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Sony Expands HDD Camcorder Commitment

New York — Though hard disk drives represent a small niche in the variegated landscape of camcorder formats, Sony threw its weight behind the new format with the launch of three new HDD models, including the industry’s first 60GB camcorder, at its summer line show, held here on Tuesday.

Sony committed to the HDD format because it recognized that with the birth of Internet video sites like YouTube, consumers were establishing new video habits that were better served by high-capacity HDDs with easy PC-connectivity, said Linda Vuolo, Sony’s camcorder marketing director. The company’s first HDD model, announced at International CES, began shipping in May and its new models will hit store shelves in September.

The 60GB DCR-SR80 can record up to 41 hours of video in long-play mode (3Mbps) or up to 14 hours of footage in high-quality mode (9Mbps). The DCR-SR60 and the DCR-SR40 feature 30GB drives for recording up to 20 hours LP mode or seven hours in high-quality mode.

All three models will be bundled with the Handycam Station that can connect to a PC, TV or Sony’s new DVDirect DVD recorders via USB, A/V and DC-in cables. The dock features a new one-touch DVD burn button to transfer video from the HDD to DVD discs without a PC.

The camcorders also feature Carl Zeiss optics and Sony’s HDD Smart Protection system, which combines shock absorbers, a G-sensor shock protection system and video-stream buffering to help prevent data loss if the cameras are dropped or shaken.

The SR80 will retail for an estimated $800. It will feature a 2.7-inch wide-angle LCD with start, stop and zoom buttons; a 12x optical zoom; a 1-megapixel CCD; and an active interface shoe for attaching accessories.

For $700, the SR60 camcorder offers the same features as the SR80 with a lower capacity hard disk.

Finally, the SR40 will feature a 20x optical zoom, six-hour battery life, and a 2.5-inch (4:3 ratio) touch-screen LCD. It will retail for an estimated $600.

According to The NPD Group, based in Port Washington, N.Y., HDD camcorders comprised roughly 6 percent of the camcorder market through May. Sony’s Vuolo said that she expects that number to reach 10 percent by the end of the year. “It’s not a DVD killer, and it shouldn’t be seen that way,” she added.