By Matthew Henry

SYDNEY: Panasonic Australia today unveiled its first range of high definition camcorders using the new AVCHD format and updated its Lumix digital still camera range with eight new models.

The company announced that its HDC-SD1 and HDC-DX1 AVCHD camcorders, which were introduced in Japan in December last year, will be available in Australia next month for RRP $2,419 and RRP $2,199, respectively.

AVCHD is a video format based on the highly efficient MPEG4 codec enabling high definition video to be recorded onto non-tape media, such as DVDs, hard disk drives and memory cards.

Panasonic’s SD1 records 1440 x 1080i high definition footage to SD card media for around one hour of recording on a 4GB SD card (RRP $189) and the DX1 uses 8cm DVDs to deliver around 40 minutes of HD video on a dual-layer 8cm DVD-R disc.

At the Sydney launch today, Panasonic claimed high definition camcorders will comprise around 50 per cent of the global camcorder market by 2010, following the widespread adoption of high definition flat panel TVs.

“These camcorders take full advantage of the revolution in HD. They offer outstanding image quality and sound for impressive and enjoyable playback on today’s big-screen HD plasma TVs,” said Panasonic product manager – digital still cameras, Ervin Quek.

Both models feature Panasonic’s 3CCD imaging system, 5.1 channel surround sound through five discreet microphones, optical image stabiliser and precision Leica Dicomar lenses.

Panasonic also launched two hard disk drive camcorders (standard definition), the SDR-H250 (RRP $1,319) with 3CCD imaging and the SDR-H20 (RRP $989) boasting 32x optical zoom.

A comprehensive new lineup of Lumix digital still cameras will be available in March, including an update to Panasonic’s TZ ‘traveller’s zoom’ range with two new models to replace the original TZ1 – the 6.0 megapixel TZ2 (RRP $659) and the 7.2 megapixel TZ3 (RRP $769).

A significant improvement for the new TZ lineup is the inclusion of a 28mm wide-angle lens.

“In 2006, the TZ1 ‘traveller’s zoom’ created a category of its own and enjoyed great success in the market. Now, these new travel companions go a step further. Not only can you get close to your subject with the 10x zoom, but the wide angle lens lets you capture the full picture in any situation,” said Quek.

The new Lumix DMC-FX30 (RRP $659) is the world’s slimmest 28mm wide-angle digital still camera, and features 7.2 megapixel image resolution, Mega OIS, a fast f/2.8 maximum aperture lens and 3.6x optical zoom.

Panasonic will replace the Lumix FZ7 with the new FZ8 (RRP $659) in the high zoom category, where the company claims to have gained significant market share in the last 12 months.

Other additions to the Lumix range include the middle-market DMC-FX10 (RRP $499) and FX12 (RRP $419) series with Leica DC lenses and a comprehensive feature set, the DMC-LZ7 (RRP $439) with 6x optical zoom and the entry-level DMC-LS70 (RRP $309) with Mega OIS and Intellegent ISO control.