Sony intends shipping a consumer HD (high-definition) camcorder that's much smaller and cheaper than its current offering, the company said Tuesday.

The HDR-HC1 is the second consumer HD camcorder from Sony and its launch should bring HD video recording into the reach of a wider range of potential users. Compared to Sony's current model, the HDR-FX1 that went on sale late last year, the new camera is about a third of the weight and less than half the size and more affordable.

Smaller cheaper

Sony managed to cut down the size and price of the camera by working on two main areas.

First, the new camera features a single CMOS image sensor versus 3 CCD sensors on the previous model. Not only is this cheaper but it makes for a simpler optical system because a prism isn't needed to split the image to each of the sensors. The new camera also uses a smaller and more compact lens. It's diameter is 60mm-x-92mm and it's 90mm shorter in total length. The Carl Zeiss lens offers a 10X optical zoom.

The size of the camera's electronics has been reduced with the number of circuit boards reduced to two (from five). Total component count is down from 3,000 to 2,000 through integration of components into chips, Sony said.

All of this has made the camera much smaller. The HDR-HC1 measures 71mm-x-94mm-x-188 mm and weighs 680 grams without the battery. The previous model measured 151mm-x-181mm-x-365mm and weighed 2kg.

DV tape fine for HD

The HDR-HC1 is based on HDV format, which uses current-generation DV tapes to store high-definition video. Current DV tapes are completely compatible and can hold the same amount of video under HDV as they can under standard definition. This is a major advantage for current DV camcorder users because it preserves the investment made in recording media.

There are three ways to get HD video out of the camera: via Y/Pb/Pr component video signal, via the Japanese D3/D4 format signal and the four-pin iLink (FireWire) interface. This will stream in high-definition to compatible monitors and televisions with an HDV iLink interface.

The HDR-HC1 will be launched in Japan on July 7 and in North America, Europe and Asia at about the same time. It will cost about £1,500 in the UK.