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ASK RICK – JULY

 

SPARE A NICKEL

I have a problem with my battery charger/discharger, which I have been using over the years with my Canon UC8 Hi camcorder. Unfortunately the unit doesn’t have the same fitting as the battery used on my brand new Sharp VL-E780 camcorder. Do you think I could by an attachment, or could I modify it in some way?

T.S. Manchester

 

Nothing is impossible but in this case you shouldn’t need to use a discharger on the battery supplied with your VL-E780 since it uses nickel metal-hydride (NiMh) cells. Unlike nickel cadmium or ‘nicad’ rechargeable batteries, NiMh batteries are much less prone to developing a ‘memory’. That’s when an otherwise healthy battery holds a progressively smaller charge; it’s not unknown for the capacity of a well-used nicad to drop by as much as 50% in just a few months. The memory effect is caused by repeated shallow charge-discharge cycles, and frequent ‘top-up’ charging, which causes the cells in the in the battery pack to become ‘unbalanced’. In other words they end up with varying states of charge. The problem is most nicad battery chargers look for a subtle change in voltage that occurs when one or more cells is fully charged, when that happens the charger switches off or from fast charge to trickle charge, leaving some cells in the pack only partially charged. The memory effect can be erased by taking the battery pack through a deep discharge cycle, which puts all the cells in the battery back on an equal footing.

 

This procedure isn’t necessary with NiMh packs, (and lithium ion batteries) because the cells have more uniform characteristics and a faster self-discharge rate, which tends to even things out.

 

FILTER TIPS

I have just brought my first camcorder, a Sony model and your magazine for the first time… I have a Canon EOS 600 SLR camera and in the past I have always kept a UV filter on the lens, to protect it form the elements and prevent accidental scratching. My question is, do you think it is necessary to protect the lens on a camcorder, as there is already a lens cover? Can a UV filter be fitted to this machine and what effect, if any, would it have on the recording?

L. Ship, Peterborough.

 

Pretty well all Sony camcorders have a filter thread; the size is normally marked on the front of the lens. Yes, in most cases you can leave the filter permanently attached, to protect the lens, though make sure you can still fit the lens cap. Ultra violet filters have a yellowish tinge and they are designed to absorb ultra violet rays, which helps reduce haze on bright outdoor shots, especially seascapes and landscapes. If you haven’t got one the right size you may be able to get an adaptor ring, in any case try it first, to make sure you camcorder’s white balance system can cope. Simply hold the filter in front of the lens, (being careful not to touch the lens), and record a few scenes, with and without the filter. Alternatively, you could try a neutral density filter, these have the effect of reducing the amount of light passing through the lens, and should have no impact on colour rendition, however, once again try it first because this time it can have an effect on the machine’s auto exposure system – especially on less well lit scenes – where it can force the machine to use a slower shutter speed.

 

MEXICAN SAVE?

I am new to the world of camcorders and I am about to buy one, but not from this country. In fact it will be purchased in Mexico. I want to know when I return home with my new toy, will I have any problems with it? I own a TV and VCR, both of which are capable of NTSC playback; do you think this will be sufficient for all of my needs? Could you tell me if it is true that the prices in Mexico are about half as much as they are here. The main reason for buying it there is to save money, but will that be the case? The machine I want is the Sony TRV-120 digital machine, do you think that is a good choice? Finally, do you know of any Mexican web sites?

Jeffrey Lewis, Northwich

 

Don’t do it! Let’s begin with question of TV standards. You say your TV and VCR has NTSC playback, that’s quite different to NTSC compatibility. NTSC playback is a process whereby the VCR decodes the colour information on NTSC recording on VHS tape, and the TV’s display circuitry has sufficient flexibility to display a 525-line/60Hz picture. It’s basically a technical conjuring trick that works with NTSC VHS tapes, but unless your TV is actually a multi-standard model it is very unlikely it would be able to display the ‘raw’ NTSC signal coming from a camcorder.

 

Maybe you do have a suitable TV and can watch replay, you still wouldn’t be able to edit your footage, unless you also had a NTSC VCR, not one with NTSC playback, but a pukka multi-standard model, or an actual NTSC machine. Still not convinced, then let’s look at the economics. Whilst it is true that products like camcorders are sometimes a fair bit cheaper in the US and Mexico, the price differential is nothing like as big as you have been led to believe. It’s around 15 to 20% at most, compared with typical UK high-street prices, which sounds like a good saving, until you take into account the ‘hidden’ costs of buying abroad. Unless you intend to smuggle the camcorder into the country upon your return, in which case you risk having it confiscated and being fined, you will have to declare it to HM Customs & Excise and pay import duty and VAT. Import duty on camcorders is either 4.9% or 14%, depending whether it has an external record facility (i.e. an enabled FireWire input in the case of the TRV-120), that’s added to the price you paid, then there’s 17.5% VAT on top of that. Let’s put some numbers on that, if you shop around you can find the TRV120 selling for around £650 in the UK. Suppose you find one selling for the equivalent of £500 in Mexico, the 14% import duty payable on your return will bump that up to £570, and with VAT on top of that the price you finally end up paying is £670, or a little more than it would have cost you at home, some saving!

 

To make matters worse your new machine will not be covered by UK guarantees and because it is an NTSC models servicing and spares could be hard to come by, and very expensive! I repeat, don’t do it, it could turn out to be a very expensive mistake, do not buy camcorders abroad unless you know exactly what you are doing! If you want more information about personal imports and buying abroad pick up a leaflet from your local Customs and Excise office or have a look at its web site at: http://www.hmce.gov.uk/public/advice/index.htm

 

CLOSER ENCOUNTERS

Sometimes I need to get a microphone away from the camcorder to cut out camera noise but the only type of external mike I can find in the shops have to be located at close range to the speaker or singer, however this is not always possible.  What I need is an external microphone that will pick up sounds at a distance. Does such an instrument exist, and where can I get one? Alternatively, would it be possible to remove the internal microphone from an old camcorder and connect that up to my current machine, which is a Canon UC-850?

Graham Berry, Sheffield

 

You have several options, there’s certainly no need to go removing microphones from old camcorders, which wouldn’t be much use in your case. The most flexible solution, and the one most likely to give the best results is a wireless mike. These can be worn by the subject, or placed in close proximity. Most models have a range of around 100 metres from the receiver, which plugs into the external microphone socket on your camcorder. The alternative is to use a ‘zoom’ or directional microphone, though these have a number of limitations and are really only effective up to 15 to 20 metres from your subject, and even then most models will still pick up a lot of extraneous noises. Many camera and camcorder dealers stock a range of external microphones and wireless mikes, have a look in your local Yellow pages – there’s several in the Sheffield area -- you’ve also got a Jessops in the locality and you’ll also find a very good selection in the Keene catalogue, call (01332) 830550 for a copy, or visits its web site at www.keene.com.uk

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Ó R. Maybury 2000, 2905

 

 

 


 

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