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Samsung's first 8mm palmcorder looks like being a winner, but hang on, doesn't it look familiar?...



If imitation really is a sincere form of flattery the Sony corporation should be experiencing a warm inner glow of satisfaction following the launch of the Samsung 'Samcam' VP-E405 8mm camcorder. Stand it next to any of the early Sony TR machines and you may notice one or two similarities, including the size, shape and contours of the mouldings. The positions of some of the controls, sockets, tape loading hatch, even the holders for the clock batteries are in the same position. Strangest of all is the viewfinder; the removeable extension tube on the E405 is actually interchangable with ones on similarly-sized Sony machines. The only difference is Sony's grasp of English; the instructions on the Samsung viewfinder still need some untangling: 'For using the viewfinder, locked it after slide in the direction of arrow as a picture'..


Once you recover from the strong sense of dejŠ-vu, and look past the more obvious similarities there is a machine with a character all of its own, and with a reccommended selling price of just under £700 it looks like a very good deal. Whilst much of the 405 is little different from the Sony TR55, launched back in 1990, there are elements in the design that place it firmly in 1993. The first is an inner-focus lens, with manual control in the form of a rocker switch. Some see that as progress, not us, this type of  manual focus is slow and imprecise, and there's no provision for manual zoom. Other, more welcome facilities include stereo sound recording, and six-mode programmed auto-exposure. The options, selected by repeated button push are:


* program AE, as far as we can see the same as normal auto exposure

* sports mode, automatic selection of shutter speed, for reducing blur when recording fast action

* picnic mode, for a wide depth of field, little different from normal AE, as far as we can see

* spotlight mode, for shooting a brightly lit subject against a dark background

* photo mode, aka portrait, for a narrow depth of field so that subject stands out against a blurred background

* sunny mode, aka backlight, for shooting a strongly backlit subject


Other features we're pleased to see include infra-red remote control, via a credit-card sized handset, this also gives access to self-timer and time-lapse features; multi-mode title superimposer; automatic insert edit; external microphone and earphone monitor sockets, and a SCART to phono lead, supplied as a standard accessory.



By following Sony's lead so closely Samsung have ensured that the E405 should be at least as easy to use as the TR machines upon which it is modelled. The E405 is small and reasonably light, so there's no handling problems to speak of .Most of the controls are readily accessible, though the manual focus rocker is too far back for comfort, and they would have done well not to ape Sony in putting the edit search buttons the opposite way around to the picture search controls, most confusing.


The rechargable battery supplied with the E405 is ratehd at 1.2mAh , which gives a good 30 minutes recording time, with normal use. Curiously, in view of the close ties this machine has with Sony, the battery does not fit Sony machines, though other makes of NP style batteries, including Sony one, do fit the E405.



Our sample turned out to be a pretty mixed bag. Our resolution tests showed the E405 could hold its own with other mid-priced machiens with a figure of 240 lines. Noise levels were average, and there was no trace of the colour bleed that has afflicted some Sony machines. It wasn't all good news, though, and our review sample had the disagreeable habit of recording a nastly glitch between scenes, we're currently checking to see if this is a one-off fault. More worrying was the mechanical instability of the deck, even a slight nudge during recording or playback made the picture jerk about.


A couple of the program AE system modes didn't seem to do much at all, and to this day we're still not sure what the picnic mode is for.


The E405's stereo sound system sets it apart from the crowd, and it's not too bad, though the microphones are not particularly sensitive, or directional. The stereo image is quite narrow too, though that's a criticism we've levelled at just about every other stereo palmcorder. Fortunately, in this case you can do something about it, by plufggin in an external microphone.



Apart from the noisy scene transisition, deck instability and out own misgivings about inner-focus lenses, the E405 gave a very good account of itself and the on-screen results compare well with rival machines, including the Sony models upon which it is based. The price makes its a very strong contender in the sub-£700 price bracket, more so these days in view of recent price increases. The E405 appears to confirm our view that the Koreans are lagging behind the Japanese by only a year or so, closing the gap all the time. If you're looking for good value, and don't mind missing out on the very latest widgets, or cosmetic trends then  the E405 deserves close scrutiny.



There's not a grat deal of competition for the E405 in the £700 price bracket, with only the ideosyncratic Akai PVM4 having anything like the same audio and exposure facilities. This particular machine has been around for quite a while now, so it is beginning to look its age. The Canon E300 is a good performer, though it's significantly larger that the E405, and it has a mono sound system. Canon also have the UC15, which compares well in terms of size and weight, and rather more up to date styling but too is a mono machine. The next cheapest stereo palmcorders are the ageing Sharp VL-MX7 'Twin-Cam', and the Sony TR105 which is also getting on a bit, both machines cost around £100 more than the E405. There's virtually no competition from the VHS-C camp, the Panasonic NV-S6 is the closest rival, though it too costs almost £800.






Make/model                    Samsung VP-E405                  

Recording format            8mm

Guide price                     £700



Lens                                f1.8, 6-48mm

Zoom                               8x

Filter diameter               37mm  

Pick-up device                0.3in CCD

Min. illum. (lux)             3 



Long Play (LP)                          yes

Max. rec. time                                          240mins (LP mode)

IR remote control ?                                    yes

Edit terminal?                                              no


MAIN FACILITIES               

Auto Focus?                              yes              Manual focus?               yes

Auto exposure?             yes             Manual iris?                              no

Programmed AE?                  yes            Backlight compensation            yes

Auto white balance                          yes             Manual white balance?            yes

Power zoom                              yes            Manual zoom?              no

Character generator?            no            Digital Superimposer?            yes

Image stabiliser?                     no            Insert edit?                             yes

Battery refresh?                            no            Accessory shoe?                      no

Record review                yes            Fader?                          yes/black

Digital effects                             no            Digital zoom?                          no



time/date/age recording, self-timer/time-lapse,  high-speed shutter (5-speed up to 1/4000th sec), record review, tally lamp



Viewfinder                       0.6in monochrome

Sportsfinder eyepiece?   no

Viewfinder info.               deck mode and status, low battery, tape count, shutter speed, fader, focus mode, tape end, time/date, title, title colour/mode, zoom position



Stereo?                                       yes

Audio dub?                                no

Wind noise filter?                no

Mic socket?                              yes

Headphone socket?             yes

Microphone                                      unidirectional electret



Sockets                            video and stereo audio out (phono) external mic and earphopne (minijack)

Size (mm)                        106 x 109 x 175

Weight                             0.9kg (inc. tape and battery)



Batteries, (nicad and lithium), straps, AC charger/power supply,

AV leads (phono to phone and SCART to phono)


video light?                    no            remote control? yes

cassette adaptor?            N/A            RF Converter?             no

SCART adaptor?            yes



Resolution                     240-lines

Colour fidelity               good

Picture stability             average

Colour bleed                  none

White balance                good

Exposure                       average

Autofocus                      fair

Audio performance       fair

Insert edit                      good

Playback thru adaptor  N/A



Value for money          8

Ease of use                  8

Performance                8

Features                       9



(c) R Maybury 1993 1608




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