Look! There's a video camcorder inside your digital camera.
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What price for good video?
In the range from affordable to expensive, these five cameras represent the best in their class.
Under $200? Concord Eye-Q 4360z ($199 street)
The Concord Eye-Q 4360z is the first 4MP camera in its price range, featuring a 3X, f/2.8-5.6 optical zoom, 16MB internal storage, and compatibility with optional SD memory cards (for a full review, see May 2004). As a video camera, however, there's less to brag about-although it does capture QVGA (320x240-pixel) resolution video at a smooth 30 fps until the memory card fills up. The video is low-res, pretty noisy, and the white balance was way off in our test clips. Oddly, there's also a sound track saved with the Video For Windows .avi file (which uses M-JPEG compression at about 36:1), but it's blank since the 4360z lacks a microphone for recording audio.
Under $300? Olympus Camedia D-580 Zoom ($299 street)
As a more-typically priced 4MP camera, the D-580 Zoom features a 3X, f/3.1-5.2 optical zoom, a burst-shooting mode of up to eight frames at 1.3 fps, advanced evaluative and spotmetering, and xD-Picture card storage. On the video front, it captures QVGA (320x240-pixel) frames at a slightly jumpy 15 fps until the memory is used up. Video files are saved in QuickTime (.mov) format using Photo-JPEG compression at about 12:1, which may explain their higher quality when compared with the Concord's. Sound quality is nothing to shout about, but the camera does feature fast forward and rewind controls during playback, a plus.
Under $400? Canon PowerShot A70 ($350 street)
This 3.2MP camera costs a bit more than the two 4MP models above, but it features a bright, 3X, f/2.8-4.8 zoom lens, five-point TTL AF, shutter speeds from 15 to 1/2000 sec, creative presets and manual exposure-as well as remote control from a computer. It gives you VGA video resolution (640x480 pixels) at 15 fps, and records decent mono sound. Movies can also be shot at QVGA and 160x120-pixel resolutions. Clip lengths are limited to 30 seconds and stored in .avi format using M-JPEG compression at about 34:1 ratio. There's also an adjustable-volume speaker, fast forward and rewind, and in-camera movie editing.