Sony will put on sale in July a consumer HD (high-definition) camcorder that is much smaller and cheaper than its current offering.

The HDR-HC1 is the second consumer HD camcorder from Sony and its launch should bring HD video recording into the reach of a wider range of potential users. Compared to Sony's current model, the HDR-FX1, which went on sale late last year, the new camera is about a third of the weight and less than half the size and price.

Sony managed to cut down the size and price of the camera by working on two main areas.

First, the new camera features a single CMOS image sensor, compared to the three CCD sensors on the previous model. Not only is this cheaper, but it makes for a simpler optical system because a prism isn't needed to split the image to each of the sensors. The new camera also uses a smaller and more compact lens, with a 10x optical zoom.

There has also been work on reducing the size of the camera's electronics. The number of circuit boards has been cut from 5 to 2 and the total component count is down from 3000 to 2000 through integration of components into chips.

All of this has made the camera much smaller. The HDR-HC1 measures 2.8x3.7x7.4in and weighs 63g without the battery. In contrast, the previous model measured 5.9x7.1x14.4in and weighed 2kg.

Like the previous model, the HDR-HC1 is based on HDV format, which uses current-generation DV tapes to store high-definition video. Current DV tapes are completely compatible and can hold the same amount of video under HDV as they can under standard definition. This is a major advantage for current DV camcorder users because it preserves the investment made in recording media.

The HDR-HC1 will be launched in Japan on 7 July and in North America, Europe, and Asia at about the same time. It will cost about £920 in Japan and a similar price overseas.