VIDEO CAMERA 1993

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REVIEW

 

HEAD

DRIVING FORCE

 

INTRO

The third of Panasonic's Super Drive video recorders for '93 is now with us, in the shape of the NV-HD100, a classy stereo machine with editing potential, for less than 600

 

COPY

It has been a quiet year so far for new video recorders. From the video movie-maker's point of view there's been little to get excited about, unless you count Video Plus+ timer programming, this year's hot feature. Even the mighty Panasonic have bowed to the inevitable and all of their new Super Drive models now have Video Plus+ timers, in place of their infamous bar-code programming system.

 

This month sees the arrival of their latest Super Drive machine, the HD100, it's a well-specified, mid-market stereo hi-fi machine costing just under 600, and although Panasonic haven't done the decent thing and given it a proper editing terminal, it is nonetheless a useful machine to have around, if you've got a camcorder.

 

Before we take a look at its editing facilities a quick reminder of some of the Super Drive series key features, already seen on the SD30 and SD40, launched a couple of months ago. They all have a new energy-efficient switch-mode power supply which gives off less heat, so there's no need for ventilation slots on the top panel, there's a large embossed Panasonic logo instead.... The new decks are much quieter than previous designs and all of the mechanical and electronic assemblies have been designed for easier servicing. These machines also have self-diagnostic systems which help service engineers pinpoint faults. We noticed that unlike previous SD models there's no mention of this in the instruction book, presumably to stop owners playing around with it. Don't tell anyone, but you press the eject button and turn the shuttle ring to the right...  When the SD comes to the end of it's hopefully long and useful life you'll be pleased to know that all the parts have been coded for easier recycling.

 

FEATURES

We'll skip the usual litany of convenience features, the SD100 has all the common ones, plus a few more besides, and anyone looking for a workhorse machine to record off-air TV programmes and replay rental tapes will not find it wanting. The features we're most pleased to see include audio dub, which replaces the mono linear soundtrack, without affecting the picture or the stereo audio tracks. It has insert edit, for slotting new scenes into existing recordings, the edit in and out points are defined using the tape counter and jog/shuttle dial. The jog/shuttle also gives very precise control over replay speed and direction, from still and frame advance, through slomo, to fast picture search, in both directions. It has a microphone socket on the front panel, which is useful for audio dubbing a commentary onto the recording. This machine can replay NTSC tapes on most recent PAL televisions, that means if you've got friends or relatives living in the USA, Canada or Japan they can send you their home video movies to watch on your TV. Finally there's syncro edit,  this works with compatible Panasonic camcorders, it enables single selected scenes to be transferred from the camcorder to the VCR. No, it's not a very long list but they're all worth having if you're looking for a camcorder-friendly VCR, mind you, we wouldn't have minded a front AV terminal as well. The lack of an edit terminal is not a huge problem either, most edit controllers use infra-red control systems, to operate the destination deck's record-pause function.

 

Video Plus+ makes timer programming an absolute doddle, though you'll need to buy those newspapers or TV listings magazines that publish the Plus Codes which tell the machine the date, time and channel of the chosen programme. This machine can also be retrofitted with an optional programme delivery control (PDC ) or 'Startext' module. This has to be carried out by the dealer and costs around 80.00. Startext uses transmitted codes to self-correct timer settings, should a programme overrun or start late. Unfortunately only Channel 4 broadcast the relevant codes, the BBC and other ITV companies do not seem particularly enthusiastic. The HD100 has a manual timer programming system on the remote handset with data appearing on a small LCD screen; it's very similar to one devised by Sony a few years back and it is also very easy to use. Barcode timer programming is dead in the UK but we suspect it may live on elsewhere as the remote handset has a small blanked off panel, right where the optical barcode reader should be.

 

A couple of other features worth noting include the large easy to read front panel display, though it doesn't make up for the lack of an on-screen display, a feature Panasonic have always shied away from. There's a quick-view facility, which works when the machine is fast winding, turn the shuttle ring and the deck drops back into picture search, handy if you want to see where you are on the tape.

 

PERFORMANCE

Although our early production sample had clearly led a fairly arduous life it nevertheless managed to resolve a full 250 lines, which puts it close to the limits of the VHS system. Panasonic's noise cancellation circuits certainly earn their keep and the picture looks very clean, even in areas of highly saturated colours. Replay stability is excellent, though the V-lock buttons on the remote handset may need a dab now and again, to completely eliminate jitter. NTSC replay on our Philips and Mitsubishi test TVs was almost as good as the PAL picture, stable and without any masking at the top or bottom of the screen.

 

The HD100's stereo hi-fi audio system produced a pin-sharp sound from pre-recorded tapes, and the auto tracking system managed to deal with our dodgy old test recordings, which often faze manual or less able auto systems. The manual recording level control is most welcome, though we found the ALC quite comfortable with most types of off-air material. Off-air NICAM sound is very good too, though there is just the slightest trace of background noise.

 

VERDICT

The SD100 isn't quite so instantly appealing as the SD40, we're mindful of what might have been, had it been fitted with an edit terminal, and front AV sockets. However, to be fair the SD100 still outperforms most machines in its class and price bracket, so from the point of view of picture quality and it's other, camcorder-related features, it is most definitely worth shortlisting. Panasonic have put in a lot of work under the bonnet, much of which doesn't show up on the screen, it's far too early to say whether or not this machine will outlive its contemporaries but if it does -- and Panasonic have a good track record in this regard -- it should be worth paying the extra.

 

VCR SPECS

Make/model         PANASONIC NV-HD100

Tape format         VHS

Guide price           580 

 

TAPE DECK

Max playing time            8-hours (E240- tape LP mode)

Timer                               8-events, 31-days

Remote control                full function IR

 

VIDEO

System                              PAL SP/LP, HQ

Replay speeds                  still, variable slomo, variable fast picture search

 

Main facilities

Slow motion          yes             Multi-speed           yes   

Insert edit:          yes              Jog/shuttle          yes (front panel)

On-screen display          no          Videoplus+            yes

Index search          yes          Intro Scan          no

Instant timer          yes          LCD remote          yes   

PDC timer          no          Repeat play          yes

Record search          no          NTSC replay          yes

Quasi S-VHS replay          no          Auto play              yes

Auto head cleaner          yes   

 

Additional facilities

skip search, syncro edit, sleep timer

 

AUDIO      

Stereo Hi-Fi                           yes          Audio dub              yes   

Auto level control        yes          Level display                  yes

NICAM sound          yes          Line output           yes   

Man. level control      yes          H/phone level control          no     

     

GENERAL

Sockets

Front AV terminal                    no          Edit terminal           no

Microphone          yes          Headphones          no

SCART          twin          Syncro edit          yes

 

Dimensions (mm)     430 x 96 x 362

Weight (kg)               5.3

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                   >250-lines

Colour fidelity             very good

Trick play stability      very good

Colour bleed                none

Audio performance      very good

Edit functions               fair

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money        8

Ease of use                8

Performance              9

Features                    8

         ---end---

(c) R.Maybury 1993  1307

 

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