by Spencer Jones; Jersey Bell (illustrations)

Video and still cameras may seem similar, but they’re very different beasts. Decent stills require pixel-packed sensors that bog down processors. And video cameras have high-power optical zooms, which, at maximum magnification, blur stills at the slightest movement. Through miniaturization, optical stabilizers and faster chips, manufacturers are finally making
worthy combos, each in their own way.

Samsung SC-D6040 Duocam
In true hybrid fashion, the SC-D6040 sports two vertically mounted sensors and lenses–a 10x optical zoom for video capture, a 3x for stills. Toggling between camera and camcorder takes just a few seconds and is as simple as pressing a button. The camera’s feature list goes beyond the basics, with manual exposure settings and a flash for low-light shots. Vitals: $900; 4MP stills; 1.1 lbs.; 2.5-inch LCD monitor;

Sony DCR-PC350
Sony’s next-gen, high-res camcorder relies solely on its processing power to deliver quality stills and movies, producing sharper photos with more natural-looking colors and less of a yellow tinge in indoor shots than its bulkier predecessor. Also new: a flash strategically placed on the side and a new 2.5-inch display for better viewing in direct sunlight. Vitals: $1,300; 3MP stills; 15 ounces; 10X optical zoom;

Pentax OptioMX4
The MPEG-4-based OptioMX4 may not possess the visual richness of a MiniDV, but it’s got all the features you’d expect from a point-and-shoot. With one CCD and two shutter-release buttons, the MX4 lets you quickly toggle between still and movie modes. Vitals: $500; 4MP stills; 11.6 ounces; 10X optical zoom; built-in retractable flash; 1.8-inch LCD monitor;

Panasonic PV-GS400
A three-CCD imaging system for superior color fidelity and Leica Dicomar lens for sharpness set the PV-GS400 apart for video quality. But it delivers four megapixels in an unorthodox fashion, using data from its three one-megapixel sensors and a good dose of algorithms. Optical image stabilization keeps camera jitter down. Vitals: $1,500; 4MP stills; 1.54 lbs.; 12X optical zoom; pop-up flash; 3.5-inch LCD monitor;