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I am seeking your advice on buying a camcorder for the following purpose:
cine film transfer to video. It seems to me that I need a camcorder that
offers manual focus, manual exposure and hopefully manual white balance. I am not able to spend a fortune and will be setting this up as a permanent installation. The transfer is not going direct to tape, but to PC for editing. I wonder therefore, if there is any difference at the front end between let’s say 8mm - Hi8 - VHS-C; this is important as I sometimes do get 8mm film that has been nicely shot.
Paul M. Cooke.

You are right about needing a camcorder with a full set of manual controls, and I am assuming that you will be using some sort of purpose-designed cine-to-video transfer system, like a copy ‘box’ or screen. Since you say are going direct to PC presumably you have a fast high-spec machine with a monster hard disc and FireWire input, in which case that narrows your choice to digital models. You don’t say how much you want to spend but working on the basis that it is as little as possible, I suggest you have a look at the new Panasonic NV-DS12 or JVC GR-DVL100.


For the record there are differences in the ‘front-end’ as you call it, or CCD image sensors and to a lesser extent, the lenses on camcorders that use different tape and recording formats. Low-band models (8mm & VHS-C) tend to have low to medium resolution image sensors with typically 330,000 (330k) to 370k picture elements or ‘pixels’. High band (Hi8 & S-VHS-C) models usually have 430 to 470k pixel image sensors, as do many budget digital camcorders, with more up-market models and those with advanced still shot capability having CCDs with between 550k and 1million pixels.



Reading your Buyer’s Guide the JVC GR-DVX4 has a low light sensitivity of 6 lux, is this correct? Some people I have spoken to think that this is a little high and may actually be 0.6 lux. Could you confirm for me please because the people at my local electrical superstore are either being unhelpful, or dim...
Ian Macdiarmid

A low-light sensitivity figure of 0.6 lux would be exceptional! Some camcorders can indeed produce a picture in very low light but this depends on some clever electronic trickery, either by increasing the gain of the video processing circuitry, which results in a big increase in noise and ‘grain’ and usually a loss of colour in the picture, or by increasing the exposure time with a so-called ‘slow-shutter’ system, which results in jerky movement. The low light figures we give are for unaided exposure and between 6 to 10 lux is entirely typical for a mid-range consumer model with a 0.25-inch image sensor and a compact lens.


I wish to buy a camcorder that meets my relatively simple requirements. I just want to record my grandchildren in movement and sound before they grow up and be able to run the result through the TV and hopefully preserve it in a format that will stand the test of time. I do realise, however, that the
present rate of advances in technology may mean that any recordings I make will be antiquated by the time the grandchildren grow up. I am not new to photography (I have a Canon EOS 50E) but I am completely new to camcorders and although I have found a great deal of interesting detail in your magazine I am still floundering around in the deep end because of my lack of knowledge. My TV is a NICAM stereo model, getting on in years
but may last until the digital development dictates a change. My VCR is a Panasonic NV FJ710BS and I also have a PC which was recently upgraded in speed, hard disc capacity and RAM so that I could use that for camcorder stills etc: I have a budget of around £500 plus or minus £300.
Len Stevens

Given that passing on your recordings to future generations is a consideration I suggest you go for a digital camcorder. The analogue formats are on the way out, and in decades to come equipment to replay or copy tapes will become increasingly scarce. Digital picture and sound quality is as good as it gets moreover recordings can be easily archived and copied to other media (PCs etc.) without significant loss of quality. All of the digicams in the £500 to £800 price bracket have point-and-shoot capability and will work with your present (and future) TVs and VCRs; try a few for size. 



I have been looking through your magazine to try and find an answer to
a question: Can I as an owner of a Sharp VL-A10H in the UK swap
tapes with an owner of a SHARP VL-E610 in the United States? I assume they are the similar systems and even use the same tapes. Is there anything to stop me watching tapes recorded in America on the VL-E610?

Mark Chambers

Short answer yes! The long answer is that whilst these machines may look alike and indeed have a similar model number, they are incompatible. The US machine records using the NTSC colour TV system whilst the UK model uses the PAL system. The two systems use different colour signal processing techniques and NTSC pictures are made up of 525-lines with a 60Hz frame rate whilst PAL images have 625-lines and a 50Hz frame rate. The actual tape cassettes are the same, and blank tapes are transferable, however since the tape transports in NTSC and PAL machines run at different speeds the running times/tape length printed on tapes will be wrong (NTSC tapes in PAL equipment lasts longer than stated). If you try playing an NTSC tape on a PAL machine all you’ll get is an unwatchable mush. Some Sony camcorders have 8mm replay but this feature is very rare. The same sort of thing happens if you try to view a PAL tape on an NTSC camcorder, and I’m not aware of any US/NTSC camcorders that have an equivalent PAL replay facility.  The only way you’ll be able to watch US recordings is to have your friend/relative in the US copy their recordings to VHS, many recent VHS VCRs sold in this country have an NTSC replay facility on recent TVs, otherwise the tapes will have to be electronically converted or ‘transcoded’ and that can be expensive!




Ó R. Maybury 2000, 2310




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