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Sony Announces HDV Camcorder

HDR-FX1 to be first 3-CCD 1080i consumer camcorder, ships November, 2004 By Charlie White

After a sneak preview of a non-working prototype at the NAB convention in April, Sony has announced and demonstrated its new HDR-FX1 HDV camcorder, the first high-end 3-CCD consumer camcorder on the market to shoot high definition video at a resolution of 1080i, 30 frames per second. The camcorder, which Sony said would be available in November (2004) for a retail price of $3700, uses standard miniDV tapes and requires the same bandwidth as standard DV25 to transfer its data to a computer for editing.

[Click graphic for enlargement] Sony's new HDR-FX1 HDV camcorder sports 3 CCDs, 1080i/30 resolution

The HDR-FX1 uses MPEG-2 to compress HDTV signals to 25 megabits per second, a size where HDTV video can be easily transferred to computers or other camcorders by the same iLink (1394 or FireWire) cables the company's DV camcorders have used since their inception in 1996. Sony said the camcorder would also be equipped with component and composite in and out capabilities.

The HDR-FX1 isn't the first camcorder to be marketed using the HDV specification announced last year by Sony, Sharp, Canon and JVC, and embraced by 26 high technology companies. The first HDV camcorder released, the JY-HD10U camcorder shipped last year by JVC, shoots HDV at 720p at 30 frames per second (720p/30). That earlier camcorder uses just one CCD and represents the lower end of the HDV spec, which is evident in its somewhat lower-quality imaging. The Sony HDR-FX1 has three 1/3" CCDs on board, offering higher resolution than one CCD as well as higher quality color reproduction.  

Taking a look at the HDR-FX1, (see graphic below), you'll notice that Sony has placed additional tape transport controls on the top handle, letting you hold the camcorder by its handle and control the zoom, recording start/stop and tape transport. The unit also offers a unique viewfinder design, giving you a choice of whether you'd like to use the 3.5-inch wide screen electronic viewfinder or the 16x9 eyepiece, both offering a 250,000-pixel resolution -- what Sony says is the highest number of pixels on an LCD in a consumer-use camcorder. Like some previous Sony camcorders in this price range, the viewfinder is in the back of the camcorder. A convenience is that the LCD is on the same eye level as the viewfinder, so whichever finder you're using, you don't have to move the camcorder to get a better view of your shot. Sony has improved the brightness of its finder system, saying it's now more suitable for recording in bright outdoor conditions.

Tape transport controls are mounted on top of the handle, in addition to the traditional side-mounted controls.

Shooting with the FX1 offers users more flexibility that with previous Sony camcorders. It's possible to set the unit to do everything automatically, or you can manually control the iris, gain control, white balance, shutter speed, ND filter, and focus. Both HDV and standard DV can be shot using the same tape -- for instance, you could shoot ten minutes worth of HDV and then switch over to DV (either 16x9 or 4x3) and record the rest of that same tape in DV. An indicator light tells you whether you're shooting in DV or HDV. The camcorder can also play back DV or HDV, and can also play back 720p HDV, but the only HDV footage the Sony camcorder can record is the 1080i variety. Sony also didn't include 24p recording capability in its FX1, instead offering what the company calls Cineframe 24, a mode Sony says is film-like. We'll check that out when we get a review unit. In another nod to digital film producers, there's also a feature called Cinematone Gamma, offering a more film-like contrast ratio that could probably be better created in an edit suite.  

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Related Keywords:Sony HDR-FX1, camcorder, HDV specification, Sharp, Canon, JVC, HDV camcorder, JY-HD10U camcorder, 720p, 30 frames per second, 720p/30, CCD

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