Hitachi first with Blu-ray camcorder

Hitachi looks like it will be first to market with a digital video camcorder based on Blu-ray Disc. The company plans to launch on in Japan this month.

Japan's Hitachi looks like it will be first to market with a digital video camcorder based on Blu-ray Disc. The company said earlier this month that it will put two such cameras on sale at the end of this month in Japan and later this year in North America.

The cameras will use a new variety of Blu-ray Disc that is 8 centimeters in diameter. Hitachi Maxell said it will put the 7.5G-byte discs on sale in August. The DZ-BD70 will be based solely on the discs and the DZ-BD7H is a hybrid model with 30G-byte hard disk drive.

A single-sided recordable (BD-R) or rewritable (BD-RE) disc can store about an hour of footage shot in full high-definition quality (1,920 pixels by 1,080 pixels), said Hitachi. The hybrid model can store an additional four hours of high-definition video on its hard-disk drive. The Blu-ray Disc recording uses the MPEG4 AVC/H.264 compression system and the cameras can also record standard definition MPEG2 video to 8cm DVD discs.

One-touch dubbing on the hybrid model facilitates easy transfer to Blu-ray Disc and a built-in transcoder can also record stored high-definition video in standard definition on a DVD.

The cameras have a 10X optical zoom lens, a 2.7-inch widescreen LCD (liquid crystal display) monitor and a viewfinder. In addition to the video function the cameras can also be used to take still images at up to 4.3 megapixel resolution (2,400 pixels by 1,800 pixels).

Hitachi plans to launch both cameras in Japan on August 30. Hitachi hasn't fixed a price in Japan but they are already being advertised online for YEN 162,000 (AU$1,730) for the DZ-BD70 and YEN 185,000 for the DZ-BD7H. They will be available in North America in October and will cost US$1,299 and US$1,499 respectively. There has been no mention of an Australian release.

The new cameras increase the number of media options consumers face when shopping for a high-definition camcorder. Already on sale are cameras that use either HDV tape, DVD disc, hard-disk recording or memory card recording.

Camcorder makers are fast developing high-definition models to match the fast growth of HDTV in many countries.

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