VIDEO CAMERA 1993

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BUDGET CAMCORDER MEGA TEST

 

INTRO

Camcorder prices have been rising steadily for almost a year but there are still some good deals to be had, if you're prepared to shop around.We've been doing some bargain hunting on your behalf

 

COPY

One year ago this month we carried a review of the Chinon VC-1600, a singularly unremarkable VHS-C camcorder, apart from the list price, which at 399.99 made it the cheapest  machine ever. What a difference a year makes; by the Spring of 1993 the effects of wordwide currency fluctuations and recession marked the end of a decade of falling camcorder prices, it seems highly unlikely  they'll ever be as cheap again.

 

Prices have started to settle down at the lower end of the market, for the time being at least, and there are still plenty of bargains to be had, if you're prepared to shop around, and more particularly, if you're willing to haggle or buy discontinued and end of range machines.

 

We've been trawling through the advertisments and catalogues and discoutn warehouses to see what's on offer for around 600 or less. Be warned some of the machines we mention may be in short supply, so you may have to do a little detective work of your own if you're after a particular model, but it could be well worth the effort!

 

CANON E200  8mm 570

Discontinued but still available, often well below the original listed price of 570. It was the cheapest of the Canon E-series machines and by current standards it still looks quite well specified with a title generator, sportsfinder eyepiece, remote control, clip-on video light, 7-speed shutter and edit erase. A generally agreeable little machine that handles well, and the front-focus lens and manual zoom are two very covetable features that seem to have dissapeared from most of the most recent machines.

 

Performance is good and it is still capable of showing a clean pair of heels to several mid-market machines we can think of, when it comes to colour accuaracy and picture noise levels. Not the prettiest-looking machine, and the controls are a little awkward, but definitely worth seeking out.

 

SPECIFICATION

OPTICS

Zoom/lens                     8x, 7-56mm, f/1.8

Filter diameter             37mm  

CCD                             0.3in

Min. illum. (lux)           3

Size (mm)                     106 x 302 x 108        

Weight                          1.1kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                          yes

Max. rec. time                                          240mins (LP mode)

IR remote control ?                                    yes

Edit terminal?                                              no

           

MAIN FACILITIES                

Programmed AE?                              no        

Manual white balance?                       yes

Manual zoom?                           yes

Backlight compensation                yes

Insert edit?                                            no

Character generator?                     yes

Digital Superimposer?              no

Video light?                                           yes      

Fader?                                      yes

 

AUDIO

Audio Dub?                               no

Stereo?                                     no

Mic socket?                              no

           

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                     240-lines

Colour fidelity               good

Picture stability             good

Colour bleed                  none

White balance               very good 

Exposure                       good 

Autofocus                      average

Audio performance       average

Insert edit                      manual inserts clean

Playback thru adaptor  N/A

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          9

Ease of use                  7

Performance                9

Features                       9

 

JVC GR-AX5 VHS-C  600

The top-selling camcorder of its day but looking rather long in the tooth now, though it apparently still sells quite well. It was dated, even in its heyday as it's based on a deck that first saw light of day back in 1991. Quite plump for a palmcorder, and not especially light but very easy to use and it has a few convenience features, including syncro edit, time date and age recording, 3-speed shutter and gain-up facility.

 

Picture quality is best described as reasonable though colours are fairly true to life, and noise isn't a problem. We found the autofocus system to be rather sluggish, especially in poor light. Camcorder technology has moved on quite a bit since this machine first appeared so unless you can find one for substantially less than the original price, and we mean a lot less, then you would do better buying something a little more up to date.

 

OPTICS

Zoom/lens                      8x, 7-42mm, f/1.4

Filter diameter               37mm  

CCD                              0.3in

Min. illum. (lux)             3 (gain-up)

Size (mm)                       122 x 122 x 69       

Weight                            1.2kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                          yes

Max. rec. time                                          90 mins (LP mode)

IR remote control ?                                    no

Edit terminal?                                              no (MEC syncro edit)

           

MAIN FACILITIES               

Programmed AE?                  no

Manual white balance?            no

Manual zoom?               no

Backlight compensation            no

Insert edit?                                no

Character generator?            no        

Digital Superimposer?            no

Video light?                               no        

Fader?                          yes

 

AUDIO

Audio Dub?                               no

Stereo?                                       no

Mic socket?                              no

           

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                    230-lines

Colour fidelity               good

Picture stability             average

Colour bleed                  average

White balance                average

Exposure                       average

Autofocus                      average

Audio performance       average

Insert edit                      none

Playback thru adaptor  good

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          8

Ease of use                  9

Performance                8

Features                       8

 

JVC GR-M3 VHS-C 570

Pared-down version of the GR-323 compact camcorder, still available (but do check first) from Currys and Dixons, where you may be able to negotiate a very good deal; one South London branch of Curry's offered us one for 380! A heavily automated design, with a routine specification, aimed primarily at the point-and-shoot user. However, it's well-worth buying the optional remote control which gives access to audio dub, insert edit , interval timer and self timer facilities, improving it's capabilities no end.

 

It handles well, it's easy to use and picture quality is very good. Our test sample compared well with machines costing almost twice as much, and the highly sophisticated white balance system is one of the best we've seen, with no less than nine different settings, to cater for just about every type of lighting condition. An excellent buy, especially if you're prepared to do some haggling.

 

OPTICS

Zoom/lens                      8x, 6.7-54mm, f/1.4

Filter diameter               52mm  

CCD                              0.3in

Min. illum. (lux)             3

Size (mm)                       257 x 127 x 115       

Weight                           1.2kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                          yes

Max. rec. time                                          90 mins (LP mode)

IR remote control ?                                    no

Edit terminal?                                              no (MEC syncro edit)

           

MAIN FACILITIES               

Programmed AE?                              no        

Manual white balance?                       yes

Manual zoom?                           no

Backlight compensation                no

Insert edit?                                            yes (optional)

Character generator?                     no        

Digital Superimposer?              no

Video light?                                           yes      

Fader?                                      yes

 

AUDIO

Audio Dub?                               yes (optional)

Stereo?                                       no

Mic socket?                              no

           

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                    >240-lines

Colour fidelity               good

Picture stability             average

Colour bleed                  none

White balance                excellent

Exposure                       average

Autofocus                      good

Audio performance       average

Insert edit                      see text

Playback thru adaptor  good

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          9

Ease of use                  9

Performance                8

Features                      8

 

PANASONIC NV-CS1 VHS-C 500

Not one of Panasonic's most endearing machines, in fact we would advise you to steer well clear of it, unless you actually want a camcorder that has no replay facilities, no zoom, an optical viewfinder, and hardly any facilities worth speaking of, apart from a switchable wide-angle lens. The best you can say about it, it that it is very easy to use.

 

Recordings can only be replayed on a VHS video recorder, using the cassette adaptor supplied, and on a decent machine picture quality is adequate, on recordings made in good light. The very basic exposure and white balance systems cannot cope very well with indoor shots. The CS1 was an attempt by Panasonic to create the video equivalent of a 35mm compact camera; as far as ease of use and convenience are concerned, they succeeded. Even though it's now being discounted the price is still several hundred pounds too much.

 

OPTICS

Zoom/lens                        none, 4mm, f/2.7

Filter diameter                no fitting 

CCD                                 0.3in

Min. illum. (lux)              7

Size (mm)                        71 x 39 x 142      

Weight                             0.7kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                          no

Max. rec. time                                          45 mins

IR remote control ?                                    no

Edit terminal?                                              no

           

MAIN FACILITIES               

Programmed AE?                              no        

Manual white balance?                       no

Manual zoom?                           no

Backlight compensation                no

Insert edit?                                            no

Character generator?                     no        

Digital Superimposer?              no

Video light?                                           no        

Fader?                                      no

 

AUDIO

Audio Dub?                               no

Stereo?                                       no

Mic socket?                              no

           

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                    230-lines

Colour fidelity               average

Picture stability             good

Colour bleed                  none

White balance               average

Exposure                       average

Autofocus                      N/A

Audio performance       average

Insert edit                      N/A

Playback thru adaptor  good

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          4

Ease of use                  9

Performance                7

Features                       5

 

PANASONIC S20 VHS-C 599

The S20's price has been up and down like a yo-yo in the past nine months; right now it's back at or below its launch price, which makes it a relatively good deal once again. A very likeable machine with a good assortment of creative facilities, including 3-mode program AE, low-light sensitivity of just 1 lux and a wide-angle zoom lens. The star of the show, however, is an editing terminal, which enables this machine to work with a wide range of automated edit controllers. 

 

The on-screen performance is good, the picture looks sharp and colours are lifelike, even in poor light. Noise levels are very low and the white balance system can handle most types of artificial light without too many problems. One of the best new VHS-C machines lacunhed last year and well worth shortlisting.

 

OPTICS

Zoom/lens                       8x, 5-40mm, f/1.4

Filter diameter               49mm  

CCD                               0.3in

Min. illum. (lux)             1

Size (mm)                        129 x 121 x 247      

Weight                            1.1kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                          yes

Max. rec. time                                          90 mins (LP mode)

IR remote control ?                                    no

Edit terminal?                                              yes, 5-pin RMC

           

MAIN FACILITIES               

Programmed AE?                              yes (3-mode)  

Manual white balance?                       yes

Manual zoom?                           no

Backlight compensation                yes

Insert edit?                                            no

Character generator?                     no        

Digital Superimposer?              no

Video light?                                           no        

Fader?                                      yes

 

AUDIO

Audio Dub?                               no

Stereo?                                       no

Mic socket?                              yes      

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                    240-lines

Colour fidelity               good

Picture stability             very good

Colour bleed                  negligible

White balance                good

Exposure                       good

Autofocus                      good

Audio performance       fair

Insert edit                      N/A

Playback thru adaptor  good

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          9

Ease of use                  9

Performance                9

Features                       8

 

SAMSUNG VPE-808 8mm 550

Samsung camcorders are coming on in leaps and bounds and this Korean built machine could show its Japanese rivals a this Korean company are now showing thr Japanese a ting or two, certainly as far as value for money is concerned. The 808 is a suprisingly well-specified compact with the kind of features you might now expect to find on machines costing at least a hundred and fifty pounds more. They include a manual shutter, character generator, clip-on video light, accessory shoe, sportsfinder eyepiece, insert edit and self/interval timer.

A fairly mediocre picture, fine outdoors but it struggles to maintain colour accuracy indoors or under tube lighting. There is some picture noise but it's not excessive. It's not going to win any prizes for performance or elegance, but it more makes up for its shortcomings by being very well equipped and good value for money. 

 

OPTICS

Zoom/lens                      8x, 6-48mm, f/1.8

Filter diameter              46mm  

CCD                              0.3in

Min. illum. (lux)             3

Size (mm)                       107 x 128 x 300       

Weight                           1.2kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                          yes

Max. rec. time                                          240mins (LP mode)

IR remote control ?                                    yes

Edit terminal?                                              no

           

MAIN FACILITIES               

Programmed AE?                              no        

Manual white balance?                       yes

Manual zoom?                           no

Backlight compensation                no

Insert edit?                                            yes

Character generator?                     yes

Digital Superimposer?              no

Video light?                                           yes      

Fader?                                      yes

 

AUDIO

Audio Dub?                               no

Stereo?                                       no

Mic socket?                              yes

           

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                    230-lines

Colour fidelity               average

Picture stability             average

Colour bleed                  none

White balance                fair

Exposure                       good

Autofocus                      average

Audio performance       good

Insert edit                      fair

Playback thru adaptor  N/A

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          10

Ease of use                  8

Performance                8

Features                       9

 

 

SANYO VM-D90 569

 

 

OPTICS

Zoom/lens                      x

Filter diameter               37/43/46/49mm  

CCD                              0.25/3/5in

Min. illum. (lux)            

Size (mm)                              

Weight                                   kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                          yes/no

Max. rec. time                                          90/240mins (LP mode)

IR remote control ?                                    yes/no

Edit terminal?                                              yes Control L/5-pin RMC/no

           

MAIN FACILITIES               

Programmed AE?                              yes/no (X-mode)          

Manual white balance?                       yes/no

Manual zoom?                           yes/no

Backlight compensation                yes/no

Insert edit?                                            yes/no

Character generator?                     yes/no 

Digital Superimposer?              yes/no

Video light?                                           yes/no (optional)          

Fader?                                      yes/no

 

AUDIO

Audio Dub?                               yes/no

Stereo?                                       yes/no

Mic socket?                              yes/no

           

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                    -lines

Colour fidelity              

Picture stability            

Colour bleed                 

White balance               

Exposure                      

Autofocus                     

Audio performance      

Insert edit                     

Playback thru adaptor 

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money         

Ease of use                 

Performance               

Features                      

 

 

SANYO VM-EX25 599 (AKA EX20)

 

 

OPTICS

Zoom/lens                      x

Filter diameter               37/43/46/49mm  

CCD                              0.25/3/5in

Min. illum. (lux)            

Size (mm)                              

Weight                                   kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                          yes/no

Max. rec. time                                          90/240mins (LP mode)

IR remote control ?                                    yes/no

Edit terminal?                                              yes Control L/5-pin RMC/no

           

MAIN FACILITIES               

Programmed AE?                              yes/no (X-mode)          

Manual white balance?                       yes/no

Manual zoom?                           yes/no

Backlight compensation                yes/no

Insert edit?                                            yes/no

Character generator?                     yes/no 

Digital Superimposer?              yes/no

Video light?                                           yes/no (optional)          

Fader?                                      yes/no

 

AUDIO

Audio Dub?                               yes/no

Stereo?                                       yes/no

Mic socket?                              yes/no

           

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                    -lines

Colour fidelity              

Picture stability            

Colour bleed                 

White balance               

Exposure                      

Autofocus                     

Audio performance      

Insert edit                     

Playback thru adaptor 

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money         

Ease of use                 

Performance               

Features                      

 

 

SANYO RM-RZ2 570 (AKA D9)

 

 

OPTICS

Zoom/lens                      x

Filter diameter               37/43/46/49mm  

CCD                              0.25/3/5in

Min. illum. (lux)            

Size (mm)                               

Weight                                   kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                          yes/no

Max. rec. time                                          90/240mins (LP mode)

IR remote control ?                                    yes/no

Edit terminal?                                              yes Control L/5-pin RMC/no

           

MAIN FACILITIES               

Programmed AE?                              yes/no (X-mode)          

Manual white balance?                       yes/no

Manual zoom?                           yes/no

Backlight compensation                yes/no

Insert edit?                                            yes/no

Character generator?                     yes/no 

Digital Superimposer?              yes/no

Video light?                                           yes/no (optional)          

Fader?                                      yes/no

 

AUDIO

Audio Dub?                               yes/no

Stereo?                                       yes/no

Mic socket?                              yes/no

           

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                    -lines

Colour fidelity              

Picture stability            

Colour bleed                 

White balance               

Exposure                      

Autofocus                     

Audio performance      

Insert edit                     

Playback thru adaptor 

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          

Ease of use                 

Performance               

Features                      

 

 

SHARP VL-M4H

 

 

OPTICS

Zoom/lens                      x

Filter diameter               37/43/46/49mm  

CCD                              0.25/3/5in

Min. illum. (lux)            

Size (mm)                              

Weight                                   kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                          yes/no

Max. rec. time                                          90/240mins (LP mode)

IR remote control ?                                    yes/no

Edit terminal?                                              yes Control L/5-pin RMC/no

           

MAIN FACILITIES               

Programmed AE?                              yes/no (X-mode)          

Manual white balance?                       yes/no

Manual zoom?                           yes/no

Backlight compensation                yes/no

Insert edit?                                            yes/no

Character generator?                     yes/no 

Digital Superimposer?              yes/no

Video light?                                           yes/no (optional)          

Fader?                                      yes/no

 

AUDIO

Audio Dub?                               yes/no

Stereo?                                       yes/no

Mic socket?                              yes/no

           

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                    -lines

Colour fidelity              

Picture stability            

Colour bleed                 

White balance               

Exposure                      

Autofocus                     

Audio performance      

Insert edit                     

Playback thru adaptor 

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money         

Ease of use                 

Performance               

Features                      

 

 

SONY FX200 549

 

OPTICS

Zoom/lens                      x

Filter diameter               37/43/46/49mm  

CCD                              0.25/3/5in

Min. illum. (lux)            

Size (mm)                              

Weight                                   kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                          yes/no

Max. rec. time                                          90/240mins (LP mode)

IR remote control ?                                    yes/no

Edit terminal?                                              yes Control L/5-pin RMC/no

           

MAIN FACILITIES               

Programmed AE?                              yes/no (X-mode)          

Manual white balance?                       yes/no

Manual zoom?                           yes/no

Backlight compensation                yes/no

Insert edit?                                            yes/no

Character generator?                     yes/no 

Digital Superimposer?              yes/no

Video light?                                           yes/no (optional)          

Fader?                                      yes/no

 

AUDIO

Audio Dub?                               yes/no

Stereo?                                       yes/no

Mic socket?                              yes/no

           

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                    -lines

Colour fidelity              

Picture stability            

Colour bleed                 

White balance               

Exposure                      

Autofocus                     

Audio performance      

Insert edit                     

Playback thru adaptor 

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money         

Ease of use                 

Performance               

Features                      

 

 

 

OPTICS

Zoom/lens                      x

Filter diameter               37/43/46/49mm  

CCD                              0.25/3/5in

Min. illum. (lux)            

Size (mm)                              

Weight                                   kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                          yes/no

Max. rec. time                                          90/240mins (LP mode)

IR remote control ?                                    yes/no

Edit terminal?                                              yes Control L/5-pin RMC/no

           

MAIN FACILITIES               

Programmed AE?                              yes/no (X-mode)          

Manual white balance?                       yes/no

Manual zoom?                           yes/no

Backlight compensation                yes/no

Insert edit?                                            yes/no

Character generator?                     yes/no 

Digital Superimposer?              yes/no

Video light?                                           yes/no (optional)          

Fader?                                      yes/no

 

AUDIO

Audio Dub?                               yes/no

Stereo?                                       yes/no

Mic socket?                              yes/no

           

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                    -lines

Colour fidelity              

Picture stability            

Colour bleed                 

White balance               

Exposure                      

Autofocus                     

Audio performance      

Insert edit                     

Playback thru adaptor 

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money         

Ease of use                 

Performance               

Features                       

 

 

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