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Sony unveils new high-def camcorder

HDR-FX7 has CMOS sensor technology, which Sony says yields higher resolution with lower power consumption. Photo: Sony's HDR-FX7

An old chip debate among digital photographers will soon be taken up by filmmakers.

Sony on Thursday announced the HDR-FX7, a new 1080i high-definition camcorder with CMOS chips instead of the CCDs usually offered on camcorders.

The company aims to differentiate the HDR-FX7 with three-chip ClearVID CMOS sensor technology. Each of the three chips is dedicated to a separate RGB channel--the red, blue and green layers used to capture the full visible color spectrum in one image.


CMOS chips are traditionally known for eating less power and maintaining image quality even when prolonged use overheats the chip. However, improved power consumption by CCDs (charged-couple devices)--image sensors that convert analog to digital off-chip and produce less visual noise--have brought those kinds of assertions about CMOS chips up for debate.

"Advanced camcorder users will be impressed with the richer, more natural-looking video shot with the HDR-FX7 camcorder, especially when shooting outdoors," Linda Vuolo, director of marketing for camcorder products Sony, said in a statement. She also touted the camcorder's "improved handheld shooting and long recording times."

While CMOS chips have long been used in digital still cameras, their use in camcorders is unusual. (To read a CNET editor's take on the distinction and on the Sony HDR-FX7, click here.)

The slight differences in features between the new Sony HDR-FX7 ($3,500) and the pre-existing Sony HDR-FX1 ($3,700) model may make it harder even for consumers with professional-level photography skills to decide between the two. Both cameras have 1080i HDV record and output capability, and a convenient, single-cable hookup option via an HDMI interface. Filmmakers can also record standard definition video to standard miniDV tapes.

The new HDR-FX7, however, weighs about 25 percent less than the HDR-FX1 and is about 40 percent more compact, according to Sony specs. This may make it more appealing to budding filmmakers.