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Canon, Panasonic Bow New MiniDV Cams

New MiniDV camcorders from Canon and Panasonic will be hitting store shelves this month, offering slimmed down designs, improved night shooting modes and improved digital still photo capture.

Canon‘s three new Mini DV megapixel camcorders — the Elura 70, 65 and 60 — are scheduled to ship in April.

The 1.33-megapixel video cameras share a number of features in common, including image stabilization, a 2.5-inch tilting LCD screen (in addition to an eye-level viewfinder), an automatic slow shutter speed for low-light shooting and a Night mode.

The new Eluras can also snap VGA quality digital stills while filming and capture motion JPEG video clips to the length of an SD flash memory card. A Print-And-Share button automatically transfers images to a computer or Canon printer when connected via USB cable. The camcorders are also PictBridge compatible, allowing them to directly print to any PictBridge-enabled printer, regardless of brand, through a USB cable.

The models feature a skin detail mode that automatically softens details when shooting close-ups of people to reduce skin imperfections, in addition to an end search feature that locates the end of the last recorded scene with the press of a button.

The Eluras will be bundled with DV Messenger2 Internet video chat software.

The top of the line Elura 70 ($799 estimated street) features an 18x optical/360x digital zoom, while the Elura 65 ($699) sports a 16x optical/320x digital zoom and the Elura 60 ($599) a 14x optical/280x digital zoom.

The Elura 70 also comes with a 0.7x wide attachment lens that expands the camcorder’s wide-angle capabilities and a new double-capacity rechargeable battery. A standard-capacity battery is included with the Elura 65/60.

The Elura 65 and 70 also capture full-width wide screen 16:9 movie format video (as opposed to an electronically “stretched” process) and a Super Night Mode/Night Plus function to further improve low-light video capture.

Panasonic will ship several new models in its Palmcorder Multicam line this month, all featuring newly designed layout and controls.

Among the new controls is a Direct Mode Dial for use in the digital still camera mode, which lets users select the desired digital camera mode, such as record, playback, card record or card playback.

All the models will feature the MagicPix feature for low-light shooting and Panasonic’s Digital Electronic Image Stabilization (EIS).

The PV-GS9, $349.95, is a compact model shipping this month with a 200x optical zoom and an 800x digital zoom. The $399.95-suggested PV-GS12 adds an SD memory card slot, digital still image capture and a built-in LED light. The GS14 ($449.95) builds off the GS12 by adding a 22x optical zoom and color viewfinder. The GS15 ($499.95) also builds off the G15 by adding a 24x optical zoom and bundling an 8MB SD card, 3 hour battery and an IR remote control.

Lastly, the PV-GS55 for a suggested $599.95 offers an ultra-compact form factor with similar features as the GS15, but with a 10x optical zoom, 700x digital zoom, MPEG-4 capture and no LED light.