Sony unleashes 60x-optical-zoom camcorders

All the new Sony 60X optical zoom camcorders will cost less than US$500.

High-definition camcorders may be the trend du jour, but Sony's the latest company to hoping that megazoom models will gain marquee status, too. The company announced seven standard-definition camcorders today at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas that offer 60X-optical-zoom camcorders. That's just a bit short of the 70X-optical-zoom models that Panasonic announced earlier today, but it's definitely plenty of zoom.

All the new Sony 60X optical zoom camcorders will cost less than US$500, and they include hard-drive, flash-memory, and recordable-DVD models.

On the hard-drive side, the 80GB Sony Handycam DCR-SR67 ($450, available in February), pictured above, holds up to 84 hours of standard-definition video recorded in LP mode, and offers a 60X optical Carl Zeiss zoom lens. The DCR-SR67 has a Memory Stick slot to expand storage capacity for video and stills, too. Also included is Super SteadyShot optical stabilization--a useful feature on camcorders with an astronomical zoom range. The 2.7-inch-diagonal touch-screen LCD powers on the camcorder as soon as you flip it out (a new feature that Sony calls Power On By LCD).

Another new hard-drive/Memory Stick model, the Sony Handycam DCR-SR47 ($400, also available in February), has the same 60X optical zoom and specs as the SR67 but contains a 40GB hard drive that holds 41 hours of standard-definition video in LP mode.

Three of the new 60X optical camcorders are the company's first flash-storage camcorders. The Handycam DCR-SX60 (16GB flash drive, $400), DCR-SX41 (8GB flash drive, $330), and DCR-SX40 (4GB flash drive, $300) are all available in March, and all boast the same 60X optical Carl Zeiss zoom lens, expandable storage via Memory Stick slot, and 2.7-inch touch-screen LCD.

The DCR-SX60, pictured above, holds up to 10 hours of standard-definition video in LP mode; the DCR-SX41 holds up to 5 hours, and the DCR-SX40 holds up to 2.5 hours. Note, however, that the SX41 and SX40 lack Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization.

All of the above camcorders are compatible with Sony's just-announced DVDirect Express burner ($150), which allows you to burn standard-definition DVDs directly from the camcorders.

Rounding out the group of megazoom camcorders are two mini-DVD models, the Handycam DCR-DVD850 ($430, available in February) and DCR-DVD650 ($300, also available in February). The DCR-DVD850 has a 16GB flash drive and a Memory Stick slot, in addition to a 3-inch mini-DVD writer; the DCR-DVD650 records only to Memory Stick and mini-DVD. Both offer a 60X optical Carl Zeiss zoom lens, a 2.7-inch touch-screen LCD, and Super SteadyShot optical stabilization.

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