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JVC TK-C1380 COLOUR VIDEO CAMERA

 

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These days it’s not unusual to open up a video camera case and find it is mostly full of air. Camera technology has progressed to the point whereby all of the imaging, processing and even power regulation functions can be incorporated onto a single chip. The JVC TK-C1380 colour camera comes as something of a surprise, therefore; the sturdy cream-coloured housing is packed to the rafters with heavily populated circuit boards and enclosed by an impressive-looking steel chassis-cum-exoskeleton, reminiscent of the box-girder construction of the Forth railway bridge…

 

It is apparent from the design and specifications that the TK-C1380 is a serious piece of kit, intended for critical applications where quality and reliability are paramount. It is based around a ½-inch CCD image sensor with a 470k (440k effective) pixel array, giving a quoted resolution of 470 lines, an (unusually precise) minimum object illumination of 0.95 lux and a S/N ratio of 48dB.

 

Those few vital statistics mark the C1380 out as high-end design, but there’s plenty more where that came from. It has an advanced digital signal processing (DSP) system providing a wide range of exposure and picture control facilities and options (more about those in a moment). The lack of external controls is explained by the fact that this camera has a sophisticated menu-driven on-screen displays for quick and simple alignment. It has two sorts of video output – composite via a BNC socket and S-Video or Y/C via a 4-pin mini DIN connector and power supply options are 12 volt DC or 24 volt AC. The latter enables line-lock synchronisation, alternatively it can be locked to an external sync source (Composite video/VBS) or black burst/BB). Incidentally a second version of this camera (TK-C1381) is also available with a built-in mains power supply.

 

The C/CS mount allows it to be used with a wide variety of lenses including Video/DC auto-iris or fixed/manual types, using it’s own automatic electronic shutter (AES) system. Shutter speed can also be set manually, nine speeds are available, from the factory-set 1/50th sec up to 1/10,000th sec. White balance control has auto tracking (ATW) and manual options, there’s a pedestal level/picture brightness control (10 steps), picture enhancement (10 steps, soft to sharp), a user-definable camera title or ident (one line 24 characters), and a colour level (saturation) control.

 

Also accessible from the on-screen display is a switchable AGC (3 steps: 0, 9 and 18dB), a Super High AGC mode, which provides additional gain for extreme low light conditions when the AGC is set to 18dB, there’s a backlight compensation facility with 4 pre-defined and 2 user-definable areas, average/peak value ratio settings for fine-tuning auto iris settings (6 steps 5:5, 6:4, 7:3, 8:2 default, 9:1 and 10:0) and a ‘highlight inverter’ (HLI). The HLI is a comparatively rare but potentially very useful feature that inverts areas of the image that are excessively bright (i.e. turns them black), so that surrounding detail can be seen more easily.

 

Physically the C1380 is a moderately compact design with the case measuring 156 x 68 x 68mm, minus lens and connections. There has been no attempt to weatherproof the case so it should not be installed in any kind of hostile environment or exposed to extremes of heat and humidity, dust or atmospheric pollutants. Inside the camera body there are five large glass-fibre PCBs mounted on and surrounded by that very sturdy looking chassis. There’s extensive screening around sensitive components, suggesting closer than normal attention to detail. The outer shell is in two parts and made from steel, the front-end cap is an alloy moulding the back panel is ABS plastic. There’s comparatively little to see from the outside; the back-focus adjustment on the C/CS lens mount is via a large thumbwheel, protruding from a slot in the top of the case. A small recessed lock screw is on the left side and on the right side there’s a standard 4-pin socket for an auto iris lens. On the back there are two BNC sockets, one for composite video out, the other is for external synch input. Next to those is the S-Video output socket and a green power-on LED. On the right side of the back panel there’s a 3-pin spring terminal for a video controlled auto iris lens and below that a two-pin screw terminal for the power supply leads. In the middle there is a cluster of five small buttons, for calling up the on-screen display and making and changing menu selections.

 

INSTALLATION

The case is fitted with a mounting block that has a standard ¼-inch thread; the block can be fitted to the top or bottom of the camera and has a neat cable-tidy slot for auto iris lenses. Back focus adjustment is smooth and progressive, though having the thumbwheel on the top could be a little inconvenient in some situations. The camera setup display opens with three options (Synch Adjust, Video Adjust and Mode Select) each of which leads to a set of sub menus. Most of the functions are fairly self-explanatory the only one that may require referral to the instruction manual is setting up backlight compensation. The four predefined areas are made visible after selection by pressing the Set button; the picture represents the detecting area whilst the blue coloured area will be ignored by the exposure system. The two user-set metered areas are defined by shifting the borders of the image, or a changing the shape of a coloured block in the centre of the screen. Some means of re-positioning the camera ident would have been welcome, as it is it can only be along the bottom edge of the picture.  The instruction book covers a lot of ground and is very easy to follow without being patronising; a run-through with a spell checker wouldn’t have gone amiss though…

 

PERFORMANCE

Horizontal resolution on an S-Video feed was within a whisker of the manufacturer’s specs on our sample. It produces a very clean and crisply defined image across a very broad range of lighting conditions. Colour fidelity in the ATW mode is satisfactory but it can go a bit askew under exclusively tube lighting, in which case it’s advisable to set white balance manually. It copes well with mixed light conditions moreover the on-board auto-exposure facilities are fast and effective, responding swiftly to sudden changes. Low light performance is particularly impressive and noise levels remain very low, even at the camera’s low light limits. The image is very stable and our sample didn’t flinch when subjected to our usual highly scientific intermittency and mechanical shock test, (a few good hard thumps with a rubber handled screwdriver).

 

SUMMARY

The C1380 oozes quality in terms of design and construction, and more importantly, what appears on the monitor screen. Video performance and the flexibility to operate in the widest possible range of conditions are key features, with special emphasis on low light sensitivity, in other words it’s a damn fine camera and that deserves short listing for demanding applications.

 

PRODUCT SPECIFICATION

 

Power supply              12VDC/24VAC

Weight                        640g

Dimensions                 156 x 68 x 68mm

 

CCD Sensor               ½-inch Interline transfer

Effective pixels  440k (752 x 582)

Minimum illum    0.95 lux (gain up)

Lens mount                 C/CS

 

PSI RATINGS

 

Product                      

Product design             9

Build quality                           9

Ruggedness                            9

 

Operation                  

General functions                     8

CCTV functions                     8         

Ease of use                             8

Instructions                            8

Manuf. support                        9         

Performance                           9

Video quality                          9

 

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Ó R. Maybury 2000 0103

 


 

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