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Sharp's VL-DD10 LCD Digital ViewCam in still camera configuration. Courtesy of Sharp Corp. Sharp announces 4 megapixel digicam / camcorder combo
(Tuesday, August 27, 2002 - 18:35 EDT)

Japanese consumer electronics company Sharp Corp. has announced a new combination digital camera / camcorder device, an email from IR reader 'uri' tells us.

The 'Sharp VL-DD10 LCD Digital ViewCam' follows a precedent set by past products such as Matsushita's Panasonic NV-EX21, in which portions of the unit can be added and removed to allow differing configurations - in this case, a Mini DV camcorder, 4 megapixel digital still camera and a portable LCD television. In digital camera mode, the VL-DD10 actually looks reasonably capable - the relatively high 4 megapixel resolution is coupled with Secure Digital / MultiMediaCard storage, 1.5 frames per second bursts of up to 3 frames, a choice of center-weighted or spot metering, and a choice of full auto, aperture- or shutter-priority and full manual shooting.

Unfortunately, where there was a certain logic behind the Panasonic NV-EX21, the multi-purpose design of the Sharp VL-DD10 only looks very attractive from the standpoint of its manufacturer. Matsushita's combo device was able to share expensive components such as the lens, imager, LCD display, and electronic viewfinder for both its camcorder and still camera roles. This offered a potential cost savings, as well as reducing the weight of equipment to carry with you if you needed both your camcorder and still camera on a trip - although it did also mean that the still camera portion was saddled with a lens designed for video use, and only a one-megapixel resolution.

Sharp's new device, however, shares little between its two modes. The lens and imager, two of the more expensive parts, are duplicated in the addons that allow the VL-DD10 to function as a camcorder or still camera. Whilst this does mean that a large 4 megapixel CCD imager can be used for the still portion without sacrificing video functionality (a 4 megapixel CCD wouldn't be able to read off the entire chip fast enough to provide for useable video), the potential cost and weight savings are lost. Likewise, the powerful 10x optical zoom lens used for video (and undoubtedly of insufficient quality for a 4 megapixel imager) is replaced by a much more mundane 3x optical zoom for still images.

The impressively large three inch, 123,200 pixel LCD display shared between both modes will have saved some cost, but it will bring disadvantages of its own to the design, since there is no optical or electronic viewfinder available in either mode. Powering an LCD that's triple the size of those on most digicams - particularly since the lack of alternative viewfinders means that it has to be bright enough for use in direct sunlight - is likely to lead to significantly shorter battery life than the VL-DD10 might otherwise have been able to achieve in still camera mode. One last obvious deficiency we can see is the MiniDV cassette deck's location in the LCD portion of the device, meaning that you must carry around extra weight for something you're likely not even using in digital camera mode.

This is not a small or light device by any means - it is about the same size as Sony's Mavica floppy-disk digital cameras, which have to fit an entire 3.5" floppy disk drive inside their chassis! Surprisingly, the VL-DD10 is even larger and heavier in still camera mode than it is in camcorder mode, and that alone should give you an idea of the potential disadvantage of the unusual design. We'd expect that the television portion of the device - which is somewhat beyond the scope of this site - will likely offer little advantage over standalone portable LCD televisions, and will couple this with disadvantages such as the cassette deck's inclusion in all modes.

To be sure, some people will find the VL-DD10 meets their needs - or just has so much "geek" value that it is a must-have. At the end of the day, though, most users will likely find little of benefit in the component design, and some very obvious disadvantages. Sharp, with a monthly production of 10,000 units, is certainly expecting people to want the 'DD10, but realistically the only benefit that springs to our mind is a drawback for the user. For each unit that Sharp sells, it will grow a captive audience of customers who've locked themselves in when they purchased the device, and who will probably lay down several hundred dollars more for the extra components on top of the already steep ¥160,000 price (US$1,353 ignoring exchange rate fluctuations, taxes and duties) that we've seen mentioned for the base unit.

Sharp VL-DD10 LCD Digital ViewCam
Sharp's VL-DD10 LCD Digital ViewCam in video camera configuration. Courtesy of Sharp Corp.
Product Type Digital video camera with LCD screen
Model VL-DD10
Nickname LCD Digital ViewCam
Format DV system (consumer digital VCR SD format)
Suggested Retail Price Not announced
Monthly Production 10,000 units
Date of Introduction August 8, 2002
Optional Accessories
Suggested Retail Price
Accessory Kit VR-KTD10 ¥25,000 New
Remarks: Contents: VR-BLN8 battery pack, AC power adapter, battery charger, zoom microphone, SD memory card (16MB), video/audio/S-video cable, wireless remote controller, soft cases for main unit and camera units, PC software (CD-ROM), USB cable, etc.
Tuner Unit VR-TUD10 ¥12,000 New
Remarks: TV reception channels: VHF channels 1 to 12, UHF channels 13 to 62
Battery Pack VR-BLN8 ¥8,000 New
Remarks: Lithium-ion battery (740 mAh)
Specifications (when equipped with Video Camera Unit)
Format DV format (consumer digital VCR SD format)
Cassette Used Mini DV cassette
Recording Time SP mode: 60 minutes, LP mode: 90 minutes (using 60-minute cassette)
Rewind / Fast-Forward Time Approx. 180 seconds (using AC power adapter with 60-minute cassette)
Image Sensor 1/4-inch CCD with approx. 680,000 pixels (effective video pixel count: 340,000)
Image Stabilization System CCD pixel culling system

10x power zoom lens, F=1.8, f=3.15 to 31.5 mm

35 mm equivalent: f= 40 to 400 mm

Zoom Speed
2.0 to 10 sec. (when in shooting standby mode)
2.5 to 10 sec. (when shooting)
Minimum Illumination 9 lux
LCD Screen 3.0-inch, 123,200 pixels
Power Consumption 4.2W
Continuous Operating Time Approx. 80 minutes (when using battery included in optional Accessory Kit)
Speaker Output 300 mW
Headphone Jack Stereo mini-jack (3.5 mm diameter)
Video IN/OUT S-Video/composite video (dedicated jack)
Audio IN/OUT Right- and left-channel (dedicated jack)
Digital Video IN/OUT
DV jack (conforms to i. LINK [IEEE 1394])
(available only when using Video Camera Unit)
External dimensions (W x H x D) 141 x 84 x 62.5 mm (5.6" x 3.3" x 2.5")
Main Unit Weight Approx. 505 g (17.8 oz) including hand strap
Operating Weight Approx. 605 g (21.4 oz) with VR-BLN8 battery pack, cassette tape, button battery, lens cap and lens hood
Supply Voltage
DC 10.0V (when using AC power adapter)
DC 7.4V (when using battery)
Specifications (when equipped with Still Camera Unit)
Recording System JPEG (conforms to DCF), compatible with DPOF and Exif 2.2
Recording Medium SD Memory Card, MultiMedia Card
Image Sensor 1/1.8-inch CCD with approx. 4.2 million pixels (effective pixel count: 4 million)
3x power zoom lens, F=2.8, f=7.6 to 22.8 mm
35 mm equivalent: f= 36 to 108 mm
Shooting Distance
Normal mode: 0.7 m to infinity
Macro mode: 0.1 to 0.7 m (wide), 0.3 to 0.7 m (telephoto)
Optical Zoom 3x
Digital Zoom 3x (max. 9x when combined with optical zoom)
LCD Screen 3.0-inch, 123,200 pixels
Sensitivity Auto / ISO100 / ISO200 / ISO400 equivalent
Image Resolution 2448 x 1632, 1824 x 1216, 1200 x 800, 720 x 480
White Balance Auto, outdoor, fluorescent, incandescent
Shooting Modes Full auto, programmed AE, shutter priority, aperture priority, manual, scene adjustment (portrait, souvenir photo, landscape, night view, monochrome, illumination)
Self Timer Provided
Continuous Shooting 1.5 images/second, max. 3 images
Bracketing 3-step shooting in 1/2 EV or 1.0 EV increments
Gamma Bracketing Continuous shooting with suppressed highlights, emphasized dark areas or contrast
Exposure Control Range: ±2.0 EV in 1/2 EV steps
Metering System Center-weighted metering, spot metering
Picture Effects Sepia, cross, soft spot
Flash Auto, forced, red-eye reduction
Power Consumption 5.0W
No. of Continuous Shots 900 images*1
Remote Controller Provided (included in Accessory Kit)
Speaker Output 300 mW*2
Headphone Jack Stereo mini-jack (3.5 mm diameter)*2
Video OUT S-Video / composite video (dedicated jack)
Audio OUT Right- and left-channel (dedicated jack)*2
PC Data Transfer Jack USB 1.1
External Dimensions (W x H x D) 152.2 x 88.5 x 63 mm (6.0" x 3.5" x 2.5")
Main Unit Weight Approx. 560 g (19.8 oz) including hand strap
Operating Weight Approx. 630 g (22.2 oz) with VR-BLN8 battery pack, SD memory card and button battery
Supply Voltage
DC 10.0V (when using AC power adapter)
DC 7.4V (when using battery)
More Photos
Sharp's VL-DD10 LCD Digital ViewCam in video camera configuration, shown with the TV and still camera components. Courtesy of Sharp Corp.
*1 Based on Sharp test. May differ greatly depending on operating conditions.
*2 Available only in VTR playback.

Original Source Press Release:

Sharp Introduces the New VL-DD10 LCD Digital ViewCam

World's First* ViewCam to Offer Three Functions in One: Video Camera, 4-Megapixel Still Camera, and Portable TV
Features a Camera Unit Exchange System

Sharp Corporation announces the introduction into the Japanese market of the VL-DD10 LCD Digital ViewCam, the first video camera of its kind to offer three enjoyable functions in one. Featuring the world's first Camera Unit Exchange System, it allows users to shoot video, take still images and watch TV on the go (with the optional Tuner Unit).

The Video Camera Unit is equipped with a 10x optical zoom lens and high-sensitivity zoom microphone to capture video and audio with stunning clarity. The Still Camera Unit features a 4.2-million-pixel CCD (4 million effective pixels) for taking high-definition photos. And with the optional Tuner Unit, the VL-DD10 becomes a portable TV.

These three units attach to the main unit, which features a large, 3-inch LCD monitor and Sharp's highly rated camera tilt mechanism. Video and stills taken with the VL-DD10 can be viewed right on the spot. Still images are displayed as thumbnails on the LCD screen for easy browsing. Even novices will find the new VL-DD10 easy to use.

The VL-DD10 offers a variety of ways to network with home PCs. Digital video can be transferred using the built-in i.LINK port, while still photos can be downloaded through the USB port or by using an SD Memory Card or MultiMediaCard.

With its three functions of video camera, digital still camera and TV, the VL-DD10 offers an unprecedented range of uses.

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