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Hidden Treasures: There IS a camera self-timer in your Treo 650!

Thu Apr 27, 2006 - 3:50 PM EDT - By Jay Gross


To get good images, the Treo's feeble digital camera needs as much help as it can get. Its only hope is the shutter button actuator. You! Let me help. First we'll explore some undocumented and arcanely documented features that you can put to good use. Then it's off to tipster mode for advice on improving your photo technique before the camera makes the worst of them.

Step to the music

The Treo 650's manual says you can set a camera "Prompt Sound" and quickly explains how to do it. It's simple, really. The camera's menu (get the camera running and press the Menu button) offers a dropdown menu of the basic Treo sounds, including some ring tones. In the accompanying screenshot, I've selected Bach's Partita. Now why, you might ask, would I party to the partita?

Good question. That's because the Prompt Sound option (Treo 650) is a dumb name for "self timer." Any camera worth its Kodachrome has had one of those since silver met halide. Cameras of the digital persuasion have inherited the tradition, and usefully so. Even my keychain-sized digital camera novelty that cost a mere $17 has a 10-second, audible-beep self timer. I thought the Treo was devoid of the nicety till I discovered the Prompt Sound. It is way more sophisticated than any camera I wish I've owned.

Self timers mean you don't have to explain, "This is the whole family, except Uncle Jay isn't in it because he's taking the picture." Put the camera on a tripod, hit the timer, and run join the group in front of the Grand Tetons before the seconds tick off.

On professional cameras, the self timer can serve as a motion reducer. Secure the dude to tripod, gently activate it, take your hand(s) away, and by the time it fires the shutter the whole shebang will have settled down so there's no camera shake caused by pushing the shutter button.

So where's the elusive self timer on the Treo? Don't bother looking in the manual for this one - the information is between the lines. Actually, the Treo 650 implements a rare thrill among self timers, an adjustable-interval marvel, complete with a musical (if you choose) accompaniment. In fact, you can have it count down in your own voice or play your garage band's newest song, up to a full minute total duration.

The Grand Plan

Here's how it works. The sound or music you choose from the dropdown menu plays before the shutter clicks. So, while it's playing, and until about a second after it stops, you can streak into the photo. And smile. The longer Prompt Sound you choose from the menu, the more seconds you'll have to get into position. For example, Johann Sebastian's perky partita ticks off about thirteen seconds. If you set it going but need to cancel the wait, just tap the screen and the shutter fires immediately.

Not into Bach? Choose your groove from the list. However, also notice that one of the Prompt Sound's pull down options is "Record New". It does exactly that. You get to speak or sing or play chords on your zither to create your personal, custom self timer prompt. When you select the option, the screen that appears reminds that Max Time is 00:03. In other words, three seconds. But wait, that's no way near all you can get.

You want some more? The Olivers of the world ("Please sir, I want some more") should scroll to the bottom of the Prompt Sound pull-down. The last choice is "Manage Sound". There you get a detailed list of sounds and their file sizes (alas, not their duration). The "New" button at the bottom of that screen lets you record (brace yourself) up to 60 seconds to use as a camera prompt - or wherever else.

Make your own self-timer sound or pick from the vanilla ones. Pick Bach, he's been dead a long time and needs the support. Listen to the tune and remember how it goes so you'll know when the shutter is about to click. Hum along if you must. Now you're ready for your close-up. Where'd you put that tripod?

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