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Sony Unveils New HD Camcorders

New York — Sony announced two new 1,080i high-definition Handycam camcorders at its line show, held here on Tuesday.

One model is capable of recording an hour of HD video onto standard dual -ayer 8cm DVD discs; the other can record up to four hours of HD video onto its 30GB hard disk drive.

The new high-definition Handycams are the first models based on the recently announced AVCHD specification, jointly developed by Sony and Panasonic, for recording HD video and Dolby Digital Surround Sound onto standard 8cm DVDs, flash-memory cards and HDDs.

The HDR-UX1 will ship in September for an estimated $1400. It can record up to an hour of HD content in LP mode to dual-layer, 3-inch DVDs. When video is recorded in HD mode, these discs can be played in any Sony or Panasonic Blu-ray Disc player or the forthcoming PlayStation 3.

Pioneer, Samsung and Sharp have also expressed their support for the new format, but Sony said only Panasonic and Sony Blu-ray Disc players can currently support AVCHD playback.

The UX1 can also record standard-definition video to DVD, which is capable of being played back on traditional DVD players. If a user records in HD, however, standard DVD players will be unable to read the disc.

The company also introduced the first HDD-based HD camcorder in the HDR-SR1, which offers a 30GB hard drive capable of storing 10 hours of HD content in LP mode or four hours of higher quality video. It will ship in October for an estimated $1,500.

Both camcorders offer HDMI ports for connecting directly to HDTVs and will ship with software that will allow compatible computers with DVD drives to play and burn AVCHD content. The camcorders also feature Carl Zeiss optics, 4-megapixel still-image capture, a 3.5-inch LCD touch screen and a dual record function for snapping 2.3-megapixel stills while recording video.

The AVCHD format is not a “stop gap” measure to bridge the gap before the availability of a Blu-ray Disc camcorder, said Linda Vuolo, Sony’s camcorder marketing director. “These devices are complimentary to Blu-ray.” She added that the Blu-ray format had many features, such as copy protection, which were unnecessary for consumer video making. Blu-ray’s voracious power consumption and its sensitive blue laser imposed other burdens that were side-stepped by AVCHD, she said.

While not ruling out the possibility of a future Blu-ray camcorder, Vuolo said that AVCHD was created to be the HD specification for consumer camcorders.

The decision to record HD at 1,080i resolution was another concession to the difference between consumer video and prerecorded video needs, Vuolo said. HD at 1,080p would consume too much space on DVDs and hard disks, she said.

“Sony sees 1,080 as the full HD experience. The product will determine whether interlaced or progressive scan will be more appropriate,” Vuolo said.