Sony, Panasonic show consumer 4K camcorders

Sony plans to start selling its 4K camcorder in October

Panasonic's prototype 4K camcorder on show at IFA 2013

Panasonic's prototype 4K camcorder on show at IFA 2013

Sony is set to become the first company to offer a consumer-grade camcorder that shoots at four times the detail of today's best high-definition images.

In October, the company plans to begin selling its Handycam FDR-AX1, which supports the new 4K Ultra HD standard. Television sets with screens that can show 4K images are also just beginning to appear on the market as the industry pushes hard to make 4K the next big thing in video.

A 4K picture has a resolution of 3,840 pixels by 2,160 pixels, double the horizontal and vertical resolution of a "full HD" image. For consumers, that means the potential for even finer detail and a better, sharper picture.

In a demonstration at the IFA electronics expo in Berlin, visitors were able to try out one of the cameras. The output from the camera was displayed on a 4K monitor and enabled visitors to see great detail, even when fully zoomed.

The Handycam FDR-AX1 will cost around US$4,500. To be sure, that's expensive but not perhaps as by as much as it first appears. Prices for equivalent Sony high-end consumer or professional camcorders that shoot in high-definition range from $2,800 to $6,000.

The first version of the camera will record in XAVC S, a Sony-developed format based on MPEG4 AVC/H.264. The industry standard AVCHD format used by most consumer camcorders doesn't yet support 4K, but an update is expected in mid-2014, according to Sony.

And if you're wondering how to watch the footage recorded on the camcorder, it has an HDMI 2.0 connector for hooking up to compatible TVs. HDMI 2.0 was just announced and is the first version of the HDMI format to support 4K in full quality.

The camcorder was first seen in January at the CES show in Las Vegas, where it was displayed as a prototype. At this week's IFA in Berlin, fellow Japanese electronics company Panasonic is showing a prototype of its first 4K camcorder.

The company offered no details on when it would be available and didn't allow visitors to handle the device themselves.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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