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The most amazing thing about time-lapse video recorders is not the fact that several days and weeks worth of video information can be compressed on to a standard 3-hour VHS tape, but that in general they’re so dependable. They’re one of the few surveillance devices to have motorised moving parts, and the only ones where they’re in constant motion, 24 hours day.


Hopefully the Sanyo TLS-S2500 will maintain the tradition of reliability, on the evidence so far that seems entirely possible. This is a sturdily built machine, well specified but with few frills or unnecessary gadgets. The key features are a Super VHS recording system, with the potential for high-quality video recording,  improved colour accuracy and lower noise levels. The deck has 13 recording modes, (3, 12, 24, 48, 72, 96, 120, 168, 240, 360, 480, 720 and 960 hours), and the same number of replay speeds.


The machine can record sound in the 3,12 and 24 hour modes. It has a programmable timer, that can be set to record at pre-set times every day, or on specified days. There’s also a full set of alarm record functions. When triggered the VCR will automatically switch to a pre-set (or previously set) recording mode, time and date information is logged, and the recording indexed, for rapid access during replay.


Sanyo have kept to a fairly conventional design and layout, though the centre-mounted deck mechanism is a recent innovation on surveillance VCRs. This reflects the trend on domestic video equipment, and the fact that there’s a fair amount of cross-fertilisation of mechanical and electronic components, between the two markets. The machine is housed in a two-tone cream and grey coloured case, virtually identical in size to a normal domestic VCR; it measure 420 x 99 x 344 mm and weighs in at 5.6kg.


There are two display panels, one either side of the tape hatch. The one on the left has just three LED indicators, showing  power on, repeat recording and S-VHS recording mode. The panel on the right side of the fascia contains a fluorescent display, showing elapsed time, recording duration in hours, and transport mode. Beneath both display panels there a pair of buttons, with  power on/standby and tape eject on the left,  stop and record on the right.


All of the remaining controls are located behind a flip-down panel, running the width of the machine. These include a set of knobs for adjusting picture sharpness, still picture stability and tracking. In the centre of the panel there’s a row of switches for setting tape type and input, alarm settings, repeat recording and timer mode enable. On the right side are the tape transport keys, selector buttons for the on-screen displays and finally, the record mode/replay speed buttons. All of the front panel controls can be disabled. to prevent accidental or deliberate tampering, using a simple two-key sequence.


Around the back there’s a set of video and audio I/O connections; they include two audio inputs, one high impedance on a minijack for a microphone, the other a line-level input, using a phono/RCA socket. Additionally there’s a line-level audio output, also using a phono socket. The composite video input and output is carried by a pair of BNC sockets, and S-Video/YC signals use a pair of mini DIN connectors. The alarm connections are grouped together on a strip of screw terminals, and there’s a second minijack socket for a wired remote control.


Installing the machine, setting the time, date and main operating parameters -- using the on-screen display system -- takes only a few minutes. If required the time and date display can be moved to any part of the screen. Setting the timer is a little more involved, and the small, closely-packed buttons do not help. The machine generates a number of other displays, including head-use and power-on time elapsed readouts, plus logs for alarm activation, power loss, and down-time due to condensation on the head-drum.  



Clearly the S2500 will only give its best when used with cameras and monitors that have S-Video/YC inputs and outputs. Using standard monoscope test pattern our sample managed to resolve just under 400-lines in the S-VHS mode, and a little under 250 lines on standard VHS tape. Both figures are towards the upper end of the performance envelopes for the two recording systems. Picture noise levels on S-VHS recordings are very low, and recordings have good immunity to annoying cross-colour effects, that show up as colour interference on heavily patterned areas of the picture.


On standard VHS recordings there’s a small increase in picture noise, and some dot crawl on areas of high colour saturation and around sharp edges, but it’s certainly no worse than most other VHS time-lapse machines.


Overall video recording quality is good, and there’s no detectable change in performance across the range of recording modes. Replay stability depends to a large extent on the recording mode and selected replay speed; at its best the image is very steady, with no noise bars. At other speeds there can be some slight jitter and picture interference.


Still frame and slomo reproduction are both very good. Once again the size and layout of the controls makes the machine more difficult to use, especially when reviewing an event, where it may be necessary to repeatedly step forwards and backwards through a recording.


Audio quality is reasonably good in the 3-hour mode; it degrades markedly in the 12 and 24 hour modes, becoming increasingly muffled, though speech and incidental sounds remain reasonably intelligible.



Our only misgivings concern the ergonomics of the most frequently used tape transport and menu controls, these could have been better thought-out. In just about every other respect the S2500 is a competent, well designed machine that performs its allotted tasks effectively and efficiently.



Design and design features              ****

Circuitry and components                  ****

Ease of installation and wiring    ****    

Range and variety of functions            ****      

Accompanying instructions                   ****          

Technical advice and backup            ****      

Value for money                         ****                            




Ó R.Maybury 1996 1110









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