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Sony finally adds interchangeable lens model to pro-HDV lineup

The HVR-Z7U and HVR-S270U add interchangeable lenses to Sony's pro-camcorder lineup.

Sony HVR-Z7U
Sony HVR-Z7U Sony Electronics

Though information (and under-glass photos) emerged from Europe in mid-September, it's now official: in February of 2008 we'll finally see interchangeable lens-supporting pro camcorders from Sony. The company today announced a couple of additions to its HDV lineup, the handheld HVR-Z7U and shoulder-mountable HVR-S270U.

Sony has let the Canon XL H1, distinguished by its interchangeable-lens capability, go for quite a while without a direct challenger: the popular HVR-Z1U incorporates a fixed lens. But the 2-year wait confers several potential advantages on the Z7U. Both camcorders use a trio of 1/3-inch, 3-megapixel ClearVid CMOS sensors, a higher resolution than anything that was available almost 2 years ago when the XL H1 shipped. The sensors incorporate the Exmor technology used in the latest Alpha DSLR, which performs noise reduction on the chip instead of within the imaging pipeline.

They also support direct recording to CompactFlash via a bundled but external device, another capability that wasn't as feasible in 2006.

HVR-S270U
HVR-S270U Sony Electronics

Both models ship with a 12X Zeiss lens with what seems to be a wide-aspect, 35mm-equivalent focal range of 32.5mm-390mm. But in addition to being able to swap camcorder lenses, Sony says you'll be able to use any of the Sony Alpha DSLR lenses in conjunction with an adapter. I'm not sure that you'd want to do that, since dSLR lenses are designed for 4:3 coverage, not 16:9; new models shoot 16:9 and can be down-converted to SD, but they don't seem to be able to shoot in SD).

There's quite a bit that's not clear based on the information in the press release. For instance, it states the camcorders "offer 1080, 24p and 30p native progressive recording. The 3 ClearVid CMOS Sensor system and EIP [Enhanced Imaging Processor] technology create true 1080p images, which can then be recorded as progressive signals by the HVR-Z7U and HVR-S270U camcorders in the HDV format." As far as I know, however, the HDV standard only supports 720-line progressive, so is Sony talking about 720p recording? Is it capturing full 1920x1080 and reducing to HDV 1440x1080? Or is Sony doing something proprietary? I'm going to need some clarification. Anyone out there know what's going on?

Or should we wait until February 2008 for the answers, when the Z7U ships for $6,850 and the S270U ships for $10,500?