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Owners of Hi8 camcorders will need no reminding that there's a price to be paid for superior picture performance, and we're not just talking about the cost of the equipment, the special metal-evaporated (ME) tapes which are an integral part of the high-band recording system cost up to three times as much as ordinary 8mm metal particle (MP) tapes. Unfortunately, whilst MP tapes have better magnetic properties and lower signal to noise ratios, they tend to suffer from higher levels of dropout -- compared with MP tape -- as our annual tape surveys have consistently revealed. A couple of manufacturers have developed high-grade MP tapes for use in Hi8 equipment, they're far less prone to dropout, and cheaper than ME formulations but there is a small but noticeable reduction in picture quality. Now Fuji reckon they've come up with the answer, it's called Hi8 ME-Position, an MP tape that performs like an ME formulation, without the dropout, and expense.


Hi8 ME-Position relies on Fuji's unique multi-coating processes to produce a five-layer tape. The topmost one is the all-important magnetic coating, using their Super Metallix particles, which are reportedly 40% smaller than normal Hi8 magnetic particles, giving an enhanced high-frequency response. The particles are suspended in a tough, oxidation-resistant coating which ensures long-term durability and resistance to dropout. Underneath that there's a non-magnetic coating made up of a substance called Titan Fine. Its job is to act as a cushion during the rigorous calendering process which packs the magnetic particles more closely together, into a layer just three tenths of a micrometre thick,  helping to improve the tape's low and mid-frequency response.


There are three further layers, including an undercoat, the PET base film, and finally, a backcoat, which ensures smooth running. The ident holes on the cassette are configured for the ME position (hence the name), so that as far as the machine is concerned, it is an ME tape. The tapes go on sale this month and to begin with there will be two lengths, 60 and 90 minutes. The average selling price for the E5-60 should be around 10.99, and 12.99 for the E5-90.



Canon's popular E300 compact camcorder has undergone a minor facelift and re-emerged as the E333D, which will be sold exclusively through Dixon's and Curry's. Apart from the model number little else seems to have changed from the E300, which we reviewed in the July 93 issue. Top features then, as now are:

* pop-up video light, powered from the machine's own battery

* four-beam infra-red AF system

* 3-mode program AE system (backlight, spotlight and sand & snow)

* 2-speed 10x zoom

* 2-line x 16-character title generator

* time, date and age recording

* infra-red remote control

* multi-zone auto while balance

* flexigrip hand grip and sportsfinder eyepiece


The price seems to have crept up from when we last saw it, now it costs around 30 more, at 730. To be fair Canon are not the only manufacturer to have responded to unfavourable exchange rate fluctuations, however, that's still quite a lot for what is after all a fairly ordinary mono machine.


There's better news for anyone thinking about buying one of their other machines, which includes the E200,300,500 and 700, UC2, 5, 15 and 40Hi. Until the end of January they all come with an offer of 100 worth of free accessories. Owners will have to complete a proof of purchase form and send it off with the guarantee card. In return Canon will send those who brought E-series machines a BPE77 battery pack, 60 minute tape, soft carry case, cleaning cassette and cloth; UC machine owners will get a BPE722 battery, and two tapes, as well as the cleaner cassette and cloth.



Sony are busily upgrading their VHS video recorder range to Video Plus timer operation. The latest convert is the SLV-825, which re-emerges as the SLV-835. The basic specification remains largely unchanged; it's the same good-looking stereo hi-fi machine, very camcorder-friendly with plenty of editing facilities and a Control L edit terminal. It reaches the shops this month and it will be selling for just under 850.


We've also got details of a new Hi8 VCR which should be with us early in the new year. It's called the EVC-500 and it will be similar in concept to the EC-45 deck in that it will have no tuner or timer, but what it lacks in time-shifting capabilities it will more than make up for in other areas. Naturally it will have a stereo hi-fi audio system, precision tape transport with jog/shuttle type controls, plus a full set of editing facilities, including syncro-start, and a Control L terminal. The price is expected to be around 650, we hope to have one for test in the near future, watch this space for details.



JVC's current run of innovative and highly specified VHS-C camcorders continues with the GR-AX75, an upgrade of the AX55 palmcorder which was voted the Video Camera Best Buy of 1993 (under 800). Sadly the AX75 won't qualify for that particular price category in the 1994 awards, it costs 850, but the features list has lengthened significantly and in addition to the AX55's very useful random assemble edit system, six-mode program AE system, built-in video light and 10x zoom it now has:

* 20x digital zoom

* gyrosensor controlled digital image stabiliser

* electronic fog filter

* semi-automatic manual exposure control

* insert edit

* audio dub

* animation/time-lapse facilities


Some of those features deserve an explanation. Audio dub, insert edit and the self/interval timers were all available on the AX55 but could only be accessed via an optional remote control, costing 52; they're included as standard on the AX75, we've been griping about that particular JVC trick for years so this apparent change of heart is good news indeed. The semi-automatic manual exposure control sounds like a contradiction in terms but it works like this. Instead of a manual iris, the designers have developed a system whereby the iris is fixed when the manual override is engaged, and the user controls the range of the auto-iris system. It all sounds a bit odd; we'll have a full report for you shortly, when we've had a chance to fully evaluate it for ourselves.


This is JVCs first foray into image stabilisers and they've come up with a hybrid system  using gyrosensors to detect movement, instead of the more usual picture field sampling technique. However, the image is processed digitally, to compensate for camera shake, so there is still a reduction in picture quality; precisely how much remains to be seen, and that's another thing we'll be looking at in our forthcoming review.


The other newcomer is the electronic fog filter; this gives the picture a soft, misty look. It joins the other creative effects, which include cinema mode, fade to black, monotone recording and self timer. Altogether a very interesting-sounding package so look out for that review in the next month or so.



R.Maybury 1993, 1910


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