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Panasonic Intros First HD Camcorders

12/07/2006 07:35:00 AM Eastern

New York — Panasonic will ship its first HD camcorders, including the first ever consumer HD model to record to flash memory, in March, the company announced this week.

The HDC-SD1 and DX1 are based on the AVCHD standard Panasonic co-developed with Sony, which allows for recording 1080i video to standard DVDs, flash memory cards and hard disc drives.

The $1,499 SD1 records onto the new SD High Capacity (SDHC) flash memory card while the $1,399 DX1 records to standard 8cm DVD discs. HD video recorded onto those discs can be played back in Panasonic and Sony Blu-ray Disc players and the PS3 but not standard DVD players.

Both of Panasonic’s new camcorders are 3CCD models with optical image stabilization and 12x optical zoom Leica Dicomar lenses. They are the first Panasonic models to offer the ability to record audio in 5.1 channel surround sound thanks to five built-in mics.

A “zoom mic” function ties the camcorder’s audio recording to its optical zoom, allowing the devices’ microphones to zoom in on a distant subject’s audio. They also sport HDMI connections and 3-inch LDC screen.

The SD1can store roughly 1 hour of HD video onto a 4GB SDHC card which will be included with the camcorder, Panasonic said. As higher capacity SDHC cards are introduced – and an 8GB card was just announced by Toshiba – the SD1 will be able to offer more generous storage, said Rudy Vitti, national marketing manager, Panasonic.

The larger SDHC cards make for a better solution than hard disc drives, Vitti said, because they are smaller in size and don’t include moveable parts. “A hard disc drive was not meant to be mobile,” he said. Still, the company was examining the HDD camcorder market thanks to the uptick in consumer demand.

HDC-DX1 model provides about 40 minutes of High Definition recording on a dual-layer DVD-R disc.

Sony was first to market with two AVCHD based camcorders, but competition is gearing up. Hitachi is reportedly considering an AVCHD model or similar technology for its forthcoming HD camcorder alongside a Blu-ray Disc camcorder.

“Our development teams are studying the feasibility of a Blu-ray disc camcorder,” Vitti said, noting that since the AVCHD format was compatible with Blu-ray, the former would not be made obsolete with the advent of Blu-ray disc camcorders.

A lot is riding on the emergence of HD camcorders. “We hope, and it is our expectation, that HD will really bring some excitement to this market,” Vitti said. By 2008, close to 40 percent of the company’s video recorders would be high definition, he said.

“It’s the killer app for home video.”