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Before I start with my tale of woe I should just point out that I am a novice when it comes to video cameras so bear with me. Last July I started buying Video Camera for some guidance on what camera to buy. I had a budget of £800 and decided I wanted a digital model, so I could run it through my PC for stills and editing. So I popped along to my local electrical superstore for a demo. Prior to that a friend of mine had shown me his Canon MV20 which I thought was absolutely out of this world, so that’s what I was looking for; it was about £800 and for an extra £100 you could buy the kit to link it to your PC, or so I thought…


So I am now in the shop and have asked to see the MV20 to which they replied we do not have that model anymore but we have Canon’s latest offering, the MV200, which is even better. I was shown this model by a sales assistant who had even less knowledge than I did but I was impressed with the machine. I asked about the PC kit and was told it cost about £100 but I decided to wait until I had used the camera for a while before I got out of my depth, one step at a time. It is now several months later, and my new daughter has just arrived (the main reason for buying a camcorder) so now I am now looking for a PC kit to go with my MV200.


I went back to the shop to order the PC kit and I am advised that the only kit I can use is Canons own DK-1 capture kit, which to my horror I am told will cost about £500, on top of the £800 I had already spent. If I had known this from the start I wouldn’t have bought the machine, I would have gone for a different model, which doesn’t limit me to one maker’s capture kit. Is there anything I can do? Is this right about the capture kit being the only one I can use?

Scott Wilson, London WC1


It sounds as though you have been the victim of some fairly innocent misunderstandings, not helped by the various salespersons lack of experience and your own unfamiliarity with the product. The first sales assistant was undoubtedly referring to the optional PC stills capture kit for the MV20, which they should have explained to you, has nothing whatsoever to do with video editing. It simply allows you to download still images from the camcorder, via serial cable, into the PC. The DK1 kit, which you’ve since been offered, is a FireWire digital video capture card, for transferring digital video footage into a PC and is a full editing package. The bad news is the second sales assistant was right, the MV200, as we pointed out in our review last year, doesn’t have a serial output, so the only Canon option for PC connectivity is the DK1 kit. Now some good news, you don’t have to use it because there are plenty of other FireWire cards on the market, including several selling for less than £200. The Pinnacle Studio DV is getting a lot of good reviews (see the January issue of our sister magazine Computer Video), and if you don’t mind a bit of a challenge there’s the ADS Pyro card for around £116. In both cases you will need a fairly speedy and up to date PC with lots of memory a big hard disc, so check the card’s system requirements before you buy. 



Many years ago I decided to purchase a camcorder. After explaining to the shop assistant that I was a point-and-shoot sort of person I bought a Sony CCD-TR805E. This without doubt has been one of my better buys, and I have used it in all conditions, mostly on auto with Steady Shot, without any trouble whatsoever.


I am due to retire soon and would like to make my numerous tapes look professional. Is it possible to edit my tapes to produce such things as lead in titles, sound effects, voiceovers etc? I own a Pentium II computer and would prefer, if possible, to operate the system through my PC. I appreciated any advice and suggestions before I stumble into something, which I think could give me pleasure and satisfaction.

M.K. Sutton, Lindford, Hants,


Using your PC is definitely an option, made easier by the fact that you’ll be editing low-band analogue material. We have been impressed with the Studio DC10 package from Pinnacle. It comes with easy to use editing and post-production (effects, transitions etc.) software and is currently selling for around £180. Check the spec of your PC and hard disc first but you should be okay if it’s a fairly recent Pentium II system.



I am interested in becoming a filmmaker. I've been looking at the Canon DM-XL1 or the new XM1. After its review in January 2000 issue of Video Camera I think I'll buy the XM1, but am I making the right choice? I am also wondering about editing equipment. I've been looking at the various editing and post-production devices, which are advertised in your magazine. Will these be adequate for editing my work or will I need additional equipment, other than a TV and video recorder. Should I edit in a totally different way? I have a PC (366MHz Celeron processor, 64Mb SD RAM, 6.4 Gb UDMA hard drive, 3D graphics card). Is my computer good enough to edit on and would that mean I have to buy a editing program, as well as a mixer and processor or won't I need them? I would prefer not to edit on my computer unless it is easier and better quality.

Dean Smith, via fax


If, as it sounds, you are just starting out in this enterprise, try not to be too ambitious. The camcorders you mention are two very different machines and that is reflected in the substantial price differential of almost £1000. The key feature on the XL1 is an interchangeable lens system, which I suspect will be of limited use to you at this stage in your career (unless you already have a set of compatible lenses); you certainly won’t see much difference on screen, by the time footage has been edited, copied to analogue tape and shown on TV. You can always upgrade to a more advanced machine later on.


You are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea when it comes to editing. As it stands your PC is not really up to the job, but it could be upgraded for about the same cost as some decent stand-alone editing and processing equipment. If you go the ‘non-linear’ PC route you won’t need any additional processing or effects boxes, it’s all done in the computer, so from that point of view it is very convenient but there’s quite a steep learning curve to endure. My advice would be to cut your teeth, as it were, on a basic linear editing system (edit controller, processor/mixer) and get a few movies under your belt, before splashing out on more elaborate and expensive equipment.



I am considering buying a digital camcorder which will produce, as near as possible, 35mm quality prints. I currently use a Sony DCR-PC1 and an Olympus compact camera and would like to carry only one camera, which would be used mainly on holidays. What is the quality of the stills and the comparative merits of the DCR-PC3, the DCR-TRV1 and the new Sony model (whose full model number I cannot remember)? Is there in fact a suitable alternative, preferably a Sony product, and as compact as possible?

I have a computer for extracting and printing the photographs.

G. Crossman, Marlow, Buckinghamshire


Digital camcorders lag some way behind digital still cameras (DSCs) when it comes to still picture quality, and DSCs – domestic models at least – have a way to go before they can match the quality of 35mm photographic film. It’s all down to the number of picture elements or ‘pixels’ in the camera or camcorder’s CCD image sensor. Digital camcorder CCDs have between 500,000 and 700,000 pixels, they don’t need any more because the PAL video system can’t handle any more detail. However, Sony recently broke ranks and introduced the PC100 (probably the model you’re thinking of), which has a one million pixel (mega pixel) image sensor and superior (to other camcorders) digital still capture performance. However, that needs to be put that into context. Mega pixel sensors are decidedly old hat in the DSC market and cameras with 2 million pixel CCDs are now the norm. However, the current thinking is that a minimum of 4 million pixels is needed before image quality can be favorably compared with 35mm film.


The bottom line is the camcorder you seek doesn’t exist, not yet anyway. But is that really such a problem? Consider this, if all you want to do is get still images into your PC, to illustrate documents or web pages, then a digital camcorder (they all have a still or snapshot facility) or a cheap DSC would be adequate. If you want to produce good-looking prints that you can hand around or stick in an album then stick with your 35mm compact. If you’re in a hurry you can get films processed in an hour and the cost is about the same as producing hard copy prints from a PC, taking into account the price of glossy print paper and printer consumables (it’s even cheaper if you send the film away for processing). If you want to get 35mm prints into your PC then buy a cheap scanner (costing less than £50), and the results are a whole lot better than pictures shot on a DSC – even one with a 2 million pixel sensor.  



Having choice is making it difficult to choose! I have £1500 to spend on a digital camcorder and obviously, want the best possible picture quality for my money. The trouble is, the three cameras I have short-listed all have different features.  They are the Sony PC100 with a ‘Mega Pixel' CCD, the Canon XM1 with fluorite lens and triple CCD sensor and the Sony TRV900, also with three CCDs. Quite simply, which gives the best quality picture for this amount of money? By the way, the Canon XM1 has analogue as well as DV inputs in America. Can they be "hacked" by anyone in the UK so they are enabled again?

A. Godden, Chelsea, London


The first thing to say is that three CCDs don’t give three times the picture quality, or anything like it, in fact the main purpose of a triple CCD sensor is to increase colour accuracy. The question then is what is picture quality? The simple answer is that it depends…


Definition is important, it’s the measure of a recording and display system’s ability to capture and reproduce fine detail. Since the arrival of DV machines camcorder definition has reached the point where the majority of today’s models are capable of producing images with more detail than most domestic televisions can reproduce. In fact our eyes and brains are much more aware of picture noise, there is a lot of noise in VHS and 8mm recordings, and S-VHS and Hi8 as well, but very little in DV footage, which is the main reason it looks so good. What all this boils down to is that you would be unlikely to see any significant differences between the three cameras you’ve chosen. There are variations but they are going to be subtle and only noticeable on specialized static test patterns. They would be all but invisible on moving video, shot under normal conditions. What I’m really saying is that there are no bad DV camcorders so buy the one that has the features you need, at the price you are prepared to pay. Get out, use it and enjoy it! As far as I an aware – and I happy to stand corrected – there is no way of enabling an analogue input on the XM1.


Ó R. Maybury 2000, 1401






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