By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Sharp camcorders presented at CES brought a new twist to the miniDV digital Viewcam Z concept, adding an extended 240-degree rotating lens mechanism for increased flexibility in a variety of recording situations, such as self-shooting mode.
Mark Knox, Sharp digital media devices director, said users will find shooting with the new camcorders "a little smoother and easier" this year as a result of the improvement from earlier models that rotated up to 225 degrees.
At the same, users will have longer shooting times, as a result of an increased battery capacity and a decrease in unit power consumption. The net result is a 20 percent improvement in battery life from last year's lineup, Knox said. The new battery will be fully compatible with older Viewcam models as well.
In other improvements, Viewcams with megapixel digital still-camera capability feature a new charge-coupled device (CCD) that is repositioned within the lens, to increase the achievable angle of view from 39 degrees to 48 degrees. When used in conjunction with the wide-angle shooting mode (for 16:9 framing), users will have increased pixel resolution, Knox said.
All models this year also add digital gamma correction that both evenly increases brightness across the image, and allows for increased brightness for selected segments of the frame without supersaturating areas that were already correctly exposed.
Selected models also add a built-in super-bright white LED illuminator that enables a correctly exposed full-color image when shooting in total darkness from a distance of up to 1.5 meters from the subject. The high-end VL-Z950U model adds a hot shoe for a three-LED light that doubles the range of the dark-shooting capability.
Sharp will offer five Viewcam Z models in 2004 starting with the VL-Z100U ($399 suggested), which ships in April. It includes a 2.5-inch continuous grain silicon view screen, black-and-white viewfinder eyepiece, 10x optical/500x digital zoom and a 680,000 pixel CCD.
The VL-Z300U ($499, March) steps up with DV in/out connectors and a color viewfinder.
The VL-Z500U ($599, shipping in March) offers a 10x optical, 700x digital zoom, and adds an SD memory card slot for still image capture, and a built-in LED illuminator.
The VL-Z800U ($699, February) offers a 1.33 megapixel CDD, 16:9 wide angle shooting mode, an SD card slot with 8MB card.
The VL-Z950U ($799, February) has a built-in flash and a three LED light that plugs into the top-mounted hot shoe.
In other video products, Sharp showed the DV-SR3U DVD recorder that uses the dash RW format, but also plays +RW media. It outputs interlaced or progressive-scan video and plays back DVDs, CDs and MP3 files on a CD-R/RW. Pricing will be announced later.
Also shown was the DV-HR300U (shipping this month at a $799.95 suggested retail) combination DVD recorder and hard drive-based digital video recorder.
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