VIDEO CAMERA 1993

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REVIEW

 

HEAD

POP STEREO

 

INTRO

Canon continue to add to their range of family camcorders with the arrival of the E500, a new stereo 8mm compact with a pop-up video light

 

COPY

We would like to apologise in advance for frequent references to the Canon E300 which was reviewed in the July issue. Blame it on Canon, the E500 and E300 are peas from the same pod, the only significant differences being the prices, the audio systems and the lenses.

 

Taking them one by one, the E500 costs 800, that's 100 more than the E300. The E500 has a stereo hi-fi sound system whereas the E300 is a mono machine, and the zoom lens now has 12x magnification, instead of 10x. None of that is particularly controversial, the lacklustre price reflects the exchange rate turmoil of recent months and Canon, like most other manufacturers have had to trim their sails. But there is a fly in the ointment, it's called the E400. This machine, which we reviewed in May costs 50 less than the E500, yet it has a remarkably similar specification, including a 12x zoom and stereo sound system.

 

The E500 must have something to commend it? That depends on how much importance you place on a pop-up video light! Five years ago Canon were the first camcorder manufacturer to supply a clip-on video light as standard, other companies quickly followed suit; now it seems Canon are trying to regain the initiative by borrowing an idea from their EOS SLR cameras. Instead of a flash gun the E300/500 has a built-in video light that springs out of the top panel of the machine. You'll have to make your own aesthetic judgements about the impact this has had on the shape of the machine, we're not keen, it looks bulbous and top-heavy. 

 

We have a couple of other misgivings. The lenses on these machines are conventional front-focusing designs, that's good because that means it has direct manual focus, no buttons, switches or thumbwheels to hunt around for; by rights it should also have a manual zoom lever. For some reason Canon have decided to omit this valuable feature, and made matters even worse by putting in a little window, so you can watch the zoom collar turning, for no good reason, as far as we can see. Like the E300 the power zoom is quite sluggish; pressing the go-faster button makes it go a little quicker, but at the expense of camera shake, if you're not careful.

 

Stereo sound is definitely worth having but it's all very well having a more realistic soundtrack but no means of substituting the on-board mike, when the wind blows, or the subject is out of range. Canon clearly recognise the need, why else would they fit an external mic socket and earphone monitor facility on the E400? There's no such provision on the E500.

 

HANDLING AND USE

It's not all bad news and Canon's expertise in designing straightforward, easy to use camcorders is undiminished. We have one or two reservations about the labelling of some of the buttons on the right side of the machine but the layout is logical and simple to follow. We mustn't forget the excellent swivelling hand grip and viewfinder assembly which makes overhead and waist-level shots a doddle, they're helped by the sportsfinder eyepiece which allows the viewfinder screen to be clearly seen at a distance. Balance is good and with an all-up weight of just over a kilogram, so it's comfortable to use, even for prolonged periods.

 

PERFORMANCE

Picture quality is hard to fault; resolution at just under 240-lines is reasonable and maybe a few lines up on the E300 sample we reviewed earlier, and like its stablemate noise levels are lower than average, which results in a very clean-looking picture. The lack of manual white balance controls isn't a disadvantage and it coped with most forms of lighting, though it's happiest with strong daylight. Tube lighting produces a slight yellow tint but it's nowhere near as bad as some other machines we've seen.

 

The three-mode program AE system is fairly basic but it does the job and the backlight option is quite effective. We couldn't see much difference between spotlight and sun and sand modes.

 

The stereo sound system gives the soundtrack a much better sense of space, though the actual soundstage is fairly small and at its most effective when the subjects are no more than a couple of metres from the microphone. The mic is adequately insulated from the rest of the machine, so there's no problems with motor or handling noises, except when background noise levels are low and the audio system's automatic gain control is turned up high.

 

VERDICT

We said in the E300 review that we'd be inclined to spend another 50 and buy the E400 instead; this time we suggest you do the same but save yourself 50!

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/model                   CANON E500

Recording format            8mm

Guide price                     800

 

OPTICS

Lens                                 f/2.2, 6.7-80.4mm

Zoom                               12x (two speed)

Filter diameter                37mm  

Pick-up device                 0.3in CCD (300k effective pixels)

Min. illum. (lux)              2

 

VIDEO DECK

Tape speed (mm/sec)       20.051(SP), 10.026(LP)

Max. rec. time                 240 mins (LP mode)

Remote control                full-function IR

Main facilities                  auto/manual focus, 3-mode programmed auto exposure (backlight control, spotlight, sand & snow), auto white balance, fader, high-speed shutter (7-speeds up to 1/10,000th sec), time/date/age recording, built-in video light, record search, record review, edit-erase, tape return, title generator

 

VIEWFINDER

Viewfinder                       0.6in monochrome

Viewfinder info.               deck mode and status, low battery, tape count, shutter speed, fader, focus mode, tape end, time/date/age, title, dew

 

AUDIO

System                            stereo FM

Microphone                    single point stereo electret

 

GENERAL

Sockets                          audio and video out (phono)                    

Size (mm)                       122 x 259 x 115

Weight                            1.2 kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

STANDARD ACCESSORIES

Batteries, (nicad, lithium and alkaline), straps, AC charger/power supply, RF converter

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                   <240-lines

Colour fidelity              fair

Picture stability            good

Colour bleed                negligible

White balance              average

Exposure                      good

Autofocus                     average

Audio performance      good

Insert edit                     manual inserts clean

Playback thru adaptor  N/A

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money         7

Ease of use                  8

Performance                8

Features                      8

 

---end---

R. Maybury 1993 1006

 

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