Consumer Electronics Show News
With over 1800 exhibitors and more than 100,000 attendees, this year’s Winter
CES (Consumer Electronics Show) descended on Las Vegas from January 8th
to January 12th, leaving a trail of new camcorders and video devices in
Panasonic debuted two VHS-C camcorders with digital photography capabilities
at CES this year: the PV-L858 ($999.95) and PV-L958 ($1099.95). Both units
have the ability to download still images to a computer through an RS-232C
connection. Both also feature flip-out 3.2" LCD monitors and "super-stretch"
timelapse recording, for up to six hours on a 40-minute compact VHS tape.
Another entrant in the dual-camcorder market is JVC‘s DualCam. The
GR-AXM700 is a VHS-C camcorder with an integrated digital flash memory that
holds up to 44 standard mode still shots. The DualCam features a 3-inch
LCD flip-out monitor, camcorder-to-PC connectors, Picture Navigator software
and JVC’s proprietary Random Assemble Editing. It lists for $999.95.
JVC announced its first DV camcorder, the GR-DVL9000 ($2799.95), to feature
a FireWire (IEEE 1394) jack, in addition to its proprietary JLIP terminal
for pure digital output. The DVL9000 sports a 1/3" progressive scan
CCD, 4-inch LCD monitor, an f/1.2 lens and 200x Super Digital Zoom. Both
camcorders will be available in April.
Also showing brand-new VHS-format gear was RCA. This year, they introduced
a full-size VHS camcorder, the CC4371 ($699), featuring a flip-out LCD viewfinder.
Sharp touted its new line of Slimcams–the world’s thinnest camcorders,
according to the company. A Mini DV model, the VL-PD1U ($2999.95), features
a unique 4-inch, flip-out LCD monitor with touch-screen commands. To zoom
in on an area, simply press that section of the image on the monitor. The
touch-screen zoom function also works during playback.
Another new 8mm camcorder sports dual lenses for picture-in-picture recording
of wide-angle and telephoto images. The Twincam (VL-SW50U) lists for $999.99
and will be available in May.
Hitachi‘s MPEG camera, the new digital camcorder that records MPEG
video and JPEG still images directly onto a hard drive instead of tape,
received an Innovations ’98 award at this year’s show.
Those who were expecting to see a big red-carpet rollout of Apple‘s
Quicktime 3.0 at this CES were disappointed. Though the newest version of
this industry-standard digital video software format was the subject of
much conversation on the show floor, the software itself was only available
as a developer’s preview at the time of the show. Quicktime 3.0’s big promise,
as elucidated by Steve Jobs in a recent press conference, is the ability
to handle video, audio, animation and 3D content compressed with virtually
any codec (compression/decompression scheme) available on the market today.
Sony Introduces a PC for Video
For those videophiles who cringe at the idea of messing around inside
their computers to install capture cards, manufacturers are bringing video-ready
PCs to market. Sony’s latest version of its VAIO line, the PCV-240 Multimedia/Video
PC, offers enough video editing hardware and software to please hobbyist
Composite and S-video in/out jacks (including front inputs), MPEG1 capture
card, Asymetrix Digital Video Producer and Macromedia Shockwave editing
software, 6.4 GB hard drive, internal Zip drive and a TV tuner are some
of the features on the 300MHz Pentium II MMX computer. List price is $2999.99
for the computer, keyboard and cables; a monitor is not included.
Camcorder Market Share
Last year, Warren Publishing conducted a survey of the camcorder market
and concluded that among all the consumer formats, DV camcorders have not
yet made much of a dent in the total U.S. market share. Unlike Japan, in
which the Mini DV format has captured 55% of the consumer camcorder market,
only 1-2% of U.S. purchasers have picked up digital units. Two reasons for
the difference may be that, in Japan, there is a very small price contrast
between DV and Hi8 formats, and all DV camcorders now have a FireWire link
to PCs and some VCRs. In the U.S., by contrast, there is a deep price difference
between the two formats and manufacturers and production studios continue
to litigate copyright protection issues, thereby forestalling the digital
dubbing feature. Three top-selling brands–Sony, Panasonic and JVC–continue
to dominate the camcorder market.