Sony has unveiled its latest contribution to the wireless home — a pair of camcorders that can be directly connected to the internet without the need for wires. One of the cameras, the DCR-IP7, also has the distinction of being the company's smallest camcorder yet.

The camcorders use Bluetooth technology to link to compatible network-connected devices said Sony.

At present this is limited to Bluetooth mobile phones or Bluetooth modem adapters that connect to a conventional telephone line. With a maximum connection speed of 64Kbps (kilobits per second) for both devices, image transfer could be a bit slow but that is expected to change when Bluetooth-enabled 3G (third-generation) wireless handsets or home network appliances become available.

Both camcorders can access the internet to allow data stored in a Memory Stick memory card to be exchanged online, either through email or Sony's Image Station website.

It's also possible to browse the internet with the camcorder via the built-in 2.5in LCD (liquid crystal display) screen. Sony has managed to reduce the size of the DCR-IP7 by switching from the popular MiniDV cassette format to MicroMV, a proprietary format developed by Sony for which the new camcorder is the debut device. MicroMV cassettes occupy 30 percent of the physical volume of MiniDV cassettes, which mean much less space is needed inside the camera for the cassette and its associated mechanism.

Reducing the cassette size means having less tape to record on and so sticking with the MiniDV encoding format would have meant much shorter recording times — less than one hour — on cassettes. To get around this obvious problem, Sony decided to employ the Mpeg2 compression system, already commonly used in direct to home digital broadcasting, which can compress files tighter. As a result, the MicroMV cassette can store an hour of video at comparable quality to MiniDV in a much smaller cassette, said Sony.

As a result of the new cassette format, Sony was able to make the DCR-IP7 weigh 310g and measure 47x103x80mm. In contrast, the company's popular DCR-PC9 camcorder, which is based on MiniDV, weighs 490g and measures 58x10397mm.

The second camera announced yesterday, the DCR-P120, is based on MiniDV but also includes Bluetooth support. Sony plan to launch it in Europe during the fourth quarter of this year.