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HD, Flash Memory Dominate Camcorder Introductions

Camcorder makers are focusing on high definition and solid state recording, particularly to flash memory, at International CES.

Though DVD camcorders have reached near unit sales parity with miniDV (which has dropped market share significantly since 2006), it is the solid-state (flash memory) camcorders which are growing the fastest, according to The NPD Group. Through September, solid-state camcorders made up a quarter of all unit sales vs. roughly 9 percent during the same period in 2006.

Here’s a sample of manufacturers’ 2008 camcorder offerings that will be launching at the show:

Canon will introduce its first flash-memory-based camcorders, including models with embedded flash storage, and the new Vixia brand for its consumer high-definition models at International CES.

The firm will also introduce several new camcorder technologies, including an advanced zoom feature for its standard-definition models, which boosts the optical power of its camcorders without reducing the video’s resolution like a digital zoom. With advanced zoom, the lens is always moving and the DIGIC processing is scaling the resolution so video can be recorded without image degradation, said Mitchell Glick, product marketing assistant manager, Canon.

Canon will also debut an info-lithium battery on all of its flash-memory-based camcorders to provide users with a real-time alert as to remaining battery life. A new soft video light, available on its new miniDV and standard-definition DVD camcorders, transforms a unit’s LCD into a video light.

The company will have SDHC-based camcorders for both standard- and high-definition recording. There will be three standard-definition flash models and two HD (AVCHD format) camcorders.

The HF10 and HF100 both will be AVCHD models capable of capturing video in 1,920 by 1080i thanks to a new 3.3-megapixel CMOS sensor. They will feature a new 12x optical zoom, Canon’s instant autofocus system, optical image stabilization, 24p cinema mode recording, 30p video recording for Web use, and a 2.7-inch multi-angle LCD. They will also employ Canon’s DIGIC DV II processing engine.

The HF10 features 16GB of internal flash memory and an SDHC slot, the HF100 records only to SD cards.

The company will update its HDV camcorder with the new 3 CCD, HV30. It sports a 10x optical zoom, the new soft video light feature and a new 30p progressive capture mode for Web-friendly footage. It will ship in mid-February.

JVC will refresh its hard-disk-drive-based Everio camcorders at International CES, offering microSD card slots in each unit and slimming down the designs.

The new standard-definition models will feature 30GB hard discs and will be 20 percent smaller than the firm’s 2007 entry-level piece, according to JVC. They will also use a 1.8 aperture Konica Minolta lens.

The entry level GZ-MG330 will be available in black, silver, blue and red. It will include a new touch-sensitive control on the side of the LCD screen for selecting menu items and offer a 35x optical zoom lens. The top-of-the-line GZ-MG730 will use a 7.2-megapixel CCD and includes manual recording functions.

Panasonic will launch a pair of camcorders capable of recording in 1080p resolution to SDHC memory cards.

The HDC-SD9 is an AVCHD format camcorder that records to SDHC memory cards. The SD9 offers 1,920 by 1080p video recording, 3 CCD technology and a 2.7-inch LCD screen. The SD9 will incorporate face-detection technology and a new intelligent shooting navigation mode, which alerts users when a scene is missed (either by being too dark, too blurry or passed over in quick panning) and offers several corrective remedies.

The SD9 will also offer a prerecording feature to save video to buffer memory 3 seconds before actual recording starts and 5.1 channel surround sound recording through five built-in microphones. It will ship in March for a suggested $799.

The company will offer an SD/HDD hybrid model, the HDC-HS9 (March, $1099), which combines a 60GB hard disk drive and SDHC card slot for storage. The AVCHD camcorder records video at 1920 by 1080p and shares the feature set of the SD9 but with SD-to-HDD recording capability.

Panasonic will also add a pair of HDD models. The SDR-H60 (May, $549) will sport a 50x optical zoom lens, a 60GB HDD, advanced optical image stabilization (OIS), USB host and a 2.7-inch LCD. The H40 (January, $449) will include a 40GB HDD and a 42x optical zoom lens.

Samsung’s new SC-HMX20c is an AVCHD camcorder that offers 1,920 by 1080p recording at 30 fps or 60 fps to 8GB of internal flash memory and optional SDHC memory cards.

The camcorder will feature an HDMI input/out, a 2.7-inch touchscreen LCD and a 6.4-megapixel CMOS sensor capable of recording 4-megapixel still images. The HMX20c offers a 300 fps slow-motion recording mode to capture up to 10 seconds of slow motion video. It also offers a 10x optical zoom lens and a dedicated “iCheck” button for monitoring available memory capacity and remaining battery life. It will ship in March for a suggested $999.

Sony will debut several new technologies in its 2008 line, including facial detection for still and video capture, dual recording on select models to Memory Stick flash memory, and hybrid models with 8GB of built-in flash and DVD recording capability.

In high definition, the company will introduce five models. The HDR-SR10 (February, $999) features a 1,920 by 1,080 recording to a 40GB drive. It offers a 4-megapixel sensor, x.v.Color, 5.1 surround-sound recording and a 15x zoom with Super SteadyShot. The HDR-SR11, for $1,199, boasts a 60GB drive, 10-megapixel sensor, face detection, a 12x zoom and 3.2-inch LCD. The SR12, for $1399, builds off the SR11 by adding a 120GB HDD and Bravia Sync technology.

In AVCHD DVD models, the HDR-UX10 (February, $799) will feature a 4-megapixel sensor, 1,920 by 1,080 recording, x.v.Color, face detection, a 15x optical zoom and dual-recording onto Memory Stick media. The UX20, for $999, is also due in February and builds of the UX10 by adding 8GB of internal memory and a one-touch dubbing button.

Sony will also launch an HDV model, the 6-megapixel HDR-HC9, due in January for $1,099. It offers x.v.Color, a 10x optical zoom and a 2.7-inch LCD.

In hard drive/Memory Stick models, the entry-level DCR-SR45 boasts a 30GB drive, a 40x optical zoom lens and a 2.7-inch LCD for a suggested $499. The 1-megapixel SR65 will feature a 40GB HDD, a 25x zoom with Super SteadyShot and will retail for $599. The DCR-SR85 (January, $699) offers a 60GB drive, 1-megapixel resolution, a 25x optical zoom with Super SteadyShot and a 2.7-inch LCD. Building off that is the SR220 for $849. It features a 4-megapixel sensor, face detection, a 15x optical zoom with Super SteadyShot and a zoom mike function.