images at EV 3 and 4. Outside daylight at noon is about EV 16, and a well lit indoor office runs about EV 9. In a small room with faded white walls and an eight-foot ceiling, lit by two incandescent hundred-watt lamps near opposite walls you get about EV 4 -- for example, my spare room turned office.

In the EV system one full number equals one full stop, and a "stop" means double the intensity of light � half if you're going down the scale. This is a rough rule of thumb, because the acceptability of the pictures you take in dark situations varies greatly with the type of light (diffused, collimated, point source) and the amount of ambient "fill" light, as well as the color, brightness, and reflectivity of the objects in the picture.

At one foot away, the Phlash emits about EV 7 (incident metering with my Gossen Luna Pro light meter) and a 100-watt light bulb reads EV 13.

A cute little button-shaped device called Phlash is one attempt at a solution to the low light problem that many makes of cell phones share. The idea is good -- turn on some light right before you snap the picture. However, for the Treo, Phlash's implementation suffers from some problems, some of which are immutable functions of physics and photons.


Phlash is a tiny, battery-powered light source that you can attach (or not) to your Treo for use when the lights are low. It's an attractive, solidly built product that supplies light where little or none exists.

Phlash is the about the size of three half dollar coins in a stack- it's 1-3/8 inches, about 35mm, in diameter, and a quarter-inch (7mm) thick, with a protruding pea-sized lens above that, on top.

It's not really a flash, because it stays on as long as you press its button � it doesn't flash like a standard digital or film camera's strobe. Treos have no usable provision for syncing to electronic flash, anyway. So, to work with a Treo, the light has to be continuous. When you press Phlash's button, the pea-sized lens on top emits a very bright, very blue light.

Be careful! Eye damage could occur if you fire it too close to your eyes or anyone else's. It should probably have a warning sticker about that, but it doesn't. Even worse, the product is packaged in a clear plastic bubble, and it's so-o-o tempting to press that button through the plastic when you get it.

There are even arrows printed on the backing card, pointing to the button, inviting you to press it while holding it and pointing it at yourself. Don't do it! You don't want to waste the batteries, but more importantly, you really don't want to see spots for a couple of hours. Or forever. The packaging should be re-designed with a band of opaque cardboard or something over the protruding bulb.

The manufacturer suggests sticking Phlash onto the back of your cell phone � your expensive Treo in this case - and Phlash comes with a round chunk of double stick mounting tape in its package, for this purpose. Phlash also comes with a tiny lanyard that you can use to hang the device on the Treo's antenna, Maybe this works with other cell phones, but I couldn't make it stay put with my Treos, at least not enough to be useful for picture taking. A small chunk of Velcro would be more usable. The Phlash could be un-Velcro'd when not needed, and the Treo would still fit in a case (well, most cases).

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