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Hybrid Still/Video Cameras Go HD

The combination digital still/video camera category will beat its tape-based counterpart to offer the first HD recorder to consumers for under $1,000.

The HD boost comes courtesy of Sanyo, which is announcing the HD1 combination digital still/video camera, pushing high-definition resolution into the hybrid category for the first time and also bringing HD-recording to a solid state memory format for under $1,000.

The model, which records 5-megapixel stills and 720p video to an SD memory card (not included), will ship in January for a suggested $899. It is also among the first cameras to feature an OLED display rather than the traditional LCD.

The HD1 records HD-quality video using MPEG-4 compression at 30 frames per second (fps). In HD mode, the unit can save up to 40 minutes of video on a 2GB SD card.

The display is 2.2 inches and the unit features a 10x optical zoom, available when shooting stills.

Other still camera features include a built-in flash with red-eye reduction and continuous shooting of up to five frames.

Consumers are still not aware of the hybrid market, said John Lamb, marketing VP, Sanyo. But recent merchandizing moves by several retailers to call out the category as distinct from tape-based camcorders and traditional digital still cameras has helped get the customer education ball rolling, Lamb added.

Sony will introduce the second generation in its M-series of hybrids. The 5.3-megapixel M2 gets an audio upgrade from the M1 with a two times higher output level. It will also feature a new industrial design and will incorporate Sony’s new “pocket album” function for automatically creating and playing back slide-shows in-camera. The M2 can hold 1,100 images in the slideshow format.

Additional features include a 2.5-inch “twist and flip” LCD screen, 3x optical zoom and upgraded DVD editing and authoring software. It will ship in January for a suggested retail price of $499.95.

Vivitar announced the 5-megapixel DVR-510, which in addition to recording video can support MP3 playback, audio recording and can serve as a Web cam. The unit records VGA resolution MPEG-4 video at 30 fps. It features a 2-inch LCD, 32MB of built-in memory with an SD card slot.