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Panasonic's Spring camcorders: Three chips and long lenses

Panasonic brings us the sublime at one end and the ridiculous at the other.

Before the world went high-def, Panasonic made a point of upgrading many of its camcorders to 3-chip models; now it's happening again, as Panasonic rolls out its 3MOS chipsets in its prosumer 2009 AVCHD camcorders. And at 2 megapixels per chip, they're each reasonably high-resolution, as well. However, you won't see the likes of popular, older, budget 3-chip models such as the PV-GS320, at least not in the first half of the year. In fact, you won't see any tape- or DVD-based models at all from Panasonic, according to the company. Ever.

For its standard-definition clients, Panasonic now zooms out to 70X. On one hand, these stalker zoom lenses can be quite useful for recording wildlife--and Panasonic even showed footage of the moon for astronomy buffs--but is that really a mass market? And no matter how good its image stabilization is, you're going to have to shoot using a tripod at lengths like that.

As expected, the rest of both the HD and standard-def lines are more of the same: more space on hard disk models, more built-in memory for flash models (and for a couple of models, more compact), as well as some tweaks to face detection. And in the case of its everything-resistant models, the SW series, they just got a little tougher.