New Hi-Def Sony Camcorder in the Works & The State of Camcorders for the Indy Videomaker

The major electronics companies that make camcorders have finally agreed upon a standard to put high-definition video on DV cassette. This is important because it means intercompatibility between cameras and decks, and provides some guarantees that we’ll be able to edit hi-def video using a variety of standard editing platforms, like Premiere and Final Cut Pro.

Sony just announced that they’ll show a “concept” version of a prosumer hi-def camcorder at the German consumer electronics show, CEBIT.

Although standard-definition NTSC video is going to be with us a while — I guess at least 10 years or more — it’s nice to see the ability to do higher-def video trickling down so quickly. It’s less important for buddying Indymedia reporters, but does hold potential for independent filmmakers looking for something with better quality than typical DV but much cheaper than film.

If hi-def on DV takes hold we’ll probably see it integrated with the higher-end prosumer camcorders. But that will also put downward price pressure on the high-end consumer and entry-level prosumer camcorders that offer higher-quality features like three-chip pickups and true manual focus.

The downward price pressure is always a boon for the independent media maker. Even today’s cheaper entry-level DV camcorders, which are stripped of many features, can produce very nice video if you spend some time learning how to use them well. And, already, it’s possible to buy some lightly used or refurbished cams from Panasonic or JVC for just under $200.

Just a few weeks ago, at work I ordered three nice new Canon Elura 50 camcorders for just $500 a piece. Five years ago we bought very similar cams with similar features for three times that much.

Now, for your $500 you get a small cam that’s well suited to street reporting, especially during protests and demonstrations, that also has important features like external mic jacks and some degree of manual control.

If there’s one good think about modern post-industrial capitalism — they will gladly sell you the tools for you to use against them…. all at bargain-basement prices, too.