It's been a good while since Olympus added to its LS-series of portable audio recorders, but it looks like it was worth the wait. In a company first, the forthcoming release of the LS-20M will see the marriage of full 1080p high definition video capture with 24-bit/96kHz Linear PCM stereo audio. Unlike many pocket-camcorders and similar products like the Zoom Q3, the design sees the autofocus lens positioned between two microphones on the top of the unit at a right angle to the 2-inch color screen on the front.

The new Olympus LS-20M Linear PCM recorder includes voice-activation technology that automatically starts recording when a pre-determined level is reached. Audio is captured as either 16-bit/44.1kHz or 24-bit/96kHz Linear PCM (WAV), or either 256kbps or 320kbps MP3, and is recorded to SD/SDHC media. Unwanted background noise is dealt with by a switchable low-cut filter, and on-the-fly monitoring can be undertaken via the built-in dynamic speaker or headphone jack.

Olympus has chosen to position the 4.1mm (16:9 at 49mm, 4:3 at 59mm) autofocus, 4x digital zoom lens at the top of the pocket-sized (5.3 x 2.5 x 0.7-inches/134.7 x 62.8 x 18.2 mm) device, between the two condenser microphones. While on one hand it seems to make sense to have the camera and microphone pointing in the same direction, it does put the color LCD display used for preview and playback, and the 1.46-inch LCD data screen which displays useful info such as audio levels and remaining battery life, on the front of the device at 90 degrees to the lens.

Numerous control buttons are situated underneath the displays to the front, including a record button which illuminates when activated. There's also a thumb panel to the side for settings adjustment while recording.

The LS-20M features a 0.25-inch 5 megapixel CMOS sensor, is said to be capable of shooting in low light and of grabbing close-ups, has a capture rate of 30 frames per second for the three video format settings offered, and records output to MOV video format. Users can connect the handheld recorder to a computer via USB 2.0, and the inclusion of an HDMI-out port caters for content viewing on a big screen TV.

A set of creativity filters called Magic Movie has been included, offering would-be music video directors a pop mode to super-saturate the scene for instant pop-art or a rock setting for deep blacks and bold colors. Fans of A Scanner Darkly might want to transform their movies into pencil animations with the sketch effect, while the pinhole setting can darken the outside edges of the frame for through-the-keyhole-type scenes.

Similarly specced to Zoom's Q3HD handy video recorder, Olympus says that the LS-20M is set for a June release and has been given an estimated price of US$299.99. It will be shipped with a 2GB SD card, rechargeable Li-ion battery and USB cable. An optional RS-30W wireless remote is also available.