Until now, digital still cameras have produced shoddy video (with only 240 lines of resolution and 15 frames per second). Now, thanks to faster and cheaper chips, digital shooters are starting to boast VGA full-motion video (that is, 480 lines of resolution at 30 fps). You won’t get DVD-quality video out of these units — most lack image stabilization, lights and the ability to zoom, and all use MPEG-4 compression, which degrades images somewhat — but the quality is very respectable, and the ability to shoot an hour of video on a 1GB flash memory card is not to be underestimated. Dedicated camcorders offer better quality, but if you want a single device for stills and video, these new hybrids’ balancing act will definitely impress.
1. THE ONE-HAND SHOOTER
Fisher FVD-C1 CameraCorder
The most versatile (and most expensive) pocketable imager in the group, the FVD-C1 combines a 3.2MP digital camera and VGA recorder in a comfortable pistol-grip housing that feels more like a camcorder than a camera (though it comes with an impressive 5.8x optical zoom lens for stills). $900; fisherav.com
2. THE SERIOUS IMAGER
Fujifilm FinePix S7000
Perhaps assuming that someone who cares about top-quality stills is likely to be equally picky about video quality, manufacturers have shied away from putting video on their high-end digital cameras. The S7000, however, offers great stills (thanks to a 6.3MP sensor and 6x optical zoom lens) and strong video capability.
3. THE FASHION ACCESSORY
The SV-AV50’s deck-of-cards size belies the powerful video recorder hidden inside. In fact, small hands are a bonus when getting a grip on this model. Bear in mind, though, that its diminutive size comes at the expense of still-picture quality — its 2MP stills are barely acceptable these days. Style-wise, however, it’s one of the sexiest we’ve seen. $400; panasonic.com
4. THE NO-BRAINER
Kodak EasyShare LS743
A 4MP sensor, Schneider lens and trademark Kodak ease of use make the LS743 a great all-around camera. Throw in this model’s high-quality video as a bonus, along with a very reasonable price, and it’s quite the compelling package. $400;