VIDEO CAMERA 1993

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HONOURABLE DISCHARGE

If anyone ever gets around to handing out gallantry medals, for services to video, we would like to nominate the Vivanco CAD 300 discharger for one. This unassuming little gadget served above and beyond the call of duty during our recent Shop Window feature on nicad batteries. The CAD 300 single-handedly discharged over thirty batteries, at least twice, and in some cases three or four times,  more or less continuously over a seven day-period. The batteries ranged in capacity from standard 1Ah packs to one whopper with a 4.5Ah capacity!

 

The CAD-330 doesn't only take NP-style batteries, it will operate on most 6, 7.2 and 9.6 volt nicads, in all the popular styles (except for those oddball Hitachi palmcorder packs), using a slide-in adaptor plate. Battery voltage is shown by a bank of three LEDs. At the other end of the unit there's a charge level indicator made up of  six red and green LEDs. Another red LED shows when the discharging process has finished, and an audible alarm sounds for five seconds, just to make sure. Oddly enough there's no mention of this last feature, either on the box, the instructions or the Vivanco catalogue; it certainly came in handy during our battery tests, helping to speed up the proceedings.

 

Dischargers are one of the most useful camcorder accessories there are, and the only one we can think of that can actually pay for itself the first time it is used. Nicad batteries are notoriously fickle and can easily loose up to half their capacity in the first six months of use. Many owners discard them, not realising they can be restored to health using a discharger, like this one,  by eliminating memory and cell-imbalance effects, brought upon by repeated  shallow fast-charging. The CAD-300 proved itself under the most arduous conditions imaginable. It's very-well made, reasonably priced and comes highly recommended!

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model       VIVANCO CAD-300 UNIVERSAL DISCHARGER

Guide Price         19.99

Features              audible warning, power level meter, 6, 7.2, 9 volt operation

Dimensions         190 x 85 x 48mm

Distributor          VIVANCO  Unit C, ATA House, Boundary Way, Hemel Hempstead, HP2 7SS telephone (0442) 231616

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   10

Proven in battle!

 

GOLDEN TOUCH

A few years ago connecting plugs, sockets and cables became a major issue in the loftier regions  of hi-fi, with lead manufacturers making all sorts of extraordinary claims about the performance-enhancing properties of their products. Video accessory companies are a far more down to earth bunch. Take Bandridge for instance, who have just introduced their Gold Range of AV leads. They could have said that the 3-micron, 24 carat, scratch-resistant gold plating on their plugs reduces noise and improve conductivity, resulting in better picture and sound quality. They could, but they know such minute differences would only be apparent on highly sophisticated measuring equipment, and all but impossible to see on domestic video equipment, so what's the point?  The point is gold does not tarnish, and it's the thin film of oxide that forms on the surface of chrome plated and common or garden  plugs and sockets that can and does lead to an increase in the signal to noise ratio, intermittent contacts and reduced signal strength.

 

The metal contacts in most types of plugs and socket quickly develop a coating of non-conductive contaminants, it comes from moisture and pollutants in the atmosphere, sweaty fingers, even tobacco smoke; gold retains it's lustre and low electrical resistance far longer than other metals, but is it worth the extra expense? In the case of Bandridge's Gold Line leads the price difference is comparatively small. Look upon them as a form of insurance, justifiable in the case of AV leads used in editing and copying set-ups where they will be subjected to a lot of handling,  exposure to contaminants and sticky-fingers.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model        BANDRIDGE GOLD RANGE  AV LEADS

Guide Price          typically 18.00- 20.00

Features               3-micron  24 carat hard gold plating, black or transparent outer sleeves

Configurations     various: SCART to SCART, SCART to phono, mono and stereo  etc.             

Cable Length       nominally 1.5 metres        

Distributor           BANDRIDGE LTD,  Premiere House, 18 Deer Park Road, Wimbledon, London SW1 3TU. Telephone 081-543 3633

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   9

A shining example that's hard to resist...

 

 

THE RIGHT DIRECTION?

The microphone fitted to your camcorder undoubtedly does a sterling job of recording sounds and people's voices up to four or five of metres away but after that it's pot-luck what it picks up, and the chances are that a lot of the time the noises you want to record will be drowned out by other sounds. The way around this is to use a directional microphone, one that is most sensitive to sounds coming from one direction. The IQ SPP-1100 from Jessops falls into that category, though it is significantly smaller than most other tele-mikes.

 

The SPP-1100 is a fully self-contained mono mike, with a built in accessory shoe attachment. It's powered by a single AAA size cell which fits behind then end-cap on the rear of the mike. With normal use this will last for around 450 hours. When the mike is switched on a tiny LED next to the switch comes on briefly, confirming that the battery is okay. A short curly lead, terminated in a standard 3.5mm minijack connects to the camcorder's external mic. socket.

 

The mike has two sensitivity settings; 'low' gives a wide polar pattern, so it is more responsive to sounds coming from the sides, and 'high' which narrows its field of view so that it will only pick up sounds immediately in front of it. In practice such differences are not so sharply defined, though it is clearly very directional and in the high position, better able to match sounds with pictures, when using the machine's zoom lens. Audio quality is good, comparable with most standard camcorder mikes; treble response is a little muted though this wouldn't be noticed on VHS-C machines with a mono soundtrack.

 

By the way, the accompanying instructions, translated from the original Japanese, are a real blast from the past. How about these: 'our accumulated know-how'; 'chiplized electronic parts' and  'make sure to turnoff the power'....

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model        IQ SPP-1100      

Guide Price          60

Features               narrow/unidirectional sensitivity patterns, slip-on muffler, battery check indicator, shoe mount

Plug                      3.5mm minijack               

Dimensions          16 x 140.5 x 40mm

Weight                 48 grams

Distributor          JESSOPS, Jessops House, Scudamore Road, Leicester LE3 1TZ Telephone (0533) 320033

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   8

Handy hearing aid for VHS-C camcorders

 

 

TAKING A SHINE TO PHILIPS

Five lux, three lux, one lux, it doesn't matter how low your camcorder's minimum sensitivity is,  there is simply no substitute for light, and lots of it! Next to a spare battery, discharger and decent tripod a video light is one of the most useful accessories you can own, and we're pleased to see that an increasing number of manufacturers are fitting them, or including them as standard but where does that leave everyone else?  There's certainly no shortage of aftermarket accessory lights but now Philips have joined the fray and their Cam Plus range includes four video light, we've been looking at two of them, the SBC-5333 and SBC-5334, priced at 40 and 65 respectively.

 

The two lights share the same basic head design, and they're both rated at 20 watts and powered from standard 6-volt nicad packs, but that's where the similarities begin and end. The 5333 is designed for machines with an accessory shoe, and it's powered by it's own battery,  which is extra. There's few facilities to speak of, unless you count the simple on/off switch and DC supply socket on the side.

 

The 5334 is intended for palmcorders and the mounting plate fits between the camcorder body and the battery. The light head, which has a pair of hot-shoe connections, slides into an accessory shoe on the top of the mounting arm. At first glance this looks remarkably fragile but it resisted out best attempts to snap it off, though we suspect it wouldn't come off too well in a fall or collision. Again facilities are at a premium though this one does have an automatic switching facility, so it only comes on when the camcorder is in use. As this one is powered from the camcorder's own battery it will have a significant effect on running times, in most cases reducing them by between half and two-thirds. Be warned that on some machines, powered by the standard nicad pack, you could have as little as 10 minutes running time with the light switch on.

 

Both light heads produce an evenly dispersed circular beam pattern with no appreciable hot-spots. Twenty watts may not sound like a lot but it's enough to illuminate a typical living-room scene, and on some machines it could make all the difference to the picture quality of indoor shots and portraits, reducing picture noise to more comfortable levels.  By way of a small experiment we tried clipping the two lights together, using the 5333 to mount them on a camcorder's accessory shoe, and powering both from one large battery pack. The resultant beam pattern was a little on the narrow side but the extra illumination -- effectively 40 watts -- was most effective on interior scenes... 

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model     CAM PLUS SBC 5333 and 5334 VIDEO LIGHTS     

Guide Price       40/65

Fitting                accessory shoe/battery clip

Voltage/power   6-volts/20 watts

Features           auto power on/off (5334 only)                      

Distributor        PHILIPS CONSUMER ELECTRONICS, City House, 420-430 London Road, Croydon, CR9 3QR. telephone 081-689 4444  

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   7

Pricey, but a useful backup light source

 

 

KEEP IT UNDER YOUR HAT

If you've ever fancied yourself as a wildlife videographer one of the first things you'll need after a camcorder with a big lens, is a good hide. It makes sense to start small, after all it will probably be a while before you're tracking Wildebeest across the African tundra with David Attenborough and a BBC production crew; until then you'll have to hump all the gear around yourself. The Lastolite Monsoon is just the job, because it's a hide you can wear on your head! Most other hides are cumbersome tent-like structures which you have to erect and take down every time you move location.

 

The Monsoon is basically a tube made of nylon camouflage netting. It's held in shape by a ring of thin spring steel. This is attached to a sheet of waterproof material stretched across the top and in the centre there's a baseball cap (also in camouflage colours). The netting opens at the front,  it's held together by Velcro fasteners. At the top there's an access flap for the camera lens. The whole thing weighs only 300 grams and it folds up into a compact pillow-shaped pouch measuring only 13-inches across.

 

As you can imagine this kind of thing is a little difficult to evaluate in the concrete canyons around Kings Reach Tower, the only wildlife in this neck of the woods are some very streetwise pigeons, who weren't fooled for a moment. We decided to try it out in a more rural location and out intrepid reviewer donned his cape in a quiet spot on the fringes of the Ashdown Forest. Unfortunately, and despite a lengthy wait, this locality proved to be totally devoid of wildlife, though a courting couple a few yards away didn't seem to notice, but they appeared to have other things on their minds...  Until we've had an opportunity to test the Monsoon out for real, you'll have to take it on trust that if you're wearing one of these things, and you can stand still long enough, our feathered and furry friends will indeed have great difficulty in seeing you...

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model       LASTOLITE MONSOON PORTABLE CAMOUFLAGE HIDE

Guide Price         50

Features              camera opening, Velcro fastening, variable head-size

Colour options    Monsoon or Safari

Dimensions         approx. 72-ins long, packs into 13-in diameter zip bag

Weight                 300 grams

Distributor          LASTOLITE LTD 8 Vulcan Court, Hermitage Industrial Estate, Coalville, Leics. LE6 3FL. Telephone (0530) 853129

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   9

Convenient and compact concealment

 

 

SPECIFICATION

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VIDEO CAMERA RATING   X

 

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model      

Guide Price        

Features             

Sockets               

Dimensions        

Weight               

Distributor          

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   X

 

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model      

Guide Price        

Features             

Sockets               

Dimensions        

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Distributor          

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING  

 

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(c) R.Maybury 1993 1203

 

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