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Sony Intros Combo Digital Video/Still Camera

San Diego — Sony introduced its first combination digital still/video camera yesterday with the announcement of the DSC-M1.

The unit combines a 5.1-megapixel digital still camera with an MPEG-4 video recorder capable of holding up to 54 minutes of VGA video at 30 frames per second (fps) on the forthcoming 1GB Memory Stick PRO Duo flash card (not included).

The MI will ship in December for a suggested $600.

The vertical camera features a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar 3x optical zoom lens for use in both video and still shooting and a 2.5 articulated LCD that swivels upward and rotates 270 degrees. According to Sony, the vertical shooting orientation provides more surface area to access both the menu navigation buttons and two “hot” buttons for direct access to recording stills and video.

When the LCD is extended and the camera is in record mode, buttons on the edge of the LCD can be used to record, and toggle back and forth between still and video recording. When the LCD is facing outward but flush with the camera’s body, the buttons can be used to play back stills and video.

A new hybrid record mode automatically records five seconds of QVGA video before and three seconds after a still image is snapped. The video and still images are stored as two separate files but are played back as one in the camera.

The M1 camera uses Sony’s InfoLithium rechargeable batteries and displays approximate remaining battery life on the LCD. The M1 will be bundled with a custom-sized Cyber-shot Station USB cradle for battery charging, file transfers and for viewing saved stills and video on a TV.

Bundled software includes PicturePackage 1.2 for converting MPEG-4 video clips into the AVI format.