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Camcorder Trends: Panasonic 2009 Camcorders with 70X Zoom and 9 MP Res

Once of the most visible trends in this season's new camcorders coming out of the CES conference is the rapid adoption of the smarts from digital photo cameras into video camcorders.

The new photo cameras try to be more fail-safe than ever (see previous post), with automatic scene selection (Normal, Portrait, Macro, Scenery, Low Light), and not only finding faces in the scene to adjust the exposure, but even looking for smiles on the faces, or recognizing faces that have been identified before.

And the video modes in digital cameras are getting better, taking advantage of the photo features and moving to high-def resolution. But video camcorders are moving forward too, with full HD video, longer optical zoom, and also shooting higher-res stills.

Another clear trend for camcorders is the success of the flash memory and hard disk drive (HDD) formats, and the demise of the tape (DV) and disc (mini-DVD) formats. Flash camcorders are rugged and can be amazingly small, and hard-drive camcorders can store some 30 to 60 hours of HD video before needing to worry about off-loading your clips.

For example, the 2009 line of Panasonic camcorders, most due out in April, includes SD models which use flash storage cards (SD/SDHC), HS hybrid hard disk models plus SD card, and TM models with Twin Memory storage -- built-in memory plus SD card.

Panasonic offers two standard-definition models with not 20X, or 50X, but 70X optical zoom -- plus an optical image stabilization system to reduce hand-shake even at these extreme zooms. The SDR-S26 (shown here) is a small flash memory cam (SD card) for $329, in bright colors (another trend). The SDR-H80 and SDR-H90 are HDD models, with 60 and 80 GB, or up to 72 hours of recording (in LP mode), for $449 and $499.

For shooting in high-def, Panasonic has three new introductory high-def camcorders with different format combinations, the compact and lightweight HDC-SD20 with SD card for $599, the Twin Memory HDC-TM20 with SD card plus 16 GB built-in memory for $649, and the hybrid HDC-HS20 (shown here) with SD card plus 80 GB HDD for $999. These include a touch-screen display, an intelligent index system that detects scene changes and shooting adjustments to skip rapidly through recorded video, and 5-microphone surround sound audio.

Then the more advanced, semi-pro HD camcorders add three full-HD MOS sensors, for over 9 megapixels of resolution. The compact HDC-HS250 and the HDC-HS300 with more manual controls have 120 GB HDD for $999 and $1,399, and the Twin Memory HDC-TM300 (shown here) has 32 GB of built-in memory for $1,299.

Yes, you can be shooting HD video for under $600, and full-HD video plus 9 MP stills for under $1000.

See my Digital Video Camcorders Gallery more on Panasonic and other digital camcorders.

    Find the Panasonic LUMIX DMC-TS1 on Amazon.com

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