Canon's shapely ZRs
Canon has updated its budget-minded ZR models with more curvaceous and slightly smaller bodies. These camcorders will be available in March at prices that start at $400, for the ZR80
. That model offers an 18X optical zoom, but if that's not enough for you, you can kick down $500 for the ZR85
, which sports a 20X zoom. Both ZRs offer a slew of useful features, including three selectable focus points and PictBridge support for sending still photos directly to a printer. They also incorporate Canon's DIGICDV processor, which has trickled down from last year's higher-end models, as well as a special Skin Detail mode that will smooth out your subjects' complexions without you having to smear Vaseline on the lens.
More for less
| | Samsung SC-D107 | |
Sharp and Sony both start their 2004 MiniDV lines with camcorders priced at $500. Sony's basic DCR-HC20
, available in February, offers a 10X optical zoom, a black-and-white viewfinder, and a touchscreen LCD. Sharp's VL-Z300
gives you a color viewfinder, along with a 10X zoom lens and a grip that swivels 240 degrees for more shooting flexibility. The VL-Z300 will hit stores in April.
Samsung has unveiled no fewer than three affordably priced MiniDV models. The $350 SC-D103
will arrive in stores in March, sporting an 18X zoom lens and a Memory Stick slot for saving MPEG-4 video and stills. Available in April at $450, the step-up SC-D107
has a 20X zoom lens and a big 3.5-inch LCD and replaces the SC-D103's black-and-white viewfinder with a color one. Both models also have built-in video lights. If you're looking for a model that's especially compact, keep an eye out for Samsung's SC-D303
, which will hit stores in April. Priced at $400, the D303 offers a 20X optical zoom and a Memory Stick slot for saving stills and MPEG-4 movies. JVC's sole sub-$500 model this year will be the $450 GR-D33US. This compact MiniDV model offers a 16X zoom lens, a built-in LED for low-light shooting, and JVC's new 3D noise-reduction feature for cleaner-looking footage. It will be available in February.
| || | Panasonic PV-GS12
Panasonic hasn't announced pricing for its 2004 models yet, but we're willing to go out on a limb and guess that the new PV-GS9 (available in March) and PV-GS12 (available in February) will fall into the sub-$500 category. Both models offer 20X zoom lenses, and the GS12 adds an SD card slot and a built-in LED for low-light shooting. Like Canon, Panasonic has incorporated a Soft Skin Detail mode into all its 2004 models. We're looking forward to finding out which vendor's technology will benefit our complexion most. The next step up in the 2004 line is the PV-GS14, available in February. It improves on the GS12 with a color viewfinder and a 22X zoom lens, although we think it may break the $500 boundary. But hey, sometimes you just have to splurge. Digital8: not dead
Finally, we were a little surprised to see two new Digital8 models from Sony since we'd been betting on 2004 being the year when the company kissed that format good-bye. But the popularity of Digital8 camcorders is apparently still strong, and it's not hard to guess why when you get a look at the price tags on the DCR-TRV260
and the DCR-TRV460
. They'll be available in February at $350 and $400, respectively, and they both offer generous 20X optical zooms.