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Panasonic Unveils New P2 Card, Camera

Panasonic has developed a solid-state memory card for its P2 line of camcorders that stores 16 gigabytes (GB) of data, or 16 minutes of 1080-line-interlace (1080i) high-definition video at 60 frames-per-second. The new card, which doubles the storage capacity of current 8 GB P2 cards, will begin shipping in May. It will allow P2 cameras with 5 memory card slots to record up to 80 minutes of high-definition video, dramatically expanding their production capabilities in the field.

“One of our biggest products for NAB is one of the smallest,” said Panasonic director of product marketing Joe Facchini. “This essentially doubles the recording time of our P2 cameras.”

Facchini, who unveiled the 16 GB card in a pre-NAB press briefing Tuesday in New York, said that Panasonic should also have a 32 GB card ready in November 2007. That would allow P2 cameras to record up to 160 minutes of hi-def, which means some customers will simply leave the P2 cards in the camera permanently and “bolt the door shut,” says Facchini.

He didn’t discuss pricing for the new cards, but said that as in past P2 card introductions, the new card should cost about the same as the previous generation ($1200 for an 8 GB card) with twice the storage.

Panasonic VP of marketing Bob Harris noted that 2006 was “really the first year that P2 became mainstream” and pointed to large sales to Cox and Fox’s station group. He said that over 25,000 P2 cameras are in use worldwide and that over 150 U.S. television stations have adopted the solid-state format

Panasonic also introduced a a new shoulder-mounted P2 HD camcorder, the AG-HPX500, that offers some enhancements over its popular AG-HVX200 unit, including three 2/3” imaging chips (CCDs), 4:2:2 sampling and independent frame encoding. The new camera, which will be available in May 2007 at a suggested list price of $14,000, will record in 32 high definition and standard definition formats and will allow users to swap between a number of compatible lenses. The camera has four P2 card slots and can record up to 64 minutes in DVCPRO HD,128 minutes in DVCPRO 50 and 256 minutes in DVCPRO on four 16GB P2 cards. The camera also supports “Native Mode” recording in 720p that can significantly increase record times.

Facchini says that P2 solid-state cameras are outselling Panasonic’s tape-based high-definition cameras by a factor of 10 to 1, a sign that the industry is embracing file-based recording on IT-type storage.