VIDEO CAMERA 1993

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REVIEW

 

HEAD

BACK IN CONTROL

 

INTRO

Editing is back on the agenda at the budget end of the market with Sanyo's latest palmcorder, the 600 EX20

 

COPY

Ever since the demise of the Sanyo VM-D66 8mm compact, just over a year ago, we've been grumbling about the scarcity of camcorders with Control L edit terminals, especially at the cheaper end of the market. Control L, otherwise known as LANC (local applications control bus) is the vital socket or interface that enables a camcorder to be used as a source machine with an automated edit controller. Someone up there must have been listening to us because Sanyo have just launched the VM-EX20; it's a 600 palmcorder with a Control L socket and the option of using it with their VRM-30P monitor/remote handset. That's the clever gadget which comes with the EX30 palmcorder, it comprises a 3-inch LCD colour monitor and 5-scene auto assemble-edit controller. You can find a full test report in the August issue.

 

If you saw that review the EX20 should look quite familiar, that's because it is an EX30, all but; the main differences are an 8x instead of a 10x zoom, and some slight cosmetic changes, otherwise the two machines are virtually identical. The specification is fairly good for a budget palmcorder; it has an inner-focus lens, AV fader, remote control with a pop-up IR receptor, mono FM sound and six 'preset' recording modes, controlled from a large thumbwheel on the left side of the machine. The options, in addition to full-auto recording, are:

 

* sports: centre-frame focusing and auto shutter speed from 1/50 to 1/250th sec

* twilight: white balance biased for sunrise and sunset

* low-light: gain up, to increase low-light sensitivity

* auto high-speed shutter: shutter speed set automatically between 1/250 to 1/10,000ths sec, for blur-free replay of fast action

* close-up: macro lens setting, automatic wide-angle selection for zoom

* flickerless: shutter speed set to 1/120th sec, to prevent flicker when shooting abroad, under 60Hz tube light

 

It's a reasonably functional design with clear reminders of half a dozen palmcorders past and present, though there are a few unusual touches, including the accessory shoe, with contacts for an optional video light, and the time/date adjust button which is in the last place you would expect to find it, on the underside of the machine. Control layout and accessibility are mostly satisfactory, though some of the buttons beneath the viewfinder module can be quite hard to get at, unless it is moved to the vertical position. The thumbwheel for manually focusing the inner-focus lens, is tucked away beneath the lens, it could do with being a little larger, and nearer to the left side of the machine. The viewfinder extension tube has to be pulled out before use but like its stablemate, the EX30, it lacks any sort of locking action, so it can be pushed back to the stowage position quite easily, just by pressing it against the eye a little too hard. We suspect that in time this could become quite loose.

 

PERFORMANCE

The 230-line resolution figure achieved on our test sample is fairly typical for a budget machine, and almost exactly the same as the EX30. That's adequate for replay on TV, but second generation copies, or edits, made from this machine can look a little ragged around the edges. There's a very slight increase in picture noise levels, compared with the EX30, which shows up on recordings made indoors, or in poor light, otherwise in good natural light it performs well. The only caveat to that is the lack of any backlight compensation, and in spite of its 'fuzzy logic' auto exposure system, backlit subjects were nonetheless underexposed.

 

The EX30 is bereft an any manual white balance controls, other then the 'twilight' recording mode which is designed to add warmth to recordings made in the morning or late afternoon. Everything hinges on the auto system and in good natural light it is reasonably trustworthy, in artificial light, or mixtures of artificial and natural light it is less dependable and in fluorescent light recordings have a slight green-yellow cast.

 

The microphone is only marginally directional but sound quality on the mono FM soundtrack is quite good, apart from the usual amount of handling noises, and motor whine, especially when background noise is at a low level.

 

VERDICT

Not only is the EX20 one of the cheapest and best-specified sub 600 machines, it's also one of the smallest and lightest, but for us the main attraction is its Control L socket. That puts it into that small and very select group of machines which can serve source decks in an automated editing system, though as we said earlier, resolution could be better for this demanding application. Upgradability is an important plus point and anyone considering buying the EX30 would be well advised to think about  the EX20 instead, and purchase the VRM-30 monitor/edit controller at a later date, or bypass it altogether and buy a dedicated edit controller. There's been a marked shortage of  decent budget camcorders lately, so the EX20 is a welcome and much-needed breath of fresh air. Recommended.

 

THE RIVALS

Apart from the Sanyo RZ2 and Samsung 808 the budget sector has been looking decidedly lacklustre of late. Most of the other machines now selling for 600 or less have been around for a while, or suffer from a lack of facilities, disastrously so in the case of the Panasonic NV-CS1 record-only 'grannycorder'.  The Canon E200, JVC GR-M3 and Hitachi E31 are all worth a look but we suspect you'll come back to the EX30.

 

SPECIFICATIONS

Make/model                    SANYO VM-EX20P

Recording format            8mm

Guide price                     600

 

OPTICS

Lens                               f1.8, 6-48mm

Zoom                              8x

Filter diameter               37mm  

Pick-up device                0.3in CCD

Min. illum. (lux)              2 (low light mode)

 

VIDEO DECK

Long Play (LP)                          yes

Max. rec. time                                          240mins (LP mode)

IR remote control ?                                    yes

Edit terminal?                                              yes, Control L

           

MAIN FACILITIES               

Auto Focus?                              yes

Manual focus?               yes

Auto exposure?             yes      

Manual iris?                               no

Programmed AE?                  yes (5-mode)  

Auto white balance                          yes

Manual white balance?            no

Power zoom                              yes      

Manual zoom?               no

Backlight compensation            no

Insert edit?                                no

Audio Dub?                               no

Character generator?            no        

Digital Superimposer?            no

Image stabiliser?                     no

Video light?                               yes (optional)          

Battery refresh?                            yes

Accessory shoe?               yes

Record review                yes      

Fader?                          yes/black

Digital effects                             no        

Digital zoom?                            no

 

ADDITIONAL FEATURES

time/date recording, record review, tally lamp

 

VIEWFINDER

Viewfinder                       0.6in monochrome (colour LCD monitor optional)

Sportsfinder eyepiece?   no

Viewfinder info.               deck mode and status, low battery, tape count, fader, focus mode, tape end, time/date, dew, AE preset mode

 

AUDIO

Stereo?                                       no

Audio dub?                                no

Wind noise filter?                no

Mic socket?                              yes

Headphone socket?             no

Microphone                                      omnidirectional electret

 

GENERAL

Sockets                                  video and audio out (phono), ext. mic. (minijack), Control L (sub-min jack), DC power in, ext control (8-pin mini DIN)

Size (mm)                               119 x 111 x 205

Weight                                   1.1kg (inc. tape and battery)

 

STANDARD ACCESSORIES

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

 

video light?                    no            remote control? yes

cassette adaptor?            N/A            RF Converter?             yes

SCART adaptor?            no        

 

PERFORMANCE

Resolution                   230 -lines

Colour fidelity              average

Picture stability            average

Colour bleed                negligible 

White balance              fair 

Exposure                      average

Autofocus                     average

Audio performance      average

Insert edit                     manual inserts clean

Playback thru adaptor  N/A

 

VC RATINGS

Value for money          9

Ease of use                  8

Performance                8

Features                       8

 

---end---

(c) R Maybury 1993 1309

 

 

 

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