VIDEO CAMERA 1993

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REVIEW

 

HEAD

STABLE RELATIONSHIP?

 

INTRO

Got the shakes? Canon's E700 can take the wobbles out of your videos, but at a price...

 

COPY

It's as well the Canon E700 has an efficient image stabiliser; the price, at one penny less than a thousand pounds, is enough to give you the shakes! The optical image stabiliser is what you're paying for on this machine, apart from a slightly more powerful zoom lens it packs no more of a punch than its stablemate, the E300, which sells for 300 less!

 

Let's look at the feature list in detail. First, and most surprisingly on such an expensive machine is the mono soundtrack, in fact it's the only compact machine costing more than 900 not to have a stereo audio system. The pop-up video light is a feature common to all of Canon's most recent E-series machines, along with the flexigrip hand grip, and sportsfinder eyepiece. In addition it has a rudimentary 3-mode program auto exposure system, similar to the ones used on the E300 and E500, with settings for:

* Backlight compensation -- improves visibility of strongly backlit subjects

* Spotlight -- for recording subjects lit by a single strong light, against a predominantly dark background

* Sand and Snow -- underexposure compensation for subjects set against bright or highly reflective backgrounds

 

The AE mode is selected by pressing a large button on the side of the camera, this is a welcome change from the E300 and 500 where the AE button could be difficult to find in amongst a row of similarly sized and shaped buttons. The E700 has a few creative facilities, they include a fader, title generator (1 page with 2-lines of 16 characters), two-speed zoom, record search, edit erase (to re-record the last scene), five-speed shutter and age recording, but that's about it. A far cry from Canon camcorders past, where we could easily use up half a page just listing the features.

 

OPTICAL STABILISER

So what is so special about the image stabiliser? The one used on the E700 was developed jointly with Sony, and unlike just about every other stabiliser on the market, there's no loss of picture quality when it is being used. The reason for that is because it's an optical system. In front of the lens there's a device called a variangle prism, it's basically a sandwich of two glass plates, separated by a flexible sac filled with a transparent gel. The glass plates are shifted around by a set of fast servo mechanisms, controlled by motion detectors inside the machine;  the net result is that the image passing through the lens is always squarely centred on the CCD imaging chip, even if the moves about. The system can, for example, smooth out the kind of movement you get when walking about with your camcorder, or when shooting from a moving car, or train. It can also help to eliminate user-induced shake, caused by involuntary muscle-movement, or unsteadiness.

 

Digital image stabilisers operate on an entirely different principle, electronically processing the image to cancel shake; they're cheaper, and in most cases, just as efficient but they have a noticeable impact on picture quality, or at least, they do at the moment, the next generation of electronic image stabilisers promise no reduction in picture quality.

 

OPERATION

The rest of the E700 is far less exciting. Control layout, thanks to the re-positioning of the AE selector button, is slightly better than the E's 300 and 500, but the horrible set of buttons for edit erase, record review, and age-insert recording remain. You may not even be able to see them in the photograph; it's not much better in real life... The optical image stabiliser has meant the E700 has had to be fitted with an inner focus lens; until now E-series machines have had good old-fashioned front-focusing lenses, which many of us here at Video Camera prefer.  With an inner-focus lens comes the problem of how to control it manually. The preferred method is to mimic a conventional lens with a servo-control ring around the lens barrel; at the other end of the scale are the dreaded 'near-far' buttons. The E700 is somewhere in between, with a thumbwheel control, on the left side of the lens assembly. It's not very easy to get at, and it's difficult to find a comfortable position, but you can get used to it, if you persevere.

 

When it comes down to it, though, the E700 is a very easy machine to use, and as ever, the swivelling hand grip and sportsfinder eyepiece are a tremendous aid to handling and overhead or waist-level shots.

 

PERFORMANCE

The resolution on our sample was in line with the previous two E-series machines. At just under 240 lines it is unremarkable, but below average noise levels means the picture looks quite crisp and detailed. The fully automatic white balance system only stumbles over scenes lit only by tube lighting and the picture can look slightly insipid, otherwise colour accuracy is generally good. The AE system works adequately, more than that we cannot say. We noticed that the autofocus system on our sample was a little hesitant, compared with previous E-series machines; it's difficult to know whether or not the stabiliser system is responsible, we suspect not, but in poor light we nearly always found it necessary to switch to manual as the auto-system had a tendency to wander.

 

There's nothing wrong with the E700's mono audio system, apart from not having an external mic. socket; it performs reasonably well, certainly better than most mono VHS-C machines but it really is a disappointment not to have stereo sound on this model.

 

VERDICT

In view of the price we really cannot recommend this machine. The optical image stabiliser works very well, but you need to ask yourself, is it worth paying so much for such a facility? Of course, there may well be a small number of people with a medical condition that could benefit from such a facility, but for the rest of us, if  you are troubled by the odd bout of the shakes,  buy a cheaper, better-specified camcorder, and with the money you save get a tripod or similar sort of stability aid.

 

THE RIVALS

If you're dead-set on buying a camcorder with an optical image stabiliser take a long hard look at the Sony TR805. Not only is it a Hi8 machine, with vastly improved picture performance, it has stereo sound as well, plus a load of useful facilities and it'll only cost you 100 more than the E700! Around the thousand pound mark there's plenty of excellent machines to choose from, including Sony's FX700 and the Panasonic NV-S7, they're both high band, stereo machines, and the S7 also has an image stabiliser, if you're worried about the wobbles. We could go on, but the bottom, line is that if you like what you see and can live without the stabiliser save yourself a lot of money and buy the E300 or E500 instead. If you've got a thousand pounds to spend on a camcorder the E700 should be quite a long way down your list.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/model                      CANON E700   

Recording format           8mm

Guide price                     1,000

 

OPTICS

Lens                               f1.8, 6.1-73.2mm

Zoom                              12x

Filter diameter               46mm  

Pick-up device                0.3in CCD

Min. illum. (lux)             2

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                          yes

Max. rec. time                                          240mins (LP mode)

IR remote control ?                                    yes

Edit terminal?                                              no

           

MAIN FACILITIES               

Auto Focus?                              yes

Manual focus?               yes

Auto exposure?             yes      

Manual iris?                               no

Programmed AE?                  yes (3-mode)  

Auto white balance                          yes

Manual white balance?            no

Power zoom                              yes      

Manual zoom?               no

Backlight compensation            yes

Insert edit?                                no

Audio Dub?                               no

Character generator?            yes      

Digital Superimposer?            no

Image stabiliser?                     yes

Video light?                               yes      

Battery refresh?                            no

Accessory shoe?               no

Record review                yes      

Fader?                          yes/white

Digital effects                             no        

Digital zoom?                            no

 

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

time/date/age recording, record review, tally lamp, edit erase

 

VIEWFINDER

Viewfinder                       0.6in monochrome

Sportsfinder eyepiece?   yes

Viewfinder info.               deck mode and status, low battery, tape count, fader, focus mode, tape end, time/date, dew, AE preset mode

 

AUDIO

Stereo?                                       no

Audio dub?                                no

Wind noise filter?                no

Mic socket?                              no

Headphone socket?             no

Microphone                                      omnidirectional electret

 

GENERAL

Sockets                                  video and audio out (phono)

Size (mm)                               125 x 265 x 115

Weight                                   1.2kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

STANDARD ACCESSORIES

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

 

video light?                    yes      

remote control?            yes

cassette adaptor?            N/A      

RF Converter?             yes

SCART adaptor?            no        

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                      <240-lines

Colour fidelity                fair

Picture stability              good

Colour bleed                  slight (blue)

White balance                average

Exposure                        good

Autofocus                       fair

Audio performance        average

Insert edit                      manual inserts clean

Playback thru adaptor  N/A

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          5

Ease of use                  8

Performance                8

Features                      7

 

---end---

(c) R Maybury 1993 2210

 

 

 

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