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Camcorders

Sony to launch HD handycam into Aussie market

Got a problem with the lack of HD content on Australian TV? Sony's newly launched HD camcorder should let you sidestep that problem.

Got a problem with the lack of HD content on Australian TV? Sony's newly launched HD camcorder should let you sidestep that problem.

TOKYO -- Sony today announced that its next generation camcorder that allows consumers to record video in HD formats will be available across the Asia Pacific region in November.

The new camera, the HDR-FX1, can record using existing DV tapes, and, impressively, can record to the time specification of an existing tape in either SD or HD formats. So a standard 60 minute DV tape can record up to 60 minutes of HD content.

Speaking at the launch, Masahiro Tamura, Managing Director of Sony Asia Pacific (a region that encompasses the rather wide area of Asia (excluding Japan, where the camera was announced yesterday), Oceania, Middle East and South Africa) said that "We envision that high definition will become the standard for the way people view, not only TV, but also the way that they record and share their greatest memories".

According to Sony's figures, the camcorder market is expected to exceed 17.5 million unit sales in 2004, as consumers flock to create their own video content. The launch of the HDR-FX1 comes 21 years after Sony launched its first consumer Video-8 Handycam.

The advantage of HD recording comes primarily from the higher resolution that video can be shot at. The HDR-FX1 uses three high definition CCDs to allow it to film using the 1080i specification, at 1080 x 1440 pixels, although you will need a TV that's not only HD ready, but also capable of displaying at those resolutions.

According to figures supplied to CNET.com.au by Sony, the Australian HD TV market comprises some 40,000 HD Ready units, but that figure includes units that can't in fact display at 1080x1440 resolutions. Sony claims that the entire Australian market suggests month on month sales of around 2,500 units that are fully capable of displaying the HDR-FX1's full resolution. The HDR-FX1 isn't capable of recording up to the full whack that the Australian HD specification calls for, but Sony's perspective on this was that the 1.2 megapixel HDR-FX1 represented the best value solution for consumers today.

"We believe it is the right time to release a product such as this." said Sony's Masashi Imamura. "In order to realise a perfect HD world, it's going to take some time. In this sense, maybe this product is too early. But nobody knows how soon it's going to be fully realised. Our aim is to save precious video moments now. Nobody can recreate moments after they've happened -- but the demand to record them now is there. So we provide the handycam to make this true. That's why we introduced this product now."

Exact Australian pricing was not available at the time of going to press, but Sony officials said that they expected the HDR-FX1 to go on sale for around US$4,500, and that it would launch throughout the Asia Pacific region in November.

CNET.com.au's Alex Kidman reported from Tokyo. Alex Kidman travelled to Tokyo as a guest of Sony.