During their press conference at NAB in Las Vegas today, Panasonic unveiled a small mockup P2 high definition flash media camcorder in the $3,000 price range. Interestingly, the announcement came off as more of an aside, as the conference was geared toward Panasonic's high end P2 line and supporting hardware. P2 is solid-state flash memory (drive/card based) technology that is currently used in Panasonic's P2 HD line of high-end camcorders. This announcement is significant however because it is the first signal which Panasonic has given regarding their direction in the prosumer and consumer HD category.
When questioned as to why Panasonic was not developing an HDV camcorder in light of Sony's recent HDV camcorder announcement, Joseph Facchini, director of Product Marketing for Panasonic Broadcast stated, ''We are committed to DV native recording formats first, we're not saying we're not going to support it, but at this time our development resources are all focused towards DV native.'' Facchini couldn't offer many specifics, as the model on display was very much a mockup, but he hinted that the camcorder would fall somewhere in the $3,000 range and would most likely be able to support 24 frames progressive recording.
Panasonic was never a part of the 4 company HDV consortium that is composed of Sony, Sharp, Canon, and JVC but many have wondered if and when Panasonic would jump on the HDV bandwagon. While all the other camcorder manufacturers have hinted at their HDV plans, brought products to market or teased products, Panasonic has been silent. Judging from today's press conference it appears that Panasonic and HDV may never share the same bed. The prototype camera was described as an HD camera and HDV was not mentioned during any part of today's presentation.
The specs for the mockup camcorder are few if any, but some interesting design implementations are being considered, namely the flip out handle on the bottom of the P2 mockup. With the handle folded out, the camcorder resembles the super 8 cameras, now practically cultish collectors items, of the 60's and 70's. The camcorder was noticeably thinner, as it has no need for a tape loading/eject mechanism.
The projected release date for the prototype shown at the Panasonic press conference is September 2006. Pictures of the product are below.