By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Sony introduced two second-generation models for its ultra-compact MicroMV digital camcorder series.
Both models — the DCR-IP55 ($1,500 estimated street price) and the DCR-IP220 ($1,999 estimated street price) — bring megapixel digital still photo capability (when captured using the integrated MemoryStick flash memory storage drive) to the tiny video camera family. In addition, the top-end DCR-IP220 is said to be the world's first camcorder with 2 megapixel digital still photo resolution.
The DCR-IP55 produces still images of up to 1 megapixel resolution on MemoryStick, while the DCR-IP220 will store still images of up to 2 megapixels (1,600x1,200) on MemoryStick media. Due to an improved CCD imager, video resolution on the IP55 is also boosted to 520 lines on the tiny MicroMV tape cartridges, and approximately 530 lines on the DCR-IP220.
Both models are crafted in a new horizontal body configuration, in contrast to the vertical design of the first two units.
The look of the IP55 is reminiscent of some old 8mm film-based home movie cameras, due to the addition of a pivoting, side-mounted handle grip that doubles as a power pack for the included "InfoLithium" battery.
The IP220 resembles a cross between an old Sony TR series camcorder and single lens reflex camera. Most unusual is the rear-mounted position of the built-in 2.5-inch LCD viewscreen, which can be flipped and rotated with the image inverted to view pictures when seated in front of the lens.
Viewscreens in both models use a new hybrid reflective and backlit LCD design for use indoors and in bright sun. Resolution of the panels is also increased to better view onscreen menu commands.
Both models add touch-screen menu commands that eliminate the previous cramped push-button system. Users pull-down menus with control options on the LCD viewscreens to activate feature commands with the tap of a finger or included stylus.
Both models include Bluetooth wireless connectivity for access to the Internet via Bluetooth cell phones or a modem connected to an optional Bluetooth modem adapter. Sony has opted to sell the Bluetooth adapter as an optional accessory item, after including it in the previous Bluetooth models.
Users can use compatible ISP services or subscribe to Sony's SoNet service to connect the camcorders to the Internet.
Model DCR-IP220 (but not the IP55) will also be compatible with AOL service for the first time, although due to AOL's proprietary access software, e-mail will be offered as a read-only operation.
Lenses feature Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar optics in the IP55, and step-up Carl Zeiss T* Vario-Sonnar optics in the IP220.
Both camcorders include the IEEE-1394 i.LINK digital interface to send and receive digital image and video files with a PC, and analog USB 1.0 for video streaming.
Other features include Super Steady Shot, Super NightShot, intelligent pop-up flash, 10x optical/120x digital zoom lenses, and color viewfinders.
The IP220 also adds a new Night Framing function, which uses the Super NightShot feature to frame and focus a still shot in dark situations before snapping a flash picture.
Both models will ship to dealers in October. Linda Vuolo, Sony camcorder product management director, said the DCR-IP7 will be discontinued, but the DCR-IP5 will remain to create a three-model MicroMV assortment.
She said MicroMV is attracting a new segment of camcorder enthusiasts who want the ultra-compact convenience of a camcorder for everyday use. She said early indications find users appreciate the Bluetooth wireless capability for its mobile convenience attributes.
Both models will bundle MovieShaker software, and Sony is offering its own branded version of Pinnacle's Studio 8. The new software is able to import the MPEG 2 data streams used by the MicroMV format and author DVD copies from the editing time line.
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