VIDEO CAMERA 1993

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MINITESTS

 

IT'S IN THE BAG...

Hama's Action V-Combi is a fairly ordinary-looking padded camcorder bag; it has all the usual straps, pouches and pockets, with plenty of room for travel documents, spare batteries and tapes, but open the top and take a look inside, something is wrong. The space for the camcorder is far too shallow for the size of the bag, in fact it is only just big enough to take a palmcorder. The reason is there's a hidden compartment in the bottom of the bag, accessible from the top or one of the side pockets. Inside there's a cute little tripod, measuring barely 320mm collapsed, yet the 8-section telescopic legs extend to a full 1.2 metres, with a further 170mm available by cranking up the pan/tilt head. In spite of the legs looking rather spindly, not unlike fat telescopic radio aerials, it has a locking leg brace and is reasonably  stable, though we doubt whether it could safely support machines weighing much more than a kilogram or so.

 

The  pan/tilt head has a detachable mounting plate and it also hinges through 90 degrees, which leads us to suspect that this tripod may have started life as a still camera accessory. No matter, it's just the job for palmcorder owners who want to travel light, and appreciate the worth of a tripod. The price is fair, considering the intricacy of the tripod, and the quality of the bag, which is up to Hama's usual very high standard. Recommended.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model        HAMA ACTION COMBI 29240

Guide Price         80.00

Features              zippered front pouch, end pockets, zippered net pouch (inside lid), adjustable shoulder strap, adjustable compartments

Tripod                  Traveller 2, 8-section telescopic

Max height          320mm

Min height           1280mm

Head                     pan & tilt, cranked elevation, detachable mount, angle head

Bag dimensions   180 x 230 x 380mm     

Weight                 1.7kg

Distributor           HAMA Unit 4 Cherrywood, Chineham Business Park

Basingstoke, Hants RG24 OWF Telephone (0256) 708110

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   9

Traveller's friend....

 

 

POINTS OF VIEW

Have you ever considered how useful it might be to be able to control your apparatus from a distance of up to 30 metres? Probably not, you've surely got better things to do with your time, but you still might be interested to know that it can be done, using a gadget called the Powermid X10. It was originally designed to allow a living room VCR to be controlled from the bedroom, but we have come up with a much better use for it after we found it was capable of relaying the IR commands from camcorder remote handsets. It works like this, the pyramid-shaped receiver unit picks up the infra-red pluses from the remote handset, and converts them into an RF signal. This is picked up by the receiver unit, which converts them back into IR commands which are pick up by the camcorder, VCR, TV, or whatever you're attempting to control.

 

The transmitter can pick up IR signals from up to four metres away, and the receiver can relay IR commands over a similar sort of distance; an optional extender module can be plugged into a socket on the receiver, to control components that may be located inside cupboards, shelf units, or out of direct line of sight of the receiver's IR emitters.

 

The only disadvantages for camcorder users, as far as we can see, is that both units are mains powered, which limits their use outdoors, somewhat. However, we conducted some successful field trials in one of our staffer's back gardens. The receiver was powered using an extension lead, and it was placed close to a Canon camcorder, mounted on a tripod, this was also powered by the mains supply. The camcorder was trained at a suspected haunt for a local tom cat which had been disturbing our reviewer's sleep, and carousing with his own moggy.

 

The test commenced at 2.30 am, with a noise to wake the dead. Our groggy reviewer somehow found the camcorder remote handset on his bedside table, aimed it at the Powermid transmitter and pressed the start button.  Incredibly the noise stopped instantly as the creature was clearly startled by the camcorder's light, not only that, the recording shows it was the reviewer's own cat making most of the noise! An appointment with the local veterinary surgeon's scissors  now seems highly likely.

 

Clearly a very useful gadget for camcorder owners troubled by nocturnal noises, and we suspect it could have quite a few other uses as well....

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model         POWERMID X10

Guide Price           70

Product category  remote control extender

System                  DTI-approved wireless (RF) sender/repeater for IR control signals

Power supply        240 VAC mains (receiver and transmitter)

Tx range               30 metres

IR range               4 metres (to Rx and from Tx)

Dimensions          75 x 75 x 110mm

Distributor           CELTEL LTD PO Box 135, Basingstoke, Hampshire,

RG25 2HZ Telephone (0256) 474900

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   8

Remote possibilities

 

LEADER OF THE PACK

Camcorder batteries can have their capacity to hold a charge reduced by half in a matter of months. The effect can often be reversed, using a discharger but wouldn't it be better to avoid the capacity-draining memory and cell-imbalance effects in the first place? Slow charging is one sure-fire way of maintaining the capacity of a nicad battery but to date slow chargers have been rarer than rocking-horse droppings.

 

Techno hope to put that to rights with a purpose-designed high-capacity nicad pack, slow charger and discharger units.  The 6 volt battery pack is available in most popular styles, to fit Canon, JVC, Panasonic and Sony machines, and with a capacity of 2Ah it should keep most machines running for around 90 minutes, possibly longer. Unfortunately the slow charger and discharger cannot be used with other types of battery because the system uses a dedicated plug and socket system.  Full charge is reached in around 16 hours, though the battery can be fast-charged on a normal charger if required. Techno recommend that the discharger is used every 6 to 10 charges, to maintain optimum capacity. The three units, which look a lot like the ones launched by DSM a few month ago cost a little under 56, or can be purchased separately, that's reasonable value and used correctly this nicad pack should easily outlast ordinary batteries.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model         TECHNO NICAD PACK, CHARGER AND DISCHARGER

Guide Price           19.99 (nicad pack), 19.99 (charger), 15.99 (discharger)

Features                slow charging/discharge system for increased capacity and reduced memory effect    

Battery fit              Available for Sony, Canon, JVC and Panasonic equipment

Battery voltage     6 volt

Battery capacity   2000mAh

Charge time          16 hours (using slow charger)        

Distributor             TECNO Unit 9, Hampton Farm Industrial Estate, Feltham,

Middlesex TW13 66DB. Telephone 081-898 2772

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   9

No thanks for the memory....

 

 

EDIT  ENABLER?

It must be incredibly frustrating to have spent several hundred pounds on a camcorder, get hooked on video movie-making, then discover you're machine is about as useful as a rubber screwdriver, when it comes to editing. The problem is normally the lack of an editing terminal, an invaluable resource found on only a handful of machines, though it has to be said Sony and Panasonic have been doing their bit. Without it there's no way of  controlling the camcorder, so it can be used as a source or replay deck. In fact that's not strictly true, quite a few camcorders, especially Video 8 machines, come equipped with infra-red remote controls, but without some means of linking what's on the tape, to the control system it has not been possible to devise an edit control system that would be accurate enough, even for undemanding domestic applications.

 

Vivanco haven't cracked the problem, they've just decided to work around it and although the VCR-5022 is described as an Audio Video Editor, editing in this instance is an mostly manual process and has nothing to do with automated assembly editing. On the other hand the 3-channel audio mixer and variable delay AV fader earn their keep, and combined with the somewhat suspect editing concept it is an interesting piece of kit.

 

Both the source (replay)  and destination (record) decks are controlled by a pair of IR wands which plug into a panel on the top of the unit. The 5022 has to be taught all of the necessary IR commands for both decks, and this can be quite a tiresome business as the instructions -- not very helpful at the best of times -- become increasingly hard to follow at this point; Vivanco assure us that they're  planning to overhaul their instruction books, which until now have been quite literally translated from the original German.

 

All AV interconnections to the two decks and monitor TV are via S-Video configured SCART sockets, we understand phono to SCART adaptors will be included. The so-called editing system entails the user pressing the 'cut' button at the beginning of the sequence to be copied. This sends programmed IR commands to the destination deck, to release the source deck from still mode (at the start of the sequence) and release  the record-pause mode on the record deck. The timing can be fine-tuned to achieve an accuracy of around 5-frames. Pressing the cut button at the end of the sequence re-engages the record deck's pause mode.  It's true to say that you could do most of that almost as easily using the remote handset's that came with the two decks but the 5022's saving grace is the audio mixer and AV fader, which can be tied in with the cut command, for smooth scene transitions

 

We're mindful of the frustration and annoyance that many camcorder owners feel about their machines, the 5022 should help some owners stop feeling that they're missing out on the editing bandwagon but such relief as it can provide will be fairly short-lived because there is simply no substitute for edit terminals. In the end we would probably prefer to put the 250 towards a new machine, or spend our money on other items of post production equipment.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model        VCR-5022

Guide Price         250

Features              learning IR controls, 3-channel audio mixer, variable-speed auto fader, mic input, monitor output

Sockets                AV input and output (SCART) line audio in (phono), min and headphone (minijack) IR control wands (DIN)

Dimensions         70 x 330 x 280

Weight                1.5kg

Distributor           VIVANCO  Unit C, ATA House, Boundary Way

Hemel Hempstead HP2 7SS. Telephone (0442) 231616

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   7

Some solace for frustrated 8mm owners

 

 

ALL FOR ONE?

One For All, the universal remote control handset has been around for a while but now the UK distributors, Strand Magnetics inform us a while back that  inside their latest models there's a formidable library of infra-red remote control commands, including some for camcorders. That sounded like a challenge to us, so armed with a One For All 4 we decided to have a browse through this library...

 

It's worth remembering that replacement handsets for camcorders can cost as much as 60, the cheapest One For All sells for around 25, with the models 4 and model 6 priced at 30 and 50 respectively. The model number refers to the number of devices it can control at once, so a One For All 4, for instance, could be programmed to operate a TV, VCR, satellite tuner, and maybe the hi-fi as well, the model 6 is a bit more advanced, and in addition to controlling extra products, has buttons set aside for things like Fastext teletext.

 

Back now to the camcorders, our first port of call was the JVC GR-AX35, a tough choice because whilst this machine has remote control facilities, the handset is sold as an optional extra. Clearly the fact that One For All was now supposed to be camcorder-friendly hadn't caught up with whoever writes the instruction books because there was no mention of camcorders at all. Undaunted we opted to try the search method of programming, which revealed at least four potential codes, all capable of switching the machine from stop to play. Two of them gave full transport control but frustratingly none of them could switch the machine from pause-record to record.

 

The next step was to call the free helpline number in the instruction book. This was quite a surprise, an unmistakably American voice answered the phone, it turns out that calls are routed straight through to One For All's  US headquarters. In between some quite pleasant line-hold music and messages urging us to be patient, the very helpful helpline assistant told us that it was a fluke we'd got it do anything as it wasn't designed to work with camcorders. He went on to say that there might be a way to find the right frequency for a particular function, but it could involve up to four thousand button-presses, running through all the possible permutations one by one! Sod that!

 

Our next choice of camcorder was the Sony VX1, we don't like to make it too easy for these people! Pretty much the same thing happened, we found at least one code to work all the playback functions, but no stop-start control. Again a trawl through the frequency list might or might not reveal the lost code but life (and deadlines) are too short for that. Our final guinea pig was an old Ferguson 811, made for them by Hitachi, it's been around for a couple of years at least, so the codes should have been archived by now. Not a peep. Despite several futile attempts with the search mode the 811 remained stubbornly inoperative

 

We have at least proven that it is possible to control some functions on some camcorders, and possibly, with patience we could have accessed some more but it's a painfully slow business and by no means certain. We would say to anyone wanting to use one for this purpose, set aside at least one rainy afternoon, or wait for the manufacturers to update the instruction manual and code library, then it could turn out to be quite a useful little gadget.

 

 

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model        ONE FOR ALL 4

Guide Price         30

System                 universal, pre-programmed infra-red remote control

Power source       4 x AAA pen cells

Dimensions         62 x 192 x 15        

Distributor           STRAND MAGNETICS (Bush Tape), Strand House

Woolsbridge Industrial Park, Wimbourne, BH21 6SZ. Telephone (0252) 861000

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   8

Great for TVs and VCRs but still a little camcorder-shy...

 

 

---end---

 

(c) R.Maybury 1993 2206

MINITESTS

 

IT'S IN THE BAG...

Hama's Action V-Combi is a fairly ordinary-looking padded camcorder bag; it has all the usual straps, pouches and pockets, with plenty of room for travel documents, spare batteries and tapes, but open the top and take a look inside, something is wrong. The space for the camcorder is far too shallow for the size of the bag, in fact it is only just big enough to take a palmcorder. The reason is there's a hidden compartment in the bottom of the bag, accessible from the top or one of the side pockets. Inside there's a cute little tripod, measuring barely 320mm collapsed, yet the 8-section telescopic legs extend to a full 1.2 metres, with a further 170mm available by cranking up the pan/tilt head. In spite of the legs looking rather spindly, not unlike fat telescopic radio aerials, it has a locking leg brace and is reasonably  stable, though we doubt whether it could safely support machines weighing much more than a kilogram or so.

 

The  pan/tilt head has a detachable mounting plate and it also hinges through 90 degrees, which leads us to suspect that this tripod may have started life as a still camera accessory. No matter, it's just the job for palmcorder owners who want to travel light, and appreciate the worth of a tripod. The price is fair, considering the intricacy of the tripod, and the quality of the bag, which is up to Hama's usual very high standard. Recommended.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model        HAMA ACTION COMBI 29240

Guide Price         80.00

Features              zippered front pouch, end pockets, zippered net pouch (inside lid), adjustable shoulder strap, adjustable compartments

Tripod                  Traveller 2, 8-section telescopic

Max height          320mm

Min height           1280mm

Head                     pan & tilt, cranked elevation, detachable mount, angle head

Bag dimensions   180 x 230 x 380mm     

Weight                 1.7kg

Distributor           HAMA Unit 4 Cherrywood, Chineham Business Park

Basingstoke, Hants RG24 OWF Telephone (0256) 708110

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   9

Traveller's friend....

 

 

POINTS OF VIEW

Have you ever considered how useful it might be to be able to control your apparatus from a distance of up to 30 metres? Probably not, you've surely got better things to do with your time, but you still might be interested to know that it can be done, using a gadget called the Powermid X10. It was originally designed to allow a living room VCR to be controlled from the bedroom, but we have come up with a much better use for it after we found it was capable of relaying the IR commands from camcorder remote handsets. It works like this, the pyramid-shaped receiver unit picks up the infra-red pluses from the remote handset, and converts them into an RF signal. This is picked up by the receiver unit, which converts them back into IR commands which are pick up by the camcorder, VCR, TV, or whatever you're attempting to control.

 

The transmitter can pick up IR signals from up to four metres away, and the receiver can relay IR commands over a similar sort of distance; an optional extender module can be plugged into a socket on the receiver, to control components that may be located inside cupboards, shelf units, or out of direct line of sight of the receiver's IR emitters.

 

The only disadvantages for camcorder users, as far as we can see, is that both units are mains powered, which limits their use outdoors, somewhat. However, we conducted some successful field trials in one of our staffer's back gardens. The receiver was powered using an extension lead, and it was placed close to a Canon camcorder, mounted on a tripod, this was also powered by the mains supply. The camcorder was trained at a suspected haunt for a local tom cat which had been disturbing our reviewer's sleep, and carousing with his own moggy.

 

The test commenced at 2.30 am, with a noise to wake the dead. Our groggy reviewer somehow found the camcorder remote handset on his bedside table, aimed it at the Powermid transmitter and pressed the start button.  Incredibly the noise stopped instantly as the creature was clearly startled by the camcorder's light, not only that, the recording shows it was the reviewer's own cat making most of the noise! An appointment with the local veterinary surgeon's scissors  now seems highly likely.

 

Clearly a very useful gadget for camcorder owners troubled by nocturnal noises, and we suspect it could have quite a few other uses as well....

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model         POWERMID X10

Guide Price           70

Product category  remote control extender

System                  DTI-approved wireless (RF) sender/repeater for IR control signals

Power supply        240 VAC mains (receiver and transmitter)

Tx range               30 metres

IR range               4 metres (to Rx and from Tx)

Dimensions          75 x 75 x 110mm

Distributor           CELTEL LTD PO Box 135, Basingstoke, Hampshire,

RG25 2HZ Telephone (0256) 474900

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   8

Remote possibilities

 

LEADER OF THE PACK

Camcorder batteries can have their capacity to hold a charge reduced by half in a matter of months. The effect can often be reversed, using a discharger but wouldn't it be better to avoid the capacity-draining memory and cell-imbalance effects in the first place? Slow charging is one sure-fire way of maintaining the capacity of a nicad battery but to date slow chargers have been rarer than rocking-horse droppings.

 

Techno hope to put that to rights with a purpose-designed high-capacity nicad pack, slow charger and discharger units.  The 6 volt battery pack is available in most popular styles, to fit Canon, JVC, Panasonic and Sony machines, and with a capacity of 2Ah it should keep most machines running for around 90 minutes, possibly longer. Unfortunately the slow charger and discharger cannot be used with other types of battery because the system uses a dedicated plug and socket system.  Full charge is reached in around 16 hours, though the battery can be fast-charged on a normal charger if required. Techno recommend that the discharger is used every 6 to 10 charges, to maintain optimum capacity. The three units, which look a lot like the ones launched by DSM a few month ago cost a little under 56, or can be purchased separately, that's reasonable value and used correctly this nicad pack should easily outlast ordinary batteries.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model         TECHNO NICAD PACK, CHARGER AND DISCHARGER

Guide Price           19.99 (nicad pack), 19.99 (charger), 15.99 (discharger)

Features                slow charging/discharge system for increased capacity and reduced memory effect    

Battery fit              Available for Sony, Canon, JVC and Panasonic equipment

Battery voltage     6 volt

Battery capacity   2000mAh

Charge time          16 hours (using slow charger)        

Distributor             TECNO Unit 9, Hampton Farm Industrial Estate, Feltham,

Middlesex TW13 66DB. Telephone 081-898 2772

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   9

No thanks for the memory....

 

 

EDIT  ENABLER?

It must be incredibly frustrating to have spent several hundred pounds on a camcorder, get hooked on video movie-making, then discover you're machine is about as useful as a rubber screwdriver, when it comes to editing. The problem is normally the lack of an editing terminal, an invaluable resource found on only a handful of machines, though it has to be said Sony and Panasonic have been doing their bit. Without it there's no way of  controlling the camcorder, so it can be used as a source or replay deck. In fact that's not strictly true, quite a few camcorders, especially Video 8 machines, come equipped with infra-red remote controls, but without some means of linking what's on the tape, to the control system it has not been possible to devise an edit control system that would be accurate enough, even for undemanding domestic applications.

 

Vivanco haven't cracked the problem, they've just decided to work around it and although the VCR-5022 is described as an Audio Video Editor, editing in this instance is an mostly manual process and has nothing to do with automated assembly editing. On the other hand the 3-channel audio mixer and variable delay AV fader earn their keep, and combined with the somewhat suspect editing concept it is an interesting piece of kit.

 

Both the source (replay)  and destination (record) decks are controlled by a pair of IR wands which plug into a panel on the top of the unit. The 5022 has to be taught all of the necessary IR commands for both decks, and this can be quite a tiresome business as the instructions -- not very helpful at the best of times -- become increasingly hard to follow at this point; Vivanco assure us that they're  planning to overhaul their instruction books, which until now have been quite literally translated from the original German.

 

All AV interconnections to the two decks and monitor TV are via S-Video configured SCART sockets, we understand phono to SCART adaptors will be included. The so-called editing system entails the user pressing the 'cut' button at the beginning of the sequence to be copied. This sends programmed IR commands to the destination deck, to release the source deck from still mode (at the start of the sequence) and release  the record-pause mode on the record deck. The timing can be fine-tuned to achieve an accuracy of around 5-frames. Pressing the cut button at the end of the sequence re-engages the record deck's pause mode.  It's true to say that you could do most of that almost as easily using the remote handset's that came with the two decks but the 5022's saving grace is the audio mixer and AV fader, which can be tied in with the cut command, for smooth scene transitions

 

We're mindful of the frustration and annoyance that many camcorder owners feel about their machines, the 5022 should help some owners stop feeling that they're missing out on the editing bandwagon but such relief as it can provide will be fairly short-lived because there is simply no substitute for edit terminals. In the end we would probably prefer to put the 250 towards a new machine, or spend our money on other items of post production equipment.

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model        VCR-5022

Guide Price         250

Features              learning IR controls, 3-channel audio mixer, variable-speed auto fader, mic input, monitor output

Sockets                AV input and output (SCART) line audio in (phono), min and headphone (minijack) IR control wands (DIN)

Dimensions         70 x 330 x 280

Weight                1.5kg

Distributor           VIVANCO  Unit C, ATA House, Boundary Way

Hemel Hempstead HP2 7SS. Telephone (0442) 231616

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   7

Some solace for frustrated 8mm owners

 

 

ALL FOR ONE?

One For All, the universal remote control handset has been around for a while but now the UK distributors, Strand Magnetics inform us a while back that  inside their latest models there's a formidable library of infra-red remote control commands, including some for camcorders. That sounded like a challenge to us, so armed with a One For All 4 we decided to have a browse through this library...

 

It's worth remembering that replacement handsets for camcorders can cost as much as 60, the cheapest One For All sells for around 25, with the models 4 and model 6 priced at 30 and 50 respectively. The model number refers to the number of devices it can control at once, so a One For All 4, for instance, could be programmed to operate a TV, VCR, satellite tuner, and maybe the hi-fi as well, the model 6 is a bit more advanced, and in addition to controlling extra products, has buttons set aside for things like Fastext teletext.

 

Back now to the camcorders, our first port of call was the JVC GR-AX35, a tough choice because whilst this machine has remote control facilities, the handset is sold as an optional extra. Clearly the fact that One For All was now supposed to be camcorder-friendly hadn't caught up with whoever writes the instruction books because there was no mention of camcorders at all. Undaunted we opted to try the search method of programming, which revealed at least four potential codes, all capable of switching the machine from stop to play. Two of them gave full transport control but frustratingly none of them could switch the machine from pause-record to record.

 

The next step was to call the free helpline number in the instruction book. This was quite a surprise, an unmistakably American voice answered the phone, it turns out that calls are routed straight through to One For All's  US headquarters. In between some quite pleasant line-hold music and messages urging us to be patient, the very helpful helpline assistant told us that it was a fluke we'd got it do anything as it wasn't designed to work with camcorders. He went on to say that there might be a way to find the right frequency for a particular function, but it could involve up to four thousand button-presses, running through all the possible permutations one by one! Sod that!

 

Our next choice of camcorder was the Sony VX1, we don't like to make it too easy for these people! Pretty much the same thing happened, we found at least one code to work all the playback functions, but no stop-start control. Again a trawl through the frequency list might or might not reveal the lost code but life (and deadlines) are too short for that. Our final guinea pig was an old Ferguson 811, made for them by Hitachi, it's been around for a couple of years at least, so the codes should have been archived by now. Not a peep. Despite several futile attempts with the search mode the 811 remained stubbornly inoperative

 

We have at least proven that it is possible to control some functions on some camcorders, and possibly, with patience we could have accessed some more but it's a painfully slow business and by no means certain. We would say to anyone wanting to use one for this purpose, set aside at least one rainy afternoon, or wait for the manufacturers to update the instruction manual and code library, then it could turn out to be quite a useful little gadget.

 

 

 

SPECIFICATION

Make/model        ONE FOR ALL 4

Guide Price         30

System                 universal, pre-programmed infra-red remote control

Power source       4 x AAA pen cells

Dimensions         62 x 192 x 15        

Distributor           STRAND MAGNETICS (Bush Tape), Strand House

Woolsbridge Industrial Park, Wimbourne, BH21 6SZ. Telephone (0252) 861000

 

VIDEO CAMERA RATING   8

Great for TVs and VCRs but still a little camcorder-shy...

 

 

---end---

 

(c) R.Maybury 1993 2206

 

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