HDTV, camcorders, and next-generation video recorders were among the hot topics at the 2005 Internationale Funkausstellung (IFA) held in Berlin Sept. 2-7. Dubbed the largest consumer electronics fair in the world, IFA is a six-day event open to the trade and the public, showcasing current and future technologies in 26 halls from more than 1,000 exhibitors.
Panasonic used the occasion for a worldwide launch of its SDR-S100, the first 3CCD camcorder based on the stamp-size Secure Digital (SD) card format. At 1.96 (w) x 3.8 (h) x 3.16 (d) inches and 8.5 ounces, the SDR-S100 is the smallest and lightest MPEG2 video camera to date. Panasonic’s previous SC-based camcorders–D-Snap–were based on the MPEG4 format. JPEG still image resolution is an impressive 3.1 megapixels, and the camera adds a Leica lens with 10x optical zoom, Panasonic?s O.I.S. optical image stabilizer and PictBridge technology for direct connection to a photo printer. Video records in either 16:9 or 4:3 format. The LCD viewfinder measures a roomy 2.8 inches.
Panasonic claims that PC transfer time using the supplied USB cable is Â¼ the time of that from DV tape to PC and a third of that of a DVD camera in XP mode. No cable connection is required with a PC housing an SD slot, and no finalization is required when recording to SD. The SDR-100 will be available in October at a suggested retail price of $1,199, including a 2-gigabyte SD card which can store up to 100 minutes of MPEG2 video in LP mode, 50 minutes in standard mode.
Panasonic also announced the introduction of a 65-inch 1080p plasma TV for the Japanese market. Plans haven?t been disclosed for the U.S., although typical product cycles point to a U.S. introduction at the International Consumer Electronics Show in January. Panasonic also cut prices by $500 last week on five plasma models ranging from 37- to 50 inches. The 42-inch TH-42PD50 EDTV dropped from a suggested retail price of $2,499 to $1,999, and the 50-inch HD TH-50PX500 fell from $5,499 to $4,499. Fueling the price reductions was an expansion of production. The company said it will reach production capacity of 5 million plasma panels at its six manufacturing plants in 2006.
As HDTV picks up steam in Europe, so did the display of Blu-ray recorders, although most were under glass as technology statements rather than market-ready products. Yamaha showed a combination Blu-ray recorder with hard disk drive. Hitachi featured a Blu-ray recorder next to a prototype 1-terabyte HDD digital video recorder. No availability was given for the recorder which can store 40 hours of HD video.
Philips also showed Blu-ray intentions with a prototype home recorder as well as an integrated PC drive. A company spokesperson said the Blu-ray triple-writer would be available worldwide. (photo of PC Blu-ray triple writer CD/DVD/Blu-ray below)
Philips Blu-ray Recorder
Samsung highlighted both networked and standalone Blu-ray recorders and a playback-only unit. A 400-GB hard drive Blu-ray recorder with HDD promised 2.5 hours of HD recording on a 25-GB disc with 802.11 b/g networking capability.
Samsung also wowed showgoers with supersized flat-panel TVs. The company highlighted its 80-inch plasma as the largest ?commercially available plasma? TV and demonstrated a 102-inch plasma next-door with a resolution of 1920 x 1080p. On the LCD side, Samsung laid claim to the world?s largest LCD, an 82-inch behemoth with a 6.4 billion color palette and 1920 x 1080p resolution. Marketing plans weren?t disclosed for either jumbo panel.
Samsung 80-inch LCD
Samsung 102-inch Plasma
iPod fever has hit Europe, too, and consumer electronics companies are hoping to capitalize with everything from iPod-ready mini music systems to car stereo head units. Onkyo?s DS-A1 interactive dock outputs stereo audio and iPod photo images to Onkyo RI-compatible receivers.
The most creative award went to Sony. Adopting a Sony Style approach rather than a trade show booth look, Sony entertained showgoers with futuristic lifestyle vignettes designed to give visitors a hands-on experience with portable Sony products. Attendees could lay back on plastic rockers while listening to music on Sony Ericsson mobile phones or take a rest inside individual pods while listening to Sony digital music players. They could also download music from the company?s Connect music site to portable music players.
Sony Style Display