CES Roundup. New Camcorders from Sanyo, Toshiba, Canon, and JVC

2006 CES Roundup

The 2006 Consumer Electronics Show took place January 5-8. This show is the absolute best place to see the latest and greatest in consumer electronics devices, and is the place to preview all of the cool electronic gadgets that might come out later this year.

This year marks the re-entry of two brand names to the camcorder fray after lengthy absences, and sees the trend of miniaturization continuing, along with the trend of optical zooms getting longer. Here’s a look at some of the highlights from this year's CES.

The Sanyo nameplate hasn't been fastened to a camcorder in the USA since the early 1990s, but it’s back in a big way with the Xacti HD1, an $800 camcorder that claims to be the world's first HD compact digital media camera. The 8.3-ounce (with battery and SD card) camcorder utilizes a 5.36-megapixel imager, and can record up to 42 minutes of 720p HD or 2 hours of standard-definition video on a 2GB SD card. The camcorder also includes a 10x optical zoom and a 2.2" organic LED viewscreen, and can also take 5.1-megapixel still images on the fly. The unit is slated to be available in late March.

Toshiba is also back after a lengthy absence from the camcorder arena with two hard drive camcorders. Dubbed gigashot, the video/still cameras will record MPEG-2 video onto Toshiba's own 0.85" and 1.8" hard drives. More details on these units will be available later in the year.

Canon has announced four new Mini DV camcorders; three new ZR-family and one new Elura-family. All of the new models include 2.7" high-resolution wide viewscreens and 25x optical zoom lenses with three fixed zoom speeds. The ZR500 will retail for $299, the ZR600 for $349 and the ZR700 and Elura 100 for $399 each.

Hitachi continues with its line of UltraVision DVD camcorders, the 3.3 mega-pixel DZGX3300A, the 2.12 mega-pixel DZGX3200A, the 1.3 mega-pixel DZGX3100A and the 680K pixel DZBX35A, which are the first to burn on all four camcorder DVD formats (DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+RW and DVD-RAM). All models include 2.7" widescreen LCDs and now support both Windows and the Mac.

JVC launched five new Mini DV camcorders: the $300 GR-D350, the $330 GR-D370, the $370 GR-D395, the $380 GR-D396 and the $450 GR-D650. All include 32X optical zoom lenses except for the GR-D650, which includes a 15X optical zoom lens.

The Everio line of hard drive camcorders continues with four new models, the $600, 20GB GZ-MG21, the $700, 20GB GZ-MG27, the $800, 30GB GZ-MG37 and the as-of-yet unpriced, 30GB GZ-MG77. All except the GZ-MG77 include 32X optical zoom lenses, while the GZ-MG77 includes a 10X optical zoom lens instead.
JVC also introduced an external DVD burner specifically designed to be used with selected Everio hard drive camcorders, the CU-VD10 Share Station. The $200 burner connects to the Everio camcorder via USB 2.0 and can burn an hour of footage in about 45 minutes. The burner can also be attached to a computer and be used as a standard 8X DVD-R/4X DVD-RW burner.

Panasonic has announced seven new camcorders, including two 3CCD DVD camcorders with 10X optical zoom lenses, the VDR-D250 and the VDR-D300. The single-chip VDR-D100 and VDR-D200 both include 30X optical zoom lenses. In addition, Panasonic adds the PV-GS29, PV-GS39 and PV-GS59 Mini DV camcorders, each of which includes 30X optical zoom lenses, and three new 3CCD Mini DV camcorders, the PV-GS180, PV-GS300 and PV-GS500.

Samsung showed a new range of DVD camcorders. The $450 SC-DC164 and $500 SC-DC165 include 33X optical zoom lenses. The $550 SC-DC564 (26X optical zoom) and the $600 SC-DC565 (30X optical zoom) both include a dual-format disc burning mechanism that can also record onto dual-layer DVD+R media.

Also in Samsung's lineup: two more flash memory-based sports camcorders with 2" LCDs, the 512MB SC-X205L ($500) and the 1GB SC-X210L ($600). Both also include SD card slots as well, and optional external lipstick cameras will also be made available for more extreme shooting situations.

Mini DV isn't forgotten, either, with four new models: the $300, 30X SC-D363 and the $350, 33X SC-D365 sport a compact design, while the $400 SC-D963 and the $450 SC-D965 include megapixel CCDs and a 26X optical zoom lens.

Sony has entered the hard drive camcorder arena with the $1,100 DCR-SR100, which includes a 30GB drive and built-in Dolby Digital 5.1 encoding. New consumer Mini DV camcorders include the DCR-HC26 ($350), DCR-HC36 ($400), DCR-HC46 ($500), DCR-HC96 ($800), all of which include top-loading tape transports.

New dual-format DVD camcorders include the $500 DCR-DVD105, the $600 DCR-DVD205, the $700 DCR-DVD305, the $900 DCR-DVD405 and the $1,100 DCR-DVD505. The DCR-DVD505 is notable as the first DVD camcorder with a CMOS image sensor.

HD-DVD vs. Blu-ray

The two rival high-def disc factions were out in force. A few companies like Sonic Solutions, Nero and CyberLink announced Blu-ray playback and burning capabilities were forthcoming in their future products. But the bottom line is that high-definition format players aren't here at this very moment. We expect some players to be rolled out this spring, but burners will take a while longer to emerge (although media mavens Maxell, TDK and Panasonic have already announced the development of blank Blu-ray Discs.)

H.264 Hardware Playback On the Way

CyberLink announced that they have developed decoders that allow for hardware playback of H.264 content on both the ATI Radeon X1000 graphics processor with Avivo technology and NVIDIA's newest GeForce graphics processors with PureVideo Technology. The H.264 DxVA Decoder will be included within CyberLink's MPEG-4 AVC pack for PowerDVD.

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