In Your Dreams
The camcorder of your dreams is small enough to slide into your pocket and big enough, memory-wise, to record every bit of your kid's school play. The newest camcorder from Panasonic Consumer Electronics (Secaucus, N.J.), the SV-AV100 D-Snap SD, meets that first criterion, but not the second. At 32 by 54 by 89 mm, it is just thick enough to accommodate the housing for its 10x optical zoom lens, but is still smaller than most digital point-and-shoot still cameras.
Panasonic's engineers shoehorned the camcorder into a package this small by relying on semiconductor SD memory cards instead of cassette tapes or mini-DVDs and the mechanical components that move them and imprint them with data. But getting rid of mechanical recording media was not as simple as swapping a tape deck for a memory card reader. Panasonic claims to be the first to find a way to transfer data to removable storage cards at data rates approaching 10MB/s—the rates necessary to achieve DVD quality.
As for memory capacity, the D-Snap could do better. The included 512MB SD memory card holds only an hour of video encoded in the MPEG-4 format; MPEG-2 recordings, whose data compression is not as efficient, fill it up after 20 minutes. Look to spend around US $200 for a second 512MB SD card, presently the most storage you can get on an SD card. The storage capacity of the memory card evenly matches the battery's performance. Even without energy-sucking mechanical components in the camera, the included lithium-ion battery delivers only one hour of recording time, so you'll probably want a backup.