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Sony Expands HDD Camcorder Lineup As It Debuts 60GB Unit

Though hard disk drives represent a small niche in the varied 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, here.

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, camcorder marketing director, Sony. 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 in 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-mega pixel 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, 2.5-inch (4:3 ratio) touch-screen LCD. It will retail for an estimated $600.

According to The NPD Group, HDD camcorders comprised roughly 6 percent of the camcorder market through May. 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.

To compliment the HDD camcorders, Sony added two new DVDirect DVD-recorder models to its line. The VRD-MC3 supports both video and digital photo recording while the VRD-VC30 supports just video. Both multi-format drives can burn DVDs directly from a camcorder via USB or DV interface without a PC. They also feature analog S-video and composite video inputs.

When used with the new HDD Handycams, the drives can automatically detect the camcorder’s newest contents and immediately burn them to DVD.

The recorders also feature PC-free real-time recording of home video footage, digital still images (VRD-MC3) and TV shows from digital video recorders to DVDs. They can also be used to consolidate video recorded on multiple mini DVD discs from DVD camcorders to full-sized DVD media.

The VRD-MC3 features a 2.5-inch color LCD with a wide-view filter and slots for five flash-memory card formats (Memory Stick/Duo, Compact Flash, SD and xD Picture Cards).

When connected to a PC, both recorders can burn DVD+R and DVD-R discs at 16X max speed.

The recorders will ship in October for an estimated $250 for the VRD-MC3 and $200 for the VRD-VC30.