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JVC GV-PT2 VIDEO PRINTER

 

INTRO

This versatile and highly compact video printer delivers near photographic quality, postcard-sized images in just one and a half minutes

 

COPY

Right now a video printer is probably way down on your list of priorities. They’ve been around for at least the past five years but until recently the cheapest ones sold for at least £1000. This has tended to confine them to somewhat specialist applications, like producing photo identity cards, we also understand they’re very popular with estate agents... That could all be about to change. JVC are one of a number of companies launching a new generation of low-cost video printers, targeted at a much wider audience, that includes domestic users.

 

The GV-PT2 was launched at the same time as the new GR-DVM1 digital camcorder, they’re meant to compliment one another, but it will actually work with PAL video source, and that includes other camcorders, VCRs and digital still cameras. However, unlike most of the other video printers we’ve seen, this one has a parallel port, for connection to a PC. Moreover, the software suite bundled with the DVM1 camcorder includes control and image export applications for the printer. 

 

It is unusually compact. Video printers tend to be housed in VCR-sized cases; this one actually takes up less deskspace than a sheet of A4 paper. It is fairly basic. In addition to single images on postcard-sized sheets of printing paper it can generate multiple images, with 4 or 16 pictures per sheet. These can all be the same, captured or ‘strobed’ sequentially from a moving video sequence, or individually, one at a time. There’s a choice of layouts (landscape or portrait), and pre-formatted styles for calendars, business cards and cassette labels. Titles and simple graphics can be superimposed on the finished print. Consumables, in the form of packs of printing paper and ink film cartridges put the cost of prints at just under £1 each. The printer holds up to 25 sheets of print paper and each image takes around 90 seconds to emerge, after the print button is pressed.

 

The printer uses a technique called dye sublimation which is capable of reproducing a palette of  16.7 million colours. That sounds quite impressive but it has to be said that low cost units like this one are not an alternative to chemical photography, when it comes to the ability to reproduce fine detail. Video images and those generated on a PC contain a small fraction of the information that can be resolved on photographic film, and that includes cheap disposable cameras.

 

However, the lack of detail only becomes apparent when you study the prints at close quarters. It also highlights the relatively narrow contrast range; images to be printed need to be chosen with care as the printer has only rudimentary picture controls. Nonetheless, the printer does a good job of eliminating video line structure and there’s no evidence of pixellation. Colours can look a little flat and it definitely favours brightly lit scenes and subjects. 

 

Video printing, like digital still photography still has a considerable way to go before anyone needs to worry about chucking out their Instamatics and 35mm cameras. If instant results are important then Polaroid cameras are just as quick and far better quality, but maybe that’s missing the point. No other system at present can rival the flexibility of video, and the all-important connectivity with a PC, that enables images to be processed, manipulated and archived in a way that no other technology can match.

 

BOX COPY 1

 

An affordable taste of the future, on the lookout for some problems to solve

 

How much?                   £500

What is it?                    digital video printer

System             PAL I/VGA

Connections                  video in (phono & S-Video) video out (phono), remote pause & JLIP  (minijack), parallel port (25-pin D-sub)

Contact:                        JVC UK Ltd., 0181-450 3282

 

Image quality                 ****

Ease of installation            ****

Ease of use                   ****

Build quality                  *****

Value for money            ***

 

CV Rating                     78%

 

 

HEAD

SANYO DIGICAM

 

INTRO

Digital still video camera technology is advancing in leaps and bounds, this cute little snapshooter from Sanyo has certainly won us over...

 

COPY

As recently as a year ago about the kindest thing you could say about most low-cost digital still video cameras, was that they were interesting toys. To be perfectly honest that still holds true for a lot of them, but the technology has been progressing at a tremendous rate and we’re now seeing second and third generation products, that deserve to be taken a lot more seriously.

 

The new Sanyo Digicam is one of them. It’s the company’s second digital camera and clearly a much more refined product. It’s no larger than a conventional 35mm compact, and from the front it could easily pass for one; it has a built-in flash, optical viewfinder and sliding lens cover, that doubles as an on/off switch. It becomes obvious this is no ordinary camera when you take a look around the back. There you will find a 2-inch polysilicon TFT colour LCD screen, that can be used as a viewfinder, or to replay captured images on the spot.

 

It has only a small handful of controls, the shutter button is on the top, alongside a small LCD display frame counter, mode and status display. A group of four buttons selects flash mode, high or low resolution, single or continuous shot, self timer, and an interesting facility that allows you to record a 6-second voice caption for each frame. On the back there’s a selector switch for record or replay mode, a four-way function knob for the display, and on the front there’s a power-save switch for the display. The camera is powered by a set of 4-AA sized cells, that live in a compartment on the underside of the camera.

 

There’s a choice between high and low-resolution image recording; the internal (and non expandable) 4 megabyte memory can store 60 (640 x 480 pixel) high-res images, or 120 (320 x 240 pixel) in low-res mode. Recording sound captions reduces the image capacity to 40 high-res and 60 low resolution shots. The camera has both digital and PAL analogue outputs, so it can be connected to an ordinary TV, via it’s AV input socket. The outfit includes a video connection lead and serial interface cable, the supplied Photosuite software comes on a CD ROM, MGI Photoviewer is included for MAC PCs.

 

We needn’t dwell on how simple the camera is to use, it is an almost idiot-proof point and shoot design. In the replay mode there’s a choice between single or multiple frame display. If you like what you see keep it, if not erase it. Downloading to a PC is pretty straightforward too. PhotoSuite has well designed front-end, that makes it easy to copy across images, and once stored on hard disc, organise into an album or slide show. There’s a good selection of image manipulation tools, and plenty of fun features, including templates for creating calendars, posters signs, advertising flyers, greetings cards and magazine covers.

 

So what about resolution and quality? There’s no point comparing digital stills with normal photographs, we’re talking about chalk and cheese, but if we confine ourselves to its ability to get pictures onto a TV screen, or into a PC, and out again, via a colour printer, then we have to say the results are quite excellent. Obviously with only 640 x 240 pixels to play with it doesn’t do to go in for much enlargement, but on-screen images look clean and bright, colours are reasonably faithful -- on shots taken in good natural light. Indoors flash pictures can be a bit variable, but the hit-rate is no worse than a conventional 35mm compact. More good news, when the time comes to print out images. We tried it first on a cheap and cheerful Canon BJ210, using ordinary photocopy paper, and they really looked good. It looked even better on a middle of the range HP Deskjet and with high-grade inkjet paper the results were quite simply excellent.

 

This is one of the best little digital still cameras and software bundles we’ve tried. It’s a great way of getting pictures into a PC; once there, there’s a million and one things you can do with them, from incorporating them into documents and newsletters, to creating your own web pages, but is this the best or cheapest way to do it? You can now get good quality colour scanners for less than £200, video digitisers cost around the same, and both are more flexible. True, but you can’t ignore the fun factor of this little beauty, and in the end that’s what won us over. They’re going to get cheaper and the quality will improve, but hey, life’s too short. If you can afford it, why wait?  

 

How much?                   £550

What is it?                    digital still video camera

Features                       2-inch TFT colour LCD viewing screen, 4Mb memory for 60 high definition (640 x 480 pixels) or 120 low-definition (320 x 240 pixels), built-in flash, voice caption recording (6 seconds per print), auto focus, multi-shot function (16 images at 0.1 or 0.2 second delay), AV output, IBM/MAC compatible, Photosuite SE software included

Lens                             auto-focus, 5mm, F2.8/5.6/11

Image sensor                 0.3-in CCD, 350k pixels

Shutter             1/4 - 1/10,000th sec

Connections                  digital out, AV out and earphone (minijack), DC power connector

Contact:                        Sanyo UK Ltd., (01923) 246363

 

Image quality                 ****      

Ease of use                   *****

Build quality                  ****

Value for money            ****

 

CV Rating                     80%

 

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Ó R. Maybury 0905 0905

 


 

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