At the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas today, Sony Electronics announced a dramatic overhaul of its Handycam camcorder line, spanning hard-drive, DVD, flash-drive, and pocket camcorders. At the top tier is the high-definition, hard-drive-based XR series, which will replace the AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition) Handycam SR10, Handycam SR11, and Handycam SR12 models. The SR line will live on, however, with three new standard-definition units.
Pictured above is the Sony Handycam HDR-XR520V ($1500, available in March). It packs a whopping 240GB hard drive, which the company says translates to 92 hours of footage captured at the lowest setting (7 mbps). The XR520V, as well as the other new camcorders in the XR series, maxes out at a 16-mbps bit rate for HD footage.
The XR520V also has Sony's new back-illuminated Exmor-R CMOS sensor, which purportedly offers better low-light footage, as well as a built-in GPS receiver that geotags photos and video and automatically updates the camcorder's clock based on the time zone. The XR520V captures 1920-by-1080 high-definition video and 12-megapixel stills, and Sony has also tossed in some fun features from its latest Cyber-shot still cameras, including face detection and a Smile Shutter function that automatically captures a still image when a subject smiles while you're shooting video.
The Handycam HDR-XR500V ($1300, available in March) has the same specs as the XR520V but holds a 120GB hard drive that stores 46 hours of footage at the lowest bit rate. The XR500V and the XR520V are Sony's first consumer camcorders to use the six-blade-aperture G Lens found on the company's professional HDR-FX1000 camcorder, which Sony says reduces light refraction and captures background lights with more clarity.
Rounding out the new hard-drive-based XR series are two other models. The HDR-XR200V ($1000, available in February) is a 120GB camcorder that has a 15X optical Carl Zeiss zoom lens, captures 1920-by-1080 HD video, shoots 4-megapixel stills, sports built-in GPS, and offers Smile Shutter and face detection. The HDR-XR100 ($750, available in March) provides an 80GB hard drive, a 10X optical Carl Zeiss zoom lens, 1920-by-1080 HD video, 4-megapixel stills, and Smile Shutter and face detection, but no built-in GPS.
All of the new XR camcorders also offer Sony's revamped Optical Steady Shot stabilization, which the company says has a much wider ranger of lens shift to compensate for shaky hands. Sony says the new Optical Steady Shot system has ten times more correction angle than its current Handycams do, so you can conceivably be ten times shakier and still get clear footage.