Camcorders – A different focus

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The camcorder sector has certainly seen some interesting changes in recent times. The move away from tape-based formats has cleared the way for alternatives such as DVD, SD card and Hard Disk Drive (HDD) recording, while the rapid adoption of High Definition TV (HDTV) has also exerted a significant influence to ensure that there is plenty of profit to be had in this product area.
“Despite the ever-increasing numbers of devices that can record moving images, the sales of camcorders remain strong moving into 2008”, states Matthew Gibbs, senior account manager at GfK Marketing Services.
He goes on to explain that: “Volume growth of around 3% in the year to March was not enough to avoid a decline as both prices and volume sales dropped, but significant discounting in the far newer DVD sector was also a major cause – the average DVD camcorder purchased in March 2008 was nearly a third cheaper than during March 2007.
“The market segment now experiencing the strongest growth is the flash memory sector. These camcorders, which rely on internal or transferable flash memory to store the video, are proving popular as the price and capability of flash memory drops. New compression formats also help to increase the length of video that can be recorded. Due to the rapid innovation from premium manufacturers in this sector, the average price of a flash-based camcorder increased by a quarter on March 2007”.
Hi-def developments
The HD revolution has given a huge boost to the camcorder market – as well as various other product sectors – with a host of new hi-def models launching over the past year. Frankie Takai, product manager for camcorders at JVC comments: “In recent years, with the introduction of HD panels, we have seen tremendous growth in other categories adopting HD. It stands to reason that if you can watch DVD films in High Definition, then the natural progression was to be able to watch your home movies in the same standard”.
Several manufacturers have introduced hi-def models over the last year. Ian Rea, product manager for camcorders at Sony UK, suggests that a major step forward has been the introduction and advancement of AVCHD. He explains: “The primary purpose of AVCHD is to develop HD video camera recorders that can shoot and play back HD video footage using media such as 80mm DVD discs, HDD and flash memory”.
Web 2.0
It is widely speculated that the increasing popularity of so-called ‘Web 2.0’ sites, containing user-generated content (such as MySpace, YouTube and Facebook) has had a positive impact on the camcorder and digital still camera sectors. Is this really the case?
Graeme Simons, Toshiba’s business unit manager EMEA, PC Options, Peripherals and Services, comments: “YouTube has had an impact, but more so on the camera-phone or ‘impulse’ end of the scale. While there’s no question that getting footage onto online platforms is easier than ever, the majority of user-generated content is typically footage recorded on mobile phones, webcams and lower-end video cameras. Our Camileo range is perfect for this purpose. It’s compact and offers both high-resolution video and upgradeable SD memory, making it instantly better suited than the high-end camcorders”.
Product innovation
Despite the increase in HD camcorders, there is still a place in the market for standard definition models. Sanyo’s spokesperson explains the benefits of the maker’s favoured formats: “As SD card media become larger and relatively inexpensive, SD card camcorders are becoming ever more popular – the larger SDHC cards allow for longer recording times. Sanyo has just announced a hybrid digital movie camera with a 9 megapixel digital still capability”.
But some manufacturers believe that Hard Disk Drives (HDD) are the way forward for high-end camcorders thanks to their large capacity. Toshiba’s Graeme Simons enthuses: “Our Gigashot A100 model is both small and light, but offers 100GB of storage at the top end. SD cards can’t rival that capacity currently, and attempts to do so would be hugely costly. At the lower end of the market, however, there are some SD card products that offer convenience and quality, such as our Camileo Pro HD”.
According to Paul Scot, product manager AV – Camcorder/MP3 at Samsung: “Flash memory is becoming more popular. Samsung’s new range of camcorders illustrates our desire to pre-empt the on-coming flash memory wave, where we foresee a swing from the current HDD and DVD media usage to flash”.
Different manufacturers have produced various innovations on their latest models, for example, JVC has included HDMI ports on its HD models for easy playback, along with laser-touch control.
Panasonic has launched several models, including what it claims to be the world’s smallest SD Camcorder – SDR-S10 – and the HDC-SD9 full HD model.
Sanyo will be developing its popular Xacti CA65 waterproof camera to include a higher resolution digital still capacity.
Blu-ray
Perhaps the most exciting innovation in the camcorder sector is the introduction of Hitachi’s Blu-ray camcorders. Now that the hi-def disc format war is finally over, the Blu-ray format stands a far better chance of success. Hitachi product manager Roland Fritsch explains the thinking behind the models: “Hitachi has historically been a great innovator in the camcorder market having launched many world firsts; the first hard disk camcorder, first DVD camcorder in 2001, first hybrid DVD/HDD camcorder in 2006 and last year the first full high definition Blu-ray Disc camcorders. Being the first has always created a huge media buzz but more importantly we look to the industry and consumer reactions to the product which has also been strong”.
Indie support
Hitachi has established a comprehensive range of initiatives to support sales of its Blu-ray camcorder including a website containing a host of product information, training presentations and customer demonstration Blu-ray discs, while magazine tests and reviews are also available as PDF files.
JVC offers several options tailored to independents, including custom training seminars for individual dealers, PoS material such as display plinths and the Accelerator distance learning programme. It also offers occasional promotions that are specific to the independent sector. Sony and Samsung also offer extensive training programmes.
Other manufacturers, including Sanyo and Toshiba, have told us that they have marketing plans for independent dealers, which will be introduced soon, so watch this space.

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