Panasonic has unveiled two new digital cameras at the Internationale Funk Ausstellung (IFA) exhibition in Berlin. Leading the new products at IFA is the SV-AV100, which is a palm-size camcorder that records MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 video directly onto a Secure Digital (SD) memory card. The unit is much smaller than a conventional camcorder because there are no cassette or disc-loading mechanisms – and the use of an SD card means that video can be easily and quickly transferred to a computer. The downside is the relatively high cost of SD memory cards and their limited storage capacity. In maximum-resolution MPEG-2 mode, data will be recorded onto the memory card at a constant rate of 6Mbps (bits per second), which means a 512MB memory card will be able to hold a little more than ten minutes of video. A Panasonic 512MB SD card, one of which is bundled with the camera, currently costs around £160. That makes it an expensive way to record video when compared to a Panasonic 120-minute MiniDV tape, which retails for around £10. Of course, the memory card brings advantages such as fast transfer to a PC, and it can be quickly erased and reused – although the price means it isn’t quite yet a viable mass-market replacement for digital-video tape. If you want to shoot more video, you have the option of recording in MPEG-2 at half the bit rate (which Panasonic calls “normal” mode), or switching to MPEG-4, which is lower quality and lower bit rate. MPEG-4 recording options with the camera range from “super fine” rate of 1Mbps at 320-x-240-pixel resolution to “economy’ rate of 100Kbps at 176-x-144-pixel resolution. That translates into between almost 70 minutes and 700 minutes of recording time with a 512MB SD card. The camera features an 800,000 pixel CCD, a 10x optical zoom lens, and a 2.5-inch LCD monitor. Still images are recorded in JPEG format. The SV-AV100 measures 33.2-x-89.8-x-64.9mm, and weighs 156g. Panasonic plans to put the device on sale in Europe from October this year for €1,299 (around £907). That’s more expensive than some camcorders, although none comes close to the Panasonic camera in terms of size. Still got it
The company has also taken the wraps off a thin SD card-based digital-still camera. The SV-AS10 is 9.9mm thick across most of its body, 13.5mm thick in the area around the lens, 51.5mm wide, and 103.7mm high. It weighs 57g. These dimensions make it lighter and slightly thinner than Casio’s Exilim digital still camera, currently one of the thinnest display-equipped cameras on the market, across the entire body except for the lens area. The camera has a two-megapixel CCD sensor and a lens mechanism that can rotate through 180 degrees to make taking pictures of yourself easier. A maximum resolution of 1,600-x-1,200 pixels is possible and most of the camera’s other features are as you would, such as flash, red-eye reduction, a macro mode, and the ability to take three photos in quick succession. It also includes a 1.5-inch monitor, and a digital music player with support for MP3, AAC, and Windows Media Audio files is built in. It can also be used as a voice recorder. Like the SV-AV100, the camera will go on sale in Europe from October. It will carry a price of €329 (around £209). Availability of the products outside of Europe hasn’t yet been announced by Panasonic, although more details are expected soon. The company has scheduled a news conference in Tokyo next week to detail new SD-card based cameras.