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CES Camcorder Round-Up

Companies unveil 20 new consumer cameras By Stephen Schleicher

For the consumer, CES is a great place to find the latest in camcorder technology.  The big three Sony, Canon, and Panasonic were there with new offerings that amounted to over 20 new cameras at the show.

While there were no major surprises, there were four areas that most of the cameras focused on; Optical Zoom, 16:9 Native, Size, and DVD capture.

Optical Zoom
Everyone has pretty much figured out that digital zoom is not the way to go when trying to get a clear picture of family activities.  The best way to maximize the image is by having great glass to magnify your image.  All of the cameras introduced at the show had improved optics with lenses from Leica (Panasonic) to Carl Zeiss (Sony). 

Many of the optical zooms fell around the 10x to 15x range, but Panasonics PV-GS35 offers a 30x optical zoom the greatest optical zoom at the show.  I saw this camera in action, and the image held up very well even with this much magnification. 

Panasonic PV-GS35

While all of the manufacturers have added larger LCD viewfinders, seeing this optical zoom on a high quality plasma screen can easily show any flaws in the optical system.  The optics in the PV-GS35 is the real deal.  The next highest optical zoom came from the PV-GS31 with a 26x zoom.

It should be noted that even though there are some rather large optical zoom amounts from these cameras, it does not mean that the Panasonic camera automatically have the best zoom.  For example if you have a 5-20mm lens with a 30x optical zoom and you compare that to a 10-30mm lens with a 20x optical zoom, the 20x would give you greater magnification.  As soon as we get some of these cameras into the DMN Central Division I can give you a better breakdown of which camera has the best optical zoom.

16:9 Native
It should come as no surprise that many of the new cameras unveiled at this years show had a native 16:9 recording feature.  When I say 16:9 native, I am talking about doing a real widescreen capture as opposed to digital cropping or stretching on a 4:3 chip.  For more information about 16:9 and digital camera, check out the Camera 101 article I wrote a short while ago covering this topic.

Why is 16:9 a big deal for camcorders?  With the proliferation of widescreen televisions and monitors, many users will want to take advantage of the wider field of view which yields a more cinematic feel.

With the Sony and Canon cameras, switching between 4:3 and 16:9 is as simple as pressing a button.  This saves the user from having to dive through many menus and submenus to find the switch.

Canons ZR series (100 300) were the easiest to switch and with the widescreen LCD viewfinder (found on the Sony cameras as well), allowed you to see in full glory what you could expect on your home systems.

Canon ZR300 MiniDV camera


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