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CES 2008: Cameras and camcorders

Preview of what's to come in digital photo and video at the 2008 International Consumer Electronics Show.

Though the International Consumer Electronics Show is not a big one for camera announcements, we usually see a generous handful. Camera manufacturers tend to choose CES to announce the really cheap and the really odd models, especially those with more multitasking, multimedia tendencies. But this CES looks to be a big year for digital-photo frames: bigger and smaller, more connected, more mobile, and more versatile.

Best of CES 2007, Sony Handycam HDR-HC7 CNET Networks

Flashback: 2007
Before we had even gotten a chance to test it, we expected big things from our Best of CES 2007 pick, the Sony Handycam HDR-HC7. Our take: "HD camcorders are the big thing for 2007, with prices for consumer models turning them into the mainstream camcorders to have. Sony's HC7 includes several next-generation technologies, including support for the xvYCC color space, which facilitates better colors for capture and display. Sony's HDR-HC series also has a proven track record of excellent MiniDV performance." Once we got a chance to put the HC7 through its paces, we were happy to see our expectations fulfilled. Though not quite as popular among our readers as its flash-based (HDR-CX7) or hard-drive-based (HDR-SR7) siblings--they weren't announced until later in the year--the HC7 has stood up well as one of the best HDV camcorders of 2007, without any of the problematic editing issues posed by nontape HD formats.

Flash-forward: 2008
This year, we expect more of the same in camcorders--not just from Sony, but from Canon, Panasonic, JVC, and the rest of the crowd. What does that mean? Continued growth in HD models but with standard def remaining strong. We'll probably see less activity on the tape-based front, and much as I wish DVD-based models would disappear already, I don't think that wish is even close to coming true. Following past trends, I think we'll see the usual year-over-year enhancements: increased recording capacity, higher resolutions, modest redesigns. Margins have gotten too tight to expect a lot of price movement, so I don't expect significant price drops--I do expect more crowded product lines with price differentials between models shrinking closer to $20 than the $50-$100 of previous years.

Nor would I be surprised by a deluge of cheap, YouTube "bandwagoncams" along the lines of the Flip Video Ultra and Sony NSC-GC1. It's possible we'll see some still camera manufacturers counter the one-trick-pony trend with improved movie-capture and sharing features, but more likely we'll have to wait until the PMA 2008 show at the end of the month to find out.

Finally, we're also hoping that digital frames will get better, as well, easier to use with higher resolutions and better color, but that's more of a dream than a prediction.