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These days new edit decks are rarely than hen's teeth so it's a very warm Video Camera welcome to Panasonic's latest camcorder (and digital camera) friendly VCR, the NV-HS850



Almost any video recorder can be used for editing video movies though needless to say not all VCRs are equal when it comes to this fairly specialised application. Many big-name VCR manufacturers have dabbled in the edit deck market at one time or another but only one brand has kept the faith and that's Panasonic.


The NV-HS850 is a modestly priced but unusually well equipped Super VHS machine. It is designed to appeal to owners of high-band (Hi8 and S-VHS-C) camcorders, but what's good for analogue is also good for digital and this machine is equally at home making finished copies of video movies shot on digital camcorders. The fact that it is also an accomplished home cinema VCR makes it all the more desirable.


Starting with the general features, in addition to S-VHS video, NICAM and stereo hi-fi sound, the HS850 has an 8-event/31-day timer with Video Plus+ and PDC. It can also instigate timer recordings from satellite receivers, including a number of digital set top boxes (satellite and terrestrial). If you're in a hurry there's a nifty quick-program system that uses a set of easy to use remote control buttons. Speaking of which, the handset also controls the main functions (on/standby, volume, channel change etc) on a good assortment of other maker's TVs. Home cinema goodies include Panasonic's own home-grown 3D Digital Signal Processing system which minimises video noise, cross colour interference and improves picture sharpness. There's multi speed replay with a jog/shuttle on the front panel and the deck mechanism is one of the quickest in the business. Panasonic claim it will wind an E180 from end to end in under a minute, the best we got was 63 seconds, but that is still very impressive.


Editing features include Panasonic 5-pin and Control L/LANC edit terminals more on those in a moment insert edit, audio dub, manual audio level control, front AV terminals and a new feature called Still Album. It's not terribly sophisticated but it is a clever idea. When the function is selected the VCR automatically selects the A3 external AV input and puts the machine into record-pause mode. Pressing the Still Album button on the remote makes a 5-second recording of a still image coming from a digital still camera connected to the front AV input. By working your way through the pictures stored on the camera and pressing the remote button you can quickly build up an album of images on tape. The recording time can be varied between 3 and 20 seconds.


Back now to the 5-pin and LANC edit terminals.  They're both used for syncro or one-touch editing from a camcorder (or VCR), with the 850 acting as the record deck and controlling the replay functions on the source machine. It's a one-shot system with scenes being recorded one at a time but it simplifies the whole process and if you've only got to handle a few scenes or need to tidy up a short holiday flick, it's a convenient alternative to full blown edit set-up.


Set-up is quick and simple. If you have a Q-Link compatible (NexTViewLink, DataLogic, Easy Link, MegaLogic, SmartLink etc.) TV the 850 downloads tuning data through a SCART cable in a trice. Otherwise the auto installation system seeks out locally available channels, sorts them into logical order then sets the time and date, all in just a couple of minutes. All secondary functions are controlled from a well presented menu-driven on-screen display and a set of concealed buttons under a sliding flap on the remote handset.



Resolution on S-VHS recordings is a whisker below the 400-line benchmark; this drops to a little over 240 lines in VHS mode. Noise levels on S-VHS material is very low indeed, VHS tapes looked clean too and the machine responds well to high-grade tapes. Colour fidelity in both recording modes is excellent and picture stability is excellent in all playback modes, though still and the jerky slomo can be a bit noisy when playing tapes made on other VCRs. Assemble and insert edits are clean with no significant picture disturbance at the edit points.


Noise levels on the hi-fi stereo soundtrack are about average; the response is wide and flat. Audio dubs are okay with no annoying clicks or pops at the in and out points.



VCRs that deserve to be called edit decks are few and far between these days but the 850 is one of those rare beasts. The actual editing functions are not that exciting but the combination of S-VHS quality noise reduction and picture enhancements means that second generation recordings made on this machine -- from analogue or digital sources -- look sharper and crisper than almost any other domestic VCR we've seen in quite a while. 



Make/model                         Panasonic NV-HS850

Tape format          Super VHS/VHS

Guide price                      450



Max playing time            S/VHS: 8-hours (E240)

Timer                               8-events, 31-days/Video Plus+ with PDC

Remote control               full function multi-brand TV



System         PAL, SP, HQ, NTSC

Replay speeds         variable search still frame, frame step


Main facilities

Slow motion          yes   

Multi-speed           yes   

Insert edit:          yes  

Jog/shuttle          yes (VCR only)

On-screen display          yes   

Video Plus+          yes

Index search          yes   

Intro Scan          yes

Instant timer          yes   

LCD remote          no     

PDC timer          yes   

Repeat play          no

Record search          yes   

NTSC replay          yes

Quasi S-VHS replay          n/a    

Auto play          yes

Auto head cleaner          yes   


Additional facilities

Auto installation, playback off timer, 3D noise reduction, sncro edit, satellite control, Q-Link, auto display dimmer, CVC picture control,  Still Album (see text)



Stereo hi-fi          yes   

Audio dub          yes   

Man level control          yes   

Level display          yes

NICAM sound          yes   

Line output          yes   



Sockets          rear: AV in/out (2 x SCART), S-Video out (mini DIN), line audio out (phono) LANC edit control (minijack), 5-pin edit controls (mini-Din). Front: AV in (phono), S-Video in (mini DIN)


Front AV terminal                    yes   

Edit terminal           Panasonic 5-pin & LANC

Microphone          no     

Headphones          no

SCART          twin   

Syncro edit          yes, see text


Dimensions (mm)            430 x 87 x 310mm

Weight (kg)          4kg



Resolution         >240/380-lines 

Colour fidelity         good/very good

Trick play stability         good/good

Colour bleed         negligible/negligible

Audio performance         average/average

Edit functions         good



Value for money         8

Ease of use         8       

Performance         9

Features         9



R. Maybury 1999, 1511




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