Sony has taken the wraps off the NEX-VG20, a consumer HD interchangeable lens camcorder that follows the world's first consumer-oriented HD camcorder with an interchangeable lens system, the NEX-VG10. The upcoming NEX-VG20 features the same E-mount system that offers users the choice of seven different E-mount lenses. Sony claims the VG20 offers a number of improvements over the previous model, including comprehensive manual controls, improved imaging quality, upgraded sound, and ergonomic refinements such as enhanced grips and a second record button.

With the same Exmor APS HD CMOS sensor found in Sony's NEX-5N and NEX-C3 still cameras, the VG20 offers an effective resolution of 16.1 megapixels to capture 16 megapixel stills in RAW format and Full HD video in AVCHD format in 24p and 60p. For a more cinematic look, footage shot at 24p can also be enhanced with Cinema Tone Gamma and Cinema Tone Color. With the use of E-mount lenses, the sensor also allows for the creation of background defocus - or "bokeh" - effects.

"Whether you're shooting video or stills, this camcorder's large sensor rivals the expressive picture quality of a DSLR camera," said Andy Bubala, director of camcorders at Sony Electronics. "We've also made several enhancements to deliver the type of camcorder that video enthusiasts will love."

The unit's 3-inch (7.5 cm) Xtra Fine LCD display features TruBlack technology for improved contrast and can be rotated up to 270 degrees for high or low angle shooting, The VG20's Quad Capsule Spatial Array Microphone now supports stereo and 5.1 channel surround sound and the unit also features a new audio level control. The unit is compatible with SD memory cards and Sony's Memory Stick PRO-HG Duo HX series in capacities up to 32 GB.

Sony has also redesigned the camcorder's handgrip to improve the balance of the unit and make low and high angle shooting more comfortable. The control panel that allows for manual adjustment of exposure, iris and other settings can now be accessed when the LCD panel is closed, while the new button layout features "hard" function keys, direct access to each shooting mode and a second record button that have all been located so they can be operated without the user taking their eyes away from the electronic viewfinder.

The VG20 comes with the SEL 18200 F3.5-6.3 E-mount lens that offers 11x optical zoom, built-in Optical SteadyShot image stabilization and also features smooth, quiet autofocus operation during movie and still shooting. While Sony says the seven E-mount lenses available should cover virtually any shooting situation, the optional LA-EA2 lens mount adapter provides compatibility with A-mount lenses. Sony says it also plans to develop a third party "eco-system" to allow the camcorder to be used with lenses from other brands.

Sony's Handycan NEX-VG20 will be available this November for about US$2,199 with the SEL 18200 F3.5-6.3 E-mount lens included, or for $1,500 for the body-only version.

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