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It's here, at last. We've been trying out one of the first samples of the eagerly awaited VPE-808, Samsung's latest 8mm budget compact



We had almost given up hope on the Samsung VPE-808, following several months of delay it has finally arrived. We've managed to get our hands on one of the very first samples, and yes, it has been worth the wait. The 808 is a very close relative of the VPE-807, which we tested back in April. This latest Korean designed and built machine is another clear warning to the Japanese that they had better watch out as their neighbours are catching up fast.


Although a budget machine the 808 has many of the features we associate with a well-equipped middle-market compact camcorder, they include an inner-focus lens with 8x zoom, digital autofocus, automated camera controls with manual overrides for backlight compensation and high-speed shutter; it has a fader, title generator, self and interval timers, plus full infra-red remote control. Above all it looks and feels like a camcorder of the 90's, we're sure Samsung won't mind us saying that some of their earlier machines looked clumsy and dated by comparison with contemporary Japanese designs... The chief differences between the 808 and 807 are a clip-on video light, sportsfinder eyepiece, credit-card sized remote control and revised cosmetics. The most important feature, though, is the price, which is £550, that's the same as the launch price of the 807, which has now been reduced to £530. In today's economic climate, with reverberations of the pound's devaluation still echoing around the industry, that has to be very good value for money.



Samsung have learned their lessons well and the 808, like the 807 could easily pass for a Japanese machine, albeit one from a year or two ago as there are clear reminders of past models from Panasonic, Sanyo and Canon. The camcorder controls are large, well-spaced and easy to find, the only exceptions are the main auto/manual switch, which is too far back, and the manual focusing buttons. We've nothing against inner-focus lenses per-sť, but it's vital that adequate provision is made for manual focus. The best machines have servo control rings on the lens barrel, the worst ones have just a pair of buttons or rocker switch. This arrangement tends to be slow, unresponsive and innacurate. Sadly the 808 falls into this latter category, the only piece of good news is that the 808's digital AF system is quite lively and rarely steps out of line in good light.


Overall balance is good and although a tad heavy by current standards it's comformtable to hold . Build quality is generally high, the controls feel positive and the panels fit together well; they're things we always look at very carefully on budget machines, where standards have sometimes been known to slip. The sportsfinder eyepiece is fairly crude, true, you can see most of the screen at a distance, but its blurred and distorted, moreover, the corners of the screen are rounded, it looks a bit like the picture on an old black and white television.


We're a little concerned about the 808's accessory shoe, the one on our early rewiew sample appeared to be a non-standard size, too small in fact for the accessories we had to hand which included a couple of different makes of video lights and mic bracket. We hope this is confined to our machine, we will check a production model as soon as one becomes available, but if it's not we urge Samsung to do something about it!



Our test sample -- the only one in the country at the time -- had been very well used and resolution was just under 230 lines; we hope production models will be back up to the sort of figure we found on the 807 which was around 250 lines; if so that put it in contention with machines costing a couple of hundred pounds more. The only signs that this is, indeed, a budget machine is the rather relaxed white balance system which is very obviously optimised for natural light and no amount of fiddling with the manual overrides can cure the yellow-green caste, when shooting under fluorescent light. There is some very slight colour spillage, which seems to mainly affect shighly saturated reds, but it's not a major problem.


Picture noise levels are about average, certainly nothing to worry about in good light. As light levels fall there is an increase in grain, and the AF system starts to strruggle a little. The clip-on video light helps, especially on close-ups and dimly-lit rooms, though it eats into the battery, reducing running times by at least half, from around 30 minutes to 15 or less, with the light switched on.


The 808 is equipped with insert edit of sorts, edit points are clean, though the system is not terribly accurate and at best only gets to within a second or so of the designated points.


Sound quality is good, the mic is reasonably diectional and the FM soundtrack has very low levels of background noise. The external microphone and headphone sockets are rare and welcome features on a machine in this price bracket.



Samsung go from strength to strength, though it has to be said that the 808 is not significantly different from the 807 to warrent being called a new machine, and the overall design still lags the Japanese by a year or so but they're catching up fast!. However, this should turn out to be a winner in the generally lacklustre budget sector, where there is currently very little worth considering under £600.



Make/model                   SAMSUNG VPE-808

Recording format            8mm

Guide price                     £550



Lens                               f1.8, 6-48mm

Zoom                              8x

Filter diameter               46mm  

Pick-up device               0.3in CCD (320k pixels)

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?                  no            Backlight compensation            no

Auto white balance                          yes             Manual white balance?            yes

Power zoom                              yes            Manual zoom?              no

Character generator?            yes            Digital Superimposer?            no

Image stabiliser?                     no            Insert edit?                             no

Battery refresh?                            no            Accessory shoe?                      yes

Record review                yes            Fader?                          yes/black

Digital effects                             no            Digital zoom?                          no



time/daterecording, self/interval-timer,  high-speed shutter (5-speed up to 1/4000th sec), record review, tally lamp



Viewfinder                       0.6in monochrome

Sportsfinder eyepiece?   yes(ish)

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



Stereo?                                       no

Audio dub?                                    no

Wind noise filter?                no

Mic socket?                              yes

Headphone socket?             yes

Microphone                                      omnidirectional electret



Sockets                           video and audio out (phono), earphone and external mic (minijacks)

Size (mm)                       107 x 128 x 300

Weight                           1.2 kg (inc. tape and battery)



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

AV lead

video light?                    yes            remote control? yes

cassette adaptor?            no            RF Converter?             yes

SCART adaptor?            no        



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



Value for money          9

Ease of use                  8

Performance                8

Features                      8



(c) R Maybury 1993 1407




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