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New Camcorders Usher in Epic Memories

Epic filmmaking is no longer the sole preserve of James Cameron or Steven Spielberg, as the new camcorder introductions at CES make clear. Now consumers’ treasured memories will be recorded in 16:9 widescreen and even surround sound, transforming backyard barbeques and birthday parties into cinematic extravaganzas worthy of their ever-more-sophisticated home theaters.

Canon will refresh two of its MiniDV lines at the show — the entry-level ZR line and the higher-end Elura lineup — with a total of six new models.

All of the new camcorders will incorporate a high-resolution 16:9 mode that uses the full width of the CCD and a true letterbox preview on the LCD screen for an accurate view of what is being recorded.

They will also feature an LCD back-lighting button for improved viewing, electronic image stabilization, and Canon’s DIGIC DV technology for processing video and still images separately for improved quality.

The entry ZR series models will ship in mid-February. The ZR100, for a suggested $449, will feature a 20x zoom. The ZR 200, for $499, will also feature a 20x optical zoom; and the ZR300, with a 22x zoom, will retail for a suggested $599.

Both the ZR200 and ZR300 feature an SD card slot for saving VGA-resolution stills, and the ZR300 is bundled with an 8MB card. Stills can be captured simultaneously while recording. These camcorders also feature selectable focus points, PictBridge compatibility, and Direct Print to Canon printers. The ZR300 adds a Super Night Mode and ships with a wide-angle conversion lens.

The new Eluras will ship in mid-March and consist of the Elura 80, 85, and 90. All feature 1.3-megapixel resolution, SD card slots with a bundled 8MB card, PictBridge compatibility, and still image capture with auto exposure bracketing and continuous shooting mode. The 85 and 90 add a built-in flash.

The Elura 80 sports an 18x optical zoom for a suggested $649. The Elura 85, with an 18x optical zoom and Super Night Mode and LED light, will retail for a suggested $699. The Elura 90 will ship with a wide angle converter and offers a 20x optical zoom and a mini video light that is three times brighter than the LED on the 85, for a suggested $799.

Hitachi will introduce three new DVD camcorders, its fifth generation, at CES. According to Jeff Fochtman, product manager, the entire line features 16:9 recording, improved circuitry for a 20 percent noise reduction over previous models, and improved power consumption, and are ten percent smaller than last year’s camcorders. Pricing was not available.

The top-of-the-line DZ-GX20A will feature a 2.1-megapixel image sensor for stills and video. The DZ-MV780A will feature a 1.3-megapixel sensor, while the entry DZ-MV750A will offer a 680K sensor.

JVC will bring three-CCD technology into its consumer camcorder lineup for the first time at CES in addition to augmenting its recently announced Everio family of Microdrive-based camcorders.

The GR-X5 will feature three 1.33-megapixel CCDs and uses JVC’s MegaBrid processing engine which applies separate processors to digital stills and video, which the company claims improves the quality of each.

The X5 can capture 5-megapixel still images and uses USB 2.0 high speed for data transfer.

There will also be a three-CCD model in JVC’s Everio line of Microdrive-based camcorders. According to JVC, the GZ-MC500 captures up to 60 minutes of “DVD-quality” MPEG-2 video to a 4GB Microdrive card (included). The camcorder is also capable of shooting 5-megapixel still images and can hold 5,500 stills on the 4GB Microdrive.

Three new models in the company’s compact series are 30 percent smaller and thinner than last year’s. They include the GR-D250, 270, and 290. All will feature a 25x optical zoom, 2.5-inch LCD screen, and new data battery that displays remaining recording time whether the camera is on or off, with the press of a button.

The D270/290 feature a Live Slow function that allows the user to record slow motion frames of live action; during playback a full second of the recording will be played in slow motion while maintaining live sound. They will also feature a built-in IllumiLight LED which automatically turns on in low light, and a progressive shutter for shooting 1,024-by-768 or 640-by-480 resolution stills.

There will be three additions to the company’s ultra-compact line: the GR-DF450, 470, and 570. These models will offer 3-D noise reduction circuitry, called Low Light Plus, that JVC says cuts video noise by 30 percent. They also sport a F1.2 aspherical lens and the Live Slow mode.

Additional features include IllumiLight, data battery, 2.5-inch LCD monitor, USB 2.0 (on the GR-DF470/570), MPEG-4 e-mail video clip recording, and still capture.

Pricing on JVC’s new camcorders was not available at press time.

Samsung will introduce three new camcorders at CES, courting three distinct users.

The SC-X105L Sports Cam will ship in April for a suggested $649.99. The “tapeless” unit geared toward outdoor enthusiasts is water-resistant with a rubberized body and has an additional lens module for attaching to clothes or helmets for hands-free recording.

The X105L captures MPEG-4 format video to 512MB of internal memory and offers a Memory Stick/PRO expansion slot for additional memory. Additional features include a 10x optical zoom, 680K CCD, still image capture (800 by 600 max resolution), a 2-inch T.R. LCD screen, and electronic image stabilization.

The company will also update its DuoCam digital still/MiniDV video camera with its third generation model, the SC-D6550. Like its predecessors, the D6550 sports a separate, dedicated 5-megapixel CCD lens for its still camera, is more compact than its forbearers.

The DuoCam ships in June for a suggested $749. Additional video features include a 10x optical/900x digital zoom, and a 680K CCD. The still camera features a 3x optical/12x digital zoom, VGA MPEG-4 video recording at 30fps, USB 2.0 connectivity, and PictBridge compatibility.

Finally, the company will ship the compact SC-D455 mini-DV unit in April for a suggested $449.99. It saves 720 by 480 still images to 32MB of internal memory or to Memory Stick flash media. It features a 10x optical zoom/900x digital zoom, 2-inch LCD, PictBridge support, USB 2.0 connectivity, and electronic image stabilization.

Sony will introduce six DVD camcorders, all of which will add +RW capability for viewing disks on DVD players without the finalizing that must be done on –R disks. They will also incorporate Sony’s “Easy Handycam” mode, a button which restores the device to automatic settings.

The company is also unveiling a new 2.7-inch LCD design on several DVD and MiniDV models for a widescreen effect to compliment the use of a 16:9 video recording mode.

The top-of-the-line DCR-DVD403 features built-in 5.1 surround sound recording, a 3.3 megapixel CCD, the new 2.7-inch wide LCD screen, and 10x optical zoom. It ships in the spring for an estimated $1,000.

The DCR-DVD203 will ship in the spring for an estimated $800. It features a 2.7-inch LCD, 1-megapixel CCD, and a 12x optical zoom, and can record surround sound with an optional mic.

The company will unveil a new DVD camcorder design in the DCR-DVD7. The unit, shaped like a portable CD player, features a 2.5-inch LCD, 10x optical zoom, 680K CCD, and Sony’s 3D active menu system. It will also ship in the spring for an estimated $700.

Sony is also employing a new technology in MiniDV with the DCR-PC1000, which will feature three CMOS sensors, as opposed to CCD. The PC1000, for an estimated $1,300, will ship in April and includes software for converting two channel audio into 5.1 surround sound when the video is burned to a DVD.

The diminutive DCR-PC55, shipping in February for an estimated $800, will feature a 3-inch touch-panel LCD that can double as a digital photo frame when the camcorder is not in use. The unit is plugged into its specially designed Handycam station and can run digital stills in a slideshow with photo effects. The MiniDV model also offers a 10x optical zoom, a record button, the LCD, and will ship in silver, black, white and red.