Got a digicam? You've got everything you need to make movies.
Canon PowerShot S3 IS ($420, street)
Besides 6MP photo resolution, a stabilized 12X zoom lens, and lots of advanced photo features, the new S3 IS offers excellent video quality. It zooms smoothly and quietly while recording, and though the autofocus doesn't keep up with changing scenes the way a camcorder's does, you can use it during video capture, along with manual focus.
This camera records sound in stereo, too. Its flip-out 2-inch LCD and electronic viewfinder lend themselves to video capture, and the camera has a dedicated video record button so that you can start recording video with the mode dial turned to any shooting mode.
The S3 IS saves videos in the Motion JPEG format, which means they take up a lot of space; in 30 fps VGA mode, you can save only about 8 minutes of footage on a 1GB card.
However, the format lends itself to Canon's video printing feature, which lets you send video frames directly to a compatible printer. The S3 IS also lets you shoot stills while recording video.
Panasonic Lumix DMC-FZ50 ($650, MSRP)
One of the rare still cameras that can capture widescreen, 16:9, 30 fps video at 848x480 resolution, the Lumix DMC-FZ50 features an optically stabilized 12X zoom lens and 10MP photo capture. Like the Canon PowerShot S3 IS, it records Motion JPEG video, which eats up lots of memory. However, this just-issued Panasonic supports the new SDHC standard for SD cards with storage capacities as high as 4GB.
Among this model's other desirable qualities: a flip-out 2-inch LCD, high-resolution electronic viewfinder, advanced photo controls, and RAW image capture, as well as the ability to focus and zoom during video capture. The manual focus ring on the lens makes focusing especially easy.
Sony Cyber-shot DSC- M2 ($420, street)
You can see right away that the M2 isn't an ordinary digital camera. When its sharp 2.5-inch LCD is folded against the body, it looks more like a snapshot camera, while it resembles an ultra-thin camcorder when the LCD is scissored out and swiveled.
This hybrid camera devotes equal talents to photo and video capture, recording both 5MP stills and lengthy 30 fps VGA MPEG-4 video segments, along with stereo sound. Its 3X optical zoom and autofocus operate during video capture. Although the AF hunts a little as the scene changes, it's quicker and more camcorder-like than most digicam video autofocus systems.
The M2 can capture stills while recording video, and when you activate its Hybrid mode, it automatically saves video of the 5 seconds just before each photo you take and the 3 seconds after it.