Sony shows smallest high-definition camcorder yet

Sony Corp. will start selling in March it's smallest and lightest high-definition camcorder to-date, it said Tuesday.

Sony will soon start selling a new consumer high-definition camcorder, it's smallest and lightest to-date and a model it considers the "trump card" in its envisaged world of high-definition content creation, editing and sharing, the company said Tuesday.

The HDR-HC3 follows on the heels of the company's HC1 model, which was launched in the second half of 2005 and has been selling well in several markets, according to Sony. The Tokyo company will launch the HC3 camera in Japan in March and overseas from April and hopes the unit will mean high-definition camcorders can capture a larger slice of the digital-video camera market in 2006.

Last year high-definition camcorders accounted for 7 percent of all camcorders sold in Japan, according to a Sony estimate. For 2006 the company thinks high-definition camcorders, of which it has the largest market share in Japan, will capture around 20 percent of the domestic market, said Naoya Hatai, general manager of mobile network product marketing group of Sony, at a Tokyo news conference on Tuesday.

At that level it would give high-definition camcorders based on the HDV format a market share equal to standard-definition models based on DV, according to Sony's estimates. The company sees DVD-based camcorders taking a 45 percent share of the market and hard-disk drive-based models having a 15 percent share in 2006 in Japan.

The HDR-HC3 is both 26 percent smaller and lighter than the HC1 thanks to continued miniaturization of the lens unit and main components. Sony has combined the functions carried out by 11 integrated circuits into 3 chips and that's enabled engineers to bring together two main circuit boards and a small audio board from the HC1 into a single circuit board in the HC3. This not only helps reduce size and weight, but there's an overall reduction in power consumption too, said Sony.

A standard battery will last for around 1 hour 40 minutes in high-definition video mode while using the viewfinder and not the camera's 2.7-inch widescreen LCD (liquid crystal display) monitor.

The camera uses one of Sony's recently launched ClearVid CMOS image sensors and can take 4-megapixel class photos even while something is being video recorded. The same sensor is more sensitive than that on the HC1 so the camera can capture video at lower light levels -- down to 11 lux versus 15 lux for the HC1, said Sony. In front of the sensor is a 10X optical zoom lens.

Also new from the previous model is an HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) output, for watching high-definition content on a suitable television. The previous model supported high-definition output on analog and iLink connectors. Like the last model it records video in HDV format, which uses conventional MiniDV cassette tapes.

The HDR-HC3 measures 82 millimeters by 78 mm by 139 mm and weighs 500 grams. It will go on sale in Japan on March 3 and will be available overseas beginning in April, said Sony. It will cost around YEN 160,000 (US$1,354) in Japan and no prices have been disclosed for overseas markets.

When the HDR-HC1 was announced in Japan in May last year it was priced at YEN 180,000 although can now be found online for as cheap as YEN 100,000.

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Martyn Williams

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