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Sony rolls out modest upgrades to HD camcorders

For 2010, Sony rolls out the back-illuminated Exmor-R sensor down the HD camcorder line and adds SDHC card support.

Sony's top-of-the-line HDR-XR550V. Sony Electronics

LAS VEGAS--At last year's CES, Sony broke new ground with its prosumer camcorders. This year, the company offers modest upgrades across the product lines.

Like many competitors, Sony's rolling out its Exmor-R back-illuminated CMOS further down the product line. Plus, the company incorporates the image stabilization improvements and other features it rolled out with the CX520V in July. One potential new crowd-pleaser is a Golf Shot mode, which continually buffers video until it hears the club hit the ball, then saves the previous 1.5-seconds-worth of frames, plus 0.5 second after, for a single 22 frame sequence.

As before, the "V" models incorporate GPS, though with no improvements to make it more useful. The top-of-the-line 550 versions have a high-resolution 3.5-inch LCD. And, of course--yay!--all the models now support SDHC in addition to Memory Stick Duo.

The $1,400 HDR-XR550V drops to 10X zoom from 12X on the XR520V, gets a larger LCD, and ups the maximum bit rate to 24 megabits per second; its flash equivalent, the CX550V, will cost $1,300 and have 64GB memory built in.

At $1,000, the HDR-XR350V replaces the XR200V, with a 3.5-megapixel Exmor-R sensor, 160GB hard drive, and 12X zoom G series lens; the $900 flash version, the CX350V, has 32GB memory, and the $800 CX300 drops to 16GB and loses the GPS. These and the preceding models are scheduled to ship in February.

Down the food chain, the $700 HDR-XR150 has a relatively low-resolution 1.6-megapixel Exmor-R with a larger 120GB hard disk, and jumps to a 25X zoom lens, but without optical stabilization; the $550 flash-based CX150 has 16GB built in, and the $500 CX110 has none. These will be out this January.