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Sony 3-chip HD camera

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Original link: http://www.cinematography.com/index.asp?newsID=145


Cinematography.com has posted this news article about a new Sony 3-chip HDV camcorder for under $5000 (not out yet):




Sony Displays 3 CCD HDV Prosumer Camcorder

By: Robin Liss / camcorderinfo.com




Sony Europe has announced in a press release that they will be displaying a high definition HDV prosumer concept camcorder at the CeBiT technology show in Hanover Germany. Although very few details are available on the new camcorder, pictures of the product provided by Sony do show that it has 3 CCDs. The announcement of a 3 CCD consumer / prosumer HD under $5,000 camcorder is major news for the industry.


"This is the biggest news in the camcorder industry since MiniDV came out. No one will question Sony's dominance in the camcorder industry, and their announcement of a 3 CCD HD camcorder for the prosumer market will certainly shift industry dynamics. If this camcorder performs like Sony's past models, it will certainly be a hit seller," said Lazer Wertzberger, Camcorder Buyer for B&H Photo Video.


Although JVC was the first company to announce a consumer HD camcorder with their GR-HD1 at the 2003 Consumer Electronics Show, the GR-HD1 only had one CCD. Although the JVC model was revolutionary in that it was the first consumer HD camcorder, it was not widely adopted because of it's weaknesses in control and low light performance and possibly consumers apprehensions about buying the first generation of a new format. It is worth noting that JVC was very honest with consumers about this being a first generation. If the new Sony HD model does have three CCDs it has the potential to be the first widely adopted consumer or prosumer HD camcorder for under $5,000.


Jean-Baptiste Duprieu, Public Relations Coordinator for Sony Europe, would not comment on the camcorder besides saying that "It is our goal to standardize the HDV format across the industry."


Rosemary Flynn, spokeswoman for Sony Consumer Camcorders responded to questions about the European announcement and the possibility of a US introduction saying "Sony U.S. has no information with regards to the introduction of an HDV camcorder into the US," she continued to say "This is a tentative mockup and the design is not yet decided." She also emphasized not to draw any hard any conclusions from the photos of the camcorder on the Sony Europe press web site. The introduction however is almost exactly a month before the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) annual convention in the United States, where many industry watchers are keeping a close eye, anticipating HDV announcements. CamcorderInfo.com does not have any information on whether or not Sony will display a prototype of this camcorder at NAB, but it does seem very likely that Sony will display it.


A close examination of Sony Europe's high resolution press photo reveals that the camera will contain 3 CCDs but size of the CCD's is unclear. The press release stated that the camcorder records 1080 line interlaced HDV standard video. According to the picture, the camcorder has a 12x optical zoom. Since the camcorder is HDV it means that it shoots at a 16:9 aspect ratio. The camcorder includes two lens rings, one which is likely to control focus and one likely for zoom. It also appears that the camcorder has dedicated manual audio control in the back and dedicated iris control below the lens. Based on the photo, it also looks like the camcorder has manual gain control, two Neutral Density filters, manual shutter speed control and a dedicated button for manual gain. Although it is partially concealed, it appears that the camcorder has a zoom rocker similar to the one included on the DSR-PD170 and the DCR-VX2100. The camcorder also has three suspicious number buttons labeled 1, 2 and 3.


One potentially revolutionary design change is the placement of the LCD monitor, which appears to be placed on top of the camera, at the head of the raised handle. It appears as if the monitor can be flipped out to the left of the body and adjusted at will. The recording time will be the same as with MiniDV SP, however LP mode is not supported. According to Sony, MPEG-1 Layer2 is used for audio with 48 KHz 16 bit sound.


Jean-Baptiste Duprieu, the press representative from Sony Europe repeatedly declined to comment on the pricing of the new model, however sources close to Sony tell us that it will be aimed at the prosumer market and is likely to be priced under $5,000. It is unclear whether or not the camcorder falls under the Sony professional division or the Sony consumer division. Based on the picture attached to Sony's release, the model of the camcorder starts with DSR, which would indicate it is a professional division camcorder. However, the pictured camcorder also has the Sony Handycam logo, which is used exclusively on Sony's consumer camcorders. Sony does have a pattern of releasing professional versions of their highest consumer models, as they did with the consumer DCR-TRV950 and the DCR-VX2100, so it seems very likely that Sony will introduced both a consumer and prosumer version of this camcorder.


In September, Sony, JVC, Canon and Sharp all agreed to produce camcorders under a new standard called HDV. The Sony camcorder is the first official HDV camcorder to be announced. The HDV standard records an HD signal to MiniDV tapes in MPEG-2 format. The standard is strongly based off of the original technology used in the JVC GR-HD1.


According to Sony, MPEG-1 Layer2 is used for audio with 48 kHz 16 bit sound, and 384 kilobytes is the rate after compression. The recording time is the same as MiniDV SP, however LP mode is not supported.


Terry Shea, director of corporate communications for JVC, who now has their first competition in the consumer HD market, responded to the announcement saying ''We're glad to see another HDV entry and we are working on a follow up for our GR-HD1, but we are not prepared to announce now the details of that product or when it would be announced." Although JVC will not provide official information on their replacement for the GR-HD1 camcorder, sources close to the company have told CamcorderInfo.com that the replacement will not be announced or displayed at the NAB convention in mid-April.


Support from editing programs has been a huge problem for HDV thus far. When the JVC GR-HD1 was introduced, none of the major editing programs such as Final Cut Pro or Avid Xpress allowed the user to edit HDV footage, however support from these programs is increasing each day, and Sony's introduction will likely bring even more support.


Another issue that is going to be raised with this camcorder is 24 frames progressive scan video (24P), which produces results much more similar to a film camera than conventional interlaced 30 frames per second NTSC video. While Panasonic has not embraced the HDV format or shown any interest in developing a camera in this arena, they have brought 24P recording to the forefront of the MiniDV world with their AG-DVX100 camcorder, which records in 24P. Independent filmmakers embraced the AG-DVX100 for its 24P feature which allows footage to be easily transferred to film. Many independent filmmakers avoided the JVC GR-HD1 because it did not film 24 frames progressive video, rather it filmed 720 line resolution 30 frames per second progressive video. We are unaware of whether or not the Sony camcorder displayed at CeBiT records 24 frames progressive scan video, however it is unlikely because it is not mentioned in the press release or on the camcorder itself.


Sony US and Sony Europe would not comment on when the camcorder would be available to consumers or give any pricing information.


Tony Fonseca and Nathaniel Hansen contributed to this article

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It will be interesting to see which details finally emerge about this camera. Can't wait to demo it.



Todd Richard


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