Sony HDR-CX12 HD Camcorder is also a tricky picture-taking ace

Right on the heels of the Panasonic HD camcorders announced yesterday, Sony tops that with this HDR-CX12, an HD camcorder whose still picture capabilities are more remarkable than its HD shooting prowess. Like those Panasonic camcorders, this one also shoots 1080i video in the AVCHD format, using a CMOS sensor that’s especially effective in low light.

Its remarkable new trick is Smile Shutter, similar to the face recognition common in point-and-shoot still cameras, but now even more useful in a video camera with a big 10-megapixel sensor on board. It fires off a sequence of frames as soon as your subject begins to smile, and among the dozens of resulting pictures, there’s bound to be one that looks near-perfect. And, it still records video at the same time you’re going for that perfect still pic.

Because it uses a memory stick for its digital storage medium, its form factor is nice and small, taking on the beer-can shape of many of the best higher-end camcorders. It looks like a great value, especially since it undercuts that similarly-equipped Panasonic camcorder we showed you yesterday by $200 — it’s $900 including a 4GB Memory Stick, available in August. Click Continue for a video showing how Sony’s new Smile Shutter feature works.