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Panasonic Unveils P2 HD Camcorder

Panasonic this week launched the highly anticipated high-def version of its P2 camera line, the AG-HVX-200. The camcorder, which retails for less than $10,000, will begin shipping on Dec. 29.

Announced at NAB2005, the HVX-200 is Panasonic's answer to what the company believes is an emerging consumer market for high definition production in an IT environment. But because the company is marketing the camera to the professional and consumer market simultaneously (with full page ads in selected newspapers nationwide), the HVX-200 further blurs the line between professional and consumer video products.

The HVX-200 has two P2 card slots and will sell for $5,995 alone. New 8 GB P2 cards sell for approximately $2,200, however Panasonic is promoting a $6,995 HVX-200 package with two 4 GB cards and a $9,995 package with two 8GB cards.

With two 8 GB cards, the HD-format switchable camcorder records 64 minutes in DV, 40 minutes in 720p, 32 minutes in DVCPRO50 and 16 minutes in 1080/60 and 720/60, as well as capture images in 24p. The camcorder also includes a Mini-DV tape drive for shooting on DV tape in 60i, 30p and 24p. The 3-CCD camera uses a 13X zoom wide-angle Leica Dicomar HD lens with optical image stabilizer. The camcorder connects via to PCs via FireWire or USB 2.0.

NLE supporters for the HVX-200 including Apple, Avid and Canopus; users can also record HD formats onto the Focus Enhancements FS-100 FireStore drive.

Panasonic executives spared no superlative at its launch in front of the trade press in Los Angeles. Panasonic Broadcast President John Baisley touted the HVX-200 as the "most versatile and revolutionary camera ever," while Panasonic Chief Technology Officer Paul Liao commented that the HVX-200 is a "milestone" and "the link in the evolution to a true consumer HD camcorder."

Joe Facchini, director of product marketing for Panasonic Broadcast, characterized the HVX-200 as a camcorder that combines the best of Panasonic's Varicam camera and the DVX-100 24p camcorder and predicted that the HVX-200 "will be as popular a camera in the marketplace as the Varicam and the DVX-100 are right now."

Panasonic is also touting the HVX-200 as the "killer app" against the emerging HDV market.

"When other camcorder makers proposed the HDV format for higher end consumer products, Panasonic chose not to support it," said Liao. "Panasonic could have joined this group and manufactured to this standard, but our understanding of consumers and the fundamentals of video imaging told us that the right answer for consumers was not HDV--not now, and not in the future. It just isn't good enough or robust enough."