Camcorders: A new angle

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The camcorder market has seen a shift away from tape to non-tape formats, in a similar way to the audio market.
Matt Gibbs, senior account manager at GfK Retail and Technology, explains: “Camcorder value sales took something of a dive in 2006 due to the rapidly falling average price of Mini-DV formats. Although the higher average price of DVD and HDD models took a larger slice of the market, prices fell rapidly in these sectors too, lowering the impact of the shift in sales into these markets”.

Hi-def developments

One of the most important factors exerting its influence on the camcorder market over the last year has been High Definition TV (HDTV). The increasing popularity of HD products has had a huge impact on the camcorder market, and is set to give it a much-needed boost in the near future.

Ian Rea, product manager for camcorders at Sony UK explains: “The camcorder market is benefiting from the high popularity and awareness of High Definition TV. Now that consumers are starting to understand and view the superior picture quality of HD, a natural desire for filming their own HD content is occurring.

“The major step forward this past year has been the introduction and advancement of AVCHD (Advanced Video Codec High Definition). 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 disc, hard disc drive and Flash memory.

With the adoption of the HDV standard for MiniDV tape, home video equipment is increasingly moving towards HD technology”. While the HD camcorder sector is still a fledgling product area, and has yet to make its mark, there appears to be plenty of potential for sales growth on the horizon. GfK’s Matt Gibbs comments: “High Definition formats are yet to make a significant impact in terms of unit sales, although their value share in the past year accounted for 5% of value sales. Manufacturers seem set for a big push with these formats over the coming year, and any increase in volume sales will be determined by pricing and the success of the trade-up in store”.

Several manufacturers have released HD models, including Sony, Panasonic and Sanyo.

Influencing factors

So, what other factors have had an impact on the camcorder market recently? As convergence between products continues, there are now many products available which include video recording capability, such as still cameras and mobile phones. However, these products have failed to threaten the camcorder market, perhaps even giving it a boost, says Stephen Mitchell, product manager at Samsung.

“Camera phones and similar devices do not offer the same level of image quality, recording time, or features as camcorders. As such, they have had little direct impact on the camcorder market, and have instead lead consumers into video making who wouldn’t otherwise have purchased a dedicated camcorder to do so.”

The increasing role of the PC has also had an impact on the camcorder market. According to Samsung’s Stephen Mitchell: “One of the major factors influencing the camcorder market recently is the demand for increased PC connectivity. This has already led in part to the growth of the HDD format and will lead to the growth of Flash memory-based products”.

The relatively recent ‘Web 2.0’ phenomenon has also had an influence on camcorder usage, says Steve Ainge, business manager, Digital Imaging at Sanyo. Web 2.0 is catch-all term used to describe websites based largely on User Generated Content (UGC). As the status of networking sites such as MySpace and video-sharing sites, such as YouTube, has increased, so too has the popularity of uploading video content to the Internet, which can only be good news for camcorder sales.

The shift away from tape

Hard Disk Drive and DVD camcorders have proved very popular over the last year. Sony’s Ian Rea explains the differences: “HDD camcorders allow the user to shoot, store and transport and then edit their footage. Depending upon the size of your HDD and the recording speed you use, the potential for long recording times is available for the user. Once footage is recorded, the user can then transfer and edit their data using their home PC.

“DVD on the other hand, allows the user to shoot and playback in their DVD player, all in a simple quick process. With the DVD format, a library of lasting memories can be built by the user very quickly and easily”.

Camcorders using SD cards have also proved popular. As the memory cards contain no moving parts, they are highly resistant to impact making them very durable. This type of recording format also means that the cameras themselves are very light, and are characterised by extremely compact designs.

A recent trend in the camcorder market is to join these formats together in one device, to offer consumers a variety of benefits which are not possible when using just one format.

The latest hybrid models from Hitachi combine HDD and DVD capability. Hitachi’s Roland Fritsch explains the benefits: “Hybrid DVD and HDD combine the capacity of HDD and the convenience of DVD. The user benefits are the ability to shoot for hours, edit in minutes and share in seconds. Hybrid DVD and HDD camcorders are an all-inone PC-less solution for sharing and archiving important memories with ease.

“DVD camcorders are also convenient but do lack the advantage of a built-in hard disk which allows much longer recording time, faster access to footage, lower power consumption and quieter operation”.

Hitachi has recently boosted the recording capacity of its hybrid models from six to 23 hours with the new DZ-HS 501 and 500 (see Products to Watch, p 36).

Panasonic also recognises the benefit of hybrid models; it has introduced two new SD/HDD models – the SDR-H250 and SDR-H20.

Sanyo has also followed the 2 in 1 theme with its HD2 High Definition camcorder, which can also capture 7.1 megapixel still images (see Products to Watch, p 36).

Indie support

In terms of retailer support, Sanyo provides display stands and other PoS and marketing literature for independent dealers. Hitachi offers a range of promotional material, including DVD show reels, technical datasheets and brochures, launch packs, PoS display units and staff sales training. Samsung is currently looking into display material orientated towards the independent sector. Sony offers an extensive training programme for independent dealers, so that they may gain a full understanding of the products.

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