Panasonic to Launch SD-Based HD Camcorder

Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic) will begin selling two new high-definition camcorders in December, based on the recently developed AVCHD format, it said Wednesday.

One of the cameras, the HDC-SD1, records images onto a secure digital (SD) memory card so users don’t have to worry about blank tapes or discs. The camera, which was unveiled in prototype form at October’s Ceatec show, can store about 90 minutes of video on a 4GB memory card at 6Mbps bit rate. Such cards can be purchased for about US$200, according to PCWorld.com’s online price comparison service.

The second of the two cameras, the HDC-DX1, records onto 8-centimeter DVD-RAM/-R/-RW and DVD-R double-layer discs. A dual-layer disc can store up to an hour of video, according to Panasonic.

Both cameras record at 1080i (1,080 horizontal lines, interlaced scanning), which is just below the 1080p (progressive scanning) system judged to be the highest of several video quality levels that fall within the high-definition bracket. They also both have 3CCD (charge coupled device) sensors behind the lens—one each for red, blue and green—to provide a better picture than models with a single image sensor.

AVCHD was developed by Panasonic and Sony to overcome a current technology hurdle. Conventional DVDs don’t support high-definition video, but the new HD-DVD and Blu-ray Disc optical disc formats are not yet mature enough for use in camcorders. AVCHD allows high-definition video to be stored on DVD with minimal impact on the system. DVD drives will still accept the discs, but players or computers will need suitable software to play the video.

The HDC-SD1 will go on sale in Japan on Dec. 1 and is the more expensive of the two cameras. It will cost 180,000 yen (US$1,527) with a bundled 4GB card. The HDC-DX1 will hit stores two weeks later and will cost 160,000 yen. The memory card camera is small, measuring 74 by 69 by 142 millimeters, and weighs 430 grams, excluding the battery. The DVD camera measures 92 by 91 by 163 millimeters and weighs 680 grams.

Panasonic intends to produce 20,000 units of the SD camera per month and 15,000 units of the DVD model per month, it said.

Overseas launch plans have not been announced.

-Martyn Williams, IDG News Service (Tokyo Bureau)

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