Hitachi began shipping a consumer version of its popular M2 camera/recorder last week. Dubbed the M2L, the new multimedia recording camera costs $999, less than half the price of the M2. Like its predecessor, the M2L records video, audio and still images.

It has a 1GB expandable card that allows up to two hours of video capture in the MPEG-1 format, 16 hours of audio in MPEG and 12,000 JPEG images.

Other features include optical, digital and macro zoom and a 1.8-inch color LCD screen. The new camera is not available in stores yet but will arrive soon.

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