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Video Cameras

Camcorder round-up: Hi-def gets smaller and smaller

Hitachi has unwrapped its fabled Blu-ray shooters, Canon and Panasonic have weighed in with the smallest HD camcorders and Sony has unveiled a tiny net-sharing camera

It's been a big week for small camcorders. Hitachi has unwrapped its fabled Blu-ray shooters, Canon and Panasonic have weighed in with the smallest HD camcorders, like, ever, and Sony has trumped them all with a teenycam so small it's already lost three down the back of the sofa.

After the rumour mill wound itself up into a right tizz over the last few weeks, Hitachi has officially unveiled the world's first Blu-ray camcorders, the DZ-BD70 and DZ-BD7H. As expected, both will record to mini Blu-ray discs and the DZ-BD7H will record to both hard drive and Blu-ray disc. Both camcorders are capable of recording one hour of 1,920x1,080-pixel footage to Blu-ray.

Inside both camcorders is a 1/2.8 inch, 5.3-megapixel CMOS sensor. Outside both there's a 10x optical zoom with electrical image stabilisation, microphone jack, HDMI outputs and the usual 69mm (2.7-inch) widescreen LCD.

The hybrid Hitachi DZ-BD7H will transfer video from its 30GB hard drive to Blu-ray at 2x speed, or copy to standard DVD for showing footage to anyone unwilling to fork out several hundred pounds for a Blu-ray player. Basic in-camera editing and playlists are also on the cards.

The DZ-BD70 and DZ-BD7H will begin selling in Japan later this month, and will be available in overseas markets from October. No prices yet, but we'll keep you posted.

Click through for more pictures of these diminutive new camcorders.

Canon announced its smallest ever AVCHD high-definition camcorder -- nay, the smallest ever hi-def camcorder (for at least the next few minutes): the HG10. It packs into that diminutive frame a 40GB internal hard disk memory, enough to hold up to 15 hours of HD movie clips. The HG10 captures images at 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution, but it's not yet clear whether it supports the 'Full HD' 1080p format.

On the inside there's a CMOS sensor and advanced DIGIC DV II processor, along with 10x optical zoom, instant autofocus and a Super Range Optical Image Stabilizer for smoothing out the shakes.

On the outside there's a new navigation control dial for smooth menu selection and easy playback, a 69mm widescreen LCD and an HDMI terminal for easy connection to hi-def televisions. There's also that rarest of prizes, a microphone jack, as well as a hotshoe and headphone jack.

Canon claim battery life will top an hour of continuous recording on a single charge. For those quick-start shooting-from-the-hip moments, the HG10 is ready to go in approximately 1 second from standby.

The Canon HG10 will be available in Europe and the UK from October, although only the US price of $1,299 (£640) has been announced so far.

Also unveiled this week, the Panasonic HDC-SD5 claimed the title of the world's smallest and lightest 3CCD high-definition video camera -- for about five minutes (see next page).

The Panasonic HDC-SD5, and its sibling the HDC-SX5, both feature a 10x optical zoom and a 69mm widescreen LCD, as well as HDMI, component, AV and USB outputs.

They can record to either 76mm (3-inch) DVDs or SDHC/SD cards, and video can be saved in either 1,920x1,080-pixel AVCHD or DVD-Video format.

The HDC-SX5 can proudly call itself a true hybrid camcorder, because it can transfer video from memory card to DVD at the touch of a button. Videos saved in AVCHD format can then be played back with a Blu-ray player.

Under the hood there's those three 1/6-inch CCDs, advanced optical image stabilisation with gyro sensors, and a Crystal Engine image processor.

Available in the US and Europe from September 2007, there's no word yet on prices for either camera.

Panasonic have also announced the HDC-SD7, which is in Japan only so far. This will record 1,920x1,080-pixel SDHC cards. According to Panasonic, the HDC-SD7 is now the world's smallest and lightest 3CCD HD camcorder.

Inside the HDC-SD7 there's a trio of 1/6-inch CCD sensors and a 10x optical zoom. HD quality is achieved through pixel shifting. Panasonic has improved its optical image stabilisation system to sample about 4,000 times per second instead of 480 on older models. In theory, this will reduce unsteady images caused by shaky hands by a large factor.

On the outside is another 69mm widescreen LCD.

One interesting feature is pre-record, which continually stores 3 seconds of video to the internal memory. In theory this will prevent you from missing any spontaneous moments that happen right before you hit record, although presumably you need to be actually pointing the camera the right way to start with. What that does to battery life remains to be seen. The HDC-SD7 has an enclosed battery design to reduce size.

The HDC-SD7 will hit Japan in September for ¥140,000 (£580).

All those announcements about things being "the smallest" were trumped in the teeny-tiny stakes by the Sony NSC-GC1, aka the "Net-sharing cam".

Squaring up at a tiny 30mm by 105mm by 57mm, the NSC-GC1 is designed for uploading and sharing videos on YouTube and the like. Like the recently announced YouTube cameras, you can set the software to post to sharing Web sites or your own site, if you really must.

Inside there's a 1/2.5-inch CMOS sensor -- not bad at all for a camcorder this size -- 4x digital zoom, and a battery that will last you a paltry 90 minutes. That's The Simpsons Movie in the bag, piracy fans, but not Transformers. The NSC-GC1 uses Memory Stick Pro Duo cards and saves footage from QVGA resolutions at 15fps to VGA at 30fps.

Outside, there's a flash for taking 5-megapixel stills (er... thanks?) and a 60mm (2.4-inch) LCD screen.

The Sony Net-sharing NSC-GC1 will be in the US in September for a trifling $199.99 (£99). Expect a glut of Mentos vs Panda Cola showdowns to follow shortly after. -Rich Trenholm