Canon showed off the new members of its ZR family: the ZR80, ZR85 and ZR90, priced at $399, $499 and $599 respectively. All include better battery life compared to previous models, end search and multiple menu languages. The ZR80 uses an 18x optical zoom, the ZR85 features a 20x optical zoom and the ZR90 includes a 22x optical zoom.
Canon is also the most recent company to abandon the Hi8 format, as last year’s ES8600 was discontinued without a replacement. This frees Canon to focus development on their line of Mini DV camcorders.
Sharp is making 16:9 anamorphic widescreen video their key selling point with the VL-Z800 (price not available at press time). This model also includes a white LED for supplemental light, allowing full-motion recording in total darkness.
JVC is rolling out a complete line of new camcorders, each with 3D noise reduction (as found in some of JVC’s VHS VCRs), an LCD viewscreen that handles bright sunlight better than those found on previous-generation camcorders and a built-in white LED “Auto Illumi-Light,” which has 1/10th of the power consumption of a standard video light. A number of the models can also save video in an MPEG-4 format and create MPEG-4 video clips from existing footage.
The Compact series, consisting of the GR-D33US ($450), GR-D72US ($550) and GR-D93US ($700), boasts a 20% reduction in size compared to last year’s lineup. The GR-D33US and GR-D72US both feature 16x optical zoom lenses and 680k pixel CCDs, while the GR-D93US uses a 10x optical zoom lens and 1.33-megapixel CCD.
The GR-D230US ($800) is dubbed Ultra-Compact and features a 1.33-megapixel CCD and 10x optical zoom.
The three-camcorder Celebrity Series includes the GR-DX77US ($600) and GR-DX97US ($700), both of which feature a 15x optical zoom and a 680k pixel CCD. The GR-DX307S ($800) is equipped with a 1.33-megapixel CCD and a 10x optical zoom.
Hitachi, the only company specializing exclusively in tapeless DVD camcorders, announced that the new DZ-MV550A ($800) and DZ-MV580A ($900) will debut in the second quarter. Both include 2.5-inch LCD viewscreens and support for 8 cm DVD-R and DVD-RAM discs. Both also write data at either a constant bitrate or a variable bitrate, depending on the recording mode selected. The DZ-MV550A includes a 680k pixel CCD and 18x optical zoom, while the MV580A includes a 1-megapixel CCD and 10x optical zoom.
Panasonic introduced a pair of 3-CCD camcorders, the PV-GS120 and PV-GS200. (Panasonic had not set prices for any of their 2004 camcorders at press time.) Both include a 10x optical zoom lens and both can be used as Web cams, but the PV-GS200 adds MPEG-4 recording to the mix.
DVD was also prominent in Panasonic’s lineup, with the VDR-M50 and VDR-M70, which record onto 8cm DVD-R and DVD-RAM discs. The VDR-M50 features an 18x optical zoom lens and 680k pixel CCD, while the VDR-M70 uses a 10x optical zoom lens and 1.02-megapixel CCD.
The remainder of Panasonic’s Mini DV lineup consists of the PV-GS9 and PV-GS12 (20x optical zoom lens), PV-GS14 (22x optical zoom lens), PV-GS15 (24x optical zoom lens) and PV-GS55 (10x optical zoom lens). All of these camcorders include Panasonic’s Quick Start feature, which allow them to go from powered off to recording in 1.3 seconds.
Samsung, like Canon, made their new camcorders more usable by those who don’t speak English, Spanish or French, with a new line of camcorders that have display prompts in German, Italian and Portuguese. The SC-D103 ($400) packs an 18x optical zoom lens, while the SC-D107 ($500) and SC-D303 ($450) both have a 20x optical zoom lens. The SC-D407 ($550), due in August, has a 10x optical zoom lens and a 1.33-megapixel CCD.
The latest iteration of the DuoCam was also on hand in the Samsung booth. The SC-D6040 ($900) now uses an over-and-under configuration for the lenses, instead of the flipping design of its predecessor. The still photo lens features a 3x optical zoom and 4.13-megapixel CCD, while the video lens has a 10x optical zoom and 680k pixel CCD.
Sony renews its commitment to the Hi8 format with the CCD-TRV128 ($270) and the CCD-TRV328 ($300). Sony also introduced two Digital8 models, the DCR-TRV260 ($350) and DCR-TRV460 ($400). All have 20x optical zoom lenses.
Mini DV is also covered thoroughly, with the new DCR-HC20 ($500), DCR-HC30 ($600), DCR-HC40 ($700), DCR-HC65 ($800), DCR-PC109 ($900) and DCR-HC85 ($1,000). Differences between models include the size of the viewscreens (the HC65 and HC85 have 3.5-inch viewscreens) and imagers (the HC40, HC65 and PC109 each have 1-megapixel CCDs, while the HC85 has a 2-megapixel CCD.) All except the HC20 can shoot still images with their included Memory Stick DUO slots.