Panasonic will ship its first HD camcorders, including an HD model that records to flash memory, in March, the company announced last night.
The HDC-SD1 and DX1 are based on the Panasonic co-developed with Sony, which allows for recording 1,080i video to standard DVDs, flash-memory cards and hard disk 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 the ability to record audio in 5.1 channel surround sound thanks to five built-in microphones.
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.
The camcorders employ Leica Dicomar optics and offer HDMI connections and 3-inch LCD screens.
The SD1can store roughly 1 hour of HD video onto a 4GB SDHC card which will be included with the camcorder, Panasonic said.
HDC-DX1 provides about 40 minutes of high-definition recording on a dual-layer DVD-R disc.
Sony was first to market with an AVCHD camcorder, but competition is gearing up. Hitachi is reportedly an AVCHD model or similar technology for its forthcoming HD camcorder.