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JVC Bows Digital Camera/C’corder Using Hard Drive

JVC unveiled what it called the world’s first “Digital Media Cameras” (DMCs) based on the Microdrive hard-disk drive storage format.

The DMCs, which are hybrid mini digital camcorders and digital still cameras, will be offered in a product family called Everio, which represents “Everytime, Everywhere, Everyone.” The line will launch in October with two models — one featuring a horizontal design, the GZ-MC200 with a $1,299.95 nationally advertised price, and the other using a vertical design, the GZ-MC100 at $1,199.95.

Both units feature an ultra-compact body for easy portability, and will accept SD and CompactFlash solid-state memory formats (both optional) in addition to a supplied removable Hitachi-made 4GB hard-disk clip called a Microdrive. The Microdrive clip is the same size as a CompactFlash card.

Dave Owen, JVC consumer video division general manager, said the new concept was developed to give consumers high image quality in both still photos and videos. He said most digital cameras with video recording capability offer good still images but poor video image quality, due to the limitations of the storage media.

“We think this is the next evolution in camcorders,” said Owen. “We looked at the evolution of portable audio devices, which have gone from analog, to digital to MP3 players with hard disk drives. We think it is now time for that evolution in camcorders.”

MiniDV camcorders offer good video quality, but weaker still-image quality, and they tend to be bigger and more difficult to use when transferring files to PCs and laptops.

Each Microdrive retails separately for $499, but JVC will run a limited-time launch promotion offering a coupon for the purchase of a second 4GB Microdrive for $299.

Owen said the Microdrive solution reduces camcorder body size, offers more storage capacity for video than typical flash-memory cards, and provides easy connectivity to PCs and fast file transfers.

The Microdrive storage clip can be placed in a PC Card adapter for fast connection to most laptop PCs, or the Everios can be connected to PCs or printers through a USB 2.0 connection.

Owen said JVC designed the camcorders with separate focus on recording video and still images, to optimize performance for each application. A 2.12 megapixel CCD is included in each DMC.

Video is said to be comparable to full DV quality, and is recorded in the MPEG 2 format, unlike some competitive mini camcorder/camera hybrids that record in MPEG-4.

Each 4GB Microdrive is capable of storing up to 60 minutes of video recorded in “ultra fine mode” (DVD-quality, 8.5 Mbps), 90 minutes in “fine mode” (5.5 Mbps), 120 minutes in “normal mode” (4.2 Mbps) and 300 minutes in “ECO mode” (1.5 Mbps).

Each Microdrive will also store up to 9,999 UXGA (1,600 by 1,200) shots in standard mode or 5,595 shots in fine mode. Stills can also be captured in SXGA, XGA and VGA sizes.

Owen said JVC’s MPEG-2 approach offers more vivid and detailed resolution than current MPEG-4 or even recordable DVD applications. The latter category can also be difficult to use when transferring files to PC, Owen pointed out.

JVC is bundling with each unit CyberLink DVD Solution software including PowerProducer and PowerDirector Express capture, editing and DVD burning software and PowerDVD playback software.

Both models also support PictBridge, which enables a direct USB connection to a compatible printer for easily making prints directly from the camera.

Still images can be recorded at up to 1,600 by 1,200 pixel (UXGA) resolution, and can be blown up to make 8-inch by 10-inch prints, JVC said.

The lens offers up to 10x optical zoom capability for both video and digital still shots, and is comprised of a nine-group, 11-element glass molded aspherical array.

Owen said JVC will continue to market miniDV camcorders as a lower cost video option, while targeting technology-minded consumers with the new Everio products.