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New entry-level miniDV camcorders from Canon

At CES, Canon announced new members of its ZR-series of entry-level miniDV camcorders.

Canon announced some upgrades to its ZR-line of miniDV camcorders. The Canon ZR800, 830, and 850 will replace the ZR500, 600, and 700 as the company's budget video cameras. While these new models offer only minor improvements over their predecessors, they're welcome offerings in the dwindling field of MiniDV camcorders.

With a price difference of just $80 between models, the three offer similar features. All are relatively low resolution, with 680,000-pixel sensors on the ZR800 and ZR830 and a 1-megapixel sensor on the ZR850. All three use the same 35X zoom lens, and feature electronic image stabilization to reduce shake. Of course, any magnification over about 12x is usually going to be shaky without a tripod, regardless of the antishake features. Finally, all three camcorders have a 2.7-inch, 16:9 widescreen LCD for framing shots.

The new camcorders aren't completely identical, however. The ZR830 and ZR850 include a new QuickStart feature, which is a modified standby mode that Canon claims draws 50 percent less power. All three camcorders also feature SecureDigital card slots, and the ZR830 and ZR850 support SDHC cards with capacities of 4GB and higher. While the ZR800 doesn't feature QuickStart, it's the only one of the three to offer an external microphone port. ZR830 and ZR850 users have to make due with their cameras' built-in mics.

The Canon ZR800, ZR830, and ZR850 ship later this month with suggested price tags of $280, $300, and $353, respectively.