Matsushita Electric Industrial (Panasonic) plans to launch a high-definition camcorder this year that uses an SD memory card for storage.

A prototype of the camera was on show Tuesday at the Ceatec exhibition in Japan. It is much smaller than competing high-definition camcorders from companies like Sony and Canon, because it uses the diminutive memory card for storage. Camcorders typically use MiniDV tape, an 8-centimeter DVD disc or a hard-disk drive.

The amount of video that can be stored on a memory card will vary with the card's capacity and the video-quality setting.

For a 4GB SD card, the storage will be 85 minutes at 6Mbps (bits per second), 55 minutes at 9Mbps and 40 minutes at 13Mbps, Panasonic said. A 4GB memory cards can be purchased for as little as $68, according to PC World's price tracker.

Video is stored in the AVCHD format developed by Panasonic and Sony. AVCHD uses the MPEG4 AVC compression system.

Panasonic said it plans to commercialize the camcorder by the end of the year. It didn't offer any details about pricing or where it will put the gadget on sale.

The company is also working on a high-definition camcorder that records onto 8cm DVDs.

High-definition camcorders are quickly moving from the high-end of the Japanese consumer market into the mainstream as companies launch a wider array of camers at lower prices. Leading the charge are Sony and Canon, although models are also on the market from other companies including Sanyo.