Gimme some skin
Skin Detail, a.k.a. Soft Skin Detail, stands out as our pet feature. Apparently, Canon and Panasonic didn't line the pockets of any feature-naming specialists this time around. According to the manufacturers, these skin modes smooth out a subject's complexion without turning the rest of the scene into a blurry mess. You can find Skin Detail in all of Canon's new ZR models, including the top-of-the-line ZR90
, which also offers a 22X zoom lens, selectable focus points, and PictBridge support for sending still photos directly to a printer. It will be available in March for $599. Panasonic's PV-GS15
and ultracompact PV-GS55
offer Soft Skin Detail, along with LCDs that fold out 120 degrees, and on the GS15, a huge 24X optical zoom, a built-in video light, and Webcam capability. They'll be available in February at not-yet-announced prices.
| | Canon's top-of-the-line ZR90 | |
For the prosumer crowd, Panasonic will also ship two compact, three-chip cameras in March at top-secret prices. The PV-GS120
--rumored to break the $700 mark--offers a new 10X Macro Zoom feature that will let you get as close as 16 inches to your subject. Unless you're shooting for the medical community, we recommend you activate Soft Skin Detail in conjunction with this when your lens is trained on a human. The PV-GS200
, which we've heard will cost just less than $1,000, adds 2.3-megapixel photo capture--although we're guessing that's interpolated resolution--as well as a built-in flash and MPEG-4 recording. Desire for DVD
If you're feeling seduced into jumping on the DVD-recordable camcorder bandwagon by those shiny little three-inch DVDs, you'll be pleased to know that Panasonic plans to update its line with the VDR-M50
| | Panasonic's VDR-M70 | |
Like past models, they record video directly to mini DVD-RAM and DVD-R discs. The M50 gives you an 18X optical zoom and an SD slot for stills; the M70 has only a 10X zoom, but compensates with a megapixel CCD and a hotshoe. Panasonic hasn't yet announced pricing or availability. Entertainment by Sony
You can always count on Sony to come up with something interesting--or at least entertaining--in the new feature department. The company's 2004 MiniDV camcorder lineup will have a new Night Shot Plus mode that adds a little color to its infrared Night Shot mode for shooting in extremely low light. The company also adds a second record button and a 3D menu system to the touch-screen LCDs introduced last year. The $600 DCR-HC30
will be available in February, along with the $700 DCR-HC40
. The latter model and the $800 DCR-HC65
(shipping in April) offer 1-megapixel sensors, and the HC65 has a nice big 3.5-inch LCD. They all offer 10X optical zooms, Memory Stick Duo slots, and PictBridge support, and Sony says they're 25 percent smaller than last year's models--probably because the lenses are now integrated into the touch-screen display. OK, just kidding about that last part.
At the top of Sony's HC lineup--the company is rechristening its TRV series--is the DCR-HC85
, which will be available in April for $1,000. That's $400 less than last year's top-of-the-line DCR-TRV80
. Along with an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink feature set, it offers a 2-megapixel sensor and a high-quality Zeiss T* 10X zoom lens. Sony has also replaced last year's compact DCR-PC105
with the even more diminutive DCR-PC109
. Equipped with a megapixel sensor and a 10X Zeiss zoom lens, it will be available in March for $900. It comes with a handy dock for connecting to your PC or TV and charging the battery. JVC's Celebrity filmmakers
All of JVC's 2004 MiniDV models offer a built-in LED and a new 3D noise-reduction feature for low-light shooting, and they conveniently power on when you open the LCD or pull out the viewfinder. The Celebrity series also features ultracompact design and, as JVC puts it, "chic, jewel-like styling." It includes the $600 GR-DX77US, available in April with a 15X zoom lens; the $700 GR-DX97US, which adds a 3-inch LCD and will also ship in April; and the $800 GR-DX307US, shipping in June with a megapixel CCD and a 10X zoom lens. All of those models provide an SD/MMC slot for capturing stills and MPEG-4 video that can be streamed live. The sole member of JVC's Ultra-Compact series, the $800 GR-D230US, offers a similar feature set to the GR-DX307US with a slightly different design. Shipping in April, it also provides the new DV Navigation feature, which creates a thumbnail index of all the segments you record on a tape so that you can locate them easily. The slightly larger models in JVC's Compact series offer MPEG-4 streaming in addition to MPEG-1 video and photo capture to an SD/MMC card. The series includes the $550 GR-D72US and the $700 GR-D93US, which offers a megapixel sensor. Both Compact models will be available in February. High, wide, and weird
Sharp is touting the "high-quality wide recording mode and wider shooting angles" of its new Z series of MiniDV cameras, although we haven't seen the specs yet. At the high end of the line, the VL-Z500 will be available in April 2004 for $600.
| | Sharp's high-end VL-Z500 | |
It offers a 10X optical zoom, an SD slot, a built-in video light, and a cool grip that swivels 240 degrees. Samsung adds a supercompact MiniDV offering to the same price range with its $550 SCD-407
, slated to be available in August. It has a megapixel sensor and a 10X zoom lens, and it can also capture MPEG-4 video to an SD/MMC card.
That's all very cool and cutting-edge, but what about the "just plain weird" part? Never fear; Samsung fulfills your desire for technological weirdness with a follow-up to last year's SC-D5000, the SC-D6040
. It melds a 4-megapixel digicam with a 3X zoom lens and a MiniDV camcorder sporting a 10X zoom lens into one device. However, the SC-D6040's design is significantly less weird than its predecessor's, and, it actually offers a lot of useful features, including dual SD/MMC and Memory Stick support for saving stills and MPEG-4 video. Could it be both weird and
useful--and all for a cool $1,000? We'll find out this summer when it touches down on a retail shelf near you.