March 28, 2007

Panasonic’s New Camcorders

The rapid growth in flat panel TV sales (both Plasma and LCD) is the driving force behind next generation high definition AV technology like Blue-Ray, HD-DVD and Digital TV. The next line of consumer electronics to receive the HD treatment is the humble camcorder. With the release of the Panasonic HDC-DX1 and HDC-SD1 high definition video recording has just landed in Australia.

The HDC-SD1 ($2419) is the first and smallest HD camcorder on the market to take advantage of SD card technology instead of tape or hard drive. You can record up to 90 minutes of high definition footage on a standard 4Gb card (included). Panasonic expect SD cards to reach capacities of up to 32Gb within 2 years. That means potential recording times of up to 12 hours on card. The HDC-SD1 also has a 1.7 second quick start mode so you won’t miss action.

The DX1 ($2199) is the SD1’s bigger brother that records on to mini-DVD discs. DVD camcorders are super-popular with consumers, mainly because the content can be easily viewed on a regular DVD player. The catch with the DX1 however is that footage is recorded in HD so you’ll need to upgrade to a new Blue-Ray DVD player before you can watch any of your recordings. Try putting a mini-HD DVD into your regular player and you’ll be disappointed.

Both new HD cameras use the new AVCHD format (a format jointly developed by Panasonic and Sony). AVCHD uses an MPEG-4 codec for video compression and a Dolby Digital for sound and enables high picture and sound quality in compact sizes units.

While not the first to market with a consumer line of HD camcorders (Sony has had models available for over 12 months now) Panasonic is leading the way by integrating it’s award winning technologies like Optical Image Stabiliser (OIS), 3CCD and Dolby 5.1 Channel surround sound to both new HD camcorders.

When shooting in HD a small .3mm hand shake can result in up to 50mm shake when viewed on a 50” flat panel screen. That’s why OIS is critical. OIS minimises the hand-shake effect and is extremely effective in situations where slight movements are notable, especially in zoom conditions. The OIS system is optical, so you won’t lose picture quality when it’s turned on.

Like professional quality cameras Panasonic have adopted the 3CCD system in the DX1 and SD1. 3 CCD technology excels at processing light information and according to Panasonic results in better picture quality. It works by breaking light up into its component parts (red green and blue). Both new cameras also come standard with Leica lens that helps reproduce HD images in accurate colour.

Along with the HD models Panasonic has also refreshed its camcorder line up by adding the SDR-H250 ($1319) and SDR-H20 ($989). Both models have internal 30GB hard drives that will give you up to 27 hours of recording in LP mode. Like the HD models OIS image stabilisation and Leica lens are standard.

The quality of the picture on both new HD cameras is simply superb. Colour reproduction is accurate and sound equally good. Both cameras come standard with HDMI (High Definition Media Interface) which means one cable transmits both the audio and video signal to your flat screen TV. They also come with a USB connector to allow downloading the movie on to your computer.

SD technology is the future. With fewer moving parts and smaller cameras on the horizon Panasonic have taken a brave step into the future. While the SD1 is a revolutionary new camera it will take more time for SD card pricing to become as cheap and ubiquitous as DV tapes. In the meantime you’ll be able to enjoy near perfect picture quality on your flat screen TV today.