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Sony shows smallest HD camcorder yet

'Trump card' in market share grab

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

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 the Tokyo firm. It will launch the HC3 in Japan in March and in other countries from April, hoping the unit will help HD camcorders to capture a larger slice of the digital video camera market in 2006.

Last year HD models accounted for seven percent of all camcorders sold in Japan, according to a Sony estimate. For 2006 the company thinks HD camcorders, a market in which it has the largest 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 today.

At that level it would give HD 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 drive-based models having a 15 percent share in 2006 in Japan.

The HDR-HC3 is 26 percent smaller and lighter than the HC1, thanks to continued miniaturisation of the lens unit and main components. Sony has combined the functions carried out by 11 integrated circuits into three chips, enabling engineers to bring together two main circuit boards and a small audio board from the HC1 into a single circuit board in the HC3. As well as reducing size, this has produced an overall reduction in power consumption.

A standard battery will last for around one hour and 40 minutes in HD video mode using the viewfinder but not the camera's 2.7in widescreen LCD monitor.

The camera uses one of Sony's recently launched ClearVid Cmos image sensors and can take 4Mp (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 – 11 lux, compared with 15 lux for the HC1, Sony said. In front of the sensor is a 10x optical zoom lens.

Also new is an HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) output for watching HD content on a suitable television. The previous model supported HD output on analogue and iLink connectors. Like the last model the HC3 records video in HDV format, which uses conventional MiniDV cassette tapes.

The HDR-HC3 measures 82x78x139mm and weighs 500g. It will go on sale in Japan on 3 March, Sony said. It will cost around ¥160,000 (about £770) in Japan. No prices have been disclosed for overseas markets.

When the HDR-HC1 was announced in Japan in May last year it was priced at ¥180,000 (£870) although it can now be found online for as little as ¥100,000 (£480).


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