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Three little piggies: Canon ZR500, ZR600, and ZR700

In which our hero Canon introduces an entirely new range of family camcorders and shows Sony a thing or two about stand design

One of the more entertaining pleasures of a show like this year's CES in Las Vegas is to see how manufacturers, like mating peacocks, try to strut their stuff on the show floor and dominate their fellow exhibitors. Sony is demonstrating its sexual prowess by encrusting every inch of its stand with 50-inch LCD TVs, but Canon has struck back by building a working movie set, complete with smooth-talking hosts and cameramen.

Canon isn't just feathers and attitude though. The company's XL2 HD camcorder has entranced serious filmmakers, but there are other new offerings from Canon for those who don't want to remortgage their homes in pursuit of their indie dream. The ZR range (equivalent to the MV range in the UK) has been updated with three new models, the ZR500 (pictured), ZR600, and the ZR700. Though relatively prosaic family camcorders, they're packed with good features and Crave tested them out this afternoon.

The most notable upgrade is the true widescreen recording capability of all three camcorders -- instantly apparent from the new widescreen fold-out LCDs. The new models are also lightweight with improved optical stabilisation and a 'level shot control' which keeps the framed image on an even keel during more hectic moments. The higher-end model, the ZR700, also includes a jack for attaching external microphones.

Still image capabilities have also been boosted, there's a range of image effects and a 9-point AiAF Autofocus on these camcorders. Prices and launch date in the UK are yet to be confirmed.

Visit our CES 2006 Special Report for more coverage. -CS