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HD, HDD Drive ’07 Camcorder Features

While consumers scramble to buy flat-panel TVs, iPods and digital cameras in record-breaking numbers, the camcorder market drifts along — even as cutting-edge technologies such as hard-disk drive high-definition home video recording becomes more affordable.

“We are estimating 4.5 million camcorders shipped last year, with another 4.4 million in 2007,” said Sean Wargo, CEA’s industry analysis director.

Despite the numbers, the category will see plenty of innovation in 2007, led by the top six manufacturers. The following is a glance at new products planned for International CES introductions:

Sony will unveil four hard-disk-drive (HDD) models that ship in March, four DVD camcorders that arrive in February, three mini DVs, two HDV camcorders and a pair of DVD-based AVCHD models. The AVCHD HDD model (HDR-SR1) continues.

It will also continue to offer one analog Hi8 model and one Digital8 model at prices of $229 and $240, respectively.

Sony is also dropping the cost of entry for high-definition to $1,200 on the HDV-based HDR-HC5. It has a 2.1-megapixel ClearVid CMOS sensor, and 10x Carl Zeiss zoom. The step-up HDR-HC7 ($1,400) uses a 3.2-megapixel sensor, optical image stabilization (OIS) and takes 6.1-megapixel stills — one of the first camcorders at that level.

The DCR-SR42 is Sony’s entry HDD model ($600). It has a compact design, a 40x optical zoom lens, a 30GB HDD and a memory card slot. The DCR-SR82 ($750) has a 60GB HDD, a 1-megapixel CCD and 25x optical zoom. The DCR-SR200 ($850) has a 40GB HDD, a 2.1-megapixel CMOS sensor, a 10x optical zoom and 5.1-channel surround recording with a built-in mike.

The DCR-SR300 ($1,000) has a 40GB drive and adds a 3.2-megapixel sensor, 6.1-megapixel still capability and optical image stabilization (OIS).

The HDR-UX5 AVCHD DVD camcorder ($1,100) has a 2-megapixel CMOS sensor, takes 4-megapixel stills, has a 10x zoom and records 5.1-channel surround. The HDR-UX7 ($1,300) adds a 3-megapixel CMOS sensor, 6.1-megapixel stills, OIS, 10x optical zoom and 3.5-inch widescreen LCD.

The standard-definition DVD lineup starts with the DCR-DVD108 ($450) featuring a 40x optical zoom, and compatibility with DVD-R/+R/-RW/+R DL discs. The DCR-DVD308 ($550) adds a 1M-megapixel CCD, a 25x optical zoom and 5.1-channel surround.

The DCR-DVD408 has a 2-megapixel CMOS sensor, takes 4-megapixel stills, and adds an improved LCD monitor while the DCR-DVD508 ($900) adds a 3-megapixel CMOS sensor, 6.1-megapixel stills and OIS.

The entry-level mini DV DCR-HC28 ($279) features a 20x optical zoom and a 680,000-pixel CCD. The DCR-HC38 ($329) jumps to 40x optical zoom while the DCR-HC48 ($399) adds a 1-megapixel CCD and features a 25x optical zoom. The DCR-HC96 remains in the line.

Canon is making a big push in SD-quality DVD camcorders in 2007. All are –R dual layer, have 35x zoom lenses and will ship in the first quarter. The DC210 ($399 suggested retail) has a 680,000 pixel imager while the DC220 ($449) adds a miniSD slot, USB out and PictBridge capability. The $499 DC230 moves to a 1.07-megapixel CCD and a remote.

The DC40 is being replaced by the DC50 ($799). Although similar, it jumps to 5.38-megapixel stills from 4-megapixel. It has the DIGIC DV II processor designed for high definition plus it has optical image stabilization.

Canon entered the consumer sector of the high-definition market in 2006 with the HDV HV10 for $1,299 but Canon still sees it as an early adopter product. No new HD models are planned for CES.

Canon is still in the mini DV category with ZR series models the last survivors. New models arrive in late January and all have 35x optical zooms (compared to 25x last year). The ZR800 ($279 suggested retail) offers a 680,000 imager, a 2.7-inch 16:9 viewfinder and the high resolution recording mode for widescreen videos. The ZR830 ($299) adds an SD/SDHC slot while the ZR850 has a 1-megapixel imager and an LED light for $349.

Hitachi, for the past several years, has shunned tape formats, concentrating on DVD-based models; 2007 is no different, said product manager Jeff Fochtman. He reported DVD was very close to 36 percent of the total market and by December it could be in the low 40s.

At CES Hitachi is introducing a pair of hybrid DVD/HDD camcorders, enabling users to burn to DVD right in the camcorder without a PC. The DZ-HS300A has an 8GB HDD that records up to 3 hours in fine quality on the drive and consumers can make dupes directly to the built-in DVD drive. It features DVD-RAM, -R-/RW and +RW formats plus there’s an SD slot for photos. It’s due in January for a $599 suggested retail. The DZ-HS500 has a 30GB drive and is due in April at $799.

Hitachi will have two multiformat DVD camcorders with 30x optical zooms (up from 25x), starting at a $349 suggested retail price for the DZ-GX5020A. The DZ-GX5080A will add a USB port for ($449).

For HD models Hitachi continues with previously announced AVHD products, but is planning to offer products based on the Blu-ray Disc format in the near future, Fochtman said.

JVC will make hybrids and high definition its key camcorder buzzwords in 2007, said Dave Owen, JVC consumer video division VP. “You’ll see a strong emphasis by manufacturers in both areas,” he predicted.

This year the first HD Everio arrives and it’s capable of recording 1,920 by 1,080p full HD video using the MPEG-2 format.

The GZ-HD7US ($1,699 suggested retail) has a 10x Fujinon lens, optical image stabilization, three CCDs and digital still capability. It can also record in 1,440 by 1,080 resolution, making it compatible with readily-available HDV software. Cyberlink Blu-ray authoring software will be included with the GZ-HD7US to handle full HD.

At the same time, JVC is refreshing the entire Everio standard-definition line in January, introducing a lower opening price point.

The $499 GZ-MG130 has a 34x optical zoom, a 2.7-inch widescreen LCD and a 680K CCD. The $599 GZ-MG155 has a 1-megapixel CCD, 32x optical zoom, USB and 1394 outs. The GZ-MG255 ($699) gets a 2-megapixel CCD and an F1.2 10x optical zoom. The $899 GZ-MG555 takes 5-megapixel stills (without interpolation) using a 1.07-megapixel CCD. It also has a flash and LED light.

JVC will also have three mini DV models: the $249 GR-D750US with 34x zoom and a 2.7-inch LCD; the GR-D770US adds a card slot and light for $279 while the GR-D796US ($349) is supplied with two batteries for four hours total power.

Panasonic will add optical image stabilization throughout its camcorder line this year, and is introducing two AVCHD-based high-definition models. The HDC-DX1 uses DVD media and dual layer –R blanks for 40 minutes of 1,080i HD recording. The HDC-SD1 is a smaller, SD memory card-based AVCHD camcorder. The pair has three CCDs, Leica lenses, HDMI out and EasySync with Panasonic home theater products. Both camcorders arrive in March and have $1,399 and $1,499 suggested retails, respectively. The HDC-SD1 comes bundled with a 4GB SD card.

Panasonic is also introducing SD hybrids — featuring HDDs and SDHC slots — so if a consumer fills the 30GB drive they can slip in an 8GB Class 4 card for additional capacity. The SDR-H20 has a single CCD while the SDR-H200 features three. They have one-button automatic transfer to DVD via the PC.

The company is cutting back its mini DV assortment to three — all with OIS. Pricing and details will be released at the show.

Samsung is unveiling seven camcorders at CES — and only one uses tape. Other media formats include DVD, a HDD/DVD/SD hybrid and SD cards (supported in three models). Shipping in March at a $249 suggested retail is the mini DV-based SC-D372. It has a 34x optical zoom, a built-in light and a 2.7-inch widescreen LCD. Samsung’s SC-DC173 DVD camcorder will ship in April at $349, and records to the —R/-RW/+RW and DL +R discs. It too has a 34x optical zoom. The step-up SC-DC575 ships in May at $429 and has a 1-megapixel CCD, a 26x zoom, a light and an SD card slot. A summer arrival is the SC-DX10 hybrid that records to either a 4GB HDD, DVD discs or SD cards. It has a 26x zoom, a 1-megapixel imager and Easy DVD Burning software.

The company will add Sports Camcorders that use the DiVX format. The SC-X300, which is due in February at $349, has a 10x optical zoom, a 2-inch LCD and records to SD cards; it also plays up to four hours of MP3s.

The SC-MX10 Micro Camcorder, which is due in September at $299, has a 34x zoom, a 2.7-inch LCD and records to SD memory. Also planned is a high-definition version of the Micro, which is expected in September at $799. It has 4GB of built-in flash memory and an SD slot.