Toy submarine runs on compressed air, not heavy...


May 07, 2001

Toy submarine runs on compressed air, not heavy batteries

Blow the ballast tanks! There's finally a toy submarine that doesn't sink to the bottom of the pool because of the crushing weight of batteries.

Spin Master, a Canadian company that has used age-old technology as the catalyst for a line of air-powered toys, has come up with a submersible gem in its E-Chargers Submarine ($15). A toy for kids ages 5 and up, it cruises at depths of up to 10 feet in your pool - or your bathtub, if you've got one that deep.

Officials at Spin Master said the greatest task in engineering a toy submarine has been compensating for the lack of buoyancy due to the added weight of batteries. But with the included air pump, the E-Chargers sub uses air pressure instead of battery power to keep it moving and - more importantly - off the bottom.

The pump mechanism takes only about 10 seconds to charge the 10-inch-long sub, and then it's off to the depths. The sub comes with adjustable fins to control the dive angle and direction.

Using air power is nothing new for toys. In the 1960s, some of the most popular toys, such as rocket ships and pop guns, were air-pressure-driven. Spin Master, though, has found the idea a good one to return to in this age of batteries, power cords and microchips. The toy might be considered low-tech, but for the price, it works nicely and is a reminder that gadgets don't have to be crammed with 21st-century technology to be fun.

Information: 416-364-6002 or

- Michael James

FinePix digital camera offers range of options

Pocket point-and-shoot digital cameras have a decided drawback when it comes to taking spectacular pictures. The lenses on some digital cameras, tiny and poorly made, can feel like an afterthought.

Fujifilm's FinePix 4900 Zoom camera ($1,000) is no pocket camera, which allows it to offer a superb large-diameter lens that extends from the camera body for pleasing digital photography. The lens is made by Fujinon, a subsidiary of Fujifilm that makes many of the world's television camera lenses.

The 4900 takes pictures at resolutions from 640-by-480 to 2,400-by-1,800 pixels (4.3 megapixels) with three levels of JPEG compression (or uncompressed as TIFF files) and puts them on a 16 MB Smart Media card that ships with the camera. Giving you more bang for your buck, the lens' telephoto range of 35 mm to 210 mm is twice that offered by most digital cameras in this price range.

The camera's lithium-ion battery allowed me to shoot between 80 and 100 photographs before it needed to be recharged.

Focus, white balance, shutter speed, aperture (which ranges from f/2.8 to f/11), exposure compensation and flash strength can be tweaked with buttons and simple menus. If you want to just point and shoot, automatic modes allow you to do that as well.

Fujifilm's "Super CCD" technology can bump up the resolution of your pictures from 2.4 megapixels to 4.3 megapixels, creating photographs with superior color and good detail. If you look at photographs shot at the highest resolutions on your computer screen, you will notice some noise, but Fujifilm officials said the 4900 shines when you print high-resolution pictures. Sure enough, the 4900's photographs printed on a mid-quality inkjet printer had no noise.

The 4900 will shoot 160 seconds of video without sound, making it a less-than-ideal movie camera. But if you really want to print your photographs, say up to 11-by-14 inches, the 4900 gives you what you want.

Information: 800-800-3854 or

- Kevin Washington

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