Caught on camera - PC Retail

Caught on camera

With camcorders having broken the ?100 barrier last year thanks to the emergence of cheap flash-based models, the face of the industry has been changed forever. Ben Furfie sits down with key figures from the sector to discuss just what these changes mean for retailers and resellers?
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It’s a market that has seen the cost of buying an entry-level model crash over the previous year, high definition come into its own and the media which it is recorded onto undergo major upheaval. But despite all that, the video camera market has seen a huge increase in sales and, what’s more, look like it is going to shrug off the economic downturn, unlike other other consumer electronics categories.

Opening up the market

“The introduction of sub-£100 camcorders last year has been crucial to the camcorder sector,” states Gem marketing manager Neil Handa. “The market isn’t standing still either. Newer models like the Kodak Zi6 are adding new features like high definition video while staying at wallet friendly prices.”

Toshiba’s business unit manager for smartphones, PC options, peripherals and service, Graeme Simons, agrees, adding that the shift in pricing has lead to the opening of new markets: “It’s not just standard definition models that are coming down in price; high definition camcorders are now available for under £200 and that’s attracting a whole new class of impulse and fun users.”

However, with a market as fast moving as digital imaging, it’s not surprising that there are other developments that people think are having the biggest impact, as Midwich’s digital imaging product manager Alistair Coyne argues. “The biggest trend in the past six months has been the transition to high definition. In 2008, for example, high definition camcorders accounted for one in every five units we sold compared to one in ten during 2007.”

Simons agrees, adding that there was the additional shift toward solid state formats such as HDDs and flash memory. He says that Toshiba has been quick to response to all three trends with the launch of its Camileo range. “Both high definition and standard definition storage have been key trends over the last few months, with many suppliers trying to gain a foothold in this segment.”

The revolution will be televised
Stressing how much of an impact these three trends were having upon the market, Handa adds: “Sub- £100 camcorders have created a new category in the market for users who want a low cost, easy to use solution for everyday use. I foresee this category complementing the sales of traditional models in the long term. They may also have a positive effect on higher range models, with many users who are new to the market upgrading or buying an additional camcorder for their requirements in the future.

Coyne agrees. “I think people are still looking for ‘value’ camcorders, but they are also willing to spend more for the latest technology such as HDD and flash-based recording because they are considered to be more user-friendly.” Despite that, he accepts that there has been significant price erosion, but adds that because of the new markets taking up camcorder technology for the first time, any losses in declining ASPs have been balanced. “Price erosion has been offset by volume sales. Last year we sold 79 per cent more units than 2007 and we expect to see another increase this year.”

Simons didn’t agree with the idea that low cost automatically translated into lower performance. “We’re finding big increases in sales volume from customers that want high definition video cameras at aggressive pricing, but do not want to make that much of a compromise on the features.”

End of tape…

One of the really interesting things to come out of our discussion with experts is that they, for the first time, agree that time is up for the MiniDV format. For the past two years, we’ve asked if the format, which is now approaching its 14th birthday, was on the way out and each time we’ve been met with a consensus that it still had some life left in it. Indeed, while there was some trepidation to put date on it, Coyne tells us: “We expect to see a decline in MiniDV models during 2009, but I still think they will be about for this year at least.”

However, the devices might still have a role to play in the world of digital video, as Simons argues: “I think we’ll see more mainstream 1080p digital video camcorders for under £200 as we get further into this year.” Coyne isn’t so sure: “I believe that the switch to high definition from standard definition models will continue to gather momentum, spearheaded by an increase in the number of flash-based models.”

Entry Level Models

Kodak Zi6
Distributor: Gem

It wasn’t that long ago Kodak was a byword for photography. But while those days might be long gone, its Zi6 pocket camcorder is a sign of the direction that the firm is currently going in. A high definition camcorder in a small package, it records 720p video at 60 frames per second. It comes with 128MB of internal space – enough for around a couple of minutes of filming. This can be boosted thanks to its SD/SDHC slot, giving you another accessory area to boost margins in.

Flip Video
Distributor: Gem

The Flip Video is the camcorder that kicked off the pocket revolution. Flip’s pocket-sized wonder earned the nickname ‘pocket rocket’ from several high profile technology magazines and websites for its ease of use, both when it comes to filming, but also editing the taken footage and uploading it to the web. The low cost of the device and its sturdiness makes it the ideal camcorder for children, either when they are on holiday or just wanting to make the next Hollywood blockbuster without putting your main camcorder at risk.

Toshiba Pro HD
Distributor: Ingram Micro

Toshiba’s Camileo Pro HD Camcorder is the daddy of the entry-level market, with its more traditional handheld vertical design, high definition recording and flip-out screen for improved handling and use. Lightweight and practical, the flash-based Toshiba Camileo Pro HD is the ideal camcorder for someone who is looking to record their holiday experiences, but who doesn’t want to lug around a more expensive or bulky model, without losing features.

Mid Range Models

Sony HDR-TG3E
Distributor: Midwich

Sony’s high definition handheld, the TG3, is a small but extremely feature packed device. Featuring full 1080p high definition record, the device benefits from a Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar lens, with tentimes optical zoom – the largest in its class. It also benefits from the ability to record sound in 5.1. The device is easy to use thanks to it being based on Sony’s long-running touchscreen menu-based system, as well as packing technology such as its face detection for both video and photos.

Sanyo VPC CA8
Distributor: Midwich

If you’ve ever had customers looking for a waterproof camcorder to take on holiday – or for any other reason – then Sanyo’s Xacti CA8 is the ideal device for them. It can be used up to 1.5 meters in depth, more than deep enough for most users. It also features a 2.5-inch TFT LCD display and face chaser technology, making it even easier to use underwater and adding a new dimension to users’ holiday videos.

Panasonic HDC-SD9EB-S
Distributor: Direktek

Panasonic has been one of the major pioneers in using flash technology in its devices – its P2 standard was one of the first flashbased codecs used in professional broadcast equipment. Its SD9EB-S camcorder benefits from that technology through its traditional but compact size, data reliability and fast data transfer. This means that it can boast full 1080p high definition recording, backed up by its specially developed Leica Dicomar lens.

High End Models

Canon HG-20
Distributor: Midwich

Canon’s HV20 was one of the best selling camcorders of 2008, and the firm has similar hopes for the HDDbased version of the same camcorder. Boasting full 1080p high definition recording, with up to 22 hours of recording capacity thanks to its 60GB hard drive, it is the ideal all-in-one camcorder package for people looking for high performance, but low levels of fuss. It also has instant autofocus for when you need fast focusing, such as at sports days and other fast paced events. It has a mini-hotshoe, opening up the potential to add on a whole world of accessories such as external microphones.

JVC GZ-HD40
Distributor: Midwich

Featuring a plethora of manual modes including focus, the HD40 is a featurepacked affair. With a 1/3-inch CMOS sensor, it is ideal for low light situations such as weddings, and thanks to its 120GB hard drive, you can be sure that on special days the only thing you have to worry about running out is the battery. With 1080i high definition and a ten times zoom, there will be few applications where this camcorder won’t stand up to the test.

Prosumer

Canon XH-A1
Distributor: Direktek

Canon’s latest small-form high definition professional camcorder, the XH-A1, has a 3CCD-based sensor, meaning you don’t have to worry about the few issues that affect CMOS-based systems. It comes with full auto and manual settings, with precise control over everything from focus, to audio, right the way down to aperture. It’s the ideal camcorder for budding and aspiring directors, as well as businesses looking for a solution for ENG teams.


Sony HVR-Z1E
Distributor: Direktek

If your customer needs a flexible, but powerful high definition solution, then look no further than Sony’s HVR-Z1E. The flagship model of its small-body professional products, the Z1E has become the defacto standard when it comes to recording high definition programmes for broadcast when a portable camcorder is called for. Packing advanced features such as XLR inputs, DVCAM recording and Zebra highlighting, it is ideal for a wide variety of users.

Contacts

Direktek: 01494 471 100

Gem: 01279 822 822

Ingram Micro: 0870 405 3000

Midwich
: 01379 649 200

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