Sony HD Camcorder

High-definition video isn't just for professionals anymore. It could soon be in the hands of hobbyists and amateur filmmakers everywhere.

In early September, Sony announced the introduction of the world's first HDV 1080i camcorder, the HDR-FX1 Handycam. The camcorder can record and play back high-def video with 1080 interlaced lines of resolution—"the highest resolution of any consumer camcorder available," according to Sony. The HDR-FX1 is saif to supply video resolution of 1440 pixels x 1080 lines.

At the heart of the camcorder are a 12X Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T optical zoom lens and three new one-megapixel 16:9 "Super HAD" CCD image sensors, each with an on-chip micro-lens claimed to "increases the light focusing rate for focusing on the fly." The Zeiss lens is said to deliver maximum sharpness and contrast, while the three image sensors yield accurate color. Sony claims the camcorder's14-bit A/D converter processes "four times more digital information than converters used in traditional television cameras."

Sony developed an advanced HD codec for the HDR-FX1, to compress and manage the massive amount of digital data generated by HD capture, while maintaining optimal HD quality. The HDR-FX1 camcorder employs the same MPEG2 compression scheme that is used for digital broadcasts and for DVD discs. The HDR-FX1 uses DV tapes, available at retail outlets everywhere.

Versatile controls derived from professional video cameras—such as two zoom levers and a variable zoom control on the handle—are said to offer excellent results. The hybrid LCD 3.5" "SwivelScreen" monitor has 250,000-pixels resolution, and is mounted on the same eye level as the color viewfinder for ease of use.

The HDR-FX1 also has a built-in wide-range stereo microphone placed for maximum capture of desired sound and minimum noise from the camcorder and its operator. Software enhancements such as "Cinematone Gamma" and "Cineframe" are said to allow users to obtain near-profession results at an accessible price. Connections include IEEE 1394 iLink DVI. Price on the camcorder is projected at $3600–3700 retail, available in November.

Sony is also launching a newly formulated DV tape specifically intended for use with the HDR-FX1. The low-dropout HD DVC tape will record up to 63 minutes at 1080i. Price is $18 per cassette, with availability in October.