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Cheese and Mug Detectors

One feature finding its way into many new point-and-shoots is smile detection, which takes face detection to an entirely new level. Sony , Canon, Nikon, Pentax, and Panasonic all announced cameras that take a picture automatically whenever someone in the shot smiles, and most of the cameras let you key in on an individual smiling face to act as the "trigger."

Pentax Optio S12
Smile detection is just one of a few advances in face-detection technology finding its way into many mainstream cameras.  Major vendors seem to be competing to see how many faces can be detected and focused in on in one shot (the Pentax Optio S12 seems to be in the lead, supporting up to 15 faces per photo). Sony's new Cyber-Shots also can differentiate between adult and child faces in a shot and trigger the shutter when the child smiles.

Weirdest Feature by Far

Sony's new Cyber-Shot DSC-T300, Cyber-Shot DSC-H10, Cyber-Shot W-150, and Cyber-Shot W-170 can even force people to smile . . . after the fact. An in-camera editing app lets you jack up the corners of a subject's mouth, so if they don't want to smile for the camera, you can pretend they did in post.

The results are hilarious and weird, making these Cyber-Shots the go-to camera for anyone who wants some extra laughs. The cameras even store the "fake smile" photos as separate images, so you don't need to worry about overwriting the original, frowny image -- and it also makes for a nice "before and after" slide show when you view the images in playback mode. If your subject didn't want to smile for the camera, they will after seeing their fake-smile pic.

Hybrid Cameras, In Many Ways

Could miniDV tapes and recordable DVDs be obsolete by this time next year? Hard-drive camcorders are nothing new, but more and more camcorders are abandoning cassettes and DVDs for solid-state storage, hard drives, and memory cards. Some models even record to a combination of hard drives, solid-state storage, and memory cards.

The AVCHD codec, new high-capacity SD cards, and higher-capacity flash drives mean a lot more high-def footage can fit on a storage device the size of a postage stamp. The result is a new wave of tiny, sleek HD camcorders.

Panasonic HDC-SD9
A few models that caught my eye were announced at CES or Macworld Expo in January, but available for a closer look at PMA.  Among them were Panasonic's full 1080p HDC-SD9, which records to an SD card, Panasonic's HDC-HS9, which records to both an SD card and its integrated 80GB hard drive, and Canon's full 1080p Vixia HF10, which records to an internal 16GB flash drive and an SD memory card.

Panasonic HDR-UX20
If you've still got a hankering for recordable DVDs, Sony's HDR-UX20 is a three-way hybrid: it records to DVD, an internal 8GB flash drive, and a MemoryStick card. And if you're looking for a high-def camcorder that also shoots high-quality stills, Sony's 1080p HDR-SR12 not only has a 120GB hard drive and a MemoryStick slot, but also takes 10-megapixel photos.

On the flip side of that equation -- a digital camera that shoots high-def video -- is Samsung's 10-megapixel NV24HD digital camera, which also shoots 720p high-def video.

All of these camcorders and cameras were announced at CES, but seeing them up close at PMA was a thrill due to their diminutive sizes.

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