Panasonic ups the image quality on its HD camcorder

Panasonic will replace two of its high-definition camcorders with higher-resolution models, just four months after it put the original ones on the market

Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic) will replace two of its high-definition camcorders with higher-resolution models, just four months after it put the original ones on the market.

The SD card-based HDC-SD3 and DVD-based HDC-DX3 will capture video at 1,920 pixels by 1,080 pixels in their highest quality mode, Panasonic said Tuesday. That compares to 1,440 pixels by 1,080 pixels resolution on the two previous cameras, the SD1 and DX1.

Panasonic is increasing the video compression so it can store the same amount of video on an SD card or DVD disc despite the higher resolution. A 4G-byte SD card will hold about 40 minutes of top-quality video while an 8-centimeter DVD can hold 14 minutes per side.

The SD card recording time can be expanded with higher capacity cards. Toshiba has just put on sale a model with 8G bytes of space and the high-speed transfer interface needed to record video at 13M bps (bits per second).

Sony and Panasonic developed the AVCHD format to fill a technological gap: the DVD format isn't designed for HD video, but HD physical media such as Blu-ray aren't mature enough yet for use in camcorders. Discs recorded in AVCHD format won't play on standard DVD players, although some may be able to play them with a firmware upgrade. On PCs, special software players are needed to read AVCHD files from the discs or SD cards.

The cameras also offer two lower quality video modes, the 9M-bps HN mode and 6M-bps HE mode. The resolution of these modes is unchanged from the previous camera models, at 1,440 pixels by 1,080 pixels.

In many other respects the SD card-based HDC-SD3 and DVD-based HDC-DX3 cameras are little changed from the earlier HDC-SD1 and HDC-DX1 models. The previous cameras went on sale in Japan in December and the new models will be available from April 25.

Panasonic doesn't have any plans at present to sell them overseas.

An additional bonus for consumers comes with lower prices. The HDC-SD3 will cost around YEN 150,000 (US$1,275) and the HDC-DX3 will cost about YEN 140,000. That's YEN 30,000 and YEN 20,000 respectively cheaper than the previous models.

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