Panasonic adds six new HD camcorders

Unveils additions to camcorder lineup at CES.

Besides the new ultracompact camcorders and 70X optical-zoom standard-definition models that were also announced at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas Wednesday, Panasonic unveiled six new high-definition camcorders as part of its 2009 lineup--three high-end and three entry-level models.

On the high end, Panasonic announced two new hard-drive models, the HDC-HS300 and HDC-HS250.

Each have 120GB hard drives that hold up to 50 hours of footage at the lowest-quality setting. The HDC-HS300 (US$1400, available in April) offers manual controls, an electronic viewfinder, and the ability to add an external microphone, while the HDC-HS250 ($1000, also available in April) is a slimmed-down version that offers none of those options.

Also new to the Panasonic high-definition camcorder line is the HDC-TM300 ($1300, available in April), which records to both a 32GB solid-state drive and a user-supplied SDHC/SD card. Panasonic says the 32GB of on-board storage translates to 12 hours of footage at its lowest-quality setting.

Panasonic is touting the HDC-HS300, HDC-HS250, and HDC-TM300 as excellent low-light performers, and claims the new high-def camcorders have the highest pixel count of any consumer camcorder. The three new models capture 10.6-megapixel images when shooting stills and can save 8.3-megapixel still images while shooting video. Each new model features Panasonic's Intelligent Auto mode for automatically optimizing footage based on shooting conditions, touch-screen-controlled subject tracking and autofocus, and optical image stabilization.

Also new to Panasonic's HD camcorder line are the new entry-level models: the HDC-HS20 ($800), which records to both an 80GB hard drive and an SD/SDHC card; the HDC-TM20 ($650) records to a 16GB solid-state drive and SD/SDHC card; and the HDC-SD20 ($600), which records to SD/SDHC cards only. All three models will be available in April.

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